Sojomail - April 30, 2003
|Quote of the Week Dilbert: Working ourselves to death|
|Batteries Not Included David Batstone: Rebuilding Iraq|
|By the Numbers Wired nation is not just cheap talk|
|Soul Works Near death experiences...and starting over|
|Funny Business Changing a light bulb...it comes down to denomination|
|Biz Ethics Can the rich be good?|
|Boomerang SojoMail readers hit reply|
|Culture Watch Theologian of the Year: Buffy?|
|Web Scene Blogging: the nuts and bolts | God and robots | International religious news agency|
|QUOTE OF THE WEEK||^top|
In Japan, employees occasionally work themselves to death. It's called Karoshi. I don't want that to happen to anybody in my department. The trick is to take a break as soon as you see a bright light and hear dead relatives beckon.
- Scott Adams, creator of Dilbert
|BATTERIES NOT INCLUDED||^top|
Rebuilding Iraq: There's only one "man" for the jobby David Batstone
Former Secretary of Defense Caspar Weinberger, who was Bechtel's general counsel and served on its board of directors from 1975 to 1981, told "The San Francisco Chronicle" that the furor over the contract is little more than a witch hunt. "Any company that gets a big contract is going to face people who start searching wildly for something evil," said Weinberger.
Weinberger, who no longer holds an official position with Bechtel, believes that there are only a handful of companies in the world that could rebuild Iraq. "You want to know the motives? The government wanted the job well done," he said.
Hmmm, singular excellence and competence...tell that to the people of Bolivia, South America's poorest country. Two years ago, Bechtel, working closely with the World Bank, was the sole bidder in a 40-year contract to operate the municipal water services of Cochabamba, Bolivia's third-largest city. Within a few months of Bechtel taking over, water rates skyrocketed up to 60% or more. Poor families were forced to choose between paying exorbitant water bills or their rent. Jim Schultz, who runs an orphanage in Cochabamba, talks about a mother of five, an employee of a knitting factory, whose bill for drinking water amounted to the equivalent of her family's food budget for a week and a half. If citizens could no longer afford running water, they had to pay to stop the flow. "Families earning a minimum wage of less than $100 per month were told to fork over $20 and more or have the tap shut off," Schultz reports.
Acknowledging that water rates did rise, Bechtel sought to blame the Bolivians for using too much water. Here's the company's formal response: "Unfortunately, water bills sometimes went up a lot more than rates. That's because [we] improved service, increasing the hours of water service and the pressure at which it was delivered, [and] people used a lot more water."
Due to the fact that I worked for over a decade in economic development in Latin America, I can stand ably behind Bechtel's defense. Give poor people in favelas access to more water and you can expect they'll use their washing machines and sprinkler systems non-stop. Bechtel is now attempting via the World Bank to sue one of the poorest countries in Latin America for $25 million in lost profits.
Now you understand why the Pentagon would not want to open the bidding process to other construction firms to rebuild Iraq. Bechtel already has demonstrated its singular competence and high ethical behavior in international environments. As Caspar Weinberger notes, who else could do such a fine job?
Read more commentary by David Batstone:
|BY THE NUMBERS||^top|
Wired nation: no cheap talk
*Local phone: $34 a month average without added services such as voice mail, call waiting, and caller ID
*Long distance: $21 a month average
*Cell phone: $48 average monthly charges
*Internet: $20/month for dial-up service, $42 for DSL, $44 for cable modem
*Television: A basic cable or satellite connection costs about $40; digital service averages $80
*Mobile: Internet access for a palmtop: $40/month
Source: The New York Times, April 10, 2003
Near death experiences...and starting over
Kevin Kelly was in Jerusalem. He ended up sleeping on the spot where Jesus was supposedly crucified. After Kevin awoke, the thought came into his head: Live as if you'll die in six months. So he did. He got rid of all his possessions. He visited his parents and brothers and sisters for the last time. That, and other stories of starting life over, including a visit to a courtroom in Los Angeles where people go to change their names. Go here to listen in on "This American Life":
Question: How many Christians does it take to change a light bulb?
Episcopalians: Three. One to call the electrician, one to mix the drinks, and one to talk about how much better the old one was.
Pentecostal: 10. One to change the bulb, and nine to pray against the spirit of darkness.
Mormons: Five. One man to change the bulb, and four wives to tell him how to do it.
Presbyterians: None. Lights will go on and off at predestined times.
Unitarians: We choose not to make a statement either in favor of or against the need for a light bulb. However, if in your own journey you have found that light bulbs work for you, that is fine.
Lutherans: None. Lutherans don't believe in change.
Amish: What's a light bulb?
Can the rich be good?
At a Westin Hotel banquet table a few weeks ago in downtown Seattle, Portland millionaire JoAnn Wiser leans over her steak dinner and recalls getting steamed at Charles Schwab, the brokerage titan. She had read an article about how he had used his influence with President George W. Bush to win support for the idea of eliminating taxes on corporate dividends. "I have investments with Charles Schwab, and I totally disagree with that!" Wiser exclaims in her effusive manner.
The children in the Afghan refugee camp amaze me with their thoughts and words. I have been doing research in a camp near Peshawar for the past two months. They are insightful and often very serious when the subject of war comes up. The children have learned about war through experience and from stories that their family members tell. The war in Iraq has again surfaced many painful memories of bombing, death of family members, fear and even hunger that the children experienced in Afghanistan. Many of the children have told me that they keep asking God, "Why war?" Peace is what they want. The voices of the children should be heard by all, because they are the ones who must deal with the consequences.
Mark Moir write from Sioux Center, Iowa:
I have tremendous respect for Sojourners and what you are trying to accomplish. With that said, the tone of Jim Wallis' column last week, "This War Isn't Over," leaves something to be desired. The plan makes some fairly large assumptions about the impact of a clear signal sent by a compromised body (the U.N.) and the ability of internal forces to rise up against an ingrained dictator. I also believe it is extremely dangerous for him to bring divine intervention into the dealings of an Islamic space. I don't perceive the Bush administration as having declared a religious cleansing through its actions to remove a tyrannical dictator bent on power. And I think to insert that message, veiled or otherwise, is to lower the debate to innuendo and wink, wink - nudge, nudge. Please refrain from the inflammatory passive-aggressive penmanship.
Sol Bree writes from Toronto, Canada:
I read with interest Jim Wallis' take now that the war is over, and I am only now beginning to understand why our religions are so ineffective as the keepers of peace. The notion that civilian lives are somehow different from those of the military is a universal misconception. The psychological effects of murder - be it under legal cover of war or not - are the same. It merely reproduces hatred and vengeance. It matters not that the victims are soldiers or civilians. They are all someone's children and more so, children of the Creator. Legality (war) is merely a part of the illusion that we - Christians - have used to perpetrate our historical viciousness and hatred to others. I would direct you to a newly published book titled "Religion that Harms, Religion that Heals," by Celia M. Murray Dunn, which deals with how this absolute misconception (separating civilians from military) has provided legal cover and church blessings for all types of atrocities including war.
Pete Stephens writes from Surrey, England:
In response to Nigel Mander's comment over a similar response to Zimbabwe as the U.S. has shown in Iraq, it may be worth comparing the speed of the U.S. response on two illegal invasions:
Kuwait (loads of oil, invaded by Iraq) 24 weeks
Of course the presence of oil is purely incidental to the speed of response to such illegal acts.
Cynthia Astle writes from Dallas, Texas:
So the chairman of the global engineering firm Louis Berger Group Inc., says that "nonprofits have their own agenda, to be loving and caring, and that's very effective in relief work.... But it doesn't work for building institutions on a national scale." Excuse me, Mr. Wolff, but you've forgotten your American history. Who do you think founded most of the colleges and universities, hospitals, children's homes, and other national institutions in the formative years of this nation? Where do you think the civil rights movement gained its momentum in the '50s and '60s? What institutions haven't abandoned America's urban centers but instead have come up with viable, creative economic programs to revive the inner cities? The growth of American institutions throughout the 19th and early 20th centuries came directly from nonprofits, especially churches. I predict that the "loving and caring" brought by churches and other nonprofits and NGOs will go a lot further to rebuild institutions in Iraq than anything President Bush's crony corporations can do.
Sandra Ghosheh writes from New York City:
Where are the evangelicals polled [published in last week's SojoMail] receiving their information on Islam? I would hope they would learn something about others' belief systems before making a judgement. I am not a Muslim, but I have been married to one for almost 20 years. There is something to learn within all spiritual communities. We need to understand, not change or radicalize any religion or belief based on a percentage who act on the fringe. I am sometimes shaken by the way our own Christian brothers and sisters act, just as much as the way some people from other religions behave when they choose to separate rather than unify from the rest of the world. God is all-encompassing. When we understand that fact, we can begin to heal.
Mary Gillot Virgin writes from Indianapolis, Indiana:
Regarding the question "To which God am I praying?" asked by "Lament of a Child" by Matt Rindge in last week's SojoMail: To all of them, whether one realizes it or not. Each of us is a microcosm of the Divine Creator. Of course, cruelty and suffering are God's doing, because we are all part of God. We are inseparable, one and the same.
Raping the environment, murdering children in ill-conceived warfare, and robbing the needy and starving are not just injurious to the perpetrators in a metaphorical context. These are acts of self-destruction in the truest sense, and they are attacks upon God.
Rev. Suzanne M. Post writes from Ft. Myers, Florida:
Re: "Lament of a Child": It is awful that the author would accuse God of racism, of asking God if He would love him more if he was white? In my world I have come to learn that we human beings have caused and promoted the horror, hate, and pain of racism; it does not originate from God and does not have a home in the gospel. Our hate and human sinfulness has caused racism and hunger to exist. When we lament to God about this, He cries with us and when any words of hate or hunger pains are felt in this world the nails of the cross are driven deeper into the wounds of Christ as he feels our pain. Don't blame God for our sinfulness.
Boomerang is an open forum for all kinds of views. The views expressed are not necessarily those of Sojourners. Want to make your voice heard? Send Boomerang e-mails to the editor:
Theologian of the Year: Buffy?by Skippy R, The Door magazine
Perilous times call for bold theology. Let's face it. Evil is running rampant. Terrorists strike without warning. Corporate executives defraud the public and their own employees. Politicians tear apart the fabric of national unity for their own agendas. Popular culture has become a banal river of unadulterated trash.... We need someone who can not only deconstruct the problem of evil, but kick its hiney; someone with a preternatural sense of comic timing and an eye for fashion.
We need Buffy.
*Blogging: the nuts and bolts
From Napster to e-commerce, the brief history of the Internet is peppered with buzzwords and fads. The latest addition to the wired lexicon is blogging, a contraction of Web log that refers to updating an online journal. This phenomenon has caught on faster than you can say "eBay." So why not hop onto your own online soapbox?
*God and robots
To find out where theology and robotics meet, link to:
*International religious news agency
ZENIT aims to provide objective and professional coverage of events, documents, and issues emanating from or concerning the Catholic Church for a worldwide audience, especially the media. Link to: