“Living in Dark Times” Pamphlet

These are indeed dark times. I read of national and world events, grind my teeth, and sometimes despair that the light of hope for my children and grandchildren is dimming, not brightening. Rex Ambler’s Pendle Hill Pamphlet “Living in Dark Times” was published last month.  The Pendel Hill website summarizes his message thus:

How can we effect positive change in our current difficult world situation? In this pamphlet based on his talk at the 2016 Friends General Conference Gathering, Rex Ambler shares his reflections and insights. Citing William Penn, he urges readers to avoid objectifying the world, focus within, and live lives that reflect the truth they discover.

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Frackin’ Crazy!

There is a stealth effort afoot to bring fracking wells to our area. One can’t really know the integrity of those who are pushing this, but the fact that they are holding the hearings close to a holiday when the locals are busy and distracted, the fact that the announcements of these hearings appeared in obscure media, and the fact that they seek to limit their liability for environmental damage to only $50,000 does not bode well.

Marguerite will post details here shortly.  Stay tuned.

Update: Visit NoFrackingBucks.net.

World Cafe

For those unfamiliar with the process, a “world cafe” is a large free-form discussion group. The participants convene in a cafe setting and seat themselves around tables which have been covered with heavy paper instead of table cloths.  Crayons or other writing materials are provided and each table has both a moderator and a recorder taking notes.

There is a discussion question or questions, and each table engages with the questions.  Individuals are encouraged to note their opinions and ideas on the tabletop paper.  The recorder takes notes in anticipation of delivering a summary of the discussion in the concluding plenary session. The moderator seeks to ensure that all those present give voice to their thoughts without one individual dominating the conversation.

Following the concluding plenary session, the organizers recover the tabletop paper with the individual notes and comments and summarize the entire affair.

At Pennswood Village we had such an event on the theme of Quaker Values and Principles as expressed in the life of the community.  The document attached is the report of the organizers.

World Cafe Report

Marguerite’s Spiritual Journey

About four times a year, the Newtown Quaker Meeting has a tradition of inviting members to speak about their spiritual journey during the hour preceding Meeting for Worship. As you might imagine, these talks are intimate and intensely personal revelations of how each person’s faith and indeed their lives were formed.

This past Sunday (May 10th, 2015) Marguerite shared her thoughts about her spiritual journey.  The PDF link (below) will take you to the 9-page text she prepared for her talk and, after that, an actual recording (57 minutes) of the introduction, her 35-minute talk, and question and answer period that followed.

My Spiritual Journey PDF (5-10-15)

Awakening the Dreamer Symposium at Pennswood

On Saturday April 25th the newly formed Peace Builders Committee of the Pennswood Village Residents’ Association is hosting the Awakening the Dreamer, Changing the Dream Symposium.

AD Flyer

AD Flyer

Click on the image above and print it for the full details.

Peace Imagined: The March

by Marguerite Chandler

“The people united, can never be defeated!” The voice in the bullhorn is echoed by many voices. The sound mirrors what I see. There’s a huge yellow banner on 16-foot bamboo poles that says in 3-foot, capital letters, “WE KNOW WHO IS RESPONSIBLE.” It’s carried by four men: a muscular, young, black guy with a tight Afro; a white, collegiate-type; a greying black man; a white, middle-aged, bearded hippie. Single pennants are held high by a teenager and a bespectacled, older man in business suit. Behind them is a Reggie band, playing music from popular favorites to calypso. In front of the banner are black, Trevon Martin-age teens in T-shirts and hoodies, young parents with excited, preschool kids running around, a heavy-set black woman, several older white women, athletic coeds with long, shiny hair—all of us holding handles of a 15-foot diameter, yellow nylon circular banner with the “WE KNOW WHO IS RESPONSIBLE ” message—for the people in the high-rise buildings along Central Park and the media helicopters above us. This is the spirit of the People’s Climate March: tremendous creativity and diversity within unity of purpose.

 

Marchers with Banner

“We know who is responsible”

For six months, the organizing groups planned the logistics: marches in 156 countries plus a major 3 ½ mile NYC March, requiring staging from 65th to 86th Streets on the West side of Central Park, a march route to Columbus Circle, across Central Park South to 6th Avenue, down 6th Avenue (home of FOX news and Madison Avenue) to 42nd Street, thru Times Square to 11th Ave. Expecting 150,000, over double that number converge into the March, coming in wave upon wave from planes, busses, trains, and subways from across the USA and around the world. It felt buoyant like a homecoming parade.

A Quaker friend and I sign up for our discounted train tickets just two days before the March. My first inkling that this will be really big is the fact that the link for the train from Trenton, NJ to NYC is already marked “Sold Out.” Coordinating transportation on all the busses and trains from across the country must be a nightmare. So many people decide to come at the last moment.

We leave our apartments at Pennswood Village in Newtown, PA at 8am to catch a train from Princeton Junction and arrive in NYC at 10:26am. Coordinating so many different, civilian groups to do something this massive is a marvel. The emails I’d gotten in advance remind people to be “flexible and positive.” Our first opportunity shows up at the Dinky train station in Princeton. The Dinky isn’t running. The shuttle bus got lost, so a van shows up to take us to the Princeton Junction station. We mill around waiting for the organizers who have our discounted train tickets. Just before the train arrives, we get out tickets and fill the train. From the start, the mood is jubilant. Strangers chat with one another easily, sharing their information about the March and the concerns that bring them to it. Hispanic families with their kids, a multi-national group of Temple University students in business suits, a young white couple with their toddler, moms and daughters, fathers and sons, clusters of suburban, older types, Indian women in saris, black grandfathers with young teenagers—we’re all converging on New York.

Our first need is to use a bathroom at Penn Station, and although there are port-a-potties all along the March route, it’s the only bathroom break we get until we arrive home. We carry a minimum of water and food and wear our most comfortable walking-shoes. Luckily the day is overcast, around 76 degrees, muggy and threatening thundershowers, but we are determined to march no matter what. Nancy is 81, I’m 71, both veterans of marches and campaigns over the past 50 years: civil rights, women’s reproductive rights, the environmental movement, Hands Across America, Earth Day. Both of us are white, married, middle class grandmothers who live in very comfortable circumstances. I’ve been an activist since my Peace Corps years in the 60’s. Nancy’s worked for the United Nations Economic and Social Council and lived and travelled with her husband in several foreign countries for a Church World Service program for “responsible parenthood.”

Selfie of Marguerite and Nancy

Marguerite and Nancy

Getting from Penn Station to the line of march by subway seems the way to go. As we contemplate the long lines of people waiting to buy tokens, a female, fellow marcher about our age sells us an unopened $5 subway card. Not surprisingly, the subway cars are packed, but a long-haired man in jeans with straggly, grey hair and beard makes room for us just as the doors are closing. Our benefactor from Augusta, GA, another fellow from Washington, DC, and a young woman from Palestine are crammed body-to-body around us as the subway lurches from stop to stop. No one can hold on, but we are packed in so tightly, no one can fall down either. We all talk and laugh at the crowded conditions.

Marcher with Placard

Marcher with a “fill-in-the blank” placard.

As we come out of the subway at the Natural History Museum onto the street, we are greeted by thousands of people overflowing Central Park West as far as the eye can see in all directions, everyone carrying placards, signs, banners or wearing costumes and T-shirts with all manner of slogans, representing a wide spectrum of causes: Clean Water/Clean Air, NAACP Wisconsin, VOTE, Peace,

Fracking Protesters

“Don’t Frack with Our Water”

No Fracking, I’m Marching For “fill-in-the-blank” posters, Give Bees A Chance,  people with make-shift bike-floats, System Change/Not Climate Change, parents with babies and toddlers in double strollers, Solar/Wind power/Alternative energy, people in slogan-decorated wheel chairs being pushed by others, marchers with hats and headdresses (my favorite was Aqua Man in his blue, iridescent tights and blue wig).

We join the march at 77th street at exactly 11:30am. Fay Stoyall and Wendall Harris, two older black people seasoned by their civil rights activism, organize games for their black teens (and the younger white children and all the rest of us) who are restless: chanting, singing, flapping the circular banner in “waves,” or raising it up and down to the count of three and thenIMG_0983 allowing every-other person to run under it and switch sides (a game that the youngest children never tire of).   Fay and Willard are here representing  NAACP Wisconsin, and they and their busload of teenagers have ridden a bus all night to be here. Over the next several hours, Fay says, again and again, “I’m glad I’m here. This is an historic moment!” Wendall and Fay’s enthusiasm never flags. and their laughter, caring, and broad smiles buoy us all.

Marching together.

Fay, Nancy, and Willard

The plan was to have everyone in place by 11:00am. There are six separate staging areas to choose from, each represented by an enormous yellow banner. No one assigns us a place: everyone picks the banner they want to march under. The first banner (THE FRONTLINES OF CRISIS, FOREFRONT OF CHANGE) represents indigenous peoples and those most impacted by climate change. The second banner (WE CAN BUILD THE FUTURE) is for the ones who are the hope for re-building a more just world—families, students, elders, labor and others. The third (WE HAVE SOLUTIONS) is for those working to create a just transition: renewable energy, food and water access, and environmental organizations. The fourth (WE KNOW WHO IS RESPONSIBLE) is for peace and justice groups who call-out those who are holding back progress, e.g., fossil fuel corporations. The fifth (THE DEBATE IS OVER) is for those who have the facts, who know that taking action is a moral necessity—scientists, interfaith groups and others. The sixth (TO CHANGE EVERYTHING, WE NEED EVERYONE) is everyone else: representatives of cities, states, countries, neighborhoods, NYC boroughs, LGBTQ, community groups. Every sector also has several marching bands of various sizes and type.Madison Avenue

At 12:58pm, the planned moment of silence occurs to commemorate the victims of climate change worldwide. Silence is signaled along the March by holding hands and lifting them above our heads. It’s astonishing to see this tumultuous energy suddenly become quiet and reflective, as the signal passes quickly through the crowd, block by block. Even the children are quiet. After two minutes the silence ends with a great, noise-sounding “climate alarm,” an alarm that has been ignored for too-long. Thirty-two marching bands, church bells, our voices, noisemakers, and drums sound as one.

Nancy and I have chosen to stay with Wendall and Fay in the fourth of the six major groups, helping to hold the circular banner. The number of people in front of us is so massive that we stand for two hours, waiting to move forward. People share food and stories, bring bottled water to those who hold the poles for the overhead banner. Helicopters fly over, giving us an opportunity again and again to spread out and “wave” our circular banner to catch their attention. Another black elder with a bullhorn and a great smile leads cheer after cheer, his call draws a roar of response from the crowd: “What do we want?… Climate justice…When do we want it?… NOW!” or “The People, United, Can Never Be Defeated!” or “Hey, Obama, we loved your speech. Now let’s practice what you preach!” or “Hey, hey, ho, ho! Fossil fuels have got to go!” Over the next several hours as we wait and march, wait and march, the chants become more creative and varied. The person behind the bullhorn changes too, with our leader inviting (and coaching) even the youngest children to lead. Two of the children (4 year old Harry and an 11 year old girl) make up their own cheers. Our leader says, “We have to teach the next generation. They’ll never forget this experience!”

People take care of each other, trading off the work of carrying the banner on the huge bamboo poles or holding the circular banner’s handles, recruiting whoever is nearby and willing to spell people as they fatigue. There isn’t a single trash can along the route (apparently to prevent bombs from being placed in them), but despite our numbers, there is almost no litter anywhere. The police are present along the metal barricades, keeping people from entering the march except at specific entry points and stopping the march to allow traffic to flow through at major cross-town streets, but they are restrained and friendly. Marchers greet them and thank them for being there.

It takes us 3 ½ hours to walk to the end of the march at 11th Avenue near the entrance to Lincoln Tunnel. An enormous block party greets us with food vendors and displays. Apparently the People’s Climate March needs to clear the streets by 5pm so the police can reopen the streets to auto traffic. Volunteer March marshals need us to move quickly. “Finish strong!” they urge. There are so many people in the March that the last two sectors behind us have to leave the streets before they finish.

Almost no litter. Posters stacked next to refuse and recycling bins.

Almost no litter. Posters stacked next to refuse and recycling bins.

Nancy and I collapse on the sidewalk along with many others, completely spent. The last walkers arrive by 5:30pm, and by then most of the displays and vendors have dispersed, but the mood is still vibrant and joyful. Finally there are containers available for trash, separated by recyclables (mostly water bottles), land-fill items, and large stacks of placards and “poles” (no wooden or metal poles were allowed, providing another opportunity for impressive creativity).

Amazingly in a crowd of 310,000 people, Nancy and I both encounter people we hadn’t seen in years from other causes and other parts of the country. It really is a small world after all. She meets people from Arkansas and Georgia, DC and NJ.  I meet some of my Pachamama Alliance buddies from Massachusetts.

Pachamama Alliance

Pachamama Alliance

With such an enormous crowd, the general plan of marching in six sectors provides enough structure that everyone who wants to to innovate and create their own way of participating: great simplicity and great complexity. The spirit throughout is upbeat, diverse yet united in support of a just, peaceful, environmentally-thriving world. One person comments with tears in her eyes, “I’ve been waiting for this moment [of everyone coming together] all my life.” The March demonstrates an astonishing convergence of interests.

Having snacked on oatmeal cookies, almonds, and water all day, Nancy and I are too tired to think of eating a meal, and we walk the last 10 blocks to Penn Station where we catch the 6:14pm train home, arriving back in Princeton Junction at 7:35pm. Exhaustion has set in by then, and we are grateful to have my husband Richmond drive us home.

Reflecting on the day’s events, I see how every one of us plays a different role. Some of us march. Some of us plan logistics. Some of us pray for the success of the March. Some of us attend a football game or babysit for a grandchild. Some of us go about our daily lives oblivious of the March until the next day’s news. But the future of all of us is connected, whether we know it or not. Perhaps this moment is best captured by a postcard someone hands me at the March. On the front of the card is our one, beautiful, blue Earth floating in the black ocean of space. The text says, “Too Big to Fail–Be a Climate Change Voter November 4—People & Nature Before Profits.” On the flip side it reminds me of what we all want: “Clean Air. Clean Water. Healthy Communities.” The amazing 2014 People’s March for Climate Change is over, but we are at the beginning of a new awareness of each other and the next steps we need to take.

The US is Broke — Not!

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Original Content at
http://www.opednews.com/articles/The-US-is-Broke–Not-by-Richmond-Shreve-120910-147.html

September 10, 2012

The US is Broke — Not!

By Richmond Shreve

Fears that the US is going broke abound and are unfounded. But there is a whisper campaign afoot to amplify them for political gain. This cynical belief is convenient and useful to the GOP in their bid for power in November. One element of the fear campaign is a video reportedly produced by a retired IBM accountant that shows [old news] that US tax revenue is insufficient to operate the government after entitlements are paid.

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The conservative network of viral emails has been buzzing about a short video done by a retired accountant that shows our revenue to be insufficient to support any of the Federal discretionary budget once our obligations for debt service and entitlements are paid.  Evidently this is news to many people and the video is presented in a context of shock, fear and great urgency.  My spouse, Marguerite, emailed one of our mutual friends to allay his fears and put the matter in perspective.  Here is what she said:

Dear Jim–I apologize for delaying getting back to you.  I’ve wanted to do some research of my own before I responded.

I’ve sent an email to SNOPES. com (an independent, non-partisan fact-checking organization) to check this out.  I’ll let you know what I hear.  However, the charts that Richmond sent you say a lot of what I’m going to say, and I have a few items to add:

– first and foremost, especially during the campaign election season, I take EVERYTHING I read and ask “Says who?”  If the source is anything except a reputable, non-partisan fact-checking organization, I take it with a grain of salt.  The recent AARP Magazine suggested two fact checkers:  Flackcheck.org (from the U. of Penn. Annenberg Public Policy Center) and Facethefactsusa.org (from George Washington University);  I also like Snopes.com, Factcheck.com, About.com, Truthout.org;  there are so many outright lies going around the Internet that people (including ME!) have passed on, only to find later that I was passing information that was completely false

– check out The Story of Broke (www.storyofstuff.org);  one of the great lies is that our country is “broke” (item below from Van Jones–to read the entire article go to   www.rebuildthedream.com/blog/2012/08/28/a-very-dangerous-lie/)
Our economy today is almost as big and rich as all of Europe’s COMBINED — including economic powerhouses like Germany. Our economy today is almost twice as big as China’s. (And we have only one third of the Chinese population.) No other country even comes close to our wealth.

If that is so, then how come only some of us are hurting? How come big corporate profits are at an all-time high while people are out of work? Why are Wall Street banks thriving while folks are losing their homes?

One reason: global corporations and big banks are hoarding so much cash, refusing to recirculate it in the form of fair taxes and good wages. Instead, they use a few of their extra bucks to buy elections and elected officials — Paul Ryan is just the worst example, not the only one.

Those politicians then try to convince us that we should all accept more misery, while their mega-donors stockpile more cash than the Pharoahs ever dreamed about having.

Enough is enough.

If someone tells you we’re too broke to do anything positive, ask them where the money went. Ask them who got a big bonus last year. Who got a new private jet? Ask about the Bush tax giveaways for the rich. Ask about the bailouts for Wall Street. Ask about tax shelters, subsidies for polluters, Halliburton expense accounts, or the massive bill for two wars.
– on the revenue side, there are many ways to increase revenues;  one that’s gaining great support nationwide is the so-called “Robin Hood tax”;  identified by Robert Reich, the Robin Hood Tax would put a less than 0.05% tax on Wall Street financial transactions and would raise $350 BILLION each year.  Many pressing social needs could be addressed through this tiny tax on the excesses of Wall Street speculators (speculators whose transactions allow them to bet against their own investors!);  according to BlackRock, one of the largest private equity firms, the principle basically is “of every 20 deals, 17 are expected to fail under the added debt; two have to survive and one has to hit big for the firm to have a fairly strong return on its private equity fund.”  Comments Ron Suskind (see his credentials below), “It’s hard to find any product, save crack cocaine, that causes ruin for 85%of its users.”

–  on the mandatory expense side, there are many ways to decrease spending without harming those who most need critical social programs; for example, one of the refinements of the National Health Care bill that got lost in the partisan politics was the work of Jack Winnberg at Dartmouth College.  Trained at Johns Hopkins, he began to do research on the huge data bank that Medicare and Medicaid created.  What he found was that thousands of risky and expensive procedures were being performed each year without any likely medical value.  He founded the Darmouth Atlas Project and a new school of “evidence-based” medicine….  With accountability and data-driven rigor, Dartmouth’s findings point the way toward improved treatment at lower costs….  If even a fraction of the Dartmouth methodologies were implemented, health care would be improved and the federal budget rescued.” (pp 138-139 from Confidence Men:  Wall Street, Washington & the Education of a President by Ron Suskind–a Pulitzer Prize winning journalist); just to show the magnitude of the waste, the Medicare Prescription Drug Improvement and Modernization Act of 2003, added costs of $500 BILLION over 10 years, a massive handout to the pharmaceutical industry.

– then there’s the matter of wealth accumulation:  when most of the nation’s household spending power is accumulated among the top 1%, who can buy the goods and services that keep the economy growing? as Henry Ford demonstrated so effectively, when his workers could afford to buy the cars they built, Henry Ford sold a LOT more cars!

so greater equity benefits EVERYONE, as well as the economy

Sometimes, there is elegant simplicity that allows a complex point to be made, but in the case of the Federal Budget, I think your source has missed some key elements.

Blessings, Marguerite

How Scary is US Debt?

I suspect the accountant’s video is being circulated for political reasons, even though it is not obvious that it is political.  The GOP has a platform of “returning to fiscal responsibility” and economic fears and alarms serve to forward their agenda — unless one looks more deeply at the facts about where the deficit spending came from.(These are the charts that Marguerite refers to above.)


Source: Talking Points Memo

Romney is fond of saying in his stump speech that Obama has delivered four consecutive trillion dollar deficits, implying that he created the problem.  This is not correct in fact or interpretation.  As I write this on Sept 10, 2012 Obama is concluding his third budget year. That first trillion dollar deficit was one of the GOP years. The GOP and George Bush delivered an economic collapse and initiated huge spending to bail out the banks. Even the conservative Cato institute agrees that the mess was initiated on Bush’s watch and left for Obama to fix. Clinton was paying down the debt with budgets that produced a surplus. Had Bush not … well that’s spilt milk. We have those deficits deficits because we don’t collect enough revenue to cover the costs of our government.

GOP apologists make haste to point out that there is plenty of blame to go around, often mentioning Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi in derogatory ways.  No pass.  If they blame Obama for the last four years they can’t in the next breath claim that all must share equally in the blame for the prior eight.


Source: Business Insider

Our tax revenue, as a percent of the gross domestic product is small compared to other nations.  This suggests that we can afford to pay more taxes even though we don’t want to.At the same time, our debt is three and a half times our present low revenue, a number that rivals the ratio that burdens Greece. But in Greece taxes are already at 37% of GDP and as their economy sinks deeper into recession, that percentage rises.  The difference is this: at 37% they do not have much capacity to raise taxes further, at only 15% the US economy can absorb more tax burden.

Most all taxes are levied as a percentage of economic activity: they are computed on profit, income, sales or value added — all of which decline as the economy contracts.  So the fix for deficit spending is a very tricky balancing act where you raise taxes, cut spending, borrow when you must to keep meeting public payroll and to pay current bills.

Too much austerity is self-defeating because the revenue shrinks as the reduction in spending causes economic shrinkage.  Hard times in business force management to walk a tight rope of keeping productive capacity while whittling costs to remain viable.  The US is nowhere near not being viable. But the GOP would have us act like we were Greece and at the limit of what our economy can bear in taxation.

We can afford higher taxes and we can and should revoke the Bush tax cuts. We could and should run publicly funded health care more efficiently (Obama Care is a start), we could cut subsidies (oil, corn, etc.); but instead the GOP wants to slash social programs that protect our most vulnerable elderly and poor.

What is really scary to me is the GOP leadership that is operating on a a radical belief system and not on knowledge and real world experience. Ayn Rand made it sound like “you’re on your own” would work in her novels, but novels are fantasy and fiction, not hard data.

Today’s GOP is a patchwork of opportunist groups, each of whom has a dominant single-issue agenda: “clean” coal, lower taxes, anti-abortion, anti-populist, cheap energy, guns, agribusiness subsidies, oil drilling rights, gas fracking rights, etc. These groups are not interested in what is best for the commonwealth of the US, they seek advantage over others in their narrow special interests.  Even GOP leaders who want to do the right thing will feel huge pressure from these groups that comprise their political base.

There are strong currents of fear fueled by a flood of disinformation coming from the conservative side of this election.  The content is mostly wrong or distorted to play to prejudices or fears and reenforces pre-conceived notions of how the world economy works.

Dismissing this stuff and not countering it with reason and fact is a mistake.  Silence implies acceptance and strengthens the misconception. Engage and challenge your conservative friends; don’t become a part of their community of cynical agreement.

Submitters Bio:

Richmond Shreve is a citizen journalist and former Senior Editor at OpEdNews.com. He is a published author of fiction (Lost River Anthology, Amazon) and training materials (Instructor Candidate Manual, LulU.com and PDIPUBS.com) A retired business executive, Shreve’s career began in electronics and broadcasting in the 1960s. He has maintained a hobby interest in amateur radio (W2EMU), and the audio-visual arts while working in sales and marketing. For the past thirty years he was co-owner and CEO of the MiddleBrook Crossroads business park (Edmar Corporation) in Bridgewater, NJ. His calling card describes him as a “generalist” because his career and experience encompass diverse disciplines in arts and science including high performance driving, broadcast engineering, graphic arts, information technology, marketing, and business development. He lives with his wife of 30+ years in Cape May Point, NJ and Newtown, PA.

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