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Non-violent protest is not terrorism; CMUs are political prisons

Free speech is proclaimed as a protected right in this country. However, given recent events I’m beginning to think that it’s actually conditional, more of a privilege than anything.

Last week, the Supreme Court protected the ability of the Westboro Baptist Church to protest military funerals. As much as I dislike what the church members have to say, I can understand why the court ruled in their favor. However, I’m disappointed by an action the court took today – refusing to hear the case of SHAC 7, a group of seven people convicted of terrorism for running an animal rights related web site.

The members of the SHAC 7 group took no illegal action themselves, but hosted content on a web site that talked about illegal activities others had taken (like releasing animals from labs). The Third Circuit Court had ruled that while they were not a threat and had not done anything illegal, they could be convicted because they supported illegal actions and by doing so might have incited people to participate. By associating with people who had taken part in illegal activities, the rights of the group were no longer protected.

As Will Potter from Green is the New Red said at the time-

“To put it more plainly: Vocally supporting civil disobedience, explaining what it involves, and encouraging/facilitating people to take part is not protected speech.

This is so important let me say it again, another way: People who write about civil disobedience and encourage people to take part can be found convicted of a crime even if they do not take part in the civil disobedience.

So the fact that the Supreme Court choose to let this ruling stand means that the Third Circuit’s decision is allowed to serve as precedent. Even if you don’t support causes like the ones the SHAC 7 were promoting, consider the danger that this presents to free speech. This has major implications for activists of all stripes.

Some might consider this proof that if your cause is unpopular enough, you will be silenced. And some are silenced in the most absolute sense of the word you can imagine. Domestic terrorists, including those convicted of “eco-terrorism”, are often held in something called Communications Management Units (CMUs), instead of traditional prisons. CMUs radically restrict prisoner access and communication to the outside world. They’re said to “rival, or exceed, the most restrictive facilities in the country, including the “Supermax,” ADX-Florence” where the Unabomber is held.

Prisoners in CMUs are virtually cut off from the outside world, kept in isolation. All prisoner communications and interactions are live-monitored and subject to recording. Letters are photocopied and the delivery is delayed. They’re only allowed two phone calls a week (recently increased from one) scheduled well in advance and up to 15 minutes long. That can be reduced to three minutes at the warden’s discretion. If their family members make the trek to see them in person (there are two CMUs in in the US), they can visit a maximum of two hours (where most inmates are allowed all-day visits), twice a month. They are not allowed physical contact. This is worse than even the most stringent rules for high-risk offenders– something many of these prisoners are not.

Last year the government acknowledged these secret prisons and proposed making them permanent. The Center for Constitutional Rights and the ACLU both filed lawsuits challenging the constitutionality of the facilities, their policies on prisoner treatment, and violation of due process rights. This is in part based on the practice of transferring a prisoner into a CMU, or from one to the other, without prior notification and without a chance to appeal.

It’s a commonly held belief the reason the CMUs hold these types of prisoners are to shut them up. Removing their access to their family members, the media, and pretty much everyone means that their messages cannot get out. However, the isolation also has the capacity to destroy the prisoners psychologically and serve as a reminder to other activists of what could happen.

The fact that these political prisons even exist should serve as reminder that free speech rights don’t make a difference if you’re not otherwise free.

Earnings vs. income

Lifestyle seems to grow to accommodate the income available. For most people that means that as your paycheck goes up, what you expect to be able to buy or do keeps pace as well, resulting in a new norm that closely matches current earning capability.

Newly middle class people choose middle class cars, houses and name brand clothes. Why is this? Why don’t they stick with the same types of things they had and did before their income grew, often things less extravagant? Why not keep shopping in thrift stores, driving that older car and getting inexpensive haircuts?

Instead of paying off debt, investing or saving, many will choose to commit the extra funds towards purchasing a big ticket item such as an automobile or a house, perhaps one they’d consider more suited to their new position in life. My family fits into this category (though I wish I could say we didn’t).  Somehow, we got along just fine when we had a much lower income. Our house had as much square footage as our current accommodation, at a lower mortgage cost. But then we decided we needed to trade up. We had some legitimate reasons for seeking a new place, and had a lot of housing options available to us that fit our general criterion for size and location. We could have found some something around our same mortgage rate and still have gotten all the major things we wanted.

So why’d we instead choose one that was quite a bit more expensive? Why do most people? Because they can. We saw something and liked it. We could do it, so we did. Hardly rational or long term thinking at work, or at least that’s how it appears in hindsight.  (Though I am very grateful we didn’t borrow as much as the bank was offering to lend us at the time!)

A family of four could choose to live in a three bedroom apartment within walking distance to a park, or alternatively a three-bedroom house with well landscaped yard, both within the same neighborhood and school district. The impact on the number of friends their kids make, what the family eats or hobbies they take up should be minor, but the decision will make a huge difference to their overall financial outlook, especially when considered over the course of a lifetime.

This difference could easily be enough to finance a round-the-world vacation, private school, early retirement, or some other dream. However if asked, most would say they can’t afford those kinds of things, and don’t really feel like they have a choice in the matter.

Most likely their spending has grown to match their earnings, and they don’t see the choices there anymore because they’ve settled in with the new norm. And this shift just seems to happen gradually, without much thought going into the matter.

One thing that keeps getting brought up over and over in conversations about our economy is that less than 1% of the US population controls almost 40% of the country’s wealth.  It’s also often pointed out that the gap between the rich and the poor is widening, not only in America but across the world.  While the poor often struggle to get enough good food to eat, or keep roofs over their heads, those in the middle (and sometimes the top, too) struggle to keep what they’ve got and hold on to their mortgages. But would they still be struggling if they hadn’t extended beyond what they really need? Had they gone for an adequate 1500 square feet instead of an extravagant 4500 would so many still be facing foreclosure?

People elsewhere in the world manage to live on a few dollars a week. So why do we need hundreds or thousands just to pay for our existence? Don’t kid yourself that our quality of life is so much better, or that we’re happier, because it’s simply not true.  If you look at anything that measures global happiness and wellbeing, we’re up there, but nowhere near #1.

In the US we’re obsessed with wealth. We imitate those above us, get jealous of what they have and hope to win the lottery so we can join their club. I’ve decided this is not something I want to care about anymore.

My family is working hard this year to eliminate debt to help further our long term plans, plans that ultimately do not focus on how much money we can earn, or what kind of stuff we can buy, but rather on the experience and enjoyment of life and what we want to do with our time.

Unfortunately, this means that in the short term we have to focus on money more than ever in order to dig ourselves out of this debt as quickly as possible. We’ve made the conscious decision to focus on short term inconvenience for long term gain.

Look for more posts to come on the topic of lifestyle design, a term that basically means taking charge of your life, figuring out what you want it to look like and making it happen. There are a lot of great authors and bloggers out there focusing on this topic, and much of what they say makes a lot of sense to me so far. I’ve just scratched the surface, but I’m eager to learn more. Anyone have any recommendations?

It’s time to make some changes and we’re already on our way.


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Security theater

I wrote this piece back in late November and forgot to post it.  I still agree with what I’ve written, so decided there’s no reason not to just publish it now.

I learned a new term yesterday- security theater.  A phrase coined by Bruce Schneier, security technologist and author, it’s something that only serves to make people feel more secure without doing anything to actually improve security, much like the TSA security measures for screening of airliner passengers.

While I understand that some form of security is necessary to protect travelers, the methods currently being employed are beyond acceptable in my eyes.  I cannot envision permitting our young son to go through either the full body imaging scanner or the more aggressive pat downs that have recently been put in place.  I’m thankful we’re not set to fly somewhere already, as it would be a hard to face the loss of the money spent on tickets, but I think at this point foregoing the flight is something I’d do.

It’s beyond imaginable to me that people would even begin to think the aggressive behaviour that constitutes the advanced pat down is OK when in any other context it would be a crime. Modesty aside, the safety of the scanners is unproven in my mind, considered by many scientists to be potentially dangerous.  Yet, I hear coworkers defending the practices, and passing it off as no big deal! It can only be fear talking, the traditional technique used to elicit such a response.

When writing this post, I tried to examine many sides of this issue and look at my personal fears on the topic. What I found was that it’s more like indignation than fear in my case.

One one hand, you have the issue of being forced to  submit to the full body scanners, a multifaceted problem. Even if you ignore the part about some stranger viewing pictures of your naked body, there’s still the problem with the radiation from the scanners.  Of course the TSA says they’re safe, but that’s with limited testing and when they’re operating within normal limits.  But what if they’re not operated correctly (as happens even in the medical world where people are very well trained and paid, and that’s not the case with TSA workers) and are giving off more radiation than they should? And what effect does it having on growing kids brains? And since this is in addition to the radiation received in flight, what effect does the cumulative exposure have on health? Does it make one more likely to get cancer? Just so many unknowns!

On the other hand, you have the fear of humiliation, coupled with outrage and indignation about personal bodily integrity.  I firmly believe that the government should not have the right to control what we do with our bodies, that it  should be left up to the individual (and parent).  In the western world, we value our right not to have our bodies touched without our consent.  In this case, there is no other option. Sure, you can choose to go through the scanners, but even after doing that you may be forced to go through the pat down process.  While I may decide that this trade off makes sense for me, I just cannot put my son through that.  Just how does one explain to a child that a random low-level security guard is on the list of people that should be allowed to touch their genitals? You can’t; it’s just not justifiable.

Have you seen the video of the young boy being strip searched? What about the one where the disabled passenger’s urine bag is broken? While it’s good for people to see these things happening, for all to be aware of just what’s going on, it also adds to the growing level of fear of what will happen if we do implement the procedures. And I don’t even want to think about what happens when they encourage the use of this technology for all forms of public transportation!

I think we’d be hearing less public outrage, if we knew the new measures were effective. But that’s the point of security theater– effectiveness is not the goal.

According to Schneier, our current response to terrorism, “relies on the idea that we can somehow make ourselves safer by protecting against what the terrorists happened to do last time.”  And this is so true!  Terrorist will always evolve to incorporate the most recent changes into their plans. If you do look at 9/11, the example brought up by so many in defense of the TSA practices, you’d realize that the same attack would not be allowed to happen today, irregardless of the right of security personnel to touch your “junk”. Cockpit doors have been reinforced and passengers are now willing to fight to make sure planes aren’t being used as weapons.

Scnheier also argues that there’s no need to subject citizens to increasingly invasive search methods when, “the best defenses against terrorism are largely invisible: investigation, intelligence, and emergency response.”  I really agree with Scneier, and also loved his piece in the New York Times debate on the topic of body scanners making us safer. It’s one of the only sensible things I’ve read on the topic over the last few days.

So what’s the cost of all this security theater? Millions of taxpayer dollars, loss of bodily autonomy, increased public fear. People are willingly submitting to be harassed in order to visit their family members or go on vacation.  Some would argue that it’s just the price you have to pay if you want to travel via air. I’ve decided that price is too steep for my family to accept. For the unforeseeable future, we’ll be avoiding flying.

Not invincible

It’s a tough lesson, learning that your child is not invincible. When they’re young you’re told that if you live a natural lifestyle, do everything right, they’ll experience superior health. And it works, to a point.

But no matter how holistically you live, what kind of organic food you feed them, how long you breastfeed, it won’t necessarily be enough to cure all their ills.  Sometimes you may have no choice but to do something you’d hoped to avoid, to consider mainstream medical treatment, perhaps even on a regular or long-term basis.

Our son had been a very healthy kid, with no major illnesses to speak of in his almost four years.  Then earlier this fall, he had an allergic reaction to some pets at a friend’s house. It manifested innocently enough, at first as a runny nose, then quickly followed by coughing, eventually turning into wheezing. We should have left quickly, but didn’t quite know what was happening at the time.

We’d experienced wheezing once or twice before with colds, but this was different. We dealt with it as best we could, but eventually had to go to the urgent care, who sent us on to the ER. It’s a horrible thing, watching your child struggle to breathe properly.

They gave him some nebulizer treatments and sent us home with an inhaler/spacer and a follow up visit to our primary care doctor. We didn’t have to give him the inhaler that day or the next, so we hoped the worst was over and figured it wouldn’t happen again.

But then we had a similar episode, and several more have followed since. And now I’m finally come to the realization that this may not be something we can avoid or fix without meds. It’s quite possible our son may have asthma, and it might even be something that follows him his whole life.

Looking around for advice, while still trying to keep the treatment at bay, I found lots of mothers in a similar situation- most feeling like they’d failed, perplexed that they’d done everything right and still somehow this had happened to them and their kids.

It’s nothing but a positive thing to encourage good health, to get people taking actions that will help their families lives. However, I think we do people a disservice by promoting the idea that taking any particular action will guarantee a certain outcome.

Things happen. It’s not necessarily anyone’s fault and might not have been preventable. This is something I keep telling myself as we deal with yet another wheezing incident and I contemplate giving our son a “maintenance” medication. Sometimes breastfeeding just isn’t enough.

Say cheese!?

I’ve learned this week, due to some great reporting by Michael Moss for the New York Times, there is a marketing group called Dairy Management that’s responsible for promoting dairy to the American public and for overseas export. This organization is a subset of the US Department of Agriculture, an agency also tasked with promoting nutritional responsibility, presenting an obvious conflict of interest between the two groups.  Specifically, Dairy Management promotes cheese consumption and works with major national brands to increase the amount used in their products.

So why the conflicting goals between different branches of the USDA, and how is this allowed? The NY Times piece says, the USDA leaves it up to Dairy Management to decide how to “bolster farmers and rural economies” and isn’t in the business of controlling how this occurs. And according to a story on NPR, the USDA is OK with promoting cheese consumption in particular because Americans need the calcium, especially as they”re drinking less milk.  Still, I’m not sure this fully explains the dichotomy.

Marion Nestle, author of the book Food Politics and this recent blog entry says, “So why is USDA in bed with dairy lobbying groups? That’s its job. From its beginnings in the 1860s, USDA’s role was to promote U.S. agricultural production and sales, with the full support of what was then a largely agricultural Congress. Only in the 1970s, did USDA pick up all those pesky food assistance programs and capture the “lead federal agency” role in providing dietary advice to the public.”

Interestingly, the side of the USDA responsible for nutrition policy is under funded compared to Dairy Management, the side that’s pushing cheese. According to this Boston Globe piece, “While the USDA budgets $6.5 million to promote nutrition policy, Dairy Management had more than $140 million to play with last year, mostly through government fees on the dairy industry, but also with $5.3 million from USDA itself to promote overseas exports.”

Just like many other things the USDA promotes, I take issue with our government endorsing large scale animal agriculture, and thus animal cruelty. However, in this case I find it even more reprehensible that taxpayers are funding even a portion of the budget for a group whose sole job is to promote cheese consumption. It’s true that the majority of the work done by Dairy Management group is paid by the dairy industry itself. However, we’re still on the line for over $5 million dollars, and that’s in addition to the collective millions US dairy farmers receive in government subsidies every year.

While we hear again and again how America is in the throws of an obesity epidemic, here we have a government group whose job is to get even more cheese into our food supply.  Even if you don’t share my ethical concerns about the dairy industry, it’s not hard to see why this might be an issue. This increase in cheese consumption means hundreds and thousands of extra calories for American consumers, as well as an increased intake of sodium and fat. Americans take in an average of 33 pounds of cheese a year now, and Dairy Management hopes this will increase. Thankfully, the Center for Nutritional Policy and Promotion is not singing the same tune.

If there was ever a government program that deserves to be cut, it’s Dairy Management.   There is no legitimate reason to continue funding this group with taxpayer dollars.  I can only hope lawmakers take note.


P.S. – When going vegan, cheese was one of the harder things for me to give up. I hear the same thing again and again from other vegetarians; I just can’t give up cheese. Until recently, there weren’t very many good cheese substitutes. Now, thanks to Daiya and other brands, it’s much easier to replace cow milk based cheese with something less cruel that also tastes good.

Soda and food stamps

New York Mayor Bloomberg’s attempt to get federal permission to block food stamp recipients from using them to buy soda was all over the news today.

Many people have complained that it’s “Big Brother” government telling you what you can can’t eat, and the start of a slippery slope towards them legislating what is and isn’t allowed. However, I don’t find this to be a credible argument.

Mayor Bloomberg is not attempting to block the sales of pop all together, just say that you can’t buy it on the government’s dime.  When you accept the government’s assistance, you do so knowing there are rules attached. After all, the government is the one providing the food stamps and just like with any of their other programs, they determine the guidelines and can administer the program as they see fit.

In fact, the government already limits other items from being purchased with food stamps, such as alcohol, household products, vitamins, cigarettes and other non-food things.  And there’s certainly precedent for limiting specific food choices as well. If you look at state sponsored WIC programs (a program that provides food and supplies for women, infants and children under five), there are stringent regulations surrounding what can be purchased.  Many states only allow recipients to buy certain types of items, insisting on 100% fruit juice instead of “orange drink” for example.

Food stamps are not, as one correspondent on NPR alleged, an income supplement.  It does exactly what it says on the tin!  It’s  officially called the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program and it’s a program meant to help people buy nutritious food.  No matter what Pepsi or Coke says, soda is not a food, whether nutritious or not (and not surprisingly, the answer is a firm no).

I also don’t think it’s fair to say disallowing soda will be a huge inconvenience and ruin shopping efficiency.  It’s no more inconvenient than disallowing toilet paper, shampoo or any other non-food item you might also buy in a grocery store.  The food stamp program does not provide a high enough amount for it to cover all of a household’s grocery expenses anyway, and it’s not intended to. Splitting the ticket is common. Families will have to use at least some money coming from other sources in order to buy many of their grocery items. Adding soda to that list does not seem to be that much of a stretch. And why can’t stores police soda in the same way they do other disallowed items?

I think it only makes sense to revisit government programs from time to time and see what can be done to make them better.  With a record number of people on food stamps due to the poor economy, pursuing any benefit or efficiency that can be gained seems like a good idea.

Animal compassion

There were two sad stories in the news today about bad things happening to animals. In India, seven elephants were killed by a train. Meanwhile, dozens of whales are stranded on a beach in New Zealand.  However, both stories had something in common that to me was uplifting despite the loss of life. In both instances, the animals were trying to help their fellow beings.

It’s the same thing I saw when I watched hunters kill a whole flock of geese a few years back, something I am reminded of each fall as I see the birds start to migrate and the orange vests come out. The animals see or sense that the others are in trouble and reach out to help, sometimes losing their lives in the process.  This may seem like stupid behavior to some, ignoring what’s happening to the others at your own peril. However, it also illustrates a selfless attempt to help family and friends.

When we’re not seeing much compassion in the human world, it’s good to know at least the animals have each others interests at heart.

No greater failure

Awhile ago I came across some information that just floored me because I find it so repulsive I want to scream. The topic is a book called To Train Up a Child, written by Michael and Debi Pearl. It’s supposedly popular with religious homeschoolers, and most people that interact with homeschoolers say they know someone that uses the book’s methods or advocate for it. Indeed, this is how it ended up the focus of an article in a secular homeschooling magazine that I happened to read online.

As the author outlines in her piece, at times the book reads more like a primer in brainwashing, torture or animal training than it does parenting advice. The majority of the tactics are repulsive. I found myself repeatedly cringing and sometimes near tears as I thought about the children that are being subjected to these methods.

Examples of the Pearl’s advice:

Dealing with an angry child

“A proper spanking leaves children without breath to complain. If he should tell you that the spanking makes him madder, spank him again.” … “If a child flees, don’t chase him. Wait and allow time for the tension to go out of the air. Slowly pursue him, explaining that he cannot win. If it takes a long time, that’s fine. Go to his hiding place and laugh at his frail attempts.”

On breastfeeding and biting

“My wife did not waste time finding a cure. When the baby bit, she pulled hair (an alternative has to be sought for bald-headed babies).”

Attitude training

“Use whatever force is necessary to bring him to bay. If you have to sit on him to spank him, then do not hesitate. And hold him there until he has surrendered. Prove that you are bigger, tougher, more patiently enduring, and are unmoved by his wailing. Defeat him totally. Accept no conditions for surrender — no compromise.”

Water safety

“On a warm spring day I followed the first set of wobbly legs to the inviting water. She played around the edge until she found a way to get down the bank to the water. I stood close by as she bent over, reaching into the mirror of shining color. Splash! In she went. I restrained my anxiety long enough for her to right herself in the cold water and show some recognition of her inability to breathe. When panic set in…I pulled her out and scolded her for getting close to the pond.”

The book’s authors advocate pushing in children that are too cautious or coordinated to fall in on their own, and a similar technique can be used for fire safety!  Whipping, beating, and bullying are recommended to obtain obedience by kids of any age. Children should be battered into submission to the point that they recognize there is no chance of escape and stop trying.  And sadly, I am not exaggerating in the slightest. They really do advocate doing these things and openly label them that way.

I can think of no other description for their methods than disgusting. Absolutely and utterly revolting. Any yet, the people commenting on their online articles praise them and thank them profusely for their helpful advice. How can this be?? Are people that interested in having an excuse to beat their children into compliance? Using their religion (spare the rod) as an excuse? Simply lazy and can’t come up with a better way to handle their children??  I just do not get it.  The closest I can come to understanding is to speculate that people would appreciate the compliance it creates in their children. After all, I’m sure it easier to deal with them when you don’t have all that pesky childhood exuberance to deal with.

The article’s author gives examples of deaths that have happened with parents accidentally taking the Pearl’s techniques to extremes. She attributes it to the parents being unable or unwilling to think for themselves and in their inability to realize that they have taken things too far in letting someone else tell them what to do, often far past their personal comfort zone.

I think that speaks to a major area of concern with the Pearl’s approach. In addition to physical abuse, the book’s authors are out to make sure that people do not think for themselves, including the parents following their methods. There is no mercy, no discretion allowed. You must be unwavering in your position and recognize their  approach as the only way to do things.

The focus of the Pearl’s instruction is to create reliance on them (the authors) and only them as the single authority on parenting. They advocate that you extend this control into your parenting, creating this same level of dependence in your children, and suggest taking elaborate measures to make sure that kids are not exposed to outside influence.  This is where homeschooling comes in for them, but also the avoidance of media, close friends/family, and any others that don’t share your views. This includes making sure that the kids do not even have the personal time to contemplate an alternate position.

“[Your children] should always sit with you, never with their friends. If they go out to the bathroom, go with them. Never allow them to spend the night with friends or cousins. Slumber parties are sin parties. Never allow them to listen to music through headphones. Three-minute phone conversations, no chat rooms, no surfing the web for any reason. Parents should make it physically impossible for them to even access the web. We didn’t allow our children to spend time in their bedrooms unless they were working on a project or reading. Bedroom doors were always kept open, except for two minutes while dressing.”

And so it goes, on and on and on.

Reading about these types of things helps to solidify for me what I do and don’t want to do as a parent, forces me to think about how we want to raise our son. To be honest, I don’t want absolute compliance from him, especially not when it’s gained through fear.  I want him to be able to think for himself, to develop problem solving techniques, and question authority – up to and including the things  we ask him to do.  I don’t want to beat back his spirit with control techniques, ridicule him, or teach him lessons by injuring him. I want to guide him as best we can towards becoming an independent and self reliant person.

Where are the compassion, empathy and understanding for others in the Pearl’s approach? Isn’t that one of the principles of their faith?  If the parents following this advice don’t show compassion for their own children, and are willing to inflict this physical and mental pain on them, then what hope is there for their children to learn these skills?  I want our kiddo to develop into a person that has compassion for others, a man that would not use physical violence or coercion to get what he wants.  I want him to question his own decisions too, realize that it’s OK to rethink your position sometimes (and especially in situations that endanger others), and know that there is no absolute truth that should guide your thinking.

The article made me wonder, as the magazine article’s author did, What can I do about this?  Just like she, I decided to try to make others aware of these people and their repulsive work. I’ve also checked to see if our local libraries stock the book (they do not) and am prepared to discuss it should it come up with anyone I talk to in future. In a way I hope it never does.

This is leadership?

I find myself outraged at something I heard on the radio this morning, yet it’s not entirely surprising. The proposed leader of the military efforts in Afghanistan and Iraq, Gen. James Mattis, has publicly come out in past bragging about how much he loves killing the enemy, and what a joy it is to shoot and fatally kill another human being.

“Actually, it’s a lot of fun to fight,” he said in a 2005 speech in San Diego about killing members of the Taliban. “It’s a hell of a hoot. It’s fun to shoot some people. I like brawling.”

Fun?!? It’s fun to shoot people? I find this attitude disgusting. And while I realize that this is part and parcel for the military, I am appalled that it is mentioned so openly and casually.

With all the talk about how he has the qualities of a good leader, all I could think was how is it possible that one of the things we’d celebrate about a person is that he loves to kill? I don’t care if it’s the enemy; in my head this does not set the right tone at all for the conflict, any conflict.

Perhaps I am deluded, but I would say that one of the qualities I would look for would be a person that respects and acknowledges the value of life. If they don’t, I expect they will have no qualms about overstepping their bounds and making decisions that risk lives (innocent, enemy and soldier). A true leader would not view people as expendable, let alone enjoy dispatching of them. What a callous, horrible, outrageous attitude.

Information clutter

I’m a self admitted information junky and the Internet fuels this obsession. I spend a good portion of every day reading news, articles and generally doing a lot more non-work related research than I’d care to admit to my boss.

As part of this obsession, I have about a million email newsletters, lists and RSS feeds that I subscribe to. My email boxes are bursting at the seams with hundred of unsorted messages, a lot of them unread. I continually end up with a dozen or more tabs open in my browser with content I fully intend to read.

Lately, the signal to noise ratio has seemed overwhelming. In addition somehow when online I lose track of time, time that could be better spent reading books, cleaning up actual clutter, or undertaken any number of other more useful or interesting pursuits. So how to weed through the information clutter and otherwise get myself back on track?

As a first step I’ve started to unsubscribe. There were some sources that were easy to eliminate. For instance, why get emails about Delta Sky Miles when I fly very rarely and have never flown Delta? Some are harder to eliminate, since I know the topic is of interest to me if only I had the time to read it!! However, 25 back issues of the Organic Bytes newsletter tell me that it’s unlikely I’ll make it a priority. I’m hoping that cleaning up my mailboxes will be a start and if nothing else will help ensure I don’t miss something important. It’s all about balance, something I think we could all use more of in our lives.

Any suggestions for me? I’m afraid if I look up the topic I’ll get started down a bunny trail leaving me with another ten tabs worth of material to read. 😉