Wednesday 29 April 2009

Media Hype Spreading Swine Flu "Fear" Likely More Destructive Than the Virus Itself!

Jon Stewart was bleeping funny, but probably closest to the truth about how the media is inflating to a fever pitch the current worldwide freak-out over the spread of the so-called "pandemic" of swine-avian-human flu.

On a more serious note here's quite the article by David Kirby containing a provocative hypotheses about the possible origins of this round of the swine flu virus: Swine Flu Outbreak - Nature Biting Back at Industrial Animal Production?

Just hoping Australia will let me back into their country after our long-awaited trip home, touring around the United States to visit various family members from the 3rd to the 23rd of May!

You can't listen to the news for the last three days, without this being the top story. Australian politicians and health authorities are going crazy trying to reassure the public they are doing every thing possible to keep it out -- giving the authorities sweeping powers to detain anyone with symptoms trying to enter the country's international airports, including forced detentions!


Sunday 12 April 2009

Wrapping the mind around "impossible" realities -- seeking resurrection

Apparently, from what I can gather from this article I've absorbed regarding the bailout and stimulus package in America (and I must admit this was a somewhat daunting though highly educational task)... a grand total of at least $3 trillion thus far, and still rising, has been allocated as bailout/stimulus money by the US Federal Government for the banks, the broader financial sector, and beyond.

That includes, among other things, $1 trillion designated to the 'PPIF' (Public-Private Investment Fund) for buying of bank ‘bad assets’; another $1 trillion to ‘TALF’ (Term Asset Backed Securities Lending Facility) for resurrecting the ‘shadow banking’ system of hedge funds, private equity firms, and the like (i.e. the very same guys who gave us runaway speculation in securitized assets and the excess leveraging and debt run-up that underlies the origins of today’s continuing collapse of the financial system); and another $275 billion to ‘HASP’ (Homeowner Affordability and Stability Plan), which will be used primarily to subsidize mortgage lenders, servicers, and investors.

By the way, if you are having trouble like I did getting your mind around what a trillion dollars really looks like, let alone three, here's some visual help on that via a good CNBC slideshow.

Anyway, this detailed and rather pessimistic article, provides quite the analysis. The researcher critiques the three elements of the Obama administration’s bank-finance bailout mentioned above, postulating 1) why the bank bailout is doomed to fail in the long run, 2) why it likely won’t succeed in stabilizing the financial system, and 3) why a totally new kind of restructured banking system is going to be required before the financial system can stabilize and the real economy can halt its accelerating decline.

I wonder what others reading this think of the arguments laid out in this assessment - and whether anyone can point to signs of hope that we can avert another world-wide Depression and overcome this massive "crisis of confidence" - or if this gloomy scenario as described is indeed warranted.

In any case, I'm feeling depressed enough now simply trying to comprehend it all, intellectually - and I'm so glad that I'm not an economist who has to sit and stew in this stuff all day - although it certainly was educational!

One thing I know: I'm still free to exercise some great options - for example, to go out to renew my spirit and gain some balanced perspective by freewheeling my unicycle to worship where today we'll celebrate the reality of The Resurrection of Jesus. Both are realities oft considered "impossible" in the minds of those who only attempt an intellectual encounter! (Therein lies the lesson.) After that I plan to catch part of the National Folk Festival, held here in Canberra over the long Easter weekend each year, where fantastic music always gets made and spirits are sure to soar!

Could it be that it's the intangibles - in the realm of the spirit and what bolsters hope and confidence within the community - that always truly makes the difference?

-Clair Hochstetler

Tuesday 7 April 2009

Irene's Place in Canberra - where peace people seek to share and teach

From left, Jasmine Dron, Toby Tan, Moriah Hurst and Lee Wigens at the dedication of Irene's Place in Canberra, Australia.

I got involved in the "House Blessing" during the official opening on the 22nd of March. Here's the story.

And that's me reading the blessing at the end on behalf of the Mennonite Mission Network and offering the fruit tree to Moriah for planting there outside the door. Check out the very creative "script" Moriah developed for this special service. Now we need people - from all over the world - to come and join this initiative!


Wednesday 1 April 2009

April Fools!

Have you ever had an April Fools day trick played on you? When I was an adolescent a friend of my father helping him in the welding shop my dad owned and operated beside our home once asked me on April Fools Day to go fetch him some “elbow grease.” I finally went to ask dad what sort of grease that was and when he just laughed - long and loud - I knew I’d been “had!”

Since today is April Fools Day once again, I was curious to find out why we celebrate it the way we do. Apparently people are not exactly sure why it came about. I found much earlier corroboration of my own experience by reading this in “Poor Robin's Almanac” of 1790:

The first of April, some do say,
Is set apart for All Fools' Day.
But why the people call it so,
I, nor they themselves do know.
But on this day are people sent
On purpose for pure merriment.

That brought to mind how I once got in on the “merriment” by sending one of my younger brothers on a fool’s errand to get a left handed screwdriver!

I’ve discovered here in Australia they really get “into it” in a major way on the 1st of April – apparently each year there is a sort of a competition to see who can perpetrate something on the entire public with the most “massive” and humorous effects!

For example, a caller told a Melbourne radio revealed this morning how he and a group of friends were the April Fool's Day pranksters who shrink-wrapped over 400 cars during the night, saying they just wanted to "bring some fun back into Melbourne''. Read all about it here – and check out the interesting photo – along with reports of other interesting hijinks.

This morning Sydney citizens heard about a football with in-built GPS and artificial intelligence, controversial plans for three new monorails for their city - including one over the Spit Bridge - and how Members of Parliament were going to start offering free child care to their constituents.

Even a public official here in Canberra got quite “creative.” Listeners of a popular morning radio talk show got very stirred this morning hearing about a major government-sponsored utility's plans to reduce Canberra's carbon footprint by turning off street lights in "safe" neighborhoods!

Some people think April Fools Day started in 1562 when Pope Gregory introduced a new calendar for the Christian world. In this new calendar they started the New Year on January 1st. Up till this time, in France at least, it had been celebrated on April 1st. Of course when the change came about there was no way of effectively telling everybody. No television. No radio. So word spread slowly. There were also those who chose to simply ignore the change or they didn’t believe it. Others simply forgot. These then were the people considered "fools" and so invitations to non-existent parties and other practical jokes were played on them.

"All Fools' Day" is practiced in many parts of the world. In France today, French children fool their friends by taping a paper fish to their friends' backs. When the "young fool" discovers this trick, the prankster yells “April Fish!” The connection is that the fish in April are newly hatched and so are an easy catch. Did anyone find you being an “easy catch” today?

I wasn't thrown by this one at the Sojourners' news blog - I expected it because I knew they have an annual "tradition" of doing something like this, but it was still great fun to read! So was this one.

What is the best April Fools joke you ever played on someone – or that someone played on you?

-Clair, in Canberra