The Least, First

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Name 10 things the government does well

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A dear friend of mine left a challenge in a comment.  Here ’tis:

Other than the military, can you name 10 things that the government has done really well, better than the private sector?

It’s an important question, for skepticism toward all government (rather than reform of bad government) is not only common, but at the root of a couple of major political outlooks.  And because it’s important, it seemed worth a post of its own.

Here’s my quick response. Maybe you can do better:

You betcha. Off the top of my head, I’ll give you twenty, most of which are under-funded for the work they do:

  1. The FAA. Crashes are a rarity here, thanks to equipment safety tests and massively successful air flight controlling.
  2. Medicaid: private sector insurance companies make money by ditching their customers when they get very sick. Medicaid picks up the castoffs.
  3. Social Security: What if Mr. Bush had succeeded in privatizing SS before the markets crashed? Can you imagine how many old people would be working at WalMart, since their SS would have been cut in half? And did you know that before SS, thousands of older Americans simply starved to death?
  4. SCHIP: Healthcare insurance for children who would not otherwise have it – enormously preventive of school absence, long-term illness, loss of physical and mental development
  5. Read the rest of this entry »

Out from bigotry (sermon for August 17, 08)

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And a bit about white privilege …

Isaiah 56:1, 6-8

1 This is what the LORD says: “Maintain justice and do what is right, for my salvation is close at hand and my righteousness will soon be revealed.[…]

Something’s about to happen – what is it [a revelation of God], and so what do we do? Maintain justice,” Isaiah has God saying, “and do what is right.”

6 And foreigners who bind themselves to the LORD to serve him, to love the name of the LORD, and to worship him, all who keep the Sabbath without desecrating it and who hold fast to my covenant-
7 these I will bring to my holy mountain and give them joy in my house of prayer.

Who’s this about now? Foreigners. And those who will follow God from any land (though following God is described here in Jewish terms, of course), gain a rich welcome to the presence of God.  Watch:

Their burnt offerings and sacrifices will be accepted on my altar; for my house will be called a house of prayer for all nations.”

I love it!  “A house of prayer for all nations.”  Is this just about white middle-class Americans like me?  Nope. Read the rest of this entry »

Small is what big is made of (a sermon)

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Birth of Jacob and Esau [www.ratnermuseum.com]In one artist’s sculpture, Jacob and Esau burst upon the world.

Remember the story?  They’re born as twins, Esau first.  When Jacob follows, his hand on his brother’s heel.  It’s predicted that “the older will serve the younger,” which was odd in an order-of-birth culture.  Esau should get the privileges.  And the hand on the heel, we said, was representative of something like sneakiness.

Years later, they’re young men, Esau-the-hunter comes in starving, and Jacob-the-chef extorts the family birthright out of him in exchange for food.

Then Jacob gave him some of the soup (Valloton)

Then Jacob gave him some of the soup (Valloton)

Later, Esau is furious, and threatens murder – and remember, he’s a tough guy. So, scheming Jacob’s scheming mother Rebecca told his father Isaac that it was time for Jacob to go find a wife, and that back in Haran, where they came from, her brother’s place would be a good place to start. Isaac says “Sure,” and Jacob runs for his life.

On the way, he sacks out on the bare ground, meets God in a dream, and is terrified. Esau was a threat – but God, uh-oh! To Jacob’s astonishment, God comes not with judgment, but with a promise – a renewing of the promise that he’d made to Jacob’s grandfather Abraham. In the morning, Jacob is amazed at his good fortune, and worships there.

As he approaches Haran, he meets and promptly falls in love with Rachel, his cousin. He moves into Uncle Laban’s home – yes, he’d like to have a wife, but of course, he can’t really go home anyway, thanks to the trick he pulled on his brother. But now, Jacob’s inherited sneakiness is going to come back on him through his mother’s family – and on some others, too. Read the rest of this entry »

Bridgestone/Firestone -accused of slavery- buys big on SuperBowl

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UPDATE: Ahhh. I was so glad I had shared this with my church on Sunday morning before the game. The ad I saw was beautiful, even better than I’d expected (after all, how high are one’s expectations of car ads?). Watching it, I was satisfied to know that a few more people found it a reminder that those tires have run over a whole lot of very poor people.

Truth works slowly, but it still sets people free.


Want to help change the world during the Super Bowl? Tell your friends about Bridgestone-Firestone.B-F is spending about $10 million to up their corporate image via ads during the game. They’ll be looking good. But B-F has a very dark secret that makes all the snazzy car shots a little sickening: B-F exploits Africans so egregiously, it’s been accused of slavery. Consider these excerpts from Foreign Policy in Focus:

Liberia is rich in natural resources and Africa’s largest producer of natural rubber. It is also one of the world’s poorest countries. Liberia’s impoverishment is directly related to the wealth … that because of a history of inequality and exploitation benefits multinational corporations and some wealthy Liberians at the expense of the citizens of Liberia. […] Firestone Natural Rubber Company … has experienced increased international scrutiny for exploiting the people and natural environment of Liberia since … the publishing of a groundbreaking report … entitled “Firestone: The Mark Of Slavery.” […]

Bridgestone/Firestone North American has become the largest tire and rubber company in the world … Firestone’s rubber plantation occupies a large percentage of Liberia’s land mass and was, as a result, for a time responsible for more than half the tax revenue in the country. […]

Firestone’s officially 14,000-person Liberian workforce is comprised mostly (approximately 70%) of rubber tappers … Tappers and their children are held in virtual bondage, isolated from the world on a million—acre plantation and dependent on Firestone for everything from wages to lodging to food and medicine, all of which are desperately inadequate. … housing has not been renovated since its construction in 1926. Most of the houses do not include running water or indoor toilets. Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Monte

February 3, 2008 at 1:01 am

After Bush, another Big Business White House?

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In Two families, 28 years of Presidency I noted God’s Politics’ observation that if Hillary Clinton were elected and served two terms, the US Presidency would be held by the Bush and Clinton families for more than a quarter-century. I learned much from the comments you left, and wound up thinking more negatively of this than before.

Another Clinton liability is in the news now, this time the subject of investigative writer Ari Berman in an article for The Nation entitled Hillary, Inc. Berman documents extraordinary Clinton ties—and future favors owed—to corporate money.

American democracy is perennially troubled by the coziness between corporate wealth and political power. The Clinton campaign—far from troubled—appears to share corporate DNA. Here’s Berman, interviewed on DemocracyNow!:

Hillary, Inc. is, first thing, about the money that she takes … Hillary, compared to her democratic rivals, is more reliant on corporate money … but it’s also … about the people that will run … her campaign and have prominent positions in the White House. And these are people with very, very, very significant business ties […] Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Monte

May 31, 2007 at 8:30 pm

Posted in Politics, Social change