Tag Archive: Social Justice


In a July 10, 2017 Wall Street Journal Letter to the Editor, a reader commented:

Regarding Holman Jenkins’s “Seattle Aims at McDonald’s, Hits Workers” (Business World, July 1): At last, someone finally said it. It’s the people who work at McDonald’s today, not the “greedy corporation” nor our “unfair society,” who limit pay because they aren’t worth $15 in many cases. To earn $15 you must create a good bit more than $15 worth of value for your employer to cover the cost of Social Security, workers’ comp, your training, business and property taxes, capital investment, rent, and any other benefits such as paid vacation. This isn’t greed, it’s a fact of survival for any business.

The crux of Mr. Jenkins article is that as labor costs rise, industries would likely replace workers with automation, but it would still create jobs at $15 an hour for people whose productivity can justify $15 an hour. “The people who work at McDonald’s today, typically, would already be earning $15 an hour somewhere else if their productivity could justify $15 an hour.” I believe the essence of the reader’s argument was that most fast-food workers could not justify their value worthy of a $15 per hour salary.

So a question for the reader. In commenting that one has to create a good bit more worth of value for your employer, let’s review Yahoo’s former CEO Marissa Mayer. Did Yahoo receive more value from Marissa Mayer than earned through salary?

When a withered Yahoo was vacuumed up by Verizon Communications, the transaction completed a five-year tenure for Yahoo’s chief executive, Marissa Mayer. During those five years, Mayer gobbled up almost a quarter of a billion dollars in compensation while simultaneously presiding over Yahoo’s demise. Through her leadership, Yahoo ended up so weakened it was forced to sell.

Letter to the Editor supporters could justifiably note Yahoo’s stock was $15.65 the day Mayer started and ended at $50.60. As such, this would be a no-brainer victory for those claiming Mayer had indeed brought tremendous value. But Yahoo benefactors were mostly stockholders, not the average bread-and-butter workers and contractor eliminated in post-merger alignment. Thousands of jobs cut. Eh. Just a byline to broader stockholder value. For these workers, Mayer empowered nothing but shit, including months of pain, anguish and mental stress.

So was Mayer’s leadership worth a quarter billion? An article in Variety offers a different perspective.

“… as Yahoo’s finances have continued to deteriorate, it has become apparent that Mayer has wasted time and money with a lack of cohesive vision and a mercurial micromanagement style that paralyzed growth opportunities, according to former employees and industry execs.

As one shareholder wonders: “What the f— has Marissa Mayer been doing for the last three-plus years?””

Mayer also gifted additional value to 1.5 billion breached Yahoo users. Call it a “value-base security awareness” reminder to reset passwords and check credit reports. Surely, the “Letter to the Editor” writer would note this was damn good value. And let’s not forget the secretly built custom software program Yahoo used to search user emails for specific information provided by US intelligence officials. Proponents should surely claim the additional safety value for Americans nationwide.

Seriously? “Value?” By whose standards?

According to the Economic Policy Institute, U.S. CEOs earn an average of 300 times more than their workers. Fifty years ago, the ratio was closer to 20-to-1. Yet, management continues to bemoan employees who want such luxuries as a living wage, to send their children to a decent school, a decent place to live and some form of health benefits. In truth, many CEOs empower themselves while simultaneously devaluing regular every day workers. And sometimes, CEOs’ get help.

Many times, state legislatures will openly assist in “de-valuement” (yes I know this is not technically a word). Take Missouri. Rather than just bemoan St. Louis’ $10 per hour minimum wage, Missouri state legislators forced St. Louis businesses to reduce any hourly salaries above the state minimum wage of $7.70 back to $7.70. For all you boys and girls following along at home, that’s a net decrease of 23%.

Here’s the back story. In 2015, St. Louis city council passed an ordinance raising the minimum wage to $10 while raising it to $11 in January 2018. This led to a legal battle that wound up in the Missouri Supreme Court. The city won. However, Missouri’s Republican governor said the St. Louis ordinance would “… kill jobs, and despite what you hear from liberals, it will take money out of people’s pockets.”

Damn those fricking liberals. They provide no value.

So Missouri state legislators cut a deal to appease business special interests and supporters and rolled back hourly wages to state minimum wage of $7.70. Strange … Missouri’s Republican governor did not sign a law limiting executive pay packages for those like Mayer.

In reality, there are no easy answers to the CEO/employee pay disparity and the value of a worker. Is Mayer wrong? Was Yahoo wrong for paying such an outrageous sum? Not sure either way. What I do understand is that there will always be money in any complex society. Yet, we need to have some kind of system for measuring how we consume, produce, and share. And any human who wants to pay the rent has to learn the rules of budgeting. I get all of that.

What’s not thought of is how money itself interconnects the world. The Buddhist in me thinks about how money connects you to other people. From a Buddhist standpoint, you should think about how to use money to not only empower yourself, but others as well. We can be awakened, but unless you’re like Ms. Mayer, everyone has to make a living. The real question is could have Mayer empowered her employees to become better? How could McDonalds? Lastly, how can you empower the babysitter, the gardener, the hairstylist, your children?

Life is not about “my power,” it’s about “empower.”

In her article The Reality of a Pre-Existing Condition, Susan Chira wrote:

I would not wish what my family has endured on anyone, even the legislators who voted to take away the protection that gave us such relief. I don’t really care about theory, about which is the more efficient way to rein in costs, or to give families the most choices. To me, preserving the principle that people should not be punished for a fate they could not control seems fundamental.

At the end of the day, this is not about ideology. It’s about humanity.

At a “pep rally” meeting prior to the vote, members heard the “Rocky” theme song as they arrived, and an image of George S. Patton placed on the screen as inspirational quotes from the general were read. Members also heard “Taking Care of Business.” Then a prayer and recitation of the Pledge of Allegiance.

A prayer? I remind fellow legislators that in the thousands of deaths yet to come, the silent pain of death will scream unto the divinity.

As a human being, I too have joined the ranks of those with a preexisting condition. As disks in my neck crush with vice-like tenacity; as the heart disease slowly forces my heart to beat slowly toward an end, yesterday’s house bill was a shameful display of heartlessness. If Sara Palin was looking for an American death panel, she need look no further. Yesterday’s White House beer party was a coup de grâce.

I have never seen legislators celebrate kicking 20 million or more people out of the healthcare system. In Trump’s victory, the President tweeted “… Republicans will be having a big press conference at the beautiful Rose Garden of the White House immediately after vote!” as buses awaited House Republican members for the Rose Garden.

Opinion writer Stephen Henderson wrote “This now appears to be about not much more than striking back at President Barack Obama for having championed the law in the first place, and turning the nation’s back on the most vulnerable — people who were helped by the ACA’s progressive accomplishments.” Henderson further notes, we’ve reset the clock to the days when the poorest will choose between health care and shelter or food, to the times when people without coverage faced bankruptcy or other financial ruin if they or their family members get sick.

For me and others like me, access to quality care is literally life and death. An essential core belief behind the Republican plan is that we should pay only for health care services required. Logically speaking, sick people like me require more coverage. Therefore, sick people must pay for it. Younger and healthier constituents require less coverage. Accordingly, they should pay less. Yesterday’s American Health Care Act salutes 20 million or more with the middle finger saying, “Sucks to be you.”

However, maybe Republican Representative Raul Labrador said is correct. In a recent town hall, Labrador stated “nobody dies because they don’t have access to healthcare.” Hopefully I remind God of that statement after breathing my last breath.

I close with a brief story and quote. After the 1941 attack on Pearl Harbor by forces of Imperial Japan, Japanese Admiral Isoroku Yamamoto was reported to have said, “I fear all we have done is to awaken a sleeping giant and fill him with a terrible resolve.” Historians claim to be unsure if Yamamoto ever said those words. However, the film’s producer, claimed to have found the quote written in Yamamoto’s diary.

The historical lesson is important. Even though Yamamoto crafted the surprise attack on Pearl Harbor, it was reported he secluded himself the day after as his staff celebrated, for he felt the unprovoked attack would enrage Americans; thereby awakening a sleeping giant.

Let’s hope American legislators find an awakened giant.

As GOP leaders continue marching the American Health Care Act through the legislative process, we are left with bickering pros and cons of affordability and coverage. As one who’s earned a livelihood from the healthcare industry, I view legislative gladiators from the cheap seats and ponder, “If you can’t afford health care, should the state let you die?

The current House plan relies on government tax credits, regulation of the insurance industry, and continued government funding to keep the low-income population insured. Yet in-between weeds, down in the fine print no one ever reads, one can find insurance reforms are positioned so carriers can offer a wider array of policies that pick up less of the tab for getting care. Additionally, Insurance companies can charge the oldest enrollees as much as they want, roll back the Medicaid expansion thereby eliminating approximately 11 million of the nation’s poorest from health care and eliminating healthcare services of poorer via planned parenthood.

In February 2017, Cardinal Burke noted, “Catholic health care, by its constant and careful attention to the perennial moral teaching of the Church, safeguards and promotes the respect for all human life from the moment of conception to the moment of natural death ...”

Sounds wonderful, but there are little safeguards that promote the respect for all human life from the moment of conception to the moment of natural death. Our faith-based nation spends a hell of a lot time upending/defending Roe vs. Wade, but the notion we protect all human life from conception to natural death is bullshit. The back hallways of healthcare facilities are littered with the strewn, discarded and neglected. These hallways are filled with the “let them die” arrogance. We simply do not care about the respect of human life.

Both Bernie Sanders and the Pope have stated similar positions, “…access to health care regardless of income” is a right. Technically speaking, even one without health care can get health care coverage via a hospital emergency room. And in truth, both the Affordable Care Act and the GOP’s American Health Care Act provides opportunities for health care access. Now whether one can afford that access is an entirely different matter.

Health care is not mentioned in our Constitution or the Bill of Rights. Yet our Founding Fathers rightfully focused on life, liberty and justice. Conservatives continue to believe in personal responsibility, limited government, free markets, individual liberty, traditional American values and a strong national defense.

Several years ago, a 17-year-old senior at T.C. Williams High School wrote:

“… it must be noted that the key word in said act is “affordable.” The American people struggle on a daily basis to make ends meet, worrying about groceries, bills, and car payments. For better or for worse, that is capitalism, and as a country the United States has stayed true to its ideals. Nevertheless, the competition of the game of life should never have to be a game of life and death.”

Health care coverage is extremely complex. By nature, medical clinicians, Buddhists, Christians and many others of faith are concerned in their own way in the alleviation, control and ultimately the removal of human suffering. The American psychiatrist M. Scott Peck began his bestselling book The Road Less Travelled with the statement “Life is difficult.” He added, “This is a great truth, one of the greatest truths.”

Borrowing from Peck, the current health care debate is difficult. The disparity between health care and American values is crudely displayed as political views, politicians, managers, and administrators impact who receives what level of proportioned health care. While hospitals are forced to meet sometimes arbitrary measurements of performance, financial incentives are dolled-out on the backside. Lost in all this is what matters. For instance, what may matter more to a patient is the intangible and unquantifiable aspects of care experience. On what measurable performance scale can it be recorded that a dying patient is helped through denial, anger, and resentment to peace and serenity?

Of course, we can mimic Rep. Roger Marshall’s (R-KS) holy view to wash our hands. Marshall used Jesus to justify his opposition to Obamacare by explaining that poor people will reject health care.

“Just like Jesus said, ‘The poor will always be with us.’ There is a group of people that just don’t want health care and aren’t going to take care of themselves. Just, like, homeless people … I think just morally, spiritually, socially, [some people] just don’t want health care. The Medicaid population, which is [on] a free credit card, as a group, do probably the least preventive medicine and taking care of themselves and eating healthy and exercising. And I’m not judging, I’m just saying socially that’s where they are.”

Can we afford to be spiritually ignorant as some politicians? Should society claim that if one can’t afford health care, they die? No. At this point, both societal value and the American Health Care Act are morally unaffordable.

Mizzou ProtestIt is our duty to fight for our freedom!” was the chant from hundreds of students on MU’s campus after the announcement of Wolfe’s resignation was made. “It is our duty to win!

For months, black student groups had complained Wolfe was unresponsive to racism. A week ago, graduate student Jonathan Butler went on a hunger strike. The complaints came to a head several days ago, when at least 30 black football players announced that they would not play until the president was gone and Butler ate.

But few protesters and organizers, if any, ever review the consequences. Both action and inaction have consequences.

  • University of Missouri system’s president, Tim Wolfe, and the chancellor of the flagship campus, R. Bowen Loftin, announced on Monday that they were resigning their posts in the face of growing protests by African-American students, the threat of a walkout by faculty and a strike by football players who said the administrators had done too little to combat racism on campus.
  • Janna Basler, an official with the school’s Greek Life department, pushes a reporter and snaps, “Don’t push me.” At one point, Basler blocks the reporter from taking a picture, and after making contact with him, claims she didn’t touch him in any way. Janna Basler has been placed on leave Wednesday as Mizzou investigates her actions.
  • Melissa Click, professor of assistant communications recruited “muscle” to get rid of a reporter, pushing his camera and yelling at him repeatedly to “get out.” Ironically, it was Click who posted on social media that there should be more press covering the unrest at Missouri earlier in the week. Click later apologized and resigned her courtesy appointment. Currently, Click’s not out of a job. She is still an assistant professor.
  • Jonathan Butler, the student whose hunger strike kicked off a chain of events leading to Wolfe’s resignation, comes not from poverty and oppression, but from great wealth. The Concerned Student 1950 group, which led the recent protests at the University of Missouri, had demanded that University President Timothy Wolfe “acknowledge his white male privilege.” The comparisons between Butler and Wolfe has a sense of irony.
  • Mizzou Student Body President Payton Head tweeted, “Students please take precaution. Stay away from the windows in the residence halls. The KKK has been confirmed to be sighted on campus. I’m working with the MUPD, the state trooper and the National Guard.” There were no KKK, National Guard or state troopers. Mr. Head’s actions raise larger issues. Could some of this drama have been inflated? While several news outlets posted actual evidence of the police report of the feces painted swastika, many questions remain. Who exactly were the pick-up truck offenders? Since we don’t know who they were, it’s possible they weren’t even students.
  • Dale Brigham, an associate professor of nutrition and exercise physiology, submitted his resignation as outrage among some students grew in the wake of his email message. “If you give in to bullies, they win,” Brigham wrote. “The only way bullies are defeated is by standing up to them. If we cancel the exam, they win; if we go through with it, they lose.” Under intense pressure, Dr. Brigham has cancelled the exam and resigned from the university. There is no definitive indication that Mizzou has accepted the resignation.

The casualty list continues to climb.

At the end, the victorious idealists became the very essence of that which they hated, oblivious to anyone’s point of view but their own. Thus, both Mizzou and student leadership cannot attest to their leadership. Stupidity, maybe. Leadership, No.

From a Buddhist perspective, there are genuine life lessons.

  • What failed both protesters and administrators alike is not being open to negotiate. When we negotiate, we come to a new situation without any preconceived notion of how we’re going to take care of it. All of us must come completely open.
  • When stuff happens, you’ll find better success facing suffering together, when everyone is actively engaged in dialogue.
  • How we lead is significantly important for all we lead.
  • Not everyone is out to get us … that statement is true on both sides of the negotiation table. No one person is accountable for every slight life offers.

It’s a shame that any victory for the common good was trampled by ego and self-promotion. Instead, “viral” social media sensations became more important than substance. What will these protesters will do when a future boss doesn’t compliment them? And zero-tolerance racism may be a great goal … is it possible?

With the lack leadership exhibited by all parties in the Mizzou fight, it’s great knowing the systemic oppression of racism will finally be banished.

Screen Shot 2015-11-05 at 2.20.07 PMVisiting San Diego this week, I had the chance to visit Juárez, Mexico.

A PRI The World program noted that once known as “the murder capital of the world,” Juárez is still recovering from cartel violence and some on both sides of the border say they feel safer. Despite current politics surrounding immigration, people constantly flow back and forth on a daily basis. Some who ebb in and out of the yin-yang flow are students.

These students travel, each day, from Mexico to the US, all of to break the cycle of poverty.

Families living in extreme poverty see quality education as an impossible cost. Even public school carries costs, including books, uniforms, and transportation. Because parents have not experienced the increases in earnings, quality of life, and personal dignity that come from education, they don’t know what they are missing by pulling a child out of school to work instead. This is why it’s a cycle: children who grow up without education are less likely to send their own children to school.

By providing a quality education, a vicious cycle gets replaced. Instead of poverty sowing the seeds for still more poverty, education creates an environment that leads to opportunities and education for successive generations as well. Instead of leaving school to work, children have the chance to engage their intellectual curiosity, and live in a more stable society.

Children in poverty are less likely than middle-class children to develop basic educational skills before kindergarten. Too often, poor children have fewer early learning experiences. For example, poor and low-income children tend to live in homes with fewer books and less language stimulation.

If society wants to adopt a quality lifestyle for all children, then breaking the cycle of poverty requires investing in our children and ensuring they have nurturing and enriching experiences, including high-quality early care and educational opportunities.

Yet few politicians offer solid solutions.

Governors in Arizona, Kansas, Louisiana and Wisconsin and Connecticut’s Democratic governor have proposed higher education cuts for the 2016 fiscal year. Higher education spending traditionally is a juicy target for budget cutters because schools can make up the lost revenue by raising tuition.

A day before jumping into the race for the 2016 Republican presidential nomination, Governor Scott Walker signed a state budget that, among other things:

  • Slashed $250 million from the University of Wisconsin;
  • Expanded the state’s voucher program that uses public funds to pay for tuition at private schools, including religious schools — even though there is no evidence the program has helped improve student achievement; and
  • A majority of public school districts in Wisconsin will receive less funding this year, and no school district’s state funding will keep up to inflation.

If the Buddhist principle that all things are connected is correct, then our own fate and the destiny of the world may be intimately bound up with the educational fate of the poor. No country has ever achieved continuous and rapid economic growth without first having at least 40 per cent of its adults able to read and write.

Statistics show why education is perhaps the most effective strategy to tackle poverty and is integrally linked to human, community and national development. When people have basic life and literacy skills, economies grow more quickly and poverty rates decline.

I remember a scene from Saving Private Ryan, where Captain John Miller said, “This Ryan better be worth it. He better go home and cure some disease, or invent a longer-lasting light bulb, or something.” From time I wonder if an errant drone strike destroyed the world’s chances to cure cancer? It is just me, or does anyone ever think some terrorist annihilated humanity’s best chance to defeat Alzheimer’s?

Decreasing poverty through education is very Buddhist and very Christian.

Screen Shot 2015-11-04 at 9.48.32 AMIn my post about Mississippi: Faith Without Works, I noted, “If we are pro-life, then we must be pro-quality of life. If we do one without the other, our works is inconsistent with our faith.” I wrote that in July 2012. And some three years later, that post lived a quiet, subdued life, archived to distant memory, maybe wasted space or rolling of the eyes.

Then came Governor Christie’s recent comments about addiction. I can’t say the following text is 100% accurate. It’s close. I tried transcribing Christie’s comments correctly:

“My mother was a smoker. She smoked her whole life. She was addicted to nicotine. She started when she was sixteen (16), which was 1948. 1964 came, the Surgeon General’s report came out and she was in her mid thirties. She knew smoking was bad for her. And I’ll tell you, watching her as a kid growing up; she tried everything she could to quit. She had the gum, the patches, and hypnosis. She tried everything. She couldn’t quit.

Now, when she turned 71, a little after that, she was diagnosed with lung cancer. No one came to me and said, “Don’t treat her, for she got what she deserved.” We know the lung cancer was caused by the smoking. We know it was. But no one came to me and said, “Your mother was dumb. She started smoking when she was sixteen. Then after we told her it was bad for her, she kept doing it. So we’re not going to give her chemotherapy. We’re not going to give her radiation treatment. We’re not going to give her any of that stuff. You know what, she’s getting what she deserves.”

No one said that. No one said that about anyone having cancer.

Yet somehow, if it’s heroine or cocaine or alcohol, we say, “We decided they are getting what they deserved.”

I am pro-life. And I think if you’re pro-life, that means you have to be pro-life for the whole life, not just the nine months in the womb. Alright? It’s easy … It’s easy to be pro-life for the nine months in the womb, for they haven’t done anything to disappoint us yet. They’re perfect in there. But when they get out, that’s when it gets tough.

The sixteen year old teenage girl, on the floor of the county lockup, addicted to heroine … I am pro-life for her too. She has just as much a precious gift from God as the one in the womb. And we need to start thinking that way as a party and as a people and the President needs to say those things.”

Like MSNBC host Joe Scarborough, “I’m still kind of blown away by Christie’s comments.”

Whether you agree or disagree with Christie’s overall political views, his comments of being pro-life for life were genuinely real. They were the perfect “in the moment, from the heart” stuff. I wish all politicians spoke accordingly.

Christie’s comments were very Buddhist, very Christian. How beautiful! Imagine living in such a world … Pro-Life for Life?

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See Christie’s complete video by clicking his picture.

imageThe Daily Show skewered Casebolt’s use of force at Texas pool party. Add to that Officer’s Casebolt resignation as well as dual McKinney protests: one seeking a pound of flesh with another offering support. Civil rights leaders in McKinney said they want an investigation by the US justice department. Some McKinney parents burnt an American Flag, with a child hidden behind a Halloween mask (great lesson there).

Just about everyone wants a piece of Casebolt’s arse. All-in-all, McKinney police Cpl. Eric Casebolt had a lousy week. More than likely, he’ll have a lot more.

There are groups who are focused on the specific incident at the pool party, there are groups who want to address broader issues of inequality. Some wanted Police Cpl. Eric Casebolt fired, others want him indicted. This isn’t an easy issue to tackle, and the protesters all brought a unique view and set of goals.

While McKinney, Texas may be listed as the number one place to live, equality issues exist everywhere. Given the fact no one was shot and that no mother or father had to be told a child died, I’m amazed at the lack of grace and dialogue.

Casebolt’s actions should be critiqued, but extracting a pound of flesh won’t transform anyone’s world into a center of peace and tranquility. This is a social justice issue. It’s not just about how a police officer handled a crowd, but it’s about everything we do as adults, how we view others and what we tach our children.

If media reports are accurate, here’s a recap of events:

  • The pool party was organized by 20-year-old Tatyana Rhodes, and her mother LaShana Burks. The event was unapproved and unauthorized, turned into a mob and cost the community thousands.
  • Tatyana Rhodes claims she’s a teenager. In reality, she’s a 20 year-old adult.
  • Ms. Rhodes hired a DJ and promoted the event to include a pool party.
  • There are numerous social media links reflecting that Ms. Rhodes organizes ‘parties’ and charges for attendance, as a profit generating business.
  • According to Rhodes and Burkes they were unable to control the growing crowd;
  • 100+ teens (and many young adults) turned into a mob of partygoers and began jumping the fence to the gated pool.
  • Police arrived after receiving calls regarding teens “actively fighting.” Reports that some teens and adults began fighting after an adult(s) made racist comments, reportedly telling the organizer to “return to Section 8 housing.
  • Police Officer gets filmed by cell phone.

In summary, parents and or adults created this shit. Residents then called police to clean up their shit. But residents claimed police mishandled their shit…that their shit has to be treated better…have the courtesy to handle their shit with care. Residents then had the gall to film and skewer a police officer for dealing with their shit, in essence saying, “Don’t look at me, but let me tell you about that officer. Holy Shit

As a Buddhist, I agree the officer should have been disciplined. But grace was the prudent course of action.

You can’t talk your way out of problems that you behaved yourself into (S. Covey).

In the end, Social Justice cannot be the excuse for personal failure.

That’s what Jon Stewart missed.

YenSidhouseofmouseLike a bad dream, Yen Sid, the powerful sorcerer, called in approximately 250 Disney IT workers and said, “Your job has been eliminated. And oh! We need you to train your replacement – from India.”

The New Times reported this week that Walt Disney World fired 250 employees, hired Indian workers on a temporary visa and then made the outgoing Americans train their replacements.

The Times story reported Disney used a temporary visa known as the H-1B to hire new workers from an Indian based outsourcing firm. The H-1B program was designed to allow American companies to import highly skilled foreigners for jobs they cannot find Americans to perform, but as always, the program is rife with loopholes and abuses.

Companies claim to use H-1B visas so they can attract the “best and brightest people in the world.” However, if you squint really hard, you’ll be able to read “…for less money than they have to pay U.S. workers.

An excellent article by Martin Kaste for NPR’s All Tech Considered, talks about what many believe is possibly really behind all the kumbayah all-hands-across-the-water, increase-the-cap movements:

“For the past decade, he’s [Ron Hira, a professor of public policy at the Rochester Institute of Technology] been studying how consulting firms use temporary work visas to help American companies cut costs. He says they use the visas to supply cheaper workers here, but also to smooth the transfer of American jobs to information-technology centers overseas.”

Kaste further noted that H-1B consultancies are especially big in banking, insurance and pretty much any industry that runs on big computer systems maintained by aging, increasingly expensive American tech workers.

Think about this the next time you visit Disney. All hail Yen Sid!

imageCNN reported the family of Michael Brown filed a civil lawsuit against the city of Ferguson under Missouri’s “wrongful death statute.” The family suit seeks punitive and compensatory damages in excess of $75,000, in addition to attorney fees. My guess? The family will get millions.

The Brown family lawsuit raised an interesting question that I’ve pondered for several hours: “Once there’s a settlement, can the Brown family be sued by a destroyed Ferguson business owner?

Recollecting, as Louis Head (Michael Brown’s stepfather) consoled Brown’s distraught mother after the grand jury announcement, he turned to the crowd of demonstrators and said, ‘Burn this motherfucker down’ and ‘Burn this bitch down.’ While Mr. Head apologized the following day, riots left parts of Ferguson a burning wreck.

In a subsequent police investigation, Mr. Head issued a statement saying that while sorry for screaming ‘Burn this bitch down!‘, to arrest and charge him ‘goes way too far and is as wrong as the decision (of the grand jury) itself.‘ Granted, that stance may be good against criminal prosecution, but how about civil court, where the burden of proof is only a preponderance of evidence?

Should mobs get a free pass to riot and steal in response to unwelcome political outcome? Remember, approximately 25 structures in Ferguson were burned, damaged, or destroyed during riots following the grand jury verdict. Has any of the protesters paid for damage sustained? Sam Chow, an immigrant opened a Ferguson restaurant in 2009. His restaurant practically whipped. Where’s the outrage for the death of Zemir Begic? Begic, a young immigrant who fled violence in Bosnia, was driving home with his fiancée 20 miles away from Ferguson when black teens beat him to death. I don’t recall a single protester speaking for him.

I ponder the outcome of a black business owner’s civil suit against Louis Head and the Brown family for punitive and compensatory damages, especially when statements “Burn this bitch down” contributed to inciting the riots. From prima facia value, if we honor the choice to not prosecute Mr. Head based upon Head’s claim that prosecuting him ‘goes way too far and is as wrong as the decision (of the grand jury) itself,‘ then should business owners completely ignore the option to litigate civily?

At the end of the day, no one can stand in the court of public opinion and shout ‘Look over yonder, but don’t look here (at me).’ Responsibility applies everyone equally – to you, me and Mr. Head.

imageI’ve not heard as much about ‘Earth Day’ as previous years. Either I’m in a cloud or there isn’t much demand for Earth Day anymore. That doesn’t mean I’ve totally forgotten either.

I still remember a little known truth about the self-described founder of a Earth Day: He murdered and composted his girlfriend. Yes. Yes. Self-proclaimed Earth Day co-founder Ira Einhorn had a dark side. In 2011, NBC News reported Einhorn was found guilty of murdering his ex-girlfriend and stuffing her “composted” body inside a trunk.

Earth Day was created in the spring of 1970 to raise awareness of and take action on the pressing environmental issues of the time. Einhorn was master of ceremonies at the first Earth Day celebration at Fairmount Park in Philadelphia on April 22, 1970. He still maintains the holiday was his idea and he was responsible for launching it, though most activists credit Wisconsin Sen. Gaylord Nelson.

So all nonsense aside, what’s continually captured my imagination has been an often neglected story of water … or lack thereof. Five years ago, while working with the government, I ran across an odd U.S. Report detailing high-level plans to relocate millions from the Southwest to the North/Northeast. The water lifeline to the Southwest, the Colorado River, has been divided according to the 1922 Colorado River Compac. Subsequently, more water has been apportioned than exists. Water flow in the Colorado River — which supplies water to more than 30 million people in the Southwest including Los Angeles, Phoenix, and Las Vegas — has declined. Water shortage numbers grow worse with each succeeding drought.

As a result, water is the #1 global risk impact to society (as a measure of devastation) and #8 global risk based on likelihood of occurring within 10 years (as announced by the World Economic Forum). There are 358 million people with little to no access to water in Africa. In developed countries such as the United States, Canada, parts of Europe and Russia, that number totals 9 million. To combat drought in it’s own state, California announced sweeping statewide water restrictions for the first time in history.

Since today is Earth Day, I rounded up a few easily researched items about water. Compare the water footprint for a variety of products.

  • 9 gallons of water to produce 1 glass of soy milk;
  • 23 gallons of water to produce 1 glass of almond milk;
  • 30 gallons of water to produce 1 glass of regular milk;
  • 35 gallons of water to produce 1 regular yogurt;
  • 41 gallons of water to produce 1 regular size scoop of ice cream;
  • 50 gallons of water to produce 2 slices of cheese;
  • 90 gallons of water to produce 1 regular size Greek yogurt;
  • 109 gallons of water to produce 1 stick of butter;
  • 1,500 gallons of water are needed to manufacture a desktop computer;
  • 32,000 gallons of water is needed to make the steel for one automobile; and
  • 1,700,000 gallons of water per day is required to cool NSA’s Bluffdale, Utah datacenter, with only a third being recycled.

In 2011, The Buddha Blog noted the Buddha’s teaching on walking the middle ground between extremes of over-consumption and austerity fits perfectly into the modern, environmental practice of living in balance with nature. It’s what we speak of today as “sustainability” or living within our means. It’s not necessary to live like a cave man to be an environmentalist in the Buddhist sense, as that would be living out of balance in austerity. It’s structuring our lives, so that when we utilize nature’s resources, we do it in a balanced and sustainable way.

The environment is on loan to us from future generations. Let’s not ruin it for them–and us. Happy Earth Day!

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