Sunday, March 6, 2011


As I work my way through these English immigrants I’ve discovered that there’s something you can’t escape. Religious history and political history are Siamese twins. You can’t understand the one without the other. And it’s our loss.

Each section of Albion’s Seed has maps that show which part of England the majority of the members of the migrating group came from. Most of the Quaker immigrants came from northern counties including Yorkshire and Lancashire. As I was looking the maps, the highlighted regions seemed awfully familiar. They were. The counties that were home to the majority of Quaker immigrants overlap the paths the Irish monks took on their way to Europe. A path that took them through what became northern France and southern Germany all the way to the heel of Italy’s boot.

Those monks and missionaries planted their respect for the Creator and their belief that the believer could have a direct and person experience of God. Perhaps that belief wasn’t so unusual in mystics like Hildegard of Bingen, Meister Ekhart and Francis of Assisi. They all spoke of the Inner Light. Quakers also taught the Inner Light, but they went further in their beliefs. For a Quaker no intermediary between believer and Creator was necessary. No ordained ministers, no bishops. And at that point they parted company with just about everyone else in England.

Like all new believers, the early Quakers were eager to share what they had experienced. They ran into immediate problems. They claimed the right to preach where they would and refused to tithe to the Anglican Church. The one got them pilloried or imprisoned. The other led to confiscation of crops, stock and property. Often the value of what was taken was more than they owed the church. Quakers also believed in equality before God and probably got into more trouble for refusing to remove their hats when the met up with social superiors. Most Quakers also refused to swear oaths either to the King or in court.

Enter William Penn. The son of an admiral in favor with the court of Charles II he converted in his early twenties. He managed to get himself arrested almost immediately for attending Quaker meetings. Young William traveled with George Fox not only in England but in Europe. He soon turned his hand to writing for the church. He turned out more than sixty pamphlets or short books, almost half of them on liberty of conscience.

One of the reasons I took more time with the Quakers had to do with a 1670 court case. Penn was arrested with William Meade and charged with preaching to a crowd of more than five people. They were denied the right to see the charges against them and the judge directed the jury to reach a jury without the defense being allowed to present a case.

The jury returned a not guilty verdict. They were “invited” to change their verdict. The jury refused. The impasse continued over several days. When the jury continued to refuse to change their minds, the judge committed the defendants and the jury to Newgate prison. Penn and Meade for contempt and the jurors because he could I guess. One of the juror’s petitioned for a writ of habeas corpus. After all he hadn’t committed a crime, he just refused to change his mind. Eventually, after some polite judicial back and forth over just which court he needed to go to for the writ, it was granted. The justices also ruled that juries had the right to be free of intimidation. The right to habeas corpus in cases of unlawful detention was also upheld. Even though the trial was held in seventeenth century England, these rights found their way into American law.

Cross posted in Walking With Hope.

Saturday, March 5, 2011

a rant on work

I've been thinking about Wisconsin, and unions, and work.

I know that many good, qualified people are unemployed right now, through no fault of their own, and part of me knows I need to be grateful that I have a job...but some weeks it's harder than others to hold onto that thought, and this was one of them. Work is horrendous right now, for everyone, not just for me. We're in the midst of a takeover, with the result that management is running around like a bunch of chickens with their heads cut off trying to decide what to do next, and every week, and sometimes every day, new decisions are made by those higher on the foodchain re how best to "manage" (HA!) the pesky help (of which I'm one). Although their decisions have direct impact on how I do my job, most of the time management doesn't seem to realize that to implement these decisions, those of us who do the day to day grunt work would actually have to be made aware of them...

But there are exceptions, and on Friday afternoon, the latest plan was announced. It's a very old plan that the company has been trying to implement for several years. It's never worked, but that doesn't discourage the fat cats, who dust it off and rename it and try again. It's called Cross-Training, a nifty plan whereby upper management, all of whom make enough to consider the prospect of tax cuts for the wealthy a terrorist act, downgrade the measly existing pay structures for grunts like myself even further, and then require everyone to learn everyone else's job. The goal is to have everyone able to cover everyone else at all times, so that if someone in investigational is hit by a bus, someone like me (I work in post-marketing) could leave my cube and go take over their work while they're out...the obvious question of who would then do my work doesn't appear to figure into this equation...and never mind that some of the products we manufacture are considered drugs, and some are considered devices, and some (the majority of the products I handle) are considered both drugs and devices (and thus subject to both sets of regulations), depending on where they're marketed. What I do isn't hard, but it's highly highly highly specialized, so I don't see how this "plan" will ever work.

I sat in that meeting and listened to this nonsense...did I mention that for good effect, the person delivering this news told us not to worry about it, but we should know that the company who is acquiring us outsources all of their case management to India, because they can pay our counterparts there less than they pay us...

Add road construction to get to work, and traffic...I've had better times earning a living. A couple of weeks ago on FB, in frustration, I posted,
"I hate my job!" And a retired friend left a comment, "AGAIN?"

Yes, again. And this is why.

cross posted on Talking to Myself

Friday, March 4, 2011


My cousin posted this on his Facebook page. Several people liked it, didn’t leave comments. Of the comments that were left, about half were anti union. I hope he doesn’t mind if I run with the idea.

A public union employee, a Tea party activist and a CEO are sitting at a table with a dozen cookies in the middle of it. The CEO takes 11 cookies, turns to the Tea Party member and says "watch that union guy. He wants a piece of your cookie". Enough said.

That got me to thinking.

Suppose the CEO owns a chain of stores that sells cookies. He wants to use those eleven cookies to buy more cookies, but he wants to get as many cookies as possible for his eleven cookies. He discovers that there is a country that will make cookies for him. This country can make cookies that are so cheap that the CEO can undersell all the local cookie makers near his stores. The Tea Partier and the union member can buy a few cookies even they only have one cookie between them. The only losers are the local cookie makers who can’t sell their cookies that cheaply and their customers who can’t buy their good cookies anymore because they’re out of business. The CEO keeps building more stores, sells more really cheap cookies and more local cookie makers go out of business.

People notice that the cheap cookies don’t taste as good as the cookies they used to be able to buy from the bakery on the corner. They tell themselves that is doesn’t matter so much because the cookies made in the far away country are really, really cheap and they can buy a lot of cookies even though they don’t taste very good. The only unhappy people are the out of work cookie makers and their customers who loved those really good cookies.

And then there's the delvery driver who got his hours cut because he worked for the company that supplied all the ingredients and other supplies for the closed down cookie makers. That business is slower now. The driver and some of the other workers were able to find new jobs but they had to move to do it.

Some of the other closed down cookie maker's employees and laid off supplier employees were able to get jobs with the CEO's company,but with fewer hours and lower pay. The second shift baker is now selling shirts and blouses imported from wherever and moved back in with her Tea Party parents. The teacher lucky enough to find that first job close to her home town got laid off when the local elementary school closed and the fire fighter had his hours cut when the local station was closed and the community contracted with the larger department a few miles away for fire protection.

How many threads can we cut out of the fabric of our communities before it rips beyond repair.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Words to Live By

It’s a lost slogan, coined to keep the British people composed and focused as the threat of Hitler’s invasion became imminent. Though 2 million copies were printed, only a few were actually circulated. In someone’s opinion, the national disaster never reached the level that required this “big gun” of a philosophy to be rolled out. But the poster was recently rediscovered, and evidently speaks enough to the harried, hassled, hyped and horrified 21st-century everyman that it has become a cult sensation.

Imagine, if you will, a government encouraging its constituents to keep calm. Almost impossible to fathom, isn’t it, in today’s world of high-decibel hyperbole that calls us to just the opposite—to screaming frenzy, panic and all-encompassing anger?

And yet, if there was real danger… if true, tangible disaster threatened, “they” would be exhorting us to…KEEP CALM. Don’t panic. Chillax. No government wants to deal with millions of terrified, witless citizens AND a national catastrophe at the same time.

So when government, or someone inside the government, seems to be goading you to anger and fear; attempting to whip you into a fury about something that only “they” can fix…

You can pretty much conclude there is no real danger. A real threat would need you calm and focused.

Let’s all simply remember this, shall we? Chant it like a mantra, every time someone—the media or an elected official, our next-door-neighbor or an evangelist, or all of the above—tries to plant fear or anger in our hearts…