Tuesday, October 29, 2013

What We Need Is Another Good Ass-Kicking Next November

by Dee Newman

From Bill Moyers.com

The Lies That Will Kill America

Here in Manhattan the other day, you couldn't miss it -- the big bold headline across the front page of the tabloid New York Post, screaming one of those sick, slick lies that are a trademark of Rupert Murdoch's right-wing media empire. There was Uncle Sam, brandishing a revolver and wearing a burglar's mask. "UNCLE SCAM," the headline shouted. "US robs bank of $13 billion."

Say what? Pure whitewash, and Murdoch's minions know it. That $13 billion dollars is the settlement JPMorgan Chase, the country's biggest bank, is negotiating with the government to settle its own rip-off of American homeowners and investors -- those shady practices that five years ago helped trigger the financial meltdown, including manipulating mortgages and sending millions of Americans into bankruptcy or foreclosure. If anybody's been robbed it's not JPMorgan Chase, which can absorb the loss and probably take a tax write-off for at least part of it. No, it's the American public. In addition to financial heartache we still have been denied the satisfaction of seeing jail time for any of the banksters who put our feet in cement and pushed us off the cliff.

This isn't the only scandal JPMorgan Chase is juggling. A $6 billion settlement with institutional investors is in the works and criminal charges may still be filed in California. The bank is under investigation on so many fronts it's hard to keep them sorted out -- everything from deceptive sales in its credit card unit to Bernie Madoff's Ponzi scheme to the criminal manipulation of energy markets and bribing Chinese officials by offering jobs to their kids.

Nor is JPMorgan Chase the only culprit under scrutiny. Bank of America was found guilty just this week of civil fraud, and a gaggle of other banks is being investigated by the government for mortgage fraud. No wonder the camp followers at Fox News, the Wall Street Journal, CNBC and other cheerleaders have ganged up to whitewash the banks. If justice is somehow served, this could be the biggest egg yet across the smug face of unfettered, unchecked, unaccountable capitalism.

One face in particular: Jamie Dimon, the chairman and CEO of JPMorgan Chase. One of Murdoch's Fox Business News hosts, Charlie Gasparino, claims the Feds are on a witch hunt against Dimon for criticizing President Obama, whose administration, we are told, "is brutally determined and efficient when it comes to squashing those who oppose their policies." But hold on: Dimon is a Democrat, said to be Obama's favorite banker, with so much entree he's been doing his own negotiating with the attorney general of the United States.

But that's crony capitalism for you, bipartisan to a fault. Rupert Murdoch has been defending Dimon in his media for a long time. Last spring, when it looked like there might be a stockholders revolt against Dimon, Murdoch was one of many bigwigs who rushed to his defense. He tweeted that JPMorgan would be "up a creek" without Dimon. "One of the smartest, toughest guys around," Murdoch insisted. Whether Murdoch's exaltation had an effect or not, Dimon was handily reelected.

Over the last few days, the Wall Street Journal, both Bible and supplicant of high finance as well as one of Murdoch's more reputable publications -- at least in its reporting -- echoed the "UNCLE SCAM" indignation of the more lowbrow Post. The government just wants "to appease their left-wing populist allies," its editorial writers raged, with a "political shakedown and wealth-redistribution scheme." Perhaps, the paper suggested, the White House will distribute some of the JPMorgan Chase penalty to consumers and advocacy groups and "have the checks arrive in swing congressional districts right before the 2014 election." We can hear the closet Bolsheviks panting for their handouts now and getting ready to use their phony ID's to stuff the box on Election Day with multiple illegal ballots.

Such fantasies are all part of the Murdoch News Corp. pattern, an unending flow of falsehood and phony populism that in reality serves only the wealthy elite. Fox News is its ministry of misinformation, the fake jewel of the News Corp. crown, a 24/7 purveyor of flimflam and the occasional selective truth. Look at the pounding they've given Obama's healthcare reform right from the very start, whether the non-existent death panels or claims that it would cause the highest tax increase in history.

While it's true that the startup of Obamacare has been plagued by its website nightmare and other problems, Fox News consistently has failed to mention Republican roadblocks that prevented the program from getting proper funding or the fact that so many states ruled by Republican governors and legislatures -- more than 30 -- have deliberately failed to set up the insurance marketplaces critical to making the new system work. Just the other day, Eric Stern at Salon.com fact-checked a segment on Sean Hannity's show. "Average Americans are feeling the pain of Obamacare and the healthcare overhaul train wreck," Hannity declared, "and six of them are here tonight to tell us their stories."

Eric Stern tracked down each of the Hannity Six and found that while their questions about health reform may have been valid, the answers they received from Hannity or had decided for themselves were not. "I don't doubt that these six individuals believe that Obamacare is a disaster," Stern reported. "But none of them had even visited the insurance exchange."

And there you have the problem: ideology and self-interest trump the facts or even caring about the facts, whether it's banking, Obamacare or global warming. Ninety-seven percent of climate scientists say that climate change is happening and that humans have made it so, but only four in ten Americans realize it's true. According to a new study in the journal Public Understanding of Science, written by a team that includes Yale University's Anthony Leiserowitz, the more that people listen to conservative media like Fox News or Limbaugh, the less sure they are that global warming is real. And even worse, the less they trust science.

Such ignorance will kill democracy as surely as the big money that funds and encourages the media outlets, parties and individuals who spew the lies and hate. The ground is all too fertile for those who will only believe whatever best fits their resentment or particular brand of paranoia. It is, as an old song lyric goes, "the self-deception that believes the lie." The truth will set us free; the lie will make prisoners of us all.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

The Geese Group

The core of the Geese Group: Jackson, Dee, Jon, Phil, Steve and Wes
Last Thursday I flew into Baltimore, MD, to help Phil Fratesi and the Geese Group coordinate and direct Baltimore’s Race for the Cure for the Susan G. Komen Foundation.

As I have explained before, years ago Phil told me he wanted to create a working group based on the simple principle of shared leadership – like a flock of geese flying in a “V” formation, when people share direction and a sense of community tasks can be accomplished quicker and easier. He described how when a goose falls out of formation, it instantly experiences the resistance of flying alone, loosing the advantage of the lifting power of the bird immediately in front of it, how when the lead goose becomes tired, it rotates back into the formation and another goose flies to the point position.

He described how geese when flying in formation honk to encourage those up front to maintain their momentum, how when a goose is incapacitated in any way, two other geese drop out of the formation and follow it down to assist and protect it, staying with it until it dies or is able to fly again. He maintained, people like geese need and deserve encouragement and support and when it is provided, the quality of production is always superior. 

Thursday, October 17, 2013

The Fiasco has ended! Or, has it?

Last night, just hours before our nation faced the possibility of being unable to pay its bills for the first time in modern history, the Senate voted 81 to 18 to reopen the federal government and raise the nation's borrowing limit. The House, of course, did as well, voting 285-144 to end the shutdown. Early this morning President Obama signed the legislation.

As anyone with any common sense had been predicting all along, the Republican extortionists would have to cave at some point. The votes to pass a clean continuing resolution to keep the government funded and end the shutdown were there. They had always been there, if only Boehner had allowed a vote.

Unfortunately, the biggest losers in this fiasco are not the extortionists. Although, all the latest polls indicate that the American people disapprove of the Republican/Tea Party by a 3-to-1 margin, the biggest losers by far are the American people. And damn, if we are not going to have to endure this all over again in three months.

Let us all hope that the American people will remember this debacle a year from now and vote the extortionist out.

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Saturday, October 5, 2013

From Section Two of My Memoir: NORRIS (Chapter Nine)

Chapter Nine

The Fellowship

When we arrived in Norris in the summer of 1949 there were only three religious congregations in the community. The largest of the three by far was the Norris Religious Fellowship. A very small group of Catholics had been worshiping together for well over a decade. In 1947 the first Baptist Church in Clinton established a small ministry in Norris. All three congregations were meeting in the Norris School building.

During the changeover of the town’s ownership from TVA to private (between 1948 and 1954) four ministries besides The Fellowship (as it was known) established churches in Norris – St. Joseph’s Catholic Church, the First Baptist Church, the St. Francis Episcopal Church, and the Norris United Methodist Church.

In November 1933, when TVA began the construction of Norris Dam, Arthur Morgan, the first board chairman, was adamant that TVA would not build a church in the town of Norris on constitutional grounds, which forbids the sponsorship and compulsion of religious exercise by government upon its citizens. Nevertheless, within the first month of the dam’s construction, Rev. C. C. Haun, a Congregational minister and a TVA employee, began conducting religious services at the Norris Community Building. These religious activities were not compulsory, yet were open to anyone interested.

By the summer of 1934 as more and more families moved into the newly constructed homes the need for a more formal religious association became apparent.  TVA conducted a survey.  The results of the questionnaire confirmed that 99 percent of the Norris residents preferred a cooperative community approach to fulfill their religious needs. As a result, in October 1934, the Norris Religious Fellowship was formed. 

The members of The Fellowship  came from very diverse backgrounds – both religiously and geographically. Though the membership was below the average age of most congregations, the majority was above average in education and intellect. From the very beginning all church activities were designed to provide ecumenical inspiration and enlightenment, so that each member could seek and find religious truth in their own way.  Through a greater appreciation and understanding of the world’s major religions, the members of the Fellowship believed that the opportunity for spiritual growth would be enhanced.

Both of my parents were drawn to The Fellowship’s guiding principle (In things agreed upon unity, in other things liberty, in all things the will to be one) and the lack of a religious dogma and creed. However, it was rare, if not extraordinary, for my father to attend church. He had come to believe that religious faith and doctrine were liturgical nonsense, pious propaganda often administered by hypocrites.

My father’s disillusionment with religion came early. Growing up during the early 1900s in a small Alabama town northeast of Montgomery, my father’s family faithfully attended a small protestant evangelical church. The entire congregation of the church (including my father) believed beyond a shadow of doubt that their charismatic married minister was a conduit of God – that the Almighty spoke through him. That is, until he skipped town with all of the church’s funds in the arms of an underage female parishioner.

Though traumatic the experience was transformative. My father came to realize that faith (the belief in, devotion to, and the trust in someone or something, especially without logical proof) is ludicrous. When devotion and honorable behavior are coerced through indoctrination and/or proselytizing, using the fear of punishment and the prospect of reward, both the transaction and the conversion lack moral standing.

Moreover, as an adult my father was unable to reconcile the doctrine of a loving, omnipotent, all-knowing, and transcendent creator with reality. Both the Bible and life experience seemed to suggest that if God truly exists outside the mind of man, he must be cruel, manipulative, and sadistic – undeniably a deity to fear, but not one to worship.

Though my father may have recognized Saul of Tarsus (better known as the Apostle Paul) to be a highly eloquent, aggressive, fearless, and brilliant promoter, as well as the interpreter of the meaning of Christ throughout the world (then and now), my father did not agree with his interpretation nor his analysis “ . . . that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose." [Romans 8:28]

No, my father was more apt to agree (as I do) with Samuel Clemens that faith is believing what you know full well ain’t so, that the sure confidence with which we righteously reject other faiths as nonsense should teach us to suspect that ours is also, or with the title character in Archibald MacLeish's Pulitzer Prize-winning play, J.B. who expresses the theodicy paradox eloquently:
“If God is God He is not good,
If God is good He is not God,
Take the even, take the odd;
I would not sleep here if I could
Except for the little green leaves in the wood
And the wind on the water.”

Though The Fellowship had from time to time discussed the possibility of securing a place to worship, it was not until 1945 that it acquired a building of its own. Though not large enough to be used as anything but a classroom or an office, early that year it purchased from TVA an old fire hall on West Norris Road for $20.  After the Fellowship obtained a state charter, TVA licensed The Fellowship to use a parcel of land east of the Norris School building on the corner of Dogwood and East Norris Roads. The old fire hall was then loaded on a truck and moved to the site. The Fellowship spent another $379.59 to renovate the small two-room building, calling it the Fellowship House. Nearly 70 years later, it still stands nestled in the trees near the educational building as testament of the Fellowship’s enduring legacy.

When my family became members of The Fellowship in 1949, the minister was Dr. Philip Burton (a Methodist) who had succeeded Thomas 'Scotty' Cowan (a Presbyterian) who served from 1939 to 1946. It was under Dr. Burton’s leadership that a building program was, at last, actualized.

However, in 1950 the cost to build both a sanctuary and an educational building was estimated to be over a $100,000. The Fellowship’s prospect of securing a sum of that amount was unpromising at best. So the membership chose to build the educational building first. In the interim the worship services and Sunday School classes continued to meet across Dogwood Road in the Norris School building .

Late in 1950 a site began to be cleared for the building. By April 1951 work was started on the foundation. Nearly all the work was voluntary and done by members of The Fellowship, which reduced the costs of construction considerably.  Though the work moved slowly as money became available for purchase of materials by January 1953, services were conducted in the new educational building for the first time. This initial stage of the building project was completed free of debt.

Though I was too young at the time to offer valuable assistance, I do remember helping my father run electrical wiring throughout the building. Despite the fact that he continued to refrain from attending church, his electrical expertise and supervision were indispensable in the building’s successful completion.

During Dr. Burton’s tenure a number of innovative collaborations were initiated with other houses of worship in both Knox and Anderson counties. For example The Fellowship’s Young Peoples Group would often meet with and plan outings with Temple Beth El’s youth group in Knoxville and the Unitarian youth group in Oak Ridge.

Rabbi Marx from Temple Beth El also would on occasion fill-in for Dr. Burton during Sunday services. I remember Rabbi Marx as a very likable guy, with a pleasant personality and a good sense of humor, yet obviously extremely intelligent.

On January 2, 1955, Dr. Burton resigned to become the minister of a community church at Westport, Oregon. Immediately, a pulpit committee began to hold a series of small group meetings of the membership to find a successor for Dr. Burton. In the interim, the Rev. Daniel M. Welch (a Unitarian) led services while the pulpit committee sought a new minister. 

On March 27, 1955, shortly after he graduated from the University of Chicago’s Divinity School, the Rev. Sterling W. McHarg, (of the Christian Church) preached his first sermon as minister of The Fellowship. It was under his guidance that the building program continued through fruition. On July 26, 1956, ground was broken for the sanctuary.

 Once again, it was constructed almost entirely by volunteer labor from members of The Fellowship. Though few, if any, had careers in the building trades, they became unpaid carpenters, electricians, painters, and roofers. Every weekend for three years the men of The Fellowship worked on the building. Some worked nights and on holidays.  Others (both men and women), who were unable to help with the actual construction, contributed to the effort in other ways. For example, the Women’s Fellowship made substantial financial contributions, as well as preparing and serving meals to the Saturday and Sunday construction crews.

Long before the sanctuary was completed my labor contributions became, if not significant, substantial. My father’s electrical expertise and supervision remained indispensable. On July 26, 1959, exactly three years to the day after the groundbreaking, the sanctuary was consecrated.


From its inception The Fellowship sought ways to express its religious convictions in acts of service. Under the direction of The Fellowship’s first paid minister, Rev. Thomson, in 1936 a plot of land was purchased and members of The Fellowship built a five-room house for a family of 11 whose two-room log cabin had burned down in the small community of Vasper near Lake City.

Over the years working with other Norris churches, the Women’s Fellowship (founded in June, 1939) has helped provide food, clothing, shelter, medicine, and utilities for countless individuals and families throughout the county and the region. Much of the money to finance these acts of service was raised by the annual Church Bazaar and other fund raising events of the Women’s Fellowship.

The Fellowship’s Young Peoples Group was also involved in many fund raising and service projects. During Halloween each year, the group would gather in the educational building, divide up into small groups and canvas the town, trick-or-treating for UNICEF.  Afterward we would return with our donations and then play games, pull taffy, and party.

For many years the entire town would also gather in the Norris School auditorium for a Halloween costume competition. The evening was always immensely entertaining.  There were awards given for both children and adults. The grand prize inevitably would go to Gary Fuis (at least twice). There was always great anticipation each year on what inventive costume Gary and his father would devise. They entered their most memorable creation the year that Gary came as the Headless Horseman, with a remarkable likeness of his head tucked under his right arm.

If I’m not mistaken that was the same year (possibly 1955 or 1956) my father won for most original adult costume when he came dressed as Hazel – Ted Key’s famous cartoon character – the wry, take-charge, live-in maid of the Baxter family. In 1961 the single-panel comic strip that ran in the Saturday Evening Post for many years was adapted into a sitcom for NBC, starring Shirley Booth as Hazel. Though Ms Booth received two Emmys and a number of nominations for her performance as Hazel, I must admit that I’m rather partial to my father’s incomparable presentation of the character.

I will never forget watching him haughtily saunter down the center isle of the standing-room-only packed auditorium wearing a black dress with a little white frilly headpiece, collar and apron, carrying a broom. As a murmur of laughter began to swell from the folks in the back rows, heads in the front of the auditorium began to turn. Soon the entire audience was roaring hysterically. By the time my father reached the stage everyone was standing, enthusiastically applauding his performance.


As a child the major influences on the development of my philosophical belief system (beyond The Fellowship community, my parents, friends and neighbors) came from two sources – literature (mainly from Samuel Clemens, Victor Hugo and H. G. Wells) and the international community through radio and television.

As I have mentioned before, my mother was a prolific reader of both fiction and non-fiction. She read to me all of the classics. We had a large number of books in our home, including a set of the Great Books and the Encyclopedia Britannica. The community library was also well used.

My father loved crossword puzzles. Though he only had a fifth-grade education, he became a master of solving them. He believed that the best part of solving a good crossword puzzle was learning something new. Therefore, reference books were essential in our home, including dictionaries, atlases, and a good encyclopedia, all of which were well used. And, not just by my father. Through his own experience he learned that the process of looking something up was extremely beneficial in developing memory and expanding knowledge. As a result, instead of directly answering a question you knew full well he knew the answer to, he would often say, “look it up.”

My mother was an avid listener to WOR out of New York City and the Long John Nebel's radio talk show. On Friday nights I would often sit up and listen with her late into the wee-small-hours. A frequent guest of Long John’s was a man by the name of Khigh Dheigh (pronounced Kye Dee). If you ever saw the original Manchurian Candidate, he was Dr. Yen Lo or if you ever watch Hawaii Five-O, he was Chinese agent Wo Fat.

Khigh Dheigh was not just an actor. He had a doctorate in theology and in his later years was the Rector for a Taoist Sanctuary in Tempe, Arizona called Inner Truth Looking Place. Though there were many, the one phrase I heard him speak back in 1958 when I was only 14 years old that I have never forgotten was, "If you only know one religion you know none."

From that point on I began a life quest to learn as much as I possibly could about all of the world’s religions. In the possess I soon realized that religion, a belief system which attempts to explain the cause and nature of the Universe and the purpose of life through a belief in a supernatural being, made no sense to me. It still doesn’t.

To this day I have never been able to rap my mind around the concept. It is totally illogical. The Universe, to me, appears infinite, both in time and space, having no beginning and no end. And, therefore, no place for an omnipotent creator to reside or exist.

Of course, I recognize the paradox of an infinite Universe being made up of what seems to be finite creations (like myself) that come into existence and sooner or later become extinct – “For dust thou art, and unto dust thou shall return.” [Genesis 3:19] This is merely the 'changing nature' of what is, the transformation of matter into energy and energy into matter.

It’s a fact: life is not everlasting. Though the phenomenon may be absurd and discomforting to the mind of man, it gives me no solace whatsoever to perceive what is as what isn’t. My thoughts, beliefs and the writing of this memoir are the mere, yet phenomenal result, of an evolutionary history that stretches back billions of years, if not forever.

Throughout my childhood I received no religious indoctrination from anyone within The Fellowship community, including my parents. I was not only free, but encourage to actively explore and seek truth were ever I might find it. From everyone I received moral guidance through their words and conduct, which always seemed to be consistently harmonious.


Believers in the supernatural define atheism as the rejection of the belief in the existence of a deity. Therefore, according to their definition, I am not an atheist for I do not deny or reject their belief in the existence of a deity. I merely hold that nothing supernatural exists in or outside the Universe other than that which exists within their minds. One cannot reject or deny what does not exist.

Circular reasoning in which the proposition to be proved is assumed implicitly or explicitly within the premise is illogical and fallacious. Conjuring up a mental concept or image and then asserting that it must exist for others to perceive is not only irrational it is insane. 

The fundamental difference between those who are religious and those who are not is that those who believe in the existence of the supernatural do so by faith and faith alone. 

Faith (when used in a religious or theological context) does not rest on logical proof or material evidence. It implies a trusting reliance and/or confident belief in a supernatural and transcendent reality beyond what is real, self-evident, certain, demonstrable and natural. 

Granted there may be an array of reasons why an individual may choose to believe in a transcendent reality. For over half a century I have read, studied and discussed the historical, philosophical and psychological development of religious beliefs, teachings and practices throughout the world. I conclude that most folks (historically and presently) who believe in a divine presence do so out of fear and ignorance – a fear of the ultimate unknown (death) and an ignorance (lack of knowledge) of the historical and scientific evidence of what is.

I recognize that it is extremely difficult to deal with the absurdity of life and death. The human mind naturally seeks meaning and purpose. I understand how mysticism, a belief in a supernatural omnipotent being with universal authority and power, could provide comfort and support in a meaningless Universe. 

I have no quarrel with anyone’s beliefs as long as they remain benign and do not inflict harm on others. 

With that said, a quest for the truth to understand what is and the questionable conviction that God is the answer are significantly different endeavors. One is intellectually honest and the other is not. For thousands of years we have been told that without religion human beings are no more than ruthless egocentric animals fighting for our share of life’s sustenance. Only through religion and God’s grace and forgiveness can we acquire a moral compass.

Nonsense! In fact, both logic and history inform us that religion actually prevents us from fulfilling our evolved intrinsic moral responsibilities. With our highly developed mental capacity to choose one action over another, our motives (not our theology) are what determine our moral competence. In fact, if there were a god, one would have to ignore its existence in order for one’s motives to be pure, honorable, and just – a mental hurdle, which is impossible to accomplish.

What determines whether an act has been morality initiated is motive (the reason one chooses to act in a particular way). A belief in the supernatural (as history has clearly shown) has never guaranteed obedience to the laws of any religious faith, let alone adherence to any moral standard. 

Moreover, it should be obvious that morality becomes corrupted when our motives are influenced or manipulated by the benevolence and/or fear of God or by any reward and/or punishment.

Therefore, the choice of a particular action or course one chooses (if it is to be moral) must always be carefully and cognitively selected. Morality does not require one to be heroic, to disregard one’s interests over the interests of others. It merely obliges that the basic needs and interests of other sentient beings should always take precedence over one’s wanton desires. In other words, reciprocity is essential. We must care for others, as we would like for them to care for us.

Furthermore, morality cannot be arbitrary. In order to truly live a moral life one must treat all living sentient beings with the same consideration and respect, and not just the members of one’s family, community, nation, race, ethnic heritage, gender, religious affiliation, philosophical perspective, political ideology, and/or species. I would also add that morally we are obliged to revere and care for all non-sentient elements of the Universe that provide and sustain life.

Clearly the concept of the supernatural and the ethic of reciprocity originate from the human mind, however, one is most often fashioned and formed from fear and ignorance while the other is inspired by a desire to do what is right and just.

Intellectual integrity demands the truth. More likely than not, if the powers of the supernatural were perceived by its believers to be ineffective (unable to reward or punish), the number of so-called non-believers would greatly increase, immediately reducing the theological exploitation of ignorance and fear.

Without the reward of Heaven and the damnation of Hell, Christianity would not have become one of the world’s foremost religions.  It would have remained an insignificant Jewish sect if Saul of Tarsus and other early Christian leaders had not been so successful in convincing gentiles that "God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life." 

Is it not self-evident that there is absolutely nothing moral about that declaration? Though it was (and remains) a highly successful marketing ploy, it is, in fact, a veiled threat, exploiting man’s fears and ignorance and not a moral initiative. 

Most, if not all, belief systems have within their constituencies zealots and fanatics – whether they are based on a systematic and logical quest to comprehend the unknown, or rooted in some repressive religious faith devised to cope with the absurdity and reality of life and death.

 When a belief system requires an acceptance and affirmation from others, beware! Proselytizing will only be the first of many perverse tactics employed to try and convert non-believers. Ultimately, if all else fails, the definitive tactical strategy becomes intimidation through terrorism and murder. 

Nearly every religion (including Judaism, Christianity, Islam, Buddhism, Hinduism, Jainism, as well as the teachings of Confucius and other ethical philosophers) has proclaimed that the most concise and fundamental principle of morality is the Ethic of Reciprocity (more commonly known as The Golden Rule). Nevertheless, many, if not most, religious leaders (in the name of their deity) end up using perverse manipulation to win over converts -- the reward of salvation and the fear of everlasting damnation in order to intimidate and “scare the hell out” of their followers. 

The members of most of these religious faiths are able to site numerous religious passages and texts to validate and defend there depraved actions. The U. S. slave trade, for example, was justified through scripture. There are many passages within the Bible that clearly promote and approve of slavery, informing the reader of how to obtain slaves, how hard to beat them, and even when and how one may have sex with them.

There are countless passages from the Torah, the Bible and the Qur'an that provoke and encourage their followers to subdue and murder their religious rivals. When the fundamentalist believers in the supernatural unequivocally believe that their sacred text is the divine word of God almighty, there is absolutely nothing anyone can do or say to prevent their holy wrath from venting itself. 

Besides, they are only following the lead of the supernatural fathers of their faiths. Revealed within all these sacred texts is a manipulative and sadistic being with a serious personality disorder. A being that has demonstrated time and time again within the pages of these revered so-called sacred writings a pervasive pattern of cruel, demeaning and aggressive behavior, using physical cruelty and violence for the purpose of establishing dominance, while seeming to be amused by and taking pleasure in both the psychological and physical abuse and suffering of all living sentient creatures.

No wonder throughout history most human cruelty has been initiated by proponents of one religion or another. Despite what they wish for us to believe, morality does not reside with the believers in the supernatural. In fact, unlike non-believers, there are (as I have tried to articulate) some daunting self-imposed impediments that must be overcome in order for believers in the supernatural to fulfill their moral responsibilities.

 In closing, though there is nothing better than a good laugh (except maybe a good sneeze and, of course, that toe-curling wave of pleasure that makes even us so-called atheists call-out for God) I am compelled to ask: why would anyone revere an omnipotent being who could have easily created fearless, intelligent, and decent human beings, yet obviously preferred to make fearful, ignorant, and corrupt ones; who could have easily created a heaven here on earth, but chose to created a world of suffering for millions of innocent men, women, and children, as well as other sentient beings; who espouses justice, mercy, forgiveness, and the Golden Rule, while utilizing the fear of damnation and hell as a contrivance to intimidate and coerce his imperfect creations to do good works; who mouths morals to all his flawed offspring, and yet, lacks the understanding that morality can neither be arbitrary nor be promoted with promises of reward and/or threats of punishment; who states in Leviticus 25:44 that one may actually possess slaves provided they are purchased from a neighboring nation; and who hypocritically condemns immorally offensive acts, while committing them all himself, proudly proclaiming them throughout his so-called Holy Scripture?

Though they may be sufficient to keep you in line

Though they may be sufficient to keep you in line,
Reward and punishment are never divine.
For there's nothing more deceitful or insincere
Than honor or favor based upon profit or fear.

So, if you adhere to a straight and narrow path
Simply because you fear the fate of pharaoh's wrath,
Or worship a deity so that you might live in
Some celestial city for the freely forgiven,

You might as well sell the devil your soul
For all his apparel, his revel and gold.
For if fear's your motive or gain's your aim,
However you so live, the verdict's the same.

For in truth, the only truth there is to live by,
Isn't a tooth for a tooth or an eye for an eye.
It's never let your fear, your desire, or your greed
Ever interfere with another's dire need.

Although actions, for sure, speak louder than words,
If your motives aren't pure nothing else will be heard.
So, whatever your fate, your reward, or your plight,
Choose love over hate, never wrong over right.

Thursday, October 3, 2013

From Tribe of Heart

Peaceable Kingdom: The Journey Home on
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Animal Rescue Short Film on YouTube
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All the Difference in the World

Dear Friends,
In celebration of the birth of Mohandas Gandhi 144 years ago today, we are releasing a 16-minute mini-documentary titled All the Difference in the World for free viewing on YouTube in four languages. This short film is based on an extended scene from Peaceable Kingdom: The Journey Home. It follows Cayce Mell and Jason Tracy of OohMahNee Sanctuary as they embark on what would become one of the largest animal rescue efforts in US history following a tornado striking a huge industrial egg farm in Ohio. rescued henWe hope watching it inspires your own efforts to work for positive change and motivates you to share this important message with the people in your life.
The story told by Jason and Cayce is timeless, and touches on a question that haunts those struggling for justice all over the world: With problems so huge and so overwhelming, how can our individual efforts mean anything or make a real difference against the enormity of the tragedy and injustice?
Cayce and Jason answer this question by their eloquent example. hen rescuedRather than succumbing to despair, they rally a whole community of rescuers and do everything they can, knowing all the while that there will be countless individuals who cannot be saved. They carry in their hearts the full weight of all tragedies they are unable to prevent. But they also open themselves to the joy that comes from giving everything one has to give.
As Gandhi once famously said, "Whatever you do may seem insignificant to you, but it is most important that you do it." For those thousands of individual hens who were pulled from the wreckage and transported to safety at a sanctuary, the efforts of Cayce and Jason and many others made "all the difference in the world.” Rescued HenAs the story of this rescue goes on to awaken compassion and a deeper sense of justice in others, it will hopefully inspire more people to choose to take action despite overwhelming odds.
This extended rescue scene was included in its entirety in earlier drafts of Peaceable Kingdom: The Journey Home, until it became clear in the final round of editing that it had to be radically edited down in order to work within the larger context the film. In the end, less than three minutes of this powerful material was included. While this was the right decision for Peaceable Kingdom: The Journey Home, it was painful to have to leave out so much of this rescue story that we loved, both philosophically and artistically. Our creative team especially appreciated the way the scene seamlessly blended dramatic visual storytelling with Kevin Bartlett’s haunting musical score. It captured in ways that defy words the complex interplay between the enormity of the disaster and the quiet struggle being waged inside each rescuer who was on the ground, grappling with the limits of their own emotions and capabilities.
Read "Gandhi and Chavez: Legacy of Justice for All" on PeaceableJourney
In his lifetime, Gandhi faced overwhelming odds, and unimaginable tragedies. He did everything he could at each stage of his journey, focusing more on being true to his principles than on achieving short-term outcomes. In the end, he proved that holding true to one's ideals is not impractical. In fact, for him, it was the very basis of inspiring millions of people to join an effort that dramatically changed the course of human history.
So let's celebrate Gandhi's birthday by appreciating the efforts of all those individuals who tell the truth, work with integrity, and intervene on behalf of the vulnerable beings of this world. Let their inspiring example give us hope and determination to become the change we wish to see in the world.
Your friends,
James and Jenny
Co-founders and Filmmakers

October Special Deals
The following discounts will be in place until midnight EST on Thurs, Oct. 31st
Peaceable Kingdom DVD
Individual DVDs

Normally $20 each
Discount price: $15
Peaceable Kingdom: The Journey Home
DVD includes 78-minute film plus 90 minutes of bonus material. All content is available with subtitles in English (SDH), Spanish, French, and Portuguese.

Add The Witness for just $5 more
The Witness - normally $15 each
Discount price for both DVDs: $20
2 DVD set
Peaceable Kingdom:
The Journey Home and The Witness

10-pack of DVDs $100 (half price)
Special Deal:
Free Shipping - anywhere in the world!

Peaceable Kingdom 10 packFor gift giving and sharing the film with people and groups in your community

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Peaceable Kingdom:
The Journey Home

Now on iTunes
We are happy to announce the availability of Peaceable Kingdom: The Journey Home on Apple iTunes. Now, you can rent ($2.99) or buy ($14.99) the film for online viewing in five languages: English, Spanish, French, German, and Portuguese, in the following countries:
United States
calf running
Costa Rica

Much to our regret, the film will be unavailable on iTunes in Australia, New Zealand, Ireland and the United Kingdom, due to new requirements in those countries that films have an official rating in order to be distributed through iTunes. As an alternative, take advantage of this month's special deals on DVDs, including a $5 discount on individual films, and free shipping on our half-priced 10 packs to anywhere in the world!

It takes a global village
We owe a debt of gratitude to the many individuals who donated their financial support, professional skills, technical knowledge, and linguistic artistry to making this iTunes release possible. As a grassroots organization with modest resources, Tribe of Heart achieves excellence largely through the passion, integrity and talents of our community members. You inspire us every day!
Here are just a few of the many people who made multilingual iTunes release possible:
Associate Producer Kevin Smith, who is currently doing a wonderful job coordinating our North American screenings program, and who helped facilitate the recent broadcast of Peaceable Kingdom: The Journey Home on Detroit Public Television, connected us with the company that served as our liaison to Apple iTunes.
Tribe of Heart's attorney, Trevor DeSane, negotiated our iTunes contract. Trevor is also doing outstanding work overseeing Tribe of Heart's numerous international translation and outreach projects.
Undertaking a film release in one language is a challenge unto itself. Add in the complexities created by four additional languages and the challenges can get overwhelming, especially when the subject matter requires philosophical precision as well as artistic presentation. Each of our film's translations were initially performed by a professional movie subtitling firm. Then, bilingual auditors familiar with animal rights philosophy reviewed each of thousands of subtitles to ensure the film's message had been translated faithfully. Our team of auditors, who generously donated their time, significantly elevated the quality of the final result.
Reich Des FriedensSpecifically, Kerstin Voigt and Thomas Winger helped us perfect the German translation. Thomas, who founded the Austrian-based animal advocacy group United Creatures, was responsible for the very first international version of a Tribe of Heart film, Der Zeuge, the German-language version of The Witness. Kerstin, who hails from East Berlin but now lives in the UK's Isle of Wight, first got to know us through organizing screenings of Peaceable Kingdom: The Journey Home. Kerstin is a dedicated wildlife rehabber who, with her family, helps many orphaned and injured birds recuperate before being released back into the wild.
Reino ApacibleItalia Millán and Adriana Cristina Hernández helped ensure our Spanish translation was top notch. We first got to know Italia through our mutual efforts to save wildlife from municipal mass-killing programs. In addition to her tireless advocacy efforts for both animals and the environment, Italia is a professional translator and a talented photographer. Adriana, also a translator by profession, donated her talents several years ago to the Spanish version of The Witness, called El Testigo, which is currently available for free online viewing. We are fortunate to have had her help, offered with such generosity and efficiency, on both of our film projects.
Royaume PacifiqueJaclyn and Pierre Gidel, and Nicolas Serres Cousiné refined the French translation so it would be both accurate and poetic. Jaclyn is a professional vegan pastry chef who has introduced enthusiastic Parisians to cruelty-free desserts. She recently opened an artisan beer shop with her husband, Pierre. Nicolas is a life coach based in Manhattan whose specialty is helping people fully embrace their passion in life.
Reino PacificoSimone de Lima and Louise Tezza made sure our Portuguese translation hit all the right notes. We first met Simone at a screening of our film at the Environmental Film Festival in the Nation's Capital. She later returned to Brazil and opened Brasilia's first ever vegan café. Simone has also worked on animal advocacy for many years through her organization, ProAnimal. We met Louise through her work at Brazil's MostraAnimal film festival, which is devoted to showing films that explore the human-animal relationship. Last year the festival awarded Peaceable Kingdom: The Journey Home its top award, the Oscow, and later this year it will be screening the new Portuguese version of The Witness.
Last but not least, we are grateful to Tribe of Heart's board members for their encouragement and support throughout this long, seemingly endless process. Pam Page made a special effort in several different ways to help get us across the finish line -- including recruiting Jaclyn and Pierre (her daughter and son-in-law) to help with the French version of the film.
These are just some of the people who made this release possible. Looking at the multilingual versions of the film posters above brings us great joy, as they capture in a glance the beauty created when people join together in service of the cause of justice. Without our community, none of this would have been possible!

Share the message of compassion
facebook Has one of our films made a positive impact on your life? Keep the ripples of change moving by letting the people in your network know about the iTunes release of Peaceable Kingdom: The Journey Home, and about the YouTube release of All the Difference in the World. You can also receive additional updates by "Liking" our Facebook page, where you will be amongst the first to receive breaking news.
Coming up in our next newsletter... an exciting update about the amazing work that international translators and activists are doing with The Witness. Be prepared to be inspired!
How you can help Jenny & James
Tribe of Heart is a 501(c)(3) charitable non-profit organization. Though our staff is small, we are able to make an international impact thanks to our network of volunteers around the world who bring our films into new languages and breathe life into our community outreach programs. Every bit of support makes a very real difference.
Income from grassroots donations, sales from DVDs/iTunes, and foundation grants each make up between 20 and 40% of our entire revenue in a given year. The diversity of our funding sources gives Tribe of Heart an extraordinary level of independence, resulting in films and programs that are unencumbered by undue influence from any indiidual, organization or special interest group. Your volunteer efforts and financial contributions will help us stay independent and continue to offer cutting-edge films and programs that reach more people in an ever-wider range of cultures.
We currently have an over-abundance of high-leverage opportunities for sharing our work in new languages and cultures, but are limited by a shortfall of financial support. Please consider making a tax-deductible donation today. And thank you for all you are doing to make the world a better place!
Donate Donations can be made online
or mailed to Tribe of Heart, PO Box 149, Ithaca, NY 14851