10,000 Commandments...
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"10,000 Commandments: How many can we eliminate?" is the title of an online forum I'm attending this weekend. It is hosted by a group called The Simple Society Alliance for Human Empowerment, to which I was first introduced in March of this year.

By email, I was invited to be a panelist for an e-forum on the role of mentoring in society as it might exist in an "ideal" world. Somewhat skeptical, I agreed. However the e-forum, held early in May, was interesting, informative and mildly surprising. So I signed-up to attend the Alliance's next online public policy forum, which was held in June.

Over the course of that weekend, as we gathered under the heading of "Legal Simplification," we focused on figuring out what it is going to take to legitimately simplify the rules by which we all (at least in theory) are *supposed* to play.

And now, starting tomorrow (Friday, July 30, 2004), we shall tread this ground again. That is, for several hours over the course of this upcoming weekend, a group of us will actively engage, by choice, as volunteers, having sworn in a sense that there is, in context of having this discussion, no "profit motive" among us, the activity of "thinking" about "new & better" ways to SOLVE existing problems by reinventing the way we have done things in the past.

That is, we will NOT be "griping and moaning" about all the stuff that is wrong in the world. We all know and agree that there is far too much of that. In fact, we each have our own unique and fairly elaborate list.

Instead, as we engage this conversation our objective will be to start from this already-agreed-to "ground zero" and -- taking all that we know into consideration -- create a "site plan" for cohesive action that will accomplish that thing we most seek.

And the "thing we most seek" is, essentially, a "life worth living" for everyone, everywhere, all the time. A life of peaceful prosperity, made possible by the high quality of livelihood endowed to every member of a just society.

Also, the recognition that if we are to have justice as a cornerstone of society, then we must -- those of us involved with the Alliance believe -- precisely think-through the tenets of the "justice" we seek.

In a 1997 essay, titled PEACE, JUSTICE, AND ECONOMIC REFORM, published by the American Journal of Economics and Sociology, author Nicolaus Tideman powerfully articulates a comprehensive, emotionally vibrant and sensory rich portrait of Lady Liberty, describing life under her regime as one "in which persons have the greatest possible individual liberty, and all acknowledge an obligation to share equally the value of natural opportunities."

In essence, he asserts that this quality of justice, which ensures a "level playing field" as a birthright of humanness, can and will only be attained by sweeping economic re-gearing of our institutional legal systems with the objective of ensuring an equitable sharing of "opportunity."

"One of the greatest hindrances to the attainment of peace--real peace--is that resistance that so many of us feel to tolerating oppression and injustice," Tideman asserts. "When we know that we, or others we care for, have been treated unjustly, it is ever so difficult to attain a state of unity and harmony with others." Thus to ensure peace we must enact justice, and real justice mandates the balancing of Lady Liberty's scales.

So that is what we will be talking about at the e-forum this weekend. Doing our best to think outside the box to invent a new an better approach. Keeping our minds open, leaving our preconceptions behind us, melding our integrated thinking into a kind of quantum soup that will, hopefully, in accord of the general laws of chaos theory regarding evolution, link our single-cellular ideas together by spontaneous self-organization to form a cooperative "organism" which will increase the well-being of each individual "cell" -AND- the survivability of the organism (aka: society) as a whole.

Or at least it will if we "let" it. Because as Bill Ellis, General Coordinator of A Coalition for Self-Learning and physicist, explains, this kind of mutually beneficial self-organization is "spontaneous" and "could not be predicted" by the summing of its individual parts. 

"The next step in evolution," Ellis continues, is an unimaginable bonding leap to "a radically different system" which has, in essence, not been consciously "planned" but has somehow been (magically) coordinated by and through many acts of cellular self-determination within the soup of any conceptual mass.

And the characteristics of this new form are not, as Ellis explains it, "just the characteristics of its original parts." The new form constitutes an "evolutionary step" from which emerges a new entity that has unfamiliar characteristics and unimagined traits.

And with respect ladies and gents, in light of so much that is happening in our nation and around the world right now, I cannot personally think of a better thing to be doing this weekend than participating in this online conference. How about you...???

Guest Editorial...
I do not often give the entirety of a front page update to another author, but today is an exception. The following, which came to me as an email passalong, is profound:

"Houston we have a problem."  A dear friend of mine quoted that to me some years ago. He and his wife owned a rural home near Brenham, Texas, 80 miles from Houston. The problem was that Houston was spreading like a giant malignant cancer in their direction.

Another friend was a Deputy in northern New Mexico.  Some people moved into that rural area and at a public meeting demanded that the road be paved, vapor lights installed and more police patrols "like it was in southern California" where they came from.  Sound familiar?

Another friend lives in what once was beautiful farmland miles outside Kansas City, Kansas.  The city is now swallowing up the farms and vistas. Phoenix, Arizona, was a beautiful desert city.  Recently giant dust clouds obscured the city.  South of Phoenix is Sun City, a retirement community where every home must meet requirements such as manicured lawns, trimmed shrubs and nothing that looks like the original desert. 

Why the dust cloud?  It's called real estate development.  Draining a limited water supply to water the lawns and shrubs, constant building and bulldozing and now a several-year old drought. 

Droughts do happen, you know.

These cancerous spreads are happening all over America and it's happened to us here in NW Arkansaw.  I'm not a Lorax.  I believe in progress, but also that things should remain the way they should be and not destroyed in the name of "progress."  I call it the Los Angelization and Californication of NW Arkansaw.

This area of the Ozarks was one of the most beautiful places in the country and it has been destroyed.  Some northern magazine published an article that this area was the best place in the US to live because of the quality of life.  People read that and have come by the thousands and destroyed the quality of our lives.

Some examples are in order.

We were rural but we are no longer.  Our county Judge, Jerry Hunton who helped us so much in the battle to stop the garbage dump on Hobbs Mountain, said it quite well.  We're not suburban, we are exurban.

People are "relocating" here and want it like it was where they came from. Real estate "developers" tear down the trees and build those Southern California ticky-tacky cookie-cutter houses and name the development Deer Run Estates or Fox Estates, or perhaps Bambi or Zorro (Spanish for fox). 

No deer.  No foxes.  Not any more. 

They name the streets after the trees they've cut down.  Elm.  Oak.  Maple.  Spruce and Pine.

They build some developments in flood plains! 

I suppose they could call it Riverside and when the river overflows residents can fish in their living rooms.  And those houses are thrown together with particle board, duct tape and recycled Coors cans.

The traffic situation is horrible.  The cities and county keep widening roads and streets to accommodate the Great God Vehicle.  I've driven in some of the major cities of the world.  Bangkok, Paris, Munich, LA, NYC, but driving here now mostly reminds me of Mexico City which is like a used car lot exploding.

One winter several years ago I drove a woman's SUV out of a snow and ice covered ditch near our house.  That woman was hysterical!  She kept screaming that no one told her it was like this.  She wanted it like it was in southern California. 

I calmed her down and pointed West.  I told her that was the way to California and when she was in salt water up to her butt, she was back and she could take a whole bunch of other people with her.  And they are not coming just from California. 

People are coming from everywhere.  One person wrote the daily paper that they and their friends wanted to relocate from Hawaii!

One thing the Chamber of Commerce doesn't advertise is that there is a structure called SEFOR out by Devils Den.  It's a nuclear plant with active nuclear material.  Last I heard neither the county, the state nor the UofA knew quite what to do with it. 

Maybe they have come to some sort of solution.  But if the Saudis decide to attack our country again, it sure would make a fine target. Welcome to NW Arkansaw.  Have a nice day.

For the second time this month, I almost made it through a column without mentioning Bush.  Then I began to have withdrawal symptoms watching the ads where he is described as a strong, resolute leader. 

I believe that!  The strength, bravery and heroics he displayed while flying combat missions in Vietnam is a matter of record.  Which records have been "inadvertently" destroyed.  So have the microfilm copies for this intrepid fighter pilot.  I'll bet if his Squadron CO and fellow fighter pilots in Vietnam were interviewed they would confirm his boldness and bravery.  In fact his CO probably mentioned in his 201 file that he showed such leadership qualities that he would qualify as a Marine fighter pilot boldly launching and landing on carriers such as the USS Abraham. Check 6

I have taken an oath "to defend the government and constitution against all enemies foreign and domestic."

What do I do when my government becomes the greatest enemy of the constitution?

~ John W. Kniffin, Sgt, USMC
Vietnam Veterans Against the War

Budd and Nancy Saunders ~ Durham, Arkansaw

My New Office....
Technically, it's not a "new" office. That is, it's all the same equipment and technology, just reorganized a bit differently with more of my personal convenience as a major objective of my "maximize office efficiency" goal. And at least to my standards, I have accomplished that:

Note the clean and tidy desk... the easy access to my copier/scanner (there on the left, in front of my window), the nice adjustable-arm lamp in the background, leaning over the attractive floral bouquet.

And it's good that we've photo-documented this as it will likely not look this good again for another 3 years --- which seems to be about how long I go between fits of reorganizing my office!!!

But anyway, beyond the right edge of the photo is a small teal green desk with a nice-sized drawer at my fingertips to serve those sundry little paper clip and stapler needs. On top of this  desk is my phone and CD-player. Billy Joel's "River of Dreams" is playing now.

Raise up a multi-plex and we will make a sacrifice...
Low supply and high demand, here in no man's land...

I double-dog dare you to listen to this album and think about Liberty, Justice and the Patriotic Spirit of Independence Day.

Cleaning my office was how we celebrated the weekend. An odd way, you may think, to hold a birthday tribute to the dear ol' U.S.A., however we are an odd bunch. Which brings me to some pertinent  catch-up notes:

For starters, I just now came upon this rather marvelous  Southern Liberal website which proudly proclaims "Not everyone is born to be a follower." If you like what you read on Gozarks, no matter where you live, you're gonna get a charge outa this one. Go prepared to prop your feet up, sip a soda, and mind-walk through some fetching common sense.

Fight til the other man falls, kill him before he kills you...
I'm not that sure anymore...
The only people I fear are those who never have doubts... 

On other fronts, the Hinchey-Rohrabacher amendment, introduced by U.S. Reps. Maurice Hinchey (D-NY) and Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA), is now being deliberated in D.C.  This act would bar the U.S. Justice Department from raiding, arresting, or prosecuting patients who use medical marijuana (aka: hemp)  in compliance with state law. If you would like to show support for this measure of sanity, the Marijuana Policy Project has made it easy for you to contact your U.S. representative by clicking this link.

In encouraging this action, however, I wish to make it clear that I see this type of legislative action as a make-do/stop-gap which essentially detracts us from the more important task at hand. As someone on a drug reform list I frequent recently said, "a way of avoiding an issue that is much more fundamental and important... sometimes I think we should deal with root causes first and then issues like poor folks going to jail over drugs will tend to fix themselves."

With this sentiment, I wholeheartedly agree. And the "root cause" that I see us needing to address is that of making certain that each and every one of our own personal actions are congruent with the standards, processes and procedures articulated in the Constitution of the United States of America...

I'm sure you've heard of it...

But have you READ it?

Have you taken the words to heart?

Do you understand that the Patriot-founders of our nation were (and are) talking directly to YOU...???

Take a moment now. Maybe even give it an hour... You know what they say, Knowledge is Power!!! Make the time to learn about the U.S. Constitution now...

Too many kingdoms, too many flags on the field...
Only true love perseveres...
This is our moment, here at the crossroads of time...
Is this a curse or a blessing we give...
Why can't we learn from all we've been through, after 2000 years...

Anyway, here's some more Constitutional musing.

And finally, when you're ready to soar your imagination to the skyrocketing stratosphere of word-play finesse, Rexxx Reflectx: Reality Sings! Mundane Matters that Matter & things is the website for you. And I highly recommend that you click on the "Joy" link (under POSSIBLY FAMILIAR TUNES) and then, when the JOY page opens, click the link to play the tune. I guarantee a smile...

There will be miracles, after the last war is won...
Prophets and angels gave us the power to see...
What an amazing future there will be...
We're on the verge of "all things new..."

As always, I'm wishing all of us a life worth living, filled with all those things we prefer, desire, wholeheartedly celebrate and richly deserve to enjoy.

Christine Weiss

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Photo: Exterior of the Van Buren County Child Care Center building.