The Common Good

Lean and downright mean

Sojomail - December 12, 2002


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+++++++++++++++++++++ 12-December-2002 ++++++++++++++++++++++
+++++++++++++++++ Lean and mean corporations ++++++++++++++++

 Q u o t e   o f   t h e   W e e k
     *P.J. O'Rourke: Helping Mom with the dishes
 B a t t e r i e s   N o t   I n c l u d e d
     *Lean and mean corporations

 S o u l   W o r k s
     *The wooden bowl

 B u i l d i n g   a   M o v e m e n t
     *Peace movement growing below U.S. radar
     *Is Bush deaf to church doubts on Iraq war? 

 B y   t h e   N u m b e r s
     *Education and joblessness

 F u n n y   B u s i n e s s
     *BullPuckey Bingo

 P. O. V.
     *Bob Burnett on vigilante justice

 C u l t u r e   W a t c h
     *Book honors Australian prophet Athol Gill

 S o j o C i r c l e s
     *Light a candle this season with other sojourners

 B o o m e r a n g
     *SojoMail readers reply

 C a m p u s   L i n e s
     *Student activists make a difference

 W e b s c e n e
     *No more guns in the stocking
     *Free children's literature
     *WCC tool to overcome violence
SEND A FREE GIFT TO A FRIEND - deliver a generous message
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Q u o t e   o f   t h e   W e e k

"Worrying is less work than doing something to fix the worry. Everybody wants to save the earth; nobody wants to help Mom with the dishes."

- P.J. O'Rourke, author of
               "All the Trouble in the World"


B a t t e r i e s   N o t   I n c l u d e d
Lean and downright mean

by David Batstone

"Lean and mean" is the shapely figure to which companies are called to conform these days. It's worrisome that the mantra implies a clever business strategy. Firing large numbers of workers ought to be considered an admission of failure, a last resort, or perhaps a necessary evil in times of technological change or declining market conditions, not a badge of strong management.

Since World War II, the American corporation and its workers had an implicit agreement. If the company did well, the workers could be more or less assured of job security and rising compensation. That's no longer the case. Very profitable companies now lay off their workers or place a cap on wages and benefits.

In July, for instance, Intel announced that it would cut 4,000 jobs. Although the company earned $446 million on $6.3 billion revenue for the quarter, its performance did not meet analyst expectations. Intel executives admitted they were not sure which part of the company would be hit with layoffs, but promised they would make the necessary "cost-saving measures" all the same.

One of the more fascinating characters I have met in the business world recently is Chuck Fred, a one-time general manager at both Boeing and U.S. West. In each job post, he was faced with the prospect of laying off thousands of skilled workers. To read what he learned about the corporate world and its assumption about workers, link to my column from the November/December issue of Sojourners magazine:



America's Second Harvest provides emergency food
assistance to more than 23 million hungry Americans
each year, many of whom make choices no one should
have to: between food and necessities like housing,
utilities and medicine. Learn more about hunger in
America and how you can help at:


S o u l   W o r k s
The wooden bowl

A frail old man went to live with his son, daughter- in-law, and 4-year-old grandson. The old man's hands trembled, his eyesight was blurred, and his step faltered.

The family ate together at the table. But the elderly grandfather's shaky hands and failing sight made eating difficult. Peas rolled off his spoon onto the floor. When he grasped the glass, milk spilled on the tablecloth.

The son and daughter-in-law became irritated with the mess. "We must do something about Grandfather," said the son. "I've had enough of his spilled milk, noisy eating, and food on the floor." So the husband and wife set a small table in the corner. There, Grandfather ate alone while the rest of the family enjoyed dinner. Since Grandfather had broken a dish or two, his food was served in a wooden bowl.

When the family glanced in Grandfather's direction, sometime he had a tear in his eye as he sat alone. Still, the only words the couple had for him were sharp admonitions when he dropped a fork or spilled food.

The 4-year-old watched it all in silence. One evening before supper, the father noticed his son playing with wood scraps on the floor. He asked the child sweetly, "What are you making?" Just as sweetly, the boy responded, "Oh, I am making a little bowl for you and Mama to eat your food in when I grow up." The 4-year-old smiled and went back to work.


Gap clothes are made in sweatshops.
So tell your family and friends:
Don't buy me Gap this holiday season.


B u i l d i n g   a   M o v e m e n t
Peace movement growing below U.S. radar

by Allan Thompson

Jane Coe says she cannot sit home any longer and listen to the drums beating for war against Iraq. So [she's] taking to the streets of the U.S. capital to join this country's growing anti-war movement. Read the entire feature at:

Is Bush deaf to church doubts on Iraq war?

by Jim Wallis
Published 12/9/02, The Boston Globe

Recent news stories indicate that the White House and new Republican-controlled Congress intend to put the president's faith-based initiative high on the agenda for 2003. But the president is not acknowledging another faith- based initiative - the strong majority of Christian leaders opposing a war against Iraq. It took a long time for most of the American churches to come out against the war in Vietnam. This time, the church protest of war is significant, both in its breadth and its early clarity.

For the rest of the article, see:


B y   t h e   N u m b e r s
Education and unemployment

Unemployment rates for workers aged 25 and over by education level:

Master's degree: 1.6%
Bachelor's degree: 1.8%
Associate degree: 2.3%
Some college, no degree 2.9%
High school graduate 3.5%
Some high school 6.5%

*Sources: Bureau of Labor Statistics;
Bureau of the U.S. Census



Do you know what you'll get everyone on your holiday
list this year? How about a gift that will be remembered
for years to come? Give a gift animal in honor of friends
and loved ones from Heifer International, and bring hope
and opportunity to a family in need.


F u n n y   B u s i n e s s
BullPuckey Bingo

Do you keep falling asleep in staff meetings?
What about those long and boring conference calls?
Here's a way to change all of that...

1. Before (or during) your next meeting, seminar, or conference call, prepare your "BullPuckey Bingo" card by drawing a square and dividing it into columns - five across and five down. That will give you 25 one-inch blocks.

2. Write one of the following words/phrases in each block:
* synergy
* strategic fit
* core competencies
* out of the box
* bottom line
* revisit
* take that off-line
* 24/7
* out of the loop
* benchmark
* value-added
* proactive
* win-win
* think outside the box
* fast track
* result-driven
* empower (or empowerment)
* knowledge base
* at the end of the day
* touch base
* mindset
* client focus(ed)
* ballpark
* game plan
* leverage

3. Check off the appropriate block when you hear one of those words/phrases.

4. When you get five blocks horizontally, vertically, or diagonally, stand up and shout "BullPuckey!"

Testimonials from satisfied "BullPuckey Bingo" players:

* "I had been in the meeting for only five minutes when I won." -- Jack W., Boston

* "My attention span at meetings has improved dramatically." -- David D., Florida

* "What a gas! Meetings will never be the same for me after my first win." --Bill R., New York City

* "The atmosphere was tense in the last process meeting as 14 of us waited for the fifth box." --Ben G., Denver



A guide to socially responsible giving, "The Conscious
Consumer: Promoting Economic Justice Through Fair Trade,"
shows how lives can be improved through fair partnerships.
For $2.95 each, the guide is also an excellent gift that
expresses your values (bulk prices available). Order from: or (202) 302-0976.


P. O. V.
Vigilante justice is no justice at all

by Bob Burnett

On Election Day Americans learned that the war on terrorism had taken an ominous turn. The Central Intelligence Agency revealed that it had killed six members of al Qaeda traveling by car in northwest Yemen. A missile fired from an unmanned U.S. Predator aircraft destroyed the vehicle. The target of the attack was Qaed Salim Sinan al-Harethi, a top al Qaeda operative and the key suspect in the bombing of the destroyer, USS Cole. Also killed were five persons described as "low-level associates". Television pictures showed that little was left except cinders and metal shards.

Adoption of a policy of remote-control assassination raises important ethical questions. Has the United States abandoned its respect for international law enforcement procedures? Have we decided that it is our role to provide summary justice for those accused of being members of al Qaeda? Have we concluded that in the war on terrorism, the ends of necessity must justify the means?

Missile-firing Predator aircraft have been used in the war in Afghanistan with mixed results. During the battle to liberate Kabul, the chief of al Qaeda Military operations, Muhammad Atef, was reportedly killed in a similar missile attack. In May there was an unsuccessful attack on rebel Afghani tribal leader Gulbuddin Hekmatyar. The November 4 assassination was the first reported remote-control attack outside Afghanistan.

These events signal a shift in U.S. policy to the "targeted killing" philosophy used by the government of Israel in its war against Palestinian terrorists. The Bush administration now feels empowered to assassinate anyone suspected of being a member or supporter of al Qaeda wherever they may be found.

For Americans this raises the question of whether we are willing to endorse assassination as a necessary tool in the war on terrorism. Already this war has witnessed a considerable expansion of the historic "rules of engagement" of U.S. military operations. More than 600 Afghani prisoners have been sequestered in a military prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, where they are being denied the status of prisoners-of-war (guaranteed by the Geneva Protocol) and instead are being held indefinitely as "enemy combatants". Two U.S. citizens have also been declared as enemy combatants and are being held in similar circumstances, denied access to counsel, and the customary protections of the American legal system.

Of course, we must apprehend those responsible for the 9/11 attacks and defend ourselves from future assaults. But this does not require that we adopt a philosophy of vigilante justice, that the ends must of necessity justify the means. To do so would be a mistake for two reasons. First, if we subscribe to vigilante justice then we are, in effect, abandoning the legal system that we have so painfully constructed over the life of the republic. This is the legal system that says that those accused of crimes are presumed to be innocent, that they have fundamental rights that must be observed, that among these is the right to appear before a court, etc. Second, if we continue with a policy of targeted killings then we will be provoking cycles of violence. As has happened in Israel, the supporters of terrorists will use our violent response as an excuse for further violence.

The solution is for the U.S. to abandon this program of vigilante justice and return to the treasured American legal system. Suspected al Qaeda members must be arrested and treated like the common criminals that they are.

*Bob Burnett is the former publisher of "In These Times."


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C u l t u r e   W a t c h
Book honors Australian prophet Athol Gill

A new book has been published that honors the memory of Athol Gill - teacher, community builder, advocate of justice, peacemaker, Christian gadfly. When he died a decade ago, the Australian church lost a creatively subversive native son who combined a tough-minded vision of radical discipleship with tender-hearted compassion for those whom Gill described as "society's nobodies."

"Prophecy and Passion," edited by David Neville, features essays by his former students and colleagues, including Ched Myers, David Batstone, William Herzog, Thorwald Lorenzen, Rowena Curtis, and Graeme Garrett.

The book is available in the USA through International Publishers Marketing (703-661-1586). In Europe, the book will be distributed through SCM Press. In Australia, the book can be ordered from the publisher, the Australian Theological Forum:


S o j o C i r c l e s
Light a candle with other Sojo readers

With the advent season well under way, many people are finding time in their lives for reflection. Lighting the candles of the Advent wreath, they are reminded of Christ and his redemptive work in the world. This week ­ the second week of Advent­ the candle of peace has been lit. And people of faith are huddling around it together in this time when war seems to be so violently brewing.

More than ever, people need a place where they can discuss their peace convictions and actually do something about them. Sojourners offers SojoCircles -­ small groups of people that provide this kind of atmosphere. If you are trying to make sense of the mounting war and feel the need to be a part of a movement of people speaking out against it, check out SojoCircles. For more information about starting a group on your college campus, church, or local community, please contact us at or visit our Web site at for a complete list of those groups already formed.

Our newest members are:

Milwaukee, WI. Carole Poth: ­
Canberra, Australia. Doug Hynd: ­


B o o m e r a n g

Katrian Aurencz Zethmayr writes from La Grange, Illinois:

In response to the Bush administration's dismissal of e-mailed criticism covered in last week's SojoMail, there are two distinct avenues of public action. One: to make sure that every e-mail is "original" - different wordings and angles, and especially different titles, from every sender. The other is to overwhelm the physical postal system with our commentary. Also, has anyone considered that perhaps the reason e-mail is generally undervalued is that it costs so little? The unsettling fact that any American with even occasional access to an Internet station can get a free e-mail account (like mine) and send out their opinions to the powers that be. I think they're trying very hard to ignore voices from that quarter. The very best thing, though, is to get our messages, by hook or by crook, into mainstream newsprint or on broadcast air, and to spread them about our communities, and our local and state governments. The president may ignore us, but public opinion is a hard tide to defeat.


Anne-Marie Hislop writes from Davenport, Iowa:

Bono is doing good work in raising awareness about the AIDS tragedy in Africa. However, his statement that "we [in the USA] accept that women and Jews and blacks... are equal and have equal opportunities" is more than a little naive. While we do indeed now have laws that command equality, the situation is far from the acceptance that Bono sees. As a female pastor in a denomination that has ordained women for 30+ years, I have had members leave the church because it "hired a woman." Blacks, even well dressed, well educated ones are often stopped by the police for "driving while black." Others are followed around in stores as if all dark-skinned people were criminals. Periodically, Jewish cemeteries are desecrated or Nazi slogans spray-painted on synagogues. At best, all we can really say about the situation of women, blacks, and Jews in this country is that we are making progress.


Boomerang is an open forum for all kinds of views. The views expressed are not necessarily those of Sojourners. Want to make your voice heard? Send Boomerang e-mails to the editor:


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C a m p u s   L i n e s
Student activism makes a difference

by Nate Johnson

The other day I read an editorial in the Brown University paper discouraging student activism on campus. The headline read, "Less student activism, more getting laid." The argument was that college is too short to spend wrapped up in a movement or cause that will never really change anything. "College isn't about being a soldier in a war for righteousness. It's about learning, stressing, and having too much to drink," the article noted,­ citing numerous examples of presumably "failed" student protests, sit-ins, and petitions. The closing word of wisdom was a call for student activists to, "relax, grab a beer, and see what's on TV."

I don't know what the answers are all the time. What I do know are countless stories of students making a difference in the world through activism. Here are a few:

*At Harvard University last May, 46 students staged a three- week occupation of the president's office and succeeded in training a national spotlight on the low wages the nation's wealthiest university pays its custodial and food-service workers. The protest - which stirred debate about the living-wage movement in media as diverse as Fox News, Business Week, and The Nation - ended when Harvard promised to pay food-service workers at least $10.32 an hour, although other employees will continue to make considerably less.

*As a result of student protests, the University of Michigan joined the Worker Rights Consortium, which polices the labor practices of university apparel licensees. The move initially prompted Nike to pull out of licensing negotiations with the school, but in January of this year, Nike agreed to reforms and signed a seven-year pact. Just weeks later, however, a consortium audit found Nike was continuing to do business with a Mexican factory that had fired striking workers. Thanks to student pressure, Nike agreed in February to push the factory owners to improve working conditions and reinstate the workers.

*Student protesters forced Yale University and its business partner Bristol-Meyers Squibb (BMS) to relax the patent on Zerit, an AIDS drug developed by Yale scientists that brought BMS $618 million in profits last year. The students collaborated with Doctors Without Borders in an attempt to shame the university into making the drug cheaply available in Africa. It worked: Yale and BMS announced in March that they would allow companies to produce a generic version of the drug, royalty-free.


W e b s c e n e
This week's best of the Web

*No more guns in the stocking

Here's a peaceful toys list (there's a list of not-so-peaceful toys, too) for Sojo shoppers:


*Free children's literature

The International Children's Digital Library (ICDL) offers free access to children's literature from around the world:


*World Council of Churches tool to overcome violence

The new Web site is designed to create and strengthen networking by churches, organizations, and individuals committed to the search for peace, justice, and reconciliation internationally. Go to:


Get the online version of SojoMail with clickable contents:

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