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Date:2010-03-17 09:18
Subject:A great quote about relationships
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"Lust is easy. Love is hard. Like is most important." ~Carl Reiner

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Date:2010-02-22 11:00
Subject:
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Someone on Facebook recommended this Twitter page to me, and I wanted to pass it along. It's basically short twitter-length affirmations and reminders to live a conscious life:
http://twitter.com/ralphmarston

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Date:2010-02-12 22:21
Subject:Sol Price valued his workers over stockholders
Security:Public

By Dean Calbreath, UNION-TRIBUNE STAFF WRITER

Sunday, December 20, 2009 at midnight

When Sol Price died last week at the age of 93, his passing marked more than just the departure of a skilled businessman and entrepreneur.

It was also a reminder of how far we’ve come since the days when an unwritten “social contract” guided corporate America.

When Price launched Fed-Mart in 1954, a membership discount chain that gave rise to the Price Club in 1976, the guiding ethos of the postwar corporate world was that just as businesses make their wealth through the labor of their workers and the patronage of their customers, so, too, do the employers owe fair wages to the workers and low prices to the consumers.

Price revolutionized the U.S. retail scene with his bulk stores, which were the inspiration for Sam Walton’s launch of Walmart. Price kept his prices at rock bottom by such practices as slashing advertising to near zero, eschewing credit cards and limiting executive salaries. He reasoned that even if he lost some customers through some of those steps, he’d attract even more by offering low prices.

One thing that Price did not skimp on, however, was his workers.

Price Club’s written policy was that workers would be paid at “close to the highest prevailing wages in the community.” Unlike many of his retail competitors, Price maintained good relations with union members — and made sure that nonunion workers got the same benefits as union workers did.

“When Price Club moved into nonunion Arizona, it offered workers the same contract as its workers in California had,” said Jai Ghorpade, a professor emeritus of management at Price’s alma mater, San Diego State University.

Even today, Costco — which merged with Price Club in 1993 — pays its workers an average of $19 per hour, compared with less than $11 at Walmart. And Costco provides health care coverage to 90 percent of its workers, compared with about 50 percent at Walmart.

Price believed that the corporation’s chief duties were to obey the law, please customers, please employees and satisfy stockholders, in that order.

“We think the stockholder comes last,” he told Wall Street analysts in 1985. “But if you do the other three jobs well, (the stockholder) will be taken care of.”

It’s not that Price took a vow of poverty or that he ran the Price Club as a nonprofit. He died with a net worth estimated at between $275 million and $500 million. But that is not an unseemly amount of wealth considering the size of the multibillion-dollar retail empire he helped launch.

In an age when some of his peers were making 40 or 50 times the median salary of their workers, Price kept his salary at around a 10-1 ratio. (Today, the ratio at America’s top firms is more like 500-1.)

Even after keeping his salary low, he devoted a huge chunk of earnings to a wide variety of charities. He could not understand why anybody would need more than a couple hundred million dollars in the bank. And he recommended that the government concentrate more of its tax-collection efforts on the wealthy, arguing that having too much wealth in too few hands would threaten the entire economic system.

“Tax laws favor the wealthy, and the chasm between the middle class and the wealthy is widening,” he argued in 1995, complaining that the variety of tax breaks, deductions and loopholes available to the upper class constituted “food stamps for the rich” that somehow didn’t receive the same scrutiny as government programs for the poor or elderly, like Social Security or Medicare.

In espousing such a philosophy, Price was merely echoing what was the accepted thinking throughout much of the country when he started his business operations in the Fabulous ’50s.

For a look at how far we’ve come, just consider some of the stories about corporate shenanigans that have been coming out over the past couple of months.

On Monday, the day that Price died, a report showed that the chief executives of 10 Wall Street firms that either failed or received taxpayer bailouts were paid an average of $28.9 million per year in the years leading up to the Wall Street meltdown. The report, issued by Public Citizen, a Ralph Nader watchdog group that Price helped fund, said the average pay equaled 575 times the median American family’s 2007 income.

Public Citizen President Robert Weissman noted that the pay had “nothing to do with good corporate performance. These CEOs were exorbitantly compensated for driving their companies (not to mention the global economy) off the cliff.”

Public Citizen’s tally did not include the $140 billion that the Wall Street firms recently set aside as employee bonuses, at a time when most Main Street firms are forgoing such bonuses.

To put that figure into perspective, University of Maryland economist Peter Morici noted that the U.S. economy grew by $22 billion in the third quarter — its first growth since the spring of 2008.

“The bankers, after causing the greatest economic calamity since the Great Depression, are rewarded with six times the growth accomplished so far in the much-heralded ‘economic recovery,’” Morici said.

Graef Crystal, a compensation analyst in Marin County, said skyrocketing executive salaries, accompanied by a widening chasm between rich and poor, are not limited to Wall Street.

When Crystal began tracking executive salaries in 1973, three years before Price launched Price Club, the CEOs of the country’s largest companies were paid an average of 43 times the salaries of their employees. By 1991, that ratio had jumped to 140. Now Crystal estimates it to be around 350, though some firms put it at higher than 500.

“Corporate boards have been a bit more restrained lately, but their idea of restraint is not to have salaries go up as fast as they were before, instead of, God forbid, actually cutting back the salaries,” he said.

Crystal added that “there are some heroes out there,” singling out chains such as Target and Whole Foods as adhering more to the Price Club model, as well as Costco, founded by former Price Club employee Jim Sinegal.

Like Price, Sinegal keeps his salary at roughly a 10-1 ratio — though stock options sharply boost his annual compensation — and ensures that his workers receive generous pay and benefit packages.

“The thing that was remarkable about Sol was not just that he knew what was right,” Sinegal said. “Most people know the right thing to do. But he was able to be creative and had the courage to do what was right in the face of a lot of opposition. It’s not easy to stick to your guns when you have a lot of investors saying that you’re not charging customers enough and you’re paying employees too much.”

During this holiday season, a certain Charles Dickens story seems particularly apt when talking about the difference between Price’s philosophy and the spirit that guides Wall Street today.

In the opening chapter of “A Christmas Carol,” the long-dead Jacob Marley stands before his former business partner, Ebenezer Scrooge, to tell him of why his soul has been condemned to walk the Earth in chains.

Marley moans that when he was alive, instead of devoting his part of his time and money to improve the lives of others, “my spirit never roved beyond the limits of our money-changing hole.”

“But you were always a good man of business, Jacob,” Scrooge replies.

“Business!” Marley shrieks. “Mankind was my business. The common welfare was my business. Charity, mercy, forbearance and benevolence were all my business. The dealings of my trade were but a drop of water in the comprehensive ocean of my business!”

Sol Price understood that mankind was his business. Here’s hoping that someday, more corporate leaders recognize that as well.

Dean Calbreath: (619) 293-1891; dean.calbreath@uniontrib.com

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Date:2010-02-10 22:29
Subject:Traits worth cultivating
Security:Public

From a blogger: The 6 traits she finds most worth cultivating:

1. Selflessness: In a world where many people don’t have the time or the interest in others, selflessness is a quality that seems to be less and less common. People can be selfless in the time they give, the ability to listen, their level of patience and the love that they give. Those who are giving and generous in nature have the power to make others feel loved, appreciated and special. While those who are self-absorbed tend to do the exact opposite.
2. Tolerance: Those people who are tolerant make us feel comfortable with who we are and special as individuals. All of us are different, and many of us have quirks and idiosyncrasies. After all, these differences make the world go round. Having the ability to accept people for who they are and not expect them to be who we want them to be is important in life, happiness and in the health of our relationships.
3. Genuineness: Having the ability to be real, authentic and honest is unique in a world where we put so much emphasis on the superficial. Feeling comfortable in one’s skin and being true to one’s self is one of the most beautiful traits one can possess. To have a REAL relationship with someone requires honesty…it requires hearing and giving input or feedback that may not always be popular…it means having the strength to tell it like it is and to not be afraid to face the consequences for doing so…it means loving people for who they really are…deep down…and not for what they appear to be.
4. Sensitivity: So often we are focused on what is important to ourselves that we can forget about those around us. Those who are sensitive are often thoughtful, appreciative and loving, in a way that makes you feel understood, valued and respected. Often, sensitive people are also self-aware, making them mindful of how they impact others with what they do and say.
5. Integrity: Call me cynical, but I think this characteristic is especially difficult to find. In a time when people will do things that are underhanded to make an extra buck (Bernie Madoff…can you hear me?), expose their personal lives to the public so they can be famous (balloon boy’s dad and any other reality TV mongers) and do what feels good in the moment without necessarily thinking of the consequences (Tiger Woods), integrity is a characteristic that is especially unique today.
6. Humility: Whether someone is super-smart, extremely talented or drop-dead gorgeous, there is something extra special about them if they don’t come across as though they know it all the time. Humility in those that possess extraordinary traits make others feel special too.


If I could add one, it would be Kindness. Which of course overlaps with most of these. But then, good traits tend to, yes? And of course, the Fruits of the Spirit (from the new testament) are always good: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, faithfulness, and self-control.

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Date:2010-02-06 16:02
Subject:
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After a while
You learn the subtle difference between
Holding a hand, and chaining a soul.
And you learn
that love doesn't mean leaning and
company doesn't mean security
And you begin
to learn that kisses aren't contracts
and presents aren't promises;
And you begin
to accept your defeats with your head up
and your eyes open, with the grace of an
adult not the grief of a child.
And you learn
to build all your roads today because
tomorrow's ground is too uncertain for plans
After a while
you learn that even sunshine
burns if you get too much
So plant your own garden
and decorate your own soul instead of
waiting for someone to bring you flowers
And you learn that you really can endure...
That you really are strong...
And you really do have worth.
-unknown

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Date:2010-02-03 15:49
Subject:
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"Listen to your life. See it for the fathomless mystery that it is. In the boredom and pain of it no less than in the excitement and gladness: touch, taste, smell your way to the holy and hidden heart of it because in the last analysis all moments are key moments, and life itself is grace." - Novelist and preacher Fredrich Buechner

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Date:2010-02-01 12:51
Subject:
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"I have decided to stick with love. Hate is too great a burden to bear." - Martin Luther King, Jr.

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Date:2010-01-04 15:54
Subject:A Story
Security:Public

Just Stay


A nurse took the tired, anxious serviceman to the bedside.

"Your son is here," she said to the old man.

She had to repeat the words several times before the patient's eyes opened.

He was heavily sedated because of the pain of his heart attack, he dimly saw the young uniformed Marine standing outside the oxygen tent. He reached out his hand. The Marine wrapped his toughened fingers around the old man's limp ones, squeezing a message of love and encouragement.

The nurse brought a chair so that the Marine could sit beside the bed. All through the night the young Marine sat there in the poorly lighted ward, holding the old man's hand and offering him words of love and strength. Occasionally, the nurse suggested that the Marine move away and rest awhile.
He refused.


Whenever the nurse came into the ward, the Marine was oblivious of her and of the night noises of the hospital - the clanking of the oxygen tank, the laughter of the night staff members exchanging greetings, the cries and moans of the other patients.

Now and then she heard him say a few gentle words. The dying man said nothing, only held tightly to his son all through the night.

Along towards dawn, the old man died. The Marine released the now lifeless
hand he had been holding and went to tell the nurse.

While she did what she had to do, he waited.

Finally, she returned. She started to offer words of sympathy, but the Marine interrupted her.

"Who was he?" he asked.
The nurse was startled, "He was your father," she answered.

"No, he wasn't," the Marine replied.
"I never saw him before in my life."

"Then why didn't you say something when I took you to him?"

"I knew right away there had been a mistake, but I also knew he needed his son, and his son just wasn't here.
When I realized that he was too sick to tell whether or not I was his son, knowing how much he needed me, I stayed."

The next time someone needs you ... just be there. Stay.

**************
WE ARE NOT HUMAN BEINGS GOING THROUGH A TEMPORARY SPIRITUAL EXPERIENCE.

WE ARE SPIRITUAL BEINGS GOING THROUGH A TEMPORARY HUMAN EXPERIENCE.
(love this line)

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Date:2009-11-23 14:41
Subject:beautiful!
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Ring the bells that still can ring.
Forget your perfect offering.
There is a crack in everything.
That's how the light gets in.

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Date:2009-06-01 08:52
Subject:
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I just discovered someone new, and he's full of great resources that also fit in here at ConsciousChrist. First off, check out: http://www.blogtalkradio.com/empowerhour

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Date:2009-05-31 22:06
Subject:Sorry I've been gone so long!
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Just been working on stuff instead of sharing it. But here we are...connected.  A quote/poem-y thing for tonight:

There are only four questions of value in life.
What is sacred?
Of what is the spirit made of?
What is worth living for?
What is worth dying for?
The answer to each is the same. Only love.

-Don Juan Demarco-


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Date:2009-03-13 03:25
Subject:race and culture
Security:Public
Mood: disappointed

I heard "The Devil Went Down to Georgia" on the radio today. What an AWESOME song. What a shining example of the best of country music, which is one of the treasures that "American" culture has produced. (I was just having a conversation here in Kauai this morning with a Polynesian friend about culture, and how those of us who are "white americans" are often expected to embrace and celebrate everyone else's culture, but never allowed to relish our OWN, and are expected to tolerate ridicule of it. But anyway...)
After the song ended, the radio DJ gets on and says "That was The Devil Went Down to Georgia by the Charlie Daniels Band. What a great song. It's funny though; who would have thought the Devil played a fiddle? I would have thought the Devil was a sitar player."
I wanted to cry. A withering example of anti-arab sentiment laid unobtrusively into an otherwise terrific moment. I'd like to think it's just that DJ carrying around some racist attitudes. But the sad part is how ingrained it has to be for it to pop up in such a mundane moment.  In a way it's worse than if he had said "Kill the Towelheads" because at least then, his attitude would be obvious and probably wouldn't be tolerated. In this case, it was a gentle enough jibe that most people won't even consciously notice it's effect or its offensiveness, and he's not going to get fired or censored like he would have for more overt racism. Anyway, I found it VERY disappointing. It's the reason that people with ancient cultures (like Polynesia or China...) often think white Americans don't HAVE a culture - because moments like that make even those of us who are part of that culture wish that we weren't.

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Date:2009-03-04 10:35
Subject:Why I crusade...
Security:Public

First they came for the communists, and I did not speak out--
    because I was not a communist;
Then they came for the socialists, and I did not speak out--
    because I was not a socialist;
Then they came for the trade unionists, and I did not speak out--
    because I was not a trade unionist;
Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out--
    because I was not a Jew;
Then they came for me--
    and there was no one left to speak out for me.

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Date:2009-01-27 09:17
Subject:
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Say not, "I have found the truth," but rather, "I have found a truth." Say not, "I have found the path of the soul." Say rather, "I have met the soul walking upon my path." For the soul walks upon all paths. The soul walks not upon a line, neither does it grow like a reed. The soul unfolds itself, like a lotus of countless petals.

-Khalil Gibran

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Date:2009-01-19 11:03
Subject:
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"When I dare to be powerful - to use my strength in the services of my vision,
then it becomes less and less important whether I am afraid."
-Audre Lorde.

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Date:2008-11-30 13:42
Subject:
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The superior person understands rightness; the inferior person understands profit.
(Confucius)

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Date:2008-11-27 17:20
Subject:Acceptance with Joy
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The first letter of the alphabet of Love:

On the last morning she was walking near the tents and huts of the desert dwellers, when in a lonely corner behind a wall she came upon a little golden-yellow flower, growing all alone. An old pipe was one tiny hole through which came an occasional drop of water. Where the drops fell one by one, there grew the little golden flower, though where the seed had come from, Much-Afraid could not imagine, for there were no birds anywhere and no other growing things [in this great desert].

[flower]

She stopped over the lonely, lovely little golden face, lifted up so hopefully and so bravely to the feeble drip, and cried out softly, “What is your name, little flower, for I never saw one like you before.”

The tiny plant answered at once in a tone as golden as itself, “Behold me! My name is Acceptance-with-Joy.”

Much-Afraid thought of the things which she had seen in the pyramid: the threshing-floor and the whirring wheel and the fiery furnace. Somehow the answer of the little golden flower which grew all alone in the waste of the desert stole into her heart and echoed there faintly but sweetly, filling her with comfort. She said to herself, “He has brought me here when I did not want to come for his own purpose. I, too, will look up into his face and say, ‘Behold me! I am thy little handmaiden Acceptance-with-Joy.’”

— Hannah Hurnard, Hind’s Feet on High Places

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Date:2008-11-06 18:42
Subject:
Security:Public
Mood: pleased

We join people in your country and around the world in congratulating you on becoming the President-elect of the United States. Your victory has demonstrated that no person anywhere in the world should not dare to dream of wanting to change the world for a better place. We note and applaud your commitment to supporting the cause of peace and security around the world. We trust that you will also make it the mission of your presidency to combat the scourge of poverty and disease everywhere. We wish you strength and fortitude in the challenging days and years that lie ahead. We are sure you will ultimately achieve your dream, making the United States of America a full partner in a community of nations committed to peace and prosperity for all.

- Full text of a message from Nelson Mandela, the first black president of South Africa, to Senator Barack Obama, the first black president-elect of the United States of America. (Source: The New York Times)

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Date:2008-11-05 07:50
Subject:A pattern has been broken!!
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Date:2008-11-03 18:33
Subject:A line from the Indigo Girls
Security:Public

"Love is just like breathing when it's true"

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