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Don’t Grope Me, Bro!

I support Ron Paul’s recent legislation to stop the TSA from taking draconian measures to treat all boarding passengers as criminals, including body scanners using health-damaging radiation and, if you opt-out of those body scans, a full-body groping.  This is absurd.  To show my support, I’ll be making T-shirts with the following logo I designed, itself a parody of the TSA logo.  This is a rough draft, but shows the long, groping arm of the government accosting the symbol of our nation, the bald eagle, and featuring an upside-down flag symbolizing our nation in peril!

Don't Grope Me, Bro!

 

On the backside:

Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution:

The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects,

against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated,

and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause,

supported by Oath or affirmation,

and particularly describing the place to be searched,

and the persons or things to be seized.

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Yes, the Fourth Amendment applies directly to the actions of government.  Yes, TSA is a government agency.  It doesn’t matter if the search is done on private property – such as in airports.  It is being done by a government agency without due process.

 

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High-Fructose Corn Syrup Revisited

Over a year and a half ago, I wrote an entry regarding the discovery of trace amounts of mercury in high-fructose corn syrup.  Since that time, I’ve seen an increasing number of products switching back to good old-fashioned sugar.  That is encouraging.

Personally, I do not drink soft drinks because soft drink companies are among the largest producers of HFCS-laden products.  Recently, however, I saw a 20 oz. bottle of Limited Edition Pepsi-Cola while standing at the checkout.  I picked it up and read the ingredients, which included sugar, but NOT high-fructose corn syrup!  Also, there was no sodium benzoate (which, through digestion, produces benzene, a known carcinogen).  I bought it.  I know, I know!  Sugar is not good for you in any form, but let’s face it, I have a sweet tooth.  The soda was delicious and I immediately noticed that it didn’t have the weird metallic aftertaste I’ve noticed before when drinking colas.

Because I would rather see soda companies make the switch from HFCS to sugar, and because certain restaurants like Jason’s Deli are being met with resistance from soft drink companies to make this switch, I thought I would go to Pepsi.com and put my $.02 in.  Here was my short and sugar-sweet comment:

Several years ago, I stopped consuming colas and soft drinks because the use of high-fructose corn syrup was ubiquitous.  The other day, standing in the checkout lane of our neighborhood grocery store, I saw a “Limited Edition” Pepsi-Cola sweetened with good old-fashioned sugar.  I purchased it and it was delicious.  I thought I should tell you that I would purchase Pepsi products if they contained sugar instead of high-fructose corn syrup.  Until then, like your promotional Pepsi-Cola, I will be a “Limited Edition” customer.

Sincerely,

Joseph

On 9/24/10, the Pepsi team responded:

Dear Joseph,

Thank you for taking the time to contact us at Pepsi-Cola to tell us that you are enjoying Pepsi Throwback. It means so much to us when we receive such positive feedback from those whose opinion matters the most—our customers!

Your feedback is important to us. Even though there are no current plans to reintroduce this product, I’ll be sure to share your comments with our beverage team for future consideration.

Thanks again for your message. We appreciate your interest in our company and our products.

Julieann Benes
Consumer Relations Representative

As consumers, we can help steer this change.  Feel free to stop by Pepsi.com or any of your favorite manufacturers and urge them to remove this unnatural ingredient from their products.   If you read your labels like any good, health-conscious consumer should, you’ll find that it is everywhere.

 
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Posted by on September 20, 2010 in Call to Action, Current Health News, Food, Health & Wellness

 

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A Man of Integrity

Michelle and I have many heroes. Perhaps the most notable of those heroes we share is the man Mahatma Gandhi. Hopefully my readers already know his story. Gandhi led a spirited, non-violent, nationwide resistance to the tyranny of Great Britain in India, fighting for the rights of his people. Gandhi stood for the truth, freedom, faith, and self-government. He held many high ideals that many of his contemporaries, and certainly British officials could not understand. They attacked him, imprisoned him, beat him, and then eventually, let him become the change he envisioned for India.

There is one quote that sticks out in our minds when we think of Gandhi:

“Be the change you want to see in the world.”

Being two people of principle, we are idealists who strive to make our world a better place. We are sick of the lies and deception all around us in our world, those lies that hold us captive to a broken system, that steal our lives and give nothing back. As activists, it is important for us to embody Gandhi’s message of being the change we want to see.

One of my old bosses, Mr. Medearis, once gave me a little advice. This man spoke very little, but his advice is something I will never forget. He told me to set high expectations of others and of myself and to never give in to the resistance of others or of my own self to settle for lowered expectations instead. To this day, I attempt to live by this advice, in my personal relationships, in my business dealings, in my activist work and in my spiritual endeavors. Not settling for lowered expectations is a difficult task full of lots of internal and external resistance. It is certainly an easier path to settle for less.

My dad always told me to never do anything “half-assed”. He told me that life is difficult and especially more so if you’re doing things the right way. There is no quick rise to real success. That path is littered with the debris of others’ resistance, obstacles, and small trivialities that offer to appease the mind and keep it from reaching greatness. I refuse to settle for anything less than greatness. To some, that seems ridiculous, to some it seems obsessive and to others it seems downright insane. To the few, it seems the only worthwhile thing to stand for.

If people stood up for what was right, if they stood up for honesty, integrity, transparency and truth in all of their endeavors, can you imagine what the world would look like? Can you imagine all of the people, living life in peace?

Resistance comes from those who would sacrifice ideals for pettiness, honesty for deceit, integrity for manipulation, not from those who stand up against those resisting forces. And the resistance is far greater than the support, in almost all walks of life.

The final quote we’d like to leave you with is this:

“First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win.” ~ Gandhi

Ignore us, laugh at us, fight with us all you want, but the principle of truth remains undeterred in our hearts. In this, we will prevail no matter the outcome, because we stand for what is right. Are we elevating our cause to that of Gandhi’s? No. Do we think our cause is of any less importance n our personal life? No. Because it’s the little things that make a man/woman, those small choices we make that bring to our lives success or failures. What does a man profit if he gains the world and loses his soul? We choose not to be liars, deceivers, manipulators. We choose to tell the truth no matter if people hate us, spit at us, ridicule us, trample us, or expect us to fall in line with the rest of the scoundrels. In the end, you’ll see, we’re the best thing that ever happened your way.

 
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Posted by on August 26, 2010 in Philosophical Ponderings, Spiritual, thoughts

 

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An Obsession For Truth

When I was younger, I got into trouble telling lies to my parents.  It happened on more than one occasion.  I thought that I could escape the reality of my choices and actions by trying to convince them that the action didn’t really happen, or that I was not the cause of the action.  There were also times when I just plain kept things from the light of day, hoping that others would not find out.  More often than not, others did.  When that happened, it was back to trying to convince them that it didn’t happen like they thought, or at least, I was not at fault.  That rarely worked very well.

I learned through a number of not-so-serious experiences that lying brings more trouble than just facing the original problem for what it is.  Yes, we all make mistakes.  Yes, it’s difficult owning up to those mistakes.  It was always better, however, to own up for messing up than to have to continually lie to cover up the first lie, and certainly easier than having to face others as an exposed liar.  Instead of lying, I’ve learned it is always more beneficial to come face-t0-face with humility and accept the consequences for my actions instead of trying to hide.

Now that I’m older, I have developed less tolerance to lies, but more so to unrepentant lies, those lies that keep being told to save face, to cover up for mistakes, to fool others into thinking something different than the truth.  In fact, it could be said that I am, at times, obsessed with uncovering the truth.

This obsession has been good for the most part.  In my personal quest for spiritual truth, the obsession keeps me searching.  This constant search has expanded my mind and my awareness, and has made my life more complete.  Yet, in other areas of my life, that obsession has not always been easy on me.

For example, I consider my quest for political truth to be a very frustrating and confounding search.  As an activist who is always trying to understand the motivations of politicians, officials, corporations, etc., I am constantly bewildered.  Often the truth is so ugly that it is difficult to look at.  The more I scratch the surface, the more I discover how many lies and how much deception is laid over the truth.  And I always discover an increasing desire by those who aren’t being truthful to keep their lies hidden.

That is extremely disappointing, especially when one starts tumbling down the rabbit hole to find it seems to never end.  We hear all sorts of stories on the news about the deception perpetrated by some on others.  While it is difficult to read and comprehend, it never hits home as hard as lies in one’s personal life do.   When I am deceived by someone I know, I move through a variety of emotions.  I am angry.  I am hurt.  I am disappointed.  I am disgusted.  I am deflated.  And when the one telling me the lies continues not to fess up, I have this almost vindictive side of me take over in an attempt to expose the lies for what they are.

Even though, in my work as an activist, I attempt to expose the lies of corporations and politicians, exposing lies of those I encounter seems to become an obsession and I’ll stop at nothing until the lies are exposed to the light of day.  It bewilders my mind when the lies are exposed and the one telling the lies continues to be unrepentant and continues to project his/her facade of deception.  I don’t usually handle that well.

Many people do not understand this about me.  In my experience, the bigger the lie, the more difficult it is for people to see it for what it is.  People make a variety of excuses, pretend that the exposed truths are the lie, and then attack me for what I’ve done because I’m what they consider to be obsessed and vindictive.  Furthermore, it has become my experience that most people do not want to know the truth, they won’t seek it out, they won’t accept it when it is delivered to them, and will attack the messenger.

That is fine, I guess, but as I said above, this doesn’t make seeking the truth and exposing it any easier.  In my opinion, it seems that most people are fine living with a certain degree of deception, hiding their heads in the sands of denial, and pretending not to see.  In my personal experience with others, we all deceive ourselves to a certain degree and present a facade to others in the meantime.  They are okay with that.  They don’t want anyone coming along to rock their boat, shake up their world, challenge the “truths” they hold, or grab their head and make them see.

People actively resist the truth and do not understand those who seek it out.  This is, I believe, because seeking out the truth is almost always an uncomfortable situation to put one’s self in.  Having one’s paradigms shaken to the foundation is often a scary situation.  Furthermore, the retaliation of others who put up defenses against the truth and the threats and attacks leveled at the truth-seeker are enough to make one abandon such a quest.

As an idealist, I refuse to abandon this quest.  I cannot help but fall down the rabbit hole until I hit bottom.  As uncomfortable as that may be, it is who I am, through and through.  If for no other reason, my own personal integrity makes it difficult for me to be content with anything but the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth.  Perhaps one day this will lead me to the gates of Heaven or Nirvana – whatever you want to call it.

The path is important to me.  This is why I choose to continue to walk it.  This is why I still search, long for, and settle for nothing else than the truth.  In my personal life, if someone creates an obstacle on this path by dropping the heavy burden of his/her lies, you can bet I will point it out.  That is my life’s path and I’ve been shown no other way, but to continue walking the path of truth.  If you’ve got something to hide, then stay out of my way, because you won’t like me or what I have to say.  And you certainly won’t like me lifting your veil.

 
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Posted by on August 25, 2010 in Uncategorized

 

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Review of Clayton Austin Photography

In short, we didn’t like Clayton Melton (aka Clayton Austin), his services, the finished product or his “professionalism”.  In fact, his lack of professionalism started ALL of our bad experiences with him.

We did have a blog set up telling the truth about our experiences, but it honestly generated such a shit storm and he was such an arrogant asshole the entire time that we’ve decided to let it go.  There are NUMEROUS other negative reviews online if you just do your due diligence.  He also has an “F” rating with the Better Business Bureau – and we didn’t get around to filing a report with them!   If you go with him as your photographer, good luck.

http://claytonaustinphotographyreview.wordpress.com no longer is available.  Although we did nothing but share the truth of our experiences with him, it just isn’t worth the karma.

Douchebaggery abounds and there ain’t much one can do about it.  Peace out.

 
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Posted by on June 3, 2010 in Informational, Uncategorized

 

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What everyone seeks

Alex Grey's "Seraphic Transport Docking on the Third Eye"

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People are searching for something sacred.  Every day, each and every one of us yearns for something to fill our souls.   We seek out any number of things to quiet our hearts and occupy our minds, but the Sacred constantly evades us.  As much as we consume to feel better or perform good works to alleviate the angst of this world, we are left with a feeling of emptiness and desperation.

The Sacred cannot be found in things or causes.   It cannot be found in relationships.  It cannot be found in abstractions of love, beauty or truth.  And it cannot be found in the world of nature or in a life of abstention.  The moment we make anything “sacred” in this world, time reveals it to be a farce.  Sacred oaths are broken, sacred rights are infringed, sacred places are desecrated, and sacred things are stolen from us or discarded when their apparent sacredness wears off.

Some would say that the Sacred can only be found in God, and they will be very quick to tell you Who and What God is.  Yet religious ideals, dogma and orthodoxy ebb and flow with the current of time and no religious system of belief is sacred in and of itself.  They attempt to point the mind and heart in a general direction, but it is doubtful that any one person has walked the Path of the Sacred.

No one in this world has a clear understanding of the Sacred and no one ever has, not Buddha, Jesus, Muhammad, Socrates, Joseph Smith, Ron Hubbard or any one of the Popes.    Sacredness is not created or maintained by attaching labels, directions and warnings to one particular understanding.   In fact, it can be argued that the very essence of the Sacred precludes any one thing from being sacred.  As soon as one says, “this is sacred”, you might as well move on.  It is not.

The Sacred will never be found.  It is the Mystery we seek to uncover but cannot discover, the Riddle we seek to solve but cannot compute, the Goal we aim to achieve but never will reach.  The search keeps the entire Universe moving forward and drives the actions of men.  This search is itself the reason for the machinations of time.  The Sacred is life unfolding.  We are inextricably caught up in that unfolding, and although we may point to “this” and “that” as sacred, we fail to recognize the Sacred.

The Sacred is nowhere and everywhere.  It is the breath we breathe, and the life we claim to draw that breath.  The Sacred is what we are all seeking but fail to see with every beat of our hearts.

The Sacred has always been ours and we have always been a part of the Sacred.  There is no search to undertake, no obstacle to overcome, no new experience to reveal it to you.   It is always and forever the fulfillment we deny in our own hearts – not by some divine act of punishment or cruelty, but by our own assertions.

We have a list of assertions we make every day that are sacred to us.  We protect those assertions, build upon them, accumulate more of them and attempt to create more sacredness.  We fail, time and time again.  And we will continue to fail until we lay down our assertions.

The Sacred reveals itself to the mind that is free of assertions.  Therefore, seek not to find the Sacred.  Seek to illuminate your own assertions, challenge them, and remove their sacredness from your mind.  Perhaps then the Sacred will impress Itself upon your heart and mind and you will know that the search is over – itself a construct to keep the Sacred away from our mind.

Perhaps then you will realize how sacred you are.   This is the supreme realization we all must make eventually.   We won’t until we are unwilling to NOT see the sacredness in everything.

 

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Multi-National Corporations buy up “Natural” and “Organic” Market

Burt's Bees started out as a small company offering "all-natural" products.  In recent years, they were purchased by Clorox.

Burt's Bees started out as a small company offering "all-natural" products. In recent years, they were purchased by Clorox, which catapulted them into thousands of stores nationwide.

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The following Alternet article highlights the fact that many natural and organic products found in grocery stores today are produced by companies that have been bought out by large, multi-national corporations – the same mega-corporations that produce toxic chemicals with little to no regard for environmental or societal issues.

If you choose to eat “all-natural” and “organic” products from smaller companies because you want to be a conscientious consumer, then take note of the following companies that have been purchased by their larger, mainbrand competitors:

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Burt’s Bees is owned by Clorox

Tom’s of Maine is owned by Colgate-Palmolive

Stonyfield Yogurt is owned by Danone (Brown Cow); the CEO also sits on the board of Dannon U.S.A.

Horizon is owned by Dean Foods (the largest dairy company in the U.S.)

Odwalla is owned by Coca-Cola

Naked Juice is owned by Pepsi-Cola

After the Fall is owned by Smucker’s

R.W. Knudsen is owned by Smucker’s

Santa Cruz Organic is owned by Smucker’s

Smart Water/Vitamin Water is owned by Coca-Cola

Kashi is owned by Kellogg’s

Back to Nature is owned by Kraft Foods (whose parent company also owns Phillip Morris USA)

Cascadian Farms is owned by General Mills

Barbara’s Bakery is owned by Weetabix

Mother’s is owned by Quaker, which is owned by PepsiCo

Health Valley/Arrowhead Mills is owned by Hain Celestial Group, of which 16% is owned by H.J. Heinz

Green & Black Organic chocolate is owned by Schweppe’s.

Dagoba Chocolate is owned by Hershey’s.

The Body Shop is owned by L’Oreal/Nestle

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I highlighted several of these in a previous blog post, “Agri-Corporations Race to Get a Piece of the Organic Pie“, which also included the following chart:

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Organic Company Ownership/Acquisition Chart. Click for enlarged view.

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While I’m not saying that eating organic foods from the above sources is an inherently bad thing – especially if those products are the only ones you and your family have available – I know that it has me second-guessing my choices yet again.  i think that, on one hand, it is good that such large corporations are able to provide these natural products to an even larger consumer base.

On the other hand, many of these mega-corporations utilize the same poor agricultural and manufacturing practices that prompted organic farming and consuming in this country.  Knowing that these corporations also turn out some of the most health-robbing foods in existence makes me want to boycott their “natural” products, too.  How long until they destroy the goodness of organic, all-natural foods?

These corporations didn’t get into organic farming because they care about you or the environment.  They have been witness to double-digit percentage increases in the organic market, and these moves for acquisition and ownership are merely efforts to stay on the cash-cow.  Their efforts are profit/money driven, unlike many of the smaller, local companies that started out in opposition to the practices of mega-corporations, which, ironically, later came to buy them out.

It’s also worth noting that many of these companies are lobbying the USDA to lessen the standards for organic products, and the FDA to loosen up on labeling requirements.

Now, doesn’t that make you want to run out and pick up a product made by one of these companies?

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Burt’s Bees, Tom’s of Maine, Naked Juice: Your Favorite Brands? Take Another Look — They May Not Be What They Seem

My first introduction to natural, organic and eco-friendly products stems back to the early ’90s, when I stumbled upon Burt’s Bees lip balm at an independently owned health food store in the heart of Westport, Kansas City, Mo.

Before the eyesore invasion of ’98, when Starbucks frothed its way into the neighborhood, leading to its ultimate demise, Westport was the kind of  ‘hood I still yearn for. It was saturated with historically preserved, hip and funky, mom-and-pop-type establishments, delivering their goods people to people.

I was surprised more recently when I saw Burt’s Bees products everywhere — in grocery stores, drug stores, corner bodegas and big-box stores like Target and Wal-Mart. I thought to myself, fantastic; the marketplace is working, and good for Burt. He has made his mark, and the demand for his products is on the rise.

Needless to say, I was shocked when I recently found out that Burt’s Bees is now owned by Clorox, a massive corporate company that has historically cared very little about the environment, but whose main industry is directly associated with harmful chemicals, some of which require warning labels for legal sale.

Clorox; yes, that’s right — the bleach company with an estimated revenue of $ 4.8 billion that employs nearly 7,600 workers (now bees) and sells products like Liquid-Plumr, Pine-Sol and Armor All, a far cry from the origins of Burt.

I now understood. The reason Burt’s Bees products were everywhere was precisely because they now had a powerful corporation in the driver’s seat, with big marketing budgets and existing distribution systems.

The story of Burt is a charming one gone bad. Burt Shavitz, a beekeeper in Dexter, Maine, lived an extremely humble life selling honey in pickle jars from the back of his pickup truck and resided in the wilderness inside a turkey coop without running water or electricity.

In the summer of 1984, Shavitz was driving down the road and spotted a hitchhiker who needed a lift to the post office. He pulled over and picked up Roxanne Quimby, a 34-year-old woman who eventually became Shavitz’s lover and business partner. Quimby started helping him tend to the beehives, and that eventually led to the all natural-inspired health care products made with Shavitz’s honey and the birth of Burt’s Bees products.

Burt’s story and very powerful narrative gave Burt’s Bees products their legitimacy in my book. Creative entrepreneurs and knowledgeable consumers together working their magic; not the results of a corporate behemoth out to dominate the marketplace.

However, Quimby and Shavitz’s relationship became ‘sticky’ in the late ’90s for reasons unclear, yet probably having little to do with honey. Their romantic break up carried over to the split of their business partnership as well. In 1999, Quimby bought out Shavitz’s shares of the company for a small six-figure sum. Quimby then continued, becoming phenomenally successfully and growing sales to $43.5 million by 2002.

In 2003, a private equity firm, AEA investors, purchased 80 percent of Burt’s Bees from Quimby, with her retaining a 20 percent share and a seat on the board. In 2006, John Replogle, the former general manager of Unilever’s skin-care division became CEO and president of Burt’s Bees. The company was sold to Clorox in late October 2007 for $925 million.

Quimby was paid more than $300 million for her stake in Burt’s Bees. At the time of that deal, Shavitz reportedly demanded more money, and Quimby agreed to pay him $4 million. Quimby now refurbishes fancy, swank homes in Florida, travels the world and buys massive chunks of land in her free time. Our bearded man Shavitz, on the other hand, now 73 and unchanged, continues to reside amidst nature in his now-expanded turkey coop, which still remains absent of electricity or running water.

The Burt’s Bees story is disconcerting. I vaguely remembered long ago that one of my favorite ice cream products, Ben & Jerry’s, sold out. Unilever (which also owns Breyers), the giant conglomerate with an estimated market cap of $50 billion and close to 174,000 employees, bought Ben & Jerry’s in 2000 for $326 million.

I began to wonder about the other products I liked, trusted and respected for their independence and their social responsibility. How many were really owned by big corporations, who were going out of their way to hide the link between the big corporate company with the small, socially responsible brand? It didn’t take long for my list of disappointments to grow and grow.

[read the rest of the article – page 2 of 4]

 
 

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