Sunday, December 04, 2005

Oil Dots

I've had a lot of fun reading Esquire magazine's December 2005 Best and Brightest issue. The one person I'll focus on now is Amy Myers Jaffee who is the director of the Energy Forum at the James A. Baker III Institute for Public Policy. Here are her Seven Ways to Fix the Oil Crisis:

1. Build a safety net: just in time delivery when it is oil is catastrophic when there is a natural disaster

2. Double (auto) fuel efficiency.

3. Tax gas--by dollars not cents: this has allowed the Europeans to become more efficient, and kept demand stable.

4. Work with China: instead of competing with them for energy, work together to lower costs, create new technologies.

5. Drill more. Regulate more. Drill in more areas (costal), give the EPA more authority to adequately regulate oil companies.

6. Open foreign energy markets: no more state energy monopolies.

7. Commit to solar energy: virtually no waste stream, carbon or radioactive. Solar needs to be at the 3 cents/killowat hour to become competitive; it's currently 20 to 30 cents.

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Crafting Manifesto

As we rush into the holiday season, focusing on buying instead of family, the birth of a tiny babe, Ulla-Maaria Mutanen has been thinking about why we like to make things, and has written up a "Craft Manifesto." I really like this and am thinking of ways I can become more "crafty:"

1. People get satisfaction for being able to create/craft things because they can see themselves in the objects they make. This is not possible in purchased products.

2. The things that people have made themselves have magic powers. They have hidden meanings that other people can’t see.

3. The things people make they usually want to keep and update. Crafting is not against consumption. It is against throwing things away.

4. People seek recognition for the things they have made. Primarily it comes from their friends and family. This manifests as an economy of gifts.

5. People who believe they are producing genuinely cool things seek broader exposure for their products. This creates opportunities for alternative publishing channels.

6. Work inspires work. Seeing what other people have made generates new ideas and designs.

7. Essential for crafting are tools, which are accessible, portable, and easy to learn.

8. Materials become important. Knowledge of what they are made of and where to get them becomes essential.

9. Recipes become important. The ability to create and distribute interesting recipes becomes valuable.

10. Learning techniques brings people together. This creates online and offline communities of practice.

11. Craft-oriented people seek opportunities to discover interesting things and meet their makers. This creates marketplaces.

12. At the bottom, crafting is a form of play.

I first read this manifesto in the 4th issue of Make Magazine.

Sunday, November 06, 2005

Still too much time on my hands?

So, I took another one of those "tests..."

The Dante's Inferno Test has sent you to Purgatory!
Here is how you matched up against all the levels:
Purgatory (Repenting Believers)Extreme
Level 1 - Limbo (Virtuous Non-Believers)Moderate
Level 2 (Lustful)Low
Level 3 (Gluttonous)High
Level 4 (Prodigal and Avaricious)Very Low
Level 5 (Wrathful and Gloomy)Moderate
Level 6 - The City of Dis (Heretics)Very Low
Level 7 (Violent)Moderate
Level 8- the Malebolge (Fraudulent, Malicious, Panderers)Low
Level 9 - Cocytus (Treacherous)Low

Take the Dante's Inferno Test

Friday, November 04, 2005

So, I took yet another of those "personality" tests, and here's my results:

Possessing a rare combination of wisdom and humility, while serenely dominating your environment you selflessly use your powers to care for others.

Even the smallest person can change the course of the future.

Galadriel is a character in the Middle-Earth universe. You can read more about her at the Galadriel Worshippers Army.

Looks like I took this test on a good day... (I swear I didn't write this...)

You too can take the test here.

Sunday, October 30, 2005

Needs vs wants

The C-J last Sunday had an article titled Gotta have it? They asked: "High heating costs have people vowing they may have to cut back to the necessities this winter. But what, exactly, constitutes a "necessity" these days?"

What a great question, so I was surprised to find out that "...many of us feel we need the Internet to stay informed, need cell phones to stay in touch with loved ones and need e-mail and faxes to transfer information. People talked about how eating out, getting their nails done were all necessities, and not luxuries.

But then, on reflection, I wasn't that surprised, for I realized that the reporter was interviewing mainly middle class people, and not the working poor, and/or those who have to choose between toilet paper and cereal (take a look at Barbara Einrich's Nickel and Dimed).

I read this statement next: "The basic aspect of economics is that we have to make choices," said Jack Morgan, recently retired director of the Center for Economic Education, which is affiliated with the Kentucky and national Councils on Economic Education. "The reason we have to make choices is because we can't have everything we want."

I first ran across statements like this while in one of my many years of graduate school, and I was puzzled by it then, and am still so now. I had thought, and still do, that economics helps producers and marketers sell goods and services. Most of us know very little about economics, and think of it as a very complex science, filled with arcane words and concepts.

I wish that economics truly were a scientific tool that would help us make good choices, (in the same way that the New Testament of Christian Scripture can help us make choices based on moral principles). This would mean that we would be better able to make clearer choices between that latte and retirement, or that weekly magazine and giving money to hurricane relief or programs that help lift the poor out of poverty.

Just some thoughts. Happy Halloween. Any ideas on how to choose the optimal candy?

Saturday, October 08, 2005

Literary Musings

I've been listening to NPR's Book podcast, and heard Louise Erdrich read this from her latest novel The Painted Drum. I've been pondering the meaning, and hope it is meaningful to you as well.

Near the end of the novel, Faye Travers says:

“Life will break you. Nobody can protect you from that.

And living alone won’t either, for solitude will also break you with it’s yearning.

You have to love.

You have to feel.

It is the reason you are here on earth.

You are here to risk your heart.”

Monday, September 26, 2005

Borg Nation

from an email I found dated 8/16/1994, back when Star Trek the Next Generation was on and the Borg were the nastiest villians around:

Assimilate me... tender... Elvis of Borg
Borger King. Have it our way. Your way is irrelevant.
Bush Sr. of Borg: The economy is irrelevant.
Pythagoras of Borg: Distance is irrelevant.
Drunk Borg: Rsilience in floor tile. Wan'be similated?
Geraldo of Borg: Next, brothers who assimilate sisters.

I am Bugs Bunny of Borg: What's up Collective?
I am Dangerfield of Borg: Respect is irrelevant.
I am Fudd of Borg: Wesistance is usewess!
I am Homer of Borg! Prepare to be...OOoooooo! Donuts!
I am Spock of Borg: Fascinating.
I am Ginsu of Borg. You will be assimilated: but WAIT! There's MORE!
I am Yoda of Borg: Irrelevant the Force is.
I am Zsa Zsa of Borg: Prepare to be assimilated dahling.
I yam Popeye of Borg: Prepare to be askimilated.

My other computer is a Borg.
P-Porky P-Pig of B-Borg: You will be assim-assim...absorbed.
Bjorn Borg: Tennis is irrelevant.
The Borg assimilated me and all I got was this lousy T-Shirt!
We have engaged the Borg. The wedding will be Friday.
Welcome to Borg Burger. No pickles. Pickles are irrelevant.
Whose laser thru yonder saucer section cuts? "Tis the Borg!

Sunday, September 18, 2005

Alternative Giving Ideas for NOLA Giving

Here's a couple of great organizations that can use financial assistance now due to Katrina's devastation:

The People's Institute

From their website: "The People’s Institute believes that effective community and institutional change happens when those who would make change understand how race and racism function as a barrier to community self determination and self sufficiency."

"The People’s Institute was created to develop more analytical, culturally-rooted and effective community organizers."

Their New Orleans' offices were destroyed.

The Acorn Institute

From their website: "ACORN, the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now, is the nation's largest community organization of low- and moderate-income families, working together for social justice and stronger communities."

ACORN's Headquarters, in New Orleans, LA, and the homes and neighborhoods of many of its members there, have been devastated by hurricane Katrina.

Saturday, September 10, 2005

Five Days with Katrina

UPDATE 9/26/05 PHOTOS have been taken off the site :(

Check out this slideshow of photos of Katrina, taken by Alvaro before, during and after the storm. Absolutely amazing!!!

Thursday, September 08, 2005

From inside the Austin Convention Center

Katrina: Jasmina Tesanovic's account, Austin Convention center

Writer, filmmaker, and Serbian native Jasmina Tesanovic is best known for her work documenting war in the former Yugoslavia. She visited the Austin Convention Center, where many storm victims are being sheltered, and has this to say about the people she encountered.

I am entering the Convention Center in Austin. Unlike the refugees an police, I have no ID, no tag on my wrist, just my ragged handbag and my lap top.

Nobody asks me anything, though I notice, all the people inside the camp are tagged with different colors, and there are security men and women all over the place.

In this huge no man's land, there are so many nobody people that a woman like me can pretty much become one of them. After few moments of my wandering I am offered a cheese sandwich, information on where to queue for food stamps, and a wif-fi hotspot for my computer.

"Do you have a number Ma’am?:

No, I say, I am from Serbia...

"Do you need some clothes?"

Well, I could do with some clothes...

Piles of clothes, in all sizes, in all colors...

Here people are mostly black, of all ages, of all sizes, of all shades of color, but there are some like me too... Middle-aged white women from nowhere, feeling at home almost everywhere, when it comes to disasters...

This center for refugees is well-organized, compared to my ex Yugoslav experience. It has air conditioning, abundant cooked food, extremely clean bathrooms and well-behaved people. Nobody is crying, nobody looks depressed yet, nobody is even fighting...

Information center desk, youth center desk, school information desk, jobs information desk, family elder members desk, computer desk, deaf assistance desk, farmer’s desk, unemployment insurance desk, alcoholic anonymous desk, church desk

Warnetta and Johnnetta are approaching me. Warnetta is simply dressed with long black braids, and Johnetta is all dressed up in red, fancy red make up, literally red long hair, jewels, she is gorgeous.

Johnetta says to me: I need somebody to take over my group tomorrow after school; I will not have time to handle them...

Oh, I say, tomorrow I will not be here.

Johnetta looks at me in disbelief. But you can tell me who can help me, you are the woman in green.

No, I am here just to see you and write about you. Can I take a picture of you?

Image: Warnetta and Johnnetta, shot by Jasmina.

They gently embrace and smile: Johnnetta says, we love it here, tomorrow I am starting to work, nine dollars per hour, everybody is so kind to us here, we have no home but I don’t mind, I have my five kids, four are taken care of in the kindergarten and this is Warnetta my oldest, but she makes me look old, I am thirty three and I don’t want to tell she is my daughter, she is 14... They will never fix my home town properly and we will never go back... because they all knew it was coming and it will come again... but they never do anything to build us good homes, to give people money to build them...

Barbara Bush, the wicked grandma, gave an interview only yesterday, chuckling how poor people will abuse the hospitality in Texas and never go back home. Is THIS what she meant? Her cynical remark was not meant to be cynical; it was a threat, for Johnetta and Warnetta who want to rent a place and stay in Austin until somebody fixes their town PROPERLY.

Both sides know pretty well what they are talking about; Barbara and Johnnetta are quarreling.

"Ma’am, how are you doing?" I am patted on my shoulder by a perfumed elderly volunteer. "I see you managed to rescue your computer."

I'd better play the refugee after all, it is the safest place in this messy country I guess: not that I am far from that condition. I've been a refugee in my own country. This time I am refugee in somebody else’s country. I can tell the difference now.

Is there any? Fay looks just like me. Fay sits next to me, presuming I was just like her: somebody who only a few days ago had a great life and didn’t know it, who took life for granted. Well, how else, I say, one cannot always be a refugee? Or maybe yes, she says, maybe from now on she will always be a refugee: she is a journalist and now she will become a writer she says; exactly like me.

She will become the main character of her own stories. And it will feel good, I promise her. Here I am still feeling good about it and writing.

At a corner of the huge circular building, black male teens have a basket and are playing basketball; tall handsome swift and deft. Some will join the NBA some day. Around them are children perfectly healthy playing games in wheelchairs; there are also some people in the wheelchairs paying no attention to the bored kids. In the corner watching them a pretty girl is sulking. The basketball player comes up to her and cuddles her: she is angry with him... he is neglecting her... a new romance, for the black Romeo and Juliet in a refugee center. At least they are alive and will stay so; away from their parents it seems, I wonder if the parents are alive...

"My husband had to leave too; he stayed until the very end but then it became dangerous, looting and shooting and the diseases... the smell, oh the smell... dead bodies, the heat...." The old black woman's nose is quivering: she is very well dressed and well-kept, everybody is fussing around her, but she seems to be alone and wants to stay alone.

Where is your husband, I ask?

She is silent, her eyes are blank... In my country too, old people preferred to stay at their homes, whatever may happen. Is there such a thing as homeland after all, I wonder? Or is it lack of courage and energy... why did she make it here and he didn’t?

Who is this old respectable thin woman staring out of the window in silence?

The other old woman is all dolled up; she is sitting in the terrace, chain-smoking, chain-talking. The chair next to her is empty. People come and go and listen to her, but she never stops talking. She has thin legs and a big belly, a pretty old face and fancy sexy clothes: everybody seems to know her. They are offering her stuff and want to help, to carry her, amuse her, bring her music. But she talks and talks only. She reminds me of a raped woman who compulsively talked after she escaped the war zone; she talked sweetly and mildly of everything, even of her rapist... This woman is telling us all how happy she is with life as such, happy to be alive, happy to be here.... I wonder when she will break down, from that chair, from that cigarette to which she is clinging to as if it were a pillar.

I guess she needs a drink, but nobody drinks here.

A desk with pretty young white girls has several posters: child and women abuse. I approach them, they give me their material, they have shelters, therapies for all situations. They are local feminist groups present in the center.

I hear live music, it is melodic and rhythmical as in films I saw from New Orleans, a black old man is singing with his guitar, joined by another younger one who has some kind of flute, the on lookers are stamping their feet and clapping their hands... some are joining in.... not many, but I hear they are planning a party... I wish I could be there...

But then, they start playing the American national anthem, people stand straight and a big applause ends it. Is that their patriotism? Is this America?

What about the global warming that made all this happen, what about Iraq?

A young man from New Orleans was telling this morning how he plans to go back even though his house is destroyed, and to MAKE sure that the city is rebuild in a proper way: that the politicians don’t steal and waste the money; that right guys get in charge and start anew, make a new go of it, this time on proper roots.... Everybody could tell this disaster was going to happen, why didn’t anybody do something about it?

Corruption, racism, classism.... Bush is a spoiled rich kid and behaves as such....

No, I say, he is a war criminal: all the money the world is giving now to US, money from the poorest countries in the world, may as well be used for the wars against the same countries that are giving the money. What a thought? You should secede... from Bush.

Somebody in a county of Louisiana already proclaimed secession, that to draw the attention of the press and the administration, as a trick of course...

What a thought! I really meant it...

The barber’s shop; finally I see how black hair is neatly and patiently done in braids, dreads, colors.... I myself may give it a try. Many years ago, when my white friend from Serbia was attacked by some black people because she was presumably white and rich, she said to them a historical phrase we all white refugees quote here in black US: I come from a country which is in civil war, even if we look exactly the same.

Some military guys appear behind a neatly set desk. Next to them is a desk with a sign; We Support Our Troops, veterans. Well, good thing that troops are supporting those people here, if indeed they are.

And the wifi Internet access I am using while writing this is called Tsunami, it is excellent and free. Kids are gathering around me to play with my computer. Boredom is the biggest killer in places like this. Even if you have your needs met, the definition of being a refugee is being left without your day; be it in a palace, be it in the gutters. Women cope better than men usually speaking, children best on the long run.... They may even realize Mrs. Bush’ s fears and stay in their new homes as if their own, making the old settlers run after their survivor's energy and skills.

I am looking at a beautiful baby toddler, a girl, she is playing with my bag, smiling and chirping. I pat her, tickle her; her father is huge and angry, he takes her by her belt and picks her up like a mother cat. She is screaming her head off, she wants her doll back, that’s me, I want my girlfriend back, that’s her... but we will never meet again. I am taking a picture of her, one of those faces I will never forget.... Her mom is missing.

A pang; I miss my grown up daughter in Serbia: she used to be small and dark and a refugee too... About 4,000 people here, an Austin volunteer tells me, giving me his email so I can send him my text. More people are coming in but some are already leaving, to other places, relatives, new jobs, new homes... They are not called refugees, they are called "evacuees."

Elderly well dressed couples from Austin show up in the afternoon, strolling among the evacuees smiling broadly and kindly at all of us. When they asked me, with the air of Princess Diana, "How are you doing? We see you managed to get your computer out," I didn’t have the heart to tell them that I was from Serbia, and that I am doing fine.

posted by Xeni Jardin at 09:51:18 PM BoingBoing Website

Wednesday, September 07, 2005

From Reuters 9/17/05

"The challenges ahead are huge. State officials said 140,000 to 160,000 homes were flooded and will not be recovered, and it would take years to restore water service to all of the city.

More than a million people may have been driven from their homes -- many perhaps permanently -- with hundreds of thousands taking refuge across the United States."

Initial response from some gov't officials? Stay the course, keep the tax cuts in place.....

Tuesday, September 06, 2005

Gulf Coast Numbers

from the AP:

Two in 10 households in the disaster area had no car, compared with 1 in 10 nationwide.

Nearly 25 percent of those living in hardest-hit areas were below the poverty line, about double the national average. About 4.5% in the disaster area received public assistance; nationwide the number was about 3.5%.

About 60% of the 700,000 people in the three dozen neighborhoods were minorities. Nationwide, about 1 in 3 Americans is a racial minority.

One in 200 American households doesn't have adequate plumbing. One in 100 households in the most affected areas didn't have decent plumbing, which according to the Census, includes running hot and cold water, a shower or bath and an indoor toilet.

Nationwide, about 7% of households with children are headed by a single mother. In the three dozen neighborhoods, 12% were single-mother households.

Thursday, September 01, 2005

NOLA thoughts from Jim Wallis

Prayer and action for hurricane victims
by Jim Wallis

During hurricanes, floods and other natural disasters, those who have the least to lose are often those who lose the most. Why?

First, the dwellings in which poor people live are not as sturdy, stable, or safe as others. "Shotgun" shacks, mobile homes, and poorly constructed apartment buildings don't do well in hurricane-force winds and tidal surges.

Second, the places where poor people live are also the most vulnerable. The rich often live at the tops of hills, the poor in the valleys and plains that are the first to flood. The living conditions in these neighborhoods are also usually the most dense and overcrowded.

Third, it is much harder for the poor to evacuate. They don't own cars, can't afford to rent them, and often can't even afford a tank of gas - especially at today's prices. They can't afford an airplane, train, or even bus ticket. And, as one low-income person told a New Orleans reporter, they have no place to go. People in poverty can't afford motel or hotel rooms, and often don't have friends or family in other places with space to spare. In New Orleans, there were many people who desperately wanted to leave but couldn't.

Fourth, low-income people are the least likely to have insurance on their homes and belongings, and the least likely to have health insurance. If jobs are lost because of natural disasters, theirs are the first to go. Poverty makes long-term recovery after a disaster more difficult - the communities that are the weakest to begin with usually recover the slowest. The lack of a living family income for most people in those communities leaves no reserve for emergencies.

New Orleans has a poverty rate of 28% - more than twice the national rate. Life is always hard for poor people - living on the edge is insecure and full of risk. Natural disasters make it worse. Yet even in normal times, poverty is hidden and not reported by the media. In times of disaster, there continues to be little coverage of the excessive impact on the poor. Devastated luxury homes and hotels, drifting yachts and battered casinos make far more compelling photographs.

The final irony of New Orleans is that the people who normally fill the Louisiana Superdome are those who can afford the high cost of tickets, parking, and concessions. Now its inhabitants are the poor, especially children, the elderly and the sick - those with nowhere else to go. Those with money are nowhere to be seen.

As the Gulf Coast now faces the long and difficult task of recovery, what can we do?

Saturday, August 27, 2005

What are you reading?

Apparently there's a chain "what are you reading" thingy going around the blogsphere, and in the spirit of getting back into the habit of posting, I'll play along, but not send it along.

1. Number of books you have owned:

Using Delicious Library cataloging software, I'm up to 1,200 or so, with a 1,000 probably not catalogued, so I've probably owned close to 3,000 books over my lifetime....

2. Last book I bought:

How to Change the World: Social Entrepreneurs and the Power of New Ideas

3. Last book I completed:

The Thin Man

4a. Five books that mean a lot to me:

1. Animal Dreams by Barbara Kingsolver

2. Meeting Jesus Again for the First Time by Marcus Borg

3. The Journal of John Woolman

4. The Moon by Whale Light by Diane Ackerman

5. The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People Stephen R. Covey

4b. What are you currently reading?

Pattern Recognition by William Gibson

Close to Home by Peter Robinson

Death by Meeting by Patrick Lencioni

Wednesday, August 03, 2005

Soul of the Republican Party at Stake

From a Knight Ridder August 3, 2005 story:

"Three senior Republican senators wrote a small amendment into the Defense Appropriations bill this summer that outlaws cruel, inhumane and degrading treatment of all detainees in American custody.

No one can call Sens. John Warner, R-Va., Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., and Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., soft on anything, much less terrorism...

On the floor of the Senate, before everyone left on vacation, Sen. Jeff Sessions (news, bio, voting record), R-Ala., sounded the administration line: There is no need for this legislation because we are not dealing with prisoners of war but "terrorists."

John McCain stood up and responded that the debate was not "about who they are. It's about who we are." We are Americans, the senator said, and we hold ourselves to a higher standard than those who slaughter the innocent in Iraq or Afghanistan, or in London or on 9/11 here at home.

This debate has a special resonance as investigation after investigation into the outrages against prisoners at
Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq, and others into the mistreatment of detainees held in American custody at Guantanamo Bay in Cuba, continue to focus all blame at the lowest possible level. This in spite of new testimony that strongly suggests that the blame, like cream, settles much nearer the top.

Please repeat after the good senator who knows about prisons and the torture of helpless human beings:

This is not about who they are. This is about who we are. We are Americans and we hold ourselves to a higher standard of conduct. And, no, the end does not justify the means. Not now. Not ever, when the means include torturing prisoners."

And so say we all.

Friday, July 22, 2005

Harry Potter Wisdom for today

"Voldemort himself created his worst enemy, just as tyrants everywhere do! Have you any idea how much tyrants fear the people they oppress? All of them realize that, one day, amongst their many victims, there is sure to be one who rises against them and strikes back."

Dumbledore to Harry Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince.

Thursday, July 14, 2005

What's wrong with SBC education

Ran across this story from a blog new to me: MainstreamBaptist in which a Southern Seminary prof talks about raising violent sons:

"Why I'm Raising Violent 4 Year-Olds June 1, 2005 (by Russell D. Moore) (excerpts by me)

...this is the second movie my children have ever seen in their lives. One was a tender, touching Christmas movie about a little boy who discovers that Christmas is all about believing in the miracles within. The second was a cartoonishly violent movie in which men go face-to-face with evil aliens; often chopping off limbs in the heat of battle. As I think about my film choices for my children, I will admit that I repent....of taking them to the Christmas film.

This is because of my overall philosophy of childrearing. I am aiming to raise up violent sons.

I am not seeking to raise sons who are violent in the amoral, pagan sense of contemporary teenagers playing "Grand Theft Auto" video games or carjacking motorists. I want them to be more violent than that.

I want them to understand that the Christian life is not a Hallmark Channel version of baptized sentimentality. Instead, it is a cosmic battle between an evil dragon and the child of the woman, an ancient warfare that now includes all who belong to the Child of the Promise (Rev 12). I want them to forgive their enemies, not because they are good boys, but because they understand that vengeance against the Serpent comes not from their hand, but from that of the anointed Warrior-King (Rev 19), whose blood-soaked garments don't often transfer to the imagery of a Precious Moments wall-hanging. And I want them to exercise self-control of their passions, not because it is polite, but because they are called to struggle against the Evil One, even to the point of cutting off their own limbs rather than succumb to devices.


This is so far beyond the Prince of Peace, blessed are the peacemakers, and the writings of peacemaking scholar Glenn Stassen. Yikes

Friday, July 08, 2005

Subtle Hegemony

Today's word is hegemony, which means "The predominant influence, as of a state, region, or group, over another or others." It's use has been extended to include cultures as well. Here's a case and point:

Recently Howard Dean, DNC, made a couple of statements to the effect that the GOP is "not very friendly to different kinds of people," and that Republicans are "pretty much a White, Christian party." The Republican response from the VEEP was: "I think Howard Dean's over the top. I've never been able to understand his appeal. Maybe his mother loved him, but I've never met anybody who does," Cheney told Fox News Channel. Additional negative comments were made by a myriad of other conservative pundits.

Recently, Karl Rove, White House Deputy Chief of Staff said that the "most important difference between conservatives and liberals can be found in the area of national security."

"Conservatives," he continued, "saw the savagery of the 9/11 attacks and prepared for war; liberals saw the savagery of the 9/11 attacks and wanted to prepare indictments and offer therapy and understanding for our attackers."

"In the wake of the terrorist attacks," he said, "conservatives believed it was time to unleash the might and power of the United States against the Taliban" while liberals supported a petition "imploring the powers that be to use moderation and restraint in responding to the terrorist attacks against the United States." White House spokesman Scott McClellan responded by saying that Bush sees "no reason" for an apology.

There have been other similar situations where several Republican leaders have practiced the double standard: William J. Bennet writing on moral values (Book of Virtues), and then getting caught with a major gambling problem, Rush Limbaugh's drug addiction, and his supporters' defense (an addiction to drugs because of pain is different than those who are just addicted to drugs (those drug users are moral failures, Rush is not), Newt Gingrich's divorce of his first ill wife, while he was promoting "family values."

What's this have to do with hegemony? The conservative movement in America has taken over language, the church, education, the airwaves, so that it's beliefs are considered to be "normal," while progressives who protest, who see the world differently, are weird, devient. It is the hegemony of one group's value system over another. Selah.

Wednesday, July 06, 2005

Poverty reduction

Here's some somber facts to think about as the G8 gather in Edinburgh, Scotland. Taken from Altercation:

[The US contributes]... just 0.16 percent of GDP to global development—that’s one-sixth of one cent for every dollar we earn. What hope can a country have when its ruling ideologists tell the world to shut up about development because we are spending so much on guns and killing people?

America’s relatively niggardly welfare system, even its most generous incarnation—since significantly reduced--raised poor incomes only moderately, reduced the proportion of adults in poverty from 26.7 to 19.1 percent. In Germany, France, and Italy, meanwhile, employing the same benchmark, the number hovers around just seven percent.

As for the elderly, where the U.S. social security system is its most generous, it manages to reduce the level of elderly people living in poverty from nearly sixty percent before transfer payments to just below twenty percent afterward. Yet the Europeans improve on this performance as well. Germany, France, and Italy all spend roughly twice as much of their national income as does the United States. What’s more, with our inferior system of public health, and family-friendly employment laws, the U.S. and South Africa are the only two developed countries in the world that do not provide health care for all of their citizens.

Source for all of the above:: OECD, Health Data 1999: A Comparative Analysis of 29 Countries (OECD, 2001).

The Lord God Bird

Heard a simply amazing story on NPR's All Things Considered this afternoon, about the town of Brinkley, Arkansas and the economic hopes the community has for revitalization after a recent viewing of the Ivory-Billed Woodpecker.

The bird was thought to be extinct, and was "rediscovered" after 60+ years. Local artists talk about making art in the birds' image, a local restaurant has an ivory-billed woodpecker burger, and a hunting lodge gears up for birders who want to take a guided trip to see the bird. The town is in the bayou.

The bird is called the Lord God Bird, because when people saw how big it was; they supposedly said "Lord God!"

The radio story is an incredible compilation of community voices, no narrator. Plus, there's an amazing original song (The Lord God Bird) written and performed by Singer-songwriter Sufjan Stevens.

The link to the story, and a free download of the song (current as of today) is here.

Sunday, June 19, 2005


Originally uploaded by Kurwin.

I see London, I see France... what do you see? Heard a great sermon today on Hagar naming God; "the God who sees."

Loving the brief lazy days of summer.

Sunday, May 22, 2005

The Conventional Wisdom

From Freakonomics:
The first trick of asking questions is to determine if your question is a good one. . . It was John Kenneth Galbraith... who coined the phrase "conventional wisdom." . . .the conventional wisdom in Galbraith's view must be simple, convenient, comfortable, and comforting--though not necessarily true. It would be silly to argue that the conventional wisdom is never true. But noticing where the conventional wisdom may be false--noticing, perhaps, the contrails of sloppy or self-interested thinking--is a nice place to start asking questions (p. 90).

Levitt uses as an example Mitch Snyder the homeless advocate. He reported in 1980 that there were 3 million homeless Americans, and furthermore, 45 homeless people die each second (meaning 1.4 billion dead homeless each year. The total US population then was about 225 million). Later on, Synder admitted he made it up, because he didn't want reporters to go away without a number.

Reference: Becker, G. S, & Becker, G. N. (1997). "How the homeless crisis was hyped," in the Economics of Life. New York: Crown, 2000, pp. 60-69.

This is what is so intriguing to me about today; blogging and the internet can catch a lot of mispeak: honest mistakes and intentional mistakes.

Saturday, May 14, 2005

Jesus Meek and Mild

In a discussion about Luke 9 last Sunday, we pondered long and hard Jesus' comments about the cost of being his disciple. He had no kind words for those who wanted to fulfill familial obligations, or bury the dead. Earlier in the chapter, he wants to know how long he has to stay around, because everyone around him just doesn't get it. When the disciples want to call down fire (like Elijah did), on a town that's not receptive to them, Jesus rebukes them.

I don't know about you, but I don't often hear others say that Jesus rebuked them. More often than not, they talk about how "Jesus told me to do this;" more "In the Garden" hymn talk than tongue lashing.

So, imagine my interest when I found this quotation today in a SoJo email:

"I believe it to be a great mistake to present Christianity as something charming and popular with no offense in it.... We cannot blink at the fact that gentle Jesus meek and mild was so stiff in his opinions and so inflammatory in his language that he was thrown out of church, stoned, hunted from place to place, and finally gibbeted as a firebrand and a public danger. Whatever his peace was, it was not the peace of an amiable indifference."

- Dorothy Sayers

Sunday, May 01, 2005

Sunday, April 24, 2005

Regarding "Justice Sunday." Here's a snip from a recent Jim Wallis SoJo email (4/21/05):

"That is an escalation of the religious/political war. And the two together sound like assertions of a Republican theocracy. Behind these activities lies a fundamental assumption by Republican operatives and their conservative religious allies that they own religion in America. They demand that religious people vote only their way. They claim that "values voters" in America belong to them, and they disrespect the faith of those who disagree with their agenda. There are better words for this than just "politically divisive" or "morally irresponsible." For these are not merely political offenses, they are religious ones. And for offenses such as these, theological terms are better - terms such as idolatry and blasphemy.

We should bring our religious convictions about all moral issues to the public square - such as the uplifting of the poor, the protection of the environment, the ethics of war, or the tragic number of abortions in America - without attacking the sincerity of other people's faith, or demanding that we should win because we are religious. We must make moral arguments and mobilize effective movements for social change that can powerfully persuade our fellow citizens, religious or not, on what is best for the common good."

In the C-J on Friday Joe Phelps, pastor of Highland Baptist Church made statements on how the "Justice" meeting was against Baptist principles, and the separation of church and state. The pastor of Highview's response was to impugn Phelps' character: saying he just wanted to get in the paper and on TV.

This is a standard right wing tactic: switch attention from issues by making personal attacks.

Today in the C-J, Sen. Mitch McConnell wrote an op-ed piece stating that Democratic complaining is the standard line from the liberal elite media. "Why can't Republicans go to church," he asks? He does make a point; I'd like all Republicans to go to church and read all the words of Jesus about the poor, the widows, the hungry.

Most complaints about the meeting today are not that Republicans are meeting in a church, but that Republicans are saying that by filibustering 10 appellate court nominees, Democrats are denying their Christian freedom. (NOTE: yet another right wing trick: write an op-ed piece about the wrong issue). Hence the theocracy comments by Wallis.

I don't recall Democrats denying conservative Christians the right to go to church, to pray and interpret the Bible as they see fit.

Saturday, April 23, 2005

Last Class Today

Last class for the Spring Semester. We brought the two classes together and heard a panel consisting of a Democratic senator, a Republican senator, a child advocate and an elder abuse advocate.

What was interesting was the insistence by the two senators that senators really like each other, and that the process is truly much more collegial and democratic than the press portrays. Of course, they admitted that they would often support their party, check their friendships at the door, and then after the session go and have coffee. This was in marked contrast to the election process, which to me, is bitter, rankorous, extremely negative, and highly personal.

The advocates spoke of the process to getting legislation passed; the necessity of having legislative allies, of doing your homework on the issue and on the opponents to the bill; of being persistant (rarely does a bill pass the first time it is introduced).

While I find all of this fascinating, it is troubling to think that in the four years it took to pass an elder abuse law, who knows how many older adults died because new trainings had not been conducted and service provider relationships had not been strengthened. Kind of makes you wish for a smoother, speedier process when social problems that involve life and death need legislation. A process that isn't oftentimes petty, vindictive and greedy.

Sunday, April 17, 2005

My grandparent's barn

Originally uploaded by Kurwin.

I used to play on the tractor and explore around in this barn when we would visit in the summer.

Saturday, April 16, 2005

Dots changing colors

Hmm. The red state, blue state thing is more complicated than I first realized here, and here. Abortion rates falling higher in blue states than in red states? Blue states have lower divorce rates?

What's one to do? How about distract us from connecting the dots by doing this, let's take over the word justice and say it only relates to being for or against President Bush. You can't with the one had complain about the out of control liberal Federal courts, and then with the other hand, complain that Senate Democrats are fillibustering 10 nominees to those Federal courts.... This is called "obscuring the connections between the dots."

Sunday, April 10, 2005

4 dots for God's Politics

Just finished God's Politics, by Jim Wallis. In it, he suggests a "third way," a way of bridging the left and right politically and religiously, finding common ground around issues both sides can agree on. For example, he assserts that most people on the Left who are pro choice, would rather women not have abortions. Why not form partnerships with those on the right, to give women alternatives to abortion (adoption, foster care), as well as reduce the economic circumstances that lead women to have abortions.

Time and time again, Wallis points out that conservatives are correct when they emphasize choice and ethics, and liberals are correct when they emphasize the economic, cultural, and political factors that keep people down.

Here are some of his more interesting "predictions for the New Millenium:"
  1. The Religious Right will lose control of the discussion of religion and public life and other voices will be heard.
  2. The Spice Girls (who?) will not be remembered, and Martin Luther King, Jr. will.
  3. Overcoming poverty will become the great moral issue as we move into the new millennium.
  4. Some liberals will get the values questions right, and some conservatives will really care about poor people.
  5. So a new option will emerge; conservative in personal values, radical for social justice. The number of spiritual progressives will grow.
  6. More parents will choose good books over mindless and soulless television.
  7. The Left will decide, as the conservatives already have, that ideas are important and will begin to offer some better ones.
My students and I began a discussion in class last week on how to overcome poverty, and I told them that Wallis' book was one dot to connect. More on that discussion later.

Saturday, April 09, 2005

Iris in the Spring

Iris in the Spring
Originally uploaded by Kurwin.

Finally, it is Spring. Saw this flower last April on a walk to daycare with Ellie.