Thursday, October 30, 2008

Post 601

I really should do something special for this one.

So, here you go y'all:

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Weekly Links We Like to Link to: Huh?

No promises on the political front this time. I'll just say that it's not as partisan as I tend to be.

Sand Pirates of the Caribbean?
These cats are taking off with hundreds of truckloads of sand (used for building material) out of both private and public lands. Ecologically, at least, it's a baaad idea. Aarrgh!

Professor Glen C. Rowly considers a time when he was caught between his friend (who self-identified himself as Black even though he could easily pass) and complete strangers at a Black Panther meeting and how we sometimes betray our friends and other aspects and responsibilities of ourselves in order to be accepted into our tribes. - as well as how our tribal identity fits in with our politics and worldview and visa versa. Our identities are complex, and our responses to calls of the tribe should be nuanced (My thoughts, not necessarily his).

What is it now, two weeks? I think this is how the last stretch should end.

via HuffingtonPost
. And thanks to Art for reminding me again that I should always check my posts!

Friday, October 24, 2008

Weekend Links We Like to Link to - Happy News (?)

Sorry it took so long to post. Been trying to get some jobs out there and trying not to post on political stuff.

Good to know that not all rich people are stingy. Warren Buffet (whom I heard really recently overtook Bill Gates as the richest person in the world) is not only the first or second richest person, but also the biggest donor among billionaires (in terms of amount donated vs actual wealth) . Gates is second on this list. How much is Buffet worth? Fifty-two billion dollars. How much has he given recently? Between 2001-2006 he donated over $46 billion. Of course, once you hit over 20 billion smackaroonies, you really gotta ask, "Besides become my own superhero - or trying to take one down - what else could I do with this excess moola?"

I had some thoughts about this topic - Christian teenagers going off to college and (at least temporarily) storing their religion away (and not losing it as popularly believed) - and I recognized that my thoughts on it wouldn't fit into this format. So, I'll continue reading this article (and see what else I can find on it) and post my thoughts up on ChicagoDads.
h/t to MarkO

Okay, here's the happy news:

Can it get any more giddy than that?
h/t to MarkO

Monday, October 20, 2008

Say Hi to your mother for me

I just can't help myself. I think it's the funniest SNL non-political skit I've seen at least since Lazy Sunday.

and the follow-up:

Saturday, October 18, 2008

I think that...

... it's a bad idea to pay people to get signatures through canvassing without first training them in basic electoral ethics and on how to verify identities and then verifying identities and party affiliations yourself. You'll end up with a bunch of phony names (as many of ACORN's freelancers did), or end up 'accidentally' changing people's party affiliations to Republican (as YPM has done in California and Florida). [Update: Please don't send voter registration material to dead goldfish. It only further confuses people.]

... it's not just overly dramatic but disingenuous to state that your opponents' allies are threatening "to tear apart the very fabric of democracy itself" when what your opponents' allies are doing (registering fake voters who could never show up to vote even if they made it through all of the checkpoints anyway) poses no real threat to the democratic process while what your allies do (making it harder for Democrats and Independents to actually vote) does. After all, can anyone believe ACORN itself (and not some of its laziest workers) wants a fictional character like Mickey Mouse to be registered as a Democrat, when it would be so much easier to trick an actual, living registered Republican into switching party allegiance - thereby increasing the odds that he would not vote?

... if a major candidate keeps espousing the inherent goodness and "real patriot"-ism of small town folks, if she quotes from a Dixiecrat apologist who told Bobby Kennedy that he hopes someone would shoot him square in the head in defense of these small town values, then maybe she should expect that those fearful and god-forsaken big cities and suburbs (and the people groups that fill them) will probably not want to vote for her. Maybe, in fact, she doesn't really love all of America herself. But that would make her anti-American.

... if that same candidate says about her foe that she fears that "he just doesn't love America like you or I" while she is married to a man who was part of a secessionist group (you know, if you want to play the associative game here, think of the last great secessionist group - that's right, the Confederates), she should probably shut her big trap.

... when a congressperson calls into question the patriotism her fellow congresspeople based on the fact that they do not believe as she believes or the way that she believes it - and in fact calls for a witch-hunt to snuff out those anti-Americans and un-patriotic Americans from public duty - she needs to be laughed out of public service. Her kind of rhetoric is vitriolic and dangerous. But above all, mentally retarded.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

We educate those we care about.

From Jason Linkins, live blogging the debate at HuffPost.

Let me ask you: Can you remember a debate in which some moderator did not bring up poor math/science scores? Schieffer says the problem is an "obvious" one. Seems to me that it's not, considering that it keeps coming up, again and again. Here's the truth: America is best in the world at education the students that America WANTS to educate. When you exclude the children that no one cares about educating, U.S. scores exceed the world by every measure. Now, who are the kids that no one wants to educate? Well, I'll put it this way: there's a reason that hearing John McCain call education a "civil rights issue" sets my hypocrisy alarm off.

Personally, I'm not saying that McCain's in the wrong on this one. Or Democrats, Republicans, teachers, teacher unions, principals, Congress, presidential administrations (although I despise NCLB). But I think he makes a great point. The students that we don't care to educate are the ones with the crappiest education. We are failing, failing, failing in urban schools and specifically with minority and impoverished students (which would include many rural districts as well). This is evident in the way that the teachers are overworked until they are spent and either leave early (often for greener pastures), retire from classroom teaching, or continue to deaden their senses (there are, of course, remarkable people who stay on and enlarge their profession and everyone benefits. But few and far between...). Pressure is everywhere put on already burdened teachers - especially new teachers who have and then waste all this energy. It's just not sustainable.

What we need is a full-frontal attack. Not regulations that have elementary teachers constantly teaching to the test for most of the year (the ramifications will be evident when our inner city schools - which are already behind - produce more students who were not taught to think during those formative years); not shutting down schools to start from scratch (at least not necessarily, and certainly not as a threat); not blaming teachers/parents/principals/students. Solutions to these problems could be as simple and yet effective as running clinics like those run by the Harlem Children's Zone that teaches parents how to raise their kids so that they would have the best options (their so-called Baby College is a series of early education workshops for parents where they teach clear and proven skills like, "Read regularly to your kids," and, "Spanking the children teaches them to use force to resolve differences" and "Put your child first so that she will succeed"). We need to do simple stuff like open more urban (and rural) preschools and doing early intervention. How about encouraging corporations and small businesses to sponsor high schools (not, in any case, exclusively, but as one of many)? How about introducing students to various levels of thought and industry in a hands-on method early on? Empowering churches, synagogues, mosques, non-profits, etc. to do more direct and unified community outreaches (after-school programs or homework assistance, for instance) that are less sectarian and more pro-student.

And then there's the money. Many urban (and rural, for that matter) school buildings are run-down and the teacher-to-student ratio is 1:30 in Chicago (sometimes much, much higher). You invest in that you truly care about. In Chicago we are losing 400 million dollars that should be set aside for schools each year to pet projects for industries (TIFFs). Our future is being flushed down the toilet so that Trump and Boeing will consider doing a few more years worth of business in the city and so that developers will keep having unfettered access to clear out the poor. That is bad business. That is bad economics. That is bad humanity.

The children of poor and minority families are suffering because we don't care enough to put them as high enough of a priority. And that's a shame on all of us. All. Of. Us.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Intentionality and theology of eradicating poverty

Today is Blog Action Day. I was not aware of this day nor its principal action: Fight Poverty. And I'm pretty sure there's a billion ways to talk about this. I could write about how about one half of the world lives on less than two dollars a day. I could talk about the fact that no matter how you try to spin it, two dollars a day is barely sufficient for life no matter where you are. I could talk about how few people get to live the life of luxury that even someone as "poor" as I do lives (I mean, we just bought two computers this year, we have instant access to medical care, we have at least some line of credit, we have clean and running water, our baby is healthy and well-fed and will most likely make it through to the age of three...), I could talk about the fact that though our economy is hitting the sink it really, really effects still-developing countries, I could talk about how many children die of starvation everyday, I could try to convince you to play Save the Planet app of Facebook because then at least you may do something...

Indeed, I could talk about all these things, and they are all tangible things. But I'm not so much into guilt as into motivation. I kind of want make it personal and tell how my mind has changed in the last few years.

It's not that I've never cared before. I would try to help the homeless around me. I would occasionally send money to distant places as a result of a tragedy. I became a teacher specifically for the poor and minorities in my city. These were good things and I'm not knocking them at all, but my faith wasn't at the center of my activities. I did them because I thought God wanted me to do them, sure, but I would have felt guilty if I hadn't. There was no real correlation between my faith and my (sporadic at times) deeds.

What I've discovered since then is not that God wants to bring us all to be with him in heaven forever, so forget about the earth, and you can forget about the poor (eventually), but that God is making plans to bring heaven down to earth. He is restoring all of the heavens and earth to the wonderful way it was at Creation. Lion lays down with the lamb, wipe away every tear, etc. What I discovered is that it is integral to God's mission - through Jesus - to feed the poor, heal the sick, and not just a part of God's mission on the way out of this world.

There is that old adage, Charity begins at home. We've tried to be intentional about that. For us, that means being informed about greater patterns in the world, about being involved in a local level, about welcoming people into our homes (sometimes to stay), about partaking in conversations and trying to gather and spread information that's useful, about making meals, about raising our daughter as a just and kind person. It is about being generous with what we have while preparing groundwork to be even more generous.

I have a lot of debts that we're trying to pay down. Having loads of debt (if this recent economic downturn is teaching Americans one thing, I hope it's this) keeps us from collecting wealth. And those of us with generous hearts, I think, should be gathering wealth to spread it. I think part of the problem is, we wait for the uber-rich, the two percent of the population who hold an ill-proportionate amount of the world's wealth in their hands, to do the work of ending poverty and sharing their wealth. Yet, with few exceptions (think the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation), the wealth consolidate their wealth. There's certainly more reasons to do this than I could possibly fathom, and they're all not selfish reasons at all. The thing to learn from this, however, is:
  1. We cannot wait for a fraction of a percentage of the world's population to do our work for us.
  2. Everyone who reads this blog has the ability - somehow and in some way - to generate and share resources.
  3. Make sure that the ways that we share our resources are sustainable and beneficial. In other words, giving a man a fish is fine, but it only lasts for a day. Teaching that man to fish is also good, but it may be your job to help build a road to the lake, to clean the lake and make sure that fish can survive and thrive in it, to check for bacterial and poisonous levels in the lake and lower them, to teach the man to clean, gut and cook the fish, etc. Not only on an individual basis (the one man) but as a part of a larger campaign.
  4. We play parts in this larger campaign. We cannot afford to spectate nor to all do the same task. We have different talents, different areas of expertise and different passions. Let's use them to eradicate poverty in unity, not conformity.

Friday, October 10, 2008

Finally! McCain's trying to restore order. May be too late for some, though

McCain's come around and is trying to temper-down his base. Unfortunately, the wolves - having gotten used to the taste of human flesh for the last week - among his crowd are booing him when he calls Obama a "decent guy" and someone "that you do not have to be scared about as President of the United States." They booed John McCain because he was willing to re-humanitize Barack Obama.

McCain was again pressed about Obama's "other-ness" and again he refused to play ball. "I don't trust Obama," a woman said. "I have read about him. He's an Arab."

"No, ma'am," McCain said several times, shaking his head in disagreement. "He's a decent, family man, [a] citizen that I just happen to have disagreements with on fundamental issues and that's what this campaign is all about."

At another point, McCain declared, "If you want a fight, we will fight. But we will be respectful. I admire Sen. Obama and his accomplishments." Supporters booed then also. "I don't mean that has to reduce your ferocity," McCain responded. "I just mean to say you have to be respectful."

For my part, I'm still concerned about McCain. Earlier in the day, his campaign released a statement blaming Barack Obama for the riled-up crowds, saying that he was out of touch with their needs (need to shred someone apart? need for human blood? need to fear the black man? I don't follow...). But many prominent Republicans and former aids probably finally talked some sense into McCain. And John McCain is no fool. But, he is a gambler and he is tempestuous; and he allowed his campaign to be carried away with this viciousness and stupidity for too long.

How would this thinking be reflected in his presidency?

This is a wordle

I guess there's various ways of doing this. But when I entered my url, it only did a gathering from the most recent of posts. Which means that the words of a certain unnamed governor came out as one of the biggest words.

Seems I got somebody on the mind a lot these days, eh? (click on the picture to see it in its full glory)

Try it. Go to Enter the URL of a website or cut and paste your own (or someone else's) text. And then you can dabble. And then publish it.

Thursday, October 09, 2008

"Well, he's got the bloodline for it. I mean, just look at his name."

So, why am I scared of Sarah Palin?

Maybe it's her rampant anti-intellectualism (this charge has been leveled at her by no less a conservative and recent Palin-turner as David Brooks). Maybe I don't want an alcoholic-driving-her-kids-to-afterschool-programs's finger on the button. Maybe it's the stupid, stupid, stupid mob mentality of her followers:

As I mentioned in yesterday's post on chicagodads, I'm not in the least bit concerned that this hateful (and considerably racist) rhetoric will win the hearts, minds o"r votes of undecided moderates. But I am fully concerned about how low our level of discourse has sunk; about how many in our nation feel that intelligence and knowledge is something to be mocked; about rampant xenophobia unchecked by our leaders. For Pete's sake, Obama's been vetted by noone less capable than Hillary Clinton. If people want to remain stupid, fine. Just don't go outdoors. Or run for vice president.

Thursday, October 02, 2008

More Supreme Court case wackiness (Or: How I was wrong and learned to be wrong again)

The other day I mistakenly assumed that when asked about her knowledge of major cases in the US Supreme Court, Governor Palin was asked about any of which she knew off-hand. That question would make sense, because she should have some sort of authority on what it is that the Supreme Court has done and does do. As next-in-line for chief executive of the whole United States of America, she should be well acqauinted on the roles, responsibilities and histories of the other branches as they are all intricately and powerfully connected. That's how the founding fathers set this government up, at any rate, with checks and balances up and down and accross the lines.

Apparently, Ms. Palin was asked to name another SC case that she disagreed with outside of Roe V. Wade, which may be a bit harder - at least for the typical American citizen. But again, despite what Fred Thompson declares (that she wasn't prepared for that question because she wasn't handled with a list yet), it should not be beyond her grasp. Not if she is seeking for the office that she is seeking.

But since your all-time high-stakes debate is set to happen in a couple hours, allow me to help you out. Governor Palin, if someone asks you what you find abhorrent and wrong, the answer should always be, "Man's inhumanity to man." Or some such approximation. And the further removed and more So, therefore, if you are allowed to go back into history, choose something distant and universally regaled, such as Plessy v. Ferguson which legalized discrimination based on skin color, allowed "separate but equal" status to blacks in the US, and declared that it is not the job of the government to protect the rights of the individuals suffering under discrimination by other individuals (or local bodies of governance) in local areas.

I mean, no less a conservative than Justice William Rehnquist disagreed with this ruling.

No. Wait, haha. I was wrong again.

Does this racist a**hole think that she's funny?

In playing her attack-dog routine again, Ann Coulter - whom I generally don't listen to because she is an attack dog but now can't ignore - deflects blame off of McCain's role in the Keating Five (which I'm not too sure has anything to do with this current debacle) and shifts the entire blame of the financial crisis on "less qualified minority" members. Specifically, all of those people (she doesn't mention race, per se, but keeps bringing up the word "minority") who receive food stamps, welfare and unemployment checks.

She rips on the Community Reinvestment Act (1977), designed to make sure that underrepresented people get a fairer shake in loans in communities where banking institutions set up shop and says it was wielded in a way where... well, I'll let you read her words:

Instead of looking at "outdated criteria," such as the mortgage applicant's credit history and ability to make a down payment, banks were encouraged to consider nontraditional measures of credit-worthiness, such as having a good jump shot or having a missing child named "Caylee."

Threatening lawsuits, Clinton's Federal Reserve demanded that banks treat welfare payments and unemployment benefits as valid income sources to qualify for a mortgage.

In case you're thinking, "No, she doesn't mean that. She's being sarcastic to prove a point":

That isn't a joke -- it's a fact.
But it's not. Not according to the CRA's website:

Neither the CRA nor its implementing regulation gives specific criteria for rating the performance of depository institutions. Rather, the law indicates that the evaluation process should accommodate an institution's individual circumstances. Nor does the law require institutions to make high-risk loans that jeopardize their safety. To the contrary, the law makes it clear that an institution's CRA activities should be undertaken in a safe and sound manner.

Add to that some other basic, common knowledge such as the fact that the current sub-prime funding crisis did not begin in the 1970's, when the CRA was enacted, nor in the mid 1990's when it was modified (under a Democratic president and a Republican House, which Coulter misrepresents). It happened in the 2000's. Because people who had lots of money wanted more money. And the buying of houses was slowing down. So, lending institutions (which were not under CRA oversight. In fact, they should have been; they needed some direct oversight) decided to risk it for a whole new jump of money and started making up new rules to give substantial loans (which the CRA does not have control over) to people who would not normally be afforded such opportunities. That's what some conservatives who blame the CRA for subprime mortgages miss.

Yes, that includes minorities, but not necessarily and not primarily. I don't know anybody on welfare who got a mortgage. I wouldn't say it never happened, but I would hope to God it didn't. In this instance, Palin was right - it was by and large the fault of predatory lenders who were willing to lend to people who could not afford on a consistent basis to keep up with their mortgages.

(For more on the sub-prime crisis which led to our current uber-crisis, buy/download "The Big Pile of Money" from This American Life. I just saw it on iTunes. Get it before Steve Jobs goes coocoo bananas and shuts the system down.)

The problem here isn't just that Coulter is stoopid, mean, vitriolic, racist, xenophobic, sheltered, unqualified, and evil. It's that we allow her to have a voice. Maybe in some ways I just did too by reacting to her spiteful pile of sh*t. But I fear that a lot of Americans listen to her and think that just because she says a lot of words and that her name is bandied about that means that she's credible. And then their assumptions are justified. I've just heard too much silly nonsense the last half year to believe that the American people are beyond having the racist wool pulled over their eyes.

Update: for more on this story, check the source.