Saturday, December 31, 2005

from day one














May we have all we need to do all we should in 2006.

[posted last week at InsideWork]

Friday, December 23, 2005

merry Christmas Mr. Scrooge

Senator Boxer (D CA) — accused of waving the white flag because she calls for a responsibly rapid draw down of U.S. forces in Iraq — held up the mirror this week to an administration for whom saying the right thing is sufficient.

Medical studies reveal that 17 percent of soldiers returning from Iraq are suffering from mental health problems including depression, anxiety and PTSD. The VA says that 17,000 Iraq and Afghanistan vets have been diagnosed with mental disorders through February.

Despite this huge problem, the American Legion says that mental health programs are being under funded by $500 million a year. I offered an amendment to provide these critical resources by canceling future tax cuts for millionaires. Sounds reasonable, right? Well, it failed. The President says he loves our military, but he loves tax cuts for millionaires as much or more.

Let’s be clear: To finance a war that has already cost $251 billion, this Administration did not ask the wealthiest in our own country to sacrifice.

Under the Bush tax cuts, millionaires got $242 billion dollars back over the past five years. In the first two years of the Iraq war, the average millionaire received $112,000 in tax cuts.

And the President did not secure enough real financial commitments from other countries. Instead, our needs our being sacrificed and our children and senior citizens are paying the price.

Talk about waving a white flag of surrender? The Republican Congress and this administration are waving a white flag over
our children, cutting their after school programs by 1.3 billion from what this President and Congress authorized. No
Child Left Behind was funded at 13.1 billion less than what their own legislation asked for.

They are waving a white flag of surrender over our seniors, causing them anxiety and threatening their social security and Medicare by using those trust funds to finance the war and the tax cuts.

They are waving a white flag over fiscal responsibility by creating a debt which is more than $8 trillion. Of the total
debt held by the public, 45% is in foreign hands. That means that approximately $92 billion is leaving this country every
year to pay off the interest to foreign entities.

And, they are waving a white flag over our homeland security, instead of making it a top priority. The Administration says
all the right things in public, and then shortchanges homeland security at every turn.

It’s been four years since 9/11. Why are we still dangerously unprepared for another terrorist attack?

Why haven’t we provided the additional $555 million needed this year to better secure our ports?

And, why in the world, haven’t we provided the $14.3 billion still needed to make sure that our firefighters, police officers, and health care providers can communicate with each other in a time of crisis, whether it is a terrorist attack, a hurricane, or an earthquake?

So this is Christmas, the late Mr. Lennon wrote.
And what have you done
Another year over
And a new one just begun

And so this is Christmas
I hope you have fun
The near and the dear ones
The old and the young

A very merry Christmas
And a happy New Year
Let's hope it's a good one
Without any fear

And so this is Christmas War is over
For weak and for strong If you want it
For rich and the poor ones War is over
The road is so long Now
And so happy Christmas War is over
For black and for white If you want it
For yellow and red ones War is over
Let's stop all the fight Now

War is over if you want it
War is over now

Thursday, December 22, 2005

lung cancer . heart disease . hellfire

See, irony is not dead after all. It's just sick.

[I don't know where this came from and will happily remove it if I've trespassed on someone's property]

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

at the closing of the year

This just in from Time Magazine Person of the Year Bono:

Thank you for starting a movement to save lives. Thank you for asking your friends and family to join Thank you for calling on the President, Congress and the heart of America to do more for the world's poor.

Thank you for being one of the first 2 million of us crazy enough to say America won't stand for global AIDS and stupid poverty. And thank you to the people who joined campaigns in other countries to make their governments come to the table and do more for the world's poor.

Thank you for the concrete results that came from calling on America to invest more in fighting poverty and disease in Africa and around the world. In July, the whole world heard you: the leaders of the 8 richest nations - the G8 - pledged an additional $50 billion annually to poor countries by 2010, half of it for Africa.

Already our money is getting results. Thank you America for putting over half a million people on life-saving AIDS medicines and leading an effort that has provided 8 million anti-malaria bednets and treated 1 million people with TB. And thank you for pushing our governments to use this money to provide AIDS drugs to everyone who needs them and basic schooling for every child.

Thank you for being part of a campaign that will cancel the crushing debts of up to 36 countries, and more to come.

Thank you to the people who called on government to act and thank you to the people in government, who started to listen and who will have to make sure we keep these historic promises and build upon them.

We must keep the positive pressure on our leaders if we want them to follow through. Americans must give these leaders permission to invest just a fraction more of the budget in what we know works, from $5 mosquito nets to drug treatments that cost pennies apiece.

If ONE thing is certain for 2006, this campaign will keep growing, your voice will grow louder, your compassion and thirst for justice will keep saving more lives. By 2008, ONE needs to have 5 million supporters, each of us doing what we can, learning more, telling friends, calling Congress.

Take one minute and ask three friends to join ONE and make the impossible possible with you in 2006.

Beating AIDS and extreme, stupid poverty, this is our moon shot. This is our generation's civil rights struggle, our anti-apartheid movement. This is what the history books will remember our generation for — or blame us for, if we fail. We can't afford to fail nor will we.

We've come a long way, and we've got a long way to go. Now let's really get started.

Thank you,


Sunday, December 11, 2005

following through

I haven't written about my new friend Wendy because...I haven't written about her. Our meeting and subsequent email exchanges were private and too specific to generalize as "a friend." Rich Van Pelt and I had a wonderful hour of conversation with Wendy in Sacramento a couple of months ago, four weeks after she was displaced by hurricane Katrina.

Wendy is an interesting woman — a youth worker who grew up Presbyterian, studied at a Lutheran college and went to work for an Episcopal parish in New Orleans. The floods devastated Wendy's life. The hand-patting disregard she suffered at the hands of distracted Christian people in the first weeks after the storms bewildered her. She didn't say it this way but some stories Wendy told us reminded me uncomfortably of the warning the biblical writer James gave:

What good is it, my brothers, if a man claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save him? Suppose a brother or sister is without clothes and daily food. If one of you says to him, “Go, I wish you well; keep warm and well fed,” but does nothing about his physical needs, what good is it? In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead.

Wendy was unceremoniously evicted from her damaged apartment in New Orleans with five days notice. Friends salvaged what they could of her belongings.

Wendy is staying with a family from her church while she waits for a FEMA trailer. Wednesday, Wendy is having an unexpected surgical procedure — her parents joined her today from Sacramento.

None of which has much to do with why I'm writing about my new friend Wendy. I'm writing now because she asked a question I couldn't answer very well.

Wendy: I have a question for you. At the convention, 7 different people offered to help us in various ways. Several said they wanted their church to "partner with us" for the rebuild, or come out next summer to help, or send bibles, etc. To date though, even though I have contacted them by email and they had my information, only one has actively offered anything or even replied to me. Is this normal, or should I be trying to go after them a little harder?

Me: well, i hardly know what to say. sometimes folks offer things they can't deliver. then they're embarrassed and withdraw because they don't know how to say, "I spoke too soon."

i'm really sorry about that...

i'd say send an email and give them the chance to opt out by asking if they'd rather not hear from you further -- something with that meaning but in your words. in that same email ask them to reply to your email if they would like an update on what's happening with you. i think you get a restart with those who respond. scratch the rest. if they contact you later, you can be pleasantly surprised...

with your permission, i'll post about this on my personal blog -- just to see if it stirs up a little conversation. is that ok by you?

Wendy: sure! That would be great. That is good advice too. I will give it a try and see what happens.

So here I am. Asking what it means when people say they'll help but don't? And what to tell the folks who are waiting? Anyone?

Friday, December 09, 2005

if America left Iraq

Here's a thoughtful piece by Nir Rosen in The Atlantic Monthly that demands attention. Mr. Rosen, a fellow at the New America Foundation, spent sixteen months reporting from Iraq after the American invasion.

What if he's right?

What if he's wrong?

It's clear we'll find out — the question is how soon?

if you like the dance music

Dave Palmer hooked me up with a remarkable 48 minute mix track from DFA on iTunes for (count 'em) 99 cents.

They're calling it a Holiday Mix so I suppose it is, but don't look for "White Christmas" here. Look for Black Dice, Icd soundsystem, The Jaun Maclean and Delia Gozalez + Gavin Russom.

48 minutes of music for a buck... now that's a compilation.

Monday, December 05, 2005

plan for victory

On November 30, 2005 the US Agency for International Development posted this notice under the heading of "Federal Funding Opportunities:"

IRAQ: Strategic City Stabilization Initiative (SCSI)
The United States Agency for International Development is seeking applications for an Assistance Agreement from qualified sources to design and implement a social and economic stabilization program impacting ten Strategic Cities, identified by the United States Government as critical to the defeat of the Insurgency in Iraq. The number of Strategic Cities may expand or contract over time. USAID plans to provide approximately $1,020,000,000 over two years to meet the objectives of the Program. An additional option year may be considered amounting to $300 million at the discretion of USAID. Funds are not yet available for this program.

Risking redundancy, this 1.2 billion dollar unrestricted grant is open to essentially any entity with a compelling plan to design and implement a social and economic stabilization program impacting ten Strategic Cities, identified by the United States Government as critical to the defeat of the Insurgency in Iraq. The number of Strategic Cities may expand or contract over time.

I wonder if the revamped U.S State Department will apply. Or perhaps NATO. Or FEMA.

At least this one's going out for bid.

Thursday, December 01, 2005

at any price

[posted this week at InsideWork]

At Any Price
Bribery and the Culture of Politics

As of this writing seven active U.S lawmakers are under investigation, indicted or have pled guilty to conspiracy, securities fraud, tax evasion, campaign funding violations or other illegal acts.

The most recent, Randy "Duke" Cunningham, was an eight-term congressman from southern California who admits taking 2.4 million dollars in bribes from defense contractors while serving on the House Appropriations defense subcommittee and the intelligence committee.

A Washington Post editorial called the conspiracy "brazen," the bribes "breathtaking," the court papers "jaw-dropping."

Scripps Howard News Service called Cunningham's admission "disturbing."

The New York Times quoted United States attorney Carol C. Lam: "He did the worst thing an elected official can do. He enriched himself through his position and violated the trust of those who put him there."

And so it goes... What's missing from most accounts is outrage that business people, seeking unfair advantage, were on the other end of the transaction. This, it seems, is more or less to be expected.

At InsideWork we believe business is a good thing on the face of it, an expression of our kinship with the God who made us and the fellow creatures with whom we are interdependent. When everyone adds value, life is better all around.

We're disheartened to live in a climate that reserves outrage for failed public servants while assuming business people will stop at nothing to gain an advantage. We think business demands better. Commerce, after all, preceded politics in the great scheme of things.

Beltway observers say Washington is gearing up to clean house and patch loopholes (as they seem to do every decade or so for as long as anyone remembers), We think it would be fitting for business people -- who have no authority but wield culture-shaping influence -- to use their leverage in board rooms and golf carts, at conference tables and lunch counters, on airliners and cell phones, to persuade colleagues and competitors of the ancient wisdom:

Better a little with righteousness than much gain with injustice. — Proverbs 16.8

Too idealistic? Call us crazy, but we think not. We're convinced there's enough for everyone if we do this right.

Sunday, November 27, 2005


"...I'm too old to be at zero..." my friend wrote in an email today.

To which I reply: The day finds us where we are, doesn't it -- not where we're supposed to be, not where we imagined, dreamed, planned and hoped to be. Did you jump or were you pushed? Does it matter? You're broken. So now what? If we're anything like close about the God we claim to know something about, I'm betting it's not just the day that finds us where we are and i'm pretty sure that's good news.

God, I hope I'm right about that.

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

we shall see

I wish I'd written this:

Truly we should be thankful. And we do try to be. But the English language is so rich in terms of complaint and insult and groaning and rather sparse in the Exaltation Dept., so the Lord doesn't get praised as He should. Instead, we bellyache, we kvetch, we get our undies in a bunch. After all, we're descended from people who considered rejoicing to be bad luck: It tempts fate. So they grumbled about the weather, politicians, children, popular music, new cars, anything modern, and complained about their health year after year until they died and went to heaven, where no doubt they are a little edgy even now -- nice place, paradise -- a little surprised at who else is here, harrumph, harrumph, but never mind -- plenty of bliss, no tears and so forth -- not sure how long it can last, but we shall see.

Garrison Keillor at

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

the least

Last week, the U.S. House of Representatives passed a budget proposal that will, if signed into law, do egregious harm to America's weakest citizens. The proposal passed by just two votes.

Following the vote, Sojourners' Jim Wallis issued this statement:

The prophet Isaiah said: "Woe to you legislators of infamous laws ... who refuse justice to the unfortunate, who cheat the poor among my people of their rights, who make widows their prey and rob the orphan." Today, I repeat those words. When our legislators put ideology over principle, it is time to sound the trumpets of justice and tell the truth.

It is a moral disgrace to take food from the mouths of hungry children to increase the luxuries of those feasting at a table overflowing with plenty. This is not what America is about, not what the season of Thanksgiving is about, not what loving our neighbor is about, and not what family values are about. There is no moral path our legislators can take to defend a reckless, mean-spirited budget reconciliation bill that diminishes our compassion, as Jesus said, "for the least of these." It is morally unconscionable to hide behind arguments for fiscal responsibility and government efficiency. It is dishonest to stake proud claims to deficit reduction when tax cuts for the wealthy that increase the deficit are the next order of business. It is one more example of an absence of morality in our current political leadership.

Budgets are moral documents that reflect what we care about. Budget and tax bills that increase the deficit put our children's futures in jeopardy - and they hurt the vulnerable right now. The choice to cut supports that help people make it day to day in order to pay for tax cuts for those with plenty goes against everything our religious and moral principles teach us. It says that leaders don't care about people in need. It is a blatant reversal of biblical values - and symbolizes the death of compassionate conservatism.

The faith community is outraged and is drawing a line in the sand against immoral national priorities. It is time to draw that line more forcefully and more visibly.

I applaud those House members who have stood up for better budget priorities and fought hard all year to keep issues of basic fairness at the forefront of this debate. And I thank those on both sides of the aisle who stood up and did the right thing in voting against this bill, despite pressure from the House leadership. These strong voices provide some hope for getting beyond an ideology that disregards the role of government for the common good.

Here's hoping the Senate shows greater common sense and compassion as they hash out their budget proposal...

Saturday, November 12, 2005

almost true

If you're paying attention to what the White House is saying this week about the rollup to war in Iraq, you're hearing a number of talking points that are almost true.

Dana Milbank and Walter Pincus hold these contentions under a magnifying glass in today's Washington Post.

I believe I'll leave to you to parse the meaning of almost true.

Thursday, November 10, 2005


[I posted this a few days ago at InsideWork...]

Last weekend, David Brooks wrote a piece in the New York Times reviewing Jerome Karabel's The Chosen: The Hidden History of Admission and Exclusion at Harvard, Yale, and Princeton.

It's a tale we already know, give or take, and Brooks' telling begins like this:

"A few years ago, I wrote a book about the rise of a new educated class, the people with 60's values and 90's money who go to Starbucks, shop at Whole Foods and drive Volvos. A woman came up to me after one of my book talks and said, "You realize what you're talking about is the Jews taking over America.

"My eyes bugged out, but then I realized that she was Jewish and she knew I was, too, and between us we could acknowledge there's a lot of truth in that statement. For the Jews were the vanguard of a social movement that over the course of the 20th century transformed the American university system and the nature of the American elite."

Brooks follows Karabel's narrative about the shift from blue blood Protestant prep school boys to the sons -- and, eventually, daughters -- of people "more likely to prize work, scholarship, verbal dexterity, ambition and academic accomplishment" than the virtues of being "effortlessly athletic, charismatic, fair, brave, modest and, above all, a leader of men."

Measuring what's been won and lost in the exchange, Brooks pauses to critique Karabel's critique, before pronouncing the moral of the story:

"Those old WASP bluebloods may have been narrow and prejudiced, but they did at least have a formula for building character. Today we somehow sense that character matters, and it still vaguely plays a role in admissions decisions, but our thoughts about character - what it is and how to build it - are amorphous and ineffectual.

"One place where Karabel excels, however, is in his understanding that today's admissions policies have created their own set of problems. As time goes by, it becomes more and more clear that the meritocrats are doing exactly what the WASPS did, rigging admissions criteria to favor the qualities they and their children are most likely to possess.


"All of which suggests that human nature hasn't changed. People who possess privileges try to protect their own, even if they do shop at Whole Foods and drive Volvos."

It's an interesting piece -- especially (to me at least) that go-away line: "...human nature hasn't changed. People who possess privileges try to protect their own, even if they do shop at Whole Foods and drive Volvos."

Right now, American Evangelicals are an easy target on this score -- not in the academic elite, of course, but in politics and the theology of exclusion. After decades of living as a shadow culture with "our own" versions of nearly everything (Christian Booksellers Association v. American Booksellers Association (along with their attendant best-seller lists), Dove Awards v. Grammy Awards, Full Gospel Businessmen's Committee/Christian Business Men's Committee v. Rotary,, Evangelicals in America have tasted the nectar of political potency (not to mention biggish money from the sale of books and music) and found it to their liking. And, like just about anybody else, they intend to protect their own.

I think one of the most remarkable things about the kingdom of heaven is that it is neither blue-blood aristocracy nor meritocracy -- a place where the Lion takes the Lamb to lunch and the Lion picks up the check. Not that it can't be done, but I think it takes some effort to read around that in the biblical narrative.

And I think one of the most interesting things about developing a biblical worldview is how, the more we move around the landscape of the biblical text and more we move around the landscape from Jerusalem to Judea and Samaria to the ends of the earth, the more the "We" circle grows and the "They" circle shrinks.

These are, I think, counterintuitive values in our culture and reveal how much more at home most of us are here than in the kingdom of heaven. But maybe that's just me.

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

just this about today's elections

A couple of days ago -- long past the time anything could be done about today's elections -- someone I prize wisecracked in a conversation about state and local politics, "I'm not registered to vote, so I don't give a crap."

Without much thought, but I hope not too ungenerously, I cracked back: "Should that be, 'I don't give a crap, so I'm not registered to vote?'"

I get it that people don't believe their vote can make a difference in the kind of world (or neighborhood) where children grow up. But I'm still surprised when parents and would-be parents, youth workers and people who care about the young, don't force their way to the front of that line -- just in case it should turn out they're wrong.

Sunday, October 30, 2005

Davis-Bacon Act reinstated

On September 8, the President suspended the 1931 Davis-Bacon Act following the Gulf Coast storm (read my rant here).

According to an as-yet-unpublished letter from Sojourners: "The AFL-CIO estimates people of faith and community activists sent more than 350,000 letters to lawmakers in the weeks following the president's suspension of Davis-Bacon."

On September 22, 37 Republican lawmakers sent a letter to the White House appealing Mr. Bush's suspension of the Davis-Bacon Act Their letter promised that quick action by the president would help prevent legislative action by the Congress.

Quoting Sojourners again: "Last Thursday [10.20], Rep. George Miller (D-Calif.) filed a joint resolution under a little-known and never-before-used provision of the 1976 National Emergencies Act (PL 94-412). The law, which allows Congress to rescind a national emergency declaration by the president, would have required a floor vote in the House by the second week of November.

That vote became unnecessary a week later when the President relented, restoring full protection of the Bacon-Davis Act.

This is not everything. But it's certainly something, and I'm grateful.

Friday, October 28, 2005

more sound tracks

This just in from Rolling Stone:
Bono: Here's the strange bit: Most of the people that you grew up with in black music had a similar baptism of the spirit, right? The difference is that most of these performers felt they could not express their sexuality before God. They had to turn away. So rock & roll became backsliders' music. They were running away from God. But I never believed that. I never saw it as being a choice, an either/or thing.

Jann Wenner: You never saw rock & roll -- the so-called devil's music -- as incompatible with religion?

Bono: Look at the people who have formed my imagination. Bob Dylan. Nineteen seventy-six -- he's going through similar stuff. You buy Patti Smith: Horses -- "Jesus died for somebody's sins/But not mine . . ." And she turns Van Morrison's "Gloria" into liturgy. She's wrestling with these demons -- Catholicism in her case. Right the way through to Wave, where she's talking to the pope.

The music that really turns me on is either running toward God or away from God. Both recognize the pivot, that God is at the center of the jaunt. So the blues, on one hand -- running away; gospel, the Mighty Clouds of Joy --
running towards. And later you came to analyze it and figure it out.

The blues are like the Psalms of David. Here was this character, living in a cave, whose outbursts were as much criticism as praise. There's David singing, "Oh, God -- where are you when I need you?/You call yourself God?"
And you go, this is the blues. Both deal with the relationship with God. That's really it. I've since realized that anger with God is very valid. We
wrote a song about that on the Pop album -- people were confused by it -- "Wake Up Dead Man": "Jesus, help me/I'm alone in this world/And a fucked-up world it is, too/Tell me, tell me the story /The one about eternity/And the way it's all gonna be/Wake up, dead man."

Friday, October 21, 2005

sound tracks

I'm captured by David Crowder*Band's new collection, A Collision. It is so not the same album over and over.

Which is why I've been listening over and over all week.

On Rolly Richert's advice, I turned off shuffle and listened straight through. Good advice. The song sequence is revealing.

That said, what's got me by the throat in this album is the now more-public airing of a conversation that's been going on in the background for a long time. The David Crowder*Band's God is very big.

You are My Joy killed me on the first hearing.

After that, i was undone by the subtlety of B Quiet, the simmering of O God Where Are You Now? (a Sufjan Stevens cover), the passion of Do Not Move, the anguish of Come Awake, the teary hope of Rescue is Coming, the sardonic, humble fierceness of The Lark Ascending....

This is a rugged, beautiful soundscape that welcomes all of us living in evangelical exile — You're not the only one who feels like the only one...

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

mr. Bono goes to Washington

so it's the first full afternoon i've had at my desk in…quite a while. so forgive the cascade of posts today (i can't imagine it's a sustainable current) and check out this Mr. Bono Goes to Washington story.

more free slides + an outline

I've just returned from Pittsburgh where, with my good friend and writing partner Rich Van Pelt, I taught the second of three eight-hour Critical Concern Courses at Youth Specialties' National Youth Workers Conventions. The series finishes in Nashville on Novemeber 17,18.

The course is based on our new book, The Youth Worker's Guide to Helping Teenagers in Crisis — which is based on our lives' work with youth workers, adolescents and their families (not to mention a pretty thorough literature review).

The Crisis book is going to a third printing (it was released the second week of August -- which makes it far and away the fastest selling title of my life to date). This is both heartening (because we appear to have struck on something important -- as if we didn't know this) and disheartening (because the needs are so much greater than than they should be -- in that perfect world we keep muttering about).

You can download (free) the 300 Pittsburgh slides here. We'll post the Nashville slides in due time.

You'll find a free pdf of the Dangerous Opportunity course outline here.

There's free access to end notes from the Crisis book — including State Sex Offender Registries and Sex Abuse Reporting numbers at the Youth Specialties website.

Download (free) the chapter on Terror (it's a primer on preparing for and responding to human-caused and natural terror) here.

Finally, the Crisis Book is available at the Youth Specialties Online Store as well as all the usual places.

dear mom and dad

Another chapter of Raising Adults is available as a free pdf at

Download Dear Mom and Dad.

reverse Robin Hood: 24 hours and counting

As early as tomorrow morning, the U.S. House of Representatives will consider a Republican amendment to the budget proposal that would slash funding for basic services like Medicaid, food stamps and student loans, while still giving away huge tax breaks for the very wealthy. Some people are calling the amendment a Reverse Robin Hood measure: taking from the poor to give to the rich.

Here's the email I wrote my Member of Congress (retiring under fire for alleged financial misconduct while in the Congress):

Mr. Cunningham, you have an opportunity to finish your term demonstating leadership on behalf of ALL your constituents, not just those for whom more than enough can never be nearly enough. We need you to step up publically and say enough IS enough, and be the defender of those who cannot defend themselves. We'll take care of the freeloaders and ne'er-do-wells. In the meantime, please don't punish our oldest and youngest and most vulnerable citizens in order to further comfort the wealthy and strong. Here is a chance to turn things around -- We need you NOW, Mr. Cunningham.

By 1:30 p.m. Pacific today, something over 54,000 citizens had written similar letters. You can write a short letter to your representative and deliver it online by going here.

Monday, October 10, 2005

free slides for all they're worth

Alongside my good friend and writing partner Rich Van Pelt, I did three eight-hour Critical Concern Courses at Youth Specialties' National Youth Workers Conventions this fall in Sacramento, Pittsburgh and Nashville.

The course is based on our new book, The Youth Worker's Guide to Helping Teenagers in Crisis — which is based on our lives' work with youth workers, adolescents and their families (not to mention a pretty thorough literature review). The response is both heartening (because people are reacting so positively to the book and the Critical Concern Course) and disheartening (because the need is so much greater than we wish).

You can download (free) the Nashville slides here.

You'll find free access to end notes from the book — including State Sex Offender Registries and Sex Abuse Reporting numbers at the Youth Specialties website.

You can download (free) the chapter on Terror (it's a primer on preparing for and responding to human-caused and natural terror) here.

Finally, the Crisis Book is available at the Youth Specialties Online Store as well as all the usual places.

Monday, October 03, 2005

a steady diet of Davis-Bacon

I wrote here my great dismay at Mr. Bush's suspension of the Davis-Bacon Act of 1931.

I also wrote my Senators and Congressman. Here is Senator Feinstein's reply:

October 3, 2005

Mr. Jim Hancock
123 Jasper Street, Spc 28
Encinitas, California 92024

Dear Mr. Hancock:

Thank you for contacting me about President George W. Bush's
decision to suspend the Davis-Bacon Act. I appreciate hearing from you
and I welcome the opportunity to respond.

On September 8, 2005, President Bush issued a proclamation to
suspend the Davis-Bacon Act following the tragedy of Hurricane
Katrina. Like you, I am concerned about the nation's strategy to rebuild
the communities affected by this disaster. Specifically, I believe the
suspension of the Davis-Bacon Act will cause significant further
hardship for those devastated by Hurricane Katrina.

On September 12, 2005, I sent a letter to President Bush
outlining my concerns regarding his decision to suspend the Davis-
Bacon Act. More importantly, I urged the President to reverse his
decision. I have attached a copy of the letter to this correspondence. I
believe it is the nation's responsibility to protect the wages of the
working men and women of the Gulf coast region. Please know I will
keep your views in mind should any related legislation come before the
entire Senate.

Once again, thank you for taking the time to write me. I hope
you will continue to keep in touch with me on issues of importance to
you. If you have any questions or comments, please call my
Washington, D.C. office at (202) 224-3841 or visit my website at Best regards.

September 12, 2005

The Honorable George W. Bush
President of the United States
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW
Washington, DC 20500

Dear Mr. President:

I write to urge you to reverse your decision to suspend the Davis-Bacon
Act following the tragedy of Hurricane Katrina. The images of
thousands of victims who were left to battle the storm on their own, in
the dark, and without sufficient food and water are imprinted on our
hearts and minds. More disturbing was the government's abysmal
response to people in need. Now, two weeks after the storm, I am
growing more concerned about the nation's strategy to rebuild these
communities. I believe the suspension of the Davis-Bacon Act will
cause significant further hardship for those families and communities
devastated by Hurricane Katrina.

Since 1931, the Davis-Bacon Act has protected American workers by
ensuring that they are paid the prevailing local wages on federal
contracts. The decision to suspend the Davis-Bacon Act will directly
harm the workers who are struggling to rebuild their lives in these
stricken communities. For example, without Davis-Bacon, in the city of
New Orleans, a painter could face a 65 percent pay cut from $14.88 per
hour to $5.15 per hour while electricians' hourly wages could be reduced
from $22.09 to $5.15. Similarly, in the city of Biloxi, carpenters' wages
on federal contracts could be cut by $7.00 per hour, from $12.16 per hour
to $5.15 per hour. And, in Mobile, Alabama, a roofer's wages could be
cut from $6.02 per hour to $5.15 per hour. This is particularly difficult at
a time when the cost of fulfilling even the most basic needs, such as food
and gas, are skyrocketing in their region. In such dire circumstances, the
Davis-Bacon Act does more than provide an adequate wage: it gives
hope to those who have lost everything. It is simply unacceptable to
lower wages in hurricane-ravaged areas and depress the living standards
of these communities even further.

I have reviewed the history of Davis-Bacon and I am convinced that
lower wages do not improve the lives of the communities hurt most by
these hurricanes. I am deeply concerned, that in the wake of Hurricane
Katrina, there will be more than enough profits for corporations, but
inadequate assistance to workers who are left to face higher costs of
living. In fact, many major companies, such as ExxonMobil and
ConocoPhillips, have already averaged stock price increases of 8 percent
in the twelve days since the hurricane. Oil companies Giant and Tesoro
are up 40 percent and 25 percent respectively. Meanwhile, the
communities who were left in the dark, and now, many left without
homes and some without families, are about to suffer a pay cut.

I urge you to protect the wages of the working men and women of the
Gulf coast regions whose communities and lives were devastated by
Hurricane Katrina.

Sincerely yours,

Dianne Feinstein
United States Senator

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

fall has fell

I don't want to make a habit of relying on other people's words here, but (and there's always a but isnt' there) Garrison Keillor's piece today at begs to be cited (and it's a pay-for-content sit—which I commend as a bargain at $35 a year for the premium membership—so you can't read it unless you join, which I hope you will). Anyway, Mr. Keillor's piece today is...well, it includes the following:

"It's a hard fall for George W. Bush. His career was based on creating low expectations and then meeting them, but Katrina was a blast of reality. The famous headline said, 'Bush: One of the Worst Disasters to Hit the U.S.' and many people took that literally. Poor black people huddled together in the Superdome were seen on national TV, people stretched out asleep between the goal lines, and a 911 operator broke into sobs telling what it was like to talk to little kids in flooded houses and two weeks later the president had become a New Deal liberal and was calling for a major anti-poverty program in the Gulf and hang the expense. The annual deficit is running around $300 billion, but the president says we can afford a few hundred billion in hurricane repair without a tax increase, even if we call it a 'hurricane impact fee.'

"Meanwhile we are pushing a large deception down the road -- the idea that the war in Iraq is to defend us against terrorism -- at enormous expense to our armed services and also to the Treasury, and for Americans who remember the last time a Texas president told us we must 'stay the course,' there is a certain sinking feeling.

"But that's life. It happened to the Romans and the Mayans and the Sumerians and it's happening to us. In our society, as in those, the Grand Poobah gives the orders and the lackeys, minions, henchmen and stooges carry them out, and when the experimental plane with the lead-covered wings crashes, the minions return to His Eminence and lick his boots and he dispatches a yes man to chastise the fall guy, and then the fall guy whips the whipping boy, and then both of them pound on the goat. And construction begins on a new lead-covered airplane, except this time the lead is twice as thick. It's a supply-side theory: The greater the weight, the greater the buoyancy.

"Solomon said, 'The thing that has been is the thing that shall be; and the thing that is done is that which shall be done: There is nothing new under the sun.' Or, to put it a slightly different way, a man walked into the house with a handful of dog waste and said, 'Look what I almost stepped in.'"

Monday, September 19, 2005

mucking around

I stumbled on this annotated Katrina timeline tonight. Boy did I stumble.

Follow the official links to the offices of the Governors of Louisiana and Mississippi, The White House, the Department of Defense, FEMA, the Department of Homeland Security. Skip the media reports altogether if you like.

I don't have a category for this behavior.

Wait. Maybe I do...

accountability is to responsibility as competence is to ____________.

"Michael Brown…is to Katrina what Paul Bremer is to peace in Iraq; what George Tenet is to slam dunk intelligence; what Paul Wolfowitz is to parades paved with flowers in Baghdad; what Dick Cheney is to visionary energy policy; what Donald Rumsfeld is to basic war planning; what Tom Delay is to ethics; and what George Bush is to “Mission Accomplished” and "Wanted Dead or Alive." The bottom line is simple: The "we'll do whatever it takes" administration doesn't have what it takes to get the job done." — John Kerry in a speech at Brown University, September 19, 2005

Friday, September 16, 2005


Maybe Malfunction54 was being ironic. I love irony!

the high road

Malfunction54 hopes Halliburton and other no-bid contractors working in the Gulf states (US, not Persian) will be released by the suspension of the Davis-Bacon Act to bring in outside workers at higher than the prevailing rate of pay.

I appreciate the optimism inherent in that hope. That said, there are no laws limiting the upper limits of pay for laborers as this has not yet been a problem of any legal consequence.

The problem is officially sanctioned oppression. The President of the United States issued an Executive Order to ensure that the hands that (re)build America need not be paid a living wage.

Does anyone reading these words live independently on $9 an hour?
$9 x 40 hours = $360 a week.
x 4 = $1440 a month.
- rent
- utilities
- food
- transportation to and from work
- health insurance (who are we kidding?)

Who are we kidding? This is a shame.

Thursday, September 15, 2005

let them eat more cake

Last week Mr. Bush signed an executive order suspending something called the Davis-Bacon Act. The 1931 law requires federally-funded contractors to pay laborers the prevailing wage in the area where the construction takes place. In New Orleans, the prevailing rate for construction workers is $9 an hour.

The weight of Mr. Bush's suspension of Davis-Bacon is that contractors who have been given no bid and cost plus contracts in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina may pay workers as little as they will take.

Hmm...let's see: homeless, unemployed, workers offered five or six bucks an hour on a take-it-or-leave-it basis by corporations guaranteed a fixed percentage of profit… That sounds about right. That's the American spirit I celebrate each and every Labor Day. And it's certainly what I imagine Jesus would do.

Is there no upright man or woman in the Congress who will call this man to account for this evil? Is there no prophet in the land to wake him from this spell? Does he not have a single friend with the heart to break his heart on behalf of the oppressed?

Not today. Today is business as usual.

It's a good thing Mr. Bush doesn't read. Otherwise he might hear the words of God and turn in mid-stride and spoil everything.

Saturday, September 10, 2005

will they or won't they

I've declared in this space a conviction that the U.S. Senate will have to take on this Administration in the weeks ahead to rein in behavior that appears consistently mad.

It was Chesterton (in Orthodoxy, I think) who described the utter consistency of the madman. Normal people leave room for all the things that don't fit -- all life's rough edges and incongruities. The mad man, he said, constructs a mental system into which every detail fits tongue in groove. Think Mel Gibson's character in Conspiracy Theory.

I've seen this in meth addicts -- the capacity to make everything fit, including those strangers causing these heart palpitations somehow connected to that dollar bill that keeps showing up in stores and restaurants: "NO, NO, YOU DON'T UNDERSTAND! I KNOW THEY ALL LOOK ALIKE BUT THIS IS THE SAME DOLLAR BILL AND IT'S FREAKING ME OUT!"

I've also witnessed this apitute in fundamentalists of just about every persuasion. This is one reason I have so little regard for systematic theologies; it's crazy how neat they are.

I say all that to say this: Even if they aren't madmen, I believe Mr. Bush and his associates are political fundamentalists whose philosophically-driven behavior seems crazy and yields crazy results. Or maybe they're just on drugs.

I'm willing to be persuaded on this but I don't see anyone except the United States Senate positioned to rebuff the Bush Doctrine and it's assault on the common good. This is not to diminsh the House of Representatives. They just seem too scattered to make a difference any time soon.

What troubles me lately is the number of people -- especially those in their 20s and 30s -- who simply don't believe the Senate is capable of standing up to the President. They base this opinion on recent behavior and I have to admit they have a point.

Most don't have the historical memory to know that they're grandparents' Senators put a stop to the madness of Richard Nixon (I know it's more complicated than that, but bear with me if you can).

I have vivid recollections of the work of Senators Sam Ervin, the Democrat from North Carolina, Howard Baker, the Republican from Tennessee, Edward Gurney, the Republican from Florida, Daniel Inouye, the Democrat from Hawaii, Joseph Montoya, the Democrat from New Mexico, Herman Talmadge, the Democrat from Georgia and Lowell Weicker, the Republican from Connecticut.The Senate commissioned them to build a case against the President if there was a case to be made. Their findings fueled articles of impeachment in the House of Representatives, which led to Mr. Nixon's resignation.

I remember precisely where I was when I heard that Mr. Nixon resigned. And I remember my first thought: It works. Our democracy works.

I tend to believe it still.

We can, and I think we must, tell our hundred Senators what we want them to do about the war, easy access to assault weapons, the ugly underbelly of the Patriot Act, retaining the estate tax, rescinding tax cuts to our wealthiest citizens and ensuring health care for our most vulnerable citizens.

I think this is too important to leave to pollsters. I'm convinced now is the time to speak directly to our Senators. It's never been easier: Here are their email addresses.

We have nothing to lose by speaking our minds and a great deal to gain when they hear us. Will they or won't they? History suggests they will.

Friday, September 09, 2005

a rising tide or let them eat cake

This today from Eugene Robinson in the Washington Post.

"To be poor in America was to be invisible, but not after this week, not after those images of the bedraggled masses at the Superdome, convention center and airport. No one can claim that the post-Reagan orthodoxy of low taxes and small government, which does wonders for the extremely rich, also inevitably does wonders for the extremely poor.

"What was that about a rising tide lifting all boats? What if you don't have a boat?"

I think everyone who dogged John Edwards for saying there are two Americas owes someone an apology. I think they (and we) should pay the debt with generous, sustained, redemptive action.

Monday, September 05, 2005

as i feared...and then some

It has long been my suspicion that President Bush chooses -- or has been chosen by -- an unfortunate group of associates.

The goings-on of the past week -- the federal government's shockingly dismal failure -- in the wake of hurricane Katrina blows right past my worst apprehensions about cronyism and deadly incompetence.

I don't often rely on other people's words in this space but Bob Schieffer and Keith Olberman have, quite simply, said it better than I can.

Yesterday Mr. Schieffer said:

"We have come through what may have been one of the worst weeks in America's history, a week in which government at every level failed the people it was created to serve. There is no purpose for government except to improve the lives of its citizens. Yet as scenes of horror that seemed to be coming from some Third World country flashed before us, official Washington was like a dog watching television. It saw the lights and images, but did not seem to comprehend their meaning or see any link to reality.

"As the floodwaters rose, local officials in New Orleans ordered the city evacuated. They might as well have told their citizens to fly to the moon. How do you evacuate when you don't have a car? No hint of intelligent design in any of this. This was just survival of the richest.

"By midweek a parade of Washington officials rushed before the cameras to urge patience. What good is patience to a mother who can't find food and water for a dehydrated child? Washington was coming out of an August vacation stupor and seemed unable to refocus on business or even think straight. Why else would Speaker of the House Dennis Hastert question aloud whether New Orleans should even be rebuilt? And when he was unable to get to Washington in time to vote on emergency aid funds, Hastert had an excuse only Washington could understand: He had to attend a fund-raiser back home.

"Since 9/11, Washington has spent years and untold billions reorganizing the government to deal with crises brought on by possible terrorist attacks. If this is the result, we had better start over."

Today, Keith Olberman had his turn.

Please: Get past the opening volley of angry sarcasm and heed the point of Mr. Olberman's rant on The "city" of Louisiana.

Tuesday, August 30, 2005

sorrow and resolve

My friend Joy wrote:

"you said in your most recent post that you think the senate is going to have to hold the administration's feet to the fire ... of course they should, but do you truly think they will? i'd love nothing more than to see some accountability, but it seems the most devastating piece of all this is the complete evaporation of the concept."

I think we have to tell our Senators what we want them to do. We can embolden them to act.

Senate email addresses are here. Brief messages to our own Senators and messages of appreciation to Senators whose public statements, speeches and votes we applaud will help them decide to do the hard thing in the days just ahead -- which I think many of them already want to do.

I wish we'd settled this in the 2004 election cycle. But I think we have another shot this Fall -- this week, today -- to tell our Senators what we want.

Friday, August 26, 2005

Old Yeller

My old friend Sid Lee pushed back gently on my sorrow and sadness post:

"I can relate to your feelings," he said, "but - having painted ourselves into this corner, how do we get out? Leaving Iraq to a massive civil war, is just another hopeless answer. So what is a good answer? Bush has none. Someone must have - where are the good answers?"

I think that's a fair question in response to what I hope began as a fair question from me. My answer is, he's hit the nail on the head.

My rage toward Mr. Bush -- and I was no fan before -- began during the roll-up when it became clear that he had the brush and the paint and seemed completely unaware there was a corner behind him.

One night during the news that winter, I told my neighbors "He's painted himself into a corner today, and us with him."

Which is where we find ourselves still.

I want to rub his nose in it and say "Look what you did!" because I believe deeply and am convinced thoroughly that he is responsible for this. There were other ways and he knew it and we knew it and he misused his power and there's a straight line between his actions and these tragic near term outcomes.

This is a monumental failure of imagination. We'll never know what might have been had he been more creative, more disciplined, more…mature.

As Ms. Sheehan said in the post I cited, he has no skin in the game and never did. I'm persuaded this is adventurism and it is inexcusable.

Errol Morris made a remarkable film comprising an extended postmortem by Secretary of State Robert McNamara. It's called The Fog of War. Of Mr. McNamara's "Eleven Lessons," I believe Mr. Bush and Mr. Rumsfeld have failed every one except, perhaps, Lesson #9: "In order to do good, you may have to engage in evil."

The transcript of the film is on Mr. Morris' website and is, as they say, a hell of a read. TheDVD is worth renting if you're a visual learner.

So..We're in an unspeakable mess for which no one is accountable and this frustrates me half to death.

My suspicion is, the Senate is going to have to sort this out. I think they are going to have to hold the Administration's feet to the fire beginning next month.

I think some people have to lose their jobs -- I think the neocon fundamentalists have to be put out to pasture to write their books explaining why their second massive washout is not a failure of philosophy but just another failure to execute (good luck with that).

I think we have to abandon this insane quest to construct a New American Century, muzzle the apologists, put real diplomats on the ground in every nation in the region and every nation in the EU and on the floor of Nato and the United Nations and get about finding win/win solutions.

In a speech last weekend, Anne Lamott said that part of her struggle as a writer is her American conviction that things are more valuable if they are solitary and grimly difficult. She pointed to the prosecution of this war as an example of this cultural twist. I think she's right about this. We have to stop acting crazy. We have to conclude that if we always do what we always did, we'll always get what we always got. I think we have to act on that conviction and seek shalom as if our lives depended on it.

Old Yeller isn't going to get better. Sorry, but I think it's time for someone to take him to the woods.

Monday, August 22, 2005


i have a new book out this month, written with my old friend and hero Rich Van Pelt. It's called (deep breath) The Youth Worker's Guide To Helping Teenagers In Crisis.

I'm really happy about this book because it's just so darned practical. We've treated 22 distinct crisis scenarios with background and action plans just about anyone can tackle. Between us, we've lived through every one of these crises (except a big honkin' natural disaster which, thank you very much, we'd just as soon skip).

Which 22 Crisis?
Cutting and Self-Injurious Behavior
Dropping Out
Eating Disorders
Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder
Sexual Abuse
Sexual Identity Confusion
Sexually Transmitted Diseases
Substance Abuse and Addiction
Trouble with the Law

You can download free chapters here and here and you can purchase the book here.

Rich and I are doing Critical Concern Courses based on The Crisis Book at Youth Specialties' National Youth Workers Convention this fall in Sacramento, Pittsburgh and Nashville. If you're a youth worker -- volunteer or paid -- come on out. if you know a youth worker, send her.

sorrow and silence

I have been quiet in this space for a number of weeks.

One reason for this is that i am still reeling from the loss of my good friend and neighbor Ralph about which (and whom) i suspect i will have much to say once i get my legs under me.

And i have been traveling and working madly.

The rest of it is barely contained rage at Mr. Bush and his administration.

What's going on now in Iraq: this is what we said would happen if he rushed to war.

He said it wouldn't go this way -- or, more properly, Mr. Rumsfeld, Mr, Cheney, Ms. Rice, Gen. Powell, Mr Wolfowitz, Mr. Perl and Mr. Libby said it wouldn't go this way while Mr. Bush maintained a mainly soundbite-safe rhetorical discipline. But who would deny that Congress got the message and acted accordingly?

They said it wouldn't go this way and they were dead wrong -- where dead equals hundreds of Coalition (mainly U.S.) fatalities and tens of thousands of Iraqi dead (not to mention thousands of Coalition causualties and tens of thousands of Iraqi wounded).

There were no weapons of mass destruction. There was no attack on the West by Iraq. Rebuilding the Iraqi infrastruture is stalled, with millions of reconstruction dollars missing and presumed lost. They're having trouble keeping the lights on in Baghdad.

How are we supposed to react to this when this is what we said would happen and we were shouted down?

Frank Rich notes today that attempting to change the subject by smearing Cindy Sheehan -- Swift Boating her into irrelevance -- isn't working:

"The public knows that what matters this time is Casey Sheehan's story, not the mother who symbolizes it. Cindy Sheehan's bashers, you'll notice, almost never tell her son's story. They are afraid to go there because this young man's life and death encapsulate not just the noble intentions of those who went to fight this war but also the hubris, incompetence and recklessness of those who gave the marching orders."

Ms. Sheehan puts a finer point on it:

"'I got an email the other day and it said, "Cindy if you didn't use so much profanity .... there's people on the fence that get offended."

'And you know what I said? "You know what? You know what, god damn it? How in the world is anybody still sitting on that fence?"

'If you fall on the side that is pro-George and pro-war, you get your ass over to Iraq, and take the place of somebody who wants to come home. And if you fall on the side that is against this war and against George Bush, stand up and speak out.'"

i've been silent in this space for a number of weeks because i have been overwhelmed with sorrow and rage and my inability to find words to talk about the sad mess we're in (where we equals all of us who love the American ideal and flinch every day at this American reality).

Don't read too much into this last part; i'm just borrowing a page from another national story. If the shoe fits…well, we all know what to do:

"When you spread out your hands in prayer, I will hide my eyes from you; even if you offer many prayers, I will not listen. Your hands are full of blood; wash and make yourselves clean. Take your evil deeds out of my sight! Stop doing wrong, learn to do right! Seek justice, encourage the oppressed. Defend the cause of the fatherless, plead the case of the widow. “Come now, let us reason together,” says the LORD. “Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red as crimson, they shall be like wool. If you are willing and obedient, you will eat the best from the land; but if you resist and rebel, you will be devoured by the sword.” For the mouth of the LORD has spoken. See how the faithful city has become a harlot! She once was full of justice; righteousness used to dwell in her — but now murderers! Your silver has become dross, your choice wine is diluted with water. Your rulers are rebels, companions of thieves; they all love bribes and chase after gifts. They do not defend the cause of the fatherless; the widow’s case does not come before them." Isaiah 1:15-23

Saturday, July 23, 2005

raising the roof

Just back from the East Coast, working for the Center for Student Mission and hanging out at Susan's family home in South-Central Pennsylvania.

While we were in Pennsylvania, an Amish company put a new roof on Susan's brother's home. It was quite an operation, recounted at (warning to the sqeamish: This is a lurid tale of commercial intercourse between Amish, English and Mennonite half-breeds).

Sunday, July 17, 2005

generous feedback

i'm getting a nice response on the first installment of Raising Adults over at

I'm posting the chapters free of charge as an eBook -- pretty carefully designed for readability on the computer screen -- alongside the chapters of Ten Things We Should Never Say To Kids.

My favorite endorsement came from the father of eight in an email blast to 30,000 of his closest friends:

Exceptional books from Jim Hancock:
- "Raising Adults: How to stop raising children & start raising adults"
- ""Ten Things We Should Never Say To Kids"
- ""Helping Teenagers in Crisis" (excerpt)
From Mikey:
"Hancock's 'Ten Things' book has pushed me more in my parenting skills and views than all other influences combined in 23 years of parenting."

That's nice. Thanks Mikey.

five minutes with the ten commandments

Sarah Vowell put her finger on the bruise yesterday in the New York Times.

I don't imagine it will come as any surprise that the punchline depends on the set up and doesn't come until the end…

Tuesday, July 05, 2005


Steve Jobs delivered a remarkable speech to the graduates at Stanford a few weeks ago.

i wonder if the parents gulped at what he said. i wonder if the graduates did...

whether he meant to or not, Mr. Jobs' speech echoes the wisdom of Ecclesiastes 11 which, when read purposefully, with an entrepreneur's eye, strikes me as a revelation.

irony watch: Tom Tomorrow

Featuring the 18 to 22-Year-Old
Republican Think Tank Interns

Oh, Tom. You and your cartoonish crap-detection…

Tuesday, June 28, 2005

a big day for free downloads

I posted the first installment of Raising Adults. Help yourself!

And i posted a free excerpt from The Youth Worker's Guide to Helping Teenagers in Crisis, due August 5th from Youth Specialties.

Read. Enjoy. Pass 'em along.

Sunday, June 26, 2005

what makes a liar two

In response to the what makes a liar post a few days ago, Chad wrote:

Did you miss the part about where Durbin compared our soldiers to people who ran Nazi death camp because a little urine got accidentally splashed in a Quran? And you're worried about Karl Rove?

It's a good question.

I did catch the Durbin thing -- though i wouldn't characterize the portion of his speech i heard in quite the way Chad did. Mr. Durbin said something like If i read this to you and you didn't know where it came from, you would think it described the actions of people we all agree are the bad guys.

If Mr. Durbin was saying Americans, representing America, have done/are doing things unworthy of the American ideal, I agree with him. And that seemed to be the spirit of his seemingly half-hearted apology a few of days later. He didn't apologize for the core argument; he apologized that someone -- you perhaps -- might have thought he was painting everyone in an American uniform as a Nazi/Stalinist/Maoist.

This is not Mr. Durbin's attitude toward service people. In March 2005, for example, he offered an amendment to the new banruptcy bill seeking...well, here's the language: To protect servicemembers and veterans from means testing in bankruptcy, to disallow certain claims by lenders charging usurious interest rates to servicemembers, and to allow servicemembers to exempt property based on the law of the State of their premilitary residence.

The bill passed. Mr Durbin's amendment failed, 58-38. Except Mr. Jeffords of Vermont and Mr. Specter of Pennsylvania, everyone who sought to exempt servicepeople from harsh treatment under a more stringent bankruptcy law were Democrats -- the liberals Mr. Rove slandered this week in New York. Put another way, no Republican except the embattled Mr. Specter, voted to protect American troops from losing the farm while deployed in Afghanistan or Iraq. You tell me what that means juxtaposed against Karl Rove's comments.

A better man than me would have posted his embarrassment that Howard Dean spoke so broadly and contemptuously of Republicans in the last month. That man was not available at the time, but he is now. Some of my best friends are Republicans...

My objection to Mr. Rove is what appears to me to be a long and storied history of lying. T.S. Eliot's wrote:

The last temptation is the greatest treason,
To do the right thing for the wrong reason

If this is true of doing the right thing, how much more is it true of doing the wrong thing?

Friday, June 24, 2005


click away

this is not Live Aid 2

Bob Geldof on what's behind the LIVE8 concerts next month:

These concerts are the start point for The Long Walk To Justice, the one way we can all make our voices heard in unison.

This is without doubt a moment in history where ordinary people can grasp the chance to achieve something truly monumental and demand from the 8 world leaders at G8 an end to poverty.

The G8 leaders have it within their power to alter history. They will only have the will to do so if tens of thousands of people show them that enough is enough.

By doubling aid, fully cancelling debt, and delivering trade justice for Africa, the G8 could change the future for millions of men, women and children."

Thursday, June 23, 2005

what makes a liar?

Recounting the speech Illinois Senator Richard Durbin made last week, comparing interrogation methods at the Guantanamo detention center to those of terrorist regimes, Karl Rove asked: "Has there ever been a more revealing moment this year? …Let me just put this in fairly simple terms: Al Jazeera now broadcasts the words of Senator Durbin to the Mideast, certainly putting our troops in greater danger. No more needs to be said about the motives of liberals."

Really. It's that simple?

Rove also derided liberal American's response to the attacks on 09.11.01: "Conservatives saw the savagery of 9/11 in the 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."

Here's part of what I think about that:

• If you say something that isn't true, that means you lied.

• If you claim someone said or did something they didn't say or do, that means you lied.

• If you do that repeatedly and on purpose, that makes you a liar.

Is there a more egregious liar in American political life today than Karl Rove?

The nominations are open…

Monday, June 20, 2005

america is dying

"An American these days may be a welfare cheat, he may fuck little boys and he may just want to steal Iraq's oil. But as long as he gives it up for Jesus, stays out of jail and keeps the weight off, he's still viable, still a story. What he is underneath doesn't matter. And nobody is particularly interested in finding out."

Matt Taibbi in America is Dying, Rolling Stone, 06.16.05.

Saturday, June 11, 2005

jubilee part one

On June 1 I wrote about my hope that the G8 Nations will soon do what it takes to level the playing field for the world's poorest nations.

On June 7 I posted at on "The Business of Change."

I'm posting now because the finance ministers of the G8 nations agreed today in London to cancel the debt of 18 Heavily Indebted Poor Countries who have met standards of good governance and anti-corruption measures. Another 20 countries are at the threshold of compliance.

Assuming all 38 come under the debt cancellation umbrella, about 55 billion dollars will be written off by the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund and the African Development Bank. That represents 1.5 billion dollars in yearly payments that can be diverted to disease prevention, health care, education and infrastructure where it's needed most. The conditions of the agreement ensures that's where the money will go.

As far as I'm concerned, that makes this a very good day. We can talk next week about what remains to be done. But not today -- today is for grateful celebration.

Tuesday, June 07, 2005


Finally read The Downing Street Memo first reported by the Times of London May 1, 2005.

I'm embarrassed to have waited so long to read it -- I guess I thought it was going to be a longish document. Turns out it really is a memo -- notes from a meeting on July 23, 2002 outlining U.S. administration plans to go to war in Iraq saying: "the intelligence and facts were being fixed around the policy." and "There was little discussion in Washington of the aftermath after military action."

There have been, as far as I can find, no refutations of the memo to date.

Is it just me or is that a smoking gun?

And if it is a smoking gun, who's going to remove it from the hands of the shooter?

one trillion dollar bet

Highlights of the SIPRI Yearbook 2005 are available today from The Stockholm International Peace Research Institute. Among them:

• World military expenditure exceeded $1 trillion in 2004. The USA accounted for 47 per cent of this spending.

• The combined arms sales of the top 100 arms-producing companies in 2003 were 25 per cent (in current dollars) higher than in 2002.

• In the new security environment, which focuses on insecurity in the South and greater global security interdependence, there is an increasing awareness of the ineffectiveness of military means for addressing threats and challenges to security and a growing recognition of the need for global action.

SIPRI is an independent foundation funded by the Swedish government to "conduct scientific research on questions of conflict and co-operation of importance for international peace and security, with the aim of contributing to an understanding of the conditions for peaceful solutions of international conflicts and for a stable peace."

Find more at the The SIPRI home page.

Sunday, June 05, 2005

a modest proposal

Wisconsin State Representative Mark Pettis has proposed a measure to allow 19-year-old armed forces personnel to drink in bars.

"We consider these young men and women fighting to defend our country adults, so why shouldn't they be given the privilege of an adult beverage?" he said. "If we can trust a 20-year-old with launching a cruise missile, why can't we trust them with a Miller Lite?"

The efficacy of serving alcohol to the young has been addressed pretty thoroughly by the law enforcement, medical and human development communities -- with ample surveillance tape supplied by the Girls With Low Self-Esteem Spring Break video francise. I don't think I can add anything to that.

But Rep. Pettis gets me thinking: Instead of lowering the drinking age for enlisted adolescents, perhaps we should raise the fighting age to something like 40.

If we passed such a law, prohibiting any American under the age of 40 from serving in the armed forces, I wonder what would happen to U.S. foreign policy.

Just so you know, I'm not inflexible on this. I would be willing to lower the age to, say, 36. Or raise it to 50. Any co-sponsors?

Wednesday, June 01, 2005

i coulda hadda G8

When Mr. Bush arrives in Scotland for the G8 Summit on July 6, 2005, a growing number of Americans are hoping he'll show up with concrete commitments to:

• ramp U.S. poverty aid up to 1% of the federal budget

• cancel 100% of the debt of the world's poorest countries and restructure the debt of second tier debtor nations

• reform trade rules to level the field for willing work forces around the world

There is enough. Anyone who says otherwise is hiding something.

Want more? Visit ONE: The Campaign to Make Poverty History.

why i lied

A better man than me would have started delivering free chapters of Raising Adults at no later than May 31, 2005. That is, after all, what I promised.

Unfortunately, that man was not available. i'm sorry. I promised to deliver the goods in May and failed to do so. Soon...just days from now. I'll notify you.

Saturday, May 28, 2005

choosing our battles

A provocative line from David Brooks in The New York Times:

"...we can have a culture war in this country, or we can have a war on poverty, but we can't have both. That is to say, liberals and conservatives can go on bashing each other for being godless hedonists and primitive theocrats, or they can set those differences off to one side and work together to help the needy."

Brooks goes on to suggest what he calls "a natural alliance" between Evangelicals and liberals to end -- or at least ameliorate -- poverty.

Think of it: "The poor you will have with you always -- but it would please me no end if they got harder and harder to find in the course of time."

Wednesday, May 25, 2005

speaking the unspeakable

Not for the first time, Brian McLaren speaks the unspeakable.

"…in a time of war it becomes harder and harder to question the government without being seen as unpatriotic.

I was in the Holocaust Museum the other day and there’s a chilling display of where Hitler's doctor said, in a letter that is displayed, that basically the Fuhrer wants to keep the war effort going, because if it slows down, the churches will start criticizing him over what he’s doing to people with birth defects and the mentally retarded and so forth. The idea that keeping a war effort going inhibits criticism is a very, very old idea."

Not that this is happening today; only that it could. Only that something like this has happened in my lifetime, right here in America. If you want an insider's look, have Netflix send you a copy of Errol Morris' stunning documentary feature The Fog of War.

Monday, May 23, 2005

that's some blog entry

An hour or so after my 'don't nuke the senate' post, there are reports that Senate 'moderates' reached a compromise to forestall the "nuclear option."

What, precisely, it means will no doubt become clearer in the light of morning.

For what it's worth, Senator Boxer's speech is nonetheless worth reading.

don't nuke the senate

This may be more than you want to know but here is Senator Boxer's May 17 speech to the U.S. Senate on the subject of the "nuclear option" to outlaw the filibuster of court nominees before the Senate.

I for one am partial to the tradition that Senators who fail to persuade a preponderance of their colleagues are on notice that their position is flawed and not ready to be the law of the land.

If the U.S. Senate ceases to be a deliberative body, all the most important conversations will take place out of sight between individuals who are less accountable for their actions than ever. In my view, that would be a bad thing.

Tuesday, May 17, 2005

all marketers are liars

I'm reading Seth Godin's new book, All Marketers Are Liars. The first lie, he admits, is in the title.

All marketers are not liars, he says; all consumers are.

This may be his most challenging argument: That marketers tell a story and consumers (all of us) choose the part of the story we want to believe -- or maybe already believe -- and go with that whether it holds water or not.

If he's right about this -- and there's reason to think he is -- we may waste a lot of energy trying to convince people who've already made up their minds for us or against us.

I have to noodle on this some more.

Meanwhile I find myself thinking about what passes for evangelism in most church settings these days, which seems more like shuffling the deck than anything else.

Which reminds me of the first time I made media buys and was assured by a leading Christian magazine that my customers would find nothing to disagree with in their pages. I was 25 years old, give or take, and I remember recoiling from that line in the sales kit. "Then why publish!" I said out loud to nobody but me.

Now I know the answer to that pure, simple question:

For the money.

Excuse me; I think I'm gonna be sick. Again.

Saturday, May 07, 2005


One of my dirty little secrets is…I like working. I like working and I like work.

I'm part of a collective writing about the soul of commerce at a new site called InsideWork. Drop by and see what we're dreaming up to reintegrate work and spirituality.

Friday, April 29, 2005

the opposite of faith

"The opposite of faith is not doubt:" Anne Lamott wrote in this week -- "It is certainty. It is madness. You can tell you have created God in your own image when it turns out that he or she hates all the same people you do. The first holy truth in God 101 is that men and women of true faith have always had to accept the mystery of God's identity and love and ways. I hate that, but it's the truth."

Wednesday, April 27, 2005

a ringing in the ears

So I have this odd connection to people whose organizations are dedicated to the notion of Christian evangelism. I say "the notion of Christian evangelism" because I've somehow become a source to a few people who see that the assumptions they've been working under seem to be crumbling and their missions failing -- or at least not succeeding much beyond the appearance of Christian evangelism. In practical terms I suppose that may mean they are able show enough activity to continue raising money from people who have yet to question the assumptions of modern(ist) American evangelical evangelism. But these people who find me from time to time seem to believe that's not good enough to be sustainable and I believe they're right about that.

Yesterday I took a call from a videomaker working on a project for one of these folks. It was obviously an obligatory call because the videomaker made it clear he was trying to finish shooting the project in the next couple of days and his client said he should call me for direction on some things he should steer around in the "Gospel presentation" that is to be included on the DVD. The videomaker let me know he had a guy coming in to "present the Gospel" and the client wanted him to avoid language that would turn people off -- words like 'sin,' you know, because people don't like to be told they're sinners.

My ears were ringing the least bit as I listened to the nice videomaker do his duty and make the call he was asked to make -- reminding me several times that he needed to get this finished up in the next couple of days. I may have made his ears ring when I said none of my friends like being called sinners because they don't particularly believe they are sinners, but they're convinced right to the soles of their feet that they are fucked up.

"Excuse me?" he said from the other end, "did you say messed up?"

"I said, fucked up," I replied.

"Oh, f'd up," he said with a nervous chuckle. "Well, we probably won't go that low."

The ringing in my ears got louder and I said, "No, we wouldn't want to go as low as Jesus would go."

I don't know what was going on at his end of the line. He asked if he could give my number to the guy who was coming in to "give the Gospel."

"Look," I said, "yes; you can give him my number, but I don't have enough context to even know what i'm voting on. In general I think it's a bad idea to try to 'close the deal' on a DVD."

At this point he cut me off: "Yeh, everybody has their opinion about that," and reminded me he was trying to get this project wrapped up in the next couple of days.

I ended the conversation and promised to get back to him. Then I left a terse message on the voice mail of the guy who made the poor videomaker call me.

Turns out they've already had two other guys "give the Gospel," including a reputedly postmodern guy from northern California who turned out to be no less offensive than whoever it was who struck out the first time. Now they've lined up an ethnic guy to deliver the goods and really feel the need to get it right this time because who can afford to just keep shooting and shooting?

The ringing in my ears is driving me out of my mind.

"Which gospel is he going to deliver?" I asked. "The gospel of the kingdom of heaven Jesus came preaching? I doubt it."

"I know," my friend said. "I respect your thinking on that." And he does. But he has a job to do and he doesn't work for me.

I cherry-picked this from an interview with Os Guinness this morning:

"Suffering is uniquely individual, so there are no recipe answers. The first part of reaching out in love is to listen and try to discern where and why the person is hurting, and only then to bring the reassurance that the gospel brings to that particular hurt. We must never forget that listening is love, that comforting someone with an embrace without words is love, and that if we do not know why someone is suffering, to pretend that we do and say what God is doing in his or her life can be insensitive, cruel, and dead wrong—as Job's comforters were. That said, evil can torture the mind just as it can torture the body, and it is wonderful to be able to bring specific, comforting truths of the gospel to bear on specific points of anguish and see them make a difference. For example, I have seen more people helped by coming to appreciate the outrage of Jesus at the tomb of Lazarus—and its significance for the notion that "the world should have been otherwise"—than by a hundred worthy expositions of the Fall."

Even if we reduce the Gospel to individualized cognitive event -- there's that ringing again -- it's still individualized.

I have another friend from another American evangelistic collective with whom I've been hashing this dilemma for a whole decade. He was training the staff of his organization to put the Gospel in terms he could relate to. I pushed him hard on the biblical context of all that and after a series of heated exchanges he went off to do some field research. Everywhere he went for several weeks, he asked self-described Christians what it was that persuaded them to consider the possibility that Jesus was the answer to their most pressing questions.

He came home with a pattern of nine categories including the one that proved persuasive to him. All of a sudden he moves from one reason to believe to nine possible reasons. So how does he teach his organization to choose the appropriate contextualization for the person seated across from them in a given moment? He teaches them to listen. To ask really good questions. To pay attention as if it really mattered because, of course, it really does.

The reason I think it's a bad idea trying to close the deal on a DVD is because I think it's a bad idea trying to close the deal period. There is no deal. That's an unworthy metaphor for an exchange between two human being talking about the unlikely possibility that the good news about God might be even better than the bad news that they are both fucked to hell and back.

The problem is, that particular telling of the Gospel is completely unacceptable to everyone but those who are convinced that what they're doing isn't working. Would Jesus stoop so low? Are you kidding? Go read the stories again and get back to me on that.

Monday, April 25, 2005

the hunger + the thirst

The Los Angeles Times' Janet Kinosian asked legendary cartoonist Stan Lee the big question: If you could have a superpower yourself, what would it be?

Lee was behind the best years of Marvel Comics as the creator of the Incredible Hulk, Spider Man and the X-Men. "If you could have a superpower yourself," Kinosian asked, "what would it be?"

"Immortality;" Lee replied, "I'd hate to think this will end."


Saturday, April 09, 2005


Sao Paulo Cardinal Paulo Evaristo Arns reports that every time he visited John Paul II, the pope had three questions for him:

Are you taking care of the poor?
Are you taking care of the workers?
Are you taking care of the youth?

These are not bad questions for people who wonder how we're doing…

Monday, April 04, 2005

enough already

Enough of this ungodly preoccupation with the Ten Commandments.

Anybody as fixated on the Ten Commandments as your run of the mill American Evangelical can't possibly have read the whole book…or Kurt Vonnegut.

" For some reason, the most vocal Christians among us never mention the Beatitudes. But, often with tears in their eyes, they demand that the Ten Commandments be posted in public buildings. And of course that’s Moses, not Jesus. I haven’t heard one of them demand that the Sermon on the Mount, the Beatitudes, be posted anywhere.

“'Blessed are the merciful' in a courtroom? 'Blessed are the peacemakers' in the Pentagon? Give me a break!"+

OK, that hurt a little.

And then some clown says to find out what the Bible says about the Ten Commandments -- as distinct from just reading the list -- I'd have to read the whole thing. Seriously? Are you kidding? I haven't even read the Left Behind books! Enough already!

+ Kurt Vonnegut, "Cold Turkey," May 10, 2004, In These Times.

Sunday, March 27, 2005

a resurrection dream...or so it seems to me

We had a quiet dinner with friends and neighbors in various states of hopeful disrepair this Easter.

The poet Wendell Berry slipped this word in edgewise...

In a dream I meet
my dead friend. He has,
I know, gone long and far,
and yet he is the same
for the dead are changeless.
They grow no older.
It is I who have changed,
grown strange to what I was.
Yet I, the changed one,
ask: "How you been?"
He grins and looks at me.
"I been eating peaches
off some mighty fine trees."

Wendell Berry, Collected Poems, North Point Press, 12th printing, 2000, page 206

Wednesday, March 16, 2005

the U.S. Budget is a moral document

A note I sent my U.S. Representative and Senators as the new budget leaves committee and begins its course through the Congress:

Senator Boxer, Representative Cunningham, Senator Feinstein:

I believe the proposals on the table from the House and Senate Budget Committees include penalties against the most vulnerable Americans and welfare payouts to the most privileged Americans. As a person of faith I find this unconscionable.

"It is," Jesus said, "the sick who need a physician." I call on you to be doctors for those who need help, not those who can help themselves.

The U.S. Budget is a moral document. Please lead your colleagues in doing the right thing.


Jim Hancock

Wednesday, March 09, 2005

killing for the hell of it

Last month, Marine Lt. Gen. James N. Mattis famously said, "Actually it's quite fun to fight them, you know. It's a hell of a hoot…It's fun to shoot some people. I'll be right up there with you. I like brawling…You go into Afghanistan, you got guys who slap women around for five years because they didn't wear a veil…You know, guys like that ain't got no manhood left anyway. So it's a hell of a lot of fun to shoot them."

Marine Corps Commandant General Mike Hagee, wishes Mattis had chosen his words more carefully. World Magazine columnist Gene Edward Veith, on the other hand, concluded that: "As in other vocations, so in the military, there is nothing wrong with enjoying one's work."

To Dr. Vieth, Martin Marty poses a few questions:

If a Christian believes that humans are made in the image of God, should it be "a hell of a lot of fun to shoot them"?

World Wars I and II, and many other wars, had Christian fighting Christian, sometimes because they were drafted to do so against their will.  If a Christian believes that another Christian is a child of God, should it be a "hell of a lot of fun to shoot" and kill him?

If a Christian is an evangelical -- like those to whom World magazine is directed -- and he must kill someone who is as yet unevangelized, thus cutting short his potential for salvation, should it be a "hell of a lot of fun" to shoot him?

If a Christian is a grandson, son, father, husband, brother who knows that survivors of his killed counterpart will suffer all their lives because of his necessary act of killing, should it still be a "hell of a lot of fun" to shoot him?

If a Christian is to pay special attention to the weak, and he decides that someone "ain't got no manhood left anyway," should he do Darwin's work and eliminate the unworthy, taking a "hell of a lot of fun" in doing it?

Can the unconvinced -- and I don't mean just the "What Would Jesus Do"-types -- at least ask how finding it a "hell of a lot of fun to shoot" those who "ain't got no manhood" squares in any way with "love your enemies"?

It just startles me what people who claim to know something about God are willing to put their name to in 2005.

So, with a line from someone who didn't claim to know much about God, I'm out:

"When I began as a prayerful student to study Christian literature in South Africa in 1893, I asked myself again and again, ‘Is this Christianity?’ And I could only say, ‘No, no. Certainly this that I see is not Christianity.’ And the deepest in me tells me that I was right; for it was unworthy of Jesus and untrue to the Sermon on the Mount."

Mahatma Gandhi’s Ideas: Including Selections from His Writings, C. F. Andrews; pp93-95 The Macmillan Company, 1930