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.