29 December 2008

Human rights: HEALTH

Fighting against "stupid deaths," is, "never the work of one," according to Dr. Paul Farmer, founding director of Partners In Health, "or even of a small group." His goal is lofty:
"...nothing less than the refashioning of our world into one in which no one starves, drinks impure water, lives in fear of the powerful and violent, or dies ill and unattended."
This I believeDr. Farmer recently wrote an article in The Rotarian to address the lack of access to effective prevention and care--a primary barrier to health equity across the globe. He has contributed a brief summary of his values, presented as one chapter in National Public Radio's series, This I believe. In fact, NPR invites everyone to share the beliefs that guide them - you, too, can contribute. Tell NPR what you believe »

60 Minutes to watch... and a lifetime to act

This May, CBS's 60 Minutes featured a segment on the work of Partners In Health. In case you missed any part of the broadcast, it can be viewed here. If the images you saw and the voices you heard have inspired you, learn more about how you can contribute to PIH's work in Haiti, and the movement for health and social justice around the world. more

Among other initiatives supporting the work of PIH:

Choppers for doctors!

In Lesotho, it’s difficult to get around. Villages are sometimes accessible only by single-engine propeller aircraft or on horseback. There are often no roads in rural areas and patients must walk hours to clinics. Transporting patients and medical supplies is often an ordeal.

The nonprofit organization Riders for Health is working to help change this by donating ultra-rugged motorcycles for PIH Lesotho staff to use. The vehicles are expected to greatly enhance health-care delivery, allowing health workers to regularly and reliably visit communities previously inaccessible except on foot.

Riders For HealthRiders for Health’s first-ever program started in Lesotho in 1991, running a fleet of 47 motorcycles that ran for seven years without a single breakdown. Mahali Hlasa, a dedicated health professional who qualified as the first “rider trainer” under Riders for Health in 1991, is now the program director of Riders’ new program in Lesotho. Riders’ return to Lesotho was prompted by the rapid and alarming decline of the country's public-health status following the growth of HIV/AIDS and associated TB.

13 December 2008

Seihan Mori declared "change" to be Japan's "character of the year."

Change voted Japan's character of the yearTOKYO (AFP) – After helping Barack Obama sweep to victory in the US election, the president-elect's motto of "change" was Friday declared character of the year by a monk at one of Japan's most revered temples.
Using a calligraphy brush to write the single character on a wooden platform as tourists looked on, Seihan Mori, chief monk at Kiyomizu temple in the ancient capital of Kyoto, declared "change" to be Japan's character of the year.

The event was hosted by a Kyoto-based group that promotes the use of "kanji," the Chinese characters used in the Japanese language.

The public sent in 111,200 nominations for the kanji of the year.

Of those, a majority 5.42 percent endorsed "change," followed by "gold," suggesting the Beijing Olympics, and "fall" to reflect the global market plunge.

"I think it is an expression of the Japanese people's wishes to see political, economic and societal changes, as they were impressed by Mr. Obama's message of change," Mori said.

He added that the term's significance also came into prominence because of the world's growing attention to the impact of climate change.
"What is important to note, however, is that it is (the individual) who must change," he said.

Kiyomizu-dera entrance
The Kiyomizu temple dates back to 798, and its present buildings were constructed in 1633. It takes its name from the Otowa waterfall, where three channels of water drop into a pond within the complex, which runs off the nearby hills.

Otowa-no-taki, the waterfall where visitors drink for health, longevity, and success in studies:


09 November 2008

Obama's impact going global already.

Carla Bruni-Sarkozy

"Oui, nous pouvons!"

Inspired by Obama's ascendancy as President-elect of the U.S.A , the French first lady Carla Bruni-Sarkozy joined leading French figures to say it's time to stamp out racism and shake up a white elitism that smacks of colonial times.
"Our prejudices are insidious."
Carla Bruni-Sarkozy
A manifesto written by Yazid Sabeg, a self-made millionaire whose parents were Algerian immigrants to France, was signed by politicians from the left and right and other public figures. It urges steps to turn long-held French ideals of equality into reality for blacks, Arabs and other alienated minorities.
"We shouldn't be surprised that Obama's popularity is so high here: It testifies to the aspirations of all the children of France who are experiencing by proxy a recognition that France does not give them..."
Yazid Sabeg
Ms. Bruni-Sarkozy said her status as first lady prevented her signing Saberg's manifesto, but expressed total support. Born in Italy, France's first lady cites her husband's ethnically mixed background as a sign France is open to change, though Saberg has been critical of President Sarkozy's previous efforts to bring changes to minority neighborhoods.

The fever of hope is contagious

Less than one week after his election as the 44th President of the U.S.A., Barack Obama's ethnicity begins not only to figure in world-wide perception of political reality in the U.S., but also precipitates the potential for real change on another continent. His candor about skin color has elevated the conversations everywhere about not-like-me-ism.

31 October 2008

There are not red states, and blue states, there is:

The United States of America

There is a special feeling pervading the polling place on voting day, a sense of participation that transcends the partisan posturing of the preceding weeks and months. If you’ve never voted before I hesitate to shape your anticipation, but Election Day we are ALL Americans!there’s no denying the sense of being a part of something that’s happening nationwide. In fact, that’s one of the reasons I wish that there were fewer people exercising “early voting” options, though I grant that there are fine, legitimate reasons that every state and territory should make that not merely possible, but easy.

I also understand the desire to flash your allegiance in a year when the focus is on national politics, particularly as the rhetoric from certain candidates has been more inflammatory than inspirational. I feel strongly about who I’ve campaigned for - there are signs in my yard right down to the level of my choice for city council, my car is practically a rolling billboard, and there’s no time I’m seen in public when there’s any doubt which candidate I support in the presidential election.

But on Tuesday, to puzzle the prognosticators and express my pride as a citizen, I’ll wear purple to the polls. Let the exit poller work that one out!

The United States of AmericaNo matter who you think is the best candidate or party there is one truth Barack Obama articulated way back in 2004. “The pundits like to slice and dice us…" It makes for better television coverage, and they want you watching their network(s) to insure their ad revenues are high, so every year they seek to make it more compelling coverage of what they seek to portray as a more dramatic election. Despite that, on Tuesday when we make our communal pilgrimage to express our preferences, “there are not red states or blue states. There is the United States of America.”

On Tuesday, November 4th, what will you wear while you cast your ballot?

Got purple?

29 October 2008

If you lived through the depression, who would you support in 2008?

It's a question of style versus substance.

If one person working the Obama campaign could actually be said to deserve to meet Senator Obama, Charles Alexander is that person.

Everybody my age is dying off. Everybody. Next four or five years, I probably won't be around. These young people are gonna take the lead. That's what I love seeing about all these people sitting here as volunteers - 'cause they are our tomorrow.

25 October 2008

Voter's Rights: Minnesota

Voter's GuideAny U.S. citizen who has been resident in Minnesota for 20 days prior to the election who will be 18 by November 4th, 2008 has the right to register on election day 2008 in the precinct they live in. (There is information pertaining to other states at the bottom of this post.)

You also have the following rights:
  • To be absent from work for the purpose of voting during the morning of Election Day without a deduction in wages.
  • To vote if you are in line at your polling place prior to 8:00 p.m.
  • To vote without proof of residency if you are already registered.
  • To receive a replacement ballot if you make a mistake or spoil your ballot before it is submitted.
  • To cast an "absentee ballot" if you are unable to vote in person on election day for any of the following reasons:
    * away from home (your precinct)
    * ill or disabled
    * an election judge serving in another precinct
    * unable to go to the polling place due to a religious holiday or beliefs
    * you are in the military or otherwise outside the U.S.A.
  • To bring your minor children into the polling place and into the voting booth with you.
  • To vote without anyone in the polling place trying to influence your vote.
  • To take a sample ballot into the voting booth with you.
  • Know your voting rights!To take a copy of the official Minnesota Voter's Bill of Rights into the voting booth with you.
  • To orally confirm your identity with an election judge and to direct another person to sign your name if you are unable to sign your name.
  • To receive special ballot assistance when voting because of an inability to read English or physical inability to mark a ballot.
  • To have a person of your choice accompany you into the voting booth if you need assistance, except an agent of your employer or union or a candidate.
  • To large print or audio instructions and assistance if you have limited vision (provided by the AutoMARK ballot marker.)
  • To have election judges come to your vehicle with the ballot if you cannot easily leave your car.
  • To vote after a felony conviction if your sentence has been completed. (Also known as being "off paper.")
  • To vote even if you are under guardianship, unless a court order has specifically revoked your right to vote.
  • To file a written complaint at your polling place if you are dissatisfied with the way an election is being run.
Anyone lawfully in a polling place can ask an election judge to make a challenge to a person's eligibility to cast a vote in that precinct (including other election judges and designated Republican or DFL observers.) However, "challenges" must be based upon that individual's personal knowledge that the voter is not eligible.

Challenges may not be automatic, or frivolous. They may not be based upon lists developed by political mailings - including those returned as either undeliverable or refused. They must be in writing, and under oath that the challenge is based on the challenger's personal knowledge.

Home foreclosure is not a sufficient basis for a challenge, since not only may the voter intend to return to the home, but they may legally be in residence in a foreclosed property for many months; knowledge of foreclosure does not constitute knowledge of where the voter lives.

Students are often challenged as "non-resident" but by Minnesota law may vote in the precinct they live in while they attend school, even in school-provided housing. Students still residing in a parent's home should vote in the precinct that home is in.

The League of Women Voters is a non-partisan political organization that encourages the informed and active participation in government, and influences public policy through education and advocacy. I strongly urge you to visit their website for additional information. There is information in the following video regarding voting in both primaries and the general election.
Do you know where your Minnesota precinct polling place is?

Elsewhere around the country...

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) has information on voting in all 50 states collected in one handy location. They are a non-partisan organization committed to helping all eligible voters cast ballots, and working to limit and mitigate disenfranchisement as the ultimate anti-American activity. Here are shortcuts directly to the information in a few states likely to be in the limelight due either to being closely contested on election day 2008, or to recent history of balloting problems:

10 October 2008

All that is necessary for evil to triumph

"Those of us who know better can't afford to sit silently or look the other way while it's happening..."
AFL-CIO Secretary Treasurer Richard Trumka,
July 20, 2008

Obviously, his support is for the Obama campaign, and his message is intended to inspire partisan support. Underneath that reality, however, is the color-blind foundation of the value of unity.

"We've seen that when we have the courage, the good sense, the trade union values to cross the color line and stand together, arms locked, no one - no one - has ever been able to keep us down."
AFL-CIO Secretary Treasurer Richard Trumka,
July 20, 2008

We've also seen the use of code words intended to convey and condone racial bigotry as basis for making a choice about who to vote for. Questions raised with no intent other than to smear a man's character, and raise fears among those listening. That's wrong.
"Obama has set the bar high for his campaign. So, precisely because Barack isn’t just saying what’s politically expedient, if the country dares to put him into the Oval Office he will bind us all to this higher standard. That change - Senator Obama’s audacious challenge to each and every citizen to be more, to live better, to aspire higher, to deal candidly, respectfully and honestly with each other, and to surrender some of our self-interest - scares people.

We must examine, “where we are and whither we are tending.” Can America live up to Barack Obama’s vision, his belief that we’re all connected as one people?"

As Edmund Burke said, "All that is necessary for evil to triumph is for good people to do nothing..." no matter if the problem they see is in the Middle East, or at a political rally in North America. Resentment - possibly racially motivated - against Obama's rise in the polls, as reported from McCain~Palin rallies, seems to also be "spilling into down-ticket races," with one woman yelling "bomb Obama!" during a Thursday debate between Republican Sen. Saxby Chambliss and his Democratic challenger.

John McCain has made the following observation:
"It's easy to rile up a crowd by stoking anger and division. But that's not what we need right now in the United States. The times are too serious. The challenges are too great. The American people aren't looking for someone who can divide this country -- they're looking for someone who will lead it. We're in a serious crisis -- now, more than ever, it is time to put country ahead of politics. Now, more than ever, it is time to bring change to Washington so that it works for the people of this country that we love."
What he has not, however, done, is react to condemn angry anti-Obama outbursts at his rallies this week. If he really is ready to put country ahead of politics, the change will be welcome. I'd say he has less than a week.

United we stand.

04 October 2008

Do the causes of global warming matter?

Let's try a little hypothetical situation:

You're standing on a riverbank and you see more and more people who appear to be trying to get out of the river, but they're tired and can't swim to shore so they're being swept on out to sea. Do you
  1. go upstream and figure out why they're all in the river, or
  2. blame the policies of the Bush Administration, or
  3. ignore the cause and hope sound-bites on the 6:00 news will make it clear that you're not pointing fingers but definitely in favor of keeping people from drowning?
Global warming looms as the biggest threat to thefutureIf you picked "3" you were likely impressed by Governor Sarah Palin's amazing winking soundbite show in what was supposed to be a debate Thursday night. I suggest you move to Alaska where you can rest assured you'll be hearing a lot more from her in the coming months and years.

If you picked "2" I sympathize, but you'd better be out working to get Obama elected, and working to add forward-thinking progressives who think about energy and the environment in terms of the future to both the U.S. House and Senate or you'll be whining on November 5th.

If you picked "1" feel free to add me to your friends list, we just might have something in common.

    We urgently need a comprehensive energy policy for the United State that will, at a minimum:
  • Provide short-term relief to American families facing pain at the pump
  • Help create new jobs by strategically investing to catalyze private efforts to build a clean energy future.
  • Provide incentives to save more oil than we currently import from the Middle East and Venezuela combined.
  • Put hundreds of thousands of Plug-In Hybrid cars on the road sooner rather than later. Our government must work to encourage those vehicles are being built here in America.
  • Ensure 10 percent or more of our electricity comes from renewable sources within 5 years, and aim for 25% within 15 years.
  • Implement an economy-wide cap-and-trade program to substantively reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
The causes of global warming do matter. And while there is more than one reason people may fall in the river, making sure other people aren't pushing them in and figuring out what the main causes are -- and preventing those -- will save us a lot of time and risk we'll otherwise invest in hauling drowning people to shore.

Mixed Greens

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14 September 2008

Obama Works with Habitat for Humanity in Minneapolis in September 2008

Habitat for HumanityFounded in 1976, Habitat for Humanity is dedicated to the simple idea that shelter from rain, wind and sun is a basic human need. Habitat for Humanity International (HFHI) works to provide decent shelter and eliminate "poverty housing." Relying on donations and volunteer help, deserving families can have genuinely adequate places to call home; places which in turn foster self-respect and the hope of a better life. HFHI has built more than 250,000 houses around the world, providing more than 1 million people in thousands of communities with safe, decent, affordable shelter.

Obama Works is a national grassroots organization comprised of volunteers dedicated to implementing Senator Barack Obama’s message of positive change through public service. These are volunteer organizers harnessing the energy of people inspired by Obama's example as a community organizer and highlighted by his campaign for the U.S. Presidency to serve by undertaking activities such as food drives, clean-up up after parades, and other community service. Obama works is not affiliated with the Obama campaign, yet there's an obvious harmony between Obama's message of hope and the goals of HFHI.

Energized by their success cleaning up the Dodge Nature Center, on September 13th, 2008, the Obama Works Twin Cities group partnered with Twin Cities Habitat for Humanity to apply some elbow grease to two projects in Minneapolis. What follows hints at what transpired leading up to and during the work at the south Minneapolis location (I couldn't be two places at one time.)

Neignbors helping neighbors

Making a house into a home.

While home is ultimately about people, we often think in terms of walls, a roof, and plumbing when describing the house. Saturday a group of about a dozen intrepid volunteers set aside campaign efforts and worked, instead, under the guidance of two volunteer Master Gardeners planning promotes performance(connected with the Hennepin County Extension Service) to perk up the landscaping for a family that had moved into their property during the summer. According to Meleah Maynard, a Minneapolis freelance writer and master gardener who has volunteered with Habitat for the past three years, the Habitat/master gardener partnership began in the mid-1990s when master gardener Jack Duchow was landscaping Habitat properties and realized they were sorely in need of a plan.

getting startedHabitat for Humanity Twin Cities was glad to have the help even though the Obama Works volunteers had come together originally based on shared political goals. We dug up new areas for planting, re-worked some gardens that needed help, and added plants that the family had selected (in consultation with the Master Gardeners) which were donated by Bailey Nursery.
The Master Gardeners had worked with the local Habitat organization to insure sufficient tools, compost, and mulch would be available on site.

time for compost

They had laid out a plan with the homeowner in advance; on Saturday they coached, taught, and helped lay out, dig, plant, and liberally mulch the beds.
It was a cool, cloudy day, raining on and off, but the material, tools, and plants were there so we worked through the drizzle digging new garden areas, a spot for a new tree in the front yard, and then moving wheelbarrow after wheelbarrow full of compost and mulch from the alley to be spread around the new plantings.

dig it

While I was busy editing video, cropping pictures, uploading, and trying to figure out what to say here, other Obama Works Twin Cities volunteers spent Sunday doing Mexican Independence Day parade clean-up, (and probably some voter registration as time allowed.) If you'd like to learn more about the Twin Cities group you can follow the links to their pages on the BarackObama.com website, or at Facebook. (The national Obama Works group also has a Facebook page.)

If you'd like to attend the next Twin Cities planning and community organizing meeting, it's on October 8th. No experience necessary -- but you'll have a great experience at either the meetings or the events.

There were a few pictures I took that didn't get published here. To see the album in its entirety do that click thing. Remember: Together We Can!

"Service to others is the rent you pay for your room here on earth." ~Mohammed Ali

09 September 2008

Civic Pride

In early September of 1876 the combined James-Younger gang attempted a brazen robbery of the First National Bank of Northfield, a community about 30 miles south of the state capitol. It went wrong, as has been detailed in books and movies, and resulted in a thousand-man posse and the downfall of one of the most notorious, dangerous gangs of the era.

This is not a history lesson, however.

Presenting the colorsThis is about how the city of Northfield commemorates the September 1876 defeat of the Jesse James Gang each year on the weekend following Labor Day, with an art festival, rodeos, fair rides, bank raid re-enactments, and then on the last day, a parade featuring over 100 entries - one of the longest parades in the state, and officially the third largest gathering since it attracts hundreds of thousands of visitors to a community that's home to under 20,000 people (and two fine colleges.)

Here are two video clips. First, the Northfield High School Marching band passing the now famous First National Bank while they're approaching Bridge Square, the heart of the modern downtown:
Next, a short excerpt of the last ride by the re-enactment gang riders, firing their 6-shooters as they file down Division Street approaching the end of the parade route on Sunday, 7 September 2008:

This is a civic pride exercise. High School students who could be watching the NFL give up their Sunday afternoon to march through town, attorneys and others set aside their craft and become street performers to lend authenticity to the scene... the town celebrates that by working together regular citizens defeated one of the most feared groups of armed desperados in the late 1800s.

There go the riders...James Younger re-enactment riders leave Northfield
...more stills to follow soon!

27 July 2008

Do you volunteer? One person can make a difference.

"Learn to lead in a nourishing manner.
Learn to lead without being possessive.
Learn to be helpful without taking the credit.
Learn to lead without coercion."

Lao Tzu
Lao Tzu sounds more like a modern mayor or community organizer than an ancient philosopher. As you've heard, "Those who can, do." However, those who can do more, volunteer. They know the reward of giving with no expectation of "taking the credit" (or even a tax deduction) for their effort. Nationally, about one in three people who volunteer in a given year do not do so the following year. In Miami, the metro area with the lowest ranking of the cities cited in the study, the drop-out rate is six in 10.

"There's interest in volunteering in a lot of people but they're just not staying with it," according to Robert Grimm, director of research for the Corporation for National and Community Service (CNCS).

Rapid turnover is a problem across the country, but the report concluded that "volunteer intensity" is increasing, with one-third of volunteers contributing more than 100 hours of service in a year - the highest rate for that category since 2002. However the overall national participation rate dropped again in 2007 after reaching 28.8% in 2005.

"If you want to build a ship, don't drum up people together to collect wood and don't assign them tasks and work, but rather teach them to long for the endless immensity of the sea."

Antoine de Saint Exupery

The CNCS, an independent federal agency, used Census Bureau data to determine its state and city rankings, which are based on three-year averages for 2005 through 2007. In all, the study found that 60.8 million Americans (aged 16 and older) performed roughly 8.1 billion hours of volunteer service in 2007.

"We are prone to judge success by the index of our salaries or the size of our automobiles, rather than by the quality of our service relationship to humanity."

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

By region, the Midwest had the highest volunteer rate at 31.1% in the recent CNCS study, followed by the West at 26.1, the South with 24.7 and the Northeast at 23.4 -- the number one metro area of the top 50 ranked? That honor goes to the twin cities, Minneapolis/Saint Paul with an impressive 39.3% participation rate, possibly due in part to the efforts of their Corporate Volunteerism Council, the CVC. It's difficult to tease apart cause and effect: but maybe there really is something to that so-called "Minnesota nice" since even the sometimes contentious 2008 presidential campaign has spawned volunteerism in Minnesota.

Then, too, it was Mayor Raymond Thomas "R.T." Rybak of Minneapolis who declared July 9, 2007 as “Volunteer Day” in his city, to celebrate the important role that volunteers play in the life of any community. Since being elected he's been tirelessly leading by example, enlisting his community in reweaving what he calls the urban fabric while laying the groundwork for the future of his city.

So obviously there are many things coming together in Minnesota, (maybe R.T. has studied Lao Tzu) but the lessons can be applied anywhere in the world.
Act to help others, no matter if you're 7 or 77:

Learn to be helpful without taking the credit.

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21 July 2008

Interesting giveaway...

Sunnight Solar is set to launch the new SL2 (SunLight2) or SuperBoGo, solar powered flashlight by giving them away.

There are no charges, nothing to buy and they say they'll send them to you at cost, from a warehouse in Houston, when they arrive in mid-August. Each is individually numbered – 1/500 and they are in blue ABS plastic and on the side, laser etched – it says “Changing the World – Limited Edition” May 2008.

They welcome requests from people who want a free light, so send e-mail to info@sunnightsolar.com with the reason(s) why you think they should send you a light. They will decide who gets a light – and obviously, people who are in a position to either blog to a large audience, put out a media article, buy lots of lights in the future, are heavily involved in environmental or humanitarian work, work for FEMA, the upper management of Red Cross or Greenpeace, in charge of the US Senate’s oversight committee on incredibly large sums of money for foreign aid and really huge contracts for small businesses, the Governors of any the Gulf Coast states, the Pope, Al Gore or Angelina Jolie – all of these people are cited as "probably going to get a light" if they send a request. If you just want a free light, because you like to get free things - I can certainly sympathize, but you are probably not going to make the cut any more than I am.

Peace Corps volunteers getting ready to go abroad are high on the list of people they'd consider seriously, people set to trek alone across large parts of the globe, people working in remote places, American men and women heading to war, or people with just really good stories... you'll want to check the rules.

10 June 2008

Don't play small; the world needs us to be fully engaged

"Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate, but that we are powerful beyond measure. We ask ourselves, who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, and fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be?

Your playing small doesn't serve the world."

~ Marianne Williamson

“There may be fairies at the bottom of the garden. There is no evidence for it, but you can't prove that there aren't any, so shouldn't we be agnostic with respect to fairies?”

~ Richard Dawkins

“Don't ask yourself what the world needs; ask yourself what makes you come alive. And then go and do that. Because what the world needs is people who have come alive.”

~ Harold Whitman

19 May 2008

Unless you have never been wrong.

Oregon's primary on Tuesday may be the harbinger of the autumn elections. Yes, I know; pundits, pollsters, and sound-bite aficionados are quick to point out that there's a near certainty that it will be a "split decision" 18 May 2008 rally in Portland, ORwhen the votes are tallied in the two primaries. Yet the rally on the banks of the Willamette River in Portland on Sunday (18 May 2008) seems to indicate that one candidate's campaign has captured the collective imagination of the voters.

Beyond the forecasts and the numbers, beyond the sorts of events that are sought by ratings-hungry media organizations, the fall election in the U.S.A. hinges on a unification that must be accomplished by whichever candidate eventually prevails. While each newly elected President enjoys a form of honeymoon with the voters and the Congress (that they often seek to characterize as a "mandate") the truth has been expressed in one of the most fundamental tenets of this country: United We Stand.

Angry rhetoric and subtle innuendo intended to undermine an opponent's support among the public surely make the challenge of unifying the electorate in 2008 daunting. Fear and intolerance have been fanned by those who seek to divide and conquer since before we began recording history. Students and observers of politics have no trouble citing examples from this election cycle, and doubtless there will be more to come. Yet history also teaches that there is a simple formula for moving forward despite the cunning practitioners who rely on misinformation to separate us into manageable-sized chunks for them to dominate: respect.

Mutual respect is what enables mature debate. Disagreeing with a person's beliefs or conclusions without being disagreeable is entirely possible. Only when I trust that while you disagree with what I say yet will defend my right to be "wrong" is it possible for us to approach each other with an open mind. Those who adamantly support Congressman Ron Paul (R-TX), for one example, believe they have examined the issues and attained an understanding sufficient to advocate that his is the best course to follow - they act in what they believe is the best interest of the country. But so, too, the supporters of Senators Clinton (D-NY), McCain (R-AZ), and Obama (D-IL). Ironically, there's no way to know who's "right." One of the candidates for the Presidency will prevail, and be faced with steering the country for some number of years, and we will never have the chance to test the others under identical conditions, so at some level the disagreement will persist, we can only actually test one of them.

According to Francis Bacon, "Assuetude of things hurtful doth make them lost their force to hurt." Let us resolve to respect those we disagree with, and have fought with, both here in the United States and abroad. Let us hope that whoever voters select to take over the Office of the President of the U.S.A. in January 2009 has both the wisdom and support necessary to improve our lot at home and our standing in the world by renewing our unified strength. Let us recall, too, that one person in the Oval Office, even with their obvious influence and the power to make political appointments does not hold the key - the President deserves neither all of the credit nor all of the blame for how the country fares. Neither the voters nor the candidates know today what challenges will come tomorrow. The best we can do is use the tools of democracy to elect a leader, and hope the wisdom, instinct, and advisors of our President are up to the task.

We are the world's greatest melting pot.

We can allow ourselves to grow apart, isolated and increasingly vulnerable, or we can choose deliberately to grow together. Let us respect each other, and exhibit that respect, because despite our disagreements on nearly countless issues it is as true today as it was in 1776, we are still seeking to form a more perfect union, and we flourish by combining the myriad diverse strengths of individuals into a synergistic, unified democracy.

28 April 2008

NYTimes Obama's Voting Record with over 800 Bills Sponsored

Graphic of the 800 bills, broken down into Crime, Health Care, Economy, Education, Ethics, Etc. Showing his strong and persistent record of public advocacy and proving his words match his actions.

Click to Enlarge
Click to enlarge

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Obama Supporters Put Their $$$ Where Their Mouth Is.

Over 1,400,000 Obama Supporters have given to his campaign for the nomination of the Democratic party. The established media spins the question of "whether Obama is electable" because of his "loss" in PA though he closed the gap (which had been huge/) Let's note: Clinton's campaign is in serious debt while Obama's supporters continue to send in small donations - like the "$5 on 5/5, Cinco de Mayo, Cinco de B.O." concept found here: http://my.barackobama.com/page/event/detail/4rrjzHis Grassroots Fundraising Committee is hard at work, and while considerably more money is coming from individual donors acting on their own, the unprecedented numbers tell the tale: more people are actively supporting this candidate than any other in history.

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16 April 2008

Philadelphia Weekly: We want Barack Obama to be president.

Philadelphia Weekly endorses Obama for president. Among the reasons they give for their endorsement: the way Obama managed the latest controversy as well as the one about his pastor showed that "standing up is what Obama does best."

The choice has never been more clear: there are old-school self-serving politicians who will attack the least thing an opponent says in an attempt to focus attention on negative, divisive sound-bites, or there is a new opportunity to elect a candid, bold, honest man who has a track record of service, commitment, and honesty.

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15 April 2008

Is Obama 'Elitist' and 'Out of Touch' About Religion?

Frank Schaeffer, son of a pastor and lifelong Republican, shows how if Obama isn't in touch with religious America, no one is. The fallout generated from this whole bittergate thing is just amazing. The press prefers this to issues, and ignores that his competitors are considerably more insulated that he is, while repeating that "elitist" word as though we all want an idiot who never finished college for president.

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13 April 2008

...our life here is eternally fresh

Nothing lasts forever.

Nothing lasts forever.
No one lives forever.
Keep that in mind, and love.

Our life is not the same old burden.
Our path is not the same long journey.

The flower fades and dies.
We must pause to weave perfection in the music.
Keep that in mind, and love.

Love droops toward its sunset.
We drown in the golden shadows;
Love must be called from its play.
Love must be born again to be free.
Keep that in mind, and love.

Let us hurry to gather our flowers
Before they are plundered by the passing winds.
It quickens our blood and brightens our eyes
To snatch kisses that would vanish if we delayed

Our life is eager,
Our desires are keen,
For time rolls by.
Keep that in mind, and love.

Beauty is sweet for a short time
And then it is gone.
Knowledge is precious,
but we will never have time to complete it.
All is done and finished in eternal heaven

But our life here is eternally fresh.
Keep that in mind, and love.
~ Rabindranath Tagore (1861-1941)

Nobel Laureate Rabindranath TagoreBengali poet Rabindranath Tagore. also known as Bhanushingho, received the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1913, the first time it was awarded to an Asian. Philosopher, artist, playwright, composer, and novelist, he soon became the best known voice of India's spiritual heritage in his time, touring widely.

A contemporary of Ghandi, in 1919 he resigned his knighthood after the "incident in Jallian Wala Bagh," which came to be known as the Amritsar Massacre, in protest of British policies and to draw attention to the atrocity that had been perpetrated in a Punjab city.

Tagore's initials

10 April 2008

I was wise enough to never grow up while fooling most people into believing I had.

A handful of quotes, to start you thinking:
"If we are to achieve a richer culture, rich in contrasting values, we must recognize the whole gamut of human potentialities, and so weave a less arbitrary social fabric, one in which each diverse human gift will find a fitting place."

"Never doubt that a small group of committed people can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has."

"For the very first time the young are seeing history being made before it is censored by their elders."

"Instead of being presented with stereotypes by age, sex, color, class, or religion, children must have the opportunity to learn that within each range, some people are loathsome and some are delightful."

"We are now at a point where we must educate our children in what no one knew yesterday, and prepare our schools for what no one knows yet."

Those are all thoughts from one insightful anthropologist, Margaret Mead. If you don't know who she is, obviously you should. What about these next four names... do they ring any bells? Do you know why they matter?
  • Bob Geldorf
  • Betty Williams
  • Peter Benenson
  • Nelson Mandela

I hope you recognize at least one from that list. In each case, their story is how one person who cares can matter immensely - how one person, moved to act, can change the world. The following video, from Nickelback, may help you understand. They get it.

Do you?

03 April 2008

Memphis, Tennesee, April 4th, 1968

A patriot with a hopeful dream was shot and killed, fighting for freedom, truth, justice, and the rights of all citizens of the United States of America to be treated equally. "The time is always right to do what is right." Nearly 200 years earlier, patriots had penned a document that gave rise to a new, unique nation.
The Declaration of Independence of the Thirteen Colonies
In CONGRESS, July 4, 1776

The unanimous Declaration of the thirteen united States of America,

When in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature's God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness...

Revolutionary Flag"We've been warned against offering the people of this nation false hope. But in the unlikely story that is America, there has never been anything false about hope."
~ Senator Barack Obama
quote by Martin Luther King, Jr.
"Isn't segregation an existential expression of man's tragic separation, an expression of his awful estrangement, his terrible sinfulness?"

It is difficult to convey to those who were not present at the time, just how turbulent the year 1968 was for those of us in the U.S.A. One can cite assassinations and riots, or talk about the mood, the palpable acrimony that seemed to seize nearly everyone. Passions ran hot, and blood spilled - not just in the U.S., but half-way around the globe in the war-torn nation of Viet Nam.

At a time when we were, ostensibly, trying to come together, it seemed the divisions had never been more pronounced. Each of us who lived through, and recalls, those times bears a certain number of wounds - for like it or not, the events of 1968 touched and shaped us all without reference to our beliefs or the color of our skin, they set us on the course we have followed ever since. In some cases, we have scars; for others the wounds are still vivid, real, and open.

We must not forget. For the sake of our children, we dare not.

"Early morning, April 4,

A shot rings out in the Memphis sky.

'Free at last,' they took your life,

But they could not take your pride."

~ U2

31 March 2008

In NYC's South Bronx, in a very tough neighborhood, amazing things happen in the Bronx HS for Performance and Stagecraft

Talking about racism is far more effective than pretending it's not there. We may have different stories, but we hold common hopes. If challenged High School students in the Bronx have become this engaged, can there be any doubt that the country is moving in the right direction, that slowly but surely, the tide is turning? Listen, as some share their speeches, entitled, "Yes, we can."

Here, in the south Bronx, the audacity of hope is flourishing. It's been 40 years since a bullet took Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., but that dream is alive and well in the minds of young Americans.

28 March 2008

Think globally, then act locally

March 29th, at 8 p.m. your time, can you spare one hour for the planet?

You can make a difference. [Hora de la Tierra en EspaƱol]

Here are some ideas for how to spend your time. Now: Go tell three friends. Be part of the solution.

Mixed Greens

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26 March 2008

From the mind of Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

Who is the happiest of men? He who values the merits of others, and in their pleasure takes joy, even as though t'were his own.


We know accurately only when we know little; with knowledge doubt increases.


Treat a man as he appears to be, and you make him worse. But treat a man as if he were what he potentially could be, and you make him what he should be.


Divide and rule, a sound motto. Unite and lead, a better one.

20 March 2008

Patience is a virtue

There's a life lesson for all of us that Barack Obama has been trying to explain. In so doing, he offers more than slogans, he represents an opportunity. Some of us grasp his lesson intuitively, some of us learn it through our own experiences, and others rely on pithy phrases, such as "Don't throw out the baby with the bath water." The lesson is about the power of, and increasingly urgent need for, forgiveness. A leader needs more than patience, compassion, and forgiveness, (and the Senator clearly has extensive, well-articulated, widely documented plans,) but this acceptance and willingness to forgive is arguably the cornerstone of Barack Obama's personal philosophy, which he is translating into a political call to action.

Anger is valid; it's real. Yet if we cling to the offenses of the past, if we use them to justify escalation, if we prefer old quarrels over the opportunity to move forward, we are wasting time. Anger cannot be allowed to flourish and grow - down that path there is nothing but escalation.

The wisest parents know this, though even they sometimes forget. Nobody's perfect. When you're dealing with human beings it is often necessary to separate the actions (or words) from the person. When a child makes a mistake should you love the child less? Their behavior may be wrong - unacceptable - but that doesn't ordinarily equate to loving them less. We all make mistakes.

Presidents make mistakes. If Hillary Clinton could not separate her husband's actions from who he is as a man, if she could not forgive him, the scandals that rocked his presidency would have been their downfall as a couple. Hillary took some heat for this, she still does; there are those who say his mistake was too egregious to forgive, but Mrs. Clinton distinguishes what her husband has done from who he is.

We have all been wronged.

When wrongs are committed by institutions it is our collective moral obligation to respond by standing firm and changing that structure, up to and including abolishing the institution and/or its influence over people.
"...whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn, that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed."
When a transgression is committed by an individual, acting not as part of some larger whole but out of their own, momentary will, the needful responses are less clear. The commission of a crime against one person or their property impacts and diminishes us all. Centuries of practice have not resulted in wisdom adequate to forecast and codify the proper response(s) sufficiently to remove human judgment from the exercise of justice.

Human experience has taught us that we must, at times, find a way to get beyond even the most horrific actions. Where would we be today if the people of Japan could not separate the nuclear holocaust that ravaged their nation at the conclusion of World War II from the people who undertook those actions - if they pursued to this day some form of retribution for the deaths of innocent relatives, defining that as justice? Most if not all vibrant religions and widely embraced philosophies have incorporated a, "turning the other cheek," and forgiveness based on understanding and acceptance of transgressions as a fundamental tenet.

The studious observation of teaching, particularly parenting, has taught us the value of distinguishing the actors from their actions. One need not rely on religious pronouncements to agree that unacceptable behavior must have consequences associated with it. Yet if we did not allow for any possibility that most people can and do learn from experience, that they will grow, and improve, it follows there would be no point in lessons, patience, or ever trying to foster development. No child is a failure simply because they haven't yet mastered tying their shoes, controlling their bladder, or long division. In most circumstances it is efficacious and appropriate to reserve our judgment(s) for a person's words and deeds, distinguishing that explicitly from judging them, no matter how much consternation their actions cause.

That is Barack Obama's message; it resonates through everything he advocates. He is right in renouncing Reverend Jeremiah Wright's most excessive, divisive, and inflammatory rhetoric, which has particularly aided those those who seek to perpetuate divisions based on skin color, yet Barack is righteous to abstain from judging, or rejecting, the man. That is the Audacity of Hope that Obama's supporters understand and cherish.