"I'm what the world considers to be a phenomenally successful man. And I've failed much more than I've succeeded.
And each time I fail, I get my people together, and I say, "Where are we going?" And it starts to get better." - Calvin Trager

With Ya, my Ga tutor in Mallam
The Rev. Mike Kinman
Executive Director
Episcopalians for Global Reconciliation
Age: 38

Check out Forsyth School ...
where Robin teaches and
the boys attend.

Since you're already blowing time surfing,
why not do some cool stuff

  • Watch the Make Poverty History videos
  • Watch Sara McLachlan's "World on Fire" video
  • Take a seat at Oxfam America's Hunger Banquet
  • Look at the "Eight Ways to Change The World" photo exhibition
  • See how rich you are on the Global Rich List
  • Make a promise to do something cool -- and get people to do it with you
  • Use your computer to fight HIV/AIDS and other diseases

    While you're at it, do these things
  • Join the ONE Campaign to Make Poverty History
  • Join the Episcopal Public Policy Network
  • Join Amnesty International
  • Subscribe to Sojourners Online newsletter about faith, politics and culture
  • Sign the Micah Call and join other Christians in the fight against poverty
  • Subscribe to a great new magazine about women and children transforming our world

    People who show us What One Person Can Do
  • Liza Koerner (Teaching soccer and doing mission work in Costa Rica)
  • Erica Trapps (Raising money so Tanzanian children can go to school -- check out her photo gallery)

    What's happening in Sudan might
    surprise (and shock) you

  • Episcopal Diocese of Lui
  • South Sudanese Friends International
  • The Sudan Tribune
  • SudanReeves -- research, analysis and advocacy
  • Save Darfur
  • Darfur: a genocide we can stop

    For your daily fix on the irreverent...
  • Jesus of the Week
  • The Onion

    Interesting People Who Are Great To Read
  • Beth Maynard's excellent U2 sermons blog
  • Global Voices Online
  • Neha Viswanathan - poetry, commentary, humor, reflections

    Some interesting organizations and programs
  • Borgen Project - poverty reduction through political accountability
  • CARE
  • Center of Concern
  • DATA: Debt, AIDS and Trade in Africa (Bono's site)
  • El Circulo de Mujeres/Circle of Women
  • Engineering Ministries International
  • Episcopal Peace Fellowship
  • Episcopal Relief and Development
  • FreshMinistries
  • Global Campaign Against Poverty
  • Global Ministries
  • Global Work Ethic Fund -- Promoting philanthropy and fundraising in developing and transition countries.
  • Karen Emergency Relief Fund
  • Magdalene House
  • The M.K. Gandhi Institute for Nonviolence
  • Natural Capitalism
  • NetMarkAid - Humanitarian Entrepreneurs
  • North American Association for the Diaconate
  • Peace Child International
  • People Building Peace
  • Project Honduras
  • Results - Creating political will to end hunger
  • St. Paul's Institute
  • Stop Global AIDS
  • TakingITGlobal -- connecting youth for action in local and global communities
  • Tanzania Educational AIDS Mission
  • TEAR (Transformation, Empowerment, Advocacy, Relief) - An Australian Christian anti-poverty movement
  • Working For Change
  • Xigi.net -- an open-source tool to aid discovery in the capital markets that fund good.

    Some Episcopal churches and dioceses doing cool things
  • Companions of Swaziland - Diocese of Iowa's Companion Relationship
  • International Development Missions -- St. Paul's Church, Sparks, NV
  • The Malaria Villages Project - St. Paul's Church, West Whiteland, PA

    Must-read books and websites about them
  • What Can One Person Do: faith to heal a broken world -- Sabina Alkire & Edmund Newell
  • The End of Poverty -- Jeffrey Sachs

    Learn more about things you really should know more about
  • UN Millenium Development Goals
  • The Millennium Campaign
  • AIDS Matters - a resource for global AIDS professionals
  • Christian Aid's in-depth report: "Millennium Lottery: Who lives and who dies in an age of third world debt?"
  • Foreign Policy In Focus
  • Poverty Mapping
  • Solutions for a water-short world
  • Transparency International: The global coalition against corruption
  • UNICEF's State of The World's Children report 2005

    General cool and/or goofy stuff
  • Alicebot chat robot
  • Bono Quotes -- but what's really wild is that it's from a page on Boycottliberalism.com!
  • Buffy Slanguage
  • Big Bunny

    Useful web tools
  • Gcast - make your own podcast
  • Podzinger - podcast search engine
  • Orb - streaming digital media

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    Listed on Blogwise
  • Wednesday, March 22, 2006

    Next time I go to church, I will:

    This week, Robin and Schroedter are on spring break, which means that I don't have to be home at 7:30 am to take care of Hayden while they leave for school ... which means I could do something this morning I've wanted to do for quite awhile - go to the Wednesday, 7 a.m. service at Christ Church Cathedral.

    The service is the creation of the Rev. Dr. John Kilgore (for most Rev. Drs., the "dr." part is an academic title -- John is an actual medical doctor -- in fact one of the finest cardiologists around). I've known John since he was a parishioner at the Church of St. Michael and St. George, where I was an associate my first job out of seminary. He's just one of the finest people and priests I know. And the service is great -- about 20 or so folks, many of them stopping in early on their way to work.

    For me to get to the Cathedral meant getting up early enough to shower, dress, scrape the ice off the car and drive the 15 minutes to downtown. Not a tremendously difficult ordeal, all things considered. And this morning, well worth it.

    I came home and in my email box was the latest post from Stephanie Rhodes' blog (Steph, you may recall, is spending a semester in the Occupied Territories ... Bethlehem, to be specific ... as her practicum for her Master's of Public Health from UAB). Somebody tagged her with one of those blog questionnaires so she was playing along (she tageed me at the end of it, so I should be doing that in this space ... but I'm writing this instead -- maybe later), and one of the "finish this sentence" questions was this:
    Next time I go to church, I will:

    and her answer was
    ...have to pass through a checkpoint.
    It could have been easy to gloss over, nestled as it was between "If I had only:" (been a trust fund baby) and "What worries me most" (making decisions about my future). And I think that's what sticks with me the most about it -- how it just was a part of the list, like it was perfectly natural to have to pass through a checkpoint to go to church.

    I think you really know that sin and brokenness are the norm when you get used to things that you should never have to get used to -- that NOBODY should ever have to get used to. I saw it in Sudan when people didn't blink an eye when teens walked around with automatic weapons and every mother talked about burying their children. You see it in Northern Uganda where the children walk miles roundtrip daily to keep away from abduction by the LRA -- it's just a part of life.

    We see it on our own streets when children have to join gangs to be safe and women aren't supposed to walk alone at night.

    I don't know where I'm going with this ... and maybe it's because I just came back from church myself ... but the image stays with me. I don't know if I should feel grateful that I don't have to do this or sad that some do.

    Mostly, it just makes me stop and sit with it for awhile.
    Mike at 3/22/2006 08:31:00 AM

    Saturday, March 18, 2006
    It Passed!

    Good news, friends.

    Thanks to everyone who took the time to call or email their senators about the Santorum-Durbin amendment, which adds $566 million to U.S. contributions to the Global Fund to fight AIDS, TB and Malaria (and maintains the agreed upon 1-to-2 contribution ratio between the U.S. and other donors).

    The amendment passed as part of a bloc of other amendments to the budget by a voice vote.

    FYI, in addition to Rick Santorum and Richard Durbin, other co-sponsors were:

    Sen Dayton, Mark [MN] - 3/14/2006
    Sen Stabenow, Debbie [MI] - 3/14/2006
    Sen Clinton, Hillary Rodham [NY] - 3/14/2006
    Sen Boxer, Barbara [CA] - 3/14/2006
    Sen Sarbanes, Paul S. [MD] - 3/14/2006
    Sen Kerry, John F. [MA] - 3/14/2006
    Sen Feinstein, Dianne [CA] - 3/15/2006
    Sen Sununu, John E. [NH] - 3/15/2006
    Sen Lautenberg, Frank R. [NJ] - 3/15/2006
    Sen Hagel, Chuck [NE] - 3/16/2006

    The actual text of the amendment is:

    Congress makes the following findings:
    (1) The HIV/AIDS pandemic has reached staggering proportions. Over 40,000,000 people are living with HIV/AIDS worldwide, and 5,000,000 more people become infected each year. HIV/AIDS is estimated to kill 3,000,000 men, women, and children each year.

    (2) The United States was the first, and remains the largest, contributor to the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria (referred to in this section as the ``Global Fund'').

    (3) The Presidential Administration of George W. Bush (referred to in this section as the ``Administration'') has supported legislative language that links United States contributions to the Global Fund to the contributions of other donors, permitting the United States to provide 33 percent of all donations, which would match contributions on a 1-to-2 basis.

    (4) As of the date of the approval of this Resolution, Congress has provided 1/3 of all donations to the Global Fund since its inception.

    (5) The Global Fund currently estimates that during fiscal year 2007, it will renew $1,600,000,000 worth of effective programs that are already operating on the ground, and the Administration and Global Fund Board have said that renewals of existing grants should receive priority funding.

    (6) The Global Fund estimates that during fiscal year 2007, it could award $1,000,000,000 in funding to proposals submitted for Round 6.

    (7) For fiscal year 2007, the President has requested $300,000,000 for the United States contribution to the Global Fund.

    (8) The Global Fund is an important component of the United States efforts to combat AIDS, tuberculosis, and malaria, and supports approximately 350 projects in 130 countries.

    (9) Through a mid-year review process, Congress and the Administration will assess contributions to date and anticipated contributions to the Global Fund, and ensure that United States contributions, at year end, are at the appropriate 1-to-2 ratio.

    (10) Congress and the Administration will monitor contributions to the Global Fund to ensure that United States contributions do not exceed 1/3 of the Global Fund's revenues.

    (11) The United States will need to contribute $566,000,000 more than the President's fiscal year 2007 request for the Global Fund to--

    (A) fund 1/3 of renewals during fiscal year 2007;

    (B) support at least 1 new round of proposals in fiscal year 2007; and

    (C) maintain the 1-to-2 funding ratio
    Mike at 3/18/2006 02:11:00 PM

    What Does It Look Like?

    We've probably all heard the statistic by now -- 1.2 billion people living on less than one dollar a day.

    But what does that really mean? What does that really look like when you put a human face on it.

    BBC news online did just that. Click on this link and then click on the pictures on the map for the stories.

    You'll read about:

    *Adu, (pictured above) who works as a security officer in Lagos, Nigeria.

    *Lily, who works as a tailor in a clothing factory in Nairobi, Kenya

    *Aristides, who works as a driver in Luanda, Angola

    *Pedze, who works as a payments officer in Mutare, Zimbabwe

    Truth be told, each of these stories is about someone who makes a little more than a dollar a day -- which gives you some idea how truly desparate life must be for those 1.2 billion.

    Every one a name. Every one a face. Every one the image of God. Every one a temple in which Christ is to be met.
    Mike at 3/18/2006 10:35:00 AM

    Friday, March 17, 2006
    Falling in Love

    A friend sent me this quote:

    Nothing is more practical than finding God, that is, than falling in love in a quite absolute, final way.

    What you are in love with, what seizes your imagination, will affect everything. It will decide what will get you out of bed in the morning, what you will do with your evenings, how you will spend your weekends, what you read, who you know, what breaks your heart, and what amazes you with joy and gratitude.

    Fall in love, stay in love and it will decide everything.
    It's one of those nice quotes that float in herds through email inboxes, but this one caught my attention.

    I've been talking and emailing with the people who just got back from Lui, Sudan and the teams that went before. For the people just back, there is such passion and excitement in their voices. For those of us who have been before, we are hungry for news -- and thoroughly enjoying seeing our friends finally "get" what it is that we felt when we went there and when we came back.

    It really is falling in love. And it has everything to do with Christ. When I went to Ghana, when I went to Sudan, I fell in love with the Christ I met in the people there. My heart was captured. My imagination was set on fire. It's why I have the job I have now. It's why I left a job I loved to take this one. And, thinking back -- it's why I had the job I had before -- because I met Christ in deeply wonderful and joyful ways in people like Amber and Sarah and Noah and Cori and Peter and Ellen and Christiana and so many others in that first class that I was hooked.

    And it's what is driving this movement for the Millennium Development Goals in the Church. Falling in love. Evelyn Piety, who is our EGR contact for the Diocese of the Central Gulf Coast, said that in her work as United Thank Offering Coordinator for that Diocese, she learned never to talk about money but to talk about thankfulness and the money took care of itself. That's the same thing. That's why this movement isn't about social service or about being a global Episcopal version of the United Way.

    This movement is about falling in love. It's about meeting Christ in strange and wonderful and scary places and falling completely in love so that it changes our lives - whether we want it to or not. It makes us leave secure jobs for jobs where we have to raise money for our own salaries! It makes us get on rickety planes bound for places the State Department says we shouldn't go and sleep with scorpion-like spiders scurrying around our mud huts. It makes us read and listen to and watch things that our lives would be far more comfortable ignoring -- and let our hearts be touched by them.

    It's also a gift. People go through their whole lives without falling in love, and it's not necessarily vice on their part. We should all pray to fall in love this way. But when it happens, we also need to band together -- partly because it takes courage to follow the messy, scary way of this love ... but mostly because it is so much better when it is shared.
    Mike at 3/17/2006 09:15:00 AM

    Thursday, March 16, 2006
    Some Quick Hits

    Two blogs to check out:

    First, the blog from the recent group from the Diocese of Missouri to travel to Lui, Sudan.

    Second, another reaction to Invisible Children.

    More later.
    Mike at 3/16/2006 11:04:00 PM

    Wednesday, March 15, 2006
    March Madness as Lenten Discipline

    If you're like me, your thoughts this time of year turn to college basketball and the NCAA Tournament. I used to scratch this itch with ECM's "March Gladness" pool, which took the $5 entry fees and donated them to the charity of choice of the winner.

    This year, I don't have that community, but I still want to do something. So, starting with my community of fellow Gen Xers (via. the Gathering the NeXt Generation listservs) as a base, I've created a Yahoo Tournament Pool for any and all interested.

    It costs NOTHING ... which of course means the grand prize is nothing but the admiration of your colleagues, the annoyance of people who have no idea who you are ... and whatever treasures get stored up in heaven for this sort of thing. Mostly, it's just for fun.

    So, before tipoff tomorrow (Thursday) follow the instructions below and put in your bracket. It can take as little as 4 minutes to do (which is about as much time as I put into mine).

    The more the merrier. I'll post updates to the list after each round.


    In order to join the group (named "GTNG Lenten Discipline"), just go to the game front page and click on the "Sign Up" button to create a team.

    After completing registration, or if you already have a team, click the "Create or Join Group" button and follow the path to join an existing private group. Then, when prompted, enter the following information...

    Group ID#: 119049
    Password: slacker

    Oh ... and it will help if you use your name as your team name ... otherwise I don't think we will know who is who.

    Happy Hoopin'!
    Mike at 3/15/2006 10:34:00 AM

    Tuesday, March 14, 2006
    The New Politics: If you want to save 'em in Darfur, you've gotta kill 'em in Iraq

    Had a great meeting yesterday with Michelle Bogdanovich, a staffer in Rep. Lacy Clay's office. I can't ever remember Clay voting in a way that didn't make me extremely proud to be in his district, so it was an easy meeting. But that doesn't mean I didn't learn some disturbing things.

    I asked Michelle about humanitarian funding for Darfur and support of the African Union, and she said that the Congressman might have to vote against it. Not because he was against it, but because how it was being introduced.

    It seems that yesterday Rep. Jerry Lewis of California's 41st introduced, on behalf of the Republicans in Congress, a supplemental appropriations bill yesterday -- HR4939. It includes some great stuff -- $253 million to sustain the African Union forces that are trying to hold the janjaweed at bay in Darfur and $66 million in humanitarian assistance in Darfur. It also includes $350 million in humanitarian food aid and a whopping $19.1 billion for hurricane relief in the Gulf Coast.

    Fantastic, you say? Yeah ... well, except to get all these wonderful things you also have to vote for $67.9 billion in supplemental military spending for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. (Michelle sent me a summary of the bill that I can't find anywhere else, email me at MKinman at gmail (dot) com if you want me to forward it to you -- it's too long to put here).

    The equation becomes simple. If you want to save 'em in Darfur, you've gotta kill 'em in Iraq and Afghanistan. If you want to rebuild the Gulf Coast, you've got to send more tanks into Baghdad.

    The reasoning is clear. It isi getting more and more difficult for the president to get support in Congress for the war -- so he and Congressional Republicans have to attach the funding to things that are difficult to vote against -- like Katrina relief and help for Darfur. It's an end around.

    This is offensive on at least two levels. The first is the obvious -- the obscenity of being made to support killing in order to help the dying. But the second is what really bothered Michelle even more. She said she'd been in Washington for 30 years and had never seen this kind of "by any means necessary" politics used to get agendas and funding across. Things like Darfur and military appropriations and hurricane relief should be voted on separately -- they are separate decisions -- and until recently they usually were. But not anymore.

    And because the Democrats are the minority party, they don't have the votes to sustain a motion to separate -- which is the one thing that could right this wrong and give the Congress a fair shot at voting each one of these appropriations on their own merit.

    Michelle told me all this because she had to let me know that she couldn't guarantee that Congressman Clay would vote for something as slam dunk as aid for Darfur -- something he ardently supports -- because he just as ardently opposes the war. He -- and all of us -- are forced into an ethical dilemna. An administration that claims to be steeped in prayer and Gospel has made us choose between Matthew 25 and Matthew 5

    So as you're calling your senators today about the Santorum-Durbin amendment, place a call to your representatives and let them know that you think this stinks. Let them know that you think that things like war appropriations, hurricane relief and development/humanitarian assistance are separate and important issues that should be discussed and voted on separately.

    Shenanigans like this are allowed to happen because nobody makes a fuss. And the people to make a fuss to are the people you put in office.
    Mike at 3/14/2006 09:57:00 AM

    Monday, March 13, 2006

    Heading to the Hill

    Today, we have our lobbying visits on the hill. And we have a specific ask that needs your help, too.

    The current FY2007 budget before Congress cuts in half the amount designated for the Global Fund to $300 billion - which is less than 1/3 of what is needed for the fund to be viable.

    Fortunately, a bipartisan pair of senators, Rick Santorum (R-PA) and Richard Durbin (D-IL) will be introducing an ammendment as early as today to add $566 million to the Global Fund (for a total of $866 million).

    Is the Global Fund worth our money? You bet! Consider this:

    *The Global Fund (a multilateral initiative) is working in 130 countries – expanding prevention as well as treatment. (Compare this with the president's bilateral initiative - PEPFAR - which is doing good work but in only 15 countries)

    *The Global Fund provides 3/4 of all global HIV spending, 2/3 of TB spending, 1/2 of malaria spending.

    *The Global Fund has put 400,000 people on lifesaving treatment

    *The Global Fund has treated one million people for TB

    For more information on the Global Fund, go to http://www.theglobalfund.org/en/. More info on Global AIDS is available at http://www.globalaidsalliance.org/. Find out what ERD is doing about Global AIDS at http://www.er-d.org/programs_41310_ENG_HTM.htm

    Here's what you can do:

    *Call your senators RIGHT NOW and ask them to co-sponsor the Santorum-Durbin Amendment. You can find your senator's names at www.senate.gov.
    Also, you can go to http://episcopal.grassroots.com/ -- and if you are a member of the Episcopal Public Policy Network it will link you to that info. And if you're not ... well you get to join!

    *The capitol switchboard is 202-224-3121. Just dial it and ask to speak to your Senator's office. When someone answers in the office, ask to speak to the staffer who handles foreign policy.

    *Whtn the staffer answers, be simple, straightforward and specific. Say you are calling to urge your senator to co-sponsor the Santorum-Durbin Amendment to contribute an additional $566 million to the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, TB and Malaria. This is an essential part of the president's commitment to fight global AIDS. It is also a part of our commitment to the Millennium Develoment Goals.

    I've got three meetings today. Lacy Clay (my excellent MO. District 1 representative) and then our Missouri senators -- Kit Bond and Jim Talent. Only I'm sure our meetings will be with staffers and not actually with them. Then it's meetings with some great folks at National Cathedral with Cathedral College and the Center for Global Justice and Reconciliation about working with EGR ... and then home AT LAST!

    Oh, and if you have a moment, click over to Neha's blog and read her reflection on the street harrassment women in India experience. It's eye-opening.
    Mike at 3/13/2006 07:57:00 AM

    Sunday, March 12, 2006

    Invisible Children

    There really aren't words for what I've just seen. But I need to try, so at the very least you will click on a weblink -- and hopefully do a lot more.

    Reynolds Whalen, Gary Cartwright and +John Lipscomb have introduced me to what is happening in Northern Uganda. The Lord's Resistance Army has been waging a 20-year war against the Ugandan government ... but more truthfully it has been waging the war against its own people, particularly the children. (they also are being funded by the Khartoum government in Sudan and have been taking their war across the border into Southern Sudan).

    The LRA gets soliders by abducting children between the ages of 5-13, brutally conditioning them and training them to be killers through desensitation, abuse, torture, manipulation and murder. A lucky few escape.

    In the small villages of Northern Uganda, children live in continual fear. Every evening, while their parents stay to protect their meager land and belongings, the children walk for miles into the city, where they are safe from the rebels. They by the hundreds and thousands in parking lots, bus depots and anywhere they can find space. Before dawn they begin their journey back and the cycle continues.

    Three Americans in their early 20s went to Northern Uganda in 2003, documented the stories of these children and turned it into this film: Invisible Children. It's a little less than an hour and it may be the most amazing and powerful film I've ever seen. It lays out very plainly, very truthfully, the lives of these children.

    I could describe the film beyond that, but it would do such an injustice to it that I won't even try. Go to the website and you can see many clips and read the story and learn about the movement to put pressure on the U.S. government to bring an end to this conflict.

    There is no reason for this conflict to continue. No moral reason and, frankly, no political reason. When you try to argue for intervention in Darfur, you at least get the (weak, IMO) argument that the combination of China's oil dealings with the Khartoum government and their seat on the security council makes it impossible for any U.N. resolution or peacekeepers to be dispatched. There is not even that kind of block in Uganda. All that keeps the U.S. government from having a coherent policy of putting pressure on the Ugandan government to stop the LRA abductions -- and for leading the way for international intervention -- is lack of political will.

    I'm coming home with several DVDs of this. Reynolds and Landen, I've got one earmarked for you and ECM. This directly relates to our relationship with Southern Sudan (and Reynolds can continue to help us connect those dots), so as a diocese, this is important for us.

    I'm thinking we also need to include this in EGR's General Convention presence. Have a screening of the film. Have the bishops from there, who have worked with Bishop Lipscomb and others, be available to tell their story. Certainly the fourth Millennium Development Goal: Reduce Child Mortality doesn't just have to do with disease but with children who are being slaughtered and live in death's fearful shadow.

    Please take 10 minutes right now and go to the Invisible Children website and just poke around. Especially look at the ways you can help. (and check out Human Rights Watch for advocacy resources) And tell your friends, your coworkers, your fellow parishioners. Tell anyone. Tell everyone.
    Mike at 3/12/2006 12:53:00 PM

    Saturday, March 11, 2006

    The Terminator

    Of all the workshops I signed up for today, there was none I was as looking forward to and as anxious about than the one about trade and Africa. And the title of the workshop summed both feelings up for me: Global and Regional Trade Systems: Empty Promises for Africa.

    Of all the arenas my involvement with the Millennium Development Goals have drawn me into, none is at once as important and perplexing to me as trade. Good people, prayerful people, faithful people tell me widely different things about things like "free trade" -- which is difficult enough to reconcile. But the debate is more vehement than any I know -- with each side alternately calling the other evil self-aggrandizing manipulators and wacked-out anarchists.

    I have never heard a reasoned, evenhanded debate on the merits of different positions about trade. The debate would have you believe that it is a clear choice between good and evil -- only each side believes to the core that they are the former and the other is the latter.

    I didn't figure I would get such a reasoned conversation in this workshop ... and I was right. And the cases made by the speakers were compelling that free trade and the rules which govern it are written and enforced by the West -- and therefore the deck is always going to be stacked to their benefit. The stories they tell certainly jive with the stories I heard and the things I saw in Ghana -- the inability of people to add value to their product, trade rules that supported a system of de facto indentured servitude, a system in Ghana that allowed Western companies literally to own the gold in Ghana's ground, the means of getting it out and to exercize control over the government officials who would be the only hope of keeping significant pieces of that wealth in the country.

    But the other arguments ring in my head, too. More and more, I think the problem is that free trade is something that sounds good ... and theoretically if we could get to a place where everyone was on a level playing field it would be the best system ... but we're not at that point. And until we are, because human nature is for the powerful to use their power to their advantage and at the expense of others, the result is devastating.

    In some ways, there is a parallel to the arguments about affirmative action in our country. People against it argue that it is racist and that it defies the goal of a color-blind society. But all they are showing is that they don't understand the culture of privilege. That in a world that was color blind and with no inequalities of privilege of course affirmative action wouldn't be necessary. But sometimes artificial systems are needed as interim steps to achieve a balance.

    It was all still murky when an incredible woman took the microphone. Her picture is above. Her name is Wahu Kaara, and she is the MDG person for the All Africa Council of Churches, a member of the U.S.-Southern Africa Customs Union free trade agreement Working Group ... and a candidate for president of Kenya.

    And she began (with me typing furiously trying to capture every impassioned word. She rattled off various terms used in the trade conversation -- buzz words -- and she said:

    "It's jargon. And this jargon is a conspiracy. And I have no business dealing with a conspiriacy.

    "Trade ... we learn from history it is one way that people have been able to come up with as a strategy to create wealth. They create wealth because they have had enough to eat and then to exchange with others, to add value to what they have been able to create. For those who have enough ... it is a very good arrangement for them....

    "Slavery was another very good trade arrangment. Colonialism was another very good trade arrangement.... In the name of civilizing those who don’t know any civilization. Until people realized that relationship is not right and made it not acceptable....

    "We are here now with globalization. The trade arrangements is not acceptable. Is unjust, is a conspiracy."

    And then she continued, speaking of her own life in Kenya:

    "We produce coffee. It has broken our mother’s backs. It has totally destroyed our environment because of the agribusiness bringing wrong chemicals to our soils and health hazards to us who get involved in this.

    "This is because the conspiracy is we grow what we do not need and import what we do not need. That is not acceptable. We grow coffee – we do not even drink that coffee. I need food. We have no food security policies in place in Kenya.

    "I’m a small scale farmer of coffee myself. One kilo of coffee to the farmer is paid even in currency that can neer buy anyting because shillings are not any kind of currency in kenyas. One kilo of coffee makes 600 cups. How much is a cup of coffee here? $3?... As far as Kenya is concerned, one kilo is paid between 2 shillings and 2 shillings, 50 cents. When you multiply when the cups have been sold, it goes to about 40,000 shillings, that one kilo of coffee.

    "You can see the lineup of all the people between the farmer and the drinker – that is the value added to sustain certain lifestyles and to sustain certain arrangements of the world."

    When she was talking, there was fire in her eyes and in her voice ... but then she turned it up even another notch:

    "There are historical processes that have enabled power to be centered in a particular way and exercized in a particular way. Where we are now is not acceptable, cannot work. We cannot continue growing and importing what we don’t need. It is wrong. My priority as an African woman is what my children eat. Food security is important to me."

    She definitely had me. But then her next words really hit home. They hit home because they echoed words I had heard spoken by people in Lui, in southern Sudan. They hit home because they were a finger pointed directly at my home, at St. Louis. She continued:

    "In Kenya, we have no business going into business with international corporations who are now endangering our lives with genetically modified food. And if people can decide what we eat, they can decide on how we think, how we act and how long we live. That’s where the danger is.

    "As I talk to you, Monsanto, the notorious agricultural company, is in my country, and my president is on record saying to his people the only way to deal with hunger is genetically modified foods. This is killing my people! How long will we carry this burden?"

    When we were in Lui, we heard firsthand about the effects of the terminator gene in the genetically engineered seed from Monsanto. (seriously, follow that last link and read the story). It's a patent-protective feature that means that the seed bought from Monsanto will yeild food but sterile seed, so that the seed (patented by Monsanto) cannot be sold with Monsanto cut out of the profits.

    Unfortunately, it also makes people dependent on Monsanto for seed. Even worse, because the seed spreads, it infects other fields -- even people who didn't/couldn't afford to buy Monsanto's seed -- and renders their seed sterile as well.

    Wahu Kaara phrased it biblically:

    "Read Genesis.. how the world was started. How it was patterned. The environment needs biodiversity. God allowed us also to be able to uitizlese the land but within certain structures or guidelines.

    "Monsanto is disobeying that order in imagining that they can be in charge of our lives in deciding how we eat....

    "They can say 'If Kenyans are not giving good profit, we are taking that seed to Nigeria.' and in that process when you interact with that seed it destroys the biodiversity of your own country. It is interfering with all the other vegetables.

    "Why do they have to take our genes? Who has control over our genes? It is only God. This is about the sacredness of life and the value of life. It is only God who has control. Why are we allowing people to take control over our lives. Do not interfere with my life."

    The argument has holes. Certainly there are modifications -- like dwarf wheat -- which have literally saved millions of lives from hunger. But the combination of trade organizations mandating growth of certain crops and developments like the terminator gene adversely affecting biodiversity need to be looked at theologically -- in terms of stewardship of the creation God has given us.

    If you go to the Monsanto website, you'll see this logo. I'm someone who likes to believe the best in people and despite the ability of corporate action to drag us to the least common denominator of ethical behavior by sufficiently distancing us from the actions and consequences, I always remind myself that corporations are people to.

    And in the instance of Monsanto, those people are people with whom I live and worship. Our former diocesan treasurer, a wonderful man named Dick Clark, is the vice president and controller of Monsanto. Monsanto gave land and donations to the Danforth Plant Science Center in amounts exceeding $50 million. Knowing the Danforths as people of high lived integrity, I have to believe that their intentions are not to impoverish the world but to benefit it.

    And yet we have the reality. Reality that apparently is easy dismissed around the negotiating table but which strong, amazing like Wahu Kaara and Bullen Dolli insist are killing their people and sentencing them to de facto subsistence slavery.

    I've spoken with our bishop before about arranging a conversation. Let's get Bishop Bullen and some people from Lui in the same room with Dick Clark and maybe some others. Let them tell their stories -- all of them. Let us assume the best from each other and call ourselves to the highest standards of compassion and love for each other and for our planet.

    I went up to Wahu after the session and thanked her. When I had told her that some of the people in Monsanto were in my church, she seemed surprised they went to church -- so complete was her demonization of them. I understand her anger, even if I am not in her shoes. And though it is my privilege not to have her sense of immediacy and anger, I still believe that we need to be careful to distinguish between actions that have demonic consequences ... participating in the demonic ... and people themselves being demonic.

    I told her of my dream to get these people together in one room. To have stories told and to pray and talk and dream together. I asked her that if I pulled it off, would she come? She said yes ... but did so with an interesting mixture of joy and bemusement -- and she was probably right. Right that it is ideas like this from which great hope springs. Right that I have no idea what I'm getting into in talking about something like this.

    But when I get back to St. Louis and we meet as a Companion Diocese Committee, this is what I will talk about. Of all the effects we can have with this relationship, if by some chance those conversations could happen and true listening could occur and the stories of each could change the hearts of enemies into partners and friends, than that would be extraordinary indeed. And a chance like that ... no matter how small ... is worth taking.
    Mike at 3/11/2006 04:04:00 PM

    You Have the Power to Protect: Stop Genocide in Darfur

    Now that I had decided on this "blog as I go" strategy, I walked into this workshop on Darfur and was asked if I would yield my computer to be used for a powerpoint presentation because there's wasn't working. Well, it turns out mine didn't work with their projector either - but they let me keep an excellent powerpoint presentation on Darfur made by the U.S. Holocaust Museum (with a promise to credit them whenever I used it).

    One of the most interesting speakers here was an Armenian, whose own people went through a genocide in the early 20th century -- a genocide that is still denied. He talked about these genocides not being isolated incidents but "cycles of genocide" that are perpetuated by the lack of the international community to do something about each one.

    Basically, he said the problems in Darfur are the same as Armenia, the Holocaust, Cambodia, Bosnia and Rwanda. Whenever genocide is denied or allowed to continue it sends a message that genocide can be committed with impunity and emboldens future leaders. That's what we mean by a cycle of genocide.

    All three speakers spoke of the impotence of the African Union forces. Elnour Adam, a Darfurian who is the project director of the Darfur Rehabilitation Project said some powerful things:

    The African Union forces are helpless. In front of their eyes, the janjaweed, the government of Sudan is killing people and raping the women.... Those who are in the camps where supposedly they are protected by the African Union forces, they were for the second time driven out of the camps to go look for areas to be protected. This is happening in most of the areas.... There is killing going on as I am speaking right now. Their (the AU) presence is averting some of the perpetrators form killing. It's a good sign but it's not enough.

    "The good thing that the international community did was humanitarian aid. Morbidity rate is lower, mortality rate from diseases is lower. But more needs to be done. For exmaple, the World Food Programme only has funding for March."

    "95% of displaced people are villagers – farmers who are producing food for other darfurians but for last 3 seasons have cultivated nothing. The rest of the Darfurians will starve. Most of the other people are going to camps because they have nothing. They can’t go to their farms because of the insecurity. They are not effected directly but what is going on, but they are effected because they cannot go to their farms.

    "My mother is hosting about 30 families there – one lady, she is 72 years old and now she is hosting all these people."

    "The govt. of Sudan, they have a strategy of relocating the people. Those who are in the far cities near the agricultural areas, they don’t want them to stay there so they are attacking the IDP camps. Iin Jan. and Feb. around 30 camps were attacked and the people relocated far away from their land so they cannot go back to their land if any peace agreement is signed right now. The helpless AU forces are doing nothing."

    The Darfur Peace and Accountability Act has been stalled and it shows no signs of moving forward. There is a Senate act (Santorum-Durbin act) that has even better language. We can ask members of Congress to:

    -push the U.S. to authorize a U.N. resolution for a U.N. peacekeeping force
    -to support the Santorum-Durbin legislation
    -Go to Africa Action and this site to take action.

    Also, Africa Action is holding a free media training that you can participate in that will train you to interact with your local media and advocate for increased coverage of the Darfur genocide. It will deal with what's the key media message in light of recent developments and help talk about keys to successful letters to the editor and getting op-eds placed in newspapers and answer questions about launching a letter to the editor campaign. Here's the info:

    8 pm eastern time on Wednesday, March 15.
    Call in 1-866-613-5223 the passcode is 7662722

    If you plan to come, please RSVP at mobilize@africaaction.org
    It should run about an hour ... maybe a hair over.

    Some other great links:

    The Invisible Women of Darfur

    An excellent article from Human Rights Watch on the need for UN Peacekeepers.

    Find out about current and past legislation concerning Darfur through the Genocide Intervention Fund.

    One of the internal conflicts I feel talking about Darfur is that I feel like I talk about it a LOT and I wonder about reaching the tipping point where it becomes too much and people start tuning out. Then I remember that for most people, Darfur is not on their radar screen at all, the media coverage is so sparse and vague.

    The most powerful moment of this presentation was when Elnour talked about people dying "as I speak". Something about the immediacy of that language just made my heart go cold. Where is Christ? Christ is with those people. Christ is those people. If we believe Matthew 25, we are judged by what we let happen ... and what we hear today is that not only is it happening as I write this, as you read this, but unless we do something, it will continue to happen over and over again.

    Dorothy Sayers wrote a radio drama called "The Man Born to Be King" in which she talks about the dream Pontius Pilate's wife had (MT 27:19). In her mind, the dream was Pilate's wife hearing the words "suffered under Pontius Pilate" said ... not just by one person, but by generation after generation after generation of people for centuries in overlapping chorus.

    Pilate's wife had a dream because she and her husband had power ... and what haunted her was the wrong use of power.

    We are the most powerful nation on earth. Christ is being slaughtered as we speak. What words will be on the lips of choruses of generations to come about us?
    Mike at 3/11/2006 10:49:00 AM

    Building the Political Will to Fund the Fight against HIV/AIDS in Africa

    This is the opening plenary, and the speaker is Stephen Lewis, UN Secretary General’s special envoy for HIV/AIDS in Africa.

    Lewis is incredibly engaging and passionate (and a Canadian!). Most of what he is saying is not terribly surprising, but also not well-publicized. Some of it is anecdotal:
    "I remember not long ago visiting the grade 5 class at the David Livingston primary school in Harare, Zimbabwe where the teacher was doing a lifeskills class with her class. She asked her kids to write on pieces of paper what bothers them, worries them the most. All the kids - 10 years old with furrowed brow -- scribbled furiously and then the papers were put into a hat and she drew them out. 7 of 10 children had written the word DEATH. Death of a mother, father, uncle, friend.

    And I asked them, 'What do you do in the face of death?' and they said: 'Pray.'

    'To whom do you pray?' 'God'.

    And after the class I was talking to the teacher and said 'I don't understand the talk about prayer as a response.' And the teacher said, 'You don't understand. If you went to funerals at lunchtime and afterschool , and you spend your weekends going to funerals, then you would understand that your only solace in the face of this is God."


    The grandmothers are heroes. They bury their own adult children then they care for their grandchildren. They begin to parent again at the age of 50 and 60. No money for school fees. No money for food and clothes."

    His foundation is funding a project in Canada that is pairing Canadian grandmothers with African grandmothers.

    'In order to do that in a way that is respectful to African grandmothers, we’re going to bring a large number of African grandmothers to Canada and gather them with Canadian grandmothers – a grandmother’s gathering (October) – so that they gather together and the Canadian grandmother listen to the African gm’s needs, concerns and priorities and then they will respond as they can. A marriage of respect and understanding.'


    "This constellation of a continent fighting for survival is real, it sears into the mind, fractures the soul, rivets the heart, you just know when you are there that there is a quotient of injustice that is inconsiconable in the modern world. But there is also hope. We’re beginning to roll out treatment. (The World Health Organization's) 3 by 5 initiative – 3 million in treatment by 2005. We didn’t reach it, but we unleashed a momentum for treatment that is irreversible. Goal is universal access to treatment by 2010.

    "Drugs are now available in India sufficiently low in cost (negotiated by the Clinton foundarion) that everyone could be treated at no cost if the western world would deliver on the financial promises that were made.

    "When you put the constellation together. On one hand people fighting for survival. On the others the glimmers of hope as we begin to move forward. The essence of the response lies in the privileged community responding to those parts of the world that are underseiged."

    "The first test of Gleneagles (the G8 summit this summer) was the conference on the replenishment of the Global Fund. The Global Fund said we need 7.1 billion for 2006-7 to prolong existing programs and fund new programs. Everyone assumed they’d get the money. This was 8 weeks after Gleneagles. It was chaired by Kofi Annan. And it yielded 3.8 billion dollars, fell 3.3 billion short which will be counted in millions of lives.

    "It is a grim reminder that the commitments that were made one month can be betrayed literally two months later. It takes incredible tenacity to keep the governments to the promises they made."


    "The most effective lobbying is so tenacious so repetitive so constant that they give in just to be left alone.

    "You’re fighting because you ar epeople who are driven by a spritiual sense of what is social justice and what is equality. Because the inequalities are so graceless, so ugly as to necessitate compensatory justice."


    "This world, in 2005 spent more than 1 trillion on arms. First time we passed 1 trillion since the cold war. The hundreds of billions being spent to fight wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.

    "There is a disparity between the hundreds of billions spent on conlict and the tiny smidgeon of dollars required to repair and rescue the human condition. The disparity speaks to a loss of moral anchor in this world. You are moral people. It’s the struggle to reaffirm that moral sense internationally that your lobbying and your work is about. There is nothing more noble in human activity than to repair or rescue the human condition."


    A few of my own comments:

    I've been having conversations over time with people like Maureen Shea and Alex Baumgarten (Office of Govt. Relations) and Louie Crew about 0.7% giving and its effectiveness. There is a stream of thought that personal giving is more about assuaging individual consciences and that the real change will come from political advocacy. We all agree that this is wrongheaded.

    The spirit of the MDGs is that giving is not done in traditional paternalistic donor-recipient models but about giving money in ways that build partnership (the 8th MDG that makes all the others happen). That's our goal when we ask people, congregations, dioceses and even the whole church to do 0.7% giving -- and give in ways that encourage growing partnerships for development. And that's where many dioceses' companion diocese relationships are such gifts.

    It's not charity. It's resourcing partnership.

    Stephen Lewis was definitely a proponent of advocacy as the number 1 way to do good in this area (not surprising given his position and that this is an advocacy conference!). I think he's right. So many of the problems involve larger systems -- particularly when you get into legislative changes that are needed in governements, the power of huge chunks of foreign aid and the need for trade reform.

    But I hate the argument that the 0.7% giving on the personal, congregational and diocesan level is a bad place to put energy. Again, I'm not saying that Stephen, Maureen, Alex and Louie are saying this -- but I get that argument sometimes. And I think it's creating a false dichotomy.

    Our faith is one of incarnation. The Word of God is an eternal, mind- and spirit-blowing thing -- but humanity was able to apprehend it in a way that was incredibly significant when that Word became flesh... was incarnated in a form that engaged us, that was like us, that intersected our lives.

    When I talk with people and groups about 0.7% it's not that if you do that you've done your piece and can go home now. It's about incarnation. It's about giving something absolutely gi-normous flesh in your life in a small way ... a way that can then grow. And it should grow into the political advocacy of the kind that is being incarnated in meetings like this.

    Once you engage in a true partnership, true communion, barriers fall away. Who we help with our wallets, we help with our voices. It's a natural flow.

    I think people who work in global poverty are so used to dealing with scarcity mindsets that they tend to adopt them. We need to not do that because our God is a God of abundance. It's not either advocacy or giving. It's not either prayer or action. It's both ... and all ... and they all feed into each other.

    More in a bit.
    Mike at 3/11/2006 09:23:00 AM

    Ecumenical Advocacy Days -- live blogging

    I'm in Washington, D.C. at Ecumencial Advocacy Days -- a gathering of about 1,000 people from a variety of denominations and faith-based organizations learning about (mostly global) social justice issues and getting lobbying training.

    I'm on the "Africa Track" -- which means what I will be doing will be concentrating on issues facing Africa and then lobbying on Capitol Hill on Monday for things like the Durbin-Santorum ammendment to the budget to increase funding for the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, TB and Malaria.

    Since this conference is in a wired hotel and since I'm going to have too much data and too little energy to post at days' end, I'm going to try some live blogging -- hitting highlights as I go through the day. Here goes:
    Mike at 3/11/2006 09:19:00 AM

    Thursday, March 09, 2006
    If you're still interested...

    The continuation of my brother's and my debate over the Democratic Party, Dubai Ports and other such things is continued in post and comment on his blog.

    Also, many thanks to all who participated in the earring survey. As compelling as Nicole's argument about my "inner earring" was and as much as I was moved by Leine McNeely's "inner picture of me" ... the most compelling argument was from Lou Ann Faria:

    "if they don't like you with your earring, screw'em."

    Right now, I kinda like that. It stays.
    Mike at 3/09/2006 04:16:00 PM

    Water policy 'fails world's poor'

    Did you know:

    *There are one billion people without access to clean drinking water.
    *There are 2.6 billion people without adequate sanitation.
    *Rapid urbanization is increasing pressure on water resources
    *30-40% of water is 'lost" through illegal tapping and leaks.

    (source: UN World Water Report)

    Growing up in the desert southwest, I'm no stranger to water conservation. Unfortunately, the cities of Phoenix, Los Angeles and Las Vegas are great strangers to it ... which is why we are draining the aquifer that feeds the Colorado River to the point where the Arizona-California border at Yuma is basically a dry river bed.

    If world wars are fought this century, they will not be over oil, they will be over water. It's ironic, when you consider that 3/4 of the earth's surface is covered with the stuff ... but we haven't put the money into desalinization technologies to make them effective, efficient and affordable. Things like embracing the Kyoto Protocol as a first step toward reducing pollution would be a nice move, too.

    As always, remember to pray, educate and act. A good way to start is reading this report below from BBC News Online (thanks to Ann Fontaine for forwarding it to me):

    Almost 20% of the world's population still lacks access to safe drinking water because of failed policies, an influential report has concluded.

    The UN World Water Development Report also blames a lack of resources and environmental changes for the problem.

    The study calls for better leadership if a goal of halving the proportion of people without proper access to safe water by 2015 is to be achieved.

    The findings will be outlined next week at the World Water Forum in Mexico.

    Described as the most comprehensive assessment to date of the world's freshwater supplies, the report said that politicians, businesses and aid charities all had a role to play in addressing the problem.

    it continues...

    Unless there was a marked improvement, the report warned, regions such as sub-Saharan Africa would not meet the UN Millennium Development Goal of halving the proportion of people without access to safe drinking water between 1990 and 2015.

    Only 12% of nations had managed to meet a deadline to introduce an effective water strategy by 2005.

    Changes to the global climate were also having an impact. The report found that many regions' river and groundwater levels were falling because of lower rainfall and higher evaporation rates.

    Read the whole story here.

    Also, read a synopsis of the UN report here.

    Here is a map of the "water footprint" of the world's nations so you can tell the huge difference in per capita use.

    When I arrived in Ghana, James greeted me at his house with a glass of water. It was the traditional greeting because "water is life." Our own water consumption patterns -- even simple things like having low-flow toilets, not leaving the water running when brushing teeth or washing dishes -- make a big difference, as do our advocacy efforts.
    Mike at 3/09/2006 03:40:00 PM

    Reject the Scandalous Bush Budget

    »Click here to reject the scandalous Bush budget!
    Here's the latest missive from Sojourners with an opportunity to speak out against the 2007 federal budget. And the information sojo.net gives you doesn't even include that among the programs cut were Child Survival and Health; the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis, and Malaria; and the US' international-family-planning program. All three of these key programs were slashed to their lowest levels in at least four years.

    Read and click, please.

    Quick quiz: From the following choices, who do you think would be most likely to label the latest Bush budget proposal "scandalous" because of cuts to education, health care, and more:

    a) Sen. Ted Kennedy (D-Mass.)
    b) Howard Dean (D-DNC)
    c) Michael Moore (D-a theater near you)
    d) Sen. Arlen Specter (R-Pa.)

    If you guessed d) Sen. Arlen Specter, you are correct, as reported in a Feb. 12 Boston Globe article. Republicans, Democrats, and thousands of people of conscience are raising their voices to call for moral budget priorities. Join them today!

    + Click here to reject the Bush budget

    If your gut reaction to this subject line was, "Didn't we do this last year?" then you're paying attention. Yes, a budget resolution has to be passed by Congress each and every year. Yes, this year's budget threatens low- and moderate-income families just like last year's proposals did. And yes, this year - like last year - you and thousands of other people of faith will stand up for the biblical principles of social justice and proclaim that budgets are moral documents. Yes, friends, it's déjà vu all over again. And this year we are even more determined to defeat draconian spending priorities that represent a reversal of our biblical values.

    + Click here to reject the Bush budget

    In budget debates, it's easy to get lost in the numbers. A billion in cuts for low-income families here, a billion in tax giveaways for millionaires there. So here's a sampling of what the Bush cuts would mean for real families if they are implemented:

    • Hunger would increase: 300,000 people would lose their food stamps during the next five years. Moreover, 40,000 children would lose eligibility for the school lunch program.
    • Working moms would pay the price: Roughly 400,000 children would be left without child care assistance during the next five years, according to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities. This would be a crushing blow for families trying to work themselves out of poverty.
    • Millionaires get richer: We have nothing against people who have worked hard and use their talents shrewdly. But cutting programs such as food stamps while offering $639 billion in tax cuts during the next 10 years to people who make more than $1 million - as the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities reports - is not only fiscally unsound, it's morally bankrupt.

    + Click here to reject the Bush budget

    Last year, people of faith like you caused an uproar Capitol Hill had never heard before in a budget debate. It was largely because people of faith acted that there were no food stamp cuts in the final budget bill. Moreover, a final budget bill that contained cuts to social programs was nearly defeated in the House and Senate with significant bipartisan opposition because of your voices. We need your prophetic voice again.

    + Click here to reject the Bush budget


    The Sojourners and Call to Renewal Organizing and Policy Team
    Adam, Christa, Laurna, Matt, Nadia, and Yonce

    Mike at 3/09/2006 03:11:00 PM

    Tuesday, March 07, 2006
    Shouting Against the Tide

    My last post generated a couple comments about my referring to the "stupid U.A.E. port fiasco" as "xenophobia gone wild".

    The comments were good, and I probably do need to back off the last bit -- but not off the first.

    I do think that race is a significant issue with the port story, but it was hyperbolic to phrase it in a way that intimated that anyone who was concerned about it was racially motivated. But race is an issue with this. Some things are true even if Karl Rove says them (not that that's even his motivation!). I would guess that the majority of Americans who are upset by this don't care as much about specific polices of the U.A.E. as they do that "we're turning our ports over to a bunch of A-rabs." At least that's the view from middle America.

    And, no matter what percentage is racially motivated, the whole thing is doing nothing to improve our already rock-bottom image in the Arab world . (witness this article in the Palestine Chronicle)

    But in a lot of ways that's splitting hairs. Whether we are outraged by this for legitimate reasons (as some are) or by racially motivated reasons (as some are) or by some combination of the two doesn't really matter ... because it's just more of the same stuff that has been and will continue to be completely ineffective.

    And it's what is continuing to ruin the Democratic Party.

    What the Dubai port scandal is -- besides something for 24-hour cable news to obsess over (and that's what this really is, what the Dick Cheney shooting is -- kernels of things that might actually be worth caring about overhyped to the point of working people up into a frenzy) -- is just the latest chapter in a pattern of behavior for the left that is utterly pointless and that will get us nowhere.

    We have become the party that is against Bush. And that is all we are. And it is killing us.

    It's not that any one of these instances -- the Dubai port, the Cheney shooting, the Katrina video, fill in the blanks with a hundred of them -- isn't important to some degree, isn't deplorable to some degree, isn't something that is evidence of a president/administration either completely out of touch, devoid of a substantive center or ethically deficient. We should be concerned about these things. But where is that concern getting us?

    Absolutely nowhere.

    I regularly get emails from people and organizations calling for President Bush to be impeached. I delete them immediately. Not because doing things like lying to get us into a war shouldn't be impeachable offenses but because it's just never, ever, never gonna happen. Like it or not, the president is going to serve out the rest of his term. And in 2008, the Republicans will run someone who will be able to effectively embrace what is still liked about him while distancing himself from what isn't.

    And yet, the Democratic party -- and liberals in general -- continue to spend huge amounts of energy flailing away at the president even though
    *he's not going to be impeached
    *his track record shows that repentance or reflective consideration followed by ammendment of life is probably less likely than impeachement
    *the next guy is going to be able to dodge the bad stuff.

    But even this seemingly futile flailing would have a point if it were followed immediately by a coherent, cohesive, compelling alternate vision for our country. And it is the lack of that that is killing us. Because without it (which is where the Democratic Party is), we end up looking like the kid in class who keeps pointing at the kid in class who always is bad but never gets caught saying "See! See! George is doing it again! Make him stop! I'm telling!"

    And that's what the Democratic Party and liberals in general have become. We've become master's of third-rate, third-grade diatribe. We've been reduced to pointing and shouting "liar, liar, pants on fire" and "Ummmmm ... he said a bad word" and "Look! Look! He did something bad!" Our whole identity has been consumed by a fanatical desire to expose President Bush for what he is and make him ... or anybody pay.

    And I really understand it. It's been an incredibly frustrating 5 1/2 years ... and looking forward to 2 1/2 more seems more than we can bear. We've all spent enough time staring at the TV seeing vapidity and great gaping moral and ethical voids and rhetoric that would insult the intelligence of my 7-year old. We're tired of him getting away with the inconceivable, so we've taken to shouting at every opportunity -- partly out of a blind, mistaken hope it will do some good and partly because it just feels good to shout.

    But it's killing us. Because as long as we continue to put our energy into tearing Bush down (who at a 34 percent approval rating can STILL get the Patriot Act through Congress), we will never develop what we really need -- an alternative vision, an identity of our own that isn't just an identity in opposition. Because that's what we need. We need the other way. And there is nobody in the party who is coming forward with that right now.

    So that's why I think the Dubai ports fiasco is stupid. It's stupid because instead of pointing our finger at the President and saying "isn't he stupid ... he's turning our port security over to people who support terrorists! Look! Look! Did you see him do that!" we should be saying "Current port security is unacceptable and, frankly, more than just a security risk but a national embarrassment. And here's what we need to do. For starters, we need to make sure that even though more and more things in a global economy get outsourced, that critical security doesn't just go to the lowest international bidder -- that we revamp our standards and practices to make sure that a higher percentage of incoming loads are inspected. And here's what else we need to do:"

    Should U.A.E. get port security contracts? Maybe yes (Jimmy Carter seems to think there's no security risk, and he hasn't exactly been soft on the Bush administration and tends to know his stuff globally) and maybe no. But that's not what this is about. This is about the left looking for anything it can to hammer the President with. And as long as we keep doing that instead of using that energy to develop a vision for America and find someone with the charisma and leadership ability to communicate it, we will continue to be the gang that can't shoot straight.

    So no, the port story is not "xenophobia gone wild" -- though I think Ian and Linda underestimate how much of this really is racially motivated -- but it is stupid and a waste of time. Not because the issue itself isn't important but because the way the left is dealing with is a dead end street we keep going down again and again.
    Mike at 3/07/2006 10:48:00 PM

    Sunday, March 05, 2006

    What a new "gilded age" may bring

    Once more, Clint Fowler's email bag has yielded a frightening gem. It's obvious to most that the gap between rich and poor in this country is widening. An article in today's Christian Science Monitor online has a cadre of economists verifying that but also saying that gap could have some consequences you might not think of:

    "• The white middle class may grow less tolerant of affirmative action and other efforts to help minorities - African-Americans, Hispanics, and Asians.

    • Reflecting public opinion, Congress could shrink programs for the poor.

    • Efforts to limit immigration, already growing, could expand further.

    • Reactionary politicians could win more votes and offices.

    • The class system in the country could become more rigid. As it is, because education is primarily paid by property taxes, children in wealthy communities get a better education than those living in poor towns. For children, education is a prime determinant of future income and class. Recent economic research finds that income mobility has already declined in the US.

    • With their wealth, the new "oligarchy" could maintain excessive influence in Washington through campaign contributions and support for lobbyists."

    Read the whole article here.

    I think there's a real opportunity for the Church here. Not the power grab of the religious right, but the chance for the Church truly to engage those with extreme wealth with the amazing possibilities of being a servant leader with that wealth. The U.S. could meet it's 0.7% annual commitment to make the Millennium Development Goals a reality just with the money given back to those making more than $400,000 a year by the Bush tax cuts.

    When you talk about large groups and movements of people, that's not where we're headed. For one thing, even when we get it right, we get it wrong. We finally put the Bush administration in thumbscrews for something ... and it's the wrong thing -- this stupid U.A.E. port fiasco, which is nothing more than xenophobia (fostered, admittedly, by this same administration) gone wild. (Are we really worried that the folks from Dubai are going to do a worse job with port security than is already being done with only 5 percent of shipments being inspected?).

    No, the change is going to happen person by person. By people with great wealth having transformative experiences and relationships and their hearts being turned. One of my great heroes in this is a former student of mine who inherited tens of millions of dollars when she turned 21. I have never seen anyone take stewardship as seriously as she does. She's forming a personal mission statement and a personal giving statement. She's praying through this. She wants not just to give her money away but give it away in the best, most effective way possible.

    She is an example of how we get to the other side of the CSM story. We need a lot more. Then maybe we'll be in for a real gilded age -- for everyone.
    Mike at 3/05/2006 10:24:00 PM

    The kippah in the confessional

    This is lifted from Stephanie Rhodes' blog -- with permisison, of course. You should just bookmark her blog so you can keep checking back and getting her take on life in the occupied territories:

    "Here's the hardest thing for me about being in palestine: i don't identify with the palestinians.

    i identify with the jews.

    more specifically, i identify with the israeli leftists who use their privileged identities to call for an end to the occupation.

    as the southern white girl, i identify with the unwitting occupiers. the ones who abhor the system and look with guilt at their undeserved privilege. that sense that, whether i wanted this privilege or not, i have it because of what my people did to their people.

    it reminds me of standing outside the national civil rights museum in memphis. for those of you who've never been, just walking to the entrance is an incredibly visceral experience. you literally happen upon the assassination scene, and it's tough to be prepared. i remember fighting back tears as i looked at it. i fought them back because i was embarrassed, because i didn't feel entitled to such an emotional response. i felt like the good white liberal who, nice as she was, just didn't get it.

    what the hell did i have to be crying about, except maybe guilt. guilt that masks all the ways i don't work to end racism and white privilege. i don't do much about it, but man do i feel bad about it.

    the more courageous israelis here remind me of the white person that i want to be."

    Mike at 3/05/2006 01:27:00 PM

    Saturday, March 04, 2006

    Piano For Sale!

    We're having to part with a lovely 1959 Steinway upright piano. It's been in Robin's family since it was first made and it's got a great sound and great action on the keyboard. The only reason we're selling it is that the piano I've had since I was little (a six-foot Kawaii) is on a truck headed our way and into our house and we don't have room for both.

    So, if you or someone you know would like a great piano for only $3500 -- or would like to hear more -- leave a comment here or email me. Ditto if you would be willing to put up a flier somewhere that you think it might do some good (Cecily??).

    Help us find this great instrument a great home!
    Mike at 3/04/2006 10:02:00 PM

    Friday, March 03, 2006

    Should it stay or should it go?

    OK, here's your internet poll. I've had an earring since January 2001, when I got it in Washington, D.C. I was at a Gen X preaching conference at the National Cathedral and went out to a place called JinxProof in Georgetown with Jennifer Baskerville, Marshall Shelly and Chris Rankin-Williams. Chris and Marshall were going to get tattoos (which they did -- St. George's crosses), I ended up getting my ear pierced and Jennifer weighed a tattoo but decided to just be bemused at the whole thing.

    I had thought about getting an earring before but I hadn't because I wanted to make sure I was doing it because it was something I wanted and not because I was trying to be something I wasn't (like cool!) but because it felt like me.

    Well, it's been five years and mostly I forget that I have it. My kids don't really remember it without it (which I kind of like) and Hayden loves to pull on it. But I'm also moving into a new stage of life. To wit, one in which I have to go in and ask people to join a movement for global poverty and also give our organization large sums of money. I could raise money for campus ministry with an earring because people took it as a sign that I was "in touch with the young folks" (even though one had nothing to do with the other). But that really isn't the case with this new job. At best it's value neutral and at worst it could hurt my credibility.

    If I didn't have this job, I would probably keep it. At the same time, it wouldn't really break my heart to take it out.

    So let's put it out to you, gentle readers. And though we can track the votes through the comment feature, this isn't democracy. I reserve the right to make my own choice.

    So here's the question about the earring. Choose one of the following:

    1. Leave it in
    2. Take it out
    3. Leave it in, but take it out when you think it's going to be a problem
    4. Some other brilliant, creative solution

    Fire away!
    Mike at 3/03/2006 12:18:00 PM

    Wednesday, March 01, 2006
    Remember that you are dust...

    When I was doing my CPE rotation at Yale-New Haven Hospital, I learned a new term:


    No, it's not the story of a lovely lady. It's a euphemism ... for death.

    Instead of saying that someone died on your unit, you say they "Bradied". Or "we had a Brady." Never could figure out where the term came from. Was Brady someone who had died? Was it some reference to brain death? I'm not even sure if it was just a term from that hospital or if it's more widespread than that.

    One thing I knew, though, was that it was easier for people to say Brady than to say "death". That's why they used the term.

    Our culture is incredibly death-denying. One of the people who has written most eloquently about this is Elisabeth Kubler-Ross, who was one of the pioneers of hospice care in America. The whole reason hospices are necessary is because our culture (which the medical establishment reflects) views death as an absolute evil and the enemy. More than that, it views death as something we can and should have control over ... and something we need to distance ourselves from as much as possible -- as if by getting far away from it will keep it at bay.

    Hence, we talk in terms like "Brady".

    And it's not just in medicene. We build walls to keep death and anything that smacks of it out of sight and out of mind. Walls are all about keeping people on one side safe from whatever is on the other side. And we are GREAT at building them.

    We build them in our communities along economic and racial lines - separating communities of white overprivilege from communities of black and latino underprivilege (communities with higher hopelessness, crime rates and, yes, mortality). We build them on our borders - selectively, of course. We feel no need to erect a huge wall between the U.S. and Canada, but we build them between the U.S. and Mexico - because the idea of people from Central America crossing the border makes us fear death -- death of our life of privilege, death of our life of secure comfortability, and even just plain death itself.

    Most of all, we build them in our hearts. A couple posts down I talked about the scene in Hotel Rwanda where the CNN cameraman said that Americans would most likely respond to footage of the genocide by saying it was too bad and going back to eating their dinner. That's a wall, too. It's a wall around our hearts that tells us that death has nothing to do with us ... and more insidious, that it should have nothing to do with us.

    And that's where Ash Wednesday comes in.

    I just came from the Cathedral where I heard the words I've been hearing as long as I can remember:

    "Remember that you are dust, and to dust you shall return."

    Think about what that means. It means we are DEAD. If there is something more countercultural for us right now, I sure don't know what it is. We spend our lives protecting ourselves from death, putting off death, trying to control death, even denying death even exists. And here we walk up, have ashes put on our head and have someone say "you are dead".

    And thank God.

    Because it's true. And it is actually the most liberating truth I can imagine.

    Because the walls we build around ourselves to protect ourselves from death become our prisons. The prevent us from living -- from sucking every last bit out of the great gift of life God has given us.

    Remembering we are dust, remembering that we are DEAD reminds us that our lives are not our own. There is no such thing as MY LIFE. It is all God's. And that's great news because it means we're playing with house money!

    Put another way, there is nothing that we can do to keep from dying. There is no amount of money we can make or spend. No amount of fame we can acheive. No wall high enough we can build. We're all going to die. It's already done. So why be afraid. Why spend our lives shouting against the tide?

    The truth is that each of us has won the lottery -- we have a life to spend and we all get to die broke. Some of us will have more to spend than others, but as long as you've got a pulse right now, you're in the game. The question is -- how are you going to give it away.

    And that's the greatest joy -- giving it away. It's really hard, because mostly we're taught that hoarding it is what we're supposed to do and what gives us joy. But hoarding anything -- life, riches, whatever -- is just another way of building a wall -- 'cause that's what you'll need to protect it. Giving away your life is how we acheive freedom and the deepest joy.

    That's what Jesus said when he said "whoever will save his life will lose it and whoever loses his life for my sake will save it." It's not about throwing yourself off a cliff ... it's about really living your life. Serving in a way that is all about the joy of giving it away.

    When we refuse to wall ourselves off from death. When instead we go into the heart of death -- which is what Christ did on the cross and what he bids us to do with our lives -- then we get to be with people at some of the most sacred times imaginable. We get to share pain and suffering and be the salvation of companionship in the midst of it.

    When we stop being afraid of death and embrace it, we can look across town and around the world and not be afraid to go into those places that "common sense" says are too dangerous and be with people who are literally dying every day in ways too horrendous for us to even imagine.

    When we stop being afraidof death and embrace it, when death becomes not something that is happening "over there" to "those people" in places like Darfur and Northern Uganda, when we share in each other's death we are opened up to sharing in an even deeper joy... a joy that even death can never touch.

    In the lingo of the hospital, a "very Brady Lent" would be a terrible thing to have. Today, this Lent, this life, what if we were to embrace death instead of fleeing from it. Befriend it instead of fearing it. Sit at the foot of the cross and know it is a place of honor.

    and be grateful beyond words to be there.
    Mike at 3/01/2006 01:47:00 PM

    A simple click
    One of the questions I get asked most often is "Where do I give my 0.7% for the MDGs?" There are some really good answers to that question:

    *Give it to Episcopal Relief and Development -- more than 90 cents of every dollar gets to the people who need it, they structure their giving on the MDGs .. and they're Episcopal.

    *Give through your Companion Diocese Relationship -- a GREAT idea ... turns your 0.7% into resource for building relationship as well as the MDGs.

    *Support a ministry connected with someone you know -- my example for this is my contributions to AIDS education ministries in Tanzania founded by former students of mine.

    These are all good answers... but they leave out the multitude of grassroots efforts in the developing world that have incredible potential or are already being highly successful -- and that desperately need support.

    An article in today's BBC online tells about two web-based organizations that connect donors with micro-organizations that need them. The first (www.globalgiving.com) provides a sortable database of MDG-related organizations that are potential targets for your gifts. Once an organization meets its funding target, it goes off the active list and gets listed in the funded project catalog.

    Globalgiving.com doesn't have a huge database -- currently about 300 are listed -- but that's because they are carefully vetted multiple times so you can be sure your money is going to something legitimate. And they are continually adding new organizations.

    The second (www.kiva.org) is a microfinance program that allows you to become a microlender to grassroots businesses in Africa.

    and then check out the websites (you might have to be patient with the Kiva site, I tried earlier today and it was temporarily unavailable because it was being over-accessed!).

    Today is Ash Wednesday. Make part of your discipline today spending some time looking through these sites, pick one that moves you and make a gift ... even a small one.

    I just did it. Found an organization providing shelter for victims of the South Asia earthquake -- and gave $10. Here's the skinny:

    Shelter for Victims of South Asian Earthquake

    Project provides housing and support to families in Pakistan who have been affected by the South Asian Earthquake.
    Theme: Health |
    Location: Pakistan | Need: $100,000

    Give Now

    If you follow the links for each organization on globalgiving.com, you'll also see the depth of information (including staff bios and progress reports) that is provided. Take a few minutes and do it yourself.

    Then pass this email along... and link to these sites on your sites.
    Mike at 3/01/2006 10:20:00 AM

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    Episcopalians for
    Global Reconciliation

    EGR is an organization resourcing a grassroots movement of spiritual transformation in the Episcopal Church to end extreme poverty on this planet.

    The structure for this movement is the Millennium Development Goals -- 8 goals committed to by all member nations of the UN and a unique partnership of governments and civil society to:

    *End extreme poverty
    *Achieve universal
    primary education

    *Promote gender equalty
    *Improve maternal health
    *Reverse the spread of HIV/AIDS
    *Promote environmental sustainability
    *Build a global partnership for development

    EGR resources and connects the church to embrace what one person, one congregation, one diocese and one church can do to make this mission of global reconciliation happen.

    Want to find out more ... check our our website at www.e4gr.org.

    "Christ's example is being demeaned by the church if they ignore the new leprosy, which is AIDS. The church is the sleeping giant here. If it wakes up to what's really going on in the rest of the world, it has a real role to play. If it doesn't, it will be irrelevant."
    - Bono


    What I'm Reading
    Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln
    by Doris Kearns Goodwin