"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
Friday, September 15, 2006 Win Without War has put out an excellent resource -- a Citizens Toolkit on Iraq. It's designed to help people arm themselves with facts with which to confront people running for election -- and efforts to use rhetoric instead of fact to justify our ongoing military occupation.
One of its big strengths is that the fact sheets are all footnoted. For example...
Economists estimate actual cost of the war will rise to $2 trillion. With the raising costs of combat operations, veterans disability and medical treatment payments, and replacement military equipment, economists at Columbia and Harvard have estimated that the true cost of the war could total as much as $2 trillion, $10,000 for every household in the U.S.
There are also guides for activism and a collection of other opportunities for involvement. Check it out.
| Mike at 9/15/2006 12:19:00 PM
U.N. says Southern Sudan peace agreement in trouble
Below is an interesting and troubling article from Reuters. Of particular note is the Khartoum's government not living up to monitoring agreements in one oil-rich region ... as well as the paucity of respurces to meet the need of the southern Sudanese and the increasing number of returning refugees.Also note Kofi Annan continuing to affirm the need of peace in Darfur to establish lasting peace in the south.
I was listening to President Bush's press conference today and he spoke about Darfur ... called what is going on there a genocide and laid the blame squarely on the shoulders of the United Nations for lack of intervention. His exact words were:
"I'm frustrated with the United Nations in regards to Darfur. I have said, and this government has said, there's genocide taking place in Sudan. And it breaks our collective hearts to know that. I'm troubled by reports I hear about escalating violence. I can understand the desperation people feel for women being pulled out of these refugees centers and raped. And now is the time for the U.N. to act." (Source: CNN.com)
(To this, I mused that his administration seemed to have no problems intervening in other places using high-sounding phrases like "Operation Iraqi Freedom" but where people are not only being oppressed but butchered by the tens of thousands, we wring our hands as if powerless.). The president is going to be heading to the U.N. to speak to the General Assembly. Since he seems unwilling (or unable because we are spread so thin militarily) to send U.S. troops into Darfur on a mercy mission to stop the slaughter, let us pray that the President does indeed use his bully pulpit to urge a strong U.N. response that doesn't buy into the stalling tactics of the Khartoum government.
We lose what little moral authority we might have left as a country if we supposedly champion freedom of some and ignore the slaughter of others based on strategic interest and natural resources.
Anyway, enough commentary ... to the article!
------------------------- UN says southern Sudan peace agreement in trouble By Evelyn Leopold
UNITED NATIONS, Sept 13 (Reuters) - A peace pact that ended a 21-year civil war in southern Sudan appears to be crumbling, with important pledges ignored or circumvented, according to a report by U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan late on Tuesday.
The January 2005 agreement, if implemented, could signal a major change in Sudan, including power and wealth sharing and integrating security forces.
But some of the basic tenets, including election planning and dividing oil revenues have not been met, as set out in the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) between the Khartoum government and the southern Sudan People's Liberation Movement, the report to the U.N. Security Council said.
"While they are observing their security commitments reasonably well, the implementation of several other major provisions of this agreement has fallen behind schedule," Annan wrote. "It is clear that implementing the CPA is a daunting challenge."
The United Nations has some 10,000 peacekeepers in the south to monitor the agreement and help train police, human rights workers and provide other services.
It has set up a radio station where there was none but the Khartoum government has ignored an agreement with the world body and refused to allow broadcasts in the north.
Moreover, the U.N. Mission in Sudan, known as UNMIS, has not been permitted to monitor the oil-rich Abyei region. Sudan customs has also delayed the release "of a wide range of items, including food rations" and held some major communications equipment since February, the report said.
In the impoverished south where paved roads are rare, some 370 km (230 miles) of roads have been repaired, contributing to the return of over 10,000 refugees, food aid to 3 million people and polio immunization of 4.8 million children, the report said.
But donors have not lived up to their pledges, committing $430 million of the $2.6 billion needed for reconstruction. Annan also said that multi-donor trust funds, administered by the World Bank, "have proved ill-suited to meet immediate post-conflict requirements."
Still, Annan said that a durable peace in the south would not take hold until the crisis in the western region of Darfur had been resolved. In recent months fighting has increased between rebels and government-backed militia, with the Sudanese military sending in troops and bombing villages.
Sudan has refused to allow the United Nations to take over peacekeeping duties in Darfur, now handled by under-financed and under-equipped African Union forces.
| Mike at 9/15/2006 12:15:00 PM
Wednesday, September 13, 2006 Direct from Kenya, Reynolds wonders why the U.S. government doesn't want him there! Many of you know Reynolds Whalen, Wash. U. (and ECM) student, my tukal-mate in Sudan, and part of our ultradynamic EGR presence at General Convention. Reynolds (shown here with friends Collins and Halita showing off a baseball they made out of banana fibers) is spending the semester at the University of Nairobi, and wrote this Op-Ed piece for Student Life at Wash. U. Not surprisingly, it's most excellent. Read on!
I recently started classes at the University of Nairobi in Kenya to study culture, environment, and development in one of the most beautiful countries I've ever seen. Unfortunately, if you wanted to come visit me, the U.S. Government would say no.
The State Department issued a travel warning against Kenya following a 1998 bomb blast at the U.S. embassy in Nairobi. In 2002, terrorists bombed a hotel in the coastal city of Mombasa, killing 15 people. However, the past four years have been incident-free. Even with a fairly elected democratic government and one of the most thriving economies in East Africa, Kenya remains on the U.S. State Department's travel warning list.
I understand the need to warn Americans of danger when traveling abroad. I even partially understand why over one third of the countries on the list are in Africa. Sure, parts of Africa have problems. Here's what I don't understand: where's the United Kingdom?
Several weeks ago, I spent five hours in a tent outside Heathrow airport in London with hundreds of other people just to see if my flight was going to leave that morning. The night before, dozens of stranded people had spent the night in the lobby of my airport hotel buying food and drinks so they would have a place to stay. Earlier that day I had taken the Eurostar (Chunnel) from Paris to London amidst the longest lines they had seen in years. People were sleeping on the floor of the station, and every train was full.
The cause of this chaos was that terrorists had targeted nearly ten planes traveling to the U.S and possibly even my train to London, according to some sources. The terrorists planned to trigger liquid explosives on board and kill over one thousand passengers. Fortunately, British law enforcement just barely stopped the plot.
Unfortunately, they didn't stop a plot last summer that blew up three subway trains and a tour bus, killing 52 people and injuring over 700. In both incidents, dozens of London citizens with links to Al-Qaeda were arrested in connection with the attacks and charged accordingly.
Kenya's most significant terrorist attack in the last decade happened in 1998 and the targeted building was technically U.S. property on U.S. soil.
I have yet to hear a convincing reason why Kenya should be on the travel warning list and the United Kingdom should not. Even if the U.S. Government claims that Kenya may have "limited ability" to detect and to deter a terrorist attack, we know Great Britain's limitations. Sure, maybe they stopped the plane bombings last month. But they didn't stop the train blasts last summer and they may have "limited ability" to prevent such acts in the future.
Blatant and unwarranted discrimination is apparent here. Obviously, the U.S. can't post a travel warning against Great Britain. That would be devastating to our crucial partnership in the war on terrorism. Plus, we have too much interest in their economy and the commerce between our two great nations. Most importantly, Great Britain is too "civilized" to warrant a travel warning.
Kenya, on the other hand, is just an insignificant little country on a continent that exists primarily for our exploitation and to make us feel better when we can afford to give a little money away. Indeed, our buddies at the World Bank and IMF have devalued their currency to a point where even the smallest scraps of change go a long way and make us feel great about being charitable.
What I'm not saying here is that Kenya is immune to terrorism or terrorist activities. What I am saying is that maybe the U.S. government should re-evaluate the criteria they use to impose travel warnings. For a country that relies on tourism as the biggest sector of the economy, Kenya suffers from our arrogant discrimination. When Illinois Senator Barack Obama toured the country a few weeks ago, Kenyan politicians pleaded with him to urge the U.S. government to lift the travel advisory. They pointed out that the only reason Kenya would be targeted for attacks in the first place is their partnership with the U.S.
I'm having the time of my life over here, and I feel safe everywhere I go. It's time for our government to grow up and end this shameful double standard by either lifting the travel ban on Kenya or imposing one on Great Britain. It's time to stop labeling Africa as a dangerous place to go simply because it's Africa. ------------------------------------ You can leave comments here, but you can also email Reynolds. And be sure and check out his blog -- with lots of great pictures and stories of his travels!
| Mike at 9/13/2006 01:44:00 PM
Sunday, September 10, 2006 Catching Up
Haven't posted photos in awhile, so it's time to catch up anyone interested on the goings-on in the Kinman household.
Starting with the most recent, yesterday was Hayden's fourth birthday. We had a party for him and a small gaggle of his friends at the local indoor pool -- one of Hayden's favorite places. Everyone swam for about an hour and then went into a side room for cake and ice cream. Everyone had an wonderful time -- a party with that many children and no fighting or tears transcends success and knocks on the door of miracle status!
Hayden had picked out Curious George party decorations and we got him a Curious George cake, which he was just tickled about. He also enjoyed some excellent presents -- including some really cool magnetic blocks from his Uncle Ian and Aunt Kathy, a stuffed roadrunner (which he slept with last night) from his Grammy and Grampy, a cool racecar lunchbox from his brother, a great Maisy popup book from Kristen and Brayer (he played with that for about an hour), a Thomas train and (Schroedter's favorite), nerf rockets that shoot up in the air when you stomp on an air cushion -- and much, much more. All in all, quite a haul.
We were thinking last night how quickly four years has gone by. It's so hard to imagine life without H. In some ways it's easier for me to remember life before any children than life with just Schroedter. I know Schroedter really can't imagine life without him.
So ... Hayden is four! Here he is blowing out the candles to prove it:
And here is one of him just cheesing after getting out of the pool.
The next big thing was Schroedter and Hayden's first day at school. For the first time, both of them (as well as Robin who teaches fourth grade) are at Forsyth School. Forsyth is a great school that is just 5-15 minutes walk (depending on whether or not Hayden is walking with you) from our house.
This is Schroedter's third year there and (hard to believe) he is a second grader now. Hayden is starting at the very bottom - pre-kindergarten (unlike when I was a kid and there was just one kindergarten, there are now three K-levels... pre-K, jr.-K and sr.-K. The same amount of time I spent in seminary my son will spend in kindergarten!) Robin has been teaching at Forsyth for going on 10 years now. Sometimes I think I should just give in and get a job there so the whole family will be there -- but there is that thing about not being qualified.
Anyway, three pictures here. The first is the boys standing in front of the house on their way to the first day of school. The second is Schroedter in front of his locker (they call it a locker, really it's a cubby with a door). His favorite feature of this is the plastic coffee mug every student gets to use to get water at the water cooler. Finally, there's Hayden on the floor of his classroom. Happy kids. Nothing better.
The other big news of late is our new kitchen. It's not exactly new ... but we did tear out a wall (and a small closet that was behind it) and expand the kitchen. The idea came out of a joint inspriation from Robin and Suzanne (her mom) during a visit this June. In addition to her career as a lawyer, Suzanne was an architect in her previous career, so she drew up some great plans, which we handed over to Barney Gierer, who has done great work around the house for us in the past.
Barney and a friend of his spent 2-3 weeks in our kitchen, tearing stuff out and putting stuff in. (A new refrigerator and stove didn't hurt, either). He did a great job -- particularly in building the trim, which blends in wonderfully with the older look of the house. He also did a little repair work on the terrible job the floor refinishers did last summer.
The result is a great new part of our kitchen, which not only gives us more storage- and counter-space ... it just makes the whole room feel so much bigger. My personal favorite is a refrigerator that makes crushed ice... something that has already encouraged me to drink more water than soda, which can only be good, right?
Anyway, the first picture is the before (at least after the plaster had been stripped away. The second picture is the finished product. (You can see we also painted the whole kitchen).
This past Sunday, 60 Minutes re-ran a piece on a group of EMT's who traveled to Pakistan after the earthquake to give basic aid and medical care to the victims there. It was an amazing story. These are people who were all but abandoned -- in part because of the sheer scope of the tragedy. In this one, beautiful and devastated valley, these New Yorkers were the only aid workers helping these people deal with sometimes severe injuries and illness.
One of the EMTs commented that one of the byproducts of their presence was that they were "inoculating the entire valley" against radical Islamist groups who would try to convince them that all Americans were evil. These people and their children -- and probably their children's children -- would tell the stories of how when their lives were devastated, this group of Americans came to help. At least for these people, our nation would be equated with care, healing and even humor -- all because of this group of people who took it on themselves to look beyond themselves and lend a hand.
We can't answer why we live in a world where things like the earthquake and tsunami, Katrina and Rita, HIV/AIDS and guinea worm, are permitted to happen. But we do know that every tragedy, every brokenness, is an opportunity for God's grace to break through -- if we will be its willing and joyful bearers.
The story came back to me as I was reading this morning's Daily Office Gospel. It's the story of the healing of the blind man in John 9. Jesus is walking and sees a man blind from birth, and his disciples ask him "Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?" Jesus answered, "Neither this man nor his parents sinned; he was born blind so that God's works might be revealed in him. We must work the works of him who sent me while it is day; night is coming when no one can work. As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world."
And Jesus spat on the ground, made mud with the spit, put it on the man's eyes, told him to go wash in the pool of Siloam -- and when the did, he came back able to see.
Sometimes sin and brokenness just is. We don't understand it. We try to blame it on someone (usually someone else) ... and while there are times where the culprit can be named, sometimes it can't. And even when the culprit can be found, that doesn't necessarily help the victim. The disciples asked the wrong question. They didn't say "how can we bring healing to this man?" They said, "Whose fault is it?" It was Jesus who put them on the right track -- both by his words and his actions.
The point is not "whose fault is it" -- the point is are we using every opportunity, every occasion of deep brokenness, to bring the healing power of Christ. The power that literally gives sight to the blind.
This story is a charge to us. Jesus didn't say "I must work the works of him who sent me" he said "WE must." We are the Body of Christ -- and as long as we are in the world, we are the light of the world -- "the true light that is coming into the world" shines through us.
As for the formerly blind man, he was "inoculated" the same way the EMTs hope the people in that valley in Kashmir have been. The Pharisees came to him and tried to tell him that Jesus was a bad man because he had healed him on the Sabbath. They asked the man what he said about Jesus, and he only had this to say:
"He is a prophet."
Part of how I stay centered in my priesthood in a job that doesn't necessarily have to be done by a priest is by praying through the examination and vows of my ordination each morning. As I did that this morning, these words jumped out at me:
"All baptized people are called to make Christ known as Savior and Lord, and to share in the renewing of his world."
In this Gospel story, Jesus didn't lecture to the man about who he was -- he met him where he was, loved him and healed ." him. That "made him known as Savior and Lord" ... and the man certainly got the message. As St. Francis said, "preach the Gospel at all times, use words if necessary."
There was a certain amount of controversy at General Convention and since about the Millennium Development Goals being our #1 mission priority. Some say it's replacing our primary call to spread the Gospel with a set of secular goals. Some say it's replacing Jesus and Paul with Jeffrey Sachs and Bono. It's nothing of the kind.
What the MDGs give us is an opportunity to do as Christ did and to live as Christ yearns. To meet tragedy and brokenness where it is and to bear the unique healing presence of the divine to it. Just as he used mud and spit to make a miracle, we are to use what we have -- the abundance that already exists on this planet .. the superabundance and overprivilege we for whatever reason we in this country have ... to heal those who have not.
In identifying the greatest material brokenness that exists in the world today, the MDGs present to us the same opportunity the blind man did for Christ -- an opportunity for God's works to be revealed in the world. And if we resist the temptation of the disciples to spend our energy throwing blame. And if we resist the temptation of the Pharisees to spend our energy deciding who is in and who is out based on legalistic formulas. If we resist these things and throw ourselves joyfully and with great abandon into the job of getting face-to-face with those in greatest need and watching the healing power of Christ emerge, the Gospel will be spread and take root in ways more powerful than any tract can provide.
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."