Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Stupid, stupid, stupid

Howie and Sunshine
Originally uploaded by paynehollow
Well, now, THIS is ridiculous!

WASHINGTON (CNN) – Massachusetts Sen. Ted Kennedy is under heavy fire from a state chapter of the National Organization for Women for his decision to back Barack Obama over Hillary Clinton.

In a sharply critical statement, the New York state chapter of NOW took aim at Kennedy Monday for what it called an "ultimate betrayal," and suggested the Massachusetts Democrat "can't or won't" handle the idea of Clinton becoming President of the United States...

"...And now the greatest betrayal! We are repaid with his abandonment!" the statement continues. "He’s picked the new guy over us. He’s joined the list of progressive white men who can’t or won’t handle the prospect of a woman president who is Hillary Clinton..."

"...This latest move by Kennedy is so telling about the status of and respect for women’s rights, women’s voices, women’s equality, women’s authority and our ability – indeed, our obligation — to promote and earn and deserve and elect, unabashedly, a president that is the first woman after centuries of men who ‘know what’s best for us.’”

Meanwhile, the national chapter of NOW sought to distance itself from the state chapter’s comments, issuing a statement Monday evening that praised Kennedy's record with respect to women's rights.

"Though the National Organization for Women Political Action Committee has proudly endorsed Sen. Hillary Clinton for president, we respect Sen. Kennedy's endorsement," NOW President Kim Gandy said. "We continue to encourage women everywhere to express their opinions and exercise their right to vote."

IF they were suggesting that somehow Kennedy's endorsee - Obama - had a pitiful women's rights record, that might be one thing, but they're not suggesting that. They're suggesting that if we don't vote for and pull for a woman, that we are somehow betraying women and that we "can't handle" a woman president, well that's just devious. If that's the tone we ought to take, then if we support Clinton, minorities ought to rise up and denounce us for not backing Obama.

Thankfully, this is just one chapter - New York - and not the whole of NOW.

What is it with the Clintons and their defenders? They're acting positively... Republican. (Forgive me, my Republican friends.)

Monday, January 28, 2008

Be Your Own Self

Sarah Grace
Originally uploaded by paynehollow
We have, at the top of our church bulletin each week, a quote. Sometimes from the Bible, sometimes from a saint, sometimes from a poet and sometimes from Abba or Supertramp. Yesterday's was from Milne...

"Do you mean that everyone is who he wants to be, and does what he wants to do?"

"Exactly," said Owl.

"But that would mean," Christopher Robin went on, "that you could make a choice, and decide who you want to be."

"Precisely," Owl said.

"Everyone, Owl?" asked Pooh. "Nobody ever asked me if I would like to be somebody else," he went on. "Or asked me if I would like to be myself," he added...

Great snippet of existentialist thinking. Reminded me of my poem in which I posit that none of us, if given a choice, would deliberately take actions that are destructive to the world. "But what," I asked, "If no one ever gives us the choice?"

Friday, January 25, 2008

Why Simplicity?

Originally uploaded by paynehollow
"Why Live Simply?" I’ve been asked accusatorily. "If you really want to help the poor, wouldn’t it make sense to try to make as much money as possible so that you could, in turn, give money in assistance to the poor?"

My response:

1. The Bible and all the world's major religions and non-religious belief systems agree on at least this much: we ought to obey the Golden Rule. We ought to do unto others as we'd have them do unto ourselves.

2. Another way of stating the Golden Rule is that we ought not live in such a Way that we wouldn't be pleased if everyone embraced that Way.

3. This is a finite world, with finite resources.

Are we in agreement thus far? Then continuing:

4. Following the Golden Rule would also imply living within our means; we ought NOT over-consume.

Let’s assume there is an island of finite resources and 10 people live there. Person 1 consumes 70% of the resources. 2-6 consume 25% of the remaining resources, leaving 5% of the resources for the remaining four people. Now, if person 1 gives 10% of his resources away (9% to the church building he made for himself and 1% for the "poor" of the island), the "poor" may say, gee thanks for this 1% of all that you have, but what they really need is for that fella to stop consuming 70% of the resources.

Perhaps the term "Simple living" terminology throws some people off. I'm advocating living responsibly; Living within our means.

If everyone on earth consumed at the rate that the US does, we'd need something like five planet Earths to supply the raw materials. We can't all live as high on the hog as US citizens do.

So to speak in terms of "Dan, if you're REALLY concerned about the poor, you'd work to make MORE money so that you could give MORE to the poor," is missing the point entirely. We simply can't all consume at the rate we do. To do thusly IS to hurt the poor.

The best thing that we can do for world peace and justice, Wendell Berry tells us, is to grow a garden. That is, begin to live in smaller circles. Sustainably.

Recall the many warnings of the prophets about this, including Ezekiel's here:

This is the sin of your sister Sodom: she and her daughters were proud, sated with food, complacent in their prosperity, and they gave no help to the poor and needy.

So, when I talk about living simply, I'm talking about living within our means. As noted in the previous post on Sabbath Economics, we can learn two things about all the Stuff of the world from biblical teaching:

1. Abundance is a divine gift, and
2. Self-limitation is the appropriate response to God’s abundance

I agree with this notion. We can't all live like kings – we just can’t. There ain’t enough Stuff for us to pull off that miracle. And if we do try to live like kings and then salve our conscience by giving a pittance back to "the poor," it still fails to make things right.

To quote famed Baptist theologian and farmer, Clarence Jordan:

What the poor need is not charity but capital, not caseworkers but co-workers. And what the rich need is a wise, honorable, and just way of divesting themselves of their overabundance.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

We Need Each Other...

Originally uploaded by paynehollow
An excerpt from a powerful sermon delivered by none other than Barack Obama (I have problems with Presidential candidates delivering sermons in churches as they campaign, but that's another topic for another day. These are some powerful words...)

...There is a young, 23-year-old white woman named Ashley Baia who organizes for our campaign in Florence, South Carolina. She’s been working to organize a mostly African American community since the beginning of this campaign, and the other day she was at a roundtable discussion where everyone went around telling their story and why they were there.

And Ashley said that when she was nine years old, her mother got cancer. And because she had to miss days of work, she was let go and lost her health care. They had to file for bankruptcy, and that’s when Ashley decided that she had to do something to help her mom.

She knew that food was one of their most expensive costs, and so Ashley convinced her mother that what she really liked and really wanted to eat more than anything else was mustard and relish sandwiches. Because that was the cheapest way to eat.

She did this for a year until her mom got better, and she told everyone at the roundtable that the reason she joined our campaign was so that she could help the millions of other children in the country who want and need to help their parents too.

So Ashley finishes her story and then goes around the room and asks everyone else why they’re supporting the campaign. They all have different stories and reasons. Many bring up a specific issue. And finally they come to this elderly black man who’s been sitting there quietly the entire time. And Ashley asks him why he’s there. And he does not bring up a specific issue.

He does not say health care or the economy. He does not say education or the war. He does not say that he was there because of Barack Obama. He simply says to everyone in the room, “I am here because of Ashley.”

By itself, that single moment of recognition between that young white girl and that old black man is not enough. It is not enough to give health care to the sick, or jobs to the jobless, or education to our children.

But it is where we begin. It is why the walls in that room began to crack and shake.

And if they can shake in that room, they can shake in Atlanta.

And if they can shake in Atlanta, they can shake in Georgia.

And if they can shake in Georgia, they can shake all across America. And if enough of our voices join together; we can bring those walls tumbling down. The walls of Jericho can finally come tumbling down. That is our hope – but only if we pray together, and work together, and march together.

Brothers and sisters, we cannot walk alone.

In the struggle for peace and justice, we cannot walk alone.

In the struggle for opportunity and equality, we cannot walk alone

In the struggle to heal this nation and repair this world, we cannot walk alone.

So I ask you to walk with me, and march with me, and join your voice with mine, and together we will sing the song that tears down the walls that divide us, and lift up an America that is truly indivisible, with liberty, and justice, for all.

Monday, January 21, 2008

The Sabbath

Jeff St Kids
Originally uploaded by paynehollow
More from Ched Myers (whose book Sabbath Economics we've been studying at church, which I referenced way back ). On speaking about Sabbath and the Creation story, Myers says:

The Creator culminates this "good" work by stopping: "God rested on the seventh day from all the work God did" (Gen. 2:2). Hebrew Bible scholar and activist Richard Lowery, in his brilliant
Sabbath and Jubilee (2000), points out "...in a delightful twist, 'rest is signified as a verb in this passage and 'work' as a noun." This establishes a primal pattern: Good work followed by Sabbath. It is important to note that this cosmic Sabbath is not for the purpose of resting in order to work more; there is no "Monday" in the Creation narrative.

The purpose of this Sabbath is to enjoy the world forever, which is why it is "blessed," just like the creation itself. Lowery concludes that the Sabbath thus captures the double theme of the creation story:

1. Abundance as the divine gift, and
2. Self-limitation as the appropriate response.

Thoughts? Has anyone read Lowery's book?

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Gas Underpriced...

Earth Day Bikes In a Row
Originally uploaded by paynehollow
WASHINGTON (AP) -- A special commission is urging the government to raise federal gasoline taxes by as much as 40 cents per gallon over five years as part of a sweeping overhaul designed to ease traffic congestion and repair the nation's decaying bridges and roads.

The two-year study being released Tuesday by the National Surface Transportation Policy and Revenue Study Commission, the first to recommend broad changes after the devastating bridge collapse in Minnesota last August, warns that urgent action is needed to avoid future disasters.

Under the recommendation, the current tax of 18.4 cents per gallon for unleaded gasoline would be increased annually for five years -- by anywhere from 5 cents to 8 cents each year -- and then indexed to inflation afterward to help fix the infrastructure, expand public transit and highways as well as broaden railway and rural access, according to persons with direct knowledge of the report, who spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because the report is not yet public.

The report also calls for rebuilding and expanding the national rail network to meet a growing demand for alternatives to congested highways.

Continuing to apply patches to the nation's aging infrastructure is "no longer acceptable," and without dramatic changes, "the nation's system of transportation will further deteriorate," according to the report, portions of which were read to the AP.

According to a CNN report.


I've stated repeatedly that our gas is woefully underpriced. Not only is it not paying for basic infrastructure upkeep, but it fails to account for a vast amount of damage caused by automobile users - from stream and air pollution to traffic wrecks to sprawl. Nor does it account for oil company and driver subsidies. Nor does it account for the military cost of defending "our" oil.

The actual costs of gasoline vary - depending upon who's trying to do the calculating but typically range from $5 - $15 a gallon (and most of those studies were done back when gas was costing $1/gallon!).

Some sources:





If prices were to even just begin to reflect actual costs, we may begin to see a revolution in our society away from the personal auto and towards a more localized economy, both of which are vital for our national security and hope for the world, seems to me.

Monday, January 14, 2008

A Music-y Weekend

Roger Dan
Originally uploaded by paynehollow
I had an enjoyable weekend, thank you, and I've been becoming acquainted with a couple of singers. One, Loudon Wainwright, I was already familiar with but I learned a new song (to me) that I really like.

The other singer is new to me (thanks, Sue!) - Kieran Kane - but I really like what I've heard from him thus far. Check out their websites and samples, if you'd like. Great stuff.

Here's the Wainwright song that I've been listening to - I've highlighted a couple of my favorite lines. "Life and Time and People are just glossy magazines..." ! Fantastic!

Last Man On Earth
Loudon Wainwright

In the year 2000 my age was 53
born in the first half of the last century
I always was post-modern but that's ancient history
Now I'm the last man on Earth that's what the matter is with me

I guess I'm old fashioned Retro to a degree
you could say I'm a throw-back anachronistically
air conditioning is here to stay and that makes me unhappy
cause I'm the last man on Earth that's what the matter is with me

I don't have a portfolio I gotta plead guilty
the best things are the worthless now that's just because they're free
and if your not a millionaire yet boy, you better be
Now, I'm the last man on Earth that's what the matter is with me

I should be optimistic and go buy some bonds and stocks
They'll find a cure for cancer soon we may get trigger-locks
existence is no picnic as statistics all have shown
we learn to live together and then we die alone

Everybody's got a website but that's all Greek to me
I don't own a computer I hate that letter "e"
I don't pack a cell phone or drive an SUV
Yes, I'm the last man on Earth that's what the matter is with me

I'm the last man standing save the last dance for me
I've taken the last train to Clarksville I'm the fifth monkey
nice guys always finish last no one's nicer than me
Yeah, I'm the last man on Earth That's what the matter is with me

Kid's used to say their prayers at night before they went to bed
St. John told us that God is love, Nietzsche said he was dead
this thing we call existence who knows what it all means?
Time and Life and People are just glossy magazines

I sat and watched those guys debate each other on TV
politicians, wrestlers they're all the same to me

hey, I don't give a damn which idiot runs this country
Since I'm the last man on Earth It don't matter to me

In the year 2000 my age was 53
I know that I'm grumpy, middle-aged crazy
but if you are a woman you might have to sleep with me
Since I'm the last man on Earth and I can guarantee
I'm the last man on Earth and there ain't nothing wrong with me.

Tuesday, January 8, 2008

A New Day?

Palmetto Sunrise
Originally uploaded by paynehollow
Obama seems to have a groove on. Here, from his website, is our probable next president on…


Bring Our Troops Home: Obama will immediately begin to remove our troops from Iraq. He will remove one to two combat brigades each month, and have all of our combat brigades out of Iraq within 16 months. Obama will make it clear that we will not build any permanent bases in Iraq. He will keep some troops in Iraq to protect our embassy and diplomats; if al Qaeda attempts to build a base within Iraq, he will keep troops in Iraq or elsewhere in the region to carry out targeted strikes on al Qaeda.


The United States is trapped by the Bush-Cheney approach to diplomacy that refuses to talk to leaders we don't like. Not talking doesn't make us look tough – it makes us look arrogant, it denies us opportunities to make progress, and it makes it harder for America to rally international support for our leadership.

Fight Global Poverty:

Obama will embrace the Millennium Development Goal of cutting extreme poverty around the world in half by 2015, and he will double our foreign assistance to $50 billion to achieve that goal. He will help the world's weakest states to build healthy and educated communities, reduce poverty, develop markets, and generate wealth.

Oil dependence:

Obama's plan will reduce oil consumption by at least 35 percent, or 10 million barrels per day, by 2030.

Obama will establish a 25 percent federal Renewable Portfolio Standard (RPS) to require that 25 percent of electricity consumed in the U.S. is derived from clean, sustainable energy sources, like solar, wind and geothermal by 2025.

Set National Building Efficiency Goals: Obama will establish a goal of making all new buildings carbon neutral, or produce zero emissions, by 2030.

Establish a Grant Program for Early Adopters: Obama will create a competitive grant program to award those states and localities that take the first steps to implement new building codes that prioritize energy efficiency.

[What’s missing: Any mention of living within our means, reducing the huge amounts of energy consumed. I’m more concerned about his energy plank than anything else, as I think it will be one of our major issues to deal with in the coming ten-twenty years. – Dan]


Fight for Fair Trade: Obama will fight for a trade policy that opens up foreign markets to support good American jobs. He will use trade agreements to spread good labor and environmental standards around the world and stand firm against agreements like the Central American Free Trade Agreement that fail to live up to those important benchmarks. Obama will also pressure the World Trade Organization to enforce trade agreements and stop countries from continuing unfair government subsidies to foreign exporters and nontariff barriers on U.S. exports.

Amend the North American Free Trade Agreement: Obama believes that NAFTA and its potential were oversold to the American people. Obama will work with the leaders of Canada and Mexico to fix NAFTA so that it works for American workers.

[I’d like to know what “fixes” he has in mind. Worrisome. – Dan]


Ensure Freedom to Unionize: Obama believes that workers should have the freedom to choose whether to join a union without harassment or intimidation from their employers. Obama cosponsored and is strong advocate for the Employee Free Choice Act, a bipartisan effort to assure that workers can exercise their right to organize.

Work/Family balance:

Encourage States to Adopt Paid Leave: As president, Obama will initiate a strategy to encourage all 50 states to adopt paid-leave systems. Obama will provide a $1.5 billion fund to assist states with start-up costs and to help states offset the costs for employees and employers.


Strong Safety Net for Family Farmers: Obama will fight for farm programs that provide family farmers with stability and predictability. Obama will implement a $250,000 payment limitation so that we help family farmers — not large corporate agribusiness.

[Amen! At least to that last part. No more subsidies for ConAgra. – Dan]

Obama's Environmental Protection Agency will strictly regulate pollution from large CAFOs, with fines for those that violate tough standards. Obama also supports meaningful local control.

[A question I’d want to see answered: Who will Obama appoint for cabinets? I say we should have no more of the foxes protecting the hen-house! No more coal company execs as our watchguard for the coal industry. No more oil execs as energy czars. Etc, etc. – Dan]

Encourage Young People to Become Farmers: Obama will establish a new program to identify and train the next generation of farmers. He will also provide tax incentives to make it easier for new farmers to afford their first farm.

Partner with Landowners to Conserve Private Lands: Obama will increase incentives for farmers and private landowners to conduct sustainable agriculture and protect wetlands, grasslands, and forests.

Fiscal responsibility:

Reinstate PAYGO Rules: Obama believes that a critical step in restoring fiscal discipline is enforcing pay-as-you-go (PAYGO) budgeting rules which require new spending commitments or tax changes to be paid for by cuts to other programs or new revenue.

[Makes sense. – Dan]

Reverse Bush Tax Cuts for the Wealthy: Obama will protect tax cuts for poor and middle class families, but he will reverse most of the Bush tax cuts for the wealthiest taxpayers.

Cut Pork Barrel Spending: Obama introduced and passed bipartisan legislation that would require more disclosure and transparency for special-interest earmarks. Obama believes that spending that cannot withstand public scrutiny cannot be justified. Obama will slash earmarks to no greater than year 2001 levels and ensure all spending decisions are open to the public.

Make Government Spending More Accountable and Efficient: Obama will ensure that federal contracts over $25,000 are competitively bid. Obama will also increase the efficiency of government programs through better use of technology, stronger management that demands accountability and by leveraging the government's high-volume purchasing power to get lower prices.

Obama will stop funding wasteful, obsolete federal government programs that make no financial sense. Obama has called for an end to subsidies for oil and gas companies that are enjoying record profits, as well as the elimination of subsidies to the private student loan industry which has repeatedly used unethical business practices. Obama will also tackle wasteful spending in the Medicare program.


Not the best of planks (that would be Kucinich, amongst this bunch currently running) but I’ve seen worse. Given the results of the first two primaries/caucuses and the momentum behind Obama (mixed the total paucity of any competition on the Republican side), I rather suspect he may well be our next president.

Read more of his plans at:


Thursday, January 3, 2008

Some Midwinter Thoughts

Once upon a time, there was a sweet little website called biketopiaproject.com. It is no longer there (or rather, an advertisement has gone up in its place – what irony!), so don’t bother checking it out.

It was based upon the premise of creating an actual city that would be a Biketopia (and, by extension I suppose, a Pedtopia) – free from the threats and pollutions (and conveniences) of the personal automobile. Its absence means, I suppose, that the project was abandoned.

It had a great many good essays and articles, as I recall, but I only have a snippet of one essay. They posited:

The automobile is self-necessitating. That is, because everyone has a car, a quarter [at least –Dan] of the land in the city is devoted to streets, freeways, parking lots, garages and filling stations, making the city so big that one needs a car to get around.

Because everyone has a car, mass transit is inadequate, making the use of a car necessary.

Because everyone has a car, the air is polluted, making it healthier to drive a car than to walk or bicycle.

Because everyone has a car, riding a bicycle is a dangerous frightening experience.

I was thinking about this quote the other evening as I walked home through my urban jungle here in Louisville. For those who’ve read here a while, you know I always get to work by bicycle or walking. Here lately (for the last several months), I’ve been almost exclusively walking.

We have had a few robberies/muggings on the streets around my home and I’ve wondered if it would be safer to make sure I leave work early enough to be home before it gets dark. (which would actually mean I have to leave work early, since it gets dark around 5:30 this time of the year).

But it seems to me it’s that same principle of the self-necessitating automobile. If peaceable folk abandon the streets after dark in Louisville for fear of a mugging, then the streets will be less safe to walk (due to less citizen presence), meaning that it’s not a good idea to walk after dark, which means the streets will be more abandoned and less safe, and so on and so on.

But giving up the streets to the cars or the thugs because it’s less safe or less healthy only leads to more of the problem, not less. On the one hand, logic dictates the individual ought to protect him/herself. On the other hand, logic dictates that for individuals to act in their perceived best interests only makes things worse for the individual and the community.

I tend to try to fall on the side of the bigger picture and what’s best for the whole, but when it comes to my children out on those same streets, well, the answers become much grayer.

I was wondering, are there other examples of bad behaviors being self-reinforcing and self-perpetuating? Is this the Way of Bad Policy? Do we have Bad Policy (personal or societal) because it’s perceived to be easier or safer or less threatening, which only leads to more and worse bad policy?

What do you think?