Thankful Hearts

We are thankful for our family and health.

We are grateful for our grandchildren, and the opportunity for a second chance–to make up for some of our failings in raising our own kids.

Two New Voices

I’ve discovered two new writers today–new to me that is, but I may be reading what they have to say.

Stephen C. Rose wrote a book in the sixties called the Grass Roots Church, and more recently Abba’s Way.  He agrees with me–or maybe I agree with him; he’s been around longer–that we need to dethrone the automobile and build liveable, walkable local communities.  He thinks we need to invest in this kind of future rather than merely rebuilding the car-co-dependent infrastructure and bailing out Detroit.  (More here)

Christen Day is the author of Democrats for Life (review here) and executive director of an organization by the same name (website).

Who Needs Detroit?

super_record_cassetteI can have all my transportation needs met in Vicenza, Italy.  If congress would just forward me about 0.0001% of that bailout money, I could upgrade my bike with the new Campagnolo Super Record 11-speed system.  That’s 11 sprockets on the rear X 2 on the front, for a 22-speed setup.  Who needs internal combustion?  With this, I can tackle any hill.

But until the economy improves, I guess I’ll just have to limp along with my lowly 9-speed (X 3) setup.

Seriously, I am concerned about the workers in Detroit.  Mitt Romney says it’s their fault for wanting health insurance and the retirement pension they were promised.  He says the automakers should use the bankruptcy laws to absolve themselves of those burdensome obligations.  Part of the competitive disadvantage Detroit has is our system of health care.  The Republicans have always resisted publicly-funded health care (that’s why they hated their own candidate, McCain)–and now they are blaming workers for wanting health benefits from their employers.

But I say, who would we be saving Detroit for, if not for the workers?  And I do seriously hope some of the funds will be used to develop sustainable transportation options.

Why couldn’t Detroit compete with Italy in producing precision bicycle parts?

Save the Dinosaurs!

anatosau

Is the saying still true, “What’s good for General Motors is good for America”?

Now that the car companies are asking for us to bail them out, like we did the Wall Street high rollers, it could be a good opportunity to retool our transportation system.

In the 1950s president Eisenhower made a momentous decision.  In the name of national security, he used the power of imminent domain to nationalize thousands of miles of farm land and build the Interstate Highway system.  The national security interest was the transportation of troops.

This experiment in socialized transportation was a huge success.  It turned out to be a great subsidy to the automobile industry.  The auto companies thrived, suburbs sprouted, boosting the construction industry–and the middle class emerged realizing the American dream for a whole generation.  These programs of governments subsidies and centralized planning produced a level of prosperity no one could have imagined.  There was only one problem.  It relied on an unlimited supply of cheap petroleum–and fifty years ago, who could have imagined that the supply of fossil fuel was limited?

Our dependence on automobiles–and therefore on oil from unstable countries–has produced a national security nightmare.

Don’t let the temporary cheap gas prices fool you.  As soon as the world economy begins to recover, oil will resume its ascent to $200.00 per barrel.  The reason is simple.  There are ten times as many people in China and India as there are in the US; and they all want to drive cars like we do.  And who can blame them?  The problem is, that there is not enough oil in the world to supply them and us.

We could use this opportunity to retool the factories in Detroit, Ohio, Kansas City, and other places to produce mass transportation: high speed train cars, clean bio-diesel hybrid buses, trolley cars, bicycle lanes.  We could improve our health, simplify our lives, clean up our air, and revitalize our economies.

Or we could try to save the automobile–the dinosaur of our age.

Fun with Funetics

I am having fun and learning along with my students in the phonetics class I am teaching this semester.  Here are some online resources we have found, if you also find language fascinating:

The University of Iowa has a really nice online phonetics tutorial for English, German, and Spanish.  Just click on the German flag, and you can see a diagram of the speech organs, along with a closeup of a native speaker, and audio for the individual sounds of the language, and representative words.  Thanks to my student Megan Baehr for finding this resource.  The Speech Accent Archive contains samples of dialects of English from all around the world.  You can hear a sample paragraph spoken by people from Huron, South Dakota, to Kathmandu (Well, I did find Kabul, Afghanastan, anyway.)  Click on “Browse” and then the Atlas.  A sound sample is given along with transcription in the International Phonetic Alphabet.

If the Onion Says it, You Can Take it to the Bank

darwin_article_largearticle_large

This just in from The Onion:

DAYTON, TN—A steady stream of devoted evolutionists continued to gather in this small Tennessee town today to witness what many believe is an image of Charles Darwin—author of The Origin Of Species and founder of the modern evolutionary movement—made manifest on a concrete wall in downtown Dayton.

“I brought my baby to touch the wall, so that the power of Darwin can purify her genetic makeup of undesirable inherited traits,” said Darlene Freiberg, one among a growing crowd assembled here to see the mysterious stain, which appeared last Monday on one side of the Rhea County Courthouse. The building was also the location of the famed “Scopes Monkey Trial” and is widely considered one of Darwinism’s holiest sites. “Forgive me, O Charles, for ever doubting your Divine Evolution. After seeing this miracle of limestone pigmentation with my own eyes, my faith in empirical reasoning will never again be tested.”

Garison Keillor, on Friday’s Writer’s Almanac, quoted P. J. O’Roark, who said

Parody [is] when you make fun of people smarter than you and satire [is] when you make fun of people richer than you.

Things to Read in Prison

While Dietrich Bonhoeffer was in prison, hoping to be released but-as it turned out-waiting to die, he kept himself busy by reading and writing.  One of the books that captured his attention was The Worldview of Physics by Carl Friedrich von Weizsäcker.

Bonhoeffer was arrested in April of 1943, initially on relatively minor charges after helping a Jewish family escape to Switzerland.  The Nazis did not yet suspect him of involvement in a plot against Hitler, and he hoped to be cleared of the lesser charges.  After a year, by May of 1944, he must have seen it becoming less likely that he would be released, but still he maintained hope.

Bonhoeffer continued reading and writing as a way of occupying the time-but also for a more serious purpose.  He was planning to participate in rebuilding Germany and Europe after the war. He was thinking about serious issues affecting the church and the world.

While reading Weiszäcker he expressed the view that we can no longer think of God as the answer to the gaps in our understanding and abilities.

We should seek God in the middle of our lives and activity, not out on the boundaries.

We should see God in our success, health, and strength, not only in our weakness, sin, and failure.

Weiszäcker himself was an interesting figure. He was a brilliant young scientist, working alongside of Heisenberg, Bohr and others on nuclear research during the war.  He later claimed that they had deliberately avoided developing the bomb, though that has been disputed.  Nevertheless, after the war he did devote himself to banning nuclear weapons.

Weiszäcker was a committed Christian who taught philosophy in German universities for a second career after teaching physics.  I wonder if he read Bonhoeffer after the war, and if the influence was mutual.  Carl Weiszäcker lived to be 94.  He died just last year, in April of 2007.

(More here, here, here, or here.)

Shameless Commerce Division

abby-set-1OK, I don’t usually do this kind of thing here–but my daughter is selling some handmade original artwork photo greeting cards on ebay.  If you are interested, visit the LINK.

Tragedy in Port Au Prince

school-collapse-pop

While Americans were celebrating the selection of the first president of African descent last week, the tragic collapse of a school for poor children in Port Au Prince, Haiti, brought grief to that island.

“No one cares about the children, living or dead,”

one furious father of children in the collapsed school outside of Port au Prince, Haiti, swore Sunday in an interview.

“No one has come to provide any counseling to the children and families who survived. Nothing has been done for the families whose children died. The children now have no school and no books. They are sick and have nightmares. Government officials and people from all the NGOs, they all come, take pictures, make speeches and they leave us with nothing. We need action!”  (More)

Some of the people are blaming the minister of the church which ran the school, and he has received threats.  Most of the people in the community, though, blame the government for indifference, corruption, and lax oversight of construction standards.

One father cried out,

Justice in courts in Haiti exists only for the people in the government and the people with money. When you are poor, your justice is in the Bible and in Jesus alone.”

Save the Children is one of many relief organizations helping out in Haiti.  The Mennonites have also been doing good work in Haiti for a long time and are well respected by the Haitian people.  Some of you may know of other organizations that are helping.  Who do you recommend partnering with?


Yes We Can!

Bob the Builder

Bob the Builder

Here’s the link to Bob the Builder’s official website.  My grandson has been listening to his theme song for about a year now:

Can we fix it?

Yes we can!

Here’s a little tidbit my daughter passed on: President Obama website:

You can submit you ideas and be part of the “change we need.”

http://www.change.gov/

This is pretty neat, I hadn’t heard about this Web site until my friend Melissa mentioned it yesterday. It’s the Obama web site for the transition. It’s supposed to have a lot of information about appointments in the future, but it already has a lot on different issues and places to submit ideas.

Here’s the energy environment page too: http://www.change.gov/agenda/energyenvironment/

Soldier and Mom

Our friend Margaret passed on this exchange of emails she had with her son Klint, who is stationed in Iraq, regarding the election of Barack Obama as our next president.

Mom to Soldier the day after the election

Klint,

I got your message yesterday evening on my cell phone voice mail.  Did you send it on Tuesday?  Anyway, good to hear your voice!

Don’t know how you feel about the elections, but I am so excited, I could “pee my pants” so to speak.  I’m so tired of “Old white men” running the country  This is an incredible breath of fresh air.  Hope Obama lives up the my expectations!  What a chance for change!  Feels like the 70’s!

Love, Mom

Klint Replies and Mom Answers

Mom,

I will try and call again later this week. I am running a school that includes driving, shooting, sneaking around in the woods etc. There is a tremendous amount of labor put into this thing and lots of moving pieces all coming together at once, so I am stupid busy and not getting much sleep. No probs though.

The elections. Hmm, I like Obama and I think there will be a lot of positive things that come from his presidency especially as far as international relations go. My concern is a democrat controlled house and senate to go with him.  I feel that socialism is a threat to liberty and as far as I am concerned it is fascism in disguise, a wolf in sheep’s clothing so to speak. So, having all three houses controlled by people who view government as a redistribution center for others peoples money greatly greatly concerns me.

As far as “old white men”, umm if we are going to use racial terms to describe culture then it should be noted that old white men are the reason that our country has one of the highest standards of living and has generated the most wealth and the most stable govt in the history of the world.

The colonial settlers created a cultural blend of entrepreneurship, egalitarianism and protestant work ethic that was unique in the history of the western world  and they formed that culture into a government.

Those principles should not be thrown out nor should they be mocked by those who do not know history or just how horrible life is in so many other parts of the world.

But as with any complex system, there is room for improvement.  This financial crises has exposed the flaw in under-regulation. That does not mean the whole concept is flawed, it just means that the system needs a tune up. Its a matter of not throwing the baby out with the bath water i suppose, but im afraid that populist rhetoric and mentality will give the three branches too much power to change the system towards socialism and we will end up like England with a 50% income tax rate and so many public funding programs that the govt can not keep track of them.

This type of system by its nature can not generate wealth, it only stifles initiative to create wealth or to excel, especially if you know that the govt will strip you of your earnings in order to fund more govt programs that are staffed by people that can not be fired and are not subject to the standards of achievement that are inherent in private enterprise.

I am, however, excited by the prospect of some real change in environment regulation, because as far as that goes the environment is one of those public arenas that affect everyone and is within the realm of govt to monitor and regulate. I am also happy to have someone that is not in the business of personal morality legislation as i feel that what consenting adults do in their own property is their business and should not really fall within the scope of govt regulation.

Anyway, we shall see, I know that the Iraqi army guys are scared to death that we are going to abandon them before everything has become stable.

The changes this year are amazingly dramatic and for these guys it is night and day. Last year they basically expected to die in combat. They almost viewed it as inevitable. Now, they are buying houses and planning weddings and thinking about life other than violence and death. They view Obama’s win with great concern because they think that if we go home now, then it will be back to the meat grinder for them if the Sunnis decide to try and re-take power.

I for one have spent too much of my time and effort over here to see it fall apart because we decided to leave the job 90% finished.   So, these are my concerns here, and I hope they are ill founded.

And you will have to excuse me for not viewing the late 60s and 70s from a viewpoint other than tragic.

I’m sure it was fun, however. At least you weren’t in China or Russia then.   Wow, umm so that’s my rant.   I will try and call this week if my connection is worth a crap.

Love, K

Ok time for Mom’s rant.

First,  while the 60’s and 70’s were definitely scary militarily, i.e,. Cuban Missile Crisis, Vietnam war, etc.  It also had some incredible leaps in science and humanity.  Space travel, men on the moon, civil rights – holy cow!  As a kid can you imagine what it meant to watch the space program evolve!  As a black person I can’t even begin to fathom their coming into a new era of equality with all they had endured in the past.

Alright, “old white men” might have been a bit harsh and yes, our founding fathers were “old white men,” but they had a dream and a plan.  I haven’t seen that since Kennedy.  Time for some new ideas.

As far as socialism and redistribution of wealth, Klint, you’re smarter than buying into that bunk!  Taxation, that we have had since the beginning of the civilized world, is about redistributing the wealth, to the causes that keep a civilized world.

It builds infrastructure, builds programs to help the less fortunate, funds our entire social structure from the local police, firemen, schools,  . . .  and so on.

And the problems we are having with the economy, I believe in part is because the government didn’t get involved and put a kibosh on some of the loan programs.  There is a place for government intervention and yes it is a fine line, but it is still needed.

In some ways we are very similar to the 30’s and the President at that time made some far reaching decisions to turn the nation around that probably looked very “socialistic” in it’s scope, i.e., Social Security, public works programs, banking.  But it worked and we are not a socialist  society, at least as far as I can tell.

Yes, having a president and congress all of the same party could have the potential for bad decisions, but in the same light it could have the potential for passing some far reaching reforms.  Let’s hope that is the case.  I do understand your concerns about Iraq, and undoing what we’ve accomplished. Hopefully Obama will listen to his military advisers, unlike the last president!

Ok I’m done, gotta go to work.  Take care,

love these discussions, can’t wait to have them around the dinner table when you get back!

love,

Mom

love,

Mom

Soldier and Mom Reply

Good reply mom, but i would also point out that

American taxes were not meant to “redistribute the wealth”.  Taxes were implemented to meet the infrastructure needs of a civil society.

On that note, most of the examples you listed are things that should be taxed at the local or state level to meet the needs of that particular area, not redistribute.

Yes, some of the financial problems would have benefited from a lot more oversight, especially the loan insurance programs. That is why we have a flexible government, we see a problem, we take measures to correct it. It won’t get any better as technology keeps progressing, new problems that we havnt’ even thought of will happen. And we will react. Keep in mind however that the government pushed the banking industry to give sub-prime mortgages in an effort to get the poor into homeownership roles. Good intentioned idea, but great example of why “Good ideas” by the government do not always translate to smart economics.

Just because some taxation is necessary to provide social infrastructure does not mean that we should say “well, while we are at it, lets go ahead and become socialists”. Its not really “bunk” to be bought into. Its just a different philosophy. The amount of government intrusion into our lives and pocketbooks has steadily increased since Roosevelt. It would seem to me, that there should be a stopping point somewhere along the way. I know how government budgets work, if there is money there, it will be spent. It would seem to me it would be better to limit the budgets and force the programs to accomodate or become more efficient. You can see how the opposite attitude would easily lead to lots and lots of wasted money and bloated ineficiency.

Im also not sure how Kennedy plays up as this ideal to be compared to our founding fathers who would be considered Libertarians by todays standards. He was in office a very short amount of time and other than his handling of the cuban missile crisis did not accomplish very much as very few of his programs were passed by congress. Not to disparage the man, but he really was more of a romantic ideal than someone who dramatically changed society.

Worthy of note however are the facts that he proposed tax cuts, not an increase, created the space program, and, he directed the CIA to support the Baath party in Iraq as they conducted a coup against their leadership. This resulted in the executions of thousands of educated Iraqis who were suspected of being leftists based on lists given to the Baath party by our government, as well as Saddam Hussein taking over the party shortly after. This was done in order to maintain Iraq as a stable oil producing region.

He spoke well and was a very romantic figure. Inspiring as well. I would say Obama meets at least those criteria. I am not really concerned as much about those attributes though. Abe Lincoln was one ugly dude. But he did have the fortitude to see our country through its darkest hour by making cold, callous, calculating and very unpopular decisions. Also very necessary.   Anyway, you are right, there is a line to be balanced, and in the end, that is the goal of most of us in the middle of the country. For me the line is not as thin, that’s all.

Chat with you later

Mom Replies

Well Klint as usual you have some very well thought out responses, and you are taxing my brain, as I am not a trained historian, but I did live during the time periods you talked about, and have some comments based on my observations.

To start with, Kennedy may not have lived long enough to implement some of his programs, but in the short period he did have, he accomplished an amazing amount.  lf all he accomplished was the “Space Program” that would have been substantial.

His info from the CIA was apparently misleading or “warped” about Iraq, I can only say that his decisions were based on what he thought was accurate info at the time, and  history lessons have led us down a path that were twisted to say the least based on “intelligence info.”  Perhaps you have more insight into this particular matter, but it doesn’t change the outcome.

As far as my remarks about Kennedy, I was trying to capture a “feeling” at the time of his inauguration that I believe is somewhat similar to Obama’s election.  We have a  relatively young president with a young family and what appears to be some new and refreshing ideas.  Kennedy gave us that “breath of fresh air” and new ideas and hopes and  dreams that Obama seems to also have; only time will tell.

As far as taxes and redistribution, I believe by definition redistribution means to reallocate, which pretty well sums up taxes.  I do believe the military and “your salary” are funded by federal taxes, but I’m sure you can correct me if I’m wrong.

Was the government pushing the poor into home ownership based on sub-prime interest loans, or was it the lower middle class that perhaps could have used some government funding to help them into home ownership?  This is the class that is usually working with two incomes and no health care, unlike the poor (Medicare) that can walk into any medical institute and receive health care at any given time and you and I are paying for it.

I have some very bitter feelings about our health care system, and yes I am very ready for change when it comes to health care.

I believe we can take the best from all the different systems out there and make something that works so that all our citizens are covered, and if that is socialized medicine then I am all for it!   I have talked to too many individuals that have experienced “socialized medicine’ in other countries that have had wonderful outcomes to say that “it doesn’t work.”

Well those are my thoughts at the moment,

later,

luv,

Mom

Name Change?

When I started this thing, I didn’t know much about the format, layout, etc–I just signed up for a WordPress account and I had to pick a name–right now–so I started with “Faith and Alternatives.”  I kind of liked that, but I thought maybe it was a little confusing.  So I switched to “Faith Matters.”  That’s sort of what it’s about, but I don’t know, it sounds kind of bland.  I would like to use “Altercation” but “Cousin Eric” already uses that–and I don’t really think I enjoy a good fight as much as he does.  I thought about “Alteration” but then that would sound like a sewing site–So I’m trying out for now, “Alternation.”

What do you think?  About changing the name–does it just confuse things?  Is it unimportant?

And about the subject–of alter-nation:  Are we really a new nation?  Did the election alter everything? Are we now officially beyond racism?

Out of Many One

On the “Friends Finds” page, Baiba passes on a piece from the Lawrence Journal World about a town in England wanting to eliminate Latin phrases, for example e.g., ad hoc, etc. and the other ones.

I did notice that President-Elect Obama substituted a translation of e pluribus unum in his speech.

I wonder if we should replace the Latin-derrived “senator” with “old guy”?

I don’t mind simplifying legal jargon, but I say, let’s keep the language alive by teaching Latin poetry in school.

(For a list of latin sayings try this site.)

Sunt lacrimae rerum.

Bloodless Coup

Millions of citizens in my country today poured out into the streets and then met at pre-arranged meeting places to demand a change of government.  Evidently the current administration has agreed to relinquish power peacefully and even to cooperate over the next few months in a smooth transition.

No tanks were seen in the streets, no shots were fired, no houses were torched.

Democracy is a beautiful thing.

What is Black Liberation Theology?

Liberation theology comes from the realization that salvation includes more than saving individual souls for eternal life after death (though it does include that).  A study of the word “salvation” and related concepts in the Old Testament reveals that salvation usually has a concrete setting in this life.  An individual prays for salvation from enemies or from sickness and praises God when the rescue comes.  The nation prays for salvation from enemies or for a return from exile.

The exodus or escape of a group of slaves from Egypt is the central historical event of the Old Testament.  It is the founding event of the nation of Israel and Israel’s covenant with God.  The story begin when God hears the cries of the oppressed and intervenes in history to save them from bondage.  Then God forms them  into a community of people with a special relationship to himself and to each other.

The theme of liberation continues in the ministry of Jesus, who announced his ministry by quoting these words from the prophet Isaiah,

The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to preach good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners, and recovery of sight for the blind,
To release the oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.

Salvation in the New Testament includes the forgiveness of personal sins for a new relationship with God and with one’s fellow pilgrims on earth through Jesus Christ.  It includes the hope of full deliverance in the future from all forms of bondage, sickness, suffering, and selfishness.  It also includes at least occasionally signs of that future deliverance–sometimes prayers for healing, prosperity, and freedom are answered in this life.  Salvation in the New Testament also includes the indwelling presence of Christ in the life of believers through the Holy Spirit.  The presence of Christ enables a follower of Christ to continue his ministry of compassion, justice, and liberation.

Liberation theology takes many forms.  Some are clearly wrong, depending on the failed economic theory of socialism and hoping to transform society through violent revolution.  But liberation theology does not have to be like that, and many forms are not.

Black liberation theology assumes that the experiences of black people gives them a unique vantage point for understanding the message of the Bible.  White people have more in common with Pharaoh and Caesar, black people have more in common with the liberated Hebrew slaves and the poor people who followed Jesus.

Black liberation theology in North America is heavily indebted to the ministry of Martin Luther King, who proved that change can come through nonviolent action coupled with prayer and faith.

Black liberation theology teaches that all people are sinful and need repentance, forgiveness, and the presence of the Spirit to overcome the effects of sin.  It also realizes that sin takes different forms in different people.  In Pharaoh and his followers sin manifests itself in a stubborn refusal to hear the cries of the oppressed and to submit to the message of judgment.  In the victims of Pharaoh’s oppression, sin often takes the form of a failure of courage, a lack of faith, an identification with the oppressors rather than heeding God’s message of liberation.

In addition to the reconciling message of Jesus as proclaimed by Dr. King, liberation theologians and preachers also listen to the words (and sometimes mimic the fiery rhetoric) of the biblical prophets like Amos and Jeremiah, or even James the Just, who grew up in the same house with Mary, Joseph, and Jesus:

Now listen, you rich people, weep and wail because of the misery that is coming upon you.  Your wealth has rotted, and moths have eaten your clothes.  Your gold and sliver are corroded.  Their corrosion will testify against you and eat your flesh like fire.  You have hoarded wealth in the last days.  Look!  The wages you failed to pay the workers who mowed your fields are crying out against you.  The cries of the harvesters have reached the ears of the Lord Almighty.  You have lived on earth in luxury and self-indulgence.  You have fattened yourselves in the day of slaughter.  You have condemend and murdered innocent men, who were not opposing you.