lhowell

Archive for April, 2008|Monthly archive page

Eating Mud for Nourishment: In Our Backyard and Doing Nothing

In Human Condition and Treatment on April 17, 2008 at 10:59 pm

In Haiti, where three-quarters of the population earns less than $2 a day and one in five children is chronically malnourished, the one business booming amid all the gloom is the selling of patties made of mud, oil and sugar, typically only consumed by the most destitute.

“It’s salty and it has butter, and you don’t know you’re eating dirt,” said Olwich Louis Jeune, 24, who has taken to eating them more often in recent months. “It makes your stomach quiet down.” This is an excerpt from today’s International Herald Tribune. Click here to read full article.

I am guessing that most people who will read this post likely missed this article. For me, it was the poignant illustration to see what people will do to survive. Then I ask myself, why? Why does a 24 year old have to resort to eating “mud” literally.

Of course, problems exist on our home turf, but many have relatives from Haiti experiencing this madness and waste. Yet, we don’t hear much about it. What is compelling and interesting is that similar challenges are brewing right here at home in the United States. For example, real wages have not increased in over 10 years. Gasoline is now over $3.35 per gallon for regular unleaded. Food prices continue to increase. Student financial aid is in peril. Job loss continues to accelerate across all industries and regions of the country. Home foreclosures and the home mortgage fiasco remains to be a bitter reminder of economic greed, or our corporate titans who in many respects walk away in shame much like Robert Mugabi or Aristide and other dictators who are exiled only to retire in luxury and ultimately forgotton in short order.

Yet, the damage is done to be sure. So, when we think about that next 65 inch plasma “we think we must have”, or a fancy trip to Hawaii or a sale at the outlet mall, please stop and think and instead purchase a 42 inch if you must at all. Visit our national parks or Bandon Dunes Oregon if you must travel or get those pants altered for $10 dollars instead of buying four new pair for $50 dollars each, only to pay $12 additional dollars or more to get them altered, all in the name of a good deal.

Then donate the savings to a worthy cause, share your time or send money to a relative who really needs it. It is now time to THINK.

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TED | Talks | Bill Strickland: Rebuilding America, one slide show at a time (video)

In Uncategorized on April 5, 2008 at 4:34 pm

Something for the weekend! Inspiration, exciting, motivating, powerful and something to make you think about what we can do and how we can help others who may not be as fortunate. Have a great weekend!

Vodpod videos no longer available. from www.ted.com posted with vodpod

Poor People Have Poor Ways: Poverty Czar is NOT Answer

In Human Condition and Treatment, mindset 3.0, poverty, social networking, Uncategorized on April 4, 2008 at 8:12 pm

What is poverty? According to American Heritage Dictionary, it is “The state of being poor; lack of the means of providing material needs or comforts.” Senator Hilary Rodham Clinton spoke today about creating a cabinet level position in which the primary purpose would be to end poverty in the United States. Mrs. Clinton gave her support to an idea long advocated by the King family, a cabinet position that she said would be “solely and fully devoted to ending poverty as we know it, that will focus the attention of our nation on this issue and never let it go.”

I am not so sure that a cabinet level position would fundamentally change the condition of people who experience poverty and those that experience extreme poverty in this country. Let’s look at some facts and recent illustrations of what I refer to as “poor people having poor ways” which underscores the mindset and behavior of people who tend to experience poverty.

Currently roughly 12% of the U.S. population fall below the federal poverty threshold. There is however some controversy regarding the federal poverty line, arguing that it either understates or overstates the problem of poverty. According to the United Nations, which defines poverty among high-income OECD (Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development ) countries as those earning less than 50% of the median, 17% of Americans lived in poverty between 1999 and 2002, the second highest percentage of any high-income OECD country.

human_poverty.png
Human Poverty

Poverty is not just a financial state. Being poor affects life in many ways. The human poverty index uses indicators that capture non-financial elements of poverty, such as life expectancy, adult literacy, water quality, and children that are underweight. The 30 territories of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development use a different index which includes income and long-term unemployment; and not water quality or underweight children. This implies that the poor in richer territories are materially better off. This is clearly not the case. Otherwise, we would not need to create a cabinet post for a poverty czar.

Nearly half the African-Americans in a recent study of teenagers ages 14 to 19 were infected with at least one of the diseases monitored in the study — human papillomavirus (HPV), chlamydia, genital herpes and trichomoniasis, a common parasite. Further, the United States still has the highest rates of teen pregnancy, birth, and abortion in the fully industrialized world.

We could cite many more illustrations to be fair. But not until we change our mental models about how we view people, getting away from being judgmental, helping others without compensation and doing so unconditionally is the way out of poverty. What I am afraid of is that some national figure will get nominated who is well connected, Congress would deliberate and ultimately approve the nominee, then a bunch of high-priced consultants who know little about poverty will be hired and create a national report on poverty with recommendations. Wrong, wrong, wrong.

This issue has to be taken to the streets like presidential candidate Barack Obama has done. Use of social networking in a vigorous and relentless way. Providing tools like PCs (not old machines), for educational attainment, free high-speed Internet access, communicating with people via text messaging to remind of certain events and activities, creating “Meetups” weekly that engage, involve and excite people to change their mindset and their behaviors. Instead of going to the club, pool together talents of parents to conduct tutoring sessions. For example, if one parent is a math whiz, one is an english prodigy, and the like, have sessions in the home where it is safe and compelling to learn sans the television and side conversations. This the framework for the poverty czar to get things done because there are 196,000 search results for “poverty in america” so the work is already done. It is now time to execute much like what Obama has done to change the collective minds of people across America. It’s time for a different pace of action with fresh faces and relevant ideas and the willingness to change course.

 

 

 

More Than 1,000 in Iraq’s Forces Quit Basra Fight – Dr. King Could Save the Iraqi People

In George Bush, iraq, Iraq War on April 4, 2008 at 5:24 pm

In a time of financial crisis globally, public perception about the war in Iraq, here is a harsh reality that we should consider carefully. More than 1,000 Iraqi soldiers and policemen either refused to fight or simply abandoned their posts during the inconclusive assault against Shiite militias in Basra last week, a senior Iraqi government official said Thursday. Iraqi military officials said the group included dozens of officers, including at least two senior field commanders in the battle.

My take on this has more to do with basic fear, anxiety and the future security of men who want to be with their families. In many respects, this reminds me of my suburban dad-friends taking up arms to go fight a war we know nothing about, not trained and completely under prepared. As my wife likes to say, the first kids to die in Iraq are the gung-ho suburban kids who tend to romanticize about what they will do in Iraq. Sadly, these suburban kids, typically from conservative backgrounds are the first young people to get killed.

So, does this manic war make YOU feel safer?I was asked this [do you feel safer] in an aggressive, violent tone of someone about a year and half ago? And my answer, I never felt in danger. When these young Iraqi husbands and sons abandoned their posts, I was not impacted in suburbia, the crime rate in the inner-city of Philadelphia did not go down. No! But, this further adds support for the notion of remaining in Iraq for even longer periods of time since the behaviors shown reflect the lack of confidence in obtaining victory–whatever that means?The desertions in the heat of a major battle cast fresh doubt on the effectiveness of the American-trained Iraqi security forces. The White House has conditioned further withdrawals of American troops on the readiness of the Iraqi military and police.

So what’s the White House to do? Will another surge help? The hearts, minds and the “will” of the Iraqi people is what is at stake here. If the collective will is to “run” and “quit” then what can the American troops and allies really do to stabilize the situation long-term? Real diplomacy is the answer in part and the current administration has not been as willing to try this in an earnest way. The Rambo tactics and shoot’em up policies do not reflect what we need here in the US, but rather an imperialist approach to protecting geo-political, economic interests.

On this day of memory of Dr. Martin Luther King, I got to thinking, who in Iraq has captured the hearts and minds of the Iraqi people? Of the more than 1.000 forces quitting it is clear that nobody has crafted a compelling enough message for which people are willing to sacrifice as did the men and women in the 1960s. So, does John Mcain have the answer? The Bush administration? Stay tuned. More Than 1,000 in Iraq’s Forces Quit Basra Fight – New York Times