Archive for the ‘intolerance’ Category

Innocents; Refugees are desperate.

November 20, 2015

I was going to write about something totally different, but due to the tragedies in Beirut & Paris, and the hysteria about accepting  Syrian refugees into the  USA, I have to  address this.

My fathers parents  were from Russia and Germany.  They were immigrants.  They weren’t refugees because they weren’t force to leave their countries. It was an economic decision.  My mother’s parents were  from England and Ukraine.  Similar circumstances.  I know part of the reason, aside from economics that they chose to come to the US was antisemitism.  I also have friends whose parents were refugees from Germany during WWII.  There’s a fine line between being an immigrant and being  a refugee, but nobody left their homeland and struggled to learn English and make a life for themselves because things were going so well in the old country.

Due to the bombings, and ISIS and militant Islamists in the news, out pointy-headed politicians have decided to not let any Syrians in until they can be screened better—to make sure they are not terrorists.

Here’s the problem—-it’s not logical, and here’s why:

  1.  It’s a known fact that many of the terrorists carry dual nationalities—with a home country (maybe Pakistan, maybe Iran…) and a European country.  If you pay enough, you can do this.  Even Americans can do this;
  2. Many have been traveling on tourists visas—or even  work visas.  They don’t have to be refugees.  They have plenty of money.  Many are highly educated, or have wealthy benefactors;
  3.   They are not bringing wives and children, and don’t have to bother with the slow refugee resettlement process;
  4. They are charming, they are smart, and they see our celebrities , like Miley Cyrus, or Rhianna, prancing around in their underwear, and they don’t  want that to happen to their countries;
  5.   Finally, as Santayana said, “…those who do not remember history are condemned to repeat it.”  This all goes back to Sykes-Pickot at the end of WWI, which  the British and Allies would not have won were it not for T.E. Lawrence organizing the Arabs, with the promise that if they helped to defeat the Ottoman Empire, the British would help them set up  modern governments.  Instead, the British  did Sykes-Pickot and gave Syria to the French—who wanted the  land, but did not fight for it.  Britain than proceeded to construct Iran, Iraq, and foment more problems in India before partition.  Our own CIA ousted  ( https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mohammad_Mosaddegh) from Iran, a democratically elected leader  not on Standard Oil’s payroll, in favor of Shah Reza Pahlavi, a dictator, who, although he  was said to  have ‘modernized’ Iran (Persia), credit should have been given to Mosaddegh.  and the Shah was corrupt and benefited from the oil deal…the country did not;
  6.  We proceeded via  mass media—owned and controlled by old white men who had stock in  war benefiting companies–to convince ourselves we were fighting  communism in Viet Nam (we  actually allied ourselves with  Catholic elites who were opposed to land reform requested by the Buddhist majority), we had Salvador Allende killed in Chile for the benefit of another  dictator and business interests, and in the 1980s, the CIA got inner city youth addicted to crack cocaine to benefit businessmen in Central America.

We never learn. We’re always on the wrong side of history.  There is the cry that  we have to take  care of our own people first. Well, we are doing a piss poor job of it.  Refugee resettlement is a huge industry, particularly in Chicago.  They do a great job of lobbying.  Unfortunately, our homeless veterans don’t do such a great job of lobbying, nor do kids who age out of foster care. Also, because we allow the religious right  to oppose teaching  family planning in schools, we still have a lot of uneducated young mothers  who believe the rumor that they can get  public aid forever—or at least until they get their lives together. Heck—we don’t even teach them enough math or economics before they get pregnant to realize they can’t afford to rent a studio apartment on minimum wage—let alone have kids.

So, we can make the refugees a scapegoat, or we can be rational and start asking  our politicians, who are all over paid and have too many sycophants on their payrolls—what’s up with this?

Movie Review:Love And Mercy—Foxes Minding the Henhouse

July 10, 2015

I’m not much of an audiophile.  there is so much noise in my life, I generally listen to NPR on the radio, and go for jazz.  However, I still enjoy the rock of my youth.  On my desert island playlist is Good Vibrations….  I’ll say that straight off.  Next thing I’ll say  is that I have been mentally  ill on and off. Mostly depression, but the fact is that I have Asperger’s Syndrome, and I  just  don’t fit anywhere.  I’m on the Wrong Planet.

Because I love Beach Boys music, and so many people told me they enjoyed this movie, I had to see it.  It’s a visually beautiful movie, taking place in southern California, and a story well scripted and edited.  The music is great, of course.   Paul Dano and John Cusack both  do  an excellent job of playing Brian Wilson young and old, in all his turmoil.

I don’t  think that most of us who enjoy Beach Boys music realized  Brian Wilson arranged so many of the hits we love.  He really is a genius.  However,  it’s hard to be an artist. It appears that his fellow band members had a different idea of what they wanted to do.  Coupled  with an abusive  father, and whatever stresses cause mental illness, he was really tortured for a very long time…  Psychotherapist Eugene Landy, who  somehow got  guardianship of  Wilson, also abused him more.

We in America are so trusting of care providers. We just assume they are altruistic and have your interests at heart.    I saw several psychiatrists and psychologists  as an adolescent.  They made a lot of money off my parents and really did no more than assure me I was not crazy.  When I was starting my college career, I was thinking of majoring in psychology (because I wanted some insight into how  people make decisions).  I had the  amazing luck to  get a ‘self-taught’ intro to psychology course  with a textbook written by James V. McConnell :  “Understanding Human Behavior” (http://www.nytimes.com/1990/04/12/obituaries/james-mcconnell-psychology-teacher-and-researcher-64.html), the genius (no joke—he got a MacArthur grant) worm biologist, who addressed the practice of psychology on humans.  He said, in a nutshell, that 1/3 of people who go to  psychologists/psychiatrists for  talk therapy get better, 1/3 stay the same, and 1/3 get worse.  It’s  essentially the dynamic between the patient and the  doctor.

Brian Wilson had the extreme misfortune to come under the control of Landy, who alienated him from his family even  further, and it was just by a stroke of luck that he met Melinda Ledbetter.  She had the integrity to  try to disentangle him.  Of course, this could have gone either way.

Mental illness is  sort of like diabetes in that  if you take care of yourself. are a bit introspective,  and avoid stress, you can  function in the  world…but it never really goes away.  And what is it? A chemical imbalance?  Thanks to Temple Grandin,  there is a lot less  ambiguity to  human psychology than there used to be.  However, the foxes are still in charge and , coupled with lawyers, they tend to keep us oddballs suppressed.
This is a sad story with a happy ending, and it  does a lot to show that not everyone who is mentally ill is schizophrenic.

Book Review: Orange is the New Black, by Piper Kerman

June 12, 2015

By now, most of us have heard of the TV show that is based on this book, and how Netflix  took a leap of faith to finance production of what is a web based TV show, but that is really not the story…nor is the dramatic TV series the story.

The story, very well told by Kerman, is about how she ended up in  jail and her experiences in jail.  For those who  do not know how a ‘white, blond, college educated’  woman ended up in jail…in a nutshell:  she was in a relationship with a woman who  was not running drugs, but who was transporting money for drug dealers.  She had so much cash to transport that she asked Kerman to  help her.  Kerman stopped doing it,  started a new life, and years  later, her  friend was arrested and implicated Kerman.

It is  more complicated, as lawyers are involved, of course, but ultimately, Kerman was sentenced to just over a year in a minimum security  penitentiary.  I think all of us are curious about what life is like for women in jail, and Kerman does a good job of  describing how women cope.  I learned a lot.  So did Kerman.

What really compelled me is my interest in Restorative Justice.  Incarcerating people is expensive, and it does not make communities whole.  I have  no objection to locking up  violent offenders.  I, personally, do not understand why child molesters do not serve life in prison, or why a police officer’s life is worth more than a civilians.  I do not think people who sell drugs or engage in prostitution (unless they are trafficking others) should be locked up.  Unfortunately, we can no longer afford to lock people up for being assholes, or for being stupid.

Indeed, many of the women Kerman met  were locked up, serving arbitrarily long sentences for either trusting some man, or defending themselves against a man.  Many women came from  broken families, mothers who were  drug addicts, absent fathers (who  weren’t working steady jobs anyways).  They were forced apart from their children.  Many could not read.

I knew a lot of this before reading the book, as I volunteer as a court advocate, and I  also have a sister who  does similar advocacy.  We, who think we are law abiding, and manage to stay out of trouble, think  of  the situation as  Us vs. Them, and that’s not how it is.

At the end of the book, Kerman gives information on how to reform the ‘justice’ system, and works for that. I strongly recommend this book as not just a good read, but as an entre into a world we think we understand, but don’t.  The Netflix series is not how jail is.

Fiction: 3 Deaths Affecting Families(Book &amp Movie Reviews)

March 6, 2015

I am sure it is a mere   coincidence that I came upon these 3 stories within  weeks of each other, but such is modern fiction.  Also, this is such a typical plot scenario.

All  three start with a death, and incorporate  flashbacks to  partially tell the story.  All are about resolving conflict.

The first I will  describe is a movie that didn’t spend  long in theatre release, but  worth renting:  “Black or White“, which Kevin Costner  produced and starred in.  It wasn’t well reviewed, and some described it as somewhat racist.  I’d  say  more condescending, as written, but it was co-produced  by one of the black actors, and the acting and story is generally  good, and the story told well to fit into the time frame of the movie.

Costner’s  (white)character is suddenly widowed. He and his wife were raising a grandchild .  Their daughter died in childbirth, and the father of the child was a drug dealing thug.  Costner’s character maintained his resentment  towards the thug and the thug’s family.  When  his wife  dies in an accident, the thug’s mother, a real matriarch who genuinely wants a relationship with her grandchild ( played by Octavia Spencer), asks for  joint custody, and this is the story of how they reach a compromise.     This  is  really  just  five main characters, but  richly developed.  Not Oscar material, but an interesting story. Anyone  involved  in divorce or a custody dispute should see it, and  it would be good to show to  kids who  live in  a racially isolated environment.

I had just finished Anne Patchett’s “The Magician’s Assistant.”  I  had enjoyed her book, “Bel Canto“, so was eager to read this.   Sabine, the Magician’s  assistant,  had been a waitress at a club that specialized in magic, and   this was how she met the magician.  She fell in love with him, but he was gay.  He dies at the very beginning of the book, and Sabine, the only child of holocaust survivors who met in Israel and emigrated to the USA, learns the man she spent 20 years with was  NOT an orphan, as he had  told her. .  Her curiosity about why he hid his family and  past from her makes this  a really interesting story.  Really movie material. Patchett makes this sort of an odd fairy tale come to life.

Jacquelyn Mitchard’s  ” A Theory of Relativity,” is, again, about  a death and family.  What’s  unique about the main characters is that their family was built through adoption, and custody of a  baby is challenged because some don’t consider adopted children  to be the  real  children of their adopted parents.   What complicates this is that  a set of grandparents  bases their  custody claim on the fact that their son (the father of the child being fought over) was not adopted, and that they should have more rights than th  mother’s parents.  This should probably be assigned reading (or on a readying list) for high school age  kids as it addresses  social relationships, and differences in religion, life outlooks, peoples’ opinions, and what love is.

I am not  very close to my blood family.  It could be psychological issues (ya think?) or  philosophical differences, but in my case, I’ve formed bonds with friends, and even these  are challenging.  It’s  good to read about how people cope with differences they have with people they care about.

 

Book Review:Lies My Teacher Told Me, by James W. Loewen

November 7, 2014
This ophot has nothing to do with the book. It is a rainbow over  Izmir, Turkey. However, is our knowledge of history based on  pretty images?

This photo has nothing to do with the book. It is a rainbow over Izmir, Turkey. However, is our knowledge of history based on pretty images?

I found this book. published in 1995, and subtitled Everything Your American  History Textbook Got Wrong, and I had to check it out.    I am naturally cynical and skeptical. I was in high school when the Viet Nam war was raging. There were rumors—which turned out to be facts well documented, that  Diem, a Catholic, with ties via Cardinal Spellman to President Kennedy (another Catholic—no coincidence) wanted American assistance not only to control the majority Buddhist population, but  to sell drugs–heroin, marijuana, mostly.  We delivered  a waiting populace for those drugs in the form of soldiers who  could not get  real jobs, who were patriotic, but had no clue what they were fighting for—but were told they were fighting against communism.  Recently, as I write this, the movie, Kill the Messenger, about CIA involvement in the  ‘covert’  war in Nicaragua in the 1980s      ( many don’t recall—Reagan did not send soldiers, he sent a boatload of money and weapons to a bunch of right wingers the CIA put together—the CONTRAS—to fight the Sandanistas, whose basic platform (making them socialist) was UNIVERSAL PRIMARY EDUCATION!  There is evidence that to finance this, the CIA  covertly was involved in the distribution of crack cocaine (for the CONTRAS)  in American black communities.  The movie wasn’t around for long, but you  can get it on Netflix.  Also, now in release, CITZENFOUR, a documentary thatEdward Snowden wisely  participated in, with the help of journalists,  regarding  the National Security  Agency (NSA—the CIA and the FBI  are not the only spy agencies spying on citizens) collecting communications data from private companies.  Will any of this ever be in American history textbooks?

One reason all this  interests me is because, when I was in high school, I used to sit in the library before school and read the  hardcover magazine, American Heritage.   It was published  four times a year. There  was an article about the Yoruba of West Africa,and their drama  culture.  This was about 1970, and  while I don’t remember  much about the article, what I DO remember is  that it was about African Culture.  It had been several years since  I had learned about slavery, but  my teachers had always taught that the Africans had no language, no culture.  They were savages living in trees, and white people had done them a favor by enslaving them and civilizing them!  Of course, this  was not true…but there was no internet, you had to go out and search for books, and few were available at that time to primary and high school  students.  It just opened up a world to me, but my parents would have none of it.  It being going to college and studying African Studies. So, I didn’t go to college at all (well, not for  about 12 years).  I learned to groom dogs.

That is neither hear nor there.  Loewen starts out with  Columbus and how  brutal he was  to the native Americans he met in the West Indies.  I knew they had been terrorized, but I did not know most died of disease and even suicide.

He goes on to  early settlements, and the myth of Thanksgiving (and how European diseases wiped out many native American communities  along the Eastern Seaboard), social stratification, labor history, the civil rights movement, and all the  myths we believe as facts.  I knewe Helen Keller was a socialist.  In fact, she was a member of the Industrial Workers of the World. I did not know that Woodrow Wilson was an extreme racist and anti-semite, and that he was the one who segregated the armed forces by race.

I don’t have  children…but  think about this:  we have teachers teaching a history that is a bunch of lies:  stuff that really never happened, while ignoring what did happen because our government policy is controlled by elites.  On the one hand,  this is why  we have public education:  we all  should know the same stuff as ‘true and factual’…but instead of learning math or real history, it’s a system  of teaching how to remember ‘facts’ and act on those ‘facts’, and make decisions based on those ‘facts’.

I urge you to look for this book at used bookstores (ans support local small businesses), but if you can’t you will probably be able to find it on Amazon—and it is worth the read.

2014: the Year of Ebola

October 17, 2014
a colorized version of G.P. Murdock's ethnic map of Africa

a colorized version of G.P. Murdock’s ethnic map of Africa

Right off, I am posting a link to Richard Preston’s online conversation: http://www.reddit.com/r/IAmA/comments/2cscg8/i_am_richard_preston_author_of_the_hot_zone_and/

He wrote his book, The Hot Zone, in 1992.    Just coincidentally, I recently came across a New Yorker (Dec.20 & 27, 2010) with Michael Spector’s article, “Letter From Cameroon:  The Doomsday Strain, viral hunting in Central Africa”—about the work of virologist Nathan Wolfe.  He attributes diseases jumping from  other species to humans due to  humans living too close to animals, and the prevalence of bushmeat (wild game) eating.

It’s not that simple, but yet it is. Ebola is a hemorrhagic  disease.  It’s ‘titre’ is very high and can penetrate membranes and wounds easily.  It then makes blood cell walls ‘pop’.  It is believed that the current  epidemic in West Africa  can be attributed to  fruit bats.  They are carriers of Ebola.
We need bats to pollinate fruit and sugar cane. They are not sickened by Ebola, but humans are.  Partly due to population density, partly due to poverty and the desire for protein, and  the complications of  lack of education, modern sanitation, and  way too few health car workers…we are now in a global crisis. It’s not just there.  It’s all over. The earth is one big place.
As Preston pointed out in his book, when something this devastating occurred  in Africa, traditionally, the disease victims would be abandoned and their housing burned after they died.  We are too  modern and enlightened to do that, and it might be the end of life as we know it.

“Entertainer” (notice the quotes) Chris Brown  bluntly put it as a form of birth control. Well, although his terminology is crude, it is definitely population crash.  The  environment can only hold so many  sentient beings.  But now  we’re in trouble.  The intelligent thing to do would be to  stop  transport—including human travel, not just from West Africa to anywhere (except for those  actively addressing the crisis), but ALL TRAVEL.  That would be the fair thing.  That won’t happen, as there are too many vested interests:  follow the money.  Look at what is happening:  although the  decision makers tell us it is a difficult disease to get, in the USA, 2 nurses who treated Thomas Eric Duncan, who ultimately died,  who were following a protocol—got the disease.  We learned that in Spain, a health care worker’s dog was ‘euthanized’. We don’t know if the dog was tested…but it is very possible  pets can  be carriers of the disease. We don’t have enough information  as of October 2014.

This is worse than sad.  It’s devastating for so many reasons.  I know I am not the only Returned Peace Corps Volunteer  who is hearing about what a lost cause Africa is.  I asked a friend who had been teaching in Liberia over the summer what his take was on Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, the Nobel Prize winner and president of Liberia.  He told me there is no electricity and no  plumbing in Monrovia, the capital. If you don’t have a generator, you don’t have electricity.  As for plumbing—can you imagine a city with no  running water or toilets?  You have to wonder, after all this time, how can this be?  How is it the UN, or the European community  hasn’t jumped right in?    How can a Nobel prize winner have no ‘pull’ to fix this? Liberia is clearly a failed state for the second time, and the result is an epidemic of Ebola, which could easily become global.

It does us no good to stop  travelers from West Africa, because Africans have always traveled overland.  In fact,  travel WAS  blocked from West Africa  to East and Southern Africa, by airlines in August…but Africans get around, and they can  get to  North Africa and take a ferry from Morocco to  Spain, or fly to South Africa and then fly on where ever…& this is why we have to bring travel to a halt for about a month or so.

We Americans will not be fooled by science.  We didn’t like the term ‘global warming’, so we changed it to ‘climate change’ and we still yawn. We are losing species every minute, but  we are jumping on the ‘single serving’ packaging revolution.   Let’s waste  in the name of convenience.

Because we  won’t do what needs to be done, it will be a matter of luck  who will die, or where the disease will spread next.  & this will give more fodder to those who  don’t think we should  do anything to limit population growth.  Mo information for women—no access to  contraception.  We have to ‘replace’ the ones who have died…when the  problem became a problem because too many are living too close together, and have such a desperate time getting protein.  Will we, who have access to information and technology, ever learn?

Book Review: The Spirit Catches you and you Fall Down, by Anne Fadiman

August 21, 2014

 

I graduated high school in 1971, as  the ‘Viet Nam War’ was winding down.  It had been a good part of my life since my earliest memories of watching news on TV.  My uncle was in the navy then,  serving just off the coast.  Everyone knew someone either serving or who had been killed.  We were fighting communism, or so we were told.  We were fighting there so it didn’t spread to here.  What did we know of communism except the Soviet Communist bloc—which of course was very repressive…and China?

We didn’t really know  how much racial discrimination affected  non-white people in the USA.   At that time, we still believed everything our government told us.  Our government would never lie to us, because we had the best government in the world.

That mindset is relevant because we also believe that  our educational system is the best on the world, too (in spite of evidence that it is not).  We believed  things were black and white, and whether you went to a private or a public school, you were shaped to be a good American.  My country right or wrong.

Of course, developing my adult self, I became a more cynical and skeptical teenager. I heard Rennie Davis speak about the Viet Nam war, and was a follower of the Conspiracy 7 trial—held right here in Chicago.  In the underground press, we were getting reports of soldiers in Viet Nam not knowing who the enemy was, and finding the South Viet Namese arrogant  and prissy.

We knew nothing of covert operations in Cambodia and Laos until we exited the war, and it wasn’t really until the 1980’s that we found that we were  fighting all over southeast Asia.  After the war, Viet Nam and Southeast Asia faded from our collective interests.

There were rumors that turned out to be true:   that the CIA was  helping the south Viet Namese sell heroin to our own American soldiers.   Yes, we were and remained on the wrong side of history.

I was mentally ill for years, and plodded through my own life….marrying for the wrong reasons and later divorcing.  I took a break from grooming dogs  to coordinate a project to provide free English classes to immigrants and refugees.  It was then that I started learning about different ‘world views’.  I went to Africa, and everything changed for me because  traveling broadens you so much. I returned to college to study anthropology.    I learned more about myself and how to know  other people.  I became less sure of what the truth was , and, if possible, even more cynical.

My geographic concentration was always Africa, but but I realized I knew nothing about India or Southeast Asia. This book was suggested by a tour guide when  I visited Viet Nam (as a tourist) in early 2014.

Heart breaking.  That is my gut reaction.  This story involves a little girl, her family and  community, and medical anthropology, and  our our history manipulating a society not really for freedom, but for capitalists markets. Embarrassing.

Fadiman does an outstanding job of not just narrating what happened to Lia Lee, but the context.  Misunderstanding after misunderstanding, but also horribly cruel exploitation of a whole society, in the name of fighting communism..

We are all so sure of what we know, what is true.  What is real.    We resent immigrants who don’t learn English, or who refuse to mix. They don’t learn to be Americans.  You read what this family has to say about how their lives got turned upside down, and how they had to adjust, and you just have to cringe.  Could YOU handle all this if it happened to YOU?  I don’t think I could.

This book should be required reading for every high school student born and raised in America, and every ‘medical pr9ofessional’, and anyone who  may need care for a chronic illness.   It’s a well written and edited history.

Book Review: Leap of Faith, by Queen Noor

August 23, 2013

Queen Noor  (the former Lisa Halaby) is my ‘agemate’.  I remember seeing photos of her  and King Hussein in the newspaper when their  engagement was announced.  I was fascinated that such a young girl ( she was 26 at the time) was choosing to marry such an ‘old’ man  (he was in his 40’s), even if he was a king.  I  also wondered if her father married her off.

Several years ago, I became interested in T. E. Lawrence.  He is  pretty much responsible for the modern Middle East.  So, when I got the opportunity to  read what  the queen had to say, and had the time, I decided to read her memoir.

She is a fascinating woman.  It was not merely chance that she met the king.  Her father was an aviation executive, and of Jordanian descent.  He was friendly with the King.    Lisa had gotten a degree in urban planning and architecture, and was working around the world consulting on airport design.  The king was an avid aviator, it so happened.  She was working for her father  and as a consultant in Amman when the king started pursuing her, but it was a love match.

Although Queen Noor grew up in the United States,  she was a global citizen.  She  took to her new role as wife and stepmother easily, or so she writes.  She  did much to  improve the welfare  of women and children in Jordan, but she was still a royal, and she writes easily of having homes in  England and the USA, as well as multiple residences in Jordan.  So, although she professes concern for the citizenry, she apparently had no problem  jetting around.

The important message from this book—and there is a message, is that  the king wanted peace, but he was saddled with Palestinian refugees and  a difficult Yassir Aarafat.  Also, A neighbor to the west, Israel, that kept encroaching on disputed land.

For those who did not know,  there were no countries here  until after World War I.  It was ‘Palestine’ with no geographic boundaries, because it was Ottoman Empire.  It was T.E. Lawrence, who had  worked on archeological digs  in the years before the war, who learned Arabic, who  worked with  King Hussein’s great grandfather so the
Arabs could rule themselves. One of the  compromises the  old King (or Sheikh) had made was to give a live of land along the Mediterranean to the Jews as long as  the Arabs had a port, thinking this would be Syria and Lebanon.  When Lawrence worked this out, with the  approval of higher ups in the British government (they wanted the cooperation of the Arabs to  get control of the Ottoman lands), he did not know the British had  already agreed to Sykes-Pikot, and were also selling him and the Arabs out to the French.

Were that not bad enough, because the Palestinians were not  the same ‘tribe’ (I hesitate to use the word–ethnic group would  be better) as the Jordanians, they wanted  control  of the land ‘deeded’ to them  between World Wars I  and II.  Many do not know this, but  in some cases, ‘Israelis’ bought land from the  Palestinians, , and in some cases they terrorized the Palestinians off their land.  It is hard for me —as a Jew—to say this—but it is fact.  And, after the 1967 war, they took  control of the disputed  land that was under Palestinian Control.

Ideally, Jerusalem should be a city/state, like the  Vatican, Republic of Srbska in Bosnia, or Lichtenstein, under control of neither Israel, Palestinians, or Jordanians, but  the King of Jordan, as the head of Hashemites, has historical  stewardship of the Mosque in Jerusalem.

Due to  ultra orthodox Jews and right wing hardliners having so much influence in  Israel, and their lobby in the USA, there is  slim chance of this happening, or  of dismantling settlements on the occupied lands—so there will be no peace. And, while many of the old Palestinians are now dead, they instilled in their children remembrance of what they lost.  It would also be ideal to allow the Palestinians to govern themselves. While there are many  educated Palestinians, they  got their educations  as exiles, & the  local population is not educated enough to manage without the help of the  rest of the Arab/Moslem world (that said, when many Palestinians are Orthodox Christians). However,  Israel would be in a terrible way, much less developed, were it not for the very active Jewish lobby in the USA, who are also philanthropists.

This tension was a constant  throughout Queen Noor’s life.  She really concentrates a lot on  her devotion to her husband, and  working for  women’s rights and economic development in Jordan, but says very little about her children.  The book is well-edited and  explains a lot about a  country most of us know little about.    It’s a good, captivating read, and I recommend it.

Trayvon Martin vs. George Zimmerman: perfect storm

July 11, 2013

You never get the full story when you read the newspaper, and especially not when you get the news  on TV. Editors   dress stuff up or simplify.   The internet?  Please!  Be skeptical.  Virtually all opinion, with no editor.  I admit  what I am  writing IS opinion.

I  got an email with a photo  of Trayvan Martin.  Cool kid , with tattoos on his face.   A regular teenage punk. Comes to school with jewelry  he ‘found’ along the way.   A little thief.  On more than  one occasion.  Comes to school with grass, begging to be searched.   Begging to be suspended.  Arrogant.  Apparently  his folks (he has  2 living) felt his behavior was ok.

George Zimmerman, wanna be cop.  Tough guy.   Not very bright.  On the look out for trouble makers.  In fact, apparently going out of his way to find trouble makers.  No waiting period or application is going to weed out  idiots like him. They will all get guns and ammo.

I remember a time when  black parents of black kids warned  their boys to  lay low, be respectful.   You never knew what  white guy, or cop, would shoot first and ask questions later. Unfortunate, but this is America.  Most unfortunate.  But from living in America, and having black male friends, I  know, at least of the guys about my age, what they learned  so they could get to live to be about my age.

Lots of stuff not really int he press about this whole tragedy.  During the  autopsy, they found THC (marijuana) in Trayvon’s system.  George was never tested for drugs.  makes you wanna go, hmmmm…

So, here we are:  we got a black guy for president, and a bunch of  not really deep thinkers  thinking they need  loaded weapons when then go to the store to buy  snacks.  I live in the inner city:  a low-income  community, very high housing density,  obvious gang activity, and obvious disinvestment of the police in favor of the wealthy (I’ll write about a horrible  entertainment center being planned with TIF  money…right up there with the waste the army  paid for in Afghanistan, recently)  You call the police about suspicious activity…or a brawl, and there  is a 50/50 chance of them showing up.  That’s how it is.

What i am saying is…I expect more doofus teenagers–especially black  boys—just  acting the fool—-to be shot by more  imbeciles with  guns, thinking they are defending themselves. The lawyers win. that’s all I am saying.

Start the year off right—support education of girls

January 3, 2013

I first because interested in development issues, and why  some countries are so poor, when I  took my first strip to Africa in the 1980’s.

Now, the issues is confused (I won’t say complicated) because you can’t just invest in education, as Julius Nyerere did in Tanzania.  You really have to invest in infrastructure for economic development, too.

I noticed the contrast between Tanzania & Kenya.  Years later, I witnessed the contrast between Thailand and Cambodia.

But I don’t want to make this too complicated.  I support several groups that  educate orphans in Africa, and there are a few I do not support.  However, it’s up to YOU to decide who is effective, and who is not.

Women’s Global Education Fund.  Google them. This was started by Returned Peace Corps Volunteers who served in Senegal & Kenya, and wanted to provide further educational opportunities  to girls who completed primary school.  The   American supporters are mostly in the metro Chicago Area, and hold a could of fund raisers every year. They do a great job, & provide scholarships to several girls every year.l  I like them, but they are  actually barely making a dent int he problem….unless they  would insist the girls return to their communities and educate more girls. They are not at that point yet.

Zambian Children’s Fund. Google them.  This  orphanage and school is in Lusaka Zambia and was started by an American woman, Kathe Padilla, who had visited there.  She pretty much single-handedly  got land, built a school and small home, and got  Americans to support the project.  But she also recognized that  the project had to be supported by the local community, so she worked to get their support, and after about 10 years, managed to get a local board to sustain the project, which also turned in to a vocational school and several income generating projects.  I’ve been sending them kids clothing, books, and  first aid supplies for years, and am happy to see them  thriving.

Malawi Children’s Village, in Mangochi, Malawi .Google them:  this project was started by Returned Peace Corps Volunteers a little over 20 years ago, initially envisioned as an orphanage. However, the people in the local community wanted to keep their extended families together, & asked for help with a school and water wells.  Because of this local community support, they  have a library, a vocational school, and every child who advances a grade in school has his or her school fees paid.  We will see in the next several years what the economic impact on the region actually is.

Oprah Winfrey’s Leadership Academy in South Africa. Google it. It’s a paradox, really.  Oprah grew up poor, had a child as a teenager (it died), furthered her education  and was in the right place at the right time. I know she genuinely wants to give back, but now that she’s an elite, her thinking has become slightly clouded.
She picks and chooses the girls who attend this  school, thereby creating a class of elites. I doubt any of the girls who graduate will be as altruistic, but time will tell.

Link Community Development.  This is a nonprofit that started in Scotland.  The Sottish, via the African Inland Church, have always supported education in Africa.  However , he problem remains that  educational policy in most of Africa is very  bad.  It actually prevents leaders from emerging unless they have political connections. Link actually addresses issues of curriculum…in Ghana, Ethiopia, Uganda, and Malawi. I can’t imagine a less sexy but more important aspect of education than curriculum development. It’s just going to take a very long time to collect the data on the impact they  are making.  The problem with LINK, is that  they are not addressing  the problem of who co0ntrols the  educational system in each country, and the issues of  social status, and who is allowed to advance in school, what ethnic groups keep their children out of Western education.  Who makes sure the curriculum is not biased towards a Eurocentric/developed world view of what is important? Elizabeth Marshal Thomas addressed this very issue in her ethnography. Warrior Herdsmen, published in 1965.  Curriculum doesn’t matter at all if traditional people who can support themselves don’t trust what is offered, or find it irrelevant.

Now, you can send money and you can go visit  some of the schools and projects, but first…do you know how science and math are being taught in YOUR local school?  In Chicago, we have several charter schools and technical (Chicago Public Schools) that address math, science, and computer skills. We have The Young Women’s leadership Charter School,  in Chicago.  I suspect it isn’t an urgent issue to many of us if we don’t have kids in schools, but think:  if kids don’t learn life skills, they becomes thugs and a drain on society.  it is also statistically proven that when you educate girls, they have a profound impact on their communities…much greater than men have, because women do educate kids. Think about it.