28 September 2008

My own bailout request

Now that my attitude has chilled slightly from my last rant on the subject, I have but a simple request: please include in the bailout legislation a federal moratorium on using the words "Main Street" and "Wall Street" in the same sentence. [Also, my student loan debt is still soul-crushingly high, but looks miniscule when compared to $700 billion. If I incorporate as the Bank of Buster, can I get govermnent money by claiming my debt as a bad investment?]

Frankly, this whole mess is so mind-numbingly confusing to anyone without a deep background in high finance that even a theoretically well-education person like me is left thinking, "So what's the real problem here? How did this happen? And why the hell do all us ordinary folk have to pay for it?" I still have no answers to these questions, and the legislation will move forward tomorrow. A great big thanks to all you legislative types for reaching out to your constituents. [Oh wait! MY congressperson can't vote! Of course...]

Meanwhile, in trying to wrap my head around the problems associated with this whole mess, these pieces (here and here) have been helpful on this particular morning. If I could remember where I found a well-formed argument about why the bailout is wholly unnecessary in its current incarnation, I'd link to that too. You'll note that I'm basically linking to conservatives here. This is because I agree with these guys on this point. We (the average schmuck) are spending a boatload of Chinese held dollars to bailout idiots who made bad decisions. And we get nothing.

24 September 2008

As the world falls down and goes boom

This article in today's Post poses the question of whether or not Americans today (particularly the young folk) are apathetic, or just making use of new tactics to express discontent with the seemingly perpetually declining state of our Union. There are a few hypothoses here:
  1. Americans protested like all hell in the 1960s because the sick combination of a military draft for a pointless war and blatant, sickening racial discrimination brought things to a boiling point. Draft them, and they will protest.
  2. Anti-establishment rhetoric has been mainstreamed, and thus no longer motivates people.
  3. Burning down several cities in 1968 seemed only to usher in roughly 40 years or so of rule by people who almost wholly disagreed with those who carried torches, making violent protest seem pointless.
  4. Americans are increasingly politically active, it's just harder to get a real grip on the level of online and other, less traditional forms of expressing discontent.
Oddly, the first theory was raised in a conversation I had last week, and while there is merit to it, I think that given the unlikelihood of a draft coming anytime soon, we can't expect that motivator. The other three points seem basically true, but note that I added the word "violent" under proposition 3. No, violent protest didn't work. In fact, I (and others) would go so far as to posit that it was the turn to violence that killed the mass appeal of "bring 'em onto the streets" organizing.

Thus I have a few questions for viewers like you:
  • Is all this online/door-to-door activism a good representation of using different forms of non-violent strategy? If so, are organizers intentionally trying to act non-violently, or are they merely using convenient tools that happen to not be violent?
  • The year 1968 gets bounced around a lot for obvious reasons, but is it the wrong example? Isn't, say, 1963 a much better year to demonstrate non-violent protest?
  • Given the two questions above, if we are not seeing people try to intentionally be non-violent, and we are simultaneously holding up the wrong example of what protest looks like, how do we (the peace movement, educators, whatever you think you are) build cognizance around non-violent ways to challenge our exceptionally trying times?
Looks like this turned out more intellectual than I originally anticipated, but I welcome your feedback.

23 September 2008

Let's go mansion squatting

So yours truly went on a business trip that kept me very, very busy. Trying to catch up on news upon my return, I've realized that apparently I've decided to buy a few failing banks with $700 billion of my hard earned money. Apparently, you have too.

I'm fully convinced that this is a sound decision, and it won't bite me in the ass later. Further, I can do it all by myself, with no one looking over my shoulder, because I know what I'm doing. Or at least Hank Paulson thinks so.

And why am I so sure of myself? Because I hear that France did it once, and look how it's worked out for them, what with their roaring economy and all. If only I could get the execution right...

Hrmm... perhaps this isn't such a good idea. How's about another idea or three, Hank:
  • The top billion or so executives at all these major companies should lose the15 mansions (only 1 or so more than John McCain has) they each own. Much like homesteading in the nineteenth century, the government should grant squatters rights, on a first-come, first-served basis. Think of the fun of having Sooners on Long Island!
  • All these Mercedes that line up at these crisis meetings of pitiful executives should be distributed among the urban and rural poor. Of course, I'll get one too, since I thought of the idea. A cute black convertible is my style. Don't forget the heated seats.
  • Since we work so close to each other, I think I'll roll up to your office one day this week with one hand open and the other holding my exorbitant student loan bills. Since you're so generous with all your Wall Street friends, surely you could spare some change for me.
  • Oh hey! The Single Moms Working Three Jobs of America Society just called me, and said they would like to know how they're feeding their children this week. Think of all the corn-based, pasteurized, processed McDonald's food you could shove down their starving throats with $700 billion. Hell, you could probably even make them meals of fresh fruits and vegetable for the whole damn year with that amount of cash. Just sayin'....
Now, if I didn't already have a decent enough reason to vote for Barack Obama this year, I now know the full meaning of his saying "you're on your own."

Thanks, Hank.

EDIT: Never trust spam.

14 September 2008

Live from PJSA - Day 3

Today was the final -- and perhaps most productive -- day of the conference. The morning plenary wasn't terribly interesting, but I then went into a sizeable (for this event) workshop on building peace studies curricula in community colleges. It was incredibly fascinating learning about different approaches, the terrific array of opportunities that are in some ways unique to the community college population, and the trials and tribulations of getting courses and programs approved. Of course, I also enjoyed being able to shed some light on the internationalization of this kind of work. I followed up the workshop with a meeting by the higher education outreach person at a major peace organization, and we had a great time brainstorming ideas.

At lunch time, we were quite lucky that the Portland farmers market was being held right outside the conference building, so I had a tasty, fresh, mostly organic lunch, and then stocked up on food for the plane ride tomorrow. There not being much on the conference program of interest for a few hours, I took a long walk through town, which helped me get a slightly better feel for the place.

I wrapped up the day at a small session on creating social change agents through study abroad programs, which is exactly the kind of information I came here to get. There were just a few of us, but the programming the presenters described sounded exceptional, and is probably a good model for making international student exchange about something more than just going someplace where you can enjoy tasty new food and fine art.

All in all, the conference has been what I had hoped it would be. There are clearly some organizational issues that need to be worked out, but since this is still a slightly new event hosted by a pretty small association, that is to be expected. On the whole, it was quite worthwhile.

We now return to our regularly scheduled peaceniks programming, already in progress.

13 September 2008

Live from PJSA - Day 2

The morning began with an incredible plenary session on "colorizing and localizing" the peace movement. The two speakers made a point of stressing an issue I've grappled with for some time, namely the peace movement's complete failure to deal with issues of race. The [predominately white] movement even refuses to admit to its own racism. Of course, this makes building a truly broad and inclusive peace movement impossible. One of the two also pointed out that the peace movement needs a strategy for moving forward. He noted that while the vast majority of the American public is now opposed to the continuation of the Iraq war, the movement has offered no viable way to end it, other than saying "end it." If so many agree on that, why can't the peace (and perhaps separately, the conflict resolution) community offer some suggestions for next steps?

After that fun, there was a fascinating session on using English as a second language classes as a means to teach peace studies, which fits in very neatly with the day job (and is why I'm here). Another plenary followed, which was rather run of the mill until the inimitable Betty Reardon started going over her latest theorizing around issues of patriarchy and the war system. One of many money quotes: "I saw a magazine cover last week that said 'Sarah Palin: the new face of feminism.' If that's the case, I'm post-feminist." This was followed up with a smaller breakout with Reardon and a colleague of hers on patriarchy and peace pedagogy, which was great, but sadly didn't have enough time. A final afternoon session proved... well....

On the whole, I've made some good contacts and have been able to talk to a few people about my work project. The event is pretty small -- maybe 300 or so participants -- but there are some good connections to be made. I even ran into the director of the peace and conflict studies program at my alma mater, where I was too indecisive to major in peace and conflict studies.

Finally, a few critiques:
  • The program needs to list session abstracts.
  • The 50-minute sessions are too short.
  • They're trying to cram a bit too much into a day.
  • They need some dedicated networking space, and perhaps some meet and mingle events.
Tomorrow is another full day, with a few meetings to have, and a few more sidebar conversations to seek out.

12 September 2008

Live from PJSA - Day 1

There isn't a whole lot to report today. I got here a bit too late to catch much, though I did see a bit of the "take back 9/11" rally that was being held. After dinner with a colleague (much needed as my east coast body had yet to have a proper meal), I'd missed the opening plenary event, and don't much feel like peace music tonight, so it's bed time.

A checklist, just so we feel at home:
  • Old hippies dancing with funny hip motions: check.
  • Drums: check.
  • Curious fashion: check.
  • Leaflets for all manner of causes: check.
Basically, your standard order peace event so far. But it seems fun. Tomorrow is a full day, and I'm trying to get a few meetings set up. Hopefully there will be some decent networking space, but I'm not quite sure.

Bedtime for now.

10 September 2008

Transitional justice in Zimbabwe?

So apparently some folks at the Institute for Security Studies have proposed that Zimbabwe go through a transitional justice process. I've yet to read the full report in detail, but it seems to me that this isn't the best idea in the current situation. Yes, I grant that the crimes committed under both the Rhodesian and Mugabe regimes need to be investigated and those responsible held accountable. Yet at the same time, Mugabe is still in power, so clearly 20 years are off the investigatory table. Plus, a big long unburying of Rhodesia era atrocities would be just what Mugabe needs to convince people he's still relevant.

This reminds me of Uganda's attempt at running a reconciliation commission back in the 1980s. The process got stalled when it had the audacity to question anything done by people acting under current president Museveni, either as a revolutionary leader or head of state. Eventually, the thing was shut down years after its reporting deadline, and not much resulted from the process. With lessons like this, it's probably best for Zimbabwe to wait until it isn't under the fist of one repressive regime seeking justice for another.

09 September 2008

Peaceniks on the Road

Howdy friends! Stay tuned later this week for an exciting adventure in conference liveblogging. I'll be at the annual meeting of the Peace and Justice Studies Association (PJSA) this Thursday, Friday and Saturday, and will be providing daily updates here on Practical Peaceniks. I'm going for work, so most of the things I'll be attending will be skewed toward building peace studies (etc.) in post-seconary education, but I'll try to point out other, less targeted highlights along the way. Do let me know if there is anyone I should say hi to.

04 September 2008

Sometimes political blogging is hard

Especially when all the good stuff is said by other people. As the Sarah Palin drama has unfolded in all its "the Clampetts go to Jerry Springer" glory, you will note that a mere whiff of a notion of a possible bit of a critique of Governor Palin's record is immediately refuted by "that's sexist" from people (read: fat old rich white guys) who couldn't even find sexism in the dictionary before last Friday. Rather than say more on this hypocrisy, I'm simply going to defer to Jon Stewart.