30 March 2010

Problem solved?

This weekend I attended a two day training on problem solving workshops, an ancient (and by that, I mean over 30 years old) conflict resolution method usually utilized while a given conflict is still ongoing (like in Cyprus or Israel/Palestine, etc).  It's a method that was discussed frequently in grad school, but we never actually got training on how to do it.  I'm certainly not going to run out tomorrow and conduct one of these workshops, but it's always good to get additional skills in the old tool belt.  Aside from a few quibbles with the simulation part of the training, on the whole it was good to be able to meet new people and learn new things.  I'm really hoping to advance professionally and get the opportunity to get more hands-on experience soon, so it's good to be ready.  

On another level, it was healthy for me to finally get exposed to this method.  I've almost always focused on post-conflict work -- topics like reconciliation and establishing the rule of law.  I had also been a little turned off by the term "problem solving," as it goes against my almost instinctive (yeah, you're surprised) bias toward more positive language.  Of course, ye olde looming question remains:  in order to succeed in my field, do I need to pursue yet more education?  Time will tell.

I've rambled enough.  Yay! for new things. 

26 March 2010

Read me elsewhere and read me now!

I've got a post up on the American Evaluation Association's AEA365 blog.  Check it out:  challenges in evaluating peacebuilding activities.

Thank you, dear reader, for your continued support.

25 March 2010

I almost maybe sort of agree with Dan Choi

I was reading this interview with Dan Choi about his recent escapades in bondage...  er, civil disobedience, and I find myself unsure what to make of it.  Of course, the denial of his basic rights after being arrested is regrettable, but given DC's issues with these kinds of things, sadly isn't surprising.  But DADT is just not an issue I've ever been terribly jazzed about.  On the one hand, it's a blatant employment discrimination issue, and it needs to be remedied.  On the other hand, such a remedy would expand the reach of a bloated and corrupted military system that is used to pad the wallets of lawmakers and corporate executives while being simultaneously targeted against groups of largely defenseless and largely innocent people in places like Iraq and Afghanistan.  Identifying the lesser of those two evils is thus pretty tricky for a relatively pacifistic individual like me.  Thus I wish Choi success in his chosen struggle, while also hoping that the organization in which he rightfully should included is put out of business over time. 

That aside, he's quite right in pointing out how severely out of touch the uber-wealthy homonormative drones at the HRC are.  As I've ranted on too many occasions to link to, many of the mainline national LGBT organizations are doing diddly squat for poor folks, people of color, youth, trans folks,  small town/rural folks, queer people of faith, and on and on and on, and I'm glad someone with Choi's visibility is now making that point (and vainly hope that many both within and outside our community will listen to him there).  I also agree with Pam Spaulding and others that queer politicos should stop equating Democrats with allies, especially given their stunning accomplishments on our issues.  And I certainly have no issue with the use of nonviolent protest to make the case for justice.  

I guess my concern with Choi's actions boils down to two things:
  1. What's the grand strategy for equality here?  What battles do Choi and his new organization hope to fight, and when, and in what order?  Nonviolent resistance is a powerful tool, but it's not especially effective if not driven by a coherent strategy with articulated goals.  Yes, having Kathy Griffin headline a rally is a pretty stupid thing.  But so is going to get arrested as a one-off event.  The goal of both events seems more like grabbing media spotlights and donations more than changing anything. 
  2. Using nonviolence/civil disobedience to advocate for the right to serve in an organization that is inherently violent seems to require some mental and moral leaps that I don't know that I can make, as evidenced above.  I believe that as activists, we must walk firmly on the side of justice.  Yet the military (whether it does so willingly or not) actively perpetuates injustice both at home and abroad.  At home, it recruits from poor and downtrodden communities and runs these recruits through a few wars before letting them out with the scholarship money they joined to get (yes, that's a huge generalization).  In the field, situations like Abu Ghraib aside, we have to remember that modern warfare results in civilians making up roughly 90% of total casualties.  Prior to the 20th century, that proportion was reversed.  Using civil disobedience to prop up that kind of injustice seems to belittle the sanctity of nonviolent resistance.  
This little mental exercise you've just sat through hasn't really clarified much for me, so I doubt it has for anyone else.  It's just something I'm paying attention to, and it makes me uneasy.  I think I'll just continue to sit quietly on the sidelines of the DADT debate, and focus on some of the other social justice issues we're facing that aren't quite so morally muddled. 

24 March 2010

Let's make David Miliband feel better

So here I sit, reading the news o' the world, and suddenly I learn that David Miliband is sad.  And perhaps a little angry.  And that's bad.

Why?  Well, of course it sucks that Israel went and forged British passports.  That's all sorts of illegal, especially when said passports were used to ferry around assassins.  Then again, this is the government of Benjamin Netanyahu we're talking about here, so being belligerent and nasty little trolls is basically all they know how to do.  Anyway, why is sad David Miliband a bad thing?

Because he's the world's cutest foreign minister, obviously.  I mean, just look at the sad face picture.  Don't you just want to hug him?  And he's grown that little sprig of gray since taking the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs gig.  So let's all fly to London and give David Miliband a hug.  I mean, he's got to deal with mean Israelis and and upcoming election that could have some pretty big implications for his future career.  He clearly needs a hug or three.  :)

23 March 2010

Quick take: social conservatism in South Africa

Sean Jacobs over at Africa is a Country links to this piece on social conservatism in South Africa and how it threatens the nation's uber-liberal constitution.  Well worth a once over.  One can pretty easily see how similar trends could affect the implementation of rights guaranteed by a slightly less all-inclusive document, like the U.S. constitution. 

22 March 2010

A little housekeeping

Dear lone gavel reader,

Apologies for the sudden quiet spell.  Just when I was getting back into the swing of blogging regularly, I got sick, the bunny got sick, and basically all hell broke lose on all possible fronts.  Don't worry, we're all better now!

I've done a little bit of housekeeping work on this here blog that I've been meaning to do for awhile.  I've imported my posts from the now defunct Practical Peaceniks and Buduburam and Beyond, and have identified those posts with equivalent tags.  I've also switched over from manually updated blog rolls to something more dynamic, based on real time posting.  Blog more, y'all! 

Enjoy the rest of the show.

07 March 2010

Sunday news: useless NYT edition

Nothing really jumped out at me today in the NYT, except for one magazine piece.  Somehow I'm just disinterested in the Iraqi election or the latest gossip on healthcare reform.  Anyway, here goes.
  • In said magazine piece, a discussion on the importance of teachers in educating students, and how to make those teachers teach better, as apparently it's teaching is the most essential ingredient in education, and not necessarily funding or testing.  Who'da thunk?
  • DC mayor Adrian Fenty is a corrupt little whiny-pants who funnels huge sums of government money to his friends.  At least Marion Barry was corrupt but personable.  This is why you should vote for Buster, who is currently preparing his mayoral campaign. 
  • It amuses me to no end that an article on political buffoonery features a photo of Michael Steele.
  • A piece on how Toyotas aren't inherently death traps, which is why I still hope to buy another one in the next year or so, if I can raise ye olde cash.   
See, the news is much more fun when you ignore the things that people are panicking over. 

04 March 2010

A positive direction for foreign policy?

It looks as though the State Department is gonna look into the state of LGBT rights in Africa.  This is an important step, and it's essential that international human rights law and norms be abided by.  However, I think it's also important that State not move so fast in this area (not likely, really) so that the United States ends up appearing hypocritical.  As I commented at Africa is a Country the other day, the poor and working class experience for LGBT South Africans -- the only country on the continent with progressive laws related to LGBT rights -- isn't necessarily dissimilar from the poor and working class experience for LGBT Americans, and the United States, frankly, has fewer legal protections for LGBT folks than South Africa does.  Thus while I welcome holding other nations accountable for their disregard of human rights, it's concurrently equally important that the same level of accountability be required at home. 

03 March 2010

Meanwhile, the rest of the world wants assimilationist gay figure skaters

Since I've already raised the subject in another post, I thought I'd point you to this informative video about Johnny Weir, whom I've recently decided I adore (and, frankly, would boink).  

Again with that whole systemic discrimination thingy.

02 March 2010

February's ridiculous search term!

I know you were all just dying with suspense for this month's installment of Ridiculous Search Terms to Find the Gavel in Your Pants.  Without keeping you waiting a moment longer, here is the winner for February 2010:

pluggo pants

I have no idea what pluggo pants are.  Do you?