A staggering 40% of Filipinos live in abject poverty. That’s more than 30 million people; almost half the population of the UK. Many of them live in shanty towns in the cities, hoping for a better life, so work in places like the charcoal fields to earn some money. They often get to keep little of what they make as the local mafia demand a cut of the profits.
ABC News has learned that on Monday officials of the Obama administration called Citigroup about the company’s new $50 million corporate jet and told execs to “fix it.
Citigroup Grounds Plans for $50M Jet
I just LOVE that line: “fix it.”
You go Obama! When I heard about AIG’s expensive resort retreat after their bailout I just shook my head. I didn’t even have the thought “our president should do something about it”, that’s how little I’d come to expect of our executive office. Guess the President can be more “for the people” like I’ve always hoped.
On Tuesday, January 27th, 2009, former AIG executive got sentenced to 4 years in prison for $500 million fraud.
The same day, a judge sentenced a homeless man to 15 years in prison. The homeless man had robbed a Louisiana bank and took a $100 bill; after feeling remorseful, he surrendered to police.
What’s Wrong with our Justice System
And I leave you with this last thought provoking image. Vanilla Ice.
I’ve been impressed by a number of initial moves by Obama as he’s assumed the presidency. One of them was a pay freeze. There’s a nice video where he addresses that and a few other executive orders, but I was able to pull this quote from the memorandum on Whitehouse.gov:
Many have accepted the call to serve in Government and to assist me in restoring a sound economy and in improving the lives of average Americans. In this challenging economic period, it is only appropriate that senior officials on the White House staff forgo pay increases until further notice.
Accordingly, as a signal of our shared commitment to restoring the country’s economic vitality and because of the serious economic conditions we are facing, I intend to freeze the salaries of senior members of the White House staff, to the extent permitted by law. I direct you to report back to me within 30 days with recommendations for actions to implement this freeze.
The memorandum was directed to the Assistant to the President, but since it was out there on the interwebs and he does ask for a “report back” with recommendations, I figure it’s my duty to give him a response as well.
In 2003-2004, right after I was married, my wife and I went to serve for one year with AmeriCorps in Atlanta Georgia. AmeriCorps is our government funded Civic Service program encouraging volunteer civic service (like the PeaceCorps). It’s a one year program where you serve full-time, usually with a government program (school, park district, etc) or a non-profit (for me, Hands On Atlanta). For your commitment you receive a living stipend, which is enough to provide you with adequate housing and transportation cost in your area, you receive an education reward of about $4500, and you are eligible for food stamps. Most volunteers are overworked and clearly underpaid (figure probably less then minimum wage). It’s a commitment and sacrifice to choose to participate in this program (but, don’t ask me, ask Dr. Jackson, whom I worked with, a phd educated woman with a daughter and grand daughter still under her roof).
I give you that background as my research for what I think a ‘freeze’ should look like for the White House and the rest of your government leaders. I don’t mean this as a criticism of their work, rather, I believe if politicians are going to true servants of the people, then we need to take away some of the other incentives (namely: money). So, here’s my brief letter to Obama.
I believe, effective immediately, all members of government should cease to receive salaries and instead receive living stipends based on federally recognized ‘living-wage’ standards for the area in which they serve (i.e. Washington D.C. or Minneapolis, MN). This stipend can take into account family size and other household incomes, but should remain reasonably based on data. The stipend need not account for food costs, as explained in the following paragraph.
All members of government, will be eligible and enrolled in the EBT-Foodstamps program in their state. Again, this would account for family size, but should follow the same paramaters as all other citizens of their state. For example, regardless of the government employees income, if the combined household income is greater then the qualifying rate, they need not be eligible since according to state standards they can afford to cover their food cost out of their own pocket.
Finally, similar to incentives in AmeriCorps and Teach For America, I think government members should receive some sort of education incentive. Since many in our upper levels of government have already pursued and exhausted their education advancement, they should have the option to use their education incentive for their children. This would help balance out some of the sacrifice of the living stipend rather than a salary.
Pay freezes on already overblown salaries is a small step to walking in step with the American people. If this administration is truly committed to “the call to serve” then I think this pay change would be a true step toward civic servitude.
I can’t remember if I’ve blogged about Driscoll before, and with our internet running at a snail pace I can’t look it up. I’ll just recap Driscoll from what I know.
Mark Driscoll is a pastor of a growing church in Seattle called Mars Hill. He’s a super trendy, cool dude (not to be confused with the other super cool, trendy dude from Mars Hill in Grand Rapids, Rob Bell) who is the new face of the conservative calvinist church movement. If I were to take a guess, I’d say the old face was and has been John Piper, Minneapolis based pastor, whose sermons and books have been quite formative in my faith and theology.
Though as I’ve journeyed along in my faith I’ve come to find some of my views are in stark contrast to Pipers, he’s still very much a ‘mentor’ of mine and someone I respect deeply. That said, you’d think I’d feel similarly about Driscoll. Not the case.
Sometime last year Driscoll said some absolutely ridiculous things (apparently he says this sort of thing frequently, but this time it was youtubed [p.s. This video is terribly offensive, viewers beware]) and it stirred up quite the controversy in the blogosphere. Here’s my basic summary: Driscoll has a habit of trumping up the masculinity of Christ and demeaning women at the same time, people complained, a protest was planned for a coming Sunday, both sides agreed to meet on a Thursday and Driscoll both apologized and agreed to meet with someone who would ‘counsel’ him on why some of his language is inappropriate.
Needless to say, I was impressed by this move on Driscoll’s part and hoped to see some good come of it. Fast forward to this past week. I saw a link to a New York Times article on Driscoll, Who Would Jesus Smack Down? I clicked over and gave it a read, and through the first page I was quite impressed. I appreciate Driscoll’s candidness on issues, and I even dig his commitment to his theology. But, I was sadly disappointed when I started reading the same sort of language he’d been rebuked on coming up, and the remaining four pages had not a word about any change that he’s made. Now, it could be the author simply missed this, but you’d have to admit it’d be a hard change to miss.
Driscoll constantly rails against what he calls the “feminization” of Christ, continually using feminine and many other ‘female’ oriented terms in a negative way. He describes Protestant culture as “chicks and some chickified dudes with limp wrists,” clearly not intended as a compliment.
Who does Driscoll think he is? With both a wife and five kids, how does he think it’s in any way appropriate to refer to women in such a condescending way? It absolutely blows me away. And what’s even more distrubing to me is that pastors like John Piper, who I truly admire and respect, seem to be silent or even supportive of Driscoll. I even found a video on a semi-related note by John Piper on why he invited Mark Driscoll to the Desiring God conference back in June of 2008.
Piper, someone who is brilliant and extremely intentional with his choice of language, seems to have blinders on to the dehumanizing and sexist attitude and choice of words that Driscoll seems to promote. It breaks my heart that Piper hasn’t spoke up on this (Piper, if your out there listening, I’d love to hear you speak up on this).
Mindy recommended an illustration to help the inappropriateness of Driscoll’s choice of language really sink in. Replace any other oppressed group title into the above quote and the offensiveness becomes quite clear. How would you feel if you heard a pastor saying this:
“The church is full of black people and black-acting dudes with limp wrists.”
I don’t think you need to go much further then that to see how obviously inappropriate Driscoll’s language is. I’m very open to Driscoll making a case for Jesus being a more hard-lined, Calvinist theology-like savior (not that I agree with him, but I’m fine with him saying it). But to do that at the expense of half our population? To promote a theology that calls for female submission in the church and at the same time degrades and dehumanizes our mothers, sisters and daughters; That’s not just un-Christ-like, it’s inhumane.
Yesterday was a historic day for our nation. It troubles me that some couldn’t look past partisanship and politics in general to simply recognize the social historical significance of seeing Barack Obama be chosen to lead this nation. However, with this historic transition in place, and this significant step toward justice in this country, it’s time to move forward, because there are many more steps to take.
I read about an interesting poll that CNN conducted that presented some, suprising to me, survey results. They found that “69 percent of blacks said King’s vision has been fulfilled,” along with 46% of whites. I wonder if the euphoria of the moment caused people to over estimate the steps we’ve taken or that society has really succeeded in sanitizing the deep call for justice of Dr. King’s life and dream.
We’ve got a long way to go in this country and globally. Spending time listening to speeches on Monday and Tuesday, I’ve been inspired, and I hope as a people we together can forge ahead toward the justice and equality we claim this country is founded on. And those who claim faith in Jesus, you have all the more calling to strive toward these acts of love and justice. King’s words ring true to all people, but particularly people of faith:
I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal.”
I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.
I have a dream that one day every valley shall be exalted, and every hill and mountain shall be made low, the rough places will be made plain, and the crooked places will be made straight; “and the glory of the Lord shall be revealed and all flesh shall see it together.”
With this faith, we will be able to hew out of the mountain of despair a stone of hope. With this faith, we will be able to transform the jangling discords of our nation into a beautiful symphony of brotherhood. With this faith, we will be able to work together, to pray together, to struggle together, to go to jail together, to stand up for freedom together, knowing that we will be free one day.
We’ve made small steps, today was a big one, but there are still many hurdles to overcome. King talked about injustices in his day, and there are many, evenrecent injustices we can reference today.
I don’t want this to be a partisan post. I think anyone from any political stand point can recognize the significance of the events of today and recognize how far our nation has come in terms of race and inequalities.
I was at some MLK celebrations yesterday and listened to numerous elders in my community stand up and talk about their vivid memories of tragic injustices in their lifetime. I don’t think you have to agree with Obama in the slightest to appreciate the meaning this Inauguration has to so many in this nation.
Make sure to watch the inauguration, but if you want some other reminiscent videos for beforehand, here’s my recommendations.
Yes We Can (also, check out It’s a New Day, which I can’t embed) [Both short videos to get your heart stirring]
Obama’s Speech on Race [Long, but deeply significant, if you haven’t heard this speech bookmark it and listen to it this week]
A&E Biography Barack Obama [Haven’t seen it but I’m sure it’s interesting]
Music video montage [Bonus if you need another short one]
MLK Day seems to be one of the few National holiday’s I find myself appreciating. In our country, in modern times, I think Dr. King is one of the few examples of what the church should look like in this day and age. His words, many actual sermons, are so inspiring and moving, they have had a lasting impact on my life. I’ve been to MLK events in most of the cities we’ve lived, and there is something so encouraging about standing amongst others recognizing both the strides we’ve made (and the impact committed people of faith can have) and acknowledging the road ahead. Enough of my words though, I want to strongly encourage you to take in and read and listen to the words of Dr. King. If you’ve never heard the I Have A Dream speech in it’s entirity, I suggest you listen to it. But, whether you have or not, what you really should do is read and listen to his other speeches and sermons. I’ll put some links to audio, videos and text below.
This is a inspiring audio/visual piece about MLK that I think is worth a watch. Just ignore the first part about Bush, the stuff about Dr. King is really motivating:
Men often hate each other because they fear each other; they fear each other because they don’t know each other; they don’t know each other because they can not communicate; they can not communicate because they are separated.
I submit to you that if a man has not discovered something that he will die for, he isn’t fit to live.
The ultimate weakness of violence is that it is a descending spiral, begetting the very thing it seeks to destroy. Instead of diminishing evil, it multiplies it. Through violence you may murder the liar, but you cannot murder the lie, nor establish the truth. Through violence you may murder the hater, but you do not murder hate.
Darkness cannot drive out darkness: only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate: only love can do that.
Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.
We know through painful experience that freedom is never voluntarily given by the oppressor; it must be demanded by the oppressed.
On some positions, Cowardice asks the question, “Is it safe?” Expediency asks the question, “Is it politic?” And Vanity comes along and asks the question, “Is it popular?” But Conscience asks the question “Is it right?” And there comes a time when one must take a position that is neither safe, nor politic, nor popular, but he must do it because Conscience tells him it is right.
As I have walked among the desperate, rejected and angry young men I have told them that Molotov cocktails and rifles would not solve their problems. I have tried to offer them my deepest compassion while maintaining my conviction that social change comes most meaningfully through nonviolent action. But they asked — and rightly so — what about Vietnam?
Here is the true meaning and value of compassion and nonviolence, when it helps us to see the enemy’s point of view, to hear his questions, to know his assessment of ourselves.
Rarely do we find men who willingly engage in hard, solid thinking. There is an almost universal quest for easy answers and half-baked solutions. Nothing pains some people more than having to think.
There is little hope for us until we become toughminded enough to break loose from the shackles of prejudice, half-truths, and downright ignorance.
Nothing in the world is more dangerous than sincere ignorance and conscientious stupidity.
Like an unchecked cancer, hate corrodes the personality and eats away its vital unity. Hate destroys a man’s sense of values and his objectivity. It causes him to describe the beautiful as ugly and the ugly as beautiful, and to confuse the true with the false and the false with the true.
When I speak of love I am not speaking of some sentimental and weak response. I am not speaking of that force which is just emotional bosh. I am speaking of that force which all of the great religions have seen as the supreme unifying principle of life. Love is somehow the key that unlocks the door which leads to ultimate reality.
Don’t let anybody make you think God chose America as his divine messianic force to be a sort of policeman of the whole world.
Yes, if you want to say that I was a drum major, say that I was a drum major for justice; say that I was a drum major for peace; I was a drum major for righteousness. And all of the other shallow things will not matter. I won’t have any money to leave behind. I won’t have the fine and luxurious things of life to leave behind. But I just want to leave a committed life behind. And that’s all I want to say.
Like any man, I would like to live a long life. Longevity has its place. But I’m not concerned about that now.
You know, several years ago, I was in New York City autographing the first book that I had written. And while sitting there autographing books, a demented black woman came up. The only question I heard from her was, “Are you Martin Luther King?” And I was looking down writing, and I said yes. And the next minute I felt something beating on my chest. Before I knew it I had been stabbed by this demented woman. I was rushed to Harlem Hospital. It was a dark Saturday afternoon. And that blade had gone through, and the X-rays revealed that the tip of the blade was on the edge of my aorta, the main artery. And once that’s punctured, you drown in your own blood — that’s the end of you. It came out in the New York Times the next morning, that if I had sneezed, I would have died. Well, about four days later, they allowed me, after the operation, after my chest had been opened, and the blade had been taken out, to move around in the wheel chair in the hospital. They allowed me to read some of the mail that came in, and from all over the states, and the world, kind letters came in. I read a few, but one of them I will never forget. I had received one from the President and the Vice-President. I’ve forgotten what those telegrams said. I’d received a visit and a letter from the Governor of New York, but I’ve forgotten what the letter said. But there was another letter that came from a little girl, a young girl who was a student at the White Plains High School. And I looked at that letter, and I’ll never forget it. It said simply, “Dear Dr. King: I am a ninth-grade student at the Whites Plains High School.” She said, “While it should not matter, I would like to mention that I am a white girl. I read in the paper of your misfortune, and of your suffering. And I read that if you had sneezed, you would have died. And I’m simply writing you to say that I’m so happy that you didn’t sneeze.” And I want to say tonight, I want to say that I am happy that I didn’t sneeze.
I think I’m still intending to keep Thursday’s pretty low key. I can only pull off one or two thoughtful content post a week I’m realizing. Anyways, I’m going to repost a couple images that were big hits on my other blog, On The Journey (you can still subscribe there if you want).