Tuesday, August 31, 2010

UPDATE - August 29, 2010

August 29, 2010

My friend's mom used to think LOL meant Lots of love which is not that funny. So she used the phrase in a bunch of condolence e-mails such as “I’m really sorry about your devastating loss. LOL."

While attending a conference in another city, I decided to visit an island as I was planning to use it as the location in a surprise gift for a friend. I wore khaki pants, brown belt and brown shoes, a dark orange shirt (what I called muted orange), a brighter orange tie (with blue diagonal stripes) and a beige/tan sweater vest. While strolling through the island, a man approached me apparently misreading my “freaky deakiness.” After briefly engaging me in polite conversation, he asked “Are you gay?” No. “Bi?” No. “On the down-low?” No. “Me neither,” he said emphatically and indignantly. “I’m not gay. I just sometimes like to sleep with men to let off steam. You know it’s a hard life, you know? Yeah, man. I’m not gay.” Silence. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .(blink). . . (blink). . . . . . . . . . . . . “So, really, are you gay?” No, I repeated. “Bisexual?” No. “But, but. . . I thought. . . . . you dress so well.” I made a mental note while waiting for the light to change to dress more poorly. I had to make the mental note many, many times before the light finally changed. ‘Sorry, I am going now,’ I told him. “Ok, well, your conference is still going on. . . .I’ll see you around?”

A guy at my church was unsure how to tell me, but he just came out and said that certain people like black people look younger than they are. He then said I look about 33. . . . .that is not funny . . . . . . on multiple counts.

A friend of mine in my fellowship program also suffers from piles (look it up). One day he was caught by his father with anal bleeding in the toilet paper in the toilet. His father told him “SON! WELcome to the family! This is GREAT news! We thought you were different and special, but you’re NOT special: you’re just like the rest of us! YOU bleed, TOO.” He didn’t know how to respond. Apparently it runs in the family. . . no pun intended.
He also just had his first child and hopes, against his father’s highest wishes, that it’s not hereditary.

UPDATE

Well, let’s see. Not much since last time. I took a bit of a break because I was out of the country. I was in El Salvador for 1-2 weeks and missed a few weekends when you would have received an update. But I’m back.

I prepare to start the 2nd year of my fellowship in mid-September. At the moment we have orientation for two weeks from the 1st through the 14th. I finished most of my duties involving security work. I’m only doing a few university program reviews to help decide to whom my department should give grants for educational purposes. So I’m ready to start the 2nd year and see what kind of development engineering work I’ll do for a year at USAID.

Out of the 3 people on this e-mail list or who follow this blog, 2 wrote back thinking that I did a lot of activities. I want to clarify. Last update I was just telling you most of what I do (I didn’t talk about everything; check out Practor’s Promise below). What I didn’t explain was that they are not all at the same time. They are spaced out so it seems that I do more than I really do. My life is pretty relaxed, chill, and sometimes boring.

In general, you have to take my words with the understanding of who is saying them. For instance, some people jumped on my recommendation of Rosetta Stone, but I’m usually ok with discipline needed for language learning. If you’re a person that will have difficulty doing the lessons regularly then it’s not good for you. Moreover, what I was really commending was the right-brained dominated immersive approach over the traditional, left-brain dominated, translational approach. It doesn’t have to be Rosetta Stone. In fact, the drawback is that you are not speaking it with other speakers. Rosetta Stone does get better as you get more advanced (you learn like a baby learns and therefore you don’t put sentences together early like you would do in a translational class), but you don’t speak with other live people. So I always recommend doing it with a partner or taking part in a language lunch table to complement the Rosetta Stone Cds. Moreover, I would choose an immersion-based class with other speakers over an immersion-based CD. I would then choose an immersion-based CD (for myself) over a translation-based class (but I would complement the CD with some type of activity with actual speakers). I hope that makes sense. The same goes with recommendations on books or movies. You can always ask me what I mean or what I liked about it to help you with figuring out if it’s good for you.

We just had one of our famous parties. This time we did an island/Caribbean/tropical theme. We had underwater creatures on the walls, New Orleans beads hung up, and bamboo bush things hanging from the ceiling. There were tiki torches (unlit) in the corners of the room, and a piñata filled with candy. Everyone who entered received a lei (can you picture the mix of motifs, now?). There was a limbo contest as well during the night. People loved it and had a good time. They especially liked the blended smoothies and licuados as we had many tropical fruit there. It reminds me a lot of El Salvador.

THE SAVIOR

I have a pact with my best friend to visit a different country every year. This year we chose El Salvador. I had been there before, but I took one for the team. Plus I have a relationship with the country. My friend pretended he didn’t know that I went there. He should more properly use the term “forgot.” Anyway, he also “forgot” to tell me he was bringing his girlfriend until the moment right before he bought the ticket. I kept trying to figure out why he was telling me to bring a girl friend. Then he subtly mention, without asking, that his girlfriend would be going. Ha!
It’s funny how life works. I thought I was going to be a third wheel, but one person in El Salvador, upon observing us, told me SHE was the third wheel! Imagine that. I think that was temporary or just because that person wasn’t used to our relationship because between all the kisses between the two, the cat calls (mwah, nwah), the “babes” and “cute,” I had to increase my medical doses to cope with the nausea. Well, . . . ok. . . . sometimes I wanted to make a cat noise, too, but they would look at me with that singular look which when translated into human speak is “Three’s a crowd.” So I would make dog noises behind my breath.



Other than not being invited to play with mice, We had maybe 5 nights where I had to pay for my own room which changed my price expectation (normally I would have shared a room the entire trip or with my friend, and all three of us DID share a room for the other half of the trip—those were the best days :D ). But the trip was grand. I enjoyed it. We toured the country and got to know the people somewhat. I became familiar, again, with the pupusa, that ingenious invention of the Salvadorian mind. I love the food and if you put the right food inside it, it’s maaaahvelous.
I don’t buy clothes, but my friend was going to buy a shirt for me if I didn’t so I purchased a matching shirt to his to show solidarity. I wore it at the party in DC and people liked it. I like the colors of the indigenous clothing and cloth here. It’s a beautiful country.

For part of the time I was there we stayed at a site where there were two Peace Corps friends. I was hoping to talk to them about possibly restarting the high school summer international service program that started in 2005. [Quick summary: In 2005 I helped to start a summer international service program where we took high school students in groups of 10-12 to a foreign country for 1 month to do service work including a large, tangible/visible primary project plus many diverse secondary projects; the kids had language training, project training, and fundraising meetings throughout the year preceding the summer trip, and they engaged in pen pal relationships with kids at the site, in the community they would visit; There were reflections each night, strong relationships built and life-changing experiences held; the students became more globally cognizant, understanding, considerate, other-focused, responsible, etc.; the difference with our program is that it didn’t cost the kids anything as long as they were willing to work, and our preferred mode of working in the country was paired with a Peace Corps Volunteer working in his or her site/community; each year we returned to the same country and added a new country, maintaining old relationships and building new ones; Long story short, the program won a national character education award in 2007 and I went to the National public Charter Schools conference that year to speak about service in education. There I was told that I should make the program its own non-profit; I left the country and didn’t think about it much though it’s been on my mind. I was going to wait until there was a proper way to generate revenue but I went to El Salvador and they were interested in having someone now and. . . . . I could start it and simultaneously work on the business model; so this program that was so successful (at least with the trips I was involved) is restarting, and it’s going to be an exciting ride!]



Well, both of the Peace Corps Volunteers were ecstatic about me brining a group of American high school students to El Salvador in the summer of 2011 to do service projects in their community. Not only were the Peace Corps Volunteers (PCVs) excited, but the townspeople. I met with the ex-mayor and the head of a private school in the community. The community board in the town disbanded a few years ago, so the private school used its building. The community board has reformed (fortunately; this is good), but they demand the building back. I asked why they don’t just build another building; they don’t have the money. So the director looked in my eyes and told me “Everything happens for a reason.” It was a chilling moment; of course, he didn’t know that I went there with the intent of discussing possible projects with the PCVs. They deftly had us sit down for a meeting together during my last night there and mentioned that I am part of this program. They let him connect the dots and he loves it. But the meeting snowballed too quickly. I just wanted the seed of the idea planted. The school owner did more; he called someone to come in with architectural plans to show me; this was the ex-mayor. I just wanted to see if there was interest. I didn’t mean to discuss details. I still hadn’t found a school! The program started in Houston but I now live in DC and it was going to be hard to run it while not being a K-12 teacher. How was it to work when these people were already thanking me in advance showing me the new building my kids (I didn’t have kids) were going to build and the life-savers my kids would be?

THE SAVIOR Part 2

Well, I’m a teacher of teachers, these days, as you know, a prof of science education (don’t ask me how). So I sent out feelers to all the teachers I work with to see if any would be interested. More people are always interested than the number of people who will follow through. Well only two responded. But last week Friday, one teacher invited me to his new campus (he is teaching at a different school this year) to meet with this principal for 5 minutes and the head of schools (superintendent) of the charter school family for 1 minute. Then we set down and talked for awhile and I met the head of expeditionary learning. This school makes all students do expeditions to experience research, fieldwork, project work, and service. So they LOVE the idea. They love going to a different country. They are Pre-K through 11th grade. And when the 11th graders become 12th graders they want all the 12th graders to do multi-month solo expeditions everywhere, all around the world. So the principal was eager to see synergy between my program (really, do I have a program?) and her school.

So I sat down with the head of expeditionary learning and she was excited about it. Her only concern was money, so I’m putting together a budget and will talk to them again next week hopefully before she presents it to the principal and head of schools to see if it’s a go. But they definitely want to do it. WOWZERS!!



I even have college students who were part of the original program who are interested in accompanying the program in the summer (I told them this is part of my vision for the program). Some want to help work on the program during the year. And I could pay them to do it. So this seems to be something that is bigger than me and almost destined to become a program. I’m willing to lend my hand and help especially if it gives kids from low-income communities opportunities to build themselves and build others in other parts of the world, opportunities that some of they may not have ever had.

POLITICKING from AMERICA II

I think some people might have been confused. My best friend told me that US involvement in international relations is not that simple. Nothing is black and white. So let me go back over the basics.

This is not a conspiracy theory at all. I’m not talking about any particular type of collusion or conspiring to do anything to take over the world or secure US domination. Now, some of our government documents openly use this language (where in the past I don’t think it would have been so open) so if one does the research, one must come to terms with that. But if there are any people conspiring it is not something that all people are tied into.

Companies have an uncanny ability to make employees fight for its own goals. What I mean is that the goal and the bottom line of a company is to make a profit. Companies then have a great ability to make the employees fight to make a profit. Companies do this by tying incentives of employees to the profit of the company so that every employee from the person who cleans the floors to the CEO is doing what it takes for the company to make a profit. Haven’t you seen this? Haven’t we all been in situations when dealing with an employee of an organization or company and we’re amazed at how emotional the employee gets about the work when in reality it doesn’t really matter at all, in the big scheme of things? Yes, sometimes the passion is due to the fact that the person is passionate about the work, but usually the person has incentive to do well in the job. And doing well usually means enhancing or growing the business of the company. And enhancing the business of the company usually means more profit. It’s quite amazing, actually. So everyone in the company is working to increase profit, like members of an impersonal entity, the movements of a large machine. And it works.




The lone goal of a traditional company is profit and increasing it.

Companies have disproportionate influence over our government. This is not an opinion or biased or conspiracy theory. It’s just true. We have politicians who are elected into office. They need large amounts of money to run for office. The only people that can sway them on how to vote or what to fight for are people who vote for them and people who can give them money so they can campaign for votes. Companies can give money. They hire lobbyists who go to politicians and sway them to do what they want and politicians listen. In fact, a single lobbyist is more powerful than a single citizen. DC people will tell you this is only because lobbyist know the system and how to get what they want, but as it stands, it is true. With increasing mergers of companies in today’s age, there is a decrease in the amount of corporate voices heard. Regardless, the message of a corporation is always the same: help me increase my profits and don’t pass laws that reduce my profits. Corporations have risen to a point of being given the benefits of citizens but don’t have the responsibilities of citizens (the tide is slowly changing as people are trying to hold them to more and more responsibility). The problem is that voting is not required by law. So MANY citizens do not vote. The least participative is the lower class. This is why you never see anyone campaigning for “lower class values” and “the poor” and winning a presidency. No, Clinton (both) campaigned for the middle class which is great but it doesn’t help “the least of these.” A single mother working multiple jobs to take care of multiple kids is unlikely to make it to the poll station to voice her opinion. So it has the affect of diluting the democracy to a point where it isn’t a democracy. The salient feature of a democracy is the multiplicity of voices and choices. But you never really have a choice of a candidate campaigning for the lower class. You never really have a choice of a candidate who is not supported by the top companies in the country. In other words, we tend to lack a multiplicity of voices; every voice is not heard. People are free to choose who they want. But we don’t have choices that represent all peoples. And to top it off, a single lobbyist has more potential and power in a senator’s office than a single citizen, on average. This is not new to anyone in DC. This is how the system works.

The lone goal of a traditional company is profit and increasing it.

Companies have disproportionate influence over our government.

The government therefore works, in many cases, to increase the profits of its companies. This comes from the logical progression. It ranges from subsidies for corn and strengthening of the insurance infrastructure to the favor of US companies for development and relief in war and peace and the opposing of nationalizing of resources of foreign countries.

That’s just math. But there is hope, it is true that Obama might be less beholden to corporate interests since he had the largest campaign with individual donors than I’ve ever seen, but he is still beholden to them as is the Congress with whom he works. But it does indicate that another way is possible. And I look forward to a day, however impossible it may be, when such a campaign is fully and only funded by individual donors.

Politicians used to be quite cordial in earlier times (maybe when I was kid?). In public they were political enemies, but they would share a drink and laugh after the debate was over. They knew and understood how the game works and who funded whom. But these days it seems to have increased in vitriol and personal intensity.
Africa has been ravaged by such economic imperialism. The Middle East was controlled by it. We saw last time how effects of it were felt in Latin America, but there has been a rising tide of “leftist” governments (left from our perspective) and leaders are trying to take resources into the hands of their people, rid themselves of the IMF, and keep their land free of American military bases. This is not in every Latin American country but there is a definitely a noticeable trend. Next time (because this is a little long I’ll talk about trends in Asia.

ASIA & EHMs THROUGH INDONESIAN EYES (from John Perkins’ Secret History of an American Empire)

So we spoke about the ‘63 coup against Ngo Dinh Diem in Vietnam which was supported by Kennedy. Diem was assassinated later; some think the order was from the CIA. The US built up forces in Vietnam and later we had the Vietnam war emerge as a result. It was catastrophic; Kennedy was assassinated. And Nixon was the first to begin pulling out troops from Vietnam. Nixon went with a more secret strategy (not through war) trying to prevent countries from falling under communist rule.
Indonesia was one of the countries being observed. President Suharto was a stanch anti-Communist. He killed a Communist-provoked coup in 1965 while he was head of the army and earned his reputation then. He didn’t hesitate to use force and 30,000 - 50,000 people died in battles crushing the coup. Suharto took over as president in the aftermath of the killings and arrests in 1968.
Economic hitmen were dispatched to Indonesia at that time (early 70’s) with the job of creating the economic studies to secure funding from the World Bank, USAID, and the Asian Development Bank. And this worked. The loans benefited US corporations and the rulers of Indonesia but left the country increasingly indebted, of course (if you remember the philosophy behind economic hitmen).

Official statistics reported great economic growth from the 70’s up until the Asian collapse in 1997. Economic growth of 9% (GDP) every year, solid banking sector, foreign exchange reserves of $200 billion, low inflation, etc. But remember the “results” were less than forecast (that’s how it works to keep the country indebted; you must over forecast the economic response to the loans to ensure defaulting), and when you look closely, these gains came at the cost of increased abuse of cheap labor, a proliferation of sweatshops, and the abuse of the environment by western companies given licenses to do what would be illegal in Western countries. The official minimum wage rose to $3/day but it was ignored by corporations. In 2002, 52% of the population lived on less than $2/day. Indonesia had the highest foreign debt of all Asian countries. It was at 60% of GDP from 1990-1996 (before the collapse). So all the glowing figures only described what a very small, wealthy percentage of the population was experiencing.

Sweatshops proliferated with groups like Nike, Adidas, Fila, Polo, Ralph Lauren, Lotto, Levi, the Gap, Old Navy, Reebok, etc. People lived in poverty, in slums, earning wages below the poverty line. Suharto and his dictatorship came under the eye of NGO groups condemning the serious human rights violations, violence, violations of international law, the sacrifice of democratic principles to satisfy multinational corporations and the ruling class around the president.




East Timor, ruled by the Portuguese for four centuries, is predominantly Roman Catholic (different from Indonesia) and is rich in oil and gas with gold and manganese. It declared independence from Portugal in 1975. Nine days later, Indonesia invaded and slaughtered 200,000 people. Well, documents from the National Security Archive show, now, that we (the U.S.) supplied the weapons for this invasion and that President Ford and Secretary of State Kissinger met with Suharto on December 6, 2975 and agreed to the planned attack. The Carter administration blocked declassification of the files in 1977. You can check out a 2005 interview of Joao Carrascalao (brother of former governor of East Timor) on “Democracy Now!” with Amy Goodman. There was a 25-yr pattern of deceit to keep the details of this planned invasion of East Timor from the American people.

Again you see the pattern, dispatching the military was presented as justified to halt the spread of communism; in reality the rebels were driven by a desire to be free of the Suharto regime and turning to China was a last resort. Supporting Suharto helped corporations since he had a desire to control the entire Indonesian archipelago. There are case after case of armed clashes in Borneo, New Guinea, the Molucca Islands, etc. which we (people like me) believe to secure these resource rich places for use by multi-national corporations in this northern tip of Sumatra (an oil and gas rich part of the Aceh province).

Indonesia grew and went deeper into debt to finance the demand for hotels, construction, restaurants, banking, services, etc. all for the wealthy class and foreign companies. In 1997, Southeast Asia was covered in a haze of poisonous smoke from forest fires that were out of control in Indonesia (a result of EHM-induced corruption according to John Perkins). Other ethnicities including the famous Bugi (where we get “boogimen”) had their lands taken and cultures destroyed. Then in 1998 with the worsening economic climate, Suharto took on an IMF Structural Adjustment Package. Now, this is a reason why people don’t like the IMF: the IMF recommended that he drop fuel and food subsidies and other social services to decrease spending which he of course did. This disproportionately affects the poor and the lower class. People took to the streets. The wealthy, fearing the masses, demanded change themselves! Suharto was forced out in 1998 (in May). Clinton’s administration severed ties with the Indonesian military. Then in 2004, the tsunami hit which brought the US back in. Remember that not only do friendly dictators help out US corporations or wars and invasions, but natural disasters. Tons of money is earmarked for US corporations and multinational corporations, restaurants, hotels, communication and transportation networks, insurance companies, retail chains, etc. instead of investing in local businesses, ma-and-pa businesses, local enterprises and restaurants, etc. I’m hoping to work to reverse this as much as possible when working with USAID this year.
The tsunami was especially hurtful because Aceh province had resources for which corporations were exploiting the area and the tsunami helped bolster this. There was a group in Indonesia called GAM (the Free Aceh Movement), a local organization that fought for the Aceh people to share in the profits generated from the oil, gas, and other resources, some degree of local self rule, and other rights. The tsunami wiped out their communication and transportation networks. Even though secret talks had began in 2004 between the government and GAM, and GAM had gained a bargaining position, they lost the position with the tsunami. The government flew in with fresh troops from unaffected areas and were bolstered by US military personnel and mercenaries and ex-CIA operatives. The pretext for the military was the necessary relief of disaster victims, but the goal not promoted in the media was to quench GAM. The Bush administration reversed the Clinton administrations 1999 decision to sever ties with the military and sent $1 million worth of military equipment to Jakarta in January 2005. The New York Times even reported that Washington seized on the opportunity after the tsunami, that Secretary Rice has moved to strengthen American training of Indonesian officers, and that the army’s utmost concern seems to be keeping a stranglehold on the armed forces of the Free Aceh Movement. Tired by efforts to rebuild and recover from the disaster as well as exhausted by mounting pressure from the Indonesian army and the US, GAM signed a one-sided peace treaty with the government.



When I was in high school and a college student I didn’t understand why people protested against the WTO, the IMF, and the World Bank, among others. Now, I’ve read, researched, and talked to people, and it’s amazing what you find. I can’t condone a multi-national organization/bank making countries reduce social services and food subsidies to service interest on a debt, to decrease spending, or to simply qualify to receive a loan in the first place. It’s reprehensible to do that or require for a developing country with high unemployment, poor educational and health infrastructure and human resources, and little capital. But this is what happened.
The 1997 Asian collapse was known as the “IMF crisis” if you can believe it. People blamed the IMF for “fast-track capitalism” -- eliminating restrictions on capital, encouraging privatizations, maintaining high interest rates, and attempting to hedge currency risk by pegging currencies to the dollar (I’ll talk more about this next week when we move to the Middle East and Economic Hit Men). Country after country experienced an economic collapse, and the reverberations were felt even in the U.S. if you remember.

So then the IMF came up with a rescue plan. It would offer these Structural Adjustment Packages (SAPs) similar to what was forced on Indonesia by Suharto. Each country was required to allow local banks and financial institutions to fail, largely reduce government spending, cut food and fuel subsidies and social services to the poor, and raise interest rates even higher. Countless number of women and children died of malnutrition, starvation, and disease during this time. Others suffered adverse long-term effects from lack of housing, health care, education, etc. This is when the collapse continued to grow reaching the US and North and South America and Europe (sometimes globalization hurts).

Now, check out what analysis has confirmed. The countries that refused to yield to IMF demands did the best. South Korea, Thailand, and Indonesia were hit very hard with repercussions in Laos and the Philippines. But China did not yield to IMF demands. China channeled foreign investment into factories rather than securities which shielded it from future capital flight and providing employment and other benefits. India, Taiwan, and Singapore all defied the IMF and their economies remained ok. Malaysia followed the IMF, experienced a recession, then turned its back on the SAPs and had an economic rebound.

PRACTOR’S PROMISE

Funny enough, one of the things I do is run a dating service or a matching service. It’s a small outfit, and it follows an organic and relational model. We’ve no web-presence and are only promoted through word of mouth and e-mail. I run it with my roommate Praj. This is a promotional section from a monthly newsletter to my fellowship program.
*******************************************************************************************
LOVE SECTION
******
*************************************************************************************

*******************************************************************************************
COMINGLING for the SINGLINGS
******
*************************************************************************************

Some of us are married, some single, some divorced, some partnered. Some of us
are living apart from our families, spouses, partners, or kids (LDS - long distance
syndrome). Since the beginning of the fellowship, some of us have started new
relationships; others have separated or broken up, some while still LD; still
others have both started and ended new relationships. Through it all, the same
request has come to Practor&Vij time and time again. "I want you to find me a man."
It's come up so often, that we at Fellows Monthly are pleased to present to you

Practor's Promise
The Success rate of Millionaire Matchmaker meets the Excitement of the Bachelor



There comes a time. . .
When we heed a certain call . . .
When we all must come together as one
[theme music]


No need to hang out in the local coffee shop to find a date. Practor's Promise recognizes it can be difficult to meet people with whom you share common interests and goals within your geographical area, or when you do meet them, they already have spouses and support polygamy. Well, we can help. Practor's Promise matches you with compatible local men or women - whether you're looking for love in Shaw or Capitol Hill, Arlington, or Takoma, in the Capitol or at the Metro stop.

Using the 29 dimensions of compatibility that are predictors of long-term relational success,
we have gone further than eHarmony. Using a slew of statistical optimization methods we have
optimized the 29 dimensions and their interplay, and we've added 6 more dimensions, 2 of which
we look for incongruence between potential partners. As my mama used to say "You can't
glue two pieces of sandpaper together without roughing them up a bit. " Ha ha ha! That's our
motto at Proctor's Promise. Better than eHarmony or we'll pay your subscription and wedding
fees (they're that good--but we're that much better). Eharmony accounts for 2% of US marriages, we account for 2% of global weddings, but we're just guestimating as it's impossible to keep track of the data. Ha ha ha!! Still that's an impressive guestimate!

Practor's Promise is dedicated to finding you love every single day, unless yesterday worked for you. Who knows?? Oh, wait, we should know. . .Our compatibility matching system matches people on 35 dimensions of compatibility, and 35 dimensions can't be wrong, can they?

[We at Practor's Promise want to emphasize that we believe the best way to get to know someone is outside of a romantic relationship and rather start a romance after already knowing the person as a friend. But we know this is not always possible, and we believe that people are adults while others just believe in "dating-to-know" and enjoy it. And we understand. We just like to inform you of the facades and impressions we, as humans, put forth when dating and sometimes how hard it is to see the real person when we're trying to put our best foot forward in dates. So though we prefer you to get to know someone outside of a relationship, with a Practor's Promissory note, you can be potentially matched with a friend you already know or a completely new person and sent on a blind date. You can also talk on the phone or e-mail for awhile getting to know each other in a romantically potential context before taking the first step. It's all about you. Today is your day.]

There are 3 easy steps

1) Fill out a questionnaire and take Practor out to dinner to talk about what you want. (the dinner is part of your fees. Don't complain. At least we're letting you eat, too.)

2) Review the selected highly compatible matches we find.

3) Choose a meeting plan that best fits your compatibility level and ease.

4) Go buy some popcorn and watch the sparks FLY!

Correction--4 easy steps.


When we set you up on a date, we have a few easy rules.

1. Be easy (No conjugation)
For those of you who are flipping through your grammar books, keep flipping.

2. Remember it's just a first date
No expectations (not low or high expectations, just don't have any)
For the moment don't naturally expect this to go all the way. Let it be what it is,
a first date and enjoy the moment of it as much as possible.

3. Have fun (especially if you're paying us; we're having fun with your money!)

Note, we are having fun with the advert, but this is a real service. E-mail
prajandvictor@gmail if interested. We at Fellows Monthly
know there are a few guys who are interested but have too much pride to
ask. We offer counseling services for your pride and matchmaking services
for your ego; ALL are welcome!

Knowing that there are fellows who have a no-dating-fellows rule, we are able
to match both outside of the fellowship circle and within it. It depends on your
preference.
prajandvictor@gmail.com

We maintain all confidentiality. So many people ask and talk to us about
relationships but we don't divulge any of it as long as we're sober. So feel
easy and free.

Make your Proctor's Promissory Note TODAY!
Prices vary.
prajandvictor@gmail.com

THE STORY OF HAPPINESS

These days I have many reasons to be sad. But to be honest, I’m not putting much energy into fueling that sadness. However, I’ve never understood people who were always happy or those who were always sad. Let me correct that, I think a person shouldn’t feel burdened to always be happy and always present a happy face. There are too many strange happenings in the world, sad unnecessary happenings in the world for me to pretend as if life is amazingly fun all the time and to be fearful of broaching a serious topic of conversation. Being happy all the time probably also means I can’t really connect with people because a holistically relational dynamic means sharing the joy and the pain, not one or the other. My gosh, I’m reading the gospels now, and I’ve never seen such a emotionally moody person as Jesus—up one moment and down the next; inspired, then dejected; moved by the crowds, frustrated by unbelief; inspired by belief, angered by religious teachers; partying it up, publicly weeping for a friend.
And then it hits you—happiness is circumstantial. If you’re happy all the time, you’re in denial of circumstances (because they can’t be all good) or you are not comfortable with people seeing that your circumstances aren’t great, so you put on a face. If you’re sad all the time, you’ve no anchor or hope or proper perspective to see the good. Why not have both?
My emotional life is like driving a car, honestly. I notice sometimes I lean too much to the left of the lane so I adjust the car to move it back center by turning to the right slightly, but sometimes I over turn so I must come back to the left. I want to be sensitive, as sensitive as possible to the world around me, its problems and triumphs, but I can’t be so sensitive that I’m paralyzed in fear and inaction or demotivated from acts of justice.

EVOKE

EVOKE
I participated in a 10-week crash course with the World Bank Institute on using social innovation to answer and address 9 of the world’s pressing crises. I thought it was an amazing time, and I made great connections around the world with the 19,000 students in the on-line class. The philosophy of the class was to use virtual online games to solve real-world problems. I even worked with kids in the classroom who took the class as one person. I involved an after-school program that I worked with in solving some of the problems (we worked on the energy crisis).





http://www.urgentevoke.com/
At the end, participants could suggest projects to be launched as actual social enterprises to do good works, acts of justice, work on development and aid, etc. My two proposals were not accepted, but take a look at the top 28 ones chosen. Any project that can raise $3,000 from 50 different individual donors wins a permanent spot on Global Giving. Isn’t that a great opportunity?? Check it out.
28 new social enterprises created by EVOKE agents have earned a spot in the first ever Global Giving EVOKE challenge.

www.globalgiving.org/evoke

And YOU can help them win the challenge - by leaving a comment and by making a small donation.

Each comment and donation -- no matter how small -- brings the agents closer to unlocking a bonus pool of funding that they will share only if they meet their collective goal. (Visit the challenge site and read the rules to find out more!)

Why give? Your donation matters! With your donation you empower the EVOKE participants to implement
their ideas over the next few months. Not only that! Your donation
has the potential to have an
even greater impact by helping these projects get one step closer
to 50 donors and $3000. Once
projects cross this threshold, they are invited to remain on the
GlobalGiving site and grow their
donor communities by leveraging personalised fundraising tools and
corporate and marketing
campaigns.


Let's rally behind these 28 great ideas -- developed by EVOKE agents, and fueled by YOUR creativity and collaboration.



I am helping one friend from the course on his collaboration. He is looking at the Story of Happiness.
The Story of Happiness is documentary project contributing to the creation of a story of happiness for South African women, hearing their mountaintop of desires and helping them find ways of reaching it. As part of an award received through the World Bank program Urgent Evoke, the project is raising funds through GlobalGiving and needs the support of at least 50 individual donors to raise $3,000 by August 31.

To donate: http://www.globalgiving.org/projects/documentary-happiness-south-africa/

To learn more or to comment: http://www.globalgiving.org/projects/documentary-happiness-south-africa/updates/?subid=7012
http://www.goto.gg/5958/updates/?subid=7059#comments

Contact: Paul Holze at paul@groundworkpublications.comThe Story of Happiness is documentary project contributing to the creation of a story of happiness for South African women, hearing their mountaintop of desires and helping them find ways of reaching it.  As part of an award received through the World Bank program Urgent Evoke, the project is raising funds through GlobalGiving and needs the support of at least 50 individual donors to raise $3,000 by August 31.

MOVIES



I love Participant Media.


Waiting for Superman
It’s the newest one I’ve been invited to see from Participant Media. The last one I suggested to you all was “Countdown to Zero.” “Waiting for Superman” is a film about the broken education system in the U.S. They have the DC Chancellor (like a superintendent) who is a Teach for America alum and founder of The New Teacher Project. Check out the trailer and support the film and participate not only in the conversation around education but working to change it and make it better for our children.


The International
This movie talks about some of the international relations issues I was discussing before if you’re interested in seeing it.

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo
Uhhh, it’s kind of hard to watch (for some of us) as it deals with a lot of murders and rapes. It’s a dark movie. I’m interested in reading the book and seeing how it is told in that format.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Update August 1, 2010

March 7, 2010


My neighborhood is somewhat rich. My neighborhood is so rich that if I stand outside my house too long, the neighbors call the police. . . True story.

My neighborhood is somewhat rich. My neighborhood is so rich that when my housemate calls the police because someone may have broken into a neighbor’s house and the police arrive and see me waiting outside, they tell me “Sir, slowly remove your hands from your pockets and back away.” . . . True story.

While walking to work, within 5 seconds of each other, I was both complimented by a homeless guy asking if I was lawyer, and I was also handed information about how to get a job. I had on one of those outfits that could go both ways.

Whenever one of my housemates does number 2 in the bathroom next to the kitchen he leaves the door wide open.

One of the mice exterminators that came to my house was telling me how he had mice problems in his own house.

These are actual names of people.

Penny Dollar
April May (by marriage)
Paige Turner (by marriage)
Bill Board
Dr. Looney (psychiatrist)
Candy Bar

I’ve seen them.

While walking down the street in San Diego, I happened upon a man at a stoplight. While waiting for the walk signal he said to me, “You look like one of the guys who likes to get really freaky.” That was the longest walk signal for which I ever had to wait. This always happens when I dress nicely.

UPDATE

Ok, people have been saying they missed my updates, and they just want one more. To be honest, I did say that I would give you my itinerary from the orientation in September. So many people asked me how the job was my first two weeks in September; I realized people didn’t understand that we had a fellowship program orientation to government that happened before we ever started working in our specific placements. On top of the, the part of government I work in requires a type of background investigation. Mine took so long that I didn’t start at my placement until November while others started mid September after orientation.

I won’t go into what I’m doing because no matter how many times I write it people e-mail or call individually asking me that, so I know it doesn’t matter if I write it here or repeat it. I will say that I work in a particular part of government where we deal with securing the homeland. To read more about my fellowship program. I will again put the link.

http://fellowships.aaas.org/

I’ve also attached the orientation itinerary so you can see what it looks like.

During the current year 2009-2010, I was assigned to a department that deals with security. I deal with chemical and biological (and explosive) weapons detection; I help in making detection machines if that makes sense. I’ve renewed my fellowship for a 2nd year, and next year, Sept 2010 - Aug 2011, I’ve been reassigned to do work for USAID as a science policy advisor and development engineer doing health, water, sanitation, infrastructure, transportation, construction, and urban planning technical advising. My travel budget for the year is $15k, so I know the plan to send me on the ground for at least 2 trips. We’ll see.

http://www.usaid.gov/

LIFE

People want to know what I do in DC. Well, I guess I do a few things. First of all I sing in a choir. I’m a member of a 120-member professional concert (classical) choir in town--the City Choir of Washington.

http://thecitychoirofwashington.org/

I also sing with a subset of the choir, the City Singers. We do outreach events. There are 30 of us, but you usually get no more than 20. For instance yesterday (Feb 27th) we sang at an elderly folks home, a half-way house for men recovering from issues, and a community home for young people trying to get things together (I think).

I sing in a 7-member a capella group that was just restarted and has only met once before the restart due to people’s schedules. I’m not sure it will work already. The first rehearsal in the restart was canceled.

I’m a mentor in a program for students that teaches them about environmental science. It’s called Environ mentors. My mentee is an 11th grader Guyanan-American.

http://www.cnie.org/Environmentors/

I tutor teachers for their courses in a masters program that prepares them to teach physics in high school to 9th graders. My only mistake is that I tutored them too well. Their actual instructor is a former fellow of my fellowship program, but she has never had K-12 teaching experience. The roughly 5 teachers I tutored told the program administrators and they asked me to be an instructor for their next course. So now. . .

I’m an adjunct professor of physics at George Washington University. Don’t ask me how it happened. It just did. Right now I’m teaching “Energy and Momentum” to 20 teachers getting a masters in physics education. I’m just doing this one course. Their program is 3 years. I don’t know if they will need me again. At the time of the current sentence I’m writing, I’ve found out that they do need me again. My course “Energy and Momentum” just finished, and I’m teaching another in spring of 2011. I still keep my adjunct professor status throughout, and it’s cool to have a university card again, I’m going to check out the university gym.

http://www.gwu.edu/

I usually attend National Community Church. My location currently meets in the largest coffeehouse in DC. They are very technologically savvy and instead of having different people preach in all locations broadcast the same preacher each week to all locations.

http://www.theaterchurch.com/
http://ebenezerscoffeehouse.com/

Another church I really like is Cedar Ridge Community Church. I just wished they were in the city. They actually have an organic farm for the homeless. But they are in a rural community. I love how they combine communion, prayer time, music, tithing, written prayer, prayer for each other, and art all in one time through stations at the church. I’ve never felt like tithing was an act of worship until I was there. Other churches have tried, but this one feels like it.

http://www.crcc.org/

I volunteer with a homeless shelter that offers lots of services such as case management and transitional housing. Michelle Obama has visited before! It’s always interesting being there because it reminds me that I’ve done the social work that the case managers are doing. II should look into using my counseling training back here in the States.

http://www.miriamskitchen.org/

I have been unsuccessful being accepted into a community theatre production so far, but I’m not worried. I haven’t been able to audition for all or even most opportunities. Many have occurred when I have choir rehearsal. Plus I’ve had visitors many times. I’ve only auditioned 3 times, but I’ll do more.

I also sing with an a capella group of men. We’re actually starting this Saturday (the 6th of March). We’ll see how it goes. It’s rather informal, but it should be fun. I have a friend who runs the human rights and science program at AAAS. She and I are working on some four-hand piano pieces. That’s fun as well. I do some song writing still in collaboration with a few different people, but I’ve no equipment. I’m still very saddled with lots of bills so that my money is used up quite quickly but I have enough to do what I need, so I’m ok.

I have four roommates--one is a AAAS Fellow at the Environmental Protection Agency, another is a AAAS Fellow at the Department of State, and the last of the roommates are mice.

OF MICE AND MEN




I used to like the movie Ratatouille. Now I hate it. I only watch Tom and Jerry now to take notes and study the enemy. We use these notes to design good offensive tactics to fight the enemy. Speedy Gonzalez shows are especially helpful but depressing. How can he run so fast! My mice seem to run faster than Speedy Gonzalez and Jerry combined.

I’m writing this current paragraph months after the one above, and I would love to tell you that we got rid of the mice. We tried maze traps, live catch traps, poison, snap traps--nothing worked. It was like they knew and they would laugh at us. One time my roommate Sumi and Haley (who was visiting at the time) saw a mouse glaring at them from inside the toaster one morning (the mice would get up on the kitchen counter and go to town on the food people left there. I would tell them not to do that, but. . . One day as the sun was coming up (mice are nocturnal like the Twilight vampires) a mouse was trying to go back to their nest wherever it was and he was exiting the living area through a small dime-sized hole in the fireplace, but he got stuck (he had a little too big of feast last night). So in the morning when people came down they saw half a mouse and a tail wiggling and struggling to get inside the fire place to wherever they were coming from. No one knew what to do. Do we get a knife and chop the body in half? (animal lovers are hating me right now) Should we not do anything? Should we do something if we could think of something that was more than anything but less than everything? We didn’t know. Eventually he popped through after all that struggle back to some nesting area in the walls or back outside or in our garage.

In fact in trying to find the holes in the house through which they entered the house, I was standing outside checking the cracks or opening in the house, and that’s when my neighbor called the police on me. Oh well.

Like I said, I would love to tell you that we got rid of the mice ourselves, but what happened was something more unimaginable than we could have fathomed. . . . . . . . . . . . .spring. I have never been more thankful for spring and more in debt to it. With the warmer weather they no longer seemed to care to come in the house and they went on their way. They are gone. I am happy. And I will never watch Ratatouille again. I don’t like the movie. Yes, I know that when November rolls around they may be back. But let me say this. THIS time we have some electronic ultrasound thing you plug in the house and it keeps them away. The mice first disappeared when we cleaned the kitchen and sealed everything up, but they might have come back with the cold weather. So we’ll see if we need the ultrasound plug-ins. I hope not, but winter is coming again, and we don’t have a cat. . . .

FATHERS




There is a guy who inspires me somehow when he writes. I don’t fully get it. You think if you’re writing books about self-discovery and experiencing life you can’t possibly continue to have the same fresh, honest, raw, ignorant and learning posture while writing but somehow he does that. You would think that with more knowledge and writing he would start writing more authoritative books, but this guy is both humble and honest. I love him. His name is Donald Miller. He’s written 5 books. He had 1 re-released (his first book but no one knew about the first publishing of it, so it seems more like his 3rd book, but chronologically it’s his first) called “Through Painted Deserts.” Now he currently has two other books re-released right now, “Searching for God Knows What” and “Father Fiction.” When you have 3 out of 5 books re-released that means you‘re either really good. . . . . . Or really bad. Ha ha!

“Searching for God Knows What” was considered his best book by both Donald and me before his 5th book (“Million Miles in a Thousand Years”). I haven’t read it yet so we’ll see how I feel. But I’m currently reading “Father Fiction.”

Fathers.

Hmmmm. . . .

I saw Donald speak at the Democratic National Convention in Denver while I was in South Africa in 2008, and I didn’t understand how he was asked by Obama to do that, but he apparently started some mentoring project that helps lots of young kids who don’t have fathers. Donald was one of those kids. And writing this book, “Father Fiction,” was a way to work through some of his fatherless issues.

I sometimes wonder if it’s better to have no father than to have a poor father or bad fathering. I wonder if you can do negative damage which might be worse than the absence of good construction. I don’t know. But, for boys, there seems to be something that is learned by the presence of a father. Something seems to be transferred whether good or bad. And the question is how do you transfer the good stuff for kids who don’t have fathers.

Don’s first father was Dr. Huxtable on the Cosby Show. Don loved that family so much he thought “Black people have it perfect.” This would make many Black people in America laugh. It made me laugh, but I loved how this young Texas kid had a positive image of Black people at so young and age with so pioneering a show.

One thing I’ve seen is that people will find fathers wherever they can. And sometimes you don’t know that you are a father. It’s sometimes thrust upon you whether you choose it or not. The tough part about fathering is learning how to both encourage and build up while being honest and truthful at the same time. You see “in life, you are pretty much going to do the things that make you feel good about your self, make you feel important and on purpose, and walk away from the things that make you feel like a loser.” So if you make a kid feel like a loser she or he probably won’t gravitate towards you. I see it in my own life. I stay away from places, things, and people that make me feel like a loser. Otherwise, I start believing it if I hear it enough. Then I start asking myself “Is it true? Am I a loser?” I look in the mirror pinching my cheeks, examining myself, asking “Is this what a loser looks like?” “I knew losers were short, but I’m not THAT short.”

Fathers are important. . . . For both sons and daughters, girls and boys. It’s something I can’t get away from, true if I know it or not. In South Africa, there is a lack of black male role models and I had many people asking me formally or informally to be their mentor. But I even had a girl ask me to be her life coach. I sometimes wonder what people see. But even if you don’t see it in yourself, even if you don’t accept a fathering position, people are watching and learning. So I live in that funny tension between both fathering and being fathered and wanting to father even better than I was fathered. I supposed I shouldn’t think about standards, but it’s quite natural.

The Mentoring Project - http://www.thementoringproject.org/

NATURAL LIFE

It’s always interesting to me to see how people see you. I have heard from two girls who have stayed at our house recently in the past 6 months that they think that I feel they are not intelligent or on par or smart. What’s funny about that is that they’re implying I see myself as smart. Anyone who knows me really well (this is a test) knows I don’t see myself as smart inasmuch as it is a naturally innate distinguishing characteristic. If you mean smart in that I learned something in school that many others didn’t study or learn or I gathered some capability through that learning, then yes. But time and time again, I become assured and reassured that the large differences in intelligence between people are not innate and due to many outside influences such as environment and parents and schooling and neighborhood.

Art teachers have told me that all people can draw. All children draw at the same level. It’s only around 2nd grade or so where they start to diverge and some lose the ability to see things in the proper way to draw or maybe the others gain it.

Drama teachers have told me that all people can act. All children can act, and at a certain age we begin to diverge where someone retain this ability and others lose it or stop exercising that part of the mind.

Intelligence like reading seems to be learned. Remember that we gravitate to things that make us feel like a loser. My cousin’s son was not a good reader. He struggled, but my cousin-in-law (my cousin’s wife) worked on reading with him. . . . Hard. She forced him to sit down and practice and practice and practice. He HATED it. But she got through it. Now he’s an excellent reader, and guess what. He LOVES it! You can’t stop him from reading. My cousin, the husband, said that he wished someone had done that with him. To this day, it affected him and he doesn’t like to read. He thought it was innate, some are good readers and some are not. Ha!

This pattern I’ve seen again and again. I’ve seen it with learning languages (there are many ways to learn languages by the way, not just the traditional translational approach in classes). I’ve seen it with mathematics. I’ve seen it with science. I’ve seen it everywhere. The biggest proof to me was teaching middle and high school. The kids were merely differentiated not by ability but by wholes in knowledge that persisted and were never cleared up. I have never had a not even one student who had mastered all previous pre-requisite classes leading to this one and had mastered every lesson this year before today who misunderstood and could not learn the material for today. It’s cumulative. Some get so far behind, aren’t encouraged or strengthened or pushed or taught---and we grow up thinking there is a difference.

Now something my art teacher told me is that it doesn’t mean that we’ll all be Rembrandts. She can only teach people to see so that they draw well. It won’t make you a Picasso but it will allow you to bring out the artist in you, the scientist in you, the nurse or accountant or brain surgeon (or whatever you find hard) in you.

So it’s interesting how this notion of differences that are insurmountable and innate affect how people see each other. It reminded me, when listening to these two girls about the heart of a girl, the heart of a woman.

THE BACHELORETTE

I came back last weekend from Philly, and I didn’t want to think. I got the projector and hooked it up to my laptop and watched the first two weeks of The Bachelorette. Monday I watched another two weeks and another two weeks on Tuesday. I eventually saw all the episodes by Friday and I learned a few things about why the show is fake

1) The bachelor or bachelorette feels the need to give a negatively constructive reason for why someone was let go completely annihilating the idea that you can have four good options and just be forced to choose 3 and nothing be bad with the 4th. There seems to be no understanding that there is more than one good fit in life (especially if there is real love [not the emotion]).

2) People, today, do date multiple people at the same time, but the multiple people, whom a girl dates, usually don’t know each other. Ouch!

3) The extreme love some of them feel for each other is probably an emotion and fleeting at best. Real love isn’t emotive; moreover, if I and a rock were in those intensely romantic situations and locations like Lisbon and Tuscany, I too would fall in love with that rock, making rock and roll. They should rather have the couples practice living normal lives, going to work, cleaning a house, co-managing trips and households. That’ll show ‘em! ;-)

4) Those men told the bachelorette that she was beautiful every time they saw her. I’m not sure that would happen in real life. It’s a good practice, but I don’t know if the guys are that good in a daily real situation.



But I was mesmerized because I was LEARNING about women while watching. It was a free lesson and I couldn’t help but learn. This is what I learned (more important than the silly objections above). I studied Ali, the bachelorette, and these are some of the generalizations I made and saw.

1) Women want to be pursued.

2) Women like to be touched and held.

3) Women want to be loved, adored, and appreciated, told they’re beautiful.

4) Women want to feel secure.

If you don’t provide this for a woman, it can have repercussions. Even in a silly show like that. I looked back at all the relationships I’ve had (what relationships!), and I can see where those were not provided and how it altered the relationship eventually unto the end. It’s sad and frightening and freeing and sad. You stand and face loss in the face, analyzing.

LOSS

I traveled the past 3 weekends. 3 weeks ago I was in LA for a wedding. The week of the wedding my friend, Dan, died in Switzerland while on tour. He was swimming in a lake and his friends lost sight of him. The next time he was seen was floating in 3 feet of water. . .Dan left behind a 2-year-old daughter and a wife. She is distraught and numb. The daughter will never remember him as memory sets in around 4 or 5 years of age. We made a scrap book of messages so she can later read about what kind of man Dan was.

Dan was in the same group of friends as the wedding friends. So the wedding was . . . Bittersweet.

Then 3 pastors were in a bus accident in Korea. 2 died and one was in critical condition.

My brother’s good frat brother died from a battle with liver cancer quite suddenly and quickly.

I could go on, but you get the point.

The next weekend we met in NYC for the funeral. I was honored to be asked to sing and play at the wedding by his wife. I loved Dan, great human behind. His own funeral was filled with a few of his songs, some of his poetry, and one video he put together. Still creating even after passing. . .



These two trips were the first time I had traveled around since returning to the States from South Africa. We realized we didn’t want to wait for the next wedding. . . Plus there were only two of us left in the group and they didn’t see any hope for either Bryan or myself. Ha ha! And we were too young to start the funeral cycle, so we decided to meet just to meet. So some of us met last weekend in Philly, those of us in the East coast. It was nice. I was a 10th wheel - 3 husbands, 3 wives, 4 2-year-olds (I was one of them). Good time. We saw Ving Rhames in our restaurant with a pretty lady.

There’s been other loss. One friend in my program saw her engagement end. It was really sad. She was actually planning it. A date had been set. She even invited me to go to a dance lesson when her fiancé wasn’t going to go. But she was finally able to get him to go to the ballroom dancing lessons. And then boom, he ends it. She’s been through a lot, and I was glad to be able to talk to her about it a bit. It completely changed her life and life direction as she was probably going to leave the program and move to the Middle East.

I know of another friend whose engagement ended (male). But this friend had such a good relationship where his fiancée encouraged and pushed and supported every bit of God in him even if it was to her detriment, no matter if it would take him away from her for a period, etc. Because of that, contrastingly, nothing changed for him after the engagement ended. His plans are still the same. How strangely bitter sweetly beautiful is that? It was the firs time that anyone had ever loved him in a romantic context.

POVERTY & FATHERS

I won’t say much, as I’ve talked about poverty before. But I recently found someone who defines it similarly to me. I couldn’t believe it! I specifically have never felt poor because I’ve always had people around to help even if I did fall on hard times. I had a friend once who was struggling financially and her father wanted to help. But she refused saying “I didn’t want my father to help me and bail me out. I wanted to trust God this time,” for her heavenly father to help her.

What’s so strange is that people compartmentalize “spiritual things” all the time. I would say the spiritual makes no sense without the physical. They are intertwined, not in God, but in us (actually in God as well). We are human, that means we live in the tension of humanity and divinity and escaping one or the other is probably trouble. So I live for the day when a friend I that situation would see her father helping her as God helping her, that God LOVES to work through people, and that it is a blessing (from God) to have a father who helps.

Others aren’t as lucky. I’ve counseled people with family who won’t help them or no family or friends--no one. Check out this definition of poverty.



http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RGSvDvDZnb4

POLITICKING FROM AMERICA




Very few people will have read down to this section, but I just wanted to explain that being in Washington has taught me a lot. I want every person to rotate through the government and spend time learning how the state and/or national government work. I would love it if it were like jury duty because it’s really important.

I’ve spoken how Congressmen (reps and senators) only respond to constituents and lobbyist. Every decision they make is whether or not it will get them re-elected. Otherwise, you commit political suicide if you do the right thing and the right thing doesn’t get you campaign dollars (lobbyists) or direct votes (constituents). And remember campaign dollars bring you votes, indirectly. So it’s all about votes.

I’ve learned that the US media is called liberal by conservatives and conservative by liberals. This is because each side focuses on the liberal piece or the conservative piece they see or hear and concentrates on it creating a distorted picture from that concentrated view. You have to look at it holistically or in totality. When I look in totality, it is one way or the other, but I won’t say. I won’t join the argument, but I can say globally (quite matter-of-factly) the US media, again globally, is conservative. We call some people dictators who are elected democratically because they don’t serve US interests (businesses) for example.

So I’ve been trying to figure out why certain things that are morally obvious are hard to do in the US and through the government. I’ve decided that most initiatives tend to be opposed if it affects large corporations negatively, if it could reduce profits of large companies. This is why the electric car has never come into the market for the past 30+ years (I mean a real electric car, not a golf cart that is not allowed to go on the highway or go above 35 mph) or why health care was such a heated debate (we all understand it needs reform regardless of how you want to reform it). Many large changes that are beneficial for the small individual can cause losses for large corporations that have powerful lobbies and it makes it hard. Corporations seem to also affect foreign policy as well as domestic policy. In fact when I came to this realization this year, it reminded me of the book “Confessions of an Economic Hetman” which shows how corporations in the US affect US foreign policy inordinately.

I know US corporations have an inordinate amount of control on the media and US policy especially foreign policy but I’ve been trying to figure out how the link works. I mean does a politician just always side with things that are good for US businesses, naturally? It doesn’t seem logical.

A company is an impersonal entity whose bottom line is profit. That’s all it cares about. If it’s more profitable to ignore safety, safety is ignored. Only when they will go out of business due to law suits or governmental regulations do the take care of things like safety--only when it’s profitable. So the US is controlled by companies. Companies’ bottom line is profit. Therefore, mathematically and logically, the bottom line of the US is profit. Still it leaves the question of how does US policy get shaped by companies instead of by individuals who vote?

It’s quite strange. I’m unimpressed with US history books in our school which don’t seem to paint a factual or balanced picture of our involvement around the world, specifically in Latin America, Africa, and Asia.

Anyway, I’ve learned there’s been a “revolving door” in government where the people in the highest offices are also corporate executives and they move back and forth between the two. This creates a really bad dependent link. It’s bad because the government is supposed to be independent of corporations but there is a strong bias in favor of them in terms of foreign (and domestic) policy for instance.

Secondly, lobbyists represent companies and corporations; individuals or small groups cannot afford lobbyists. And Congress listens to lobbyists. Politicians depend on multiple donations and large donations from companies to raise the money needed to run for office, so again there is this connection. If you don’t act in their favor you lose their money.

So, as I’ve said before, whenever US ideals (democracy, freedom, capitalism) clash with US geopolitical interests (remember this usually means corporate interests) the US generally sides with the geopolitical interests. In doing so, we have subtly built up an empire across this land. We are not a lone superpower in the world. We are the lone hyper power in human history, a superpower of any superpower that has ever lived or had an empire in the history of the world.

According to John Perkins’ research an empire has the following characteristics

1) exploits resources from the land it dominates
2) consumes large quantities of resources--amounts that are disproportionate to the size of its population relative to those of other nations
3) maintains a large military that enforces its policies when more subtle measures fail
4) spreads its language, literature, art, and various aspects of its culture throughout its sphere of influence
5) taxes not just its own citizens but also the people in other countries, and
6) imposes its own currency on the lands under its control.

(from ‘The Secret history of the American Empire”)



Well, even though you may not generally see how #5 fits (you can ask me later) all the characteristics fit and match the US in the 20th century and early 21st century. And it’s sad. I’ve talked before about the general procedure for coaxing other countries (#3). First you send in Economic Hit Men (“Confessions of an Economic Hit Man”). If that doesn’t work, you send in jackals (assassins). If that doesn’t work, you send in the military. Remember that EHM (Economic Hit Men) are economic forecasters that go into countries to forecast the amount that a developing country’s economy will grow if they are given a loan. The forecaster over predicts or over exaggerates the amount a large loan will make the country’s economy grow so that the IMF or World Bank, for instance, will grant the loan and the country will be sure to default. Then the country is beholden to the multilateral organization or the US and either constantly paying interest to the detriment of social services to its people, having to side on UN votes with the US, giving up land space for US military bases, etc. This is largely due to the fact that the US largely controls the World Bank and the IMF, if you remember (some equate the IMF with the US Dept of Treasury).

Sometimes this doesn’t work, so assassins are sent in. If that doesn’t work militaries are sent in.

Now most times we have had an excuse to go into these countries--freedom, democracy, liberty, anti-communism, but usually empires (historically) always need an enemy and something to rally the citizens around. US contractors and companies benefit no matter if we win or lose a war. For example, in Vietnam which my friend argued was a war fought only to stop the spread of communism on ideological grounds, US companies and the government benefited from increased arm sales, expanded markets, and a greater labor pool (we now could have sweatshops and outsourcing in Vietnam). In all honesty, when looking at the historical analysis, Vietnam was a regional conflict, not a greater global conflict. This point is harder to see in Vietnam, but many can see that democracy and freedom were not the reasons of the US entering Iraq.

Remember we created the situations in Iraq and Vietnam. In 1963, Kennedy supported a coup against Ngo Dinh Diem in South Vietnam; he was later assassinated which led to a buildup of troops there and eventually the war. Likewise, during the 50’s and 60’s Qasim, the popular president of Iraq demanded Iraqi people share in some of the profits of the oil reaped from his country by foreign companies (US and UK, for example). He threatened to nationalize Iraqi oil which of course the US and UK didn’t like (this pattern has been repeated in places like Venezuela, Iran, etc.). Economic hit men were sent to Iraq, but it didn’t work. So then a young Saddam Hussein was part of team that was hired to assassinate Qasim. Their attempt failed; Saddam was shot and fled to Syria. Kennedy then ordered the CIA to join the MI6 to finish the job. They executed Qasim on Iraqi TV by a firing squad. Saddam came back and placed as head of national security and his second cousin became president. This led to more support later on (when Saddam was our friend against the enemy of Iran), but I’ll continue later.

Most people in other parts of the world understand that the US is responsible for coups around the world: Chile’s Allende, Guatemala’s Arbenz, Venezuela’s Chavez, Iraq’s Qasim, Brazil’s Goulart, etc. This list continues.



When a country opposes US interests, the EHM come in usually followed by jackals if that doesn’t work. Finally the military is sent in. This pattern occurred in Iraq, and I’ll talk about it in another e-mail. The first two steps occurred in Venezuela and there is a huge buildup of US forces in Columbia at the moment across the border from Venezuela. And though Africa was very much hurt by this empire building and it neutralized parts of Asia, Latin America has a rising tide that is changing the story. For such actions quite honestly build up resentment and reaction from the forces of the people within the country. And in Latin America, the people have had enough of leaders who have bought into the system and have been electing, as of late, “leaders of the people,” men who were previously in prison, priests, and farmers.

LATIN AMERICA GONE LEFT

The US media talked quite badly of many Latin American leaders, but I don’t think it’s wrong to want to provide and funnel the profits of your resources towards your people, to request the US remove military bases from your country, and to desire to nationalize your oil. It’s your choice, really.

Bachelet, Chile
Kirchner, Argentina
Lula da Silva, Brazil
Rafael Correa, Ecuador
Hugo Chavez, Venezuela
Evo Morales, Bolivia
Fernando Lugo, Paraguay

Now these people oppose the US corporate interests to differing degrees. Still, can I say something about these guys for a moment?

When Evo Morales came into power in Bolivia, he cut his salary in half and ordered that no cabinet member could be paid more than he. He then took the savings from this act and invested in hiring more public school teachers. WHO DOES THAT? Name one leader. Name one. His minister of justice was a maid. His vice president was a guerilla leader in Bolivia’s anticorporatocracy revolutionary movement and had been in prison for 4 years after which he came out, got a degree as a mathematician, and became a sociology professor being praised as a political analyst. The leader of the senate was a rural school teacher.
Four months later, Morales ordered the Brazilian military to occupy all oil and gas fields around the country and place them in state control. He said the looting of these countries had ended and demanded a reversal in the traditional oil profit percentages of 80% to foreign companies and 20% to the country to one that was more favorable to Bolivia.

When Bachelet became president of Chile, she named women to HALF of her cabinet staff. WOW!

Chavez staged a failed coup in 1992 in which he claimed all responsibility. He led a coup because the country’s collaboration with the western corporatocracy had led to a per capita income plummet in Venezuela. They no longer had the largest middle class in Latin America, no where close. In 1998 he was elected president with 56% of the vote and he honored people like Guatemala’s Arbenz, Chile’s Allende Panama’s Torrijos, Ecuador’s Roldos--all assassinated or overthrown by the CIA. When he came into power, he kept his commitments. He invested oil profits into projects to fight illiteracy, malnutrition, disease, and other ills instead of back into the oil industry. He helped Kirchner buy down the Argentine IMF debt of more than $10 billion and he sold discounted oil to those who couldn’t afford even in the US! He set aside a portion of oil revenues for Cuba so it could send medical doctors to impoverished areas around the continent. He fought for inclusion of Afro-Venezuelan curricula and helped create laws to consolidate rights of indigenous people.



EHMs could not convince him (Chavez read “Confessions of an Economic Hit Man” and admits to being approached by them), so jackals were sent in. They staged a coup in 2002, but the coup actually failed (read the details; it’s quite interesting). People loyal to Chavez called for a massive countercoup and he was restored to power.

Rafael Correa, president of Ecuador, said he took a check to the IMF and paid off the debt of his country (Rafael used to be the economic/finance minister). When he handed them the check, the IMF people said “No, no no. It’s fine. Keep the money, you can pay later.” Can you imagine that? I’m shocked. He said no. He handed them the money again and said he didn’t want to deal with them anymore.



Kirchner, former president of Argentina and husband of current president, said that he sat down with Bush in one meeting. After suggesting a Marshall plan for Latin America, Bush got angry and stood up saying no, that a Marshall Plan was an idea of the Democrats. Bush told him that the best way to revitalize the economy was war, that “all the economic growth that the US had had had been based on the different wars it had waged,” according to Kirchner. He couldn’t believe it, and neither could I.

Bachelet, Chile
Kirchner, Argentina
Lula da Silva, Brazil
Rafael Correa, Ecuador
Hugo Chavez, Venezuela
Evo Morales, Bolivia
Fernando Lugo, Paraguay

There are others, but I don’t want to put people who I think might actually be quite horrible people. These, though, I see as wanting the good for their people.

So it’s a strange place here in Washington. I don’t look at the media in the same way. I don’t think as highly of some US news sources. I try to diversity when I prioritize news-learning. It’s important to see how people see things from different perspectives.

So there is a rising tide. I’ll talk a bit about EHM work in the Middle East and some of the most recent “roots” of the tensions there both religious and ethnic and a little bit about Africa.

HOPE: EVOKE A DIFFERENT FUTURE



I took a 10-week course from the World Bank Institute. There were about 19,000 people in the course from all over the world.

Every week we received an e-mail telling us to log in. We did and we read a 6-7 page graphic novel set in 2020 dealing with some world crisis. We were then given a mission. Each mission had 3 objectives. The first objective was educational (do a lot of learning and reading and report on it); the second action-based (you had to do something to solve the problem in your community on a small scale); the third was imagination-based (you had to imagine the world in the future with the problem solved and write about it). Each week there was also a quest, a writing portion to write about you as a hero and what motivates, inspires you, bothers you, moves you, your background and environment, your mentors and helpers, etc.



Each week focused on a different problem: food security and agricultural development, water security and development, the energy crisis, women’s empowerment, crisis networking, etc. The list went on and on for 10 weeks. And the goal was to use social innovation and social entrepreneurship to address the problem. We followed along the story of the secret global agents who were social innovators and used their skills to solve the problem in the year 2020. It was a very cool game and course. I really enjoyed it though it was a lot of work (the 2nd objective each week took time).

If you completed 1 objective from each week and each quest you were called a hero.
If you completed 2 objectives from each week and each quest you were called a certified hero.
If you completed 3 objectives from each week and each quest you were called a legendary here.

I think certified heroes and higher received a certificate saying they finished the course. At the end of the course, you were allowed to submit a proposal developed as you worked each week and collaborated and discussed. Some would win mentorship prizes, some would win travel funding for a summit that is to happen in DC later. The top 20 would win a seed grant to launch their social enterprise and get started.

I submitted two proposals; neither was chosen. But I am helping and advising a friend from the class who is doing a film project on the Story of Happiness. He won a mentorship and chance to put his project on Global Giving and if he can get $4000 from 50 donors in a few weeks he gets a permanent spot there. So I’m helping him a bit, while I still pursue my own AIDS research and student summer project program (ask me later).

The game was designed by game designer Jane McGonigal who thinks games can change the world. Instead of telling her story, I’ll let you listen to her tell how she has created games that are changed the real world, not the virtual one.



http://www.ted.com/talks/lang/eng/jane_mcgonigal_gaming_can_make_a_better_world.html

http://www.wired.com/epicenter/2010/02/jane-mcgonigal/

MOVIES --- COUNTDOWN

I always have too much to tell, and people get annoyed with length, but I wanted to share one more thing--movies.

COUNTDOWN TO ZERO
This is a documentary by Participant Media. I highly recommend it though it’s depressing. It opened last weekend, but you should be able to still find it. It tells the history of nuclear armament and explains which countries still voluntarily have it and which don’t; it makes the case for nuclear disarmament. And it’s a good case.

Trailer & Ways to help
http://www.takepart.com/countdowntozero



Different Drummer (I worked with these people to get free tickets for my entire fellowship class)
http://www.differentdrummer.com/

Participant Media
http://www.participantmedia.com/

INCEPTION
Great creative, new concept. Thank you for that!

SALT
Interesting. I think about these agent CIA issues all the time as you can tell. The African American agent in the movie is a Nigerian-Englishman who does accents quite well. I heard him do a Nigerian accent in “Dirty Pretty Things.” Angelina is a good actor as usual.