Monday, April 23, 2007

FOCUS On America


Members of the Since Sliced Bread Community continue to adopt ideas, and news from the world (and the blogosphere) continues to show how relevant your ideas are, and how much we need to take action to make them a reality.

FOCUS on Poverty continues to be our most adopted idea, and with good reason as poverty is perhaps a bigger problem than many Americans realize. Via Care2 News Network this week comes a news of 2004 census analysis which reveals that 60 million Americans live on less than $7 a day.

While global income inequality is probably greater than it has ever been in human history, with half the world's population living on less than $3 per day, and the richest 1% receiving as much as the bottom 57%, the fact that so many Americans are living on so little, is particularly confounding.

The so-called “wealthiest, most abundant nation on Earth” now has the widest gap between rich and poor of any industrialized nation.
[2] In light of the fact that one dollar spent in the Caribbean, Latin America and Asia buys what $3 or $4 does in the U.S means the quality of life for tens of millions of Americans is now on a par with huge populations living in the developing world.

Ezra Klein points to a Robert Samuelson editorial that he says ignores the possible causes of economic disparity. But there are some Americans who can't ignore it, and according to this article by Raiane Eisler, most of them are women and children.

Consider that in the United States women over the age of 65 are twice as poor as men in the same age group. And there's a reason poverty so disproportionately hits women. Most of these poor women were, or still are, caregivers. And we've got an economic system that gives no visibility or value to this essential work when it's done in the home.

In fact, according to economists, the people who do the caring work in households, whether female or male, are "economically inactive." Of course, anyone who has a mother knows that most caregivers work from dawn to dusk. And we also know that without their work of caring for children, for the sick, and for the elderly, there would be no workforce, no economy, nothing.

Working Dad points out that children's health is at a 30-year low, and the Annual Child and Youth Well-Being Index (PDF) indicates that poverty is one of the main reasons. One of our finalist ideas, 3 Steps to Universal Health Care, recommends guaranteed health care for children and young adults.

So, what are you doing about poverty? The One Campaign wants to know, and wants you to tell the rest of the world.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Wake Up America!


Today, we are all Hokies.

No sentient human being can watch the images of despair on the TV news, and not feel the pain of everyone at Virginia Tech, and in the small supporting township of Blacksburg, Virginia.

But we must also wonder, in confusion, what has become of our country. What on earth made this happen? What did we do that was so wrong that it could bring this to pass?

I can remember the Sixties like they were yesterday.

At home, America seemed to be a land of plenty. And Americans sought to carry that good feeling to new frontiers around the globe.

My father was a part of that crusade. Which is how I ended up being born and bred in England, even though my family had made the initial journey to America with the rest of the pilgrims, on the Mayflower.

My dad helped to introduce the American Express card to all points north and south, on the other side of the Atlantic - in Europe, the Middle East and in Africa.

It's difficult to conceive of a time when such capitalist artifacts were not commonplace around the world. But it was an era of adventure, heralded by John Kennedy's rousing words from the steps of the Capitol in Washington.

And then it all went wrong.

Assassinations. Vietnam. Watergate. A loss of innocence. A loss of pride. The adventure just crumbling away. I spent my teenage years in Europe avoiding the graffiti on the walls calling for all Yanks to go home.

When you believe that your excessive bonhomie and good fortune are impenetrable, and that you are welcome wherever you go, it's a mind-shock to discover that you're vulnerable after all, and that your neighbors were just waiting for you to fall over.

America withdrew into itself. It dropped all pretence of genuine altruism, and turned instead to self-gratification.

Ambition and greed were the driving forces at home, and where before America had prided itself on its spirit of outgoing generosity and charity when dealing with the rest of the world, now it was determined only to ensure that none got in its way.

The 'me' generations took over. Two stock booms. Corporate malfeasance. And a growing disparity between the rich and the poor.

An economic policy fuelled by greed; a social policy based on hatred; and a foreign policy driven by revenge.

These are the character traits by which America is recognised around the world in the 21st century.

But don't blame just our leaders. We have all cheered and encouraged the development of the society in which we live today.

It is not Congress or our Presidents who made us cynical and selfish. We did that to ourselves.

It is we who encourage the paparazzi, when we rush to buy the latest photo's of celebrity disgrace.

It is we who spend hours each evening delighting in the discomfort and embarrassment of ordinary people on TV reality shows.

It is we who think it is cute to be selfish and mean and intolerant and abusive.

And it is we who have determined that each of us, in our daily lives, will no longer think of what we can do for others, but rather that we should react to every given situation with prototypical Alpha American Attitude.

A wise politician in England once said, you can't legislate feelings.

There is way too much anger and intolerance in America today. But the answer is not to turn our cities and our universities into over-protected fortresses. Or to start another fruitless debate about the right to bear arms.

The answer lies in each of us.

Starting today, we can all make choices about how we act and react. What we watch and read. Whether or not we take the time to help the person we see has fallen by the wayside.

It is not government that will make us a less angry and a more tolerant country. It is each of us making better choices.

The political season is upon us. We will hear much from people telling us that we can be better; that we deserve better.

I say that we are better people - right now. And all we need to prove it is to start being better people in our dealings with our neighbors and our friends.

We deserve to get only that which we are prepared to give.

Thursday, April 12, 2007

FOCUS On A Helping Hand


The organizers (SEIU) of SinceSlicedBread.com (SSB) are doing a fantastic job of giving a high profile to FOCUS On Poverty and the plight of the 50 million of our friends and neighbors who live below the poverty line in this country. My continued thanks to SEIU, SSB, Terrance Heath and Matt S!

They have just put up the following guest post from me. All of this activity about FOCUS On Poverty on SSB is giving me an idea of what I might be able to do to help make FOCUS a reality. Given that the potential avenue, originally presented by John Edwards' Presidential Campaign, seems now to have closed as a realistic possibility. But more of that later...


[This guest post is from Geoffrey G., whose FOCUS on Poverty idea is currently our most adopted idea. Watch for more guest posts from Since Sliced Bread Community Members.]

Too many of our working friends and neighbors live below the poverty line. This should be unacceptable in the richest country on earth in the 21st Century. This is not a matter of politics; it’s a question of common human decency.

The purpose of FOCUS On Poverty is to guarantee that every man, woman and child in the United States has access to proper food, clothing, housing and healthcare. It’s not a matter of political semantics; it’s a question of basic human need.

FOCUS On Poverty originated in October 2005, when my co-hosts and I ran a four-part series on poverty, on the community radio station in Chapel Hill, North Carolina – my hometown, as well as that of John Edwards, Democratic Presidential Candidate. The major points of FOCUS now also form the centerpiece of John’s platform on poverty.

On the same day that John announced his Candidacy, I created http://www.watch9.blogspot.com/, the purpose of which is to help John stay on message with his promise to help America’s working poor families.

I have now issued an open invitation to John to appear on my radio program, to allow him to flesh out the specifics of his proposals. Air America Radio have already publicly committed their support to my campaign.

Big concepts and bold promises are all very well. But each one of us can do something right now to help our neighbors in need.

If ever there was time for direct citizen action, it is now. That is the very essence of what Since Sliced Bread is about. And SEIU are being joined in that approach by all of the progressive Presidential Campaigns – from John’s OneCorps, to Hillary’s ‘conversations,’ and Barack’s call to us all to take responsibility now.

I am delighted at the opportunity that SEIU and SSB have given to me to raise the profile of America’s working poor. I am proud of how much they have allowed me to achieve in this past year.

But you know, I was never so moved as when I was able to use the gifts that had been given to me to help my ex-girlfriend in her disability fight against her overbearing chain grocery store. Never so happy as when I was able to encourage a fellow worker to pop across our village green, and ask John’s National HQ for help with her bed-ridden mother.

We all know a family that is in need. They don’t so much want a hand-out, as the warmth of your helping hand. Don’t wait for them to ask. Spare them that final loss of dignity. Offer a kind word, a bit of advice, or a cooked meal.

And remember: all of us, working together, can help to "Take Care of America's Family Values" - one family at a time!

Monday, April 9, 2007

Great Minds Think Alike


The Service Employees International Union, the trade union organizing SinceSlicedBread.com (SSB), the national clearing-house web-site for commons sense ideas, submitted by ordinary Americans and designed to help working families, continues to give profile to FOCUS On Poverty.

This is excellent news for the 50 million Americans living below the poverty line. And I'm deeply grateful to SEIU and SSB for helping to remind our friends and neighbors that they are not alone. That we stand by them.

You too can show your support for America's working poor, by going to SSB and 'adopting' FOCUS On Poverty as an idea you wish to see become a reality.

This may be particularly crucial now that the Presidential Campaign of John Edwards has faltered.

The primary reason that I supported John's Campaign - and still hope that a miracle might occur - is that he was the only Candidate prepared to put forward proposals that would help to lead to the elimination of poverty in the United States.

There are plenty of national organizations that assist in giving profile to the plight of the poor. But what I wanted was action. And John's Campaign held out the real possibility of that action becoming a reality.

However, if we are to be brutally honest - and John has stated he wishes to be - then we have to admit that it is now highly unlikely that John will be the Democratic Nominee in 2008.

And so I will turn my mind to other other avenues, which on the one hand will parallel and compliment John's efforts, but on the other may hold out a greater chance of our jointly-conceived proposals on poverty becoming a reality.

Now, I'm getting there! And I will be updating you with my thinking and planning - as they progress.

But, in the meantime, you can at least show that your heart is in the right place by 'adopting' FOCUS On Poverty at SSB:



Themes from two of our most adopted ideas -- FOCUS on Poverty and Consumer Credit and Debt -- are cropping up in the news and in the blogosphere. Jim Wallis, of Sojourners, has long been a leading voice in the evangelical community on poverty issues, and on his blog this week he called for a "moral budget" that will "prioritize the poor," and quoted from a letter he sent to every U.S. Senator:

In a letter that went to every senator, I requested that each “make sure to prioritize poor and working families, children, and the elderly as you determine where our nation commits its energies and resources.” I continued, “what is needed now is bold leadership and an agenda that sets clear priorities and seeks to empower families. We need to protect critical programs and increase aid, but also recommit ourselves to the notion of the common good.”

BritMish Accomplished


MSNBC ran an article which seems to support much of what I was saying about the fifteen 'sailors' who were picked up by the Iranians.

The media in the UK have been a tad less inspiring and thoughtful. They’re all bent out of shape because they say the 'sailors' acted with less than the appropriate British 'stiff upper lip.' Oh, get real!

Here’s the deal – by the numbers.

The leader of the sailor group has now admitted they were on an intelligence mission. He has also stated that his rules of engagement were to co-operate if captured – giving the Iranians no excuse to retaliate and exacerbate the situation.

If you watch the sailors making their videos, you see them reading from a cue card. If you read the letters they purportedly wrote, and you have any knowledge of English as the Brits write and speak it, you will know that they contain phrases we would never normally use.

Kind of like those awful instruction manuals in English the Japanese concocted, when they first started selling consumer products to the West.

And was I the only person who thought the sailors all looked preternaturally composed for a bunch of Brits who were alleged to be scared out of their wits? Was that just natural British 'reserve' - or the result of special forces' training?

Let's be clear about the end result of all this "appalling" behavior by those 'sailors': our boys – and girl – were released without us having to issue any kind of apology, and without one shot being fired.

Sort of stands in contrast to everything else going on in Afghanistan and Iraq, doesn't it?

You know, just occasionally, a thousand years of geopolitical experience counts for more than a big gun and a John Wayne attitude.

So, to all the doubters, I say this - on this occasion, I think we Brits are justified in claiming, "Mission Accomplished!"

Tomorrow Ended Yesterday?


Ok. I was wrong. Barack didn’t delay the announcement of his fund-raising total because it was bad news.

But I still maintain that giving Hillary a week to prance around stating that she had broken all fund-raising records was a bad political tactic.

Rule No. 1: never, ever, ever give your primary opponent the political stage, front and center – all on their lonesome. Hello!

And therein lie a few pointers for the way things may proceed in the Democratic camp during the run-up to the explosive – and for some, potentially implosive – two months of January/February 2008.

Barack is now the clear favorite among Democrats, having raked in a whopping $25 million in the first financial quarter of 2007.

However, the decision to delay his own announcement betrays a political naïveté that may cost him against Hillary’s powerful and experienced campaign machine.

And I hate to say it. Really I do. But the money announcement for March 31 effectively marks the end of any realistic chance John had of winning the nomination.

Oh, he will continue. And I strongly urge him to do so. I want him to go on giving high profile to the plight of America’s poor.

But he had to break the media perception of this being a two-horse race between Hillary and Barack. And in that crucial ambition, John failed.

He has one last, slender chance with the next money announcement on June 30. If he can, at least, insert himself between Barack and Hillary with his fund-raising total for the second quarter of 2007, he might just revive his chances in the minds of Democratic voters.

Otherwise, he will have solidified his position as the eventual third place in everyone’s perception.

And there will be few people out there sadder about that reality than me.

Sunday, April 8, 2007

FOCUS On SSB


FOCUS On Poverty has caught the attention of SEIU, the national union organizing the SinceSlicedBread.com (SSB) web-site, where FOCUS is currently featured.

Terrance Heath, the blogmaster in charge of SSB, recently issued the following e-mail to the thousands of individuals who signed up with SSB, in response to the call by SEIU to help America's working families with a healthy dose of citizen action.


You should see what some people are doing with their ideas!

For example, Geoffrey G. in North Carolina has an idea about how to help the millions of Americans who live below the poverty line.

But he's not just waiting for it to happen: Geoffrey has contacted the John Edwards campaign about the idea and started a blog to support his efforts.

Top 5 Most Adopted Ideas:1. FOCUS On Poverty2. Workweek Down 1/10, Commuting 1/5 !3. Consumer Credit And Debt 4. Peace Study in Public Schools 5. Farm Produce Distribution Network

You can adopt this idea, read excerpts from his blog and help Geoffrey take action here: http://www.sinceslicedbread.com/idea/13449

If you haven't adopted an idea yet, what are you waiting for?

Click here to find one you might like: http://www.sinceslicedbread.com/allideas

Sincerely,
Terrance Heath
Since Sliced Bread

Enlist your friends for help! Click below. Tell-a-friend!

If you received this message from a friend, you can sign up for Since Sliced Bread.


Like Terrance says, show your support for the 50 million Americans who live below the poverty line. Let them now that they are not alone.

Go over to SSB and 'adopt' FOCUS On Poverty as an idea you want to see become a reality.

BritCom In Iran


As a Brit-Am, I have to shed a small tear for the President of Iran. Boy, did we have him tied up in knots!

Ok. Let’s take the recent episode with the UK ‘sailors’ by stages.

So, fifteen of our boys (and one girl) were caught at sea. The line put out by the British Government was that they were technically in Iraqi waters, looking for smugglers.

How many search and board missions do you know about that are conducted in rubber dinghies?

What did the media think these dinghies were going to do when they came across a trawler smuggling hash, or whatever? Bump them into harbor?

Rubber dinghies serve only one military purpose. They are used by elite reconnaissance troops (in this instance, most probably a combined unit of Royal Marines and Special Boat Squadron), to evade radar detection, and mount clandestine beach landings.

I’m guessing the fifteen ‘sailors’ were either on their way to or coming back from an exercise to reconnoiter potential bombing targets in Iran.

Of course they were in Iranian waters. And that’s where the Brits started having fun with the Iranians.

The ‘sailors’ saw the Iranians coming. So, they dumped everything suspicious overboard. Then, from the moment they were captured, as they are taught in some of the toughest training in the world, they played dumb.

Did nothing to create waves. No John Wayne moments. Did what they were told. Said what they had to say. With lots of ‘please’ and ‘thank you.’ In the certain knowledge that they had what was needed to tough it out. And all the while fully aware of the action their Government would be taking.

Which was the same: nothing - nada.

The British Government stuck to the line that the ‘sailors’ were in Iraqi waters. And beyond that, they just laughed at the Iranians.

Tony Blair knew what his ‘sailors’ were doing. He also knew that they knew they were deniable. And that they could take care of themselves.

All of which left the Iranians with nowhere to go. So, they caved in.

And how do I 'know' all of this? Ah. Good question. Read the book I wrote about my involuntary adventures in the world of covert intelligence...

Reality Sucks. Really.


So, we have the results of the first non-binding primary of 2008 – the fund-raising stakes.

First the losers – and mine may bear little resemblance to those touted by the mainstream media.

Hillary: she was expected to raise closer to $40 million overall, not $26 million.

John: his own Campaign was spreading the word it would be $20 million, not $15 million.

Barack: we don’t yet know his total. But no political strategy, of which I’m aware, says that you gain points by allowing your major rival to wander around for a couple of weeks telling the world that she won – at anything…

McCain: all former Dean supporters, have a warm and fuzzy moment, why not? Watch somebody else’s front-running campaign enter free-fall. Third among Republicans, with only $12.5 million.

The winners?

Rudy: mind you, he raised the same amount as John. So, why the different measure? Do you know, I don’t know. It’s a matter of perception. But, that’s what this first primary is all about. So, trust me.

Bill Richardson: this guy was one of the last to enter the race. I think he took a couple of minutes to announce in between the State of New Mexico address and a visit to some nuclear waste facility. He has beans for a national network. And he rakes in a cool $6 million. Keep a beady eye on Bill.

He has credentials up the wazoo. Former Congressman, current Governor, former Secretary of Energy and UN Ambassador. He is as much at home welcoming a visiting Chinese dignitary, as he is lassoing a steer at the State Fair. And he has oodles of charisma for the Campaign Trail. He may well end up being the true heir to The Bill…

And last, and absolutely the least – “Mittens The Face-Lift.”

Just goes to show you what the power of the Mormon network and a few judicious telephone calls to old venture-capitalist pals can do.

$23 million. Who would have thunk it? Very definitely the overall fund-raising winner. God help us all.

There are those who accuse John of being plastic. At least plastic has some strength and firmness to it. “Mittens” is more like plasticine. Totally mouldable. Let’s people change his shape whenever it suits him.

How can you trust someone to get their political bearings straight, when they can’t even get their geographical bearings straight? Remind me again, is he from Utah, Michigan or Massachusetts?

About the only thing going for “Mittens,” from my point of view, is that he is so malleable, that if he gets elected, there might just be a chance that he can be persuaded to implement FOCUS On Poverty.