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The Richest People in America

» Nominees for the 2007 Richest People in America List—and they're not who you'd expect:

Shane Claiborne, Founder of the Simple Way. Shane lives among the poor in a Philadelphia suburb which has long since had its heyday. His group helps renovate homes for the poor, works with former homeless kids on after school arts and literacy programs, provides food and clothing for the area homeless, and he shares his faith with street people. All of this is done out of the home he shares with other Simple Way residents. The Simple Way has no paid staff or administrative costs. Each of the community members contribute part of the money that they raise through part time jobs. The group believes in relational tithing, with each contributing ten percent of their income to a common account to fund their work.

via (ramit(1) Comments  / [ 06/05/07 ]

The Overton Window

» I had never heard of the Overton Window, but I'm glad Rafe pointed me to this:

For a lot of reasons, not all of them bad, most people don’t like feeling like they’re disconnecting themselves from the majority of their fellow human beings... [F]or most people, being perceived as an eccentric outlier is something to be feared. This isn’t fundamentally because most people are corrupt, it’s fundamentally because most people are social animals, and feeling connected with the pack is critical to our sense of well-being. This is why “moving the goalposts” works, even when those doing so barely bother to conceal it.

This particular discussion focuses on politics (and that's important) but this is one of those ideas that will resonate in every aspect of your life: at work, when dealing with your kids, affecting social change, and so on. Read the whole thing. (via rc3)

Update: It dawned on me a few minutes ago when reading the Wikipedia entry that the Overton Window is related to my usual argument in favor of certain radical groups: they open up an avenue for discussion and consideration. People may reject PETA's premise, for example, that animals should never be used in testing of any kind. But in doing so, those same people may decide that—while medical testing on animals is acceptable—certain forms of testing on animals in the manufacture of cosmetics should be eliminated.

Come to think of it, I suppose this is the purpose Ann Coulter serves for the far right. She's so very extreme that almost anyone else appears to be reasonable by comparison. See? I told you this was an idea that kept on giving.

Update: Jason Kottke links to a good introduction to the Overton Window by the Mackinac Center for Public Policy:

A politician’s success or failure stems from how well they understand and amplify the ideas and ideals held by those who elected them. [...] Therefore, they will almost always constrain themselves to taking actions within the "window" of ideas approved of by the electorate. Actions outside of this window, while theoretically possible, and maybe more optimal in terms of sound policy, are politically unsuccessful.
[...] So, if a think tank’s research and the principles of sound policy suggest a particular idea that lies outside the Overton window, what is to be done? Shift the window.

 (5) Comments  / [ 04/05/07 ]

The electric car and the inconvenient truth

» The electric car and the inconvenient truth [ 01/03/07 ]

Micro-Financing Resources

» If your loved ones already have a bookshelf full of still-unread books that mocks them every time they walk by, consider financing a micro-loan charity in their name. Kevin Kelly recently posted a terrific list, including my long-time favorite, Heifer International. He says:

The news now is that it is there are many other outfits that offer individuals (like us) ways to leverage as little as fifty dollars via micro-finance programs online. Unleashing compounding good is only a few clicks away. Make a loan, or outright grant, using your credit card, or even PayPal.

Think of it as Everyman activism.  [ 11/28/06 ]

Banksey + Paris = BLO

» Remember Banksey? He has smuggled "500 doctored copies of Paris Hilton's debut album into music stores throughout the UK, where they have sold without the shops' knowledge". BLO [ 09/12/06 ]

PETA targets sex-preference biologist

» A great overview of current research into sexual preference in animals (it turns out that changing only one gene in fruit flies and mice can change sexual behavior) and the amazing story of how one scientist's experiments on sexual preference in sheep has raised the ire of both right wing groups like Focus on the Family and PETA. Features an interview with Dr. Charles Roselli, the biologist who has been targeted. (via pharyngula [ 09/06/06 ]

2005 Tommy Smothers Interview

» "For Howard Stern to be the poster boy for First Amendment is just ridiculous.  That’s how low the...People used to say, three or four years ago before the Janet Jackson thing, they’d say, 'Don’t you wish you were on television now?  You could say anything you want.'  So there’s an illusion that because bad language and sex and stuff is rampant that [you have free speech].  But there’s nothing being said, except, you know, narcissistic reflections on a crotch." A 2005 interview with Tommy Smothers in which he reflects on comedy, his career, and dissent(1) Comments  / [ 08/21/06 ]

Alfred Sirleaf, Liberia's Blackboard Blogger

» Liberia's Blackboard Blogger is a "self-taught newshound" who reads half-a-dozen newspapers every day and then summarizes the most important stories on a blackboard that hangs in front of his plywood shed. He puts up a painted "Breaking News" sign to signal a big story, he has recruited a set of stringers to send him scoops via text messages, and he's designed a system of symbols to convey the news to those who can't read. "I try to write it really clear and simple so people can read it far away, even if they are driving by. I like to write the way people talk so they can understand it well. You got to reach the common man." Alfred Sirleaf, the 33-year-old managing editor of The Daily Talk. (via Kevin Kelly's awesome new Street Use(1) Comments  / [ 08/17/06 ]

The Gates Foundation fights to give the power to fight HIV to women

» The Gates Foundation is increasing their funding for a search for a microbicide or an oral prevention drug that women can use to protect themselves from HIV. "Abstinence is often not an option for poor women and girls who have no choice but to marry at an early age. Being faithful will not protect a woman whose partner is not faithful. And using condoms is not a decision that a woman can make by herself; it depends on a man." Melinda Gates.  [ 08/16/06 ]

6th graders protest sale of National Forest

» In a letter-writing campaign, 6th graders protest proposed tree cutting. "What is the deal with cutting down the Croatan National Forest? How would you like it if we cut down some trees around your house?" Haley Wester, a 6th grader, in a letter to Undersecretary Mark Rey, expressing concern about his proposal to sell 309,000 acres of National Forest.  [ 05/11/06 ]

Happy International Workers Day

» Happy International Worker's Day.  (1) Comments  / [ 05/01/06 ]

Greenpeace Co-Founder embraces Nuclear Energy

» A Co-Founder of Greenpeace makes the case for nuclear energy. (thanks, Mark!)

It's thoughtful and plausible, though I'm sure an anti-nuclear activist could make a counter-argument that sounds just as plausible to me, since I know almost nothing real about the subject. I do think there's a bit of technophobia entwined with people's objections (as with their objections to GM crops and cloning). A death by radiation sounds horrible.

I honestly wish the government would spend the equivalent money on super-insulating people's houses and maybe subsidizing alternate energy sources before spending the money on nukes, though. (4) Comments  / [ 04/27/06 ]

Ban the Bulb Objections Countered

» This week's Green Room responds to the objections raised by Matt Prescott's call to ban the inefficient incandescent lightbulb [ 04/27/06 ]

Jane Jacobs, RIP

» Iconic urban activist Jane Jacobs is dead.  (1) Comments  / [ 04/26/06 ]

Updated 'How to Save the World' book list

» Dave Pollard has updated his How to Change the World list of 80 books and articles that "forever changed my worldview, and my purpose for living." I'm fascinated with the descriptions of some of these books, the tenets of which seem entirely at odds with my own worldview. I must pick a few of them up. (thanks, Amy!)  [ 04/17/06 ]

Spare the rod and spoil the organization

» Researchers claim that in groups, the ability for members to punish other members is tied to profit (or, by extension, success).

The study, appearing today in the journal Science, suggests that groups with few rules attract many exploitative people who quickly undermine cooperation. By contrast, communities that allow punishment, and in which power is distributed equally, are more likely to draw people who, even at their own cost, are willing to stand up to miscreants.

(via dm(1) Comments  / [ 04/10/06 ]

Combatants for Peace

» Former Palestinian and Israeli fighters have joined together to create a new organization called Combatants for Peace. After being kept secret for a year, the group makes its public debut in Jerusalem April 10, which coincides with the Jewish holiday of Passover and Palestinian Prisoners Day. "It's a paradox. You hear a man talking about how he shot, killed, damaged your neighbor's house. But you feel empathy for him. You realize that we are all from the same background, but just from different sides. The soldier wanted to protect his people, and so did we. But we've all discovered we were wrong in how we did it." Bassam Aramin, one of the Palestinian co-creators of Combatants for Peace. (1) Comments  / [ 04/07/06 ]

Building a Better Anti-War Machine

» Former Chief UN Weapons Inspector in Iraq Scott Ritter on designing for success: The Art of War for the Anti-War movement. "It is high time for the anti-war movement to take a collective look in the mirror, and be honest about what they see. A poorly organized, chaotic, and indeed often anarchic conglomeration of egos, pet projects and idealism that barely constitutes a 'movement,' let alone a winning cause. [...] In order to even have a chance of prevailing with the American people, the anti-war movement is going to need much more than just good ideals and values. It needs to start thinking like a warrior would, in full recognition that we as a nation are engaged in a life-or-death struggle of competing ideologies with those who promote war as an American value and virtue." (via rc3oi [ 04/07/06 ]

Sioux to SD: Thanks, we can do it ourselves.

» Go Grrrl News: In response to South Dakota's new law banning abortion, Cecilia Fire Thunder, President of the Oglala Sioux Tribe, has announced that she plans to establish a Planned Parenthood clinic on the Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota. Whump's reaction is right: a move from tribal casinos to tribal medicine can only benefit everyone. (4) Comments  / [ 03/23/06 ]

Children Tackle Water Crisis

» While bureaucrats struggle to find solutions at the World Water Forum, a parallel Children's Water Forum is bringing together young people from around the world who have addressed local water shortages with their own creative solutions — like the 13-year-old from Nepal who leads a club that helps communities pay for toilets with microfinancing. "There's no diplomacy in their dialogue. It's all very direct and very honest." Vanessa Tobin, chief of UNICEF's water and sanitation section, on the young people's interactions with delegates.  [ 03/23/06 ]

Reflect Circles for Participatory Community Development

» This is neat: In 60 countries around the world, Reflect circles are providing members of poor communities with a structure to cooperatively tackle development projects and in the process, to advance their education. It's participatory community development! "In the Reflect methodology, a group identifies a community problem — AIDS, sexual violence, poverty, or some other ill — and then decides how to help solve it. The education comes subtly. Maybe the group decides it wants to improve members' writing ability to draft petitions. Or perhaps it aims at better math skills to run the business side of a community garden."  [ 03/22/06 ]

Argentine women fight for equitable surnames

» Argentine women to government: We want to be with our husbands, not owned by them [ 03/13/06 ]


» Buff. Re-Buff. (via c'ist [ 03/01/06 ]

Battery Hen Rescue Mission

» The Battery Hen Welfare Trust is a British rescue mission that rescues "spent" hens from factory farms and places them with adoptive families.

Used to drinking from drip-feeders, they didn't recognise a dish of water until dabbled under their beaks, and their unfamiliarity with solid ground led to some unsteady wobbling.
But once former battery hens find their feet, they pick up very quickly. After just a few days, their egg yolks went from pale yellow to a deep orange that looked and tasted delicious. Once into their stride, they started laying eggs faster than we could give them away, to the delight of our neighbours, who at once began contributing kitchen scraps: veg peelings, apple cores, lettuce leaves, stale bread. [...]
Last year the Battery Hen Welfare Trust rehoused 11,457 hens; all now lead happy and productive lives. Hens live for up to eight or nine years, but a farming cycle clears out the tired birds at just a year old, even though they still have plenty of eggs left in them.

Perhaps the most shocking figure from the Trust's site is this one: On average a battery hen lays a mere 15 more eggs a year than a hen that has been kept in barn or free range conditions.

Does anyone know of a similar organization in the States? (via rw(4) Comments  / [ 02/14/06 ]

What the Alito hearings mean for abortion activism

» This recent CSM article on the Alito hearings is notable for one quote: "The abortion issue is one that we can win, and we know it now." Manuel Miranda, Chair of the Third Branch Conference, a coalition of conservative and libertarian groups, referring to the failure of the Alito hearings to rouse public opinion on the issue. (I can get my head around Libertarians, and I can get my head around pro-lifers, but I sure have trouble putting the two together.)  [ 01/24/06 ]

Making Generous Trouble

» Making Generous Trouble: Creativity for Your Smart Heart by Anne Herbert is too long (save it for your lunch hour), and will lose you over and over again. But stick with it because you will find your thread again a little further down the page. (via tboapw)

The idea is you have some great ideas. The idea is sometimes you don't notice your great ideas because they are very different than what already exists. That difference, which makes you shy off your ideas, is part of what makes your ideas great, and needed.
The idea is that the rest of us could use your great ideas if you get them out among us. The idea is your different ideas could help make a different world that would be a better place for us all to live. [...]
A guy I used to work for, Stewart Brand, said that once you have an idea you have about five minutes to do something about it. You don't have to do everything the idea calls for within five minutes, but you've got to do something right away to make it real.

I also like this part:

I was at the stuff-from-Tibet show at the De Young Museum, and the standing Tibetan metal Buddha looked me in the eye and said..."Do it directly."
And I agreed, yep, I'll do it directly. I didn't know what "Do" or "directly" meant in this case. [...]
In alternative activist organizing, one of the ways you know you're doing a good thing is that the bad guys notice it and don't like it. So you and the bad guys keep fixated on each other and on what you both understand to be activities. Einstein and others said you can't solve a problem on the level at which it was created — you have to move to another level.

  [ 01/24/06 ]



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