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Showing posts from 2013

A Feminist's Thanks Giving

Today is a day when I want to give thanks for some human rights I deserve and some things I am lucky to have as a woman.

I am grateful that my parents were happy I was born a girl.
I am happy that my parents valued my education, and for all the education I have achieved and that I can use my education to take any job I choose.
For tampons and feminine sanitation, I feel lucky.
For contraception and the right to abortion, I thank the women who came before me.
For being free to marry who they choose when they choose, I am happy for my sisters who thinks this the right choice for them.
I wish my 17 year old daughter would appreciate her good fortune at having the right to drive.
I am thankful for a job that allows me to buy as much or as little clothes that I can wear as I please.
I am grateful for laws that protect me from rape and violence (the effectiveness of such are left for another day)
It is liberating to be able to have sex outside of marriage.
I am happy to not need a male esco…

Good Intentions and Questionable Outcomes: The 'Voluntourist'

To be clear, I honor the good intentions of people who take trips around the southern (and sometimes Eastern) part of our world trying to alleviate the pain and suffering that can be found there. However, good intentions is not enough and sometimes it gets in the way of doing good and being useful.

As someone who made 5 trips to Belize with (mostly) white girls in tow to spend 2 weeks (for college credit) doing sustainable service in collaboration with local non-profits, I have spent a lot of time questioning my intentions and challenging the intentions of my students. I still find it hard to reconcile some of the racial, economic and geopolitical implications of the work that I did there, and also on another project on which I worked in Uganda.

So for those considering taking a trip abroad to do service, perhaps you may find these two pieces relevant. Perhaps you may question the implications of your good intentions. Perhaps you may find ways to make your trip more useful or perhaps …

'Partnership' in the Context of Global Health

The word 'partnership' is trending in global health and has been for quite some time. Foundations, NGO's, and universities in the global north and south  'partner' with local communities in Asia and Africa to implement research or programs that will move forward knowledge about what works and what doesn't.

But what does 'partnership' mean in the context of huge power imbalances that come with differences in human, knowledge, institutional and fiscal resources? How do hierarchal institutions that assign power based on title, rank, alma mater, publications, departments etc share power with people who, if they had any, would preferably not be 'partnering' with people they do not know, who do not know them and who view them as in need of assistance?

With good intentions, professors, doctors, nurses, social workers and various sundry 'helping' professions write proposals that say they will listen to the local folks and link with the existing …

Exploring the poverty line and poverty guidelines: definitions, impact, history

How do we define poverty?
Who is poor?
What does poor mean when you live in New York City or Birmingham, Alabama?
Survive or thrive or well-being?.

For a measure on which so many of our social safety net depends, we calculate it in such an anachronistic way and our floor is so low that although more than 40 million Americans are considered poor, so many more millions are caught in-between destitution (below the poverty line) and borderline survival, that the measure clearly needs updating so that people can get the help they need.

Click on the links below to explore how the poverty line was created, how it is evolving, the impact it has on the lives of poor people, and what the future is.

NPR discusses the relevance/impact of the poverty line

How the Census measures poverty

The nomenclature of poverty

The development of the Orshansky Poverty Thresholds and their subsequent history as the official U.S. poverty measure

2012 Health and Human Services Poverty Guidelines

Fight for a higher floo…

Opting in or Opting Out. Social Policies and the Childbearing and Childrearing Choices of Smart Women

In the last two days, there have been two highly controversial and widely read articles that have explored the choices that women are forced to make about having a career and having children.

In an article in the Guardian by Sadhbh Walshe titled, "Should we care that smart women aren't having kids", women who have achieved academically and in their careers are having low birthrates. Duh!

This is based on some new research that is rather controversial. According to Satoshi Kanazawa, a psychologist from London School of Economics "maternal urges drop by 25% with every extra 15 IQ points". He discusses his findings in his new book, The Intelligence Paradox. I am not sure why Kanazawa thinks it is a paradox because the social policies in place for women with children do not provide an incentive for making this choice.

On the other hand, the New York Times' Judith Warner wrote an article titled, "The Opt-Out generation wants back in" in which she detai…

The Charitable-Industrial Complex - A review

This opinion piece by Warren Buffet's son Peter Buffet is a game-changer in the world of philanthropy not because of what is said but for who is saying it and where and what the implications are for his foundation and others.

It's good to see the wealthy, powerful, and charitable own up to their shortcomings, their savior complexes and their ignorance. Of particular significance if the 'conscience laundering' (his term) and the inappropriate use of certain business principles in the growing industry that is philanthropy.

For those of us who are part of the implementation of these philanthropic endeavors who have struggled with the challenges of changing priorities, trendy strategies and what often seems like the whims and fancies of well-meaning (and guilty-feeling) wealthy donors, this op/ed (his first, hopefully of more) makes us feel heard. That finally, someone gets what we have been saying, writing and even whining about all these years; that just because you have…

Dear Barack Obama, What About the Poor?

I could write a long list of statistics about poor people in the USA but at the end of it all, you will know what you already know: being poor in America is a hard row to hoe. What with the cutbacks in food stamps, subsidized childcare and a stubborn unemployment rate, being poor means to do without and to struggle to get what you have and fight to get what help is offered.

And yet.... it is not the poor that President Obama is worried about as he does his stump(?) speech on his economic plan for America. It's the middle class. It's the people who may have to tighten their belts but their kids will go to college. They have health insurance (or soon will be forced to under Obamacare) and tend to live in the suburbs unless they are flush enough to live the more expensive life of the urbanite. It seems the poor have nothing to contribute to economic growth. Our Gini index could put us on par close to Jamaica and Cameroon and behind Uganda in terms of income inequality, which data…

Global Citizen v Global Subject: A critical discussion of study/service abroad

Full disclosure: I have developed and led service-learning abroad programs in Central America for 5 years. It is my experience as leader and as traveler that have led me to question the methodology and intent of such programs with regard to their implications for the communities outside the USA in which they are implemented.

As globalization penetrates the towers of ivory, there is a push for the development of graduates who can participate in the world beyond their own localities and their own national borders. This corps of 'global citizens' are supposed to have an identity that transcends geography and borders with an identification with the common humanity that bounds us all.

To create this cadre of new world graduates, institutes of higher learning are pushing the study/service abroad agenda. With colleges and universities setting targets for how many of their students get to go abroad before they graduate. Of course, this trend is also growing among the high school crowd…

Background checks, guns and deterrence

In the USA, there are millions and millions of guns in circulation.

Today, Congress failed to pass a bill that would expand background checks to purchase a gun legitimately. The problem is that guns are so easy to come by that those who want to find a gun need not submit themselves to a background check. They can simply find a stolen gun on the street that probably cannot be traced in order for them to do whatever evil desires their twisted minds conjure.

Background checks are a way to put a tiny little barrier between the bad guy and his bad deeds. Anti-drug laws stop lawful people from buying drugs but anyone who wants to buy anything from heroin to oxycontin wont find it difficult to do so despite all the barriers in place. Even the limits on cough syrup dont much hinder meth production.

The background check is a distraction from the main issue that guns are still going to be for sale and the secondary sale of guns makes getting a gun fairly easily if one desires. A guy who wants t…

28th Amendment (Amendment XXVIII)

A Proposal for the 28th Amendment (Amendment XXVIII)

The Congress makes the following findings:
1. Firearms injure and kill people.
2. There is common agreement that the right to bear arms articulated in 2nd Amendment (Amendment II) of the Bill of Rights was given to the people of the United States for their safety and protection and the US Supreme Court ruled in 2010 (District of Columbia v Heller), that this right was not linked with service in a militia.
3. There are almost enough firearms for every woman, child and man in the country (1, 2) and, 47% of households (3) in the United States possess a firearm.
4. Firearms are a danger to the health and welfare of the citizenry based on their role in the morbidity and mortality of people, especially vulnerable populations such as children, women with violent partners, and people who live in poor, urban settings
5. Therefore, in light of this demonstration of the crisis in our nation, it is the sense of the Congress that prevention of i…