Friday, July 24, 2009

Can/Will Zuma Rise to the Challenge with Integrity or Impunity

Photo by Jennifer Griffiths, Duncan Village near East London, South Africa.

The people are finally speaking and they are not happy: campaign promises, years of waiting for basic shelter, utilities, jobs, while watching the cronies of politicians make millions, buy fancy cars (the number of BMWs and Mercedes on the roads of South Africa is truly astounding), build second homes, etc. In today's Mail&Guardian there are several stories about protests in townships, strikes that are threatening to create chaos for the upcoming World Cup events, threatened strikes in the mines. And, here is a comment from one reader:" Welcome to the South African version of the chaos in Zimbabwe.At least we do not kill foreigners thinking that this is the solution to ending poverty and the incompetence of our leadership. Those who were killed were by ZANU PF goons because the populace knows clearly that villifying foreigners is a red herring. I am sure now there will be crow eating. After all there has been this perception that SA is better. Well the mask is off. Corrupt and inefficient leadership just like any other place. Most South Africans have yet to develop the political maturity to place blame where it should go. Local councillors only to blame, my foot! It is the whole chain of command from the top. Are councillors the ones who have gone on to buy luxury vehicles in the midst of a gripping recession? The problem with our politics is that it has always been regarded as a profession, a way to make money, rather than service to the people. When we can have honest dialogue on this issue, that is when we will start voting with our heads and not from sentiment.
Mukai Sithole on July 24, 2009, 7:55 pm" For more press go the FT of London.
And, it looks as though one of Madiba's grandsons is entering business rather than politics. Perhaps he has realised, at a very young age, what heroes Cyril Ramaphosa and Tokyo Sexwale concluded: stay out of politics until the ANC has dug itself into a hole so deep it cannot get out....this seems not very far off.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

The Messianic Impulse

Two groups in Seattle with messianic impulses have recently been making their squeaks more noisome of late. They are the Unhappy-with-Kiva subgroup of the Kiva Seattle Team and the Northwest Animal Rights Activists group who are exposing all those who serve foie gras. Now, I am quite content to let any and all of these people believe what they want and express their concerns, just stop trying to convert the rest of us and stop telling us what to do! Rant 1: the U-w-K subgroup, aka the Pissed-off-with-Kiva's-recent-decision group. Kiva Management recently decided to test the waters for making domestic loans to needy entrepreneurs, not just those in developing countries. It is not a requirement that any Kiva members direct their loans domestically, just another option. Well, you would have thought that Kiva was now making loans to Bernie Madoff. According to the U-w-K leader, Tom, there is no poverty in the US like Third World poverty; all Americans are wealthy enough to get along without assistance because there are banks and lending institutions here (anybody been reading about the credit crunch lately?). Now, Tom and this group are not merely content with just continuing to make loans to entrepreneurs in developing world, no, they want us all to send messages to Kiva, have ranting conference calls with Kiva. We, on the Seattle Team, went through two rounds of this. Several of us decided that when Tom would not cease & desist, we would leave the Seattle Team (so we would not have to deal with these rants) and just continue our giving to whomever we choose to through Kiva.
Rant 2: Local NPR affiliate, KUOW, hosted a discussion on a recent edition of Weekday with Steve Sher, regarding foie gras: eating, producing, serving in restaurants. The guests on the show were journalist Mark Caro who has written a book "The Foie Gras Wars"; Jonathan Sundstrom, restaurateur/chef of Lark; and Jenn Kaplan, attorney for Northwest Animal Rights Activists (NARA). Members of the latter group stage demonstrations outside restaurants that serve foie gras. They have arrived every Friday night since January on the sidewalk in front of Lark: consumption of foie gras during this time period has increased 20%,consumption nationally has decreased 20%, largely due to the recession. NARA is also focusing on the plight of chickens in industrial complexes and is planning demonstrations at KFC and McDonald's. Their ultimate goal is to stop the consumption of all animals. I am all for the ethical raising and slaughtering of animals: proper care, clean environments, a decent life for all farm animals. Those who do not wish to eat animals are welcome to eat what they want. What I object to is the self-righteousness of those who tell me what I can and cannot eat. When restaurateurs visit the farmers from whom they purchase their food products and see how the animals are treated, when they care enough about their clients and the earth to strive to only serve organic food, they should not be made to feel like criminals.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Artists...without them our lives would be so dull.....

Preston Singletary. A glass artist, living in Seattle, brings such incredible joy and delight to all those who see his work. The Museum of Glass (MOG) in Tacoma just opened a new exhibit of Singletary's work and it is overwhemingly, achingly beautiful. Singletary has used glass to explore the stories, myths, art, and life of his people. The people of the Northwest tribes have historically been accomplished artists and this foray into a different medium showcases not only Singletary's gifts as an artist but brings to light (literally) the arts of hundreds of years of gifted people. The piece pictured here is on exhibit and to see it is to see the Raven and the Moon in all their mythical glory.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

City Fruit has launched!

With a lot of hard work and enthusiasm, a group of us in Seattle has launched City Fruit:
City Fruit is a coalition that promotes the cultivation of fruit in urban landscapes in order to nourish people, build community and protect the climate. City Fruit and our partners help tree owners grow healthy fruit, provide assistance in harvesting and preserving fruit, promote the sharing of extra fruit, and work to protect urban fruit trees.
On our website, we have a link to a fabulous tree mapping project that allows everyone to add fruit trees to our googlemap, creating a virtual City Orchard! Check us out!

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

So, the Chinese Government is at it, again, squashing ethnic minorities

They just cannot keep their hands off anyone not like them...first Tibetans, then Uighurs (they have a very interesting history. As an aside, one of the tribes they are related to is the Khazars who played a prominent role in Michael Chabon's book Gentlemen of the Road; they are the subject of Milorad Pavic's book Dictionary of the Khazars: a fabulous book with a male and a female version!). The Uighurs who were at Guantanamo preferred staying there to going back to China! The four who were recently taken in my Bermuda were just thrilled with their new home, even if it meant not seeing their families. The current crackdown in Urumqi, Western China (although Uighurs prefer to think of the area as East Turkestan) is just another step to containing dissent. The local Han in Urumqi feel threatened by the Uighurs...and well they might...they were "bussed" in by the Beijing government to out-populate the locals. Same thing was done in the former Soviet Union..and now those Russians stuck in all those places feel very threatened (the 'stans', Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia). Read about the very brave Rebiya Kadeer, the exiled Uighur businesswoman and political leader as she speaks in support of her people.
Just look at these lovely Uighur girls!

Friday, July 3, 2009

Science, Religion, Fundamentalists

An interesting confluence of news stories were available in print and audio this past week. First, heard on BBC on Monday (by the way, searching for stories on the BBC website in order to document a post like this, is one of the most frustrating endeavours...rarely do search words, checking story times,etc. yield useful results)was a story about a surgeon in Turkey who is one of the leading lights in the Muslim world advocating against Darwin and the theory of evolution. He joins his fundamentalist Christian and fundamentalist Jewish brethren in frothing at the mouth on the subject. He presents a Creationist Science point of view on the biblical/Quranic view of the origin of life and, in the Abrahamic tradition, explains the creation of the earth in six days by doing a Bill all depends on how you define the length of a day.......Fortunately, there are plenty of sane scientists and philosophers in Turkey who are able to debate him on this.

At the other end of the spectrum, was a story in the New York Times about a group of Tibetan monks and nuns who are taking a course to learn the basics of mathematics and science in order to broaden their understanding of the outer world. This is a one month course at Emory University in Atlanta . While many of the participants found some of the material slow going, their life-long habit of focus and meditation allowed them to gain insights very quickly. In advocating for this type of learning, the Dalai Lama said views science and Buddhism as complementary “investigative approaches with the same greater goal, of seeking the truth,” he wrote in “The Universe in a Single Atom,” his book on “how science and spirituality can serve our world.” He stresses that science is especially important for monastics who study the nature of the mind and the relationship between mind and brain." (NYT cited above)