clovernode

where DSL and meadow grass collide

Post Inauguration Plans January 27, 2009

peacedovemagritte

I’ve been so busy watching inauguration coverage on tv this past week that I haven’t taken the time to update my blog. Not sure if I have any regular readers, but I can hope. 🙂

Well, since I’ve been recommending volunteer opportunities here, I thought I would talk a little about my experiences volunteering for Martin Luther King day, and mention my plans for the future, under the Obama victory banner.

I drove to the SHARE warehouse in Pulaski, Virginia after an light snowfall the previous evening, which made the drive there a bit slower than usual. Once I got there, the coordinator was in a tizzy, because the pipes had burst overnight – there was about an inch or two of standing water on the concrete floor, running underneath the pallets! So first we helped mop up the mess, before we started processing the food in another, much dryer room!

We bagged potatoes in 3 pound sacks for the discount food kits which SHARE sells in local counties, passing on the discounted cost to the consumer. The kits are available to anyone regardless of income level. They just ask that each person donate two hours of time to the program, along with the $20 cost. They provide about $40 dollars worth of groceries for that discounted price. The SHARE program is meant to be a transition for people who don’t qualify for food stamps or food banks, but who still are having trouble making ends meet. It seemed like a good cause to support.

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Obama’s election and now inauguration has been tremendously emotional and personal for me. After the hard and sometimes tedious work of volunteering during the campaign, it was nice to see that effort bear fruit. However, one can’t listen to more than a few seconds of his speeches since the night he claimed victory at Grant Park, and miss the clear message of continued effort and sacrifice that he is sending out to all of us, especially those of us who gave many hours and dollars to the campaign.

I have to admit that at first, I was a bit daunted by the idea of continued involvement, since I’ve never really been that politically active in the first place, and the work I did during the campaign seemed to bring about plenty of change for the time being. But I’m finding that Obama’s ascension and now influence and authority in our lives has really helped unlock some dormant ambitions I’ve had to further my professional career, but this time in the realm of public service.

During the dotcom bust in 2000, while many of my friends went back to school, I took the challenge from several of my blue collar friends and launched into a retail “career”. Working food service and at a hardware store definitely grounded me, after working in the relatively high-flying worlds of law firms and internet startups. The other thing it did was limit my future career options. By worrying about accumulating any more debt, I stifled my chances of career advancement, by taking entry-level jobs and just “making ends meet”.

I majored in Philosophy as an undergraduate in the early nineties.  The logical step from there would be law school or possibly teaching, but I didn’t want to go $60,000 to $80,000 in debt, with no guarantee of a job afterwards. At the time I looked into it, I heard that many lawyers were coming out of school with no job prospects available, so they were forced to take paralegal positions, which certainly don’t pay enough to rapidly pay down that kind of debt. After running into problems in my late twenties with consumer debt that I had accumulated during college, I really didn’t relish the idea of going any further into that quagmire.

So now that I’ve moved back from the heady climate of the Bay Area, wiser but still not meaningfully employed (despite my ongoing education in the retail world’s “school of hard knocks”), I’ve decided that I’m finally ready to take the plunge, and go back to school. This time, I’m looking into applying my skills towards a Master’s degree in Conflict Resolution. I found out there is a good school nearby (UNCG) which has an online program – this is quite helpful since I live so far now from any nearby urban areas. I’m going to give it a try, I think.

This seems like a career path that I could really get behind – for example, providing mediation and negotiation services to various groups, including families, churches, and communities. Another way I’ve been looking at it, is that I’d be operating as a “discount lawyer” or a referee, although the field really seems to go far beyond that, including examining nonviolent strategies and methods of reducing global strife. I’m about five hours from DC, where I could possibly find a job in the non-profit sector.

With such a shining example of achievement embodied in Obama, I feel inspired to live up to my full potential once again. As a “gifted” child in school, I grew up with a sense that I was expected to achieve more, since I was the lucky recipient of these God-given gifts. I also experienced the desire to be just like the other kids, and often would compromise myself in order to “fit in”. Something about Obama’s rise challenges me to go back to the drawing board and fully apply myself again, in order to be of the most benefit that I can. This is welcome news.

 

Lesley Stahl interviews Rachel Maddow January 26, 2009

Filed under: Lesley Stahl,MSNBC,Rachel Maddow — clovernode @ 8:46 pm

I’m a recent convert to watching Countdown with Keith Olbermann and The Rachel Maddow Show – these shows are my main reason for watching MSNBC. During the inauguration, I found that I preferred CSPAN over any of the talking head channels, but sometimes I like a little personality sprinkled in with the substance, as long as it doesn’t get too obnoxious.

Here’s the recent interview with Rachel Maddow that Lesley Stahl added to the Huffington Post:
Lesley Stahl interviews Rachel Maddow

It’s a nine page interview, which is the longest I’ve seen with her so far. An interesting discussion of her take on President Obama, FOX News and the influence of talk radio.

 

MLK Day: What do you plan on doing? January 8, 2009

Martin Luther King Memorial Fountain in Yerba Buena Gardens, San Francisco

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Fountain in Yerba Buena Gardens, San Francisco

In case you didn’t know already, Martin Luther King Day falls on January 19th this year, right before the inauguration. President-elect Obama has called on American citizens to celebrate MLK’s legacy by devoting a day to community service. The incoming administration has even created a new website to help organize the volunteer events: usaservice.org – Renew America Together

I’m currently scheduled to work that day, but luckily, the large cable network corporation that I work for (which will go unnamed so I can speak candidly in the future) has a policy for community service days – we get two paid days per year to volunteer for non-profit causes. So I’m arranging the day off, and as long as the company approves it, I’ll be helping pack discount food packages for the SHARE program in Pulaski, Virginia.

Have you decided how you will contribute that day? If you have to work, no matter what, you could consider doing your job out of a spirit of service, for example. That’s what I plan to do if I’m not approved for the community day for some reason. I talk to dozens of people around the country each evening, so it’s easy to consider my everyday contacts as mini-service opportunities.

Even though I work in a retail field, which is relatively crass compared to the usual idea of selfless service, a lot of times, I find what people seem to be looking for when they call in is a kind word, or having someone show a respectful attitude toward them. The item they are purchasing is one thing, but the interaction that I have with them often leaves them in a better state of mind than when they called in. This is the intangible, priceless value of human kindness and acceptance.

Although I have my days, where it’s not so easy to be pleasant, and I always thought of community service as something more lofty and noble, just being kind to the people you interact with each day can create “ripples” which help to promote kindness and decency in general. The people you impress with your generosity may go home and be more fair to those around them, and so on. It’s easy to be cynical and think, people are essentially self-motivated, and will greedily snatch up your kindness, with no awareness or regard in return. And trust me, that does happen. There’s no explaining the needless hostility of mankind (which includes women).

But the ones you do affect are what counts. If you’re not up for that, just try being gentler with your self that day. Give yourself a break or the benefit of the doubt for a change, and see what happens. After studying Buddhist teachings formally and informally for several years, the big takeaway I had from my studies was that you have to be gentle and kind with yourself first, before you can help others. Happy MLK day!

 

Inaugural Schwag January 5, 2009

Filed under: inauguration,merchandise,Obama,president — clovernode @ 3:22 am
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I bought several shipments of Obama merchandise during the campaign, but that was used to stock information tables and other events that we had here in Floyd County. So I was feeling a little schwag-deprived, since I gave away or sold most everything I had purchased, until I found the Inauguration Store today online.

Uh oh! More commemorative goodies only available for a limited time!

What a nice mug!

the inaugural seal

There’s a wide variety of Obama paraphernalia available at Inaugural Collectibles, which is linked from the 2009 inauguration website. Instead of Tigereye Designs, the new vendor seems to be Financial Innovations, a company which has been the “official licensed merchandise vendor from 1980-2008 for every Democratic National Convention, and Democratic Presidential candidate”. Hmm. So maybe they did do the merchandise during the campaign?

Anyway, hopefully they will be able to send the stuff out faster, as there was a lot of nail-biting over the shipment delays while we were volunteering. Hey, I need to have my official presidential knit beanie cap ready to wear while I watch the festivities! What can I say, it’s chilly in front of my TV.

Here are some highlighted items from the site:

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Our soon-to-be President

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For the ladies!

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A unique gift

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I can see Stephen Colbert wearing these.

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A cute retro toy

Any images used in this post are courtesy of the Inaugural Collectibles website. Please visit the site for more info.

 

Five good causes January 1, 2009

Filed under: social justice,volunteering,worthy causes — clovernode @ 10:03 pm
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After volunteering for the Obama campaign for over a year, one of the things I felt once he was confirmed as the new President-elect was a heightened sense of social responsibility. This was surprising to me, as I expected a sense of relief after the volunteering was over, but if we take Obama’s public service message seriously, he’s asking for bit more than just our votes.

The entire eight years of the George W. Bush era has coincided with a series of upheavals in my personal life, leaving me little time to consider effecting social change. Having weathered the last recession as a part of the dot-com industry, I was laid off three times within five years, and moved home just as the airports became de facto terrorist screening facilities. With draconian policies such as warrantless wiretapping and torture being endorsed by the outgoing administration, it was all too easy to see our American society and ideals as crumbling and beyond repair. It seemed, why bother?

Now that President-elect Obama has called on us to take a more active part in creating the government and world we would like to see, with the rallying cry of Yes We Can, I feel a direct connection being made to the hopefulness and idealism of the Kennedy and King era, when compelling and principled leaders led people to believe they really could change the world. This is heartening for someone who came of age during the Reagan and George H.W. Bush adminstrations, and who looks back to Carter as the last “scandal-free” Democrat in office. So, no more excuses!

With Obama’s clarion call in mind, here are some causes I find important, that I hope to become more involved with in the coming year. Please take the time to check them out.

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END MOUNTAINTOP REMOVAL – ilovemountains.org

The recent coal ash spill from the TVA/Kingston Fossil Plant on December 22nd in Harriman, TN, which released decades’ worth of toxic byproducts such as arsenic and lead from sludge into the Emory and Clinch Rivers, is yet another example of why we need to move beyond the absurd idea of “clean coal” and put much more research and work into environmentally safer renewable sources of energy. The 1.7 million cubic yards of fly ash released into rivers and backyards is thirty times larger than the Exxon Valdez spill. The only upside to this environmental disaster is that it may finally provoke the EPA, under an Obama adminstration, to regulate coal fly ash as hazardous waste material.

At the Appalachian Voices website, I Love Mountains, which is dedicated to fighting against the coal industry profiting from environmental degradation, you can write to President-elect Obama, asking him to address the destructive practice of mountaintop removal coal mining in the first 100 days of his administration. You can also enter your zip code to see how you may be connected to mountaintop removal (a quick perusal using 24380 shows that Appalachian Power operates six plants directly connected to mountaintop removal on our local grid; the closest is Glen Lyn in Giles County).

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TEACHING TOLERANCE – splcenter.org

I originally heard about the Southern Poverty Law Center from my mother, who donated to them regularly and received their Teaching Tolerance materials in the mail. As a woman from Ohio (with a career! gasp) who moved to Virginia in the mid-sixties, she was well aware of the backwards mentality that still lingered in southwestern Virginia, which was suspicious of “Yankees” and generally anyone “not from around here”. I can now see her interest in the group as a way of coping with the isolation she herself felt.

You would think these hate groups would start to realize that hate doesn’t pay. Morris Dees and the SPLC recently won a $2.5 million dollar verdict against the Imperial Klans of America, for an attack on a US citizen of Panamanian descent named Jordan Gruver at the Meade County Fair in Brandenburg, KY in July 2006. He was left with a broken jaw and arm and has permanent injuries as a result. The group of Klansmen who initated the unprovoked assault mistook him for a Mexican immigrant and used racial slurs during the attack.

The Southern Poverty Law Center monitors hate groups around the nation, provides materials for teaching tolerance in schools, and represents victims of hate crimes in court cases. They have been carrying on this important work for over 27 years, and now take on more relevance than ever, as we see a backlash of hatred directed at minorities following the election of our first African-American President. Concerned about this happening in a “post-racial” America?

Go to the Southern Poverty Law Center website, and add your name to the Stand Strong Against Hate map. Also, you can search there for hate groups in your area, and read a list of hate incidents by state. Finally, a special Teaching Tolerance package has been created for educators, to help deal with racially-charged incidents and discussion in schools – RESPONDING TO OBAMA: America at the Extremes

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PEER TO PEER MENTAL HEALTH SUPPORT – dbsalliance.org

After seeing the effects that depression can have on families, and personally dealing with depressive episodes for several years, I’m convinced that we need to come together to rebuild our mental health system from the ground up. The Republicans’ refusal to acknowledge or deal with the problem of mental illness in our country, starting way back with Ronald Reagan, has led to a sad situation in which we all take for granted the latest news of some deranged person “going off” and often taking many other lives, along with their own. With the recession/depression looming, it’s unlikely the money will be available soon for an overhaul of our existing system, which is tragically underfunded and could be cut back even more. The good news is that there is a national non-profit organization which helps facilitate peer-to-peer support – a side benefit is that the drug companies aren’t lobbying these peer groups to sell their overpriced medications.

From the Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance website:

The Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance (DBSA) is the leading patient-directed national organization focusing on the most prevalent mental illnesses. The organization fosters an environment of understanding about the impact and management of these life-threatening illnesses by providing up-to-date, scientifically-based tools and information written in language the general public can understand. DBSA supports research to promote more timely diagnosis, develop more effective and tolerable treatments and discover a cure. The organization works to ensure that people living with mood disorders are treated equitably. DBSA was founded in 1985.

DBSA is a not-for-profit 501(c)(3) organization that answers more than 3,000 calls per month on our toll-free information and referral line and receives over seven million hits per month on our website. Each month we distribute nearly 20,000 educational materials free of charge to anyone requesting information about mood disorders. DBSA reaches nearly five million people through our educational materials and programs, exhibit materials and media activities. In 2006, DBSA received more than 1.5 billion media impressions.

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PERSON TO PERSON MICRO LENDING – kiva.org

Last year, I loaned $100 to Malofou Lomiga in Samoa, to help fund her handicrafts business. She is gradually repaying the loan. I have never met her or even written to her, but the San Francisco based micro-lending organization Kiva allowed us to make contact. From the Kiva.org About page:

Kiva’s mission is to connect people through lending for the sake of alleviating poverty.

Kiva is the world’s first person-to-person micro-lending website, empowering individuals to lend directly to unique entrepreneurs in the developing world.

The people you see on Kiva’s site are real individuals in need of funding – not marketing material. When you browse entrepreneurs’ profiles on the site, choose someone to lend to, and then make a loan, you are helping a real person make great strides towards economic independence and improve life for themselves, their family, and their community. Throughout the course of the loan (usually 6-12 months), you can receive email journal updates and track repayments. Then, when you get your loan money back, you can relend to someone else in need.

Kiva partners with existing expert microfinance institutions. In doing so, we gain access to outstanding entrepreneurs from impoverished communities world-wide. Our partners are experts in choosing qualified entrepreneurs. That said, they are usually short on funds. Through Kiva, our partners upload their entrepreneur profiles directly to the site so you can lend to them. When you do, not only do you get a unique experience connecting to a specific entrepreneur on the other side of the planet, but our microfinance partners can do more of what they do, more efficiently.

Other worthy international projects include funding fuel-efficient stoves for women in the Congo, and purchasing mosquito nets to send to countries in Africa to prevent malaria.

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TIBET WILL BE FREE – studentsforafreetibet.org

The Olympics held in China this past year highlighted the ongoing struggle in Tibet for freedom. From the Students For a Free Tibet website:

The turning point of Tibet’s history came in 1949, when the People’s Liberation Army of the People’s Republic of China (PRC) first crossed into Tibet. After defeating the small Tibetan army and occupying half the country, the Chinese government imposed the so-called “17-Point Agreement for the Peaceful Liberation of Tibet” on the Tibetan government in May 1951. Because it was signed under duress, the agreement lacked validity under international law. The presence of 40,000 troops in Tibet, the threat of an immediate occupation of Lhasa, and the prospect of the total obliteration of the Tibetan state left Tibetans little choice.

As the resistance to the Chinese occupation escalated, particularly in Eastern Tibet, the Chinese repression, which included the destruction of religious buildings and the imprisonment of monks and other community leaders, increased dramatically. By 1959, popular uprising culminated in massive demonstrations in Lhasa. By the time China crushed the uprising, 87,000 Tibetans were dead in the Lhasa region alone, and the Dalai Lama had fled to India, where he now leads the Tibetan Government-in-exile, headquartered in Dharamsala. In 1963, the Dalai Lama promulgated a constitution for a democratic Tibet. It has been successfully implemented, to the extent possible, by the Government-in-exile.

Meanwhile, in Tibet religious persecution, consistent violations of human rights, and the wholesale destruction of religious and historic buildings by the occupying authorities have not succeeded in destroying the spirit of the Tibetan people to resist the destruction of their national identity. 1.2 million Tibetans have lost their lives, (over one-sixth of the population) as a result of the Chinese occupation. But the new generation of Tibetans seems just as determined to regain the country’s independence as the older generation was.

Since our country’s economy is now so closely tied with China’s, due to our heavy import of their manufactured goods, I think it’s important to note that their society is not nearly as free as ours, and they have chosen to impose that oppression onto neighboring countries. Here’s a list of ways you can support the Tibetan Government-in-exile, and you can donate to Students for a Free Tibet here.