August 21, 2009

A Civil Civic Discourse - Good Design or Just a Fluke?

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                     Relation is the essence of everything. Meister Eckhart (1260-1328)

Last week US Representative Joe Sestak held a townhall forum on health care at a faith-based organization, Broad Street Ministry (BSM), in Philadelphia.  The front-page article in The Philadelphia Inquirer the following morning described the event as "overwhelmingly civil".  

The evening went so smoothly in fact that some thought the forum had been in the planning stages for several weeks, or that opponents to the Democratic plan were purposefully kept out of the gathering.  Neither assertion is true.  I work at BSM several days a week.  I was there from the beginning of the planning process until the end of the actual forum (Sestak stayed on afterwards to meet with a small remnant of the more than 1000 people who showed up that evening).  And while there were any number of reasons that the townhall was a civil one, not the least of these was the fact that a very welcoming and grateful tone was set from the outset, and was carried through to the end.


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June 22, 2009

Some Summer Reading Suggestions - Part 1

It's that time again - time for sorting through the pile of books that have been sitting there on the night table waiting patiently for your attention.  Or perhaps finally getting around to actually reading Proust's Remembrance of Things Past.  Or even a bit of Tolstoy...

Then again it may be time for a non-fiction page-turner.  If that's the case, some of the Whitmanians have a few suggestions to offer.  Hopefully, these suggestions might add to your beach experience. They also may encourage other TWI members to chime in with some gems of their own. 

First up is a new book by Fred Kaplan, columnist for Slate.

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Reading through the timeline in the beginning of Kaplan's new book, 1959 The Year Everything Changed, will give you an immediate sense of just why the author has identified this year as so pivotal to the political, cultural and economic future of the United States.

A few highlights: 

January 1   Castro takes power in Cuba.

January 2   Soviets launch the first spacecraft to break free of Earth's gravity.

January 9   Judge orders Atlanta to integrate its buses and trolleys

January 12 Berry Gordy borrows $800 from his family to buy a studio for his new record company, Motown.

And that is just in the first two weeks of January. 

The rest of the year is equally eventful - from Miles Davis breaking into new territory in jazz, the US Air Force coining the term "aerospace" to stake military claim to space as well as the skies, to the introduction of The Pill, the invention of the microchip, to Ginsberg's Howl, Malcolm X's fateful trip to the Middle East, to the dismantling of the obscenity laws, to the opening of the Guggenheim, and Ornette Coleman's debut in Manhattan.  And this is merely a sampling of what occurred during this remarkable year.


Continue reading "Some Summer Reading Suggestions - Part 1" »

June 7, 2009

Re-imagining Mars

Mars_panorama.jpgPreston Moore, a member of the extended TWI community, is a former partner at the San Francisco law firm, Morrison & Foerster, and now a Unitarian minister.  He has generoulsy allowed us to post a sermon he recently delivered to the Unitarian-Universalist congregation in Williamsburg.  In this piece he explores an interesting question:  Is war a manifestation of spiritual energy?    

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April 4, 2009

The New School @ Commonweal


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Commonweal, a member of the Whitman Community, has for the past thirty plus years been at the forefront of the environmental health field, describing itself with remarkable understatement as:

a health and environmental research institute where for three decades we have worked at the interface of personal and planetary healing through focused initiatives in the environment, education, and health.

Over the past two years or so co-founder, Michael Lerner, has been hosting conversations/dialogues with thought leaders in these subjects from around the world. Fortunately, Michael has been generous enough to capture these conversations and post them as netcasts (mp3 files) easily accessible through Commonweal's website, or through iTunes.

Over the last several weeks I have been listening to a number of these netcasts.  Michael is in my experience the most effective interviewer on the internet today.  He brings a depth of knowledge to each encounter that is at times astonishing; yet he manages to keep the focus on his guests and their particular (and considerable) expertise.

I invite and encourage everyone associated with TWI to download these netcasts and listen to them at your leisure. (BTW I learned recently from Michael's interview with Peter Kingsley that our English word school comes from the Greek word, schole (σχολή), which means leisure.) 

Check out all that The New School has to offer - including links to its netcasts and iTunes - here.

February 2, 2009

Gates Foundation Disappointed With Its Small School Initiative

gf_logo.jpgIn an annual letter published on the foundation's website, Bill Gates says that their efforts to raise "...college-ready graduation rates...fell short".

He writes:
"Many of the small schools that we invested in did not improve students' achievement in any significant way. These tended to be the schools that did not take radical steps to change the culture, such as allowing the principal to pick the team of teachers or change the curriculum. We had less success trying to change an existing school than helping to create a new school.

Even so, many schools had higher attendance and graduation rates than their peers. While we were pleased with these improvements, we are trying to raise college-ready graduation rates, and in most cases, we fell short."
The foundation intends to focus more tightly on charter schools and on best teaching practices.
"So our new strategy focuses on learning why some teachers are so much more effective than others and how best practices can be spread throughout the education system so that the average quality goes up. We will work with some of the best teachers to put their lectures online as a model for other teachers and as a resource for students."
Read education portion here. And the the entire letter here.


January 25, 2009

Important Article About Early Days at Guantanamo

0_61_guantanamo_bay.jpgKaren Greenberg, the executive director at NYU's Center on Law and Security, has published a piece in the Washington Post about the early days of the detainee camp at Guantanamo.  It seems that the military got it right in the beginning - it was able to make consistently wise and measured decisions even in the stressful times that many have said made such decision making impossible.

Here is the link.


For more on the current situation the Obama administration is faced with as they plan to close Guantanamo see John Cole's post here.  He asserts that:
"The moral of this story is not the danger for Obama going forward with his Gitmo decommissioning, the moral is that when venal, shallow, small men are given unfettered power and authority, they do incompetent, stupid, and evil things."
 

January 23, 2009

Another Obama First

POTUS_Seal.jpgThe inauguration of our 44th president contained a litany of firsts.  Too many to list here.  Besides the gaggle of gasbags in the popular media and the Internets have done an exemplary job of listing virtually all of them.

There is one first sandwiched between Rick Warren's curious invocation and Rev. Lowery's remarkable benediction that drew scant attention.  President Obama became the first president in our history to acknowledge atheist Americans:
"For we know that our patchwork heritage is a strength, not a weakness. We are a nation of Christians and Muslims, Jews and Hindus and non-believers."
Contrast that quote with this assertion by Bush 41 some twenty years ago:
"I don't know that atheists should be considered as citizens, nor should they be considered patriots."
Unlike his recent predecessors - Bush 41 & 43, Candidate Obama promised inclusiveness as well as greater transparency in his administration.  It appears that he means to implement that promise from day one.

More here. And more here.

October 22, 2008

Atheist Ads On London Bendy-buses -- "Stop Worrying"

AthiestAd.jpgThe British Humanist Association launched a campaign recently to place ads on a number of large buses in Britain.  From their news release:
The Atheist Bus Campaign launches today, Tuesday October 21. With your support, we hope to raise £5,500 to run 30 buses across the capital for four weeks with the slogan: "There's probably no God. Now stop worrying and enjoy your life."

Here is where you can add some dosh (American = cash) to their effort.  BTW, as noted above, their fund-raising target was £5,500; so far they have raised close to £60,000.  

September 7, 2008

Whitman Grantees To Showcase Their Dialogue Skills at NCDD Conference in Austin, TX Oct 3-5, 2008

NCDDlogo.jpgSeveral members from On The Move, a Whitman grantee organization, have been invited to partner with the The Rockrose Institute's Youth Dialogue Project (YDP is also a Whitman grantee) to design and facilitate a series of dialogues focusing on ways to include more young voices in the dialogue community, and on ways to deepen the intergenerational conversation about community impact and effective citizens.

Details about the upcoming NCDD conference here.

September 6, 2008

Wait or Walk? Inquiring (and Lazy) Minds Want to Know

WaitWalkFormula.jpgMost of us have been faced at one time or anther with the decision to wait for the next bus, or walk to our destination.  All sorts of magical thinking can go into our calculations: How many others are waiting at the bus stop?  How far (in both walking time and distance) to the destination?  How long ago do we imagine the last bus came by?

Well, some young geniuses at Cal Tech seem to have cracked the code.  Here is their study, Walk versus Wait: The Lazy Mathematician Wins (3 pages), along with several download options and with all the math formulae that look like they were copied from Professor Barnhardt's blackboard... oh, and along with the young (and lazy) mathematician's "Eureka" moment.

Remember: exact change required, and bus schedule subject to change without notice.