Wednesday, April 19, 2017

The End of Growing the New American Economy

Jeffrey Sachs is probably the country’s predominant expert on sustainable development. He has written a number of bestselling books on the subject, and also was an adviser to Bernie Sanders in the 2016 presidential race.

Building the New American Economy (Columbia University Press, 2017) is a relatively brief (121 pages) primer for the lay reader on what Sachs thinks we all need to know about the economic problems facing the country, and where we need to go from here. The key idea is found in the introduction: “The keys to success in building the new America [sic] economy can be summarized in three words: smart, fair, and sustainable.”

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

The Devil's Bargain

Here’s what’s a somewhat longer and thought out version of what’s been coming out of my mouth the last few times I’ve spoken:
  1. The system is broken.
In 2003 the Bush Administration led us to war based on cooked intelligence. They instituted “enhanced interrogation techniques" (i.e., torture). No one was ever punished except for some extremely small fish at Abu Ghraib. In 2008 the financial system collapsed, due largely to chicanery on Wall Street; the country bailed out the system to the tune of over $1 trillion but again, none of the responsible parties were ever held liable.

In 2016 we had the most absurd election campaign imaginable, which ended with a completely unqualified and temperamentally unsuited celebrity winning the White House. This isn’t the place to detail the perfect storm of factors that led to this result, but it suffices to say that for the second time in 20 years someone entered the presidency who had not won the popular vote.

Sunday, March 12, 2017

Brownback Agoniste

Rumors are flying that Sam Brownback is about to get a post in the Trump Administration. As he prepares to leave behind the flaming wreckage his policies have caused in Kansas, it's time for some amateur, armchair politico-psycho-analysis.

It's been interesting, if that's the right word, to see Brownback steadfastly refuse to acknowledge that the tax plan that he forced through in 2012 isn't working. Kansas has a $1bn deficit through the end of 2018, which you would think would speak for itself, but Brownback continues to wait for the magic beans to work, and has a whole staff of people dedicated to putting magnifying glasses to any small piece of good economic news they can find.

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

The Resilience of the White Right

I recently read the book, The End of White Christian America by Robert Jones. He's the CEO of PRRI, a institution in Washington that researches public attitudes toward religion. The book traces the history of political involvement in politics by White Christians and their institutions. He covers the Mainline and Evangelical streams as two parts of the same whole. and sees the same demographic and political pressures facing them both; the two streams are following the same trajectory of waning numbers and influence, with the Mainline about 20 years ahead of evangelical Christianity in terms of timeline.

The two issues he traces in detail are gay marriage and race. He shows how White Christianity was on the wrong side of both of these issues, and that the attitude - and the laws - of the country have moved faster and farther than White Christianity wanted to go.

Friday, December 23, 2016

2 mindfulness practices

Lately I've been trying to note behaviors mentally, as opposed to berating myself for them (mentally). With this in mind, here are 2 mindfulness practices I've been using lately:

Phone practice. I mentally note every time I take out my phone when I'm doing something else. This happens a lot when I'm cooking (put the water on to boil, open the phone), and when I'm walking the dog – two activities I've been trying to do more with more attention. I often find that when I take out my phone I'm already at the end of a long strand of distracted thinking – that is, I was already distracted before I took out my phone. 

Irritation practice. With three teenage kids I get a lot of chances to practice this. Irritation, leading to anger, is one of my primary character defects. Usually with anger or irritation the response follows immediately on the heels of the stimulus. So my goal is to mentally note rising irritation, and (hopefully) to be able to pause between feeling the feeling and reacting. So if I get irritated after the sixth stimulus, when last week I would have gotten irritated after the second stimulus, that's progress.  And when I get to 1,000, I win! 

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Use the Oxygen Mask First

As a follow up to my previous post about non-hatred - about opposing Trump and Trumpism with everything we can, but not by being motivated by hatred and anger toward them - and in response to the many many people who are reacting to the election results with fear and a sense of helplessness, I would like to posit what I think is the very first thing we should do as we develop our strategies and commitments for the future.

And that very first thing, our very first response to Trump and the disastrous results of the elections is: work on your spirituality.  

Thursday, November 24, 2016


In the current version of the “stump sermon” that I deliver in congregations, I begin my delineating Kansas Interfaith Action's four mission areas (racism, poverty, violence, climate disruption) and conclude by proposing four corresponding values that can guide our work as we try to bring the voice of faith and conscience into public policy advocacy.

This last piece has gone through numerous iterations since I first gave the sermon on MLK Sunday of this year. (Shout out to Rainbow Mennonite Church in KCK.) For one of these values in particular I've had trouble finding the words that capture precisely the tone and meaning I'm trying to set.