Saturday, February 21, 2009


Kathryn Joyce's new book is about to come out! You should read it!

Quiverfull: Inside the Christian Patriarchy Movement

“Kathryn Joyce's well-researched book delivers much more than a quiverfull of understanding about this movement that twists religion to justify keeping women barefoot, pregnant, and powerless. It's also a stark reminder why those who value reproductive justice must actively engage in politics and the public debate.” —Gloria Feldt, author of The War on Choice, Blogger at Heartfeldt Politics, former president, Planned Parenthood Federation of America

"’Prairie muffins,’ hayrides, and babies -- lots of babies -- don't sound like the stuff of fanaticism, but in Quiverfull Kathryn Joyce brings us the news from the most militant frontier of fundamentalism -- a patriarchy movement’ of right-wing women who embrace a caricature of 19th century womanhood as a strategy for culture war. At turns funny, terrifying, and heartbreaking, Quiverfull is a necessary book, an empathetic and brilliant analysis of how this small group of believers shape mainstream ideas about motherhood, marriage, sex and gender.” —Jeff Sharlet, author of The Family: The Secret Fundamentalism at the Heart of American Power


Real Aid for Africa.

When I got back from ten months in Africa -- Egypt, Kenya, Tanzania, Zanzibar, Rwanda, Burundi, Malawi, South Africa, Namibia, Ethiopia, in that order -- I had a whole different take on the ethics of how the West conducts aid on the continent.

I remember a British friend in Egypt telling me that Africa would best be served if all the aid organizations, governmental and non-governmental, pulled off the continent. At first I was shocked. It's seemed to go against every humanitarian idea I had of priviledge and responsibility. But after my travels, I fully agreed with him and said the same thing, much to the horror of many of my friends, when I returned to the US.

More recently, I had a friend tell me that he was appalled by Obama's lack of assistance to his family in Kenya. When I replied that his point was non-sensical, saying that Obama's poor grandmother would have the entire village sitting on her doorstep, forced to dole out portions of her money to neighbors, officials, local politicians and businessmen, my friend thought I was cold-hearted. I'm not.

In the US, inequity is an institutionalized function of our traditionally white, male, priviledged, paternalistic government. Look at the two conversation in our media right now regarding financial employee bonuses, and who should get federal assistance for their over-priced morgages. Just yesterday, CNBC's Rick Santelli got a lot of attention for his "bootstraps" comments from the floor of the Exchange, namely from Gibbs, Obama's press secretary. Those at the bottom are kept at the bottom with lack of good education, health care, jobs, and other necessary resources. But that's here in the US.

The discussion of aid in Africa is much more complicated than institutionalized priviledge and our unique US idea of bootstraps.

What does poverty look like? Unless you've walked through the slums of a third world country, you don't know. A quick visit to New Jersey's food banks may tell you something about the US economy but you'll be no further along in your understanding of what African poverty looks like. Thankfully, we in the West have different standards of definition. That doesn't mean to take away from the folks short on their mortgages and scrimping to put their kids through school. But poverty is relative, not absolute.

Unless, or until, we're willing to engage in a more intelligent way with the complicated issues of aid on the continent, Western money will continue to be a cause and not a solution to Africa's scourges.

As Dambisa Moyo tells Deborah Solomon when asked, "What do you think has held back Africans?:"

I believe it's largely aid. You get the corruption -- historically, leaders have stolen the money without penalty -- and you get the dependency, which kills entrepreneurship. You also disenfranchise African citizens, because the government is beholden to foreign donors and not accountable to its people.

Other aid topics/areas that I should make the time to think (and write) more about:
Paternalism and the moral superiority of giving.
Faith-based initiatives in Africa.
Corporations and international ethics.
African governments and the politics of poverty.
Tourism and aid tourism.
Rwanda: a case study.


Give Me an Authority.

Three years before he died in 2005, my Dad predicted the pop of the housing bubble. I don't know how, but he knew that the propping up of the US economy on the building of giant suburban mansions was temporary.

I've been missing him lately, which is a redundant statement since I've been purposefully wallowing around in grief since he died, writing a memoir about his death and dying and grief. My conceit that grief is a foreign place keeps me isolated, even while I'm surrounded by the bustle and chaos that is New York City and my rich social and cultural life here.

But since the economic shit hit the fan a few months ago, I've been missing Dad's wisdom. Even when he was wrong, he had the guts to admit it and accept the consequences. I miss that ultimate buck-stopper. Until his death, he was the one I either ran ideas and plans by or enacted decisions against. If I was the tetherball, he was always the pole, firmly planted in our little patch of the hollow.

Without my sound Dad giving advice, and with the so-called economic experts like Greenspan admitting that they "can't get their head around" our collateralized debt problems, I was wishing I had an authority to go to.

Now who advises me on where to park my little nest egg? Who do I look to each time the market takes a leap off a cliff? The answer would be almost laughable if I weren't the only one giving it: Our new president. When Obama was sworn in, I let out a huge sigh of relief. I could relax a little knowing that someone with a calm head was going to keep an eye on how Mack handled my Morgan Stanly account.

Right now it seems that everyone is looking for a a strong, wise, decisive voice. As kos has noted on his website, "It's really nice having adults back in charge." Lisa Belkin has a piece in today's New York Times magazine titled, "Father in Chief."

"He seems like such a good father, in fact, that many of us began expecting him to be our parent, too," she writes. How great a parent is he? There's a sweeping shift in the importance of what Belkin calls truth-telling. Frank talk, honesty, full disclosure are all terms employed by Obama's administration, terms that are now slipping into general media usage. Like most parents, they don't always get it right.

Today, Charles Blow,also in the Times, takes a look at how this administration is using language, in his case about race. Writes Blow, "Then came Attorney General Eric Holder's scathing comments about America being "a nation of cowards" because we don't have "frank" conversations about race." Holder got big shit for his language, but as Blow credits, his reasoning is sound.

The truth, whether its about racism or the economy, or how our budget is tallied, matters to this administration.

Lord knows, when my Dad delivered advice, it wasn't always clean but it was frank. Without him I've resorted to floundering in my decisions, and seeing a therapist. There's no substitute for my Dad, but at least I have a president.

Belkin closes her article, "There is strange comfort in knowing that our parents did much of it wrong, too -- and a cause for concern in the fact that there isn't a therapist's couch large enough for 300 million of us."

If a therapist isn't your thing, maybe you could seek a higher father. I hear confession is making a comeback.