10.30.2008

Happy For

Funny how the first championship in 25 years can lift a city's spirits.

I'm happy for Mayor Nutter, who gets to organize a parade in his first
year in office and, in a year in which he has had to make too many
announcements about cop killings and budget deficits, can proclaim
some good news for a change.

I'm happy for Brad "Lights Out" Lidge, who with one glorious pitch
slayed the demons of his past and forever etched his image in
Philadelphia lore.

I'm happy for Carlos "Chooch" Ruiz, who was much maligned for having
no pop in his bat but who guided each pitcher to success and surprised
us with a home run and the game-winning hit in Game 3.

I'm happy for Jamie "Old Man" Moyer, who cut class as a high school
kid to attend the Phillies' championship parade in 1980, vowed to sit
on the float someday, and, at age 45, finally gets his chance.

I'm happy for Jimmy "J-Roll" Rollins, who can call Philly fans
"front-runners" all he wants as long as he helps keep them in front.

I'm happy for Pat "The Bat" Burrell, who has endured more booing than
any other current Phillie, but who will always have a soft spot in my
heart because it was his minor league game in Trenton that provided
the forum for me to have "the conversation" with my then-future
father-in-law; and who last night ended a 0-13 slump with a 7th inning
double that would eventually lead to the winning run in the Series
clincher.

I'm happy for Shane "The Flyin' Hawaiian" Victorino and Charlie
Manuel, who lost loved ones during this historic playoff run, and who
inspired us all as much as they drew inspiration from the fans and the
players.

And I'm happy for my kids, who I may worry about many things for their
lives but now no longer have to worry that they'll never get to see a
championship parade during their childhood.

PUBLIC/PRIVATE PARTNERSHIP

Lots of people deserve credit for the Phillies' World Series championship, but I'd like to single out two of my clients: the City of Philadelphia and Comcast Corporation. Mayor Michael Nutter wisely chose to keep parade plans under wraps, to avoid jinxing the team; while the construction of the Comcast Center downtown was topped off by a tiny figurine of William Penn, to restore his hat as the highest point of the Philly skyline and reverse the curse that went into effect when 1 and 2 Liberty Place rose above City Hall in the mid-1980's. With both sides respecting the superstitions that go along with rooting for sports teams in this town, how's that for a public/private partnership?

South Broad, Here We Come

I wasn't even following baseball that much in 1993, when the Phillies
were last in the World Series. But I had laugh when, after the
Fightin's lost Game 1 of the NLCS to Atlanta, the Daily News ran this
headline: "Braves Avoid Sweep."

This postseason, one of my favorite morning activities was to read
what clever headline they would come up for to describe the previous
day's sporting highlight. After the Phils' World Series Game 1 win,
they ran pictures of Cole Hamels, Brad Lidge, and Chase Utley, with
the headline: "The Good, the Brad, and the Utley." And after Joe
Blanton pitched and homered his way to a Game 4 blowout, we were
treated to a shot of his "close your eyes and swing as hard as you
can" swing and the headline: "Joe the Lumber."

But this morning's headline was the sweetest of all: "It's Ours." And
on the back: "From Cursed to First: Send in the Crown." We'll see you
at the parade.

Yo! Philly's More Fanatic

Fox couldn't cut fast enough from the Obama informercial to their
World Series telecast. I guess when you get your 37-minute pregame
show cut to 7 minutes, there's no time to waste. But it provided a
beautiful contrast: the Obama spot ended with 40,000+ Floridians
screaming for their man, and the World Series program started with
40,000+ Philadelphians screaming for their team. Guess which group
was more raucous - by far? Remember, this is 40,000+ Floridians
packed indoors, at the end of an inspiring speech, vs. 40,000+
Philadelphians spread out outdoors, some 7 minutes from the start of
the game. God, I love this town; Philly may be as blue as it gets on
the electoral map, but for one magic night, it was rowdy red.

10.29.2008

WHERE I'M MOST NERVOUS ABOUT OBAMA

As a follow-up to my post earlier this month in support of McCain on the issues, here are sound-bites from articles that crystallize four issues where I'm most nervous about Obama:

* Foreign policy. McCain may be too hawkish and old-school for most peoples' tastes, but is that necessarily worse than someone who is too young to fully grasp the complexities of global conflict? As Katherine Ernst puts it in her article, "The Audacity of Humility": "Already, he believes that the force of his own personality is strong enough to garner concessions from the world’s worst dictators—Ahmadinejad, Ch├ívez, Kim Jong Il—dictators with proud histories of playing international watchdogs and diplomats for fools. Gee, what could go wrong there?" Tellingly, during the one new flare-up that has occurred this campaign season - Georgia - McCain was right, right away, and Obama was wrong.

* Health care. It's funny how easily sensible plans can get twisted by populist pandering. I like Obama's coterie of economic advisors, and many of them would, absent their new loyalties to Obama, likely endorse McCain's ideas over Obama's: "Obama vs. His Advisers: On Health Care, They Once Liked McCain's Principles": "Mr. Obama's tactics are especially cynical because his own health-care advisers support plans much like Mr. McCain's. Or at least they did before joining up with Mr. Obama. Put simply, the McCain plan seeks to remedy a distortion in the health-care market that economists have spent decades begging politicians to fix: The tax code subsidizes insurance only if it is provided through employers. Individuals can't take the same tax deduction for buying insurance that businesses can. So Mr. McCain wants to 'spread the wealth' of these tax breaks to individuals of any income through a refundable tax credit, no matter where they get coverage." Meanwhile, Governing Magazine's blog notes that while McCain's plans resemble Minnesota's largely successful approach, the Massachusetts plan that Obama's plan is modeled after has increased coverage but at higher-than-expected costs.

* Trade. When the Times of India feels obligated to chime in on the McCain-Obama debate, you know there's a marked difference in where the two stand on the issues. Here's what they had to say in "Where McCain Scores Over Obama": "McCain is one of the few American politicians in either party with the courage and conviction to stand up to protectionist populism. By contrast, Obama embodies protectionism." Of course, protectionism is exactly the last thing we need in an ailing global economy, with the poorest countries suffering the worst.

* Government spending. Not one of the categories from my post earlier this month, but alluded to on a number of occasions. It warrants mentioning again: the D's will control both the House and the Senate, and Obama has no track record of going against his party, nor has he taken nearly as strong a stand against earmarks as McCain has. And note this quote from Politico: "Obama Donors Get Access to Top Advisers": "Much has been made of Obama’s canny mining of small-dollar donors . . . but his campaign also has an elaborate machine for courting big check-writers. Obama kept the checks flowing this month with a gold-plated schedule of headliners who would have new prominence in a Democratic Washington." That's a lot of donors, and a lot of high-profile people shilling for those donors, who may have their hand out after November 4. Speaking of spending, it's a shame that more hasn't been made of Obama - who has campaigned on the platform of getting big money out of the political process - talking big on public financing during the primaries when it was a way to distinguish himself from Hillary's campaign, and then backing off so that he could outspend McCain in the general election.

Barring a huge swing in momentum, or else really inaccurate polls, Barack Obama will be elected the 44th president of the United States. If that happens, here's hoping he doesn't follow through on his campaign promises, but rather moves sensibly towards the very ideas he's spent the last few months distorting and refuting.

10.28.2008

MONEYBALM

When Newt Gingrich and John Kerry co-author an article, when Billy Beane is involved, when acronyms like VORP and WHIP make it into the New York Times . . . well, then, I feel I should provide a link: "How to Take American Health Care From Worst to First." [See also here.] Health care and baseball both require some human element; but that human element can benefit greatly from statistical analysis that is readily available. Strange that we are willing to apply it more to produce a World Series winner than to save millions of lives and trillions of dollars.

"Dear Zachary" opens theatrically this Friday in New York City

If you're in the New York City area, you should check this out.

---------- Forwarded message ----------
Date: Tue, Oct 28, 2008 at 3:39 AM
Subject: "Dear Zachary" opens theatrically this Friday in New York City!

Hey everyone,

Kurt here; hope you're having a fantastic end of October. I can't
honestly remember when my last update was sent, but "Dear Zachary" has
been picked up for theatrical and DVD distribution by Oscilloscope
Laboratories and opens theatrically this Friday in New York City at
the Cinema Village! (22 East 12th Street, NYC)

The theatrical roll-out continues the next week, the week after that,
the week after that and so on...cities are still being added, but
here's what I know at present:

"Dear Zachary" opens theatrically...

October 31 -- New York City, the Cinema Village
November 7 -- Los Angeles, Laemmle's Sunset 5 and Chicago, Gene Siskel
Film Center
November 15-17 & 22-24 -- Portland, OR, the Hollywood Theater
November 21 -- Nashville, the Belcourt Theater
November 28 -- Santa Fe, NM, Center for Contemporary Art
December 5 -- San Jose, Camera 3 Cinemas

I'm leaving bright and early to fly to New York where I'm speaking at
a whole bunch of NYC screenings this week, then will be at the evening
shows Friday & Saturday at the Cinema Village to do Q&A with the
audience. I'll also be at the evening shows in Los Angeles on Friday,
November 7th and Saturday, November 8th to do Q&A for anyone
interested. The Bagby's will be at the Camera 3 in San Jose at the
evening shows on Friday, December 5th & Saturday, December 6th.

"Dear Zachary" has continued to play numerous festivals throughout the
year and will continue to do so for the immediate future; I'll keep
the home page at www.dearzachary.com updated with the latest info.
(If you're visiting the home page, check out the amazing new poster by
the very talented artist Evan B. Harris, which has been receiving
raves on the web.) Notably, it won the Audience Award at the Sidewalk
Moving Picture Festival in Birmingham, Alabama in late September and
also played at the Calgary & Edmonton International Film Festivals in
September to fantastic, impassioned reactions from Canadian audiences.
My email box was filled after each screening with people writing to
say how much the film affected them, writing to say they were going to
write Parliament, and in some cases, they had already written
Parliament and attached a copy of their letter. And my letter writing
campaign to Parliament has started to pay off: a Senator from Alberta
came out to see "Dear Zachary" at the Edmonton festival with an
audience of his constituents, who gave it 2 standing ovations. I'm
looking at holding a screening for all members of Parliament sometime
after the first of the year. The film is also about to have its
European Premiere at the end of November at the very prestigious
International Documentary Film Festival of Amsterdam.

If you live in any of the areas where it's playing theatrically,
please come out, see the movie and tell your friends! The better the
movie does in theaters, the higher profile it takes on and the more
its mission will be heard.

I will confirm this in a future email, but last I heard, the
television premiere of "Dear Zachary" on MSNBC was set for the evening
of Sunday, December 7th. Mark your calendars!

Thanks again for helping make this possible and for believing in me
back when it was just me with a stack of videotapes editing in my
apartment!

Off to New York...hope you're all doing great...and I'll keep
pestering y'all with reminders about the theatrical dates as the month
goes on, I apologize in advance if you get sick of me this month. :)

All the best,
Kurt

NBA Predictions

Hoops has been dropped from my interests for years. And, obviously,
the Phillies have caught my attention much deeper into the year than
usual. But what's the fun of missing the chance to make bad
predictions? So here goes another installment of my NBA predictions:

Atlantic: 3 Celtics, 5 Raptors, 7 76ers
Central: 1 Cavaliers, 4 Pistons, 6 Bulls
Southeast: 2 Magic, 8 Wizards
Northwest: 1 Jazz, 4 Blazers
Pacific: 3 Lakers, 8 Suns
Southwest: 2 Hornets, 5 Spurs, 6 Rockets, 7 Mavericks
1st Round: Cavs, Magic, Bulls, Raptors, Jazz, Hornets, Lakers, Blazers
2nd Round: Cavs, Magic, Jazz, Hornets
Finals: Cavs over Jazz

HOW DO YOU MOVE 12 MILLION PEOPLE

Here's what happens when universal cell phone usage, commitment to public transit, and an exploding metropolis meet. Seoul is one of 12 metro areas in the world with over 12 million people (New York and LA are the only two US metro areas on that list), so leaning on IT and mass transit aren't just for green bona fides but out of necessity. Here's hoping more cities start thinking this way.
HOPE TAKES A STORMY HIT

No sooner had I penned this hopeful post about the sun rising on our morning commute than the storms started to hit. Aaron remained beastly, even though he's been on antibiotics for five days now (usually he returns to the land of the pleasant by day two or three), Amy's illnesses worsened, and I woke up in the middle of the night feeling unusually nauseous, to the point that I actually threw up for the first time in over a decade.

And so not 24 hours after walking Jada to work and feeling my spirits soaring, I was groggily trudging the two of them to day care under much more adverse internal and external circumstances. If you're following the World Series, you know we've had lousy weather all today. And the elements seemed to match my countenance: dark, dreary, unrelenting, and too much to hardly bear.

Again, another song came to mind, and while I didn't sing it as cheerily as yesterday's, I did sing it: "When darkness hides His lovely face, I rest on His unchanging grace; in every high and stormy gale, my anchor holds within the veil. On Christ the solid rock I stand, all other ground is sinking sand; all other ground is sinking sand." Hope may take a stormy hit now and then, but, however weak and battered we may feel, we can keep on singing.
INCOME REDISTRIBUTION AND TAXES

There are two things that are fairly clear to me, although others may certainly disagree with my positions: 1) the Bible is pro-income redistribution, and 2) the federal government is a lousy mechanism for achieving it.

As to the first statement, there are countless calls in the Bible to give to the poor. God has special concern for the poor, and those of us who have resources giving to those of us who do not is one way we are commanded to participate in that special concern. Let me add a little heat on this, since the Bible definitely employs heated rhetoric: great destruction - to societies and souls - was historically reserved for people who lived it up in the midst of base human need. So, to summarize: participate in income redistribution and you share in matters close to God's heart, don't participate and you do so at your peril.

However, to get to the second statement, is government the best mechanism for making this happen? After all, God cares not just about our individual decisions to give or not give, but also about structures that oppress and populations that are oppressed. A libertarian might say income redistribution is an individual concern and therefore government has no role in it, and on principle, they would be wrong; income redistribution is a societal concern and therefore government can have a role in it.

So it can. But should it? I don't buy completely the theory of trickle-down economics - we rich have a funny way of having a fair amount of our wealth get gummed up in consumption patterns that only benefit us and not others - but neither do I buy a model in which money is discouraged from being poured into the system from the top and is only siphoned from top to bottom.

Let me be clear: social programs are, relatively speaking, good. Economists will tell you that some amount of public services need to be dispensed in order to get people back on their feet, and government is a good mechanism for dispensing those services (tax all, serve some) since the free markets won't. Economists with a heart will add to that universe of recipients not only those who need a temporary hand up to get back to being productive, but a certain universe of recipients who may be more permanently impaired.

But wholesale redistribution of income by ratcheting up marginal tax rates at the upper ends has the unintended effect of discouraging additional productivity among people who are among the most productive our society has to offer. (See here for a clever example.) To use an analogy, we might not need to fuss about the relative size of our slice of the pie if we are all working together to make the pie bigger.

Of course, tax policy any other time is the purview of economists and accountants; and tax policy in an election season is the purview of populist-pandering politicians on both sides of the aisle. And so we have John McCain elevating Joe the Plumber to "I have to refer to him every five minutes" status, and we have Barack Obama spinning his opponent's tax plans as "giveaways to rich oil companies."

Whichever side you are on (and it should be clear from this post where I sit on this issue), you should be glad you have such a stark choice in this year's election. For your reading pleasure, here's a link to a WSJ article that gives you the numeric highlights of where McCain and Obama diverge. And here's a link to a funny story about "how taxes work" that even Snopes.com can't figure out the origin to.

Finally, you may be interested to know that the rich tend to support McCain, but the very rich tend to support Obama. I guess when you have a lotta lotta money, you can afford a little income redistribution.

10.27.2008

My Redeemer

I had a hard weekend. The specific reasons are, for the purposes of
this post and of posterity, irrelevant. But the result was that I was
left feeling not a little down.

This morning started out better. Aaron's fuss-o-meter has been on 11
out of 10 all week, but this morning he was "only" at 7. Jada was
ready to go by the time I had to head out, so instead of being
stressed about running late, everything was smooth and easy. Aaron
stays home on Mondays, so it was just me and Jada into the early
morning day.

We walked westward, and soon had an unfettered view of the
Philadelphia skyline, the sun beginning to make its appearance. I
could not help but think of how, within a few minutes, the sun would
overwhelm - in size and brilliance - even the mightiest and grandest
of our city's skyscrapers.

For some reason, I begin to sing, first to myself and then out loud.
The first song that came to mind - it had been so long since I had
last heard it that I had to think for a moment to remember the chorus
- was Steve Curtis Chapman's "My Redeemer is Faithful":

"As I look back on the road I've traveled, I see so many times He
carried me through; and if there's one thing that I've learned in my
life, my Redeemer is faithful and true. My Redeemer is faithful and
true, and everything He has said He will do; and every morning His
mercies are new. My Redeemer is faithful and true; Jesus is faithful
and true."

They say it is darkest right before the sun appears. I don't know
that that's true. But I do know that while the night can seem to last
forever, eventually the sun does appear; and when it does, its size
and brilliance overwhelm everything. Though the outward circumstances
that cause my hope to sag may be no different today than this weekend,
I am somewhat buoyed inwardly. For I know that my Redeemer is
faithful and true.

A Serious Responsibility

Imagine that someone you respect dearly - a boss, a grandmother, a
civic leader - approaches you and asks you to take care of something
for them. You would be honored, and probably not a little nervous
about being able to live up to the level of trust they have somehow
decided to have in you.

Now imagine that that something they have asked you to look out for is
immeasurably valuable, more so than anything else you've ever owned or
even come into contact with. Again, you are honored, but now even
more gulping hard as you think about whether or not you can handle
this responsibility.

This is what adoption is like. The Christian's perspective is that
all parenting is a form of stewardship, but the analogy seems more
real when you have adopted. For some reason, a child is in need of a
parent; and however willing we are to be that parent, and however
honored we are to serve in that capacity, we are sobered by the
infinite majesty of the One who has asked us to be a steward, and by
the infinite worth of the thing we have been asked to steward.

Parenthood is not easy, and adoption poses its unique challenges. I
do not like to feel inadequate, but daily do so in light of my
responsibilities. It is good to be reminded of who has asked me to
bear these responsibilities, of the preciousness of what I am bearing,
and of the many ways in which I have been given much with which to
bear them.

10.26.2008

GOD IN MY IMAGE

I'm in the book of Zephaniah in my morning read through the Bible. This is a favorite book of John Piper, one of my favorite Christian authors. So I went over to his church's website to read some of his old sermons on the book. Here's a money quote from one of those sermons:

"There is in every human, I think, a deep longing to worship something great—to have a god or a hero or some beautiful or powerful thing to admire. But there is also in every human the sinful and insatiable longing, too, for self-determination and autonomy—we will do our own thing and get our own glory. Therefore, man does not cease to be a worshipping creature when he rejects the true God. Rather he searches out a god in his own image who will give him all the leeway he craves and exert on him no moral constraints of which he does not approve. There may be no more arrogant man on the face of the earth than the man bowing humbly before the god he has created in his own image."

This paragraph causes considerable consternation in me. For I am mindful of the ways I, even as I seek to be a faithful follower of Jesus, have, whether consciously or unconsciously, bent that path to my will, rather than seeking with an open mind and a willing heart to understand and then follow the path as He has laid it out.

There is a missiological term called "syncretism," in which converts meld the Christian faith with elements from their home culture and religion. We Americans often scoff at such practices, which often involve animism or other seemingly odd forms of non-God worship.

And yet we ourselves are guilty of syncretism when we subtly bend the God of the Bible and the Bible of our God to more closely suit our tastes. If justice is our pet issue, we focus on those aspects of Christian living, de-emphasizing other standards we are loath to live up to. We fancy Jesus to share our political and economic persuasions. We alternate between capping tout understanding of God's abhorrence of our sin (and in doing so flirt with disobedient behavior) and His all-encompassing mercy (and in doing so think ourselves too far from the truth to be redeemed).

We Christians are most susceptible to this form of idolatry: outwardly doing Christian things, even while refusing to cede the driver's seat to the One we profess as Lord. Previously, I have referred to cat or dog Christians, and to American syncretism, and yet I am challenged anew that I too am guilty of making God in my image when it is He who has made me in His.

10.25.2008

Whartonites Solving the World's Problems, Profitably

I formulated my philosophy on business and social impact during my
undergraduate years at Wharton, when the place wasn't the greatest for
such musings. Yale had a good non-profit management program, you went
to Babson for entrepreneurship, but Wharton was for making CEOs and
CFOs. I pressed on, and was happy to see more of this over time;
there's even multiple "Whartonites for the Public Interest" groups
that have sprung up, and the Philadelphia chapter that I'm a part of
is full of really sharp and really good-hearted alumni.

But I guess I feel like this line of thinking has officially arrived
with this audacious article in the Wharton Alumni Magazine: "How
Business is the Best Chance for Solving the World's Problems." [No
link yet, but maybe they'll eventually archive it.] The best and
brightest have come to realize that corporate responsibility is
non-negotiable, the profit motivation is the best mobilizer of ideas
and resources to solve the world's deepest needs, and environmental
sustainability is just another element of building long-term
shareholder value.

This fall a "Wharton Institute for Social Impact" is officially
launching; at least a half-dozen clubs already exist that intersect
with this intersection of business and social responsibility. And
next month, the campus hosts Net Impact's North America Conference.
Let's hope my alma mater is just as prolific a factory for CEOs and
CFOs; but that these future leaders are imbued with an ability to see
how fundamentally intertwined doing well and doing good really are.

Leadership for Results

Earlier this week, I took Jada to a grad school reunion of mine at the
Fels Institute of Government. The new director, David Thornburgh,
thought it a good time to gather students and alumni for a quick meet
and greet, and I happily seized the chance to catch up with old
classmates, meet others in the Fels family, and score my daughter some
free cookies.

Mission accomplished on all three fronts. I saw a classmate of mine
who just got his PhD from Harvard and is off to a consultancy in DC,
and another classmate of mine who now co-teaches a class we took
together three summers ago. I even found out a client of mine from
work is a fellow Felsonian. Note to my other clients: I will be
playing favorites.

A nice bonus was picking up the new marketing brochure, which I
perused later that evening. I like what David and his staff have done
in telling the story of Fels, and inviting people to join in the fun.
What sold me on Fels way back when was the varied and always
impressive accomplishments of Felsonians; "I want to be one of them"
was what I kept thinking to myself.

All the good stuff about a Fels education was captured in this
document. Small school and lots of attention, but in a big and
resource-rich university. The chance to meld an analytical approach
with a practical understanding of how the political process works.
Tangible practice in exercising leadership and in getting things done.
A diversity of experiences in a diversity of settings from a
diversity of geographies to learn from.

Call me a Penn homer, but I wouldn't trade my Fels experience, or the
network I am honored to be a part of, for any other sheepskin or any
other fraternity - not Kennedy or Wilson or Maxwell. So count me
among the proud alum. If you're thinking about Fels, do it. And if
you did it already . . . I'll see you at the next alumni gathering.

10.24.2008

JOINING THE CONVERSATION

Even though I blog mostly for myself (i.e. to process and document thoughts), it is nice to get feedback. I'm not just referring to "attaboy" and "insightful," but also "have you thought of" and even "I completely disagree." Sadly, my posts don't often get comments. My wife conjectures that either no one's reading, no one cares, I'm not saying anything interesting, my point is made in such a hackneyed way that no one bothers to reply, or people disagree with me but don't want to hurt my feelings. I appreciate the vote of confidence, Amy. :)

So much to my surprise, a handful of people commented with days of when this post got automatically posted onto my Facebook page. Maybe my future writing career isn't in faith, cities, or business, but rather in sports! More likely, Facebook is a funner place to comment on peoples' posts than Blogger. Although all my blogs get posted on Facebook.

My theory is that comments beget other comments. Once one person chimes in, it officially becomes a conversation. And each comment adds flavor to the conversation, making the conversation even more attractive to join in on. Just another fun discovery about Web 2.0; even detached by time and geography, we can enjoy some semblance of the richness of good and witty conversation.
WHERE THE EVIDENCE LEADS

I had the honor of not only meeting but introducing Richard Thornburgh, the speaker at a breakfast I attended at the Fels Institute of Government this week, and the Governor of Pennsylvania from 1979 to 1987. I knew a few things about Governor Thornburgh from my working relationship with his son David, who founded The Enterprise Center, where I worked for ten years. But I was instructed to check out Governor Thornburgh on Wikipedia, which I did. There I found two interesting tidbits: 1) he's recently written a book on Puerto Rico, and 2) he was on the Ali G show.

Alas, neither of these items came to mind as I made my opening remarks. What I did say is, in my mind, more important: that Governor Thornburgh is one of the most appropriate public figures that Fels could have chosen, given his commitment to following the evidence and to the political process.

Those two values happen to be the two main things I learned from my time at Fels. They are principles that often seem in conflict: is getting things done about finding the right answer or working the situation politically to your advantage? It's a false dichotomy, of course. In the public realm, there is no such thing as "the right answer," although that should not stop us from being as data-driven and analytical as possible. And everything, including analysis, is political, not in the negative sense of the word but in the neutral sense, in that in this country we decide things based on a participatory process.

Felsonians continue to thrive in all professions because we understand how to do both. And I am glad I was able to meet and hear from someone this week who has practiced those principles so effectively and so honorably in service to his state and country for so long. Thanks for your time, Governor Thornburgh.

10.23.2008

UNFATHOMABLY RICH

With two kids, there's a lot of laundry to do around here. Thankfully for me, Amy does about 99 percent of it. So when our dryer finally pooped out, I knew it was in my self-interest to get it replaced ASAP. We decided to swap out our washer, too; in hindsight, both could've been replaced long ago, under the school of thought that you can reduce your environmental impact and financial costs by upgrading to a more energy-efficient model, and get your old pair in the hands of someone who could use it more than you could. But these were the last two appliances in our house that we had not bought ourselves, so I didn't really have them on a schedule from a replacement standpoint.

And so we were stuck scrambling to find a washer and dryer that could be delivered reasonably quick. I went online, of course, found the cheapest energy-saving models I could, and rung them up. Only there was a glitch in the website that prevented me from completing the transaction and necessitating a 800 call. The woman on the other line told me their site was having difficulties, located my items, informed me the washer was available at the location nearest my house, and connected me to that site. From there, I was able to order the washer and find a suitable replacement choice for the dryer that was actually on site. Later this morning, we'll get a call to schedule a delivery for later today.

Why do I bore you with this mundane transaction? I don't want to forget how unfathomably rich we are in America. Think about all of the luxuries that went into this quick purchase process:

* I have a washer and dryer inside my house.

* I have enough money to afford buying a replacement when they break down.

* I have a fast Internet connection.

* I pulled up product and price information on countless choices from a handful of stores.

* When I wasn't able to complete the transaction online, I picked up a phone, got a dial tone immediately, and placed a free call.

* The operator was aware of her company's Internet problems and had total access to her company's products, prices, and availabilities.

* The local representative was also aware of the products, prices, and availabilities at his particular location.

* The cashier that rung me up was able to complete the transaction over the phone.

* I paid with a credit card.

* I will have enough money at the end of the month to pay that credit card.

That's ten bullets above, if you're counting. I would venture to say that for each of them, somewhere between 70 and 99 percent of the world does not have that luxury. Which makes me unfathomably rich, and hopefully never ungrateful.
THE FAITH THAT MOVES MAMMON

As much as we try to paint the free markets as godless, and in contrast talk up the socialist image from Acts 2 of God's people sharing all belongings, there is a surprising undercurrent of community in capitalism. This article from last week's Economist reminds us, in light of the recent financial meltdown, of just how much interpersonal trust is required for our capital markets to work. After all, we might not trust our neighbor enough to lend him a hundred bucks, but we give far more to unknown borrowers who we'll never personally meet.

Here's the money quote, right at the end of the story: "For his part, Mr. Seabright concludes that the main reason people place their trust in others is because it is less risky than the alternative. He senses a 'nostalgia for self-sufficiency' induced by anxieties about globalisation. But this, he says, overlooks that 'self-sufficiency is fantastically risky.' Isolated people are often more vulnerable because they lack access to basic medical care and—when their harvests fail—to food. Integration with others massively reduces risk. Trust in strangers may be at odds with some of our instincts, but it is a price worth paying for a richer life." Indeed.

10.22.2008

Note to my Employer/School

To my employer and my kids' school:

In the spirit of full disclosure, if the Phillies win the World
Series, I will be leaving the office, pulling my kids out of class,
and heading to South Broad Street. Since the Sixers won it all in
1983, Philadelphia teams are 0 for 100 (25 years x 4 major sports). I
am not guaranteed that this month's championship parade won't be the
only one to take place within my kids' childhood. So please accept
this note in advance so that there is no confusion as to where I and
my kids are later this month.

CAMPAIGN PROMISES, OFFICE REALITIES

Here's a blast from the past that has relevance at both the national (Obama stumping on taxes for the middle class) and local (Nutter in a tight spot between his plan to hack away at business taxes and an ever-increasing budget deficit due to plummeting tax revenues) levels: "Clinton Now Says: The 'Big Things' Never Included His Tax-cut Vow." Funny what happens when campaign promises meet office realities. [Thanks to Greg Mankiw's blog.]

10.21.2008

MCCAIN ON THE ISSUES

As a follow-up to a post from earlier this month, here's my presidential issues scorecard, per categories from a special report in a recent issue of the Economist:

* Economy. Obama has narrowed the gap in my free-market loving mind, between him giving his ear to some key conservative advisors and McCain dithering on the economic crisis. Nevertheless, this is the issue in which I am most right-leaning, and I can't help but think Obama plus a very Democratic Congress will not be able to avoid over-regulation and over-taxation of businesses of all sizes and sectors.

* Regulation and trade. Obama's populist panderings on NAFTA during the primary were shameful, and his pro-union positions are also worrisome. Worryingly, as with the issue above, a very Democratic Congress will push in the wrong way on both issues, and Obama hasn't yet shown he'll push back.

* Foreign policy. It's easy to be idealistic about diplomacy when you haven't experienced human depravity firsthand. McCain may be too hawkish for my tastes, and Obama offers the best hope for a restart in terms of America's image in the world; but I can't help but worry that Russia, North Korea, and/or Iran are more volatile and in need of direct confrontation than the typical American even appreciates.

* Iraq and Afghanistan. What's worse: staying too long or leaving too early? Time will tell on these two countries, but history seems to suggest that while both are costly, you can get it right now or pay dearly later. I'm nervously with McCain on this one.

* Health care. Costs or coverage? An ailing economy may mean costs come before coverage, which favors the McCain plan. Plus his willingness to eliminate the popular employer subsidy on insurance warms the cockles of this amateur economist's heart; doing so would level the playing field for small businesses and the self-employed.

* Immigration. McCain was for paths to citizenship for illegals when this was deeply unpopular within his party; being the senator of a border state plus needing to satisfy the base has meant he's balanced that by getting tough on border security. Obama's positions have been a little too anti-business for my taste.

* Energy and the environment. McCain went against ethanol subsidies even at the risk of political suicide. However, his gas-tax holiday idea was a loser. Obama seems to get that now is the time to move our country towards a post-petroleum age, so I'm with him on that even if I'm nervous about how big he wants to make government to get us there.

* Education. Not much to talk about here, although I do like vouchers and am therefore more with McCain than Obama.

* Crime. Again, not much to talk about here, although Obama's urban background likely means more federal dollars for policing.

* Values. It's not a hot-button issue for me, but I must note my disapproval of Obama's treatment of abortion. I do prefer his urban and multicultural perspective, which will play better at home and abroad. It's acceptable to me if he had to name the next two Supreme Court justices; even though I swing conservative there, 6-3 is too imbalanced and could cause problems. Ultimately, I'm swayed on this issue by the fact that McCain has suffered for his country, so I know that his most cherished priorities and principles have been literally battle-tested.

Of course, issues aren't the only way you decide who to vote for. I've already mentioned that I think Obama has run the better campaign, picked the better running mate, and attracted the better team of advisors. And he has kept his cool, while McCain was more attractive to me six months ago than now. Finally, the McCain campaign has somehow stupidly decided to turn this election into a scorched earth competition, in which rural and exurban areas are "more American" and anti-Muslim sentiments aren't being properly repudiated. These points count for something. Still, on the issues, I'm with the Maverick.

10.18.2008

Selling Out, Buying In

I've gone and done it: I'm now a shill for Google's ubiquitous AdSense
feature. Which means the banner above belongs to them, and ads are
placed based on the words I write. Go and accuse me of selling out or
of giving in to Big Brother, I don't care. I'm just curious to see
what ads they put on my space. And I suppose that with the $1.48 I
get every six months, I can buy you a half a cup of coffee.
SPORTS, MOVIES, AND PHILADELPHIA

We've had a great run of film festivals lately here in Philadelphia, and here's one that might be the most apt (aptest?) of all: the 1st Annual US Sports Film Festival: October 23 to October 26. With the town bleeding Phillies red and a major championship parade perhaps but a week away, this sports town is ready for the national spotlight in more ways than one. Go Phils, and go Philly!
UNSOLICITED INVESTMENT ADVICE

Since most of my investments are for the purposes of college (15+ years away) and retirement (30+ years away), I'm still largely in equities, and would encourage anyone with a similar time horizon to stay the course as well. But don't take it from me, take it from our generation's most successful investor, Warren Buffett: "Buy American; I Am" and "Buffett: I'm Buying Stocks.".

If the Sage of Omaha is buying, at age 78 no less, I'll take it that now's a good time to get in. Of course, most people buy high and sell low, buoyed by good news and scared off by bad news, and incorrectly equating the stock market with the economy when Buffett rightly points out that because stock prices represent forecasted future cash flows discounted to the present, the stock market will be up far sooner than when the economy starts to recover. Which is why "alpha" still exists, even in a fiercely efficient market; it's because there's still a lot of irrationality out there.
GREAT PLACES

Philly got two mentions in American Planning Association's "Great Places in America" program: Society Hill was one of 10 "great neighborhoods" and Broad Street one of 10 "great streets." Here's what I would've nominated in the City of Brotherly Love:

Great neighborhoods - University City. Naturally.

Great streets - Ben Franklin Parkway. City Hall to the Art Museum.

Great public spaces - Franklin Square. Hello, carousel?

And some out-of-town nominees:

Great neighborhoods - Fruitvale, Oakland. TOD golden child, ethnic diversity Oaktown-style, and a short BART ride to anywhere in the Bay Area.

Great streets - Arbat Street, Moscow. Cobblestones, European architecture, and Russian street performers - what more could you want in a street.

Great public spaces - Millennium Park, Chicago. The shiny bean is a photo op magnet.

10.15.2008

THINKING LONG-TERM

I've banged on the drum of corporate social responsibility for awhile now, so it was natural that my eyes perked up at this article: "Where Businesses Fall Short." Notwithstanding one statement I think is misworded - at least I interpret it that way, that given the rest of the article, he doesn't really mean this but rather chose his words poorly - I agree with what is being said here.

The one statement I furrowed my brow at was: "Corporate social responsibility is the idea that business leaders ought to broaden their perspective from a narrow focus on profitability. It holds that they should also consider the social and environmental implications of their conduct. But it does not require that organizations swear off profitability."

This is somewhat incongruous with the tenor of much of the rest of the article, which (correctly, in my book) doesn't pit financial profit against social and environmental; the real dichotomy is between short-term financial profit and long-term shareholder value. Here's the money quote:

" But real corporate responsibility stems from the realization that organizations and their stakeholders are dependent on each other. It is in their mutual interest to build a partnership. Such productive relationships require organizations to consider the long-term consequences of their behavior. Short-term thinking is destructive to a relationship that should be based on mutual trust and joint value."

Now we're talking. The social and environmental implications of doing business are neither irrelevant to a for-profit business, but nor are they alternative goals that one needs to choose instead of profit from time to time. Rather, they are part of the context in which business operates; and a truly worthy company thinks not about making a quick buck at the expense of people or the planet, but rather about doing things that make sense (and cents) in the long run.

As a Christian, I believe in the eternal - now that's truly the long run! With this perspective in mind, contemplating a business' social and environmental impacts becomes all the more important. After all, we are called to be stewards of our natural resources, to love our neighbor, and to seek the "shalom" of our communities. In an era in which awareness of business' intersection with social and environmental issues is at an all-time high, shouldn't such a perspective be the best path - the only path - to profitability?

The article is right in saying that as CEOs go, so go their firms: if a CEO is willing to preach and then practice a philosophy of long-term shareholder value, make tough decisions in that direction, admit where her company has not previously lined it up right, and pledge to get it right in the future, her employees will fall in line. So may we pray for the leaders of our businesses, and so may we in such positions be such leaders.

10.14.2008

VOTE FOR ANNE MAHLUM

Today's post is equal parts "hooray for Philadelphia" and "vote for who I voted for." It turns out CNN is running a "Hero of the Year" contest, and one of the ten contestants you can vote for is Philadelphia's Anne Mahlum, whose "Back on my Feet" program helps homeless people by encouraging them to get into running and giving them a support network of fellow runners to urge them along. Metaphors abound, but the fact of the matter is that the program works, and Ms. Mahlum is the hero who makes it, well, run. So vote for her!

10.13.2008

BEST SCHOOLS AROUND

When it comes to "best schools" rankings, the only two things I care about are: 1) did Lynbrook beat Monta Vista, and 2) did Penn beat Princeton. Well, one of two ain't bad: Penn ranks 11th in the world, one ahead of Princeton, according to Times Higher Education, while Lynbrook came in as the 362nd best public high school in the US, some 200+ spots below Monta Vista, according to Newsweek. Go Vikings! Go Quakers! Boo Matadors! Boo Tigers!
GETTING GREENER AT HOME

A nice link from Governing.com's blog about energy-saving tips for the home from the Chicago Tribune. We were doing pretty good at home, but I'm motivated to make three life changes as a result of this article:

* Use the garbage disposal. I have a habit that is annoying to my wife of throwing food waste into a small plastic bag and tying it up and throwing it out, instead of having the garbage disposal grind it up. Amy, I promise you I'll change my ways, now that I know that using the garbage disposal uses one less plastic bag, leads to less trash in the trash can, converts food waste into fertilizer, and doesn't stink up the kitchen.

* Don't use screensavers. Setting monitors to low-power mode is vastly better on our electricity bill than screensavers, to the tune of $50 to $100 per year.

* Use less plastic bags. This is hard one for me, as this is the last bit of anti-green behavior I indulge in. But while I might not be able to shake the use of these things, I can certainly use them more discriminately.

So there's my list of things to change. Won't you consider taking a look at the link and seeing if there are a few things you can do to save yourself some green and save the environment in the process?
A GREENER CLEANER

It's rare that a cleaning product inspires me to blog. OK, I'm not aware that it's ever happened. But today, I am moved to post by Arm and Hammer's Essentials line. Instead of buying a full spray can of cleaner, you buy an empty can and a tiny little vial, which you mix with water from your tap. Why burn all that energy getting water from the manufacturer to your home when you can just add it at home? That's good for the environment and good for your wallet. And, as you can see if you clicked on the link above, you can try a can for free. Now that's what I call a greener cleaner.
LET FREEDOM RING

You may have heard my take on the recent court battles about the American Revolution Center (of which I was a participant last month, as a witness on the side of the American Revolution Center), but here is someone else's take - that of Peter Lillback, President of Westminster Theological Seminary: "Freedom Triumphs at Valley Forge." Free speech is one of the most sacred rights we Americans once fought for and continue to fight for. Let's be careful, in our own exercising of this right and of other positions we passionately believe in, not to squelch that right for others.

10.11.2008

I'D BE FINE WITH OBAMA

I've been meaning to post more thoroughly on the presidential election, but this article has kick-started me into action: "McCain Booed After Trying to Calm Anti-Obama Crowd." I'm not feeling any guilt by association, but it is disheartened to see such misguided venom from my side of the aisle.

Two months ago, I would've told you I was also deeply uncomfortable with an Obama presidency, not for racial or ethnic reasons but because of his stances on the economy and foreign policy and because of the general evasiveness of his campaign approach. When he first announced his candidacy way back when, I wondered when we would get some substance, and up until a couple of months ago, I was still wondering.

But circa today, I'd be fine with an Obama presidency. Unless things change (and they may, given how crazy this election run-up has been), he won't get my vote, but if he wins, he'll get my support, for these reasons:

* He's given us some meat. With a few notable exceptions, he's been the more decisive and detailed candidate, in terms of plans. Not that I necessarily agree with those plans, but again, a chief concern of mine previously was his unwillingness to take a position. Not any more.

* He's run a good campaign. Between Hillary, Obama, and McCain, none had ever run anything big until their respective campaigns. And most people would agree Obama's has been the best executed. Although some of that is a pat on his back, and some of that is disappointing execution by Hillary and McCain.

* McCain's been erratic lately. On that note, I've been disappointed in the McCain campaign team of late. He's dithered on the economy at the worst possible time, I'm still not convinced the Palin pick is a good move, and he hasn't kept to earlier standards of campaign civility or of political independence.

* Global perception is global reality. He offers a promising possibility for a more favorable standing in the global community. I'm nervous about where he stands on foreign policy issues, but sometimes a clean slate is more important.

* He has good economic advisors. Even right-leaning pundits are calling the Obama team more sensible than the McCain team, Douglas Holtz-Eakin's impressive performance to date notwithstanding.

* He'll be more moderate than the right wing media gives him credit for. I've softened on my nervousness about Obama's liberal track record. The fact of the matter is he'll inherit a massive national debt and an ailing economy, his economic advisors are sensible, and moving to the center is in his political interest.

The Economist ran a nice summary of where the candidates stand on key issues. I'm still more in the McCain camp than the Obama camp on most issues: if you're scoring at home, I'd go with McCain on everything but energy and the environment, but have gone from "absolutely not" to "I'd live with it" with Obama on most of the other nine categories. But if Obama wins on November 4, I'd be fine.

10.08.2008

I ALREADY GOT MY FREE FOOD

A remarkable stat from the American Public Transportation Association: the difference between driving to work and riding public is more than you'll likely pay for food. In Philadelphia, for example, the monthly savings is $946, well above what even I spend on groceries with a family of four. (By APTA's calculation, the average savings is $9596 a year, while the average annual amount spent on food is $6111.) I walk to work, so I've already gotten my freebie; how about you?

What Am I Working On

Here's my quarterly update on new things I've been working on at work
since the last update on June 20 (you can read past posts for my
ground rules on these quarterly updates):

* Helping the US Virgin Islands with crafting economic development
strategy in general and with evaluating tax incentive applicants in
particular

* Determining how much public subsidy is needed to make feasible a
proposed mixed-use development in an older, struggling municipality

* Evaluating a statewide tourism marketing effort from a programmatic
and economic standpoint

* Estimating the effect on future tax revenues of proposed legislation
to provide additional exemptions for small businesses

* Assessing the feasibility of a proposed office building that seeks
public subsidy to located in an economically distressed neighborhood

* Estimating the economic, fiscal, and intangible impact of a proposed
mixed-use development located near a transit stop in an underserved
urban neighborhood

* Making the case for transit-oriented development in older, urban settings

10.05.2008

THE RIGHT KIND OF ACCOUNTABILITY

Even the most ardent free-market defenders have to be backtracking from their positions in light of our current housing and financial crisis, right? Hey, I'm no libertarian, but we're treading on shaky ground here, and could end up doing more harm than good if we're not careful about the kind of accountability we're putting in place.

Let me start by saying I largely agree with the bailout measure. In fact, all hail King Hank Paulson, and why haven't we shuddered more at the thought of what would have happened if Bush hadn't successfully urged him to take the Treasury Secretary position and we instead had one of Paulson's recent predecessors at the helm? Hey, no one likes massive government intervention, least of all when it looks like it's going to bail out fat cats on Wall Street; but one never sets policy in a vacuum, and sometimes one has to do what's necessary to prevent even more harm from being done.

That being said, where exactly is more regulation warranted? Greenspan is being vilified for largely thinking that the financial markets can be self-regulating, but think about this for a second: if I sold crap sandwiches on the corner for five bucks each, I'd soon go out of business because no one would be willing to pay me five bucks for my product. Point being that the market is pretty darn good at allocating activity to where it best deserves to be allocated, based on global needs and wants, and changing on a dime as those needs and wants change.

Where there is some serious market failure, and therefore some possible justification for government oversight, is with the ratings agencies. They're the ones, after all, that are supposed to signal to the marketplace of buyers what exactly they're buying when they buy something; AAA for stuff that'll almost certainly pay back with interest, junk status for stuff that's riskier, and multiple tiers in between. Of course, they're paid by the very entities they're supposed to objectively rate, and therein lies the inconsistency: their real customer is the general public, in terms of protecting its interest by evaluating and commenting on an entity's risk profile, but they make their money from those very entities.

As portfolio after portfolio of complicated investment vehicles came by for a rating, agencies were either too lazy to get informed about what exactly was in these things, or too unwilling to stop the gravy train and bit the hand that was feeding them more and more business. Either way, all sorts of funky smelling meat was being branded "Grade A," and next thing you knew, the stuff was stinking up a whole lot of places you'd think would be too smart to have bought this.

The nature of the financial markets is that risk and return can't be decoupled. And, in my opinion, while everyone played a role, the ratings agencies were where a lot of that decoupling took place. It just goes to show you that the right kind of accountability can go a long way.

Let's be mindful of this as we try to unbury ourselves from this mess we've gotten ourselves into, as well as where we are in need of accountability in other areas of our personal, communal, and professional worlds. When the people and places that are supposed to mind the shop are asleep at the switch, bad things will eventually happen. And when we are those people and places, let's not fall asleep in the first place.

10.04.2008

A LEVEL PATH FOR BICYCLES

Thanks to my fellow blogger at Discovering Urbanism for reporting that incentives for bicycle commuting were embedded in the House bailout bill: "Adventures of the Bike Commuter Act." The federal government, of course, and other state and local entities provide subsidies for all sorts of transportation modes, predominantly the automobile (via roads and parking), but apparently the noble bike commute was never even sneezed at until this week.

Wouldn't it be a delicious irony if, decades from now, when many more of us are biking to work because of the complete unsustainability of auto dependence, that the House bailout bill goes down in history not as the legislation that saved our economy but rather the one that put us on the path to saving our environment?
TRAVAILS OF A RAIDERS FAN

I've rooted for the Oakland Raiders all my life. The 70's and 80's were great, we had some moments in the 90's, and the first part of this decade looked promising. And then I made the mistake of breaking from my routine that got them all the way to the Super Bowl in 2003. I chose to watch the game, not alone in my living room, where I could play defense, but at our church's annual Super Bowl party.

I had intended to leave at halftime to hedge my bets, but it was 20-3 by then already. I must confess that I actually thought this thought as I was leaving (remember, this is a church event): "Some really bad karma going on here." (I have since retracted this statement. Yes, God is even God of the 2003 Super Bowl.)

Not much has gone right since then for the Silver and Black. I haven't had much time to follow them this year, but from what I have gathered, we've been blowing leads late and management is a mess. Ever the optimist, I've always had a "we were close" or "we'll get 'em next week" spirit about this season.

But this photo below pretty much seals my pessimism. Ladies and gentlemen, the coach and the owner of your Oakland . . . RRRRRRRRRRaiders! (Or, the way Al Davis is snarling into the camera, should it be, "YAR-aiders"?)



PS That's Lane Kiffin on the left. Recently departed. The new coach, Tom Cable - I guarantee - will not lose a game this Sunday. Of course, the Raiders have a bye, so that's the real reason. But we build from wherever we can.

10.03.2008

THE WORLD FOR OBAMA

Whether or not you're polled out on the upcoming presidential election, I encourage you to keep tabs on a poll of a different sort: The Economist's "Global Electoral College." A clever idea: assign at least three electoral votes to each country, with a total of 9,000+ to go around based on population. As of this writing, Obama is ahead among readers by a whopping 8,355 to 8 - despite the fact that The Economist is usually considered a right-leaning mag. This certainly lends credence to Obama's global popularity!

10.02.2008

A Greater Day of Reckoning Awaits

A lot of people have been asking me about the economic meltdown, but I
feel vastly underqualified; why, naively, I thought the Bear Stearns
collapse six months ago was the bottom. Who knew so many otherwise
top-flight financiers were so leveraged up on CDOs and other sketchy
investments?

I will say that throughout the slide, as with the dot-com run-up in
the late 90's, I had a sinking, "we can't get away with this" feeling.
Back then, it was stock prices soaring on . . . well, nothing, except
for a leak about an announcement about a strategy that Firm X was
thinking about implementing a web-based something or other. This
decade, it's been the notion that our houses are like piggy banks, and
we can keep on pulling out equity, counting on ever-rising real estate
values to bail us out.

By the way, the dirty little secret in all this is that while
foreclosures hurt inner cities the most, it's been once-hot suburban
areas like Vegas and Phoenix where they've been most prevalent. There
you have the confluence of two additional "we can't get away with
this" forces: sprawl in an economy that needs to transition to a
post-petroleum age, and high water usage in a desert setting. Of
course, the upshot of all of this tightening in the credit markets is
that people and places on the fringe will be even more excluded from
the sort of liquidity we upper-middle-class folks depend on to do
upper-middle-class things like buy homes and start businesses.
Redlining and zero access to investment capital, here we come again!

To be sure, there is a greater day of reckoning coming upon us, when
the Judge of our souls calls us to account for all of our deeds. Just
like we should've gotten our financial houses in order and are now
suffering the consequences of an unsustainable system, we ought to
take pause in terms of our spiritual houses, both literal and
metaphoric. Have we let personal sin or structural injustice linger?
What are we getting away with in terms of the sins of our eyes, our
mouths, our hearts? Who are we letting slip through our societal
cracks - the disabled, the exploited, the marginalized - that we have
been expressly instructed to show mercy to? Can we afford to presume
that we can get away with this?

And, on a much smaller yet no less real scale, for our aforementioned
dependence on cheap oil, and our addiction to living in places that
impose a strain on our natural resources, there will be a day of
reckoning, perhaps within our generation. In either case, don't wait
for it to happen to get yourself ready.

SURPRISED BY DISABILITY

A good word by fellow blogger Al Hsu in his latest Christianity Today article: "Surprised by Disability." I especially appreciate the quote from Joan Mahler, coordinator of L'Arche USA: "All of us are abled in some ways and disabled in others. People with developmental disabilities often help all of us understand our own brokenness." Ironically, only those who are in touch with their own brokenness can be made truly whole; only those who are in touch with the brokenness of the people and systems around them can be truly enlisted in the work of making whole. This is a good word for me and my generation.

10.01.2008

PASSING THE TORCH

I would remiss if I didn't make a plug for The Enterprise Center's annual fundraiser, Passing the Torch. I worked there for ten years and have been on the board for the past two, so I believe in what we're doing there; and PTT is a great celebration of minority entrepreneurs building businesses and then passing on that asset to the next generation. Giving opportunities start as low as $35, a ticket to the dinner on October 9 can be had for $125, and of course we'll take checks for far larger amounts as well. Check it out, and see you there!
A NEW DAY FOR ECONOMIC OPPORTUNITY

When this article says that City Hall Mayor's Reception Room 202 was "standing room only," it wasn't kidding. But clearly a lot of people were interested in Mayor Nutter's announcement about a new Economic Opportunity cabinet and executive director. Leave it to my friend Andy Toy to sum up my thoughts on the gathering: “I think the key is the mayor has put his weight behind this happening, and he likes to get stuff done, so it’s going to happen.”

In other words, the jury is still out on the structure and the personnel, but what we can celebrate today is that the Mayor has picked a good person, elevated economic inclusion as a topic of the highest importance, and created a structure in which he and his highest-ranking colleagues are accountable for results. Lots of work remains to be done, but this was a very good step in the right direction.