coffee is good...all the time
Except that the concept of "church marketing" makes my stomach turn, this is awesome:
"Africa is, indeed, coming into fashion." - Horace Walpole (1774)
Except that the concept of "church marketing" makes my stomach turn, this is awesome:
Today I've posted a series of pictures from the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo. They are just a few of the haunting images that are coming out of the horrific situation there, shot by amazing photographers whom I hope won't be mad at me for posting their pictures. These are pictures that capture the Congo that I know, one where suffering and hope exist side-by-side, one where the absurd site of a soldier in drag is followed by one of a mother carrying a baby on her chest and a heavy load of branches on her back.
Abandoned and orphaned children eat at the Don Bosco orphanage in Goma. Don Bosco is housing about 1,500 people who have fled the war.
(Photo: Walter Estrada, AFP, via The Big Picture)
Pregnant women wait in line for birth kits at an IDP camp in the eastern Congo. Getting a birth kit means that these mothers will be able to have some measure of disinfection when they deliver, including a clean blade to cut the umbillical cord so they won't have to share.
(Photo: Reuters, Finbar O'Reilly. Via The Big Picture.)
( AP Photo: Jerome Delay; via The Big Picture)
"Ngarambe Rukambika, 49, is accompanying his son of nine months to Masisi hospital. His son was shot in the legs during an attack on their village in which his wife was killed and family dispersed." - BBC
Yawn. I'm so bored watching Tech embarrass itself that we might as well go ahead and do the Sunday this & that now:
Today is, of course, the second most important football game of the year. And I'm not talking about the hoopla up in Norman. No, today is the 125th edition of The Game, the third-longest running rivalry in college football.
"So..., my dad used to be in the Klan, and he still gets the newsletter."
This is the best argument for limiting the franchise I've ever seen.
Thank goodness, the UN Security Council agreed today to send 3,000 extra troops to the DR Congo! This is great news, and if they can 1) get a country or two to commit those troops and 2) get those troops on the ground before May, will really help to protect more civilians there.
In the annals of fear-mongering by the far right, this has to be among the more amusing things I've seen.
Charlie Rose's show on Thursday night will be about the Congo, and my friend and fellow researcher Severine is one of those interviewed. Set your DVR or watch it online; it will be very informative.
The Texas State Board of Education is meeting to consider science curriculum standards today and tonight. Since the SBOE is controlled by far right-wing extremists who believe that facts are opinions, it's pretty much a foregone conclusion that they're going to decide on something crazy that forces Texas public schoolchildren to learn religion in the science classroom. (I should add that many of them homeschool their children, however, they still think they should get to decide what your children learn.) But state law requires them to hear a heck of a lot of testimony from anyone who wants to speak before they can make an official decision.
A text from Mizboyd:
I've mentioned the precious girls my friend Foster Mom parents on this blog before. This afternoon at 3, those sweet girls are going to get some very tough news. It's the right thing, but it's going to be an impossibly painful day for them, one that they will remember for the rest of their lives. Please keep them in your thoughts and prayers.
Obama: already stirring up controversy.
Wow. Didn't see this one coming AT ALL.
Here's a fantastic piece on how Texas Republicans are shooting themselves in the foot.
Focus on the Family chose to focus on politics instead, and it's costing them.
Thanks to David for pointing out this neat map of the correlation between cotton-growing areas of the old Confederacy and pro-Obama voting behavior.
It isn't very often that all three of our teams win in one day. All I can say is, "Bulldog, bulldog, sic 'em, horns!"
"Government forces in the Democratic Republic of Congo have pushed rebels back 5km (three miles) at the front line north of the eastern city of Goma.
Poor, white Southerners voted against Barack Obama in overwhelming numbers, and they did it because of his race. As this article argues, in doing so, it's quite clear that they've made the south - and the Republican Party's Southern strategy - largely irrelevant in national politics.
[As another scholar argued], "...it hasn't worked to vote Republican over the past 30 years in the hope for a Supreme Court that would vote to reverse Roe v. Wade."
My friend Jess and her colleagues are trying to eat on the budget of an American who's on food stamps as part of the Food Stamp Challenge. They each have to get through the whole week on $29.35. Total. Check out their blog on the challenge here. What you'll learn is that it's virtually impossible to eat a healthy diet when you're poor. And that's a problem.
My heart cannot take much more of this. Picture 27 is where I broke.
Well, it's been a full week since Barack Hussein Obama was elected president of the United States of America, and so far, there are no reports of horsemen making mischief, collectivization of farms isn't progressing at all, and Iran hasn't hit Israel with a nuclear bomb. If that doesn't make for a successful transition, I don't know what does.
"The population of Kiwanja is crowded around the MONUC base. Conditions are deplorable. There are no latrines, very little water, no food. Around 15000 people are crowded up to the barbed wire outside the MONUC base. They are begging for help. But the new authorities refuse to allow distributions of humanitarian aid. They have destroyed completely the IDP settlements, and there is not a trace of anything that was left when the fugitives scattered last week.
"Hortance recorded some interviews with mothers and young people. People want to go back to their homes, but they are very afraid. Fear dominates over hunger and the very real danger of cholera. The Mayi Mayi are 15 kms north, and 20kms away on the Ishasha road to the north east. That’s really not very far, so the calm is superficial. We can read anxiety and despair on the faces of these people."
Click here to donate to Heal Africa's relief efforts in North Kivu.
A good question for supporters of California's Proposition 8.
Oh, I've been waiting for this case. It would've been more fun if it'd been a giant Buddha on the lawn of the Texas capitol, but whatever.
South African singer Miriam Makeba passed away today after she collapsed at a concert in Italy last night. Known as "Mama Africa," Makeba was the first African woman to win a Grammy. She sang on Paul Simon's Graceland tour and countless others. Exiled by the racist apartheid government in South Africa for more than thirty years, she was a key figure in the anti-apartheid struggle, and her music was full of life. Here's the last song Mama Africa sang. It was one of her biggest hits, probably because it's pure joy:
Over at Inspired to Action this week, we've been focusing on the problem of human trafficking. Be sure to check out the posts on the subject, ranging from an interview with Sara Groves and Charlie Peacock to a post on the work of the International Justice Mission.
I completely agree with everything Dave Barry says about civility here. And the postscript.
Everything's gotten worse in the eastern Congo:
This one made me weep. Oh, my goodness. Oh, my goodness.
A little more election-based fodder:
The more I learn about what happened at Baylor this week, the more disgusted and embarassed I am. You can watch some of Baylor's finest explain exactly what happened, and you can see the bonfire of Obama paraphernalia here.
Well, Baylor issued a response to the racially-tinged incidents that occurred on campus last night after Obama's election, including a noose-like rope that was hung from a tree. I trust interim Baylor president David Garland, and I know he takes this seriously.
Actual titles of emails that landed in my inbox in the last 24 hours:
Mercy me, I nearly fainted at all the angry rhetoric from some of my Facebook friends and acquaintances last night. Obama gets elected and all of the sudden we're facing imminent threats of a planned economy, gay abortionists, the second coming of Christ, and half our school teachers moving to the conservative hotbed that is Canada. You'd think it was the end of the world.
Being as we here at Texas in Africa are very interested in providing a public service whenever possible, now seems as good a time as any to launch a project we've been thinking about for awhile now: The Texas in Africa Apocalypse Watch 2008/09. That way, whenever you see a sign that the Obama administration is about to push America over the edge, you can report it here. We'll keep a log of all the plagues of frogs and locusts, rivers of blood, and changes in the color of the moon that are apparently inevitable, so keep 'em coming!
Seriously. I joke, but some of my friends really do believe this kind of rhetoric. And while I certainly believe that there are legitimate reasons to disagree with many of Barack Obama's policy positions, cavalierly throwing around terms like "socialist" and "antichrist" represents a fundamental failure to understand the meaning of those words or the way the American political system operates.
The record will show that I've already gotten on my soapbox a time or two about how bad the theology underlying the Left Behind fiction series is, so I'm not even going to dignify the antichrist nonsense with a response. Besides, according to what Dawson McAlister told us at a conference at Shades Mountain circa 1993, the antichrist will be Russian. ('Cause that's in the Bible, right next to where it says that puppy dogs go to heaven.)
As for "socialism," look. A taxpayer-funded bailout of corporations is not socialism, nor is a proposal to give tax cuts and credits to the middle class and working poor while raising the tax rate on the wealthy. It isn't a "redistribution of wealth" anymore than any other kind of government spending that doesn't benefit everyone in our society is. Socialism occurs when a country institutes a planned economy, puts tight controls on market prices for goods and services, and often uses force to accomplish those ends.
Nobody in the Obama administration will advocate collectivized farming.
Second, those who do and don't like Obama's policies both need to remember that presidents fail to secure their major legislative agendas about 80% of the time. Even in one-party government (which I agree is dangerous and almost always leads to corruption), presidents still have to contend with 535 outsized egos in order to get anything done.
"Ambition must be made to counteract ambition," wrote James Madison in Federalist 51. He designed a brilliant system that does just that. It sets up 537 people who are used to getting their way against one another, and forces them to compromise on policies that are best for the most Americans. That means, among other things, that no president, no matter how popular, can do everything he or she wants or promises to do in four or eight years. Remember Bush's bit plans for privatization of Social Security and immigration reform? How about Hillarycare, or Reagan's plan to cut spending that resulted in a huge deficit? Even if Barack Obama wanted to do all the crazy things his critics accuse him of (And, to be 100% clear, he doesn't want to do those things. Stop relying on unsubstantiated rumors and look at the facts), our political system won't allow it to happen.
I'm pretty sure that the fate of the republic is secure. Most of Obama's job will be cleaning up the mess the Bush administration made by restoring the powers of the presidency and vice-presidency to their constitutional limits, rebuilding America's relationships with our historic allies, and figuring out what to do in Iraq. But let us know if you see something funny, m'kay?
Election updates and analysis are aplenty this morning:
Burnt Orange Report says that control of the Texas House depends on the count of provisional ballots in the District 105 race. The two candidates are currently separated by a margin of 25 votes. As of now, the D's appear to have picked up four seats, including that of Diana Maldonado in Round Rock.
President Mwai Kibaki has declared today a national holiday in Kenya.
When we went to see Obama speak in Austin in January, our little group was next to this woman and her son. He was maybe three or four years old, and of course couldn't see, so people around her took turns holding him up. It was way past his bedtime when Obama finally took the stage, I'm sure.
Those of you who think your vote doesn't count should take note of my old classmate Tom Perriello's race in Virginia. He's currently leading by about 500 votes, with 7 precincts still to report.
Well, the news we've all been waiting for: the numbers are in for Floyd County, Texas. With 100% of precincts reporting, 70.8% went for McCain and 28.9% went for Obama.
McCain loses Pennsylvania and New Hampshire. He cannot win now. There's just no way.
I love to vote.
"I left the house at 8 am. It makes my children anxious when I leave. My oldest son, Jean-Felix, who is six years old, has refused to eat. He is afraid all the time that the soldiers will break in. He asks, “When will the war end? When can I go back to school?” Even if some shops are open again in town, the schools have not re-opened. The stalemate could flash back into war at any minute, so parents are afraid to let their children out of their sight.
"My wife is also anxious when I leave; she is finding it hard to feed us. No fresh food has come into town because no one will risk sending their truck out past the multiple army check points. The depots are not open, for fear of looting; a sack of beans is selling for 80$. A few Rutshuru traders got their trucks into the humanitarian convoy yesterday, bringing some vegetables and bananas to the market.
"I took a car and drove out of town to Kayaruchinya, a health center just north of the airport. There’s not much traffic about because people don’t want to risk their car or motorbike being requisitioned by the military. What a contrast to the usual scene of bumper to bumper vehicles, with the cloud of motorbike taxis weaving in and out like mosquitoes.
"The scene in Kanyaruchinya breaks my heart. There must be around 10 000 people crowded round the health centre. They are despondent, sitting in lines, waiting for someone to bring them help. The scenes of yesterday are fresh in their memory. Two children were crushed to death underfoot by adults in their rush to grab a handful of biscuits. These people have been waiting in the torrential rain, and the sun, without shelter, without water, since Tuesday. Kanyaruchinya is at the foot of the volcano: there are no wells, no streams, and no piped water in this vast expanse of black volcanic rock.
"I look for the camp manager to see how HEAL Africa can help. These people came from the Kibumba camp, but no one has seen their manager since they fled; there is no one to orgnaise an orderly distribution. UNICEF is preparing for a distribution of rations again today; Mercy Corps is bringing in water with a tanker. All I can do is pray: May God multiply these rations – they are insignificant for such a crowd; and that is what causes a stampede...
"Since the beginning of this fresh round of fighting, our hospital with 150 beds has received 42 war wounded civilians, 27 of them from Wednesday and Thursday. I am so sad to see a little five year old girl, whose face and chest is completely burned. She just happened to be passing by a group of youngsters who had collected bullets around the edge of the army camp. They were playing with them, burning them, and some cartridges were still live. This little girl happened to be at the wrong place at the wrong time, when the live bullets exploded in the fire.
"Bernard Kouchner and David Milliband arrive around 4 o’clock. It’s pouring torrential rain. European security forces are all over town; we don’t know where these two are going, or where they are staying or who they are seeing. But their arrival is a glimmer of hope for us. We are convinced that our town was saved by the outcry in the world, pushing these big powers to get involved.
"It’s evening, and I’m going home after the rain. I can see some Goma people straggling back into town. These are the ones who fled to Sake on Tuesday. And then there are the new arrivals, the people who have been on the run all this year. It’s pitiful to see mothers spreading their tattered cloths on the bare black rocks of Goma, and huddling against the wooden walls of houses, surrounded by their hungry children. They are begging for food. When I talked to some of them this morning, their one question was: When can we go home? Many of them have been living like this since April, with no help. They have survived by digging other people’s gardens in return for a share of food. If there will be no more fighting, they want nothing more than to go home.
"Back at home, I am so thankful for our meal of beans and rice. It comes from the stock we bought back in October. Always the same thing, but at least we have food on the table. The neighbourhood is quiet. There are many patrols of military police, and anyone suspected of thieving will be shot. So everyone stays inside, under voluntary curfew: no one comes out for fear of being mistaken for looters.
Photo of an injured baby in a Rutshuru hospital: Getty Images/Uriel Sinai
Hi, my name is Texas in Africa, and I am not a single-issue voter.
Here's an example of such an argument from Focus on the Family. (If you think I'm unfairly explaining the line of reasoning here, please leave a comment so I can clarify.)I think this is an incredibly irresponsible way to vote.
ESPN reports that Phillip Fulmer will step down as Tennessee's coach at the end of this season.
In a reminder that some things are more important than poorly-called football games officiated by apparently blind referees, I'm happy to report that a UN aid convoy will cross the rebel lines to help the estimated 250,000 displaced Congolese who are trapped there and who have received little to no aid in the last week.
Here's word from the folks at Heal Africa. Dr. Jo and Lyn Lusi are featured by the BBC today. Joseph Ciza, mentioned below, is a good friend and contact who more-or-less saved my research project when I wasn't sure what to do. He is fearless and will go anywhere to talk to anyone about ending the rape epidemic. Please keep him, his family, and his safety in your thoughts and prayers.
In a couple of days, I'll be posting on a practical effort you can be part of to help change the situation in the Congo in a lasting way. Please check back then.