Monday, June 30, 2008

Blessed Unrest

Listen. I want to share something with you.

This quote can be found at the end of Paul Hawken's amazing book, Blessed Unrest. I'm going to talk more about the book, but first I want to share this quote with you.
There are two kinds of games - games that end, and games that don't. In the first game the rules are fixed and rigid. In the second, the rules change whenever necessary to keep the game going. James Carse called these, respectively, finite and infinite games. We play finite games to compete and win. They always have losers and are called business, banking, war, NBA, Wall Street, and politics. We play infinite games to play; they have no losers because the object of the game is to keep playing. Infinite games pay it forward and fill future coffers. They are called potlatch, family, samba, prayer, culture, tree planting, storytelling, and gospel singing. Sustainability, ensuring the future of life on earth, is an infinite game, the endless expression of generosity on behalf of all. Any action that threatens sustainability can end the game, which is why groups dedicated to keeping the game going assiduously address any harmful policy, law, or endeavor. With no invitation, they invade and take care of the finite games of the world, not to win but to transform finite games into infinite ones. They want to keep the fish game going, so they go after polluters of rivers. They want to keep the culture game going, so they confront oil exploration in Ecuador. They want to keep the hope game alive in the world, so they go after the roots of poverty. They want to keep the species game happening, so they buy swaths of habitat and undeveloped land. They want to keep the child game going; consequently, when the United States violated the Geneva Convention and bombed the 1,400 Iraqi water and sewage treatment plants in the first gulf War, creating sewage-, cholera-, and typhus-laden water, they condemned it as morally repugnant.
Read it again, if you'd like.

That quote captures the essence of this book perfectly. Hawken aims to do nothing less than chronicle the history of the nonprofit movement that exists today - a million or more nonprofit organizations (or NGOs - nongovernmental organizations), all working separately and working together to improve the world.

He spends several chapters laying out the history - the icons (King, Gandhi, Thoreau and Emerson), the early movements (including the abolitionist movement, which he describes as "the first group to create a national and global movement to defend the rights of those they did not know") and then the eruption of NGOs around the world. He talks about the successes and the failures, the triumphs and the struggles (racism, sexism, classism, xenophobia) that still haunt the nonprofit world. He covers it all in less than 200 pages.

This is a dense book. Summing up over a million NGOs in two hundred pages is not a simple task. I found myself taking a break after every chapter to soak in all of the information. Yet the book is not textbook-heavy. He works in the grandest and broadest terms, and yet still uses anecdotes and concrete examples of the movement at work. It is a joy to read. But it's an immense topic, and in his effort to describe the giant network that is "the movement," he found it necessary to include an appendix of over 100 pages that attempts to broadly categorize the various groups that make up "the movement." The appendix alone is an astonishing exercise and a thing to behold.

Midway through the book, Hawken begins describing the human immune system. It seems tangential at first, but then he makes the great leap. He proposes that 'the movement' - the immense network of NGOs, all working to clean up and reform and revitalize their own little corner of the world - is working as the world's own immune system.

Our movement works independently - there is no grand agenda, no great magna carta that we have all signed, no talking points to which we all agree. We work without coordination - and yet we cover each other, we find the gaps left by others, we complement and compliment each other's missions and visions. Like an immune system, we operate as if steered by an unseen hand, rooting out evil and imperfections and attacking mercilessly so that the organism will continue. The organism is us. The organism is the world.

I have worked in a social justice organization, an environmental organization, a legal defense organization. I now work with seniors. I have made the argument since my first job that all of our work was all tied together, and I always talked it as "the movement". Social justice included the rights of prisoners. Protecting water was as important and was connected to fighting for universal health care. For years, I have carried in my head the idea that there was only one movement - an enormous movement, a connected network of groups working to better the world, all in their little way.

Paul Hawken brings "the movement" to life. He makes me hopeful that, in spite of all of our losses small and great, we are transforming the world and indeed, we may have already transformed it. Hawken's book reminds me that, despite the faults and missteps of our movement, the very fact that our movement exists is reason to hope. Our existence and the work we do everyday is a triumph for humanity. He makes me proud to be part of the movement. Everyone who makes their living in a nonprofit should read this book

Gas Prices: "I Don't See How It Matters"

John McCain is so not ready for prime time.

Check out this brilliant exchange, from a phone interview with the Orange County Register. (You can also follow the link to hear the audio, just in case you thought this didn't actually happen.)

WICKSOL: When was the last time you pumped your own gas and how much did it cost?

MCCAIN: Oh, I don’t remember. Now there’s Secret Service protection. But I’ve done it for many, many years. I don’t recall and frankly, I don’t see how it matters.

He waits for a beat and then tries to add this "I feel your pain"-type comment.

I’ve had hundreds and hundreds of town hall meetings, many as short a time ago as yesterday. I communicate with the people and they communicate with me very effectively.

I'll bet that if you're reading this, you can remember how much you paid for your last tank of gas. (We filled up our Scion xB on Saturday, and it cost $42.) McCain doesn't know how much gas costs for the average American, and he doesn't care. Why should he? Only the little people worry about stuff like gas prices. He's too busy worrying about ...

um ...

what exactly is McCain an expert in?

Tuesday, June 24, 2008


Boa constrictor hugs seemed like such a good idea. I get to squeeze my kid extra-tight, he giggles and wiggles and tries to get away, everyone has a good time. Pure innocent fun.

Ah, but then comes the natural corollary. At least one time during a good boa constrictor hug, every parent has to find out what it means to squeeze their kiddo just a little too tight. And maybe, just for kicks, you'll squeeze your kid on his tummy instead of his ribs.

And did I mention Oliver still drinks a nice tall sippy cup of milk before he goes to bed?

I just changed my shirt. I still can't figure out why the milk started coming out of his nose first, but I think he's gotten the last boa constrictor hug from daddy for a very long time.

Monday, June 23, 2008

R.I.P. George Carlin

"That's my job - thinking up goofy shit. Coming back here every once in a while, letting you know what it is ... or reminding you of shit you already knew, but forgot to laugh at the first time."
Everyone thinks of the seven dirty words when they think of the late, great George Carlin. That's fine - it was a big deal. One of his albums was defended all the way to the Supreme Court. That's pretty fucking cool. As Carlin himself said, "my name is a footnote in American history, which I'm perversely kind of proud of."

Some people will remember the whimsical George Carlin. The charmingly funny stuff, or the goofy funny stuff.

Baseball and Football.

A Place for My Stuff.

Or they'll remember him for his brilliant skewering of the English language, like this routine on euphemisms.

But let's not forget that George Carlin was a bombthrower at his heart. "I think it's the duty of the comedian to find out where the line is drawn and cross it deliberately." His job was to challenge his audience and jar them out of their complacency. As soon as they got comfortable with who he was or what he was going to say, he knew it was time to shake up his routine.

Check out this routine from 1992.

His own audience starts booing him about two minutes into this. But by the end of the bit, they're all on their feet. It's an astonishing and ferocious performance. This is my favorite routine by Carlin, just because it makes me so damn uncomfortable.

Carlin dared the audience to look at the things all around them and realize how fucking ridiculous it all was. Sometimes they hated him for it, but he was just doing his job. There were nights when he was probably the only person in the room who knew it was his job. But he knew it, every day and every night.

For this reason alone, George Carlin is the greatest comedian I ever heard, and the world is a poorer place without him in it.
I don't know if George is up in heaven or not - maybe you have to believe in it before it believes in you - but I wish I could have seen that first conversation between him and god. He must have had the old guy spewing root beer out of his nose.

Good night, George Carlin. Thanks for everything.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008


When he goes to sleep, one of us has to lay down with him. When I do it, I curl myself around him in his little toddler bed. I fold my legs up and his tiny feet press up against the tops of my thighs.

Inevitably, he asks for me to put an arm out. He tucks himself into the crook of my arm, and snuggles up close.

And then it's a waiting game. Some days, he rolls back and forth. He tells me to switch sides in the bed, takes the pillow away from me dramatically, demands his snuggle blanket or a toy. He plays the covers/no covers game - "I want covers! No, I don't want covers. No, daddy, I want covers." He mumbles and chatters and jabbers and takes an hour to fall asleep.

And some nights, it's better.

Tonight was a good night. He lay with his face inches from mine and I could see his eyelids sinking slowly. He started humming "Twinkle Twinkle Little Star" - sounding oddly like a saxophone. Short, crisp notes like Stan Getz.

He played with the covers for a few minutes and then he gave up. His heart wasn't in the game. And in a few minutes, I felt his weight sink into my shoulder. I lay for a minute, listening to him sleep. His body moved gently, almost imperceptibly, as he breathed in and out. I imagined him a tiny rowboat, rocking to a gentle unseen tide.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Supreme Court Reverses Gore Endorsement, Awarding it to McCain

Mere moments after formally announcing his backing for Democratic Presidential nominee Barack Obama in an email to supporters, former Vice President Al Gore’s endorsement was blocked and reversed by a 5-4 Supreme Court decision, handing the Nobel Prize winner’s full throated support to Republican nominee John McCain.

Writing for the majority, Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia said that regardless of who Gore intended to support, a strict constructionist reading of his statement made it clear that, from a legal standpoint, his endorsement must be awarded to the GOP candidate.

Read the scoop at Really Serious News.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

A Righteous Wind at Our Backs: Barack Obama circa 2004

Remember back when Barack Obama was an unknown? Remember that speech in Boston? Nobody know that his speech was going to be "the speech." Nobody knew how far that speech was going to carry him.

Except maybe the man himself. Obama wrote his speech at the Democratic Convention himself, and worked for weeks and weeks on it. By the time he turned it in, he knew he had something.

From a great article in Chicago Magazine:

Obama was buoyed, however, by the hordes of reporters and well-wishers who descended on him as he walked around the streets of Boston on Monday with his close friend Martin Nesbitt. "I said to Barack, ‘You know this is pretty unbelievable, man-you're like a rock star,'" Nesbitt recalls. "He said, ‘Yeah, but it might be a little worse tomorrow.' I said, ‘Really? Why do you say that?'" Nesbitt recalls that Obama then smiled and replied: "It's a pretty good speech."
It was a pretty good speech.

It was a piece of history. And it wasn't just the red state/blue state part that was memorable. The entire speech is damn near poetry.

"I believe that we can give our middle class relief and provide working families with a road to opportunity.

I believe we can provide jobs to the jobless, homes to the homeless, and reclaim young people in cities across America from violence and despair.

I believe that we have a righteous wind at our backs, and that as we stand on the crossroads of history, we can make the right choices, and meet the challenges that face us."
Read the article I linked above. Go back and watch that speech now, and think about how far this man, and this country, have come in four short years. It's seventeen minutes of history, and you'll be glad you took the time.

Here's Part One.

Here's Part Two.

We have come far, and yet, my friends, we still have work to do. Let's get to work.

Monday, June 09, 2008


$4.25 a gallon. That was the price of gas this morning at the station down our street. For the cheap stuff! Premium gas is up around $4.50 or even higher. And I saw diesel being sold for $5.01 late last week.

Our esteemed president has no idea how to fix it. Hell, he didn't even know it was happening. On February 28th, this exchange happened during a press conference:

Q What's your advice to the average American who is hurting now, facing the prospect of $4 a gallon gasoline, a lot of people facing --

THE PRESIDENT: Wait, what did you just say? You're predicting $4 a gallon gasoline?

Q A number of analysts are predicting --


Q -- $4 a gallon gasoline this spring when they reformulate.

THE PRESIDENT: That's interesting. I hadn't heard that.

Stupid little man.

Wednesday, June 04, 2008


So the lad turned three years old this weekend.

We went down to Oregon for a big ol' party with his favorite cousin, who celebrated her fifth birthday last week, too. The theme was Mexican - it was a fiesta of sorts, with Mexican food and Mexican beer. Our hosts made "burrito" cakes for the birthday kids. The burrito was pretty clever - the inside was a jellyrolled cake. The "tortilla" was ganache, rolled into an oblong shape and draped over. The "salsa" was made with strawberries, with bits of banana and kiwi for color.

They even made a piñata. (Rule #1 for anyone who ever wants a piñata at any sort of party: always make sure that you a stick strong enough to handle some bashing. The kids were using a plastic broom handle, and it bent before the piñata dented. Eventually, we had to resort to a wooden shovel handle.

Oliver had a blast. Because we were on the road for his birthday, he didn't get his big birthday present until we came home. I don't want to speak for Oliver, but I think it was worth the wait.

I'm going to have to write another post in depth about what it means that he's three. He has changed so much in a year that I can't even grasp all of the changes. He's a little person now. We can talk to him, he can carry grocery bags out of the car, he comments on our conversations.

He's a big boy now. It's preposterous to call him my baby anymore, and yet I still get to carry him sometimes to his bedroom, draped over my arms. And sometimes, I sing him lullabies to get him to sleep just like in the early days. And sometimes, when I lay down in his big boy bed and watch him fall asleep with his arm slung over me, I just watch him. I watch my baby as his gentle breaths come and go, his tiny lips moving slightly with each breath. And I see the adult that he will become, and I see the baby he is and he always will be. He's an amazing person, this thing of wonder, this boy of mine, my beautiful son Oliver.

Wonder - Colin Meloy

P.S. I have more pictures on Flickr (see the right column to see a couple more previews.) You can go here to see 'em. Some of the pictures will not be visible unless you're on my friends list, so if I know you and you know me, email me and I'll get you on the guest list.

Scaredy Cat Superdelegates

Look at that number, up in the top right corner of this blog.

Look at the number of superdelegates who are still uncommitted, the day after Obama wrapped up the nomination.

The number, right now, is 144.5. (That includes at least one person from Florida or Michigan who only gets a half vote, so it's actually higher than that.)

They actually have a candidate of the party, and they're still too chickenshit to cast their lot with Obama.

Gutless fucking wonders.

That number will tick down today, and tick down more by the end of this week, but those people ought to be publicly shamed for refusing to take a stand in what is surely the most contentious Democratic nominating process we'll see in our lifetimes. We can call them the Mugwump Brigade, because the Chickenshit Brigade (the name they deserve) won't make it on the radio, and will never be reprinted in a newspaper or on a t-shirt.

It is because of their sniveling cowardice that this race dragged on so long. If they had made their voices heard a month ago, this never would have gone to June 2nd. This would have been a done deal. But instead, the Republicans and Hillary Clinton got another month or two to bash away at Obama. Thank you very fucking much.

The only people who have any excuse not to have endorsed yet are the top echelon of party leaders - people like Jimmy Carter (who now has endorsed Obama) and Al Gore, who were holding back their endorsements so they could play peacemaker in case the nomination process got out of hand.

But the rest of them suck. They completely suck. They're a bunch of knock-kneed bedwetting chickenshit cowards, and you can quote me on that.

Tuesday, June 03, 2008

It's Over

TPM reports that he's a dozen delegates away from claiming the nomination.

This is an amazing moment, people. The Democratic nominee is going to be a second-generation American with an African father and a white American mother.

Barack Obama is going to be the nominee of my party.

Like my son, the nominee of the party is going to be a mixed-race kid with a funny last name.

Oliver is going to watch Barack Obama giving speeches all summer and fall. God willing, we'll see him in person again, when he comes out to Washington to stump for Darcy Burner and the other local Dems.

Barack Obama is going to be the nominee of my party. And if everything goes the way it should, Barack Obama will be the next President of the United States.

I have tears in my eyes right now.

Delegate Count - Checkmate

The AP is reporting that, based on public endorsements and private commitments, Obama now has enough delegates to claim the nomination.

There have been too many delegate announcements today to track. (You can watch them roll in by going here - it's easier to send you to their site than for me to steal borrow their data and pretend it's mine.)

I will note that my former Massachusetts state Rep, John Olver, was one of the announced supes today. Good to see he's still serving the people of western Mass. after all these years.

Obama's set to collect at least three, and as many as nine, Montana SD endorsements as soon as he claims victory in this state. I think it's over tonight.

Monday, June 02, 2008

Delegate Count - 39.5 to Go

This was a big day, folks.

Supes today:

Connecticut State Chair Nancy DiNardo

Virginia DNC member Jerome Wiley Segovia

Louisiana Party Chair Chris Whittington

Michigan DNC member Brenda Lawrence

Michigan DNC member Lu Battaglieri

NY DNC member Irene Stein

Florida DNC member Janee Murphy

Washington DNC member David McDonald

Also, a couple of John Edwards' delegates have been moved into Obama's column.
But the biggest news of the day, superdelegate-wise, was
SC Representative Jim Clyburn - the #3 Democrat in the House. He endorsed Obama, and began making his own phone calls to superdelegates on Obama's behalf.

I think that all adds up to the total you see above.

Now, the superdelegate count might all be moot, because there are myriad rumors that Hillary Clinton is winding up her campaign tomorrow. She's scheduled a "major press conference" tomorrow in New York City, to which she's invited many of her big supporters and donors. Will she fold up her tent tomorrow? I won't believe it until she does it.

Sunday, June 01, 2008

Delegate Watch - WTF?!?!?

A lot happened this weekend. Let's review.

On Friday, Obama needed 41 delegate votes to clinch the nomination; Clinton needed 244. That was before Michigan and Florida were settled.

On Saturday, Michigan and Florida were settled by the Rules and Bylaws Committee. There's a million stories about what happened, so go read one of those if you want details. The long and the short of it is that Obama picked up a total of 32 delegates in Michigan, including superdelegates who have already committed, and 36 in Florida. Clinton picked up 38 in Michigan, including superdelegates, and 56.5 in Florida. The magic number of total delegates moved to 2118, now that Michigan and Florida's delegates are reinstated.

Please note that the delegate decision was made not by the Supreme Court or by Obama's campaign, but by the Rules and Bylaws Committee of the Democratic National Committee. Both Obama and Clinton had supporters on that committee. So I don't want to hear a lot of whining about how Obama stole delegates or how this was unfair and undemocratic. There was a fair hearing, and a decision was made. In America, we honor the people who make the rules and we stand by the rulings.

After Saturday's decision on MI and FL, Obama needed 64 delegates to reach the number of delegates needed, while Clinton needed 240.5.

Supes: Obama appears to have picked up two: Maine add-on Gwethalyn Phillips and Nevada DNC member Yvonne Gates. Al Wynn, an Obama supe, resigned his seat. So Obama wins two, loses one delegate, and the total number of delegates needed drops by one to 2117.

Puerto Rico: Clinton won 68-32%. She gets 38, he gets 17.

The count: Obama has 2071 delegates. Clinton has 1914.5.

Obama needs 46 to clinch. Clinton needs 202.5 delegates to win the nomination.

There are 234 delegates not yet pledged. Clinton would need to get 86% of those delegates in order to win.

Obama needs less than 20% in order to win.

Montana and South Dakota, the two remaining primary states, have a grand total of 31 delegates between them. If Hillary Clinton sweeps the states and wins every single one of the remaining primary delegates, she would still need to garner over 80% of the 203 superdelegates remaining. She can sweep both states and the math only changes infinitesimally.

Got all that?

(I hope this has been helpful to someone. If nothing else, it's helped me to keep all the numbers straight. I'll be so relieved once Obama hits the final number and he can officially claim victory.)