Tuesday, October 14, 2008

My Causes

American Foundation for Suicide Prevention (AFSP) - Walked the Overnight in San Francisco 2006, Walked Out of the Darkness 27 September 2008. Even after these walks to raise awareness and funds, I lost a friend to suicide in early 2008. And even now, suicide-homicide remains a key tactical obsession of the Taliban and Al Qaida fighters of Afghanistan, Iraq, and now Pakistan. If we cannot change the mind of people to stay alive, they will pull the temple down upon all our heads, like the outraged Biblical character Sampson.

San Jose Firefighters Burn Foundation - Silver commitment to purchase of 20 tickets @ $10 ea = $200; helps purchase new equipment for Valley Medical Center Burn Unit, plus a Campership program to allow children burn victims to spend time in the outdoors to recover from their injuries through natural activities.

KQED San Francisco 88.5 FM - I pay for free public radio.

KALW 91.7 Local Public Radio - I pay for even more free public radio.

Greenpeace - Classified as a “terrorist” organization in some countries. Also has a seat on the United Nations General Assembly. Therefore, the only “terrorist” organization officially supported by the U.N. I have a brand-new blog there too, yet as a placeholder mostly to just pull people back to my existing blogs. Yet, apparently, I am now a Greenpeace Personal Activist, with a potential Network. I’d love to strike up a long and productive partnership with this organization.

• Clean Water Action - No human can live more than a week without this substance. Shy of “air,” and “a surface area to reside on safely,” both of which you can’t really live without for more than a few mere minutes, there is no more precious commodity for our collective survival than water.

• Environment California (part of CALPIRG, supported by Fund for the Public Interest) - Because California has a lot of environment, and I love to enjoy it.

• Equal Rights Campaign (part of CALPIRG, supported by Fund for the Public Interest) - Because we are all humans and should be treated as such.

GAIA (Global AIDS Interfaith Alliance) - Dedicated to saving lives in Africa, these people are trying to stem the tide of human casualties caused by the AIDS epidemic in sub-Saharan Africa. In some countries, AIDS has only decreased because large swaths of the population have died off from chronic illness and eventual breakdown of their bodies due to the disease. The infection rate only went down because an entire generation of carriers of the virus finally died. Yet some are doing all they can to combat the virus through ABC programs: Abstinence, Be Faithful, and use Condoms. Others have tried to say “AB,” but when you leave out the “C,” AIDS has tended to come back strong. Ipso facto, condoms, though uncomfortable to address and politically touchy, actually work to save lives. GAIA needs help to keep policies and programs effective for the communities they serve. They need assistance to make sure they can do their jobs. Read more about the scope of the problem. Also know that this is not just an “over there” issue. AIDS is a worldwide program. So help them keep it from getting any worse.

Mama Maria Kenya - A clinic opened on the shores of Lake Victoria to help the people of Kenya survive and grow and learn. I sang in the U2Charist for the benefit of Peter Kithene’s clinic, and I call him my brother. I sang the songs of U2 in a form of mass. I was the only male cantor in the group of performers. Not that I am particularly very good. Yet it was very good that I sang. Peter is the survivor of deadly disease and deprivation which nearly wiped out his whole family. He, as a boy, survived and became the head of his household at the age of 12. He saw how education was the way to escape from his condition. It was the key to unlock the chains of poverty over all his family and his village and the people of his nation. Now, he runs a clinic, to help keep alive other children and other mothers and fathers. So that others do not need to suffer the same crisis of life-and-death he had to face himself. I am glad that Peter calls me his brother. I wish some days I took him up on his offer to come to see him in Africa. If you go to visit him in Kenya, give him my best.

Education Project for Sudanese Refugees in Northern Kenya - Peter Nyok is my Sudanese brother. He is working to afford school for orphans and very poor children in Sudan and Kenya. Peter is one of the Lost Boys of Sudan. A Christian from the southern part of the country, he is very kind and yet very quiet. His English is not polished, yet his kindness very true. He is from Bor, four hours outside of Juba, downstream (north) of it on the Nile. The problems of Sudan as myriad. Many people know of the crisis and conflict of Darfur, in the west. Yet the southern, predominantly black ethnic and Christian spiritual south has come repeatedly into direct conflict with the Arabic/Muslim culture Khartoum government and community. Over 4 million southern Sudanese have been displaced, either internally or forced into exile. Peter is one of these people. The recent pirated Ukranian ship held in Somalia has a shipment of dozens of tanks bound for southern Sudanese rebel groups seeking to strengthen themselves against the Muslim Sudanese government of Omar Al-Bashir. Yet Peter is not involved with fighting anything or anyone but children’s poverty and lack of education. I bought a mobile sculpture of painted wooden birds. Look for his handcrafts. Invite him to visit. If we are to win anything, it should be the survival of a new way of life for these children, lived in peace, learning and wisdom.

The Translation Project - Niloufar Talebi is my Iranian sister. Ever since seeing the play on words implicit in her volume of translations of Iranian poetry from around the world — BELONGING — I have been longing to better understand the psyche and spirit of the Iranian diaspora community. Since the 1979 Iranian Revolution, and even before that, when I first became aware of the SAVAK by way of a 1976 60 Minutes exposé on the problems in the nation of Iran, I have worried about U.S. and Iranian relations. Before the 1973 OPEC Oil Crisis, the United States had hoped to be Iran’s ally in opposition to a Soviet-backed hegemony over the Middle East. Egypt, Syria, Iraq — Nasser’s almost-potent bloc — fell apart and never formed a lasting United Arab Republic. Israel set aside differences with Jordan. I remember the SPI game Oil War as a boy. Iran and the United States were supposed to be allies. That is what that game taught me. We were supposed to all be allies. Yet disasters heaped on disasters. Lebanon imploded and then turned into a black hole, a carcass fought over between Syria and Israel. The U.S.-sponsored Islamic Middle East states, from Saudi Arabia to Iran, could not set aside their own differences. Internally each of these nations was trying to dictatorially form modern nation-states out of tribal organizations dating back centuries if not millennia. Iran and Iraq then went into a tooth-and-nail war as miserable and nearly as pointless and just as bloody as World War I. Poison gas was employed. Trench warfare. Yet also modern weapons far more terrible than what were known to the soldiers of the Marne, Verdun and the Somme. For some reason, the plight of Iran has always plagued me. While others provocate for war with Iran, I have always thought the greatest tragedy was that we understand them so very little. We treat them as aliens. The same in return. It is far too easy to misconstrue the Farsi. It is far too easy to brand us the Great Shatan. We are far more than mere caricatures. There is a deeper possibility for love between our cultures and our peoples. There is far more to be gained from cooperation in the 21st Century than from any horrific conflict. So when I heard Niloufar was to speak in Mountain View, at Books, Inc. on Castro Street, I knew she, and her work, were important. I showed up to listen to her. I went to hear her and the other performers of Icarus/Rise in San Francisco. I hope to meet with her again in the future. She is a refugee. She represents the voices and sensibilities of an international, cosmopolitan, modern community which is still also grounded in very ancient, tribal, and primal forces and beliefs. I believe she, as a poetess, and a translator of poets, has far more to tell us about the Iranian mindset than any politician. Listen to her, and you may come to understand what I mean.

• Obama/Biden - Barack is intelligent, sober, and thoughtful. Which is apparently why so many people dislike him. He acts civilized, and so people want to mock him for his speech patterns, his gestures, his very mode of being. For me, two smart cookies in Barack and Joe is the way to go. However, I wish they got me a bumper sticker. Really. They called up asking for a second round of money, after I had already given. “Where’s my bumper sticker?” How can you ask me for another $100 if you can’t even give me a bumper sticker? Somehow, Clinton/Gore knew how to do this well. I had that bumper sticker on my Toyota Corolla for years. My Saturn still is lacking the proper political branding for the season. Has been for months. Barack, call me to apologize if you can get me a bumper sticker. I won’t even ask for a refund for my donation.

• Al Franken - He’s not in my state. Yet I feel it is important to donate to him so he can win in his own state. He’s tooth-and-nail in his battle. I think Al is a genuinely decent guy, even if he comes off a bit smart-alecky and even smarmy at times. His books were the first blow from the left to really get intellectual and factual in the counteroffensive against the radical right-wing. Hence, I believe he is a good spokesperson for what I would call the “pragmatic liberal” agenda. The Jon Stewart Democrats. The Colbert Report demographic. The “nationalization of state politics” in this particular election race between Al Franken and Norm Coleman was cited all the way back in January 2008, when it was seen that 63% of donations for the candidates were coming from out-of-state. Yes, I am one of them.

• Democratic National Committee (DNC) - I gave, yet I’d have been really happy if they got me an Obama bumper sticker. I also want them to consider opening the party so it is non-exclusive. Allow people to vote in the Democratic primary and also the Green party primary. Exclusivity seems really passe, especially with smaller single-issue, or specific-portfolio-of-issues parties in the world. I prefer the Greens on a few specific issues. I even like Libertarians on specific issues. I might even be willing to say I admire a few Republican issues. Yet none of these parties can really say they “represent” my specific interests. The Democrats are just “close,” as in scoring at horseshoes. No ringers. And, sadly, still no bumper sticker.

• Global Understanding Institute - I am pouring a lot of money into my own cause. It is not filed as a 501(c)(3) yet, so I can’t in good conscience ask you for the same commitment as I have. Unless you really want to get involved. If so, then call me and I can work with you on how you can help out. The projects I am working on now are myriad and growing. Some of these are already known. Others are just now getting organized. Others we have not yet inked the project plans or budgets for.
  • Razumijen — Understanding the Dissolution of Yugoslavia, the Wars of Independence of the Western Balkans, and the Problems of Modern Irredentism. A peacemaking game project to posit how one can solve for the best possible resolution for the masses given a civil war grounded in intolerence, xenophobia, racism, sectarian and religious prejudice, social injustice, as well as an environment of global political and economic instability.

  • 9/11 to 11/11, From Tragedy to Truce — Transitioning the mindset of the 21st Century from one of fear of terrorism and the victimization of 9/11, to one seeking Peace in Our Time, and the fulfillment of the legacy of the Great War, the “War to End All Wars.” This 9/11 will be the 90th Anniversary of the Armistice. Yet we, as humanity, are still involved in terrible and horrific wars claiming the lives of countless souls. This project seeks to change mindsets from accepting war as the optimal way to solve problems to mark it as an inefficient, insufficient way to redress grievances. If we are to avoid “9/11” in the future, whatever the disaster may be—a radical group with an atomic weapon, a cult which unleashes a gas attack in a crowded subway, a fouling of the nest of humanity—we must find a better way to listen to those howling in pain, ready to lash out, and to find a way to diffuse that anger and answer the implicit crisis they wish us to heed. The only way to prevent these crimes and disaster scenarios is to make other options — choosing life, direct conversation and engagement with one’s opponents, negociations — these must remain more attractive than apocalypse and armageddon. We must find a way to move from violence to armistice. Hence, to return to the original intent of 11/11, at 11:00 AM, when the report came back to Berlin: all quiet on the Western front. The peace following conflict. The resumption of civil life. This is the meaning of Armistice. This is the only way to win a war against terrorism: for understanding, tolerance, and peace to break out. We must work for that vision. So that by the centennial, the 100th Anniversary of Armistice, we can say “Mission Accomplished” and have it mean a whole order of magnitude more provident possibilities for humanity for the remainder of the 21st Century. Elsewise, we may face a World War III, IV, and possibly even V during this coming century to make World War I and II seem like small brush fires. The fate of humanity before us now is vital and the choice is ours.

  • Global Understanding Audio — This series of audio interviews present unique perspectives and reflects the views of various individuals in our society. Fame is not a requirement to be interviewed. Neither is achievement. Nor wealth. However, each person is challenged to present their lives in such a way so that their achievements to humanity and the world are seen as valuable. The good they do is the measure of their wealth. The old axiom about getting only 15 minutes of fame is dashed, because we will give at least a half hour up to an hour. So twice or four times the fame as others would give you credit for! Anyone can be interviewed for Global Understanding, yet when one considers their own life in the context of humanity at large, they must be able to answer a few questions: Who are they? What do they do? Why should anyone care? What are they interested in? What do they care about? How can others who are interested and care get involved too? Global Understanding does not leave global problems at the doorstep. It invites the listener to step through the portal, to engage with another human to better understand the world around us, and to begin the path to solving these crises and conflicts.

  • The American Dream — This film project is going to be released in different cuts and lengths over time. The first phased release from it is The Rehearsal, a Canaan Project Social Experiment, directed by Franklin Pham. This five minute film is dedicated to processing the losses of 9/11, and positing a new future for the United States and the world. This short film is, in a way, the first indirect artistic “child” of the Global Understanding movement. It shows the power of Global Understanding as a social, political and artistic movement. It was recognized at the Campus MovieFest 2008 as one of the top 16 entries of 128 submitted to the competition from teams at San Jose State University (SJSU).

  • 20/20 by 2020 — This project is going to be rolled into Global Understanding. The proposition is to push for a 40% Renewable Portfolio Standard (RPS) by the year 2020, comprised of (ideally) 20% solar and 20% wind energy production. California has already raised its 2020 RPS target to 33%, so to raise it to 40% as a stretch goal is not entirely out-of-the-question. 20/20 can also be viewed another way. Specifically for the transportation sector. 20/20 by 2020 thus further calls for an overall reduction of 20% greenhouse gas and carbon emissions, and a +20% Miles Per Gallon increase in fuel economy standards for vehicles. Right now, the US has wrung a 4.5% annual increase in vehicle fuel efficiency from 2011 to 2015. However, this does not raise overall cars-on-the-road efficiency by 20%, since many vehicles operating in 2020 may be decades old, conforming to far lower standards. Therefore, to achieve a +20% increase in MPG would require a radical overhaul of the auto industry to get older, lower-MPG vehicles replaced as soon as possible.
There are more projects coming down the pike for Global Understanding. I also have other causes I support. Some of which I may even be forgetting! Yet this gives you an understanding of what sort of politics I support. Yes, I am Liberal. Specifically Green and progressive Democratic. Though I believe in a strong military, I believe you need to lead with “butter” (economic, constructive and productive means) long before you resort to “guns” (military, defensive and destructive means).

What are your favorite causes? What causes do you think I am supporting you would wish to get involved in? Which causes am I not supporting you wish I did get more actively involved in? What causes do I support that just drive you batty? Why in particular? How can we agree to disagree?


p.s. I will add more links over time. I just have to get some other work done. The time is 2:29 AM. Sleep well, folks.


  1. Thank you for your call to donate to Al Franken's campaign. I was a state delegate to the Democratic (DFL) convention and have been following his campaign closely in the 1-1/2 years since he announced his run for Senate. First, I can report that his is truly a grassroots campaign.

    I would like to add that he is a deeply compassionate man who is running because of his belief that we, as Minnesotans, as Americans, have been deeply wronged by the actions of this Republican Administration and Congress. He believes that the middle class, which he grew up in right down the block from where I live now, is the engine of our society. It's the middle class that serves as his focus in his desire to run.

    As for his humor, all that I've heard coming from him since he's been running has been self-deprecating jokes or some ironic & silly observations in the moment. And, I've NEVER seen the man angry...Believe me, in the stress-filled run for public office, most of us would have had many crack-ups by now. I'm exhausted just by watching all he does.

    Yes, his life as a private citizen--a famous one--means he's on tape showing his anger at Ann Coulter, and some of the Republican apologist with whom he has shared the stage or a microphone. I'm glad he feels anger. Who better to represent us after these incredulous, horrific 8 years?!

    Please spread the word.

    He's truly earned our vote.

  2. Prof. Judy,

    Thanks for replying! I am glad as heck when people express candid opinions about political candidates, either for or against. Just so long as they are civil and reasonable, we can have a lively and spirited political debate.

    I'd agree. Al has taken shots at Ann Coulter & Co. My buddy Carl Skutsch, who I used to work with back at West End Games, c. 1986-1989, later went on to set up AntiCoulter:


    However, he sort of peaked out writing it c. 2002. She became too easy a target. Like shooting fish in a barrel. Tall, long-finned, stringy blonde haired, annoyingly loud fish. The sort of fish that you invite to parties to see what sort of outrageous things they say, and you have to wonder if it is an act or she really believes what she is saying. And when you realize she does mean what she says, and she can't control it, you pity her like a person suffering from a political form of Tourette's Syndrome.

    Like a sort of parrot, she becomes a litany of simply repeated words to get attention and emotional effect from others:

    "Liberal!" "Traitor! Traitor!" "Mainstream media!" "Liberal! Liar! Liar!"

    After we figured her out, most of us tuned her out. However, Fox News, which is about as mainstream as you can get, continues to broadcast her while she lambastes and decries the very media which gave her the proverbial first 15 minutes of fame.


    Meanwhile, I always will recall Al's joke about the rabbi who refused to accept payments for circumcisions, because he "only took tips."

    Al's just funnier. In a good way.