Posts tagged with Social Responsibility

Well now. Ok. It’s the Bible Thumper’s Turn

My guest writer today is a woman deserving of wider recognition. Sandra E. Graham is a grandmother living in northern Arizona, and today is looking at 8 inches of snow. She is witty, earthly, and survives the daily details of living with a wonderful laugh and a profound eye. An American grandmother who writes about washing machines and frozen turkeys, her observations nurture unconditional love and common sense. I am deeply honored that she give me permission to reprint from her funny and joyful essays. Today, she offers a Sunday answer to cynics, agnostics, atheists, and others who argue the fact or presence of an unseen God in their lives. I hope you enjoy Sandra Graham's work. I know I do.(wr)

Actually, I don't think of myself as a Bible Thumper'-I'm not sure what a Bible thumper is. I get a picture of when I was eight or so and the Baptist preacher, where I accompanied my parents to church, pounded on the podium (or it could have been the Bible), spraying spittle, and shouting to High Heaven! Really, though, I'm sure it is purely symbolic-someone who places boundless, energetic, and enthusiastic emphasis on their faith in the Bible. A person who is so profoundly enveloped in their beliefs that they will go to extreme measures to get their point across.

Truth be known, I would like to be just such a person. I would love to be the type of person who feels no qualms about shattering the tabletop to get a group's attention. To be so in tune with my convictions, that I would allow nothing to stop me from wailing from the rooftops. Being a quiet person-old school raised; children are to be seen and not heard-I never learned to speak out. What rolls from my brain, down my arms, and through my fingertips has very little chance of ever coming out of my mouth. Should it ever try, there is usually a foot in the way.

I am not insecure in my faith; my insecurity lies merely in public speaking. I have journeyed with Adam and Eve and Moses through the Old Testament and truly believe that there is one God who created all living things along with the earth and its universe.

And not simply because that that is what I have been told, but because the telling touched my soul with a reality that I can't deny. Sure the Bible is full of terrible events, wars, alcoholism, incest, murder, and adultery-but these are all human frailties. God gave us a brain and I think He basically wanted us to learn to use our brains to the betterment of the human race. I'm sure He had hoped that someday we would (being created in His image) learn from our senseless mistakes and become a people worthy of His grace and love.

Another thing I don't necessarily want to do is force my convictions and religion on another. I don't feel that a person has to attend church faithfully to be a Christian. A church is just a building-the true church is the people. A true Christian who has God and Jesus in his heart carries his church with him. Attending church does, however, keep a person focused on remaining true to that person's beliefs. As humans, we are very susceptible to human weaknesses and therein is where the danger lies. If we aren't faithful in our Bible Study and church attendance, we may too easily be swayed by the material possessions in a world where too many feel possessions are the greatest form of wealth.

I don't believe God has a special Heaven for terrorists who take their own lives while killing indiscriminately. I find it impossible to believe that any true God would condone killing as a way to salvation. My God teaches me to love my enemies. So for anyone who says "I don't believe in God or Jesus", I don't condemn that person, rather pray for his/her salvation.

And for those who tell us, we don't know what's out there, we don't know how we were created or why; all I can say is FAITH. We have to have faith, for without faith, we truly do have nothing. If the whole world based their actions on faith that there is a loving God who gave His only Son to bear the sinful burdens of a world gone wrong and would act according to the teachings of a Bible that says Love thy neighbor, thou shalt not kill, honor thy father and thy mother, thou shalt not steal, thou shalt not commit adultery, thou shalt not bear false witness, thou shalt not have Gods before me, remember the sabbath, do not use the Lord's name in vain, and thou shalt not covet thy neighbor's belongings, wouldn't it be a given that the world could live as one?

Who could find fault with reasoning such as this? If this makes me a Bible Thumper, then I am proud to be a Bible Thumper and will continue to pray that more and more people become such. We will all be, in the end, judged by our works; may our works reflect well on us when that time comes.

I will bethere for you.

Sandra E. Graham authored AMOS JAKEY and NICOLINA published by American Book Publishing. Sandra loves to write about people and if you enjoy reading about people, you will love these books. Her first two novels are historical/adventure/fiction of early 1900's America.

Thanks for reading.


Zeer Pots Use Green Techology to Reduce African Hunger

It's Saturday, the day for American classics from the early days of jazz and rhythm and blues. WGBO.FM out of Newark, NJ has a great web link with superb sound and radio hosts who really know the music. Little Milton is the featured blues artist this morning, but the joy is in the bass lines, rhythm guitar licks, and kicking fills that are a lost art today, not to mention the sweet, soulful saxophone solos by masters of its language. The jumping jive and kinetic swing returns the body to a time when feet were fast and light. If you have a favorite “old school” web link for music, please let me know.

It's time for high school science fairs, and here's a green experiment that is easy, fun, and safe, and should score winning points at school or home. It's call the Zeer pot. The Zeer pot is a simple clay refrigerator. The Zeer pot was invented in 1995, by a Nigerian science teacher, Mohammed Bah Abba. The pot provides a method of cooling for food and drinks that doesn't depend on electricity. The Zeer pot is portable, and only requires on clean sand, a small amount of water, and two terracotta pots (without drain holes), one larger than the other so the smaller one can sit inside the larger one.

The Zeer pot is now in wide use throughout Africa. In countries from Nigeria to the Sudan, it has helped prevent hunger and starvation, especially among children and the elderly. The life of tomatoes kept in a Zeer pot go from 2 days to 20 days! Okra goes from 4 days to 17!

To make your Zeer pot, place a layer of sand in the bottom of the larger pot. The layer should bring the rim of the smaller pot up the same level as the larger pot. Make sure the smaller rim is not higher; it may be lower. Now carefully add sand (use a funnel, row up a newspaper, fold cardboard, etc.) to fill in the space between the pots (1 – 2 inches ideally).

Next, place the Zeer pot in the shade, in a well ventilated area. Now carefully add water to the fill sand, until the water “pools” on the top (indicating the sand is filled with water).

Place food and drink--apples, oranges, bottled drinks, bread, baloney, condiments, etc.--inside the smaller terracotta pot.

For the science experiment, place thermometers inside the pot and outside in the ambient air. Register the temperature readings each hour, and chart the differences to determine the effectiveness of the the Zeer pot as a green cooling device. Discuss the advantages and disadvantages of the Zeer pot.

The pot works on the principles of evaporation. The porous walls of the inner pot absorbs water from the sand. This transfer allows the water to evaporate from the inner walls, providing a cooling effect. Try the experiment at different humidity levels (easily found on the web at weather sites). Lower levels of humility should work better. Also cover the pot with a wet tea towel or a piece of cotton fabric. Does that improve the cooling effect? Try to measure the effects on windy days. The faster evaporation, caused by the wind, will heighten the cooling effect.

And after science, you have a neat green cooler for backyard snacks and drinks!

Thanks for reading! Southern Perlo is posted from Kudu Coffee (African coffees and good conversation!), in Charleston, SC. In a Southern voice, it gathers stories and views for local communities, and was recently featured on the Lou Dobbs radio show. (Perlo is rice enriched by local bounty to enhance its pleasure and value, carefully crafted; stirred by experience, enjoyed by all.)

“From the Front Porches of Charleston: The Election of Barack Obama,” is the first e-book about Obama in Charleston, and it's free! Charleston writer Walter Rhett writes about the election through parallels of Charleston's history. Rhett edited over 100 photo pages. Download free at: .


PETA dons KKK robes for the show

These are strange new times when PETA dresses up like the Ku Klux Klan (complete with pointed hoods) to protest the purebreed AKC-certified lines of dogs entered in the famous Westminister Dog Show in New York City. The impact of the protest seem limited. People were stopping to snap pictures of fake Klansmen on their cell phones.  

Comments that followed the news stories of the protest generally bewailed the sufferings, physical deficits, and health difficulties that have crept into the dog industry breeding and show programs. Due in part to “puppy mills” and judging quirks, the genetic health of dogs is at risk. Vocerifous in-breeding is weakening the skeletal frames of some popular breeds, leading to declining health and shorter life. For example, some  breeds are being selected for slanted spines or have rear quarters that barely support their weight.   No letters or comments about the Klan robes, through; which seemed upon further review to be a metaphor gone too far. I wouldn't have put a protest in a Klan robe in New York—or anywhere; it seemed too confusing and made the real message of the dangers of inbreeding obscure. Klan robes, even for a good cause, are certainly offensive. Klan robes trigger different signals which don't arouse sympathy for th dogs plight. PETA's actual use of white robes and pointed hooded masks sends all the emotional drama of a longstanding historic message that points to lynchings and assaults on humans, especially by race. This horrendous history of violence and lynching blocks the robes' attempt to be a rather subtle cross-species link to the self-absorbed, naraccistic folly of creating pure bred dogs through inbreeding. The Klan comparison is off-target and uses a symbol of suffering that creates recoil rather than persausion and clarity. PETA expalined it was after the symbolic link of purity the Klan and show breeder's pursue, but "purity" is a misreading of the Klan's actions and intent. The Klan never “weakened” whites in the course of attempts to “strengthen” whites by pure breeding. The Klan's activities were more about power, priviledge, illegal violence, and an ideology of racial superiority. I hate to say it, but the analogy that PETA professes by using the Klan shockingly ignores the legacy of the robes symbolism. The use of hate symbols, especially Ku Klux Klan robes, has no place in any message that strives for the moral high ground. The robes are bitter visual reminders of blood sacrifices and can not be rehabilitated. If PETA wants the Westminister show off the air, it should first take off its robes.

The dogs deserve better.


Make Your Next Meeting Green your group meeting or convention using green techniques? It's estimated that a 5 day meeting for 2,500 people will use 87,500 napkins and 75,000 cups. Marriott estimates a 3 day meeting for a 1,000 will use 200,000 kilowatts of electricity, 100,000 gallons of water and generate 12 tons of trash. Cost cutting and energy savings go hand-in-hand. Green meetings are a fast growing trend. Here's quick, easy ways to promote the benefits of green whenever you meet:Develop and distribute a paperless agenda, program book, or reports via the web.This saves paper and eliminates the costs of disposing any waste.Plan meetings for outside. Turn the lights off and get outside. Use available sunlight, take advantage of the natural temperature range to get participants invigorated by the natural environment. Outdoor meetings, in parks, courtyards, shelter areas, or an area into which portable tables can be moved add energy and beauty to a meeting, and increase the quality of the meeting's results.Enhance the meeting meal with locally grown food. Supporting local farmers who can provide greens for salad, nuts and fruits for snacks, vegetables for side dishes is a great way to connect to the community. Obviously, it has benefits of supporting local producers and featuring the tastes of local bounty.Decorate with live plants. The beauty and charm of living plants surpass cut flower arrangements and can be table gifts or highlight local flora.Organize car pools. Better 2 cars than 20 on the road. This reduces the meeting's carbon footprint.Bring your own mug. Give a door prize for the person with the most artistic or creative mug.Incorporating even one of these tips lets your meeting achieve a laudable goal!Thanks for reading! Southern Perlo is posted from Kudu Coffee (African coffees and good conversation!), in Charleston, SC. In a Southern voice, it gathers stories and views for local communities, and was recently featured on the Lou Dobbs radio show. (Perlo is rice enriched by local bounty to enhance its pleasure and value. Perlo is carefully crafted: its recipe handed down, stirred by experience, and enjoyed by all.) Stir your imagination--information is hospitality! “From the Front Porches of Charleston: The Election of Barack Obama,” is free! Charleston writer & tour guide, Walter Rhett, writes about the election through parallels of Charleston's history. Rhett edited over 100 photo pages. Download free at: .


An Open Conversation with Eric Holder

I am Black and I don't agree with Eric Holder. I think Americans, North and South and everywhere have open and honest conversations about values and ideas of groups with different skin colors, and other traits of diversity. They talk about black-on-black crime, the lost generation of young African-American men, the outrageous pregnancy rates of African-American teenagers, the foul insensitive language of gangsta hip-hop. Sometimes the honesty is not so nice. Sometimes it stereotypes and slurs. But other times people ask geniune questions about the attitudes and views about the African-American part of the American mosaic.During the American early years, the voices of abolitionists and slaveholders hotly and openly debated "race" as a legal, pyschological, and human condition. The debate was carried on in churches, legislative chanbers, and meeting halls--as well as coffee houses, stage coaches, and family dinner tables. Race is an old topic in America, and many think its time to give it a rest.As an African-American, I enjoy the challenge of climbing out of my own skin and seeing the world wholly. I refuse to play victim, or to fit into a box. And I certainly never speak threateningly or shrilly to call out others for their voices or their silence. The experience of being an African-American in America has been a journey of wonder. The discovery of insights has matured my understanding beyond blind allegiance to the closed doors and discrimination of my early years. Yet surprisingly, many folk believe that African-Americans lose their critical eye when assessing the positions or ideas held by others with whom they are linked by common history and blood. These folk think the African-American response is often knee-jerk, unthinking and uncritical. Eric Holder is currently—and rightly—their poster child. His loud, brash, big brush wolf statement probably won't draw anyone out to sensitively and sensibly dialogue about how race or other diverse traits affects individuals and communities. For example, SwampGator wonders in Beaufort, SC why people who differ with Obama politically are often labeled racist? Well, I don't think legitimate differences are examples of racism. In fact, I wrote a book ( (e-book, 147 p, 100 photo pages; free!) about the bitter conflicts and comments directed at Obama during the campaign and specifically said it wasn't racism that lay behind the attacks and pancake boxes and cartoons and school bus chants and threats. I invite Swamp to join those like me who can discuss differences without labels, and examine positions and ideas on merits. I'll happy to talk and blog with Swamp and others who want to engage in lively exchange about political differences or race. In fact, I'll start the conversation. The common history of African-American heritage is a good place to launch into the discussion. One thing African-Americans have in common is that many outside of the group see the group as having the same attitudes and views! Many outside the group think the majority of African-Americans think alike. I see it constantly on my blogs.Like jazz, or cooking, African-Americans are diverse!That's why I am brave enough to say I disagree with Eric Holder! I think he is wrong. Certainly, the more than 60 million whites who voted for Barack on November 8, as he was attacked as elite, naive, inexperienced, Muslim, hate monger, and scary socialist with the wrong friends, showed plenty of courage. They spoke up loudly and boldly.And if you think they were all stupid, and that's your point of view, it doesn't make you racist.But it doesn't mean I agree with you!


Overstimulated: South Carolina’s Cautionary Tale

Recently, my governor came up with a great line. In a op-ed article, he pointed out, “If the stimulus bill were a country, it would be the 15th-largest country in the world.” This made an effective headline. It caught my eye and give me the topic for today's blog.Mark Sanford, South Carolina's (and my) governor, is the chair of the Republican Governors Association. The bill he referred to is officially the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009. But seen another way, the stimulus bill is less than .⅔ of 1 percent of the US GNP! Wow. Without exceeding one percent of its GNP, the US economy places in the world's top 15! We are big, but we're broke, bloated, backed up, baffled, and bailing. (And perhaps blind.) In place of vision, we have sound bites. And without a penny spent, the stimulus bill has already overstimulated the political discussion. One commentator called the $787 billion bill “a steaming pile of garbage.” Really? Bring it to my backyard trash pile. Obviously, in the 15th largest pile of garbage in the world, I'll bet I could pick through it and find something to recycle. The bill's official announcement says it mets the goals the new administration and Congress set on “day one.” This, after halcyon days of constructing a 1,100 page bill that no member of Congress will admit to having read and no Republicans supported, except for two women from Maine and a friend of Strom Thurmond's from Pennsylvania. (I did browse 676 pages; if you like government spending, it's pretty heady stuff.)Mark Sanford is at odds with his state's Congressional delegate over the stimulus bill. The delegation includes the House Majority Whip (the House's 3rd ranking member), and the Chair of the House Budget committee. Sanford, himself once a House member, is a self described moderate populist conservative. Sanford slept on a cot in his Congressional office and awoke daily to his koan: he was (is) absolutely against the spending of any federal money for most measures beyond defense and opposes unequivocally deficit federal spending, which he enlightenly contends harms business development and the incomes of families. Sanford once called federal highway bills Congressional bribery. Sanford wants to turn down the stimulus package federal aid targeted for South Carolina. He has announced that he might reject the money South Carolina is eligible for. These monies include funds for unemployment, health care, and other services that directly impact the state's families. The Governor's position is supported by, among others, an Episcopal diocese's theologian, who cites as a reason the failure of government stimulus during the “lost decade” (1990's) of Japan's downturn.Charleston's mayor Joseph P. Riley, Jr., a optimistic cheerleader for cities, sees the stimulus aid through a different lens and frames the question differently. His view is not predicated on “whether the aid package will “work.” Riley doesn't worry about its size. He doesn't cite the metrics of the cost of job creation or debate how many. He manages a budget. Yet Mayor Riley's head is not in the sand. From his view, he sees are citizens suffering as houses go into foreclosure, jobs are lost, and sales in all sectors slump.“The governor [Sanford] needs to feel responsible for the economic health of his state and the people of his state,” Riley said, in a Charleston City Paper quote. The stimulus may create 53,000 jobs in South Carolina, and increase tuition tax and extend unemployment benefits, among other services. Road projects, schools, green energy are targeted. Riley thinks that building infrastructure and saving the state from deep cuts in services during the downturn is important. If families are stabilized, they will maintain a quality of life that will help them avoid making up lost ground when the economy turns around.The stimulus bill that passed does have an earmark, but not for funds for a SC project. Instead the national bill included a provision that allows the SC State Legislature to bypass the Governor's executive authority. It authorized the state legislature, if a governor declines, to receive federal monies from the stimulus bill for “roads, schools, Medicare funds” and other state services. The legislature could then put these funds into the state budget. In fact, it guarantees a state legislature can receive funds unless both houses of the state's legislature vote no. The House whip, James Clyburn, authored the bill's codicil, aimed at South Carolina and Texas. The bill “is the right mix of spending and tax breaks to get America working again," Clyburn aruges. And with the sound bite of the debate, he trumped the Governor. To the Republican mantra that tax cuts build and repair the economy, Clyburn said on the House floor last Wednesday, "What good does a tax cut do if you don’t have a job?,” the Greenville News quotes him. Yup. Tax cuts for those unemployed workers in the world's 15th largest economy in the right mix at less than one percent of US GNP since “day one.” A cogent model for the recovery that the American people want.Funds in the stimulus package for South Carolina, according to the Congressional Research Service and Center for American Progress include: $905 million to stabilize state revenues, $291 million to improve schools and colleges, 1.1 billion for state Medicaid payments, 468 million to improve highways, according to the Greenville News.Several local communities, Hardeeville and Jasper on the Carolina Coast, an area called the lowcountry, have hired lobbyists to help gain stimulus funds—if South Carolina accepts them. These communities have taken the traditional approach. They hired connected people who peddle influence to state their case and gain commitments, if possible, so they won't be left at an empty trough. These hirings are also an indication that lobbyists are now moving down the feeding chain: the stimulus bill directs a minimum 10 percent of rural-development dollars to a state's poorest counties. By legislative definition, these are counties with at least one-fifth of its residents with incomes at or below the federal poverty baseline for a minimum 30 years.Jasper County is one of 12 counties in South Carolina that meet that criteria. Since this proviso is a mandate, it is extremely likely that Jasper and its communities--and the other eleven counties--would be granted funds when the state divides and assigns its shares--even without the intercession of in-state lobbyists with federal connections. Of course, the Governor who opposes this aid has done little to allievate its stark baseline of poverty.So South Carolina has a Governor who opposes the bill and says he doesn't want any stimulus money for his state, despite its “corridor of shame” and its entrenched poverty. An Episcopal theologian agrees with Sanford on the historic grounds of an Japanese example. A well-known Mayor wants the funds to mitigate the recession's impact on citizen's quality of life. A member of the state's Congressional delegation creates a parallel legislative universe which may form a black hole in American politics. The state's senior Republican senator argues the stimulus package masks a “spending bill,” but the Senator tells the Governor publicly it would “be smart “for South Carolina to accept the money. And his reason for accepting funding he voted against? He says, take the state's appropriation, since ultimately South Carolina has to pay its federal share. Local counties with populations with thirty years below the poverty standards have hired lobbyists to help obtain what they are pretty well guaranteed by legislative mandate to receive. In other words, they may be paying someone to help them get what they already got coming.As my Grandfather use to say, money draws the crowd.The stimulus bill may or may not create jobs or help the economy recover. But it has already created a barrel of laughs, antics, guffaws, and sound bites. I just hope they can slap their sides and laugh in joy in those 12 counties.A reader posting on Greenville News online edition may have voiced the right balance:The economy's in turmoil they're sayin'the stimulus help they're a prayin'instead of a willwe're leavin' a billthat the sons of our sons will be payin'...


E Pluribus Unum

E Pluribus Unum: A View of WashingtonIt surprises many first time visitors to Washington, DC, how expansive and extensive are the landscape and buildings that constitute America's capitol. Enter the city, and along a western axis, from the Lincoln memorial near the banks of the Potomac River, an extraordinary spacious greensward unfolds and stretches east to the US Capitol, and the Supreme Court and Library of Congress beyond. This expanse from the memorial to the Capitol is traveled only by foot. A formal reflecting pool, 18 inches deep and a quarter mile long, guides the approach to the 36 columns of Lincoln's memorial--the number of States in the Union when Lincoln served as President. A formal walking round with balustrades marks its beginning. North, the Constitutional garden, a grove of trees and pond, borders the pool. Just west of 14th Street which breaks the green, an Egyptian obelisk, a monument for the first President, George Washington, towers to site the bell-shaped dome of the US Capitol, at the center of the city's quadrants. The view from this urban meadow, the park known as the national mall, is a stirring sight. The open air, the trees and water courses, the spacious meade of monuments and buildings calls into every heart which sees this view the strength and powerful presence of American democracy and its enduring ideals. In a curious and unusual balance of law and political will, American democracy creates chances that are unlimited and renewing and grow into an expanding future. The mall's naturally structured peace and beauty recalls in every season and political climate this unique American achievement, the foundations and protection of individual freedoms configured by the changing collective will. The unique quality of American opportunity begins with this sense of freedom's place as the common ground by which individual achievement adds to our collective and national prosperity.The grand view of the mall is a metaphor, a symbol of our grand vision of freedom. Stretching across the generations that have lived and progressed under these spacious skies, traveled and repaired the nation's stony roads, defended its shores, marked and placed in its waving flag their hope in this nation's future and past. The Legacy of American HistoryAs I view this scene, I think of history, and of my readers.A Mississippi conservative with 40 years of law enforcement experience, southerners who root for the home team and love rhubarb pie, a non-profit adminstrator providing housing assistance for Katrina victims, a shipping owner, and produces annual concert season for a superb big band in the old school tradition, a former newspaper editor who researches the history of jazz, and a few who enjoy the wide ranging issues and references are among those who read this blog posted in five states. A constant platform for the new electronic American conversation, this blog celebrates the gifts, responsibilities, and views we hold and share. For the writer, it is a way to gain insight--and to listen with understanding.Today, I am listening as I look. The cynicism I sometimes see daily when I read comments from around the country is missing on the mall. It is missing this Monday, the day before the inaugural of the 44th US President. Hundreds are walking and strolling the national grounds and avenues, passing the venues of state and social security and the interior, viewing the massive storehouses of our national achievements and heritage. Hundreds are relaxing and viewing these monuments and instruments of American democracy, breathing in the stone buildings and grounds, reflecting and basking in the beneficent intangibles of the rule of law and the election of the nation's high leadership by popular vote. The cynicism I abhor skirts and avoids careful review, substitutes ridicule for insight, and dismisses the passions of commitment by engaging in marginalized trivia and “gotcha” labeling. The strident quips about bibles and birth certificates and foreign ideologies are alien here. Both campaign's time worn cliches are missing in the words the groups share with each other. The snatches of conversation I hear are personal reflections about our national pride.This is a day for America. Its Monday, the King holiday. These groups of families and friends, of strangers and neighbors and church members and wayfarers who are walking this soil, climbing the steps to the Capitol, taking in the scenes from the mall, crossing the grand avenues that traverse its buildings are clearly not people who were deceived by media under reporting or hidden conspiratorial slants. They were not taken in by big money or advertising. They thought with their heads and believed with their hearts and traveled from across the fruited plains to journey here for the celebration of democracy that rests deep within the unspeaking reaches of their souls. They love America. They are pilgrims and witnesses: they are the people who this government is of, for, and by. They may yet be disappointed. They may be jaded from time to time. But they remain committed to the American ideal, and today, on Monday, they have come to feel its awesome inspiration in the air. They nod to each other, for the joy of this day, the individual decisions to join the collective witness is acknowledged in the ebb and flow of the traffic that is tying up intersections on this holiday for Dr. King. Their bright eyes speak, too. Their smiles are open arms. They seek not the victory of an election, but to take their turn to stand in their place in history. That quest to bear in the present historical witness has brought them to the mall and broad avenues. Their causal steps affirm and make solid their freedom and this country's simple but most profound promise. As Henry David Thoreau wrote in his 1861 journal: “The mean & low values of anything depend on it converbality [sp] into something else—i.e. Have nothing to do with it intrinsic value.”American democracy has intrinsic value, and the prosperity linked to its way of governing is a guiding beacon to people throughout the world. These citizens have resisted its conversion to something “mean & low.”In an ironic paradox of democracy, the differences which have served to test its strength—the conflicts and contests which have appeared to lead to the brink of its failure—have been the crucible whose pounding confirmed the principles which it established. Lincoln sat in the oval office in the middle of such a maelstrom. Yet he held tightly to the defense and strength of the “well constructed” democracy at its epicenter. That democracy, Virginia's James Madison noted in the Federalist Papers, continually calls for “ambitious sacrifice.” That democracy's basic aim, Madison wrote, uses “free suffrage to confer the public trust” and “obtain [leaders] who possess the most wisdom to discern, the most virtue to pursue the common good of society.” For in a democracy, he noted we are well to remember, “no man is judge of his own cause.”Democracy was a new standard in the world when America was founded from a fledging collection of chartered colonies. Democracy begun in the nations of western Europe, led by France, a decade or so later; its opportunity and new order of voices and power quickly spread from the 13 English colonies that became America. From fragile and radial beginnings, tested by intense debates and a war fought between the states, this nation has grown and changed and seen the wonders of prosperity and technological life, and has known the curious rhyming of slavery and liberty, of immigrants huddled in urban communities and settled on the farms of the Great Plains,the daily rhythm of hard work; constructing and fashioning by lifted hands and bent backs, the tools and products that elevated the quality of American life to the world's highest and most glorious standard, offering leisure and wealth and justice to many despite disputes and barriers that shackled others unjustly and held them back from American opportunity. For all, the dirt under American hands, the fish caught and carried home on the end of the string, the carts pushed through the streets selling rags and vegetables, the vendor's songs, the blues and hymns filling the porches where family and friends gathered, the lab coats, the ties and suits and dress-up dresses worn to Sunday worship, the radios which followed Joe Louis and the Dodgers as hands shelled peas and pecans, the stirring of the spoons in the pots before dipping the evening's meal, the gatherings in the sorrow time that placed the people we loved in the resting ground that pointed to yet another silent place, shut from the eyes and tears of the living--these harmonies and rhythms were repeated and woven into the American national fabric. They underscore its greatness. They are at the core of American hearts.Washington the capitol city expresses the substance and strength of our nation motto, E Pluribus Umun, our gift to the world's nations, our sacred trust with others and ourselves. As Barack Obama quoted South Carolina's motto from Cicero, “As I breathe, I hope.”This 2.5 mile mall is the American water-mede (meadow) that echoes County Surrey along the River Thames where King John sealed the Magna Carta, the first written document to establish rights and justice for the common members of society. At meetings held at Runnymede, King Alfred proclaimed his decrees of government and received the endorsement and pledge of obedience from society's common members in the open air.For the inauguration of America's 44th President, Barack Obama, the early and day-long gathering of folk from every state, reflecting every creed and place and blood of origin, the mall became a great gathering place for the common voice. The American family stood together and grasped hands, holding fast to the renewed ideals of how the government shares in and help guides the common and collective good. From every hamlet and faith, these families and children to rejoice at the 35 word oath that will be spoken by Barack Hussein Obama, the 44th President and only the 43rd person to take the oath.As I see these groups walking with confidence and pride in their government, committed to the course chosen by democratic process, adjudged and affirmed by their journey to this day, I remember Frederick Douglass, the ex-slave who once took the whip from his master's hand, worked the docks of Baltimore, a gifted speaker and orator whose house is a national site just across Washington's Anacostia River. Douglass who said “power concedes nothing without demand,” in a speech on the 4th of July once called American democracy a “sham.” Douglass had to sneak through a White House window left open for him, to met with Lincoln.In the history of my own state (South Carolina), Liverpool-born Robert Elliott, elected from a SC district to the 42th Congress (1871-73), was considered the first true “African” elected member of Congress; his dark skin a “shock” to the sensibilities of large numbers of the House members. In a speech in support of civil rights, Elliott proclaimed, “The motive that impels me is as broad as your Constitution.” This new day of freedom—truly as “broad as our Constitution”-- arrived without threat or bias, arrest or incident.On the Monday before Woodrow Wilson's 1913 inaugural, more than 5,000 women seeking support for their enfranchise marched along these same streets, with different results. The women who were leaders of this nation were jeered, heckled, pelted with objects, and harassed by distractors.Our democracy has grown in strength and widen its justice and social weal since then.Words have been important as acts throughout history. My state borrowed its motto from Cicero, its motto repeated by Barack Obama on election night: “As I breathe, I hope.” While Barack Obama selected his own poet for the occasion, a poem by John Updike, an American man of letters who died in the weeks after the inaugural, captures closely the spirit felt on the national mall, that Monday. John Updike wrote, in his poem, “The Tao in the Yankee Stadium Bleachers:”Distance brings proportion. From herethe populated tiersas much as players seem part of the show:a constructed stage beast, . . .No king on his throne has the joy of the dead,”the skull told Xhuang-tzu.The thought of death is peppermint to youwhen games begin with patriotic songand a democratic sun beats broadly down.The Inner Journey seems unjudgeably long . . .Or maybe the words of the English poet John Donne invite to mind the celebration:Come live with me, and be my love,And we will some new pleasures prove . . .(from Donne's, “The Bait”)I do wish the security permitted on Monday, the giant puppets to be aloft, anchored by hundreds of volunteers. Their peaceful glide was so much a part of the fabric of demonstrations and marches of the 1980's on the mall. Also missing were African stilt walkers, who stride through New Orleans' Congo Square and New York's West Indian Parade, dancing on the stages of America's streets at many celebrations. The creative vision of both 50 yard flying puppets and stilt walkers has excited me for decades. When I see the sky filled with their charter of fun and joy, moving freely beyond daily life to touch our dreams, I am overcome. The wild, backward kicks and high steps and long strides of a masquerade character 20 feet in the air dancing with a carnival frenzy always made my own feet want to take flight. In some societies, stilt walkers are considered spiritual police who teach mutual respect and assist in healing and birth. I wish they were here. I haven't seen them in years.


Perennial crops: plant once, harvest many times

Southern Perlo—a Charleston rice dish loaded with local bounty to extend and enhance its value andpleasure. Perlo is carefully crafted: its wise use handed down, modified by experience, enjoyed by all.Perennial crops: plant once in a lifetime, harvest every yearMy readers have accused me of being an “eco-nut” or a recycled Al Gore, but I really think the new green technology is neat for reasons beyond philosophy. I am attracted by the ability of green technology to save energy, lower costs and create good paying jobs. I think I'm a cheerleader for higher wages, common sense management of the earth, and raising the standard of living by reducing waste and lowering costs. Consequentially, I write about practice. I am less interested in global warming that warming a house at five percent of its current energy costs. I am less interested in charkas than reducing illness through better nutrition. So far, I have written about new technology for renewable electric power production developed at the University of Michigan; free software that is effective in defending personal computers against the number one national threat, cyber terrorism; how LED lighting in homes can save $1.8 trillion in ten years; and a Germany home building technology that reduces heating costs to seven percent of current cost averages. And yes, I did do one blog on global warming for the Al Gore haters and fans.As a southerner, I learned early and first hand to respect the mysteries and value the interconnected earth. Every Saturday, our community held a catfish and fish fry in a neighbor's backyard, the fish cooked over a chopped wood fire blazing in a fire ring near a table the men had built and hammered to a tree. Every spring, we youngsters did a controlled burn to clear a fallow field and turn it into a diamond for baseball. And every fall, venison roast and ribs (still a specialty of mine) graced the table and actually increased our wonder and respect for the deer that provided the meal. As a southerner, I have also seen what corporate farming has done to the land. Modern farming has ramped up costs while reducing the land's ability to increase crop yields without chemical additives. For short term gain it has often done long term harm. It's time to break the destructive cycle. It's time for a new paradigm.Lower costs, grow jobs, manage more efficiently, increase the standard of living, and improve health are the five principles of change in my paradigm. When possible, all five principles must be put into practice.When it comes to agriculture, I am excited about one model that potentially meets each of the five goals. That model is perennial farming using perennial crops.Perennial crops only have to be planted once, but they bear fruit and foodstuffs year after year. Annual crops, which now account for 80 percent of planted farmland, have to be planted each year, but can only be harvested once. There are risks in annual planting, the apparently simple task of growing foodstuffs from seeds has peril right from the beginning. Temperature, sunlight, rain (too much or too little), soil conditions, weeds can all torpedo a new crop if seeds fail to germinate before entering the growing season.Perennial crops reduce the risks associated with annual planting virtually to zero. But perennials have other very useful benefits. Instead of breaking down the soil, many perennial crops build it up, making efficient use of nitrogen (moved from the atmosphere into the soil by spring rains) by having longer and deeper root systems that lock it in and “fix” it in the soil. (Incidentallly, the movement of nitrogen in the water causes the expansive algae blooms in the Mississippi and other river systems in the spring. The Gulf of Mexico has one such dead zone of 5,000 to (this year's record) 8,000 square miles! In addition to massive fish kills, the depleted oxygen levels no longer support a once flourishing population of shrimp, crabs, fish, and other aquatic life in an area that extends from Louisana to Texas along the Gulf Coast. The microscopic algae feed on the nitrogen and rob the water of oxygen to create “dead” zones that increase in size annually and are inhospitable to fish and other aquatic life. Back on land, perennial crops have longer root systems that are a buffer against extremes of temperature and climate conditions, allowing the growing season to begin earlier and extend longer into the fall. Longer roots also act to prevent erosion and help crowd out and discourage weeds, or non-foodstuff. This reduces the enormous costs of adding nitrogen to the soil for crop growth. Perennials also eliminate the need for chemical “weed” killers that replaced the traditional method of tillage (turning the soil) as the primary means of weed control.For the home gardener, especially, the perennial garden requires far less work. The home gardener plants once, and has little to do between spring and the harvest except for a little pruning and tillage, mulch and compost. And perennial crops are excellent choices for planting in marginal areas unsuitable for annuals, and can even be used to develop forest gardening! (Asparagus, a perennial, reduces hair loss, lowers blood pressure, fights depression, and provides vital nourishment during pregnancy and nursing.)What foodstuffs are perennials? Many southern—and American—favorites. For one, the pecans my grandfather grew that I helped him sell beside the road, are perennial, as or other nuts and fruits, including apple varieties, grapes, chestnuts, pears, and peaches, as a short list. Grocery stores carry only thirty or so of the thousands of perennials that humans can safely eat. One of the emerging favorites is the oca, a Southern American potato with a lemon flavor that can be eaten cooked or raw. Some varieties of oca when stored in sunlight become sweet enough to eat as a fruit! Chinese yams, British earth peas (really, a tuber), and the Spanish tiger nut (another tuber) all are a part of national diets outside of America, but could adapt easily to American soil and tables. Perennials such as hazelnuts, black cherries, loquats, avocados, (trees); strawberries, raspberries, cranberries, currants, blueberries, blackberries, gooseberries (vines and shrubs) and sorrels, hyssop, basil, mint, rosemary, fennel, chives, and sage (herbs); and arugula, asparagus, ginger, horseradish, sweet potatoes, rhubarb, turmeric, and sorrel (vegetables) are already a part of the American diet. BBlueberries reduce the risks of heart disease, lower colesterol, and have a measurable effect on improving memory.)Perennials with edible leaves (including a tree that produces leaves of collard greens!), fruits, seeds add eco-diversity and strengthen the food supply against the rigors of weather and environment. Perennials also have a natural resistance to pests and many botanical diseases.Wheat is the high stake crop in the perennial sweepstakes, and several wheat hybrids should soon progress to full scale agricultural production. Washington State University and The Land Institute, a research and think tank located in Kansas, is working to develop varieties of hybrid seeds and conducted extensive studies on how hybrid perennials affect the soil and yield. Consistently for wheat, hybrid perennials roots are longer, often five times longer that the roots of annuals. But hybrid wheat faces a long woodshed period as researchers seek over time to strike the right balance between fertility and re-generation, bio-mass (grain size), and yields.Some uses of Perennials need no waiting period. Perennials are easily adapted as bio-fuels. Switchgrass, a prairie perennial that can be grown under a wide range of conditions, produces twenty times the energy necessary to grow it per acre. Added value includes its use as hay, food for wildlife, and its tendency to actually improve the conditions of the soil within which it grows.Alfalfa, a perennial, is the fourth most widely grown US crop, after wheat, corn, and soybeans. It supports everything from animal feed to honey harvesting.Perennial crops may generate a second agricultural revolution, returning man back to the products of the human community's first food source. Plant perennials, the wildflowers bring beauty and reminds us that the earth can be renewed and the demands for food met by a return to the source supply, once dominant, but abandoned 10,000 years ago in the neolithic age. Happy New Year! Thanks for reading.(At the end of next week, I'm going to Washington, DC, for the inaugural. More on the trip next week.)


Park that thought: No driving to the inaugural; a roundup of Southern news

Here's a snapshot of Southern trends. The South is one of the nation's most dynamic regions for population growth and has a unique opportunity to assume national leadership in job development, educational reform, lower energy costs, new infrastructure materials, and green home building. But the region also faces the age-old problems embedded in human genetics and society that stick to the American flypaper: crime, poverty, job losses, personal conflicts, and attitudes that are the mantras of times past. Here's a roundup of stories from this remarkable American region.Almost one out of ten residents of Florida are receiving food stamps, according to a newspaper report. Over two years, this is an increase of 40 percent, the nation's highest. The number of residents totals more 1.7 million people.Black bears have exploded in population in South Carolina since 2004, and seen in 36 of the state's 46 counties. But the bears better be wary. Despite their size of 600 pounds and their gentle presence, one recent comment remarked, “if he's (a bear) in my yard, and I can get my weapon, his head will adorn my mantle.” And of course, another comment reminded everyone, “if not for hunters and fishers, there would be no deer, ducks, bears, etc.” Go figure the logic of that for yourself.The sheriff of Morgan County in northern Alabama made over $200,000 in the last three years operating the food service for the county jail; every penny legal and reported on his taxes. But the cold grits got him in trouble. Or maybe it was the undercooked chicken. The sheriff shaved his bologna slices to shave costs, and after hearing complaints from half-starved prisoners, a federal district judge ordered the sheriff arrested and put in lock-down in his own jail. The sheriff's profit margins were generated on the $1.75 per day the state alloted for prisoners meals. The executive director of the Alabama Sheriffs Association said that the Morgan County arrest “will be real far reaching.”The Tennessee toxic spill of coal ash (the national media simply calls in “sludge”) is a window that America needs to stare through. The country will be shocked and appalled by what it sees. Not only does the spill contains arsenic, chromium, lead, nickel, selenium and thallium, tests show that coal ash is more radioactive than nuclear waste! The spill is over 50 feet tall, and contains more than 5.4 million cubic yards of wet coal ash which spilled when its dirt retaining wall give way in Kingston. Over one billion gallons of toxic sludge spilled into three Tennessee rivers—three times the size of the oil spill from the Exxon Valdez! The coal ash was generated by TVA coal-fired electric generating plants. Thirteen states have unlined retaining ponds for toxic coal ash, and the TVA has six of the EPA's annual “Top Fifty” for levels of concentration for toxic chemicals. Many of these ponds are leaking waste into the ground water and soil of their surrounding areas.The southern axiom that “fish is brain food” has now been certified by the Healthy Babies Coalition, a organization of a 150 parent, pediatric, medical, and scientific groups concerned with child health and natal nutrition. Twelve ounces a fish a week is the required consumption for expectant mothers. The fear of trace mercury from polluted waters appearing in fish produced a scare that often resulted in pregnant women eliminating fish from their diets.For Barack Obama's inauguration next Tuesday, the US Secret Service has announced a complete ban of personal automobiles driving into DC from VA bridges and from the beltway and interstate in MD. During the day, all lanes will be open to traffic leaving DC. If you were thinking of driving to the inauguration, park that thought. Two juvenile suspects face charges for a plot to kill students and faculty at the Virginia School for the Deaf and Blind, whose campus is located in Staunton, and was established in 1838 by the state assembly.One good thing to come out of New Orleans since the devastation of Katrina, is the “Silence is Violence” campaign. The organization, whose purpose is to change the community climate that has resulted in 580 murders in New Orleans since Katrina, rallies today at noon on the steps of City Hall. The noon rally will proclaim to the city that citizens “will not accept conditions that are unacceptable.” The names of each person murdered in the last year will be read aloud at the rally. Twenty-five businesses are donating five percent of today's business receipts to public safety organizations. Later in the day, a motorcade will visit the sites of many of the slayings, and a vigil is planned for tonight. Add your prayer for the success of their mission and work.Also from New Orleans is the report of the swearing-in of US Representative Anh Cao, the first of member of Vietnamese descent to win election to the US House. Cao, whose father was a South Vietnamese Lieutenant sent to a “re-education” camp after the South's fall, was in the House gallery along with Cao's mother, wife and four year-old daughter. Cao represents the majority black district of former Rep. William Jefferson who is under federal indictment.Do some good today, somewhere, for somebody. Also go out and help restore common sense, the grandest and most basic of Southern traditions!


Passive houses reduce heating costs 90 percent

Saturday's blog is always about old school music and science, the shared wonders of art and technology. This is 2009's first Saturday, so “Happy New Year!” Jazz fans probably recall Herbie Hancock's classic album and tune, “Maiden Voyage.” The same album had “Eye of the Hurricane,” and one of my favorites, “Dolphin's Dance.” The quintet that performed on that Blue Note album was essentially the Miles Davis quintet—without Miles. A young trumpeter fresh from Art Blakeley's Jazz Messengers took the trumpet book, and played solos with incredible energy, marked by bursts of melodic phrases that were a counterpoint to Miles' relaxed lyricism. Later that young trumpeter, Freddie Hubbard, recorded for producer Creed Taylor on the CTI label, and produced his own memorable albums, “Red Clay” and “First Light.” In the 70's, we often had “record dates.” No, we didn't go to a studio to record. Instead a guy invited a girl who he sought to impress over to hear his private collections of jazz and rhythm and blues albums. The Dells album, (an R & B group out of Chicago) “Freedom Means,” was a favorite, as were Stevie Wonder's albums. Freddie Hubbard's “First Light” was usually on the turntable when the arm reached out to the shoulder to draw the listening experience closer into an intimate space in which the music was heard with a shared ear. In the cold of winter, we'd draw the music over us as we looked into each others faces, listening together to the music, tucking the edges of sound tight around our common feeling as we sung the emotional language of the notes and chords that were revealed in the music and written in the language of the inner heart . . .Freddie Hubbard died last week, and jazz radio stations have been playing his music all week.“First Light” was winter music that filled cold nights and star-lit twilights with introspective, shared inspiration. Today's hip-hop often leaves a void in the place where the subtle intensity of the heart found musical expression. And besides, the heating bills are high. Hoodies are worn in the house.The music has changed, but the technology is also changing: Germany is pioneering a new way to lower the heating bills. Over 15,000 German homes now use an incredibly simple technology to heat a family's living space, The technology is passive and has no moving parts and requires no electric or external power of energy. The technology is green, renewable, and does no damage to the environment. The technology doesn't require a huge investment in solar panels, nor does the house have to be buried in the earth. And even more, these wonder houses have no drafts, cold floors, or waits for the house to “warm up” when you come home.When the New York Times article decribing these houses appeared December 26th, it was quickly reprinted in papers around the world, including the Hindu, a major newspaper in India. And more, these energy-efficient homes have superior indoor air quality, are durable, have windows that can be opened, and heat for less ten percent of current costs. (The First Certified US Passive House! 18 year-old housing technology holds enormous economic and green benefits for the southeast and southwest, (the whole country and world really, but I am a southerner). The South's in-migrating populations from both north and south are creating a furious pace for new housing construction and placing equal demands on job creation, energy conservation, reducing greenhouse gases, and lowering utility and housing costs. Forward thinking, coordinated planning, and capital investment by business and government could easily lead to national and international leadership in marketing and the creative design use of this incredible technology. Come on Clemson, Georgia Tech, Mississippi State, Texas Tech, North Carolina State, and Florida State!What is the technology? It integrates three phases. First, it builds a house which is sealed airtight. The house is a shell which is encased in ultrathick insulation, allowing no heat or cooling to escape. The windows, which open, are heavily insulated. Secondly, the house adds a central ventilation system (which requires different duct work than normal heating or air). The ventilation system brings in outside air filtered through a HEPA filter (similar to those now available as standing or table top units for rooms). The air is fresh and cleaned of pollen, microbes, micro-particles, smoke, and other impurities. Thirdly, the incoming air by-passes the out-going air. They travel in separate ducts. As they pass by each other, a heat exchanger, basically a big rectangular insulated box, transfers the heat of the outgoing, stale air to the incoming fresh air at 90 percent efficiency! Body heat and appliances add the other ten percent! The interior temperature of the house remains consistent.Houses built this way are called passive houses. Passive houses can actually be regulated to increase air flow or temperature. They can be designed in many styles, but work best when the site is carefully selected (the warmer the solar heated outside air, the lower the costs). The barrier to US construction is the lack of manufactured systems, components, and standards for the US housing industry, and the resistance by manufacturers with a deep stake in present, less efficient technology. Here's a link for a further look: .This technology is a perfect fit for the tradtional Southern life style that took immense pride in living off the land, and in knowing how to use a broad variety of skills to provide shelter and food. I hope my friends, the Republican Governors Mark Stanford (SC), Haley Barbour (MS), Bobby Jindal (LA), Robert Riley (AL), Sonny Perdue (GA), Charlie Crist (FL), and Rick Perry (TX) seize this idea and see this technology to a concrete means to promote the best of their party's platform of job growth and community innovation through partnerships that enchance the private sector. Come on, governors! Put your best feet forward! Bring together diverse comunities of trades people, finance experts, construction companies, state supported technical colleges ( two and four year), and built the new communities of the future which will become a model for the world—and create jobs building 21st century houses for families.I hope my friends, the Democratic governors of Virginia, Tennesse, West Virginia, North Carolina, Maryland, and Arkansas also take a look at the tremendous benefits of the technological associated with building passive homes.The opportunity recommended by passive houses reminds me of how Sweden ended its recession and its economy flourished through the export of iron to England to manufacture the long-handled hoes--the staple, most widely-used tool on plantations--that Africans in the Americas used to handwork the fields of tobacco, rice, and cotton that stretched from Texas to Virginia and the Carolinas. If the hoe revived Sweden's economy in the 18th century, than a German technology adapted to the American landscape can help a new generation obtain a high standard of living!