Thursday, July 30, 2009

Stupid is as Stupid Does

A friend of mine posted this Slate article on Facebook. Christopher Hitchens' piece is interesting because it starts with a scene in which he, as a white man walking the streets of California, speaks smartly to a cop. The cop drives away, frustrated that he doesn't have "probable cause" and as a result Hitchens doesn't have to answer his questions. He contrasts this to Henry "Skip" Gates's recent arrest in his own home. The media has had a field day with the Gates story and I suspect the real story of why Gates was arrested will remain unknown to many of us.

What stood out for me in Hitchens' piece was the discussion of President Obama's comments regarding the incident. I happen to agree with President Obama in his initial assessment, the Cambridge police acted "stupidly" by arresting a man in his own home. However, Hitchens is right, the president should not have weighed in on a local dispute to begin with. But once he did, it would have been nice if he refused to retract his statement. Even if we don't know what the story was between Gates and the arresting officer, I'd argue most logical people do not believe it's okay to arrest a man in his own home - some of us might summarize the act as "stupid."

I have two regrets about the President Obama inserting himself into the debate: In a press conference focused on healthcare, the usually disciplined president distracted the entire nation by answering a question about his friend (and a topic I'm sure he finds vexing). Two days later, the president retracted his comments (being the healer-in-chief that he is).

I would have preferred if he clarified why the act was "stupid" rather than retract the statement and try to make peace over beer. But it is what it is. Hopefully in the future, we can have the race (and racism) debate more constructively.

Nonetheless, now that the beer bottles are empty, can we please return to a quasi-constructive healthcare debate.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

PCVs Get One of Their Own

By Pilar Oberwetter

On July 14, President Obama announced his intent to nominate Aaron Williams as the next Director of the United States Peace Corps, and today, his nomination hearings with the Senate Foreign Relations Committee are officially underway.

Mr. Williams's basic bio includes his current position as a Vice President for International Business Development with RTI International; he also has over 25 years of collective experience in the design and implementation of worldwide assistance programs. Standing above all of his accomplishments, however, is the fact that Mr. Williams served as a Peace Corps Volunteer in the Dominican Republic (1967-70). Let's not forget that Gaddi Vasquez, our former president's pick to lead this agency, had neither served as a volunteer or worked for the agency that he was asked to lead.

As a returned Peace Corps volunteer myself, I applaud and endorse President Obama's pick and am excited to see what he will do in his new role.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Lest We Forget

By Pilar Oberwetter

One hundred and forty-one years ago on this date (July 28), the 14th Amendment, guaranteeing citizenship and all its privileges to African Americans, was officially adopted into the US Constitution, having been ratified by the necessary three-quarters of the US states.

Interesting to think that today, the Senate Judiciary Committee negotiates the confirmation of the nation's first Latina Supreme Court Justice; the national press banters about last week's arrest of a prominent African American scholar on his front doorstep; and the nation watches as Washington determines the future of the individual's access to health care.

Doesn't it seem like political decisions and social morals worked together back in the day? What happened?

Thursday, July 23, 2009

What makes us develop, professionally?

Having been the recipient of frequent professional development over the years, I have always been a bit of a skeptic, having a difficult time relating most of these training opportunities to my day to day work. However, on lunch break today from a week-long conference, I am specifically questioning the cost-benefit ratio of these professional development events.

It seems that an entire industry has been built around the Continuing Legal Education (CLE) and Continuing Professional Education (CPE)-- but that maintaining professional credentials, or fulfilling the training requirements for career advancement, does not always match skill sets that will actually be used on the job. To be sure, the titles of many of the workshops infer a connection, but practically speaking, two or even eight hours of a single topic will not assign subject-matter expertise, and in many cases, will not even result in measureable subject-matter knowledge.

Further, for those organizations that organize these events, and for the public and nonprofit, and even private institutions that foot the bill, is the value of the workshop content equivalent to the charges? Is the half or full-day session worth a fee that rivals the per-credit hour charges of most public universities? Is the cost of requiring an employee to miss XX number of work hours per year to attend these trainings actually worth it to the organizations?

Perhaps, as a society, we have simply enabled another industry to capitalize on policies and requirements that assign legitimacy to professional development, but have neglected to provide necessary oversight on the relevancy of many of these trainings to actual job practice.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

A Very Lawful Entry


Harvard Professor Henry Louis Gates Jr. is arrested for entering his own home in Cambridge, MA.

Hard to imagine how the Cambridge Police Department could explain away accusations of racial profiling.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Moving Back In with Mom and Dad Never Looked So Good

More coverage on the Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program from The Washington Post today.

Now I feel really bad about myself knowing that their "Drowning in Debt" example case owes a mere $30,000.

Oh Suzie Dundas, if you only knew.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Where do Babies Come From?

Today's New York Times story on surrogacy raises a great point about how our society will need to broaden the conversations around how children come into the world. With different types of families and with growing methods of childbirth, it may no longer be sufficient to tell the story as the "birds and the bees"

I found myself reading the article and imagining how I would explain childbirth to my children. I ended my thought experiment grateful that my children are still MANY years away from coming to earth. But I am curious how others would describe surrogacy and other methods of childbirth to children.

One parent, Joan Lunden, provided this example for explaining surrogacy in the Times: "Cupcakes. 'It’s almost like we can’t cook the cupcakes in our oven because the oven is broken,' she said. 'We’re going to use the neighbor’s oven.'"

Friday, July 10, 2009

Bono on "Africa"

I think Bono's piece in today's New York Times was interesting. I started reading it thinking of it as another one of those people pontificating about the continent, from without. And while I still think it is/was, he makes some good points. Namely that there are many opportunities in many parts of the continent and there are champions in numerous countries for reform, for growth and much more.

However, what I still find missing is the connection to what role people themselves (for example the middle class he refers to) have to play. It's one thing to talk about African reformers and the role they play, it's a whole other to talk about the people in African countries and what they are doing in their country.

And then there's the whole thing about "Africa"!!! It is 54 freaking countries. I dislike the notion of Africa as one piece. I think the notion of us all being being African-American only adds to that misperception. I have objection to that assertion regardless, but it's made worse when it further conflates the continent into one giant country.

Wondering what others think ...

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Get On the (City) Bus

As a non-car owning passenger of DC’s bus system, I spend my time riding to and from work in deep reflection, which is one of the many benefits of opting for this form of public transportation.  In recent months, my thoughts have been outwardly focused, thinking about the socioeconomic and demographic make-up of my fellow passengers—and how this seems to be a self-perpetuating trend, both here and elsewhere.

My fellow riders are overwhelmingly minority and working class.  No surprise for an urban transit system.  However, what has been a shock for me is the reaction of my friends and colleagues when I tell them that I take the bus to work now, that I took the bus across town to graduate school for two years, and that I much prefer it over Metro-proper (ie- the train).  It would seem that not only is the bus used by minority and working class residents—it is also perceived as designated for those residents and those residents only.

Case in point—DC has pumped millions of dollars in an effort to revitalize the H Street Corridor and potentially to improve the residential and commercial viability of the area.  However, despite the fact that this street in particular is home to the X2 line, a bus that essentially runs every 10 minutes in both directions, an argument was made about the perceived lack of available transportation to this neighborhood, and plans are being currently hatched to introduce a trolley system for folks to come and go.

Millions of dollars will be spent, just to help tourists and new residents and perhaps, dare I say it, the city’s ‘professionals’ (read- desirables) to avoid the city bus.

It seems that the stigma of bus-riding is both deep-seated and far-reaching.  I want to break down this barrier, but I do not know how. Does it help to talk about the new “Next Bus” phone system, where GPS locators tell riders how many minutes until your next bus arrives at your stop?  Will it make bus-riding more palatable to show the far, far reach of the routes?     

Come on, DC, get on the bus!   

(Photo copyrightgreychr)

By Pilar Oberwetter

Leadership Corner

The New York Times interviews Wendy Kopp, founder and CEO of Teach for America.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

The Man

Last night, when I was waiting for the Metro, I saw a beautiful Michael Jackson tribute tagged behind the subway platform. The mural was not unlike this one. 

It's not often that a celebrity death hurts like this.  In front of everything else, Michael Jackson was a true artist. His beat goes on. 

(Photo copyright: Stephen C.; Mural created by 808 Urban -

Monday, July 6, 2009

Here Today, Gay Tomorrow

As much as I heart President Obama, I've been thus far extremely disappointed by his lack of attention to all things gay.

Blogger Chris Geidner, however, has a new take on Obama's (Big G) Gay Strategy as an eight-year plan to affect deep structural change. This piece, inspired by a recent Andrew Sullivan column (and don't miss the bad ass pic of Obama), is a must-read for anyone who cares about LGBT issues.

All I can say is that I hope he's right.

Obama Dives Into Russian Civil Society

Among the stops President Obama will make on his historical trip to Russia will be meetings with prominent Russian civil society activists.

Allison Gill, Human Rights Watch's Russia office director, acknowledges the importance of this move in the face of recent governmental crackdowns on civic activists and journalists.
"President Medvedev has signaled that he is ready to strengthen civil society and support human rights and freedoms, and this should be a good starting point for the two presidents to talk about human rights. The talk of reform is good, but the situation itself is worrisome."

Human Rights Watch also reports that, "President Dmitry Medvedev recently indicated that he was willing to ease restrictions on nongovernmental organizations. He has proposed amendments to restrictive laws to simplify registration procedures for some of these groups, and to decrease the frequency of government inspections. But much more needs to be done to address the decline of civic freedoms and the risk to activists."

The ReGenerates will keep you posted in the days ahead.

Friday, July 3, 2009

Sarah, Say it Ain't So

It is with great sadness that I inform our readers that Alaska Governor Sarah Palin will relinquish her post on July 26, 2009. Palin, who many of us came to love and adore during the 2008 presidential race, has decided her lieutenant governor is better suited for running the state of Alaska. Lt. Gov. Sean Parnell will now be responsible for monitoring Russia as it rears it's head in Alaskan airspace.

My only consolation comes from knowing Ms. Palin made this decision after much “prayer and consideration.” I wish her well and hope to catch a wink in the many days between July 26, 2009 and November 6, 2012.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Paying Tribute

With the nonstop coverage of Michael Jackson's tragic passing last week, it is hard not to long for the days where the nightly news centered on the latest indiscretions of Republican politicians-- as you could count on interest in these events lasting for 36 hours at the most. However, before Neverland, Blanket and other incidents of weirdness, Michael Jackson built his reputation on legitimate talent and passion--for music and philanthropy. So, here is the ReGenerate's tribute to the King of Pop:

Is DC Cool Now?

The answer appears to be yes. Now that Obama lives here, MTV wants to set up camp too.

Get ready for The Real World, ye District residents.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Help is on the Way

If many of our readers are like me, they are committed to the nonprofit sector and they are working at an organization where they are not making too much money. If that's the case, they may share my excitement about the newly available income-based repayment (IBR). As of today, those of us who make meager sums may qualify for a program that reduces the amount of student loans paid monthly.

Even more exciting is the Public Service Loan Forgiveness program. Thanks to Congressional action, those who work in the public sector may have their loans forgiven after making ten years of payment. For those with tons of debt and a desire to stay in the nonprofit sector, help really is on the way.

The skeptic in me must warn our readers that you should do all your research and find out if IBR is a better option for you before you sign the papers. After all our goal is to be smart consumers, not just consumers.