Thursday, September 17, 2009

Happy Birthday, Mr. Constitution

On this day in history, specifically September 17, 1787, the Constitution of the United States of America was signed by 38 of 41 delegates present at the conclusion of the Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia. However, in light of the recent healthcare debate, the brilliance of the system of checks and balances placed into that unique document seems somehow tarnished in today's world. While the logic of having such a system is still intact, the spirit of shared authority in the interest of ensuring a representative government seems to have been lost in a void of personal financial interests, malicious arguments, and votes made strictly along party lines. I cannot help but wonder what the authors of this document would think to look at the antics of today's Congress.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Rude, Yes. Racist, Not so Much

I found Maureen Dowd's op-ed in today's New York Times quite disturbing. Dowd argues that Joe Wilson's "You lie!" outburst during President Obama's speech to the joint session of Congress was underlined by his racism, and the racism of the south. What Dowd heard was, "You lie, boy!"

I agree that Congressman Wilson's action was out of line and unbecoming; he embarrassed himself, he embarrassed the Congress of the United States. However, I find it hard (and problematic) to connect his outburst to an underlying racism. Dowd lists some of Wilson's affiliations and his record, many of which can lead one to conclude that he's not a fan of Black people.

However, in a country where politics is such a dirty sport, and where extreme partisanship is the norm, we should be very careful to distinguish between what is politics as usual and what is more nefarious.

I think Dowd is right: there are segments of the population that are disgruntled and hate the idea of a Black president. However, I am not convinced that Wilson's rudeness is one more manifestation of this.

Picture from Psychology Today "credited to 'Getty Images,' 'AFP' (Agence France-Presse)"

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Food and the Health Care Debate

Michael Pollan released a well-timed op-ed on NYT this morning to follow on the President's fiery speech last night.

Pollan addresses an essential question that has thus far been ignored by politicians:

What is the food industries role in the health care debate?

As Pollan writes, antiquated farm policy has led to,
The government is putting itself in the uncomfortable position of subsidizing both the costs of treating Type 2 diabetes and the consumption of high-fructose corn syrup.
His final conclusion? Forcing health insurance companies to pay the true cost of chronic disease care may be the impetus for not just for farm policy reform, but for changing the dangerous way that Americans eat.

Don't miss this one.

(Photo copyright: ZeroOne)

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

A Lesson in Civics

By Pilar Oberwetter

President Obama gives his inexplicably controversial speech to the country's schoolchildren today. The ReGenerates plan to watch, and we invite our readers to do so as well. We think it is important for the executive branch of government to open dialogue with the youngest members of this democracy.

It provides a living, breathing civics lesson which, based on recent antics by extremists, seems to be rather necessary these days. We encourage everyone to watch-- young and old alike-- there are lessons to be learned in both the content and context of the President's speech.

Friday, September 4, 2009

From Hole-Plugging to Sustainability

A great short article on "Grantseeking in a Tough Economy" from Cheryl A. Clarke in today's Guidestar newsletter.

Anyone involved in nonprofit grant writing has received the panicky "fix it fast!" message that leads directly to a fundraising-as-hole-plugging ethos.

The best organizations out there, and the ones that are the most sustainable, are the ones who allow their fundraisers to raise smart dollars, not necessarily fast dollars.

That requires treating a grants calendar as a live document, like a budget, that contains clear goals and objectives (and running actuals) with a built-in in flexibility for opportunities and unexpected challenges.

Especially in the world of grants, turnaround on receipt of funds can be anywhere from 1-12 months, and probably averages between 4-6. Don't waste your agencies or your grant writers time by forcing quantity over quality out the door.

With foundations and government agencies as tight-fisted as ever, spending extra time on the front-end to prospect agencies with strong mission and program alignment will be well worth the wait. When opportunities arise, as Ms. Clarke says, jump on them.

But for fast dollars, look elsewhere.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Updating Our Collective (Health) Status

By Pilar Oberwetter

A mysterious wave of posts took over Facebook and Twitter today, expressing a sentiment that this blog agrees with in full: No one should die because they cannot afford health care and no one should go broke because they get sick.

If you agree, post this as your status for the rest of the day.

If this is the segway to a collective rallying call to push the public option into Obama's speech scheduled for September 9, then we hope to see more of it in the coming days.
And what a wonderful way to use social networking for the social good.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Nonprofit Daydreaming

The Utah government is spreading the word on the benefits of the four-day work week for state employees.

Living in Washington, DC, I've long been accustomed to the schedule-shifting habits of those federal government employees whose flex time options make nonprofiteers such as myself salivate with envy. For many government employees, four-day work weeks are the norm.

This seems like a no-brainer. It's better for employees, better for organizations, and - in the case of a four-day work week - better for the environment.

I know there are a few nonprofits out there that provide employees with flexible work week arrangements, but seriously, dear nonprofit sector, hurry up already!

Liberal Ties

Wesleyan University President Michael Roth discusses the legacy of the late Senator Ted Kennedy in The Huffington Post.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Peaches Never Tasted So...Expensive

By Pilar Oberwetter

Logically, local produce sold at farmer's markets in cities should promote healthy eating in step with reducing carbon footprints-- a win-win solution on all fronts. And like the organic movement, the push to grow and consume locally encourages awareness and advocacy to such a degree that some consider it to be a social movement of sorts-- which helps to justify the expectation of paying a slightly higher price.

Taking all this into consideration, I still cannot explain the $9.00 charge for 6 peaches at the Dupont Circle Sunday Market in the District of Columbia. It seems that all arguments fall apart when produce is brought into the city and priced at a level that makes them financially inaccessible for most city residents, regardless of a recent policy of allowing food stamps to be applied to farmer's market purchases.

And to add insult to injury, the dang things were not even organic.