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Mike hopes to see the world turned upside down through local communities banding together for social change, especially churches which have recognized the radical calling to be good news to the poor, to set free the prisoners and oppressed, and to become the social embodiment of the reign of God on earth as it is in heaven. He lives with the blessed memory of his wife, in Durham, NC, and has three adult children living in three different states. He also shares his life with the Mt. Level Missionary Baptist Church in Durham, the faculty and students of Shaw University Divinity School in Raleigh, NC, and the faithful fans of Duke and Baylor Basketball in his neighborhood.

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Saturday, January 10, 2009

Reversing the Police State and Torture

The Patriot Act and the numerous laws and policies that have followed in its wake represent a dangerous turn in U. S. government and society. I have long criticized these laws and worked for their repeal. The Cheney-Bush policies about torture, secrecy, wiretapping, etc., have made the U. S. an ever greater symbol of repression.

I read with interest a post by Michael Westmoreland-White concerning Obama's appointments to the Justice Department. MW-W is encouraged that these high-level lawyers will turn the tide on civil liberties. I hope and pray that he is right. Thanks, Michael, for your helpful analysis.

Bailout 12: Whose Justice? Which Regulations?

The usual debates about economic policy end up gravitating toward "free market" solutions versus "government intervention." The assumption is that one side encourages regulation and the other deregulation. Dean Baker has pointed out repeatedly how this way of presenting the argument misleads, obscuring the ways that interests of different groups are served by policies. In an article from The Boston Review, he gives a more extensive argument with numerous helpful examples.

Baker claims that markets are always regulated, and most "free market" conservatives actually favor a certain kind of government regulation that protects the interests of the wealthy. He uses numerous examples, such as the cost of drugs, computer operating systems, and music protected by patent and copyright laws. These laws require extensive government involvement in industry and personal life, or regulation. He points out that arguments favoring changes in bankruptcy laws have focused on the irresponsible decisions of borrowers and created government intervention on behalf of creditors without imposing the same kind of penalties on the irresponsible decisions of the creditors who were not forced to loan money. While many industrial and service workers are unprotected from international competition, the government intervenes extensively to protect doctors, lawyers, and many other powerful professions from international competition, even though many of those regulations have nothing to do with protecting public health or order.

In relation to the recent bailout, he says that the so-called deregulation of the finance industry over recent decades failed to deregulate at a key point: it preserved the "to-big-to-fail" doctrine. Thus, as financial institutions, executives, investors, and other players took greater and greater risks on the assumption that the housing bubble would never crash, they knew that they would ultimately not be allowed to fail. After all of the carnage, those who reaped enormous profits during the boom (not just the paper profits, but the ones cashed in) get to keep their "earnings," while others (homeowners, pensioners, the uninsured, the unemployed, the taxpayers) will have to pay for the costs of their profligacy. This is a government intervention, not a free market. A purely free market solution of letting the banks fail, the insurance companies fail, and other giant corporations fail would probably have been worse. But the point is that the decision to bail out reveals that it was never a free market. It was always regulated.

Tuesday, January 06, 2009

Christmas Letter

We used to be very faithful senders of the "informative Christmas letter," but over the years I have found myself pressed with lots of things as December rolls around. We missed quite a few years, becoming occasional senders of greetings.

But this year Everly got us organized, and we put one together. Our mailing lists are not fully up to date, so some of the letters are coming back stamped "no such addressee." I'm sorry if we did not get letters to all the right addresses.

Here is a copy for those who are interested.

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Merry Christmas 2008

Seasons Greetings from the Durham Broadways! We hope this letter finds you well this holiday season. We missed sending a letter last year, as sometimes happens, so we will try to make up for it in this one. ☺

David is still working part time at Waldenbooks near the Broadway home in Durham. He has now moved to a house just two blocks away from the rest of the family, which he shares with two friends, some budgies, and a guinea pig. He is attending North Carolina Central University in Durham, majoring in history. He’s driving the Saturn wagon that Grandpa Herbie and Granny Ree used to own, and one of his favorite hangouts is an estate sale store called Everything but Granny’s Panties. He’s discovered vinyl LP records there, so he got a turntable to listen to them.

Naomi graduated from high school in June 2007. Spring Break of her senior year was spent with 38 other AP Biology students in Mexico and Belize. The next fall she entered St. Edward’s University in Austin, TX. Majoring in Psychology, she has now spent three semesters there and is still enjoying it very much. Still dancing, she is active in the campus Ballet Folkl√≥rico and the dance ministry at First Baptist Church in Austin. This past summer she was elected to be the Young Adult representative on the Board of the Baptist Peace Fellowship and attended the first meeting in Vancouver in October 2008. She will be joining the college ministry of First Baptist on a mission trip to Chile in May 2009.

Lydia is in the 11th grade at Riverside High School. She is in an engineering program called Project Lead the Way, which has given her the chance to take courses in computer assisted drafting, digital electronics, and other specialized study. She is the secretary of the student group for engineering called Technical Students Association. She also works a couple of afternoons a week at One World Market, a fair trade craft store, where she helps with unpacking shipments, setting up displays, running the cash register, and whatever else they ask her to do. She continues to learn new skills in playing the guitar and meets her teacher once a week. At church, she is an officer in the Youth Missionaries and helps Dad in the nursery fairly often. She’s driving her car pool to school this year.

Everly is the Section Chief for Mathematics K-12 for the NC Department of Public Instruction. In case you did not hear, in August 07 she was able to go as a VIP guest of NASA to see the launch of the space shuttle, a day to remember. She put in many hours over the past year revising and completing her research at UNC. In November, she successfully defended her dissertation, completing her doctoral degree. The research is on the possibilities for improving achievement by improving the math curriculum in high schools, with a particular focus on the achievement of African American students. In October, she caught up with Mike and turned 50, and to celebrate, she and her sister Ruthie went to see the new Donny and Marie Osmond stage show in Las Vegas. They got front row seats and an opportunity for autographs and photos with Donny and Marie.

Mike continues to teach at Shaw University Divinity School and to serve at Mt. Level Missionary Baptist Church. This past year he has helped to revive the Faculty Senate and served as a committee chair, researching and working for equity on issues of faculty compensation. He has also been learning to organize his work around the new emphasis on assessment of student learning outcomes, a whole new set of jargon with more complicated ways of writing syllabi, assignments, and planning documents. Ugh! This past summer, Mike was invited to be a keynote speaker for the Ekklesia Project Gathering in Chicago, IL, speaking on ecclesiology, hermeneutics, and race. He also gave his Presidential Address on the concept of “whiteness” in relation to black theologies at the annual meeting of a regional group of Baptist professors. At church, he teaches middle schoolers in Sunday School, helps coordinate the nursery, and works with the community organizing (everyone knows what that is this year) group Durham CAN.

The whole family again attended the Baptist Peace Fellowship Summer Conference. The 2007 meeting was in Berea, KY, and this year in Montreal, Quebec. The girls joined Mike for the trip to Chicago this summer, and they wore themselves out visiting museums. Some of Everly’s intense writing opportunities during the past year took place at a friend’s beach house near Wilmington, and the girls tagged along to spend a few days on the beach vacationing. The 1994 Dodge van is in its final days. We replaced it with a smaller wagon for traveling, a 2008 Scion xB. The van, at 249,000-plus miles, has served us well, but it’s not really roadworthy any more. It will soon find its final rest at a local junk yard, once we stop using it as a storage container.

In their Jubilee year, Mike and Everly remember the vision of God’s Shalom for all people of the earth, and we pray that we and you may live as witness and sign of that Shalom as we give of ourselves as we have received from God’s abundance.

The humblest of people catch a glimpse of their worth.

For it isn't to the palace that the Christ child comes,

But to shepherds and street people, hookers and bums.

Like a stone on the surface of a still river
Driving the ripples on forever—
Redemption rips through the surface of time

In the cry of a tiny babe.

-- Bruce Cockburn, “Cry of a Tiny Babe”

Monday, January 05, 2009

Bailout 11: Market Morality Won't Just Vanish

The assumption of much public policy making is that getting the money in the right place or setting up the right program will solve problems. Of course, these things can and do make a difference. However, as Cornel West argued long ago, changing the conditions of extreme poverty will not go away just by setting up programs. Nor will they go away by telling the people caught up in poverty to change their behavior. Culture and social structures are interlinked. That is why he wrote about "market morality." When social thinking becomes colonized and dominated by doctrinaire market theories, then other forms of moral vision and community begin to be eclipsed by individual self-interest. That is why West called for a "politics of conversion:" the change has to be deep and it has to be systemic.

Henry A. Giroux and Susan Searls Giroux have picked up this argument in relation to the current bailout of the economy. They recognize that new views of the economy are gaining a hearing, but they also point out that the general population has been schooled in free market thinking and its market morality. A change that renews the commitment to the common good, a belief in government's role to do good for citizens, and moral limits on individual freedom will require a process of education.

Politics is not simply about the production and protection of economic formations; it is also about the production of individuals, desires, identifications, values and modes of understanding for inhabiting the ideological and institutional forms that make up a social order. At the very least, any attempt to both understand the current crisis and what it would mean to produce a new kind of subject willing to invest in and struggle for a democratic society needs to raise another set of questions in addition to those currently posed.
Moral formation of another sort is required. Are there any communities of alternative formation that can point the direction toward a more humane vision of economic life? Churches too often have allowed the economics of the world to negate the economic vision of the Bible. We need churches to stand for an economic life in which "there are no needy among you" (Deuteronomy 15:4; Acts 4:34).

Clean Energy Jobs

Van Jones has risen to leadership in the dual struggle for a cleaner environment and an end to poverty. The founder of the Ella Baker Center for Human Rights, Jones engaged in the struggle to improve the lives of young blacks in the Bay Area. Over time, he gained a new recognition of the relationship of race, poverty, and the environment, leading him to found another organization called Green for All. An excellent article, "Greening the Ghetto," tells about his ideas, his life, and the influence he is now having on public policy.
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