Wednesday, July 28, 2004

democracy,  shmemocracy

I heard an Indian news anchor interviewed on the radio yesterday about the DNC. He made a comment about how Indians were "...wondering why, in the world's most powerful democracy, that there are only two political parties. In India, there are numerouse political parties."

Hmmm, could it be that we have a crappy democracy?

Tuesday, July 27, 2004

svaw chat

As most of you know, I work in the field of domestic violence. I also chair a local Violence Against Women (VAW) committee. Amnesty has a two year campaign on VAW that started this year. Yesterday they had an all-day online chat with one of their state coordinators. I had submitted a question prior to the chat, and Elizabeth responded to it. I thought it might be of interest to SAS’ers as it is about institutions and social change – I was curious to know how a non-sociologist would respond (and hoped it would give me SOME ideas). My question and her response is here:

Question Submitted by John:
Hello I am a sociologist and as such, see much of the continued incidence and prevalence of VAW as being rooted in our institutions and/or social structure. Institutions, by their very nature are quite stable, so the are very resistant to change. So, my question is, does anyone have any specific tactics on how to change our institutions? I think that we need all of the current tactics that we have PLUS ones that are specifically designed to change, modify and/or replace our current institutions. Are you aware of any tactics that are designed to do precisely that? Thanks much and thanks for this initiative.

Elizabeth Jennings answers:
Hi, John. You’re right: Changing institutions can be very difficult. Generally, it happens from three directions: From above (government laws and policies that force institutions to act in a non-discriminatory way), from below (grassroots pressure and cultural change to end gender-based discrimination), and from within (among staff and leaders in institutions that want to create a culture that respects all people). Ending violence against women in the U.S. military is just one example of a current effort to change an institution at all three levels. Through the AI Stop Violence Against Women Campaign, a grassroots effort is underway to pressure U.S. Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld to develop a military-wide protocol to address domestic violence of service members and service members’ spouses, and to address sexual assault of female soldiers by their colleagues. AI’s top-down and bottom-up efforts to end violence against women in the U.S. military supports the long-standing work being done by U.S. military personnel (men and women, enlisted and officers) who are trying to change the culture and process of the armed services from the inside out in order to ensure that women may serve their country without fear of other soldiers. To learn how to take action on this particular institution-changing issue, go to

The summary of the entire chat can be found here:

Monday, July 26, 2004

can i pick another planet to live on??????????

just sent this to the same sociology list...

I was listening to the radio about the 9-11 report and something struck me – made me think about my post last week on threshold and systems…

Essentially the 9-11 report blames the SYSTEM, not any individuals; if you recall, I think it was the Chairman (Kean) who said something to the effect of, “we are not in the blame business;” the report on the 94 incidences of abuse blames INDIVIDUALS (aberrations), not the system.


9-11:                 system failure (no apparent individual failings)
94 abuses:        individual aberrations (no apparent systemic failing)

Makes even less sense now…one conclusion I can draw is that the farther up the food chain one is, the less likelihood there is for any accountability. Notice that not one elected official has been fired, removed, resigned, re-assigned, etc. for 9-11 (of if they have, it hasn’t made any of the news that I read, and I DO read a lot of it). I guess if one can successfully fault the “system” for a failing, there is no need for anything like that.

I seriously doubt, however that those military persons who committed those “aberrant” acts of abuse are going to be afforded such a defense.

This IS all a bad dream, right?
what's the threshold?

from a post i sent to an sociology list...

I have been reading about the 94 incidents of prisoner abuse and how these do not indicate a “systemic” problem. I find this very interesting as I wonder what is the threshold for # of incidents that WOULD trigger characterization as a systemic problem? Needless to say, their current characterization of it NOT being systemic doesn’t make sense to me. Despite the actual # of persons involved in the abuse, it was apparent in the Taguba report (and I believe he said so himself) that at least Abu Ghraib was a systemic problem in that it was a breakdown of the system which allowed the service personnel to commit the abuses.

I also recall what W. Edwards Deming (“father” of TQM) posited as a truism…when you have a failing in an organization, 10% of the time it is due to individual failing, and 90% of the time it is due to the system failing. Ironically, when I first started looking into TQM some years ago, some of the best info on its utilization came from the military.

Saturday, July 10, 2004

a noble man

i read Meeting Jesus again for the first time back in May. my first real thought was, "the bastards, all this time i have been thinking i am not worthy of God's love and in reality, i am simply because i am." i was ready to throw the book across the room. not because of what Borg was saying, but because of the implications of what he was saying and they relevance that they had for my life. i had been duped, tricked, manipulated by that rigid and authoritarian Catholic school structure all "in the name of God" and now Borg was telling me that I didn't need to be. the friggin "good news" is that Jesus lives in all of us -- we just need to realize that. it has nothing to do with earning His love or any other crap.

anyway, i emailed Borg and thanked him for the great book -- it allowed me to be a Christian again (BTW, Christians, look out, I'm back).

he emailed me back. he is a noble man. next to my Guru, he is the sanest spiritual person going right now for me.
to sleep or not to sleep...

i realized yesterday when "trying" to take a nap that I could fall asleep almost instantly if i could let go enough. let go and fall asleep. my usual pattern is to think, think, think, drift, think, think, drift, think, drift, drift...and then wake up.

i think the solution is to just let go and relax and sleep.

imagine that. anxiety being my middle (perhaps first) name, this comes as a great surprise and in some respects, no surprise at all.