Friday, October 24, 2014

Vote for Jana Jones!

Dear Idaho voters,

I hope you will take the time to actually think about who you vote for this upcoming election.  I have a feeling that a large majority of the voters just vote for the candidate who is affiliated with the Republican party.  This is problematic because this doesn't reflect the qualities of the candidate!  For example the Idaho's Superintendent of Public Instruction. We have a Democrat Jana Jones who has an impressive background and who would be very capable for the job.  The Republican candidate Sherri Ybarra has now lied twice about her history and plagiarized Jana Jones' website!  Somehow the she is still in the lead. From this news article (a second one here) a brief summary of her missteps:
  •  Lied about education: "Sherri Ybarra... claimed for months that she expected to get a doctorate in education in August. But in August, Ybarra had only been enrolled in the doctoral program at the University of Idaho for one semester."

  • Plagiarized Jana Jone's campaign website: 
  • Lied about marital history:
  • Snubbed an important IASA conference only to be seen having coffee in the same part of Boise during the conference. 
After the disastrous tenure by former superintendent Tom Luna, Idaho cannot afford to blow it again.  Vote for Jana Jones.

UPDATE: Ybarra won.  Great job Idaho, good luck with that .

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Have you done any good in the world today?

Before general conference conference I expressed concern that many important topics did not seem like a priority for the LDS church because they were not highlighted at general conference often or at all.  Poverty, which was one suggested topic, was addressed not once, but twice! Both of these talks were inspiring and wonderful to hear.  It is not totally surprising.  When looking at the fast offering funds the demand for fast offering support is more than fast offering donations.  This is only understandable given the changing demographics of church growth.  While fast offering donations is a wonderful way to help the poor who are LDS, I thought I would offer a few suggestions of other avenues for those looking to donate.  This week in my International Organizations course students did presentations on NGOs, many were humanitarian NGOs.  There is criticism of the humanitarian NGO aid sector, (high overhead, creating dependencies, lack of accountability to those receiving aid, ect) but this does not mean that all NGO's are problematic. Here are few NGO's that I would like to highlight, which I do believe have a positive impact,certainly more than much of the excessive consumption that goes on.  Some of them came from my students!

  • LDS Philanthropies The LDS church received NGO status from the UN a few years ago.  I like the humanitarian services because there is no overhead costs (the church picks up the tab) so 100% of donations actually goes to humanitarian aid.  Projects are inspiring and focus on providing wheel chairs, medical training, immunizations, self sufficient agricultural production, and much more.  
  • Give directly is an innovative approach for a humanitarian aid organization.  Instead of providing a service (which usually comes with expensive overhead and can create dependencies) they just give cash to poor people, no strings attached.  Surprisingly, research has shown that this is a very effective way of improving the quality of life for the poor.  On average they are responsible with the money and invest it in a manor that will significantly improve their quality of life such as invest in a tin roof (a thatch roof needs to be replaced several times a year) or livestock. 
  • Save the Children This is a large NGO that deals with a number of humanitarian issues, mostly education and health care for children.  Here they have the option of sponsoring a child, purchasing gifts such as livestock, and other neat donation options.  It is a very large organization so there is some overhead (including their CEO's high salary) but overall it seems like they do make a positive impact.
  • The HELP foundation is a smaller NGO that works in one region of the Philippines.  They deal with health issues, education, and help to provide income for low wage earners by selling handicraft abroad and sending the money back to the local workers.  One of my students is a volunteer for this NGO and worked in the Philippines and noted the positive impact on the local economy and in the lives of the participants. They also offer the option of sponsoring a child's education.  Since this is a small local NGO it seems that overhead is significantly smaller than some of the global NGO's.  If you want to make sure your 10 or 20 bucks makes a difference this might be the organization
  • Pencil's of Promise is an NGO that invests in education in Ghana, Laos, Guatemala, and Nicaragua.  The founder came across a street orphan in India and asked him if he could have anything in the world what would he ask for.  The boy responded that he would ask for a pencil.  This NGO merges some business practices to increase accountability and transparency that sometimes can be missing from other NGO's.  
For a major global reduction of poverty many things will have to happen.  Better governance in impoverished countries, a decrease in conflict around the world, and better policies from Western countries towards poor countries.  Often poor countries don't need aid they need access to markets (US and EU agriculture subsidies being the prime example).  Large multinational corporations should be more responsible in paying their taxes and should feel more responsibility to develop local economies.  In Africa crude oil is exported refined elsewhere then repurchased at a higher price.  The extraction of crude oil meanwhile giving very little employment opportunities to locals.  Natural resources should be refined and processed in the same locations to provide meaningful employment.

No one reading this blog will be able to change US trade policy or Chevron's business model, but don't be discouraged a difference can be made.  Small donations to these NGO's won't change the world, but it will change someone's world. 

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Our firstborn is one year old! And she is pretty much super awesome.

First of all, like many kids, she loves throwing stuff in the toilet. She also knows some how what this tool is for:

She likes to ride in the laundry basket.

And she is very cute all the time, like when she hugs her blanky and falls asleep on her lamb.

She had a birthday party! She sat on her presents all day before we opened them. Owned!
Most of them are from America from Grandma and Grandpa. Thank you!

She got a new jacket and had to try it on her head. 

She got a lion walker and enjoys is very much. More that the walker itself she loves the box where it was in. She sits on it regularly.

And she loves her cute new doll. 

The day of her birthday was fun! New stuff is exciting. And the most exciting thing is to be a parent and see her get excited. People, get kids if you don´t have them yet. It is hard, too, but mostly it just makes things more fun and it makes it possible to get excited about things that you may have hated before, like snow or winter.