Via a comment on MetaFilter, I just learned about the levels of tzedakah, which I'll copy here from Wikipedia because I found it interesting:

  1. Giving a poor person work (or loaning him money to start a business) so he will not have to depend on charity. This is because the person is now free from having to rely on charity. The giver has not just helped the recipient for the short while, but instead for the rest of their life. There are four sub-levels to this:
    1. Giving a poor person work.
    2. Making a partnership with them (this is lower than work, as the recipient might feel he doesn't put enough into the partnership).
    3. Giving a loan.
    4. Giving a gift.
  2. Giving charity anonymously to an unknown recipient.
  3. Giving charity anonymously to a known recipient.
  4. Giving charity publicly to an unknown recipient.
  5. Giving charity before being asked.
  6. Giving adequately after being asked.
  7. Giving willingly, but inadequately.
  8. Giving unwillingly.

Especially so in the context of the Grameen Bank, which just won the Nobel Peace Prize today. The Grameen bank is level 1.3 of tzedakah. Back in the day, the WPA was level 1.1. But I’m not sure level 1.1 can really be instutionalized outside the context of economic catastrophe. Even the WPA was criticized for promoting laziness. People don’t like to feel lazy, and sometimes it’s nice to have incentives to live up to our potential. The Grameen Bank provides those incentives, so I think on the levels of tzedakah, it’s about as good as a large organization can get.


Five years ago I was driving my car from my apartment to my university when I heard on the radio that a plane had struck the World Trade Center. I assumed it was an accident and didn’t think much of it until I walked by a room on my way to class or work (I don’t remember which) and saw a group of people watching the news. I watched throughout the morning until it became clear to me what was happening.

I had a few friends in New York, but I didn’t think first of them. My first thought was that this was Pearl Harbor and it was now the time to start preventing Hiroshima. I spent much of the next four years working to that end. I walked around campus in September 12 with the words "the other cheek" written on my face, in an effort to bring out the good in people and not the bad I feared was coming. I encouraged reconciliation and discouraged revenge. I helped organize multiple organizations focused on these goals.

I drew attention to the innocent civilians dying as we bombed Afghanistan. I loudly opposed our invasion of Iraq. I made the front page of newspapers. I made the TV news. I spoke on panels. I campaigned for politicians calling for peace. I campaigned against politicians calling for war. I compromised and voted for Kerry. I registered voters and served as an election judge to help others do the same.

None of this worked. I hope I made some small impact, but many more innocent people have died in the pursuit of vengence for the events of five years ago than died on that day. I didn’t hear they died on the radio. I didn’t see it on the TV. There is no moment of silence for these people. I don’t remember what I was doing when they died.


In the spring of 2002 (if I remember correctly), I joined many of my university friends on a weekend trip to Luck, Wisconsin. We stayed on a farm with some kind folks who showed us how they use solar heating and electricity, convert their waste water to fertilizer, and generally remain self-sufficient.

According to DefenseTech (via BoingBoing), earlier this week, those same folks dressed up as clowns and broke into a nuclear missile silo. The FBI is involved in the case and federal charges are pending. I just wanted to point out to anyone paying attention amidst the cries of treason that I've met these people, and they are nice, normal people with whom you'd easily make friends. They just really dislike nuclear weapons.


today, the bloomington-normal citizens for peace and justice held an alternative bush inauguration in downtown bloomington. we inaugurated a juniper bush. you can read the press release over on gabe's weblog. i wrote most of the speech that was read. here it is:

This bush has never betrayed our trust. It has never mislead us about weapons of mass destruction. It has never made hollow statements about protecting our environment while pushing laws to harm our environment. It has never promised to educate our children, and failed to honor its promise. Every word this bush has ever spoken was true. This is an honest bush. An honest bush is good for America. An honest government is good for America.
This bush has never killed. It has never put a single American in harm's way. It has never attacked another country without reason. This bush believes in the value of human life, and fights to preserve it, not destroy it. This is a peaceful bush. A peaceful bush is good for America. A peaceful government is good for America.
This bush improves the environment. This bush has a record of removing harmful carbon dioxide from our atmosphere. This bush knows global warming is a problem, and is working with plants and people around the world to solve this problem. This bush has no ties with the oil industry. This bush supports renewable energy sources. This is an environmentally friendly bush. An environmentally friendly bush is good for America. An environmentally friendly government is good for America.
This bush doesn't waste money. This bush provides resources for everyone. This bush does not support corporate welfare. This bush sides with working people over big business. This bush will provide for all, rich or poor, old or young. This bush has never spent more money than it has. This bush never threw itself lavish parties while ignoring those in need. This is a fiscally responsible bush. A fiscally responsible bush is good for America. A fiscally responsible government is good for America.
This bush believes in equal rights. This bush has never attacked a minority for political gain. This bush has never called for inequality to smear our nation's constitution. This bush treats all Americans the same. A bush that supports equality is good for America. A government that supports equality is good for America.
This bush is good for America. This is the best bush we know. We hereby inaugurate this bush.
An inauguration is a new beginning, an opportunity to rededicate ourselves to what we know is right. On this inauguration day, we inaugurate this bush, and with it we inaugurate the values that are good for America. We inaugurate honesty. We inaugurate peace. We inaugurate a healthy planet. We inaugurate responsibility. And we inaugurate equality.