The Least, First

Monte Asbury's blog

Archive for September 2008

World Wealth

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Sometimes people get put out because they feel the US pays more than its share of world needs. And it is true that the raw numbers are higher from the US than from other nations.

The issue reveals something important, though: We know too little about how very rich the US is compared to the rest of the world. Look below and see a truly astonishing fact: 34% of all the wealth that exists in human civilization resides in North America.   Breathe deeply and think on that.  One third. “So what,” one might ask, “ought to be the US’ share of world needs?” [See the related post What percent of US budget goes to foreign aid?]

Read the specs:

How the world’s wealth is distributed –

the top two percent own half

Where's the money in our world?

Gizmag, in 2006, summarized a study on The World Distribution of Household Wealth by the Helsinki-based World Institute for Development Economics Research of the United Nations University:

Wealth is heavily concentrated in North America, Europe, and high income Asia-Pacific countries. People in these countries collectively hold almost 90% of total world wealth. (Figure 2: Regional Wealth Shares) Although North America has only 6% of the world adult population, it accounts for 34% of household wealth. Europe and high income Asia-Pacific countries also own disproportionate amounts of wealth. In contrast, the overall share of wealth owned by people in Africa, China, India, and other lower income countries in Asia is considerably less than their population share, sometimes by a factor of more than ten. […]

[T]he richest 2% of adults in the world own more than half of global household wealth. The most comprehensive study of personal wealth ever undertaken also reports that the richest 1% of adults alone owned 40% of global assets in the year 2000, and that the richest 10% of adults accounted for 85% of the world total. In contrast, the bottom half of the world adult population owned barely 1% of global wealth. […]

Hear it?  The bottom half of our world’s people own barely 1% of global wealth.

We have no idea.

Let’s change it.


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September 30, 2008 at 6:04 pm

What percent of US budget goes to foreign aid?

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Public Perception of Foreign Aid

Developmental Aid by National Income

Center for Global Development (some rights reserved: click graph)

We Americans guess, on average, that 24% of our federal budget goes to development assistance. The real number? Less than one per cent.

Despite laudable recent increases in US giving to reduce poverty, US aid as a percent of personal income is second to last among wealthy nations.

We give about 25 cents per American per day [correction:] year in foreign aid; with private giving, another dime. It’s a lot, in total, because there are a lot of us. But it’s far behind the level of sacrifice made by people in most developed nations.

Further, according to the Borgen Project:

  • Less than half of aid from the United States goes to the poorest countries
  • The largest recipients are strategic allies such as Egypt, Israel, Russia, Pakistan, Afghanistan and Iraq.
  • Israel is the richest country to receive U.S. assistance ($77 per Israeli compared to $3 per person in poor countries).

But look what can be done:

  • The U.S. was the largest single donor in a global campaign that eradicated smallpox from the world by 1977.
  • The U.S. provided funding for a program to prevent river blindness in West Africa. As a result of these efforts, 18 million children now living in the program’s region are free from the risk of river blindness.

(Center for Global Development)

We can do better, at home and abroad.

Borgen cites the cost of two B-2 bombers ($4.4 billion) compared with the the annual budget for the World Food Program (largest relief agency in the world) which assists 104 million starving and malnourished people in 81 countries. Its budget? $3.2 billion.

Why not change it?  We can, you know.  Once we separate the illusions from the facts.


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September 29, 2008 at 9:06 pm

Supreme Court stays Troy Davis execution until Monday

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Stay issued less than two hours before scheduled execution. Further decisions expected on Monday.
clipped from www.democracynow.org

Supreme Court Gives Last-Minute Reprieve to Death Row Prisoner Troy Davis

Troy Davis (photo: aiusa)

The Supreme Court has stayed the execution of the Georgia death row prisoner Troy Davis. The decision came less than two hours before Davis was set to be killed Tuesday night. An African American, Davis was convicted for the 1989 killing of a white police officer, Mark Allen McPhail. But since the trial, seven of the nine non-police witnesses have recanted their testimony. There is no direct physical evidence tying Davis to the crime scene. And three witnesses claim another man later admitted to the killing. The stay is in effect until Monday, when the Supreme Court will decide whether to hear Davis’s appeal for a new trial. If the Court refuses, Georgia would be free to proceed with Davis’s execution. If the appeal is granted, Davis’s execution would remain on hold until the Supreme Court makes a final ruling.

supporters include former President Jimmy Carter, Congress member John Lewis, and the South African Archbishop Desmond Tutu
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See related post Execution scheduled despite recanting of witnesses.

Written by Monte

September 24, 2008 at 11:17 pm

Out from bigotry (sermon for August 17, 08)

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And a bit about white privilege …

Isaiah 56:1, 6-8

1 This is what the LORD says: “Maintain justice and do what is right, for my salvation is close at hand and my righteousness will soon be revealed.[…]

Something’s about to happen – what is it [a revelation of God], and so what do we do? Maintain justice,” Isaiah has God saying, “and do what is right.”

6 And foreigners who bind themselves to the LORD to serve him, to love the name of the LORD, and to worship him, all who keep the Sabbath without desecrating it and who hold fast to my covenant-
7 these I will bring to my holy mountain and give them joy in my house of prayer.

Who’s this about now? Foreigners. And those who will follow God from any land (though following God is described here in Jewish terms, of course), gain a rich welcome to the presence of God.  Watch:

Their burnt offerings and sacrifices will be accepted on my altar; for my house will be called a house of prayer for all nations.”

I love it!  “A house of prayer for all nations.”  Is this just about white middle-class Americans like me?  Nope. Read the rest of this entry »

Meet Jet-Man

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I was pretty sure I could fly when I was little. Only for brief soars, nothing pretentious—rather like the Wright brothers’ first attempts—but they seemed auspicious.
This fellow never gave it up.  Check out the startling video if you knew it was true, too.

clipped from www.cracked.com

Jet-Man

Real Name: Yves Rossi
Yves Rossi is a Swiss professional pilot and aeronautical engineer (we hope, since he designed his own jet pack) who, claiming to be inspired by his hero Batman, realized the first jet-pack-powered flight. […]

Jet-Man’s jet pack is capable of flying at a speed of 160 mph for up to six minutes. After those six minutes, Yves has to activate his secondary power, the Go-go-gadget-oh-please-God-don’t-let-it-fail-parachute since there is no way to land the jet pack without becoming a red and chrome stain on the ground.

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h/t Cakebelly at Clipmarks

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Written by Monte

September 19, 2008 at 7:19 pm

Posted in Technology

He doesn’t even hate his enemies! (Readings for 21 Sep 08)

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Jonah has pity on the gourd

Steinhardt: Jonah has pity on the gourd

The other thing the whale swallows in the book of Jonah is the story.

“Area man”—as The Onion often lampoons—would say if interviewed: “Jonah, yeah, that’s the one about the guy who gets swallowed by a whale.”  See?  Fraternity boys eat goldfish, only in reverse. No story.

The whale, though, is a bit player (ho ho).  Jonah, the protagonist and representative of the religious “in” group, is an ethnocentric bigot. God sends him to tell a despised enemy nation to repent; the nation does. Jonah hates it.  Burning sulfur was more what he had in mind.  Big disappointment.

Big story, too.  Apparently wanting to see one’s enemies dead rather than blessed is not a new way of resisting God.

I’m reminded of the German theologian who said, “God doesn’t hate my enemies; he doesn’t even hate his enemies!”

May we humans become so.  Read the climax of the Jonah story, along with this week’s Sunday readings, just below.

God saw what they had done, that they had turned away from their evil lives. He did change his mind about them. What he said he would do to them he didn’t do.

Jonah was furious. He lost his temper. He yelled at God, Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Monte

September 18, 2008 at 7:58 pm

Is Jesus MIA? (Readings for September 14, 2008)

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Jesus Christ is, of course, what’s missing from Christianity.

We have positions aplently—”Biblical” positions—or so we’re told by experts. Perhaps we should call our religion “Biblianity.” For Jesus Christ, incarnated again in his ever-new Body, the church, and lived out through the love and acceptance of his apprentices for each other and the whole world—well, Jesus Christ expressed that way is rarer than Nazarenes at a bingo hall.

Mohandas Gandhi

Mohandas Gandhi

It’s not a new problem.  And those who don’t call themselves Christians often see it more clearly than those who do. For example, consider these insights of that spiritual giant Mohandas Gandhi:

  • I like your Christ, I do not like your Christians. Your Christians are so unlike your Christ.
  • If Christians would really live according to the teachings of Christ, as found in the Bible, all of India would be Christian today.

Imagine. He’s not suggesting proselyting, but rather simply that Jesus Christ lived-out in public and private is mighty appealing.  Which is, of course, just what Jesus did.

So in this week’s readings, Jesus explains one element of what that would look like.  Then Paul brings it home, expecting a new kind of normal for we who follow Jesus together.  Let him take your breath away.

Hope you get to hear it preached somewhere this Sunday.

Proper 19 (24) A; September 14, 2008

Hebrew Bible: Exodus 14:19-31 [Moses parts the sea]
or Genesis 50:15-21 [Joseph forgives his brothers]
Psalm: Psalm 114 [after Israel left Egypt]
or Exodus 15:1b-11, 20-21 [Moses’ song of victory]
or Psalm 103:(1-7), 8-13 [God is sheer mercy and grace, slow to anger]
Epistle: Romans 14:1-12 [Welcome the weaker brother]
Gospel: Matthew 18:21-35 [How many times shall I forgive? Parable of unmerciful servant]

A Story About Forgiveness

21At that point Peter got up the nerve to ask, “Master, how many times do I forgive a brother or sister who hurts me? Seven?” Read the rest of this entry »