Tuesday, October 30, 2007


A new report from the Food Bank for New York City. You might also take a gander at their cool new tool for mapping emergency food programs, and WIC and Food Stamp offices.

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Iraq v. WWII

From Devilstower at Kos:

Those of us without a uniform in this fight have been asked to sacrifice by... shopping. Honestly, if Iraq and Afghanistan were to fall into the great abyss of media forgetfulness (the one that readily swallowed New Orleans), would we know we were "a nation at war?"

But the truth is, we are being asked to make sacrifices.

We're being asked to sacrifice privacy in all our communications. We've been asked to sacrifice morality. We're being asked to ransom the future of our children to pay for the national shopping spree in Iraq. Many of the sacrifices of World War II were open, shared, and in a sense, unifying. The sacrifices of today are secret sacrifices, hidden losses, that pit Americans against each other not by accident, but by design.

Perhaps the greatest sacrifice we've made on the home front is simply one of depleted attention given to things not Iraq. We all have only so many hours in our day. We all have a limited quantity of outrage we can express, before that outrage sours into ennui. I don't want to imply that the invasion in Iraq was plotted only as a distraction, but it is a distraction. And while we've kept so much of our attention focused over there, others have taken advantage of that distraction.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Possibly of Interest

Sauti Yetu Center for African Women and the Social Justice Program @ The Open Society Institute
Cordially invite you for an afternoon
Zahara Abdelnaim Mohamad Abdalla
Dar El Salam Women Development Assoc. El Fashir, North Darfur
Fatema Mohamad Elhassan
Bakhieta Organization for Women Development and Child Care, Nyala, South Darfur
Friday, November 2nd, 2007
2:00 p.m.
At the
Open Society Institute. Conference Room 3A
400 West 59th street
New York , New York
Kindly RSVP by email at: sauti.yetu.info@gamil.com by October 31, 07
The peace agreement ending two decades of war in the south is in peril and the genocide in Darfur is continuing. In the midst of all this, Sudanese women have continued to work under very difficult circumstances. Please join us to hear three remarkable women discuss their work in rebuilding, organizing and supporting women and children in Darfur and southern Sudan.

What Are You Doing to Celebrate?

Friday, October 19, 2007

Worth Quoting

In its entirety, below. (For my take, see THIS previous post)

Statement from the Council on Social Work Education

19 October 2007

Over the past two years several major attacks have been launched against social work education, particularly using its accreditation standards and processes as the vehicle for attacking what is perceived to be a liberal bias in the academy. The attacking entities have been the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE), the National Association of Scholars (NAS), and the American Council of Trustees and Alumni (ACTA).

First, on November 2, 2005, the NAS sent a letter to the Department of Education (DOE) requesting a review of the Council on Social Work Education (CSWE) Accreditation Standards, based on the erroneous assumption that CSWE was recognized by the DOE as an accrediting body. CSWE responded in a letter to the DOE, correcting the erroneous assumption (CSWE is recognized as the sole accrediting body for social work education by the Council on Higher Education Accreditation, CHEA).

Then, again, October 25, 2006, a letter was sent by three organizations to the Assistant Secretary for Health, Department of Health and Human Services, requesting a review of the requirement that social workers hired by the U.S. Public Health Service Commission Corps have MSW degrees from CSWE accredited programs. CSWE sent a letter to the Assistant Secretary and received a response in January 2007, in which the accreditation standards were upheld as being consistently recognized by the uniformed services as “an indicator for validating the quality of social work programs.”

Recently, a study conducted by NAS reports on its review of ten social work education programs located in major public universities. The inquiry was to determine if the programs “conformed to the academic ideals of open inquiry, partisan disengagement, and intellectual pluralism.” The NAS study found “social work programs to be, at every level, chock full of ideological boilerplate and statements of political commitment.” CSWE Accreditation Standards were identified as contributing to this situation.

The study’s arguments, with which most university administrators are familiar, center on excerpted statements from social work program mission statements about social justice, oppression, and advocacy. They suggest a liberal ideological bias to which students must conform through acceptance of the Code of Ethics of the National Association of Social Workers (NASW), the national social work practice membership organization and for which these same students must lobby and advocate. These organizations, rather than recognizing what the social work profession is about, claim that CSWE through its accreditation of programs, insists on adherence to a liberal ideology, and by statements of social work purpose included in its Educational Policy and Accreditation Standards*, coerces social work programs to promote this ideology. Nothing is further from the truth.

The Council on Social Work Education (CSWE) is the sole accrediting body for 648 baccalaureate and master’s degree social work programs in the United States. These programs currently enroll 52,300 students in a diverse array of 514 colleges and universities in the United States – public, private, liberal arts colleges, religiously affiliated colleges and universities, and research institutions. With a diversity of strength, mission, and resources, accredited social work programs share a commitment to the education of competent, ethical social workers. The mission of CSWE is to provide quality assurance for social work education programs as they prepare professionals for social work practice based on the profession’s history, purposes, philosophy, and body of knowledge, values and skills. It is incumbent upon the individual programs and their faculties to develop appropriate educational formats and curricula within their institutional contexts for the education of social work practitioners.

The profession itself has a long and time-honored practice tradition of advocacy for social justice as well as a commitment to participation and inclusion in the structures of democratic society. Fundamental to social justice is the protection of individual and academic freedom of thought and expression, including religious and political beliefs. Social work education, through the CSWE accreditation process, expects social work faculty and students to respect diversity of thought and practice in the pursuit of social justice and in the academic context that reflects the program’s mission and purpose. The CSWE accreditation standards are explicit in this regard: “The program makes specific and continuous efforts to provide a learning context in which respect for all persons and understanding of diversity (including age, class, color, disability, ethnicity, family structure, gender, marital status, national origin, race, religion, sex, and sexual orientation) are practiced.”* In addition, CSWE accreditation standards include attention to student rights and responsibilities and a procedure for filing complaints of non-compliance with the CSWE Commission on Accreditation.

George Will recently commented on the NAS study in an article in the Washington Post. He and the NAS study contend that social work education and practice are devoid of critical thinking and balanced analysis. CSWE requires social work programs to prepare graduates to “apply critical thinking skills within the context of professional social work practice.” * To exclude this requirement in a discussion of social work seriously distorts CSWE expectations and presents an incomplete and inaccurate picture of social work education and practice.

Social work education has graduated generations of practitioners who embrace the profession’s historical commitment to social justice and use critical thinking skills in their practice, reflective of the intellectual norms of the academy. CSWE will continue its dedication to quality assurance and program expectations that ensure open and respectful participation by faculty and students.
I'm not sure they really address the central complaint of the NAS, however, which is the insistence that educating about and advocating for "social justice" is an inherently liberal project. What do you think: is it?

UPDATE: FWIW, here's where the NAS gets it's money, from Mediatransparency.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

The Scientific Method vs. Ideology

A member of Al Gore's Climate Project addresses claims of inaccuracies in An Inconvenient Truth here. He concludes:

. . . .So when we eliminate the issues on which the judge was simply wrong, we are left with three issues in which either Gore's claims were not entirely supported by the science at the time, but subsequently have proven warranted, or Gore's claims were right at the time, but later proven unwarranted. More or less.

When you think about it, that's just about what you would expect from a science-based presentation about a rapidly evolving subject like climate change, delivered by a well-informed non-scientist. I'd have been surprised if everything Gore had said were still valid, and I'd be even more surpised if none of the science had changed since Laurie David and David Guggenheim filmed his presentations almost two years ago.

More Hunger, Less Food

From the Times:
On a recent weekday at the BedStuy Campaign Against Hunger, one of Brooklyn’s largest food pantries, shelves that are usually piled high with staples like rice and canned meats were empty, a stark illustration of the crisis facing emergency food providers across the city.

The Brooklyn organization is among about 1,000 food pantries and soup kitchens supplied by the Food Bank for New York City, the largest distributor of free food in the city, whose mission has been crippled by what officials describe as its worst food shortage in years.

At its sprawling warehouse in Hunts Point, in the Bronx, the Food Bank is storing about half what it housed in recent years. Instead of distributing 5.5 million pounds of food a month to food banks and soup kitchens, the Food Bank now offers 3 million pounds. So rather than having 10 trucks on the road at any given time, there are now only 3 or 4.

“It’s the first time in a few years that I could walk into the warehouse and see empty shelves,” said Lucy Cabrera, the president and chief executive of the Food Bank, which helps feed about 1.3 million people a year.

Officials at the Food Bank say the bare shelves stem from a steady decline in federal emergency food aid, though a farm bill stalled in the United States Senate could increase that aid.

According to a study to be released today by the Food Bank and Cornell University, New York City receives a little more than half the amount of emergency food annually from the federal government that it did three years ago. The shortfall is occurring as the number of families and individuals relying on soup kitchens and food pantries in New York City has risen to 1.3 million from 1 million since 2004.

As a result, food pantry workers say, people in need are getting fewer provisions and less variety, and some pantries have been forced to open less frequently. And the demand for emergency food will most likely rise as families spend more of their incomes on school and holiday expenses, Food Bank officials said.

Rethea Bruno, 63, who lives in Bedford-Stuyvesant and is a regular at several local food pantries, described the supply she found at the Campaign Against Hunger pantry as “pitiful.” “You’re getting less food,” she said. “You get the bags home and you’re stunned.”

There's more. . . . .

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Advocacy and Social Change

Events at NYU: go look.

An Electronic Social Worker?

From City Limits:
In two separate studies, published in Children and Youth Services Review in 2004 and in the Temple Law Review last year, Schwartz and colleagues analyzed data from thousands of cases of child abuse and neglect nationwide. A neural [computer] network was asked to predict which cases would meet the “harm standard,” the most serious classification of abuse. Ninety percent of the time, the system accurately predicted risk – which the researchers knew because of the actual outcomes – with very few false positives or false negatives. In other words, the neural network was able to determine which variables were most closely associated with child abuse, then identify the cases matching those variables. The first study concludes, “Neural networks…are tools that could help to increase accuracy, reduce errors, and facilitate more effective decisions in child welfare and child protective service organizations.
Read the rest.
. . . .

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Perhaps of Interest


From EPI:

Claiming the mantle of fiscal discipline, President Bush has threatened to veto spending bills that exceed his budget request, even though Congress's non-defense appropriations bills approximately keep pace with economic growth. Meanwhile, the administration has asked for significant increases in both war appropriations and regular defense appropriations for 2008. Defense spending, which rose from 3.0% of GDP when Bush came into office in 2001 to 4.0% in 2005-07, will resume its upward climb to 4.3-5.0% of GDP in 2008 if Congress agrees to the president's request.1

The chart below illustrates what happens if the president gets his way on the war and Congress gets its way on domestic spending. It shows that the entire increase in discretionary spending as a share of GDP since 2002 (the first year President Bush had any input on the budget) will be due to a growth in defense spending rather than domestic initiatives.2

The proposed $70 billion increase in defense appropriations for 2008 would be more than enough to fund the $35 billion expansion of the State Children's Health Insurance Program that the president just vetoed. In addition, it would make up the $21 billion difference between the president and Congress on domestic appropriations bills that the president has threatened to veto. Polls show that voters are concerned that defense spending—especially on the Iraq war—is placed above government spending on health care, education, and other domestic priorities. The voters are right.


From the Times:

Beginning tomorrow night, the city will stop giving emergency shelter to families who are reapplying for a place to stay after being ruled ineligible, officials said yesterday.

The decision means that families who apply for benefits but are turned down — usually because the city believes they can stay with a friend or a relative — will find themselves without shelter as they reapply one or two more times.

The toughening of the policy, which follows a rise during the summer in the number of families given emergency shelter in free public apartments, was criticized as cruel by advocates for the homeless and by some of the people it will affect. But it was defended by officials as a necessary tightening of a munificent policy that was being repeatedly abused by a few families.

Thursday, October 04, 2007

Picture the Homeless

Goes (even more) online. Swanky new Blog here. Videos below.