Category Archives: Rant

Begin, Reagan, Palestine

So this is where I start having actual recollections….

Menachem Begin was born in 1913 at the geopolitical crux of Poland and Russia. Early Zionist stints in various Eastern European locales.  Caught in Stalin’s net in 1940.  Released and self-inscripted to the Free Polish Army to train in Palestine in 1943.  Led uprisings against Britain, guerrilla bombings, establishing Israeli state. Begin’s political foundings also make him the grandfather of Likud.

Best known for the Camp David Peace Accords.  Begin won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1978 (shared with Anwar Sadat).  By 1981, Sadat was dead and Menachem was bombing the shit out of Iraq under the pretense of “nuclear containment”.  WMD anyone?

The US President in 1981 was this:

549_media.commercialappeal.com

I vaguely remember Carter as president.  My first political awareness is of Bonzo’s best friend.  I think Ronnie is best addressed in listicle form:

Things Ronnie was:

  1. Actor
  2. Effective communicator
  3. Warmonger
  4. Liar
  5. Destroyer of middle class
  6. Neo-con Kennedy

Things Ronnie was not:

  1. Effective
  2. Just
  3. Peaceful
  4. Al Haig

And “trickle-down” economics is nothing more than oligarchs pissing on everyone else.  See: Current state of affairs in Kansas aka Kochtopia aka Brownbeckistan

At this point in my life I honestly don’t know what to think about Palestine.  I don’t believe any side will be successful in violence.  Would a Northern Ireland type solution work?

 

Much more than 140 characters

My intentions are  to be honest and explicit regarding the history and message that I believe makes up this experiment.


I graduated in 1997 from Bethel with a degree in Communication Arts.  I served on the Bethel college Alumni Council . And, probably too infrequently, I have donated money to Bethel. I have done these things because I consider the education and experience I received at Bethel to be an essential part of who I am and how I live.  I have also been publicly and privately critical of Bethel's institutional approaches to public communication, endowment investment, fund-raising, and administration.  I have offered these critiques as chorus for advancement.

A periodic review of my personal list of who I followed on Twitter led to the realization that I was following many Mennonite institutions, organizations, and media outlets; individuals directly associated (alumni and employees), and non "official" Mennonite Twitter accounts.  In the limited research I performed, I was unable to find any Twitter accounts (official or non) associated with Bethel College . I was not surprised by this.  Bethel has an endemic history of absent, poor, and obfuscatory official institutional communication practices.  There are direct and adverse consequences from this history.

I created the Twitter account @bethelks on September 22, 2010. My intentions in choosing the @bethelks account name were to brand it as closely as possible to the institutional FQDN of bethelks.edu

I posted the first tweet on October 1, 2010.  In total, I have posted 31 tweets.  All tweets up to this point have come directly from me.  I have not deleted any historical tweets.

On November 29, 2010 I created this post on my personal blog.  During this approximate timeframe, I privately asked other Bethel alumni what their thoughts were regarding my original post and what their ideas were for tweet content and message.  I will not reveal who I discussed this with.  If the people I corresponded with are comfortable in revealing themselves, I invite them to post in the comments below.  The whole of the response was positive, enthusiastic, and brimming with possibilities.

My approach to content and message was to provide Twitter users who followed @bethelks with institutional information regarding events, concerts, etc.  I followed any accounts that followed me (and didn't appear to be automated), in addition to any accounts that appeared to be associated with other Mennonite Educational Institutions. I admit that I posted some messages that may not have been strictly in line with Bethel's institutional and public communications framework.  I have no justification for these messages besides my own prerogative to create them and observe any possible outcomes.  My investments of time and thought were brief, my methods unscientific.

The obvious results of these limited investments have resulted in 3 external listings and 42 followers.  Paltry but not unusual for the effort.

Communication via channels including Twitter has inspired revolution and led to freedom.  It has given voice to the silenced, hope to the oppressed, and an example of the true power of peace to our sisters and brothers who continue to suffer around the world.

My humble hope is that those entrusted as the public interface of Bethel College will utilize the @bethelks account, improve their internal and external communication practices to better serve their publics, and show the world how a firm foundation can be the basis for enduring peace.

I will post one more tweet linking directly to this post and then turn the account password over to members of Bethel's Web Development team.

Confusion and poor communication from the House of God

I am confused. 

As I write this post, Bethel College in Newton, KS (my Alma Mater) is in a "Presidential Transition".  While I understand what that means, I do not understand the impetus.  I've included all of the information I have received concerning this matter below.  Since this information is limited, I do not want to speculate.  I do want to express my frustrations and concerns.

I have been frustrated with Bethel's opaque and disorganized communication procedures many times in recent years.  My frustration has increased.  I believe that if Bethel is to survive their current travails and prosper in the future, the Board of Directors needs to immediately adopt a policy of transparency in communication.  The Board is defined (and should act) as representative.  Instead, they function as sequestered oligarchs.  The institutional communications are disorganized, poorly scheduled, and obtuse.  And the pattern of such is long.  From poorly communicated program reviews to budget cuts without clear foundation and forward to this "Transition".

Yesterday, I received two emails from Bethel.  The first was the official press release:

Here is a link to the Official Press Release which does not specify why the change was made and names John Sheriiff (EVP for institutional development) as interim replacement.

The second email I received was a forward of Barry Bartel's message to the Bethel Campus.  I have included that message below:

—————————————————-
From: Bartel, Barry C.
Sent: Monday, August 17, 2009 3:06 PM
To: community-announce; All Students at Bethel College
Subject: Presidential Transition

Bethel College Community:

Yesterday morning I was informed that the Bethel College Board determined in a special session on Saturday that it is in the best interest of Bethel College to change presidential leadership. While I disagree and while this is very painful, Iwill do everything I can to help ensure that the transition is smooth and that it helps to strengthen Bethel College. While the Board develops a search process, the Board has asked and John Sheriff has agreed to serve in an interim role beginning immediately. I fully support John moving into this role and am confident in his leadership in this transition.

 
This is a difficult time for Bethel College. In the face of our challenges, faculty leadership and Cabinet members have been developing plans for the new year. John will provide leadership as the campus community comes together at Fall Retreat on Friday. I believe in all of you, in this community, and in the Bethel Experience. I believe in administrative leadership and the strategic planning that is  occurring, I believe in our students, and I believe in Bethel. This is a critical time to bring energy together in a positive way to move Bethel forward. I know that will happen. Thank you all for your contribution to this special place, this house of God, Beth-el.
 
It has been a special privilege to serve Bethel College as president these past three years. I have given it my all. We have celebrated many successes, and confronted our share of challenges. Where I have fallen short, I apologize. In accomplishment and in disappointment, my spirit is always lifted when I see the dedication and commitment of the campus community, when I hear testimonies of how  Bethel has changed people's lives, and when I witness students exceeding their expectations.

We were settled in Denver when the inquiry came from the search committee over three years ago. We ultimately felt that God had a role in calling us to this position, and it has been an honor and a privilege to serve Bethel College and the Mennonite church in this way. As we enter a stage of uncertainty in our lives, I trust that the Board is seeking and is being guided by God's hand. We appreciate your prayers for our family and for Bethel.

 
Brenda and I, along with John and Elsie, plan to host the campus community for the First Supper on Sunday. I look forward to seeing you there.
 
Barry

Barry C. Bartel, President
bbartel@bethelks.edu
Bethel College
300 E. 27th St
North Newton, KS 67117-0531
(316) 284-5241
http://www.bethelks.edu/

——————————————————
 
This second email was apparently supposed to be selectively released, but was leaked and then hastily distributed to the original intended recipients.
 
Once again, I admit to not having much information.  And, I will not speculate on what is the truth behind this matter.  My perception is dis-organization and poor leadership on the part of the Board.  The timing is horrible.  The message is poorly crafted and can only fuel rumor, dismay, gossip, and frustration.
 

Bethel Thoughts

The following my part of a discussion via email with other Bethel Alumni.

——————————————————————————-
 

I've been thinking about these issues sporadically (and, in full disclosure, probably without the proper amount of focus) over the past few days.

One of the primary things I keep struggling with is an institutional hedging on choosing clearly how to operate Bethel.

Bethel wants to be in the world but not of the world.  And, I'm not entirely convinced that is possible. I continue to think about other Mennonite institutions.  Bluffton grew their enrollment significantly in 1990s.  But, this came at the cost of a clear identity as a "Mennonite" school. Hesston has been consistently able to build new facilities, but they remain a 2 year school and an environment that is often considered insular in respects to the world.
 
Bethel has tried to walk the line and remain a "Mennonite" school while
providing all the worldly resources and experiences.  And I think this is a truly special and noble effort.
 
In order to continue this walk, I think there needs to be truly radical
change within the way the institution operates.
 
First, cut all school sponsored athletics and athletic scholarships.
Bethel is an institute of higher learning, not a training ground for
professional athletes.  I agree that nourishment for the body should still remain a part of the institution.  But do collegiate athletics really have a place at an institution like Bethel?  I struggle with this.
 
Second, focus on revision-ing the core of the Bethel College experience to properly equip students for the world.  Even if Bethel is not of the
world, their output (in terms of students) is certainly going to be.
Maybe it shouldn't be a "Computer Science" degree.  Maybe instead, it
should be a "Technology" degree providing experience on how to utilize and develop technology to improve the world.  And, instead of specific
language majors couldn't the resources be made available to learn and
appreciate the wide range of languages that dominate our daily lives?
 
Third, run the operational aspects of the institution like a real-world
business.  This ties in with the push from the accrediting entities push
to operate on an actual budget.  My grandfather taught economics and
business at Bluffton for 35 years.  Perhaps the best thing I ever learned from him was, "The only things you should ever borrow money for are to build or buy a home, or to start a business".  Bethel is past the starting phase.  And, to be blunt, those entrusted with managing the budget and other monetary resources (like the endowment) have failed.  I don't know the details, but I can imagine that the drop of value in the endowment was based on investing in instruments that offered the potential of great reward, at great risk.  And we're certainly on the great risk side of that equation right now.  I do not advocate a "conservative" approach to much in life.  Money and it's subsequent management should be approached conservatively.
 
Finally, use common sense.  I am still baffled by the "oversight"
regarding academic scholarships.  Bethel suffered financially because it
didn't have the foresight to see the number and quality of those receiving academic scholarships?  Poor management. There should have been a check/balance for that. I also think about how the Program Review was handled back in 2005.  Extremely poor communication to students and alumni.  If you reduce the entities involved in Bethel to purely business ones, the students and the alumni are the employers and
the faculty and staff are the employees.  Tuition, and donations pay the
bill and if the bills ain't being paid, the business goes under. Yet, the people paying the bills had little or no say in the decisions.

I know this is rambling and I'll stop now.

Les is more and Bears don’t sleep in the woods

I have often espoused the virtues of Les Stroud.  Les writes, directs, produces, and stars in a show called "Survivorman" seen on the Discovery Channel in the US and the Outdoor Life Network in Canada.  The premise of the show is explained in the blurb from the official site:

"No food, no shelter, no fresh water, no tools… no camera crew. One man – alone in the wild for seven days with only his wits and stamina to sustain him."

So, the deal with Survivorman is Les does it all.  He gets dumped into some remote locale with a load of camera gear and has to survive and film.  The quoted blurb above is a little misleading.  During each episode, Les is usually equipped with SOME provisions.  This has included at various times: a multi-tool, emergency blanket, swiss army knife, minor foodstuffs, etc.  And, he always has some sort of way to contact a production team in his general vicinity in the event of an emergency situation.

In the interest of full disclosure, I am a big Les Stroud fan.  The newest season of Survivorman starts August 10, 2007 on Discovery.  I enjoy this show because Les is (probably correctly) portrayed as an "Average Joe".  He's not going to win a modeling contract, he's not a prime physical specimen, he's  just a guy who knows survival techniques and how to effectively produce entertaining television.  He is a small, Canadian god of a man.

The Discovery Channel also has a show called Man VS. Wild .  This show stars Bear Grylls an is positioned as having basically the same premise as Survivorman.  It is a survival themed show.  BUT, Bear is a FORMER MEMBER OF THE BRITISH SPECIAL FORCES, Bear CLIMBED MOUNT EVEREST, Bear is a BEEFCAKE!  LOOK LADIES!  See Bear take his shirt off!

Bear Grylls is a FRAUD

An initial review of Man VS. Wild brings some interesting things to light.  Bear always travels with a camera crew.  He even shows his proper British manners by directing them around dangerous obstacles like alligators, venomous snakes, and toothbrushes.  Bear also ALWAYS has a flint (fire starting tool) and a water bottle inside of an unmentioned metal carrying case often used to boil water.  Bear also likes to climb up and down things.  Things like cliffs, trees, and waterfalls.  Yes, waterfalls.  But, Bear is qualified to do all of these things because he CLIMBED MOUNT EVEREST.  Of course all of the risks he takes and all of the geographical obstacles he overcomes are central to the excitement of the plot.  They are also most often things that untrained and sane people should never attempt.  If you're lost on a mountain without food or shelter should you really be spending time and energy climbing sheer rock faces?

What I'm trying to convey is that BEAR doesn't appear to be all he's cracked up to be. 

And now, some interesting information has come to light regarding Man VS. Wild and the exploits of fair Bear.  The full details can be read in this ABC News article (The story was first run by British TV4).  Details from the article include:

"Channel 4 confirmed that Grylls had spent the night indoors on at least two occasions when the series had led viewers to believe he was spending the night in the wild."

and

"…is an episode supposedly set on a deserted island (actually Hawaii) that shows him building a raft, which was actually constructed and then disassembled by show consultants so that the host could easily put it together."

Wow, what a fraud.

Discovery is working fast to spin the news.  Here's an excerpt from their response: "Moving forward, the program will be 100 percent transparent, and all elements of the filming will be explained upfront to our viewers".

I think they should change the name of the show to Limey VS. Marginal Outdoor Discomfort

I can't wait for the new season of Survivorman.