Monthly Archives: February, 2006

Voluntary Pilot School Choice in Cranston/Providence

I just checked in at the conservative blog, Anchorrising.com, and learned that Mayor Laffey has proposed a voluntary pilot school choice program between Cranston and Providence.

Wasn’t I just saying something about this being a better way to address the problem than arresting impoverished and desperate parents? Now the Mayor is introducing such plan. Hmmm, I wonder how that happened.

Of course, as Indira Gandhi said, “There are two kinds of people, those who do the work and those who take the credit. Try to be in the first group; there is less competition there.”

Anchorrising.com has the details from the press conference on the proposal. It’s a bold new plan. Let’s hope it does some good.

Countdown to 2008 — Counting On Hillary?

Mark your calendars. There are now 300 shopping days until Christmas and 980 politicking days until the 2008 Presidential election. Despite the lack of imminence of either event, people are already shopping and politicking. (Is there really much of a difference? Caveat emptor.) According to crack political strategist (which is no more than a political strategist on crack), Karl Rove, “anybody who thinks that [Hillary Clinton’s] not going to be the [Democratic] candidate is kidding themselves.� This quote comes from a recent book by Bill Sammon called Strategery: How George W. Bush Is Defeating Terrorists, Outwitting Democrats, and Confounding the Mainstream Media. (Sammon, who does not swim upstream, is senior White House correspondent for the Washington Times and a political analyst at Fox News, which should tell you something about his political leanings.)

Rove’s comments about Hillary Clinton apparently irked the Senator, as she fired back by alleging during a recent radio interview that the President’s advisor “spends a lot of time obsessing about me.� Be that as it may, his suggestion that Ms. Clinton was the likely Democratic nominee seems less a prognostication and more a calculated hope. Having helped George W. Bush—despite his many shortcomings—attain the highest office in the land not once but twice, Rove has learned that the means to such ends is being mean, sullying the opposition and using innuendo and misinformation to alarm the electorate and sway their vote. It worked against Gore and Kerry—who, granted, did not do much to aid their own cause—and it will likely work against Senator Clinton, whose very name unsettles middle America and whose equivocating positions on the war in Iraq, abortion, and other issues make her decidedly vulnerable to future attack. It is not just those, like Rove, on the far right side of the aisle that recognize Clinton’s weaknesses. Many on the left are voicing their displeasure with the Senator, as well. Molly Ivins wrote a column a few weeks back in which she said the following:

I’d like to make it clear to the people who run the Democratic Party that I will not support Hillary Clinton for President.

Enough. Enough triangulation, calculation and equivocation. Enough clever straddling, enough not offending anyone. This is not a Dick Morris election. Sen. Clinton is apparently incapable of taking a clear stand on the war in Iraq, and that alone is enough to disqualify her. Her failure to speak out on Terry Schiavo, not to mention that gross pandering on flag-burning, are just contemptible little dodges.

Ivins goes on to talk about the need for and paucity of “real leadership� in the Democratic Party. It is difficult to argue with her. Aside from such diamonds-in-the-rough as Russ Feingold (whom, in a previous post, I expressed support for), the Democrats would seem to have little of substance to offer other than “we’re not those guys.� The time has come for a candidate who has the courage to stand on their principles and speak the truth, even if it may be unpopular to some. Hillary Clinton and Karl Rove are betting that the centrist-pandering leadership in the Democratic Party won’t have the stomach for such a candidate. Let’s prove them wrong. The future of this great democracy depends on it.

Listening to Seniors and the Disabled

We are watching the Rhode Island Senate race closely here at Kmareka. One thing that I notice, and I’ve commented on it before, is that Whitehouse is doing the better job of listening to real people when it comes to health care and the new prescription drug plan. Here is the latest entry from his blog:

After every community dinner we’ve held, I’ve come away with many different feelings. I’m always happy to have met so many Rhode Islanders, and excited to have heard their stories and their thoughts. But last night, after our community dinner at the Portuguese Social Club in Pawtucket, I also felt angry – because nearly every story I heard came from good people, who have worked hard and paid their dues, but today are struggling with the high cost of health care and its impact on their lives.

I was honored to have Olavo Amado with us last night. Olavo is a small business owner and veteran who gave 24 years of service to our country in the armed services, and he told us that though he’d always had health coverage as a soldier, today he can’t afford to buy health insurance for his business. In the greatest country in the world, it’s shameful that something so critical as health care is unaffordable for hard-working people like him.

Others had similar stories. I heard from people who are disabled, who are themselves veterans, or who just have a hard time getting by – who can’t afford the health care they need.

I left last night frustrated and angry – but with an even stronger commitment to roll up my sleeves and get to work for the hard-working men and women of Pawtucket. The Republicans in Congress and the Bush administration might not be listening to them. But I am, and I’ll fight to make sure their voices are heard.

For the view from another leading candidate, you can read through Laffey’s powerpoint presentation, “The High Cost of Prescription Drugs.” Like Whitehouse, Laffey supports a plan for Medicare to negotiate prescription drug prices. His plan is less specific about what to do with the current Medicare plan problems. He also recommends doing away with “me too” drugs and increasing regulatory powers for the FDA so that drug companies have to give more information about drug side effects in their advertisements.

Matt Brown’s campaign is focusing on the Iraq war right now. That’s another extremely important issue. Brown’s focus, though, seems to be primarily on having a debate about the issue, which sends the message to me that he is more concerned about debating his primary opponent than he is about addressing the concrete issues of the people of Rhode Island.

In the interest of full disclosure, I want to say here and now that I attended a Whitehouse fundraiser in September of 2005. I’m not a big fundraiser attendee, but the invitation was offered to me free of charge, and I thought it would be interesting to meet Sheldon Whitehouse, which it was. In this way, I feel that I attended more as a member of “the press,” if blogs can now be included in “the press.”

I should also say that as a clinical social worker, my bias is probably going to be toward a candidate who is actively listening to real people and sharing these stories with the public. That strategy is most closely aligned with the way social work functions to address a problem.

But this blog welcomes people from all political perspectives. We are a liberal blog, yes, but we are here to help the public gain relevant information about the candidates and make informed decisions. I will leave the political advocating for one candidate or another to those who wish to comment.

Bush Fiddles While Climate Changes

Bush Fiddles Around
With each passing day and each new bit of calamitous news that greets my senses like pepper spray, I become more and more convinced that George W. Bush is a latter-day Nero, fiddling away while the world falls into ruin. I would almost find it entertaining, were the man not so completely out of tune and the consequences not so dire. It’s one thing to fiddle about while your house is burning down around you; it’s quite another to do so while the whole neighborhood is aflame. But perhaps Mr. Bush, man of faith that he is, simply aims to hasten the Apocalypse, in anticipation that he and his followers will receive deliverance on judgment day. (If that is the case, they better keep plenty of coins handy to give Charon for the crossing.) Regardless of the President’s intentions, he needs to be reminded that we all still reside on this earthly plane and that he has an obligation to do right by it. That includes addressing the issue of carbon dioxide emissions, which—as scientists have been telling us for many years now—are causing global warming. These emissions also represent a threat to ocean life, as reported yesterday by Jonathan Leake in The Sunday Times (UK):

Acid Seas Kill Off Coral Reefs

The world’s coral reefs could disappear within a few decades along with hundreds of species of plankton and shellfish, according to new studies into man’s impact on the oceans.

Researchers have found that carbon dioxide, the gas already blamed for causing global warming, is also raising the acid levels in the sea. The shells of coral and other marine life dissolve in acid. The process is happening so fast that many such species, including coral, crabs, oysters and mussels, may become unable to build and repair their shells and will die out, say the researchers.

“Increased carbon dioxide emissions are making the world’s oceans more acidic and could cause a mass extinction of marine life similar to the one that occurred on land when the dinosaurs disappeared,� said Professor Ken Caldeira of the Carnegie Institution’s global ecology department.

When CO2 produced by burning fossil fuels dissolves in the ocean, it forms carbonic acid. A little of this can benefit marine life by providing carbonate ions — a vital constituent in the biochemical process by which sea creatures such as corals and mollusks build their shells.

Caldeira found, however, that the huge volumes of carbon dioxide being released by humans are dissolving into the oceans so fast that sea creatures can no longer absorb it. Consequently, the levels of carbonic acid are rising and the oceans are “turning sour.â€? more…

My stomach is turning sour, as well. Mr. Bush, please put down the fiddle, pick up a pen, and sign off on the Kyoto Protocol. Regardless of what your political advisors or Michael Crichton or the voices in your head would have you believe, carbon dioxide emissions represent a real danger (as opposed to the concocted danger posed by pre-war Iraq). If you don’t believe me, then listen to your own scientists, like NASA climatologist James Hansen. It’s not too late. If you can hear me over that infernal fiddling, it’s not too late!

Why is NARAL Not Endorsing Whitehouse or Brown in RI?

Jane Hamsher asks a very good question. Why is NARAL continuing to endorse Lincoln Chafee when they clearly have much more solid pro-choice candidates in the state’s leading Democrats, Sheldon Whitehouse and Matt Brown?

What is up with NARAL? Hamsher contends that they have become money-grubbing Washington insiders who no longer serve the cause for which they were established. To get NARAL back on track with doing their job, she suggests contacting them and giving them some feedback. Here is my feedback for NARAL:

Dear NARAL leadership:

Why are you continuing to support and endorse Lincoln Chafee in Rhode Island when our two leading Democratic candidates, Matt Brown and Sheldon Whitehouse, both declared that they would have supported a filibuster in order to block the nomination of Samuel Alito?

We need a much stronger pro-choice Senator representing us here in Rhode Island, someone who will go the distance and ensure that women continue to have the freedom to choose abortion. I urge you to endorse either Matt Brown or Sheldon Whitehouse for US Senate, and to withdraw any further support for Lincoln Chafee.

There is no logical explanation for why they continue to support Chafee. Yes, he voted against the nomination of Alito, but the deciding factor in the nomination was the vote for cloture, which he supported.

Is it just inertia that keeps them hanging on to their original endorsement of Chafee back in May of 2005? Or has NARAL really become a stale and empty organization?

The Need To Speak Out In An Age Of Oppression

First, Cindy Sheehan was hauled away by the Capitol Police for wearing a t-shirt that said “2245 Dead. How Many More?� (The number of U.S. fatalities in Iraq is now up to 2290, by the way.) Then, one week later, Dwight Scarbrough—a Navy veteran currently employed as a scientist for a federal agency in Boise, Idaho—was called out of his place of work by two armed officers from the Department of Homeland Security and informed that the bumper stickers and placards on his truck were “a violation of the code of federal regulations� and that he would have to “remove the signs from the property� or be cited. What was on his truck?

On the back, he tapes weekly updates of the number of U.S. soldiers killed and wounded in Iraq. Beneath that, on a large, white (and also taped-on) placard: “Support our returning troops and their families when they need help: Give them this number: GI RIGHTS HOTLINE: 1-800-394-9544.� On both doors, in bold capital letters: “DEATH IN IRAQ IS NOT A CAREER OPPORTUNITY FOR YOUNG AMERICANS.� Taking up nearly half of the back window: “Veterans for Peace Chapter 117, Idaho.� On the driver’s side wheel well, also in all caps: “PERHAPS GOD BLESSES EVERY NATION, NOT JUST THE USA.� And interspersed between them all, he places a variety of purchased bumper stickers and magnetic ribbons reading, among other sentiments, “Support our Troops: Bring them Home Now,� “Support Diversity� and “Honor Vets, Wage Peace.�

Dwight Scarbrough, like Cindy Sheehan before him, was understandably outraged at what he rightly perceived was intimidation and harassment for the political views he dared to publicly proclaim. To his credit, he did not simply give in to the DHS goons—though he did move his truck to a private parking lot for the day—and he did contact the ACLU and report the incident to the local media. (Boise Weekly provided excellent coverage of the story, which was later picked up by The Progressive.) To have two such incidents in such a short span of time is more than a little disturbing and begs a number of important questions. How often are citizens of this country being intimidated or censured for expressing dissent? What has happened that we don’t know about? To what degree, directly and indirectly, do such incidents serve to chill dissent? How much are we willing to accept and willing to lose before we speak out and say enough is enough? Will we wait too long?

I am reminded of the oft-quoted words of the German protestant leader, Martin Niemoeller:

First they came for the communists, and I did not speak out–
because I was not a communist;
Then they came for the socialists, and I did not speak out–
because I was not a socialist;
Then they came for the trade unionists, and I did not speak out–
because I was not a trade unionist;
Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out–
because I was not a Jew;
Then they came for me–
and there was no one left to speak out for me.

Boycott Mount Rushmore — Protest Ban on Abortion

South Dakota has thrown down the gauntlet to those who support a woman’s right to choose to terminate an unplanned pregnancy. Yesterday, the legislature approved a measure that would “make it a crime for doctors to perform an abortion unless it was necessary to save the woman’s life. It would make no exception in cases of rape or incest.� The bill will become law once the governor, Mike Rounds, signs it. He has expressed a willingness to do so, saying: “I’ve indicated I’m pro-life and I do believe abortion is wrong and that we should do everything we can to save lives.� Well, it’s nice to know that the governor and his fellow humanitarians in the legislature are so concerned about saving lives. Unfortunately, their rhetoric does not entirely stand up to the facts, which suggest that the state of South Dakota—perhaps distracted by the plight of the unborn—often fails to meet the needs of the born.

The following statistics are courtesy of the Children’s Defense Fund:

• A child in South Dakota is abused or neglected every 2 hours.
• A child in South Dakota is born into poverty every 4 hours.
• A child in South Dakota dies before his or her first birthday every 5 days.
• A child or teen in South Dakota is killed by gunfire every month.
• South Dakota ranks 46th among states in the percent of babies born to mothers who received early prenatal care.
• South Dakota ranks 44th among states in per pupil expenditures.
• South Dakota ranks 31st among states in infant mortality.

A state-by-state analysis of “America’s Health Rankings� conducted last year by United Health Foundation determined that South Dakota had “a high rate of motor vehicle deaths� (47th among states) and “a high occupational fatalities rate� (46th among states). Just this month, the American College of Emergency Physicians issued a report that graded each of the 50 states in such areas as Access to Emergency Care, Quality of Care and Patient Safety, Public Health and Injury Protection, etc. South Dakota was the only state to receive a failing grade (F) in both of the latter two categories. Undeterred by their failings, the politicos in South Dakota have chosen to expend their energies and taxpayer dollars on legislation like the Women’s Health and Human Life Protection Act. One can only imagine that their next order of business will be to designate the human embryo as the official state life form.

Before Governor Rounds signs the bill into law and the battle over its legality begins, I believe that he needs to be given a strong message that such legislation is unacceptable and will have dire consequences. I urge you to contact the governor, either by e-mailing him through his website or by calling (1-605-773-3212) or faxing (1-605-773-5844) his office. I also encourage you to take action by boycotting Mount Rushmore, Badlands National Park, etc. and denying the state of South Dakota your tourist dollars. Let the governor know that you will not visit South Dakota and will actively seek to dissuade others from visiting the state until such time as the Women’s Health and Human Life Protection Act is vetoed or repealed. E-mail a copy of this post (or its link) to anyone you know who is concerned about reproductive rights and values choice. Thank you.

Iceland’s Sportacus to the Rescue

Sportacus

Learn to do the signature move of Sportacus!

Sometimes your children are the bringers of new things into your life, and this is the case with Sportacus. He is the action hero of Lazy Town, a show on Nick Jr. which debuted in August of 2004, and now has about 7 million viewers. The show’s creator and lead actor, Magnús Scheving, is a whirlwind of talent and energy, and a sly communicator of important nutritional information to children. His signature arm-swishing take-off move, which my daughter has learned from a step-by-step video on Nick Jr, makes me laugh every time I see it.

From an article in Fast Company:

Shot in Gardabaer, Iceland, using advanced HDTV cinematography, each $600,000 LazyTown episode is a hypervivid assault on the senses. “The pacing is incredibly fast, and we were mesmerized by it,” says Michael Carrington, who bought LazyTown for the BBC. “It’s as innovative and genre changing as Teletubbies. And like Teletubbies, you either hate LazyTown or you love it.”

There’s a lot to love. While the incidence of childhood obesity in the United States has nearly quadrupled in the past three decades, the trend in Iceland has been halted–due in no small part, the Icelandic surgeon general has determined, to LazyTown. During a LazyTown book promotion in Norway, consumption of fruits and vegetables increased 12.5% and soft drinks fell 16%.

“People ask me how we make exercise cool, but it’s like trying to explain the secret of making people laugh,” says Magnús Scheving, the show’s creator (and the buff guy in the unitard). His campaign for kids’ health began in 1991 with a book, Go! Go! LazyTown!, followed by live theatrical performances and a 24-hour radio station. Now he sells everything from LazyTown-branded bottled water, cookbooks, shoes, and kids’ airline meals to Fisher-Price toys, T-shirts, cod-liver oil, and toothpaste. (Scheving’s LazyTown Entertainment won’t reveal financial data, but he says its value has doubled in each of the past five years.)

It’s a financial performance nearly as frenetic as Scheving’s show. Just watching one episode, wherein Sportacus overcomes Rotten’s soccer robot, is enough to leave one (and one’s 3-year-old) exhausted. The big question (yet unanswered): Is it also enough to get the kid to eat carrots?

Let’s hope so. I have noticed that my daughter has begun asking me regularly before we eat something: is this good for you? These are the questions we hope Sportacus is encouraging her to ask, as he rescues the children of our world from obesity and other food-related health problems.

The Case for Impeachment — It’s Becoming Mainstream

Carl Sheeler, Candidate for US Senate in RI, paid for this billboard.

This billboard is from the Carl Sheeler campaign for US Senate in Rhode Island. Carl Sheeler is running as a Democrat. Right now in the polls he is showing about 3-5% support. So he will most likely not win the primary. But he is the “Impeach Bush” candidate, and there’s something to be said for that. Perhaps, with his presence, one of our other senate candidates will clue into the American public’s sentiment and similarly call for impeachment.

And on that topic, Lewis Lapham is making the case for impeachment in the March 2006 issue of Harper’s, soon to be online. Here is a short excerpt.

Before reading the [Conyers] report, I wouldn’t have expected to find myself thinking that [impeachment] was either likely or possible; after reading the report, I don’t know why we would run the risk of not impeaching the man. We have before us in the White House a thief who steals the country’s good name and reputation for his private interest and personal use; a liar who seeks to instill in the American people a state of fear; a televangelist who engages the United States in a never-ending crusade against all the world’s evil, a wastrel who squanders a vast sum of the nation’s wealth on what turns out to be a recruiting drive certain to multiply the host of our enemies. In a word, a criminal — known to be armed and shown to be dangerous. . . .

Harpers is also sponsoring a forum on impeaching Bush. Speakers at the forum include Lewis Lapham, Rep. John Conyers (D-MI), Michael Ratner, Elizabeth Holtzman, and John Dean. Here are the details.

IS THERE A CASE FOR
IMPEACHMENT?
TOWN HALL
123 WEST 43RD ST,NYC
THU MAR 2, 2006 8:00PM

Tickets are $10 and are available here.

The Plane Truth

I keep having the same disturbing dream. I am on a crowded airplane flying through clouds thick with moisture. George W. Bush is piloting the plane. Riding shotgun as co-pilot is Dick Cheney. Condoleezza Rice and Donald Rumsfeld are flight attendants, but they are dressed as cheerleaders. The service is poor to non-existent, except for those select few sitting in First Class. I am carefully apportioning my stale peanuts when Captain Bush makes an announcement: Ladies and gentlemen, we have begun our descent. Please fascinate your seatbelts, and put your seatbacks in their uprightable position. At this moment, I happen to glance out the window and, through a hole in the clouds, notice to my horror that the plane is flying too low. In a flash, I realize that the aircraft is well past due for an inspection (thanks to FAA budget cuts), the altimeter must be malfunctioning, and we are going to crash. I try to scream to alert the crew or the passengers, but a gag is covering my mouth (and the USA Patriot Act forbids me from disclosing such information anyway). I try to rouse myself from this nightmare, only to realize that I am wide awake!

On September 11, 2001, passengers and crew aboard United Airlines Flight 93, aware that their plane had been seized by dangerous men with the deadliest of intentions, fought valiantly to regain control of the aircraft. In so doing, they all perished but managed to prevent an even greater tragedy. The courage of these individuals is worth remembering at this time, because we, the citizens of this great nation, are now passengers on a similar plane with a similar destination. Though I may joke at times, the steady erosion of our civil liberties, our economy, and our environment is no joking matter. The flag-draped coffins of our children who have sacrificed everything for the most specious of causes are no joking matter. Our democracy is in grave peril. Unless we wrest control of this republic from the likes of Bush and Cheney and those who would blindly follow them, we will all perish. It is very simple. We must choose between descent or dissent. Which will it be? Let’s roll.

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