Monthly Archives: December, 2006

3,000 Dead! How Many More?

Sadly, it was only a matter of time before the number of U.S. military fatalities in Iraq reached 3,000. That time is now. December of 2006 has been the bloodiest month for the U.S. in more than two years. It is difficult to believe that a surge in the number of troops will result in anything more than a surge in the number of dead and wounded. May the new year soon find the brave young men and women serving in Iraq home at last.

[NOTE: The image above contains 3,000 dots, one for each of the fallen.]

“We Will Remember”

Another year has come and gone. The inimitable Ava Lowery of PeaceTakesCourage.com looks back on 2006 in a new video entitled “We Will Remember”:

The Age of Un-Enlightenment

Centuries may have passed since the Enlightenment, but some folks in the Bush administration apparently did not get the memo. In their unreasoning world, science is a four-letter word (which makes them willfully ignorant and bad at spelling). Obstinate to the end—which may be where their heads are ensconced—these folks continue to disregard or discount established scientific evidence that conflicts with their theistic world view. Here is the latest example, as revealed in a press release from Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER):

HOW OLD IS THE GRAND CANYON? PARK SERVICE WON’T SAY

Grand Canyon National Park is not permitted to give an official estimate of the geologic age of its principal feature, due to pressure from Bush administration appointees. Despite promising a prompt review of its approval for a book claiming the Grand Canyon was created by Noah’s flood rather than by geologic forces, more than three years later no review has ever been done and the book remains on sale at the park, according to documents released today by Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER).

“In order to avoid offending religious fundamentalists, our National Park Service is under orders to suspend its belief in geology,� stated PEER Executive Director Jeff Ruch. “It is disconcerting that the official position of a national park as to the geologic age of the Grand Canyon is ‘no comment.’�

In a letter released today, PEER urged the new Director of the National Park Service (NPS), Mary Bomar, to end the stalling tactics, remove the book from sale at the park and allow park interpretive rangers to honestly answer questions from the public about the geologic age of the Grand Canyon. PEER is also asking Director Bomar to approve a pamphlet, suppressed since 2002 by Bush appointees, providing guidance for rangers and other interpretive staff in making distinctions between science and religion when speaking to park visitors about geologic issues. [full text]

Gee, in a similar vein, I wonder if tour guides and other staff at NASA have been denied permission to inform the public that the moon is neither made of green cheese nor jumpable by a bovine.

Projo Coverage of “Countdown to Change”


We’re getting some coverage from Projo on our campaign:

R.I. blogs to monitor new Congress’s first 100 hours

Civic journalism in Rhode Island will take a new twist next week when the 110th U.S. Congress convenes.

In a move they deem “an unprecedented act of Web-based collaboration,” three of Rhode Island’s most popular blogs plan to pool their resources to cover the first 100 hours of the new Democratic-led legislative branch.

Incoming House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and other Democratic leaders pledged to tackle a variety of issues in the new Congress’s first 100 hours. The blogs RIFuture.org, Kmareka.com, and Pat-Crowley.org plan to “hold their feet to the fire,” says Matt Jerzyk, of RIFuture, which he says averages about 25,000 page views a day.

The bloggers plan to interview the Rhode Island delegation in the coming days and then to track key issues as they move from commitee to the floors of the respective chambers. Jerzyk, for example, will follow Democratic efforts to allow stem cell research, the implementation of the Sept. 11 Commission’s recommendations, and the rollback of oil company subsidies.

Regular updates and interviews with lawmakers will be shared among the three blogs.

Like many bloggers, the three involved in this effort don’t try to hide their political biases. Pat Crowley, for example, showed up at a U.S. Sen. Lincoln Chafee press conference before the election wearing a President Bush mask and flight suit — evocative of the president’s famous “mission-accomplished” moment.

Jerzyk helped organize for District 1199 of the Service Employees International Union and worked as a political director for the Rhode Island Young Democrats. And Kiersten Marek describes kmareka.com like this: “Sounds like America but less repressive — a place where social workers and citizens speak out.”

What purpose do the blogs serve?

“I sort of see it as a blog is an online, constantly-edited editorial page,” Jerzyk says. “A mishmash of an editorial page and talk radio.”

Yet he sees real news value in the bloggers’ effort to cover the first 100 hours.

“We’re going to really try to go in depth on this stuff in a way that most news organizations wouldn’t,” he says. “It’s the town hall of the 21st century.”

The online collaboration will go live on Thursday, Jan. 4, the day the new Congress is convened.

In the Long Shadow of 9/11 — Part II

How strange that those who guard the gates must be reminded or instructed how to treat others respectfully. How sad that tolerance and understanding — along with common sense and courtesy — oft seem wanting. Perhaps, like so much else, these qualities were lost amid the rubble on 9/11. Perhaps, in the dusty, acrid shadows, intolerance took root.

Decades ago, Mohandas Gandhi opined that “intolerance is itself a form of violence and an obstacle to the growth of a true democratic spirit.” What would he think of these times, this world? Were he permitted to travel to America (unlike the Muslim scholar, Tariq Ramadan) and offer his reflections, what would Gandhi say? And with what suspicion or hostility would this nation receive “the little half-naked brown manâ€? who forever transformed the landscape of human resistance and dignity?

One can only speculate. Perhaps, if given the opportunity, Gandhi would hearken back to a different September 11th, one that was not occasioned by horrific violence but by the birth of non-violence:

It all began on September 11, 1906, when Mohandas K. Gandhi, a 37-year old lawyer, rose to address the packed Empire Theatre in Johannesburg.

Gandhi and his colleagues had convened this meeting to mobilise the Indian community against a proposed South African legislative ordinance that would limit their travels through “pass laws.� Gandhi later wrote about that day:

“The Indians solemnly determined not to submit to the Ordinance in the event of its becoming law in the teeth of their opposition, and to suffer all the penalties attaching to such non-submission… All present standing with upraised hands, took an oath with God as witness not to submit to the Ordinance… I can never forget the scene.�

So continued Gandhi’s journey from privileged attorney to great soul—the Mahatma. And so was born Satyagraha—the philosophy of non-violent action. [full text]

Gandhi understood that those living in the shadow of oppression and intolerance ought respond not with darkness but with light. Violence, hatred, and retribution might stir the heart, but they stain the soul. Howsoever difficult, “you must be the change you wish to see in the world.� Americans would do well to heed these words and the lessons of a century past. The time has come to take leave of the mournful shadows and embrace the light.

Take Action to Reduce Student Debt

The Rhode Island chapter of Public Interest Research Group (RIPIRG) is doing an action campaign where you can contact your legislator and encourage him/her to follow through with the promise of reducing the interest rate for student loan debt. Here is a link to the campaign.

Stop the Concrete Plant Hearing

The time has come for all good Cranstonites to rise up and beat back this corporate entity that thinks it can do whatever it wants in our city. From Stop the Concrete Plant:

This is the Big One Citizens!

YOU need to be there to stop the proposed plant in our neighborhood.

Please set aside the date: Wednesday, January 17th, @ 6:30 PM in the Cranston East Auditorium.

Note they are using the larger location to accommodate a crowd. We need all of you to fill the space. Bring your signs, your children, your neighbors and friends.

We must be heard.

In the Long Shadow of 9/11

Though the towers of the World Trade Center cast a shadow no more, their destruction by Muslim extremists casts an enduring shadow upon those of similar ethnicity and/or faith. To be a Muslim or Middle Easterner visiting or residing in the United States is to be automatically suspect. That is decidedly unreasonable. Hysteria and prejudice offer scant warmth against the chill of violence and extemism. The answer to intolerance is not more intolerance. Safety is compromised not enhanced by actions which marginalize or antagonize those deemed suspect. When will those in positions of authority, whether they be representatives of Congress such as Virgil Goode (R-VA) or officials in the Department of Homeland Security, recognize the error of their ways?

From the St. Petersburg Times:

Muslim traveller mistreated in Pinellas County Jail

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security has apologized to a Muslim traveller strip-searched at the Pinellas County Jail after being detained at Tampa International Airport in April.

Federal agents said they denied Spanish citizen Safana Jawad entry to the U.S. on April 11 because she was suspected of being associated with someone they view as suspicious.

Jawad, 45, was taken to the jail, strip-searched according to protocol and held in a maximum security cell for two days. She was never told the identity of the suspicious person.

Jawad, who was born in Iraq, had flown to the United States to visit her son, H., 16, who then lived in Clearwater with her ex-husband, Ahmad Maki Kubba.

Jawad was deported to England on April 13 and has since filed a complaint with the Department of Homeland Security about being mistreated by customs officials as well as staff at the Pinellas County Jail.

In a letter dated Dec. 8, the Department of Homeland Security apologized only for the strip search.

“On behalf of the Department of Homeland Security, I offer you my sincere apology for having to undergo a strip search,” wrote Timothy J. Keefer, deputy officer and acting chief counsel for the department’s Office for Civil Rights and Civil Liberties, which handles complaints.

On Wednesday, Homeland Security would not release the name of the suspicious person Jawad was suspected of being associated with and would not comment on whether they believe she was rightfully detained.

Attached to the letter with no explanation was a photocopy of a notice that tells Transportation Security Administration officials about Muslim head coverings and how to treat Muslim travellers respectfully when searching them. [full text]

[In the Long Shadow of 9/11 -- Part II]

Warming to Vegetarianism?

In a previous post, Kiersten noted recent research suggesting that individuals—such as yours truly—who maintain a vegetarian diet appear to have higher IQs. There is also a good deal of evidence to suggest that vegetarians are healthier. Now, there is reason to believe that we are less detrimental to the environment, as well.

From the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review:

Blaming the bovines

As it turns out, Americans may have been blaming the wrong culprit for global warming. A new United Nations report finds it’s not being caused so much by our gas-guzzling SUVs as by our guzzling of oversized steaks, chops and burgers.

It may be time to exonerate the global auto industry and point the finger of blame at businesses like Omaha Steaks, McDonald’s, Outback Steakhouse and Morton’s of Chicago that put profits — and well-fed customers — over cooler air.

The U.N.’s “Livestock’s Long Shadow” report suggests the world’s vast cattle herds actually emit more of those nasty greenhouse gases that increase climate heat than all the “cars, planes and other forms of transport put together.”

The 400-page report notes a disproportionate portion of global warming gases are created by the bovine’s persistent belching and flatulence as well as the byproducts as they’re fattened for the slaughterhouse.

The feed consumed by America’s 1.5 billion cattle, for instance, require fertilizer produced with fuels that spew massive amounts of carbon dioxide (CO2) into the Earth’s atmosphere — unnaturally raising its temperature.

Including both fertilizer and vegetation lost to grazing pasture, our nation’s love affair with beef accounts for nearly 10 percent of all emissions of CO2, the most common greenhouse gas.

Further, their flatulence and manure emit more than one-third of methane, another greenhouse gas, which warms the world 20 times faster than CO2. And cattle produce more than 100 other polluting gases, including more than two-thirds of the world’s emissions of ammonia, one of the main causes of acid rain. [full text]

Announcing “Countdown to Change” Blogging Collaboration

Three Rhode Island Blogs Launch “Countdown to Change� to
Monitor the First 100 Hours of the New Congress

In an unprecedented act of web-based collaboration, three of Rhode Island’s most popular Blogs, RIFuture.org, Kmareka.com, and Pat-Crowley.org, announce that they will provide collective coverage of the first 100 hours of the new Democratic Congress to provide Rhode Islanders with immediate and comprehensive access to the actions of Rhode Island’s four Democratic Congressmen and the new Democratic Congress.

During the fall campaign, Democratic leaders promised to make substantial changes during the first 100 hours of the 110th Congress in 7 key areas: Lobbying reform and fiscal accountability; Increasing the Minimum Wage; Making college more affordable; Making health care more affordable by passing legislation to negotiate lower prescription drug prices; Allowing stem cell research; Implementing the 9/11 recommendations and Rolling back subsidies to the big oil companies.

The three Bloggers have agreed to work together to discover if Congress will enact the changes that will put America on a better course for working families, the elderly, college students, and healthcare consumers.

Kiersten Marek of Kmareka.com said: “We are parents, professionals, and citizens who want to see America achieve a more participatory democracy. We are using one of the most powerful new tools of communication to try to improve our democracy – publishing Blogs that keep citizens updated about the workings of our legislature, the passing of laws, and the impact those laws will have on all our lives.�

Matt Jerzyk of RIFuture.org said: “It was clear in the last election that Rhode Islanders were repudiating the policies of the Republican Congress and demanding more accountability of the Bush Administration. Our Blogs came together to make sure that the promise of Democratic change becomes a reality in the first 100 hours. We will give Rhode Islanders immediate access to the most important policy reforms promised by the new Democratic Congress as well as in-depth analysis of each piece of legislation and its path through Congress.�

Pat Crowley of Pat-Crowley.org said: “We hope this first of its kind collaboration will provide a launching pad for citizen activists. Anyone can just report the news, but the Countdown to Change project will go beyond the headlines and provide research links, activist opportunities, interviews, and news without the filters put in place by the mainstream media.�

The project goes live on January 4th, the day the 110th Congress gets sworn in. The Bloggers will cross-post their reports on each of their Blogs and provide interviews with members of congress and other key policy makers.

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