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.]

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):


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.

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.