Call-In Campaign for a Better Budget

Tomorrow, the Campaign for Rhode Island’s Priorities is doing a call-in campaign so that people can express their concerns about the proposed budget cuts in Rhode Island, which are outlined in this pdf document:

• Thousands of moderate and low-income workers will lose the child care support they need to stay on the job;
• 857 teens in DCYF care will lose the promise of stable families, education and even for some housing;
• Cut lead-poisoning and STD screenings in our health centers and schools; families or clinics would have to pay out of pocket for many of the over 22,000 yearly lead screenings done at community health centers
• Hundreds of state employee jobs will be cut and hundreds more will be privatized, limiting public accountability and compromising the public service that these workers provide;
• And, a $7 million plus hole in the RIPTA budget is simply ignored, making way for service cuts and rate hikes in public transportation.

Stay tuned for tomorrow’s instructions on how to participate in the campaign.

Attacking the Messenger

Al Gore deserves a great deal of credit and praise for his efforts to raise awareness about the global climate crisis, as chronicled in the now-Academy-Award-winning documentary, An Inconvenient Truth. But many conservatives see it otherwise, dismissing the threat of global warming as hysteria while simultaneously attacking the former Vice President’s character in an hysterical fashion. Because they don’t like the message, they are trying to defame and smear the messenger(s). The fine website, Think Progress, has documented many of the reactionary attacks, including these in the last month:

• Gore Responds To Drudge’s Latest Hysterics (2-26-07)

• ‘Proud’ Polluter Sean Hannity Launches Pathetic Smear Attack Against Al Gore (2-18-07)

• Right Wing Spreads Misinformation About Oregon’s Global Warming Denier (2-8-07)

• Right Wing Uses Erroneous CNN Report To Smear Gore (2-7-07)

• Sen. James Inhofe (R-OK) goes ad hominem on Al Gore (1-31-07)

I am thoroughly disgusted with those on the right and in the wrong who—having nothing of substance to contribute to the discourse on issues of national and global importance—offer petty personal attacks. Those who would “Swift Boat” Mr. Gore because they don’t like his politics or are resistant to any sort of change that doesn’t inflate their wallets and egos expose only their cruel and small-minded nature. As Eleanor Roosevelt once said, “Great minds discuss ideas; average minds discuss events; small minds discuss people.”

China Flexes Financial Muscle, America Swoons

The World’s newest financial epicenter, China, flexed its muscle today on the US markets. The Dow was briefly down more than 500 points before recovering to close down 416.02. Bullnotbull.com’s Michael Nystrom had an article last week about China’s markets, which makes an interesting prelude to the recent international financial instability.

UPDATE: Michael Nystrom provides some charts and commentary on today’s drop at Bullnotbull.com.

Falwell Not Warming to Global Warming

Who needs scientific research when the Reverend Jerry Falwell is available to weigh in on issues such as global climate change? The former televangelist recently gave a sermon in which he argued that global warming was a Satanic conspiracy of sorts:

Falwell says Christians shouldn’t focus on global warming

LYNCHBURG, Va.—The Reverend Jerry Falwell says global warming is “Satan’s attempt to redirect the church’s primary focus” from evangelism to environmentalism.

Falwell told his Baptist congregation in Lynchburg yesterday that “the jury is still out” on whether humans are causing — or could stop — global warming.

But he said some “naive Christian leaders” are being “duped” by arguments like those presented in former Vice President Al Gore’s documentary “An Inconvenient Truth.” Falwell says the documentary should have been titled “A Convenient Untruth.”

Falwell said the Bible teaches that God will maintain the Earth until Jesus returns, so Christians should be responsible environmentalists, but not what he calls … quote … “first-class nuts.” [link]

And the good Reverend apparently knows a thing or two about being “nuts.” Unfortunately for him, his views on climate change are not universally shared by his fellow evangelical leaders, several dozen of whom took an opposing stance just over a year ago, as reported by the New York Times:

Evangelical Leaders Join Global Warming Initiative

Despite opposition from some of their colleagues, 86 evangelical Christian leaders have decided to back a major initiative to fight global warming, saying “millions of people could die in this century because of climate change, most of them our poorest global neighbors.”

Among signers of the statement…are the presidents of 39 evangelical colleges, leaders of aid groups and churches, like the Salvation Army, and pastors of megachurches, including Rick Warren, author of the best seller “The Purpose-Driven Life.”

“For most of us, until recently this has not been treated as a pressing issue or major priority,” the statement said. “Indeed, many of us have required considerable convincing before becoming persuaded that climate change is a real problem and that it ought to matter to us as Christians. But now we have seen and heard enough.” [full text]

Security Begins at Home

Security begins at home—or at least it should. If your family and the families of your neighbors were in need of food, shelter, or medical care, would you deny them all or part of such in order to ensure that families a great distance away were being taken care of instead? If the cost of adequately meeting the basic needs of your family and the families of your neighbors were but a fraction of the cost of meeting the purported needs of distant others, would you overlook this gross inequity and permit its perpetuation? If you were the President of the United States, what would you do?

From the New York Times:

Child Health Care Splits White House and States

Governors clashed with the White House on Monday over the future of the popular Children’s Health Insurance Program, an issue that some members of both parties said was as important as money for the Iraq war.

In the session at the White House, when President Bush reported on progress of the war, governors pressed him to provide more money so they could guarantee health insurance for children. In response, administration officials said states should make better use of the money they already had.

Gov. Sonny Perdue of Georgia, a Republican, said afterward, “Health care for children ought to be a priority, irrespective of anyone’s views on the war.�

Georgia will exhaust its allotment of federal money for the Children’s Health Insurance Program within three months, Mr. Perdue said. Thirteen other states expect to run out by September, according to data released here at the winter meeting of the National Governors Association.

Governors said the Clinton and Bush administrations had encouraged them to expand children’s coverage and had granted waivers allowing them to cover parents and even some childless adults.

Having successfully expanded the health insurance programs in their states, some governors now suggest that the Bush administration is pulling the safety net out from under many children. [full text]

For more detailed information on threats to the Children’s Health Insurance Program and the implications of such, check out the website of the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities. If you would like to sign a petition advocating for broader and more comprehensive health care coverage for children, go to the website of the Campaign for Children’s Health Care.

Queer as a Three Dollar Bill

It was back in the 70’s in a Pentecostal church that I first heard the phrase, ‘queer as a three dollar bill’. This was back before ‘queer pride’, and before numerous outings of Fundamentalist Christians who didn’t practice what they preached. This was before the faithful who tithed their social security checks to Jim and Tammy discovered that they were paying for luxury dog houses and gold-plated bathroom fixtures in the Bakker estate.

Well, the brave work of gay activists made it possible for many people to live openly and honestly, but not everyone wants to be out. There’s still poker. There’s still political strategy. There’s still the con. We’re in a coming out time, so it’s easy to be lulled into forgetting that there are still players, especially in politics, and the ultimate hypocrisy is being able to lie to yourself.

That’s the kindest interpretation I can find–that extreme conservatives and religious fundamentalists, recognizing that their point of view is unpopular, decide to ‘reach’ the skeptical, by making themselves look like something they’re not.

Deception is not unique to evangelical Christianity or conservative activists. In fact it’s not unique to humans. It’s the snake in the grass. It’s camouflage, disinformation, protective coloration, poker , bait and switch. Watch out for what passes for news, check your sources. The same extreme conservatives who snickered about the gays they forced into the closet are passing their own three dollar bills, not because of persecution, but because it’s smart strategy. We have to be twice as smart, and not take counterfeit at face value.