Monthly Archives: February, 2007

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.

The Hearings Begin: Reed Questions Rice

Via Rifuture.org, news comes that Senator Reed and the Senate Appropriations Committee are holding hearings today on funding the war in Iraq. You can view the hearings in streaming media by going to this page. The hearings begin at 2:30 pm eastern standard time.

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.

Bordering on the Ludicrous

It is, indeed, a brave new world—one in which information technology ensures that the peccadilloes of one’s past will never cease to revisit themselves. To err may be human. To forgive may be divine. To forget may be impossible.

From the San Francisco Chronicle:

Going to Canada? Check your past

There was a time not long ago when a trip across the border from the United States to Canada was accomplished with a wink and a wave of a driver’s license. Those days are over.

Take the case of 55-year-old Lake Tahoe resident Greg Felsch. Stopped at the border in Vancouver this month at the start of a planned five-day ski trip, he was sent back to the United States because of a DUI conviction seven years ago. Not that he had any idea what was going on when he was told at customs: “Your next stop is immigration.”

Felsch was ushered into a room. “There must have been 75 people in line,” he says. “We were there for three hours. One woman was in tears. A guy was sent back for having a medical marijuana card. I felt like a felon with an ankle bracelet.”

Or ask the well-to-do East Bay couple who flew to British Columbia this month for an eight-day ski vacation at the famed Whistler Chateau, where rooms run to $500 a night. They’d made the trip many times, but were surprised at the border to be told that the husband would have to report to “secondary” immigration.

There, in a room he estimates was filled with 60 other concerned travelers, he was told he was “a person who was inadmissible to Canada.” The problem? A conviction for marijuana possession.

In 1975.

Welcome to the new world of border security. Unsuspecting Americans are turning up at the Canadian border expecting clear sailing, only to find that their past — sometimes their distant past — is suddenly an issue.

While Canada officially has barred travelers convicted of criminal offenses for years, attorneys say post-9/11 information-gathering, combined with a sweeping agreement between Canada and the United States to share data, has resulted in a spike in phone calls from concerned travelers.

They are shocked to hear that the sins of their youth might keep them out of Canada. But what they don’t know is that this is just the beginning. Soon other nations will be able to look into your past when you want to travel there. [full text]

Taking Task with Multitasking

As you’re sitting in front of your computer reading these words, are you engaged in other activities or receiving stimuli from other sources? Are you watching television? Listening to music? Chatting on the telephone? Instant Messaging with a friend? Can you imagine doing all these things at once and still being able to devote due attention to these words? For the current generation of young people who have never known a time when information technologies were not omnipresent, such multitasking is all too often part of their daily existence. But what are the implications and consequences of this behavior? Is it healthy, particularly for those whose brains are still developing? In today’s Washington Post, Lori Aratani explores these very questions:

Teens Can Multitask, But What Are Costs?

It’s homework time and 17-year-old Megan Casady of Silver Spring is ready to study.

She heads down to the basement, turns on MTV and boots up her computer. Over the next half hour, Megan will send about a dozen instant messages discussing the potential for a midweek snow day. She’ll take at least one cellphone call, fire off a couple of text messages, scan Weather.com, volunteer to help with a campus cleanup day at James Hubert Blake High School where she is a senior, post some comments on a friend’s Facebook page and check out the new pom squad pictures another friend has posted on hers.

In between, she’ll define “descent with modification” and explain how “the tree analogy represents the evolutionary relationship of creatures” on a worksheet for her AP biology class.

Call it multitasking homework, Generation ‘Net style.

The students who do it say multitasking makes them feel more productive and less stressed. Researchers aren’t sure what the long-term impact will be because no studies have probed its effect on teenage development. But some fear that the penchant for flitting from task to task could have serious consequences on young people’s ability to focus and develop analytical skills.

There is special concern for teenagers because parts of their brain are still developing, said Jordan Grafman, chief of cognitive neuroscience at the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke.

“Introducing multitasking in younger kids in my opinion can be detrimental,” he said. “One of the biggest problems about multitasking is that it’s almost impossible to gain a depth of knowledge of any of the tasks you do while you’re multitasking. And if it becomes normal to do, you’ll likely be satisfied with very surface-level investigation and knowledge.” [full text]

Tipping the Scales of Governance

It is in the nature of government—at least as it presently exists—that political interests sometimes conflict with and even hold sway over public interests. By and large, as long as the scales of governance remain weighted toward the common good, the impingement of politics is tolerable. In the last 6+ years, however, the scales have increasingly shifted away from what is in the best interests of the majority of Americans to what serves the narrow interests of the Bush political machine and its acquisitive allies. The recent firing of several highly-regarded U.S. attorneys highlights this troubling trend, as noted in the following New York Times editorial:

Why Have So Many U.S. Attorneys Been Fired? It Looks a Lot Like Politics

Carol Lam, the former United States attorney for San Diego, is smart and tireless and was very good at her job. Her investigation of Representative Randy Cunningham resulted in a guilty plea for taking more than $2 million in bribes from defense contractors and a sentence of more than eight years. Two weeks ago, she indicted Kyle Dustin Foggo, the former No. 3 official in the C.I.A. The defense-contracting scandal she pursued so vigorously could yet drag in other politicians.

In many Justice Departments, her record would have won her awards, and perhaps a promotion to a top post in Washington. In the Bush Justice Department, it got her fired.

Ms. Lam is one of at least seven United States attorneys fired recently under questionable circumstances. The Justice Department is claiming that Ms. Lam and other well-regarded prosecutors like John McKay of Seattle, David Iglesias of New Mexico, Daniel Bogden of Nevada and Paul Charlton of Arizona — who all received strong job evaluations — performed inadequately.

It is hard to call what’s happening anything other than a political purge. And it’s another shameful example of how in the Bush administration, everything — from rebuilding a hurricane-ravaged city to allocating homeland security dollars to invading Iraq — is sacrificed to partisan politics and winning elections. [full text]

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