Monthly Archives: June, 2007

Random Facts About Me: A Blogging Meme

This is the first time I’ve ever consciously participated in a “meme.” I thought it might prove interesting to some readers, since I usually try not to talk too much about myself.

1. All right, here are the rules.

2. We have to post these rules before we give you the facts.

3. Players start with eight random facts/habits about themselves.

4. People who are tagged need to write their own blog about their eight things and post these rules.

5. At the end of your blog, you need to choose eight people to get tagged and list their names. Don’t forget to leave them a comment telling them they’re tagged, and to read your blog.

Eight facts about Kiersten:

1. I won the typing award in 10th grade for being the fastest typer. When I am talking or thinking, I am often typing words in my mind, trying to keep up on my internal keyboard.

2. I don’t like to get up early in the morning. Like my mother who is 82, I find that I often get my deepest and most revitalizing sleep in the morning from about 5 am to 7 am.

3. Thankfully, I have a very understanding and capable husband who takes care of everything with our children until I get up, just before he goes to work.

4. Every once in a while I like to get up early.

5. I love books and once bought hundreds of books at a single book sale in Cranston and then sold them on the internet for a handsome profit. However, everyone else soon started doing this and now there is a glut of books for sale on Amazon and other sites.

6. I am worried about the fires around Lake Tahoe.

7. I worry about money more than most people.

8. I wish I could find a job that combined my love for understanding things deeply personal with my interest in creating a sustainable planet. In this dream job, I would also like to use my ability to write and my technical skill for internet communication. Is that too much to ask?

And now, to tag others:

Matt
Pat
Eileen
Justin
Ian
Michael Nystrom
Edgeing
Jon

Reed Amendment Passes, Protects Endangered Polar Bears

This didn’t get much media attention, but it is a worthy act: to close the loophole in the Marine Mammal Protection Act that still allows hunters to import and sell the heads and hides of polar bears. From MediaNewswire.com:

Today, the U.S. Senate Committee on Appropriations approved an amendment to the FY 2008 Interior Appropriations bill to protect polar bears in the Arctic by blocking American trophy hunters from importing their heads and hides. The Committee approved the amendment, offered by Senator Jack Reed ( D-R.I. ), by voice vote.

The Marine Mammal Protection Act, passed in 1972, generally prohibits the import of products from marine mammals, such as whales, dolphins, seals, and polar bears. But in 1994, a loophole was created to allow American trophy hunters to bring home polar bear heads and hides from Canada. Over the last decade, American trophy hunters received more than 800 permits to import polar bear trophies.

“The polar bear has become the iconic species for the devastating effects of global warming,” said Wayne Pacelle, president and CEO of The Humane Society of the United States. “It just makes no sense to allow Americans to shoot and import polar bears when these animals are facing so many tangible threats to their very existence.”

The Safari Club International gives out a “Bears of the World” hunting achievement award to individuals who shoot four of the eight species of bears in the world, and that awards program drives competitive killing of polar bears in the Arctic.

The HSUS expressed its thanks to Senator Jack Reed for leading this important effort, and to Appropriations Committee Chairman Robert C. Byrd ( D-W.V. ) and Interior Appropriations Subcommittee Chairwoman Dianne Feinstein ( D-Calif. ) for their strong support.

“Polar bears are rapidly becoming an endangered species. It is illegal to hunt these bears for sport in the United States. Trophy hunters shouldn’t be able to skirt the spirit of U.S. law by killing polar bears abroad and bringing their heads back across the border to America,” said Senator Reed, a member of the Appropriations Subcommittee on the Interior and Environment. “This amendment will ensure that the United States shuts down this practice and prevents the killing of these animals for their heads.”

The Reed Amendment accomplishes a similar goal as the Polar Bear Protection Act � S. 1406 by Senators John Kerry ( D-Mass. ) and Olympia Snowe ( R-Maine ), and H.R. 2327 by Representatives Jay Inslee ( D-Wash. ) and Frank LoBiondo ( R-N.J. ) � which would permanently close the polar bear trophy hunting loophole in the Marine Mammal Protection Act. The HSUS, Defenders of Wildlife, International Fund for Animal Welfare, and other humane and conservation groups back the legislation and are grateful to these legislative leaders.

“With polar bears facing clear threats presented by climate change, the U.S. should not be funding unnecessary trophy hunting of this charismatic species,” said Cindy Milburn, acting director of IFAW, DC. “IFAW applauds the committee and Senator Reed for taking steps to provide polar bears with much needed protection.”

Facts:

Scientists estimate there are 21,500-25,000 polar bears in the Arctic � more than half are in Canada and most of these are in the territory of Nunavut. Throughout their range, polar bears currently face unprecedented threats from global climate change, environmental degradation, and hunting for subsistence and sport.

In 2005, the IUCN ( World Conservation Union ) uplisted the polar bear on its Red List from a species of “least concern” to “vulnerable” for the first time. The IUCN Polar Bear Specialist Group has announced that polar bear populations could drop 30 percent in the coming 35�50 years and that polar bears may disappear from most of their range within 100 years.

Today trophy hunting of polar bears in the U.S. is banned, and only Alaskan natives are allowed to hunt small numbers of bears for subsistence. Once sport hunting was prohibited in the U.S., some populations began to recover.

Whitehouse Votes to Pass Clean Energy Act of 2007

The bad news is that large chunks of icebergs in the Antarctic are breaking off and starting to float away. The good news is the US government is finally paying attention to global warming, at least in some limited, lukewarm way. But it’s a start. From the Environmental News Service:

WASHINGTON, DC, June 22, 2007 (ENS) – The U.S. Senate passed energy legislation late Thursday night that mandates a 40 percent increase in fuel economy standards by 2020 and calls for a massive expansion of renewable fuels production. But the final bill is far less ambitious than Democrats had originally hoped for, as Republicans successfully derailed a plan that would have funded $32 billion in renewable energy tax breaks by increasing taxes on oil companies and blocked a measure requiring utilities generate more electricity from renewable sources.

The vote, 65-27, came after more than a week of intense debate that demonstrated deep partisan and regional divides over the nation’s energy future, as well as the pervasive lobbying power of electric utilities, auto manufacturers and the oil industry.

The White House has voiced concern over the mandated increase in fuel economy and threatened a veto because of language in the bill imposing stricter penalties on oil companies for price gouging.

The House is also working on energy legislation, with the goal of considering a bill after the July 4th recess, but has thus far avoided tackling the fuel economy question.

Fuel economy is a tricky political issue for U.S. lawmakers, and the Senate bill only passed after a compromise was reached over the fuel efficiency provision. The original language called for raising standards to 35 miles per gallon, mpg, by 2020, with four percent annual increases from 2021 to 2030.

Current standards require automakers to meet an average of 27.5 mpg for cars and 22.2 for sport utility vehicles and small trucks. Other than a very small increase in requirements for SUVs and trucks, the standards have not changed in two decades.

The compromise eliminated the mandated annual increases, instead calling on federal regulators to increase the standards “at a maximum feasible rate.”

“Our message to the domestic auto industry is, ‘You can do this,'” said Senator Tom Carper, a Delaware Democrat. [full text]

They can, but they won’t. The auto industry continues to effectively avoid the full-scale shift to alternative energy fuels for cars. It’s a sad case of how corporate influence limits the ability for innovation and expansion into alternative resources. For more on this, I refer you to a movie that David posted a while ago called, “Who Killed the Electric Car?”

Regarding the passage of the Clean Energy Act, Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse provided the following statement:

“Last night, the Senate took a dramatic step toward reducing our reliance on foreign oil, conserving more of the energy we use in our homes, cars, and businesses, and investing in new technologies that will help in the fight against global warming.

“Our energy bill will require more of our energy to come from sustainably-produced biofuels; raise fuel efficiency standards for cars and trucks for the first time since 1975; incentivize the production of fuel-efficient vehicles; create new standards for appliances and lighting to help conserve electricity; and take a closer look at ways to trap carbon emissions before they reach the atmosphere. It will save tens of billions of dollars for American families.

“I was especially proud to support legislation, which passed as part of the energy bill last night, that will make the federal government a leader in energy-efficient, environmentally-sound building standards. Buildings that use less energy, and keep our air and water cleaner, will help preserve our environment, save taxpayers’ money – and take us one step closer to curbing the threat of global warming.

“To keep our economy strong and our people and environment healthy, we must lead the world in finding innovative ways to produce and use energy. This bill moves us closer to that goal.�

The Cost of Milk Got You Down? Starbucks, too

Starbucks announced today that it expects to have trouble meeting its earning expectations, due to the increased cost of dairy products. I don’t know about you, but with children and a family of avid cereal-eaters, I buy a fair bit of milk and milk products. The cost of a load of groceries seems to be going up for our household about 10% a week. From Forbes:

An analyst downgraded shares of Starbucks Corp. on Friday, after the coffeehouse chain warned that a spike in dairy costs may hinder its ability to hit the high end of its fiscal 2007 earnings outlook. [full text]

Local Money — Provbucks?

It would be interesting if we had local money here in the Providence area. Or even more local — Cranston Cash? Cranston Carebucks? (for our city motto, “While I watched, I cared.”) Anyway, here’s an interesting story on how the Berkshires have their own money to support local business — the Berkshares. From Reuters:

GREAT BARRINGTON, Massachusetts (Reuters) – A walk down Main Street in this New England town calls to mind the pictures of Norman Rockwell, who lived nearby and chronicled small-town American life in the mid-20th Century.

So it is fitting that the artist’s face adorns the 50 BerkShares note, one of five denominations in a currency adopted by towns in western Massachusetts to support locally owned businesses over national chains.

“I just love the feel of using a local currency,” said Trice Atchison, 43, a teacher who used BerkShares to buy a snack at a cafe in Great Barrington, a town of about 7,400 people. “It keeps the profit within the community.”

There are about 844,000 BerkShares in circulation, worth $759,600 at the fixed exchange rate of 1 BerkShare to 90 U.S. cents, according to program organizers. The paper scrip is available in denominations of one, five, 10, 20 and 50.

In their 10 months of circulation, they’ve become a regular feature of the local economy. Businesses that accept BerkShares treat them interchangeably with dollars: a $1 cup of coffee sells for 1 BerkShare, a 10 percent discount for people paying in BerkShares.

h/t bullnotbull.com for the link.

Kmareka Headlines: June 19, 2007

7 in 10 Americans Think Economy is Getting Worse: What do you think? Comment below.

Bloomberg for President? The announcement that he has quit the GOP coupled with his attack on politicians in general suggest that Michael Bloomberg is considering a run for President.

A Good Immune System May Help You Stay Slim: A strong immune system may protects you from more than just disease — it may also keep you from overeating. Research on mice showed that those lacking a certain immune system component, interleukin-18, got fat.

Tough Times for the NAACP: The NAACP is closing seven of its regional offices and cutting its staff by 40%. It seems that leadership and philosophical disagreements have splintered the organization.

School’s Out for Summer — The Muppets and Alice Cooper: For those who like to go back in the time once in a while, this is a classic Muppet Show moment. Enjoy and happy summer!

Wounded Warriors — Real and Metaphorical

This article starts like a haunting PTSD nightmare from the war in Iraq, and reminded me frighteningly of how much more traumatized the world is becoming. From MSN.com:

On the military plane that crossed the ocean at night, the wounded lay in stretchers stacked three high. The drone of engines was broken by the occasional sound of moaning. Sedated and sleeping, Pfc. Joshua Calloway was at the top of one stack last September. Unlike the others around him, Calloway was handcuffed to his stretcher.

When the 20-year-old infantry soldier woke up, he was on the locked-down psychiatric ward at Walter Reed Army Medical Center. A nurse handed him pajamas and a robe, but they reminded him of the flowing clothes worn by Iraqi men. He told the nurse, “I don’t want to look like a freakin’ Haj.” He wanted his uniform. Request denied. Shoelaces and belts were prohibited.

Calloway felt naked without his M-4, his constant companion during his tour south of Baghdad with the 101st Airborne Division. The year-long deployment claimed the lives of 50 soldiers in his brigade. Two committed suicide. Calloway, blue-eyed and lantern-jawed, lasted nine months — until the afternoon he watched his sergeant step on a pressure-plate bomb in the road. The young soldier’s knees buckled and he vomited in the reeds before he was ordered to help collect body parts. A few days later he was sent to the combat-stress trailers, where he was given antidepressants and rest, but after a week he was still twitching and sleepless. The Army decided that his war was over. [full text]

These are our real warriors — the men and women in Iraq, and they are getting more and more traumatized every day. The world has become a very harsh place for them, every day a brutal live-or-die experience, as well as another day of witnessing the injuries and deaths of their comrades and civilians.

Here at home, warriors are mostly metaphorical. When I meet with kids for counseling — teenagers — I sometimes work with an identity development tool created by Carol Pearson called the Hero Myth Index. It’s a way to find out which mythical archetypes you most closely identify with. There are 12, including sage, fool, innocent, orphan, ruler, caregiver, creator, and destroyer. The one that kids, especially boys, emphatically claim as the core of their identity is the warrior. What’s interesting for them to learn is that they can be so many other things besides warriors. It’s a revelation that can lead to real change in a child’s ability to think about themselves and how they want to behave.

But unfortunately, our young warriors at home are also facing a harsher world. Today comes news of the passage of the state budget and plans to adjudicate children age 17 and older as adults in the state’s judicial system. The Campaign for Rhode Island’s Priorities provides this fact sheet on why doing this will be bad for children — how it will make them warriors in the adult world before they have the ability to handle it. From that marauding band of poverty pimps, the CRIPs:

Trying youth as adults does not promote public safety or reduce crime.

One provision proposed by the Governor for the 2008 state budget, and enacted by the House of Representatives on Friday, would automatically require that youth 17 and older be tried as adults regardless of the offense committed, and if sentenced, encarcerated at the Adult Correctional Institution (ACI). If they are already in the Juvenile Detention system, they will automatically be transferred to the ACI when they turn 19.

Currently, youth are sent to the Rhode Island Training School (RITS), the state’s only juvenile correctional facility, and depending on their sentence, remain in juvenile detition through the age of 21.

We need to keep Rhode Island progressive and eliminate this provision from the budget because:

Research shows that recidivism rates are lower for youth who are treated in the juvenile justice system. Youth who have been exposed to the adult criminal justice system are more likely to re-offend, more quickly and at higher rates. In fact, latest studies from the Centers for Disease Control show that sending youth to adult prisons increases violence.

Adult convictions obstruct future opportunities.

An adult criminal record is accessible to employers, lenders and numerous other agencies. Even as youth try to move on with their lives, an adult conviction will reduce their chances of getting a job or applying for loans or financial aid to go back to school.

Youth receive rehabilitative services at the Training School and from Family Court Programs.

The RITS has a mission to rehabilitate youth, the ACI does not. The RITS is mandated to provide a full educational program for youth that is essential to their future. In addition, at the RITS, youth participate in programs specific to their needs, including individual counseling. Oftentimes, when youth are tried in adult court, they receive probation, which does not provide structured services. At the ACI, youth will not have access to the individualized care and treatment they need. This will prevent them from rehabilitating and reintegrating into the community once they are released.

This provision is not cost effective. We must invest in the future of our communities, not in incarceration.

The ACI cannot afford to expand its prison population, which is already filled to capacity. According to Department of Corrections Director A.T. Wall, sending youth to the ACI would “put an additional strain on our already overburdened institutions” and drive up the corrections budget. Furthermore, in an effort to save money in the short term, the state risks serious long-term consequences. A 1998 study by Professor Mark A. Cohen of Vanderbilt University found that preventing teens from adopting a life of crime (including future adult offenses) could save the country between $1.7 million and $2.3 million per youth. These costs reflect high rates of recidivism among youth who are tried as adults, and the rising number of people incarcerated for non-violent offenses due to punitive sentencing practices. Investing in the Training School and other Family Court and DCYF programs will deter youth from a life of adult crime and save the state the costs of future incarceration.

The CRIPs are asking people to call Montalbano and Murphy (Speaker of the House Murphy: 222-2466; Senate President Montalbano: 222-6655) and ask them to reconsider the plan to put our younger kids into the adult world of prison. The pennies saved in not giving these kids counseling and vocational help will be lost (and then some) on the cost of recidivism. Why not give our youngest warriors a fighting chance?

PS. Rep. Segal also posted about this issue on RIFuture, prompting some snappy answers from the trolls over there, as well as some more thoughtful responses.

Blogged Down — David Takes a Break

Perhaps you are wondering why there has been no new content for the past few days. I received an email from David Jaffe letting me know that he needed to take a break from the blogging:

As you can plainly see, my contributions to the weblog
have trickled down to nothing. I seem to be at this place where I
have little or no desire and motivation to write and post material.
The reasons for such are not entirely clear to me. Some of it no
doubt has to do with taking on a new job, which, although it is part-
time, still cuts into the time I previously had available to engage
in blogging and cuts into my emotional and intellectual reservoirs,
as well. Some of it also has to do with having grown weary and
discouraged with all the crap that is going on in this country and in
the world. I feel as though I want to turn away from such ugliness.
Some of it has to do, too, with feeling as though I have nothing new
to say. How many times can I point out the incompetence and
corruption and cruelty and ignorance that governs those who govern?

Anyway, I guess what it all boils down to is that I think I need to
give myself permission to take a break from blogging. Hopefully, a
little breather (although I cannot promise that it will be little)
will allow me to recharge my batteries and regain my voice. Of
course, in the interim, I know that I am leaving something of a void
for you to fill. I apologize for that. The last thing that I want
to do is let you (or our loyal readers) down. But I know in my heart
that I need a break.

David has done a wonderful job of contributing his time and talents to this blog, and I will always be grateful to him for that. I wish him well in his break, though I hope it will be a short one. It is not easy to continue to care about difficult issues, especially as they seem to be getting worse. But for me the blogging remains a positive process –an opportunity to engage the community on vital issues, a place to acknowledge problems and discuss ways to change, a forum to listen to other intelligent voices, a place to share something funny.

So for a while now it might just be me sounding off here at Kmareka, and also Nancy Green, who has made some great contributions of late.

Kmareka Scoops Alternet

This is the best site for in-depth analysis of the evolving Paris Hilton situation. Now Alternet’s excellent political commentator, Will Durst, connects the dots in his column, ‘Paris Hilton Pays for George Bush’s Sins’.

As noted in Kmareka’s essay, Paris Hilton Suffers for our Sins, we are more likely to see Paris running for president than facing the ‘justice’ that ordinary people get when they are charged with a crime. The Rev. Al Sharpton, who is sometimes right, comments on that in Kmareka Scoops CBS News. Will Durst, however, takes it to the next level, revealing a truth so terrible that this commentator had to be coaxed into coming out from under the bed. Paris Hilton is already president, in a metaphysical sense. We are throwing stones at Barbie, because Ken is our Commander in Chief and he’s too far away to hit.

“We’re guilty as well, of pasting George Bush’s face onto her emaciated frame. He is the Paris Hilton of Presidents. The two of them share the smirk and the obliviousness and the trust funders’ undying belief in their eternal impunity from culpability.”

How about instead of hating Paris Hilton we start dismantling the tax breaks for the rich, the ones the President wants to make permanent, (so that there will always be friends who owe him one when he leaves office). How about putting that money into the infrastructure of the country–clean air and water, affordable housing, accessible health care, education that is a credit to the greatest country in the world. We’ve let successive administrations kick the bottom rungs off the ladder of success because we hate that welfare queen. We hate her so much that we’d rather be run over by the Corporate Welfare Cadillac.

If we really want Paris Hilton to suffer, why not cut off her allowance? She’ll dissolve faster than the Wicked Witch of West. Cleaning up a political system that favors old movie actors and empty suits will be harder. I think the only way to even start is with public financing of political campaigns. Someone’s going to buy them, it might as well be us.

Turned-Off Electronics are Consuming Tons of Electricity

Turned-off electronics are using up tons of electricity. From The New York Times:

[...]Indeed, the Department of Energy estimates that in the average home, 40 percent of all electricity used to power home electronics is consumed while the products are turned off. Add that all up, and it equals the annual output of 17 power plants, the government says. In an effort to address that, a consortium of Intel, Google, PC makers and other technology companies this week announced their intent to increase the PC’s overall energy efficiency to 90 percent.

Products that idle in what the industry calls low-power mode, or lopomo, consumed about 10 percent of total electricity in California homes, according to a 2002 study prepared for the California Energy Commission by the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory. A few of those devices, even those with Energy Star ratings that signal that they are less wasteful, still use a lot of power. “Some of the larger big-screen TVs consume as much energy each year as a new refrigerator,� according to Noah Horowitz, a scientist at the Natural Resources Defense Council. [full text]

So while my computer is sitting here all night long, turned off, it is still using electricity? That just doesn’t seem right. As the article goes on to detail, Google and other big online corporations are pushing for more energy efficiency.

h/t Bullnotbull.com for the link.

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 998 other followers