Quo Usque Tandem Abutere, Napolitano?

It’s the opening line of Cicero’s first oration to Cataline. The full sentence is “Quo usque tandem abutere, Catilina, patientia nostra?” It essentially means, “How long, Oh Cataline, will you abuse our patience?” It’s an age-old sentiment for expressing frustration with the powers-that-be. My high school Latin teacher, Mrs. Murray, would be proud that this was the sentiment that struck me today as I reviewed the events of the rally yesterday to stop the concrete plant in Cranston.

The rally was about the size of the one last September but seemed less populated with political big wigs and more populated with families and children. As things got organized, Geoff Schoos quickly filled me in on exactly where things stood legally. As detailed in today’s Projo, legislation was passed to expand the city’s zoning board and one of the additional zoning board members was appointed last night, a lawyer named Steven Minicucci. Now we are waiting for the Mayor to choose the second zoning member appointment, and then there should be enough members of the zoning board to form a quorum and review the building permit issued to Cullion (and hopefully revoke it).

Suzanne Arena deftly wielded the bullhorn and organized the children. The Mayor benevolently crouched down and greeted each child as he or she handed over their petitions and asked in one way or another for the preservation of their neighborhood. Our ward councilman, Emilio Navarro, was there in a full suit and spoke emphatically on behalf of his constituents. Frank Mattiucci, President of CCRZD, reminded everyone that it has been a full year with little progress on resolving the concrete plant issue. Then there were questions. One woman asked why there are vehicles parked at the site of the concrete plant every day if they are not building it. The Mayor responded that there is an existing business there that they are continuing but that if they try to start building the concrete plant, the city will file a “cease and desist” motion or make some sort of blocking legal action.

There were some other good questions, but the question that really cut to the chase was the last, asked by the young gentlemen with reddish hair. I don’t remember his exact words, but the gist of the question was, “How long? How long before we know that this concrete plant will not be built?”

The Mayor’s response was that he guessed the Supreme Court ruling would be postponed for about a year. This was when you could hear the collective groan of a community whose patience is already on life support. But he quickly added that the zoning board should be able to rule on the matter long before then. So people could take heart in the knowledge that at least in terms of our local government, we weren’t going to be waiting for an answer too much longer.

But the article in today’s Projo reveals Cullion’s counter strategy to this game plan. John O. Mancini, the lawyer for Cullion (and former Democratic Mayoral candidate in Cranston), implied that Cullion will try to get a restraining order to prevent the zoning board from convening. If this restraining order is granted, could things really be stalled for another full year?

Perhaps it’s not worth worrying about. Perhaps the restraining order won’t be granted and Cullion will give up and the concrete plant will go away after the zoning board rejects the building permit.

But I wouldn’t count on it. Which means the community is still in limbo. People who were planning to sell their houses are in limbo. Buyers interested in moving into the area are probably holding off. People all over the city and state are waiting to see if our government can function to protect a residential area from environmental hazard.

One reason why people are losing patience is because this is the Mayor who promised to revoke the building permit for the concrete plant once he was in office. Now he says the Supreme Court’s stay on the case prevents him from doing this. Soon, a restraining order may be filed to prevent the zoning board from convening. Basically, whatever the city does to try to move things along, the Cullion team is going to block.

So, the question remains. How long will government abuse the patience of the people it supposedly serves? How long will the citizens of Cranston have to wait to get this issue resolved?

A Politician’s Brave Stand for Paganism

I was surprised and touched to read in the Providence Journal that Rep. Richard W. Singleton made a brave stand for teaching our children Paganism, and prevailed in the General Assembly.

The ‘Easter Bunny Protection Act’ will ensure that Pagans can organize seasonal events around our holidays, including the venerable fertility festival of Ostara, in the public schools yet. I’m not going to personally lobby for that, since I’m an advocate of comprehensive sex education, including abstinence and birth control teaching in the cause of encouraging our schoolchildren not to be fertile until they are graduated and well established in life. Still, I was impressed when I saw the following in the Providence Journal.

Singleton’s bill responded to an incident in which Tiverton Schools Supt. William Rearick prohibited a parents’ group from sponsoring a photo booth featuring the Easter Bunny at a middle-school craft fair in March. A costumed Peter Rabbit appeared instead.

The bill would have prohibited cities and towns and their subdivisions from enacting regulations “requiring the alteration of the name or concept of any religious or secular holiday or any religious or secular figure or symbol associated with any such holiday.�

“What this bill does is codify common sense and reduce political correctness,� said Rep. Arthur J. Corvese, D-North Providence.

I do appreciate Rep. Corvese’s support. I can’t count the times I have had to tone down my Paganism because Christians didn’t find it politically correct. Now I feel free to let it all hang out.

Some claim that the Easter Bunny is a Christian symbol, but I know better. I happen to own a Bible concordance I found at a yard sale. Whether yellowed and crumbling, like mine, or accessed online, I can guarantee that a search of any biblical concordance will not uncover a scriptural reference for ‘Easter Bunny’.

It’s so unusual to find people of my faith in politics, and so exciting to hear a Pagan voice, that I hesitate to admit that I don’t agree politically with a special bill to save the Easter Bunny.

I am an American, and I hold our Constitution and our cherished principle of freedom of religion right up there with my own religious practice. I can’t think of any better way to demonstrate ethical behavior than to respect the rights of others in spiritual matters. I don’t want any little kids in public school to feel that they are less American because they are the only Jew, Hindu, Muslim or Pagan in their class, and they are trying to study math or something in a classroom that is decorated with holiday symbols from a majority religion (not naming any names).

Here in the state that Ann Hutchinson and Roger Williams fled to — after they failed to be the right kind of Christian — we have a wonderful heritage. Our founders were deeply religious people, and they also knew from their own hard experience that the tyranny of the majority is a terrible thing in personal matters of conscience. In the spirit of the Golden Rule, they did unto others as they wanted done to themselves, and took a chance on a lively experiment in religious freedom.

It’s lively all right. Every generation has to work out a balance between free expression and the claims of law and order. There are people who would solve this problem by declaring us a Christian nation. They seem to think our Founding Fathers were only kidding when they instituted freedom of religion.

I’ll take the freedom over favoritism, even when it’s my religion that is favored. And if some school officials are clumsy in trying not to impose a religion on a captive audience of public school children, I won’t take it as an invitation to move in for the kill. There’s nothing scarier than a majority with a sense of grievance. My experience as a member of a minority religion makes me very sensitive to the rights of people, especially children, not to be bullied into going along with the group.

So with appreciation to Rep. Singleton and Corvese, I’d rather have freedom for all than privilege for some.

Children Rally to Stop Concrete Plant

From CCRZD:

MEDIA EVENT

Presentation of over 2000 petitions to the Mayor

Monday 6/25 4:30 – 5

In front of City Hall

Please make every effort to attend.

Over 20 children will present the Mayor with 100 petitions each, tied with a ribbon.

The Mayor will be asked to answer our questions and bring us up to date.
What are he and his administration are doing to prevent this concrete plant from opening?

I’ll be there with friends and a gaggle of at least 7 girls who want to participate. What I have heard about the current status of the concrete plant’s progress is that they are continuing to bring in pieces for building the plant, but they have not begun actually building it because they can’t without a city inspection of the foundation. Since we have no building inspector (the city was in the process of forming a search committee in the spring) and this is such a controversial case, I imagine that the city is going to proceed very carefully with that foundation inspection.

I’ll provide another update on this issue tomorrow, when hopefully I will know more.

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]