Governor Carcieri Avoids the Fighting Irish


This past Saturday, November 17th saw the dedication of the Rhode Island Irish Famine Memorial. I was glad to be there, being the descendant of Irish immigrants. The Memorial is a bronze monument; three figures that represent the suffering of the Irish during the Famine of 1845-1852 and the mass emigration that resulted. The Memorial is infused with the pride of the Irish and our love of America. A low wall bears plaques relating the events that led to the deaths from starvation and disease of an estimated million Irish, and the emigration of a million more.

The history of indifference to suffering, abetted by prejudice, bad religion and the politics of greed is unfortunately not unique to that time or place. The inscription on the Memorial has a resonance today.

[British Prime Minister, Lord John] Russell, and Sir Charles Trevelyan, his chief economic advisor for Ireland, believed that their government should take only a limited part in relieving disasters like the Great Famine. They thought that the private charity of individuals and philanthropic organizations should shoulder the burden of Famine Relief. Accordingly, religious groups such as the Society of Friends (the Quakers) came forward to offer unconditional aid to Ireland.

Above all, Russell believed in protecting the rights of private property owners and in the promotion of a free market economy in both Britain and Ireland. In fact, the Government believed so strongly in the economic principle of noninterference in trade that it allowed the export from Ireland of abundant supplies of meat and grain during all the Famine years.
–Donald Donovan Deignan, PhD

You got that right. As their children starved, Irish workers were forced to sell their crops or face eviction from their rich, absentee landlords. There was no safety net, only the life of a homeless refugee.

The Irish had been disadvantaged for a long time. The British occupied the best of their land and took the best of their crops, but they could and did get by on a cheap diet of potatoes and milk. When the potato crop suffered a catastrophic blight there was no alternate source of food unless foreign aid and debt forgiveness were put in place. At first, there was some crisis relief, but a new election brought a change in politics under ministers like Charles Trevelyan.

As Assistant Secretary to the Treasury [Trevelyan] was placed in charge of the administration of Government relief to the victims of the Irish Famine in the 1840s. In the middle of that crisis Trevelyan published his views on the matter. He saw the Famine as a “mechanism for reducing surplus population”. He described the famine as “The judgement of God sent the calamity to teach the Irish a lesson, that calamity must not be too much mitigated. The real evil with which we have to contend is not the physical evil of the Famine, but the moral evil of the selfish, perverse and turbulent character of the people”.

I don’t know if Trevelyan would have been so serene about the suffering and death of a million people on his watch if he hadn’t had the consolation of religion.

Governor Carcieri is also a religious person. Here’s from the Providence Journal.

Benefit dinner: The Mother of Life Center, of Providence, a nonprofit pro-life facility offering free counseling and testing services, and the Little Flower Home for unwed mothers, will host their annual Rose Dinner fundraiser at the West Valley Inn in West Warwick on Saturday, Nov. 10. Cocktails are at 6:30 and dinner at 7:30 p.m. The Governor and Mrs. Donald Carcieri are the honorary chairpersons. Tickets are $65 each, $120 for a couple, and $600 for a table of 10.

The Governor is dealing with a budget crisis, his Big Audit never turned up the zillions of dollars he promised to find. His response is to cut programs for children’s health, students, the elderly, schools, and families. When an after-school program is closed or a grandmother doesn’t get Meals on Wheels the middle class will feel the strain. The businessman’s response is to go for the short-term gain and hope to swing a deal, the politician’s response is to find a scapegoat.

“Frankly, I think from the state’s perspective we’ve been enabling and continue to enable a lot of bad decisions,” he said Sunday on WJAR-TV’s 10 News Conference. Asked to define ‘bad decisions’,he said: “Most of the people on our welfare programs are single women, unmarried with multiple children.”

“I think it is a bad decision to have children you can’t support–I am not making a moral judgment,” he said. “What I am saying is that we as taxpayers and citizens of the state are being asked to finance and support those decisions.”

Going a step further yesterday on WHJJ-radio’s Helen Glover Show, Carcieri said: “When I look at our rolls of people receiving ‘family-independence’ [benefits] whether it be RIte Care, whatever, the vast majority of these are women with children and they are not married and this is not a good situation.”

With all due respect to the Little Flower Home, I don’t think they can fill the gap left when hundreds of infants and children are thrown out of their health insurance. This Governor is one of the most callous and short-sighted we have ever had. He may think he’s channeling Ronald Reagan, but we’ve heard the ‘welfare queen–Murphy Brown’ routine before. All his sanctimony about welfare mothers isn’t fooling the elderly I work with, or the hard working home health aides who save the state money by keeping people out of the emergency room. It won’t fool the students who are trying to afford their tuition, or young people who are just one health emergency away from financial ruin.

The Monument dedication was an occasion for many eloquent speeches about the burden of poverty and the struggle of immigrants for a better life. Governor Carcieri’s absence was noted.

The Irish had every mark of the undeserving poor, and every virtue of the deserving poor. They came here just looking for a chance. In the twenty first century we still need to welcome immigrants, we still need to feed the hungry. We need to be true to the best of America and have faith in what we can be.

This Is Not Your Uncle Sigmund’s Denial

Here’s a rather interesting article by Benedict Carey in today’s New York Times:

Denial Makes the World Go Round

For years she hid the credit card bills from her husband: The $2,500 embroidered coat from Neiman Marcus. The $900 beaded scarf from Blake in Chicago. A $600 pair of Dries van Noten boots. All beautiful items, and all perfectly affordable if she had been a hedge fund manager or a Google executive.

Friends at first dropped hints to go easy or rechannel her creative instincts. Her mother grew concerned enough to ask pointed questions. But sales clerks kept calling with early tips on the coming season’s fashions, and the seasons kept changing.

“It got so bad I would sit up suddenly at night and wonder if I was going to slip up and this whole thing would explode,� said the secretive shopper, Katharine Farrington, 46, a freelance film writer living in Washington, who is now free of debt. “I don’t know how I could have been in denial about it for so long. I guess I was optimistic I could pay, and that I wasn’t hurting anyone.

“Well, of course that wasn’t true.�

Everyone is in denial about something; just try denying it and watch friends make a list. For Freud, denial was a defense against external realities that threaten the ego, and many psychologists today would argue that it can be a protective defense in the face of unbearable news, like a cancer diagnosis.

In the modern vernacular, to say someone is “in denial� is to deliver a savage combination punch: one shot to the belly for the cheating or drinking or bad behavior, and another slap to the head for the cowardly self-deception of pretending it’s not a problem.

Yet recent studies from fields as diverse as psychology and anthropology suggest that the ability to look the other way, while potentially destructive, is also critically important to forming and nourishing close relationships. The psychological tricks that people use to ignore a festering problem in their own households are the same ones that they need to live with everyday human dishonesty and betrayal, their own and others’. And it is these highly evolved abilities, research suggests, that provide the foundation for that most disarming of all human invitations, forgiveness.

In this emerging view, social scientists see denial on a broader spectrum — from benign inattention to passive acknowledgment to full-blown, willful blindness — on the part of couples, social groups and organizations, as well as individuals. Seeing denial in this way, some scientists argue, helps clarify when it is wise to manage a difficult person or personal situation, and when it threatens to become a kind of infectious silent trance that can make hypocrites of otherwise forthright people. [full text]

Price Drops Out from Under Local Foreclosure

I like to house shop just for fun, not because we are necessarily ever going to move again. I find it interesting. But rather than look at houses for how tony they are or whether they have an “updated” kitchen, I like to look at houses as signs of the economy. And my house of the week for interesting sign of the weak local housing market is this one at 1143 Narraganset Boulevard in Cranston. According to Zillow.com, this house just sold in August 2007 for $423,000. Now it is on the market for $259,000. If you type in anti-spam word on the Zillow page, you can see the sales history and also learn that on 04/04/06, it sold for $520,000 — more than twice what it’s on the market for now. You can also learn that on 11/29/2004, it sold for $480,000. That’s right. And now it’s on the market for $259,000. It needs a new roof and it’s in foreclosure.

It’s a nice-looking house, though — beautiful stone facade on the lower level, and a spacious refinished wraparound porch. And seems like quite a bargan for $259,000, though the taxes are based on a much higher assessed value — $4,931 for the year according to the Projo ad. But this is no market to be taking chances or trying to flip real estate. You’d have to really want to live there.

A Lessen in Reading

If you are reading these words, chances are good that–in addition to possessing impeccable taste in weblogs–you both enjoy reading and regularly engage in this activity. Sadly, though, you may be a member of a growing minority, as the following news article from the Washington Post details:

A Troubling Case of Readers’ Block

Americans are reading less and their reading proficiency is declining at troubling rates, according to a report that the National Endowment for the Arts will issue today. The trend is particularly strong among older teens and young adults, and if it is not reversed, the NEA report suggests, it will have a profound negative effect on the nation’s economic and civic future.

“This is really alarming data,” said NEA Chairman Dana Gioia. “Luckily, we still have an opportunity to address it, but if we wait 10, 20 years, I think it may be too late.”

Titled “To Read or Not to Read,” the report is a significant expansion of the NEA’s widely cited 2004 study, “Reading at Risk.” The NEA based that earlier study exclusively on data from its own arts surveys, and as a result, that analysis focused mainly on so-called literary reading — novels, stories, plays and poems. This led some critics to downplay its implications.

The new report assembles much more data, drawing on large-scale studies done by other government agencies (such as the Department of Education) and by non-government organizations. These studies tend to use broader definitions of reading, said Sunil Iyengar, the NEA’s director of research and analysis, with many looking at “all kinds of reading,” a category that includes reading done online.

The story the numbers tell, Gioia said, can be summed up in about four sentences:

“We are doing a better job of teaching kids to read in elementary school. But once they enter adolescence, they fall victim to a general culture which does not encourage or reinforce reading. Because these people then read less, they read less well. Because they read less well, they do more poorly in school, in the job market and in civic life.” [full text]

Misconceived Equal Rights

Ever hear of Rocky Mountain oysters? If not, I would discourage you from ordering it from the menu. For rather than being served a plate of delectable shellfish, you would find yourself presented with a dish of deep-fried bull testicles. Yum. The lesson herein is that some things, at first glance, are not what they seem to be. Here’s another example: Colorado for Equal Rights. You might think, upon hearing this organization’s name, that its members are a group of progressive activists seeking to counter sexism, racism, homophobia, or the like. You would be way off base. According to their website, “Colorado for Equal Rights was founded for the purpose of supporting equal rights for all human beings–no matter what stage of life they are in.” In other words, these folks are working diligently to ensure that the unborn, from the very moment of conception, are granted full legal status. And, to achieve this goal, they are attempting to place a measure on the ballot next year that would amend the state constitution to grant John and Jane Embyo the equal rights they have apparently been denied. The New York Times has more on the story:

Proposed Colorado Measure on Rights for Human Eggs

A proposed amendment to the Colorado Constitution that would give legal rights to fertilized human eggs may be headed for the ballot next year, raising the prospect of a heated local debate over abortion at the same time that Democrats are gathering here for their national convention.

The ballot measure, which passed a legal hurdle this week when the Colorado Supreme Court upheld an administrative panel’s ruling about its wording, would give Colorado perhaps the most sweeping language in the nation about the rights of the unborn, legal experts said.

The proposal must go through several other steps between now and Election Day 2008, including gathering of enough signatures to qualify for the ballot.

But both sides agreed that the measure, if it passed, would have immense ripple effects. The measure, just one paragraph long, would ask voters whether inalienable rights, due process rights and equality of justice rights as defined in the state Constitution should be extended to “any human being from the moment of fertilization.�

The deputy director of Naral Pro-Choice Colorado, Toni Panetta, said state courts could be swamped by suits claiming specific rights for a fertilized egg that the broad language of the ballot measure did not clarify.

“All fertilized eggs could use the courts, and that lays the foundation for a potential onslaught,� she said. She said the language would open up challenges to birth control, including oral contraception and intrauterine devices, which make the uterine wall inhospitable to the developing egg. [full text]

Big Dick Cheney

What would do more to get out the message that “Hummer Helps” than the rescue of the small, the helpless, the innocent? That’s why it’s such a clump of mud on the fender of the Hummer reputation that a Hummer was used in the slaughter of cute, round little birds. Here was the scene in 2003 shortly before the Vice President had his vacation spoiled when that clumsy Harry Whittington got himself shot in the face.

The increasingly low-profile V.P. was taken to Pittsburgh by Air Force Two earlier this week where his security detail loaded him and his favorite shotgun into a Humvee, and went to Rolling Rock Club in Ligonier Township, according to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. There, he and nine other hunting buddies shot at 500 ringneck pheasants, killing 417 of them. The V.P. was credited with offing 70 of the birds, as well as an unknown number of mallard ducks.

The shooting spree prompted an outraged letter from the Humane Society. This wasn’t a hunting ground. It was an open-air abattoir, and the vice president should be ashamed to have patronized this operation and then slaughtered so many animals,” Wayne Pacelle, a senior vice president of The Humane Society of the United States, wrote in a letter of protest, according to ThePittsburghChannel.com.

The V.P. is at it again, just last month according to Alternet, seeking a prey even less mobile than Harry.

Birds raised for canned hunts at gun clubs and in state “recreational” areas are grown in packed pens — think factory farmed chickens — and fitted with goggles so they won’t peck each other to death from the crowding. When released for put and take hunters like Cheney, pen raised birds can barely walk or fly — or see, thanks to the goggles. They don’t know how to forage or hide in the wild and sometimes have to be kicked to “fly” enough to be shot.

Think of how cool it would be if the Hummer Helpers swooped in and saved the little birds. And if they arrived too late to help, it would be very manly of them to pluck and gut the birds to feed the hungry. These birds should not die in vain, and there’s no way ten guys can eat 417 pheasants.

And if there’s any resemblance between a man who shoots tame birds and a man who drives a military vehicle to go to the supermarket it’s purely coincidental..

The War OF Drugs?

Writing for Z Magazine–but here posted on AlterNet–Bruce Levine, a clinical psychologist, takes on the psychopharmaceutical-industrial complex:

Moody Is the New Bipolar

In Eugene Jarecki’s documentary film Why We Fight, about the U.S. military-industrial complex, U.S. foreign policy critic Chalmers Johnson states: “I guarantee you when war becomes that profitable, you are going to see more of it.” Similarly, as mental illness has become extremely profitable, we are seeing more of it.

On September 4, 2007, the New York Times reported, “The number of American children and adolescents treated for bipolar disorder increased 40-fold from 1994 to 2003 … Drug makers and company-sponsored psychiatrists have been encouraging doctors to look for the disorder.”

Not too long ago, a child who was irritable, moody, and distractible and who at times sounded grandiose or acted without regard for consequences was considered a “handful.” In the U.S. by the 1980s, that child was labeled with a “behavioral disorder” and today that child is being diagnosed as “bipolar” and “psychotic” — and prescribed expensive antipsychotic drugs. Bloomberg News, also on September 4, 2007, reported, “The expanded use of bipolar as a pediatric diagnosis has made children the fastest-growing part of the $11.5 billion U.S. market for antipsychotic drugs.”

Psychopathologizing young people is not the only reason for the dramatic rise in sales of such antipsychotics as Eli Lilly’s Zyprexa and Johnson & Johnson’s Risperdal (each, in recent years, grossing annually from $3 to $4 billion). Much of Big Pharma’s antipsychotic boon is attributable to generous U.S. government agencies, especially Medicaid. The Medicaid gravy train has been fueled by Big Pharma corruption so over-the-top that it has been the subject of recent media exposures. [full text]