They Also Serve

When the pressure is on, you might want someone who understands hydraulics, unlike ‘Joe’ the ‘Plumber’, who never bothered to get licensed.  In a disaster, a  man of ostentatious faith like Gov. Jindal is less useful than people who humbly do their job. Let’s hear it for the nerds who spend years doing volcano monitoring. Mt. Redoubt, in Alaska, just woke up...

The eruption was accurately predicted when the number of earthquakes on the mountain suddenly jumped to 40 to 50 per hour Sunday morning. So everybody had time to get ready.
Your tax dollars put to work by dedicated scientists at the U.S. Geological Survey who keep doing their jobs even when politicians decide to demean their work for a cheap sound bite.

In times of uncertainty, it’s important to remember that the hero who emerges in the disaster gets way more glory than the people who prevent disasters. Here’s to all the unsung workers from coast to coast, who keep the buses, trains, planes, food, water and roads safe for the rest of us. They also serve.

Nice Change on the Stock Market Today

Since the new theme of Kmareka is blogging about change — global, local, personal, and political — I thought it apt to comment on the ferocious roar of the stock market back to life today. Almost 500 points last time I checked! And yes, I’m checking daily again now, since I managed to suck up my nerve and buy two Exchange Traded Funds last week. I’m not into publicizing the names of the funds we bought into — I’m not, after all, a professional stock trader, and make no claims to being capable of giving anyone advice on good funds to buy into. But I am grateful today that our investments seem to be heading in the right direction, along with the rest of the market.


By the way, easy come, easy go. Expect a pull-back in the near future.

Stop Googling and Start Goodsearching

Are you a mad Googler? Every time a question pops into your head, do you run over to the computer and start Googling about it? Then you’re just like me, and you could be putting all this cyber-energy toward a good cause by going to the homepage of Goodsearch rather than to Google. I know, Google is still an excellent search engine and sometimes after I’ve Goodsearched something, I go over to Google and search again, just to make sure I haven’t missed anything, or if I’m in a curious mood to see how the information is sorted and indexed differently. But Google doesn’t do anything for the causes I care about every time I do a search; Goodsearch does.

At Goodsearch, you can choose which charity you want your penny-per-search to go to. Right now I am alternating between the Rhode Island Center for Law and Public Policy (of which I am a board member) and my older daughter’s elementary school. I’ve also encouraged the priest of my church to become a Goodsearch charity, so then I guess I’ll have to do a three-way split between my Goodsearching.

Goodsearch has a neat feature where you can look and see how much your charity has earned in searches. So if you’re a compulsive stats checker as well as a compulsive searcher, you’ll get double treats here.

Along with Goodsearch, there is also Goodshop which gives a percentage of your purchase price to your designated charity. This is a great way to give a dollar here and a dollar there to a good cause, or if you’re doing some big purchases, to really provide some decent financial support to your chosen organization.

So, follow my lead! Stop Googling and start Goodsearching. The world will be a better place for it.

Showering Favor on All: the Meaning of Equality in America

Geoff Schoos provides some reflections on what it means to adhere to the core value of equal protection and equal access to opportunity in America:    

Recently, I came across the following passage that I’d like to share:

“It is to be regretted that the rich and powerful too often bend the acts of government to their selfish purposes. Distinctions in society will always exist under every just government. Equality of talents, of education, or of wealth cannot be produced by human institutions. In the full enjoyment of the gifts of Heaven and the fruits of superior industry, economy, and virtue, every man is equally entitled to protection by law; but when laws undertake to add to these natural and just advantages, artificial distinctions, to grant titles, gratuities, and exclusive privileges, to make the rich richer and the potent more powerful, the humble members of society – the farmers, mechanics, and laborers – who have neither the time nor the means of securing like favors to themselves, have a right to complain of the injustice of their Government. There are no necessary evils in government. Its evils exist only in its abuses. If it would confine itself to equal protection, and, as Heaven does its rains, shower its favors alike on the high and the low, the rich and the poor, it would be an unqualified blessing.”

The above statement was not made by some disengaged philosopher with his head in the clouds. Nor, was it made by some statesman long lost to antiquity.

Rather, this statement of democratic ideals was written by our seventh President, Andrew Jackson and quoted in American Lion, Andrew Jackson in the White House by Jon Meacham.

The language quoted above was contained in Jackson’s message that accompanied his veto of legislation that would have renewed the charter of the national bank. He saw the bank as a vehicle through which public money was loaned out to the wealthy and powerful to the detriment of the average man.

The parallels from that time to this, especially here in Rhode Island, are striking. With each passing year, too many in the executive branch aided by a significant number of legislators have placed state government on the side of the “rich and powerful”.

Recently, in my column for the Cranston Herald, I wrote about the power of ideas and their affect on policy outcomes. The role of government in a democratic society is a big idea with outcome implications. The budget submitted by the Governor clearly places the state government on the side of the few against the many. As Jackson might say, this budget is the embodiment of an evil.

The notion that government, “shower its favors alike on the high and the low, the rich and the poor” transcends mere partisanship. Rather, it is the core value of our society. It is what separates us from most of the rest of the world and for so long made us that “shining city on a hill” for the rest of the world. When we permit the perversion of that core value, we lose the essence of who we are and what we strive to be.

Let’s Beat up the Nerds

Pat was a shy, chubby girl. She wore thick glasses with frames that would come back into fashion years after she had stopped caring about whether people liked her. But now she cared very much.

She tried to be normal, she never bragged about her grades, but people knew. Her classmates, who were being tracked into jobs at Hel-Mart or Manifest Coal, were jealous. They were watching Pat. They knew she had a secret.

And indeed she did. She pinned all her hopes on the science fair. For over a year she had been teasing out a protein from the jelly around tadpole eggs. Using all her allowance to buy the pipettes and chemicals she needed, keeping meticulous notebooks. Her ambition was huge–to create a desalinizing membrane.

She only needed one thing from her science teacher–

“Mr. Ludd, can I use the precision scale? I need to measure something for my science fair project.”

“Still playing with those tadpoles?” Mr. Ludd asked condescendingly. The other kids caught his tone and giggled.

And from then on, Pat was known as Tadpole Girl. Her classmates, who had lived with an unfocused sense that they were being disrespected, as indeed they were, now had a target. By the time Pat was out of middle school, she’d learned her lesson. You can see her today behind the cash register at Hel-Mart. She’s good at math, but cashiers don’t need that skill now.

Okay– following the example of Felicia Ackerman, who has more degrees than I can shake a stick at, I made all that up.

But if you want to beat up on something, it’s really easy to diss the biological sciences. They are the funny-sounding, nerdy stepchildren. No Lost Arks or rockets to Mars. That’s probably why Senator McCain, in his hunt for earmarks in the stimulus plan, pulled out a number of expenditures to make fun of, and per columnist Maureen Dowd, they are heavy on the biological sciences.

McCain might have reconsidered after Bobby Jindal decided to make an example of ‘volcano monitoring’ just before Mt. Redoubt started to rumble. It’s spitting distance from Fairbanks, Alaska, where the real Americans all live. And it’s odd that Jindal would be laughing off natural disasters. Would he have vetoed ‘levy improvement’ if he’d been Governor in 2004?

Anyway, here’s from Dowd’s column in the NYT…

Before the Senate resoundingly defeated a McCain amendment on Tuesday that would have shorn 9,000 earmarks worth $7.7 billion from the $410 billion spending bill, the Arizona senator twittered lists of offensive bipartisan pork, including:

• $2.1 million for the Center for Grape Genetics in New York. “quick peel me a grape,” McCain twittered.

• $1.7 million for a honey bee factory in Weslaco, Tex.

• $1.7 million for pig odor research in Iowa.

• $1 million for Mormon cricket control in Utah. “Is that the species of cricket or a game played by the brits?” McCain tweeted.

• $819,000 for catfish genetics research in Alabama.

• $650,000 for beaver management in North Carolina and Mississippi.

• $951,500 for Sustainable Las Vegas. (McCain, a devotee of Vegas and gambling, must really be against earmarks if he doesn’t want to “sustain” Vegas.)

• $2 million “for the promotion of astronomy” in Hawaii, as McCain twittered, “because nothing says new jobs for average Americans like investing in astronomy.”

• $167,000 for the Autry National Center for the American West in Los Angeles. “Hopefully for a Back in the Saddle Again exhibit,” McCain tweeted sarcastically.

• $238,000 for the Polynesian Voyaging Society in Hawaii. “During these tough economic times with Americans out of work,” McCain twittered.

• $200,000 for a tattoo removal violence outreach program to help gang members or others shed visible signs of their past. “REALLY?” McCain twittered.

• $209,000 to improve blueberry production and efficiency in Georgia.

“When do we turn off the spigots?” Senator McCain said in his cri de coeur on the Senate floor. “Haven’t we learned anything? Bills like this jeopardize our future.”

I don’t know whether these are worthy projects or pork, but I do notice that most of them are biological science grants and were chosen because they sound funny. I feel kind of disrespected here. Reform and transparency are needed and Senator McCain is on solid ground in his work for that. But don’t try to get me outraged because a grant (rather small) is going to Sustainable Las Vegas. Vegas is going to be a monumental ruin if they don’t figure out their water problem. And astronomy, if Sen. McCain recalls that Apollo Moon Landing thing, just might pay off. Beating up on the nerds instead of supporting the sciences will win him friends in the anti-evolution base, but it won’t help our country build a 21st century economy.