Monthly Archives: January, 2012

The New Agenda for America, Set by Occupy and the 99%

Occupy Providence Press Conference Today

From Facebook–

1:00pm until 4:00pm

This press conference is being called in regards to the result of the passed proposal in agreement with the city to open the day center.

The city has publicly announced that they plan to open the doors of the day center on Wednesday. In doing so the members present at media’s meeting feel that a press conference on behalf of Occupy Providence TUESDAY JANUARY 24,2012 at 1pm on the steps of city hall is appropriate to declare its one of many victories against economic injustice.

Please SHARE THIS! Bring a friend! Celebrate this wonderful event!

When the Occupiers set up their tents in Burnside Park this Fall, they talked with the people downtown who had nowhere else to go during the day. We’ve all known for years that homeless people have to move from place to place all day, between leaving the shelters in the morning and catching the bus back at night. In the winter, this becomes dangerous.

I talked to one of the Occupiers about two months ago. He said the Occupation would not abandon the people they had come to know over the months.

I am so proud of the Occupation and the City of Providence.

Kiersten Marek:

My first CEU-approved seminar! Suitable for therapists, parents, or anyone who just wants to learn more about treatment with kids!

Originally posted on Therapy with Kiersten Marek, LICSW:

  • When:  Monday, March 19, 9 am to 12 noon

  • Where:  390 Pontiac Avenue, Cranston RI  (in The Education Room in the rectory of Church of the Ascension)

  • This 3-hour educational seminar is approved for 3 CEU (Continuing Education Units) through the Rhode Island NASW, including 1.0 CE in Cross-Cultural Practice.

Course Description

This seminar will serve as an introduction to using archetypes as both a diagnostic tool and treatment tool for children and teenagers. The training will review the definition and origin of archetypes in psychology and will use the “Know Thyself” handbook to review each of the twelve archetypes. There will also be video clips to show examples of children behaving in ways that express the archetypes. The trainer will demonstrate and provide case examples for how to use the handbook to evaluate a child’s symptoms. The trainer will also show how to use the book as a tool for…

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Kiersten Marek:

Scott MacKay considers the question of whether Brown University should pay more to the city of Providence.

Originally posted on On Politics:

  Once again, Providence politicians are looking to the city’s private colleges for money to help shore up the city’s poor finances. RIPR political analyst Scott MacKay says these non-profit institutions shouldn’t be seen as cash cows for the city.

 There has been more rhetoric than reality in the latest dispute between Brown University and Mayor Angel Taveras and his city council allies. With city government awash in red ink, the pols are hungrily eyeing the tax-exempt Brown property on College Hill as a source of sorely needed money.

You can’t blame the mayor or the city council. Residents are maxed out on real estate and car taxes. Businesses are fleeing. Two iconic downtown buildings – the Jazz Age Superman Building and the Biltmore Hotel – house tenants facing huge financial hurdles.

Now, Taveras and Brown President Ruth Simmons are jousting over how much Brown can, and should, contribute to…

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Happy Water Dragon Year

Happy Chinese New Year! For all you in the USA who have already broken all your resolutions– a second chance!

It’s the Year of the Water Dragon.

This horoscope site promises good fortune

All years of the Dragon have a traditional association with new beginnings, happiness and good fortune and 2012 is no exception. The Chinese consider Dragon years to be the best times to get married and have children or start a business. There are lots of positive energies for growth at work in 2012 courtesy of the Water Dragon’s influential progressive spirit. The Water element influencing this Dragon calms him long enough for him to emit his aura of positivity and direct it sensibly rather than recklessly. His influence will be concentrated in the right places and directed at those who will benefit the most from his lucky air of wisdom. In a Water Dragon led year everyone should be inspired to contemplate the grasping of new opportunities and directions that may present themselves in 2012.

Hey, I’ll take it. Gong Hei Fat Choi.


[I wanted to write about some very dark things, responding to recent stories in the press about rape and child abuse. Joe Paterno's story provides context, but a dilemma. Piling on an 85 year old man is unseemly, so is glossing over the damage he did by allowing a coverup and abandoning the children he should have protected. Readers, I do not intend to excuse anything that was done at Penn State or in other institutions that value their reputation more than their integrity.]

Coach Joe Paterno has passed. This should have been a semi-private bereavement for sports lovers and the community of Penn State, but this revered elderly man was undone in his last days by unspoken pacts not honored and a foundation of lies that crumbled under his feet. He made headlines, not for praise but for notoriety.

Nothing makes sense out of context. In the context of the old school that formed him, Joe Paterno could have calculated the cost of taking his assistant coach, Jerry Sandusky, to the law, and found it better to write off the injured boys and their families as a loss. Too bad. He could not predict that the bill would come due with interest.

This awful case gives support to the convention of keeping sexual assault accusers anonymous– after Paterno stepped down violence broke out at Penn State

Penn State University has had a few destructive riots since the 1990s that have resulted in thousands of dollars in damage and several arrests.

But none has been as destructive or consequential as the one Nov. 9 following the firing of legendary football coach Joe Paterno.

Thirty-eight people have been charged with participating in destructive behavior, and seven more arrests are pending, police said.

And later, the adults had their say…

BRADY: President Erickson referred questions about Paterno’s firing to the board of trustees, which issued a statement Thursday. It said trustees unanimously decided letting the coach go was in the best interest of the university.

That didn’t go over well at another meeting in the same hotel last night. Downstairs, a group of alumni who want to get rid of the entire board of trustees held a competing conversation. Former Penn State and pro football player Franco Harris responded to the board’s statement that it acted in the best interest of the university.

FRANCO HARRIS: They think that we are that dumb. That’s exactly what they said two months ago and they still want us to swallow that.

I heard that broadcast, the alumni sounded outraged that this mess was interfering with their football.

When the kids are trashing news vans and the adults are demanding a purge, you don’t want to be caught alone after dark…

Penn State says Mike McQueary, the graduate assistant who saw the alleged 2002 incident involving Sandusky and a young boy, will not be at Saturday’s football game because of “multiple threats.”

It’s fortunate that the young men who allege that Sandusky abused them haven’t had to face the mob.

Penn State suffered a violation, and the community may feel disgust and rage– either at the perpetrators or the victims for disturbing the peace. They feel hurt and aggrieved.

But for the victims and their families, there is uncountable loss. For them it is a grief like a bereavement. The children suffer a violation of their innocence, the parents will forever question why they so misplaced their trust. That poor and disadvantaged children are targeted for this kind of abuse just adds to the awfulness of the crime. And the rapist is a nice guy, who everyone likes, and no one would listen to a word against him. Imagine a child in the hell a perverse adult could create– with no way out and on one who can protect them.

If they choose to speak out in court, we will hear their side of the story. Perhaps then we will have to acknowledge how destructive this kind of crime is.

Three authors this month have published dispatches from the gates of hell.

Margaret Atwood’s short story, ‘Stone Mattress’ is described by the author as a crime story. A woman calculates whether she can get away with murder. Atwood’s fictional rapist, a rich boy who lured the woman years ago to what was supposed to be a prom date, but was a setup for a gang rape, is a character so vile that– Margaret, I would have kept him alive a bit longer. Perhaps long enough to see his ship disappearing over the horizon as he waves unseen on the shore while night falls and the wolves howl behind the next rise. Just a suggestion.

Dorri Olds, in the New York Times 1/15/12 has an essay, ‘Defriending My Rapist.’ This story is a horrific echo of Atwoods fiction, taking place maybe 20 years later, in the 70’s. In this memoir the same dynamic is in play. A thirteen year old girl, excited to be included with the cool kids, is lured into the woods and gang-raped. She has no more power to make sense of this crime or seek justice than Atwood’s fictional protagonist. Years later she gets a ‘friend’ invitation on Facebook. The rapist is just a regular guy. She sends an oblique message that she hasn’t forgotten what they did to her. Is there a person with a conscience to read it? What does that man think when he looks at his own children?

In the same issue of The Times,
Dr. H. Lee Kagan writes
about providing emergency care to a rape victim in Haiti. Dr. Kagan delegates the rape exam to a nurse who is competent but gives no word of comfort. The victim has no other choice than to go back to the camp where her attackers may find her. There is no evidence taken or hope of justice.

If you think that can’t happen here, think of Dorri Olds having to go back to school and face those boys. Look at the violence and outrage at Penn State and imagine why a ten year old boy would have no safe place to go. It does not excuse criminals to say they act within a culture that shelters and allows them to rationalize their crimes– rather it’s an indictment of the culture.

There are people who are psychopaths, who lack a conscience, who sit in solitude inventing new ways to damage the world. But they are not so common. More common are those who go along to get along. Those who who only take out their rage on someone who’s asking for it. Regular guys.

That’s the way grown men convince themselves not to call the cops when one of them is caught raping a boy. Without the groupthink, rapists and child abusers would have a harder time hiding in plain sight.

If Jerry Sandusky feels any remorse for sending Joe Paterno to his grave in scandal he should. If Joe Paterno felt remorse for not protecting those children, he is beyond suffering now and beyond justice. The young men will have to live with the memories of what was done to them. What could we do to protect other children from abuse?

Day One RI has programs for all ages to teach children and young people how to recognize and respond to the pressures and social conditions that lead to abuse.

If you google ‘men against rape’ a page of sites come up. Men Can Stop Rape has good teaching materials and ideas for what young men can do to recognize and stop violence.

The abuse at Penn State is not an isolated act of criminal genius. It’s a sad story too often told when an organization is more invested in its image than in serving the children and youth they claim to exist for. It’s the kind of abuse that can happen when some people are deemed to be a little less important, expendable, not to be believed.

This truth-telling is very painful. It damages our sense of safety. It’s ugly.
But worse is to require victims to suffer in silence so that the rest of us can keep our illusions. In this imperfect world, the best we can do is to try to let children know that they are no less valuable than anyone else, and that if they are wronged they will be believed. And to value justice more than complacency, because we all might need a defender some day.

Tough Guys

Newt Gingrich has not only won the South Carolina primary. He’s also won the coveted Chuck Norris endorsement.

Newt couldn’t kick his way out of a paper bag but he’s got a mean mouth on him. And both Newt and Norris are lady’s men—you need a flow chart to keep track of their marriages, affairs and divorces.

If a not-plumber, not named Joe, could represent the real honest working man in 2008, maybe Chuck Norris will lend Newt some of his charm. He really is nicer than Steven Seagal, and Newt hasn’t got a chance with Jackie Chan.

Fukushima Nuclear– No End in Sight

I’ve been reading the Japanese press, and after almost a year, the Fukushima Nuclear disaster is still in the headlines.

Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO) reports that views from an endoscope inserted into the No.2 reactor of the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant show that the plant has achieved a ‘cold shutdown’…

The endoscope captured images of water dripping from above apparently because of condensation, and paint was seen possibly falling off the inner wall of the container in some areas exposed to high temperatures and humidity over the months since the nuclear disaster erupted following the massive earthquake and tsunami on March 11 last year.

The probe was “the first step” to check the condition inside the reactor, Matsumoto said, but added the high humidity and radiation blurred the image.

He also said that confirming the state of the melted fuel, a key step toward decommissioning the crippled reactors, would require further technology development.

The fuel inside the No. 2 reactor, as well as inside the No. 1 and No. 3 reactors, is believed to have melted through the pressure vessels and been accumulating in the outer primary containers after the Fukushima plant lost its key functions to cool the reactors in the wake of the natural disasters.

The damaged reactors are leaking water continually injected as a coolant, but the utility known as TEPCO has said the fuel is stably cooled by a water circulation system installed after the accident.

Radioactivity so intense that engineers will have to create new technology to explore the damage, a temperature of 44.7 C (112.46 F), paint falling off walls, water leaking but contained for now– this is the first of three reactors to be viewed, chosen because disaster relief seemed to ‘go more smoothly’ there. ‘Cold shutdown’ doesn’t convey the hell inside this plant.

Even in countries where nuclear accidents have not occurred, the normal lifespan of a plant and the waste it generates create a problem beyond the scope of governments and societies.

An op-ed by Edan Corkill, staff writer for Japan Times, gives perspective on Finland’s project to deal with their stockpile of nuclear waste. The Finnish government is building a secure site…

Located in Eurajoki on Finland’s west coast, the Onkalo facility consists of a vast network of tunnels more than 400 meters below ground where that country’s nuclear waste will be stored. Construction began in 2004 and will continue in stages until some time in the next century.

Here’s the scale of time we are dealing with…

The earliest known cave paintings date from about 30,000 years ago, and the earliest bone tools found so far predate those paintings by another 40,000 years. Go back 100,000 years, and Homo sapiens — us lot — are only just emerging, though the fossil record suggests our ancestors back then had larger molars and thicker and heavier bones than we do.

How else would they differ from us?

Given a time machine, could we go back and communicate with them? Across such a vast temporal divide, would we be able to convey anything to them at all?

And how about the future? What if we needed to leave a message for people 100,000 years from now?

I wonder how the Finns are dealing with the politics of a hundred-year project to bury the waste from electricity they used decades ago?

And who pays? TEPCO has handed their liability to the Japanese people, with a plan to nationalize the cost…

The business plan is intended to prevent the utility from becoming insolvent due to the massive costs stemming from the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant disaster, while making sure that compensation payments related to the accident are made in a timely fashion.

The injection of public funds that would effectively nationalize Tepco is expected to amount to about ¥1 trillion. The company will also try to improve its earnings by raising household electricity charges, possibly in the fall, as well as by reactivating its idled reactors in Niigata Prefecture starting in spring 2013.

TEPCO and the Japanese government have not been able to protect the public from contaminated debris–from the Daily Yomiuri

Contaminated crushed stone pieces taken from a quarry in the government’s expanded evacuation zone following the crisis at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant have been used to repair an irrigation channel and a road outside a school in Nihonmatsu City, Fukushima Prefecture.

The discovery was made after authorities began tracking down the whereabouts of 5,280 tons of the material that was quarried from Namie Town, in the same prefecture, after the stones were used in the construction of a condominium building in Nihonmatsu City, which was later found to contain high levels of radiation. The material is proving difficult to track because it has been sold to more than 100 construction companies throughout the prefecture.

Radioactivity is showing up in women’s breast milk…

Many mothers have expressed concerns about breast-feeding their babies amid fears that their milk may be contaminated by radioactive materials released into the air and sea by the Fukushima plant since it was crippled by the March 11 earthquake and tsunami.

About 18,000 babies are born each year in Fukushima Prefecture. The officials estimate that about 10,000 mothers breast-feed their babies.

The prefecture will also begin sending questionnaires in mid-January to expecting and breast-feeding mothers to get a better grasp of their mental and physical health, the officials said.

In a survey conducted in May and June by the Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare, traces of radioactive cesium were detected in the breast milk of seven of 21 women from Fukushima. Government officials and experts have said the minute amounts posed no health risks to babies.

Good thing there’s no health risk, because there’s nothing these women could do about it if there were.

Here in the US, our Northwest coast is bracing for a vast pile of debris, traveling on ocean currents across the Pacific to Alaska…

“After the overwhelming devastation in Japan, it is distressing to see reminders of it washing up on our shores,” said Merrick Burden, the [Marine Conservation Alliance] foundation’s executive director. “Although we’re planning cleanups for next summer, if a massive onslaught of tsunami debris hits, it will overwhelm our resources.”

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration is downplaying concerns that some debris may contain radiation. “By the time the (Fukushima) radioactive water leak developed, the debris was already in the ocean, miles from the reactor and moving farther offshore.”

A previously unknown disease or poison is affecting Alaskan wildlife…

Scientists in Alaska are investigating whether local seals are being sickened by radiation from Japan’s crippled Fukushima nuclear plant.

Scores of ring seals have washed up on Alaska’s Arctic coastline since July, suffering or killed by a mysterious disease marked by bleeding lesions on the hind flippers, irritated skin around the nose and eyes and patchy hair loss on the animals’ fur coats.

That the ocean dilutes radioactivity doesn’t rule out the possibility of concentrated hot spots…

Experts hesitate to predict where the radiation will go. Once radioactive elements that can harm health are released into the outdoors, their travel patterns are as mercurial as the weather and as complicated as the food chains and biochemical pathways along which they move.

It’s likely that the seals are suffering from a previously unknown bacteria or virus, but it makes sense to check for radioactivity. After Chernobyl, contamination showed up in milk, drunk by children who later suffered a high rate of thyroid cancer.

I wouldn’t have expected that the Japanese, with an educated population and high awareness of crisis would have allowed radioactive concrete to be used in building schools, apartments and irrigation ditches.

But that seems to be a given of human nature. We’re smart, but we’re good at not seeing what we don’t want to see. We evolved to deal with life in the short term– not to sacrifice for children of the next millenium.

We have a nasty 20th Century nuclear mess to clean up. We’re already feeling the pain. We have an energy crisis with no easy answers, but nuclear is not the way.

Kiersten Marek:

Maybe someday we’ll have this in Rhode Island … a girl can dream, can’t she?

Originally posted on The Fizzing Beaker:

The Atlantic‘s nifty Cities page has a brief item up about San Diego’s push for increased electric car usage.  The new initiative came together in early 2011 via a seemingly too-good-to-be-true collaboration between the utility companies, the local government, university research departments, and clean energy non-profits.  It’s the stuff of Davos dreams, except that it appears to have actually worked.  In November, San Diego introduced its  fleet of 300 electric vehicles available for short term rental.  The program works very similar to ZipCar in that vehicles are available on an hourly basis, able to be picked up and returned at various charging stations throughout the city.  The stations draw solar power from photovoltaic cells and connect to a localized grid infrastructure.  Keep those shopping excursions minimal, though: many of the small “fortwo” [sic] vehicles only have enough room for a driver, a passenger, and maybe a bag of groceries.

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Inspired by Faith

While Megavanegelists like Pat Robertson have their own TV networks, including parallel universe news, religion in the US continues to speak in diverse voices.

Faith in Public Life appeals to Catholic candidates Newt Gingrich and Rick Santorum to renounce the strategy of race-baiting and scapegoating the poor…

An Open Letter to Newt Gingrich and Rick Santorum

As Catholic leaders who recognize that the moral scandals of racism and poverty remain a blemish on the American soul, we challenge our fellow Catholics Newt Gingrich and Rick Santorum to stop perpetuating ugly racial stereotypes on the campaign trail. Mr. Gingrich has frequently attacked President Obama as a “food stamp president” and claimed that African Americans are content to collect welfare benefits rather than pursue employment. Campaigning in Iowa, Mr. Santorum remarked: “I don’t want to make black people’s lives better by giving them somebody else’s money.” Labeling our nation’s first African-American president with a title that evokes the past myth of “welfare queens” and inflaming other racist caricatures is irresponsible, immoral and unworthy of political leaders.

{read the rest here.}

Arlene Violet (formerly known as ‘Atilla the Nun’ before hanging up her veil and ruler) asks if some Christians missed catechism class…

I suspect that folks who were “out-Christianizing” each other by supporting “religion” haven’t seen the inside of a confessional for a long time. “Me thinks they doth protest too much” certainly flirted through my thoughts. Discussing people who have a different view from the majority often disintegrates, as it did in this case into an analysis of what is mentally wrong with them. Just as appalling is the total disregard of what the Constitution’s role is in defending a minority viewpoint.

That’s right. The forefathers in this great country often saw that the majority could fend for themselves. It is the person of the minority position who needs the protection of law to uphold their free exercise. Rather than be trampled by the position du jour, the Constitution will uphold the same freedoms for those who may disagree with the majority viewpoint.

Roger Williams said it bluntly–
“Forced worship stinks in God’s nostrils”.
Roger Williams was kicked out of Salem, Massachusetts for being Christian, but the wrong type of Christian. He got off easy.

My own church sent a message of support to Jessica Ahlquist, for upholding the principle that public schools should not officially endorse or show preference to a religion. Some people think they are defending God by threatening Jessica or scaring some florists, but I don’t think God needs that kind of help.

Newt Gingrich is getting plenty of help in S.Carolina. I often wonder why people look to politicians for an example of personal morality. There are people washing the floors of Newt’s office whose lives are shining examples of hard work, dedication and sacrifice, but they’ll never get elected to anything. I’ve lowered my expectations to simply wanting my politicians to lead for the public good. Even that’s a reach. Watching pundits tie themselves in knots explaining why Newt’s marital history is a non-issue, despite his relentless bragging about morality is just amazing. Why can’t they just say something like, ‘yeah Newt’s a lying horndog, but at his age he won’t be able to out-run Callista if she needs to pick up a frying pan. We like his politics and that’s why we’re voting for him.’

What’s my point? I don’t know. I’ve had a sinus cold for 3 weeks and it’s hard to tie it all together.

‘Faith’ is a lovely, inclusive, vague word. Our country is full of religion, and the most devout are not always the most self-promoting. Whatever you believe, you are equal in the eyes of the law. Halleluja.


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