Monthly Archives: February, 2012

Kiersten Marek:

Have prisons become the most viable industrial complex of our generation? And what will corporations do to keep the prisons full?

Originally posted on National Corrections Oversight Coalition Reg'd OJP/DOJ:

Last week, it emerged that the Corrections Corporation of America (CCA) had sent a letter to 48 states offering to take their prisons off their hand in exchange for a quick infusion of cash. The only small catch was that the states would have to sign a contract guaranteeing 90% occupancy of those prisons for the next 20 years…

For decades now, many small towns across America that fell on hard times were only too happy to embrace the prison industry as their economic salvation. The CCA’s website features an article from the Texas Monthly magazine, entitled “Yes in my Back Yard: How Eden learned to stop worrying and love its private prison”, about one such town called Eden, which is apparently besotted with its CCA-owned detention center. While the CCA has become one of the leading local employers, the article cheerfully notes that “At least half the town’s 2,500…

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Kiersten Marek:

Some good charts to help understand how the Obama stimulus helped the economy, and why the recovery is slow.

Originally posted on Phil Ebersole's Blog:

New unemployment insurance claims

It is a fact that economic recovery began after President Obama took office.  I believe that the recovery was helped by his economic stimulus program and by programs already in place such as food stamps and unemployment insurance.  These helped cushion the effects of the recession and allow recovery to take place.  I can’t prove this.  There is no way to go back in time and run another scenario in which the government stood aside and allowed events to take their course.

The problem is that the recovery is so slow, and that even when and if economic conditions get back to the way they were before.  During the supposed expansion preceding the 2007 recession, wages were declining (in terms of buying power), American manufacturing was being eroded and poverty was increasing.

Below are some charts which illustrate the weakness of the current economic recovery.

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Day at the Statehouse

This Tuesday the Rhode Island Tobacco Control Network sponsored a panel discussion on how to lobby our representatives. In Rhode Island, there are many opportunities. You might, for instance, encounter a rep in the frozen foods section of the Stop and Shop, and bend their ear for a minute or forty-five. This is not always the optimal strategy.

You can meet them in The People’s House, when they’re supposed to be working.

Sadly, you must first talk to an officer with a metal detector. This is our post-9/11 world. But after that you are at home in one of the grandest civic temples in our country. This week’s panel was held in the State Room, so beautiful with ceiling murals, gilt carving, marble and antiques that you could sit happily through even the driest presentation just taking in the architectural beauty.

The five panelists gave expert advice on how to bring an issue to our legislature, some highlights,(not direct quotes, but the general drift)–

Peter Asen, Senior Policy Analyst, House of Representatives, formerly of Ocean State Action–

We have a part-time legislature. They make $14,000/year so all of them work other jobs. Time is important. One technique of lobbying is to find a spokesperson who will bring sympathy to your cause, which is why a big tobacco company will have a small store owner speak against a tobacco tax.

Sylvia Weber, Lobbyist, Rhode Island State Nurses Association–

Don’t let others dictate your behavior. The lobbyist is a link between a cause and the Statehouse. She reports back from the Legislature. Know what hat you’re wearing, and be aware of boundaries. Respect the Statehouse staff. You need to be clear and brief. People come to hearings with eight pages and start reading. Don’t do that, stick to your main points. You can get large groups of people together to write letters. We had a mailing campaign to allow prescription privileges for advance practice nurses.

Rep. Art Handy, District 18,Cranston–

Use the power of your vote. There are 2 kinds of power, money and votes. If you like a representative, consider volunteering in their campaign. Representatives need to know that you pay attention to what they’re doing. It makes a difference. Acknowledge small gains, it can take time. I have been supporting a bill for marriage equality for ten years.

Rep. Grace Diaz, District 11,Providence–

I get my priorities from my constituents, the issues they bring to me. We count on advocacy groups for research, statistics and contacts. Testify at hearings, check the Statehouse web site to follow the progress of a bill, and don’t miss deadlines. Don’t be afraid and give good testimony. Lobbyists can influence the legislature to change the language of a bill. Think about running for office.

Helen Drew, Associate Director of the RI Department of Health in Gov. Carcieri’s administration–

Tell your story, have your data, know who your friends and who your enemies are. You may be on the same side of an issue with someone, but on the opposite side of another issue with that same person. Be true to yourself and build honest, long-term relationships. The best thing you can do is to put sunshine on an issue.  The role of the lobbyist is often to provide information. If you hear something in testimony you disagree with, you can refute it in a letter and email it to your representatives.

Good advice from all. I took the point about brevity, having testified in the wee hours on marriage equality. Please, citizens, don’t be the one who brings eight pages and mumbles through them while the reps take a bathroom break.

Time to go to work, catch you all on my next cup of coffee.

Kiersten Marek:

Someone who is thinking my thoughts — that medicine is not giving clear enough messages on what we can do to prevent cancer through good nutrition and a healthy environment.

Originally posted on Frances L Arnold's Blog:

Most of us know someone who is a cancer survivor or is currently fighting this ravaging disease. I’ve taken a strong interest in cancer prevention and survival largely because I’m shocked over and over at how confused many healthcare providers and consumers appear when it comes to cancer and nutrition. I’ve met several people who tell me that their doctors believe there isn’t a connection between nutrition and cancer. Yet some nutrition professionals and researchers argue that the cancer-nutrition connection is almost 100%! When I talk with patients or families, they are often confused about what the connection is, and often consume foods that I think no cancer patient should consume (and these foods are provided by the hospital!). What further confuses patients is that the education around the connection is inconsistent, or even influenced by profit. For example, formulary companies have helped set industry standards to promote weight maintenan

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Keeping Faith With Our Veterans

by Kevin DeJesus
As I wrote back in October, 2011, one means by which opponents
of the war in Iraq can employ their good, positive energy for social
justice, human rights and accountability at home (the stuff which
keeps a democracy a democracy), one key means by which we can support
our soldiers, many deployed in Afghanistan as well as those returned
home from Iraq, is to express our outrage and expectations that the US
Military face the necessary legislative scrutiny to disallow the
culture of “diagnostic meddling” as I like to call it, and the
consequent interference with the right of soldiers to obtain vital
medical benefits when needed, in order to cut rising costs. Perhaps we
ought to have thought about this before we went to war? Our stellar US
Senator to the north, Senator Patrick Leahy, the conscience of our
nation, indeed has reminded us of our failure to consider this whilst
jumping on the bandwagon to take Iraq on a consistent basis. He should
be lauded for demanding more of us as a responsible democracy. Alas, back to
the central purpose of my post.

Here is an important article from the New York Times which robustly
details the military’s internal turmoil over this issue of apparently
fudging and foiling psychiatric diagnoses as a means to prevent the
US military from going bust, as NY Times writer James Dao explores in
his important piece, ‘Personality Disorder’,a disputed diagnosis

Dao cites reports of military doctors and social workers being pressured to change psychiatric diagnoses from conditions such as PTSD, that can be considered a war injury, to ‘personality disorder’, a pre-existing condition…

But the issue [of improper command influence on a clinician] has roared back into national focus with recent reports out of Joint Base Lewis-McChord that a special forensic psychiatry unit at Madigan Army Medical Center was reversing diagnoses of post-traumatic stress disorder for soldiers being medically evaluated for discharge. In several of those cases, the soldiers were left with diagnoses of personality or adjustment disorder — illnesses that, unlike PTSD, did not automatically qualify them for medical discharges and certain benefits.

Remember, if our legislators know that we as a
concerned, committed public will not allow our military to engage in
such utterly disrespectful practices toward our soldiers, the needed
scrutiny on this issue will be sustained. Raise this issue at your
legislator’s community dinners, in email/letters to the editor, and of
course, by writing or phoning your US Senators and congressional
representative. Raising your compassionate, well-argued voice matters!

Kevin DeJesus is a recently minted PhD in Critical Human Geography
from York University in Toronto, Ontario. His areas of focus include
Africa and the Middle East. Kevin is particularly interested in the
geographic processes of violently divided societies, human rights and
survivor effects of war-trauma and political violence amid the
geographies of everyday life. During his undergraduate and graduate
studies, Kevin was a visiting student at the American University
of Beirut, Cape Verde, West Africa, Gaza, and the American University
of Cairo, Egypt. Kevin carried out his doctoral research in Beirut, Lebanon. Kevin resides in Providence, and is a happily active member of the First Unitarian Church of Providence.

Kiersten Marek:

Reasons why it feels like we’re running harder and harder and not getting anywhere in the middle class.

Originally posted on Gerry Canavan:

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Kiersten Marek:

Rick Santorum’s latest sound byte: Hooray for Inequality!

Originally posted on mykeystrokes.com:

“Santorum Praises Income Inequality.”

That was Fox News’s headlineabout Rick Santorum’s speech at the Detroit Economic Club on Thursday. Santorum said, “I’m not about equality of result when it comes to income inequality. There is income inequality in America. There always has been and, hopefully, and I do say that, there always will be.”

Unbelievable. Maybe not, but stunning all the same.

Then again, Santorum is becoming increasingly unhinged in his public comments. Last week, he said that the president was arguing that Catholics would have to “hire women priests to comply with employment discrimination issues.”

Also last week, he suggested that liberals and the president were leading religious people into oppression and even beheadings. I kid you not. Santorum said: “They are taking faith and crushing it. Why? When you marginalize faith in America, when you remove the pillar of God-given rights, then what’s left is…

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Is Grandma a Minority?

Who pulls out the SNAP card at the checkout line? Rick Santorum has the profile.

TROY, Mich. — Rick Santorum on Saturday resuscitated one of his more controversial remarks from the past few months of campaigning for president, connecting food stamps with “minority communities.”

Speaking to a large crowd at the conservative Americans for Prosperity Presidential forum here, Santorum said he planned to “talk to minority communities, not about giving them food stamps and government dependency, but about creating jobs so that they can participate in the rise of this country.”

Okay. I’m not a brilliant politician/preacher/patriarch. I’m just one of the women you see walking around in scrubs. I see the people who use food stamps. The elderly widows whose late husbands worked in factories and fed their children–failing to consolidate their capital gains. I see the parents of children with disabilities, and the kids cut off at legal adulthood with the burden of mental illness they will carry through life.

Rick Santorum has claimed that the Affordable Care Act passed in President Obama’s administration will make life harder for people with disabilities, like his daughter, Bella.

But here on the ground, it looks like shaming people for using food stamps and other government assistance is bullying some of the people who have been hit by adversity, by circumstances that none of us can control.

The mother of a disabled child who has to devote 24/7 to care may depend on food stamps. Should she apologize to the taxpayers? I want specifics on Rick Santorum’s health care proposal that will protect the least among us. While ensuring tax cuts for the rich and dismantling big government. Let’s see it.

Meanwhile, don’t assume the food stamp users are a minority. Grandma’s demographic is on the increase, and she votes.

I hope candidate Santorum keeps his promise to talk to minority communities. It will be an eye-opener for him. He’ll meet parents, workers, service members and community organizers, clergy and congregations, students and teachers. Kind of like the rest of America. Which a real leader should unite, not divide.

FRONT LINES: Ethecofem writes a firsthand account of getting food assistance after losing her job…

I’ve been there, in that place where I don’t make enough money to shop at fancy healthy food stores, but I still don’t qualify for food support. And it sucks, because you want to be able to eat decent food, but you only have your own income to use, and you just flat-out can’t afford what you would eat if you had more money. You know what else I had when I was in that position? A job; a place to live that, at the very least, I could afford to maintain because of said job; a vehicle that was both insured and working; a MetroTransit pass that I had as a benefit from my job that allowed me unlimited use of any public transit in the metro area for a payroll deduction that was so small I didn’t even notice it was gone; the occasional ability to go out with friends and socialize at concerts, bars, wherever; f—-g money. The only thing that I, as a freshly-on-the-dole person have that you don’t have is taxpayer-subsidized, designated money for groceries. If I don’t have a job by April, I’ll be evicted.

Read the rest here, because we don’t hear enough from the percent of the 99% who are hit hardest by this recession.

Occupy at First Unitarian

First UU has a monthly Parish Supper with speakers invited. This Friday, February 24th, Occupy Providence shared potluck and gave us an update on the Occupation statewide.

Pat Raub, who has facilitated in tents by flashlight, and Jon Lax explained the process of the General Assembly– rules of order, hand signals and the agenda for the evening.

Ally Trull, Randall Rose and Jared Paul presented the five campaigns Occupy Providence supports.

Take Back Our Homes– fighting illegal foreclosures
Tax Justice– so the 1% pays their fair share
Solidarity Economy– business that gives back to the community
Gendered Economic Inequality– in case you’ve noticed that women are still underpaid and under-represented
Civil Rights-Racial Profiling and Prisoner Rights– supporting a bill against racial profiling that codifies what police acknowledge is best practice

It was a cool Unitarian practice of our principles, with an occasional mic-check, chalice lighting by Reverend Ford, and Hymn #121 ‘We’ll Build a Land’.

I’m still processing all this, will write more later. I just want to thank all the good people who came out last night to share a meal and democracy.

Voting for Koch Brothers

With your dollar, or not. Daily Kos has a list of Koch Brothers products to boycott–at the link here.

Most of this list is upscale paper– napkins, paper towels– the more expensive kind I usually skip past in the supermarket.

If you are ecologically inclined, you’ve been looking for ways to use less paper anyway. I don’t trust that the above list is more than partial. Corporations are networks of smaller businesses and you have to be an MBA to decipher a big one.

Re-use is a step above recycling. I have a bin full of newsprint and junk mail. I use it instead of paper towels sometimes. Any ideas on conservation and Koch Bros. frustration?

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