Saturday, March 12, 2005

An Obituary for Someone I Loved

She was a good woman, a good person. She was the salt of the earth and one of those whose voice was never heard. She honored her father and her mother and she honored all the obligations life loaded on her narrow back. She never complained, she never asked for more, she never seemed to turn bitter from having opportunities denied from her.

She farmed the land and fed people whom she had never met. Her animals loved her and she cared for them before caring for herself. She broke ribs when cows fell on her and she broke toes when they stepped on her feet. But she did not complain. She wore a path between the house and the barn, a path through the hard granite, day in and day out, not complaining.

She bent her back from carrying milk pails which weighed as much as a young calf, bent her back until it no longer straightened. But she did not complain.

She was the salt of the earth. She was quiet and she was deep. When help was needed she gave it, wordlessly. If she was thanked, she smiled, shyly, but she did not speak.

May her next life be one of orneriness and fire, of passion and rebellion. May she find peace in the meantime.

On Blogs

The mainstream media has recently woken up to the existence of blogs and so have many corporations. The business now is to decide where to slot the blogs and how to exploit them best for money. The media also often wants to silence all blogs, if possible, or at least make them look ridiculous and unprofessional. Blogs are a new form of competition for traditional media and some bloggers attack journalists nonstop. Just remember the Dan Rather scandal.

Many blogs are ridiculous and unprofessional, but so are some media columnists I could mention. Now, I have the utmost respect for the skills and experience that good journalism requires and I know that bloggers are not doing journalism in that sense, not to mention that few bloggers have the resources to send correspondents to the hot spots of this world. What bloggers do is commenting and if they have any power at all it is in pointing out obvious mistakes and in bringing up topics that the mainstream media chooses to ignore for all sorts of reasons, some good and many bad.

The other extreme view about blogging argues that blogs are the new democracy and that in the cacophony of all these voices everybody gets to have their say. I don't quite agree with this one, either, because though it is true that anyone can set up a blog with practically no money it is not true that having lots and lots of voices out there increases democracy if nobody hears them. The real impact that blogs have had has come from concerted action via a few large blogs or coalitions of blogs all saying the same thing at the same time.

This is democracy in action in some ways, but it is not the kind of democracy the idealized version of blogs has in mind. It is better than nothing, for sure, but it is not a new powerful voice in the public debate. For that one needs a distribution system like the television stations have or the kind of reader numbers that only a handful of the largest blogs attract.

Which brings me to the study comparing wingnut and liberal blogs. It has some interesting findings:

"The primary finding of the study (or at least the finding I think is the most interesting) is that conservative blogs have a stronger sense of community than liberal blogs -- a quality that I often wish liberals could emulate. Here's what Adamic and Glance found:

"Conservatives link to other conservative blogs at a much higher rate than liberals link to other liberals: .20 links per post compared to .12 links per post.

"Conservative bloggers have a more 'uniform voice' than liberal bloggers, as measured by what they link to. If you count only links to blogs, not media reports, the difference in uniformity is even greater. (However, on another measure, the 'echo chamber' quality of liberal and conservative blogs is about the same.)

"Liberal bloggers tend to link to a fairly small subset of other liberals. Conservatives spread the link love around. The study also found (unsurprisingly) that blogs are primarily a medium based on criticism, not support:

"Notice the overall pattern: Democrats are the ones more often cited by right-leaning bloggers, while Republicans are more often mentioned by left-leaning bloggers. . . . These statistics indicate that our A-list political bloggers, like mainstream journalists (and like most of us) support their positions by criticizing those of the political figures they dislike.

That the wingnuts march in goose-step is not surprising and neither is the emphasis on criticizing the opposition. I am not sure if the tendency of liberal blogs to link to a small group of other blogs is bad or good. On the one hand this serves to make the liberal side of the blogosphere more unified in what is talked about and thus more audible in the public debate. On the other hand it may serve to keep the lefty blogosphere smaller and less bonded.

This study and my post treat all blogs like they were political blogs. Of course most blogs are not political and very little is known right now about the influence of nonpolitical blogs on public opinion and similar things. Will these other blogs serve as competition for magazines and newspapers, too? We will find out in the future.

To be realistic, most blogs have as much influence as I have when I mutter aloud to my snakes at night which is none at all. Which makes me wonder if we bloggers are all crazy. I could use this time making money or shoveling snow or training Hank to be a more obedient dog (no, scratch that one), and the world would go on as it always does.

Maybe it's not a good thing to try to analyze blogging so much. Maybe I analyze everything far too much instead of just enjoying the absurdities of this life.

Saturday Exercise

This website is really fun! You are going to get hooked, I predict. The text is in German, but it's pretty easy to figure out where to click. The idea is to move your mouse left and right (no clicking needed) to keep the drunk from falling over. If you are successful, he will walk in a straight line towards you. The longer he stays upright the better. My record is 78 meters. So far.

The drunk sounds American, by the way.
Via Lance

Friday, March 11, 2005

Speaking in One Voice

I was reading today about the scattered nature of the progressive resistance in politics. The wingnuts speak in one voice, including the blogs in Wingnuttia, whereas we righteous ones all muse about whatever happens to crop into our minds that day. In other words, we don't march in lock-step (or goose-step, either), which is mostly a good thing and necessary for true democracy. But there are days when it would be useful to coordinate the progressive blogs' messages a little bit more. Today is one of those days (and I'm sleepy), so I'm going to magnify something that Atrios talked about today. Which is Representative Rangel's excellent speech about the dirty tactics that the administration employs in trying to destroy Social Security. Here is Rep. Rangel:

Yesterday, as part of his pitch for privatizing Social Security, President Bush stated that opponents of privatization "say certain people aren't capable of investing...It kind of sounds like to me, you know, a certain race of people living in a certain area." (USA Today)

"It is clear that in their desperation to rescue their privatization plan, the White House has sunk to a new low. How far will they go? The White House strategy seems to be to sow divisions - young and old, men and women, Black and White, North and South - to achieve their political goals. The Republicans figure if they can divide the nation, they can conquer Social Security.

First, Republicans said that they would consider providing African American workers with a different level of benefits based on their race.

That did not go anywhere, so President Bush and his allies claimed that Social Security is a bad deal for African Americans, since African Americans tend to have a shorter life expectancy. But Blacks have a shorter life expectancy because of higher infant and teen mortality - problems that the Bush Administration has cruelly ignored. With its disability and survivor benefits, as well as retirement benefits, Social Security actually is a slightly better deal for African Americans than for the general population.

Now, the White House has changed its tune again and is saying that those of us who oppose privatization are somehow racist. This is totally outrageous. No one is saying that any certain group cannot invest - we are saying that no matter who you are, you need one asset that you can depend on, no matter what. That asset is Social Security. Without it, almost 60 percent of African American seniors would live in poverty as would millions and millions of other older Americans of all races.

The only thing easier than making money on Wall Street is losing money on Wall Street. That may be fine if you have the money, but for the millions of Americans that depend on Social Security for their survival, their independence, and their peace of mind, they can't afford to take the President's gamble.

Divide et impera, anyone? It worked for the Roman Empire, for a time.

From Echidne's Mailbag: On Mattresses

I get lots of nice e-mails from people. I love them! Even the ones which tell me that I have been signed up for the chatgroup called reallybigasses and other similar jokes. Even the prayer group announcements; I like the idea that people are praying for my salvation.

I also get ideas for the blog, and once in a while I'm going to talk about these ideas. One good one is from Psycho Kitty, who alerted me to a new upcoming law that requires all mattresses to be made flame-proof. The intention of this law is to save people from dying in fires, but the problem is that flame-proofing mattresses involves pouring a lot of possibly very harmful chemicals on them and then these chemicals will be in close contact with the sleeper. This is especially bad news for people who suffer from asthma and allergies, but it could be bad for all of us if these chemicals turn out to be carcinogenic, for example.

What is bad about the law is that it is not based on proper studies of the pros and cons of flame-proofing mattresses. Therefore, we don't actually know if the law will cause more deaths than it saves. It also takes away our ability to decide for ourselves which risks we'd rather take.

This is part of a wider human pattern: we tend to put a heavier weight on those disasters that have already happened than those that will happen because of the corrective action we are taking. Just like we find named deaths more upsetting than deaths which happen to some unnamed individuals. But governments aren't supposed to be subject to these psychological quirks. That's why they use expert advice.

Friday Embroidery Blogging

Wall Street Posted by Hello

This is a joke on two things: the idea that spiders created the world and Wall Street. If you click on the picture you can see more details on the spiders. The one in the upper left corner is a female spider, by the way. - I copied the web from one outside my bathroom window but the spiders are imaginary.

Thursday, March 10, 2005

The Senate Vote on the Bankruptcy Proposal

The proposed bill has passed the Senate as expected. For reasons why it should not have done so see my post here. Fifty-five Republicans (all of them voting), eighteen Democrats and one Independent all voted for the crummy proposal. Twenty-five Democrats voted against it, including Joe Lieberman who, however, voted for the cloture a few days ago. Which means that he didn't have to vote against the bill itself. Our Joe is trying to eat his torte while saving it, too.

Cash for Parents of Girls

In the Indian state of Andhra Pradesh parents who have girls will get money from the government:

Families having a single girl child in the Indian state of Andhra Pradesh will be given 100,000 rupees ($2,300) in an attempt to boost the female population.

The money will be given to the child when she turns 20 and both parents would have to undergo verified birth control operations.

The state government says it is concerned at the falling female-to-male ratio - in 2001 it was 943 to 1,000.

The rise in sex determination tests to abort female foetuses is also a worry.

The quote is a little confusing because the program appears to combine birth control with the cash program.

Andhra Pradesh is one of those Indian areas where the ability to determine the fetus's sex has led to a dearth of girls. Indian families rely on their sons for old-age security and the tradition of large dowries for brides makes having daughters an expensive proposition. Because some of the reasons why girls are not wanted are financial the idea to combat them with money might work, if the net effect of the program would make sons and daughters equally expensive for parents.

But it makes more sense in the long run to abolish the tradition of dowries and the tradition of sons taking care of their parents. I'm not sure how this could be accomplished without building a welfare state for the whole country. Surely it is the presence of pension schemes and general education for both boys and girls that has made the preference for sons less in the Western countries?

Something probably needs to be done about this problem in both China and India, though, or these countries will have a large number of perpetual bachelors. It would be better if girls were valued for their own sake, of course, and not just as future wives of the extra men.

Today's "Boggles-Your-Mind" Fact

Via Atrios, we learn that certain of our elected representatives are two-faced about porn. On the one hand, they preach against it, but the other hand is receiving contributions from porn providers:

Some of the findings of the report: Kansas Senator Sam Brownback - who
equivocates pornography with crack cocaine - accepted $17,000 from porn

Connecticut Senator Joe Lieberman - who has long campaigned against the
growing coarseness of our culture -- along with renown gambling addict
William Bennet, handed out "Silver Sewer" awards to those who made immoral
videos, and who has criticized MTV for having porn stars on the air,
accepted over $16,000.

Though this isn't the place for it I want to make three general observations on porn. First, I detest pornography which is based on the torture of living things. All such porn should be banned and its producers should be sentenced to being the victims in their productions forevermore. Second, I am worried about the misogyny in some of the porn that I have seen. People who consume this porn may assume that misogyny is ok. Third, I am concerned about the possibility that young men equate what they see in pornographic productions with sex. Much of what I have seen (which isn't an awful lot, to be honest) is solely geared towards male enjoyment. Consensual sex tends to be more egalitarian in who gets the enjoyment but young men may not learn this from porn. Which would leave their future female partners quite unhappy.

Today's Action Alert

Action of the Day

Last night at Eschaton, Atrios explained that Delegate John Cosgrove (R) from the Virginia legislature was on television criticizing Mora Kuehne, the blogger who alterted America to Cosgrove's plan to make criminals out of women who had miscarriages. Cosgrove ignored an e-mail from Kuehne but then complained that she'd dared to blog about his bill without first running her blog past him.

Contact Cosgrove, who apparently doesn't appreciate having to waste his time responding to, you know, voters and remind him that in a democracy, citizens aren't required to get a politician's permission before they tell other citizens about a bill introduced by the politician. Cosgrove represents Chesaeake, Virginia, where the zip code is 23328.

John Cosgrove:

(800) 889-0229 or (804) 698-1078 (phone)

(804) 786-6310 (fax)

You might also want to check out Kuehne's blog at:

Thanks for taking today's action!

Wednesday, March 09, 2005

Silly, Silly

I haven't had one of these for a long time. This site will make you feel better. Or totally annoyed. Either way, it's something to do...
Thanks to phmnst for the link.

This Bankruptcy Proposal

Why do we need to change the federal laws* that cover bankruptcy? There are two theories about this: The first one says that Americans are addicted to their credit cards and other forms of reckless spending and that the current bankruptcy regulations allow all the crazy spenders to avoid paying for their feast. Instead, the extra costs are rolled into higher interest rates which are then paid by us prudent citizens. The second one says that while there may be some truth in the first theory, the real reason for the new proposal is that it will benefit the banks and credit card companies which have long fought (and paid) for just such a law. Finally they have the votes to get it through. The new proposal lets the lenders continue their practise of offering credit to people who shouldn't be offered any at the terms used but in a change from the past the debts thus incurred could not be skipped through bankruptcy by most debtors.

It is true that Americans are pretty indebted. The average household carries eight thousand dollars in credit card debt and a suprising number only pays the minimum allowable charges on their cards. One point four million couples or individuals declared personal bankruptcy last year, though at least some of them probably acted in anticipation of the changes now underway. Women and men appear about equally affected by bankruptcy.

It looks like the first theory is the correct one, doesn't it? Moral bankruptcy, some might even mutter. Time indeed to put a stop to all this frivolous consumption, and our caring government is doing just that.

But then we hear that a recent Harvard study which looked at data from five states in 2001 found the most common reason for bankruptcy filings to be serious medical problems. Other common reasons for bankruptcy were the loss of a job or a divorce. Suddenly our picture of the indebted changes from the frivolous shopper to something sadder and more serious. Maybe even something that could look a little bit like ourselves, especially when we learn that three quarters of those bankrupted by illness had health insurance. This could happen to me, we might whisper.

Let's not get too carried away. Some of the bankruptcies must be frivolous and it could be a good idea to rein those in. And the proposed bill applies a means test which exempts people with lower than median incomes in their state from the harsher requirements. Only those who can afford to pay something back will be expected to do so. Isn't personal responsibility a good idea for everyone? Why should some of us spend and spend when others work hard and save for the things they need?

Why indeed? But what about those who file bankruptcy because of high medical expenses? Surely the proposal will allow them some extra slack? Actually, no. An amendment proposing a homestead exemption of $150,000 in home equity for this group was defeated by the Republicans in the Senate. So was an amendment asking for extra consideration for those in the military who had to file bankruptcy because their military service caused their private businesses to fail, an amendment asking for extra consideration for those who file bankruptcy because of identity theft and an amendment asking for a homestead exemption for the elderly. All defeated by pretty much every single Republican in the Senate.

Because being prudent is the right thing to be. Personal responsibility is good for all of us. Except for the very rich: Another amendment which the Republicans also defeated would have gotten rid of the loopholes which allow for "asset protection trusts" in several states. Such trusts are expensive to create, so only available for the wealthy, but they will let you have a homestead exemption in a bankruptcy for your manor house or two.

The Republicans were not totally alone in rejecting all these amendments. Some Democrats also helped in this noble endeavor to get frivolous spending in this country under better control. But they all had trouble when it came to controlling the other side of the equation: the behavior of the lending institutions: An amendment proposing a ban on usury was resoundingly defeated. Now the credit card companies are free to charge interest rates of over thirty percent for certain kinds of debt. Usury, by the way, is explicitly banned in the Bible but this didn't make the Republican fundamentalist Senators change their vote.** Weighty moral matters, these credit concerns, when fundamentalists go against their Bible. The Senate also rejected an amendment which would have required credit card statements to show how long it would take to pay the debt back just with minimum payments and what the total interest payments would be. Such information is not necessary, the Republicans decided.

The evidence seems to be mounting for the second of the two theories: that credit card companies and banks have paid for this bill for several years and now expect delivery of the product, and studying the donation patterns of these companies lends more support for this argument. But the bill also fits into a wider pattern, one that Paul Krugman discussed in his recent column on the bankruptcy bill: "the "risk privatization", a steady erosion of the protection the government provides against personal misfortune, even as ordinary families face ever-growing economic insecurity."

Check for yourself: Lifelong employment? Gone. Employer-provided health insurance? Going. Unemployment benefits? Shortening. Length of average unemployment? Increasing.

Add to that these recent attacks against bankruptcy protection and Social Security, and the picture becomes clear. And ugly, especially for the middle classes who can no longer rely on staying middle class.
*You can get a summary of the proposals here. (Warning: very boringly written)

For a good summary of the criticisms, see Talking Points Memo and especially posts by Elizabeth Warren, one of the researchers of the bankruptcy study mentioned in my post.

**In you men accept bribes to shed blood; you take usury and excessive interest and make unjust gain from your neighbors by extortion...I will surely strike my hands together at the unjust gain you have made and at the blood you have shed in your midst.
Ezekiel 22:12-13

This Topsy-Turvy World

A new survey tells us what Americans would like to see the federal government spend its money on:

The American people would like to significantly change next year's federal budget, reversing key proposals by the administration of President George W. Bush, according to a new poll.
Given the chance to look at and make changes to the major areas of Bush's proposed discretionary budget for fiscal year 2006, which begins on Oct. 1, 2005, around two-thirds redirected money to reduce the budget deficit, said the poll released Monday by the Program on International Policy Attitudes (PIPA).

''The American public as a whole takes a fairly coherent position. They favor redirecting a portion of defense spending to deficit reduction and social spending and look for savings by cutting spending on large-scale Cold War style capabilities,'' said PIPA director Steven Kull.

Republican and Democratic poll participants alike would take the budget axe to spending on defense and on Iraq and Afghanistan, plowing more funds into education, job training, veterans, and reducing U.S. reliance on oil, the poll found.

The changes they would make would amount to a major redirecting of U.S. foreign and defense policy and reverse key social spending cuts proposed in the Bush administration's budget.

Through The Looking Glass? Didn't we just have Americans vote in this administration? What did they think Bush would do with another four years? You know, I'm beginning to think that a stolen election is as likely an explanation as any other I can think of. Unless I have gone completely crazy. I better reread my Lewis Carroll. This current logic looks like something right up his alley.
Via watertiger on Eschaton threads.

Tuesday, March 08, 2005

Joseph Biden's Vote on the Bankruptcy Bill

Biden voted with the wingnuts. Guess why? Could it be because his major political contributor is a credit card company? Priceless.

The GOP Abuse of Power

This is a new report(a pdf file) by Nancy Pelosi and others. Representative Louise Slaughter of New York said this at a press conference today:

"What people learn in school about how a bill becomes a law isn't true anymore in Washington. Now, the Republicans have their lobbyists writing legislation in back rooms and the American people are shut out of the process. If the American people knew what the Republicans have done to the people's House, they would be outraged."

"This Republican leadership only convenes Congress two days a week on average, and they spend a good day and half each week renaming post offices and honoring foreign dignitaries. The business of the people is not being debated, it is not being considered and it is not getting done."

"The way the majority runs the House is a moral decision, it reflects the values of our Democracy, and it directly affects people's lives. The American values of integrity and decency are under attack by the Republicans in this body. They have corrupted the legislative process and have diminished this institution."

I suspect that the process described in school books was never exactly followed, but it is probably true that a one-party state will not even bother to pretend to follow such outdated ideas. What Slaughter is saying is that we indeed have the best democracy money can buy, and that those who paid for it are now deciding what will happen.

Hence the Social Security destruction campaign and the proposal to revamp the bankruptcy bill. They benefit the corporations. - I still blame those who voted for the wingnuts.

Meanwhile, in Kuwait

Women still can't vote:

Several hundred Kuwaiti women demanded support for women's rights outside Kuwait's parliament while the all-male assembly was considering a new law that would grant women the right to vote. Last May, Kuwait's cabinet approved a law granting women political rights, reports BBC News.

According to Reuters, Kuwaiti newspapers are reporting that Kuwaiti Prime Minister Sheik Sabah al-Ahmad al-Sabah threatened to dissolve parliament if it did not approve the bill, saying "We have big hopes the female suffrage draft bill will be approved." However, Islamist groups in the assembly have stated that they will thwart the law, as they had done to similar measures over the past few years.

Kuwaiti women's rights activists have been fighting for the right to vote for over 40 years. Currently, women are not allowed to vote or be elected in only two countries, Saudi Arabia and Kuwait.

Wouldn't it be nice if the Kuwaiti women got the vote to celebrate this year's International Women's Day?

Bankruptcy Day

I'm late with this topic because I started studying it late (thanks to Kathy Geier for getting me off my butt at all), and the Senate is voting on the new bankruptcy bill proposal today. If you possibly can, please call your elected representatives and tell them not to vote for the bill. You can go to Eschaton for information on numbers to call.

The reasons why this proposal is terrible is this: Its proponents argue that it will reduce "frivolous" bankruptcies, but they make no real effort to decide which bankruptcies are nonfrivolous. Thus, if the reason for your financial difficulties is in large medical expenses or in having been in military service you will lose everything in this proposal, but if you were wealthy enough to begin with to start a trust you will not.

Also, the proposal doesn't put the blame on "frivolous" bankruptcies on those who lure people into taking on debt which they shouldn't. The credit card industry offers cards to my dogs Hank and Henrietta! They offer cards to freshmen in colleges. They would probably offer cards to the Debtors Anonymous if they could find them.

This is not my proper post on the topic, just a request that you contact your Senators and tell them not to support this bill. It needs public debate which it has not received.
Too late for today's vote, sorry.

Today's Action Alert

Today's Action comes from Greenpeace. Go to the Greenpeace's " target="_blank" ;website and send an e-mail to your mayor asking her or him to join Mayors for Peace and make your town a nuclear non-proliferation zone.


Until we can rid the world of nuclear weapons nation by nation, we'll start town by town. That's the strategy behind the Mayors for Peace project - an international effort which began with the mayor of one city, Hiroshima, Japan, who in 1982 said "never again" to the suffering his own town endured.

Today, more than 700 mayors from 119 countries have joined Mayors for Peace.

These mayors know that the end of the cold war didn't mean the end of the nuclear threat. The world is still bristling with nearly 36,000 nuclear weapons. The US and Russia have in excess of 10,000 each. The pressure on smaller states to develop a nuclear capability to defend themselves is higher than ever, and for violent extremists of every ilk, a nuclear weapon is the ultimate prize.

The nuclear threat has quite literally scaled down in the last two decades. While the prospect of an all out exchange of arsenals between the Soviet Union and the US has receded, the 15 kilotons of destruction that obliterated Hiroshima could today be accomplished with a lunch-box sized bomb. George Bush talks openly of developing new "more useable" nuclear weapons. Even more alarmingly, this years US nuclear weapons budget talks of spending 100 million US dollars over the next 5 years on designing more robust, more 'usable' nuclear weapons.

The prospects of a nuclear weapon actually being used are perhaps greater today than during the cold war, when the concept of Mutually Assured Destruction provided an effective, if surreally sinister, deterrent.

The only thing that will stop the threat is the voice of the second superpower: world opinion.
"In any war, it is cities and the people living in them that suffer. As Hiroshima and Nagasaki attest, this suffering becomes total destruction when nuclear weapons are involved. To protect their citizens' lives, it is incumbent on all mayors to make every effort to prevent war and eliminate nuclear weapons." Mayor Akiba, current Mayor of Hiroshima, Japan
"What we need now is for individuals and communities to mobilise and help put nuclear disarmament back on the political agenda" Nicky Davies, Nuclear Disarmament Campaigner for Greenpeace, "the pressure has to come up from the streets. Abolishing nuclear weapons is not a pipe dream - it's a sensible step toward self-preservation".

In May, 2005, an international meeting will review the cornerstone treaty for nuclear disarmament, the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT). "To add a community voice to this meeting, we are asking every Mayor to sign the statement supporting nuclear disarmament. We're asking our supporters worldwide to ask their mayors to sign. And we're asking them to ask their friends to ask their mayors to sign".

When nations signed the NPT, they signed up to a two-way deal. Non-nuclear states wouldn't seek nuclear weapons, and under Article 6, those who already had them agreed to get rid of them.

Mayors for Peace are simply urging nuclear weapon states to do what they promised. Until they do so, new countries will continue to pursue their own nuclear weapon programs; and the non-proliferation regime, along with the treaty that created it, will simply collapse.


Global Warming in Wingnuttia

Some there have seen the light, joined the angels or drank the reality brew (water?). Or at least James Baker seems to acknowledge that Mother Earth is in some trouble:

"It may surprise you a little bit, but maybe it's because I'm a hunter and a fisherman, but I think we need to a pay a little more attention to what we need to do to protect our environment," he told the Houston Forum Club.

"When you have energy companies like Shell and British Petroleum, both of which are perhaps represented in this room, saying there is a problem with excess carbon dioxide emission, I think we ought to listen," Baker said.

James, too little, too late, I fear. Humans still appear to act as if we alone can decide the outcome. Despite evidence to the contrary. The tsunamis, for example. If Mother Earth decides to turn over in Her sleep we will all be pancakes. And given the way we have been annoying Her the last hundred years, She very well might turn over.

Monday, March 07, 2005

The Fox and the Chicken Coop

The new U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. and the United Nations. Nothing new with this plot, the wingnuts have been doing this for quite a few decades. If something doesn't please them in the laws of the United States they assign someone who hates those laws as their enforcer. This has been going on with civil rights enforcement for quite a while, and if you look at the health care field you see the same phenomenom.

But David Corn still finds reserves for being outraged about this:

If you were sitting in the Oval Office and George W. Bush asked, "Hey, tell me, who could we appoint to the UN ambassador job that would most piss off the UN and the rest of the world," your job would be quite easy. You would simply say, "That's a no-brainer, Mr. President, John Bolton." And on Monday Bush took this no-brain advice and nominated Bolton to the post, which requires Senate confirmation.

Bolton is the rightwing's leading declaimer of the United Nations. He once said, "If the UN secretary building in New York lost ten stories, it wouldn't make a bit of difference." And when the Bush administration failed to persuade the UN to back its war in Iraq, Bolton observed that was "further evidence to many why nothing should be paid to the UN system."

Nothing new in any of this, except perhaps that we are now quite openly making faces at the rest of the world. Well, that's not news, either. I wish I could feel more upset about this, because it would show that things aren't as bad as they are.


It's my new hobby. I tested the maximum length of sleep this weekend, the dogs being elsewhere, and it turns out that I can sleep about thirty-six hours without interruption! Why doesn't this administration sleep more? It would be good for world peace.

But my sleep leaves the lefty ramparts less protected so I finally got up and combed my tresses and rinsed my eyes and here I am! Ready to blog on everything under the sun and more.

Right now I want to talk about sleeping, though. Some call it the small death because when we sleep we don't exist in the usual sense of the word, but others view sleep as the time when we leave our bodies and go gallivanting in the Spirit Realm. Dreams, from this angle, would then be the messages we receive from the spirits. Which makes me wonder why the messages I receive are largely about building houses, being late for classes and angry ex-boyfriends. Why can't I get something about how to get the wingnuts out of power, for example? Am I not good enough for such messages?

Once I dreamt about being a dog, and it was wonderful! I was running across a flowering meadow with a pack of other dogs, my four legs moving, moving, and the whole pack rejoicing in the act of running. We could see the stream towards which we ran and we knew that we would get there, all together.

I have no idea if I somehow swopped dreams with my then-dog, Fang. If so, what did Fang dream about? Being late for classes or ex-boyfriends complaining about being dropped? And what did all that mean to Fang? Maybe the spirits were having a little bit of fun at our expense?

What do you dream about?

What is Bill Moyers Doing These Days?

He is supposed to have retired. Instead, he's trying to save the world, single-handedly:

I read the news and learned how the Environmental Protection Agency plotted to spend $9 million—$2 million of it from the President's friends at the American Chemistry Council—to pay poor families to continue the use of pesticides in their homes. These pesticides have been linked to neurological damage in children, but instead of ordering an end to their use, the government and the industry concocted a scheme to offer the families $970 each, as well as a camcorder and children's clothing, to serve as guinea pigs for the study.

I read that President Bush has more than one hundred high-level officials in his administration overseeing industries they once represented as lobbyists, lawyers, or corporate advocates—company insiders waved through the revolving door of government to assure that drug laws, food policies, land use, and the regulation of air pollu-tion are industry-friendly. Among the "advocates-turned-regulators" are a former meat industry lobbyist who helps decide how meat is labeled; a former drug company lobbyist who influences prescription drug policies; a former energy lobbyist who, while accepting payments for bringing clients into his old lobbying firm, helps to determine how much of our public lands those former clients can use for oil and gas drilling.

I read that civil penalties imposed by the Environmental Protection Agency against polluters in 2004 hit an fifteen-year low, in what amounts to an extended holiday for industry from effective compliance with environmental laws.

I read that the administration's allies at the International Policy Network, which is supported by Exxon-Mobil and others of like mind and interest, have issued a report describing global warming as "a myth" at practically the same time the President, who earlier rejected the international treaty outlining limits on greenhouse gases, wants to prevent any "written or oral report" from being issued by any international meetings on the issue.

I read not only the news but the fine print of a recent appropriations bill passed by Congress, with ob-scure amendments removing all endangered species protections from pesticides, prohibiting judicial review for a forest in Oregon, waiving environmental review for grazing permits on public lands, and weakening protection against development for crucial habitats in California.

I read all this and look up at the pictures on my desk, next to the computer —pictures of my grandchildren: Henry, age twelve; Thomas, ten; Nancy, eight; Jassie, three; SaraJane, one. I see the future looking back at me from those photographs and I say, "Father, forgive us, for we know not what we do." And then the shiver runs down my spine and I am seized by the realization: "That's not right. We do know what we are doing. We are stealing their future. Betraying their trust. Despoiling their world."

And I ask myself: Why? Is it because we don't care? Because we are greedy? Because we have lost our capacity for outrage, our ability to sustain indignation at injustice?

What has happened to our moral imagination?

On the heath Lear asks Gloucester: "How do you see the world?" And Gloucester, who is blind, answers: "I see it feelingly.'"

I see it feelingly.

Why don't we feel the world enough to save it—for our kin to come?

The news is not good these days. But as a journalist I know the news is never the end of the story. The news can be the truth that sets us free not only to feel but to fight for the future we want. The will to fight is the antidote to despair, the cure for cynicism, and the answer to those faces looking back at me from those photographs on my desk. We must match the science of human health to what the ancient Israelites called hochma—the science of the heart, the capacity to see and feel and then to act as if the future depended on us.

Believe me, it does.

Don't let him toil alone. At least read his plea.

Santorum's Minimum Wage Proposal

Rick Santorum may qualify as an Evil Man in my books. His newest proposal is one aimed at destroying any possible increase in the federal minimum wage:

Under a plan proposed by Rick Santorum, the minimum wage would go up in two bumps over 18 months, ultimately reaching $6.25 an hour. That's a dollar an hour less than the Kennedy plan -- we're quick with math here -- but that's not the worst of it. Santorum's plan would also exempt from the minimum wage, and a whole host of other federal labor laws, any employer with revenues under $1 million; allow some employers to offset minimum wage salaries with tips workers receive; and rob many workers of overtime pay by instituting federal "flex-time" rules. Thus, workers would receive a smaller increase under Santorum's plan, fewer of them would be protected by the federal minimum wage laws at all, and whatever gains some workers made through a minimum wage increase would be lost to offsets from tips or cutbacks in their overtime pay.

There is something deeply distasteful in a rich man's plans for destroying any pay increases for the really poor. To make it less distasteful, let's start paying the politicians with tips! Only those that do what we like get money from now on, and we send it in as tips which can then be used to reduce their regular wages.

The wingnuts don't like minimum wages, despite the Bible being very strong on the need to take care of the poor and on ethical behavior in business. This is one of those bipolar aspects of the wingnut values that I never understand. It has something to do with the idea that any two people should be allowed to enter a contract freely on anything whatsoever, and that no third person should interfere. Except in the bedroom, of course.

But in reality when an individual makes a contract with McDonald's, say, there is not much evenness or fairness to begin with, and the consequences for the two are entirely different. The wingnuts pretend that a server in a restaurant is as powerful as the IBM or any other large firm, and that the two have equal opportunities if the contract doesn't please them.

This is all rubbish, of course. The minimum wage is needed for many reasons that have to do with ethics and justice, but it is also needed as a counterforce against the oligopolistic nature of most labor markets. These markets are not the kinds of free markets that the wingnuts dream about, with very few exceptions.

As the article I link to points out, the Santorum proposal will not win because no proposal to raise the minimum wage will pass in this wingnut Congress. Such proposals would eat into the profits of those who are buying the current democracy we have.