Monday, December 26, 2005

Merry Xma$

If corporate America doesn't have a merry, profitable Xma$, then the terrorists have won.

For even more fun, read the comments people have left.

Saturday, December 24, 2005

Happy Holidays

If you who are reading this are, like me, fortunate enough to be experiencing happy, healthy holidays, please spare a thought for those who are not. Dec 25 is Christmas day but for so many it is just another day. Today in Uganda children will be walking countless miles to prevent being kidnapped, in Afghanistan warlords and insurgents will be killing and terrifying people, in Iraq unemployed and war ravaged people will be at risk of being killed by insurgents or Americans, in Pakistan those who lost everything to the recent earthquake will be working to rebuild, in Botswana men, women and children will be dying of AIDS, in North America and countless other places poverty, homelessness, and domestic violence is marring what should be a beautiful loving holiday. To all of these and to everyone else undergoing painful and traumatic experiences, I wish a day of peace would be possible, however unlikely.

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Satire of the Day: The Average Iraqi is ecstatic

Satire of the day:
The Average Iraqi in Vietraq "is content – jubilant, even – in the knowledge that his smoldering, foreign-occupied police state is a gleaming symbol of Republican-invented FREEDOM®. "
Read how the average Iraqi has been weeping "FREEDOM® Tears", is thrilled to see new "Glorious McChurches throughout Iraq", but unfortunately has tired feet from dancing in the streets. Boy was I wrong about this.
More Iraq, Humour

So Iraq is better off... How?

No one questions that Saddam Hussein was a brutal dictator, but invading a country and killing innocent people (who didn't ask for your "help"!!) isn't exactly the best way to improve the living conditions of Iraqis.

The recent election is being touted as a resounding success by BushInc. & Co. The propaganda is being laid on so thick it makes me feel ill just thinking about it. The reality is so far off of the official story. Just read some independent media, like this stirring article by Sabah Ali, posted on Dahr Jamail's Iraq Dispatches (Both are independent journalists covering the Iraq war).

“You are filming our miserable condition so that Bush would pity us?! You want to soften his heart?” asked a tiny, skinny young villager disapprovingly, with obvious resignation. She was holding a very heavy cooking gas tube, trying to climb the river bank. After the only bridge which connects Rummana to Al-Qa’im was severely bombed, citizens had to cross by boat.

Not only have there been somewhere around 150,000 dead (and it is a crime that we don't even know the true numbers! More discussion here), but there is rampant unemployment, poverty, hunger, a destroyed infrastructure, lack of gasoline, electricity and water. There is constant threat of random violence. Schools, hospitals, shops, services are tenuously holding on, at best. The relative freedom that Iraqi women enjoyed under Hussein is being destroyed with the formalization of Sharia law in the new constitution.

Of course, to many who share my views, this is hardly news. However, there are a suprising number of people, who were once against the invasion, but now can be heard saying "Well, it is better for the Iraqi people this way". For example, Jon Stewart, after the first election this year, disappointingly considered "What if Bush... has been right about this all along?". It is for these people that I wonder:
Is it enough to show
How the nightmare works
so everyone will wake up? (Stereolab)

More on Iraq.

Thursday, December 01, 2005

Aids & Racism are Intimately Connected

Today, as you may know, is World Aids Day. I have also recently discovered it is Blog Against Racism Day.

I believe the two are intimately related, and so they are sharing a post today.

How are they related? For one thing, according to AIDS Statistics, AIDS and HIV disproportionately affect non-white communities in the US. Now, I think very few people are hoping for some kind of Darwinian "culling" of non-white populations, but there is a tangible element of racism that is perpetuating the real suffering of people around the world.

A quick mental exercise
Imagine there was an AIDS epidemic among the white population of Texas, comparable to the one in Botswana. That means 37.3% of all adults, and a significant percentage of the children were infected with HIV/AIDS. In other words, based on current population data, out of 15,967,916 non-Hispanic white Texans, 5,908,128 would be living with HIV/AIDS. Can you imagine the difference in response to the crisis?

Even if we think we aren't affected, we are. They both harm us all, whether our skin is pink or brown, whether we are ill or healthy, we all live in the same world, and I'm sure we can agree that our world would be a better place without AIDS or Racism.

Let's fight both AIDS and Racism!

More on AIDS in Africa, The vulnerable not being protected

Friday, November 25, 2005

Water Privatization in South Africa

In the grand global corporatist goal of private profiteering from all of the Earth's resources, the privatization of water is only slightly less appalling than the privatization of air would be. In this new article about water privatization in South Africa, the effects are clear and they are terrible.

In black townships outside Johannesburg, many residents are forced to choose between buying enough food to eat and buying water for basic hygiene and sanitation. Now that they are forced to pre-pay for any water beyond a basic minimal level, many families worry about how to care for sick relatives or what they would do in the event of a fire.

The unequal access to water had previously caused a cholera outbreak as those who could not afford clean water got it from polluted sources (meanwhile the wealthier elite have swimming pools and lawn sprinklers).

For more information, listen to CBC's series on the global water business, or read anything by Vandana Shiva. She's well-documented the results of this money grab. It is happening all over the place in Iraq, Argentina, Detroit, among others. And let's not forget all that happened in Bolivia

More blog entries related to: Africa | Poverty & Class Issues | Health

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

Carfree Cities (Book Review)

Carfree Cities by Joel Crawford is an excellent book imagining the city without the automobile.

He starts out by expounding on the problem: why cars in cities are bad. He covers environmental, social, and aesthetic problems, as well as an analysis of the danger of cars. He contrasts automobile-dependent cities such as Los Angeles with pedestrian cities such as Venice. The sprawling automotive cities offer a lack of safety (large number of traffic deaths & injury), incredible levels of environmental pollution, a weak social community, and an ugly landscape.

Then he offers a theoretical solution with a reference design for a carfree city. His suggested topology incorporates a large amount of public space and green space with moderately dense development.

The city is based around small, pedestrian districts connected to each other by a rail-based metro (subway) or tram (streetcar) system. His public transportation system is cheaper and faster than car transportation, and at least as convenient and comfortable (even suggesting first class luxury train cars). He also offers a detailed solution to freight transportation, using standardized shipping containers.

The last portion of the book offers some more practical suggestions for transforming existing cities, creating new ones, and variations, such as a bicycle-based city.

You can order the book, join the discussion on Yahoo Groups, and get more information at

Topic: Environment - Urban Issues, Book Reviews

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Cindy Sheehan's Open Letter to Barbara Bush

You said this in 2003, a little over a year before my dear, sweet Casey was killed by your son's policies:

'Why should we hear about body bags and deaths? Oh, I mean, it's not relevant. So why should I waste my beautiful mind on something like that?' (Good Morning America, March 18, 2003)

Now I have something to tell you, Barbara. I didn't want to hear about deaths or body bags either. On April 04, 2004, three Army officers came to my house to tell me that Casey was killed in Iraq. I fell on the floor screaming and begging the cruel Angel of Death to take me too. But the Angel of Death that took my son is your son.

Read the rest
Thanks to The Rational Radical for this.

More on the Iraq Invasion.

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Latest Funnies

Matt Bors, Idiot Box: I like Shows that Didn't Make the Cut. One is "Extreme Makeover, 9th ward Edition", featuring Haliburton.

How about a little Republican Paradise, by Andy Singer.

But of course, Repubs have nothing to do with any suffering, it is all the fault of those durn gays, according to Hank's Faith-Based Forecast, by Big Fat Whale

On a related topic, Faith Based Health Care
Thanks for this one to Angry Girl.

More Comics

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Even if you eat organic your blood is probably a toxic soup

In last week's Globe, there was an article about the results of a test done on several Canadians for hormone disrupting and carcinogenic chemicals. On average, the volunteers had a cocktail of 44 in their bodies, and their lifestyle choices did not significantly affect the results.
"The message to Canadians is -- it doesn't matter where you live, how old you are, it doesn't matter how clean living you are or if you eat organic food, or if you get a lot of exercise. We all carry inside of us hundreds of different pollutants and these things are accumulating inside our bodies every day."

Even the clean living Robert Bateman (yes, the artist) had remarkable levels of things like heavy metals; PCBs (polychlorinated biphenyls used in electrical transformers and now banned); PBDEs (polybrominated diphenyl ethers used as fire retardants); PFOs (perfluorinated chemicals used in stain repellants, non-stick cookware and food packaging), pesticides and insecticides.

There is more background about how chemicals get into our bodies, and why there is so little regulation in this piece by Marco Visscher. Unfortunately the one thing largely missed in his article is pointed out clearly in the Globe article; we have little to no control over our exposure: "We don't have the choice to avoid things coming of smokestacks and getting into our food and water and things in consumer products we don't know about."

The environmental movement has been largely coopted by a very elitist consumerism in which our personal purchasing decisions are our only possible form of protest. This leaves out those without the means to buy those $3/lb organic imported apples. Not only is the rush to organics unfortunately ineffective in a world in which the very air is poisoned, but it is also unfair. Why should only individuals with a large discretionary income be able to vote (with their dollars)? And, with a lack of information, how can a consumer make wise choices anyways. Without total transparency and regulation of all companies, the power is not in the hands of consumers. That organic spaghetti I enjoyed tonight may have been created from ingredients grown on an earth-friendly farm, but it was processed in a factory and transported thousands of kilometers to get to my table. I have no idea if it was farmed by low-wage migrant workers, or if the cardboard glue contains harmful chemicals. The cooking pot might be leaking more poison into my food. Did I make a positive consumer decision or a negative one?

Whatever solutions we come up with, we need to act fast. The youngest and most helpless among us are being affected. They are finding high degrees of pollution in newborn babies.

More on Environmental Issues and Health.

Thursday, November 10, 2005


I hear a lot of people talk about alternative energy as the great saviour of our way of life. Of course, some are speaking about coal and nuclear power. But more environmentally-minded folk include wind and solar power, and biofuels like biodiesel and ethanol.

I think conservation is the #1 priority. I don't think that we can continue to use the amount of energy. Even if we could produce an equal amount of alternative fuels and electricity, that would really only be enough for the current developed world, and it still leaves most people SOL.

I don't think we can produce the same amounts of energy alternatively to match our current usage. Take biofuels. I vaguely remember reading that, because of the petroleum-dependent food production system on which we currently rely, biofuels actually result in a net energy loss. For each calorie of food we consume it requires at least 10 calories of petroleum energy to farm, transport, and process. So why turn fuel-sucking food into fuel?

I decided to investigate a bit more.

This study finds that producing ethanol and biodiesel is not worth the energy, "you use more energy to produce these fuels than you get out from the combustion of these products."

Not only inefficient, but "a humanitarian and environmental disaster", says George Monbiot, presenting a chilling vision, in which "most of the arable surface of the planet will be deployed to produce food for cars, not people." He reminds us that markets respond to profit, not hunger. Those who need food the most are exactly the ones with the least amount of money to buy it, and so the monied person's car will always win out. He reminds us that even today, those who buy meat products have more purchasing power, so grain is fed to animals instead of to starving kids.

Instead of burning soy oil in our SUV's then, what is needed is to drive less and create sustainable production and consumption practices. For example, local organic farming, moderately dense city infrastructure, and significant green belts would not only be much more ecologically sound, but would also result in a higher quality of life than sitting for 2 hours a day in a freeway traffic jam eating a flavour-injected McDonald's burger, even if your car smelled like french fries.

So I say yes to re-envisioning our economy and no to biofuels (except for the few that are using up all that nasty leftover french fry grease: more power to 'em).

Topic: Environment, Food Politics

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

Why fuel prices must keep going up

Why fuel prices must keep going up until we hit $2+/litre

Mother nature was ever so kind to leave the products of millions of years of processing biomass sequestered in vast oil reserves all over the world. Pity that we realize too late that this gift is a limited resource that should have been sparingly allocated to be enjoyed over several generations rather than squandered in one. We have now reached that point in the supply and demand curve when, for the first time, oil supply is falling short of demand.. ..and we need to face the fact that we've been wasting a valuable resource that will never ever be cheap again.. ..and never should have been priced so low to begin with.

Oil is and has been the cheapest and most convenient source of fuel for decades. ..concentrated energy just sitting there.. ..add a pump.. ..and a bit of refining capacity and you have low cost fuel able to keep hundreds of millions of us awash in cheap energy.. ..ridiculously cheap energy in fact.. ..and we've had it for so long that we have taken it for granted. Now we are in trouble. The extraordinarily low cost of fuel has spawned all kinds of addictions and habits that will be hard to give up.. ..big cars and SUVs, thousands of Kg each that we drive nonchalantly to the grocery store to pick up milk.. ..or fire up to take us tens of thousands of miles annually back and forth in pursuit of a mobile lifestyle. Aircraft that whisk us off from one place to another. Goods and services from food to VCRs that are cheaply transported from one place in the world to another.. ..all enabled by mother nature's gift of cheap fuel ready to be pumped.

But who ever gave us permission to use all this fuel at our whim? Does it really all belong to us?.. ..a single generation of humans? ..Oh sorry.. ..more precisely, the privileged top 10% of the wealthiest humans of a single generation.. Who ever said that all this oil was ours? ..and who decided to let the price be driven by market forces at a time when supply far outstripped demand? ..and the price reflected the cost of pumping, refining and distributing with virtually no consideration for its intrinsic value.

Did you know that the two jets that plowed into the world trade centre each carried more than 1 ton of fuel/passenger for their aborted transcontinental journeys? Who said that it was okay for a handful of passengers to consume over 1 ton of high grade aviation fuel each for a single trip in less than 1 day? ..more fuel than our ancestors consumed each in a whole year..!

Did you know that the average Canadian consumes over 250 times more fuel per annum than the average 3rd world peasant? Who gave us permission to do that? Incidentally we also consume several hundred times more water and other resources than a third world peasant.. ..and generate several hundred times more waste as well. We may have the dubious distinction of being the biggest pigs in history.

And now what? With our heads deep up our asses, all we can come up with is indignant outrage that the orgy is coming to an end.. ..we will wage war on those that threaten to withhold our next energy fix.. ..and demand of our politicians to keep the party going.. any cost as long as it is not our own.

Alas, not even the cumulative outrage of all of humanity spawned by self righteous indignation and entitlement, and armed with deadly weapons of mass destruction can change the indifferent reality that we are consuming energy beyond the earth's capability to deliver it cheaply. The supply has finally peaked and now the sobering increases in prices will force us to do what we should have been doing all along.. ..treating it with reverence as a precious resource to be used sparingly.

The price of fuel will top $2/litre and stay there. Why? ..because that's what it costs to produce energy in alternative ways.. ..wind, solar, nuclear, biofuels, geothermal.. ..and we need those prices to make it cost effective to generate these alternative forms of energy in large quantities. Had we had greater foresight and wisdom, we may have demanded higher prices sooner so that the adjustment would have been more gradual and more easily accepted.. ..rather than wait for the supply/demand curve to reverse on us suddenly as it has. With even a modicum of common sense, we'll realize that we've been living far beyond our energy means and paying far less than its cost of replacement. The free ride is over and it is time to start taking the necessary measures to reduce our consumption.

John Saringer
Reprinted by Permission

Reminds me of some lines from a song that truly resonates with me (Bright White Light by Adrian Borland)

The sun doesn't shine here
It just signifies the day
We take this life for granted
And we throw this world away
Using up the good things
Until we wonder where they went

Topic: Environment

Monday, November 07, 2005

Why is France Burning?

I'm so tired of hearing simplistic ignorant comments like: "the North Africans are just rejecting the culture of the country they chose to live in", "the French are giving too many social programs to the ungrateful", "obviously high taxation is bad, just look at what is happening in France".

Here's an excellent analysis of the French riots, including some history.

Another Good Article examining the frustration these "second class citizens" experience.

Sunday, November 06, 2005

Interview with Dahr Jamail

The argument that the US has to stay in Iraq in order to prevent civil war is racist and imperialist and is made by people who don’t understand what is going on on the ground in Iraq. The US is using tactics that heighten the probability of civil war by rushing through this Washington DC- imposed timeline for the political process.

From an interview with Dahr Jamail, a most amazing unembedded reporter in Iraq.

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

Science Shmience - If you don't agree with our politics, your science is wrong

The most lovely Union of Concerned Scientists has documented the Bush administration favouring candidates for advisory committees based on their political views. This is apparently because "public policy decisions must, in most cases, incorporate considerations other than science". In other words, oil companies need to continue posting record profits, so we need some "science" showing that global warming is nothing to worry about. Whew! There really is a Republican War On Science.

This is approximately as fun as reading Pat Robertson Quotes.

Thursday, October 27, 2005

Traditional Roles

Besides men were far better at domestic roles than women, they had a knack of keeping the domestics operative, whereas women rarely had the will nor the interest
Dorothy went off occupied for the rest of the evening. She was glad to have Jack as a husband. He was a very handsome man and the envy of her friends. Good looks were important in a man these days..
A cool story: by John Saringer of Mysthaven.

Neolithic Noodles Unearthed in China

Apparently solving the argument of who invented the noodle, stone age noodles were recently uncovered by archaeologists in China.

And here I thought the food in my fridge was old!

More Science Fun

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

Monday, October 24, 2005

Today's Rant on Poverty and Class

It is slightly disturbing to reflect upon the fact that our world isn't naturally and magically overcoming the vast inequalities that exist; we aren't racing towards a golden future.

One of the related questions that keeps popping up lately is: How much personal responsibility should someone take for a poverty-stricken life?

One thing is true: taking reponsibility is empowering. Not taking responsibility leads to being and feeling trapped. However, there is only so much room to maneuver in any given life situation. I would argue that, it is absolutely an individual's responsibility to maximise opportunities, but at the same time, it is not up to anyone else to judge that individual for "failure", because no one else knows the circumstances of this individual life. No one knows the starting point, or the obstacles faced by this individual.

A little analogy related to my favourite sport: Imagine a 10k running race. The start line is not at the 0k position for everyone. One runner (Joe), starts 2 kilometers before the start line, meaning he has to run 2K to even reach the start. Bill starts at the start line (0k). Sally starts at the first kilometer (1k head start). Is it certain that Sally would win the race? Of course not.

If Joe runs a 3:30 Minute kilometer, he will complete the race in 42 minutes. Sally might run a 7 minute kilometer (like Leigh and I did at the Niagara marathon this past weekend), which would give her a finish time of 63 minutes, so she would not beat Joe even though she had a head start. Bill might trip and twist his ankle, allowing Joe to pass him. In other words, there are many variables other than starting position to determine how someone will place in a race. That doesn't change the fact that starting 1k behind someone else is a disadvantage. No one would dispute, that all other things being equal, a staggered start is very unfair. If all runners were to run a 6 minute kilometer, the finish times would be 54 minutes (Sally), 60 minutes (Bill), and 66 minutes (Joe).

In the gut, this feels very obvious, doesn't it? As though it isn't even a question. So why does a comparable discussion of class and poverty elicit such inflammatory comments so often? "She is poor because she is lazy", "I worked for everything I have, why should someone else deserve a hand out", "There will always be poor people so why do anything about it", "rich people are better and more important than poor people".

At the finish line of the 10k race, no one in their right mind would say that Joe lost because he is slow, or lazy. No one would dispute that Sally ran her best race: she ran as fast as she can. Bill, too, ran as fast as he can, but he neither the right to feel superior to Joe because he beat him, nor should he feel as though he didn't earn his 60 minute finish. The point is, they all ran exactly the same speed and should be considered equal winners.

A person has a responsibility to run the best race possible, but should not be judged on the basis of the final finishing time.

I am (rather unsubtly) talking about the lack of class mobility here, which tends to contradict the much-spouted idea that capitalism is a meritocracy.

It is a fact that, at least in the US, there is a Growing Gulf Between Rich And Rest Of Us. There is a huge tendency to blame the poor as a group for this, without considering the individual challenges any given poor person might have had to face. Yes a poor person might be lazy, but so might a rich person. For example, by the standards of the majority of the world's income levels, I am rather well to do. Even by the standards of my own society, I am certainly comfortable. I am sometimes lazy. I have been homeless, and probably worked harder back then than I do now.

The world is infinitely complex; questions of poverty, disadvantage, and other social ills are equally so. Rather than be so quick to judge, perhaps we should exhibit some understanding and work towards collective solutions that benefit everyone.

More on Poverty & Class Issues

Thursday, October 20, 2005

Bush TV conference With Soldiers Staged

"It was billed as a conversation with U.S. troops, but the questions
President Bush asked on a teleconference call Thursday were choreographed to match his goals for the war in Iraq and Saturday's vote on a new Iraqi constitution."

Not that this is new. (check PR Watch for countless other examples of reality bending) What is new is how red-handed the catching was, due largely to the newsmedia jumping all over this.

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

Save rich people first?

Right-wing yahoo Neal Boortz believes it is a priority to save rich people rather than poor people if faced with another disaster. He says:
who do I want to save first? The rich. Save the poor first. Then, when everything's over, where are you gonna go for a job?

He goes on...
Well, hell, yes, we should save the rich people first. You know, they're the ones that are responsible for this prosperity.

I guess the people who work at jobs aren't important, it's the guys who play golf and pay other people to do work for them who produce the things we need and enjoy in our economy. Where would a boss be without workers? How many cars are built by the shareholders or CEO of Ford? How can someone actually see production this way? It's like saying that if you have a choice between saving the food factory or the food farms, you should choose the factory because it makes all the food.

If the poor could eat pomposity, they'd never go hungry in the good ol' US of A.

At least people can see what the true beliefs of these greedy b*stards really are.

Anyone else notice class is becoming a topic for discussion again?

Thanks to Court Fool for this.

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

Blame the Victims

I'm back from hiatus, with a BIG topic today. It is so big, it will probably spill over to other entries on other days.

As oft pointed out on The Rational Radical website, blaming the poor for their own poverty is a popular right wing technique. This survey shows how prevalent these views are. I believe this goes even farther - blame the victims. Many ultra-conservatives blame minorities for racism, blame women for sexism, blame the third world for colonialism, blame murder victims for being killed... it goes on and on. What's next, blaming children for child abuse? It's only a small logical step away.

This is a pretty big topic, so I'll only discuss a few highlights today.

Firstly, let's examine the blame the poor argument as it applies to women.

There is a rather strange prevailing thought which assumes that poverty is the direct cause of specific negative personality traits, such as laziness. Often a moral correlation is also assumed, so that wealth can be seen as an indication of moral worthiness. The "blame the poor" argument often stems from this. It is assumed that money is EARNED by those who deserve it. Therefore if is poor, one does not deserve money. Poor people are lazy and morally corrupt.

The poverty rate among women in the USA is higher than the poverty rate among men. In 2001, 11.6% of adult women compared to 8.5% of adult men (ages 18-65) live in poverty, and, significantly the disparity increases among senior citizens: 12.4% of women compared to 7.0% of men (65 and over) live in poverty. Is this because women are lazy? They don't work as hard as men? Women are morally corrupt? They do not deserve to have money? Any woman reading this is likely laughing right now. On average, women work at least as hard (some will say harder and longer hours) than men. The idea that women are morally corrupt hardly is worth commenting on. To those who believe that, there isn't much to say.

So let's look at some real causes of poverty among women.

Unequitable pay. Women employed full time still make less than their male counterparts, approximately 75% of the wages men make. (excellent article on this).

In 2003, the median income for men was $40,668 and for women was $30,724. Why? One reason is that often women are unlikely to be promoted, and stay at low wage jobs much longer than men. Middle management positions are much more likely to go to men rather than women. Most employers treat women who are mothers very differently from men who are fathers. Women may need maternity leave, which highly reduces the likelihood of promotion.

Also, the jobs in which women are overrepresented are traditionally low paid. Cashiers, housekeepers, receptionists, waitresses, child care, etc. are still overwhelmingly female. Many of these jobs pay minimum wage, which in most parts of the USA, is well below what is needed to keep a family out of poverty. Can you truly say that a male office worker in middle management works any harder than a female cashier at walmart? That a female housekeeper is lazy compared to a male janitor? Could the pay disparity be reflected in the value of their work? Is a nanny's work, caring for our future generation of kids, less important than, say, a welder's work? Is the nanny lazy or morally corrupt while the welder is a hardworking upright citizen?

The working status of women. Families headed by a single woman have a 26.4% poverty rate. That means more than 1 in 4 of all single mother headed families are poor. Being the single female head of household means often choosing between caring for the family and gainful employment. Without adequate and affordable child care, the choice actually becomes moot. Even if they want to and are able to work full time, single mothers are often stigmatized, and have hard time getting well paid employment, even with high levels of education and experience.

Does any of this mean that women are more lazy or morally corrupt than men? If anything it means women work harder for less! It is an unjust and meaningless argument.

I've hard arguments with people who say that being a single mother is a choice. They point to the high divorce rate, and teen pregnancy as a cause of women's poverty. While statistically this is absolutely true, does it not mean that these unfortunate individuals should be helped? Are they less deserving of a decent existence than a woman married to a wealthy husband?

The effects of poverty among women are serious, and as so often happens, children are disproportionately affected. The crime rate is far higher among children from poor households. Health is far worse. Education levels are lower. All of these things only perpetuate the cycle, as it is statistically very difficult, nearly impossible, for children to rise far beyond the economic level of their parents.

When ultra-conservatives say they are pro-family, I wonder why they are against policies to help the majority of families (who are low and middle class). Policies to help poverty among women, such as inexpensive child care, more progressive taxation, stronger wage laws, national health care, and housing subsidies, are frequently blocked. The "blame the victim" strategy simply provides a smokescreen for the greed that truly lies behind the blockage of these policies.

(All stats from US Census, 2003 and 2004)

To be continued (next to study "blame the minorities")
More on Poverty and Class Issues and Family & Women's Issues.

Saturday, October 08, 2005

Eyesore of the Month by James Howard Kunstler

Kunstler's Eyesore of the Month, June 2005 "Is it really necessary to have twelve foot chain-link fence around this [school]yard, turning the space effectively into a cage? What is the message we are sending to ourselves about our society? Do the children ever apprehend that they are being treated like caged animals?"

Wednesday, October 05, 2005

The Take: Film Review

Finally saw this last night. I thought it was quite well done.

Elements that struck me:

1. It was made apparent how political decisions from "on-high" affect regular people. This is something to which I feel we apathetic Canadians and Americans, in particular, need to pay attention. How often have you heard people say: "I'm not political. Politics doesn't affect me. I just want the government to leave me alone."? Unfortunately this apolitical attitude eventually causes problems, sometimes huge, because if we don't fight for our own interest, no one is going to do it for us. The people who were at demonstrations in The Take were from all demographics: young, old, poor, middle class, women, men, mothers, teenagers.

2. The brief mentions of IMF policies. If you have read Confessions of an Economic Hit Man (Perkins), or pretty much any critiques of globalization, you will likely be familiar with the terrible policies the IMF and the World Bank force upon countries (mass privatization, deregulation, corporate handouts to encourage foreign investment, etc.). In many ways, these policies were responsible for the economic crisis in Argentina. I would have liked a bit more analysis of a) why countries are pressured to adopt these policies, and b) specific effects of these policies. However, this was not the purpose of the documentary.

3. The real alternative not only presented, but acted upon by the workers. This is direct action, folks; to use a cliche - they took things into their own hands. It is wonderful to see democratic cooperative workplaces, decentralized yet linked by a common bond of fraternity. The individual workplaces are democratically run, with all decisions being made by vote. All workers are equitably paid (equal pay in most of the co-ops). The various workplaces seek advice from others, and come forth in solidarity to support each other in the case of police or government interference. They support, and are supported by the community. It is a small, and probably temporary, experiment of almost my EXACT political ideals. It almost brought tears to my eyes.

So, if you haven't yet seen it, Buy or Rent it now. It is well worth an hour and a half of your time.

Wednesday, September 28, 2005

Landfill Mining

I wonder if, in the not too distant future, we'll be in such short supply of petroleum products that we won't start mining our own landfills. I could see big companies buying up landfills because of the vast resources they contain. All those plastic bags, pop bottles, and other plastic products we throw away today will be a potential source of wealth for our sick future society that has run out of petroleum resources.

Unless we get our act together, it is certainly a possibility.

Sunday, September 25, 2005

Purging the Poor

Wealthy white folk who could afford to live on higher land in New Orleans have been cleared to go back home. Poor black folk who lived in the low-lying areas still cannot return. Will they ever? Not if policy makers have their way. There is a push to rebuild New Orleans into a sort of new New England, says Naomi Klein. Her article in The Nation shows how the reconstruction is becoming another example of disaster profiteering, as well as a sort of ethnic cleansing.

Instead of providing housing in New Orleans itself (Klein estimates there are 23,270 vacant apartments in the dry areas, which could easily house 70,000 evacuees) the 200,000 homeless are scattered and separated, and many have no means to return. This means they will be unable to affect decisions, leaving policy totally up to the white elite minority, whose main advantage was being able to afford altitude.

When the poor majority is excluded from decisions, you get horribly unjust ideas like getting rid of wage laws (somehow giving poor workers less money is supposed to be helpful), repealing environmental regulations, introducing flat taxes and corporate tax breaks, etc. These policies have either already been adopted or will be soon.

What are the results? Probably a radically different New Orleans. Certainly a huge cash cow in the form of no-bid contracts:
"Reconstruction," whether in Baghdad or New Orleans, has become shorthand for a massive uninterrupted transfer of wealth from public to private hands, whether in the form of direct "cost plus" government contracts or by auctioning off new sectors of the state to corporations.

There is an insatiable greed on brazen display here. Gated communities protected by militias amount to wealth and power hoarding. Getting rid of the poor (who are a visible indicator of the failures of this wealthiest nation in history) by carting them away or ghettoizing them rather than helping them to get out of the state of poverty just makes no sense! It is unfathomable to me that the powers that be can justify handouts to oil companies for things like subsidized oil exploration, (or tax break for the wealthy), but they can't justify a mandatory living wage?

After all, class matters, and it's certainly not getting any better. If you are unfortunate to be in the wrong class I guess you are SOL.

Shouts out to the Common Ground Collective, anarchist activists providing free medical treatment to residents in the Algiers neighbourhood. They will not only provide temporary emergency care; they are working to create an ongoing community controlled clinic. Listen here.

More on Hurricane Katrina.
More on Poverty & Class Issues.

Sunday, September 18, 2005

Because everyone seems to be forgetting...

There is no connection between Saddam Hussein and 9/11. Hear it from Bush himself. Thanks to The Rational Radical for the clip.

Saturday, September 17, 2005

Education: state or private funding?

In this past issue of The Economist there was a huge feature on European universities. Something that really hit me was the central thesis of this feature was that European universities need to adopt the American model of privately funded two-tier higher education.

The premise on which this conclusion is based is the debatable assertion that US colleges are generally better than counterparts in European nations. The support for this is pretty flimsy. The magazine states that "America boasts 17 of the world's top 20 universities" based on the Shanghai Jiao Tong University rankings, which use strange criteria such as numbers of Nobel Prizes and Field Medals awarded to alumni and staff and research output, while ignoring things like quality of education for students, average class size, accessibility, diversity, and social responsibility. These other criteria are arguably as important, if not more so. (see Vilas Rao's article)

To fix the supposedly substandard European universities, they say, universities should be "set free from the state", meaning start charging fees so that universities can pay more for better talent. While this sounds fine in theory, it of course means less social mobility for a society. When university is beyond the means of the disadvantaged, they won't go. It is that simple.

The article dismisses this concern:
Higher education is hardly a monopoly of the righ in America: a third of undergraduates come from racial minorities, and about a quarter come from families with incomes below the poverty line.

Unfortunately the data does not support this statement:

Source: Anthony B. Carnevale and Stephen J. Rose, Race/ethnicity and Selective College Admissions, in Richard D. Kahlenberg, ed., AmericaÂ’s Untapped Resource: Low-Income Students in Higher Education (Century Foundation, 2004). From Inequality Matters Conference Briefing Booklet

I'm all in favour of improving education, and I think, though only from anecdotal evidence, that many European nations do need to seriously look at the status of their higher education, there are many many alternatives to free market education! Increase state spending, for example. When universities are turned over to the market, they soon realize that liberal arts are not as profitable as technology and the nature of the offerings changes. Access by disadvantaged populations decreases. Contrary to the business press's favourite line, privatization and free-marketization are't always the answer!

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

Profiting off of other's misfortunes, part deux

It's only a matter of time 'til Haliburton et al get even fatter off of the ravages of Hurricane Katrina.

Second verse, same as the first.

Notes on bad weather and good government

This excellent Harper's essay discusses some of the sociology of disasters. It contrasts the Hobbesian image of mob and riot with the actual tendency of disasters to bring out the best in people:
Many of the stories we hear about sudden natural disasters are about the brutally selfish human nature of the survivors, predicated on the notion that survival is, like the marketplace, a matter of competition, not cooperation. Cooperation flourishes anyway.

This timely piece was written before Hurricane Katrina, but there is a postscript added about the disaster. A great read.

Saturday, September 10, 2005

When White House Officials and their Cronies do care

They do care when there is an election and a potential disaster is going to hit an important swing state. This article shows how FEMA gave $21 Million in Miami-Dade county in the 2004 hurricane season, even though the severity of the storms were like "bad thunderstorms" causing minimal damage. People bought furniture, televisions and computers with the money they received from FEMA. Of course, this year, there isn't anything to gain, so now , I guess, no help is on the horizon for residents of these counties more severely affected by Katrina than even by Francis, the worst storm last year.

They do not care when there's no personal gain to be had from a situation. To do not care despite the fact that they KNEW what would happen.
This is a transcript of the National Weather Service message from 10:11 in the morning on Sunday before Katrina hit. Remember the National Weather Service is the government weather service, and the president was personally briefed on this.
10:11 Central Time- Devastating damage expected. Hurricane Katrina. A most powerful hurricane with unprecedented strength rivaling the intensity of hurricane Camille of 1969. Most of the area will be uninhabitable for weeks, perhaps longer. At least one-half of well-constructed homes will have roof and wall failure. All gabled roofs will fall, leaving those homes severely damaged or destroyed. The majority of industrial buildings will become non-functional, partial to complete wall and roof failures expected, all wood-frame low-rising apartment buildings will be destroyed, concrete block low-rise apartments will sustain major damage including some wall and roof failure. High-rise office and apartment buildings will sway dangerously, a few to the point of total collapse. All windows will blow out.

Military disaster reponse crews knew what was happening, but needed to wait for the president's authorization. They were told "not to respond to affected counties and states without being requested and lawfully dispatched by state and local authorities." (courtesy of Sydney Morning Herald, Democracy Now and Times Online)

Seeing as how there's no immediate POLITICAL benefit to keeping residents of NO healthy and safe, why send aid? If they had started prepping response in advance of the situation, WHEN THEY WERE WARNED OF IT, imagine the difference!!

But, see, warnings like the one above, does not an emergency make. "Devastating damage expected" is not cause for a response. How do we know this? Well, Department of Homeland Security head, Michael Chertoff, explained at a press conference, nearly a week after Katrina, why it took so long to get National Guard troops to New Orleans:
You know, these are citizen soldiers, we have to get them mobilized and deployed. When we send the National Guard overseas, we don't tell them to pack up and leave in 24 hours unless it's some huge emergency [emphasis added].

I'm not very good at math, but I think I can get this one. It's very simple really. Potential of Losing Lives = Not-Emergency. Potential of Losing an Election = Emergency.

Friday, September 09, 2005

Makale - Kingztanbul Review

What a find this was. Amazing Turkish hip hop. To begin with, Makale have great musical talent. The rhythms are interesting, there's some great scratching, and they are strong rappers. I can't understand anything they say, which is too bad, but there's something about listening to another language that makes one appreciate even more the quality of the music itself.

Highly Recommended. Do a search for "Makale" on your local CD shopping site, like that amasomething and you'll be sure to find it. Pick it up!

Tuesday, September 06, 2005

Why it is important to be political PART II

(Part I)

Economic Policies
When profit and the market is more important than human life, we start to see human suffering. The right wing agenda includes reducing public services. They seem to think the free market is a better ruler than a democratic government would be. Well, guess what, guys... Hurricane Katrina's devastation is a perfect example of just how market forces DON'T work fairly or effectively for the majority of people, in particular the poor and dispossessed. (Excellent article: How the Free Market Killed New Orleans)

The moral of the story - Government policies are important and have direct effect on your life. So be political; it is your right and your duty and your life IS at stake.

Friday, September 02, 2005

Why it is important to be political

There are real consequences to government policies. Although we are discouraged from being a part of decisions, these decisions shape our way of life in many ways.

Hurricane Katrina is an excellent point of reference, as many political decisions are at the root of this disaster. Yes, it was natural, but the results could have been mitigated by proper policies. Some specific policies that could have helped include a focus on reducing land loss in deltas, training local disaster-relief personnel, building better sea walls, improving emergency preparedness planninng, etc. Read this article for more information.

Environmental policies
There are so many environmental problems that together contribute to the incredible devastation of natural disasters. Though hugely problematic, global warming isn't necessarily the most pressing issue. For example, land loss and ruined coastal wetlands, which act as natural storm barriers, means deluges of water are not absorbed but instead cause increased flooding. Water pollution, such as the Mississippi spells out increased danger during and after floods as well. This is just a few examples.

To be continued (Part II).... In the meantime, please read an open letter from Michael Moore to George W. Bush

Thursday, August 25, 2005

Get your war on

Satirical and nastily funny.


"Do you swell with pride when politicians say 'never again'?"
"Darfurnitely not."

Wednesday, August 24, 2005

Darfur as a Resource War

David Morse eloquently demonstrates the connections between the Sudan's oil resources and the genocide in Darfur.

He juxtaposes our "giddy assumption" that the narcissistic automobile/celebrity obsessed culture can continue indefinitely when we know it can't" with the horror that is occurring in places like Darfur in order to keep us flush with oil. Why doesn't the media show this? Perhaps we aren't willing to make "the connections that would threaten our petroleum-dependent lifestyle."

Tuesday, August 23, 2005

Is it Food?

Or is it a "food product"?
Faced with a bewildering array of substances that may or may not be good for our bodies, we find ourselves scratching our heads. Increasingly, the answer to the question 'Is it food?' is 'I’m not sure.'
According to this article, there are many clues to determine if it is food or not.

1. Economic clues: "Food may be expensive, but it rarely brings outrageous profits to those who produce it. Food products, on the other hand, bring enormous, occasionally obscene profit to manufacturers."

2. Visually: Food has little/no packaging like this:
while food products are wrapped in cardboard, plastic, foil, graphics, like this:

3. Historically: Was it available before 1903, the year hydrogenation was patented?

Their simplest solution the the dilemma, however, is this: "Simply avoid anything that's advertised."

Tuesday, August 16, 2005

Weird and interesting plan to curb carbon-dioxide emissions

Concerned about global warming? So are the British. Unless they want to take a lot of naps, they realize we better do something.

But do what? Well, for starters, measure personal carbon-dioxide emissions.

Thursday, August 11, 2005

Is God playing Sim City? If so, is He losing or winning?

This article: Weird Science on the Religious Right examines several anti-facts promoted by religious groups among the political right. For example, the myths about holes in condoms, abortion causing breast cancer, the effectiveness of remote prayer, the dangers of emergency contraception, and of course, about human origins.

Read the comments. Very funny. Just Some Dude says in relation to the problem of evil (why is there evil if an omnipotent, all-good higher power exists?): "Is this higher power just up in heaven playing Sim City or something?". Then smidget2k4 discusses the simcity disasters (giant alien robots). OldRedleg2 responds: "Hey, you guys have just hit on how the Rapture can be incorporated into (choke) Intelligent Design."

For even more of this sort of surreal religious weirdness, check out Rapture Letters.

Did you ever wonder what it would be like to see a water balloon pop in space?

Now you can find out. (MPEG or Quicktime)

Wednesday, August 10, 2005

Nuclear power = 7 times more expensive than conservation

Opponents to nuclear power cite more than potential danger. They say Nuclear energy can't solve global warming, both because of the high cost and low efficiency, not to mention that nuclear energy is only electric (i.e. it doesn't solve 2/3 of America's energy needs such as home heating, and automobiles).

Of, course, it's still better than coal, which the new U.S. Energy bill promotes, by granting $14.5 billion in tax breaks and subsidies, most of which will go to producers and users of oil, coal and natural gas.

Wednesday, July 27, 2005

Pollution in Newborn Babies

This benchmark study could change the shape of the environmental health debate forever. They tested umbilical cord blood from 10 random newborn babies in the U.S. for industrial chemicals and pesticides, and found they were born with an average of over 200 contaminants. Scientists once thought the womb protected developing babies, but finding a disturbing array of toxic pollutants in their very lifeline raises serious questions about what we are doing to protect children's health.

Tuesday, July 26, 2005

Why nostalgia should not replace history

The Myth of Marriage shows how the nostalgia for traditional family values is misplaced, as it valorizes a past that didn't really ever exist. The nuclear family was only the norm for a very short period of history, for a very small sector of the population. That is why railing against gay marriage and feminism is just that much more ridiculous.

In fact,

We live in a very unfriendly environment for families. Married couples, if they're going to keep their marriages going, need things like parental leave, subsidized parental leave so it's not a class privilege to take some time with your kids. They need family-friendly work policies. They need high quality, affordable child-care. So that they don't have to call in sick or quit a job or spend hours agonizing about their kids. The lack of these social supports for families really stresses families. So it's very ironic that many of the people who claim to be most in favor of marriage do not spend any time building these support systems.

Monday, July 25, 2005

Photoshop Ralph Klein

Rick Mercer (most Canadian's know that name well) has a cool blog. Check out the Ralph Klein photoshopped pics - I love this stuff! More Photoshop Ralph, and even more!

Thursday, July 21, 2005

Domestic Violence Not the Government's Problem?

The Violence Against Women Act was a giant step forward for women when first passed in 1994. It provided for real resources for helping victims in the US, but it also had a symbolic meaning. Its passage meant the acknowledgement of domestic and sexual violence, something which somehow has been often ignored.

The Act is set to expire in September, and apparently, hundreds of members of the US Government believe domestic violence is no longer a problem -- or at least not the government's problem.

In New York City, if you added up all the reported robberies, burglaries, and murders in 2003 and multiplied that number by two, it still would not equal the number of calls received by the City's domestic violence hotline.

Across the country, more than three women are murdered by their husbands or boyfriends every day. One in every three women will be physically assaulted by a partner. Every year, 10 million children experience domestic violence in their homes.

The right wing calls the VAWA fascist, indentifying it with radical feminists and "their goal of destruction of the Western Civilization". Another great quote: "Feminist elites in conspiracy with America’s Neo-Marxists are seeking a gradual usurpation of power," which apparently they are doing through the VAWA. If you can stomach it, read a sickening article or two.

Monday, July 18, 2005

Stuff on My Cat

Do you like to put stuff on your cat while it sleeps? So do lots of other people, apparently!

Saturday, July 16, 2005

A Chilling Postapocalyptic Vision

"Imagine you're a member of whatever species replaces Homo sapiens in 10,000 years. There's no more oil, at least not enough to build your economy around, and the planet's climate is still feeling the aftereffects of what your biological, bipedal predecessors did to it... No species on earth lasts forever, but we are hastening our own demise with such rapidity, that those who follow us will not know whether to curse us or thank us. "
This Commentary By Eric Patton and others is available to Sustainer Donors of ZNet.

Thursday, July 14, 2005

In a warmed world, even food won't be as good for you

In this very interesting article, the author discusses how elevated levels of atmospheric carbon dioxide, increase crop yield, but also decrease the nutritional value of plants. He says that "impoverished people in developing countries who feed on this bounty may end up malnourished, or even starving."

This isn't necessarily new though, because since the green-revolution's increase in productivity due to nitrogen and other chemical fertilizers, more and more food is deficient in nutrients. He says that at least a third of the world is already lacking some nutrients because of this micronutrient-deficient diet. This deficiency is called "hidden hunger" and according to the World Bank, "hidden hunger is one of the most important causes of slowed economic development in the Third World."

With the heavy use of chemical fertilizers and the rising CO2 levels in the atmosphere, this condition is likely to only get worse. Read the scientific studies at Grist.

Wednesday, July 13, 2005

Monkey Prostitution

An experiment at Yale University to teach monkeys how to use money has had unexpected side effects, including the first case of monkey prostitution.

Something else happened during that chaotic scene, something that convinced Chen of the monkeys' true grasp of money. Perhaps the most distinguishing characteristic of money, after all, is its fungibility, the fact that it can be used to buy not just food but anything. During the chaos in the monkey cage, Chen saw something out of the corner of his eye that he would later try to play down but in his heart of hearts he knew to be true. What he witnessed was probably the first observed exchange of money for sex in the history of monkeykind. (Further proof that the monkeys truly understood money: the monkey who was paid for sex immediately traded the token in for a grape.)

Listen to Freakonomics author Steven Levitt talk about this experiment here.

Sunday, July 10, 2005

Monbiot on the G8, the bombings in London and the Make Poverty History campaign

Transcript from Democracy Now:
... we were also very successfully articulating our dissent from the line taken by Bob Geldof and Bono and the other leaders of the G8 and of the Make Poverty History campaign, which has been quite extraordinary and exceptional in many ways. They have managed to mobilize billions of people around the world, and push the issues of Africa and poverty to the very top of the political agenda.

But those of us, the many thousands of us who met in Edinburgh and then at Gleneagles in order to protest against the G8 Summit drew a very sharp distinction between what we were doing and what we felt that Bono and Geldof were doing, which was protesting to ask the G8 Summit for favors, to beg, as we saw it, for a few more crumbs from the rich man's table. And in doing so, we felt that they were fetishizing the power of the G8 leaders. They were saying, you have the world in your hands, and you must now use this power to save that world from itself. Of course, what they weren't talking about was saving the world from themselves, from the G8 leaders and the disastrous policies they're pursuing in Africa and elsewhere.

And we were -- we felt and had expressed very strongly that the Live 8 and Make Poverty History campaigns in many ways were taking us back to an Edwardian era of tea and sympathy, that they were replacing our political campaigns with philanthropic campaigns. And they were handling the G8 leaders as if they were the potential saviors of the world, while completely ignoring and sidelining the harm that they were doing...

He highlights how the terrorist attacks in London have interrupted the potentially progressive movement to get the G8 leaders to confront the very real problems of the environment and global poverty. I wonder if these important issues will end up back on the agenda or if they will be sidelined as they were after 9/11.

Friday, July 08, 2005

My Meyers-Briggs Personality Type

INTP - "Architect". Greatest precision in thought and language. Can readily discern contradictions and inconsistencies. The world exists primarily to be understood. 3.3% of total population. According to
Main type

Tuesday, July 05, 2005

Burn, Canada And Spain, Burn!

Burn, Canada And Spain, Burn!
Look to the skies, see the wrath of God rain down on married gays! Will hockey and tapas survive?

It will be fun to watch their societies crumble, their moral fiber rend and shred, their sense of justice and humanity wither and die in the white-hot sun of sin and impudence and blasphemy, Canada's no-longer-manly hockey teams spontaneously combust into a billion meaty bloody God-splattered bits, Spanish children drop their jambón sandwiches in terror and scream and shriek and turn into instant puddles of fiery confused goo.

Why all the vicious carnage? Why the reign of terror? Simple, silly: Canada and Spain have done the unthinkable, the unconscionable. They have legalized gay marriage, everywhere, in their respective countries. Oh my God, they are so going to burn.

Read the Rest

Thursday, June 30, 2005

Milk Money: How Corporate Interests Shaped Government Health Policy for Women

"MILK MONEY", the 20/20 Investigative Report from last year received a Gracie Award this week. The Gracie Awards recognizes the realistic and faceted portrayal of women in many forms of media.

Watch "Milk Money: How Corporate Interests Shaped Government Health Policy for Women" on Democracy Now!

Friday, June 24, 2005

Death for Millions, not "Victory for Millions"

Excellent article by John Pilger about the hypocritical and hype-ridden sophistry surrounding the G8 summit and the announced reduction of African debt.

Thursday, June 23, 2005

The 3rd International Trade Exhibition for the Rebuilding of Iraq

This is not a joke. It is a trade show and conference.

Ah, it all makes sense, now. We break it, then we make money fixing it - like a seedy mechanic. But, as Naomi Klein reminded us, Rebuilding Countries is big business!

Quote from the website: "Rebuild Iraq 2006: Be a player in the region’s most promising market. Seize unmatched trade and investment opportunities. No country in the region has more business-generating potential than Iraq."

Wednesday, June 22, 2005

The hole in the wall experiment

The hole in the wall experiment: What would happen if you could provide poor children and women in India with free, unlimited access to computers and the Internet? Dr. Sugata Mitra, a computer scientist tried it...

Tuesday, June 21, 2005

Aid to Africa and Climate Change Intimately Linked

The BBC reports that Tony Blair's top two agenda items for the upcoming G8 meeting (aid to Africa and climate change) are intimately linked.

Britain's leading scientific society points out that the people in Africa are particularly vulnerable to climate change. This is because the weird and wacky weather patterns we are seeing (such as extreme temperatures, changes in rainfall, decreased arable land) will cause increased disruptions on fragile environments.

In such places, even a small shift can produce devastating results. Plus, in Africa 70 percent of people rely on small-scale, rain-fed agriculture.

A coalition of green and charity groups is arguing that efforts to reduce poverty in Africa are therefore hopeless if we in the G8 countries don't reduce greenhouse gas emissions. In essense, aside from all the other things the industrialized world has done to mess with them, we are making it harder for them to support themselves by wrecking their environment.

It is doubtful that this will be accepted, of course, considering the US is STILL not admitting that humans have anything to do with climate change.

*sigh* It all makes me so mad, because the whole conversation about aid to Africa frames Africans as these needy and helpless people that cannot take care of themselves. But their own means of self-support have been steadily eroded over the last couple of centuries. And it continues!

Friday, June 17, 2005

AIDS drug experiments on foster children

Is it hard to figure out that it is wrong to use defenseless foster kids as guinea pigs, pumping their little bodies full of powerful and toxic drugs? Well, The US Dept. of Health concluded that some of these AIDS tests violated rules because proper consent wasn't sought out.

The rules state that researchers must seek consent from independent advocates when experiments pose more than a minimal risk and do not hold the likelihood of improved health.

Hundreds (maybe thousands) of HIV-positive, mostly black and Hispanic kids, some as young as 3 months were given experimental AIDS treatments. There was no advocate to say in each case whether or not these drugs should be administered. They just were.

Although it seemed like a good thing at the time, because of free treatments and research funding, the end result is extremely sad: "patients suffered side effects such as rashes, vomiting and sharp drops in infection-fighting blood cells, and one reported a 'disturbing' higher death rate among children who took higher doses of a drug."

When people are vulnerable and can't fight for themselves, this is what happens?

Thursday, June 16, 2005

Ex-Bush Aide Who Edited Climate Reports rewarded with a new job at ExxonMobil

Phillip Cooney, ex-Chief of Staff at the EPA, had been editing out of the relevant research any connection between global warming and oil. He recently resigned.

Update to the Phillip Cooney story: he is no being hired at ExxonMobil.

Well, I can't say I am surprised. I doubt anyone else is either. He was already working for the best interests of oil, now it's just official.
"Perhaps he won't even notice he has changed jobs," said David G. Hawkins, who directs the climate center at the Natural Resources Defense Council, a private environmental group.

Read about it in the New York Times (user: redjenny44 password: redjenny)

Wednesday, June 15, 2005

Mad Cow Cover-up

The Cover-Up Begins to Unravel, leading some (like me) to agree that the current US administration is full of mad cowboys.

Thursday, June 09, 2005

African Debt and Hypocrisy

Crumbs for Africa: The NY Times says most Americans believe 24% of the US budget is spent on aid to poor and developing countries. The actual figure is less than a quarter of one percent. That's less than 0.25%!

Bush said he tripled aid to Africa. At a press conference on Tuesday, he announced $670 million, but this is money that was already approved. This is also emergency assistance, and is development money or earmarked for debt cancellation.

Why is debt cancellation so important? To begin with, the imense debt that African countries hold ($300 Billion) is mostly illegitimate. It is largely from loans that were made to unrepresentative African governments during the Cold War years. Often the money went right into the pocket of dictators who were helped into power by the CIA (such as the former Zaire's Mobutu). This money never benefitted the people, but yet they are on the hook for paying it off. They have been servicing the debt over the years, but with compounded interest, the debts continue to accumulate. These debts have been paid off several times over, but it keeps growing because of the interest.

$15 billion each year leaves Africa to go the IMF, World Bank and wealthy private creditors. That's far more money than is going into Africa in either new loans, assistance, or foreign investment. "So you have this tragic irony where the poorest region of the world is in effect subsidizing some of the wealthiest institutions and economies in the world." (Watch, listen or read this interview at Democracy Now.)

To put this in a human perspective, the UN estimates three million children will die because of famine in sub-Saharan Africa as a result of the global community's failure to meet its promises of aid. They are dying because the money that their own citizenry could use to feed themselves is being used to service this odious debt. Bush talks out of one side of his mouth about aid, while sending in the wolf(owitz) to help squeeze out even more.

Wednesday, June 08, 2005

Speaking of things that make me mad...

Bush & co. doesn't like to acknowledge global warming: Phillip Cooney, is chief of staff for the White House Council on Environmental Quality, is the White House official who once led the oil industry's fight against limits on greenhouse gases. He has repeatedly edited government climate reports in ways that play down links between such emissions and global warming.

The day before this was published, at a press conference, Bush said this: "I don't know if you're aware of this, but we lead the world when it comes to dollars spent, millions of dollars spent on research about climate change."

Said Carl Pope on Democracy Now: "You can spend a lot of money on research, but if you let the oil industry censor the research after you complete it and if you don't act on the findings, you might as well burn the money on the White House steps."

Read the full story on Yahoo News and NY Times (login: redjenny4 password: redjenny)

Why New York is the Greenest City in the U.S.

Living in a city with a high density is much more environmentally responsible than living in the country or the suburbs. Full Article Here (PDF):
Most Americans, including most New Yorkers, think of New York City as an ecological nightmare, a wasteland of concrete and garbage and diesel fumes and traffic jams, but in comparison with the rest of America it's a model of environmental responsibility.

...our living space measured just seven hundred square feet, and we didn't have a dishwasher, a garbage disposal, a lawn, or a car. We did our grocery shopping on foot, and when we needed to travel longer distances we used public transportation. Because space at home was scarce, we seldom acquired new possessions of significant size. Our electric bills worked out to about a dollar a day.
One more story to support the revitalization of inner cities and preservation of greenbelts.

Friday, June 03, 2005

Theatre of the Oppressed

Augusto Boal on Democracy Now today. Very interesting interview. He is the founder of the Theatre of the Oppressed movement in Brazil and globally.

An excerpt, explaining the Forum Theater:
We present the play, whatever the theme is, whatever the problem is. We present the play, and then we look at like normal spectators. But at the end we say, okay, this ended in failure. So how could we change the events? Everything is going to change in society and our biological life. Everything's always changing. Nothing's going to stay the way it is. All is going to -- so how can we change this for better? And then we start again the same play and we invite the audience to anytime they want to say stop, go to replace the protagonist and show alternatives. So we learn from one another. You have in the scene the wrong solution, the wrong way. And then we try to see what is the right way. We don't know. We don't do the political theatre of the 50s in which we had the propaganda. You had an idea, you have a message. We don’t have the message, we have the questions. We bring -- what can you do? And democratically, everyone can say stop and jump on the scene and try a solution or an alternative and then we discuss that alternative and then a second or third, as many as people are there. So what we want is to develop the capacity of people to create, to use their intelligence, to use their sensibility, because we live in a society which is very imperative, who says all of the time: Do this, Go that way, dress this way, eat that. And we don't want the orders, we don't want the imperative mood. We want the subjunctive theater, in which we say, how would it be if it were like that? Then we ask, we bring questions. We don't bring certitudes, but the questions. The doubts are the seeds of certitudes. Then some certitude comes out. But it is from everyone. Everyone has the right to speak their word and to act their thoughts, not only to talk about, but to act their thoughts.

Wednesday, June 01, 2005

Weasel Words

'It's not torture. Pyramids can be used as a control technique... Don't cheerleaders all over America form pyramids six to eight times a year.' Guy Womack, defence lawyer for a US soldier court martialed in the Abu Ghraib detainee abuse scandal, SBS World News

Women's weight found to affect job, income

A new study has proven what we already intuitively know: Women's weight found to affect job and income. According to this study, men experience no negative effects of body mass on their economic situation.

The lower economic status is due to both lowered marriage prospects for overweight women (single women everywhere being poorer than married women. Also, if married, heavier women generally have poorer spouses.), and also lowered job prestige. They found that it had as much or more of an effect than education.

Reminds us what we know: "Men are more often evaluated by their achievements, while women are judged more on their appearance."

So why are we surprised when we hear about eating disorders?

Monday, May 30, 2005

The False Hope of the Environmentally-friendly Automobile

Instead of proclaiming smaller (or hybrid) cars to be the panacea for environmental transportation, why not focus on better city planning, promoting railroads, reducing highway travel, stopping urban sprawl and focusing on walkable cities...

Wednesday, May 25, 2005

Political Compass Quiz

"The old one-dimensional categories of 'right' and 'left' , established for the seating arrangement of the French National Assembly of 1789, are overly simplistic for today's complex political landscape."

Take the Political Compass quiz yourself, it takes about 3 minutes, and is totally anonymous.

My political compass
Economic Left/Right: -7.88
Social Libertarian/Authoritarian: -4.92

I'm somewhat close to Nelson Mandela and the Dalai Lama and almost exactly opposite of George W. Bush, Ariel Sharon, Silvio Berlusconi etc.

Thursday, May 19, 2005

Cowardice in Journalism Award for Newsweek, Goebbels Award for Condi

Good article from Greg Palast about the recent Newsweek report on a Koran being flushed down the toilet.

He starts by quoting Condi: "It's appalling that this story got out there." Not appalling that desecrating the Koran is an acceptible means of torture. appalling that it was reported.

Donald Rumsfeld also blamed newsweek: "People lost their lives. People are dead."

Palast goes on to remind us that Newsweek did not kill anyone, nor did its report cause killings. People died when the afghan military police (under Rumsfeld's command) gunned down Muslim demonstrators, protesting something which wounded them deeply.

I guess revealing the truth is dangerous when the realities are so horrific. I like how the answer isn't to, um, say, stop committing atrocities, but instead to work harder and harder to make sure atrocities go unreported.

And Newsweek apologized! It's not surprising, just yet another disappointment from the mainstream media.

Tuesday, May 17, 2005

How Class Works - Interactive - very neat

From the NY Times special section: Class Matters (duh), a very neat interactive graphic and poll. Try it yourself: What class are you?

According to this, I'm:
Occupation: 35th percentile
Education: 69th percentile
Income: 69th percentile
Wealth: 25th percentile
AVERAGE: 49th percentile

Which is pretty much right in the middle of Middle Class...

Monday, May 16, 2005

Just in case you thought the Bush administration's hypocrisy was in doubt

In Uzbekistan on Friday, troops shot at unarmed protesters, killing several hundred people. The country has a strong alliance with the US. The Uzbeki government says they were only shooting at radical Islamic terrorists. Most credible news sources, however, say the protest was economic in nature, with the vast majority of the protesters simply citizens complaining about the extreme poverty they are living in. Pressure has the US government now deriding the extreme Uzbeki dictatorship. Still this all begs the question: why is the current US government all buddy-buddy (including supplying arms) with such a brutal dictatorship, while at the same time invading another in the name of "freedom and democracy"?

A bit of a run down of what bloggers are saying.

Wednesday, May 11, 2005

Second Use For Everything (SUFE)

"SUFE invites you to be responsible with and for the things in your possession. Before you toss it out – think one more time, that’s all we ask!" This site contains suggestions for what to do with stuff you don't want or have already used.

Jesus Christ in legal battle to get license - Jesus Christ in legal battle to get license

But seriously, if Jesus did drive, would he be an SUV maniac? Would he drive a Prius? Maybe a minibus so all his apostles can fit? If you google it, you can find What Would Jesus Drive? a web site with the mission to show how transportation is a moral issue.

I like these WWJDrive guys already.

From their site: "We believe the Risen Lord Jesus cares about what we drive. Pollution from vehicles has a major impact on human health and the rest of God's creation. It contributes significantly to the threat of global warming. Our reliance on imported oil from unstable regions threatens peace and security. (See our Fact Sheets for more information.) Obeying Jesus in our transportation choices is one of the great Christian obligations and opportunities of the twenty-first century."

It remains to be seen whether mr. Jesus Christ can get his license, but if he does, I hope he drives a hybrid or chooses alternative transportation at least some of the time!

Monday, May 09, 2005

Food Force Video Game

Play Food Force and learn about world hunger.

Grocery Store Wars

Obi Wan Cannoli mentors Cuke Skywalker to help save Princess Lettuce and destroy the Death Melon, fighting Darth Tater (from the Dark Side of The Farm, an empire of pollution, pesticides, genetic engineering, irradiation and toxic chemicals).

This fun short film brings awareness to organic farming (and is really funny - check out Chewbroccoli!) Watch it at

May the Farm be with you!

Friday, May 06, 2005

Get a glimpse into the life of a stranger

Ever found a photo of someone you don't know? It gives a neat feeling of closeness with a stranger. Submit it to Found Magazine or look at their very extensive archives of love letters, birthday cards, kids' homework, to-do lists, ticket stubs, poetry on napkins, doodles, etc.

Wednesday, May 04, 2005

Precarity and the scary world of Christina Hoff Sommers (long post)

Word of the day: Precarity

"Precarity is a term used to refer to either intermittent work or, more generally, a confluence of intermittent work and precarious existence. In this latter sense, precarity is a condition of existence without predictability or security, affecting material or psychological welfare." It refers largely to the growing group of temp, casual, part-time, freelance workers and unemployed. (according to Wikipedia)

Precarity as an identity - I guess it's kind of like reclaiming the word "queer". My opinion: collective protection is fine, but unfortunately opting out of our capitalist economy is virtually impossible on large scale over long term. On the other hand, action and experimentation is so important. It means the potential for allowing people to think in different terms, to see real alternatives, to consider that other forms of economic organization are possible.

These days there are two basic options for young people - work with the system without questioning it or opt for something else. If you opt for something else, you are left with crime, precarity or perhaps travelling if you have the resources. To go the first route, you have to agree with the division of humans into winners and losers and you have to decide you want to be a winner. You approach life competitively. You spend your education, free time and working time all towards the goal of getting into a good school, getting good grades, grabbing all the opportunities. But ... what about those who choose to win, but who actually lose? Try their best, get the ulcers to prove it, but fail due to the "wrong" skill set, luck, or the current economic situation... not everyone can win...

I got an email today (apparently it's been circulating for several years) of a "Bill Gates Speech". It is mis-attributed (actually by Charles J. Sykes - Read It) but nonetheless, I feel compelled to comment, in light of another equally scary book that has recently come out.

The Text of the email

Love him or hate him, he sure hits the nail on the head with this! To anyone with kids of any age, here's some advice. Bill Gates recently gave a speech at a High School about 11 things they did not and will not learn in school. He talks about how feel-good, politically correct teachings created a generation of kids with no concept of reality and how this concept set them up for failure in the real world.

Rule 1: Life is not fair - get used to it!

Rule 2: The world won't care about your self-esteem. The world will expect you to accomplish something BEFORE you feel good about yourself.

Rule 3: You will NOT make $60,000 a year right out of high school. You won't be a vice-president with a car phone until you earn both.

Rule 4: If you think your teacher is tough, wait till you get a boss.

Rule 5: Flipping burgers is not beneath your dignity. Your Grandparents had a different word for burger flipping - they called it opportunity.

Rule 6: If you mess up, it's not your parents' fault, so don't whine about your mistakes, learn from them.

Rule 7: Before you were born, your parents weren't as boring as they are now. They got that way from paying your bills, cleaning your clothes and listening to you talk about how cool you thought you were. So before you save the rain forest from the parasites of your parent's generation, try delousing the closet in your own room.

Rule 8: Your school may have done away with winners and losers, but life HAS NOT. In some schools they have abolished failing grades and they'll give you as MANY TIMES as you want to get the right answer. This doesn't bear the slightest resemblance to ANYTHING in real life.

Rule 9: Life is not divided into semesters. You don't get summers off and very few employers are interested! in helping you FIND YOURSELF. Do that on your own time.

Rule 10: Television is NOT real life. In real life people actually have to leave the coffee shop and go to jobs.

Rule 11: Be nice to nerds. Chances are you'll end up working for one.

If you agree, pass it on.
If you can read this - Thank a teacher!
If you are reading it in English-Thank a soldier!!

This post is already getting out of hand, so I will only comment on a couple of gems: rules 8 and 9. I also want to quickly underline the message at the end: "If you are reading it in English- Thank a soldier!!" What is wrong with other languages? And what soldier has ever defended the English language anyway? That's just weird.

The greatest fallacy in this list is that it presupposes that the primary goal of life is to accomplish, win, and work. It is simply typical capitalist propaganda, which reduces human citizens to an economic definition: producers and consumers.

"Your school may have done away with winners and losers, but life HAS NOT." What, might I ask, defines a loser? Would Van Gogh be a loser? How about the philosopher Spinoza? How about a child born as a dalit in India who manage to eke out an existence? How about Mother Theresa for that matter? Is a winner whoever dies with the most toys? Or T-Bills? Someone who works hard all his/her life only to die of cancer at 55? How about the Queen? It only makes sense if we reduce people to their economic "worth" - a class or power division - either oppress (win) or be oppressed (lose).

I propose an alternative: Maybe we are actually all just people who "win" some of our life challenges and who "lose" others and hopefully learn from the failures as we go along. The author of this says life doesn't allow "many times to get the right answer". That's just wrong. Life is a series of wrong and right answers.

"FIND YOURSELF... on your own time." um... doesn't my time belong to me? Who else's would it be? It is true that an employer doesn't care about me "finding myself." That's why I have to do it myself. But an employer not caring about it doesn't make it unimportant... an employer also might rather I don't have a baby, but a baby is pretty important. Maybe it's worth considering, if I might be so trite, that the meaning of life might not be all about getting ahead in the rat race. Maybe "finding ourselves" is more important. Maybe our careers and wallets do not define us. Perhaps we might embrace the fact of life which is precarity and reclaim our time!

Speaking of things which scare me, Christina Hoff Sommers has a new book out: One Nation Under Therapy : How the Helping Culture is Eroding Self-Reliance. I saw her on the Daily Show the other day and she seemed disgusted by kids playing a game called "Friendship Circle"... Sound poisonous and evil? Apparently she thinks so.

She is nothing but another conservative who believes schools need to get back to the basics and stop making kids feel good about themselves. She would apparently prefer to prescribe more ritalin and zoloft rather than have kids learn coping skills to deal with issues. I see the result: the CEOs of tommorrow (fortunate to have no serious mental health issues) and a lower class of bunch of drugged up zombies who can't think or feel but can be darn happy to work in a factory and spend the meager earnings on crap they don't need but are programmed to think they want... oh wait, that story has already been written... and that world doesn't sound too brave to me.

I suppose she's right, if we want our kids to grow up to be good little producers and consumers instead of happy, healthy functioning human beings

I feel like i've gone full circle here. it's probably enough for tonight.