Archive for July, 2006


Man with a rotten egg plan

Monday, July 31st, 2006

He doesn’t like the plan, but he’s offered it anyway: if we can’t get our act together to prevent global warming, this guy offers a way to induce global cooling–blast a bunch of sulfur into the stratosphere, so that it can reflect sunlight back into space. Yikes. The biggest problem, of course, is that then the entire world will smell like a giant rotten egg. How will we ever be able to have aliens over for dinner? The shame of it all.

Secession talkback

Monday, July 31st, 2006

I got an email from someone who must have stumbed across one of the secession posts here:

On 7/30/06 5:16 PM, “JERRY G” wrote:

“Vermont will do its full duty.”

With those words (it is believed) the governor of the state of Vermont, Erastus Fairbanks, replied to a telegram sent him by the president of the United States of America, Abraham Lincoln, as the American Civil War began in the spring of 1861.

Lincoln had wired the following message to Fairbanks as confederate States of America cannon compelled the surrender of Fort Sumter, defended by a federal garrison in the harbor of Charleston, South Carolina:

Strictly private and confidential
Gov. Erastus Fairbanks
Montpelier, VT

Washington is in grave danger. What may we expect of Vermont?

A. Lincoln

… From the very beginning, Vermont stood ready to fight for the salvation of the American Union and to defeat those who had shattered it. The attack on Sumter had evoked a most heated and patriotic response in Vermont. Flags suddenly seemed to be flying from every pole and window. Patriotic meetings were held in practically every community.

I am a native of New Orleans, LA, part of the old Confederate States of America. I read with interest your claim of Vermont’s right to secede from the Union. Referencing the above excerpt from the Governor of Vermont in 1861: Did Vermont prosecute an illegal war upon the Southern states when it sent troops to reign war upon the peace loving citizens of the South? Wouldn’t we be due reparations from Vermont?

I an not being sarcastic, I am curious to know how secessionists in Vermont justify their position considering their place in history (i.e. their voluntary participation in the War of Northern Agression, 1961-1965). And how would a Vermont successionist justify the illegal occupation of the South during Reconstruction? I read your site with interests but some statements sound right out of the 19th century, when the Southern states claimed their right to succeed then were overrun by foreign(Union) armies.

Curious to hear a reponse. Maybe the South will want to succeed again too.

Being a sucker, I have responded:

Dear Mr. Garner,

I understand that you are not being sarcastic. However, I think your question is essentially invalid. None of the people that I know who are interested in secession participated in the Civil War. None of them participated in the Reconstruction. For all I know, if they had been in Vermont at that time, they might have refused to join the Union army. For myself, I think the idea of secession is interesting, but I am not an advocate by any means, though I do enjoy discussing the pros and cons of such an effort.

Regarding the plain legality of the Union efforts to maintain the United States as a whole, there are no clauses in the Constitution allowing for States to secede from the Union. Thus rebellious actions (such as those at Fort Sumter) against U.S. Army forces are clearly acts of treason and therefore a military response to bring rebellious forces under the authority of the duly elected and constitutional federal government are legal. Therefore, there is no case to be made for reparations from the North to the South.

Personally, I believe that, if slavery had not been part of the equation, the South should have been allowed to secede. But your reference to the “peace loving citizens of the South” is patently absurd. Some Southern citizens were peace loving, I am sure. But since many of them were ardent supporters of slavery—an institution of the most horrifying violence—and since the South’s attempted secession was, at heart, entirely about maintaining slavery, I have no sympathy for claims that the Civil War was unjustified. (Obviously, I have been referring here to the whites in the South, and not to the blacks, who were not citizens, as the word is generally understood, but victims of one of history’s worst crimes at the hands of the Southerners who led the effort to secede from the Union.) I do have sympathy for the suffering of the South at the hands of mistaken Reconstruction policies following the Civil War. For example, I believe that the Union should have imposed widespread land redistribution following the defeat of the Confederate army. This would have liberated freedmen from the neo-slavery they endured after so-called emancipation, and would have laid the ground for a viable economy. As it was, excessive belief in the sanctity of “private property” by Northerners led them to allow Southern landowners to maintain a plantation system that kept the South in economic doldrums for a full century, imposing intense poverty on whites and blacks alike.

Sincerely,
Jonathan

Cellulostic ethanol

Friday, July 28th, 2006

The other local paper here, Connecticut Valley Spectator, has a front page story today on a breakthrough in cellulostic ethanol. Seems some Dartmouth College engineers have engineered a bacteria (originally found in Yellowstone National Park hot springs) to convert cellulose into ethanol in a much more efficient manner than previous methods. They say it should make for ethanol that is as cheap or cheaper than gasoline, and have set up Mascoma Corporation to make it into a big business. The article isn’t yet available online (the Spectator has a 1 week lag on posting things to the web). Anyway, food for thought.

Minimum wage–call Congress

Friday, July 28th, 2006

Sojourners email alert says

Last month when more than 600 Christians passionate about social justice came to Washington to demand an increase in the minimum wage as part of A Covenant for a New America, we knew good things were starting to happen.

So far this year, 192 House members have asked for a vote to raise the minimum wage to $7.25, and just two weeks after the Covenant launch, 28 Republicans urged their leadership to hold a vote to increase the minimum wage this month. We and countless others have put on so much pressure to demand fair wages that later today, the House of Representatives is expected to vote on an increase to the minimum wage.

Call representative your today at (202) 224-3121.

Demand an increase in the minimum wage to at least $7.25/hour .

This is the number for the Capitol Switchboard.Once you reach an operator, ask for representative your’s office. Once you reach the office, you might say something like:

“As a person of faith, I believe that people who work hard and play by the rules should not be living in poverty.I ask that you vote in favor of legislation to raise the minimum wage to at least $7.25 an hour, and to oppose any “poison pill” provisions that would weaken existing minimum wage eligibility, overtime protections, or other labor laws. A job should keep you out of poverty, not in it! A raise in the minimum wage rewards work, and will lift countless families out of poverty.Thank you for your time.”

*Note: Be sure to say “thank you” if your representative signed either the “discharge petition” or the letter linked below.

After you call, forward this message to 10 friends who share your values.The vote could happen in the next several hours, so time is of the essence!

The latest New York Times/CBS poll finds that more than 85 percent of respondents supported raising the minimum wage over the next two years to $7.25 an hour from $5.15 an hour.

For more information about the minimum wage and how it traps people in poverty at its current level, here are some resources that you might find helpful:

Economic analysis that debunks minimum wage myths, from the Economic Policy Institute. (in other words, how to answer the question, “but won’t increasing the minimum wage eliminate jobs?”)

Minimum wage fact sheet put together by the Center for American Progress Action Fund. (PDF document)

Find out if your representative signed a “discharge petition” to raise the minimum wage to $7.25/hour.

(signed by 28 Republicans).

Thank you very much for your time.

Peace and Blessings,

Yonce, Adam, Duane, Matt, Amy, Kevin, Nadia, Laurna, and Lou
The Sojourners/Call to Renewal Policy and Organizing Team

Another HuffPost piece by Peter Laufer

Thursday, July 27th, 2006

The Citizenship Draft

President Bush showed up for a photo-op at Walter Reed Hospital in Washington the other day where he’d come to witness the naturalization ceremony for three U.S. soldiers wounded in Iraq. The three were injured in bomb explosions so their active duty status made them eligible for citizenship. The president looked on sanctimoniously as the wounded trio – two from Mexico, one from the Dominican Republic – became Americans.

Fair enough, and good for them. If they’re going to work for the American military, they ought to enjoy the benefits of American citizenship.

Here’s the history: After the September 11th attacks, President Bush signed an executive order creating a fast-track for citizenship for foreigners who joined the U.S. Armed Forces and served on active duty. Non citizens swell the military ranks these days by more than 33,000 troops and military recruiters actively seek foreigners for the services, trolling especially for Mexicans while giving away t-shirts emblazoned with the legend: “Yo Soy el Army” and showing off customized Hum-Vees. With the army struggling to meet recruitment quotas, citizenship is offered as an enticement – an enticement that can kick in if the soldier sees active duty.

There is another Bush policy for U.S. citizenship that does not even require the foreigner submit an application. The president signed an executive order in 2002 making anyone who joins the U.S. military and who is killed in combat eligible for immediate posthumous citizenship. “Hi, mom! I’m a dead American now!”

So in addition to the poverty draft and the stop-loss draft, it is probably appropriate to add the citizenship draft to the list that suggests the all-volunteer army isn’t so volunteer.

While researching my book Mission Rejected, a collection of profiles of U.S. soldiers who oppose the Iraq War, I spent time with veterans of the war so thoroughly disgusted with U.S. policy that they prefer to discard their U.S. citizenship rather than continue to follow orders to fight in Iraq.

An example is Ivan Brobeck, a Marine who served as an infantryman in Iraq and deserted from Camp Lejeune in North Carolina rather than redeploy to the war zone. When we met in Toronto, where he now lives while seeking refugee status in Canada, we talked about his changing identity.

“What are you now?” I asked him. “Are you a Canadian?”

“Not really anything,” was Ivan’s response. “Yeah, I’m not really anything. I’m American, but I’m half El Salvadorian. My mom immigrated to America when she was 20. She came here when she didn’t even speak English. And my dad is half Irish-Italian.”

“So in your heart,” I asked him, “what are you now?”

“In my heart? In my heart I’m not American.” He paused and added a definitive, “No.”

“What are you?” I asked again.

“I don’t know. Something else.”

“To be determined?”

“Yeah, definitely. Definitely not American. If it means I have to conform to what they stand for,” he said about the Bush Administration, “I’m not American because America has lost touch with what they were. The Founding Fathers would definitely be pissed off if they found out what America’s become.”

The value of U.S. citizenship: one more casualty of Bush’s war.

Two statistics you must stop repeating!

Wednesday, July 26th, 2006

1) “People only use 10% of their brain’s capacity.”
Wrong. A goofy idea instigated by third-rate (in critical thinking terms, even though in some respects cutting edge technically speaking) turn-of-the-century research. They opened some folks’s skulls, zapped different places with an electrode, and asked the subject what happened. 90% of the zaps resulted in no perceived reaction. They concluded, with the Ancient Egyptians, that this gray matter must therefore be used as mere filler. So lame!

[Addendum: apparently the source of the myth is not certain, but the fact of the myth is. See Snopes article.]

2) “The average piece of food in America travels 1,500 miles from farm to plate.”
Possibly true, but consistently quoted out of context. The study that this is based on was done for food consumed in (or near, I forget) Chicago. Not for the country as a whole. It is possible that Chicago provides an accurate approximation of the national average, but there’s no good reason to expect this to be true. I wouldn’t be surprised if the real number is significantly lower, or (more likely, to my gut instinct) quite a bit higher. Plus, the study was done a few years ago. International trade in food has only increased. Grapes from South Africa. Bell peppers from Israel. Them’s far away places.

[Addendum: I've just done some quick Googling, cuz I wanted to see if I could find the source of the food mileage estimate. Turns out that there's more than one source (shocking!) since a few different people have studied it over the years, but none that I saw was very recent. So anyway, this is a question that deserves a good, up-to-date, and thorough study. Any graduate students out there in search of a topic?]

Friends, Vermonters, lend animal husbanders your ears (and your opinions)

Tuesday, July 25th, 2006

www.ruralvermont.org

Vermont Agency of Agriculture
Premises Registration Rule
Public Hearings

Come Make YOUR Voice Heard
– Comment on the Proposed Rule.

VT Public Hearing Dates/ Times/ Towns/ Locations:

July 25, 2006 9:30-11:30 AM Island Pond Town Clerks Office
July 25, 2006 1:00-3:00 PM NewportState Off. Bldg -100 Main, 3fl Rm 250
July 27, 2006 9:30-11:30 MorrisvilleFarmServ.Agency 109 Professional Dr
July 27, 2006 1:00-3:00 PM Lyndonville Police Station
August 1, 2006 9:30-11:30 AM Swanton Municipal Office
August 1, 2006 1:00-3:00 PM Grand Isle Grand Isle School
August 8, 2006 9:30-11:30 AM Rutland Rutland Library- Fox Room
August 8, 2006 1:00-3:00 PM Springfield Springfield-Howard Dean Ctr.
August 10, 2006 9:30-11:30 AM Arlington, E. Arl. Fire House, Old Mill Rd
August 10, 2006 1:00-3:00 PM Brattleboro VT Ag. Bus.Ed. Center
August 15, 2006 9:30-11:30 AM Middlebury American Legion Hall
August 15, 2006 1:00-3:00 PM Williston Williston Town Hall
August 17, 2006 9:30-11:30 AM Randolph VTC-Langevin Building Rm 103
August 17, 2006 1:00-3:00 PM Montpelier Pavilion Auditorium

From the Agency of Agriculture Web Site:
The rule includes the following key provisions:
1. Biennial Registration Renewal Required
2. Those who keep “livestock” in this state will register their premises with VAAFM. For the purposes of this rule, “Livestock” includes cattle, sheep, goats, equine, deer, American bison, swine, poultry, pheasant, Chukar/partridge, Coturnix quail, camelids, and ratites. This term shall include cultured trout (6 VSA §1151)
3. Registration does not create any “ownership” rights that do not otherwise exist. It merely identifies a location in this state at which livestock are kept. The unique premises code remains with that location, even if the registrant changes (some exceptions apply).
4. Operators of livestock facilities currently licensed by VAAFM (dairy farms, cervid farms, animal markets, livestock dealer premises, livestock transporter premises, slaughter establishments, equine quarantine facilities, and rendering establishments) must register the facilities licensed to them and may not let others register those premises for them. Generally, license holders will be able to register as part of their license renewal.
5. The registration requirement under this rule will be implemented in a two-tiered process. Livestock operations that sell product to the public will need to register within 6 months. Those who keep livestock as a hobby or for personal use will need to register within one year.
6. There is no fee to register livestock premises. A person may register on-line or in writing on forms provided by VAAFM. Forms will be readily available from VAAFM and/or contract agent. VAAFM will send biennial renewal forms to registrants to make renewal as easy as possible. Renewals, like initial registrations, may be transacted on-line.
7. Each registrant must provide the following information:
- Registrant’s legal name, trade names if any, mailing address, and phone number.
- Primary premises location and up to 3 secondary locations included in the registered premises.
- Name and phone number of a contact person with knowledge of livestock movements to and from all locations comprising the premises, if different from above.
- Type(s) of livestock operation (e.g. Farm, Slaughterhouse, etc).
- Type(s) of livestock kept.
8. The information is protected and confidential under 6 VSA §61.

If you need a copy of this file, call Rural Vermont at 802-223-7222 and we will mail you a copy.

A kinder, gentler fundamentalism

Tuesday, July 25th, 2006

I repeat: read the essays of Marilynne Robinson. Last night Matthew Sleeth and his family were most kind enough to invite a bunch of us Chelsea Greeners to their place for dinner (a birthday party, in fact). He gave me a copy of C.S. Lewis’s Mere Christianity and we talked Christian writers a little, and that got me thinking again of Marilynne Robinson. If you like essays; if you like beautiful prose; if you like honest intellectual rigor; if you like Christianity… you should read Robinson’s collection The Death of Adam. Meanwhile, here’s some thinking along the same lines as one of Robinson’s recent (but not publicly online available) essays. (I like the below, but I like Robinson more.)

Boston.com
The Boston Globe
Old-time religion
Long before the age of Falwell and Robertson, evangelical Protestants from William Jennings Bryan to Billy Graham were anything but right-wing zealots. Today, a new generation of evangelical leaders are rediscovering their progressive roots.

By Harvey Cox | July 9, 2006

IN THE SPRING OF LAST YEAR, President Bush flew to Calvin College in Grand Rapids, Mich. Because of its conservative religious reputation, his advisers thought it would be a safe and friendly place, but the visit did not turn out as expected. He was greeted by a petition, signed by a third of the faculty, and a large student demonstration. Both denounced the invasion of Iraq as not meeting the classical Christian criteria for a just war.

Indeed, as the president has tried to shore up support among religiously conservative voters in preparation for this fall’s congressional elections, returning to such issues as a constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage, he has found himself grappling with a new challenge. Evangelical Protestants are becoming increasingly concerned about a wide range of issues-the Iraq War, the environment, torture, and poverty, for example-which put them at odds with much of the Bush agenda.

This interest in what are often considered “liberal” issues marks the rise of a younger and more moderate leadership among evangelicals. Paradoxically, these new leaders are more “religious” than the old guard of the religious right. The difference, one could argue, is that they are more concerned about actually following Jesus, who had much to say about violence and the poor, but said nothing about gays or a strong military, and who was put to death by torture. The appearance of these new social concerns means that something important is afoot in the vast evangelical community of America. It is simply no longer accurate to identify “evangelical” with “religious right.”

[cont'd]

(more…)

Good interview with Kos

Tuesday, July 25th, 2006

Honest.

Inside the Mind of the World’s Most Powerful Liberal Blogger
An Interview with Markos Moulitsas
By JAKE TAPPER

June 24. 2006 — – For “Nightline,” ABC News’ Jake Tapper interviewed Markos Moulitsas, founder of the powerful blog Daily Kos. The following is a transcript.

JAKE TAPPER: What inspired you to sit down on that day, in 2002, and start blogging?

MARKOS MOULITSAS: This was early 2002, it was in the wake of the Afghanistan war, kind of in the run up in the Iraq war. It was a very stifling environment for liberal voices — they simply did not exist, they were quieted down. If you criticized the president on any issue, domestic or foreign, you were accused of being un-American and unpatriotic.

[cont'd]

Cholene in the news

Tuesday, July 25th, 2006

Am I allowed to say, “you go girl!”? If not, forget I ever said it.

Gay Hurricane Katrina hero speaks
Larry Buhl, PlanetOut Network
Monday, July 24, 2006 / 02:37 PM

Cholene Espinoza admits that she is always on a mission. More than a dozen years ago, she was the second woman to fly the U-2 reconnaissance aircraft in the U.S. Air Force. In 2003, she took a job as a military correspondent for Talk Radio News Service and was embedded with the U.S. Marine Corps First Tank Battalion in Iraq.

Now her mission is rebuilding a church and community center devastated a year ago by Hurricane Katrina. Since September, Espinoza and her partner, Ellen Ratner, have made numerous trips to Harrison County, Miss., and helped raise more than $600,000 for a community education center there.

[cont'd]


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