Archive for March, 2010


WATCH: Technology in Education: CNBC’s Power Lunch with Anya Kamenetz

Wednesday, March 31st, 2010

With over 2 billion cell phones in use in the developing world alone, the device has become so ubiquitous that what was once sneered at as an accessory for the rich is now almost universally accepted as a necessity of modern life. Now, game developers are beginning to explore their educational potential. In this segment from CNBC’s Power Lunch, author Anya Kamenetz explains the exciting developments in these programs and how they can be integrated into the traditional classroom.

From CNBC.com:


Read the whole article here.

 
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LISTEN: Madeleine Kunin: The Health Care Vote

Wednesday, March 31st, 2010

Former Vermont governor Madeleine Kunin (Pearls, Politics, and Power) delivered a commentary on our local NPR affiliate celebrating the passage of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act and the role women played in helping to get this historic health care reform legislation passed.

Listen Now

Here’s a partial transcript, courtesy of VPR.net:

The word “historic” took on new meaning Sunday night when the health care bill won the magic number of 216 votes. Access to health care for all Americans has been on the agenda for more than 60 years. No President succeeded until Barack Obama and the Congress succeeded, sadly without one Republican vote.

That night I was in Detroit where I had given a speech to Michigan Democrats – a state with more than 15% unemployment – the highest in the country. The pain in the room was palpable. Everyone knew someone who had lost a job, and with it, their insurance.

But the mood was euphoric. It was hard to suppress cheers before the vote was counted.

The drama that preceded the vote was tense. Do they or don’t they have the votes? Not until a compromise was forged with Rep. Bart Stupak and the President on the abortion issue did we know the answer.

One episode in the drama confirmed my belief that women in leadership often tend to see the world differently than men. That was when 56,000 Catholic nuns took on the Bishops by supporting the Senate version of the bill, which the Bishops opposed. The care giving nuns who stood at the bedside understood that lives would be saved when more people could get health care. This was not an ideological battle, but a human one.

Read the whole thing here.

Photo: Luke Sharrett for the New York Times.

 
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Prosecuting Bush: Do the People Have a Case?

Tuesday, March 30th, 2010

Is it possible to prosecute a former U.S. president for crimes committed while in office? The Washington Post’s Steven Levingston interviewed author Charlotte Dennett (The People v. Bush: One Lawyer’s Campaign to Bring the President to Justice and the National Grassroots Movement She Encounters Along the Way) on his blog, “Political Bookworm,” to find out if the people have a case.

From the Washington Post:

Attorney Charolotte Dennett is on a mission, and it’s summed up in the title of her book, “The People v. Bush: One Lawyer’s Campaign to Bring the President to Justice and the National Grassroots Movement She Encounters Along the Way,” published by Chelsea Green Publishing in February. She made headlines in 2008 when she ran for attorney general of Vermont on a platform to prosecute President Bush for murder and signed up Vincent Bugliosi as her special prosecutor if she won. She lost but continues to push her cause. We posed a few questions to her by email.

What is the basis of your charge?

George W. Bush took our nation to war in Iraq on false pretenses, lying to Congress and the American people that Saddam Hussein was a “great danger to our country” when this was not the case, according to his own intelligence agencies. He absolutely knew death would result from sending troops into harm’s way. At the very least he engaged in an inherently dangerous act with reckless disregard for the consequences and indifference to human life, which constitutes implied malice and 2nd degree murder. Bush is also guilty of war crimes in violation of the Geneva Conventions and the 1996 War Crimes Act. As the ultimate “decider,” he authorized severe torture methods on “high level” detainees.

Does any precedent exist?

There are sound legal precedents for trying Bush in a state criminal court (assuming that the political atmosphere in Washington will not be conducive to a federal trial). Those precedents include:
1) the underlying crime of conspiracy to commit murder, which confers jurisdiction to a state provided there is a) agreement between two or more people (i.e Bush and Cheney in D.C.) to b) further the conspiracy by committing an overt act that occurs within the state (lying to the American people in their separate states through a national TV broadcast that Saddam Hussein was an imminent threat )

Read the whole article here.

 
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“Marijuana Is Safer” Author Steve Fox Debates Heritage Foundation

Tuesday, March 30th, 2010

Steve Fox, author of Marijuana Is Safer: So Why Are We Driving People to Drink? debated Brian Darling of the Heritage Foundation on MSNBC about ending marijuana prohibition.

Host: 56% of Californians…support legalization of Marijuana. Why do you believe so many people, at least in that state, are on your side?

Fox: I think what is quite clear here is what we’re confronting here is reality. That people finally realize that marijuana isn’t the dangerous drug that the government has made it out to be, for so long. They realize that marijuana is a substance that’s really less harmful than alcohol and they don’t think adults should be punished for simply making the rational choice to use something less harmful than alcohol.

See the entire interview on YouTube via MSNBC.

Naomi Wolf Thinks the Tea Parties Help Fight Fascism? AlterNet Investigates.

Tuesday, March 30th, 2010

Naomi Wolf, author of ‘End of America,’ talks about why she has become an improbable Tea Party darling, and if progressives can learn from the conservative activists.

In her bestselling End of America, Naomi Wolf outlines the 10 warning signs that America is headed toward a fascist takeover. Using historical precedents, she explains how our government is mimicking those of Mussolini, Hitler and Stalin through practices like surveillance of ordinary citizens, restricting the press, developing paramilitary forces and arbitrarily detaining people.

The book was lauded by liberals under Bush: the Independent Publishers gave it the Freedom Fighter Award; the Nation named it the best political book of 2007. Now, under President Obama, Wolf’s book is providing ammunition for the Tea Partiers, Patriots, Ron Paul supporters and Oath Keepers, who also warn of impending tyrannical government. Even when the book first came out pre-Obama, Alex Jones, Michael Savage and Fox News invited her on their shows, and agreed with her.

It’s not just her message. She speaks their language, referring to the Founding Fathers and American Revolution as models, admitting to a profound sense of fear, warning of tyranny, fascism, Nazism and martial law. When Glenn Beck warns of these things we laugh. When Wolf draws those same connections, we listen. How can both sides be speaking the same language, yet see things so differently? Or are we just not listening to each other? I telephoned Wolf to ask her what it means when your book ends up bolstering policies you oppose.

Justine Sharrock: First off, is your book still relevant under Obama?

Naomi Wolf: Unfortunately it is more relevant. Bush legalized torture, but Obama is legalizing impunity. He promised to roll stuff back, but he is institutionalizing these things forever. It is terrifying and the left doesn’t seem to recognize it.

JS: Did you realize that your book is being lauded within the Tea Party and patriot movements?

NW: Since I wrote Give Me Liberty, I have had a new audience that looks different than the average Smith girl. There is a giant libertarian component. I have had a lot of dialogue with the Ron Paul community. There are [Tea Partiers] writing to me on my Facebook page, but I figured they were self-selective libertarians and not arch conservatives. I am utterly stunned that I have a following in the patriot movement and I wasn’t aware that specific Tea Partiers were reading it. They haven’t invited me to speak. They invited Sarah Palin.

JS: If they did invite you, would you speak at a Tea Party?

NW: I would go in a heartbeat. I’ll go anywhere to talk about the Constitution. I believe in trans-partisan organizing around these issues. When I went on Fox News people asked me why I was going on those shows. Are you kidding? You have to go, especially to people you don’t agree with. We need to get back into grappling with people we disagree with if we want to restore the Republic.

I was invited by the Ron Paul supporters to their rally in Washington last summer and I loved it. I met a lot of people I respected, a lot of “ordinary” people, as in not privileged. They were stepping up to the plate, when my own liberal privileged fellow demographic habituates were lying around whining. It was a wake-up call to the libertarians that there’s a progressive who cares so much about the same issues. Their views of liberals are just as distorted as ours are of conservatives.

JS: Why do you think the sides don’t understand each other?

NW: Frankly, liberals are out of the habit of communicating with anyone outside their own in cohort. We have a cultural problem with self-righteousness and elitism. Liberals roll their eyes about going on “Oprah” to reach a mass audience by using language that anyone can understand even if you majored in semiotics at Yale. We look down on people we don’t agree with. It doesn’t serve us well.

There is also a deliberate building up of two camps that benefits from whipping up home team spirit and demonizing the opposition. With the Internet there is even more fractioning since we are in echo chambers. With so much propaganda it is hard to calm down enough to listen.

JS: What do you think is the biggest misconception about the Tea Parties?

NW: The Tea Party is not monolithic. There is a battle between people who care about liberty and the Constitution and the Republican Establishment who is trying to take ownership of it and redirect it for its own purposes.

JS: In your essay, “Tea Time in America” you said that some of the Tea Party’s proposals are “ahead of their time.” What are some examples?

NW: I used to think “End the Fed people” were crackpots. The media paints them as deranged. But it turned out we had good reason to have more oversight. Or take their platform about states’ rights. Demographically, I’m a hippie from San Francisco and I’m not culturally inclined to be sympathetic to states’ rights. My cultural heritage is FDR and Medicare and federal government solutions. But if you think through the analysis, strengthening state rights is a good corrective of the aggregation of an over-reaching federal power. Take California’s challenge of the Patriot Act or states like Vermont leading the way with addressing the corruption of the voting system. It’s a good example of the Tea Party thinking out of the box on how to address a problem.

JS: That’s interesting because strengthening states’ rights is key to their entire platform, including protesting health care reform. Would you call yourself pro-Tea Party?

NW: Even though I’m appalled when racism surfaces, and I personally don’t agree with certain policy solutions and a lot of what they believe in, as someone who is very concerned about reinvigorating democracy the Tea Parties are an answer to what I asked for.

I was basically saying don’t sit around waiting for the two corrupted established parties to restore the Constitution or the Republic. The founding generation was birthed by the rabble of all walks of life that got fed up and did risky things because they were captivated by the breath of liberty. There is a looming oligarchy and it is up to the people to organize a grassroots movement and push back. You guys have to do it yourself. Their response is the most visible and the initiative they show is the most recognizable. People of all kinds are waking up. Even people passionate for Obama realize even that knight on a white horse isn’t enough to roll back the oligarchy. I’m seeing a lot of action on the left as well that is never reported. But the Tea Party response is the most visible and the initiative they show is the most recognizable.

JS: How do you feel about your books bolstering a fight for policies you don’t agree with?

NW: If people are taking my book seriously and organizing, getting into office, caring about the constitution, and not waiting for someone else to lead them, I think, God bless them. All of us should be doing that. The left should be doing that. There is always the risk in advocating for democracy that the first people to wake up might not be your team, but that is a risk worth taking. I would rather have citizens I don’t agree with organized and active than an oligarchy of people that I agree with.

JS: These days the kinds of comparisons you make in your book between America and Nazis and fascists are mostly coming out of the mouths of people like Glenn Beck and Alex Jones. What do you make of the commonality of the rhetoric?

NW: There is no question that the right-wing idea machine saw how that message was resonating in the run-up to the last election. A YouTube video of a speech I gave went viral and got 850,000 hits. I’m not saying that is the only thing that caused this, but there is no question that the Republican and the right wing are quick to co-opt the strategic language that’s resonating on the other side and turn it against itself.

For the entire article, visit AlterNet.org

Cheesemonger Gordon Edgar on Edible Radio

Monday, March 29th, 2010

Tune in to Edible Radio for an entertaining interview with Gordon “Zola” Edgar, author of Cheesemonger; Life on the Wedge (one of the wittiest titles in our catalog).

In this interview Gordon tells Kate Manchester a brief version of his cheese-y story, how his life as a punk rock activist blended smoothly into a job at the local worker-owned cooperative grocery store, Rainbow Grocery. He tells how he first fell in love with an alpine cheese–a delightfully aged Gruyere, and since that moment, has been learning the wheys of the curds and spreading the cheese gospel.

Edgar gives Vermont a shout-out in this interview (this lovely state, “with fewer people than the city I grew up in!” he quips), and spends a few minutes talking about the innovative community cheese caves up in the Northeast Kingdom. In coordination with Cabot Creamery, Jasper Hill Farm runs a massive cheese aging facility, allowing farmers to sell their milk and reap the benefit of turning it into a value-added product, without the immense outlays of capital it would take an individual farmer to build such a facility.

For the full interview, go to Edible Radio!

DIYU Author Anya Kamenetz Interview with Salon.com

Monday, March 29th, 2010

Featured on Salon.com is a Q&A session with Anya Kamanetz, author of DIYU: Edupunks, Edupreneurs, and the Coming Transformation of Higher Education.

SALON: You argue for a movement toward something called “DIY U.” What is it?

KAMENETZ: I define it as the mentality that there’s another way to provide the benefits of higher education to the people who need it. It’s an idea that puts the learner at the center. Rather than the game being, “How do you get into the most exclusive institution possible?” the idea is that you as a learner are identifying your own goals and assembling experiences that will be the most valuable for you to achieve those goals.

SALON: How did college tuition costs get so out of control?

KAMENETZ: On a broad policy historical level, what we have now is an erosion from the high-water mark of the early 1970s. There was a short period of time — from the postwar era with the GI Bill to the early ’70s — [in which] there seemed to be unlimited rounds of investment from the federal government and the state into mass higher education. It was seen as good economic policy, from a national defense and security perspective, and with the Civil Rights Act, there were more and more people — women, minorities — who wanted access to opportunity. College seemed like a way to allow them to prove themselves instead of unleashing them on the job market.

Then the economy turned upside down. There was a political backlash against college students, fueled in large part by the campus unrest in the ’60s, and it was no longer so popular to support students. So states started withdrawing their support, and colleges started practicing cost shifting. States came down on colleges as being fat and happy and full of liberal professors, and colleges put the cost burden on families, and families took on more student loans. As a result, you get this credit bubble effect, similar to what happened recently with mortgages: There’s so much debt available, and so much free money for colleges, that parents and families become less sensitive to price increases, and there’s no political outcry at the state level.

The full article is available at Salon.com.

Impermanence: An Excerpt from Death & Sex

Saturday, March 27th, 2010

The following is an excerpt from Death & Sex by Tyler Volk and Dorion Sagan. It has been adapted for the Web.

(From Death by Tyler Volk.)

“Is this what it’s like to die?” I wondered. “Perhaps I really am dying.”

During the winter of 1996–1997, I had moved from New York City to a secluded place where I could concentrate on writing. The book in progress was about life and Earth, so a trailer perched a mile up in the mountains of a spectacular and remote corner of New Mexico seemed ideal. But the metal container nearly became my coffin.

The first signs seemed innocuous. The tip of my right thumb went numb. Then at odd moments electrical zings began shooting along my arm. A few weeks later I started waking at night with painful cramps in one hand or the other. Once I was jolted awake to find my toes in contorted positions and half my face feeling like a wooden mask. Next, my hands and feet started “falling asleep” in the middle of the day and would not wake.

Medical care was a problem. My regular New York doctor was thousands of miles away. The nearest town was across two mountain ranges, and its sole neurologist flew in but once a week, weather permitting. So initially I hoped that my troubles would just go away on their own. Then I happened upon what I thought must be the ultimate cause of my infirmities: poisoning from carbon monoxide, emitted from a wall-mounted propane oven that had been activated just that winter after years of disuse. With the help of a meter I purchased, I discovered that airborne molecules of the odorless, invisible, deadly gas had at times been accumulating halfway to levels that could cause death in four hours. While writing about the atmosphere’s CO2, I ironically had been oblivious to my growing exposure to a related airborne gas whose biochemical lethality derived from one less oxygen atom.

I immediately shut down the oven, of course. Yet even so, to my horror I kept having what my neurologist over the phone termed “relapses.” I grew more and more terrified as these “relapses” intensified. Soon I was barely able to write legibly. At night I found my mind trapped uncontrollably in inane obsessions. I imagined myself, for example, peeling an apple for hours, unable to cease or think of anything else. Coordination faltering, I had to steady myself when walking, one small step at a time. My chest would sporadically become the radiating center of body-filling pulsations, an uncontrollable drumming of rapid-fire vibratos that coursed along my arms and legs. Heartbeats pounded in my ears and set off reverberations all along my nerves.

Fearing that I could be fatally ill, I took to the outdoors and tried to make peace with myself during slow, clumsy walks in the valley that sheltered the trailer. On one cold, evening amble, with snow glossing the juniper trees and the shadows thickening, I relived my childhood and the ensuing pageant of my then forty-six years, trying to come to terms with my inner terror and the realization that, no matter what was going on, no guarantees had ever been given that I’d live to the standard life expectancy.

Over the following month I suffered several more “relapses,” and my despair increased. Then one morning I startled myself with a new possibility: Could it be the old car?

I put the carbon monoxide meter in the front passenger’s seat, started the engine, turned on the heating fan, and watched safely from the outside as the numbers surged into the danger zone. An exhaust leak! With every three-hour round trip to town I had been dosing myself with a second, independent source of carbon monoxide. I had come to the mountains for fresh air, but had found myself being poisoned twice over by defective technologies.

For more than a decade afterward I had to take an anticonvulsant drug to soothe what the doctors called “sensory distortions.” Eventually I was able to wean myself from the medicine, apparently healed. But my outlook on life had permanently shifted.

During the time of terror, during the evening walks, I found myself taking refuge, even embracing, a deep core of gratitude. How marvelous to have lived at all, I felt. Had the carbon atoms of my body been locked into, say, the calcium carbonate crystals of limestone rock, then the atomic arrangements would have had more permanence. In that case, what about an “I”? The transient configuring of carbon in my body allows a conscious self to exist: complicated and conflicted, to be sure, yet also joyous, curious, and loving.

Sure, death would come. Death, I came to realize, was inherent both in my humanness and in the evolutionary nature of our existence. Life and death were totally intertwined. Life, a flowering of the fortunate way my atoms were combined, was bound up with inevitable death. In fact, death made life possible.

 

WATCH: ‘Death and Sex’ Author, Tyler Volk, On The Big Think

Friday, March 26th, 2010

The full video interview, on The Big Think, features Tyler Volk covering topics like ‘Why We Die,’ ‘Fear of Death Is Immature,’ ‘Why Life Needs Death,’ and more.

Tyler Volk is a Science Director of Environmental Studies and Professor of Biology at New York University. He is the author of “Death & Sex” (with co-author Dorion Sagan), “CO2 Rising: The World’ Greatest Environmental Challenge,” “Gaia’s Body: Toward a Physiology of the Earth,” and “Metapatterns: Across Space, Time, and Mind.” Professor Volk is also lead guitarist for The Amygdaloids, a “heavy mental” band comprised of NYU scientists. He lives in New York.

James McCommons On the Joys and Terrors of Passenger Rail In America.

Friday, March 26th, 2010

Waiting on a Train; The Embattled Future of Passenger Rail Service, by James McCommons was selected as one of Library Journal’s Best Books of 2009, and is a finalist for Foreword’s Book of the Year award.

McCommons spent a year and traveled 26,000 miles on Amtrak, our country’s struggling passenger rail provider,  while researching and writing his book. Recently he gave a talk about the future of passenger rail, the bright spots as well as the challenges ahead, at Western Illinois University.

Amtrak was tumbled together as a compromise in 1971. Freight rail companies had previously been required to move people in addition to coal, oil, and other commodities–but there’s just no way to get as much money for a box of comfortably seated humans as for a packed shipping container full of corn or whiskey. As McCommons puts it, Amtrak was developed as a private company to take the burden of passenger service off the shoulders of the then-struggling freight companies–without actually nationalizing that service. Part of the idea was to design a failing company, and wean the public off passenger rail over time. It simply wasn’t valued anymore.

Nowadays Amtrak’s problems abound, but in the future, as McCommons emphasized at his recent talk, the energy efficiency of rail, combined with increased populations and stricter environmental regulation will make improving passenger rail infrastructure more affordable than investing in highways and air travel.

With new funding for high-speed rail promised by the Obama Administration, McCommons and other proponents of rail travel are hopeful that things will change for the better.

Read the full article by Elaine Hopkins over at PeoriaStory.


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