Monday, December 31, 2007

Winding up with a BANG!

I was feeling pretty good today. Began with helping to put together our homeless community newsletter, The Occasional Times. After this afternoon's WHEEL (homeless women's organizing group) we spent some time talking over the last year. Our organizer, Michele, had to push us to do it because we were all itching to get gone; I ended up grateful I stayed, it was a very rewarding exercise.

Big wins for the year on my personal list:

  1. The publication of our book, Beloved Community: The Sisterhood of Homeless Women in Poetry.

  2. Winning the addition of homeless people as a protected group in Seattle's Malicious Harassment Ordinance (by unanimous vote!).

  3. We saved the Lora Lake Apartments from destruction.
I wound up at Real Change doing some research for WHEEL. Wes was there for the daily Sid-feeding. When Wes announced he was going up to Madison Market, I decided to tag along.

When we got off the bus at 17th & Madison, we jaywalked across the street, slanting downhill toward the market; so I guess you could say we brought it on ourselves. There was a ridge in the asphalt, running lengthwise with the traffic instead of crosswise like a speed-bump. We both tripped over it, almost simultaneously. Wes kept his long legs under him, lurching several steps and flapping "like a clipped-wing chicken trying to fly" as he described himself later. I with my little short legs only managed to avoid falling in the roadway itself. I went face down in the grass at the edge of the sidewalk and lay there while I took stock of how many places I hurt. When I heard Wes's distressed cry of "Oh, shit!" my first thought was, "Did we drop something in the road? Where are my glasses?" His reaction was instead triggered by turning back in relief after he avoided falling down, to find me lying face down and still!

I have only a small bit of bruising on one knee -- which is a miracle, considering how easily I bruise -- but I pulled muscles in my right shoulder badly and it hurt a LOT for the rest of the night. I'm actually writing this on the first, because no way was I using a keyboard last night! It only hurts a little bit now, though. I bought a cold can of rootbeer and kept running it across the sore spots all the way home!

On a bright note, my back feels ever so much better! I thought I had pulled a muscle lifting a worm bin, but maybe it was a slipped disc after all. When I got up from the ground last night, the pain seemed gone! At first I thought it might be just because my shoulder hurt so much worse, but the pain didn't come back as my shoulder pain faded, and my lower back has been more flexible, too.

I don't advise face-first falls as a remedy for lower-back pain, but I will take the serendipitous blessing. :) Sarah N. Dippity rides again!

Happy New Year, everyone!

Sunday, December 30, 2007

For Your Gmail Security

UK-based graphic and logo designer David Airey recently had his domain name stolen through a security hole in Google's free-email service, gmail. The good news is that, with the support of many of the online public and the help of both ICDSoft and GoDaddy, he has it back.

One of the lessons learned during this period is that using a free email service for business purposes is risky. Several comments on Airey's blog contained information that can diminish the risk for all of us (including bloggers).

  • Any web application can be hijacked by taking its session cookie, not just GMail. The increasing sophistication of technology makes it possible for thieves to snatch this information right out of the air. Always use https when accessing webmail, or any other online account. For GMail, go to (and bookmark)

  • The Firefox extension CustomizeGoogle keeps all Google domains locked to https (among the many other useful things it does).

  • You can set up a regular email client, like Thunderbird, Apple Mail, etc, to access GMail via IMAP. This will pretty much make your mail access immune to cross-site scripting attacks.
Write On! And Be Safe!

Saturday, December 29, 2007

Climate change deniers never get tired - only their arguments do

According to cognitive scientists, the first thing our brain naturally does when hearing a new statement is believe it. Only afterwards do the habits of skepticism kick in -- if we have trained them -- and send our neurons scouting for any counter-evidence. "It ain't necessarily so" is a trained response -- not a built-in circuit.

So what do you do if your claim is disproved the first time you make it? Repeat it -- over and over and over, until everybody gets tired of correcting you, and then you win!

I am not tired yet. Steven "The JunkMan" Milloy of the Competitive Enterprise Institute posts a Global Warming Denial's Top Ten List as a year-end wrap-up. Here, once again, is why he is still wrong:

  1. Milloy trumpets a study by climate-change skeptics claiming that Observed temperature changes measured over the last 30 years don’t match well with temperatures predicted by the [IPCC's] mathematical climate models..."

    He didn't finish his research. On the same day that Science Daily and Fox News noticed the study, the climate scientists at posted a refutation of it. For a less technical summary, See #3 of Prof. John Mitchell's Climate Change Myths:
    Myth 3 - There is less warming in the upper atmosphere than at the surface which disproves human-induced warming

    We expect greater warming in the upper atmosphere than at the surface in the tropics, but the reverse is true at high latitudes. This expectation holds whether the cause of warming is due to greenhouse gases or changes in the Sun’s output. Until recently, measurements of the temperature changes in the tropics in recent decades did not appear to show greater warming aloft than at the surface. It has now been shown that allowing for uncertainties in the observations, the theoretical and modelling results can be reconciled with the observations.

    The bottom line is that the range of available information is now consistent with increased warming through the troposphere (the lowest region of the atmosphere).
    Turns out, the authors tried the same argument before in 2004 and got trounced. They tried this year with a slightly revised version; they are still wrong.

  2. Milloy says one more time with feeling, "It's all the sun's fault!" This is getting as old as "Evolution is just a theory." One more time, with feeling, "No, it's not!"

  3. It was even warmer 1000 years ago, so we can't be causing the warming now!

    This is one more attempt to sell the Medieval Warming Period as a global phenomenon; still shoddy merchandise. The latest "study" is by Craig Loehle, of the National Council for Air and Stream Improvement -- an "environmental resource for the forest products industry" that is largely funded by the forest products industry.

    Find out more on the Medieval Warming Period at GristMill, NOAA, and Wikipedia, as well as the RealClimate entry linked above.

  4. We don't have to do anything to correct global warming: the atmosphere self-regulates.

    One more example of "personal responsibility" conservatives sloughing off any hint of personal responsibility. James Lovelock, who first proposed the vision of a "self-regulating" system Earth, himself thinks we have overloaded the system.

    I think: 1) When you make a mess, do you clean it up yourself or do you wait for the "natural forces of the environment" to decay it? 2) How many people have to lose their livelihoods, lose their homes, sicken, and die while we wait for the climate to "self regulate"? 3) Nature has no reason to favor human interests in her "self-regulation." Natural "self-regulation" could include plague, flood, fire, and other methods more unpleasant to humans than cutting down on driving.

  5. Roll out the Straw Man! A 2005 report on the Atlantic Ocean current raised alarms in some of the media. Milloy uses this as an example of scientists being "alarmist," although scientists themselves were much more cautious about the findings. A better way to prevent future alarmism would have been to improve his readers' understanding of the science, as the scientists at RealClimate did. Further news about the Atlantic Current.
I have gotten a bit tired, after all. I'm going to have to close this blog entry here and continue the list "next year." Do you think that Steven Milloy, who gets paid for this kind of thing, could be induced to do his own research?

More on Steven Milloy.

Friday, December 28, 2007

Ron Paul will not make you free

I've had a bad cold all week and I don't even really feel like blogging right now, but I am annoyed and fed up, and what's a blog for if you can't rant, eh?

Whatever my criticisms of Ron Paul himself (and I have many), I recognize common interests with most of his supporters. We are angry about the decline of democracy and the engrossment of executive power under all administrations in the last forty years, especially this latest and most blatantly non-democratic administration. We will have an increase of civil liberties in this country, and a return to the balance of powers envisioned by the creators of our Constitution, or we are going to have a new revolution. While there is a division of opinion on what kind of revolution, the feeling of revolution is pretty universal.

Conservatives are feeling trod upon and want to have a revolution that will give them more freedom. Libertarians are feeling trod upon and want to have a revolution that will give them more freedom. Liberals are always certain that everybody is being trod upon and want a perpetual revolution. And everybody is certain that the freedom they want is going to be for everybody else's good -- whether "everybody else" wants it or not!

My head hurts, my nose hurts, my chest hurts, my arthritis hurts, and I'm not feeling tactful tonight. I say a pox on all your houses!

Freedom of thought is meaningless to you if you don't think. Spending one hour researching the argument against one of your own fixed beliefs will do more to advance your freedom of thought that blowing up ten "Ten Commandment" monuments. Freedom of speech is meaningless unless you speak up. When you edit yourself silent you are under a far more efficient tyranny than anyone else can exercise over you. When was the last time you exercised your freedom to associate, face to face and in person? How often do you communicate with your elected officials and governmental bureaucracies? How can anyone give you the "right to petition" if you don't use it?

Cynicism is nothing but laziness and moral cowardice. "All politicians are corrupt" gives all corrupt politicians carte blanche and lets you out of any responsibility for work. What do you think "self-government" meant? You get to cast a vote every now and then and go fishing the rest of the time?

The freedom that most libertarians are hot about is the freedom to enjoy all of the benefits of living in a highly developed country without paying for any of it. By the chance of birth they inherited electricity, indoor plumbing, public hygiene, interstate roads, the internet, and many other blessings they did not earn or create. The very idea that, having benefited from living in a complex society, they have any personal obligation to help maintain it, outrages them!

Honey, if you can be dropped bare naked into the middle of a virgin forest and build a 21st-century civilization from scratch, I will call you a self-made man and agree that you owe no taxes to anyone. In reality as it is, you and I and every soul alive, from those in the most terrible poverty in the middle of the Sudan to Bill Gates the Glorious, receive far more in life than we ever return.

None of us get any benefit whatsoever out of letting anyone else go hungry, homeless, or sick and untreated. All of us become healthier and more prosperous when we increase the health and prosperity of the poorest and weakest among us. A strong country is one with a strong citizenry -- healthy, well-fed, housed, and educated -- and that is a free country.

So get off your free-rider mentality and start increasing the freedom of everyone around you: freedom from want and disease, freedom to study, freedom to raise a family, freedom to travel, freedom to participate in society. That will increase your personal freedom more than the entire World Wide Web's hooting and hollering for Ron Paul.

Monday, December 24, 2007

Tim Ceis's Response to Homeless Deaths: The Smirk

Tim Ceis SmirkSeattle Deputy Mayor Tim Ceis's only response to a homeless women who asked him to explain what the City is doing about the rising numbers of homeless people dying on the streets is a smirk.

I like what Tim Harris has to say about this:
"If I hear one more opportunistic bureaucrat say we've decided to 'end homelessness and stop managing it' as an excuse for leaving people out to freeze in the cold and harassing them in the meanwhile, I think I'm going to have to organize a piss-in on someone's front lawn."

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Back Door SLAM!

Allofasudden I don't feel so old ---

Saturday, December 22, 2007

Googling Myself

According to recent news, this is not a rare activity. The latest news&blogs quoting or referring to me (since the roundup I posted on MySpace in July 2006) are:

  • December of last year (2006), KOMO news reported on one of our Women in Black vigils for homeless people who have died outside or by violence in King County. They included two quotes from me: "There are no throwaway people... everyone deserves to be remembered, honored, to have their life remembered when they die." and "With all of the deaths in the community, if I had to bear this alone, I'd go back into depression and be homeless again." (video included)

  • Several videos of me by Wes, this year:

  • In March, Wes reported on a community meeting about the Homeless Place of Remembrance project, something very dear to my heart. You can believe just about everything he says about it (and about me). Just don't believe him when he says he'll confess to the 20th Century.

  • In May, "Jewel Two Snaps" quoted from my essay on "Why Write?" and had fun with some of my writing exercises, including the challenge to "simplify!"

    Try KISSing these phrases yourself:
    • amelioration of affectional starvation
    • languor lures linguistic lapses
    • transcendental fervor
    • cantatas of calumny
    • cantabile concatenations of cant

  • In June, the Seattle P-I quoted me in their report on a Women in Black vigil for Isaac Palmer, a homeless man killed by a brush-clearing tractor.

  • Back to Wes, who in June (2006) used our adventures with a broken refrigerator and building management to illustrate fractals.

  • Back to poetry: WHEEL (homeless women's organizing group) has a REAL poetry book out, and Tim Harris reviewed it for Real Change -- starting the blog entry with a vivid description of me editing previous WHEEL chapbooks.

  • In other good news about homelessness -- on December 10, 2007, Seattle amended the city's malicious harassment ordinance (that defines harm or threat of harm to any person or their property on the basis of their membership in a group as a specific crime as "malicious harassment") to include homeless people as a protected class. The P-I article covering a previous committee hearing on the amendment includes this:
    "When you're homeless, especially women, you're afraid all the time. You're afraid when you sleep -- even if you're in a shelter," said Anitra Freeman, who has been homeless. "We have to send a different message to our children, to everyone out there."
  • And back to poetry (again): My most popular poem, by the number of sites quoting it, seems to be "What is Family?"

What Is Family?

Family are the shouts in the dark that keep you awake
trying to be invisible under your blankets.
Family is the warm heart you run to
when everyone else at the rink skates too fast
and you've cut your knees on the ice.
Family are given to you at birth
with your eyes and lips and nose.
They will stick to you wherever you go
and shape how you see
and what you say
and how you are seen
Family are found new each day
wherever you put your heart last.
Family are the people you share bread with,
and whoever you share the lack of bread with.
Sometimes your family aren't people.
Family is whoever lives under the tent of your soul.
Your family can be as big as you are,
and from birth to death, your real, real family
are the ones who make you grow bigger.

poem by Anitra L. Freeman
As I say at my own website, if I post something on the internet, you may use it freely, as long as you
  • Attribute it to me, Anitra L. Freeman.
  • Don't alter it (change the wording). (You may use small sections out of a whole, as long as the context is clear.)
  • Make nonprofit use of it. If you are going to make money, I want money!
  • If you want to make me extra happy, include a link to my website so that readers can find more:
These days, Creative Commons has made such licensing even easier.
Creative Commons LicenseThis work by Anitra L. Freeman is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Eid Al-Adha

Joyful Eid al-Adha to all Muslim readers.

Monday, December 17, 2007

Two vigils on December 19th

This coming Wednesday, December 19th, WHEEL and the Church of Mary Magdalene will hold another Women in Black vigil for another homeless person who died outside in King County. The vigil is from Noon to 1 pm, on the steps of the Seattle Justice Center at 5th & James, across from City Hall.

And while the number of homeless people outside without shelter, being attacked outside, and dying outside, rises, Seattle police confiscate and destroy the personal belongings of homeless people camping in the greenbelts -- while leaving garbage out there untouched!

Real Change has been actively campaigning against this harassment, and has organized a rally at City Hall Wednesday night, 5-6 pm, followed by an all-night sleep-out. Seattle Raging Grannies will be opening the rally, and I will be there singing if my throat don't give out before then! (Wes and I are both coming down with a cold.)

Please come join us -- if not to hear me sing, then to support the right of even the poorest people in Seattle to survive!

Senator Sessions Jumps the Shark

Two of the first news reports I saw today made me very happy: a Federal Judge declared White House visitor logs are public documents ( and Sen. Harry Reid Pulled the FISA Telecom Immunity Bill Off the Senate Floor.

Score two for the U.S. Constitution!

Then I read a quote that sent a chill up my spine. During the debate before Reid pulled the bill, Senator Jeff Sessions of Alabama said, “The civil libertarians among us would rather defend the constitution than protect our nation’s security.” (emphasis added)

Just in case anyone needs a reminder, U.S. Senators take an oath to support the Constitution! If you vote in Alabama, please remind your Senator of his oath.

Friday, December 7, 2007

The Rise of the Raging Moderates

Recent conversations I have had with Ron Paul supporters and critics have reminded me all over again why the human species should be reclassified Homo Wannabe-Sapiens.

It isn't that we are all stupid; most people who even know who Ron Paul is are extremely intelligent. That's including both those who consider him the Savior of His Country and those who consider him the latest sign of the Downfall of Civilization.

What makes us Homo Wannabe-Sapiens is how readily we polarize like that. Polarized people can't learn from each other, because they can no longer see any strengths in the other person's argument or any weaknesses in their own. Polarized people don't even seem able to tell the difference between a physical fact and an ideological plank.

This all reminded me of an essay I wrote back in May, when I decided I was a Raging Moderate:

The Rise of the Raging Moderates

The title of one of Jim Hightower's books is There's Nothing in the Middle of the Road but Yellow Lines and Dead Armadillos. The attitude is generally shared even by those on the opposite extreme from Hightower: to be "moderate" means that you don’t believe in, or stand for, anything very strongly.

There is another definition of "moderate." A moderate is interested in solving a problem, not in winning a debate. A moderate places the common good above what is good for any one political party or any other faction. A moderate cares about people and doesn't give much of a fig for ideology. A moderate can see faults in allies and virtues in opponents. Like anyone else, a moderate thinks he's right, or he'd be thinking something else already; but a moderate is willing to find out he's wrong, and change his mind, if the evidence warrants it. A moderate is able to step out of his own viewpoint long enough to listen to and understand a different one. A moderate knows that honest people can honestly disagree, and still have common goals and interests that they can work on together.

A moderate can get angry. A moderate can get tired of being whipsawed between extremists, and say "a pox on ALL your houses!"

The founders of the American system of government spent a lot of time and great intellectual effort on how to forestall any one group, on whatever extreme, from gaining all power and running away with it. They divided and distributed power among different branches and levels of government so that in any conflicts, neither a majority nor a minority could ride roughshod over everyone else; we would all have to negotiate with the people who disagree with us.

And ever since then, extremists have tried to erode that balance of powers and collect all control in the hands of those who see things their way.

Polarization shuts down brain cells. (See Michael Shermer's article in Scientific American: The Political Brain.) The more people you see as your enemies, the more easily manipulated you are by your "friends." Fortunately, both polarized extremes of American politics seem to be losing their credibility. More and more elections depend on the vote of independents who are not arbitrarily aligned left OR Right – who have to be convinced case by case. Less and less independents are stampeded by being told that one party is the one and only force for Good and one party is the one and only force for Evil. An increasing number of voters demand practical results in domestic tranquility, common defense, and general welfare, instead of bigger and louder political slogans.

Books like Jim Hightower's (and, on the other end, Ann Coulter's diatribes about Godless Liberals) are hot sellers these days. On a promising note, so are these:

  • Edward Brooke, the first black U.S. senator since Reconstruction and a Republican elected from the liberal and Democratic state of Massachusetts, has written an autobiography, Bridging the Divide: My Life, covering four decades of American politics.

I would like to paraphrase Senator Danforth in a word to the Moderate Majority:

For a long time, the Radical Right & Radical Left have chanted their messages incessantly, while everyone else disdained the tactic of repetition, repetition, repetition. It is time for a clear statement of what we believe, a statement we repeat relentlessly and a statement that expresses the strength of our convictions:
  • We believe in government of the people, for the people, and by the people, for the common good – not a government of cliques and cronies who sacrifice the welfare of the many to the profit of the few.
  • We believe that all human beings are fallible, including ourselves; therefore no human being has the right of authority over another's conscience. The power of law should only limit the actions of individuals to the extent necessary to preserve the equal rights of all.
  • We believe that government by the people must and will embrace conflicting opinions, even on hot-button issues, even of people with whom we vehemently disagree.
Citizens who support the common good over ideological partisanship should express ourselves clearly and forcefully as the alternative to those who favor divisiveness.
Earlier in this article I referred to brain research showing that partisan political responses involve areas of the brain dealing with emotion, not any of those dealing with cognition. Emotion is, of course, part of all of us. Emotion is not grit in the gears of human intelligence, it is an integral part of reasoning. If you had no emotions, you could make no decisions: you would have no preferences, no priorities, and all choices would be equal. A moderate is as emotional, as passionate about values and principles, as any partisan.

According to other brain research, the thinking of teenagers is dominated by the emotional circuits of the brain, and part of the maturation process is the cerebral circuits becoming increasingly active. The emotional circuits are never completely cut out of the thinking process; in what we call more mature thinking, however, the cerebral circuits play the dominant role.

A moderate is as emotional, as passionate about values and principles, as any partisan. A moderate, however, can still think, and listen, even when passionate.

Perhaps it is time for us all to just grow up.

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

All Together Now: Changing Society to End Homelessness

May 9, 2007, I gave a keynote speech at the annual conference of the Washington State Coalition for the Homeless. I've broken the text of the speech into several separate posts so that nobody has to read all of the speech. For those who would like to read the whole speech, here's the whole sequence:
  1. The Pothole Analogy
  2. A Word to the Housed
  3. Reality Check for Committees to End Homelessness
  4. Ending Homelessness: for real

Ending Homelessness: for real

Current community efforts to help homeless people should continue. When we have a flood, we have to get people to high ground, get them fed and keep them warm.

People will always have problems, and people will always have some problems they need the help of other people to solve. There is not one human problem that isn’t easier to solve when you are in safe, clean, secure housing. There is not one human problem that isn’t harder to solve when you’re homeless.

My husband has a doctorate in math, and I checked this with him to make sure I'm right: If you have 100 people and 80 houses, at one person per house you will have 20 homeless people. If you move all 20 of those people into houses, you will displace 20 currently housed people, and still have 20 homeless people. If you improve the health, income, and education level of all the people currently homeless, you will have 20 healthy, wealthy, and well-educated homeless people.

I also checked this math with him: If you start with 20 homeless people, build 20 new houses and tear down 30, you will have 30 homeless people. The only thing Wes found wrong with that is that in real life, we are not losing housing at one-and-a-half times the rate we are creating it, we are losing housing at four times the rate we are creating it.

Building more affordable housing would be a step in the right direction. What we really need to do is rebuild the middle class. And just as labor and unemployed were allies in the campaign to create unemployment insurance, you -- what is left of the middle class and the people who are very poor and who are homeless -- need to be allies in building a society that will not have a big black hole in the middle.
  • We need to decrease the wealth divide. "Redistribution of wealth" is a dirty term to many people, so stop it: stop redistributing wealth from the majority at the bottom to the minority at the top.

    Much of the accumulation of wealth depends on unpaid labor, like that of volunteers and mothers and even homeless people. A living wage is the minimum fair return for labor. A labor force with strong bargaining power was one of the forces that built America's middle class. A strong middle class is the backbone of the country and the mainstay against homelessness.

  • We need to change the housing market.

    • Make it profitable to create affordable housing. Some methods could be: tax incentives, subsidies, federal housing money.

    • Make it unprofitable to destroy affordable housing. Some possible methods: tax penalties; a legislative cap on condo conversions.

    • Get the federal government back into the creation of housing.

    A rising tide really does lift all boats, IF it rises from the bottom up. When everyone has housing, the economy booms. Nobody really benefits from having large numbers of people outside, unsheltered, hungry, and sick. It's an accident that occurs as the result of systems that some people do profit from. Change the system and more people will profit.

  • Remember the potholes? Studying other cities that don't have potholes, to see what they are doing right? Countries that have a fraction of the homelessness that we do also have universal health care. It's time to bite the bullet and get it here.

  • Let's change the social attitude. It is NOT virtuous to promote your own gain without regard for any cost to others. We ARE responsible for, and to, each other.
Speaking of responsibility: How can you claim to care about a homeless person's future when you do not take care that he survives tonight? When I am told that "increasing shelter now is politically impossible," I know that all the talk about caring for homeless people is lip service. If you care about somebody, if you value them as a person, you do whatever it takes to keep them alive. That means MORE shelter right now, not less. It means allowing Tent Cities or any other interim survival mechanism until there is enough housing for everyone.

There is no either-or, short-term solutions OR long-term solutions. If we care about each other, we keep each other alive tonight AND we work to make the future better for each other.

If we care about each other, we will continue to increase our efforts to take care of people who are now homeless, get them out of homelessness, and prevent other people from falling into the hole. And, because we care about each other, we will also change our economy, our housing market, our government policies, our health care system, and whatever else it takes, to eliminate the black hole of homelessness forever.

This is part 4 of my speech at the Washington State Coalition for the Homeless Conference, May 2007. The first three parts were:
  1. The Pothole Analogy
  2. A Word to the Housed
  3. Reality Check for Committees to End Homelessness

Reality Check for Committees to End Homelessness

Here in Seattle, the group in charge of our "Ten Year Plan to End Homelessness" is called the Committee to End Homelessness. Other areas of the U.S. have their own Ten Year Plans and their own Committees. Whatever they are called in other cities, these are equal realities across the country:

  1. There are more people homeless now than when all the "Ten Year Plans" to end homelessness began.

  2. More of the people with the most severe problems are ending up out on the street late at night when all the shelters are full.

  3. More people are dying outside, homeless and without shelter, every year.

  4. Violence against homeless people is increasing.

  5. With all the new low-cost housing created, three times as much is lost to redevelopment and condo conversions. We have a net loss.

  6. The wealth gap is widening, the middle class is vanishing like buffalo, job insecurity has become the new norm.

  7. Health care costs keep rising, along with the numbers of people who can’t afford health insurance.

  8. At a Roots of Poverty conference I attended years ago, incarceration was identified as one of the roots of poverty, and to this day, nothing has changed. The U.S. has the highest number of people incarcerated than any other country in the rest of the world, and it’s giving Communist Red China a run for the money for the world record. We’ve already got their official numbers beat. Let’s see if we can beat their unofficial numbers!

  9. Our social fabric is cut to shreds. Lack, or loss, of a social network is the most basic reason a housed person becomes a “homeless person.” The lack, or loss, of a sense of community, of responsibility to our neighbor whatever her religion, politics, or even personality, is the basic reason the black hole of homelessness exists for her to fall into.

  10. Respect for human dignity is at an all-time low. The homeless person who is at the bottom of the housing market is also at the bottom of the clothing market, and he doesn’t go naked, does he? No. THAT would offend our morality.
Forty years ago, people had problems. We had alcoholics, drug addicts, mental illness, domestic violence, people with physical disabilities and severe illnesses who were not able to work, people getting out of prison, people getting out of the hospital, people getting out of foster care – all of the reasons given for why people are homeless today. We had a fraction of the numbers of homeless people that we have today.

What has happened over the last forty years?

  1. The real income (purchasing power) of 60% of our population has gone down.

  2. The federal government has invested less and less money in housing. Since 1996 they've spent $0.

  3. In private housing development, developers seek the most profit out of every square inch of real estate, resulting in the continual destruction of low-cost housing in order to put up high-cost housing.

  4. The cost of health care has continued to rise, while less and less of the population have any form of health insurance.

  5. The numbers of homeless people have skyrocketed.

  6. The stigma of homelessness was created. Unemployment insurance was won by a campaign of working people and out-of-work, often homeless people, allied. Most housed people at that time had no problem seeing themselves in the shoes of someone who was homeless. Now “homeless” is a separate class, and homeless people are to be treated differently than anyone else is treated.

What happened in the last forty years was, we created homelessness. In order to end it, we have to reverse what we did to create it.

So far, none of the Ten Year Plans are doing that.

This is part 3 of my speech at the Washington State Coalition for the Homeless Conference, May 2007. The whole sequence is:
  1. The Pothole Analogy
  2. A Word to the Housed
  3. Reality Check for Committees to End Homelessness
  4. Ending Homelessness: for real

A Word to the Housed

We all know homelessness hurts homeless people. Some are beginning to realize that homelessness hurts all of us.

The full reality is, the same system that creates homelessness creates most of your problems, too. You work hard to help people who often yell at you because they can't yell at the people who are really abusing and frustrating them; you accomplish something each day but the scope of the problem keeps getting worse; then you go home and wrestle with the bills and worry over how you are going to pay for your son's dental care or your daughter's education.

We're all in this together. To get out of it, we all have to work together. The noble housed people don't have to rescue the poor homeless people; the oppressed homeless people do not have to force the privileged housed people to rescue them. All us chickens have to work together to rebuild the leaky henhouse. 'Cause guess what? There's nobody here but us chickens.

This is part 2 of my speech at the Washington State Coalition for the Homeless Conference, May 2007. The entire sequence is:
  1. The Pothole Analogy
  2. A Word to the Housed
  3. Reality Check for Committees to End Homelessness
  4. Ending Homelessness: for real

The Pothole Analogy

Imagine this scenario:

    One of your downtown streets has a big pothole in it. It's been growing for years, and other than a lot of new hires in the auto repair industry, nothing much has been done about it. Public pressure is rising. Finally, the city government acts. They do a serious study, and they find that people who have pothole accidents have a lot of problems. Nearsightedness, ADD, alcoholism... and that although the towing and auto repair industries have been booming for years, they haven’t decreased pothole accidents.

    With a lot of publicity (and not much money) the city starts a Pothole Accident Prevention Program (PAPP). Towing companies and auto repair companies that wish to do any business with the city are required to refer the drivers in pothole accidents to counseling, so that they will get treatment for their problems and avoid potholes in the future. The most lucrative contracts and tax breaks go to the companies whose customers go the longest without another pothole accident. None of the companies are given any authority to fix the pothole.

    The auto industry goes along with the PAPP because it’s politically impossible to get money to fix potholes right now, and at least this way something is being done. And isn’t it good to help people who have problems like nearsightedness, ADD, and alcoholism?

In real life, of course, the city would just fill in the pothole. Right? A city that had a high occurrence of potholes would try to make its streets more pothole-proof – right?

Homelessness is a hole in the street. The people who fall into that hole need help to get out of it. They have problems that need to be addressed. All of that is necessary and worthwhile action. It will not end homelessness, any more than auto repair and driver education will end potholes.

This is part 1 of my speech at the Washington State Coalition for the Homeless Conference, May 2007. The entire sequence is:
  1. The Pothole Analogy
  2. A Word to the Housed
  3. Reality Check for Committees to End Homelessness
  4. Ending Homelessness: for real

Saturday, December 1, 2007

The war on science

Nova had an excellent documentary recently, "Intelligent Design on Trial." You can still view it online.

The push to teach "Intelligent Design" on an equal footing with the theory of evolution is part and parcel of a determined assault on the standards of intellectual inquiry that underpin democracy itself.

The foundation of democracy is liberalism, and the foundation of liberalism is the premise that truth is discovered by free inquiry -- and is always in the process of discovery. Anyone and everyone can make a claim, anyone and everyone can challenge a claim, and all debate is public and based on publicly available evidence.

In the worldview of a certain kind of conservative, there has to be an Authority over everything. When scholars say that truth is not subject to the authority of Scripture, scriptural conservatives think that they are trying to replace that authority with something else. In the worldview of those scholars, however, truth IS the authority, and the only authority.

This is intellectual humility. Enlightenment inquiry acknowledges the limitations of human reason, and therefore requires that all claims be subject to independent test, and always open to question and revision. The more tests a claim stands up to, the more credible it is -- but nothing is absolutely certain, because we aren't absolutely perfect.

To claim that "revealed truth" IS absolutely certain is not "humility" -- it is the ultimate in egotism. The claim that you know God and you know what God said and you understand it beyond question, the refusal to subject your own worldview to any test, are the hallmarks of religious fundamentalism, and they are hallmarks of arrogance. It is no coincidence that the same people who make these claims call democracy "demoncracy" and believe it should be severely restricted. Democracy depends on open dialogue more than it depends on the vote; an open dialogue in which all claims can be tested independently, and there is no special authority over truth.

"Intelligent Design" is not a scientific theory, because it is not testable; it provides no structure on which testable predictions can be made. This is not simply because the proponents of ID do not understand science. It is because they do not want to understand science. The concept of a truth that is independent of authority and always subject to question is inconceivable to them. It frightens them. And until they can confront this fear and accept the reality that the truth IS beyond perfect understanding, they will never understand the scientific debate.

The debate must continue, but it must continue by the rules of scientific reasoning; Enlightenment intellectual ethics. Do not allow those rules to be subverted by "Intelligent Design" proponents trying to run onto the football field with a baseball bat to slam the frizbie into the basket.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Why I won't vote for Ron Paul

Some of Ron Paul's positions -- like opposition to the war in Iraq, the War on Drugs, and the Patriot Act -- appeal strongly to liberals and conservatives alike, and many internet activists have flocked to him as a candidate that can bring a real revolution to Washington.

But the enemy of my enemy is not necessarily my friend. For Ron Paul, the ideology of "individual liberty" overrides the liberty of physical individuals, and also overrides physical fact. Sacrificing individuals to ideology and denying concrete fact to maintain an abstract idea have caused great harm in human history, and I won't encourage more of it.

I don't demand that anybody agree with me with 100% ideological purity before I work with them on anything. I'll gladly work with Ron Paul in opposition to the war in Iraq, the War on Drugs, and the Patriot Act, and in any other common cause. But I don't think making a man President who rationalizes imposing his own morality upon others under the ideology of "states rights" to be any improvement over a man who rationalizes imposing his own morality upon others under the ideology of "God's will."

Specific examples:

  • Ron Paul supports using state force to make a woman bear a pregnancy to term against her will. He (and his followers) rationalize this as "supporting individual liberty" on the grounds that
    1. It is state government using force to tell a woman what she can do with her own body, not federal government.

      Whether my neighbor, my church, my city, my state, or my federal government imposes on my liberty, it is still an imposition on my liberty.

      And Paul's voting record in Congress is inconsistent with this. He introduced federal legislation (the Sanctity of Life Act) to define human life as beginning at conception. He voted in favor of the Partial-Birth Abortion Ban Act which federally overrides state abortion laws. Ron Paul, an "unshakable foe of abortion" in his own words, is perfectly willing to use federal power when it aligns with what he considers to be right.

    2. It is protecting the individual liberty of fetuses. By making abortion legal, argues Paul, "the State simply declares that certain classes of human beings are not persons, and therefore not entitled to the protection of the law. The State protects the 'right' of some people to kill others, just as the courts protected the 'property rights' of slave masters in their slaves."

      There is an obvious difference between a slave owner claiming rights over the body of another person, and a woman claiming rights over her own body.

      I do consider the lives of fetuses to be important, and I want to protect them. That is a major reason for opposing making abortion illegal. It is simply an ineffective way to preserve fetal lives. To care about actual, physical human beings is to seek practical ways to actually save lives. To make abortion illegal is to sacrifice real people -- both women and children -- to abstract principle. That is a besetting human evil, and my personal pet peeve.

  • Ron Paul opposes equal rights for non-heterosexuals. Again, his rationale for how this supports individual liberty is contorted, and his actions aren't even consistent with that rationale. .
    1. States should be allowed to decide their own laws without interference from the federal government.

      Yet Paul says he would have voted in favor of the Defense of Marriage Act, a federal law declaring same-gender messages cannot be recognized as valid by the federal government, and need not be recognized as valid by any state, even if the marriage was licensed by another state. Again, Paul is only opposed to the federal government when it enforces something he does not agree with, like a woman's control over her own body or a person's right to marry regardless of gender. He will readily use federal power to enforce morality that he does agree with.

    2. Any state has the right to "pass laws concerning social matters, using its own local standards, without federal interference." Therefore the Supreme Court should not override state anti-sodomy laws or state restrictions on right to marriage.

      But the 10th Amendment states that "The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people." (Emphasis added.) Those who holler about "states rights" always seem to skip that last clause. If a state government claims powers over individuals that exceed the legitimate interests of government, it is the right and proper use of federal power to step in and protect individual right This is in accordance with the Preamble which declares the intentions of the Constitution: "to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity."

    3. Defending personal liberty means protecting the right of individuals and groups to discriminate against others.

      This is Paul's rationale for opposing the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA), and why he thinks the Boy Scouts have the right to not let gay men be scoutmasters or gay boys be scouts.

      By these rationales, state governments could pass legislation banning the very existence of the Boy Scouts, and Ron Paul could not object. I would, personally. I think that the rightful role of government is to protect the fullest freedom of any individual that is consistent with the equal rights of others. That means, sometimes, protecting us from other individuals.

    4. The military policy of "don't ask, don't tell" should be maintained, because homosexuals should not be treated any differently than heterosexuals.

      But homosexuals are not treated the same as heterosexuals under the current policy. Nobody is discharged in the military for openly declaring themselves heterosexual, for showing up at a social function with a partner of the opposite gender, or for being known to have performed sexual acts with a member of the opposite gender.

      Ron Paul says "if there is homosexual behavior in the military that is disruptive, it should be dealt with. But if there's heterosexual sexual behavior that is disruptive, it should be dealt with." His support of "don't ask, don't tell" demonstrates that he considers all homosexual behavior to be disruptive. He opposes the use of "the power of the state" to enforce morality that he does not agree with, like the equal rights of both homosexuals and heterosexuals. He supports the use of "the power of the state" to enforce morality that he does agree with, like the unacceptability of homosexuality.

  • Ron Paul opposes Network Neutrality, claiming that it is "regulating the internet."

    Laws against rape and theft are "regulating human activity" also, but I've never heard a libertarian object to them. Prohibiting ISPs from handling internet traffic in a discriminatory manner, like degrading the performance of one website while giving priority to another, is a regulation that protects equal individual rights, like laws against theft and rape do.

  • He opposes embryonic stem cell research. Supporters claim he only opposes federal funding of such research, consistent with his "smaller government" principles.

    But Paul introduced the "Cures Can Be Found Act" of 2005, which would provide tax credits for "qualified" stem cell research, storage and donation, specifically excluding any facilities that use embryonic stem cells. Once more, Ron Paul supports using the federal government to support what he agrees with, he is only against using it to support what he doesn't agree with.
There are more problems with Ron Paul's positions, described in detail at EMPTV. Some of them I have to research further, because Paul may have indeed been misrepresented. For instance: Asked if he supports "bring abstinence education funding onto equal ground with contraceptive-based education," Paul said "yes." Since he doesn't think there should be any federal funding for any education, including contraceptive-based sex education, this "yes" answer may simply mean he does not support funding abstinence-only education either.

There are some criticisms of Ron Paul I consider totally invalid:
  1. That he is a racist, based on quotes from a 1992 newsletter written by someone else.

  2. That he is a white supremacist, neo-nazi, conspiracy nut based on the ravings of some Ron Paul supporters. Oh come on. If the postings of some nuts on Daily Kos does not make Daily Kos a "hate site" then the ravings of some Ron Paul supporters does not make Ron Paul a nut.
There is quite enough in Ron Paul's own words to take honest issue with.

Dennis Kucinich Jumps the Shark

I agree with Andrew Sullivan (and not for the first time). Dennis Kucinich has jumped the shark.

I do not consider Dennis Kucinich's siting of a UFO to put him in La-La Land, but proposing to take Ron Paul as a running mate does. Close examination of evidence indicates that there are, indisputably, some Unidentified Flying Objects -- flying objects sighted that haven't been identified. Close examination of Ron Paul's statements indicates that he will sacrifice living individuals to the ideology of "individualism" any time they come in conflict.

Dennis, Ron Paul doesn't deserve your support.

And this will "balance the energies"??? Isn't the New Age dead yet?

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Dr. Wes, Messiah

The concept of a "warrior of peace sent from God" is not exclusively Jewish/Christian. The concept was real to Wes at age 7, strongly influenced by Hawaiian traditions. His experiences as the "Fort Devens Messiah" can be followed in reverse chronological order on his blog, Runoff. I've constructed this list for those who want to read it in chronological order.
  1. Fort Devens Messiah
  2. Fighting For Peace
  3. Peace Takes Some Hits
  4. Victory
  5. Soldier Like Me
Very young children can be heroes.

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Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Mujahideen-E Khalq (MEK): The Terrorists that the United States Uses

Frontline had a great show tonight, background on the conflict with Iran. You can watch the whole show online. The most interesting part to me was this information on a terrorist group that is protected by the U.S. I hope you too find this worth passing on, so that more people know what our government is doing.When Islamic extremists in the Middle East first began using terrorist tactics, the United States did not condemn them. The United States used them. Even today, in the middle of the "War on Terror," the U.S. government will protect any terrorist group that the U.S. finds useful.

read more | digg story

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Give 'Em Hell, Catch Hell

Tim Harris of Real Change caught hell this week for satirizing the upcoming 'Homelessness Awareness' event as "United to Extend Homelessness."

I can't link you to the satirical flyer; it's only "published" as a PDF that can be downloaded from his classroom Wiki (which is currently dormant between class sessions). A sample:
The Unite to Extend Homelessness Community Resource Exchange will provide easy answers to deep-seated problems by producing a spectacle of good will that does little or nothing to solve homelessness, except on a case by case basis. Getting vital services can be challenging and time-consuming — especially when so many are in need and so little is available. This one-day feel good event won’t change that. The Community Resource Exchange is a transparent public relations ploy that began in San Francisco and has now been embraced by the Bush administration and implemented in over 200 cities.

Some of the problems that will not be addressed include the wholesale abandonment of the poor by the health care system; the daunting realities of structural unemployment; how Vietnam-era veterans are treated like shit; and the fact that the legal system in America provides justice only to those who can afford it.
The sponsors of the event could have been listed as United Byway; Committee to Extend Homelessness; Church Rumble of Grumble Seattle; Kingdom County; Paul Allen Town; Belle-Richer-Than-You; Rentounce; Bent. Tim didn't do that; he used the unaltered names and logos of United Way; Committee to End Homelessness; Church Council of Greater Seattle; King County; City of Seattle; City of Bellevue; City of Renton; City of Kent. That drew the ire of Sandy Brown, head of the Church Council of Greater Seattle. He didn't like the Church Council's identity being associated with this sort of thing:
Faith communities have long asked how they can work to end homelessness while avoiding uncomfortable and divisive discussions of poverty and inequality. It All Starts at Home is an interactive symposium that will give faith communities and service organizations the tools they need to continue addressing homelessness in an uncontroversial and depoliticized manner. This symposium will bring together groups from across King County to discuss how the faith community and big philanthropy can provide political cover while the federal government abdicates what little remaining responsibility it has for housing the poor. The seminars will co-opt whatever energy exists to address poverty and inequality by channeling all of our resources into well-intentioned but ultimately inadequate charitable efforts.Each attendee will go home with a resource book that scrupulously avoids the question “why?”

Seminars presented at the symposium will not include: Structural Unemployment in America and Why So Many of the People Filling Our Prisons are Black; Who Benefits When the Feds Abandon Housing for the Poor; How to Develop a Revolutionary Analysis of Deepening Global Poverty (e.g., IMF, World Bank, NAFTA); Creating Your Own Poverty and Inequality Study Group; Moving from Charity to Justice: Pros and Cons; and Understanding How Self-interest Defines the Limits of Our Response.
My personal opinion is that if Sandy Brown doesn't want to look like a collaborator, he should stop acting like one.

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Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Watch "Cheney's Law" Exposed On Frontline Tonight!

TONIGHT - Tuesday, October 16, 2007 - Frontline reports on Vice President Dick Cheney's three-decade, "secretive, behind-closed-doors campaign to give the president virtually unlimited wartime power." Please: see it, digg it, blog it, buzz it, shout it!

George Bush Knows Exactly When to Say "Democrat Party"

On the October 15, 2007 "Daily Show" Tony Snow downplayed Bush's reference to the "Democrat Party" as an example of how our dear boy Bush just gets his tongue tangled sometimes. In 2004, Bush got his tongue tangled only in solidly Red states. Everywhere else, Bush always pronounced "Democratic Party" clearly.

The point is not that I find "Democrat Party" to be offensive. The point is that Bush intends it to be offensive, and knows that it fans hostility when he uses it. Tony Snow is just as hypocritical now as when he was being paid for it, and Bush's "uniter not a divider" pretense was never worth more the breath it took to push it.

read more | digg story

Monday, October 15, 2007

Blog Action Day: Lighter Footstep says "Si Se Puede!"

"Yes we can!" A great quote today from Chris over at Lighter Footstep:

"It's often argued that all the individual action in the world won't offset the environmental damage caused by one dirty coal plant halfway across the globe, and there's truth to that. If there's one thing politicians are good at, though, it's getting in front of a parade. When people act, politicians follow. That's what they call 'leadership.' And we need to let them lead us exactly where we're headed -- toward the agreements we'll need to make sure the process of greening the planet fair for everyone."
Not too long ago, I read another article I agreed with, arguing that all the lists of personal actions "you can do to save the environment" are just deflecting attention from doing the hard stuff: changing the system, challenging the corporate interests that are doing the major damage.

And I agree with that too -- IF all you are doing is changing your personal actions, you are avoiding confrontation with systemic actors. At the same time, if all you are working on is changing the system then you are not only avoiding any personal change, your speeches to other people will sound like empty rants.

It isn't either-or. We need to work on our personal lives AND work on changing the system.

Chris's comments point to where the two intersect. The people making decisions that affect our lives have to maintain their power by constantly convincing us that they have that power, and that we have none. In reality, they only have the power we give them. If there were no consumers, corporations would go bankrupt. If voters could not be bought with campaign dollars, politicians could not be bought with campaign contributions.

Jello Biafra said, "Don't complain about the media; become the media." Don't complain about the economy, become the economy; don't buy what you are told to buy, demand what you want to buy and if corporate business won't sell it to you, trade with your neighbor for it. Don't complain about the government, be the government -- like Americans are supposed to be. Politicians work for you, and if they are doing a bad job, then you are being a bad supervisor.

Don't change your lifestyle thinking that alone will change the world. Change your life because that is the beginning of changing the world.

read more | digg story

Blog Action Day: Building Bridges

Liberal, neoliberal, conservative, neoconservative, libertarian – as different as our politics may seem, in reality we all hold much the same values. (see The Moral Sense by James Q Wilson)

We prioritize values differently, and it can be frustrating when what you consider critically urgent is at the bottom of everybody else's list (while they "waste" time and money on something at the bottom of your own list). We also have different ideas about how to apply our common values, and it can come as a shock when someone you have long regarded as an ally suddenly opposes your project (like local Seattle environmentalists have split on the transportation proposition on this November's ballot).

It may be hard to remember, in the middle of frustration, that those differences are a good thing. If we had to all work on just one thing, the earth would probably be three miles deep in whales. Everybody loves whales, including me; but I do not love the idea of 6 billion people working 24/7 to save the whales. Somebody's got to take care of the other stuff. Fortunately, we all have different priorities.

It's also good that even when we have the same goals, we have different ideas on how to pursue them. None of us sees everything; viewing any subject from more than one viewpoint yields a fuller picture of a problem and a better approach to it than any one person can come up with alone. If everybody saw things exactly the same way, we’d all run over the same cliff that none of us spotted.

In the end result, it is good that we have individual differences – but only if we are willing to listen to each other, understand each other, work on combining our differences. Polarized debate strangles everybody's neurons. We all stop making progress toward our goals and turn our efforts to building our bunkers.

My personal plea on this October 15th, Blog Action Day, with fifteen thousand bloggers writing about environmental issues and millions of people reading those blogs, is that each of you:

  1. read a blog by somebody you disagree with;
  2. describe for yourself what they are actually saying;
  3. keep redoing #2 until they agree that you understand them;
  4. identify goals and values that you share;
  5. find one thing you can work together on toward a common goal.

Here's what I see as 10 goals we all share in common:
  1. The health, welfare, and education of children is important to all of us, both emotionally and practically.

  2. Clean air, clean water, clean ground, safe and nutritious and sufficient food, are critical to the survival of all of us.

  3. Life is highly adaptable, but thrives best within certain parameters of climate and resources. Maintaining and even expanding those parameters is therefore important to all of us.

  4. Good public health is essential for the good personal health of all of us. This includes the health of plants and animals; most majorly damaging human plagues have originated in our livestock.

  5. All living things are intricately interdependent in a complex biosphere human science is only beginning to understand. It is critical to our mutual survival to maintain the health of that biosphere, which includes its genetic diversity.

  6. Trade, both in the free exchange of goods and services and the free exchange of ideas, has been a foundation of human prosperity and advancement. It is in the interests of all of us to protect an atmosphere for free and fair trade. That requires an atmosphere of equal rights enforced by law; a universal standard of justice. It requires protection and support of the weaker members of society so that all are equal in bargaining power in the marketplace and in the enforcement of contracts. The maintenance of equal trade, equal rights, and equal justice is therefore a common good, a common survival goal.

  7. Accurate knowledge is a critical survival resource. Increasing our mutual knowledge, and policing error, is another common good. Increasing the knowledge and the critical and creative thinking skills of another is an increase of our own good. The passion over "intellectual" debates is understandable as being driven by survival instinct.

  8. The most important factor to individual human survival, since we became social animals, is other human beings. The creation and maintenance of social bonds is important to all of us, whether we like thinking of it as something we need, or not. People do need people. We will all be better off by making sure that others have strong social bonds, as well as ourselves.

  9. We are each unique, with unique gifts. Other people can see things, think of things, say things, make things that I do not, that I could not. It benefits me to appreciate and encourage the uniqueness of others. The increase of human creativity and individual expression is a common good.

  10. An ethical culture, in which all people are treated as we ourselves would like to be treated, is important to all of us. Promoting an ethic of honesty, fairness, kindness, and compassion protects us personally from fraud, exploitation, abuse and neglect.
These are my observations of what people of all political stripes already act like we value, even when we don't do it successfully. These are survival goals that can bridge ideological divisions. They seem a good starting point for working together on practical projects and policies. And each of them are things we can each act on in our own small ways every day.

Digg my article

No Impact Man: taking "Be the change" seriously

This is a great blog, by a man trying to live green in New York City. I recommend reading the whole story.

A lot of the comments on Digg sneer at the idea, without doing any extensive reading of the reality. One comment pointed out that the average life expectancy at the turn of the century when "life was simpler" was 47.

The life expectancy of a homeless person in the U.S. today is 47. We have a growing number of homeless people, and NOT because there has been any boom in laziness, drug addiction, alcoholism, or insanity. It is because we have a society/economy run on the idea that pursuing your own benefit no matter what the expense to anyone else (or the common environment) is a GOOD thing.

The creation of poverty, homelessness, untreated illness, early death, dirty air and dirty water does not benefit anyone. We can do something about it. Many people each doing a little bit creates greater and more lasting change than a few people doing big bits.

No Impact Man is doing his little bit. Write On!

read more | digg story

You Get What You Pay For: Chevron’s Human Rights Problems Span Three Continents

I saw Chevron's greenwashing "Human Energy" ad for the first time tonight, and my BS meter began screaming. I knew I'd seen something that ran counter to the ad's claims. It didn't take much searching to find it: last month, a federal judge ruled to force Chevron to stand trial in the U.S. for the massacre of Nigerian villagers.

And there's more:

How did things get to this point? The Free Market Missionaries convinced us -- not all of us, but enough -- that:
  • Pursuing personal benefit no matter what the cost to anyone else is a moral stand, and all talk about "the common good" is evil communism;
  • The only human values, the only values of any kind, are those that can be sold on the market so that a businessman can make a buck off them. Anybody who says there are personal benefits not measurable by money is trying to take your money (except MasterCard, who wants to give you money).
  • Laws against murder, theft, and violating contracts are just and proper (we couldn't do business without them) but laws protecting health, safety, the environment, the common good, or any other value we can't make an immediate profit on are nanny-state attempts to tell you what's good for you. Government shouldn't tell you what's good for you! That's the job of private business! ("Private" meaning "it's none of your business how we do it.")

The American public bought that, and paid for it, and is paying for it. We created an economic system that rewards unethical behavior and, surprise, we get unethical behavior.

We created it, we can uncreate it. An economy that rewards ethical behavior and penalizes unethical behavior is not a Big Brother (or Big Nanny). Most people don't have to be told what's right and what's wrong -- that's why we have laws to enforce right and wrong on those who do have to be told. We want to live in an ethical society. That is the real American way.

read more | digg the original story | digg my story

Join the resistance

Friday, October 12, 2007

Al Gore Donates Nobel Prize Money to Alliance for Climate Protection

Al Gore has donated his Nobel Prize money to further the work that got him the Nobel Prize. Upcoming: resource links for debunking "climate change denial."

read more | digg story

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Rash of Noose Incidents Reported | World Latest | Guardian Unlimited

"Nooses were left in a black Coast Guard cadet's bag, at a Long Island police station locker room, on a Maryland college campus, and, just this week, on the office door of a black professor at Columbia University in New York." And it's gotten international notice. Is this the image we want to show the world? What do we do about it?

read more | digg story

All Quiet on the Seattle Abortion Front

The October 3rd Real Change carried a story on the "40 Days for Life" prayer vigil beginning outside clinics that offer abortions. The national campaign may be hotter in other areas of the county; it seems pretty tame here in Seattle. The only other local news coverage on it is a small blip on the Seattle P-I blog.

I hope that the people not showing up at the daily prayer vigils are out doing something real to save real lives -- like making sure that all women know how to use contraception, have access to contraception, and have access to adequate medical care and all other resources if they do become pregnant.

A moral commitment carries a moral duty to effective action. Standing around looking self-righteous is not effective action.

read more | digg story

Adventures in Bloggery: Learn What's Real

Dr. Wes Browning, satire columnist for a great metropolitan weekly newspaper (Real Change), congratulates George Bush for exposing the communist plot of children's health insurance. "Whether the communists like it or not, this is a capitalist country. If you aren't part of the profit, you're part of the problem."

read more | digg story

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

Run Off: Jean Godden Goes to the Environment

Dr. Wes, satire columnist for a great metropolitan weekly (Real Change), has fun with Seattle Councilperson Jean Godden's campaign literature.

read more | digg story

Night Light: Wiki Thought Control: The CIA, The Pentagon, Homeland Security

One of the most complete reports on government alterations to Wikipedia. Hot blog, overall.

read more | digg story

Adventures in Bloggery: Muddy Waters

Dr. Wes Browning writes a weekly satire column for the Seattle street newspaper Real Change. Sept. 26, 2007 starts: "This won't be a fun column. Jesse Macbeth has got my panties in a knot this week."

read more | digg story

Monday, October 8, 2007

Apesma's Lament: The City Spectacular

"It had actually never occurred to me that the trend toward cities as upscale islands of wealth might be related to globalization, but now that Timothy Gibson points it out, I'm feeling like someone who's been napping for the last decade or so."Tim Harris is the founder/director of Seattle's street-newspaper, Real Change, which has covered issues of homelessness, poverty, gentrification and displacement for just over 13 years. In his personal blog, Apesma's Lament, he gets to expand on those issues, and others, more extensively than in the 400 words we give him each issue in the Director's Corner. He also gets to use stronger language. He makes thinking deeply look like fun.

read more | digg story

Energy Inspirations from Burning Man

Someday I've got to go to Burning Man. Or I'll lose all my Old Hippie cred. :DFrom the page: "Among the theme camps at the event was a designated Alternative Energy Zone, featuring some 50+ participants who offered a guided tour of their various alternative energy devices, even handing out cookies baked in a solar oven."

read more | digg story

Should Green Blogs Discuss Politics?

Does the American political system seem unresponsive to the needs of the American people? Maybe because so many American people have the attitude that "politics" is a bad word.From the page: "It seems obvious that politics play a role in society’s response to big environmental issues. America’s response to Global Warming, for example, has been dictated by its political leaders to a great extent. But yet, few blogs that discuss environmental issues discuss politics. Why is that?"

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Bus Chick, Transit Authority

A bus-rider's blog; carried online by the Seattle P-I, and in print by Seattle's Real Change.

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Blog Action Day. One issue. One day. Thousands of voices.

Making positive use of the Blogosphere! From the site: "On October 15th, bloggers around the web will unite to put a single important issue on everyone’s mind - the environment. Every blogger will post about the environment in their own way and relating to their own topic. Our aim is to get everyone talking towards a better future."

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YouTube - Columbus Day clip from The Canary Effect

Some real history for Columbus Day; video excerpt from The Canary Effect.

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Saturday, October 6, 2007

Stop War the Geeky Way [ Pic ]

What you can tell about me from my first Digg blog: I am a peace activist (aka damn lefty liberal), a geek, and I am all for using humor to make a point.

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