Friday, January 28, 2011

Care for a Side of Antibiotics With That Milk?

Cute cows, aren't they?
I am going to make believe that they are sunning, side-by-side, on a cows-only cruise ship.

I so often complain about the fox guarding the hen house - the way federal agencies seem to be incestuous extensions of the industries they regulate, swapping personnel between them and all.

Refreshingly, today it seems the Food & Drug Administration [the FDA] is doing what it's paid to do - trying to protect us from bad stuff in our food.  Unfortunately, in this case, the industry involved is working very hard to make sure the FDA can't do its job. 

And this from the dairy industry.  Come on, folks.  Is there anything more American than drinking your milk?

This New York Times article chronicles the agency's attempts to test our milk supply for illegal levels of antibiotics.  The FDA wants to perform these tests because they've found such levels in older dairy cows bound for the slaughter house.  The industry is claiming there's no reason to believe that older cows currently producing milk have the same levels as cows bound for slaughter. 

No reason?  How about common sense?  Since it is expensive to maintain, house and feed older, non-producing cows, we can assume that these older dairy cows were producing all the way up until the day of their retirement party, when they are given a gold watch and a one-way ticket for that big cow cruise ship in the sky.

If you've ever been to the doctor for a virus, you've no doubt been told that we don't get antibiotics for every illness.  We only receive antibiotics when a test for bacterial infection comes up positive.  This is because putting antibiotics into your system reduces their future effectiveness - both for you personally, and because these bugs have a miraculous natural ability to morph in ways that make them resistant to the antibiotics we treat them with.  That is bad news for all of us.  As our antibiotics lose effectiveness for the bacteria in our environment, bacteria has the potential to become deadly.  We are already seeing this with the advent of two new highly resistant killer strains of bacteria, Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus [MRSA - pronounced mersa] and Clostridium difficile [C diff or see-diff].

The dairy industry's argument is that the testing plan is poorly designed.  The industry even suggested that farmers might be forced to dump millions of gallons of milk while they wait for test results.  In actuality, it turns out that the requirement - I mean the term "forced" summons up a regulatory mandate, doesn't it - is an edict from the industry itself.  Agri-Mark, one dairy cooperative, apparently issued an instruction to its members to dump any milk that's been tested until the results come back.  The reasoning: if the milk has been dumped, a bad report cannot result in a recall.  The industry is worried about public reaction to a recall. 

While I understand the fear, it is a dairy farmer's responsibility to ensure that milk meets legal safety standards.  If a farmer is doing his or her job, there should be no fear of the test results.  On the other hand, if the industry looks the other way while its members get away with things because the FDA hasn't been checking up on them - well, that's no better than athletes who sneak performance enhancing substances.  Except it's way more deadly, because what farmers do to our milk impacts nearly every person in America - both through the introduction of excess antibiotics to the population as a whole, and by the influence on the evolution of bacteria to more resistant strains.

Now the dairy industry is fighting the testing altogether.  If their reasons are valid, why hasn't the industry proposed its own, alternative testing methodology?  Is it because they're trying to hide something about industry practices?   What we don't know can hurt us.

May I make a suggestion here?  Buy ORGANIC milk.  Even though it's a little more expensive, it's worth every penny not to put antibiotics in your system.

Or switch to organic almond milk.  It's got no antibiotics, nearly the same nutritional value, fewer calories, and doesn't end with a retirement cruise for Elsie.   

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

80% of U.S. Energy from Clean Sources by 2035

Michael A. Levi, David M. Rubenstein Senior Fellow for Energy and the Environment at the Council on Foreign Relations, did a quick-and-dirty comparison of the president's State of the Union proposal with the last energy bill that failed.  The first paragraph is below.  Click here to take you to the entire analysis.

"President Obama announced a big new energy goal in his State of the Union address tonight: generating 80% of America’s electricity from clean sources by 2035. In the interest of helping people get a sense of what that means, here’s my quick analysis of how that compares to past climate proposals. The bottom line is that this looks more ambitious, at least for the electricity sector, than the climate bills that failed last year."

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Poets Responding to SB 1070


A poem worth reading by Matt Sedillo, from a facebook page entitled "Poets Responding to SB 1070."


Go forth woman
Carry your child
Not long to be a man
Into uncertainty
Flee the certain wreckage
Of broken promises
Of better tomorrows
That to be hated
To be hunted
Is still better
Than to starve


Johnny Ramirez
An immigrant kid
Who crossed over
With his mother
When he was six
Abandoned by his
Father when he was three
Always had it rough
Lived by the motto
If I don’t see the cops
Then I don’t see why not
Lived in a system
That offered him nothing
That taught him
He was unwanted
Without a record
But a criminal by birth
So why not earn the title
Things are tough in
Migrant America
Poverty wages
An imploding economy
ICE raids
It’s always
One thing or another
In this new country
This land of opportunity
There is always a new pain
To discover
A new way to slowly
Kill yourself and your mother
In the land of milk and honey
He had caused her so much pain
He who took refuge in gangs
In drugs in liquor
Belief that he was
An Aztec warrior
Fighting the Blacks
Fighting El Salvadorians
Fighting other Mexican kids
From other corners
Crossing them out
Like so many toy soldiers
Things were rough all over
For the children of the poor
When there aint no jobs
There aint no opportunity
So you join a gang
Like the US military
Leave your mother crying
As you promise her
A path to citizenship
A road to scholarships
A real future in this country
Johnny Ramirez remembered
That conversation well
As he lay wounded fatally
In Fallujah
A gang banger
Turned general issue soldier
Turned cannon fodder
Turned statistic
Turned propaganda
Turned bumper sticker
Support our troops
Or protect our borders
Either way one less hated Mexican wetback
Or one more honored brave American soldier
Who kill and die in wars
Who live and die by the sword
Because those
Were the only two options
Ever given
Turned piece of meat
Whose humanity
Is sacrificed
To the so called
Ways of the world
Turned turn the page
Turned the same old song
Johnny’s mind began to race
He thought of a little girl
He had seen years earlier
In the paper
Shot on the corner
Of Whittier blvd
How the shooter claimed
It was an accident
Johnny thought
How children of Iraq
Were called collateral damage
How he called them Hajis
How he convinced himself
Their deaths were necessary
How his squad leader
Convinced him
They were less than human
How he let himself be convinced
That maybe he deserved this
Maybe he had always
Wanted to deserve
Something like this
That life from birth
Had never been worth
The effort of his mother
To push him through
Was this finally it
Was this what it meant
To be an American
To kill and die
In this now God forsaken nation
Once the cradle of civilization
As a reckless child
In ancient temple
Like the hands of a broken stop watch
As history repeated itself
As an immigrant
A soldier
A poor kid
Who never had a chance
A Conquistador
Of home
His cousin’s low rider
And murals
Of Aztec Pyramids

Saturday, January 22, 2011

A Little Sump'm to Read

Looking for something to read?   Look no further...

Why Do People in Finance Earn So Much More than the Rest of Us?

VISION: The Future Is Becoming More Clear -- Abandon Sprawl, Intensify Use of High Speed Rail and Return to Urban Life, Like the US Was in the '20s

Why Glenn Beck Keeps Peddling Whack-Job Fantasies About Euthanizing Grandma, Outlawing Christmas and Turning Junior into a Raging Homosexual

Vermont Is Gearing Up to Strike a Major Blow to Corporate Personhood


The world is so out of wack, and I'm sorry to say this, but the Tea Party folk got one thing very right.  We need to throw open the windows to our insular little homes, and yell out the window - all of us - yell out the window,

"I'm as mad as hell and I'm not going to take this anymore!"

This morning at 7 a.m. the phone rang.  I was still asleep.  A woman's pleasant voice informed me that my lost suitcase - a bag that was handed off to an American Airlines luggage guy at the same moment I handed off another bag that did arrive in Phoenix - would be delivered to my home this morning.  The delivery person, she said, is named Toots, and if I wanted to "show Toots some appreciation," it would be very welcome, because Toots does not work for American Airlines."   Half asleep, I got it that she was asking me to tip Toots.   I hung up, melted back into my pillow.  Then suddenly, I got the rest of it.

I called back the number on my phone.  I asked, "Did you just tell me that you work for tips?"  The dispatch woman, who, it turned out was herself on the road making suitcase deliveries, was clearly rattled by  my return call. 

"It's strictly voluntary," she hastened to tell me.  Then she explained that in fact, American Airlines pays $7.20 for each delivery.   From that fee, the delivery women receive 55 percent, or by my calculation, about $3.96 a delivery.  For that, at 11 p.m. last night she drove from wherever she lives to the Airport, grabbed my bag and drove home, then hauled it across town this morning to Scottsdale.  Toots, it turns out, had two deliveries this morning, so for her time, she made $7.92.   

Has anybody noticed that gasoline is $3.00 a gallon?

The dispatch woman, whose name I later learned from Toots is Mary, was more than apologetic.  She was scared.  I told her I think it's so wrong for American Airlines to pay such a pitance to these women that they needed to rely on tips from AA customers - customers who should not have to tip to get their bags back after American lost them.  After enduring days of worry, days without important belongings, days of fruitless phone calls to clueless American personnel; now I need to tip?

Oh, and did I mention that American Airlines charges to check the bags that they lose?  Twenty-five dollars to lose - oops, I meant check - the first bag.  Thirty-five dollars for the second bag. 

I was so angry that I told Mary I planned to call American Airlines and tell them how wrong it is that they pay dirt-for-wages to these women.  How wrong it is that the jilted American customer should have to pay, instead of American Airlines falling all over itself to make things right with its customers. 

Mary's voice got a little strained.  I should do whatever I felt I had to, she said, but... if American got wind of this, her delivery company would lose its contract.  She explained that these delivery services are a dime a dozen.  That the delivery business was cut-throat.  That her company gets these accounts through a broker, and the broker could turn to another company in a snap to fill this contract.  She was sure that if I called, they would be cut like that.

She then pleaded with me.  She informed me that Toots is 56, has a disabled, unemployable husband at home.  Mary said she herself is a widow in her late 50s, lucky enough not to be supporting anyone else, but this job is all she has.  She told me that once upon a time her agency had multiple airline contracts, but now the American Airlines contract was the only Airline contract they had left.  She reminded me that the tip is completely voluntary.  She said I should not feel obligated.  She apologized if I was upset.  She apologized and apologized and apologized.

And then she said it.  She said the thing that is on the minds of any honest liberal whose eyes are open, and who is not an Obamapologist. 

"President Obama hasn't done anything for us.  He hasn't done anything at all."

I made up that word, "Obamapologist," by the way, joshing my friend Ruben for 'splaining away something or another coming out of the White House.  I am very proud of that word.  It's right up there with Obamacare.

Anyway, at that moment, I realized how angry I really am.  Angry to the point of adrenalyn coarsing through my veins.  Angry to tears.  Really.  They are streaming down my face while I write this, even though I couldn't get to my computer until after Toots arrived with my bag.  Until after I'd figured out what to do about tipping Toots, since I did not want to give in to American Airlines' madness, yet it wasn't Toots I wanted punished. Until after I took Lucy and Simon to the dog park, came home, set up a virtual office hours for my ethics students, made myself something to eat, fed the dogs, swept the kitchen floor. 

Angry because President Obama, the president of Change, and of Yes we can!, not only can't, but maybe just plain won't. 

I am angry because President Obama just made William Daley his new chief of staff.  Daley is a JP Morgan Chase man from the same Wall Street crowd that just sucked in billions of dollars of our tax moneys, to prevent the collapse of "our" financial system.   I put the word "our" in quotes, because it turns out that preventing the collapse of the financial system did not loosen up money to small business or in any other way result in trickle-down financial health for the rest of the country.  No, it just restored wealth to those who had already had a lot of it.

And James Cole, a private consultant to mega-insurance and investment firm AIG, another tax-payer bailee, to the Justice Department.

And just yesterday, Jeffrey Immelt, the CEO of General Electric, to be the head of Obama's jobs council and his new outside economic adviser.  Jobs Council?  Really?

What I'm getting at here, is that President Obama is bringing in the fox to guard our hen house.  And Toots and Mary and me and you and a whole bunch of other people you know - we are the hens.  We are being eaten alive out here in this economy, and President Obama is awash with fox.

Does it seem interesting to anybody besides me that GE was, according to, one of the largest direct and indirect recipients of funds from the federal stimulus program? 

Does it trouble anyone besides me that Obama just placed at the head of our jobs council the man whose company took advantage of federal stimulus dollars despite having $156 billion in revenue last year, according to Standard & Poor?   How much stimulus did they really need?

Does it trouble anybody that Obama assigned a guy to create American jobs whose own company reduced its employee rolls by 18,000 in 2009 and has more of its 300,000 plus employees overseas than at home?

I'm mad as hell.

All this time later, I am that I feel like whooping some ass. I feel just like Billy Jack.

"When I see this girl... of such a beautiful spirit... so degraded... and this boy... that I love...sprawled out by this big ape here... and this little girl who is so special to us we call her 'God's little gift of sunshine'...and I think of the number of years that she's going to have to carry in her memory...the savagery of this idiotic moment of yours... I...just...go...BERSERK!"

Folks, I'm a nobody, but until a whole lot of nobodies get angry, stick their heads out the window, get their bodies out in the streets, we're going to be stuck with a lot more of the same, and a whole lot less change.

The Tea Partiers and I don't see eye-to-eye on a lot of solutions, and by blasting the Democrats, they've missed the real problem by a mile.  The real problem is that Washington has been co-opted by corporate greed.  These machinations that benefit corporate shareholders to the detriment of the rest of Americans have been behind the scenes until recently.  But the economy, the Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP) and the rest of the Stimulus packages, coupled with the beautiful new transparency afforded to us by the internet - no wonder "they" are trying to regulate it - has put the truth in your face. 

Those Tea Partiers who are there for real change - not just because it's a convenient vehicle to promote some extremist ideologies - Tea Partiers like my facebook pals Andrea Kent, Earl White, Jamie Conner and Deb Johnson - should cross the fence to talk with Democrats who find themselves disappointed - no, make that disgusted - with Obama's inability to break out of the D.C. mold.  Together, we should push America up off its couches, party affiliation be damned.  We should make Americans see that our country has been deeded over to corporate shareholders, and is not the mecca of common man. 

This is no longer a place where anyone can pull themselves up by their bootstraps, because the jobs are headed overseas and the profits are consolidated into corporate pockets.  We Democrats should be thanking the Tea Partiers for getting angry.

I know this must sound outrageous on the heels of my post about toning down rhetoric.  But getting angry is not about getting violent.  I'm going to tell you what I used to tell my daughters when they fought with each other.

"Don't call names.  Don't be hateful.  Just say, firmly and strongly, what is happening that is hurting you.  Name the thing that is making you angry.  Name the thing so we can work it out." 

It would be a mad world if we didn't get angry about what's going on here.  We are only 235 years old as country, and we may not have known the outcome of corporate greed when we passed all the laws that nurture and protect it, but we can begin to see its outline.  We can begin to see its casualties, and those are us.  This is not a market economy.  This is a corporate despotism.  So yes, let's take a page out of the Tea Party handbook and get into the act.  Let's put some reformers into office.  Not pretend reformers like President Obama. 

There, I said it.  Thank God I'm not important enough to end up on anybody's McCarthy-esque list.

Yesterday, my facebook friend Shaw Israel Izikson posted a YouTube video clip from the 1976 movie, "Network," showing fired news achor Howard Beale's on air "witness" after losing his job.  Shaw posted the clip in honor of Keith Olbermann's final speech after MSNBC cut his show, "Countdown."  As I watched Peter Finch's testimony to his audience, I realized his words, in 1976, were as accurate and meaningful today.  Just substitute "Iranians" for "Russians," and you've got it.  Down to the last dime.  Here is the script to Beale's speech, but you'd do better watching it on the video below.

"I don't have to tell you things
are bad. Everybody knows things
are bad. It's a depression.

Everybody's out of work or scared
of losing their job, the dollar
buys a nickel's worth, banks are
going bust, shopkeepers keep a
gun under the counter, punks
are running wild in the streets,
and there's nobody anywhere who
seems to know what to do, and
there's no end to it. We know
the air's unfit to breathe and
our food is unfit to eat, and
we sit and watch our tee-vees
while some local newscaster
tells us today we had fifteen
homicides and sixty-three
violent crimes, as if that's
the way it's supposed to be.

We all know things are bad.
Worse than bad. They're crazy.
It's like everything's going
crazy. So we don't go out any
more. We sit in the house, and
slowly the world we live in
gets smaller, and all we ask is,

'please, at least leave us alone
in our own living rooms. Let me
have my toaster and my tee-vee
and my hair-dryer and my steel-
belted radials, and I won't say
anything, just leave us alone.'

Well, I'm not going to leave you
alone. I want you to get mad --

I don't want you to riot. I
don't want you to protest. I
don't want you to write your
congressmen. Because I wouldn't
know what to tell you to write.

I don't know what to do about the
depression and the inflation and
the defense budget and the Russians
and crime in the street. All
I know is first you got to get
mad. You've got to say:

"I'm mad as hell and I'm not going
to take this any more.
I'm a human being, goddammit. My life
has value."

So I want you to
get up now. I want you to get
out of your chairs and go to
the window. Right now. I want
you to go to the window, open
it, and stick your head out
and yell. I want you to yell:

"I'm mad as hell and I'm not
going to take this any more!"

- Get up from your chairs.
Go to the window. Open it.
Stick your head out and yell
and keep yelling --

-- First, you have to get mad.
When you're mad enough --
-- we'll figure out what to do
about the depression --
-- and the inflation and the oil
crisis --

-- Things have got to change.
But you can't change them unless
you're mad. You have to get mad.

Go to the window --
-- Stick your head out and yell.

I want you to yell: "I'm mad
as hell and I'm not going to
take this any more!"

Right now. Get up. Go to
your window --
-- open your window --

I got my bag back this morning.  No thanks to American Airlines and with the help of two women who make 55 percent of $7.20 for their trouble.  These two women are so afraid of losing their jobs that Mary called Toots and asked her to pick up a Dunken Donuts gift card good for free coffee and a donut for me, on the way to my house.  That's $3.50, leaving her with forty-six cents for her trip. 

I have changed Mary's and Toots' names to protect their meager livelihood.  I stood for a long time after I got off the phone from Mary, pondering how to deal with this. How to protest the profiteering of a mega-corporation like American Airlines by squeezing the blood from women like Toots and Mary.  In the end, I gathered up all the change I could find and put it into a sandwich bag, and gave it to Toots in exchange for my bag and the Duncan Donuts gift card.  Later I gave the Duncan Donuts card to two cops who were talking in the parking lot at the dog park.  They have to sit there because there are people in my town who are so hungry or desparate that they break into our cars while we are off playing with our dogs.  Or maybe they're druggies looking for something to sell to feed their habits, but maybe they're not. 

I no longer think our government is a government of the people, by the people or for the people.  It will be interesting to see what reaction I get from calling this the way I see it.  I will be waiting to hear from my friends Doug Chandler, and Kathy Hodge Scherich, and Sandi Elliott and others on the left with whom I share opinions about how to solve social problems. 

I wish I could do something more than write this damn blog.  But it's just me and my keyboard today.  Me against American Airlines, G.E., Wall Street and our corporatized government.  I wish I had a business where I could employ Mary and Toots for fair wages.   I wish I was Cesar Chavez or Martin Luther King or even Jon Stewart - somebody who cares and had the charisma and power to move people to the streets.  I wish I had a bully pulpit.

I wish I had the power to get you all to move to your windows and scream.  

Friday, January 21, 2011

Four Horsemen of the Nonprofit Apocalypse

This one is for my many friends whose lives are dedicated to healing the world, either as staff or volunteers in the nonprofit sector, and for my many students who are working toward their masters of nonprofit administration degrees.  You must take a peek at Clara Miller's article, "The Four Horsement of the Nonprofit Financial Apocalypse"  in "The Nonprofit Quarterly."  I'm going to give you the gist of her arguments, but it's worth clicking through to read the nitty gritty of her article, and her guidance. 

Miller says the old one-size-fits-all wisdom about building financial sustainability for your nonprofit is, unfortunately, working against organizations in today's economy.   Here are the four horsemen, paraphrased and greatly oversimplified (again - read the full article):

(1) too much real estate - problematic from an equity perspective (dropped values), and also from a cash-flow perspective - because the owner picks up major maintenance and repair costs during a cash poor economic climate;

(2) too much debt - during unpredictable revenue streams, you want your cash available to provide services, not debt service;

(3) under-water balance sheets/over-reliance on endowments - once seen as the ultimate vehicle to free a NP from the fundraising scramble, these prove unreliable in bad markets because they are invested with a goal of throwing off profits and maintaining the corpus; and,

(4) labor market issues - two-prong issue - a) nonprofits are often labor-reliant to meet mission, and labor is expensive, and b) bad economy often means a greater need, not a reduced need, for services, and that means more staff. The three problems above lead to reduced cash flow and inability to be financially nimble enough to take care of staff.

The sector definitely needs to rethink its financing model...

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Why Not Wack Congressional Pensions While You're At It?

According to Paul Bedard of "Washington Whispers," (a blog? a news site?), House Republicans unrolled a plan to cut about $2.5 trillion in federal spending.  Of course, Obamacare is on the chopping block, and below is Bedard's list of other programs. 

One of the interesting comments from the article was that the states should be picking up the costs of some of these programs.  When I hear stuff like that, I'm torn between laughing and crying.  How ludicrous.  The states are so broke. 

Has anyone bothered to look at the fiscal impact of each of these programs to see what would happen to the economy if these programs disappear?  Or, God forbid, taken a look at the human impact?  I know that's gauche these days.  We care more about balancing the federal checkbook than about human lives.  Hey, I'm not saying that the checkbook is unimportant, but folks, our country isn't in the financial mess we're in solely because of public funded programs.  But that's a different blog.
I can blog about this proposal with relatively calm demeanor because I know the Senate will block these crazy attempts to make good on election promises.  By the way, running bills that you know can't get off the ground is also a waste of public dollars.  These bills all take precious congressional staff time, cost money to print, etc.

But on the other hand, come 2012, several more Democrat seats are in danger, including in the Senate, and who knows what they might really pull off if they get better control over the Senate.  That would give me chills for sure.  Here's the list, per Bedard:

"Corporation for Public Broadcasting Subsidy. $445 million annual savings.

Save America's Treasures Program. $25 million annual savings.

International Fund for Ireland. $17 million annual savings.

Legal Services Corporation. $420 million annual savings.

National Endowment for the Arts. $167.5 million annual savings.

National Endowment for the Humanities. $167.5 million annual savings.

Hope VI Program. $250 million annual savings.

Amtrak Subsidies. $1.565 billion annual savings.

Eliminate duplicative education programs. H.R. 2274 (in last Congress), authored by Rep. McKeon, eliminates 68 at a savings of $1.3 billion annually.

U.S. Trade Development Agency. $55 million annual savings.

Woodrow Wilson Center Subsidy. $20 million annual savings.

Cut in half funding for congressional printing and binding. $47 million annual savings.

John C. Stennis Center Subsidy. $430,000 annual savings.

Community Development Fund. $4.5 billion annual savings.

Heritage Area Grants and Statutory Aid. $24 million annual savings.

Cut Federal Travel Budget in Half. $7.5 billion annual savings.

Trim Federal Vehicle Budget by 20%. $600 million annual savings.

Essential Air Service. $150 million annual savings.

Technology Innovation Program. $70 million annual savings.

Manufacturing Extension Partnership (MEP) Program. $125 million annual savings.

Department of Energy Grants to States for Weatherization. $530 million annual savings.

Beach Replenishment. $95 million annual savings.

New Starts Transit. $2 billion annual savings.

Exchange Programs for Alaska, Natives Native Hawaiians, and Their Historical Trading Partners in Massachusetts. $9 million annual savings.

Intercity and High Speed Rail Grants. $2.5 billion annual savings.

Title X Family Planning. $318 million annual savings.

Appalachian Regional Commission. $76 million annual savings.

Economic Development Administration. $293 million annual savings.

Programs under the National and Community Services Act. $1.15 billion annual savings.

Applied Research at Department of Energy. $1.27 billion annual savings.

FreedomCAR and Fuel Partnership. $200 million annual savings.

Energy Star Program. $52 million annual savings.

Economic Assistance to Egypt. $250 million annually.

U.S. Agency for International Development. $1.39 billion annual savings.

General Assistance to District of Columbia. $210 million annual savings.

Subsidy for Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority. $150 million annual savings.

Presidential Campaign Fund. $775 million savings over ten years.

No funding for federal office space acquisition. $864 million annual savings.

End prohibitions on competitive sourcing of government services.

Repeal the Davis-Bacon Act. More than $1 billion annually.

IRS Direct Deposit: Require the IRS to deposit fees for some services it offers (such as processing payment plans for taxpayers) to the Treasury, instead of allowing it to remain as part of its budget. $1.8 billion savings over ten years.

Require collection of unpaid taxes by federal employees. $1 billion total savings.

Prohibit taxpayer funded union activities by federal employees. $1.2 billion savings over ten yrs.

Sell excess federal properties the government does not make use of. $15 billion total savings.

Eliminate death gratuity for Members of Congress.

Eliminate Mohair Subsidies. $1 million annual savings.

Eliminate taxpayer subsidies to the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. $12.5 million annual savings.

Eliminate Market Access Program. $200 million annual savings.

USDA Sugar Program. $14 million annual savings.

Subsidy to Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD). $93 million annual savings.

Eliminate the National Organic Certification Cost-Share Program. $56.2 million annual savings.
Eliminate fund for Obamacare administrative costs. $900 million savings.

Ready to Learn TV Program. $27 million savings.
HUD Ph.D. Program.

Deficit Reduction Check-Off Act."

Wednesday, January 19, 2011


A year and a half ago, I wrote about my periodic attempts to put the meat down and back away from carnivorous eating.  You can read about it here.  Today I came across an article on AlterNet by Jenna Woginrich, who realized that refusing to eat meat because of the "twisted world of assembly-line death camps, crippled animals, radiated carcasses and festering diseases" did not, in any way, change the stockyard-to-table cruelty factor.  So, she decided to take the opposite approach, to "...learn to butcher a free-range chicken, raise a pig without antibiotics and rear lambs on green hillside pastures." 

Jenna's reason for writing the article is to remind us that every time we choose to buy our meat from a small farmer who is committed to cruelty-free ranching, we are informing the broader livestock industry that consumers want and are willing to pay for cruelty-free meat.  She says,

"Farmers markets have been on a rapid rise in the US thanks to consumer demand for cleaner meat, up 16% in the last year alone....It's a hard reality for a vegetarian to swallow, but my veggie burgers did not rattle the industry cages at all. I was simply avoiding the battlefield, stepping aside as a pacifist. There is nobility in the vegetarian choice, but it isn't changing the system fast enough. In a world where meat consumption is soaring, the plausible 25% of the world's inhabitants who have a mostly vegetarian diet aren't making a dent in the rate us humans are eating animals. In theory, a plant-based diet avoids consuming animals but it certainly isn't getting cows out of feedlots. However, steak-eating consumers choosing to eat sustainably raised meat are."

Jenna's point is good.  A few years ago, finding organic produce was seriously complicated, and usually involved a trip to a specialty market like Whole Foods.  Today, consumer demand has guaranteed at least a small organic produce section in nearly every grocery store.  Similarly, the market for kosher meats, which are ritually killed in what was - at least before other technologies existed - arguably the least painful method of slaughter.  Point is, if people start voting with their wallets, slaughter procedures might begin to change in response.

I hope you'll read Jenna's full article here.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Civil Savvy - I Have a Dream!

It is Martin Luther King Day, so pardon my post title, but I think MLK would approve.  To make progress in this great nation of ours will require a dose of respect for civil forms of discourse, not to mention a little respect offered one-another just on the premise that we - and our ideas - all need to be treated with a bit more dignity.  We are all Americans, and we are arguing over the shape of our nation.  We all live here and lay a legitimate claim, and as such, our multiplicity of ideas should be heard out with an open mind.

I'm still not clear how this backslide into mud-slinging became our primary political dialect, but this is as good a time as any to turn this ship around.
Joe Markowitz

A facebook friend of mine, Joe Markowitz, wrote an excellent post today on Civility, and I urge you to read its entirety.  Joe starts by mentioning Speaker John Boehner's accusation that the Obama administration is on a "job destroying spending spree."   He then deconstructs the impact of Boehner's word choice, and offers some alternatives.

Another of my facebook friends, Doug Chandler, was prompted by Joe's post to note that Boehner's words didn't seem all that bad to him (my paraphrase).  I get it, Doug, given the miles between a phrase like "job destroying spending spree," and some of the more vitriolic hate speech that's come under scrutiny in the wake of the shootings of Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords and some of her staff and constituents in Tucson a week ago last Saturday. 

While I see Doug's point, I think Joe's point is too important to miss.  Boehner's language didn't go over the edge, but neither did it "invite" civility. As I understand Joe's comments, fruitful discourse requires civility on both sides of the discussion - not to mention, wouldn't we really rather be a civil society?   Joe's article is beautiful because it demonstrates just how easy it would be to produce a very civil, possibly even productive, conversation - if each side wanted to.

And there's the rub.  I worry that the real story - beneath the rhetoric - is that neither party wants a civil discourse.  I worry that each party has become so wedded to its own beliefs and its supporting rhetoric that delivering anything less than a ideologically perfect solution to any policy issue would be tantamount to party betrayal. 

We've managed to ideologize ourselves into three factions - the My-Way-Or-The-Highway Right, the Oh-Crap-The-Right-Is-Beating-Us-Up-Again-Left, and the Will-You-Both-PLEASE-Just-Shut-Up-Disgusted-Middle.  Until we can get civil again, we will have a hard time bringing that Disgusted Middle back into the discussion, and policy will be mostly stuck in this mire we've created.

I like Joe's post.  It's so important because it demonstrates just how dawg-on simple civil debate can be.  It strips away all excuses for civility between grown people.  Here is my favorite few words:
"...[R]estoring civility does not mean that we are going to end disagreement or debate. Nobody should expect anybody else to abandon any deeply-held political positions, or to let go of their passions..."

Joe then goes on to offer some much-needed "how to" advice.   I hope you'll click this sentence and Scotty will beam you right through to Joe's thoughtful little post.

Before I exit, I want to take a moment to applaud Senators Tom Coburn (R-Oklahoma) and Chuck Schumer (D-New York), who've announced that they plan to break tradition and sit together during President Obama's State of the Union address January 25th.  It's a very civil - and savvy - move!

Illustration borrowed from Joe, who borrowed it from another blogger, who no doubt borrowed it from another blogger.  We're all getting loose about attribution.  Wish there was an easy way to know the origins of any particular photo found on the web.  Unless they're locked or otherwise say not to use them, it's pretty freewheeling out here in cyberspace...

1:28 Minutes - Just Watch It!

Wanted to share this video. This is not only a great reminder of the value of using a seatbelt, but it's a genius use of the medium to tell its story.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

DAVID HARVEY: What Went Wrong With The Economy?

This is fascinating.  Harvey is doing a Marxist analysis, if I'm understanding him correctly.  Whatever you think about Marx, some of Harvey's translations of Marx into today's events are worth tossing around.  What do you think?

Saturday, January 15, 2011

What Kind of Extremist Will You Be?

My friend and mentor, Robyne Stevenson Turner (left), wrote a beautiful, thoughtful, reflective piece honoring the anniversary of Martin Luther King day.  Below is my favorite section of her post, and I hope you'll read the rest of it here.

"MLK wrote, "So the question is not whether we will be extremists, but what kind of extremists we will be. Will we be extremists for hate or for love? Will we be extremists for the preservation of injustice or for the extension of justice?"

I believe we must be extremists of responsibility. That does not mean to be vigilantes or to demonize those with whom we disagree. I am often quick to lay blame at the feet of Palin, Limbaugh, and Beck. But instead, I need to take responsibility for what I am doing - how am I sounding the message of extremism for justice? How am I living into the dream of MLK that ours would be a society of character and not color? What am I doing to prevent the next Tucson, the next bobble-head exchange of vitriol, the day-to-day despair of dreams denied by people like me that have more power and position than ever earned?"

Thursday, January 13, 2011


The blogosphere is burgeoning with response to the tragic shooting of Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords in Tucson last Saturday morning.  While there is an outpouring of grief, sympathy and condolence, the bigger noise may be from saber-rattling of the left and right - geez, I can't even write a first paragraph without fighting rhetoric creeping in - over who is culpable for the shooting.

Oh sure, everybody concedes that the shooter, Jared Lee Loughner, a 22 year old with a history of erratic behavior, is ultimately responsible. 

But there also emerged an immediate and visceral sense that Loughner, whose belongings included certain rantings against the government associated with right-wing ideology, might have been inflamed past the tipping point by right-wing rhetoric.

And an equally instinctive protest of innocence on the right, accompanied, of course, by the requisite cross-claims about violent Democrat rhetoric.   That's "cross-claims," not "cross-hairs," by the way

Click this sentence for some pretty graphic depictions of Republican candidates by some of our left-leaning pals.  It's not just the right-wing who wanna inflict bodily harm.

Because ex-vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin's campaign used a visual that targeted Democratic candidates for defeat inside the cross-hairs of a gun, much of this debate has been focused on Palin herself.  Many have called for Palin to apologize - to take responsibility for this ad and her other gun metaphor-ladin speech, to call herself out as wrong-headed in retrospect, to come forth and lead the nation in toning down rhetoric.

I want to talk about apologies for a moment.  As a mediator, I know that an apology can go a long way toward healing between two conflicting factions.  Yet, we here in America don't like to apologize.  We find apologies so uncomfortable - recall, if you're old enough, "The Fonz" on "Happy Days" stuttering out his attempt to say, "I'm s..s..s..o..r..r..r..r..r..y..."!  

Apologies infer culpability, and for reasons I'm not totally clear about, we avoid culpability like the plague.  Are we afraid of law suits?  Are we afraid of losing respect?   Are we afraid of being labeled with our misdeed, a scarlet "A" for Apologist?

I'd like to turn that around a little.  What if that scarlet letter were really for Accountable?   We all make mistakes, both individually, and as a culture.  To pretend otherwise is disengenuous.  Taking responsibility for our mistakes, admitting them, and apologizing creates a space to end a destructive behavior, to move forward constructively.  To save relationships.  Denying real culpability, on the other hand, causes us to rationalize and legitimize destructive behavior, thereby perpetuating the negative.

I once read an article by a woman named Natalia Garland, written all the way back in 2003.  She was thinking about the apologies of Pope John Paul II and of the Reverend Billy Graham.  Pope John Paul II apologized on behalf of the Roman Catholic Church as an institution for the harms caused by the Church over history, including the sexual victimization of children by the catholic priesthood, the Church's collaboration with the Nazis during the Holocaust, and even to the Eastern Orthodox for the activities of the crusaders which led to the fall of Constantinople.

Billy Graham, on the other hand, was apologizing for his own actions.  In 2002, some of former President Richard Nixon's tapes were declassified, and Graham was heard on them to engage with Nixon in some disturbingly anti-semitic comments.  He later apologized personally to Jewish organizations, and in the press, saying he deeply regretted having made those statements.  Graham didn't even remember having made the statements, but in hindsight, admitted that he must have been sucking up to the President (my words, of course, not Graham's).   

Garland, in her article, notes the difference between these two apologies:

"Billy Graham apologized for himself, for his own doings. Whereas the Pope apologized for others' doings and for the impact of history. The Pope apologized as a leader, as a representative of an organized religion, on behalf of those who committed atrocities in the name of God, and on behalf of the corrupt and depraved segments of his religion. Billy Graham acted as a man of honor and conscience. The Pope acted as a Christlike figure, taking on the sins of others."

In more recent times, we've seen Chicago Tribune executive Lee Adams apologize to his employees for sending out lewd videos using the company email.  We've seen NPR's CEO Vivian Schiller apologize to her colleagues for the way she fired Juan Williams from his job as correspondent.  The White House and others apologized to fired Department of Agriculture employee Shirley Sharrod for the hasty action that turned out to be wholey wrong-headed.  Baseball player Josh Hamilton apologized to his wife, his team, and his fans for blowing sobriety and nearly destroying everything he'd worked so hard for.

Scholars have spent a lot of time studying what mediators know from experience:  apologies are excellent beginning points for reconciliation.  They are necessary steps toward rebuilding trust.  Roy Lewiki and EdwardTomlinson, in a piece on trust-building, said,

"...[A]pologies and promises signal remorse and assurance for the future, respectively. These are important forms of communication that help to restore balance in the relationship and convince the victim that it will be safe to trust again in the future."

Getting back to the Tucson shooting, nobody wants to be culpable for Loughner's actions.  In fact, there is no direct culpability for Palin or any of the other rhetoric slingers on either side of the fence.  Jared Lee Loughner alone pulled that trigger.

But neither should we ignore the quick, national, visceral impression that we've become an angrier nation than we want to be.   We can simply look at the raised level of vitriol on our facebook pages to see that inflamed rhetoric leads to inflamed tempers.  I don't know about you, but I know too many former facebook "friends" who've gotten angry enough to defriend each other over heated rhetorical exchanges.  And frequently use hate language to discuss each other afterward. 

If heated rhetoric can cause normally social people to come unhinged on facebook, what's to say that a climate of heated rhetoric won't put a few crazy people over the edge?  Or drive a few sane people to craziness?

There is, in the law, something informally known as "the eggshell rule."  It says, "you take your victim as you find him."  If your victim is particularly fragile, and but for that fragility your action would have left no damages, you are nevertheless fully responsible.

What would be so wrong with a few of the more vitriolic of our statesmen and women, and our media personalities, from standing up to say, "in hindsight, this might not have been a good idea"? 

And, I think we ought to take responsibility as a society as a whole for allowing ourselves to slowly roll into a more graphic, gratuitiously violent culture where the violence metaphors of Palin, Glenn Beck and others in both parties have become run-of-the-mill rather than outrageous.  Today we stand by while our kids play video games filled with blood, guts and death, whereas my mother wouldn't let me see a James Bond movie until I was 18.   The gun lobby goes overboard, using terrorism, crime rates and border bandits to scare otherwise normal citizens into loosening gun laws well past the intentions of the Second Amendment, "A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed".

We've done this as a whole.  Sarah Palin simply tapped into something already present, or it wouldn't have been so appealing to so many.

Whether or not this trend toward violent speech triggered the Tucson shooting, it has certainly driven a wedge between countrymen and at times, has made it nearly impossible for our elected officials to function on our behalf.

I don't know who, by rights, should apologize to Gaby Giffords, the other injureds and the families of the slain on behalf of our culture for this generic slide into the abyss of violence.  I don't know who should apologize to our country for allowing this breach of trust to so deeply divide us.  I had hoped that someone in leadership would step forward to say, "I've missed the mark here, I've steered us away from our brightest future."  I had hoped that someone with charisma would lead us back toward each other, toward healing, hope and reconciliation. 

I hoped maybe President Obama would step forward.  He did say this today:

"[W]hat we can't do is use this tragedy as one more occasion to turn on one another. As we discuss these issues, let each of us do so with a good dose of humility. Rather than pointing fingers or assigning blame, let us use this occasion to expand our moral imaginations, to listen to each other more carefully, to sharpen our instincts for empathy, and remind ourselves of all the ways our hopes and dreams are bound together." 

But that is not an apology.  That is not an acceptance of responsibility.  I hoped maybe Sarah Palin would do so.  She did say this today:

"We know violence isn’t the answer. When we ‘take up our arms’, we’re talking about our vote.” Yes, our debates are full of passion, but we settle our political differences respectfully at the ballot box – as we did just two months ago, and as our Republic enables us to do again in the next election, and the next. That’s who we are as Americans and how we were meant to be. Public discourse and debate isn’t a sign of crisis, but of our enduring strength. It is part of why America is exceptional."

Neither was that an acceptance of responsibility.  It was not an apology.

So, what's a little Jewish blogger to do?  

Um... ok... how about if I do it?   Here.  Now.   No, I don't think I have any special stature like the President, Sarah Palin or the Pope. 

But I think I can do it in the spirit of the vidui, the ancient Jewish communal confession said annually at the high holidays, because our sins are common.  We may undertake them alone, but their impact is felt in the context of community.   Our sins may be our own, but they also may be triggered, prompted, nurtured, supported, even invited by the structure and offerings of the community.  We are in it together, as we were reminded so chillingly last Saturday.

So, here goes. 

Al chet...I confess...and apologize...

For ever being hard-hearted and angry toward my own countrymen,
And for allowing myself to sink into baseless hatred, for holding a grudge, for failing to forgive,

For anything I may have said or done to infer that it is acceptable to look the other way in the face of violence in action or in speech.

For anything I may have said or done to infer that violence can be humorous or laughed off.

For anything I may have said or done to infer that violence is an acceptable political metaphor among countrymen in a country that should be striving to build national trust, strength and harmony.

For failing to take a stand on the creep of violent rhetoric and violent imagery into our society, simply because I could easily avoid exposing myself and my daughters by turning off the TV, refusing to buy the video, ignoring the movie.

For hiding behind the first amendment when it comes to asking myself whether this is my responsibility to speak out.  Just because something is legal doesn't make it right. 

For all these sins, and others I have forgotten to mention, please, friends, forgive me, pardon me, and be willing to move with me toward reconcilliation and healing.

Come on folks, if the leaders won't lead, let us lead by example.

Monday, January 10, 2011


Arizona coyotes howling. Their song sounds like my grief feels...

Sometimes things are supposed to happen a certain way. 

I drafted a long, informative blog post about the tragic shooting of Gabby Giffords and 19 others, six of whom died.  I wanted to talk about the political ramifications, about the divisive rhetoric that may or may not have inflamed an angry Jared Loughner, the shooter.  I wanted to ask what a rhetoric of violent metaphor means to our country.  I wanted to make a case that, while we cannot pin the murders on the rhetoric any more than we can officially pin other youthful violence on violent video games, a culture that allows violent rhetoric to become common place is a culture that is heading back toward wild west politics. 

And in the wild west, anything goes.

Somehow the "save function" was inoperative and I lost the entire post.  I do not have the heart or the time to recreate it - and I think maybe the universe is trying to tell me we need to grieve first, talk politics later.

So, I offer prayers for the speedy recovery of Gabby Giffords, her two staffers, Pam Simon and Ron Barber, and the other injureds whose names I do not know, as well as for those who lost their lives, including Christina Greene, 9, a student at Mesa Verde Elementary, Dorothy Morris, 76, a retiree, U.S. District Judge John Roll, 63, Dorwin Stoddard, 76, a retiree, Phyllis Scheck, 79, a retiree, and Gabe Zimmerman, 30, Giffords' director of community outreach.