February 28, 2007

Top 50 Things To Do To Stop Global Warming

A lot of people are looking for things they can do to help stop global warming. They want something more than sitting and waiting for governments and alliances around the world to agree on anything, they want to move past the rhetorical discussion from the so-called “skeptics” who stick their heads in the sand or fingers in their ears and claim it’s not happening, and they want to move beyond the lofty discussions of what large-scale changes to our lives and lifestyles, national and foriegn policies, regulations, and litigations will need to take place in order to curb the problem. Well, there are a world of things that we can all do right now, and here’s a pretty comprehensive list of them.

Global warming is a dramatically urgent and serious problem. We don’t need to wait for governments to solve this problem: each one of us can bring an important help adopting a more responsible lifestyle: starting from little, everyday things. It’s the only reasonable way to save our planet, before it is too late.

Here is a list of 50 simple things that everyone can do in order to fight against and reduce the Global Warming phenomenon: some of them are at no cost, some other require a little investment but can help you save a lot of money, in the middle-long term!

From things that people can do with no money, little money, or even to save some money, this list isn’t just completely about global warming, it’s also about how to live an environmentally friendly life and practice green behaviors that minimize your destructive impact on the environment and the planet as a whole – after all, we do want to leave this world a better, richer place for our children than when we inherited it, right? There’s plenty of ways to do that, but not sacrifice living your own life at the same time.

[ Top 50 Things To Do To Stop Global Warming ]
Source: Global Warming Facts

Republicans Threaten to Derail Anti-Terror Bill Over Union Rights

Heaven forbid the workers of the TSA even have the option to unionize and represent themselves as a group, say congressional Republicans and the White House.

In fact, they’re so certain about it and they’re so stone set on their union busting that they’re willing to take down an anti-terror bill that enacts many of the regulations and suggestions of the 9/11 commission to make sure of it. Then again, the Bush Administration and its cronies weren’t too fond of the 9/11 commission anyway. Even so, it’s still incredibly appalling that for as much as the Administration and their congressional cronies shout and scream about how important protecting America is and how valid the 9/11 commission was (while subsequently avoiding enacting their suggestions) but they’re willing to forgo protecting America in order to make sure that the Americans responsible for being that shield don’t have the ability to protect themselves from low pay, discriminatory behavior, lack of overtime, or even have the chance to speak up for themselves.

It seems like the Administration is intent on making our front line of human defense against terror at airports and railways are underpaid, overworked, and could care less about protecting us because they both hate their jobs and don’t have the voice to make it better, or are so afraid of being fired or punished by managers that cut corners that they won’t blow the whistle on the warning signs of the next terror plot. I’m all for giving the TSA to be flexible with the hiring and firing of its staff and making sure they have the right people in the right places to do the right jobs, but they shouldn’t deny those workers the ability to collectively bargain for a better workplace just because of that-those two things are not, and never should be considered, mutually exclusive.

Security administration officers are already allowed to join a union. But few do, as current federal law does not permit the union to bargain on their behalf to contest workplace assignments, file grievances or represent them in disciplinary matters. Backers of the measure say giving the T.S.A. workers broader rights does not create security problems.

“There’s no good reason to deny these rights to these people,” Senator Joseph I. Lieberman, independent of Connecticut, said Tuesday, as the Senate took up the matter.

“How safe is the public if officers who see security breaches that result from mismanagement cannot disclose that because they fear they could be fired?” said Mark D. Roth of the American Federation of Government Employees.

Under the proposal, the security officers would not have the right to strike, and the union would not have the power to negotiate wages. But it would be authorized to bargain on their behalf to establish work rules to govern overtime and temporary transfers, and to protect them if they file a grievance.

Is that too much to ask, when you’re charged with the some of the highest responsibilities with the lowest appreciation in the country: protecting every man, woman, and child passing through our airport gates, railway stations, and bus terminals?

Pentagon: Wounded Troops at Walter Reed Forbidden from Speaking to the Media

In the wake of the horrific story of the conditions that outpatient soldiers at Walter Reed Army Medical Center have to go through (blogged here) published in The Washington Post, a senior Pentagon official came out and made several public statements that he’s planning on overseeing the renovation and reconstruction of the outpatient facility first hand, and that the chain of command at Walter Reed will recieve a shuffle to ensure similar things don’t happen ever again. In fact, the scaffolding and renovations are already underway at Building 18, so there’s some good news there.

On the other hand, there’s the bad news; that part of the Pentagon’s campaign to make sure everything is ship shape and cleaned up, wounded soldiers and their families are being forbidden to speak to the media about the conditions they live in, essentially stifling soldiers from bringing to light the kinds of issues and complaints that made Building 18 so notorious, and subsequently forced the Army to both suffer the bad press and make sure they fixed it.

Soldiers at Walter Reed Army Medical Center’s Medical Hold Unit say they have been told they will wake up at 6 a.m. every morning and have their rooms ready for inspection at 7 a.m., and that they must not speak to the media.

“Some soldiers believe this is a form of punishment for the trouble soldiers caused by talking to the media,” one Medical Hold Unit soldier said, speaking on the condition of anonymity.

It is unusual for soldiers to have daily inspections after Basic Training.

Soldiers say their sergeant major gathered troops at 6 p.m. Monday to tell them they must follow their chain of command when asking for help with their medical evaluation paperwork, or when they spot mold, mice or other problems in their quarters. […]

The soldiers said they were also told their first sergeant has been relieved of duty, and that all of their platoon sergeants have been moved to other positions at Walter Reed. And 120 permanent-duty soldiers are expected to arrive by mid-March to take control of the Medical Hold Unit, the soldiers said. […]

The Pentagon also clamped down on media coverage of any and all Defense Department medical facilities, to include suspending planned projects by CNN and the Discovery Channel, saying in an e-mail to spokespeople: “It will be in most cases not appropriate to engage the media while this review takes place,” referring to an investigation of the problems at Walter Reed.

It’s more than unusual for soldiers to have to line up for inspection after Basic, it’s literally unheard of unless it’s a combat situation or a base abroad where soldiers are living in barracks, and even then.

The whitewash goes on, I’m afraid, with a little hilarity:

Mission accomplished?

Lt. Gen. Kevin Kiley thought so. After the media tour of Building 18, the Army’s surgeon general gave a news conference. “I do not consider Building 18 to be substandard,” he said of a facility Priest and Hull found full of “mouse droppings, belly-up cockroaches, stained carpets, cheap mattresses” and other delights. “We needed to do a better job on some of those rooms, and those of you that got in today saw that we frankly have fixed all of those problems. They weren’t serious, and there weren’t a lot of them.”

Kiley might have had a stronger case if men wearing Tyvek hazmat suits and gas masks hadn’t walked through the lobby while the camera crews waited for the tour to start, or if he hadn’t acknowledged, moments later, that the entire building would have to be closed for a complete renovation.

At least the facilities are being renovated. But the resultant clampdown and whitewash is severely depressing. It seems like everyone involved here at the Pentagon is doing their utmost to avoid any responsibility or accountability, instead rushing some changes without examining the systematic problems that were at work here. This wasn’t about a few dead cockroaches, it was about a systematic breakdown of care for our wounded and recovering brave. It’s a nightmare that after we ask them to go abroad and fight a war without credibility and evidence, we then bring them home after making some of the greatest sacrifices anyone can make for their homes and treat them with such disrespect.

[ Pentagon: Wounded Troops at Walter Reed Forbidden from Speaking to the Media ]
Source: AlterNet

update: At least there’s some accountability, albeit not enough to end my unhappiness with the crackdown. The commanding general responsible for Walter Reed just lost his command:

[ Walter Reed General Fired After Failures ]
Source: The New York Times

update: Well then, never let it be said that people weren’t at least sometimes held accountable for their actions; The Army’s Surgeon General, General Kevin Kiley, and the Secretary of the Army, Francis Harvey, have both resigned in the wake of the Walter Reed story, the former of which reportedly asked to clean out his desk.

[ Army Surgeon General Resigns ]
Source: ABC News

[ Walter Reed Fallout: Army Secretary Resigns ]
Source: MSNBC News

The Iran Debacle

Two closely related articles here. The first interesting point is that Karl Rove received and subsequently ignored an Iranian peace offer in 2003 that may have had the opportunity to stem a great deal of the blustering debate and threatening action by both sides made up to this point. He personally received it, and then ignored it outright. While I don’t specifically point the finger at Rove himself for this-I have no doubt in my mind that anyone else in the Bush White House would have done the exact same thing and subsequently covered it up, including President Bush himself. The chilling point is that it happened in 2003, as the Iraq war was beginning, and before Iranian nuclear capabilities made front page news as an imminent threat to American security.

On Democracy Now, Amy Goodman speaks with Tita Parsi, president of the National Iranian American Council (NIAC), about what happened in 2003. It’s also worthy of note that Iran has repeatedly said, including to a massive American religious delegation that went there this month to meet with Iranian President Ahmadinejad [ Religious Delegation to Iran meets with President Ahmadinejad ] that they’re open to talks with the United States to work out our collective differences diplomatically without strings, conditions, or exchanging bribes or aid – that we simply need to drop our conditions and they’ll drop theirs. (our conditions are that Iran can talk with us, but for us to come to the table they have to stop their nuclear program) The message from both the delegation and Parsi is that Iran is ready to talk, but we won’t until we get what we want. Whether or not that’s a good idea, and whether or not we should waive our conditions are another debate, one that I personally don’t have an opinion on right now, but I wonder how much good holding out a demand in exchange for talks does.

[ Ex-Congressional Aide: Karl Rove Personally Received (And Ignored) Iranian Peace Offer in 2003 ]
Source: Democracy Now! (courtesy of TruthOut)

In an ironic twist, John Edwards is saying what most of us who aren’t blinded by old hate for Iran (even if that disgust is well-founded, no one should forget what happened in 1979, but harboring an old hatred over it may not be wise) is thinking, that a comprehensive peace accord with Iran and a commitment to work to resolve our differences is not just possible, but would be an incredible step towards restoring American credibility around the world, healing our rifts with our neighbors, and showing those nations displeased with us that we’re not a blind juggernaut who can’t be spoken with:

[ Edwards: Treaty With Iran Possible ]
Source: ABC News

I can only hope that whomever wins the White House, whether it’s Edwards or someone else, heeds his suggestions. The world would be a safer place if we engaged those who oppose us at the table of diplomacy first and hardest, rather than opting to go to the mat in blood first, even if some of those enemies would rather do the same.

Why Working Women Are Stuck in the 1950s

Ruth Rosen, writing for Alternet, brings the answers to the questions posed in the title to her article above. She explains that while women have been entering the workplace for years-on the terms of men, no less-since the 1950s, they are still expected to take care of house, home, family, childcare, pamper their spouse, and still be sexually available at any given instant that their spouse may be interested. Even some of the most moderate thoughts on the matter of gender equality in America still hold on to these old notions that it’s okay for a woman to have a career, as long as everything listed above is taken care of as well, and subsequently absolves the presumed male spouses from those same responsibilities. When spelled out, it’s obviously unfair and obviously intolerable, even if a woman weren’t working.

The fact that there was even a grudging discussion in the 70s and 80s about working women urging their partners to share household responsibilities like cooking and cleaning is an example of how deep-rooted this sentiment is – women that work but ask their husbands to vacuum while they cook dinner are somehow betraying the “feminine mystique,” denying their responsibility to define themselves exclusively through family and home, and even if a woman chooses such over a career in the working world, she still bears the incredible responsibility of defining herself through her house and home, and if she does not she’s similarly being defiant.

Rosen explains:

Conservatives typically blame the care crisis on the women’s movement for creating the impossible ideal of “having it all.” But it was women’s magazines and popular writers, not feminists, who created the myth of the Superwoman. Feminists of the 1960s and ’70s knew they couldn’t do it alone. In fact, they insisted that men share the housework and child-rearing and that government and business subsidize childcare.

A few decades later, America’s working women feel burdened and exhausted, desperate for sleep and leisure, but they have made few collective protests for government-funded childcare or family-friendly workplace policies. As American corporations compete for profits through layoffs and outsourcing, most workers hesitate to make waves for fear of losing their jobs.

Single mothers naturally suffer the most from the care crisis. But even families with two working parents face what Hochschild has called a “time bind.” Americans’ yearly work hours increased by more than three weeks between 1989 and 1996, leaving no time for a balanced life. Parents become overwhelmed and cranky, gulping antacids and sleeping pills, while children feel neglected and volunteerism in community life declines.

Meanwhile, the right wins the rhetorical battle by stressing “values” and “faith.” In the name of the family they campaign to ban gay marriage and save unborn children. Yet they refuse to embrace public policies that could actually help working families regain stability and balance.

She’s absolutely right, and it’s not just single working mothers that feel this incredible pinch as well; it’s women across the board, being held to a gold standard that requires them to be everything at once and nothing to themselves, and continues to press the label of selfishness on any woman who dares deviate from the previously mentioned path in order to establish an identity of her own. Rosen goes on to describe the care crisis and how to resolve it in her full piece, and how to address the subsequent crisis of care that working families run into without immediately trying to blame it all on working women and demanding that they stay home without putting social mechanisms in place to help deal with rising work hours, lower wages, and rising health and child care costs.

[ The Care Crisis ]
Source: The Nation

February 22, 2007

W.W.G.W.B.D.?

Stolen shamelessly from BoingBoing who stole it from Wellington Grey. I thought it was entertaining.

what would george w bush do?

Hilariously true! Click the image above for a larger view.

February 19, 2007

Tell Wal-Mart to Sell Plan B to the Women Who Need It, Not Laugh at Them!

I’m going to let this piece of activism speak for itself. I was so incredibly horrified at the scenario that reading it alone made me want to pass the message along.

Last month, Tashina Byrd and her boyfriend tried to purchase the emergency contraceptive Plan B® at the Springfield, Ohio Wal-Mart after their condom broke. Instead, the pharmacist not only refused to provide Plan B® to them, but he laughed in their faces.

Please join NARAL Pro-Choice America in sending Wal-Mart President & CEO H. Lee Scott, Jr. a message urging him to improve company policy to require Wal-Mart pharmacies to fulfill requests for Plan B® without intimidation, humiliation, or delay.

Byrd’s exact experience?

The pharmacist laughed in our faces and told us, “We have it on hand, but there’s no one here who can dispense it.”

That’s horrifying. It’s bad enough when pharmacists believe they have the right to not do their jobs if they don’t feel like it, it’s almost worse when a pharmacist decides that they have the moral authority to make value judgments about the people who come to them for their prescriptions and medications. In all actuality, I would expect nothing else from Wal-Mart, the thought police of the retail world, but in many communities and cities around the country, Wal-Mart is most people’s only (and in other cases, only affordable) option for medication. If that’s going to be the case, they should observe the law, do their jobs, or fire their pharmacists and hire people willing to perform their duties.

[ Take Action: Don’t Let Wal-Mart Have The Last Laugh on Plan B ]
Source: NARAL Pro-Choice America

Waging Peace In Africa

Some good news is in order, and while we generally think of Africa as a war-torn continent rife with ethnic conflict, the reality is that much of the news from the African continent these days is good. Africa is not nearly as violent as it has been in past years, and with the help of peacekeepers, trade opportunities, and sincere diplomatic efforts to compliment the presence of African peacekeepers (not foreign ones), much of the continent’s strife has begun to show significant signs of progress. There’s a long way to go, naturally, and many regimes and governments are still either isolated, clinging to power and rejecting social reforms, or incredibly impoverished. Even so, a lot of work has been done, and the road is paved for more:

Over the past six years, peace agreements have been signed in Angola (2002), the Democratic Republic of Congo (2002), Eritrea-Ethiopia (2000), Ivory Coast (2005), Liberia (2003), Senegal (2004), Sierra Leone (2000) and Southern Sudan (2005). Several more conflicts have ended in military victory or simply petered out. And other countries are moving towards peace: Burundi’s last active rebel group signed a ceasefire in September, negotiations between the Lord’s Resistance Army and the Ugandan government may end a brutal 19-year old war and recent events in Somalia could bring some much-needed stability.

But it’s not just the number of wars that is down. The number of countries beset by wars in Sub-Saharan Africa also declined from 13 to 4 between 1999 and 2005, allowing more governments to focus on development.

Perhaps most importantly, the severity of conflicts is way down in Sub-Saharan Africa (and globally). Although combat deaths are notoriously tricky to measure accurately, the number of combatants and civilians killed directly by the fighting (‘battle-deaths’) dropped over 95 percent, from close to 100,000 in 1999 to around 2,000 in 2005. In 1999, the average conflict in Sub-Saharan Africa had over 6,000 battle-deaths per year. In 2005, the figure was less than 400.

The news of course, given the conflicts in Darfur and in Somalia for example, is not all good. But the fact that the continent is making progress, with positive reinforcement from the rest of the global community, is heartening.

[ Waging Peace In Africa ]
Source: TomPaine.com

Facts? Who Needs Facts?

I can happily say that the Union of Concerned Scientists is probably one of, if not the best scientific watchdog groups patrolling the scientific community for political involvement, and I’m glad they’re around. The Bush Administration, and conservatives in general, haven’t made any effort to let up on the political corruption of science and the deconstruction of actual scientific study and discourse in favor of preferable conclusions that support public policy.

Federal government science has been distorted, manipulated and suppressed on everything from childhood lead poisoning to toxic mercury emissions, with serious consequences for our health, safety and environment. And through executive order, the Bush administration has attempted to centralize decision-making power in the White House, in the process preventing independent science from informing policy. This cannot be allowed to continue. Congress must act to restore scientific integrity and checks and balances to the federal policy-making process.

If recent activity in the House and Senate is any indication, Congress intends to hold the administration accountable for its abuse of the scientific process. Congress held two hearings in as many weeks—one in the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee and another in the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee—to investigate allegations that federal scientists face political barriers in communicating their work outside their agencies.

The hearings focused on climate change, “Exhibit A” in the administration’s abuse of science. A recent investigation by the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS) and the Government Accountability Project (GAP) exposed new evidence of widespread political interference across federal science agencies.

Perhaps worth reading the most out of the article is the UCS’s A-to-Z Guide to Political Interference in Science, which outlines this type of political corruption in the laboratory. Dr. Francesca Grifo, senior scientist and director of the Scientific Integrity Program at the UCS, has some suggestions about what we can do to get political influence back out of the lab and allow scientists the opportunity and the ethical freedom to investigate without interference.

[ Facts? Who Needs Facts? ]
Source: TomPaine.com

Debate Over Global Warming is Shifting

This is the news I was waiting for:

With Democrats controlling the environmental agenda in Congress, a panel of international scientists saying there’s a greater-than-90 percent chance that humans contribute to global warming, and former vice president Al Gore calling climate change a moral issue, many besieged global warming skeptics are starting to tone down their rhetoric.

Still, both sides acknowledge that the global warming debate has changed significantly in recent weeks. The biggest factor is the Feb. 2 report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, or IPCC — a review of scientific literature by hundreds of scientists who determined that it is more than 90 percent certain humans contribute to global warming.

While much of the article is still a “woe is me, our scientific opinions are in the minority” set of quotes from people whose bills are being paid by industry that profits from the same environmental destruction and exploitation that the scientific community has long deduced are problematic, I’m pleased to see that even the so-called “skeptics” are beginning to revisit their own conclusions. The sad part though, is that they continue to skirt around the laboratory and head straight for the halls of government, attempting to influence public policy and the public discussion with no scientific evidence on their side, choosing instead to arm themselves with an armful of money, powerful friends, and a nitpicking attitude that allows them to take shots at the real data the same way an internet troll will opt to assault the grammar of an article rather than the actual content.

Even so, the so-called “skeptics” are necessary for healthy scientific debate. They have to be there to be the check and correction against the scientific mainstream – the problem though is that often being a “skeptic,” even if you have no factual evidence or rationale for such, is sexy and worth a few minutes on the morning news, even if you have nothing but opinions to back you up. The media is beginning to learn a valuable lesson: not all opinions are equal, although everyone’s equally free to have an opinion.

[ Debate Over Global Warming is Shifting ]
Source: The Boston Globe