Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Who is YOUR ideal presidential candidate?

WQAD in Illinois has an interesting, eleven question quiz to help you figure our your ideal presidential candidate. Check it out. The candidate who came in first for me wasn't a surprise, but a few other choices were.

Monday, October 29, 2007

Two good quotes

The reasonable man adapts himself to the world; the unreasonable one persists in trying to adapt the world to himself. Therefore all progress depends on the unreasonable man. (Or woman, George, or woman.)
George Bernard Shaw

Any intelligent fool can make things bigger, more complex, and more violent. It takes a touch of genius - and a lot of courage - to move in the opposite direction.
E. F. Schumacher

I hate my car

It always lets me down when I need it the most. Of course, I suppose my car would say the same thing about me.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Is Paris (San Diego, Florida, etc.) Burning?

Bill Dusty commented about my last post that liberals worry too much. Bill likes to give me a (minor) hard time; I was going to point out to Bill that only the post before, I had appreciated a heron on Loon Pond, taking time to stop and smell the roses (which really shouldn't still be blooming in October).

But actually, an article from today's New York Times says it all better...

October 26, 2007

U.N. Warns of Urgent Environmental Problems

PARIS, Oct. 25 — The human population is living far beyond its means and inflicting damage to the environment that could pass points of no return, according to a major report being issued today by the United Nations.

Climate Change, the rate of extinction of species, and the challenge of feeding a growing population are among the threats putting humanity at risk, according to the United Nations Environment Program in its fourth Global Environmental Outlook since 1997.

“The human population is now so large that the amount of resources needed to sustain it exceeds what is available at current consumption patterns,” Achim Steiner, the executive director of the Environment Program, said in a telephone interview. Efficient use of resources and reducing waste now are “among the greatest challenges at the beginning in of 21st century,” he said.

The program described its report, which is prepared by 388 experts and scientists, as the broadest and deepest of those the United Nations has issued on the environment and called it “the final wake-up call to the international community.”

Over the last two decades the world population has increased by almost 34 percent, to 6.7 billion from 5 billion. But the land available to each person is shrinking, from 19.5 acres in 1900 to 5 acres by 2005, and is projected to drop to 4 acres by 2050, the report said.

Population growth combined with unsustainable consumption has resulted in an increasingly stressed planet where natural disasters and environmental degradation endanger millions of human beings as well as plant and animal species, the report said.

Persistent problems identified by the report include a rapid rise of so-called dead zones, where marine life no longer can be supported due to depleted oxygen levels from pollutants such as fertilizers, as well as the resurgence of diseases linked with environmental degradation.

The report comes two decades after a commission chaired by the former Norwegian prime minister warned that the survival of humanity was at stake from unsustainable development.

Mr. Steiner said many of the problems the Brundtland Commission identified are even more acute because not enough had been done to stop environmental degradation while flows of goods, services, people, technologies and workers has expanded, even to isolated populations.

He did, however, identify pockets of hope, noting that Western European governments had taken effective measures to reduce air pollutants and that Brazil had made efforts to roll back some deforestation in the Amazon. He said an international treaty to tackle the hole in the earth’s ozone layer had led to the phasing out 95 percent of ozone-damaging chemicals.

Mr. Steiner said parts of Africa could reach an environmental tipping point if changing rainfall patterns stemming from climate change turned semi-arid zones into arid zones and made agriculture that sustains millions of people much harder.

Mr. Steiner said another tipping point could occur in India and China if Himalayan glaciers shrink so much that they no longer supply adequate amounts of water to populations in those countries.

He also warned of a global collapse of all species being fished by 2050, if fishing around the world continued at its present pace.

The report said 250 percent more fish are being caught than the oceans can produce in a sustainable manner, and that global fish stocks classed as collapsed had roughly doubled to 30 per cent over the past 20 years.

The report said that current changes in biodiversity were the fastest in human history, with species becoming extinct a hundred times faster than the rate in the fossil record. It said 12 percent of birds are threatened with extinction; for mammals the figure is 23 percent and for amphibians it is more than 30 percent.

The report said concentrations of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere were about one-third greater than 20 years ago, and that the threat from climate change now was so urgent that only very large cuts in greenhouse gases of 60 to 80 percent could stop irreversible change.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

What will YOU do to stop the next war?

I was at an Arise meeting tonight and of course winning ward representation was the main item on the agenda-- two weeks till the election! We had precinct maps for flyering and sign-up sheets for poll locations ready. Wish we had more resources but we're not doing too badly.

Tonight folks staggered their arrival over half an hour (usually hate this) but Kristie, at whose house we were meeting, had prepared a feast and we'd all brought food so we had some time to talk.

Didn't take long before we all remarked on how bad things in this country are getting so quickly-- California burning, the South drying up, and here in New England we have 75 degree weather near the end of October.

Tory came in near last and sat down and said, "I've just been so worried about this world all day."

"I know, we were just talking about it," I said. 'Fires, drought--"

"No, I meant Cheney, and what he said about Iran."

So we went from there.
-- Is it just too insane to believe Bush might declare war against Iran?
-- Is it possible people will fall for the same thing twice, or have we smartened up from Iraq?
-- Do everyday people get the connections between the war and lack of funding for fuel assistance and health care?

Can we stop it?
-- Seems like the national anti-war groups aren't capable of leading.
-- Sick of marches and speeches.
-- Ellen says new groups are emerging.
-- Democrats aren't using the power they have-- legalized wiretapping-- would they vote for war again?
-- Are small groups like ours talking about what can be done even as we speak?
-- Would everyday people finally say, Enough! and be willing to do something about it?
-- What can be done?
-- Can there be No Business as Usual to stop this war?
-- What will YOU do to stop the next war before it begins?

Blue Heron on Pasco Road

I was driving down Pasco Road about an hour before sunset last week and happened to glance down a little dirt road toward Loon Pond. There, silhouetted by the setting sun, stood an immensely tall Blue Heron. I had two seconds to savor the sight before the flow of traffic carried me away.

Always rushing, today I was driving down the same road and wondered-- could I possibly see the heron again? And there it was! Life is too short, I thought, and I pulled my car over and walked back to the pond. I moved slowly and got within twenty feet of the heron before the bird leisurely.took flight. Huge wings!

Yellow leaves blown into the water gradually gathered on one shore. Mallards cruised in pairs on the nearly still waters. Tiny bugs made tiny ripples.

Surrounded on two sides by two of Springfield's most heavily travelled roads, Loon Pond seems to flourish.

Painting by Jack Schroeder Art.

Saturday, October 13, 2007

Ward Rep stand-outs begin

Late yesterday afternoon eight of us took our brand-new and really nifty ward representation signs and stood at the intersection of Main and Locust Sts for two hours. It was chilly but hardly unbearable. Today another group of us stood at the Boston Rd. and Parker St. intersection. Early this morning Liz dropped off signs at a meeting of the Ward Four Democratic Committee and about an hour later Arise's VP Don James reported seeing Ward Four folks standing out at Mason Sq. Tonight Liz is meeting up with Ward One folks to pass on more signs and fliers. So we've begun.

We're not taking anything for granted in this campaign. Just because ward rep won 58% in the 1997 election doesn't automatically mean a win this year is automatic. In 1997 we'd spent a whole summer doing outreach as we collected signatures for the ballot question; this year, ten years later, most people will have only heard about ward representation through the media: our federal lawsuit earlier this year, and then our battle to get Home Rule legislation for ward rep through the Legislature in time to be on this year's ballot. We know we have to mobilize all the resources we can to make personal connections with as many voters as possible.

When I think back to the beginning of Arise for Social Justice, four welfare mothers meeting together to figure out how to make our voices heard, I never could have predicted all the directions our movement for social justice would go in. Most of the time I feel like our work has barely begun.

Many of our struggles will outlive us. Ward representation is that rare example of significant institutional change that is actually winnable. I remind myself: keep breathing, keep working, keep believing.

Working Families

One out of five working families don't earn enough to make ends meet, according to a new study by the Center for Economic and Policy Research.

"Millions now work in what we call "bad jobs." While higher-wage workers take for granted that their jobs come with employer-based benefits like health insurance, a retirement plan, and maybe some paid time off, just over one-in-five workers (22.1 percent) are in a bad job -- a job that pays low wages and provides no benefits.

That's where government work supports -- programs that ensure that families can access basics such as healthcare, childcare, food, and housing -- are supposed step in and fill in the gaps.

The reality, however, according to research we released this week, is that nearly 41 million people live in families that don't earn enough to make ends meet, and government benefits do not fill in the gap. These families work, but their earnings aren't enough. Most low-wage workers don't get the kinds of employer-sponsored benefits common for higher-waged workers, so without government help, these families are left out in the cold, often unable to afford health insurance, decent child care or other necessities."

Thursday, October 11, 2007

WBAI afraid to HOWL

Boing Boing reports that New York Public Radio Station WBAI Pacifica is afraid to air Alan Ginsberg's poem Howl for fear on being fined by the FCC...I got to hear Ginsberg read once, back in the day when Gary Snyder, Diane DiPrima, Lawrence Ferlinghetti, Bob Kaufman, Michael McClure, Denise Levertov, Kenneth Patchen and LeRoi Jones were actually READ and TALKED ABOUT....Here's a few of the last (instead of the first) lines, in case you don't remember or have never had the pleasure...

I'm with you in Rockland
where there are twenty-five-thousand mad com-
rades all together singing the final stanzas of the Internationale
I'm with you in Rockland
where we hug and kiss the United States under
our bedsheets the United States that coughs all
night and won't let us sleep
I'm with you in Rockland
where we wake up electrified out of the coma
by our own souls' airplanes roaring over the
roof they've come to drop angelic bombs the
hospital illuminates itself imaginary walls col-
lapse O skinny legions run outside O starry
spangled shock of mercy the eternal war is
here O victory forget your underwear we're
I'm with you in Rockland
in my dreams you walk dripping from a sea-
journey on the highway across America in tears
to the door of my cottage in the Western night

Saturday, October 6, 2007

Plant a Tree

Gift with a double purpose-- for every one of these lovely ornaments you purchase, a tree is planted.
National Wildlife Federation.

Friday, October 5, 2007

Danger! Drama! Laughter! Tears!

Minor key, mostly, just life...except for the tears (rage, sadness) from last night, listening to Homeland Security Adviser Fran Townsend being interviewed on CNN. She absolutely denied that the U.S. uses torture and absolutely refused to deny that waterboarding was one of the techniques used by U.S. interrogators. From AFP:
"We start with the least harsh measures first," Townsend told CNN television. "It stops ... if someone becomes cooperative."
But witness statements from former prisoners held in secret CIA jails or in the US military base in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, have all testified to the use of systematic, and at times unchecked, of alternative interrogation techniques.
Former detainees, most of whom have been released without charge after several years in detention, have told of being held for months in solitary confinement.
They complained of being denied sleep, barred from seeing daylight, left naked in tiny, suffocating or freezing cells, forced to stand for hours in painful positions or being subjected to the onslaught of loud music."
I just can't believe this is my country, and that we've been so POWERLESS to stop this evil.
Started out this morning running just a little behind, heading for a meeting in Holyoke. As I pulled onto Rt. 91, I noticed the air smelled like gasoline/oil. By the time I got to Rt. 391, I started wondering if I'd put my gascap back on the night before. (But of course I had, I knew that.) Pulled over on Main St. in Holyoke, puled under the car, gas was practically pouring from somewhere.
What to do? Triple A expired, or I'd have called them from there, but I don't have a cellphone anyway. So I decided to head back to Springfield as quickly as possible, before I ran out of gas, and made it (barely) to my garage. I'd grabbed the first book I put my hand on off my bookshelf this morning, so I sat outside and smoked cigarettes and read Sherlock Holmes VS. Dracula, or the Adventure of the Sanguinary Count, while my car was fixed (leak in the gas line).

"You might get sunburned sitting there," a familiar voice said, and I looked (way) up to see my friend Billy. I knew him from Sanctuary City. He looked great-- khakis with a sharp press, clean white tee-shirt tucked in, hair cut (as usual) a half inch from his scalp.

"Last I heard, you were in jail," I said.

"I did end up going back-- served out my time, so it's for the best," he said. "I'm still with Sandy," he said, some ruefulness in his voice; he knows I don't think she's good for him. "In fact, I'm on my way to see her now, she's in the hospital, she got a brain infection from shooting up."

"And you?" I said.

"I'm clean," he said, which might have even been true; he's gone long periods with his addiction inactive.

"Where are you staying?"

"I'm camping out," he grinned. "I know, doesn't look like it, does it?"

We talked a bit more and then the guy came out and said my car was ready, so we hugged and said goodbye.

Got in my car, which still reeked, and headed for the closest gas station.

"Hey, how you doing?" someone said from the next pump up.

"Hey!" It was Sonny, who I'd also known from Sanctuary City. When Sanctuary City closed, Sonny had moved in with a friend, gotten a little job, then got a beat-up pick-up truck, and now he supports himself doing carpentry and odd jobs. We chatted a couple of minutes, I got another hug, which was nice, then I headed for my office.

I have not stopped thinking about homeless people; I keep up with what's going on, and seeing Billy and Sonny freshened my thoughts. Of course I thought first of both of them, what different places they're in, how one has seemed to succeed while the other is still in the shadows. Yet Billy, like all of us, is on a journey, and the journey's not finished, and I'm not willing to think I know what his end will be.

Worthington St. shelter is full; people are sleeping on cots in the kitchen. A lot of folks are still camping out, thanks to global warming. The city forced the Open Pantry's Warming Place shelter to close but now is trying to get $40,000 out of the state for an emergency overflow shelter, seeing as plans to house homeless people have not developed quite as quickly as publicly promoted. (That's sarcasm.) I can't predict this winter, although it does seem the city is determined not to leave any opening for criticism.

Finally I got back to my office. Miss Lizzie, my senior aide, had left by then, but I had an odd feeling I was not alone. A few minutes later I heard what I thought was a bird-- possibly above the dropped ceiling? I started straightening up and when I picked up a small bag of grapes off the table, a creature flew out from behind and dashed under a desk so quickly it took me a few seconds to realize it was a chipmunk.

The chipmunk did not emerge even though I moved boxes and rattled papers all around, so I left my office door to the outside open all afternoon but as far as I know, the chipmunk was still inside when I left. (I'd put out a bowl of water and a few crackers; better a live animal than a dead one on Tuesday.)

Much organizing to do this weekend.

Thursday, October 4, 2007

Where is Indian Summer?

We can't enjoy Indian Summer until first we have been invigorated by the chill of fall. This weather makes me uneasy.

Monday, October 1, 2007

Gov signs bill - Vote Yes on Question One!

I was down at City Council tonight when former City Councilor and now State Rep. Angelo Puppolo called Councilor Jose Tosado to say the Governor had signed the ward representation that very evening.

Now we can say, Vote YES on Question One on November 6!

We're having a press conference tomorrow at noon on the steps of Springfield City Hall. Jose said he couldn't make it but to remember that HE was the one who pushed for ward representation through City Council. I said I wouldn't forget, that if the Governor hadn't signed the bill, we'd be cursing our elected officials out, but now we will thank them.

This probably won't be absolutely the last time I say this, but five councilors at large and eight by ward in NOT the stronger form of ward representation that so many of us wanted, and that out federal lawsuit was designed to remedy.

But, for now, it's the best we're going to get. I keep looking for the right analogies, and maybe because I've been having car trouble, I thought of this one: you need another car to get to work and you've got $3,000 you can spend. You're determined to get at least a 2000 model, but when you get out looking, with cash in hand, the best you can find on any carlot for your money is a 1996. Are you going to say, The hell with it, I just won't buy? Or are you going to take the best you can and save even more capital for another day?

Now our hard work continues. Basically, one month till election. Here we go.

Legislature passes ward representation bill

I received a call from Mary Reilly, one of Sen. Buoniconti's Boston aides, early this afternoon-- the Legislature is DONE with home rule legislation for ward representation-- with a whole 30 hours to spare! Now the Governor must sign it before the end of tomorrow. Mary Reilly said the bill was actually on the Governor's desk and that Sen. Buoniconti was headed for the Governor's office to leave a personal request.

Meanwhile, I suppose, anything can happen-- I'd say we're 75% of the way there, with the deadline now less than 24 hours away. Just called the Governor's office-- talked to whoever answered the phone, Brendan, which I think is as close as an ordinary citizen ever gets to the gov. Brendan said the Governor is "aware" of the legislation (should be, I know of at least 40 phone calls that were made to his office) but seeing as the gov has not yet expressed a public opinion either way, Brendan couldn't say what he's going to do. Guess that's the typical political response, and that I shouldn't necessarily take it as a negative.

Wish I could have been a fly on the wall of some of the rooms where our legislators must have talked about ward rep-- then again, there's the possibility they've scarcely talked about it AT ALL (with a couple exceptions) because you'd never guess ward rep was a priority for anyone other than the citizens of this city, who've waited long enough.

Never been much of a "back room" person. We don't know how to play that game at Arise for Social Justice, and wouldn't play it even if we knew how. I still believe that voting makes a difference, at least on a local level.

Ward rep won 58% of the vote in the 1997 ballot initiative, but because the question was brought by CITIZENS instead of the City Council itself, we had an absurd, impossible barrier to the question becoming law-- ONE-THIRD of all the residents in the city had to vote in the affirmative, and that one-third had to be a majority of those who voted. Of course we haven't had that kind of turn-out in years, although the ward rep question had a greater number of supporters than any single city councilor. The question would have been FIRST if it had been a city councilor.

We have the RIGHT to vote on this issue. I know that I and others will be working very hard to turn out the vote Nov. 6 if ward rep gets on the ballot.

If I hear more soon, I'll post it.