Thursday, July 31, 2008

Is homelessness really down? You be the judge

Is homelessness decreasing? The Department of Housing and Urban Development says so; this week HUD announced that chronic homelessness decreased by 30 percent between 2005 and 2007, resulting in 52,000 people who used to be homeless now housed..

The credit goes largely to the Interagency Council on Homelessness, headed by Philip Mangano, which has involved hundreds of cities in developing ten year plans to end chronic homelessness. We've certainly needed a national strategy on homelessness, and Mangano is a sincere guy. Still, he's working in the middle of an federal administration that not only has not produced new affordable housing, but whose less than benign neglect of the Federal Reserve, Wall St. and housing speculators has lead to an unprecedented foreclosure crisis. What's wrong with this picture?

So how did we get this reduction in homelessness? At least part of the reason is that HUD has changed its definition of homelessness! This is one of the oldest tricks in the book. I remember when it was standard operating procedure in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts to generate regulations limiting eligibility for family shelter. Then, the commonwealth could claim that family homelessness was down and they actually closed some shelters! The author of Blog de Ford has participated in HUD's annual homeless count and decries the surveying method.

Much of the Interagency's strategy for reducing homelessness is built around the concept of Housing First. Ironically, that's what homeless advocates from Mitch Snyder's day onward have been saying. But we meant new housing, not just shuffling poor people around. Joel John Roberts at LA's Homeless Blog has this to say:
Logic tells us that the only way to truly reduce the number of people who are homeless on the streets is to place them in permanent housing—preferably “Permanent Supportive Housing”, housing linked to support services.
So did Los Angeles build 17,000 Permanent Supportive Housing units in two years? Give me a break. With the loss of existing low income housing (converted to market rate housing) and the building of new affordable housing units, LA barely broke even. And this was for low-income housing, not housing for the homeless.
Philadelphia bucked the purported national trend; homelessness increased. Mayor Nutter plans to spend $8.3 million to create 200 units of new housing for those "hardest to reach," but then plans to use 500 public housing units for other homeless, putting them ahead of desperately poor people who are trying to avoid homelessness by getting into affordable housing.
Ventura County, CA hasn't seen a decrease in homelessness. Utah's numbers are actually going up. Numbers are down on Long Island but Connie Lassandro, Nassau County's director of housing and homeless services, says
"The numbers are down ... because there were restrictions put on us....Obviously [HUD] is thrilled because they see the number is down. It's all about funding. If the numbers are down, they can say the need's not there."

Asked about the change yesterday, Johnston said interviews were not required. He said the decreases came as thousands of HUD-funded housing for the homeless became available. "We really believe these numbers," he said.

A HUD slide show on conducting the 2007 counts said interviews were "preferable" and instructed counters to "always ask about homelessness." Guidelines HUD sent out said: "Without interview information, communities will not be able to accomplish several things that HUD is requiring."

Long Island homeless advocates said HUD declined to tell them, in writing, that interviews were not required.
Newsday.
I've worked with homeless people for many years and been homeless myself. I'm more likely to believe that fewer people are homeless when we have more jobs and more affordable housing. Still waiting.

.

Memorial service for Steve Donoghue

Steve Donoghue's memorial service will be Wednesday, August 6, 1:30 pm at Christ Church Cathedral, 35 Chestnut St., Springfield.

Rev. Jim Munroe, Rev. Greg Dyson, Jack Desroches and Kevin Noonan are putting the service together, and also printing a prayer card.

Folks from the Open Door are organizing a reception with refreshments after the service in the Kendrick Room, and some of Steve's friends from Loaves & Fishes will hopefully perform some songs Steve wrote.

There should be a death notice in the paper soon.

Homeless win - Open Pantry funded - Thanks, everyone!

I heard the good news about 1 a.m. and received this email from Kevin Noonan. I'm unbelievably relieved. This was a very close call--

Michaelann,

We were quite surprised to learn the senate was considering each override as soon as they were voted upon favorably by the house.

So I am happy to report the senate also approved the override last night; in fact they voted unanimously.

We cannot thank you enough for your unwavering support for the people we serve. Please ask folks to take time to visit the open pantry web site: http://www.openpantry.org. They they can follow the links for contact information of legislators and a list of the representatives and senators who helped us to make this happen.
Please ask folks to send them an e-mail to let them know you appreciate their efforts on behalf of people who need their help.

This most recent experience has been a long and exhaustive struggle.

I know there are difficult days ahead but today as i enjoy the honor of completing my 19th year as executive director of open pantry community services, people might notice a slight spring in my step.

In solidarity and peace,

Kevin J. Noonan

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

House supports open Pantry, now call the Senate TOMORROW!

Great news on the House side: the House just voted to override the governor's veto of line item 4403-2120 which earmarks an increase in funds for the Open Pantry.

Now the issue moves to the Senate. Please call your senators and the senate leadership tomorrow, Thurday, July 31, 2008 and urge them to follow the House's lead and to vote for an override of the govenor's veto of the Open Pantry's earmark in line item 4403-2120. (It is crucial to call on Thursday because Thursday is the last day of the legislature's formal session.)

Below is a link to the Senate leadership: http://www.mass.gov/legis/leadership.htm

Attacks against homeless nationwide on the rise

Street Roots has put it all together about the latest increase in violence against homeless people. Daniel Horner of sister paper Street Sense breaks down the figures and explains what they mean.

Sunday's murder of a homeless man by another homeless man in Springfield is still on everyone's minds here....once again i missed the exact birthday of Mitch Snyder, but Mitch, I love you.

Don't relax just yet: take action to stop war with Iran!

Yeah, I know it seems like tensions with Iran are easing...and that it won't be a whole lot longer until Bush is out of office....but anything can still happen and we have two chances to speak out

Saturday, August 2, noon at Court Square in Springfield, MA
Emergency Call for Action

In response to the Aug. 2 Emergency Call for Action from the National Stop War On Iran Campaign, the Campaign's Western Mass. Organizing Committee has scheduled a news conference for this Saturday.

Representatives of peace & justice groups throughout the Valley will be participating in this event, including: the STCC Mobilization Against Poverty, Racism & War; Out Now, a LGBT youth group; Physicians for Social Responsibility; Arise for Social Justice; the American Friends Service Committee, and others. State Representative Benjamin Swan (D-Spfld), poet Martin Espada, and activist Vladimir Morales are also slated to speak. A public speak-out will follow the news conference.

At present, actions are set for more than 65 cities in North America during the Aug. 2-3 weekend. To view a growing list of those signing on to the Aug. 2 call, click http://stopwaroniran.org/aug22008orgcents.shtml

Please visit http://StopWarOnIran.org and support this campaign by signing the online petition to the Bush administration and Congressional leaders.

You don’t need us to tell you the antiwar movement must remain alert to the possibilities of a U.S. or Israeli airstrike against Iran …or the need for unity within the movement…or the importance of solidarity with the Iranian people. Our stand has been clear since the National Stop War on Iran Campaign began in 2006 and we hope you’ll stand with us in the days to come.

Catherine Donaghy & Nick Camerota for the Western Mass. Organizing Committee of the Stop War On Iran Campaign

Springfield, August 15th, 4:00 p.m.
Please join us in co-sponsoring and building
Hands Around the Federal Building
To Prevent War on Iran

Veterans for Peace, Wally Nelson Chapter 95, is initiating a call of conscience. We will be acting in the Spirit of Love by joining hands in an encirclement of the Federal Building in Springfield, symbol of federal actions and policy in our region. The cost in blood and treasure in current wars and in preparation of future wars is unjust and immoral. As Dr. King said in 1967, “A nation that continues year after year to spend more money on military defense (and offense) than on programs of social uplift is approaching spiritual death.”

On the 15th the message will be, “Enough of war, now is the time for peace!” In our actions and words we will embody peace. We are calling on participants to act and speak in a spirit of non-divisiveness, striving to express and appeal to the best of humanity in all of us. There will no civil disobedience and safe passage in and out of the building will be guaranteed. We will stand for peace, sing for peace, hold signs for peace, be silent for peace, walk for peace, pray for peace.

In the words of veteran Eric Wasileski, “If you are a person of conscience or part of a group who wants to take an action in a safe, friendly and determined atmosphere please consider coming and joining in. We know what will happen if we stand by and do nothing. Let us take action that is in line with our values BEFORE and at least try to stop another insane invasion.”

The Nipponzan Myohoji Peace Pagoda is planning a walk through Springfield during the afternoon, joining the demonstration at the Federal Building at 4:00. Details to come.

For many this third Friday action will fulfill their commitment to the Iraq Moratorium Campaign For more information about this campaign go to www.iraqmoratorium.org . Contact the American Friends Service Committee at 413-584-8975 or afsc@crocker.com for more information. To contact Veterans for Peace and Eric Wasileski call 413-367-0320.
Co-sponsors of this event include: WM American Friends Service Committee, Northampton Committee to Stop the War in Iraq, SAGE, the WM Iraq Moratorium Coalition, the WM Coalition to Prevent War on Iran and many others.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Letter from Open Pantry board member: why the governor's veto should be overridden

I received a letter today from an Open Pantry Community Services Board Member, and he has given permission for me to post his letter.

There is a lot of *misinformation* about Open Pantry versus Springfield's preferred provider, Friends of the Homeless, which the City and the Governor prefer to fund:

Fact #1. Open Pantry and the city's Friends of the Homeless non-profit do not compete. Open Pantry runs the biggest emergency food pantry in Western Mass; Friends of the Homeless has never run a food pantry. Open Pantry feeds poor individuals from around the city, not just homeless people; Friends of the Homeless feeds only the portion of homeless individuals who reside in their own shelter. Therefore it is unreasonable for the City to state that it is prepared to step in if Open Pantry fails. The City has no experience in the Open Pantry's missions, and no additional funds. There will be a huge void.

Fact #2. Open Pantry receives over $400,000 in private cash donations every year, and $1.5 million annually in food, clothing, and labor, which is the only way it has been able to provide the level of services it provides. State funding has been inadequate for years. If Open Pantry goes under, most of that $1.9 million in donations will be lost. How will the state or the city be able to make that up?

Fact #3.
Open Pantry has put together over 30 years a huge infrastucture of churches, businesses, and volunteers it has cultivated over the years. How much of that vital infrastructure will be lost if Open Pantry goes away? How much will it cost the city or the state to rebuild? Remember, the city's agencies have never run a food pantry or a public kitchen.

Fact #4.
100% of Open Pantry's administrative support expenses are covered by private donations. Therefore every penny of state, federal, or city money Open Pantry gets goes directly into programs and services.

Fact #5.
Open Pantry is more than a pantry and a kitchen. Through their Open Door program, they deliver cutting edge comprehensive case management and community resource referrals to hundreds of persons at risk of hunger and/or homelessness each year. These services, too, would have to be picked up by some other agency, unprepared to do so.

Fact #6. Open Pantry's mission does not conflict with the state's HousingFirst Initiative. HousingFirst is about housing the homeless; Open Pantry's principal services are providing emergency food for families in homes, and meals for those who are the city's poorest. Thus no amount of "HousingFirst money can be used for these working poor.

Andrew Morehouse, Executive Director of the Food Bank of Western Mass in Hatfield wrote in a message to the Springfield Control Board on July 7th that "Open Pantry has by far the largest impact in serving the poor and vulnerable in Springfield. Open Pantry's services are essential to the well-being of tens of thousands of people. I can't even imagine what would happen in Springfield if Open Pantry were unable to continue operating due to a loss of critical state funding . . ."


I couldn't say it any better. Please call State legislators today. Please ask them to help restore Open Pantry's funding.

R. Patrick Henry, Jr.
Volunteer Board Member

Open Pantry Community Services

Services for Steve Donohue

Several people have asked me if i know if there will be services for Steve Donoghue, who was murdered Sunday night by another homeless man. Kevin Noonan, Open Pantry Community Services director, has been talking with Steve's mother, and it's really up to her what happens. Services will probably be next week, although possibly at the end of this week. In any case, as soon as I find out, I'll let everyone know.

Monday, July 28, 2008

Lack of attribution a problem at the Springfield Republican

Someone commented today on my most recent story about the Open Pantry, in which I decried reporter Stephanie Barry's coverage of the OP's press conference where director Kevin Noonan spoke. She used phrases like "Noonan's detractors" and "homeless advocates" without ever attributing their opinions to any individual.

At the time I thought (and it may still be true) that what I saw as the article's bias stemmed from a negative attitude toward Noonan from city officials that the reporter picked up on and reflected.

Today, though, my commenter pointed me toward a Sunday story by Barry on district attorneys' salary that makes me wonder what's going on at the Republican.

Barry's story is coming along fine; she talks about salary disparities across the state and then lists the names, job descriptions and salaries of Hampden County's assistant district attorneys. Then she goes back to the last name on her list, Assistant DA Maria F. Rodriguez-Maleck.
Of Bennett's top 10 earners, only Rodriguez's salary raised any eyebrows among courthouse insiders. Most agreed the remainder had paid their dues with time and service, or both.

Though no one would speak publicly, several said Rodriguez - who came with Bennett from his private sector office when he was first elected in 1990 - has virtually no caseload and has never tried a case. Her function is largely, if not solely administrative, according to other lawyers and court employees.

Bennett dismissed those criticisms as unfair, arguing workload isn't measured solely by caseload.
"Courthouse insiders," "most agreed," "no one would speak publicly," -- all without attribution, all inuendos.

If Barry couldn't get anyone to speak on the record about Rodriguez, she shouldn't have written about her at all. Don't we have the right to face our accusers?

What could Barry have done instead, if she wanted to follow up on these leads? She could have investigated the caseload of each ADA on her own, to see how the caseloads compared. She could have found out more about Rodriguez' duties. She could have talked to Rodriguez herself. But if she did any of these things, it didn't show in her article..

Some of you may have followed the soul searching of the New York Times after its too-lenient attribution policy allowed the Bush Administration to lead us into the Iraq War. Obviously the Springfield Republican is no New York Times. But here in our community, the fate of an agency that serves the poor and the reputation of a public servant matter. They deserved better than they received.

I will be keeping my eye on the Springfield Republican from now on, and I'm asking my local readers to do the same.

Homeless man murdered in Springfield

50-year-old Stephen Donogue was murdered last night by another homeless man-- stabbed to death on the corner of Main ans Bliss Streets by Michael Forte.

My sister Liz, who worked at the Warming Place shelter before it was closed, knew both of them-- had just seen Michael last week. Stephen had been a regular at the Warming Place and had even worked there, but in today's news article he was described as living outside. I can't say he never stayed at Friends of the Homeless' Worthington St. shelter-- but he may have been yet another former Warming Place resident who couldn't make the transition If this is so, he would not be the first to pay with his life.

Two other men were stabbed in Springfield yesterday and one died, killed by a 22 year old man. Three other people were shot. bad day, bad day.

Springfield's job loss is South's gain

Not news at this point but I still want to keep track: Spalding is closing its business office in Springfield and up to 80 jobs will be lost when. Kentucky and Georgia will now house the business end.

Meanwhile, a there's a plan to turn the the site of the old Gus and Paul's restaurant downtown into a working restaurant run by students from Roger L. Putnam Vocational-Technical High School. Falls in the category of training for a job rather than a job, but not a bad place to start.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Open Pantry backstabbers: bad reporting assists cowards

I was at the Open Pantry press conference yesterday, where the agency asked for the community's help. We were asked to help convince legislators to override Gov. Patrick''s veto of funds for the agency.

After the press conference, when some of us were milling around talking to each other, there was an odd moment when I realized that the agencies and individuals who had come to support the OP-- not the best-heeled groups in the city-- had gradually been infiltrated by people from the community who were there to get food. We were pretty indistinguishable from each other.

This morning I went to MassLive to read the Springfield Republican's coverage of OP's plea. Why I should be surprised at what I read I don't know, but several paragraphs referenced 'homeless advocates" and Noonan's "detractors" without ever saying who those people were! What kind of reporting is Stephanie Barry's piece supposed to be?

"Noonan's detractors say he should not be seeking "new funding" from a barren state budget. Moreover, others say the $400,000 Noonan is seeking is simply an attempt to recoup funds he lost when the Open Pantry's Warming Place shelter at the former York Street jail closed last year.

"We're not able in this fiscal climate to provide funding for services that are not being rendered," Patrick spokeswoman Cynthia M. Roy said."

Barry only quotes Patrick's spokesperson Cynthia Roy-- who gets it wrong. Wonder where Roy got her information? And who are those "detractors" and "others?" Could Barry be referencing those anonymous posters on MassLive? Or is she talking about Springfield officials who lack the guts to go on the record and prefer to do their backstabbing behind closed doors?

"While funding to feed the needy and homeless may seem an unassailable pitch, homeless advocates say there is a statewide movement afoot to standardize help and move away from so-called emergency services such as temporary shelters and the like.

To that end, the Patrick administration is discouraging additional funding for emergency services and is devoting any new funding to prevention and a longer-term approach to homelessness, experts say."

Again, just who are those "homeless advocates" and "experts?". And another point here-- just because Patrick is moving away from emergency funding, does that mean it's a good idea? I'm a homeless advocate, and I have seen Patrick's 'either-or" approach as short-sighted and ill-timed. I'm all in favor of prevention and long-term approaches. But let's call a euphemism a euphemism. If there was ever a time when our local, state and federal governments needed to maintain emergency services, this is it.

Remember that line from Airplane!, when Lloyd bridge's air traffic controller character says, "Looks like I picked the wrong day to give up smoking?"

Shame on the cowards for not going on record and shame on Stephanie Barry-- and her editors-- for allowing it.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Judgement at Nuremberg

I was born two years after World War Two ended but much of my early childhood was shaped by the war none the less. In 1961, the year Judgement in Nuremberg was released, I was 14 years old, already on what would be a lifelong journey to understand the roots of World War Two and to try to comprehend how such evil could have been done.

Two experiences sent me in that direction: I read Last of the Just by Andre Schwarz-Bart, and I met Adam. Adam was a concentration camp survivor who, in his new American life, delivered housecleaning products to neighborhood families including my own. One day Adam saw me reading Just of the Just. Somehow we started talking. When I think back now, I groan inside at the artlessness of my questions and remember gratefully how much he shared with me.

I had a chance to see Judgement in Nuremberg again recently and was struck anew by the words of the verdict given by the presiding judge. The words are fiction-- written by Abby Mann-- yet sadly relevant for today. The men on trial are not the originators of the Holocaust, but are judges who carried out the laws of the Reich.

I found a script of the movie online and here share it with you.

Simple murders and atrocities do not constitute

the gravamen of the charges in this indictment.

Rather, the charge is that of conscious participation..

in a nationwide, government-organized system...

of cruelty and injustice... in violation of every moral and legal principle...

known to all civilized nations. The tribunal has carefully studied the record...

and found therein...abundant evidence to support...

beyond a reasonable doubt...the charges against these defendants.

Herr Rolfe... in his very skillful defense... has asserted that there are others...

who must share the ultimate responsibility... for what happened here in Germany.

There is truth in this.

But the tribunal does say... that the men in the dock

are responsible for their actions

Men who sat in black robes... in judgment on other men.

Men who took part..in the enactment of laws and decrees

the purpose of which was the extermination of human beings.

Men who, in executive positions... actively participated

in the enforcement of these laws... illegal even under German law.

The principle...of criminal law in every civilized society

has this in common: Any person who sways another to commit murder..

any person who furnishes... the lethal weapon for the purpose of the crime...

any person who is an accessory to the crime... is guilty.

Herr Rolfe...further asserts that the defendant Janning..

was an extraordinary jurist... and acted in what he thought

was the best interest of his country. There is truth in this also.

Janning, to be sure..is a tragic figure.

We believe he loathed the evil he did. But compassion

for the present torture of his soul...must not beget forgetfulness...

of the torture and the death of millions by the government of which he was a part.

Janning's record and his fate... illuminate the most shattering truth

that has emerged from this trial. If he and all of the other defendants

had been degraded perverts… if all of the leaders of the Third Reich.

had been sadistic monsters and maniacs, then these events

would have no more moral significance... than an earthquake,

or any other natural catastrophe. But this trial has shown...

that under a national crisis... ordinary, even able and extraordinary men...

can delude themselves into the commission of crimes...

so vast and heinous that they beggar the imagination.

No one who has sat through the trial can ever forget them.

Men sterilized because of political belief.

A mockery made of friendship and faith. The murder of children.

How easily it can happen. There are those in our own country, too...

who today speak of the protection of country... of survival.

A decision must be made in the life of every nation... at the very moment

when the grasp of the enemy is at its throat.

Then it seems that the only way to survive

is to use the means of the enemy... to rest survival upon what is expedient,

to look the other way.

The answer to that is: Survival as what?

A country isn't a rock., It's not an extension of one's self.,

It's what it stands for.

It's what it stands for when standing for something is the most difficult.

Before the people of the world... let it now be noted...

that here in our decision, this is what we stand for:

Justice... truth... and the value of a single human being.

"Wall Street Got Drunk"

You will probably be subjected to a hundred repeats of Bush's "Wall Street got drunk" explanation for our financial malaise at a fundraising event in Houston, but you probably won't get to see CNN's Jack Cafferty, after reporting on the story, shake his head and say, "The death of the intellect at the highest levels of our nation's government is staggering...it's that kind of shallowness that's created an appetite among the American public and overseas for someone like Barak Obama." It was a nice moment.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

The economy: how bad, really, and for how long?

Very early Saturday morning, before I went to bed, I checked the NYTimes for headlines and saw an article by Peter Goodman titled "Uncomfortable Answers to Questions on the Economy." This is going to hit the 'most emailed list' fast, I thought, and sure enough, before noon it was the most emailed article.

Goodman asked some well-informed economists to do a reality check on the economy-- not the Bush line that the economy is fine, or the doom-and-gloom line that we're headed for a depression. I'm going to summarize his conclusions here, then add a couple of points not covered that I believe will complicate the picture.
  • The economy is going through a rough patch and the worst is yet to come.
  • Job losses will accelerate and unemployment will reach 6.5 percent by the end of next year., coming on top of eight years of weak job growth.
  • Home prices will continue to fall-- have lost 25 percent of their value in inflation-adjusted terms and will lose another 10 to 15 percent before stabilizing.
  • Banks will write off $1 trillion in debt, limiting many institution's ability to function for years.
  • We are not "officially" in a recession, yet this may be the worst downturn in 25 years.
“The open question is whether we’re in for a bad couple of years, or a bad decade,” said Kenneth S. Rogoff, a former chief economist at the International Monetary Fund, now a professor at Harvard.
Most homeowners have been using their houses as collateral to such a degree that average household debt is now 120 percent of household income! That's double what it was in 1984. But now credit sources are drying up. Given that 70 percent of all economy activity in the country is consumer spending, we're in for the dark side of capitalism: people spend less, factories make less and lay people off, people without jobs don't spend as much, et cetera.

The last part of Goodman's article pins the blame on the Federal Reserve, Wall Street speculators, real estate brokers and suckered-in consumers, most especially, homeowners.
-------------------------------------------------------------------

Now for those other points.

When the economy bounces back, poor people never bounce back as far. An astounding 40 percent of the U.S. population has lived below the poverty level for some period in the last ten years..

I've received public assistance twice in my life and can remember a time when public assistance was almost enough to survive on. The welfare reform act of 1996 came about during the long-ago Clinton boom days; meanwhile, between 1979 and 2005, the top five percent of American families saw their real incomes increase 81 percent. while the income of the lowest-income fifth saw a 1 percent decline. The last time the top-fifth's income was this high, by the way, was in 1928-- just before the Great Depression.

How many more poor people can this country hide? And, when they can't be hidden, be demonized?

The real wild card in the economy's deck, though, will be the environment. On the one hand, energy costs are increasing, floods like those in the Midwest raise food prices, unrelenting drought and fires may cause loss of livelihood and mass migration, tropical diseases will continue to move north.

On the other hand, should we really choose to tackle environmental issues-- which include but are scarcely limited to global warming-- the level of new jobs creation could revitalize our economy.

The next three years should tell us which way we're headed. In the meantime, be thrifty.

From Worcester to Springfield

Traffic at a standstill while they paint the lines more white;
a monarch floats between two trucks, is quickly out of sight
while I'm reduced to studying the pattern of the light
on goldenrod and tansy. Hope I finally get it right.

Photo from Jim 270's photostream, Flickr

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Wolves back on endangered list-- for now

In the 100 days since the Interior Department removed gray wolves from the endangered species list, 106 wolves have been killed in Montana, Idaho and Wyoming. On Friday, Federal District Court Judge Donald W. Molloy issued a temporary injunction returning them to the list and casting serious doubt on the Fish and Wildlife's decision to remove them in the first place.

This decision came too late to save Hoppy-- wolf 235-- and the other wolves that have been killed. Earthustice is leading the legal challenge and the informational campaign to save the Northern Rocky wolves; check them out to see what you can do to help.

Friday, July 18, 2008

Two puzzles, two riddles

1. A murderer is condemned to death. He has to choose between three rooms: The first is full of raging fires, the second is full of assassins with loaded guns, and the third is full of lions that haven't eaten in 3 years. Which room is safest for him?

2. This is an unusual paragraph. I'm curious how quickly you can find out what is so unusual about it? It looks so plain you would think nothing was wrong with it! In fact, nothing is wrong with it! It is unusual though. Study it, and think about it, but you still may not find anything odd. But if you work at it a bit, you might find out! Try to do so without any coaching!

3. General Gasslefield, accused of high treason, is sentenced to death by the court-martial. He is allowed to make a final statement, after which he will be shot if the statement is false or will be hung if the statement is true. Gasslefield makes his final statement and is released. What could he have said?

4. What are they?
The first is needed to make quotes you see,

And it often sticks up when it's time for noon tea.
The second's biggest distinction is found
Bearing the symbol of love that is bound.
The third should be biggest but that can depend,
Never standing alone or it may offend.
The fourth is oft used when making a selection
Or if you should need a gun for protection.
The fifth is the fattest and oddest by far,
And can sometimes be found in a wrestling war.
What are they?

ANSWERS:
1. The third room. Lions that haven't eaten in three years will be dead.
2. E, the most common letter in the alphabet, does not appear once in the paragraph.
3. General Gasslefield said: "I will be shot." If this statement was true, he would have been hung and thus not be shot. But then his statement would be false, which implies that he should be shot, making the statement true again, etc... In other words: the verdict of the court-martial could not be executed and the general was released.
4. The fingers of a hand.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Budget cuts drop in bucket compared to Big Dig debt

You can connect the dots yourselves.....the Republican published a sad list of budget cuts targeted for Western Mass. I've been focused on Open Pantry Community Services, but the OPCS is not alone in its pain. I'd assume that even the most avid supporters of law and justice recognize that an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. Thus cuts for Girls Inc, Dunbar Community Center, youth programs in Easthampton, Palmer and westfield and AWAKE's entire funding make little or no sense.

Now compare the entire amount of budget cuts-- $122.5 million-- to the STAGGERING debt Massachusetts has incurred from the Big Dig Project-- $7 billion in interest. Boston Globe.

What's wrong with this picture?

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Bad News for the Safe Staffing Legislation

The Massachusetts Senate Ways and Means Committee has released a gutted version of the Safe Staffing legislation which has undone all the compromises achieved in the House. I'm going to print the Mass. Nurses Association's press release in its entirety. You can still take action.

(I must say that Bay State Medical Center and hospitals around the state have pulled out all the stops to defeat this legislation. the other day my senior aide showed me a letter she'd received from Bay State Medical that included four stamped postcards addressed to our area legislators in opposition to the Safe Staffing legislation. My senior aide is very old and if her health care provider tells her to do something, she will. A sleazy effort, I must say.)

Nurses/Advocates Outraged by Senate Ways & Means Committee’s

Gutting of Safe Staffing Bill, Which Will Codify Current Unsafe Conditions in Hospitals and Continue to Place Thousands of Patients in Jeopardy

Measure Eliminates House Compromise Bill’s Call for Safe Staffing Standards and Patient Limits, Allowing Hospital Administrators to Continue to Set Their Own Staffing Levels.

Nurses and patient advocates, who have been awaiting Senate action on pending legislation to guarantee safe RN staffing and improved patient safety, are outraged by the Senate Ways and Means Committee’s release of a harmful version of the bill that will allow the state’s hospitals to continue the dangerous and deadly status quo.

The new senate bill removes all key compromise provisions achieved through negotiations with legislators and key stakeholders which were contained in the version that passed the House (119-35) on May 22. The House version called upon the Massachusetts Department of Public Health to create industry-wide staffing standards and patient limits to assure safe patient care in all Massachusetts hospitals. The new Senate version continues to place hospital administrators in charge of setting their own staffing standards, a practice that has led to a health care crisis in Massachusetts, where more than 45,000 patients a year are injured and more than 2,000 patients – six a day – die from preventable infections and complications they get in the hospital. The Senate version also guts protections against the dangerous practice of mandatory overtime, which is key to preventing medication errors by exhausted staff.

Additionally, the Senate bill fails to recognize the overwhelming body of research that links safe patient outcomes directly to the number of patients a nurse is caring for at one time. It also greatly broadens the power of hospital administrators, who can cut corners and dangerously increase a nurse’s patient load.

Under the new law, there would be no uniform standard of care, and instead, the Department of Pubic Health would only be in charge of enforcing varying and inadequate standards created by the private sector hospital industry - including the for profit hospitals. Simply put; this legislation is a hazardous step backward, and would ensure that current unsafe conditions continue to deteriorate.

We call upon our senators to reject this bill that is so dangerous to the public’s safety. We ask instead that senators build upon the negotiated compromise that has already been reached and passed the House. This would allow the Department of Public Health to enforce limits that it determines are in the public’s best interest, rather than leaving that critical job to the very institutions that created the crisis we now face.

The new bill, S. 2805, is scheduled to be taken up for a debate and vote as early as tomorrow, Thursday, July 17. Nurses and patient advocates are now mobilizing to urge Senate adoption of amendments that reinstitute the protections in the House bill.

The original compromise bill is supported by more than 130 of the state’s leading health care and consumer advocacy organizations, as well as more than 80 percent of the bedside nurses and 70 percent of physicians whose ability to care for the safety of their patients would be favorably affected by passage of the House version of the bill.

Saving the Butternut Tree

Ah, the blueberry fields of Maine. I've mentioned how I did seasonal work raking blueberries, and let me tell you, blueberries never taste as good as they do those first moments right off the bush. But I've never mentioned the butternut trees that lined two sides of the fields.

I must have gathered a hundred pounds of butternuts in small batches for the weeks I worked in the fields. The nut is shaped like a walnut, and much more segmented on the inside, but incredibly flavorful and buttery, making it worth the effort.

I haven't had a butternut since I left Maine. About five years ago, I did a search for butternuts and was dismayed by what I discovered. Butternuts, actually Black Walnuts, are being decimated by a fungus that has wiped out 90% of all butternut trees in the Midwest and Ontario. Forest researchers in Vermont monitored 1,269 butternuts; in 1993 92% were infected and 12% were dead. In 2000, 96% were infected and 41% were dead.

Most of us would never know if a particular species of tree disappeared over time. Elms and American chestnuts have just about disappeared; most children have never seen one. Probably most people in Massachusetts have never seen a butternut tree either, or tasted a butternut, and that's to our detriment.

Not everyone is willing to accept the loss of the butternut. The Burlington Free Press has an article about the search for resistant trees and research into grafting and treatment. Let's hope they succeed.
Painting: Terri L. Baugh Norman

One million names now on Terrorist Watch List

One million names now on Terrorist Watch List-- but don't worry, that's really only 400,000 people, according to a spokesman for the Terrorist Screening Center.

Want to find out if you're on the Terrorist Watch List? You can't.

The TSC cannot reveal whether a particular person is in the TSDB. The TSDB remains an effective tool in the government’s counterterrorism efforts because its contents are not disclosed. If TSC revealed who was in the TSDB, terrorist organizations would be able to circumvent the purpose of the terrorist watchlist by determining in advance which of their members are likely to be questioned or detained. Federal Bureau of Investigation Terrorist Screening Center.
Want to get off? It took an Act of Congress to get Nelson Mandela off the list. You can go to the Homeland Security Traveler Redress Inquiry Program and file a complaint. or you can call...and call...and call...and have each call be treated as if it's the first.

Even top security clearance isn't enough to keep you off the list, as a recent Department of Justice official found out recently. See Wired for more.

How many years will it take to undo the damage this Administration has done?

June 2004 158,374
May 2005 287,982
June 2006 515,906
May 2007 754,960

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Open Pantry: One chance left to override Governor's veto

Why do some people hate poor people so much?

Yesterday there were folks posting on Springfield's forum MassLive who were rubbing their cyberhands with glee over Governor Patrick's veto of funds for Open Pantry Community Service. You can read more about it here:

Today an apartment building in the South End caught fire and thirteen families were displaced. As one MassLive Poster says, "One less low income ghetto the tax payers have to keep funding."

Sometimes it's hard not to hope that these people get a chance to find out firsthand what poverty is like, not only to be poor, in fact, but to have to put up with the slurs and assumptions that others will make about them.

If the Open Pantry has to cut back services, it will cut holes in our already tattered safety net.

Last year the Legislature overrode many of the governor's vetoes; this year, with everyone tightening their belts, it won't be as easy But poor people can't go without much more and still survive.

Readers of this blog who have been following the Open Pantry's saga remember the struggle to preserve shelter for homeless people. Now, its trying to keep the Food Pantry open its current four days a week and the Loaves & Fishes Soup Kitchen still serving twelve meals a week.

You may have called on behalf of the Open Pantry before, but please-- one more time. If you live in Massachusetts, please call your legislator, senators and representatives alike, and ask them to restore funding for the Open Pantry. You can find out who your legislator is and his or her contact information here:

Stand up for poor people.

Monday, July 14, 2008

PVCentral launches-- a site for valley bloggers!

A couple of months ago I got an email from blogger Bill Dusty, author of The Springfield Intruder, with an interesting suggestion: what if five to eight valley bloggers got together on a central page to provide a service to Lower Pioneer Valley residents and, maybe, to make some money through advertising? Hmmm, I thought. I'm fine with both parts of that. I certainly hope my blog is already a service of sorts, and although I don't have advertising on my site, I've got nothing against money.

Of the initial group of us, I knew Bill a little already-- he describes himself as a conservative and he and I have sparred back and forth on our blogs for a while. I've known Mike Dobbs of Out of the Inkwell for some years-- he's also a reporter for the Springfield Reminder. Tommy Devine's personal blog, Tommy Devine's Online Journal, has already enthralled me with its personal tale of unearthing family secrets and finding a long-lost brother and I did feel like I knew him somewhat. Being in a blogging group with these folks would be interesting!

Since then we've added Tony Mateus of in the valley and Mark Bail of Granby01033. We hope to add a few more (and I hope some of them are women).

PVCentral officially launched on Saturday, and I've added a button that Bill Dusty designed to my site. Click on it and you'll go to our central site, where you will find our most recent posts, links to our sites and other valley resources, podcasts and a forum.

I don't know about the others, but not all of my posts will also get posted to PVCentral. PVCentral will stay local, and about half of my posts (I think) are not, but are either more personal or more global.

I'm particularly looking forward to learning new skills such as podcasts. Guess I will have to get the sound on my computer fixed (haven't had it since a tech reinstalled Windows ME) and maybe, not too long from now, upgrade my operating system.

But writing is really what its all about.
Graphic from Chuck at Flickr.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

The war that keeps on giving-- when will it end?

Joseph Patrick Dwyer died in a Pinehurst, NJ hospital last week at the age of 31. He was a former Army medic who served in Iraq. He was killed by Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome in the form of a drug overdose. There's more about him at AP.

Joseph Dwyer became well-known-- at least an image of him-- when, during the first week of the Iraq War, he was photographed carrying an injured Iraqi boy to a makeshift hospital. Dwyer's mother says the photo embarrassed him.

Millions of refugees, hundreds of thousands of Iraqi deaths, tens of thousands of U.S. military killed and wounded-- and for the most part, we in this country are so insulated from this war that opposition to it is an exercise of intellectual will-- unless you are a family member or a friend of someone serving in the military, and then the war is never far from your mind. How clever this administration has been in hiding the reality of war from our eyes: remember the flag-draped coffins we weren't allowed to see, the embedded reporters, the media's complicity and all the dirty secrets-- the lies, the torture-- that seem like an episode of 24?

On and off through much of my adult life I flashed on two black and white images, both involving hands. First, the white flash of an explosion, then two hands, torn from a body, gripping barbed wire. Next, a butterfly drifts near a trench. A hand comes out tremulously, reaching toward the butterfly. A shot rings out; the hand recoils, loosens in death.

Ten years ago I watched All Quiet on the Western Front, the 1930 movie version of Erich Maria Remarque's novel of World War One, and recognized those hands in an early scene and then in the final scene. It is war as we need to understand it if we are ever to end it.
"It is just as much a matter of chance that I am still alive as that I might have been hit. In a bomb-proof dug-out I may be smashed to atoms and in the open may survive ten hour's bombardment unscratched. No soldier outlives a thousand chances. But every soldier believes in Chance and trusts his luck." Paul , who once was a boy who collected butterflies before he was a soldier.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Bait and Arrest: New Orleans sleazy set-up of homeless people

I've been a little worried about the state of homeless organizing in New Orleans, although of course it's hard to tell from 1,500 miles away. One of the homeless blogs I track hasn't had a new post since February; another is very sporadic.

An article in yesterday's New Orleans City Business Blog has me shaking my head in disgust. I can only hope that community groups in New Orleans are able to bring this practice to an end.

Apparently the N.O. police are leading cigarettes, beer, and, for some reason, Boston Baked beans in unlocked cars with the windows rolled down, and then parking these vehicles near homeless encampments.

NOPD made its first arrests June 10. For stealing less than $6 in items, police charged two homeless men with simple burglary, a felony that can carry up to 12 years in prison. Neither suspect had any prior arrests in Orleans Parish.

It’s been more than a month since their arrests and the men are still sitting in Orleans Parish Prison, waiting on court dates.
Given the city's extraordinarily high murder and serious crime rate, some in New Orleans are wondering if this is a good use of the police department's resources.

This reminds me of something a former housemate of mine did twenty years ago that I have never gotten over. It certainly permanently changed our relationship.

She had an old beater of a car but it was fully insured. She was starting to have a little transmission trouble and when the garage told her she'sd need a new transmission, she cooked up a plan to have her cake and eat it, too.

She drove her car into Springfield's North End and left it unlocked with the keys in the ignition. Then to her surprise, it took five days for the vehicle to be stolen! She then reported the theft to her insurance company.

When she gleefully reported her actions to the rest of us, I was so shocked I was almost speechless.

"Don't you realize that your actions have set somebody up to be arrested?"

"Well, if it was an honest person, they wouldn't steal the car!" (Lots of people feel this way.)

"What if it was a kid who'd resisted every temptation so far...what if it was somebody behind in their rent...or sick a sick kid?"

"Oh, well," she said, a bit embarassed. After all, she was defrauding the insurance company. But she just didn't get it.

I've always thought it was part of my responsibility to help people be the best people they can be, not to set them up for a downfall. But i guess not everybody feels that way-- certainly not the New Orleans Police Department.

If you think their actions suck as much as I do, call
  • Mayor's Office of Public Advocacy (Social Services Needs and Referrals):
  • 504-658-4015
    (Nagin's direct line does not seem to be listed.)

    Friday, July 11, 2008

    BBC loves Hamsters

    Folks over at Making Light happened to notice that the BBC seems to include an inordinate number of hamster stories in their news coverage. They compiled a list which they seem to be keeping updated. Here's the stories from 2005:

    2005:
    12 April 2005: Passing police constable rescues hamster from cat; owner sought. :: 25 May 2005: Hamster virus kills three people. :: 27 May 2005: Hamster survives rat poison feast. :: 24 June 2005: Cambridge postman rescues hamster mailed in unprotected envelope. (See 17 January 2006) :: 27 July 2005: Girl, 7, finds hamsters torched. :: 23 August 2005: Pet shop rents out hamster by the week. :: 25 August 2005: Teenage inventor builds hamster-powered phone recharger. :: 20 September 2005: Fluorescent green hamster sperm used to study human fertility. :: 24 September 2005: Hamster in exercise ball rescued from busy street in Somerset. :: 8 October 2005: Pet rodents ‘a salmonella risk’. :: 24 November 2005: Man jailed for 60 days after drop-kicking ex-girlfriend’s hamster. :: 02 December 2005: Youths strap hamster to firework.

    Photo from Pyza at Flickr.

    The Friendly Police Officer and Other Tales from the Homeless Blogs

    So: you're a homeless guy in Seattle and you're hungry and tired and about to act stupid in front of a police officer. Your friend, who is a street vendor for Real Change, is trying to keep you chill. What happens next? You can find out at Apesma's Lament.

    Now you're a homeless guy in San Luis Obispo, CA, just trying to get the weight off your feet, sitting down, when a car with two women in it drives by for the second time. A woman gets out and asks if she can take your picture, and you say no. Then she asks again and offers money. You still say no. What happens to you and who are some of the other non-homeless people who approach you? What do they want? Check out SLO Homeless.

    You're a homeless woman in deep despair, ready to jump off the Ironworkers Memorial Bridge in Vancouver, BC. The police halt traffic while they attempt to stop you. What do you think the drivers in the waiting cars are talking about? Homeless in Abbotsford, BC.

    You're a homeless guy camping out in the woods and a raccoon tries to steal your bag of food. Who wins? Homeless Man Speaks.

    You're homeless in beautiful Eureka CA and sleeping at the Eureka Rescue Mission. One evening, right after the nightly (and mandatory) sermon, staff announces that if you're caught sitting down in the daytime within a two block radius of the Mission, you will be kicked out of the shelter and will be denied food at St. Vinnie's Soup Kitchen. Now what? The People Project.

    In Portland, OR, you're sleeping under the Burnside Bridge with 50 other people when the police come, roust you with foghorns and boots , and give you two minutes to gather up your belongings and get out. Whatever you can't take in those two minutes will be thrown in the trash. Wait a minute-- what happened to the 24 hour notice the city has said it will give homeless encampments before disbanding them? Joe Anybody Homeless Blog.
    Photo by SamPac at Flickr

    Thursday, July 10, 2008

    Arise to welfare: we are NOT an agency


    I usually spend my lunch break right in the office, either working or reading, but yesterday, I took a bunch of flyers down to the State St. welfare office-- Department of Transitional Assistance, that is. Arise is having a workshop on cash assistance programs on Friday, July 18, and as a member of Arise's Economic Justice Committee, I wanted to do my share in getting the word out.

    I handed a few flyers to people leaving the DTA office, then decided to go inside and ask for permission to pass the flyers out in the waiting room. I approached the security guard to ask, and he said he'd have to check with the director-- could I hold on for a few minutes? A couple of minutes later, DTA Director Sandy Gosselin opened the door to the waiting room, extremely friendly, and asked me to come into the back offices with her, so I did.

    She'd looked at the flyer and found some of the language objectionable and confrontational.

    "I'd like to think our agencies have matured," she said, and it took me a minute to realize she was talking about DTA and Arise. "This event is still a while away; if you'd like to change the language and then come back with new flyers, that would be fine," she said.

    The language she found objectionable? Two phrases:
    'Tired of getting the runaround?" and "Let's tell them what we think!"

    I thanked her very much, left and went back to the waiting room, where I said to the folks waiting, "I was just told I could not pass out these flyers inside, so if anyone wants one, just step outside the door--" which I did, and several people followed me.

    Actually, there were two events listed on the flyer: Friday, July 18's workshop, taking place from 1 pm - 3 pm at our office, 467 State St., and a DTA "Listening session" taking place Wednesday the 16th, to which the community has been invited-- although I saw no announcement about it in the DTA office!

    Here's that flyer: .

    Hey, Recipient!

    Have you been invited to this? Below the dotted line is an invitation from the state Department of Transitional Assistance.

    DTA wants to “listen to the community.” Does that include the community of poor people receiving public assistance?

    LET’S TELL THEM WHAT WE THINK!

    FOR MORE INFO, CALL ARISE FOR SOCIAL JUSTICE AT 734-4948, 467 State St.
    We are a poor people’s rights organization

    ===========================

    The Massachusetts Department of Transitional Assistance wants to hear from you!

    DTA is conducting a Community Listening Sessions Tour across the state.

    You are invited to share with us:

    Feedback on how we’re doing in your community

    Your ideas for the future of our Department

    News, facts, and impressions about poverty, homelessness and hunger in your area.

    We will visit Springfield Wednesday, July 16th

    Join us at FutureWorks Career Center, 1 Federal Street, Building 103, Federal Room, Cafeteria Entrance, Springfield, MA, 1:30 p.m.—3:30 p.m.

    To RSVP, please contact Nancy King at 617-348-8526

    or email dta.sdcr@massmail.state.ma.us

    Freedom Man: Small victories can mean a lot

    Street entertainer Jason Paschal was spat upon and called "Nigger" by a skinhead on a bicycle, but when Paschal called the police, he was the one arrested! It took nine months for all charges to be dropped.

    The Santa Cruz, CA entertainer and tarot card reader had set up shop (a card table) near a local surf shop when he was arrested. he was booked and released, but the Santa Cruz Police Department kept his insulin and needles. Later, when Jason tracked down the man who had physically and verbally assaulted him, and called the police, the police refused to arrest the man. You can read the rest of the story at Homeless United for Friendship and Freedom.

    Wednesday, July 9, 2008

    Heather Brandon gets it right.

     MAToo bad I hadn't read Heather Brandon's June 18th post on Urban Compass. It answers any questions I have (for the moment) about the extension of Springfield's loan from the state and its relationship to the numerous changes Gov. Patrick proposes for the City of Springfield through legislation. Included in the legislation is the extension of our loan, as well as placing a binding question about extending the mayor's term from 2 to 4 years on thi November's ballot. Check the post out for all the details.

    Delicious summer meal-- inexpensive, too!

    For two people:

    Take a loaf of Italian bread and slice it lengthwise. Put it in the oven until it is almost brown. While it's toasting, chop one tomato very fine and peel a clove of garlic, cutting off the root end to make a flat surface. When the bread comes out of the oven, rub the clove of garlic over all the white part of the bread-- edges, too. Take half the chopped tomato in your hand and lightly squeeze some tomato juice onto the bread, then spread the tomato on one half of the bread; repeat with the other half. Very lightly drizzle some olive oil on the bread, then sprinkle oregano to taste. (Dry oregano is actually better than fresh.)

    I like to add a llittle crumbled feta cheese; fresh mozzarella sliced and cubed is also great. Of course, you can add as much as you want!-- olives, sliced onions or fresh peppers. But somehow, the simpler, the tastier. Try it.

    Still not too late to put in a tomato plant (if you can find one). you'll have tomatoes in September.

    Nice Italian bread recipe here.

    For what it's worth: no free ride for Sarno

    I know that many Springfield residents have been feeling downright blackmailed by Governor Patrick's proposal to extend our loan from the state from 5 to 12 years. Why? Because in order to get this extension, we also have to go along with three other, much more distasteful provisions-- creating a new position in Springfield government for a "Chief Financial Officer," increasing the mayor's salary, and extending the mayor's term from two to four years. This binding question will be on our November ballot.

    One concern citizens have had is whether the four year term would extend to Mayor Sarno's current term. I am pleased to report that the four year term provision (and, probably, the salary increase) would not take affect until the first election after the question is passed.

    Our local Election Office has not yet received the wording of any of the questions which will be on the ballot this fall. This is a perennial problem and it gives them very little time to print and prepare the ballot. To get an answer, I talked to the Election Division of the Secretary of State's Office. Interestingly enough, they were unable to find any info except for the mayor's term question, which makes me wonder: will these provisions really all be in one question-- in other words, take the whole package or get nothing-- or if they will be separate questions after all.

    Tomorrow on my lunch break I'll call the Governor's office and see what else I can find out. Or does someone already know the answer?

    Tuesday, July 8, 2008

    Greenpeace activists: 19th day of detention

    From Greenpeace:

    Junichi Sato and Toru Suzuki are charged with stealing a box of whale meat which they presented as evidence of a whale meat smuggling operation. The activists requested a Japanese government investigation into the scandal, and the Tokyo public prosecutor agreed there was sufficient evidence of wrongdoing. His investigation has now concluded. The only persons charged are the Greenpeace activists who presented the evidence.

    Our activists are innocent of any crime. They have been arrested for returning whale meat that was stolen from Japanese taxpayers, and exposing a fraud that may reach high into the Japanese government agencies that run the whaling program.

    This is a message from Junichi: "Thank you everyone for your support and vigilance over the last days. Thank you to the 200,000 of you who have sent the email to the Japanese Government asking for our release and those of you who have sent it to your friends. We have heard from our lawyers about how many emails that have been sent, and it reminds us that we are not alone. Thank you also to those who mounted peaceful protests and vigils at Japanese Embassies around the world calling for justice for myself and Toru and justice for the whales. It helps us to know that so many are thinking of us and of the fate of the whales."

    You can go here to send a message to the Japanese Ambassador Ichiro Fujisaki, Foreign Minister Masahiko Koumura, Prime Minister Yasuo Fukuda, asking for the activists' immediate release.

    Monday, July 7, 2008

    How well would you understand food if you were paid to know?

    USDA Secretary of Agriculture Edward Schafer was wrong by more than 90% when he told a U.N. emergency food that biofuels were only responsible for 2-3% of the increase in food prices. According to the International Monetary Fund, the real figure is nearly 30%.

    This is from a good fact sheet from the Organic Consumers Association on biofuels:

    THE BAD NEWS

    • The amount of grain it takes to fill an average gas tank with ethanol would be enough to feed a person for a year.
    • If the US stopped growing food and converted its entire grain harvest into ethanol, it would satisfy less than 16% of its auto­motive needs.
    • The majority of US biofuels are produced from pesticide intensive genetically engineered crops (soy, corn).
    • Increasing portions of biofuels are now produced by mon­ocultures of soy and sugar cane in Latin America and palm oil in Indonesia and Malaysia, which have led to massive deforestation, the loss of invaluable biodiversity, and mas­sive outputs of Greenhouse Gases
    THE GOOD NEWS
    • Increasing fuel efficiency by just 3% would reduce US dependence on foreign oil more than all of the agrofuels combined, yet more than 500% more taxpayer money is spent on subsidizing ethanol than energy conservation, mass transit, solar, wind, and fuel-efficient technologies combined.
    Are biofuels innately bad? No way! But why are we subsidizing big agribiz instead of developing non-food sources of biofuel production?