Monthly Archives: February 2012

We the People

Our Founders were clear on the role of government in the United States:

We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.

We the People are the government. If our government is bad, it’s because We the People created it or were apathetic while someone else was participating. Demonizing the government is the same as demonizing We the People. Democracy allows that if we don’t like an aspect of governing, we can work to change it. Many times that work requires money, so the logic is that those with the most money can influence the government the most. What we have now with runaway campaign spending, unlimited corporate contributions, lobbyist domination, and media moguls is a case of money trouncing We the People (that is the real flesh and blood humans that populate the country).

The government exists to protect our rights as well as a whole host of other charges. The government seeks to establish justice, insure domestic tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general welfare, and secure liberty for now and the future. These are the ideas our constitutionally limited, democratic republic are founded on and those in office should be held to.

I appreciate the comments being made in response to my post yesterday about being unemployed. It is hard for me to keep framing in mind, I want to support or dispute so many points that are made. Continue reading

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Unemployment: the Full-time Job that Doesn’t Pay

“Work” and “job” are not the same thing. One is an assignment to be productive in a particular way, the other is a position of security from which you can be productive (and get those assignments).  Lots of people that don’t have jobs work full-time. They may even be paid for some of that work, but getting work is nothing like getting a job. I’ve noticed that my own interaction with the general public does not reflect the seeming downward trend of unemployment. When we get news reports, we generally hear about the official unemployment rolls as well as what employers have reported in gains or losses. What we don’t get is a clear picture of how our economy has morphed from one of family and financial security – like we experienced in the 50s – to one of frightened desperation.

When you get “work” but have no “job”, you basically have to put in exponential amounts of time for every dollar you actually earn. Continue reading

The Epidemic of Capitalism

Sick seems to be the theme lately. Santorum read a speech on keeping the church and state separated which, “made him want to throw up” – which might make some of the rest of us feel queasy. Well, I am truly getting sick of pointing out why Rick Santorum keeps getting it wrong about keeping the church and the state separate – so I’m writing about health, specifically vaccines.

Bill Moyers has a piece today on the Huffingtonpost about vaccines. Someone one (or two) people went to the Superbowl with measles, which is super contagious. So there is a possibility that thousands of people were contaminated, but so far nothing has been reported. Bill takes the opportunity to point out how sometimes Americans opt to not have their children vaccinated. He seems mostly concerned with the religious exemption, pointing out that the “herd immunity” begins to break down if just five out of twenty five students are not vaccinated. No doubt we are all susceptible to disease and would not want our loved ones to battle one unnecessarily, so what gives? Why are some of us choosing not to vaccinate?

I can think of many good reasons. Continue reading

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Lou Dobbs Doesn’t Want to Hear What the Trees Have to Say

“I speak for the trees”, says the Lorax.

Lou Dobbs doesn’t want to listen. A new blockbuster movie – Dr. Seuss’ The Lorax – is ramping up marketing.  Lou is not happy because the eco-friendly message the Lorax brings is indoctrinating our children. He actually puts it in 1%er terms (congratulations Occupy Wall Street for coining a term that your opponents now use as shorthand) – it supposedly “plainly demonizes the 1%”.  Lou is plainly assuming the connection between polluter/tree choppers and 1% for his viewing audience.  He is upset that “Obama’s friends in Hollywood” are pushing an environmental agenda.  In a way, I will agree with Lou – this movie will most definitely impact children’s opinions.

I haven’t seen the movie and read the book quite a while ago, but the basic message is that the short term gain of cutting trees down in rapid fashion outweighs the long term benefits of having them around. The story grows as the appetite of industrialization grows to not just take the trees, but to cut into all the areas of life that actual corporate domination cut into our life.

I have two kids that are growing like weeds. Occasionally, someone who hasn’t seen them for a while will exclaim, “look at how much he’s grown!” and marvel at the sight of my boy. While I am aware he has grown, I’ve seen him daily and the change never seemed that drastic to take note. That is how we are with our real lives – we don’t notice incremental changes. We accept small compromises on a near daily basis and it is hard to feel inspired, shocked, or motivated to fight for or against those compromises. We’ll say, “ok, dump your toxic wastes in this yucky area where no one important lives”, or, “ok, drill for oil offshore but waaay out there where we can’t see it”, or “we’ll let you pollute but you have to promise to plant some things when you’re done”. Then one day a shock happens – like an oil leak gusher in the ocean floor that takes 5 months to stave off and we wonder, ” how did we let this happen?”

Fiction helps us to understand. Fiction condenses time and events into a good story, but is often a macrocosm, a metaphor for what feels much more mundane in real time. Lou Dobbs is right in that well done stories can mold our opinions and indoctrinate our children; he knows that Dr. Seuss + slick animation + major moviehouse distribution = a major impact on American culture. Americans have proven their love for all of these things and will undoubtedly flock to the movie and buy the merchandise. This is predictable because so many other movies have gone before it with the same pattern.

Messages in movies and books count. When our kids see Transformers, they see robots, cars, industrialization, weaponry, and war glorified.  There is no shortage of glorified and romanticized materialism, warriors, sexism, and hyper-consumerism in our kids culture. Pre-school age kids can identify a plethora of brands, many not even relating to anything child friendly. We put our kids in front of screens a lot – every second of programmed viewing has been evaluated and assessed to be sure it does try to influence the viewer. Not every second has a political agenda, probably most just have a profit agenda and considerations for mental health, indoctrination, and ethics are non-existent.

This isn’t a guilt trip, screen time is a reality for us in this American world today, it’s just that Lou’s outrage is very pointed at potentially successful kids films with agendas he doesn’t care for. He starts his commentary by saying, “Now an unmentionable, a story you won’t hear in the liberal national media…” – as if liberal influences are the only messages influencing children. The fact is that our media works on a capitalist model which inherently encourages the sort of wild west, amoral, business centric philosophy that is one of the planks of being Republican.

Media literacy – developing an awareness around the “tricks” of the media and message manipulation – is very important for all of us, but especially for our kids that are growing up in a media saturated world.  Just as we don’t let any stranger with candy approach our kids, we need to be wary of who we invite into our living rooms and what we see in the theatres. Lou has every right to dislike a movie and discourage others from going, I do that all the time with our family’s media choices. Where he misses the mark is pretending as if messaging is a brand new thing that “Hollywood liberals” invented. For more information on how you and your kids can get more media literate, check out the Center for a Commercial Free Childhood here, or Media Education Films here, or the Action Coalition for Media Education here. They are all non-profit and non partisan.  Most times in this life, input=output. Be outraged if you want, but be aware of the messages being put out – not just to your children, but to you too. Be discriminate, hold a high standard, and give feedback to the media providers to influence their choices of programming.

I happen to like the Lorax’s message, maybe we’ll have a family outing to the theater and stop off to play in the woods on the way home.

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Magic Mushrooms May Save Us All

Mushrooms are amazing; we owe our lives to these amazing organisms. Mushrooms hold our topsoil together, help us sequester CO2, feed us, and offer a wide array of uses from food to medicine to manufacturing. A team of scientists at Yale have found a species that can eat plastic. This should have made major headlines, it’s the best news I’ve heard for our planet in a long time. I had to share.

Check out the article from Yale Alumni Magazine here. It describes a trip to the jungles of Ecuador where biological samples were collected. One of them was a fungus they identified as estalotiopsis microspora. Once back at the lab, the fungus was isolated and seemed to have a healthy appetite for polyurethane even when fed that exclusively.

We’ve all heard of polyurethane, but what are common items made from it? It combines the properties of rubber and plastic, so it’s uses are many (from Wikipedia): Continue reading

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