Tuesday, August 31, 2010

From The White House

The End of the Combat Mission in Iraq

August 31, 2010 | 17:56 | Public Domain

President Obama announces the end of the combat mission in Iraq and discusses the future of the U.S. commitment to helping build a stable Iraq in an address to the nation from the Oval Office.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

From The White House

Inside the White House: Letters to the President
August 3, 2009 | 5:55

Every day, President Obama reads ten letters from the public in order to stay in tune with America's issues and concerns. "Letters to the President" is an exclusive behind-the-scenes look at the process of how those ten letters make it to the President's desk from among the tens of thousands of letters, faxes, and e-mails that flood the White House each day. August 3, 2009. (public domain)

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

From The Sage of Bucksnort

by Jack Reeves

Sunday afternoon I left Bucksnort and made a pilgrimage.

My paternal great grandfather and great grandmother are buried in Cobb County; my maternal great grandmother and great grandfather in Cherokee County. I'd never seen their graves.

Cobb's Kemp Cemetery is frozen in time, a stark anomaly to its suburb environs. I parked the car. From a distance the family name stood out: Andrew Jackson Reeves, 1849-1921: Martha Mitchell Reeves, 1852-1927.

When they were born, Abraham Lincoln was an Ilinois lawyer. During the Civil War, they were in their teens. They likely saw Atlanta burning.

I ran my fingers over the time-eroded names and mused on the transitory enigma: life.

I drove to Little River Cemetery. I thought of the people who were born, married, raised children, died, and were buried in this circumscribed world delineated by landmarks known as Sweat's Mountain, Rube's Creek, and the Alabama Road.

My grandmother's father, Isaac Wood, and mother, Annie, are buried at Little River. She and Isaac had five children.

My grandmother, Carrie, was the youngest. Isaac died when my grandmother was two. Her mother, Annie, died three years later. The five children were parentless.

Her epitaph in the records of the Woodstock Baptist Church reads:
"The last tribute of respect to the memory of Sister Annie Wood. She was born in 1851 and early in life gave herself to Christ.

"She was the wife of Isaac Wood who died several years ago, leaving her with five small children which she tried to raise up for Christ. She was the daughter of affliction but bore it all with Christian patience. She died June 10, 1884.

May a smiling Providence bless here doubly orphaned children and may it be the chief desire to imitate her many Christian virtues."
Annie Wood was 33 years old when she passed away. I can imagine the trepidation she must have felt when her husband died and with five children faced survival on land still bearing the ravages of the Civil War.

What fear and grief must this child--who became my grandmother--have experienced when the person who loved her the most disappeared?

How did this void get interpreted in her life and, ultimately, in the lives of her children?

Fortunately, a widow named Haney took the children under her care.

All of us are children of children past. Our ancestors' lives--their struggles, loss, courage, decisions, and values--become the amalgam of our lives.

Annie Wood, my great grandmother, a widow with five children, gripped me. When she passed away my grandmother, Carrie, was five.

How might this tragedy have touched Carrie's son--my father, also named Andrew Jackson--who shaped my life? What of me--in the chain of time--may be the expressions of that event 117 years ago?

There is some bereavement, I suspect, that by its depth, because of its indelible nature, is passed on. It's elusive, but I believe it can survive in subtle ways.

I don't know the specifics, but I suspect the chain's intact.

A different man returned to Bucksnort.

From Wikipedia

Tony Judt

Tony Robert Judt FBA (2 January 1948 – 6 August 2010)[1] was a British historian, author and university professor.[2] He specialized in European history and was the Erich Maria Remarque Professor in European Studies at New York University and Director of NYU's Erich Maria Remarque Institute. He was a frequent contributor to the New York Review of Books. In 1996 he was elected a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and in 2007 a corresponding Fellow of the British Academy.

Starting as an impassioned left-wing Zionist, he dropped his faith in Marxism early on and became, in his words, "a universalist social democrat".[3] After a period of admiration for the collectivism of Israeli kibbutzim, he would become critical of Israeli policy and its lack of tolerance.[4] He displayed a profound suspicion of left wing ideologies, of identity politics, and of the American role as the world's sole superpower.[1]

In 2008, Judt was diagnosed with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), also known as Lou Gehrig's Disease. From October 2009, he was paralyzed from the neck down. He was nevertheless able to give a two-hour public lecture.[45][46] In January 2010 Judt wrote a short article about his condition, the first of a series of memoirs published in the New York Review of Books.[47] In March 2010, Judt was interviewed by Terry Gross on NPR's Fresh Air,[48] and in June he was interviewed by the BBC's disability affairs correspondent Peter White for the Radio 4 programme No Triumph, No Tragedy.[49]

Judt died of ALS at his home in Manhattan on 6 August 2010.[50] This was the day before an article about his illness was published in the Irish Independent (before the announcement of his death) indicating that he "won't surrender any time soon" and comparing his suffering to that of author Terry Pratchett, who was diagnosed with early-onset Alzheimer's disease in 2007.[51] Shortly before his death, according to The Guardian, he was said to have possessed the "liveliest mind in New York."[52] He continued his work as a public intellectual right up until his death, writing essays for the New York Review of Books[52] and completing a co-authored synthetic intellectual history under the title Thinking The Twentieth Century.[53]

Following his death TIME said he was "a historian of the very first order, a public intellectual of an old-fashioned kind and — in more ways than one — a very brave man".[54] He was also praised for what he described as the historian's task "to tell what is almost always an uncomfortable story and explain why the discomfort is part of the truth we need to live well and live properly. A well-organised society is one in which we know the truth about ourselves collectively, not one in which we tell pleasant lies about ourselves." Mark LeVine of the University of California at Irvine said "Today Americans and their politicians much prefer pretty lies to hard truths...It would be nice if Judt's arguments and scholarship could help shape the civic language that has so clearly gone missing in the US during the last 30 years. But in the meantime, his writings on European history and the need for a new social contract between rulers and ruled can inspire a new generation of scholars and activists in other cultures...in Latin America, Africa, and the Muslim world, where the legacy of Judt's call for a critically reflective social democratic political discourse might well be found. If American militarism, European myopia, corporate greed and the militant ideologies of numerous stripes do not doom them first."[4]

Over the years Charlie Rose spoke with Tony Judt many times. To see those interviews click here.

From TIME Swampland

Dems Depressed and Disheartened
Posted by Joe Klein Monday, August 23, 2010 at 12:16 pm
204 Comments • Related Topics: barack obama, democrats, economy

The lead item on Politico--titled "Dems Urge Obama to Take a Stand"--is almost surrealistic. Take a stand? The guy passed health care, a stimulus bill that helped avoid a Depression, a groundbreaking financial reform bill that is too complicated to be popularly described, a bailout that enabled General Motors and Chrysler to survive. He nominated two estimable women to the Supreme Court. He restored America's image in the world. I can go on...

But Dems are distressed? He's not populist or ideological enough? Oh please. There are several ways to go about the presidency. Ronald Reagan chose one way: he said one thing and did another. He was for cutting back the size of government, but didn't. He was for lowering taxes and he did, but then he raised taxes--two of the laegest percentage increases in American history--when his supply-side "philosophy" proved a phony. He confronted the Soviet Union, but he also would have agreed to massive reductions in nuclear arsenals if the Soviets had allowed him to pursue his Star Wars fantasy.

Barack Obama has chosen another way.

He has pretty much done what he said he'd do. His achievements are historic. But he hasn't wrapped them up in an ideological bumper sticker--or provided some neat way for the public to understand it, or pretended to be a yeoman simpleton, noshing on pork rinds, clearing brush and excoriating the business community. That is a real political problem. He delivered a stealth tax cut to 95% of the American people; I've never seen a politician cut taxes and not take sufficient credit for it before. He made it impossible for Americans to be denied health care coverage because of pre-existing conditions or chronic problems; somehow this has gotten lost in the "socialist" shuffle as well. He ended major combat operations in Iraq, on time and without much fuss--without using the word "victory" or denying the continuing problems involved in cobbling together a coherent government there. Another President might have hyped this "achievement" relentlessly.

I find this diffidence sort of admirable and extremely incompetent. But even if Obama, and his communications shop, had been more focused on touting his achievements, and even if he delivered his major speeches on financial reform brandishing a pitchfork and a torch, I suspect the Democrats would be in pretty much the same dismal electoral shape as they are now. The country's economic problems--the depth and devastation of this recession; the possibility that we're in a different sort of trough than we've ever been in before; the confusion and anxiety wrought in certain sections of the country by changing social mores and an influx of non-white immigrants--trump and undermine abstract reports of successful government activism. So long as the Great Recession continues, it's easy--indeed, it's natural--to question any bailout, any stimulus project, that might protect and create jobs for some, but leaves the vast majority of Americans unaffected. So long as white middle-class Christian Americans live in the fear that their children won't live as well as they have, it's easy to blame Latinos, Muslims, gays, mixed-race couples (who produce ethnically confusing amalgams like Barack Hussein Obama) and elitists for attempting to steal the "real" America. It's easy to credit the paranoid prejudices of Glenn Beck.

The idea that these tumultuous anxieties would somehow be addressed if the President behaved more like Reagan is foolish. The idea, promoted by the Democratic Party's myopic left, that being more "progressive" might clarify things and restore the party's status is a fantasy. The fact is, Obama has done a great many of the things liberals have always wanted--starting with health care reform--and the country is still, for the moment, a mess. That's a problem. Democrats would be in trouble this year even if health care had passed with a "public option," even if the stimulus package had been larger, even if "cap and trade" had passed, even if Obama hadn't decided to double down in Afghanistan or continue many of Bush's national security protective measures. In fact, I suspect they'd be in worse trouble. This is a profoundly moderate country. It has a distinct libertarian streak; it distrusts "big"--government or business--even as it prospers from the carefully applied benefits of both. If there is any national ideology, it is informality, which is neither left nor right. (And it occurs to me that Obama, preternaturally cool and private, is deficient in the informality zone--another much-discussed problem.)

Sure, it would be nice if the White House were Reagan-savvy (that is, Michael Deaver-savvy) about public relations. But Democrats should not delude themselves by thinking that ideological purity, or a phony populism foreign to the President's character, is the answer. At a moment as complicated and unnerving as this, there are no easy answers. At a moment as complicated and unnerving as this, it isn't hard to imagine a failed presidency--although, of course, it would be foolishly premature to do so. But it is not possible, at this point, to imagine a dishonorable Obama presidency; he has faced the national crisis in a manner that may be politically flawed, but he has not run from, or fudged or demagogued, the problems. He has done pretty much what he said he was going to do when he ran for office. That is something Democrats should be able to live with, proudly.

Read more: http://swampland.blogs.time.com/2010/08/23/dems-depressed-and-disheartened/?xid=rss-topstories#ixzz0xXYKo9AK

From a Zen Buddhist

Recently, I spoke with an old friend of mine by phone who I had not heard from for many years. Since the late seventies she has been a member of a Zen Buddhist  community near Portland, Oregon. She tolled me that recently she had had a root canal done and that she had refused to take Novocain during the surgery? Her goal she said was to – transcend dental medication.

My broth-in-law, if he were still alive, would have thoroughly enjoyed the pun.


by Jack Reeves

"Oh, the worst of all tragedies is not to die young, but to live until I am seventy-five and yet not ever truly to have lived." --Martin Luther King Jr.

Martin Luther King Jr. died at 39.

Alexander the Great, age 32.

Jesus, 33.

Wolfgang Mozart, 35.

Thomas "Stonewall" Jackson, 39.

Abraham Lincoln, 56.

Hank Williams, age 29.

Buddy Holly, 23.

John Kennedy, 46.

There is little time to savor life. We are always close to death. Ninety seconds without oxygen can be insufficiently sufficient.

Hank Williams' had 348 months.

Look what Jesus did in three years, roughly 36 months.

Kennedy was president for only 27 months.

Much we do in life reminds us of the passing of time--time perhaps devoid of much purpose.

The wise find interests that imbue life with meaning. It is not in trivia, TV, or the tawdry touted as important. Meaning is not in the shallows of life but in the depths.

There go.

Sermons from the Road, Parts 1 & 2

If you have never had the opportunity to be a member of Brother Webb's congregation during the delivery of one of his sermons then it is high time that you do so. Until then, here are two brief but illustrative example of what you will receive:

PART ONE: Brother Webb uses a hilarious restaurant analogy to suggest how a 'spiritual menu' (the Bible) might need to be reimagined.

PART TWO: Responsive reading #228 (There's No Business Like Show Business), WWJND? (What Would Jesus NOT Do?) and more.

Monday, August 23, 2010

From the New York Times

The Charitable-Giving Divide

Mark Peterson/Redux Pictures

Published: August 20, 2010

With the battle over whether to extend the Bush tax cuts for the wealthy shaping up as the major political event of the fall, opponents of repeal were handed a bounteous gift this summer when Bill Gates, Warren Buffett and 38 others announced that they formed a pact to give at least half their wealth to charity. After all, what better illustration could there be of the great social good that wealthy people can do when the government lets them keep their hard-earned dollars to spend as they please?

The problem is that the exceptional philanthropy of the superwealthy few doesn’t apply to the many more people defined as rich in the current debate over the Bush tax cuts — individuals earning over $200,000 and couples with revenues over $250,000. For decades, surveys have shown that upper-income Americans don’t give away as much of their money as they might and are particularly undistinguished as givers when compared with the poor, who are strikingly generous. A number of other studies have shown that lower-income Americans give proportionally more of their incomes to charity than do upper-income Americans. In 2001, Independent Sector, a nonprofit organization focused on charitable giving, found that households earning less than $25,000 a year gave away an average of 4.2 percent of their incomes; those with earnings of more than $75,000 gave away 2.7 percent.

This situation is perplexing if you think of it in terms of dollars and cents: the poor, you would assume, don’t have resources to spare, and the personal sacrifice of giving is disproportionately large. The rich do have money to spend. Those who itemize receive a hefty tax break to make charitable donations, a deduction that grows more valuable the higher they are on the income scale. And the well-off are presumed to have at least a certain sense of noblesse oblige. Americans pride themselves on their philanthropic tradition, and on the role of private charity, which is much more developed here than it is in Europe, where the expectation is that the government will care for the poor.

But in the larger context of “the psychological culture of wealth versus poverty,” says Paul K. Piff, a Ph.D. candidate in social psychology at the University of California, Berkeley, the paradox makes sense. Piff has made a specialty of studying those cultures in his lab at the Institute of Personality and Social Research, most recently in a series of experiments that tested “lower class” and “upper class” subjects (with earnings ranging from around $15,000 to more than $150,000 a year) to see what kind of psychological factors motivated the well-known differences in their giving behaviors. His study, written with Michael W. Kraus and published online last month by The Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, found that lower-income people were more generous, charitable, trusting and helpful to others than were those with more wealth. They were more attuned to the needs of others and more committed generally to the values of egalitarianism.

“Upper class” people, on the other hand, clung to values that “prioritized their own need.” And, he told me this week, “wealth seems to buffer people from attending to the needs of others.” Empathy and compassion appeared to be the key ingredients in the greater generosity of those with lower incomes. And these two traits proved to be in increasingly short supply as people moved up the income spectrum.

This compassion deficit — the inability to empathetically relate to others’ needs — is perhaps not so surprising in a society that for decades has seen the experiential gap between the well-off and the poor (and even the middle class) significantly widen. The economist Frank Levy diagnosed such a split in his book “The New Dollars and Dreams: American Incomes and Economic Change,” published in the midst of the late-1990s tech boom. “The welfare state,” Levy wrote, “rests on enlightened self-interest in which people can look at beneficiaries and reasonably say, ‘There but for the grace of God. . . .’ As income differences widen, this statement rings less true.” A lack of identification with those in need may explain in part why a 2007 report from the Center on Philanthropy at Indiana University found that only a small percentage of charitable giving by the wealthy was actually going to the needs of the poor; instead it was mostly directed to other causes — cultural institutions, for example, or their alma maters — which often came with the not-inconsequential payoff of enhancing the donor’s status among his or her peers.

Given all this, it’s tempting to believe that there’s something intrinsic to the rich or the poor that explains their greater or lesser generosity and empathetic connection to others (i.e., rich people get rich because they like money more and are less distracted from their goals by the relational side of life), but Piff’s research points in a different direction. Piff found that if higher-income people were instructed to imagine themselves as lower class, they became more charitable. If they were primed by, say, watching a sympathy-eliciting video, they became more helpful to others — so much so, in fact, that the difference between their behavior and that of the low-income subjects disappeared. And fascinatingly, the inverse was true as well: when lower-income people were led to think of themselves as upper class, they actually became less altruistic.

“These patterns can be changed,” Piff says. What this means is that whatever morality tale can be spun by the giving patterns for rich people and poor people, it shouldn’t turn on the presumed nobility of the needy or essential cupidity of the fortunate. Instead, we should look at what has pushed rich and poor (or, more accurately, the rich and everyone else) to such opposite extremes of existence. A generation of political decisions — regarding big business and labor, the deregulation of the financial industry and, yes, tax cuts for the wealthy — have brought our society to this sharply divided, socially and economically polarized place we now find ourselves, says the political scientist Jacob Hacker, co-author, with Paul Pierson, of the coming book “Winner-Take-All Politics: How Washington Made the Rich Richer — and Turned Its Back on the Middle Class.” And, just as with the behavior of Piff’s subjects in the lab, political decisions can be changed. “Runaway inequality,” he says, has led to “a pulling away of the very wealthy from the rest of American society. Do we believe the rich should be trusted to tithe, or should we have a society with a basic taxing-and-spending structure that ensures a modicum of economic security for all people?”

In a more equitable society, the very well off might indeed have less cash to give. But if a rising tide lifts all boats, that may not matter so much.

Judith Warner is the author, most recently, of “We’ve Got Issues: Children and Parents in the Age of Medication.”

Saturday, August 21, 2010

From The Department of State

Secretary Clinton Announces the Pakistan Relief Fund


Currently more than 20 million Pakistanis have been affected by the worst natural disaster in Pakistan's history. That is more than the population of New York State. The enormity of this crisis is hard to fathom, the rain continues to fall, and the extent of the devastation is still difficult to gauge.

Our thoughts and prayers are with those who have lost loved ones, those who have been displaced from their homes, and those left without food or water. The United States has and continues to take swift action to help. But governments cannot be alone in helping the people of Pakistan.

That is why the United States Government through the Department of State has established the Pakistan Relief Fund for all Americans to join in this tremendous relief, recovery and reconstruction effort.

The pictures we see coming out of Pakistan are painful images of human suffering at its worst. In surveying the lives and landscape affected by this disaster, we see brothers and sisters; mothers and fathers; daughters and sons. We see 20 million members of the human family in desperate need of help. This is a defining moment - not only for Pakistan, but for all of us.

And now is a time for our shared humanity to move us to help. Americans have always shown great generosity to others facing crises around the world. And I call on you to do what you can. Every dollar makes a difference. $5 can buy 50 high energy bars providing much needed nutrition; $10 can provide a child or mother with a blanket; and about $40 can buy material to shelter a family of four.

So I urge my fellow Americans to join this effort and send much needed help to the people of Pakistan by contributing to the Department of State's Pakistan Relief Fund. Please go to www.state.gov or send $10 through your mobile phone by texting the word FLOOD, F-L-O-O-D, to 27722.

If we come together now, we can meet this challenge and ensure that future generations in Pakistan have a chance to have the bright future they deserve and fulfill their own God-given potential.

Click here to contribute.

From Susannah Randolph: Alan Grayson's Campaign Manager

I just received the following:

Dear Dee,

Hi! I'm Susannah Randolph, Alan Grayson's Campaign Manager.

There are 48 hours to go, and we are almost halfway toward the $300K goal for our Monday Moneybomb, at CongressmanWithGuts.com. Thanks to over 4000 people like you.

I have a special request.

Would you please forward this e-mail to five friends or more, and ask them to participate?

Tell them that Alan Grayson says what you are thinking, but no one else is saying.

Tell them that Alan Grayson fights to improve the lives of ordinary people.

Tell them that Alan Grayson stands up to right-wing lies and slander.

Tell them that Alan Grayson can lead us toward a future of Justice, Equality, and Peace.

Tell them that Alan Grayson is the first Democrat to represent his district in 34 years, that he won in 2008 with 52% of the vote, and that he needs our help.

On Tuesday, the Republicans choose our opponent. On Monday, let's send them a message at CongressmanWithGuts.com, and drop the MoneyBomb on them.

Show them that you want Alan Grayson representing us in Congress. You, and five of your friends.


Susannah Randolph

Weekly Address: No Corporate Takeover of Our Democracy

The White House Blog

The President calls out Republicans for blocking campaign finance reforms that would address the Supreme Court decision opening the floodgates of corporate money into elections.


Friday, August 20, 2010

From CayugaDeer.Org

Shot For A Tulip

Is one of the most educated communities in America losing its mind?

Cayuga Heights has been said to have the most Ph.D’s per capita of any municipality in America. Yet today, its trustees are on the verge of approving an expensive, dangerous, and frankly bizarre plan that if put into effect, is certain to put a serious dent in our community’s well-deserved reputation for sensible, compassionate, and forward-thinking public policy.

As most people in Ithaca know, there has been a controversy around the fate of the deer in Cayuga Heights, whose appetite for tulips, heirloom tomatoes, and ornamental shrubbery has, in the minds of the current mayor and trustees, created a situation so dire and unacceptable, that action of the most extreme sort is not only justified, but urgently required.

According to the plan now being considered, every single deer in the village is slated to be violated or killed. The first phase involves capturing 20-60 female deer, surgically sterilizing them, then puncturing their ears with numbered tags and encumbering their necks with radio collars. These are the “lucky” individuals. The intended fate of every other deer in Cayuga Heights, including pregnant does and fawns, is to be shot dead at 8 to 10 undisclosed bait sites in our neighborhood backyards. This annual massacre, to become a part of our local culture, will be carried out by out-of-town contractors who earn their living exterminating wildlife.

The ethical grotesquery of this plan appears to be lost on those who conceived it, who seem to be oblivious to the mental and emotional torture that will be experienced by the few deer chosen to survive, not to mention the many people who care about these gentle animals. Year after year, deer in and around Cayuga Heights will be lured by piles of corn into the kill zone, and those marked for survival will watch as their herd mates are brutally killed right in front of them. Were such a sadistic policy to be carried out against dogs or cats, or horses, an outraged crowd of us would spontaneously rise up to stop it. But the deer, ironically, because they live free of direct human control and are no individual’s private property, are somehow seen as unworthy of moral consideration.

Do we really want to live in a society where bureaucrats meet behind closed doors to arbitrarily decide how many of each species are allowed to live, then send technicians out to mark the few chosen to survive as ornamental reminders of a bygone era, doomed to move among us as freaks festooned with the trappings of their utter domination by humans? Do we want to cover the eyes and ears of our children as unsuspecting animals are methodically executed in our neighbors’ backyards?

Living amongst us are many people who, through wise plant choices, and skillful use of fencing and deer repellents, enjoy beautiful gardens without causing harm to anyone. Mass killing and extreme control of our indigenous wildlife is neither necessary, nor ethical, nor safe. And if it is scientific at all, it represents science at its most twisted.

Everything about this plan is emblematic of the mindset that is destroying our planet, and at odds with what we stand for as a community. Because the trustees of Cayuga Heights have rejected proven and practical non-violent approaches to reducing deer-human conflict, because they refuse against all reason to allow residents to erect fences high enough to safeguard their plantings, should the rest of us just sit back and do nothing? Should we accept armed men firing deadly weapons in our neighborhoods, to protect tulips? Or is it possible, with all the brilliant, creative and compassionate people living in this community, that we can come up with a more sensible approach? I think we can.

by James LaVeck an award-winning documentary filmmaker and a 20-year resident of Ithaca, NY. He is one of the co-founders of CayugaDeer.org, Ithacans for Safe, Rational and Ethical Solutions to Deer Human Conflict. This opinion piece was originally published in the Ithaca Times on June 24, 2009

Take Action for a Healthier Tennessee!

I received the Following from Community Food Advocates:


The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (“SNAP,” also known as “Food Stamps”) helps over a million Tennesseans purchase food for their families each month. SNAP is the nation’s number one “safety net” program for families facing food insecurity.

We need YOU to contact your Member of Congress about proposed cuts to SNAP.

Here are the facts:
  • While the unemployment rate in Tennessee and across the country has hovered around 10%, record numbers of people have turned to SNAP for the first time.
  • The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) of 2009 provided extra support for SNAP recipients by boosting SNAP allotments – adding food to Tennessee tables and over $100 million to Tennessee’s economy each month.
  • The FMAP (Medicaid)/jobs bill recently passed reduced SNAP benefits by $11.9 billion and ends the Economic Recovery Act's (ARRA) SNAP monthly benefits increase in April 2014 rather than in 2018 as originally projected. 
  • On top of the SNAP cut in the FMAP bill, the Senate also passed its version of Child Nutrition Reauthorization (S. 3307), which further reduces SNAP benefits, to generate $2.2 billion to pay for this bill. It does this by moving the SNAP benefits increase termination date forward to November 2013.
We need to tell Congress that funding any program priorities - no matter how meritorious - by cutting SNAP benefits is unacceptable.

The House Child Nutrition bill, H.R. 5504, must pass without using SNAP benefits as a "pay for."  H.R. 5504 provides critical support for low-income children by improving their access to the nutritious food they need - whether in school, in out-of-school time programs, or in child care - while also improving the nutritional quality of those meals.  Passing H.R. 5504 this year will ensure significant movement towards the goals of ending child hunger by 2015 and dramatically reducing childhood obesity.  While passage of this bill is a top priority for the anti-hunger community, it is unacceptable to finance the bill through cuts to SNAP benefits.  
How Can You Take Action?
  •  Schedule Site Visits and District Appointments. Members of Congress are home - summer recess extends till September 13th - and Members are anxious to meet with constituent groups, especially in an election year.  Scheduling a site visit at a school, agency or out-of-school time program is a great way for Members to see the great activities that include the nutrition programs.  Or schedule a time to meet with your Member in person or through a "community conference call."
  • Paper Plate Campaign. Use FRAC's food hardship data to highlight the need in your community (congressional district) for a strong child nutrition bill that doesn't cut SNAP benefits. While members are home, you can deliver or mail the plates to the district office closest to you. This is a great opportunity for a meeting or a media event. Can't get to an office? Decorate a plate and take a picture of it. You can post the picture online and send it to your Member's office.
Community Food Advocates
415 Fourth Ave South, Unit B | Nashville, TN 37201
Cassi Johnson, Executive Director
615-385-2286 / www.foodsecuritypartners.org / www.mannanashville.org

Witness to Extinction, by Samuel Turvey

From the Daily Show with Jon Stewart

Net Neutrality

The Daily Show With Jon StewartMon - Thurs 11p / 10c
Internet Exploiter
Daily Show Full EpisodesPolitical HumorTea Party

From Literary Review

Jonathan Mirsky
When a Billion Chinese Jump: How China Will Save Mankind - Or Destroy It

By Jonathan Watts (Faber & Faber 483pp £14.99)

Exclusive from the Literary Review print edition. Subscribe now!

Only last year, Thomas Friedman, three-times Pulitzer Prize winner and a regular columnist in the New York Times, wrote: 'One-party autocracy certainly has its drawbacks. But when it is led by a reasonably enlightened group of people, as China is today, it can also have great advantages ... It is not an accident that China is committed to overtaking us in electric cars, solar power, energy efficiency, batteries, nuclear power and wind power.' A year earlier, Friedman wished that 'we could be like China for a day' so that the US could really get things done on saving the environment. Friedman could not have read The China Price: The True Cost of Chinese Competitive Advantage by Alexandra Harney (2008), an exposé of the hell-hole which is Chinese manufacturing for the cheap Western market. Nor could he have read Mark Elvin's The Retreat of the Elephants (2004), or Elizabeth Economy's The River Runs Black (also 2004; both books were reviewed here), which deal with China's historic and current ravaging of its environment. Now comes Jonathan Watts's meticulously documented, wide-ranging account of this destruction - from the near extermination of the Tibetan chiru, an antelope whose coat is used to make the fashionable shahtoosh shawl, to China's role as the greatest polluter of the Pacific through its overuse of chemicals, in fertilisers and factories, that flow down the country's many poisoned rivers to the sea.

Watts's brilliant title comes from a warning he learned as a child: 'If everyone in China jumps at exactly the same time, it will shake the earth off its axis and kill us all.' He remembered this during his time in Beijing as Asia environment correspondent for The Guardian and it spurred him to make an arduous trip through much of China, from the satanic mills of Guangdong to the new railway that is hastening the cultural ruin of Tibet. Soon after he moved to China in 2003, Watts suspected that 'the decisions taken in Beijing, more than anywhere else, would determine whether humanity thrived or perished ... No other country was in such a mess.'

At first you might imagine that Watts is peddling the latest version of the Yellow Peril. After you've read about fifty pages you will find his occasional attempts at fairness bizarre, as in his clichéd conclusion that, faced with two 'extremes', 'the truth was probably somewhere in between'. But there is no 'in between'. China is destroying itself and threatening the rest of us. And, like useful idiots, we are helping the Chinese do it.

It is hard to single out the most repulsive examples of self-destruction. Millions of tons of sewage down the Yellow River; the North China water table now sucked so dry that it has become nearly impossible to plumb; the squillions of acres of denuded grasslands and felled forests. The mind denies and goes numb. But some horrors can be comprehended because they are small. Chinese authorities, ever on the qui vive to lure tourists, have been identifying famed beauty spots as Shangri-la - 'a remarkable act of chutzpah', Watts writes, 'for a government that was, in theory, at least, communist, atheist, and scientifically orientated'. One such designated treasure was Lake Bigu in Yunnan province. Once a place of great beauty, it has since been 'violated'. In 2001, one of China's most respected filmmakers, Chen Kaige, came to the lake to make The Promise. Encouraged by the local authority - typically keen to make a fast yuan - Chen drove 100 pilings into the lake for a bridge and built a five-storey house for the love scenes. After he finished shooting he left, but the house and the rotting bridge across the lake remain, and sheep choke to death on discarded rubbish.

Here's where Westerners come in. We love ourselves for recycling, but where do you suppose all those obsolete computers and plastic bottles go? Why, to China, at so much per ton. In one town, Watts saw small recycling shops 'breaking down the world's discarded plastic bags, bottles and wrappers': 'bales of Dutch Kinder Eggs, Italian nappies, French-packaged Lego ... Tesco milk cartons, Marks and Spencer's cranberry juice, Kellogg's cornflakes boxes, Walkers crisp packets, Snickers wrappers and Persil powder containers'. These were turned into hundreds of thousands of plastic pellets sorted by colour, and made into low grade sheeting for holdalls and wrapping. 'The cost was ditches full of garbage and a population plagued by health concerns.' In another town, where 'hundreds of millions of computers, mobile phones and other devices [had been] discarded', he saw women and children stripping circuit boards and exposing themselves to a 'toxic cocktail' of chemicals. Children in that town had 50 per cent more lead in their blood than the limit set in the US; it can result in mental retardation. According to Watts, 'American companies ... claim to be recycling domestically while actually shipping e-waste to China and elsewhere using shell companies in Hong Kong and Singapore.'

Species are dying in China (the chapter on the Yangtze River dolphin is especially grim, although Watts has missed the best book on the subject, Witness to Extinction, by Samuel Turvey, reviewed here in December 2008), fish stocks are depleting, water grows ever scarcer, climate change is ignored, and climate itself becomes an adversary. Local governments encourage 'growth', the new middle class buys like billy-o, and China's national leaders accuse the West of being unfair about China not being green enough, since - true enough - we did our despoiling during the nineteenth-century Industrial Revolution.

During years travelling around China, I saw the beginnings of what Watts describes. What staggered me in his book was this: in the West we are suffering fear and loathing of the Chinese Century and China's impressive 10 per cent national growth, compared with our paltry advances. But I didn't know that the World Bank, as Watts shows, has calculated the annual bill for Chinese pollution - health costs, premature deaths, damaged infrastructure and crops - at 5.8 per cent of GDP. That lowers the Chinese miracle to our level. And if you add in erosion, desertification and environmental degradation, the World Bank calculates there is an 8 to 12 per cent bite into China's GDP, stopping the miracle in its eroded tracks. Watts suggests that if we factor in climate change and the gobbling up of non-renewable resources around the planet, 'it becomes conceivable that China's environmental crunch contributed to the global financial crash of 2008'.

This is a revealing and depressing book. There is no 'middle truth' in it. During his painstaking investigative journeys, which called on all his powers as a top-class reporter, Jonathan Watts concluded that 'China has felt at times like the end of the world.'

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Rhonda Fleming with Burt Lancaster

"Gunfight at the O.K. Corral"

Ronda Fleming on "What's My Line"

A Friend in Need

A Clarification of My Position

By Dee Newman

New polls indicate that while voters in New York State disapprove of the project to build an Islamic community center and place of worship near the World Trade Center site by a wide margin (63-27 percent), they also overwhelmingly agree (64-28 percent) that there is a constitutional right for the center to be built. It would, therefore, seem that the objection to building the center is based more on passion and emotional feelings (loss, sorrow, anguish, pain, grief, resentment, fear, anger, and/or rage) rather than on sound rational legal, logical, or ethical motives.

It is, therefore, not only altogether fitting and proper, but imperative that we as a community of concerned and caring human beings reach out to those who are still suffering emotionally and psychologically from the attacks on 9/11 with empathy, care and concern and help them to work through their emotional distress.

However, we should never allow the irrational, emotional and psychological sufferings of the majority, their grief, anxiety, fear, and anger to supersede the fundamental principles and values of this nation. It is one thing to listen with compassion and understanding to their distress. It is all together another thing to acquiesce to it or accept it as a healthy, appropriate, or just response.

Those politician and their surrogates in the media who continue to exploit and manipulate the anguish, fear, and anger of those who are still suffering from the horrific events of September 11, 2001, as well as, those who continue to use and even express a xenophobic anti-Muslim bigotry for patrician political gain must be identified and exposed for who they are – deceitful, malicious, fear-mongering immoral political hucksters.

Furthermore, those politicians who have succumbed out of self-interest or other pathetic reasons and objectives to these vicious, bigoted, and hateful political attacks from far-right extremists must also be identified and expose for who they are – moral cowards!

A few closing observations: I am amazed that so many people who supported from the get-go our goal to free the Muslim people of Iraq from the tyranny of Saddam Hussein and who continue to defend to this day the sacrifice and lost of thousands of our young men and women to that end, are now horrified by the prospect that a Muslim community center and place of worship may be built near to “Ground Zero.” It makes no sense!

In addition, many of those who are now advocating government interference into the free exercise of religion, impeding on First Amendment rights, are some of the same folks who are constantly demanding Second Amendment Constitutional adherence when it comes to the right of the people to keep and bear arms. It seems many of them find it just as easy to pick and choose Constitutional rights as they do Biblical passages when they are trying to justify their intolerant and discriminatory actions.

Nonetheless, these positions are not only hypocritical and immoral; they are illegal, illogical, and irrational.

From MSNBC Andrea Mitchell Interviews Ted Olsen

Ted Olsen, the former Bush Solicitor General whose wife died on 9/11, tells Andrea Mitchell that he agrees with President Obama on the controversy to build a Muslim community center near the World Trade Center site.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

The People of Pakistan Urgently Need Our Support.

by Dee Newman

The people of Pakistan urgently need our support. Weeks after massive downpours began battering northern Pakistan, submerging tens of thousands of square miles, killing thousands of people and leaving millions homeless, the floodwaters are now sweeping downriver through southern Pakistan, adding yet another layer of misery to the despair.

The scale of the destruction from the floods in Pakistan is overwhelming. The level of devastation is beyond words to describe. Fourteen million men, women and children are critically in need of food and shelter. One-fifth of the country is now underwater. Large numbers of children have no access to food.

The number of people who were forced from their homes is staggering. They have lost most if not all of their assets. Temporary camps are full of women and children separated from their husbands and fathers. Most of the men have remained at home to protect what little remains. Other families were split up when they were escaping the floods.

The following is from NPR:

The United Nations says it has yet to raise half its $460 million target. The World Health Organization has received commitments for just 25 percent of the $56 million it has asked for. One aid group has called donations from European countries "feeble."

Relief agencies say they are puzzled by the lack of generosity, while analysts cite a mix of factors: the disaster's low death toll, its timing during the northern hemisphere's summer holidays — and fears that aid money will be squandered through corruption or make its way into the hands of the Taliban.

"We are perplexed as to why the international community has not responded as generously and as quickly as it can do," said Ian Bray, a spokesman for Britain-based aid agency Oxfam.

To read the entire article click here.

A Thought for Today

On Freedom

by Dee Newman

As Bob Dylan once said, “No one is free, even the birds are chained to the sky.”

Simply stated: Freedom only comes with death.

Sad but true, though death will certainly emancipate us from both the bondage of our beliefs and the limits imposed by the essential elements of the Universe, it will also surely leave us unable to enjoy the fruits of their sustenance.

For those of you who continue to believe in “a life after death,” despite what you may desire, freedom will remain illusive. Within the drudgery and/or the magnificence of any imaginary state of denial, our ability to choose will forever be restricted by the external forces that will reign supreme for eternity no matter what realm of reality we may inhabit.

Perhaps, though I doubt it, one day (before we perish into oblivion) we may (in accordance with the Golden Rule, without being coerced by fear or bribe) refrain from obstructing or restricting the opportunities of others, including all the other magnificent creatures with whom we share this planet. Freedom then would be defined as the absence of human tyranny over others.

Or, as a friend of mine once said, “Just let the bees be and stop stealing their honey!”


By Jack Reeves

"But what minutes! Count them by sensation, and not by calendars, and each moment is a day." -- Benjamin Disraeli

What's the most determinative influence on anything that exists? The sun? air? heat? gravity?

It's time. Existence is bracketed in this not-understood phenomenon. Arguably, the key to creation, God, and eternity is tied to time. According to some respected thinkers, we'll never untangle the relationship.

Apart from physical and metaphysical mysteries, though, time is no mystery. And the older we become, the more time acquires an unfamiliar poignancy. It takes about a half century.

It certainly changes the way we view the moment. There comes an intensity, heightened by an urgency to savor to the fullest that which we cannot stop its passing.

A dew drop holds a universe; a planet's light reflecting off a lake brings tears. Cosmic mystery flows through a cobweb. Time--our precious time--is tinged with intensity.

Like a symphony, the finale is always the most powerful and passionate.

"As we grow older the world becomes stranger, the pattern more complicated of dead and living. Not the intense moment isolated, with no before and after, but a lifetime burning in every moment."--T.S. Eliot

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

If the Polls are Correct

by Dee Newman

If the polls are correct that 70 percent of the American public oppose the construction of a Islamic Community Center and place of worship on private property two city blocks away from the northeast corner of the World Trade Center site, then, it would appear, the terrorists have won.

This is the United States of America! This nation was founded on the principle that all religious faiths are welcome in this country without fear of government discrimination or the tyranny of the majority.

Those who planned and implemented the World Trade Center terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001, did not and do not believe in religious freedom. If we allow their gross distortion of their religious convictions and predatory actions to lead us astray, to force us to forsake our basic principles and ideals, then we will become as they are.

I refuse to believe the polls. I refuse to believe that the majority of the people of this country are stupid (as in ignorant), fearful religious bigots who are easily exploited and manipulated by shameless, fear mongering political extremists. For if the polls are correct then we have already become the enemy of our values.

May the God of our religious faiths have mercy on our self-righteous souls.

From The Daily Show with Jon Stewart

The Mosque-Erade

The Daily Show With Jon StewartMon - Thurs 11p / 10c
Daily Show Full EpisodesPolitical HumorTea Party

From MSNBC Countdown

Keith's Special Comment: There is No 'Ground Zero Mosque'

To read the transcript click here.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Whether We Are Democrats or Republicans

By Dee Newman

As always, voters have plenty of reasons to feel frustrated and angry, but House ethics reform should not be one of them. Back in 2007 when the public voted the GOP leadership out, in part, because of their tolerance for unethical conduct, the new Democratic speaker, Nancy Pelosi, promised to clean the House, to crack down on corruption. And, that is exactly what she has done. A new Office of Congressional Ethics was created, House Rules were reformed, and every case before the bi-partisan rules committee has been impartially conducted free from any interference from the Speaker.

The pursuit of ethics investigations of two prominent Democrats during an election year should emphatically indicate that she meant it. However, since ethics charges were brought by the committee against Representatives Maxine Waters and Charles Rangel, the Republican spin has been to the contrary. In spite of the fact that neither Waters nor Rangel have been convicted of anything, Republicans (with help from the media) have tried to portray the Speaker as a failed leader, suggesting that the Democratic Party is rife with corruption.

Republican efforts to portray Democrats as corrupt serve them in two important ways. First, though the Republican framing is false, it creates a negative narrative and image of Democrats, influencing public opinion to vote against the party in power. Second, it distracts the voting public from the Republican’s own past (the Tom Delay and Jack Abramoff scandals) and present ethical issues – including the two House members who have already resigned, as well as, the possible criminal investigation by the FBI of Republican Senator John Ensign’s extramarital affair with the wife of his once friend and administrative aid.

I say – let justice be served and served swiftly. Representatives Rangel and Waters should have the opportunity to face their accusers before the November election. At this point they are innocent until proven guilty. They both deserve a fair trial. Despite the Republican spin, Democrats should be unafraid of the truth and its consequences. Cracking down on corruption should never be used to politically destroy anyone. We should all be wary and suspicious of those who hold their political interests above truth and justice, whether we are Democrats or Republicans.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

From Southern Poverty Law Center (A Must read)

"Sovereign" Citizen Kane

by: J.J. MacNab  |  The Southern Poverty Law Center | Report

It had been one of those mornings for West Memphis, Ark., police officers Brandon Paudert and Bill Evans. By 11:00 on May 20, they'd already spent three hours monitoring a suspicious rental truck and vehicle with Arizona license plates parked at a local motel, trying to determine whether the truck contained a shipment of illegal drugs. As members of the West Memphis Police Department's drug interdiction team, their job was to stop the seemingly endless flow of narcotics that passed through their town on busy Interstate 40. Officer Paudert called it in, and the West Memphis chief of police arrived at the scene to assess the situation.

When it was discovered that the truck and car was nothing more sinister than a grandmother moving her family, the good-natured ribbing began.

After all, the chief of police was not just the officers' boss; he was Brandon Paudert's father.

"I told them to get off their butts and get back on the interstate," Chief Bob Paudert recounted later. "They were really laughing."

Chagrined, Paudert and Evans returned to I-40, watching for signs of drugs on the move through their jurisdiction. When Evans spied a white minivan with unusual Ohio license plates, he pulled the van over at the exit near Mile Marker 275, and called his partner for backup. Safety came first, and in the dangerous world of drug trafficking, there is no such thing as a routine stop.

Inside the white minivan, a 16-year-old boy named Joseph Kane remained in the passenger seat, while his father, Jerry, age 45, stood in front of the police SUV and argued with the officers. There was a tussle, and Jerry Kane pushed Officer Evans into a roadside ditch. The boy quickly emerged from the minivan with a loaded AK-47 and aimed at Evans. The officer put one hand on his pistol, and held the other up to the boy as if to signal "Stop." The boy shot Evans several times and turned his attention to Paudert, who took cover behind the police vehicle.

A package delivery man, exiting the highway at Marker 275, stopped his truck to witness the horrific scene. He called 911, and the alert went out: "Officer down!"

While Paudert was able to fire his pistol seven times, he was outgunned and the police vehicle offered little protection from Joe Kane's assault rifle. The boy chased Paudert around the police SUV, shooting him several times in the back of the head before returning to Evans in the ditch. There, he fired again. The Kanes then rushed to the minivan and pulled away, while Joe continued to shoot at the downed officers.

Another alert went out: "Two officers down!"

According to a preliminary investigation report, Brandon Paudert was struck 11 times and died at the scene; Evans was hit by 14 rounds and died at the hospital.

In the next 90 minutes, there was a frenzy of activity around West Memphis. The highways were closed, law enforcement from various agencies converged on the area looking for the white minivan with odd Ohio plates, and calls started coming in from alert citizens. The van was spotted at a local country club, a commercial truck terminal, and an apartment building. One witness claimed that Jerry Kane had asked for directions to the nearest Walmart. As seen in Walmart security videotapes of the parking lot, Joe Kane walked into the store and made a purchase, while his father removed the license plates from the vehicle.

The first to spot the van was an Arkansas wildlife officer who rammed into the Kanes' vehicle to prevent it from leaving. The Kanes fired more than a dozen rounds at the officer's truck, but he wasn't hit. As police converged on the scene, two more officers were wounded in a frenzied shootout before the Kanes were both killed. Crittenden County Sheriff Dick Busby was shot once in the shoulder, and W.A. Wren, West Memphis' chief of enforcement, was hit multiple times in the abdomen. Both men survived.

Over the next few days, West Memphis mourned the loss of its officers. At the same time, the department, other law enforcement officials, and the public at large began to question exactly what had provoked the violence.

Who are the "Sovereigns"?

It would be tempting to dismiss the violence that took place that day as an isolated event — an unstable father and son who exploded in a moment of vicious, unexplained fury. The truth, however, is more frightening. Jerry Kane and his young son were active participants in the sprawling subculture of "sovereign citizens" in America: hundreds of thousands of far-right extremists who believe that they — not judges, juries, law enforcement or elected officials — get to decide which laws to obey and which to ignore, and who don't think they should have to pay taxes. While law enforcement officers may disagree on how to deal with or even label this extremist subculture, one thing is certain: it's trouble. The sovereign movement is growing fast, and its partisans are clogging up the courts with their indecipherable filings. When cornered, many of them lash out in rage, frustration and, in the most extreme cases, acts of deadly violence.

To read the entire article click here.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

"Harbor" by Vienna Teng 4/18/09 Cedar Rapids, Iowa

Vienna Teng: Sun Sudio – "City Hall"

From The White House

The President's Weekly Address: Honoring Social Security, Not Privatizing It

On the 75th anniversary of Social Security, President Obama promises to protect it from Republican leaders in Congress who have made privatization a key part of their agenda. He makes clear that, especially in light of the financial crisis, gambling Social Security on Wall Street makes no sense.

See more about Seniors & Social Security