Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Just The Energy Bill

I received an email this morning which I found enlightening because it made me wonder to what extent either ignorance or greed, or perhaps both, influenced the Department of Energy's Advanced Research Project Agency decision to provide monies for energy research into projects that do nothing to help prevent global climate change. As the Wired.com Google Spreadsheet demonstrates, the biggest slice of the $150+ million money pie went to energy storage and biomass energy technologies. Carbon capture? Isn't that a way to give tons of money to polluting industries? Waste-heat capture? Energy storage? If we didn't produce toxic waste, we wouldn't have to be spending millions of dollars trying to figure out what to do with it.... (download The Story of Stuff for Annie Leonard's pointed and entertaining video about our ability to produce too much stuff!!).

And don't even get me started on biomass....that incredible brainstorm of the waste industry that burns our carbon sequestering resources (wood), contributes to the the biofuel rape of the earth, and promotes cultural ethnocide on a scale that simply takes their breath away.

I mean, even Scientific American has figured out that renewable has to stop after wind, solar, geothermal, and tidal because we don't really need to depend on fossil fuels. We have enough to do the job. It just takes money being delivered into the direction of real care and concern rather than never-ending pockets.

Of course, organizations like Friends of the Earth have had it figured out for some time. Just check out their latest video Just the Energy Bill.

How much of a "Suck it, Santa" meltdown will it take before we stop the corporations and other foolhardy greedmasters from destroying our earth, our cultures, our diversity, our lives....

Monday, July 6, 2009

I Love Rain In July

And that's exactly what it did today: rain. I awoke around 5am to a real cloudburst with a bit of thunder and lightening to boot. Now that's the way I like to greet the day. Water for my garden (which is way too big and too much work, but Lordy, how I love to reap the rewards), a crisp, moist smell in the air, and thankfulness for the moisture and escape from dry heat. Now all of that makes me happy.

I really didn't do much today.... although my son and mother will be very happy to hear that I did make raspberry jam. With three days off, I really should have done more but hey, it was the 4th of July, and I needed to celebrate with friends. My friends, Diana and Steve, have a small house/cabin (too big for a cabin imo) on the Moyie River. I arrived too late to join the float-down-the-river gang, but still enjoyed the breeze, the shade and some nice, cold beer. As a potluck, I thoroughly enjoyed all the wonderful dishes that everyone brought, especially Fred's Scottish Highland beef burgers and Michael's spicy, hot venison/goose smokies. I also loved all the various salads and desserts. Me, I brought homemade vanilla ice cream. It was all delicious.

It thrilled me to announce, to many who had not heard, the news about Sarah's resignation as governor of Alaska. And like everyone else, I await the "true" reason for her resignation. I just hope to God it doesn't mean she plans on moving back to Idaho and running for governor. Horror of horrors!

Now, several days later, with Sarah's resignation still a topic of speculation, with more rain and thunderstorms and lightening, and with a full week of producing grub for hungry tourists awaiting me, I'm still feeling rather happy. It must me the cool weather and Mother Nature fulfilling my rain wishes. And to top it all off, I'm eating out of my garden: spinach, baby turnips, baby beets, lettuce, peas, omg peas, herbs, peppers, zucchini, and yes, I immediately stuffed into my mouth the first two orange mini tomatoes. Such a glutton! I really should upload some photos one of these days.

I bask in the luxuriousness of it all, knowing that global warming is not a vast left wing conspiracy and that very hot weather lies ahead.....

Friday, June 5, 2009

"Nice People Take Drugs"

Nice People Take Drugs, is a new, British campaign by Release, "...the national centre of expertise on drugs and drug law...." In consideration of current laws, and specifically the "War on Drugs" as criminal offenses that require punishment, Release calls for a new paradigm, a new way of thinking about current drug problems. Instead of focusing on drug users as "bad" or seeing drug use as "evil," Release calls for a discussion about what is really needed to reduce drug use in society, specifically in Britain but with ramifications around the world.

Release is not the only group that approaches drug problems with a call for a renewed discussion about treatment instead of imprisonment. stopthedrugwar.org is an international organization that "...calls for an end to drug prohibition (e.g. some form of legalization), and its replacement with some sensible framework in which drugs can be regulated and controlled instead." This is neither unreasonable nor surprising given that the criminalization of drug users is not working to reduce drug use. Senator Jim Webb of Virginia introduced the National Criminal Justice Commission Act of 2009 which addresses the overall problems of incarceration, including reform of U.S. drug policy. For many years, Congressman Ron Paul has addressed the issues of drug policy and drug legalization. The Swiss have long realized that maintenance programs work while criminalization does not. Studies and policies from around the world demonstrate that a new discussion and perhaps a new paradigm is needed in order to address the problem of illegal drugs.

What I find most ironic about this, is, that "scheduled drugs" are routinely prescribed by doctors as well as being promoted by drug companies in magazines, on the web, and on television. I think it's about time that we realize that nice people do, in fact, take drugs. Once we truly grasp that idea, we may be able to actually have a discussion about drugs, addiction, criminalization, and treatment that offers workable solutions for all societies.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Human Rights, North Idaho Style

On Monday, March 16th, I had the wonderful opportunity to attend the Human Rights Education Institute and the Kootenai County Task Force on Human Relations dinner/fundraiser/awards banquet. Four hundred and fifteen people, count them, 4 1 5, attended the dinner. Of course a thousand would have been better, but this is north Idaho, and getting that many people out on a Monday night impressed me.

Thanks to Jeanne Buell, Idaho Democratic Party Vice-Chair, both Laura Bry, Bonner County Democratic Central Committee Chair, and myself, received invitations to sit at Jeanne's table. Of course, friends from around north Idaho also sat at the table and it's always nice to reconnect with others in the north Idaho community.

The Coeur d'Alene Press provided a good overview of the events, including the exciting announcement of the Civil Rights Award to Scott and Mary Lou Reed. Having known Scott for almost twenty years, and Mary Lou for almost as many, it pleased me to no end to see them awarded for the many contributions they consistently make to the people of north Idaho. You guys are the best! We should all try to follow your example.

Nontombi Naomi Tutu gave an inspired, heartfelt, pointedly truthful speech about racism. She said that in order to heal the wounds of racism, we have to recognize that racism in each and every one of us. Pointing out that although people may say we don't see differences, we do, as is so evident when we look at what children say ("out of the mouths of babes and sucklings"). Through their words, we can all see that children see differences, and they see these differences as opportunities to learn, but as adults we try to shush the children in order to be polite or whatever. Nonbombi Tutu suggested that, like children, we should see differences as truth, talk about those differences, and respond to, and appreciate them.

She gave the example of white people saying, "I don't think of you as black," meaning black has a stigma or story for the rest of the community. So when a white woman can finally make that statement, what it really means is that she now trusts and respects the black person. Prejudices exist, and until we know and recognize them, we cannot begin to come together. She gave us, a room full of white people, a glimpse into the causes of racism and asked us to recognize difference as opportunity. I think her point was well taken.

I felt honored to be there, and proud as well, to be a member of a community that seeks to educate about racism, prejudice, and human rights. I am so thankful for all the Human Rights activists, in Idaho in particular, and around the world. It takes all colors to make a rainbow.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

When It Rains, It Pours

Wow, the news is overwhelming. Thank goodness I have to work tonight, meaning I focus on food instead of world events. That will be a relief after this day of troubling news.

Every morning I read The Independent (London) for that out-of-country perspective on today's news. Inevitably, it's the newspaper in which I first hear about all global warming events. Today was no different. But what I learned is very scary. It appears that if the world doesn't do something this century, then the melting of the Antarctic ice may be unstoppable. Not a good way to start the day.

Amy Goodman and countless others have not only been keeping a watchful, indeed astounded, eye on the AIG bailout, but also bringing attention to all those not helped by the bailout. That includes the group I'm in: the 55 yr. - 80+ yr. olds.

Then my husband directed my attention to an article about Idaho's favorite French friend, the nuclear poster child, Areva. Check it out. Areva is begging for a bailout from the French government, i.e., French taxpayers because, amongst other problems, its stock has plunged. They must also pay billions in penalty fees for their Finnish plant. But it doesn't end there. Their reprocessing plant in La Hague is under attack everywhere for discharging massive radiation into the English Channel. Oh, and there's much more, including having nowhere to dump their nuclear waste which is being made worse by the U.S. not opening Yucca Mountain. In terms of business sense alone, Areva's problems are welcome news to me, because anyone with a lick of sense would no longer trust any of Areva's plans for Idaho.

Specifically, this news about Areva may actually benefit north Idaho because Areva is now focusing on building a biomass plant in north Idaho. The same news was recently reported in The Statesman, where it seems some ignorant souls like the idea. So do some folks in Bonners Ferry, obviously oblivious that another proposal for a biomass plant was shelved in 2001, due to public outcry. I guess they like that old adage, "if at first you don't succeed, try, try again." Or perhaps it's just the local mania for more and more timber harvest. Obviously, for the taxpayers' sake, Areva is not a safe company to do business with these days. Unfortunately other biomass companies will be lined up behind Areva to sell their snake oil to all ignorant buyers.

Wow! From the world to the Democrats to north Idaho, the news has been overwhelming. I guess I'd better head off to work and try to impart a little love and happiness into tonight's food because the world, if not just Bonners Ferry, seems to need it. A lot.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Frank Church Banquet 2009

The weekend of March 6-8 found me once again in Boise for my usual reason: the Idaho Democratic Party Frank Church Banquet and state committee meeting. This visit proved to be an exceptional one for several reasons. First, I joined several other Idaho political bloggers on both Friday and Saturday nights for an exchange of stories, political discussions, great beer, and lots of fun. Not only did I experience Boise nightlife, but Nampa's as well. And I received an educational lesson on beer. Bloggers know what's important....

Secondly, events like the Frank Church Banquet allow me to become re-acquainted with fellow Democrats. It feels really good to be surrounded by other people who share a similar political ideology. Those large groups do not often come together in the netherlands of Idaho and one can begin to feel very alone in the redder parts of this great state.

Finally, I really wanted to hear what the banquet, keynote speaker, Jim Messina, had to say about the Obama White House. Jim is an Idahoan through and through, raised in Boise, a graduate of Boise High School, with family still in the state. And now he is Obama's Deputy Chief of Staff. And he did have something to say about working with Obama and being in the White House. He basically said that he has learned five very important lessons so far. His description of these lessons painted a portrait of a president who is respected, intelligent, and insightful as well as having a good sense of humor, great love for his family, and a belief in not just our country but in its citizens.

While describing these five important lessons, Jim also made us all aware that in many ways he is like his president, including his love of family, his willingness to work hard for our nation, and his own disarming sense of humor. The first lesson he learned is that no one is more important than anyone else. It takes teamwork to accomplish great and small tasks and the people who helped organize the Obama campaign and who now work in the White House are all team players.

Jim also learned that such jobs are never glamorous. His office is small, he receives more emails than he can read, and at all hours of the day (and even night) people want his help and attention. His main job is fixing problems, whatever they may be, which entails both seemingly insurmountable problems to petty and insignificant ones.

Next Jim pointed out that Democrats are passionate. He gave several examples of this, including his own faux pas at the Democratic National Convention which led to his being taken aside by Obama who told him, "Let me make the headlines." But Democrats' passions show up in many forms, and Jim also described the example of approaching an arena at which Obama was to speak and at three miles away people already were lined up along the roadway, just for the chance to wave to Obama.

Jim also made us aware that contrary to some opinions, Democrats are not disorganized. He told several anecdotes about Democratic organization, but the one that stayed with me is that on the Sunday before the election, the Obama team knocked on over one million doors. Now that is true grassroots organization!

Finally, he said that Democrats not only make history, but that their core beliefs are the same as the American people's beliefs. In making history, he described how ironic, but also historic it is that slaves helped finish building the White House that is now occupied by the first African-American president and his family. He also mentioned how Obama has already begun to repair the damage of the Bush administration with the passage of SCHIP and the Lily Ledbetter Act, and with a re-newed focus on alternative energy. He made the point that this administration believes in making health care available to all Americans, in becoming energy independent, in insuring that all children receive a world class education, and in providing tax relief to those who need it most, the poor and the middle class, and not the richest, and not the corporations.

All in all, Jim provided a personable and insightful view into all the next four years could be. Idaho Democrats are proud of Jim and very happy with their new president. This weekend demonstrated to me that Democrats are fair, organized, passionate, and that they believe in providing for the American people. And although their job as Democrats may not be glamorous, Democrats are terrific, rather beautiful people.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

What Human Rights Act?

I cancelled my subscription to the Spokesman-Review when they published what I felt was an extremely racist cartoon portrait of Barack Obama. So imagine my surprise today when I heard about their editorial which slammed the Idaho Legislature for their recent committee denial for a bill that would insert into the Idaho Human Rights Act a measure for the prevention of discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity.

On February 20th, Senator Nicole LaFavour made a motion to the Senate Affairs Committee for the Idaho Human Rights Act to include anti-discrimination provisions for sexual orientation and gender identity. She had, at least, twenty legislative co-sponsors including Chuck Coiner, R-Twin Falls. But to no avail. The committee voted 5-2 against the motion. The "against" votes included Senators Denton Darrington, R-Declo; Monty Pearce, R-New Plymouth; Bob Geddes, R-Soda Springs; and Russ Fulcher, R-Meridian, who have now successfully made the entire state of Idaho a place that is not too great for hate. Indeed, by virtue of their vote, they indirectly endorse hate. Why are these guys even in the Legislature?

The real tragedy of this failed motion lies in a legislature that has too many members who are so blind, so devoid of empathy, so lacking in intellectual thought, and so absolutely unable to act as individuals, that through their own sin of omission they allow others to openly discriminate against LGBTs. When 64% of Idahoans believe that it should be illegal to fire someone because of their sexual orientation, why are those people not represented in our state legislature?

In a candid and poignant interview with Thanh Tan, available at The Mountain Goat Report, Sen. LaFavour mentioned two reasons for this denial of motion that caught my attention. First, she mentioned that although many of her colleagues supported her individually, as a group they all ended up voting together. This kind of behavior was noted and supported by the research of Swedish economist Gunnar Myrdal, back in 1938. At that time, Myrdal came to the United States to study the "American Negro problem"; his research, however, produced an even more profound result. He found that although most Americans say they value "the worth and dignity of the individual, equality, and inalienable rights to life, liberty, property, and the pursuit of happiness" (Understanding Human Differences), in fact, their behavior is consistently in contradiction to these values. I can only guess that's why our Republican legislators like to "fall in line" rather than represent the real values of 64% of their constituents.

Secondly, Sen. LaFavour mentioned that by omission, by not inserting anti-discrimination measures for LGBTs in the Human Rights Act, we allow discrimination. I would add, that by allowing discrimination, we also condone hate.

So five senators have basically invalidated the Idaho Human Rights Act because, in fact, it does not include all humans. All minorities should be outraged. By so quickly and easily denying the rights of one group, it sets a precedent for denying others. They didn't even allow for public discussion, the arrogance of which is not only a disservice to the people they represent but also to those people who will continue to live in fear of such discrimination.

The five senators who voted to turn down this motion are a shame to the great state of Idaho. This state is too great for hate, and too great for spineless, narrow-minded, and short-sighted leadership.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Idaho Ethics

Today the Idaho Statesman has an editorial about Closing holes in Idaho's ethic laws. Using the example of Popkey's report on a recent case of bribery by a lobbyist for the Idaho Association of Realtors, the editorial suggests that firming up the ethic laws in our state is definitely necessary. The Statesman then mentions how Eagle Republican Rep. Raul Labrador is "working on a bill that would make it a felony offense to offer financial benefits in exchange for a public action." Then the article adds, "The idea deserves bipartisan support, albeit belatedly."

Wow, that was gutsy. And it ignores the fact that the Democrats already had included ethics legislation in their caucus agenda of bills. Indeed, Senator Kate Kelly has been working on ethics reform since 2005! But now the Statesman is interested in ethics because a Republican has come forward? Where has the Statesman been for the past four years? Why are they allowing the Republicans to co-opt an issue that the Democrats have been pursuing for years? And what do they mean to insinuate by the phrase "the idea deserves bipartisan support, albeit belatedly," that it's about time the Republicans began to pay attention to ethics, or is the writer suggesting that the Democrats have been ignoring this problem as well? It's bad enough that the Republicans like to co-opt Democrat issues when it suits them, but why doesn't the Statesman at least provide some fair and accurate reporting?

Another Statesman blunder: they correctly reported that the Republicans rejected their own pay raises, but they FORGOT to mention that the Democrats did the same LAST DECEMBER in a caucus press release. Wow, it seems to me that perhaps the Statesman should have a review session on its own sense of ethics....

Monday, January 19, 2009

Living In Obamaland

Ah, Inaugural Eve, and all is quiet in this house....although D.C. seems to be rocking. As a Democrat in VERY Republican north Idaho, I just luxuriate in telling my Republican neighbors about how happy I am to be living in Obamaland. I can't help myself: the Republicans here are SOOO irritated, depressed and resigned to the overall world's end doom of this country. I pity them their ignorance and their blinded view. But I find it difficult to arouse any sympathy in myself.

Perhaps it's because at least one local county commissioner has boasted that he and the other incumbent commissioner, who had Democrats challenge them during the election, now have the "lists" of those who contributed to the Democrats' campaigns. I asked the person who told me this if the boast came because they planned revenge and the response was not what I expected, but should have, "Hell ya!" That's how it is up here. In politically divided families, spouses make the decision to not talk about politics at all, which, I must admit, is very foreign to me. However, if I want to make a difference as a Democrat, I guess I'd better try to understand these rigid, unyielding, and blindly biased ideologies. Wow, is that possible???

What really gets me is that Democrats are the supporters of the underdog, the downtrodden, the disenfranchised. So why don't why my Republican neighbors see this? Hmm, maybe I just answered my own question. Maybe they don't see themselves as the underdogs, maybe that's reserved for, and more equated to, people like the disabled, or immigrants, or "other races." And downtrodden? perhaps that's for the homeless, or immigrants, or welfare recipients of another "color." And disenfranchised, well, the Republican party disenfranchises no one who will support their wedge-issue, fundamentalist-in-word-but-not-deed, and anti-environmentalist, pro-union, abolish the right-to-work laws, and keep-moms-at-home ideologies. Wow, we Idaho Democrats certainly have our work cut out for us. I hope that the 50-State-Strategy doesn't end any time soon.....

So, on this pre-Obamaland eve, it is quiet in my house while we ponder how we can make change and what kinds of change an Obama administration might bring. I can promise this: I'll be keeping a close on the the Idaho Legislature and what kinds of frivolities they entertain as serious legislation.....