Wednesday, February 29, 2012
I ran across an informative article by writer Brian Bienkowski in the Great Lakes Echo about state officials eliminating burdensome regulations in order to release the restraints that bind businesses and prevent them from achieving their full potential in the marketplace.
Some things never change.
So Michigan Governor Rick Snyder – the nasally Republican who cut taxes on businesses to the tune of $1.8 billion – decided to set up a 13-member task force known as the “Environmental Advisory Rules Committee” to help “create a business-friendly environment.” The committee of state officials, industry and utility representatives, lawyers and one environmental group (the Michigan Environmental Council, my former employer) worked with Snyder’s newly-reshaped Office of Regulatory Reinvention to come up with almost 80 just-announced recommendations to overhaul the state’s regulatory structure.
Michigan Environmental Council policy director James Clift - one of the smartest, most tireless advocates I’ve ever known – dissented on 20 recommendations that he thought represented threats to public health.
No one else dissented.
In a move as surprising as discovering that milk comes from cows and Americans drive on the right side of the road, the Michigan Chamber of Commerce praised the state’s efforts to “eliminate red tape.” (See “Michigan Chamber Praises Governor Snyder’s Focus on Regulatory Reform” here.)
|State lawmakers in action|
See, it’s environmental regulation that’s hurting us, not class warfare and pandering politicians and tax cuts for the richest one percent of Americans and Wall Street greed and corporations being granted the same rights as human beings and unjustifiable, unnecessary wars that cost over a trillion and kill innocent brown-skinned people.
|St. Ronnie of Reagan|
Reagan told that dumb joke in July of 1988; 23 years later, Gaseous Newt Gingrich publicly stated that child labor laws are “stupid.”
Frankly, I don’t know why environmental advocates are so concerned. The Environmental Advisory Rules Committee included such pro-environment entities as Dow Chemical, DTE Energy, the Michigan Manufacturers Association and Consumers Energy. Surely these corporations emphasized public and environmental health above profit margins and bottom lines, right?
Sources: Great Lakes Echo, Michigan Chamber of Commerce, Michigan Office of Regulatory Reinvention.
Monday, February 27, 2012
Sunday, February 26, 2012
Break, Break, Break
Break, break, break,
On thy cold gray stones, O Sea!
And I would that my tongue could utter
The thoughts that arise in me.
O well for the fisherman's boy,
That he shouts with his sister at play!
O well for the sailor lad,
That he sings in his boat on the bay!
And the stately ships go on
To their haven under the hill;
But O for the touch of a vanish'd hand,
And the sound of a voice that is still!
Break, break, break,
At the foot of thy crags, O Sea!
But the tender grace of a day that is dead
Will never come back to me.
~ Alfred, Lord Tennyson
Today is my firstborn daughter’s 21st birthday.
I haven’t seen or communicated with Amelia in well over a year. This is our second estrangement, in fact. She decided that I’m a bad father who’s less worthy of her than her mother. I decided she’s a hypnotized fool. Regardless, I miss her every day.
I wonder what she looks and sounds like now and how she acts, if she can sing or dance, whether she’s a Democrat or Republican. I wonder if she prints or writes, laughs more or cries, works or studies, and if she’ll ever know the truth, any truth, or will even care.
Happy birthday, Amelia. Now that you can drink legally, I hope you don’t. (Your mom and I couldn’t find any answers in alcohol and neither will you.) Now that you’ve gained more experience and wisdom, I hope you apply it. I hope you avoid drama and embrace your potential. I hope you have fewer regrets and more successes than your dad. I hope you smile every day and sleep well every night.
I hope you’re happy.
Saturday, February 25, 2012
“The world will not be destroyed by those who do evil, but by those who watch them without doing anything.” ~ Albert Einstein
Did anybody see the story entitled, “U.S. does not believe Iran is trying to build nuclear bomb” that appeared in the Los Angeles Times on Thursday?
Kind of begs the question, “Then why are we threatening to bomb the crap out of them?,” doesn’t it?
I guess those who profit from war – the arms and commodity dealers, military and civilian contractors, politicians and black marketers – need to find additional ways to keep the dough rolling in now that we’re finished in Iraq and things are winding down in Afghanistan.
In his farewell speech to the nation on January 17, 1961, Dwight Eisenhower, our 34th president and a former five-star general in the U.S. Army, warned us about the military-industrial complex:
“We must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military-industrial complex. The potential for the disastrous rise of misplaced power exists and will persist.”
Too bad we didn’t really listen to the good general.
Our country’s involvement in Vietnam lasted from 1959 until the fall of Saigon in April of 1975. We invaded tiny Grenada in October of 1983. That same year, we bombed Lebanon in response to an attack on U.S. Marine barracks in Beirut that killed 241 soldiers. We carried out air strikes on Libya in April of 1986. We invaded Panama in order to oust Manuel Noriega a few days before Christmas in 1989. The Persian Gulf War began in 1990. U.S. troops participated in a United Nations “peacekeeping mission” in Somalia beginning in 1992. But wait. There’s more.
Oh, and last March we turned our sights on Libya and its evil dictator from Central Casting, Muammar Gaddafi. He was tortured and murdered on October 20 by “Libyan rebels.”
I’m not even referencing the fact that our military flies unmanned aircraft, referred to as “drones,” in Pakistan, Ethiopia, Yemen and elsewhere and maintains troops in 150 countries, including Germany, Japan, Korea, Italy and the United Kingdom.
Now, aided by the same corrupt corporate media that helped Dubya lie about Iraq’s nonexistent weapons of mass destruction (the Los Angeles Times and a few other outlets excepted), we’re rattling our sabers at Iran for various reasons:
1) Iran is pursuing nuclear weapons (but it’s not),
2) Sanctions aren’t working (but they are),
3) Iran has threatened to blockade the Strait of Hormuz (but it hasn’t done so),
4) Israel doesn’t like Iran (so?), and
5) Iran doesn’t respect human rights as much as we want it to (like we have room to talk, right, Bradley Manning?).
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: I’m not an anti-American, flower-waving peacenik who thinks our Armed Forces are unnecessary and pacifism is always the answer. I’m thankful for the sacrifices made by our soldiers and I recognize there are times when conflict is unavoidable and military action is justified. But not in this case. Not with Iran.
But it does matter. As Dr. King said, “Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.” We need to refuse to be distracted. We need to vote and question and never give in. We need to keep fighting this country’s insatiable need to fight and bomb and maim and kill. It’s not about liberal vs. conservative. It’s about war vs. peace.
President Eisenhower also said, “I like to believe that people in the long run are going to do more to promote peace than our governments. Indeed, I think that people want peace so much that one of these days governments had better get out of the way and let them have it.”
Let’s make our politicians get out of the way this time.
called for war against Iran last Thursday, telling CNN, “We need a president who can say the words ‘bomb them’ and actually can do it....” You’d think a guy who pranced around the Big Apple with his entourage in the days after September 11 wearing a surgical mask, dodging rubble and comforting grieving families would be a little more sensitive to the damage caused by myopic ideology.
Sources: Los Angeles Times, GlobalPost, Addictinginfo.org.
Friday, February 24, 2012
Bicycles are cool.
This isn’t just my opinion. It’s fact. They don’t use precious gas. They represent a great, non-intimidating form of exercise. You can ride them by yourself, with friends, family or even as part of a club. They’re cleaner, quieter and cheaper than cars. You don’t need a garage or parking space. You’re not closed off from sounds and smells when you’re riding them. You can take them with you wherever you go.
The nonprofit League of Michigan Bicyclists – which has promoted safe bicycling and advocated for a more bike-friendly state since 1981 – is leading an effort to convince Amtrak to allow bicycles on its passenger trains here. (Bikes and boxed luggage are currently prohibited on Michigan trains.) The Michigan Department of Transportation supports the idea, which is called “roll-on bicycle service,” and Amtrak has already implemented it elsewhere.
What’s cooler than that?
Anita took the kids and me to the Windy City last year on the Amtrak train. It was very cool to hop on in East Lansing and hop off in Chi-Town a mere three hours later. It would have been even cooler if we could have saved money by avoiding cabs in favor of pedal power.
Seems like “Pure Michigan” would be purer if people could travel with their bikes.
Amtrak – a U.S. government-owned corporation – employs more than 20,000 people and operates passenger service on more than 21,000 miles of track in 46 states and three Canadian provinces. Since its annual subsidies are always controversial, one would think officials would do everything they could to sell tickets and fill seats – including welcoming a new subset of the population, bike tourists, on board. (Although rises in gas prices lead to spikes in ridership, relying on volatility in the Middle East and the greed of oil companies is no way to run a business.)
Bicycle tourism is an important part of local, state and regional economies – read an interesting article on bike tourism in Grist here – and Michigan is home to a number of bike tours in or near communities served by Amtrak. Capitalizing on this opportunity seems like a no brainer to me.
this petition at change.org urging Amtrak to allow bicycles on Michigan passenger trains – especially if you live or work near Amtrak stations in Albion, Ann Arbor, Bangor, Battle Creek, Birmingham, Dearborn, Detroit, Dowagiac, Durand, East Lansing, Flint, Grand Rapids, Holland, Jackson, Kalamazoo, Lapeer, New Buffalo, Niles, Pontiac, Port Huron, Royal Oak and St. Joseph/Benton Harbor.
I’m not sure how effective on-line petitions are in bringing about change but they can’t hurt.
I hope to travel from East Lansing to Chicago by train soon – and I hope to bring my bike.
Sources: League of Michigan Bicyclists, change.org, Grist.
Thursday, February 23, 2012
I know this really great singer.
Her name is Sydney and I’ve known her since she was a little girl. She used to visit me at work – her mom’s office was right next door to mine – and she’d sit on my lap and play computer games back when the choices were limited to Minesweeper and Solitaire. She’s 18 or 19 now, a member of DeWitt High School’s Class of 2011, and was just accepted into Michigan State University’s College of Music.
|Sydney and me a decade ago|
Sydney’s favorite color is blue. She’s right-handed, allergic to cats and horses and partial to ballet slippers over high heels. She excelled in math in high school and turned down a free weekend trip to the Big Apple one time because she had promised to babysit for a neighbor and she always keeps her word. Her boyfriend’s name is Jacob and she drives an old green Subaru.
|Jen and Sydney|
Her mother – my friend, Jen – points out that Sydney’s not just an amazing singer; she’s a wonderful person who’s sweet, intelligent and witty. It’s almost unfair how gifted this young woman is. If anyone has reason to be egotistical, Sydney does. Thank goodness she’s not.
So the purpose of today’s post is to document my familiarity with a future opera superstar. Her name is Sydney Rostar and she has a voice that can shatter glass and give you goosebumps. Someday you’re going to need to drop some serious cash on tickets to her concerts. When you do, remember that you heard about her from me first.
Wednesday, February 22, 2012
Tina Marie Nichols, a friend of a friend in Facebook, made an interesting point about GOP presidential contender Rick Santorum yesterday:
Santorum makes good reality TV because he’s that villain whom everybody loves to hate. People will watch him just to see him say shocking things. Somebody’s sponsoring and promoting this clown. Everybody is now talking about not wanting to lose birth control. Whatever happened to the Occupy Wall Street protests? No one’s talking about that anymore. Is Santorum our new little jackass jester who’s dancing around so we'll no longer see the wizard behind the curtain? If I didn't know any better, I'd swear this was all intentional. Someone’s probably sponsoring this fool so the rich can go back to doing what they do without anyone noticing or saying anything.
I’ve noticed other distractions before – the “Whitney Houston deserves less respect than the soldiers fighting for our freedom” and “Muslims are building a mosque at Ground Zero” and “Our founding fathers were all good Christians who wanted marriage to be between a man and a woman” and “Barack Hussein Obama, who wasn’t born here, has launched a war on Christmas” b*llsh*t – but it didn’t occur to me that loony presidential candidates themselves might be giant orchestrated distractions.
Maybe rich right-wing nuts – aided by the corporate media, which are addicted to outrageous sound bites – are propping up and even propelling Santorum forward to keep everyone all tied up in knots and therefore unable to even notice, let alone organize against, the impending war with Iran, skyrocketing gas prices, political corruption (watered-down Stock Act, anyone?) and corporate malfeasance (Lehman, anybody?).
according to One Percenter P.J. O’Rourke) to protest corporate greed and class warfare.
Santorum actually said these things:
- “In every society, the definition of marriage has not ever to my knowledge included homosexuality. That’s not to pick on homosexuality. It’s not, you know, man on child, man on dog, or whatever the case may be.”
- “Priests, like all of us, are affected by culture. When the culture is sick, every element in it becomes infected. While it is no excuse for this scandal, it is no surprise that Boston, a seat of academic, political and cultural liberalism in America, lies at the center of the storm.”
- “The notion that college education is a cost-effective way to help poor, low-skill, unmarried mothers with high school diplomas or GEDs move up the economic ladder is just wrong.”
- “It’s amazing that so many kids turn out to be fairly normal, considering the weird socialization they get in public schools.”
- “There’s no such thing as global warming.”
- “We all know that this country was founded on a Judeo-Christian ethic but the Judeo-Christian ethic was a Protestant Judeo-Christian ethic. Sure, the Catholics had some influence, but this was a Protestant country and the Protestant ethic, mainstream, mainline Protestantism, and of course we look at the shape of mainline Protestantism in this country and it is in shambles. It is gone from the world of Christianity as I see it.”
- “The President of the United States is selling the economic security of the United States down the river right now.”
- “The reason Social Security is in big trouble is we don’t have enough workers to support the retirees. A third of all the young people in America are not in America today because of abortion, because one in three pregnancies end in abortion.”
- “I don’t think it [birth control] works. I think it’s harmful to women, I think it’s harmful to our society to have a society that says that sex outside of marriage is something that should be encouraged or tolerated, particularly among the young. I think it has, as we’ve seen, very harmful long-term consequences for society. So birth control to me enables that and I don’t think it’s a healthy thing for our country.”
- When pregnancy is caused by rape, “the right approach is to accept...a gift of human life...accept what God is giving to you.”
- “In far too many families with young children, both parents are working, when, if they really took an honest look at the budget, they might confess that both of them really don’t need to, or at least may not need to work as much as they do…And for some parents, the purported need to provide things for their children simply provides a convenient rationalization for pursuing a gratifying career outside the home.”
- “I accept the fact that [Obama] is a Christian. But when you have a world view that elevates the Earth above man and says we can’t take those resources because it’s going to harm the Earth, it’s just all an attempt to centralize power and give more power to the government.”
- “There is income inequality in America. There always has been and hopefully, and I do say that, there always will be. Why? Because people rise to different levels of success based on what they contribute to society and to the marketplace and that’s as it should be.”
When I reference “rich right-wing nuts,” I mean people like 71-year-old Foster Friess, a Wyoming philanthropist who’s given more than $2 million to Republicans in the last two decades and is the biggest donor to Santorum’s Super PAC. Friess is the guy who told MSNBC last Thursday, “On this contraceptive thing, my gosh, it’s so inexpensive. You know, back in my days, they used Bayer aspirin for contraceptives. The gals put it between their knees and it wasn’t that costly.”
Any “gal” who votes for Rick Santorum will surely cause Susan B. Anthony, Lucy Burns, Alice Paul and Elizabeth Cady Stanton to spin in their graves until their tombstones crack.
I’m not a fan of conspiracy theories and complex, diabolical plans, but I’d feel a lot better if this kind of ignorant, anti-woman, anti-gay, anti-education tripe – and Santorum’s creepy ultra-religious zealotry – were part of some master plan to Occupy the Electorate and keep us from examining the motives and behaviors of those who really call the shots in this country. He’s just too nutty to be real.
If his candidacy is legitimate – and people who can drive cars and write in cursive actually believe he belongs in the White House in any capacity other than floor waxer or wallpaper stripper – then I apologize to the rest of the world for what the United States has become and mourn the loss of what we used to be.
P.S. Visit this link for more information.
Sources: SantorumExposed.com, Detroit Free Press, Huffington Post, DailyFinance.com, AddictingInfo.org.
Tuesday, February 21, 2012
"A human can be healthy without killing animals for food. Therefore, if he eats meat he participates in taking animal life merely for the sake of his appetite."
~ Leo Tolstoy
As if I’m not already vulnerable enough to accusations of being holier-than-thou and prone to bouts of self-righteousness, I’ve finally decided to join Nikita and Anita on the vegetarian bandwagon.
Nikita’s been avoiding meat since last summer; Anita signed on a few weeks ago.
The clincher for me occurred last weekend when I watched “Temple Grandin,” the HBO movie starring an utterly amazing Claire Danes as the autistic and inspirational designer of more efficient cattle transportation systems for stockyards and slaughterhouses.
Fast Food Nation, Eric Schlosser’s illuminating, compelling 2002 book that skewers America’s fast food industry and includes horrifying descriptions of conditions inside this country’s meatpacking plants. That alone is reason for me to take the leap – a leap which is shorter than ever, thanks to more vegetarian choices in stores and restaurants and access to vegetarian recipes and information on the net.
A quick Google search uncovered the following:
- Vegetarians live an average of seven years longer than meat eaters.
- Cardiovascular disease is the Number One killer in the United States; a diet laden with saturated fat and cholesterol from meat and diary is largely to blame.
- Replacing meat, chicken and fish with fruits and vegetables cuts food bills by an average of $4,000/year.
- According to the National Cancer Institute, women who eat meat every day are nearly four times more likely to get breast cancer than those who don't. And studies have found that a plant-based diet helps protect against prostate, colon and skin cancers.
- Vegetarians are slimmer on average than meat eaters, and when vegetarians diet, they – I guess I should start saying “we” – keep the weight off up to seven years longer.
- Giving up meat helps purge our bodies of toxins like pesticides, environmental pollutants and preservatives.
- It’s ethically the right thing to do: 22 million animals are slaughtered each day to support the American appetite for meat.
- Each year, factory farms in America produce, collectively, two billion tons of manure.
- More than 70 percent of all grain produced in the U.S. is currently fed to animals raised for slaughter, and it takes 15 pounds of feed to get one pound of meat. If the grain were given directly to people, there'd be enough food to feed the entire planet.
- Using land for animal agriculture is inefficient. According to the journal Soil and Water, one acre of land could produce 50,000 pounds of tomatoes, 40,000 pounds of potatoes or 30,000 pounds of carrots as compared to just 250 pounds of beef.
- The argument that you need to eat meat in order to get enough protein is specious. One hundred calories of steak has 5.4 grams of protein; 100 calories of broccoli has 11.2 grams. You can get enough protein from eating greens.
- The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency estimates that nearly 95 percent of pesticide residue in our diet comes from meat, fish and dairy products. Fish contain carcinogens like PCBs and DDT and heavy metals like mercury, arsenic, lead and cadmium that can’t be removed through cooking or freezing. Meat and dairy products are also laced with steroids and hormones.
- We spend between $60 billion and $120 billion each year treating the heart disease, cancer, obesity and food poisoning that are byproducts of a diet heavy on animal products.
- It takes 2,500 gallons of water to produce one pound of beef, but just 25 gallons of water to produce a pound of wheat.
I find this information more than a little persuasive but I know it can fall on deaf ears. And the fact that some of the brightest and coolest people in history didn’t or don’t eat meat – people like Confucius, Albert Einstein, Franz Kafka, Nikola Tesla, Plato, Mahatma Gandhi, George Bernard Shaw, Leonardo Da Vinci, Tolstoy, Jane Goodall, Elvis Costello, Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr, Natalie Portman and Pamela Anderson – won’t sway those who embrace the status quo, are afraid of change or think ridiculing wisdom somehow diminishes it.
I love bacon, chili dogs and cheeseburgers as much as the next guy. I enjoy grilling steaks, salmon and shish kebob on my big ol’ Char-Broil each summer and I’m not looking forward to giving that up. I know how important hunting is to my state’s economy and I respect the right of others to see things differently than I do. I’m not becoming an animal rights zealot or a purist who intends to stop wearing leather shoes or using shampoo that was tested on animals.
I’ve just decided to follow the example of my 12-year-old by eating better and having a little more respect for non-human animals.
So let the mocking and chiding begin.
Sources: PETA, Vegetarian Times, Soil and Water, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, vegsource.com.