April is National Poetry Month, 2011

April 10, 2011

You did remember, right?  I got another reminder in e-mail:

National Poetry Month continues, and so does your support! We’re getting closer to our goal of $30,000 in 30 days, and we thank you for your donation. If you haven’t donated yet, please do. You’ll be helping us share your love of poetry with children and adults all across America.

Here’s another way to support National Poetry Month: celebrate Poem In Your Pocket Day on Thursday, April 14. It’s simple: tuck a poem you love in your pocket and share it with co-workers, family, and friends. Or go a step further and create your own Poem In Your Pocket Day event using the ideas at www.poets.org/pockets.

And please, please, show your support for poetry with a donation to the Academy of American Poets. As an added incentive, we’ll thank you for your generosity with these free gifts:
• Donate $25 and receive a free download of W.S. Merwin recordings.
• Donate $50 and receive a free download of W.S. Merwin recordings and a Walt Whitman ruled notebook for your own poems.
• Donate $100 and receive a free download of W.S. Merwin recordings, a Walt Whitman ruled notebook for your own poems, and a copy of the innovative anthology Poem in Your Pocket for Young Poets.

Please click here to support National Poetry Month. And if you haven’t downloaded the Poem Flow app for your iPhone, find it on iTunes and take poetry with you wherever you are.


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Republican policy: Forward to the Gilded Age

April 10, 2011

Cover of "The Gilded Age"

Cover of "The Gilded Age," a novel by Mark Twain and Charles Dudley Warner published in 1873. Image courtesy of the Center for Mark Twain Studies, Elmira College.

You know why it was called the Gilded Age, right?

Santayana’s Ghost keeps telling me the Republicans don’t know why.  Republicans as a rule do not read Mark Twain, so it’s a cinch they’ve never read Mark Twain plus Charles Dudley Warner.

Mark Twain, PBS image from Mark Twain House

Mark Twain, who wrote the novel, The Gilded Age, with Charles Dudley Warner. Twain wrote of the Republican Manifesto earlier: "What is the chief end of man?--to get rich. In what way? -- dishonestly if we can; honestly if we must." Image from Mark Twain House, Hartford, Connecticut, via PBS

Still, don’t you recall with some fondness the Eisenhower, Nixon and Ford years, when Republicans at least pretended not to be grand misanthropes?  Do you remember that?  Nixon tried to make nicey-nice with conservationists and environmentalists, expanding the National Parks and creating the Environmental Protection Agency (fitting, since the environmental movement had been born among and from wealthy  and smart Republicans); even after killing the air traffic controllers union, Ronald Reagan enjoyed easy camradary with Teamsters, and to some degree, even with the heads of the AFL-CIO.    Reagan encouraged and signed a jobs training bill, and signed our first home health care law, making it possible for people to go home to die, where they ironically lived much longer than in hospitals, but at much reduced cost to Medicare.

Forget those days.  Forget that human compassion.  Today’s conservatives don’t have time for the wimpiness of Ronald Reagan.

Did you see the full list of proposed agency cuts the Republicans tried to pin on the 2011 appropriations bill, H.R. 1?

Here’s the entire list, from OMB Watch:  OMB_Watch-HR1_Policy_Riders (April 7, 2011).  I’m sure OMB Watch  has a bias, but the descriptions of the cuts are so balanced and neutral that they may hide some of the more unscrupulous, Scroogey actions.

In consumer protection, for example, Republicans inexplicably oppose the creation of watchdogs to prevent another housing bubble — are Republicans protecting criminals here?

Prohibits the Federal Reserve from transferring more than $80 million to the new Bureau of Consumer Financial Protection, Sec. 1517
Prohibits funds for a government sponsored “consumer products complaints database,” Sec. 4046.

No one to prevent new crimes, and no collecting of information to warn consumers of dangerous products.  Wonderful.

Prohibits funds to take any action to effect or implement the disestablishment, closure or realignment of the US Joint Forces Command.  Sec. 4020

No, no, don’t want the Pentagon to save money — heaven knows, wasting money at the Pentagon is flag-waving patriotism — so let’s ban the Secretary of Defense, Robert Gates, from making changes that save money.  It’s in the Bible that this must be done, I’m sure.

Prohibits funds for implementing a provision specific to the State of Texas in the “Education Job Fund.”  Sec. 4051

After claiming he wouldn’t accept “bailouts” from the federal government, Texas Gov. Rick Perry accepted money from Congress to prevent the loss of teaching jobs — but then threw the money into a different pot, so teachers were not protected.  U.S. Rep. Lloyd Doggett, D-Texas, amended the last appropriation bill to say that Texas can’t take money from the teachers — but the Republicans want to allow Perry to take the money, and keep it from the teachers, again.  It’s the old playground game where the big kids play keep away from a little kid.  It’s vicious, of course, and should be criminal — but the older kids have a lot of fun.

Prohibits funding for the Weatherization Assistance Program or the State Energy Program.  Sec. 1434

Let the poor people freeze in the dark — they all vote Democratic, anyway.  But wait!  Tea Partiers, fresh from the Mad Hatter’s, say that global warming will take care of the poor people!   No need for weatherization.

Prohibits funding for various environmental projects in California.  Sec. 1475
Prohibits funding for a climate change czar in the White House.  Sec. 1535
Prohibits funding for EPA efforts to regulate greenhouse gases.  Sec. 1746

Oh, well, maybe there isn’t any global warming.  Yeah, this is contrary to what the Republicans said about warming keeping the poor from needing weatherization — but they’re just poor people, the Republicans say.  Let ’em get a job!  (Where?  Not the problem of Republicans; Republicans identified that the poor need to get a job, and that should be the limit of federal action . . .).

This morning on CBS, New York Sen. Charles Schumer said he would not list cuts until he sees a final copy of the bill.  Probably wise — but it’s also almost a cinch that almost all of the cuts will be mean-spirited, worthy of Ebenezer Scrooge before his conversion, and damaging to the U.S. people and the U.S. economy.

What in the hell is going on in Washington?

Tip of the old scrub brush to Jean Detjen, protecting the nation from being over-run by Canadians up there in the north, in Wisconsin.


More wisdom: From Burlington, Vermont, grassroots ideas on fighting global warming

April 10, 2011

Another local newspaper op-ed, this time from Burlington, Vermont (yeah, I know — a Gannett paper — still, smaller than Dallas). This comes from the March 4 edition of the Burlington Free Press’s “I Believe” series:

I Believe: ‘We have a responsibility to learn about climate change

by Joan Knight

“If politicians remain at loggerheads, citizens must lead.”
— Dr. James E. Hansen, physicist, director of NASA Goddard Institute

I was impressed when I attended a recent meeting with a group of volunteer activists forming a Vermont chapter of the Citizens Climate Lobby. This group is different, I thought. It might actually work. As a newly retired 72-year-old, I was looking for a new focus, and found it.

Religious groups use the word “creation.” Most people say “nature.” Academics speak of global ecology. Deep ecologists who view Earth as one living being say “Gaia,” in reverential tones, meaning our planet and its atmosphere is a living “body.” Its “cells” include us humans, plants, forests, microbes. All life is tied together by dynamic, interdependent relationships. Most native peoples sense that all beings are like sisters and brothers — members of the same family.

I understand. It started for me as a young child with what Rachel Carlson called a sense of wonder. Grasses back-lit by the setting sun; starfish in tide pools crawling about among colorful mats of living plants and fungi. It was a more spiritual experience than was going to church under parental orders. Nature really mattered.

Growing older, I revered the writing of Rachel Carson, David Brower, John Muir, Aldo Leopold, Wendell Berry and so many more. I still feel abiding love for it all. I believe in Earth as a planetary living being.

It is clear that our family of All Beings is suffering.

Climate change. Global warming. Is it real? Is it a problem? Why are the changes happening? There is controversy about the answers to these questions. The collapse of climate and energy legislation last year in Congress was a relief to some in big business.

Natural laws or physics and chemistry are in action. The climate is warming faster than it ever has. Weather patterns are strange and tragic. Species are becoming extinct. Predictions of the end of nature (Bill McKibben’s 1984 book title) are common now. What if the scientists are right? We don’t need all the answers to figure out that something awful is going on.

Can we slow down the rate of change? Yes. Can we stop the climate from warming too much? It’s not likely, but I believe we must try. Should we let it happen while we enjoy our greenhouse-gas-producing lifestyles? Some family members deny the reality that their loved one has a serious illness and is likely to die prematurely. We humans have an interesting default to denial. This does happen. Might some of us, similarly, deny that our planet is critically ill?

Most of us agree that conservation of energy and resources is good for us and for the environment. We are changing our personal lifestyles. We have changed our light bulbs to compact fluorescents; we vacation closer to home; we’re working to improve the efficiency of our buildings.

Many of us also become members of environmental organizations. We read their magazines, put in bird feeders to enjoy nature, donate money and sign petitions in the attempt to show our legislators how we would like them to vote. Here in Vermont, we even talk with state legislators and are proud we are the “green state” — cherishing our remaining cows in pastoral landscapes and our forests for both wildlife and recreation. We’re thankful our delegation to the Congress “gets it.”

There are many grassroots activists successfully influencing lawmakers on a town and state level. But we know that states tend to make changes in laws and budgets in response to constraints brought on by federal legislation and financing. Are there ways to really influence federal representatives and senators? Paid lobbyists do it on a massive scale. Money speaks. But what about us?

The Citizens Climate Lobby believes in an approach by which ordinary people influence the federal “deciders” enough to sometimes change their votes. The influential people take the trouble to learn about and appreciate some things an individual legislator has done, seek to discover common ground, listen respectfully and talk in a collaborative way. After discovering what information would be relevant, they come back to provide it. In this comfortable way of relating, ordinary people do make a difference.

As citizens of this country we have a responsibility to learn about climate change, solutions and how to take part in the democratic process. We can sit down for a conversation and tell our legislators what we care about and why. We can write letters. It’s really our job as citizens to share these thoughts with our legislators, if we ever hope to be truly represented by them.

That’s where the new Citizens’ Climate Lobby comes in. The group gives us the tools we need. There is a monthly conference call with a leading thinker who will help keep us informed of the latest issues, and an opportunity to practice speaking with each other about those issues. We work together to help our legislators hear the non-confrontational message: We want a healthy planet for our kids and grandkids.

If I dare to step forward to lobby my representative, I want to learn how, to practice, to feel supported by kindred spirits, to know it’s OK to make mistakes and keep on gaining new knowledge and skills. I’m up for it. And I hope many of you will consider joining us as we begin making our voices heard where it matters most.

Check out the Citizens Climate Lobby website, and get information about how to join in on the next national conference call. This one will be focused on messaging — the importance of context and delivery. This organization seeks to empower each of us to have breakthroughs in our personal power, to be heard and to be counted. It feels good to be a part of a supportive web of passionate citizens.

Join us. Talk with an active member on the phone, go to the website (www.citizensclimatelobby.org), find the lobby on Facebook.

It’s not too late to make a difference. We have been lazy in hoping someone else would do the right thing, that sending a check to an organization and signing an online petition was enough. It’s time for folks, including myself, to step up and be heard.

Real grass roots politics, from a woman concerned enough about the issue to think historically, and to read broadly about it.

Citizenship is wonderful to behold, when it is practiced so nobly and elegantly.

What else might we learn, if we really listened to the people?

Citizens Climate Lobby masthead

Masthead for the home page of Citizens Climate Lobby - click to see


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