Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Explorers and Pioneers

The other day my son asked me if there were any places in the world left to explore.

I said that I thought there were, but that many people believe the wild places are being lost, and that it would be better to leave as many wild places wild as possible, by not going there to explore.

But then I told him that I've been thinking about the American "pioneer" character - always pushing boundaries, looking for something new. It's derived, I suppose, from our cultural heritage from explorers and colonists. For those of us who are not indigenous, our sense of place is always about someplace other than where we are - either where we came from, or where we're headed next.

I don't think the pioneer outlook, as such, is a terrible one, although I hate the murderous, racist ways in which that drive to move on has played out across our national history.

Then I told him that I think that character trait, like the American hopefulness I posted about earlier this month, is actually exactly what is called for right now, and that I think he may well be an explorer, not of new places, but of new ways of living and being.

During a similar conversation, while walking him home from school a few weeks ago, I tried to explain the Gaia Hypothesis to him, that all of nature is a single living organism, capable of healing itself just the way humans and animals have immune systems to heal ourselves.

I pointed out the trees, as the lungs, and the brooks and rivers, like the blood system. Then he asked me: "Where are the eyes?" And I touched his eyes, and his little sister's eyes, and my own eyes, and said, "Right here." He is starting to get that humans are part of nature, but since it's so far from being a dominant theme in the culture as a whole, I think he gets some kind of cognitive dissonance problem when I say it.

So yesterday, the new issue of The Sun arrived, and the interview for February is with Richard Louv, talking about Nature Deficit Disorder, the virtual "house arrest" most children are being raised under, and the consequences of this phenomenon for personal, public and planetary health.

At the end, he talks about giving a speech to high school students:

I talked to these high-school students about the connection between their health and their direct experience of nature, and about how in the next forty years all our lives must change because of global warming and other environmental challenges. We'll need new kinds of agriculture, new kinds of urban design, new kinds of architecture, new sources of energy. Whole new professions will emerge, for which we don't even have names yet. When you frame the issue that way, young people can get excited about it.

After the students left, I asked the biology teacher who'd invited me to speak why he thought they'd been so attentive. He said it was simple: I'd said something hopeful about the future of the environment. They never hear that. The major message that comes through to kids is that it's too late for the environment. Why suit up for the game if it's already over? We need to change that message. As a journalist, I don't believe in printing happy news for its own sake. Nor do I think for a second we should pull back from printing bad news. But we should expand our message to say that we are facing not just a host of problems, but also a great opportunity.

So I'm going to keep talking to my son about strange new careers for inventors, as "recycling engineers." I'm going to tell him about my progress toward creating and implementing a coherent, comprehensive community gardening plan for my town and the city where my church stands.

I'm going to keep encouraging the bird-watching, and his new interest in finding animal tracks in the snowy backyard, to measure and identify. I'm going to let him play more outside.

And I'm taking both kids for a hike this afternoon - cold as it is out there.

Sunday, January 28, 2007

Wendell Berry

"When despair for the world grows in me, and I wake in the night at the least sound in fear of what my life and my children's lives may be, I go and lie down where the wood drake rests in his beauty on the water, and the great heron feeds. I come into the peace of wild things who do not tax their lives with forethought or grief. I come into the presence of still water. And I feel above me the day-blind stars waiting with their light. For a time I rest in the grace of the world, and am free."

Middling is Not Fair

This from a Common Dreams article by Glenn Hurowitz, on why Pelosi and Reid are courting disaster by refusing to stand up to Bush strongly as spokespeople for the left side of the American political spectrum:

...Moving to the middle also could turn off the millions of progressives who made phone calls, donated money and blogged for the Democrats in 2006. These progressives - and the organizations that represent them - do watch the issues very closely. If they don't see Democratic leaders moving aggressively for change, they could quickly become disillusioned, and start aiming their fire at Democrats not living up to their expectations, rather than focusing on, for instance, helping to oust Republicans from the White House in 2008.

If the Democrats are going to pander, they should at least pander to the progressives who care about their policies...

I agree, and not just because I am one of those millions of progressives. Well, probably mostly because of that. I'm sick of being taken for granted by the Dems, as they go on to enact legislation - or fail to stop legislation - in ways that totally go against my reasons for trying to help them get power to begin with.

Friday, January 26, 2007

Valentine's Day Gifts

Media Benjamin to Congress: Listen Up.

Thursday, January 25, 2007

Forget Impeachment. Let's Have a New Constitutional Convention.

I find myself in a strange political state of limbo these days.

I've been mulling impeachment for awhile, and supporting it, but I found Sanford Levinson's Nation article, against impeachment, really convincing.

I now think that, given the variety and scope of the problems, and the huge disconnect between citizenry and government, exacerbated by the ever-consolidating blackout media, what we need is a new Constitutional Convention, modelled on both the first convention back in 1787, and the cooperative, sustainable principles being carried forward by the World Social Forum, now in its seventh year.

Thomas Jefferson would approve. In fact, he'd say we're long overdue.

I just finished reading most of the November/December issue of Mother Jones, including an excellent comprehensive look at the environmental disasters confronting us all, and the evolutionary benefit, even necessity, of altruism and cooperation. The essay, by Julia Whitty, is called The Thirteenth Tipping Point.

The same Mother Jones issue had a fascinating article called "When Is a Corporation Like a Freed Slave?" by Barry Yeoman, who interviewed Thomas Linzey, "a brash 37-year-old attorney," who is the director of the Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund.

Linzey, having fought on behalf of many communities trying to limit the environmental fallout from blind corporate monsters spewing filth from every orifice, has come to the conclusion that America needs a Constitutional amendment to explicitly strip corporations of the civil and human rights they've been granted by the US Supreme Court over the last century or so, with such disastrous consequences.

But I think the whole Constitutional edifice needs to torn down and rebuilt in light of what we've learned over the past two centuries about people, government, corporations and the Earth we live on.

I guess my limbo is somehow related to a sudden loss of direction now that the Democrats are allegedly "in power" and yet continuing to ignore the same elephants and further the same narrow interests. I didn't expect anything else, and have been focusing on local organizing for quite awhile anyway, because I'm convinced that, come the breakdown of electrical grids, oil supplies and federal agencies, we're all going to be needing our neighbors a lot more than our Congresspeople.

At the same time, my local organizing efforts took a big hit, when a simple but labor-intensive project to make a connection between relatively well-off white people and relatively poor Hispanic people ran aground on the shoals of racism, classism, anti-Christian bigotry and plain old-fashioned fear of change. Now there will be, as usual, more talk and less action, and I'm disappointed and frustrated: the picture I had in mind of what my work was about and where it fit into the overall scheme of preparing for a near future that will look significantly different from the consumptive and cancerous present, has grown somewhat fuzzy around the edges.

This too shall pass. I also just finished reading Sherman Alexie's novel Reservation Blues.

The novel, like everything else, turns on hope.

P.S. Alexie also wrote Smoke Signals, in case you're looking for a good indy movie.

Tuesday, January 23, 2007


I bought my son a birdfeeder for Christmas, because he's lately gotten interested in birdwatching and learning more about the natural world in general.

I hung the feeder outside the kitchen window of our second floor apartment about a month ago. No birds came. I put out some peanuts to entertain the squirrels and maybe attract birds. Peanuts disappeared. No birds.

Then yesterday, my son announced that birds were eating from the feeder, and ran to find his bird identification book. For an hour or so, the kids ate their peanut-butter and jelly sandwiches sitting at their little table, on the inside side of the window, and outside the window, the birds darted to the feeder to nip safflower seeds before fluttering back to the nearby tree branches to eat. Tufted titmouses. Redbreasted nuthatches. A downy woodpecker. A cardinal.

I had hoped, with the birdfeeder, to enlarge our sense of home, in some small way, to include a few feet of the great interconnected web of life outside, and to enlarge our sense of family to include some small, feathered, beaky folk.

But I had no idea how indescribably wonderful it would be to sit there watching those birds, and see them watching me.

Corporate Globalization Going Green?

If Tesco and Wal-Mart are Friends of the Earth, Are There Any Enemies Left?

The superstores compete to convince us they are greener than their rivals, but they are locked into unsustainable growth

by George Monbiot in the Guardian

You batter your head against the door until you begin to wonder whether it is a door at all. Suddenly it opens, and you find yourself flying through space. The superstores' green conversion is astonishing, wonderful, disorientating. If Tesco and Wal-Mart have become friends of the earth, are there any enemies left?

These were the most arrogant of the behemoths. They have trampled their suppliers, their competitors and even their regulators. They have smashed local economies, broken the backs of the farmers, forced their contractors to drive down wages, shrugged off complaints with a superciliousness born of the knowledge that they were unchallengeable. For them, it seemed, there was no law beyond the market, no place too precious to be destroyed, no cost they could not pass on to someone else.

We environmentalists developed a picture of the world that seemed to be repeatedly confirmed by experience. Big corporations destroy the environment. They are the enemies of society. The bigger they become, the less they can be constrained by democracy or consumer power. The politics of scale permit them to bully governments, tear up standards, and reshape the world to suit them. We also recognised that this was a dialectical process. As businesses began to operate globally, so could the campaigns against them. By improving global communications and ensuring that we could all speak their language, they helped us to confront them more effectively.

But hardly anyone believed that change could happen so fast. Through the 80s and 90s, they brushed us off like dust. Then, as a result of powerful campaigns against sweatshops in the US and Europe, some of the big clothing and sports retailers broke ranks. Soon after that, the energy companies started announcing big investments in renewable technologies (though not, unfortunately, any corresponding disinvestments in fossil fuel). But the supermarkets have shifted faster than anyone else. Environmental campaigners are partly responsible (listen to how the superstore bosses keep name-checking the green pressure groups); even so, their sudden conversion leaves us reeling.

Embarrassingly, for those of us who have scorned the idea of corporate social responsibility, some of these companies now claim to be setting higher standards than any government would dare to impose on them. Marks and Spencer, for example, has promised to become carbon neutral, to cease sending waste to landfill by 2012, and to stop stocking any fish, wood or paper that has not been sustainably sourced. Tesco promises to attach a carbon label to all its goods. Wal-Mart now says it will run its US stores entirely on renewable energy.

These standards, moreover, are rather higher than those the British government sets for itself. M&S has pledged to use carbon offsets (paying other people to make cuts on its behalf) only as "a last resort". The government uses them as a first resort. Could it be true, as the neoliberals insist, that markets can do more to change the world than governments? If so, it reflects democratic failure as much as market success. Held back by forces both real and imagined, politicians have failed to confront the environmental crisis, just as they have failed to tackle inequality, or to challenge the power of the White House, the media barons, the corporations and the banks. The choice between two rival brands of margarine appears to have become more meaningful than the choice between Labour and the Conservatives.

It is also true to say that The Wal-Mart Effect is a real one. When a huge company changes course, the impact is felt all over the world. One positive decision by the leviathan rumbles more widely than a thousand decisions by its smaller competitors. But those of us who have fought for the environment and against big business have not yet become redundant. There is plenty to celebrate in the recent announcements and plenty to suspect.

Tesco, for example, has made some bold commitments, to which it might eventually be held. At the moment they are weeviled with contradictions and evasions. In his speech on Thursday, the company's chief executive, Sir Terry Leahy, spoke of the sophisticated new refrigeration techniques that Tesco will use, which will allow it to reduce its consumption of climate changing gases called hydrofluorocarbons. But at no point did he mention an environmental technology called the door. How can you claim your stores are sustainable if the fridges and freezers don't have doors?

Tesco's press officer was unable to tell me whether the energy savings the company has promised (50% per square metre by 2010) will be independently audited. If not, the promise is worthless - a company can make any claim it likes if there is no outside body to hold it to account.

Leahy announced that he would respond to one of the biggest complaints of the green groups by cutting the distance Tesco's products travel, especially by air. He would also switch some of the chain's road freight (he did not say how much) to rail. But he said nothing about reducing the journeys made by his customers. Shopping accounts for 20% of car journeys in the UK, and 12% of the distance covered. By closing their out-of-town stores and replacing them with warehouses and deliveries, the supermarket chains could reduce the energy costs of their buildings and (according to government figures) cut the transport emissions caused by shopping by 70%.

Today, the Competition Commission publishes the initial results of its inquiry into the market dominance of the superstores. One of the issues it is investigating is the "land bank" accumulated by Tesco - a huge portfolio of sites on which the company appears to be sitting until it can obtain planning permission. Many of them are out of town. If Tesco develops them, it will drag even more cars on to the road. Out-of-town shopping is incompatible with sustainability.

So, perhaps, is the sheer scale of the business. Wal-Mart and Tesco can change the world at the stroke of a pen, but one decision they will not make voluntarily is to relax their grip on local economies. It will always be harder for small businesses to work with a global behemoth than with the local baker or butcher; Tesco's economy will continue to favour the big, distant supplier over the man down the road. And what of the sense of community that independent small shops help to foster, which encourages people to make their friends close to home? If love miles are the most intractable cause of climate change, we need to start cultivating as much community spirit as we can.

But there is a bigger contradiction than this, which has been overlooked by the supermarkets and by many of their critics. "The green movement," Leahy tells us, "must become a mass movement in green consumption." But what about consuming less? Less is the one thing the superstores cannot sell us. As further efficiencies become harder to extract, their growth will eventually outstrip all their reductions in the use of energy. This is not Tesco's problem alone: the green movement's alternatives still lack force.

The big retailers are competing to convince us that they are greener than their rivals, and this should make us glad. But we still need governments, and we still need campaigners.

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Oceania and East Asia

Many thanks to Ian at transafixion for teaching me how to post YouTube clips.

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

On Getting Older

One of my favorite things about aging is getting to see older movies again, as though they were new, because I can't remember what happened in them from the first time I saw them 10, 15, 20 years ago.

I watched Steve Martin and Daryl Hannah in Roxanne a few weeks ago, while painting bookshelves for my kids' room, and it was wonderful. Then the other night, I happened upon my husband watching Wayne's World. Schaaawing!

Beginning to lose my mind at the ripe old age of 33 is great.

Also funny is that I couldn't remember if I blogged about this before. If I did, I apologize to regular readers, and request that you weigh in on whether forgetting about memory loss is ironic or something else.

Antonio Machado

Proverbios y cantares XXIX

Caminante, son tus huellas
el camino, y nada más;
caminante, no hay camino,
se hace camino al andar.
Al andar se hace camino,
y al volver la vista atrás
se ve la senda que nunca
se ha de volver a pisar.
Caminante, no hay camino,
sino estelas en la mar.

Wanderer, your footsteps are
the road, and nothing more;
wanderer, there is no road,
the road is made by walking.
By walking one makes the road,
and upon glancing behind
one sees the path
that never will be trod again.
Wanderer, there is no road--
Only wakes upon the sea.

Bill Moyers' Speech in Memphis

"The degree to which this has become a purely ideological debate, devoid of any factual basis that people can weigh the gains and losses is reflected in Thomas Friedman's astonishing claim, stated not long ago in a television interview, that he endorsed the Central American Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA) without even reading it. That is simply because it stood for “free trade.” "

What Floats?

Thomas Friedman has always bugged me, infinitely so since this morning, when I heard Bill Moyers speech to the Third Annual Media Reform Conference in Memphis Tennessee last weekend. Friedman apparently blithely admitted to an interviewer that he endorsed CAFTA without ever having read the bill, simply because it purported to further the cause of "free trade." -KW

Not Just Wrong, but All Wrong
by Paul Campos

Twenty years ago, in its pre-season baseball issue, Sports Illustrated predicted the Cleveland Indians would finish with the best record in the major leagues. Cleveland went on to finish with the worst record. Statistical guru Bill James pointed out that this represented an example of what might be called Maximum Possible Error.

When it comes to the Iraq war, some of our most prominent pundits have achieved similar results. Perhaps the most spectacular example is provided by William Kristol.

Since the start of the war, Kristol has claimed that "there's almost no evidence" Iraqi Shiites wouldn't be able to get along with Sunnis; that it was a mistake to worry that Iraq "would fracture into feuding clans and unleash a bloodbath"; that the January 2005 Iraqi elections represented "a genuine turning point," comparable to the fall of the Berlin Wall; that the situation in Iraq wouldn't get worse in 2006, and thus opposition to the war would prove to be an electoral disaster for Democrats; and that the Iraqi response to the bombing of the Samarra mosque this past February was "evidence of Iraq's underlying stability in the face of attempts to undermine it."

This is just a sample of the many things Kristol has said about Iraq that turned out to be not merely wrong, but the exact opposite of the truth. They represent nothing less than the Maximum Possible Error on all these matters.

And what has been the result of this astonishing performance? Have Kristol's employers fired him for gross incompetence? Has he been exiled from the national media for having been completely wrong, over and over again, about the most important issue facing America today?

Far from it! Kristol has just been hired by Time, America's leading news weekly, to write a column. This is the journalistic equivalent of handing the former captain of the Exxon Valdez a case of whiskey and the command of a fully loaded supertanker.

The nation's elite media continue to be in denial about the fact that most of America's most prominent pundits were wrong about Iraq. (Admittedly not all of them were as wrong as Kristol. The average pundit couldn't manage to be as wrong as Kristol if he tried.)

One symptom of this denial is the bizarrely upward trajectory of Kristol's career path. Another is how the fact that a number of commentators who were every bit as right about Iraq as Kristol has been wrong (modesty forbids me from noting I was among them) has gone down the memory hole.

These people pointed out that it was quite unclear whether Saddam Hussein still had any weapons of mass destruction; that, in any case, Iraq presented no military threat to the United States; that invading the country could well trigger factional bloodshed which would last many years; that fighting terrorism by trying to install democracy at gunpoint in Iraq made no sense; and that the whole project was likely to end in disaster.

At best, these dissenters were dismissed as "unserious" semi-pacifist hippies, who didn't understand how "9/11 changed everything." Often, their patriotism was slandered by supposedly respectable commentators like law professor Glenn Reynolds, who in the tradition of Joe McCarthy made ominous claims about how critics of the war were actively pro-terrorist, or at the very least were "acting unpatriotically" and "hurting our troops abroad."

And so it goes. For example, the terribly serious New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman, who just six weeks ago declared that the only rational alternatives in Iraq were a 150,000-troop escalation or a phased withdrawal, has now announced he'll support President Bush's 21,000-troop escalation - but only if Bush proposes a massive tax hike and does some other things that are as likely to happen as Saddam Hussein and John Belushi showing up to co-host next week's episode of Saturday Night Live.

If chutzpah was a crime, these guys would be serving life sentences.

Paul Campos is a professor of law at the University of Colorado.

Antonio Gramsci

"Pessimism of the Intellect. Optimism of the Will."

Marge Piercy

"The Low Road"

What can they do to you?
Whatever they want.
They can set you up,
they can bust you,
they can break your fingers,
they can burn your brain with electricity,
blur you with drugs till you can't walk,
can't remember.

They can take your child,
wall up your lover.
They can do anything
you can't stop them from doing.
How can you stop them?

Alone, you can fight,
you can refuse,
you can take what revenge you can.
But they roll over you.

But two people
fighting back to back
can cut through a mob,
a snake-dancing file
can break a cordon,
an army can meet an army.

Two people can keep each other sane,
can give support, conviction, love,
massage, hope, sex.
Three people are a delegation,
a committee, a wedge.

With four you can play bridge
and start an organization.
With six you can rent a whole house,
eat pie for dinner with no seconds,
and hold a fund raising party.

A dozen make a demonstration.
A hundred fill a hall.
A thousand have solidarity and your own newsletter;
ten thousand, power and your own paper;
a hundred thousand, your own media;
ten million, your own country.

It goes on one at a time.
It starts when you care to act.
It starts when you do it again after they said "No."
It starts when you say "We"
and know you who you mean,
and each day you mean one more.

Friday, January 12, 2007

Bush's Speech Annotated

Thursday, January 11, 2007

My Dad's Thoughts

Candlelight Vigil for Two

Public Media, Citizen Power

Common Cause: No More Consolidation

Global Marshall Plan

From Rabbi Michael Lerner at the Network of Spiritual Progressives:

"...We've proposed the Global Marshall Plan—having the U.S. take 5% of the GDP of the U.S. each year for the next twenty years (and using its leading by example to pressure other G8 countries to eventually join this) to end once and for all global poverty, homelessness, hunger, inadequate education, inadequate health care and to repair the physical environment of our planet earth..."


"...almost everywhere I have been these last 12 months, people are still looking to America for its unique and longtime industry: hopefulness..."

Truly, It’s a Surprisingly Hopeful World

by Pico Iyer

The emails keep streaming in, here in my little apartment in Japan, from friends in California and places farther east. The world is unraveling daily, they say; we’re going through a period of darkness unprecedented in our history. The war against terrorism is a war without end, in effect; the strikes of 9/11 have put us all on edge, even on trial, for life.

I read the messages — kids walking in the sunshine to their schools outside my window — and wonder what planet I’ve landed on. The cries I hear in my friends’ voices are those of conscience, and there’s something stirring in their concern about America’s war-mongering and injustices.

And yet, I feel like saying, America — though still the strongest power in the world — is by no means the largest or even the central one. One in every three people on our planet lives in China or India, and for those worthy souls, the new century is a time of possibilities unimagined before. There is corruption and oppression and pollution all over China; India is still a byword for suffering and poverty; and yet, for more than 2 billion of our neighbors in the global village, history is moving in a positive direction.

In Japan, where I live, people are beginning to look up at last after a decade of recession. In Berlin, where I spent some of the summer, the wounds of the recent past seem so unthreatening that they have been turned into architectural wonders. In Bolivia, where I often find myself, people are exulting in the fact that for the first time in their history, they have a leader who looks and sounds quite a bit like themselves.

Growing up near London, I could never have dreamed that the dreary, colorless, greasy home of fish and chips would, in just a generation, become one of the hottest — youngest, freshest, most stylish and international — cities on the planet.

I know, of course, that in Kashmir, in the Middle East, and especially in Iraq and Afghanistan, there is war; the sadder truth is that there has been war in all of these places for a long, long time. I know that more than a billion of our neighbors are without enough food or water or shelter, and that it is our responsibility in a planetary community to think of them and care for them.

Traveling around Sri Lanka this summer, suicide bombers doing their work all around me, I found myself not only in an all-too-typical modern cycle of vengeance without end, I was also in a model, on the physically paradisal island, of so many places on the planet where two groups feel they cannot share the same space, and the intolerance of a few makes for the daily tragedy of the many.

Yet almost everywhere I have been these last 12 months, people are still looking to America for its unique and longtime industry: hopefulness. America on the screen and in their minds continues to mean, among all the difficult and belligerent things it now means, the capital of possibility. Immigrants write back to relatives around the world to say that their new home is not the land they dreamed of, but it is a place where a new life is possible and futures can be generated. The U.S. government and the nation’s cultural exports may never have been so unpopular; the American spirit of possibility may never have been so prevalent.

The world finds itself, therefore, in one of the strangest of situations. Even as more and more places are partaking of an optimism that might traditionally have been called all-American (having to do with the chance for a better life and new freedoms), America itself is busy indulging itself in the gloominess of the Old World. And even as a little light is appearing for peasants and the smart but jobless in the world’s largest countries, those whose lives they aspire to are speaking of the Dark Ages.

We live now in a global, not an American, century. And in such circumstances, it can be a little odd to focus entirely on our own small fears when the majority of our neighbors — in Bangalore and Shanghai and Berlin and even South Africa — are laying claim to opportunities they could not have enjoyed even a few years ago.

The war in Iraq, the loss of faith in our leaders and institutions, the ever more violent polarization between blue states and red — these are all real reasons to mourn. But they are no reason for ignoring or writing off more than half the people in the world, for whom the new year could be, in fact, very possibly a happy one.

Pico Iyer, born in London of Indian parents, is a travel writer whose books include The Global Soul.

On Reinventing the Wheel

Lately, in my social justice work at my church, I've been thinking about the whole idea that one shouldn't "reinvent the wheel." True enough, the records I keep of what I do and how I do it might someday be useful to someone else in the same position as social justice committee chair.

But it seems that more important than what you do is what motivates you to do it. I'm discovering that if you are really interested in your work, because you choose your goals and your tasks and your methods yourself, to match your interests and skills, then you do just put one foot in front of the other and incorporate the feedback as it comes, until you get as far as you can go.

Much of it may be reinventing the wheel, and I'm constantly inundated with suggestions and advice and offers of seminars and classes, not only on "How to" put together different projects and events, but even which issues I should be organizing to addresss. The point is, I don't think you really learn about how to choose and work toward goals, or about yourself, unless you DO reinvent the wheel by starting from scratch, with a minimum of reference to other people's work and other people's tactics and strategies. If it comes from someone else's heart, your heart isn't going to be in it.

Which begs the question: how to get others involved in group projects if you advocate for "everybody do your own thing." I think about this constantly, convinced, as I am, that we will have to work together much better than we do if we're to right this capsizing ship of human civilization.

But for now, I can just say I think part of the answer is trust-building, getting people to understand that you will do what you say you will do, so they don't feel their time and effort helping is wasted. There is so much political resignation and despair to cut through...

Michael Moore's Got Some Good Ideas

Dear Mr. President: Send Even MORE Troops (and you go, too!) ...from Michael Moore


Dear Mr. President,

Thanks for your address to the nation. It's good to know you still want to talk to us after how we behaved in November.

Listen, can I be frank? Sending in 20,000 more troops just ain't gonna do the job. That will only bring the troop level back up to what it was last year. And we were losing the war last year! We've already had over a million troops serve some time in Iraq since 2003. Another few thousand is simply not enough to find those weapons of mass destruction! Er, I mean... bringing those responsible for 9/11 to justice! Um, scratch that. Try this -- BRING DEMOCRACY TO THE MIDDLE EAST! YES!!!

You've got to show some courage, dude! You've got to win this one! C'mon, you got Saddam! You hung 'im high! I loved watching the video of that -- just like the old wild west! The bad guy wore black! The hangmen were as crazy as the hangee! Lynch mobs rule!!!

Look, I have to admit I feel very sorry for the predicament you're in. As Ricky Bobby said, "If you're not first, you're last." And you being humiliated in front of the whole world does NONE of us Americans any good.

Sir, listen to me. You have to send in MILLIONS of troops to Iraq, not thousands! The only way to lick this thing now is to flood Iraq with millions of us! I know that you're out of combat-ready soldiers -- so you have to look elsewhere! The only way you are going to beat a nation of 27 million -- Iraq -- is to send in at least 28 million! Here's how it would work:

The first 27 million Americans go in and kill one Iraqi each. That will quickly take care of any insurgency. The other one million of us will stay and rebuild the country. Simple.

Now, I know you're saying, where will I find 28 million Americans to go to Iraq? Here are some suggestions:

1. More than 62,000,000 Americans voted for you in the last election (the one that took place a year and half into a war we already knew we were losing). I am confident that at least a third of them would want to put their body where there vote was and sign up to volunteer. I know many of these people and, while we may disagree politically, I know that they don't believe someone else should have to go and fight their fight for them -- while they hide here in America.

2. Start a "Kill an Iraqi" Meet-Up group in cities across the country. I know this idea is so early-21st century, but I once went to a Lou Dobbs Meet-Up and, I swear, some of the best ideas happen after the third mojito. I'm sure you'll get another five million or so enlistees from this effort.

3. Send over all members of the mainstream media. After all, they were your collaborators in bringing us this war -- and many of them are already trained from having been "embedded!" If that doesn't bring the total to 28 million, then draft all viewers of the FOX News channel.

Mr. Bush, do not give up! Now is not the time to pull your punch! Don't be a weenie by sending in a few over-tired troops. Get your people behind you and YOU lead them in like a true commander in chief! Leave no conservative behind! Full speed ahead!

We promise to write. Go get 'em W!


Michael Moore

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

One Campaign Working to Save Funding for Anti-Poverty Work

One Campaign needs our help to save $1 billion in anti-poverty funding.

Click here.

Monday, January 08, 2007

Gandhian Jon Stewart

The Occupation Project

Rep. Mike Ferguson's New Jersey District Office:
45 Mountain Blvd. Building D, Suite 1
Warren, NJ 07059

The Kucinich Plan for Iraq

From Rep. Dennis Kucinich, D-Ohio, and Presidential candidate for 2008:

In November of 2006, after an October upsurge in violence in Iraq, the American people moved decisively to reject Republican rule, principally because of the conduct of the war. Democratic leaders well understand we regained control of the Congress because of the situation in Iraq.

However, two months later, the Congress is still searching for a plan around which it can unite to hasten the end of US involvement in Iraq and the return home of 140,000 US troops.

There is a compelling need for a new direction in Iraq, one that recognizes the plight of the people of Iraq, the false and illegal basis of the United States war against Iraq, the realities on the ground which make a military resolution of the conflict unrealistic and the urgent responsibility of the United States, which caused the chaos, to use the process of diplomacy and international law to achieve stability in Iraq, a process which will establish peace and stability in Iraq and allow our troops to return home with dignity.

The Administration is preparing to escalate the conflict. They intend to increase troop numbers to unprecedented levels, without establishing an ending date for the so-called troop surge. By definition, this escalation means a continuation of the occupation, more troop and civilian casualties, more anger toward the US, more support for the insurgency, more instability in Iraq and in the region, and prolonged civil war at a time when there is a general agreement in the world community that the solution in Iraq must be political not military. Iraq is now a training ground for insurgents who practice against our troops.

What is needed is a comprehensive political process. And the decision is not President Bush's alone to make.

Congress, as a coequal branch of government has a responsibility to assist in the initiation of this process. Congress, under Article 1, Section 8 of the US Constitution has the war-making power. Congress appropriates funds for the war. Congress does not dispense with its obligation to the American people simply by opposing a troop surge in Iraq.

There are 140,000 troops remaining in Iraq right now. What about them? When will they come home? Why would we leave those troops in Iraq when we have the money to bring them home? Soon the President will ask for more money for the war. Why would Congress appropriate more money to keep the troops in Iraq through the end of President Bush's term, at a total cost of upwards of two trillion dollars and thousands of more troop casualties, when military experts say there is no military solution? Our soldiers stand for us in the field. We must stand for them in our legislature by bringing them home.

It is simply not credible to maintain that one opposes the war and yet continues to fund it. This contradiction runs as a deep fault line through our politics, undermining public trust in the political process and in those elected to represent the people. If you oppose the war, then do not vote to fund it.

If you have money which can be used to bring the troops home or to prosecute the war, do not say you want to bring the troops home while you appropriate money in a supplemental to keep them in Iraq fighting a war that cannot be won militarily. This is why the Administration should be notified now that Congress will not approve of the appropriations request of up to $160 billion in the spring for the purposes of continuing the occupation and the war. Continuing to fund the war is not a plan. It would represent the continuation of disaster.

The US sent our troops into Iraq without a clear mission. We created a financial, military and moral dilemma for our nation and now we are talking about the Iraq war as our problem. The Iraqis are forgotten. Their country has been destroyed: 650,000 casualties, [based on the Lancet Report which surveyed casualties from March of 2003 to July of 2006] the shredding of the social fabric of the nation, civil war, lack of access to food, shelter, electricity, clean drinking water and health care because this Administration, with the active participation of the Congress, authorized a war without reason, without conscience, without international law.

The US thinks in terms of solving our own military, strategic, logistical, and political problems. The US can determine how to solve our problems, but the Iraqi people will have problems far into the future. This requires an intensive focus on the processes needed to stabilize Iraq. If you solve the Iraqi problem you solve the US problem. Any comprehensive plan for Iraq must take into account as a primary matter the conditions and the needs of the Iraqi people, while providing our nation with a means of righting grievous wrongs and taking steps to regain US credibility and felicity within the world community.

I am offering such a plan today. This plan responds to the concerns of a majority of Americans. On Tuesday, when Congress resumes its work, I will present this plan to leadership and members as the only viable alternative to the Bush Administration's policy of continued occupation and escalation. Congress must know that it cannot and must not stand by and watch our troops and innocent Iraqi civilians die.

These are the elements of the Kucinich Plan:

1. The US announces it will end the occupation, close military bases and withdraw. The insurgency has been fueled by the occupation and the prospect of a long-term presence as indicated by the building of permanent bases. A US declaration of an intention to withdraw troops and close bases will help dampen the insurgency which has been inspired to resist colonization and fight invaders and those who have supported US policy. Furthermore this will provide an opening where parties within Iraq and in the region can set the stage for negotiations towards peaceful settlement.

2. US announces that it will use existing funds to bring the troops and necessary equipment home. Congress appropriated $70 billion in bridge funds on October 1st for the war. Money from this and other DOD accounts can be used to fund the troops in the field over the next few months, and to pay for the cost of the return of the troops, (which has been estimated at between $5 and $7 billion dollars) while a political settlement is being negotiated and preparations are made for a transition to an international security and peacekeeping force.

3. Order a simultaneous return of all US contractors to the United States and turn over all contracting work to the Iraqi government. The contracting process has been rife with world-class corruption, with contractors stealing from the US Government and cheating the Iraqi people, taking large contracts and giving 5% or so to Iraqi subcontractors.

Reconstruction activities must be reorganized and closely monitored in Iraq by the Iraqi government, with the assistance of the international community. The massive corruption as it relates to US contractors, should be investigated by congressional committees and federal grand juries. The lack of tangible benefits, the lack of accountability for billions of dollars, while millions of Iraqis do not have a means of financial support, nor substantive employment, cries out for justice.

It is noteworthy that after the first Gulf War, Iraqis re-established electricity within three months, despite sanctions. Four years into the US occupation there is no water, nor reliable electricity in Baghdad, despite massive funding from the US and from the Madrid conference. The greatest mystery involves the activities of private security companies who function as mercenaries. Reports of false flag operations must be investigated by an international tribunal.

4. Convene a regional conference for the purpose of developing a security and stabilization force for Iraq. The focus should be on a process which solves the problems of Iraq. The US has told the international community, "This is our policy and we want you to come and help us implement it." The international community may have an interest in helping Iraq, but has no interest in participating in the implementation of failed US policy.

A shift in US policy away from unilateralism and toward cooperation will provide new opportunities for exploring common concerns about the plight of Iraq. The UN is the appropriate place to convene, through the office of the Secretary General, all countries that have interests, concerns and influence, including the five permanent members of the Security Council and the European community, and all Arab nations.

The end of the US occupation and the closing of military bases are necessary preconditions for such a conference. When the US creates a shift of policy and announces it will focus on the concerns of the people of Iraq, it will provide a powerful incentive for nations to participate.

It is well known that while some nations may see the instability in Iraq as an opportunity, there is also an even-present danger that the civil war in Iraq threatens the stability of nations throughout the region. The impending end of the occupation will provide a breakthrough for the cooperation between the US and the UN and the UN and countries of the region. The regional conference must include Iran, Syria, Egypt, Saudi Arabia and Jordan.

5. Prepare an international security and peacekeeping force to move in, replacing US troops who then return home. The UN has an indispensable role to play here, but cannot do it as long as the US is committed to an occupation. The UN is the only international organization with the ability to mobilize and the legitimacy to authorize troops.

The UN is the place to develop the process, to build the political consensus, to craft a political agreement, to prepare the ground for the peacekeeping mission, to implement the basis of an agreement that will end the occupation and begin the transition to international peacekeepers. This process will take at least three months from the time the US announces the intention to end the occupation.

The US will necessarily have to fund a peacekeeping mission, which, by definition will not require as many troops. Fifty percent of the peacekeeping troops must come from nations with large Muslim populations. The international security force, under UN direction, will remain in place until the Iraqi government is capable of handling its own security. The UN can field an international security and peacekeeping mission, but such an initiative will not take shape unless there is a peace to keep, and that will be dependent upon a political process which reaches agreement between all the Iraqi parties. Such an agreement means fewer troops will be needed.

According to UN sources, the UN the peacekeeping mission in the Congo, which is four times larger in area than Iraq, required about twenty thousand troops. Finally the UN does not mobilize quickly because they depend upon governments to supply the troops, and governments are slow. The ambition of the UN is to deploy in less than ninety days. However, without an agreement of parties the UN is not likely to approve a mission to Iraq, because countries will not give them troops.

6. Develop and fund a process of national reconciliation. The process of reconciliation must begin with a national conference, organized with the assistance of the UN and with the participation of parties who can create, participate in and affect the process of reconciliation, defined as an airing of all grievances and the creation of pathways toward open, transparent talks producing truth and resolution of grievances. The Iraqi government has indicated a desire for the process of reconciliation to take place around it, and that those who were opposed to the government should give up and join the government. Reconciliation must not be confused with capitulation, nor with realignments for the purposes of protecting power relationships.

For example, Kurds need to be assured that their own autonomy will be regarded and therefore obviate the need for the Kurds to align with religious Shia for the purposes of self-protection. The problem in Iraq is that every community is living in fear. The Shia, who are the majority, fear they will not be allowed to government even though they are a majority. The Kurds are afraid they will lose the autonomy they have gained. The Sunnis think they will continue to be made to pay for the sins of Saddam.

A reconciliation process which brings people together is the only way to overcome their fears and reconcile their differences. It is essential to create a minimum of understanding and mutual confidence between the Shiites, Sunnis and Kurds.

But how can a reconciliation process be constructed in Iraq when there is such mistrust? Ethnic cleansing is rampant. The police get their money from the US and their ideas from Tehran. They function as religious militia, fighting for supremacy, while the Interior Ministry collaborates. Two or three million people have been displaced. When someone loses a family member, a loved one, a friend, the first response is likely to be that there is no reconciliation.

It is also difficult to move toward reconciliation when one or several parties engaged in the conflict think they can win outright. The Shia, some of whom are out for revenge, think they can win because they have the defacto support of the US. The end of the US occupation will enhance the opportunity for the Shia to come to an accommodation with the Sunnis. They have the oil, the weapons, and support from Iran. They have little interest in reconciling with those who are seen as Baathists.

The Sunnis think they have experience, as the former army of Saddam, boasting half a million insurgents. The Sunnis have so much more experience and motivation that as soon as the Americans leave they believe they can defeat the Shia government. Any Sunni revenge impulses can be held in check by international peacekeepers. The only sure path toward reconciliation is through the political process. All factions and all insurgents not with al Queda must be brought together in a relentless process which involves Saudis, Turks and Iranians.

7. Reconstruction and Jobs. Restart the failed reconstruction program in Iraq. Rebuild roads, bridges, schools, hospitals, and other public facilities, houses, and factories with jobs and job training going to local Iraqis.

8. Reparations. The US and Great Britain have a high moral obligation to enable a peace process by beginning a program of significant reparations to the people of Iraq for the loss of lives, physical and emotional injuries, and damage to property. There should be special programs to rescue the tens of thousands of Iraqi orphans from lives of destitution. This is essential to enable reconciliation.

9. Political Sovereignty. Put an end to suspicions that the US invasion and occupation was influenced by a desire to gain control of Iraq's oil assets by A) setting aside initiatives to privatize Iraqi oil interests or other national assets, and B) by abandoning efforts to change Iraqi national law to facilitate privatization.

Any attempt to sell Iraqi oil assets during the US occupation will be a significant stumbling block to peaceful resolution. The current Iraqi constitution gives oil proceeds to the regions and the central government gets nothing. There must be fairness in the distribution of oil resources in Iraq. An Iraqi National Oil Trust should be established to guarantee the oil assets will be used to create a fully functioning infrastructure with financial mechanisms established protect the oil wealth for the use of the people of Iraq.

10. Iraq Economy. Set forth a plan to stabilize Iraq's cost for food and energy, on par to what the prices were before the US invasion and occupation. This would block efforts underway to raise the price of food and energy at a time when most Iraqis do not have the means to meet their own needs.

11. Economic Sovereignty. Work with the world community to restore Iraq's fiscal integrity without structural readjustment measures of the IMF or the World Bank.

12. International Truth and Reconciliation. Establish a policy of truth and reconciliation between the people of the United States and the people of Iraq. In 2002, I led the effort in the House of Representatives challenging the Bush Administration's plans to go to war in Iraq. I organized 125 Democrats to vote against the Iraq war resolution. The analysis I offered at that time stands out in bold relief for its foresight when compared to the assessments of many who today aspire to national leadership.

Just as the caution I urged four years ago was well-placed, so the plan I am presenting today is workable, and it responds to the will of the American people, expressed this past November. This is a moment for clarity and foresight. This is a moment to take a new direction in Iraq. One with honor and dignity. One which protects our troops and rescues Iraqi civilians. One which repairs our relationship with Iraqis and with the world.

Thank you,

Dennis J Kucinich

Sunday, January 07, 2007

America Says No

No more troops. Escalation is no way to end the occupation.

Saturday, January 06, 2007

Mothering Styles

From motherstyles.com (this is the type I happen to be):

INTP - The “Love of Learning” Mother (Introverted, Intuitive, Thinking, Perceiving)

“I keep the encyclopedia in the kitchen so we can look up things together while we eat.”

Intellectually curious and patient, the INTP mother relishes those times with a child when they are learning something interesting together. Whether they’re at the zoo or computer terminal, she sparks to answering his or her “whys” with in-depth responses or new knowledge.

The INTP mother is also objective and introspective. She listens to and discusses children’s ideas and questions as she would those of a peer, fostering self-esteem and confidence. Open and non-directive, she allows children the freedom to do for themselves and quietly encourages them to believe they can do it.

Independence, autonomy, intellectual development, and self-reliance are probably the INTP’s highest priorities for her children. An avid reader, she naturally imparts an appreciation and love of reading as well.

Drawn to all types of learning, the INTP may also value her mothering experience for all the new insights about life it provides her.

Knock Knock

Knock Knock.

Who's there?

Little girl.

Little girl who?

Little girl who can't reach the doorbell.

Thursday, January 04, 2007

Taking Chances

With the Democrats in power after American citizens voted for meaningful change, there’s at least a slim chance that Bush and Cheney will finally be held accountable for their crimes against the people and the Constitutional rule of law in the U.S.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi is clearly stating she has no intention of pushing for impeachment, and also no intention of acceding to the American and Iraqi peoples’ strong demand for an immediate withdrawal of U.S. forces from the bloody mess in Iraq. Pelosi is sharply curtailing the plans of new Congressional committee chairs like John Conyers, Henry Waxman and Charles Rangel to launch investigations and public hearings that would likely lead to impeachment.

Pelosi’s reasoning is apparently pragmatic – impeachment would occur, at the earliest, a year from now, when Bush and Cheney had only a year left in office anyway. Pursuing impeachment in the run-up to 2008 might be spun, by opponents, as “political” retribution, or a sign that Pelosi is simply gunning for the President’s job, since she would be next in line after Cheney.

Those concerns are irrelevant, because they’re short-sighted, looking only two years down the road. Bush and Cheney must be impeached, because if they are not removed from office for their documented, admitted crimes – lying about the reasons for the preemptive invasion of Iraq, ordering and condoning torture, extraordinary renditions, warrantless wiretapping, and a host of other violations of U.S. and international law – then the American public, through Congress, is sending a clear message to every President who will take office in the future:

“We just don’t care about the rule of law. We’re fine living with neither checks nor balances, with no inherent and inalienable rights, with each of us subject to the unquestioned dictates of whoever occupies the White House at any given time.”

Maybe it’s true. I think our public cynicism is deep and well-founded, 30 years out from Watergate, with more historical evidence every year of how often, how blatantly and how cruelly our governments have lied to us and broken laws throughout this great 230-year experiment in democracy.

But I’ve also spent a lot of time over the past few years watching local citizens’ movements grow all over the world. The problems facing human beings – global warming, fossil fuel depletion, nuclear weapons, infectious disease pandemics, widening gaps between rich and poor – are huge and frightening. Some people have responded by burying their heads in delusional thinking, and I can’t blame them for hiding from the reality of what confronts us all.

More people have responded by quietly considering whether the human species is worth trying to save. Most have decided that, warts and all, we are, and have moved on to ponder the odds of success. However low or high you estimated those odds, any chance is better than not trying.

So the vast majority of the world’s people are carefully making transformational plans for life without oil and gas, without extreme poverty and war, life with larger natural disasters and fewer long car and truck trips. We’re working to build smaller communities of people who really know each other and are really prepared to trust and help each other out. We’re working to build strong local oversight of local governments, to support and inform elected representatives as they decide how and when to spend public wealth. We’re working to create clean energy for home heating and gardens producing local food on every city block. It will take all this, and more. But it’s definitely worth the effort. Please join in, in whatever way you most enjoy, wherever you happen to be.

MomsRising on Conservative Talk Show

MomsRising will be on a conservative call-in show today at 4 p.m. E.S.T.
Call 1-800-955-1776 if you want to participate in the discussion.

Some talking points they forwarded:


1. Mothers earn less: Non-mothers earn 90 cents to a man's dollar; mothers earn 73 cents; and single mothers earn about 60 cents to a man's dollar. This explains why so many women and children in the U.S. live in poverty, and why there are so few women in leadership.

2. Discrimination against hiring mothers is rampant. Recent Cornell University research by Dr. Shelley Correll confirmed what many American women learn when they look for work: Mothers are 44 percent less likely to be hired than non-mothers who have the same résumé, experience, and qualifications; and mothers are offered significantly lower starting pay (study participants offered non-mothers an average of $11,000 more than mothers) for the same job as equally qualified non-mothers.

3. Ann Crittenden writes, "....a college-educated woman with one child can easily pay a 'Mommy tax' (lost lifetime earnings) of $1 million." This explains why so many more elderly women than men live in poverty.

Supporting facts:

- 82 percent of all American women become mothers by the time they are forty-four years old.

- Among all of the moms in America, almost three-quarters have jobs outside of their homes. American women now make up 46 percent of the entire paid labor force.

- Statistics from 2001 reveal that in the United States of America--land of opportunity--a full one-quarter of families with children under age six earned less than $25,000 that year. An income level that is so low most families of four would qualify for food stamps.

KEY MESSAGE: National policies and programs with proven success in other countries--like paid family leave, flexible work options, subsidized childcare and preschool, as well as healthcare coverage for all kids--are largely lacking in America. These programs support parents, in particular primary caregivers, hence there is substantially less bias against mothers in countries with good support for families.


1. The United States is the only industrialized country in the world that doesn't have some form of paid leave for new moms. And of 168 countries studied world-wide, the U.S. is one of only 4 that doesn't have some form of paid family leave for new moms. That puts the US--one of the wealthiest nations on the planet--in the company of Lesotho, Papua New Guinea, and Swaziland. Too many mothers in the U.S. must choose between caring for their new infants and working to feed their families.

2. A weighty consequence emerges from this lack of family support. Research reveals that a full 25 percent of "poverty spells," or times when a family's income slips below what is needed for basic living expenses, begin with the birth of a baby.

3. There is a strong correlation between paid parental leave and thriving children--one study found that a year of job-protected paid leave is tied to 25 percent fewer post-neonatal deaths and those benefits continued forward in the child's life. Our lack of paid leave shows in our infant mortality rates. In terms of infant mortality rates, the U.S. tied for thirty-eighth in the world with Estonia, Poland, Slovakia, and the United Arab Emirates in 2003.

Supporting fact:

- 61 percent of American families with children have both parents in the labor force.


1. Workplace flex-time policies will go a long way towards helping women maintain viable careers and remain economically stable while having families. Businesses also benefit with higher employee retention, higher employee productivity, lower training and recruiting costs, and better employee performance.

2. Low wage workers are the least likely to have work flexibility; and most are, as Joan Williams reports, "One sick child away from being fired."

Supporting facts:

-A survey of working women reported in the Harvard Business Review found the majority of women surveyed (64 percent) reported flexible work arrangements as "either extremely or very important to them." The survey also found that, "by a considerable margin, highly qualified women find flexibility more important than compensation..."

- Highly qualified and generally fairly well paid women are the most likely to find or demand flexible schedules.

- Almost three-fourths of working adults state they don't control their work schedules. In fact, the top reason noted by highly educated and trained women for leaving the "fast track" is the lack of family time. The lack of flexible work options often leads women to quit needed jobs.

- When women take time out of the workforce they face huge wage hits, or pay cuts, when they later return (as 74 percent do within two years). These wage hits take a life-long toll: On average, women take an 18 percent cut in their pay, a significant wage hit, for an average of 2.2 years out of the labor force--with women in business sectors taking an increased hit of 28 percent. For those women who stay out of the labor force for three or more years, the news is even bleaker: A 37 percent loss of earning power.


1. More than 40,000 kindergarteners are home alone after school, with a total of more than 14,000,000 kindergarteners through twelfth grade kids on their own after school without supervision.

2. By the time the average child gets to elementary school they will have viewed 8,000 murders and 100,000 acts of violence on television.

3. The peak time for juvenile crime is right after school gets out, which makes a compelling case for after-school programs.

Supporting facts:

- Providing after school care to at-risk youth not only benefits kids, but also the community coffers. A study of the effects of the After School Education and Safety Program Act of 2002 found that every dollar spent on an at-risk youth in an after school program brings a return of $8.92 to $12.90, mainly due to the amount saved by channeling the at-risk youth away from a life of crime (remember the juvenile crime rate is highest in the hours after school). Providing after school programs to non-risk youth also brings a return (between $2.99 and $4.05 for every dollar spent) due to, in part, improved school performance and graduation rates.


1. The truth is that according to the World Health Organization, the United States spends more on healthcare per person than any other nation in the world, yet still was only tied for the twenty-eighth highest life expectancy, and ranked in at a low thirty-seventh for our mortality rate of children under five years old. We aren't getting much for the money we spend.

2. Medical issues are a leading cause of bankruptcy in the United States. In fact, half of all bankruptcy filings in 2001 were related to medical issues. There's been a twenty-threefold (2,300 percent) increase in medical related bankruptcy filings between 1981, when only 8 percent of bankruptcies were medical related, and 2001.

3. Most of those who went bankrupt had health insurance (a full 76 percent had insurance when their illness started), and those filing for bankruptcy are "predominantly in the middle or working classes." In fact, working families make up 81 percent of uninsured people.

Supporting facts:

- There were nine million uninsured children and forty-six million uninsured Americans in 2004.

- "The United States remains the only Western nation without universal health insurance coverage," writes Rick Mayes in his book, Universal Coverage: The Elusive Quest for National Health Insurance. Two-thirds of the 191 countries tracked by the World Health Organization pay a higher percentage of their citizen's total healthcare costs than the U.S. does.


1. A Children's Defense Fund study found child care in the United States costs between $4,000 and $10,000 a year for each child, with the costs rising for babies and younger children, special-needs kids, and kids living in parts of the country where the cost of living is higher.

2. The Children's Defense Fund reports that a study (Cost, Quality, and Child Outcomes in Child Care Centers) examining childcare in four states found, "child care at most centers in the United States is poor to mediocre," with 12 percent of centers providing less than minimal quality care-—defined as care that could harm "children's health, safety, and development." As for the centers that rated well for good quality care, those comprised only 14 percent.

3. The average childcare provider earns a salary of just $18,060 a year, and many don't have healthcare coverage.

Supporting facts:

- To put the cost of childcare in perspective, consider that a full one-quarter of families with children under age six earned less than $25,000 in 2001.

- Quality childcare saves money: One study (Significant Benefits by Lawrence Schweinhart and others) that researched the long-term impacts of good quality childcare for low-income children came to a similar conclusion, the Children's Defense Fund reports. That study found, "After 27 years, each $1 invested saved over $7 by increasing the likelihood that children would be literate, employed, and enrolled in postsecondary education, and making them less likely to be school dropouts, dependent on welfare, or arrested for criminal activity or delinquency."

- A Wisconsin study that looked at the impacts of extending their Kindergarten through twelfth grade education system to include free preschool for four year olds found that such programs save money in the long run. The study found early education reduces later crime rates and welfare needs, while increasing the total educational cost-benefit by 68 percent—partly through lowering the need for special education (saving $42 million) and students needing to repeat grades less often.

- The military has a good model and the Department of Defense has over 200,000 children in their care. The military prioritizes excellent child care, not just with their policies, but with funding: For example, in 2004 the Department of Defense budgeted $379 million to support serving over 200,000 children, not including additional supplemental funds. Consider that in the Army a family that makes below $28,000 annually pays no more than $43 per week for child care, or around $2,000 annually. And then compare that to the national average cost of childcare, which can rise to $10,000 per year or more. Moreover, military childcare workers are paid a living wage or better. Childcare subsidies make a real difference, particularly as the number of children and families who live in poverty grows. According to the U.S. Census, 35.9 million Americans lived in poverty in 2003, up from 31.6 million just three years before.


1. The minimum wage must be raised: By working a 52-week full-time job without unpaid breaks, the federal minimum wage comes to $10,712 per year.

2. Amy Caiazza, from The Institute for Women's Policy Research, notes, "We did a study that found if there wasn't a wage gap, the poverty rates for single moms would be cut in half, and the poverty rates for dual earner families would be cut by about 25 percent."

3. A close look at the numbers shows that the reason the wage gap is so large for all women is that the vast majority of women become mothers (82 percent). This majority of American women—mothers—are actually making less than the current average reported by the U.S. Census of 76 cents to a man's dollar, since the wages of non-mothers bring up the overall average.

Supporting facts:

-Countries with family-friendly policies in programs in place don't have as large of wage hits as we do.
- Men don't take wage hits after having children, women do.