Friday, June 26, 2009

Fat Bottom Girls Make the Rockin World Go Round

The world has had quite the past two weeks. I'm not going to waste my time and yours talking about the many deaths of Ed McMann, Farrah Faucett or even Michel Jackson. You've got CNN for that.

My father handed me Queen's double CD Greatest Hits when I was senior in high school, with the explanation that he had no fucking idea that Freddy Mercury was gay, but he liked him anyway. And the CDs have proven to continue to be some of the best musical experiences I have. And Bicycle Race - hello brilliant!

You say black I say white
You say bark I say bite
You say shark I say hey man
Jaws was never my scene
And I don't like Star Wars
You say Rolls I say Royce
You say God give me a choice
You say Lord I say Christ
I don't believe in Peter Pan
Frankenstein or Superman
All I wanna do is

Bicycle bicycle bicycle
I want to ride my bicycle

So yeah I get that music and supermodels who share their story of struggling with cancer as important, but I don't understand how people camp outside a hospital over night, when there are people fighting for a revolution in Iran and EPA just released 42 permits to continue mountaintop removal as a way to solve the longer term problem of achieving below 1990 greenhouse emissions by 2020 or how the House of Representatives is trying to sign a climate change bill that includes incinerators and nuclear power plants as renewable resources or the DC metro system is fucked because DC has zero rights to appropriate funding as we are not a state that two trains can crash, 9 people can die, and 70 others can suffer injuries.

It's kind of lost on me why CNN is covering Jon and Kate's divorce and the death of very troubled music genius more than the impacts of mountaintop removal or the siting of school inside an old thermometer factory and call it Kiddie Kollege.

I know most people feel overwhelmed when they hear stories about Kiddie Kollege , the war in Iraq, or CEO's getting super bonus' as we still can't pay our credit cards off because they just increased the APR by 20%. It is overwhelming and as someone that works on these types of issues everyday and who has been reading and talking about these issues for most of my life, I'm not sure how you don't continue to be overwhelmed.
One thing I think that makes a lot of sense for me is that I feel powerless when I hear those Planet Money Podcasts about the Office of Thrift Supervision and the only way to not feel powerless is to do something about it.

I'm not sure what I'm going to do today about it, but it's really hot outside and it's Friday and the boy is coming to town as I type, I went to a protest outside EPA on mountaintop removal with activists who were in town for the first congressional hearing on the subject and now maybe I'll just read about some really impressive communities taking action. As I drink sangria and listen to Queen. Really, nobody knew he was gay?

Wear sunblock and drink lots of water out there!

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

The Five Stages of Grief

Not, my puppy didn't die or anything like that. I was talking to my intern yesterday on the train into the city and I was explaining the different stages that campaign targets go through as you try to improve their policies and products. And I realized that it is very much similar to the five stages of grief.

(1) Denial
(2) Anger
(3) Bargaining
(4) Depression
(5) Acceptance

I mean it's not a perfect analysis but its pretty close. This is what polluters do when communities ask them to stop poisoning them. They deny they are poisoning anyone. They call the people crazy and hurl insults over their tall wall into the community and call people hysterical. They say well there is a little bit of poison seeping into your community, but there isn't any real damage. It's just a little poison and there isn't any evidence that that small amount of poison actually does anything. They go back to being silent because they have explained everything to you already and maybe they come out with campaign about how important this small amount of poison is to the health of your children. Then one day when you are buying new u-locks to lock yourself to the company's front gate, they send out a small press release saying that they fixed the problem and they are giving a large about money to at risk youths because that's how much they care about the community, so now all you crazy hysterical environmental activists can shut the fuck up.

And I wonder where the BPA industry is in their five stages of grief. I just read a commentary where a woman says "The "toxin du jour" these days is bisphenol A", "Environmental activists claim BPA harms babies", "The only "evidence" that BPA is a hazard comes from high-dose animal studies (which have little relevance for humans) and from studies that measure BPA in urine", and "there is no end in sight to the anti-chemical witch hunt against "toxins" in products". Sounds like anger and bargaining to me.

Maybe us environmental activist hysterical witches should hire a full time psychologist for the BPA industry because they need to talk this out. It's very unhealthy for all these people to be so hard bent on poisoning people all the time and rationalizing it like the desire for people to be toxic free is the crazy option. I wonder how much prayer, mediation, what-have-you, they do on a regular basis to sleep well at night. Because this commentary is pretty fucking crazy time. I think she should come to yoga with me.

The Latest Toxin Activists Want To Ban

Elizabeth M. Whelan, 06.23.09, 05:00 PM EDT
But this chemical, found in plastic bottles, hasn't been proven unsafe.

The "toxin du jour" these days is bisphenol A, otherwise known as BPA. Environmental activists claim BPA harms babies as it dissolves out of the sides of baby bottles and sippy cups, causing everything from cancer to learning disabilities and even obesity. Spurred by consumer groups, Connecticut Attorney General Richard Blumenthal wants Coca-Cola, Del Monte and other companies investigated for trying to stop anti-BPA legislation.

In fact, BPA has been used safely for about 60 years to make plastic bottles hard and shatter-proof, for the coatings of metal food containers and even in cellphones and medical devices. Nonetheless, the California Senate recently passed a law to ban the sale of sippy cups and baby bottles that contain BPA, and Chicago recently banned such products from city shelves.

There are two distinct ways of looking at the hysteria about BPA and the quest to purge it from our universe.

First, we can take the rational, scientific approach. There is no evidence that BPA in consumer products ever harmed a child or adult. The FDA has confirmed the safety of BPA in consumer products, as have scientific bodies around the world. The levels of BPA that may leach into food or liquid are so incredibly small that they can barely be measured.

In fact, even the cautious Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has pointed out that merely detecting a substance in our bodies does not mean that it's harmful or toxic. The only "evidence" that BPA is a hazard comes from high-dose animal studies (which have little relevance for humans) and from studies that measure BPA in urine.

But we can detect minute levels of virtually any chemical in blood and urine, and the presence of such an amount is not synonymous with a hazard. BPA as a health hazard is best described as only a "phantom risk." But rational, scientific facts have taken a back seat in the debate about BPA and health. That brings us to the second, purely emotional case against the toxin.

Psychiatrists have long told us that we fear what we do not understand and cannot see. Further, parents are instinctively on high alert against potential threats to their infants and children. Thus, if an activist group makes a claim that BPA--or almost any other substance--in bottles poses an imminent danger to an innocent baby, the "fear factor" takes over.

Mom and dad are not familiar with this chemical; they can hardly pronounce it; they cannot see it; thus they fear it. And now they are perfect targets for manipulation by the toxic terrorists. Scientists or FDA officials--and certainly industry spokespeople--who dismiss the scare sound callous and unreliable.

Consider this further irrational dimension of the calls to ban BPA: Few people ever ask what the alternative to BPA would be. In their irrational state, they are willing to purge this chemical--a product with a decades-long safety record--from substances they use and instead accept some unknown, untested substitute without even asking what it might be and what its safety profile is.

Perhaps it is time we started responding to the public's irrational fears differently than we do to rational fears. For example, if you have a fear of flying--not a phobia, but a mild, rational concern--you might have your mind changed by a slew of statistics showing that flying from New York to Los Angeles is far safer than covering the same territory by car. We could reason with you on this issue, discussing your odds of injury and death in each scenario. You would then, most likely, choose to fly.

But a national panic about a "chemical"--be it Alar on apples 20 years ago or phthalates (plastic softeners used in rubber duckies and other products) and BPA today--is a different story.

Irrational fears of the sort conjured up in parents by weird-sounding chemicals do not respond well to a truckload of scientific facts. So what might work?

For one, inform parents that their instinct to protect their children is normal, indeed admirable--but subject to manipulation by agenda-driven activists.

And state the obvious. There is no end in sight to the anti-chemical witch hunt against "toxins" in products. Once BPA is banned, the activists will move onto another scare: Are there trace levels of dioxin in the paper cups your toddler drinks out of? Ban paper cups!

Could there be lead in the playground sand box? Close all sandboxes! If in five years the alternative to BPA is shown to cause cancer in rodents--well, ban that too.

Finally, underscore the fact that chemicals like BPA, which have been used for decades with no deleterious health consequences, may well be safer than hastily introduced alternatives.

Irrational fears need to be recognized for what they are--and treated with compassion and understanding but also a big dose of reality. Caring, loving parents have become victims of fear mongers and that, certainly, is one danger about which they deserve to be warned.

Elizabeth M. Whelan is president of the American Council on Science and Health




Also, check out this great site. crazy hysterical environmental activist witches getting shit done!

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

This American Life

I'm sure by now you've realized that I'm a big loser. I read ridiculous periodicals and once asked my sister how could we possibly function without television. I mean how would we hear the news? What if something huge happened? As it turned out the day our cable went out was the day of the Okalahoma City bombing.

So getting back to my loser status. I read Foreign Affairs on regular basis. for the past 10 years. And I keep them in case I need to reference an article. Which I do often while relaxing after work.

As the world is changing so is how I get my news. I am now obessesed with free podcasts. I listed to 7 on a regular basis. The Soup Video Podcast. Savage Love. Relaxation for Sleeping (which I use in my yoga playlists and for sleeping). Business Week CEO Guide. Stuff You Missed in History Class. This American Life. Planet Money.

This American Life is fucking amazing. Their coverage of the financial crisis should get them a Pulitzer. It's been the most incredible and most shocking source of knowledge about what all those talking heads that don't really give a shit about us normal people are actually saying in their contrived and overworked statements. Please please please listen to some of the episodes. I listen to podcasts on my way home from work often and I will stop and sit down in a metro station or pause in the grocery store as I take in what they have uncovered or what they have translated into real life language.

When I was in college the privitaizing of social security debate was big in the news. I kept having debates with people who said tough shit if people don't know how to invest smartly. I've learned in some part through listening to these This American Life podcasts why this option disgusted me so much but was unable to articulate besides the one truth that if you don't grow up in privedlge, economic, race or otherwise, you don't actually have fair shot of investing smartly as those that do. The system is built to provide greater advantage to some. If you were not part of creating this system or keeping the system afloat, you have a very small chance of competing. I believe that if forced to defend your family and community you are capable of changing everything. You are capable of stopping the largest most corrupt pollutor, you are capable of changing laws, you are capable of changing who you are as a person and of changing the world as you know it. I believe that more than any other belief I've developed in my 29 years.

I also believe that people are more powerful than they think or trust themselves to be, but listening to the congressional hearing where the head of the Office of Thrift Supervision say yes it was my responsibility to regulate dividend trading for AIG and we made a mistake, made me understand that our system is not built for regular people to understand what is going on or how to play or how to inform themselves so that they can have an even playing field. It is built to have a few people win. all the time. at everything they do.

I got this email from President Obama today. I am still on the mailing list from when I donated during the election and I often get organizing emails from different people working in the Organizing for America project of the DNC. I got this email today that was pretty fucking good. It went into why I voted for him. In the subject line is "This is Why". Here is the letter.

Renee --

Last year, millions of Americans came together for a great purpose.

Folks like you assembled a grassroots movement that shocked the political establishment and changed the course of our nation. When Washington insiders counted us out, we put it all on the line and changed our democracy from the bottom up. But that's not why we did it.

The pundits told us it was impossible -- that the donations working people could afford and the hours volunteers could give would never loosen the vise grip of big money and powerful special interests. We proved them wrong. But as important as that was, that's not why we did it.

Today, spiraling health care costs are pushing our families and businesses to the brink of ruin, while millions of Americans go without the care they desperately need. Fixing this broken system will be enormously difficult. But we can succeed. The chance to make fundamental change like this in people's daily lives -- that is why we did it.

The campaign to pass real health care reform in 2009 is the biggest test of our movement since the election. Once again, victory is far from certain. Our opposition will be fierce, and they have been down this road before. To prevail, we must once more build a coast-to-coast operation ready to knock on doors, deploy volunteers, get out the facts, and show the world how real change happens in America.

And just like before, I cannot do it without your support.

So I'm asking you to remember all that you gave over the last two years to get us here -- all the time, resources, and faith you invested as a down payment to earn us our place at this crossroads in history. All that you've done has led up to this -- and whether or not our country takes the next crucial step depends on what you do right now.

Please donate whatever you can afford to support the campaign for real health care reform in 2009.

It doesn't matter how much you can give, as long as you give what you can. Millions of families on the brink are counting on us to do just that. I know we can deliver.

Thank you, so much, for getting us this far. And thank you for standing up once again to take us the rest of the way.


President Barack Obama

It pretty genius actually. It pulls all the right cords. I had drinks with some urban economic justice activists in Miami not too long ago and one said when over 50% of the people in your high school don't graduate, it's not them, its the system. My graduating senior class was 60% smaller than my freshman year class, over half of that dropped out senior year alone. My school was rated an F several years in a row and consisted of mostly immigrant Brazilians, Haitians, and African Americans and located in one of the county's poorest neighborhoods very close to a municiple incinerator. This no different than AIG financial products getting an AAA (zero risk) rating when it was on the verge of collapse and a health care system where 1 in 10 children have no insurance.

It's the system.

And another powerful thing I've learned in my short 29 years: every single one of us working in concert has the power to change it.


Thursday, June 4, 2009

The Gays are Taking Over!

The gays are taking over! The sixth state just signed into law a marriage equality law. Now wedding industry entrepreneurs will have new ripples of success, the freedom to love the people you love is written into law and rainbows and unicorns will jump for joy in New Hampshire.

Beat that California! Please. Seriously. WTF!

Give the governor of New Hampshire a big wet sloppy kiss via Human Rights Campaign!