I spent Mother’s Day napping on dad’s sofa mostly. I am such an exciting person!! I have no idea why I am so cold and so worn out but it is what it is.
Meanwhile, all hell broke loose in New Orleans. The gun violence that hit a Mother’s Day parade there was pretty much the kind of urban violence we see all too often with such easy access to guns. I wish I could say that gun violence was rare in the 7th ward. But it is not. Here’s a word from my congressman Cedric Richmond:
According to FBI data, 1,464 people were killed by firearms in New Orleans between 2008-2011. That’s 1,464 families who will never see their loved ones again. If we were to have passed the entirety of President Obama’s proposed reforms, sadly, many of those victims would probably have still been killed because violence is a pervasive and complex problem with a diverse set of causes. Economic insecurity, poor mental health treatment options, inferior education options and the scarcity of positive opportunities are all contributors, which one regulation alone cannot eliminate. That being said, if we only acted on just a few of the president’s proposals, we could decrease the supply of guns used in the homicides by reducing the supply of illegally purchased guns via universal background checks. This would decrease the use of guns in violent crime and keep a few more families from having to bury a loved one.
While I was serving as a member of the Louisiana House of Representatives, I introduced an assault weapons ban bill on numerous occasions. I took on the National Rifle Association in these battles not because I have a grudge against gun owners, but because I could find no reasonable defense of having these weapons of mass destruction on our streets. As a resident of Sportsman’s Paradise, I am a strong supporter of the Second Amendment. However, I do not ascribe to the belief that Congress has no role in responding to the gun violence epidemic plaguing communities like New Orleans, Chicago and Detroit.
A Mother’s Day second-line shooting on Frenchmen Street in the 7th Ward, on Sunday about 1:45 p.m., left 19 people injured, according to the latest NOPD numbers. Earlier Sunday afternoon, NOPD Superintendent Ronal Serpas said that about 12 people had been injured, but the toll later grew to 19, with the NOPD explaining that some victims initially hadn’t reported being injured and more people continue to come forward.
Police said 10 adult men, seven adult women, a 10-year-old boy and a 10-year-old girl were struck by bullets. Both of the 10-year-old victims had graze wounds to the body and were in good condition. A man and a woman were reported to be in surgery Sunday evening.
The shooting occurred in the 1400 block of Frenchmen Street at the intersection of North Villere Street. Immediately after the shooting police reported seeing three suspects running from the scene. One suspect was seen running on Frenchman toward North Claiborne, police said.
NOPD spokeswoman Remi Braden said many of the victims were grazed, some by bullets that ricocheted. “At this point, there are no fatalities, and most of the wounds are not life-threatening,” she said in an email.
“But all medical conditions are not known at this time as victims were rushed to nearby hospitals,” Braden continued. “Detectives are conducting interviews, retrieving any surveillance video in the area and, of course, collecting all evidence. This is an extremely unusual occurrence, and we’re confident that we will make swift arrests.”
Kevin Allman, editor of Gambit Weekly, said one of the publication’s writers, Deborah Cotton, also known as the blogger Big Red Cotton, was shot and was in stable condition after undergoing surgery.
Shannon Roberts, 32, was in the Interim LSU Hospital in New Orleans on Sunday afternoon and early evening alongside reams of other crying and fear-ridden – and at times, angry - family members whose loved ones were injured in the shooting. Roberts said she was waiting on a 21-year-old nephew who was shot in the arm and stomach, a 37-year-old niece shot in the arm, and a 39-year-old cousin shot in the back.
“All innocent bystanders got hit,” Roberts said. “When I got the call saying they were shot, I wasn’t thinking at all, I was just shivering and crying… just hoping they be all right.
Hatred evidently has a basis in geography in this country. This is an interesting twist on studying information from Twitters, locations, and displays of racism, homophobia, and basic hate speech.
Twitter, even more than many other social media tools, can feel disconnected from the real world. But a group of students and professors at research site Floating Sheep have built a comprehensive map of some of Twitter’s most distasteful content: the racist, homophobic, or ableist slurs that can proliferate online. Called Geography of Hate, the interactive map charts ten relatively common slurs across the continental US, either by general category or individually. Looking at the whole country, you’ll often see a mass of red or what the map’s creators call a “blue smog of hate.” Zooming in, however, patches appear over individual regions or cities; some may be predictable, while others are not.
The map builds on an earlier Floating Sheep project that showed where President Obama was referenced with racial slurs, but it’s far more comprehensive and well-constructed. Unlike many other studies, for example, the tweets weren’t collected and analyzed algorithmically — a method that could accidentally collect non-derogatory uses of these terms. Instead, the team first searched through a year’s worth of geotagged tweets for words, then had a group of students at Humboldt State University look at each one. Only tweets they found explicitly negative went on the map: a derogatory use of the word “dyke” would be added, for example, but one reclaiming the term for a gay pride parade would not. In total, the map charts about 150,000 negative, slur-filled tweets.
Here is some “Terrible News About Carbon and Climate Change”.
This past Thursday, the daily average atmospheric concentration of carbon dioxide, as measured by the Mauna Loa observatory in Hawaii, passed four hundred parts per million. In some way it was a meaningless milestone. We know that CO2 is increasing; we knew this moment would come; we know that four hundred is no more different from three hundred and ninety-nine than it is from four hundred and one.
Still, the number should shake us, if not shock us. We’ve got more carbon dioxide in the atmosphere now than at any point since the Pliocene, when there were jungles in northern Canada. And the number hurdles ever upward, as ocean levels rise and extreme weather becomes routine. Three-fifty was the old target; four-fifty is the new one. But what indication is there that we’ll stop at five hundred, six hundred, or even more?
We’ve failed collectively. As Ryan Lizza explained in miserable detail in 2010, the United States government couldn’t pass a tepid, eviscerated law. Activists have failed. We’ve all failed morally: a problem created by the world’s rich will now crush the world’s poor. In a grand sense it’s also a failure of the creators, and deniers, of climate change: the Exxon-Mobils, say, or the Wall Street Journal editorial page. A victory isn’t worth much if your children and grandchildren will one day think of you with anger and shame.
How do we get out of this mess? The political system seems hopeless. Yes, government regulation has done much to relieve us of acid rain and smog. But global warming combines two intractable problems. Reducing emissions mainly benefits people who aren’t born and don’t vote. And it requires international coördination, which is hopeless, and international law, which is toothless. We should do things like build more public transportation, which helps people here and now. We should design our cities for a future with terrible weather. But solving the problem of climate change through the U.N. is like a small man with olive oil on his hands trying to pull a whale from the water.
I’ve become somewhat fascinated with charter schools given their presence in New Orleans and their supposed success. Who makes money from these things and why is that important? It has a lot to do with Real Estate Developers and Hedge Fund Managers. This is worth reading.
Studies shows that charter schools don’t typically outperform public schools and they often tend to increase racial and class segregation. So one must wonder, what exactly is motivating these school “reformers”? And why have they pushed for more and more closure — and new charter schools — at such an unprecedented rate in recent years?
Pro-charter supporters will tell you that it’s time for public institutions like our schools to start competing more like for-profit institutions. Test scores and high enrollment, then, define success. Unsuccessful schools, they say, should close just as unsuccessful businesses do. For neoliberal school reformers from today’s Arne Duncan-led Department of Education to scandal-ridden movement leader Michelle Rhee to billionaire Bill Gates, it is taken on faith that market principles are desirable in education.
But since it’s not clear that market principles are benefiting students on a large scale, it seems likely that something else is at stake. And reformers may be more than a little disingenuous in publicly ignoring that other, less high-minded thing: Profit. Critics of charter schools and school closings point out that proponents may not really be motivated by idealism, but by self-gain.
But who precisely is profiting? And how? Untangling answers to these questions is a more daunting task. Compared to public schools, charters schools are an extremely unregulated business. They contract with private companies to provide all kinds of services, from curriculum development to landscaping. Most of the regulations that bind charter schools are implemented at the state level. And unlike public institutions, the finances of charter schools are managed on a school-by-school basis. Because they are not consistently held accountable to the public for how they distribute funds, charter schools are often able to keep their business practices under wraps, and thus avoid too much scrutiny.
Here’s economist Joseph Stiglitz warning us about the crushing student debt in the U.S.
According to the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, almost 13 percent of student-loan borrowers of all ages owe more than $50,000, and nearly 4 percent owe more than $100,000. These debts are beyond students’ ability to repay, (especially in our nearly jobless recovery); this is demonstrated by the fact that delinquency and default rates are soaring. Some 17 percent of student-loan borrowers were 90 days or more behind in payments at the end of 2012. When only those in repayment were counted — in other words, not including borrowers who were in loan deferment or forbearance — more than 30 percent were 90 days or more behind. For federal loans taken out in the 2009 fiscal year, three-year default rates exceeded 13 percent.
America is distinctive among advanced industrialized countries in the burden it places on students and their parents for financing higher education. America is also exceptional among comparable countries for the high cost of a college degree, including at public universities. Average tuition, and room and board, at four-year colleges is just short of $22,000 a year, up from under $9,000 (adjusted for inflation) in 1980-81.
Compare this more-than-doubling in tuition with the stagnation in median family income, which is now about $50,000, compared to $46,000 in 1980 (adjusted for inflation).
Like much else, the problem of student debt worsened during the Great Recession: tuition costs at public universities increased by 27 percent in the past five years — partly because of cutbacks — while median income shrank. In California, inflation-adjusted tuition more than doubled in public two-year community colleges (which for poorer Americans are often the key to upward mobility), and by more than 70 percent in four-year public schools, from 2007-8 to 2012-13.
With costs soaring, incomes stagnating and little help from government, it was not surprising that total student debt, around $1 trillion, surpassed total credit-card debt last year. Responsible Americans have learned how to curb their credit-card debt — many have forsaken them for debit cards, or educated themselves about usurious interest rates, fees and penalties charged by card issuers — but the challenge of controlling student debt is even more unsettling.
Curbing student debt is tantamount to curbing social and economic opportunity. College graduates earn $12,000 more per year than those without college degrees; the gap has almost tripled just since 1980. Our economy is increasingly reliant on knowledge-related industries. No matter what happens with currency wars and trade balances, the United States is not going to return to making textiles. Unemployment rates among college graduates are much lower than among those with only a high school diploma.
Who is the one person in the beltway looking for answers? Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren is looking at handing the loans over the Fed. The problem is that no one seems to be taking the bill seriously.
Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) has just introduced a new bill, the Bank on Students Loan Fairness Act, to offer student loans at the same rates that the Federal Reserve charges big banks through its discount window lending program. At the moment, that rate is about 0.75%. The rates on federally guaranteed student loans, meanwhile, is set to double to 6.8% this summer.
“Some may say we can’t afford this proposal,” said Senator Warren as she introduced the bill. “I would remind them that the Federal Government currently makes 36 cents in profit for every dollar it lends to students . . . meanwhile, the banks pay interest that is one-ninth of the amount that students will be asked to pay. That’s just wrong. It doesn’t reflect our values.”
“Now some explain that the banks get exceptionally low interest rates because the economy is still shaky and banks need access to cheap credit to continue the recovery.” She sighed loudly. “But our students are just as important to the economic recovery as our banks, and the debt they carry poses a serious risk to that recovery.”
It’s probably true that some say banks need low interest rates to keep the economy growing. But no one except possibly a lunatic has told Elizabeth Warren that banks are getting 0.75% at the discount window as a thank you for all the hard work they’re doing helping the economy. Discount window loans are cheap for three reasons: the borrowers have assets and income that are easy to seize, the loans are quite short term, and the banks are required to put up collateral.
As you’ll have discovered with your own mortgage or car loan, the shorter the term of the loan, the lower the interest rate. You will also have discovered that loans secured by collateral, like your car loan or mortgage, carry lower interest rates than loans such as credit card expenditures, which are secured by nothing more than your heartfelt promises to pay. You may even have noticed that the more durable the collateral, the more attractive a rate your banker will extend on it.
So it is with loans to other people, and businesses. Banks get a very low rate because they’re borrowing for very short periods of time–often overnight, always less than a year. The Fed correctly figures that the bank is unlikely to go out of business by next month–and anyway, they’re putting up collateral, which is unlikely to lose all its value in such a short period of time.
Students, on the other hand, are borrowing for a decade, and the only thing they’re putting up as a guarantee is their character. How good a collateral is their character? In 2011, 9.1% of borrowers had defaulted on their student loan within the first two years of the payment period.
The interest paid by the folks who don’t default is the only thing keeping this program from hemorrhaging money. Elizabeth Warren proposes to cut that interest rate to less than the rate of inflation.
So, those are my suggestions this morning. What’s on your reading and blogging list today?
It’s a perfect day to curl up with a great detective novel. As you can see, Michael Caine up there is deeply engrossed in Raymond Chandler’s Farewell My Lovely. Chandler is terrific for those of us who are connoisseurs of the hard-boiled school of mystery writers; I think his masterpiece was The Long Goodbye. I’ve read it multiple times. Here are a few great one-liners from the book:
“I was as hollow and empty as the spaces between stars.”
“The girl gave him a look which ought to have stuck at least four inches out of his back.”
“I belonged in Idle Valley like a pearl onion on a banana split.”
“A man who drinks too much on occasion is still the same man as he was sober. An alcoholic, a real alcoholic, is not the same man at all. You can’t predict anything about him for sure except that he will be someone you never met before.”
“The French have a phrase for it. The bastards have a phrase for everything and they are always right. To say goodbye is to die a little.”
Years later, another hard-boiled detective novelist, Ross MacDonald, wrote a kind of paeon to The Long Goodbye called The Goodbye Look, which I also enjoyed and have read more than once.
These days I tend to prefer female detectives and women writers, but I still prefer the hard-boiled types over the “cozy” ones.
There’s not a whole lot of exciting news out there, but I have a variety of recent reads for you to delve into today if you choose.
I wish John Boehner and Mitch McConnell would read this article in today’s New York Times, although it probably wouldn’t begin to melt their cold cold hearts: Restored Payroll Tax Pinches Those Who Earn the Least.
Jack Andrews and his wife no longer enjoy what they call date night, their once-a-month outing to the movies and a steak dinner at Logan’s Roadhouse in Augusta, Ga. In Harlem, Eddie Phillips’s life insurance payment will have to wait a few more weeks. And Jessica Price is buying cheaper food near her home in Orlando, Fla., even though she worries it may not be as healthy.
Like millions of other Americans, they are feeling the bite from the sharp increase in payroll taxes that took effect at the beginning of January. There are growing signs that the broader economy is suffering, too.
Chain-store sales have weakened over the course of the month. And two surveys released last week suggested that consumer confidence was eroding, especially among lower-income Americans.
While these data points are preliminary — more detailed statistics on retail sales and other trends will not be available until later this month — at street level, the pain from the expiration of a two-percentage-point break in Social Security taxes in 2011 and 2012 is plain to see.
“You got to stretch what you got,” said Mr. Phillips, 51, a front-desk clerk and maintenance man for a nonprofit housing group who earned $22,000 last year. “That little $20 or $30 affects you, especially if you’re just making enough money to stay above water.” So he has taken to juggling bills, skipping a payment on one this month and another next month.
Don’t I know it!
President Obama used his Saturday radio address to once again poke Congress to deal with the upcoming “sequester” cuts.
“If the sequester is allowed to go forward, thousands of Americans who work in fields like national security, education or energy are likely to be laid off,” he said. “All our economic progress could be put at risk.”
Mr. Obama’s remarks echoed a statement issued by the White House Friday that warned the sequester would “threaten thousands of jobs and the economic security of the middle class.”
But, as usual, Republicans are blaming Obama for the problem.
“We know the President’s sequester will have consequences,” Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., said in a statement this week. “What we don’t know is when the President will propose a plan to replace the sequester with smarter spending cuts and reforms.”
I hope President Obama reads this op-ed in The Washington Post by Georgetown constitutional law professor David Cole. Cole is the author of the recent book The Torture Memos: Rationalizing the Unthinkable.
There are plenty of problems with President Obama’s targeted killings in the war against terrorism: The policy remains secret in most aspects, involves no judicial review, has resulted in the deaths of innocent civilians, has been employed far from any battlefield and has sparked deep anti-American resentment in countries where we can ill afford it.
But when it comes to the particular legal issue raised in a recently leaked “white paper” from the Justice Department — namely, whether it is legal to kill Americans with drones — one problem looms largest: The policy permits the government to kill its citizens in secret while refusing to acknowledge, even after the fact, that it has done so.
There may be extraordinary occasions when killing a citizen is permissible, but it should never be acceptable for the government to refuse to acknowledge the act. How can we be free if our government has the power to kill us in secret? And how can a sovereign authority be accountable to the people if the sovereign can refuse to own up to its actions?
Cole likens Obama’s assassination policy to the “disappearances” in Argentina in the 1970s.
When Argentina’s military junta secretly abducted and killed its citizens during that country’s “dirty war” in the 1970s, the world labeled these acts “disappearances” and condemned them as violations of human rights. A disappearance is not just an abduction or killing, but an unacknowledged abduction or killing. To “disappear” citizens not only deprives them of their liberty or life without fair process but is deeply corrosive of democratic politics, casting a shadow of fear over all.
Please read the whole thing if you can.
I liked this piece by Gary Gutting at The New York Times, despite my initial hesitation to read anything by a professor at Notre Dame. I finally decided I shouldn’t condemn him by association over the ND football team scandals. Headlined “Depression and the Limits of Psychiatry,” it’s a philosophical discussion of the upcoming changes in the definition of depression in the American Psychiatric Association’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual. Read the rest of this entry »
We passed an ominous milestone recently. Have we crossed the Rubicon with climate change?
Monitoring stations in the Arctic have confirmed atmospheric carbon dioxide measurements exceeding 400 parts per million (ppm), far past the acknowledged safe limit of 350 ppm.
Global levels of carbon dioxide—the most prevalent heat-trapping gas—are around 395 ppm, but Arctic levels signal where global trends are headed, and scientists are confident that levels will soon eclipse this ominous milestone worldwide.
According to the Washington Post, Jim Butler, the global monitoring director at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Earth System Research Lab in Boulder, Colorado, said “The fact that it’s 400 is significant. It’s just a reminder to everybody that we haven’t fixed this and we’re still in trouble.”
Preceding the Industrial Revolution, global levels of carbon dioxide were believed to be around 275 ppm. The meteoric rise in carbon pollution is mainly attributed to fossil fuel dependence, such as burning coal and oil for gasoline. Forest depletion and oceanic biodiversity loss complicate matters by diminishing nature’s ability to absorb and repurpose carbon dioxide.
According to the Christian Science Monitor, former Vice President Al Gore wrote via email, “The news today, that some stations have measured concentrations above 400 ppm in the atmosphere, is further evidence that the world’s political leaders—with a few honorable exceptions—are failing catastrophically to address the climate crisis. History will not understand or forgive them.”
The UK Guardian reports that 28 top US corporations are working hard to block any action meant to prevent or stop climate change.
An analysis of 28 Standard & Poor 500 publicly traded companies by researchers from the Union of Concerned Scientists exposed a sharp disconnect in some cases between PR message and less visible activities, with companies quietly lobbying against climate policy or funding groups which work to discredit climate science.
The findings are in line with the recent expose of the Heartland Institute. Over the years, the ultra-conservative organisation devoted to discrediting climate science received funds from a long list of companies which had public commitments to sustainability.
The disconnect in this instance was especially stark in the researchers’ analysis of oil giants ConocoPhillips and ExxonMobil, and the electricity company DTE energy.
But even General Electric Company, which ranks climate change as a pillar of its corporate policy on its website, had supported trade groups and thinktanks that misrepresent climate science, the researchers found.
Caterpillar Inc, despite its public commitment to sustainability, also worked behind the scenes to block action on climate change. The company spent more than $16m (£10.3m) on lobbying during the study, with nearly five times as much of that spent lobbying to block climate action than on pro-environmental policies.
Other big corporate players were fairly consistent with their public image. Nike and NRG Energy Inc lobbied in support of climate change policy and supported conservation groups.
Peabody Energy Corporation, which produces coal, was ranked the most obstructionist of any of the companies. It spent more than $33m to lobby Congress against environmental measures and supporting trade groups and think tanks which spread disinformation about climate science, the researchers found.
“The thing we found most surprising in doing this research is just how all 28 companies expressed concern about climate change,” said Francesca Grifo who heads the UCS scientific integrity programme. “But when we took a deeper look we found that a lot of the actions they took weren’t connected to the messages.”
The result of the disconnect was growing confusion about climate science, the researchers said. That made it more difficult to push for environmental protections.
Republicans continue to chip away at abortion rights. The House is zeroing in on “sex selection” abortions. These are not a big issue in this country but could be a big issue for Republicans because the rhetoric almost always centers on Asian countries in a way that’s offensive to Americans of Asian heritage.
Republicans long ago lost African American voters. They are well on their way to losing Latinos. And if Trent Franks prevails, they may lose Asian Americans, too.
The Arizona Republican’s latest antiabortion salvo to be taken up by the House had a benign name — the Prenatal Nondiscrimination Act — and a premise with which just about everybody agrees: that a woman shouldn’t abort a fetus simply because she wants to have a boy rather than a girl.
The problem with Franks’s proposal is that it’s not entirely clear there is a problem. Sex-selection abortion is a huge tragedy in parts of Asia, but to the extent it’s happening in this country, it’s mostly among Asian immigrants.
For Franks, who previously tried to pass legislation limiting abortions among African Americans and residents of the District of Columbia, it was the latest attempt to protect racial minorities from themselves.
“The practice of sex selection is demonstrably increasing here in the United States, especially but not exclusively in the Asian immigrant community,” he announced on the House floor Wednesday afternoon. He quoted a study finding that male births “for Chinese, Asian Indians and Koreans clearly exceeded biological variation.”
The Bill even has one of those weird Republican names like offensive missiles called “peace keepers.” It’s called PRENDA or Prenatal NonDiscrimination Act.
The Prenatal Nondiscrimination Act (PRENDA), H.R. 3541, was defeated in a 246-168 vote. While that’s a clear majority of the House, Republicans called up the bill under a suspension of House rules, which limits debate and requires a two-thirds majority vote to pass. In this case, it would have required more support from Democrats.
Twenty Democrats voted for the bill, while seven Republicans opposed it. The bill would have needed 30 more yeas to pass.
Suspension votes are normally used for noncontroversial bills, but the GOP-backed measure was clearly controversial. Republicans have occasionally put controversial bills on the suspension calendar in order to highlight that Democrats oppose certain policies.
Boehner said he will try again later. So much for the Republican lies about being all about the jobs.
Just when you think the state Republican groups can’t get more extreme you find out something like this item in Pennsylvania.
Republicans in Luzerne County, Pennsylvania have elected Steve Smith, a lifelong white supremacist with close ties to neo-Nazi groups and groups like Aryan Nations, to the county’s GOP Committee.
The elections, which took place in late April, were certified by the committee two weeks ago, and Smith notified supporters of his victory last week by posting a message to the online forum White News Now.
The Southern Poverty Law Center has documented Smith’s participation with known skinhead organizations like Keystone State Skinheads, (now Keystone United) which he co-founded in 2001. And his racist activism extends far beyond violent rhetoric as well, into actual violence:
In March 2003, he and two other KSS members were arrested in Scranton for beating up Antoni Williams, a black man, using stones and chunks of pavement. Smith pleaded guilty to terrorist threats and ethnic intimidation and received a 60-day sentence and probation.
Smith is also an active member of local Tea Party groups, a network that he used to gain support for his bid for the committee seat. According to the SPLC, Smith referred to the Tea Party as “fertile grounds for our activists.”
Our economy continues to have some of the highest poverty rates in the developed world. Seven million kids and mothers are in poverty. Georgetown Law Professor and advisor to the Kennedys and Bill Clinton explains why this is so devastating to our country’s future as well.
Peter Edelman: Extreme poverty means having an income of less than half the poverty line. That’s less than $9,000 a year for a family of three. The stunning fact is that in 2010, there were 20.5 million people who had incomes that low. And perhaps even more disturbing — 6 million people have no income other than food stamps (SNAP). That means an income at one third of the poverty line or less than $6,000 a year for a family of three. You can’t live on that.
So, these are people who are really in extreme trouble. In fact, many of them will get out of extreme poverty fairly quickly, and that makes it even more inexcusable not to have a basic safety net for them when their income dips so low. How do they survive? We don’t really know. They obviously have to have the support in one way or another of family and friends– if they have such networks. They sleep on couches, they move around a lot. If they can find casual work to get a little extra money, they do. But they are in a very tough place. The percentage of people in extreme poverty has doubled since 1976, so it is getting worse.
Public benefits, which are not counted in official poverty figures insofar as they’re not paid in cash, make the situation a little better, but not much. The fact that there could be 6 million people who only have food stamps is because of another fact: that welfare –Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) — is basically unavailable in many states in the country. In Wyoming, for example, 4% of poor children in the entire state — that’s 644 people including the mothers — receive cash assistance. In 19 states, fewer than 20% of poor children are receiving cash assistance. So that’s how you can have 6 million people living only on food stamps. About 7 million of those in extreme poverty are mothers and children. We can only imagine the damage that this does to the children. It really is a crisis, and very few people are aware of it.
So those are the stories that I’m following this week. What’s on your reading and blogging list today?
I don’t know if it’s simply the election cycle or what, but more and more frequently the world seems to be spinning out of control. Problems and/or issues everywhere. Which one to prioritize? How to “fix” what is going wrong? Is it leaving you with an overwhelming sense of helplessness? It does me, all too often.
Here is a list of the serious issues that are bombarding my senses:
- The economy
- Wall Street’s continuing abuses
- Wealth inequality
- Offshore oil drilling
- Renewable energy
- The condition of our oceans
- Climate change
- Endangered species
- Pesticides, herbicides
- Food safety
- Pollution of our air and water
- Violence against women throughout the world
- Pay equity
- Abortion rights
- Access to contraception
- ALEC’s legislative initiatives
- ALEC’s co-opting of our political process
- The need for campaign finance reform
- Voting rights
- Union busting
- Health and health care
- The dismantling of our educational system
- The privatization of the prison system
- Hate speech & hate crimes
- Gun rights & gun control
- The billions of non-human animals killed each year worldwide, not only for food, but on our streets, in our homes and in our shelters
- Wars, seemingly everywhere
- The aftermath and attempted recovery following both natural and man-made disasters
There is little doubt in my mind that most people have shut down and they have chosen to ignore many, if not all of these critical issues. For so many others they don’t have a choice. They don’t even have the time or energy to think about them because they are struggling to survive, to put food on their tables, to pay the bills and keep a roof over their heads. Their focus is on their personal problems, not the bigger issues that are taking a heavy toll on their day to day lives, their future and the future of their families.
What can we do? How can the majority of the people on the planet, especially those whose personal resources are sorely limited make a difference, not only in their own lives, but for the future of all life on our planet? Here are a few simple each of us could try:
- Educate ourselves so we make conscious decisions that will benefit our finances, our health and the impact we have on our environment, whether it’s our home, our community or the planet.
- Reduce the amount of plastic, especially disposable plastic, that we buy. For example, opt for fresh foods over processed, prepackaged foods when possible. Use refillable containers instead of individual bottles of water. Avoid individually packaged food items – opt for a full size bag or container. Separate into individual servings at home. Don’t buy disposable plates and cups. Recycle and/or reuse plastic – and don’t forget to cut up those plastic rings that hold bottles and cans together – and return plastic bags to the stores for recycling. Take reusable bags when we shop, instead of the store’s plastic bags.
- Donate unused items to community groups or thrift stores.
- Pick up trash when we see it: in our yards, in the parking lots, on the beach, or participate in an annual beach or waterway cleanup in our area.
- Volunteer our time in schools, nursing homes, soup kitchens, for non-profits or wherever our time and expertise can be used.
- Eat lower on the food chain. It’s good for our health. It’s good for the planet, and it’s good for the animals.
- Write letters or send emails to our local media, to our elected officials, and to policy makers. Sign up for the action alerts of groups who address issues of concern to us.
- Adopt a homeless animal from a shelter or local rescue group. It will save a life and the animal will enrich ours. And if you can’t adopt, consider volunteering for a local rescue group or even fostering an animal until he/she is ready to be adopted.
Many of you are probably already doing some or all of these, or you may be doing others that I haven’t mentioned. By all means, if you have additional personal solutions or tips, please add them in the comments. Most of these ideas will only cost a bit of your time. Many of them will actually save money. I know that even doing what seems like something small, I feel better. I feel like I am doing my part, however little it might be. We rarely know the full impact of the choices we make on a daily basis, or how our actions might influence others. Even if we can’t always make waves, we can, at least, generate some ripples.