Plenty of bad things these days. I saw the start of a lot of them. Here's what I know. We'll talk about what we can do.
A Real Health Cae System for Vermont Vermont needs a single-payer, universal Health Care system financed by an income tax on all income generated in Vemont.
Biomass Fuel We need a biomass fuel economy in Vermont, with hemp grown for vegetable diesel fuel and waste vegetation fermented for ethanol. Biomass fuel is a triple win for Vermont. It will cut the pollution of petroleum products, provide the basis for many local businesses, and cut the cost of oil and gasoline in half.
Education I want to see Vemont schools today as good as were the one-room schools of sixty years ago.
Electoral reform We need IRV for instate voting and proportional allocation in the Electoral College. IRV offers Vermonters the best way to indicate their full preferences and at the same time to keep elections within the electoral process.
Taxes Taxes shouldn't be "high" or "low", but what is required to pay for what we need, and should be on real wealth.
My last ten working years were as a research technician in the pharmacology department of a small medical college. Many graduate students came to us seeking their doctoral degrees from all over the world-- China, South America, eastern Asia. When I would ask these new students what was impressing them most about the United States, I would expect that the big buildings of our cities might be the answer.
Bur from everyone of them I heard-- There are no soldiers on the streets of your towns and cities..
It seems that the Bush administration will use anything available in its effort to dismantle what our forefathers gave us as a government offering the maximum of freedom to every individual.
Now it is proposing that the president as commander-in-chief be able to send the army into disaster areas to help save lives.. And the administration is using the fact that the Louisiana National Guard was unable to respond adequately as its excuse. Having the army a part of civilian life is the last thing our forefathers wanted. The Second Amendment was to ensure both that citizens would know how to use arms and that the army would be for purposes of national defense only.
BUT- if the Louisiana National Guard were up to its pre-Iraq strength and not off fighting the administration‘s war-- if all of its emergency generators were in Louisiana where they should have been and not sent to Iraq, the Louisiana Guard could easily have restored the communication system destroyed by the hurricane and would have been able to deal with all of the storm’s immediate horror and stress without outside assistance..
The weather report today is on the coy side. Tropical storm Rita may/will pick up strength and become a hurricane when it passes over the Florida. Its long range forecast is that it may pass into the Gulf, become a major hurricane, and hit Texas/Mexico.
My Biloxi relatives are looking at Rita as a twin of Katrina. And if Rita does pass into the Gulf they are predicting that because of the still very warm waters in the Gulf it also will magnify into another category 4 or 5 hurricane. Another potential disaster no matter where it strikes.
Heard on the news today that local real estate agents are being asked to locate housing for incoming clean-up workers. Halliburton and Bechtel are now about to accomplish the same successful efforts at reconstruction for the Gulf Coast area and New Orleans that they have achieved in Iraq. One New Orleans resident who was there in the city has complained at finding outside workers doing what he said he and others who live there could do as well or better.
And finally NASA is preparing to spend what could probably finance the entire clean-up from Katrina on what will be a manned station on the moon and become the ultimate jumping off point for a trip to Mars. You will recall that I thought we should anticipate some sort of coming disaster (see March 14th,2005) on earth that would make our billionaires want to spend a few years away from earth if we saw an upsurge of interest in space exploration on the part of this administration.
I, who tend to view any nominee of President Bush with extreme suspicion, am downright delighted with his nomination of Judge John Roberts for Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, and I hope for the Judge’s speedy confirmation by the Senate..
He presented himself as a Conservative who has a clear understanding of his role as the Chief Justice. He answered all questions about his judicial philosophy with the same reply, that he would practice judicial restraint, that all cases before him would be given a fair and impartial hearing. This is the only philosophy I want from any judge. Personal bias of any sort has no place in any judge’s decisions.
It is the Constitutional job of the Congress to pass legislation. It is the Constitutional job of the Supreme Court to decide in cases arising from differing interpretations of these laws whether the brief, the position, presented to the Court in a particular case is in accord with the Constitution and existing Constitutional law.. If the Congress or people in general are unhappy with decisions of the Court, then legislation to clarify or change existing law is what should be pursued.
Senators Biden and Feinstein both spoke passionately about end of life decisions and both asked Judge Roberts for support of their positions. If they feel so strongly about this issue, it is their job, even their duty, as Senators to get legislation put forth and passed. When other Senators in the Committee also pressured him for a statement of his “philosophy”. it seemed that they were asking him to be what everyone says they don’t want-- an activist judge with a bias toward a particular interpretation. They wanted him to offer a pre-judgment, but he resisted.
When the Democrats hammered him about legal positions he put forward for previous administrations, he gave them the same answer he no doubt gave his administration interviewers, that these were briefs for argument in court, that it was his duty as a lawyer to make the best case possible for any client. He tried to point out that he had advocated in court for many different positions.
He stated at the close of his part of the proceedings that he is no ideologue.
His presentation of himself was impressive, but equally so were the strong recommendations of the many lawyers and judges who are themselves involved in general case work and have either worked with him or know his reputation. The lawyers and judge who spoke against him are committed to advocating a particular cause and therefore have a bias themselves.
Thank you, President Bush, for what I feel may be the first good thing you have done for our country.
Let’s go to the first cause of all the problems with local efforts for New Orleans relief that “shocked” the thoroughly Bush Republican Dr./Senator Frist, who said among other things “There were no communications with the command and control center.”
And why was the entire local communication network disrupted? All of the Louisiana National Guard’s emergency generators, which could have provided immediate power for email at least, are in Iraq.
And why are these generators all in Iraq?
Because Rumsfeld has chosen to fight the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq with Army Reservists, the National Guards, and volunteer recruitment by financial incentives into both the Guard and the Army.
We went to war with Afghanistan, which was housing Osama bin Laden, after his attack on us on 9/11, four years ago today. But we did not take the first and most obvious action for the country in the time of all out war, to re-institute the draft. The draft to my generation’s mind is the only way to ensure the democratic participation of all citizenry in the defense of our country.
But a draft call would reveal to the country the extent to which Secretary Rumsfeld has privatized so many functions the army used to perform for itself. His privatization has made maintaining our army far more expensive for the citizenry it is charged to protect while at the same time taking more and more control of our army away from us all.
And it may be there is another concern for Bush Republicans in starting up the draft again. I have no idea how many other young people there are in the various administration families. But certainly the Bush twins come immediately to mind. They are healthy young women, the ideal age for sending into active combat in Iraq or anywhere else our army needs to go.
Living on Earth's program this week begins with an excellent assessment of the chemical soup that is presently flooding New Orleans. This is not a prediction that I like to make, but because I am a biologist I believe that we will see not only immediate higher disease levels in anyone who has been exposed to the toxic waters in the city but also a higher incidence of the immune system failure cancers and other illnesses such as MS, lupus, and rheumatoid arthritis.
Will our govenment be ready to do anything to clean up all of the toxic waste anywhere this hurricane has hit? Not as long as the quarterly profit report remains a priority higher than the ecological health of our country.
An absolutely great show in celebration of New Orleans has been put together for us by Harry Shearer. He, who is theoretically a comedian generally provides me with some of the best perspectives on the news that I can find.
It’s too soon to tell whether we are watching the death struggle of a great city or its rebirth. We may be witnessing the murder of New Orleans by the past sixty years of our polluting chemicals/petroleum economy. They are beginning now to pump out flood waters and send them back to Lake Pontchartrain. ABC news quoted a microbiologist’s report that flood waters in New Orleans tested 4500 X higher than the “safe” level for bacteria. Georgette (barely surviving in the Biloxi area), who is a nurse, is wondering about the possible spread of disease all over the country from the many New Orleans refugees, since the incubation period for illnesses from such bacterial levels is two weeks or more. To an inquiry whether pumping back the pollution of the flooded city would not be bad for the lake, an optimistic engineer stated that Mother Nature has great restorative powers. Well, maybe, but lakes have been killed before by human pollution. The color of the water the pumps are sending back to the lake is not the color of the water that arrived.
After one heartwarming telephone call from Mississippi Monday, I was getting “all circuits are busy” Tuesday and Wednesday until close to 7 pm last evening. I was told that not only had they got supplies from the convoy sent down to the Gulfport area but that one truckload had arrived from Lyndon. God bless Vermonters! The four of them are surviving, but barely. All of them are in bad shape emotionally and physically from their nightmare.
Like pretty much everybody else this past week my mind has been on Katrina, but for very personal reasons. I had four family members in the Biloxi area. From Saturday, when I knew they had ben ordered to evacuate and go to a shelter, until Tuesday when I received an email telling me that they were all right and that miraculously their two houses had suffered only minimal damage, I could not think about anything else. Once I knew they were safe, I began to worry about how they would survive. But now I have heard that supplies are beginning to reach them and the daughter has even sent some pictures she took during the storm.
So now I can begin to think about some of the broader aspects of this nightmare.
Two things I have heard that I found very disturbing. One was from someone saying that it was far better for New Orleans that the flooding was coming from the lake north of the city than if it had been from the southern marshes. This was, he said, because the mud at the bottom of the lake had far less pollution than the mud from the south which was full of oil and chemical pollutants which had been dumped there by oil and chemical companies over the years.
The second was from an English biologist, and I, being also a biologist, take this very seriously. She reminded us that the Missippi delta, on which New Orleans was built. was created by the yearly flooking of the Missippi River. And she reminded us also that for the past three hundred years we have increasingly worked to prevent the renewing deposits of upriver silt from reaching the delta. Today's levee system can be called an engineering success, but it is also an ecological disaster because the marsh of the delta is dying and sinking gradually into the gulf.
We have been looking at Katrina as causing a human catastrophe and an economic problem the ramifications of which we can only uneasily fear.
But perhaps we should also be looking at it as a warning to deal with this ecological disaster which we ourselves have created by the way in which we have used the delta. It would seem that we should not be thinking about rebuilding the city on this dying and shrinking land base, but rather abandon the whole delta to the healing flooding of the river.