Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Completely shocking news!!!!!!!

"WASHINGTON — The Bush White House, particularly before the 2006 midterm elections, routinely violated a federal law that prohibits use of federal tax dollars to pay for political activities by creating a “political boiler room” that coordinated Republican campaign activities nationwide, a report issued Monday by an independent federal agency concludes. "


Monday, January 17, 2011

Jamie Oliver Denied Access for Lunch Program Reform

Jamie Oliver Denied Access for Lunch Program Reform: "

'We've brainwashed our kids so brilliantly so even though they know something is disgusting and gross, they'll still eat it if it's in that friendly little shape,' explained Jamie Oliver, star of the reality television series Food Revolution.

Food Revolution piloted last year with the goal of educating American families on nutrition and the dire need for reform in diet and lifestyle.

The program focused mainly on areas that are statistically unhealthy, including one city in West Virginia, where the celebrity chef and health campaigner from the UK started a grassroots campaign in the United States to curb obesity.

'I'm here because I need this community to inspire and show Americans that just a little effort can make a massive difference,' Oliver said during season one of the show.

Focusing on school lunch programs as a core problem with childhood obesity, Oliver's program won an Emmy for Outstanding Reality Program.

And this year, Oliver will take to the road again to uncover the less-than-savory truth behind America's school lunch programs in Southern California...

The show's second season will not only examine what children are eating in the school cafeteria; but it will also include visits by Oliver to families' homes and to Jamie's Kitchen, a space Oliver established in Los Angeles as his kitchen classroom and production set.

There's only one minor problem...

Oliver is meeting serious resistance with Los Angeles school district to gain access to their cafeterias.

The Los Angeles Unified School Direct has outright refused to let cameras into the schools — despite Oliver's assurance he is not looking to cause trouble in the school system, but rather to shed light on their lunch program for the purpose of improvement.

A spokesman for the district told the Los Angeles Times LA Unified is avoiding the formula inherent in reality television: 'You either have to have drama or create conflict to be successful. We're not interested in either.'

The resistance from the LAUSD has led Oliver and others to wonder just what the ladies with hairnets are serving up to students for lunch.

Is the district concerned or fearful about what Oliver could uncover in their lunch programs?

And if so, seems like a good opportunity to shed some light on their program...

In a district where 80% of the nearly 700,000 students qualify for free or reduced-price lunch, the majority of the student body stands to have access to a nutritious meal at least once a day — and lessons in what food choices to make the rest of the time.

Following Food Revolution's success in Huntington, West Virginia, last year, Los Angeles public schools could benefit greatly from Oliver's experience and know-how in reforming school lunch programs.

Parents and community members in the Los Angeles area are behind Oliver, going as far as to write to Board of Education members in their district to express distress at the school system's refusal to let someone who could potentially help their children even get a look at a single cafeteria or meal program.

Oliver maintains that he will work with families in their homes in the Los Angeles area, as well as local grocery stores and fast-food chains when Food Revolution starts again this spring — regardless if the LAUSD allows him access to the schools.

School lunches are becoming a greater focus in the nutrition story and a building block for America's growing health problems.

Childhood obesity is one of the most serious public health challenges of the century. Instances of childhood obesity in the United States have risen three times in the last 30 years, and continue to increase at a staggering rate.

By the end of this year, cases of obesity among children are expected to reach more than 40%...

Earlier this year, a group of retired military officers petitioned Congress for a nutrition bill, demanding healthier school lunch programs around the country.

First Lady Michele Obama's Let's Move! initiative aims to solve the challenge of childhood obesity within a generation, focusing on making healthy food accessible and affordable (especially to children and in school meal programs), promoting making healthy choices, and education in nutrition and the importance of an active lifestyle.

In December, the Child Nutrition Bill was signed into law, allowing the U.S. Department of Agriculture to update the national school nutrition standards for all food sold outside of school meals. The new proposed meal requirements will raise standards for the first time in more than 15 years...

The law will effectively remove junk food from school cafeterias and vending machines. This bill marked the first increase in funding for the national school lunch program in more than 35 years, which will allow schools to meet improved nutrition standards.

The buzz on school lunches is becoming a national priority as health care experts place a new importance on early childhood education in nutrition and lifestyle. Studies show that proper nutrition can benefit children not only physically, but emotionally and mentally, as well.

When Oliver first began implementing healthy menus in England's public schools, researchers found a direct correlation between the schools with healthier meals and improved test results, as well as a 15% decrease in absences (as a result of illness).

But as a spokesman from Huntington, WV, explained following Oliver's time spent in their schools, change is not easy...

"We’re having some trouble getting the kids to eat the food. It’s a change that’s going to take some time.”

As with anything, change takes time.

But that time might be later added to the life of many children who avoid obesity, type 2 diabetes, and depression and social anxiety because they are informed — and because they have a choice between the salad bar and the daily slice of pizza.


Jamie Oliver Denied Access for Lunch Program Reform originally appeared in Green Chip Stocks. Green Chip Review is a free 2x-per-week newsletter, is the first advisory to focus exclusively on investments in alternative and renewable energies.


Saturday, January 15, 2011

The Moon Made Me Do It

The Moon Made Me Do It: "

Lunacy. Lunatic. The lunar effect. All through human history, the moon has been blamed for some amazing things. Everything from schizophrenia to werewolves; increases in crime rate and increases in emergency room visits. Even epilepsy has been blamed on the effects of the lunar cycle. While I’ve never personally tangled with a werewolf, I know many people believe there is some connection with the full moon and people acting a fool.

NASA Galileo image of the moon December 7,1992

There is something about the moon that draws us. Beautiful, mysterious, changeable; the object of poetry and passion. Sometimes it looks full and bloated; red and bloody; even every once in a while… blue. I can sympathize with our distant ancestors for being moonstruck. After all, our moon goes through some pretty interesting changes over the course of a year.

Diagram of Lunar Phases, donated to WikiPedia, Public Domain image

Some studies seem to suggest there is a connection between the cycles of the moon and human behavior, while more studies say there is no connection. Some surgeons won’t operate during a full moon because they say lunar cycles impact survival rates, and I’ve read more than one psychological study which claims that symptoms of various conditions respond to lunar cycles.

A Harvest Moon - WikiPedia free media

What’s really interesting about the moon is that the more we know about it, the more we recognize that it really does impact our lives. I’m not going to say that it impacts medical conditions, but it certainly has a lot to do with stabilizing the Earth’s wobble so we have a climate with which we can live. It may or may not impact criminal behavior, but it definitely has a whopping impact on our oceans. It even significantly effects the speed at which the Earth rotates.

The first map of the moon, by Johannes Hevelius, 1645

I think our moon is unbelievably beautiful, and I enjoy the rich cultural tradition with which it’s associated. Is the lunar effect real? I dunno, but for me, it doesn’t need to be.


Thursday, January 13, 2011

Robert Creamer: Do Americans Have the Right to Bear Weapons of Mass Destruction?

Robert Creamer: Do Americans Have the Right to Bear Weapons of Mass Destruction?: "

The massacre and assassination attempt in Tucson have reignited the ongoing battle over what limitations should be placed on our rights to bear arms.

Let's assume for a moment -- though there are many Constitutional scholars who disagree -- that the majority of the Supreme Court is correct in its view that the Constitution does in fact confer on Americans a right to bear arms that is similar in scope to our right to free speech and assembly. What does it actually mean, that we have a right to bear arms?

The Second Amendment reads: A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.

What exactly are 'arms'? Do Americans have the right to bear atom bombs? How about biological or chemical weapons?

For the vast majority of Americans, the proposition that we have the right to bear our own nuclear, biological or chemical weapons is preposterous. But what about stinger missiles that can down commercial aircraft -- or bazookas? They are all arms.

Strict constructionists of the Constitution would want to look back at original intent. So let's think for a moment what the framers of the Constitution meant by 'arms.'
At the time the Constitution was written in the late 18th century, 'arms' included weapons that had a fairly limited degree of destructive power. To Thomas Jefferson or Alexander Hamilton, the term 'arms' referred to clubs, swords, single shot cannons, single shot muskets and pistols. Weapons that allowed people to rapidly fire many bullets had not been invented. There were no assault rifles, machine guns or semi-automatics. While there were a few double barreled rifles as early as the seventeenth century, the double barreled rifle would not be perfected until the late 1800's. Samuel Colt would not invent the revolver -- the six-shooter -- until 1836.

To the framers, the term 'arms' referred mainly to single shot muskets and pistols.

But beyond the question of what the Constitution means by the 'right to bear arms,' we must also remember that no right is absolute. Each person's rights are constrained by the extent to which they impinge on another person's rights.
If you live by yourself on an island, you have an absolute right to do whatever you want. There's no one else around with whom your rights can conflict. But as soon as you join a society of other people, an individual's personal rights are limited by the degree to which they affect the rights of others. Legislative bodies and courts were set up precisely to adjudicate the conflicts between these rights.

There is general agreement that the right to free speech does not give individuals the right to falsely cry 'fire' in a crowded theater, because that conflicts with everyone else's right to avoid being killed or injured by the ensuing panic.

The right to free speech doesn't allow individuals to lie under oath to a court, because that would conflict with the rights of others to a fair trial.

Like any other right, the right to bear arms is limited by the rights of other Americans not to be killed or injured. So -- given the Supreme Court's interpretation of the Second Amendment -- the question is not whether Americans have the right to bear arms, but rather how that right should be limited because it conflicts with other rights.

I believe the answer to that question is clear. The mounting volume of gun deaths and injuries, the easy access that criminals and terrorists have to what amounts to weapons of mass destruction, require substantial limitations on the ability of individuals to use, carry and obtain guns. That need is enhanced by the technological advances that have been made in weapons technology in the years since 1789.
Our laws currently ban guns made of plastic, because they cannot be identified by metal detectors.

There are very few Americans who would support repealing our current laws banning guns on commercial aircraft.

For many years we have banned personal possession of large caliber machine guns -- including those that could bring down airplanes.

In 1994, Congress and the President passed a bi-partisan assault weapons ban that outlawed private possession or sale of specific types of fully and semi-automatic weapons whose principle uses are to kill people in war, or by police forces. That bill also banned the possession and sale of high-volume magazines of the sort that allowed the Jared Lee Loughner, the accused Tucson killer, to fire thirty-one shots in rapid succession before stopping to reload. That bill sunset in 2004, and the Republican Congress and Bush Administration refused to extend its provisions.

Had it still been in effect it would have been likely that Loughner -- who bought the magazines legally -- would have had to reload after firing off only 10 rounds, which was the maximum magazine capacity under the assault weapons ban. Since nineteen people were killed or injured, that would have preventing the death or injury of at least another nine human beings.

When the ban expired, assault weapons once again began to flood our streets -- and -- according to the Mexican government -- have played a major role in the drug violence that has torn apart the border region. Regardless of the increasing gun carnage, many Republicans are pushing to expand the right to carry weapons of all sorts. They oppose reinstituting the assault weapons ban and even want to allow people to carry guns into schools, churches, restaurants and bars.

Arizona recently eliminated the requirement that individuals get permits to carry concealed weapons.

Their argument is that if more people carried guns, there would be people around with weapons to stop other people who would use their guns against their fellow citizens. It's the 'quick draw' argument. I'm not sure many people would go for that argument in a plane, or a crowed restaurant, or in a bar where most of the customers have thrown back a few drinks - particularly if the whole crowd were carrying Glocks with the ability to squeeze off 31 rounds each in a matter of seconds. Frankly, it's ridiculous.

Let's see how many of the Republicans in Congress who want to allow everyone to pack assault weapons feel about eliminating the ban on weapons in the Capitol. Why not just let any old American (or other visitor) wander the halls with Uzi's while we're at it?

You hear, 'guns don't kill people, people kill people.' Sure. But if Loughner had a knife or a club instead of a semi-automatic Glock with extended magazine, lots of people would be alive today.

We all agree that someone like Loughner -- or any other citizen -- should not be permitted to possess a nuclear weapon or some other weapon of mass destruction. Why should he be permitted to carry semi-automatic Glock with extended magazine? It is also a weapon of mass destruction. Its only purpose is to kill or injure large numbers of people. It can't kill hundreds of thousands, but we know empirically that within a few seconds it can kill and injure nineteen.

The argument that our society would be safer if we had even more guns -- and especially high-powered guns -- is simply absurd. Hopefully the shock of the appalling massacre in Tucson will prompt us to snap out of our NRA-induced stupor and pass restrictions on weapons that effectively balance the right to bear arms with our rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

Robert Creamer is a long-time political organizer and strategist, and author of the book: Stand Up Straight: How Progressives Can Win, available on Amazon.com.

Friday, January 07, 2011

Boner (Orange Man) admits some rethuglicans are stupid

Boehner reacts to birther outburst: "

In his interview with John Boehner, NBC's Brian Williams got the new House speaker to react to today's outburst by a birther in the House gallery during the reading of the Constitution.

Williams: I'm curious as to how much responsibility you feel specifically because of something that happened this morning. During the reading of the Constitution, Congressman Frank Pallone of New Jersey, was reading a portion of the document, interrupted by someone who heckled from within the chamber. It was to express doubt over the president's American citizenship. Provided you believe the president is an American citizen, you've got 12 members co-sponsoring legislation that does about the same thing, it expresses doubt. Would you be willing to say, 'This is a distraction, I've looked at it to my satisfaction. Let's move on'?

Boehner: The state of Hawaii has said that President Obama was born there. That's good enough for me.

Williams: Would you be willing to say that message to the 12 members in your caucus who seem to either believe otherwise or are willing to express doubt and have co-sponsored legislation?

Boehner: Brian, when you come to the Congress of the United States, there are 435 of us. We're nothing more than a slice of America. People come, regardless of party labels, they come with all kinds of beliefs and ideas. Uh it's, it's the melting pot of America. It's not up to me to tell them what to think.

The rest of the interview with air on 'Nightly News' beginning at 6:30 pm ET.

Saturday, January 01, 2011

Eric Boehlert: Jon Stewart Did What Pundits and Reporters Should Have Done

Eric Boehlert: Jon Stewart Did What Pundits and Reporters Should Have Done: "

There's lots of media chatter about Comedy Central host Jon Stewart in the wake of yesterday's Senate vote to pass the 9/11 first responders bill. The chatter surrounds what appears to be the central media role Stewart played in shining a spotlight on how Republicans were blocking the legislation and, just as importantly, how the Beltway press was, inexcusably, ignoring the unfolding story.

Indeed, as Media Matters first noted, the day after the initial vote was held two weeks ago in which filibustering Republicans unanimously voted to not let the first responder bill proceed, none of the network news telecasts that night reported on the story. None. And in the 48 hours that followed, the cable news channels didn't have much to say either, nor did many print or online pundits. The bill to aid Sept. 11 heroes had been dealt a rather stunning blow in the Senate, and most mainstream media players didn't care, to the point where the story wasn't even covered.
But yes, on the night of the vote, The Daily Show With Jon Stewart covered the vote. And Stewart, in his signature way, highlighted the stunning hypocrisy in play.
Then last week Stewart reloaded for another round. Plus, the host sat down with first responders and interviewed them about the diseases many of them were suffering, and also got their take on the surprisingly difficult legislative battle they were facing in Congress.

And guess what? Stewart, at that point, was practically alone in carrying out that simple act of journalism. By dedicating even a few minutes of his show to the 9-11 bill and by interviewing key players in the saga, Stewart instantly lapped most of the Beltway press corps. Why? Because for some bizarre reason, there seemed to have been a kind of groupthink conclusion that the 9/11 first responder bill, and the fact that it was being blocked by filibustering Republicans, was not news. (Nothing to see here, people... )

But, of course it was. And by shaming both the press and Republicans last week, Stewart proved that point. (And people wonder why younger demos turn to Stewart for their news?)
But again, I don't think the takeaway here is that OMG a comedian turned the tide of the 9/11 responder debate, mostly because the line between news and entertainment was long ago blurred beyond recognition. What's more important, and frankly more depressing, is that Stewart was forced to fill a gaping, Mack truck-size hole in the press corps. That is, by pointing out the hypocrisy of the GOP's opposition to the bill, Stewart was doing the work of what countless pundits should have done. And by interviewing the first responders himself, Stewart was doing the work of what countless reporters should have done.

In other words, Stewart was simply practicing journalism on the first responder story, and there's nothing wrong with that. The problem is, Stewart was practicing journalism on the story because it seemed nobody else would.

Crossposted at County Fair, a Media Matters for America blog.