30 December 2011

Breaking News: LIES - The First and Last Word

All You Need Is A Headline...

When I worked in the music business we were concerned with 2 things in a well-written song: The Hook and Dynamics
  • The Hook was of course the title/chorus/theme.
  • The Dynamics were the ebb and flow of the song, the spaces between the sounds. Think Beach Boys.
Part of the decline of communication in our society is the satisfaction we all have with sensationalism. A short, sharp, shocking Hook, disguised as news or commentary can get the reader and make the point, especially if the story that follows is three paragraphs max. And the point is a stick in the eye.

There need not be any substance, Dynamic, or even Truth to the postings on line or in papers. All that matters is the headline. Get 'em! Snag 'em! Breaking News! Kardashian Marriage-Divorce headlines --. Kim Jung Il's funeral (with no mention of the dissolute oldest son, nor the "overly effeminate" middle son). -- Blonde Girls Disappearing – Politicians Up A Tree.

An example of this sort of sensationalism-based-on-nothing occured recently when a "blogger" wrote a post entitled "Dovonan: North Korea is a Monarchy, Cuba IsWealthy".

Beyond the typo created by fevered fingerwork - Donovan not Dovonan - the story attempts to discredit Speaker of the House Chris Donovan as he campaigns for Congress. The intent of the writer is made clear by adding the Tags or Labels of "Castro, Chris Donovan, Palin", and a weirdly constructed accusation that implies Chris Donovan is ill-equipped for higher office. You know, like Sarah Palin.


The premise of Don Pesci, the author of this tripe, was that during an interview at On The HORN (Hartford Online Radio Network), which can be heard via CT News Junkie, Donovan made wildly incorrect statements which have exposed his lack of knowledge regarding international matters.

Called out by blogger Jonathan Kantrowitz, Pesci offered a correction on his accusation that Donovan said "Cuba is wealthy". Turns out Pesci mis-heard the recording - Donovan said "Cuba is NOT wealthy."   OOps. That of course didn't stop him from writing a piece based on his earwax.

As for the claim that Donovan is not ready for prime time because he referred to Kim Jong Il as a King, that is accurate - someone is a king if they are the male ruler of an inherited position and serve for life.

Nonetheless, Mr. Pesci's comment at his own site ends "Don’t worry about Donovan; he’ll get up to speed eventually."

Not quite an apology, but Pesci certainly got what he wanted: The Headline and The Final Word.

26 December 2011

How We Got Here

Warning: This article will make you smarter.

The Making of the 99%

“Class happens when some men, as a result of common experiences (inherited or shared), feel and articulate the identity of their interests as between themselves, and as against other men whose interests are different from (and usually opposed to) theirs.”   —E.P. Thompson, The Making of the English Working Class

The “other men” (and of course women) in the current American class alignment are those in the top 1 percent of the wealth distribution—the bankers, hedge-fund managers and CEOs targeted by the Occupy Wall Street movement. They have been around for a long time in one form or another, but they began to emerge as a distinct and visible group, informally called the “superrich,” only in recent years.

Extravagant levels of consumption helped draw attention to them: private jets, multiple 50,000-square-foot mansions, $25,000 frozen hot chocolate embellished with gold dust. But as long as the middle class could still muster the credit for college tuition and occasional home improvements, it seemed churlish to complain. Then came the financial crash of 2007–08, followed by the Great Recession, and the 1 percent—to whom we had entrusted our pensions, our economy and our political system—stood revealed as a band of feckless, greedy narcissists, and possibly sociopaths.
What gave the idea of a liberal elite some traction, though, at least for a while, was that the great majority of us have never knowingly encountered a member of the actual elite, the 1 percent, who are for the most part sealed off in their own bubble of private planes, gated communities and walled estates.   

[...] by 2000, and certainly by 2010, the class of people who might qualify as part of the “liberal elite” was in increasingly bad repair. Public sector budget cuts and corporate-inspired reorganizations were decimating the ranks of decently paid academics, who were replaced by adjunct professors working on bare subsistence incomes. Media firms were shrinking their newsrooms and editorial budgets. Law firms had started outsourcing their more routine tasks to India. Hospitals beamed X-rays to cheap foreign radiologists. Funding had dried up for nonprofit ventures in the arts and public service. Hence the iconic figure of the Occupy movement: the college graduate with tens of thousands of dollars in student loan debts and a job paying about $10 a hour, or no job at all. 

And here was another thing many in the middle class were discovering: the downward plunge into poverty could occur with dizzying speed. One reason the concept of an economic 99 percent first took root in America rather than, say, Ireland or Spain is that Americans are particularly vulnerable to economic dislocation. We have little in the way of a welfare state to stop a family or an individual in free fall. Unemployment benefits do not last more than six months or a year, though in a recession they are sometimes extended by Congress. At present, even with such an extension, they reach only about half the jobless. Welfare was all but abolished fifteen years ago, and health insurance has traditionally been linked to employment.
 * * *
The Occupation encampments that enlivened approximately 1,400 cities this fall provided a vivid template for the 99 percent’s growing sense of unity. Here were thousands of people—we may never know the exact numbers—from all walks of life, living outdoors in the streets and parks, very much as the poorest of the poor have always lived: without electricity, heat, water or toilets. In the process, they managed to create self-governing communities. General assembly meetings brought together an unprecedented mix of recent college graduates, young professionals, elderly people, laid-off blue-collar workers and plenty of the chronically homeless for what were, for the most part, constructive and civil exchanges. What started as a diffuse protest against economic injustice became a vast experiment in class building. The 99 percent, which might have seemed to be a purely aspirational category just a few months ago, began to will itself into existence.

24 December 2011

Giving: an Ann Pandya Guest Post

From Nandini ("Ann") Pandya

A few years ago, on a visit to Mumbai, my kids and I went to a new Barnes-and-Noble like bookstore. Inside the store, one could almost forget that one was in India. The store was air-conditioned – a cool and quiet oasis in the hot, noisy and overcrowded city. All the customers were educated and well-dressed: the elite of Indian society. They would have blended perfectly in a bookstore here in America.

When we stepped out of the store, we were swarmed by 7-8 children, all under ten. Some of the girls were carrying a younger sibling on their hips. They were unkempt, wearing rags, their hair a knotted mess and they were begging.

I dropped a few coins in a few of the outstretched palms. More kids appeared, a little more hopeful, tending towards a wily insistence. After giving out a few more notes and coins, we hurried away. And the kids went off to catch the next customers exiting the store.

Most customers spend of the order of a thousand rupees ($20) on books and in the Starbucks-style coffee shop. And they spare less than a tenth of that for the kids begging outside. Many don't give even that, suffering from empathy fatigue that sets in when it is a daily occurrence, a nuisance to be stepped around.

I was filled with the familiar nag of shame that has been my constant companion since before I ever came to America. Was I really helping by tossing a few rupees in the little outstretched palms? Was I doing it only to assuage my own feelings of guilt and disregard? At what point would I feel that I had given enough? Would that be enough?

Why should I have to feel guilty? Another part of me protested. Why don’t “they” just have fewer kids, I thought angrily. When is the government going to get its act together? Why don’t all these privileged people in the store get together and do something? I fumed silently.

Of course, the truth is that I fled that society, in large part because I felt disillusioned and overwhelmed. I was convinced that things would never change.

And I have been, for the most part, no more than a passive, albeit grateful and appreciative, participant in this, my adopted society’s affirmation of individual dignity. Government programs such as minimum wage, EEOC, OSHA, 40-hour work week, unemployment benefits are, to me, just that.

I often feel lost, ineffective; I have no idea how to go about being an active part of the solution in either of the places I call home.

After a lifetime of trying to square this circle, what I know is this. I want to live in a society that ensures individual dignity by providing everyone with the opportunity to earn a living. And, for those who cannot, one that provides a safety net as a matter of policy rather than as an “entitlement program”, or largesse or noblesse oblige. That is what affirmation of the inherent dignity of each person means to me.

We can give by coming together to create a society where people have the means -- and the imperative -- to provide for themselves. We can give through taxes that knit a safety net for those who cannot.

To me, only that giving makes sense which moves us closer to making the need for continued giving obsolete. All else is duct tape.

23 December 2011

NAACP 100 Most Influential Blacks in CT 2011

With the fabulous Teresa Younger, Executive Director of Permanent Commission on the Status of Women.

20 December 2011

You don't need an iPad this week

Sorry, I don't have time to fix the sizing on this.
The solar cooker is a joy for us. When I went in search of wood for cooking to feed my family I encountered violent problems. But now this is avoided. Since receiving my cooker I am very happy and my conscience is not troubled. My family is better. I say a thousand times thank you to the person who gave me my solar cooker. May God Almighty help people of goodwill go forward. All of the women from Farchana refugee camp are grateful.

Dear Tessa,

I felt immense pride when I received this message from Aziza, a Darfuri refugee living in the Farchana camp in Chad. I hope you feel the impact of your contribution. Together, we have reached over 16,000 families in four refugee camps and we are truly improving lives. There are thousands more women and girls like Aziza who are in desperate need of solar cookers. You can help.

please join us in providing solar cookers to all the families in the Farchana camp and move us closer to reaching our goal — solar cooking in all 12 Darfuri refugee camps.

With great appreciation,
Rachel Andres
Director, Solar Cooker Project
Jewish World Watch

The Solar Cooker Project of Jewish World Watch is committed to protecting refugee women and girls from rape and other forms of violence. Women and girls who have fled the genocide in Darfur, Sudan are particularly vulnerable... Learn more
Jewish World Watch is a hands-on leader in the fight against genocide and mass atrocities, engaging individuals and communities to take action locally to produce powerful results globally. www.jww.org

What is meant here is that when women go to find wood to make cooking fires they are usually raped.
Stop Rape. Donate Now.

What's In Your Head?

War on Christmas. War on Terror.War on Poverty, War on Women, Drug War,


14 December 2011

Cold Medications in Pregnancy

Experts in pregnancy and breastfeeding health at the California Teratogen Information Service (CTIS) Pregnancy Health Information Line warn expectant moms about the potential dangers of common cold medicines during pregnancy. CTIS is a California non-profit housed at the University of California, San Diego that educates the public about exposures during pregnancy and breastfeeding.

"Every year around this time, we get a significant number of calls from pregnant and breastfeeding women in California who are battling colds and are worried about which meds they can and can't take," said Christina Chambers, PhD, MPH, professor of pediatrics at UC San Diego and CTIS program director.

"The callers I’ve personally spoken to have valid concerns because there are certain ingredients in over-the-counter medications they need to watch out for that could be harmful to their developing babies," explained Sonia Alvarado, CTIS supervising counselor who takes calls through the service’s toll-free hotline and online chat service. As a result of the potential for harm, Dr. Chambers and Alvarado have compiled a list of helpful tips for moms and moms-to-be battling colds this holiday season.

Top Five Cold Remedy Tips During Pregnancy:

1. Less is More. Remember that “less is more," or rather, less is more recommendable when it comes to treating colds during pregnancy. Take only those medications that are needed for your specific symptoms. Many cold remedies have three to six ingredients, some of which you (and your developing baby) do not need. If your major complaint is a cough, for example, then avoid a combination drug that includes a nasal decongestant, an extra medication you can do without.

2. Oral Decongestion Alternatives. While the majority of studies looking at oral decongestants during pregnancy are reassuring with first trimester use, it's still best to avoid them in the first trimester due to a possible very low risk for vascular issues in the fetus. Pregnant women could consider saline drops or a short-term nasal spray decongestant alternative.

3. Herbal Ingredient Warning. Watch out for herbal ingredients in many over-the-counter medications. Chances are they have not been studied in pregnancy.

4. Throat Lozenges and Vitamin Overload. Throat lozenges contain mostly sugar, however, some may contain other ingredients such as zinc or vitamin C. When taking vitamin C, the recommended daily allowance during pregnancy is 80-100 mg per day and zinc is only 11 mg per day.

5. Cough Syrups and Alcohol. Some cough syrups contain up to 10 percent alcohol. Get alcohol-free cough syrup. Your developing baby doesn’t need the alcohol exposure in addition to the other medications.

We have Nothing to Fear ... except Bigotry.

Marginalization and Why this matters to you:

 Happy Holy Days from Lowes.

Thank you Congressman Chris Murphy, Connecticut's next Senator, for speaking out and up.

13 December 2011

Senator Blumenthal and others Push Back for Plan B Contraception

PLAN B: Senators Call on Sec. Sebelius to Explain the Science Behind Plan B Decision

Senator Murray leads letter calling on HHS Secretary to provide the “specific rationale” and “scientific data” for overruling FDA on emergency contraception access

(Washington, D.C.) – Today, 14 U.S. Senators, led by Senator Patty Murray (D-WA), called on Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius to provide the scientific basis behind her decision to limit the availability Plan B emergency contraception. Last Wednesday, Secretary Sebelius overruled the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) by refusing to allow emergency contraceptives to be sold over the counter, despite the FDA’s recommendation to do so.

“We feel strongly that FDA regulations should be based on science,” the Senators wrote today. “We ask that you share with us your specific rationale and the scientific data you relied on for the decision to overrule the FDA recommendation. On behalf of the millions of women we represent, we want to be assured that this and future decisions affecting women’s health will be based on medical and scientific evidence.”

The letter was sent from Senators Patty Murray (D-WA), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), Barbara Boxer (D-CA), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Daniel Akaka (D-HI), Carl Levin (D-MI), John Kerry (D-MA), Tom Harkin (D-IA), Al Franken (D-MN), Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ), Bernie Sanders (I-VT), Ron Wyden (D-OR), Maria Cantwell (D-WA), and Jeff Merkley (D-OR).

Inspiration-- for the 99%

Harriet Tubman sang this spiritual as a warning to runaway slaves. To escaping slaves, the song told them to abandon the path and move into the water. By travelling along the water’s edge or across a body of water, the slaves would throw chasing dogs and their keepers off the scent.

Above text courtesy of Owen Sound's Black History

Just Sayin'

12 December 2011

Chris Donovan for Congress - Video

Just this morning I had a conversation with someone about the merits of various candidates for the 2012 elections for Congress and Senate. Somewhat reluctantly, I listed the positives and negatives for the contenders I have met for nomination from the Democratic Party.

As previously, it came down to Chris + Chris for me. Donovan for Congress + Murphy for Senate.

This afternoon I received an email with a link to this video, which my Grandmother would have labeled  "Gem├╝tlichkeit":

06 December 2011

How can parents support gender nonconforming and transgender children?

Acceptance is protection:

New approach supports families dealing with 'normal diversity' of gender identity and expression

How should parents respond when their four years old son insists on wearing girls' clothes, or their daughter switches to using a male version of their name? These are the questions increasingly being asked of family therapist Jean Malpas who writes in Family Process about a new approach to support parents with gender nonconforming and transgender children.

Jean Malpas, the Director of the Gender and Family Project at the Ackerman Institute for the Family, explains how families of gender nonconforming and transgender children can benefit from a multi-dimensional approach to negotiating two understandings of gender: One being a traditional system of male or female which dominates mainstream society, which contrasts with a more flexible and fluid spectrum of gender being expressed by their children.

"Parents of gender nonconforming children often struggle with how to best protect their child from bullying and ostracism, while accepting and nurturing their child's identity and expression." said Jean Malpas. "This research shows how coaching, education, parent support group and family therapy can support everyone in the family in negotiating this dilemma."

Jean Malpas' clinical findings confirm that a normal diversity of gender expression exists among children and uses anonymous case studies to demonstrate the varied paths children take when developing their identity. Some nonconforming children will grow up to be transgender, others will eventually feel comfortable identifying with their biological sex, while others will continue to display gender nonconforming traits without requesting social or medical transition.

"Research on gender nonconformity also has implications for education policy," said Malpas. "It is important that schools are aware and sensitive to the non-binary and non-biological aspects of gender, as it means gendered activities and segregation of students based on gender lines may no longer be appropriate if our children's understanding of gender is expressed in more complex ways."

Clinical approaches based on the non-pathologisation of gender diversity contrast with traditional psychiatric approaches, which have used cognitive-behavioral methods to extinguish atypical behaviours and reinforce traditional gender expression.

"Our clinical findings show that gender nonconformity in children is not a psychopathology but a normal display of diversity in gender expressions and identities," concluded Malpas. "Providing multi-dimensional support to parents of gender nonconforming and transgender children allows them to accept and affirm their child's identity while providing valuable protection at home, in school and out in the world."

Today! At 5 pm!

05 December 2011

It's Okay to Print this Email

Not your normal email sign-off.

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Nils Morgan
Printing and Direct Mail Consultant
Harty Integrated Solutions
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It's okay to print this email. Paper is a renewable and recyclable resource. 
The forest products industry plants more than 1.7 million trees per day, and employs over 19 million people in the US. For every tree that is harvested, several more are planted or naturally regenerated. My family maintains a certified family forest in the New York City watershed.
We manage the woodlot for wildlife, recreation, and sustainable commercial harvests every 15 years.