Thursday, April 21, 2011 12:41 PM
Sex advice columnist Dan Savage has become one of the country’s foremost ethicists. Just don’t ask Sen. Rick Santorum what he thinks of this.
We couldn’t have summed this up any better than Good: “Liberal Brains Bigger in Areas of Complexity; Conservative Brains Bigger in Areas of Fear.”
What makes us care? E.O. Wilson’s thinking on the subject has gotten the eminent biologist in hot water again.
Bolivia is poised to pass shockingly eco-friendly legislation: The Law of Mother Earth. According to Good, the law “makes humans equal to all other living things and establishes 11 new rights for nature, including the right to life, the right to pure water and clean air, and the right to not have cellular structure genetically modified.”
Guess which former South African president and champion of democracy is on Twitter now? Could it be Nelson Mandela? Well, almost.
Have you bought that new 3D TV yet? Well, in a couple decades I’m sure they’ll be chuckling at the commercials for those the same way you’ll chuckle at this commercial from such a simple time.
Isa Leshko, featured by Photo District News, is obsessed by subjects that age naturally. Very naturally.
You’ve heard of Tang. What about space tea?
In this French Tropicana ad, the power of oranges is harnessed to light up a neon billboard.
American suburbs are rapidly turning into slums. Is your metro area at risk?
What it’s like to be inside an empire heading down faster and blinder than anyone expected or is prepared to deal with.
Rock stars need love, too—from their kitties.
If you like homemade soup and want your garden’s soil tested, stop for lunch at Philadelphia’s public-art-project-cum-bistro Soil Kitchen.
One more reason to fear the sea: Jellyfish that are 50 meters long.
Monday, July 06, 2009 5:18 PM
Canadian lawmakers are looking ahead to a time when smoking bans will extend to all public sidewalks and outdoor places, reports Spacing. Canada has some of the toughest anti-smoking laws in North America, but the unintended (although perhaps foreseeable?) consequence of the bans has been a glut of smokers in open-air spaces.
What’s the harm of smoking in open air? Spacing points to secondhand-smoke research conducted in Finland that found air in outdoor cafes to be 20 times more polluted than the stuff people breathe on the sidewalks of traffic-heavy streets. Nasty. “I absolutely see a time in which there will not be any smoking in all public spaces,” Toronto city councilor Pam McConnell told the magazine.
South of the border, cities in various U.S. states, such as Minnesota and California, have already banned smoking at parks and beaches. Berkeley introduced a sidewalk smoking ban in 2008.
Source: Spacing (article not available online)
Wednesday, June 24, 2009 9:02 AM
Hands-free legislation leads people to believe that it’s safe (or at least safer) to drive while talking on a cell phone with the aid of a hands-free device, reports Governing. Well, it’s not.
Governing points to a 2006 study that found no difference between drivers talking on hand-held phones and those talking on hands-free devices—as soon as people started talking, they became more likely to rear end another car than a legally drunk driver. More recently, researchers found that simply talking on a phone cuts the brain activity devoted to driving nearly 40 percent. Even the wireless industry seems to be having second thoughts: Traditionally opposed to handheld bans, in January the industry shifted its official line to “neutral.”
So why aren’t we seeing outright bans on cell phones in the car? Twenty-nine states have enacted some form of limitation on phone use while driving, but none have gone so far as to wholly prohibit it. Governing has a theory as to why:
The best explanation is a rather disturbing one: Many drivers, state legislators among them, have simply come to depend on using cell phones during drive time to take care of business, check in with spouses or catch up with friends. This may make long commutes more professionally and socially productive. But it also makes the roads more dangerous for everybody.
Pam Fisher, New Jersey’s director of traffic safety, tells Governing that we’re at “the beginning of a ‘social norming’ process.” Fisher thinks that attitudes toward talking on the phone while driving can and will shift—much in the same way drunk driving became socially unacceptable. In the meantime, pass on the suggestion: Hang up and drive.
Image by gillicious, licensed under Creative Commons.
Tuesday, June 23, 2009 3:35 PM
With a significant climate change bill on the brink of passage in the House of Representatives, I’m embarrassed to say that one of my home-state legislators, Minnesota Rep. Collin Peterson, is proving to be a major obstacle to the bill. Peterson, a farm-region Democrat who’s long bucked the party line and common sense on issues like gun control (he hates it), ethanol (he loves it), and global warming (he says it'll be good for farmers), is digging in his heels, using his position as chairman of the House Agriculture Committee to hold up and water down the Waxman-Markey bill.
Peterson, the Wall Street Journal reports, “wants the party’s leaders to soften the climate bill’s impact on coal-burning power plants, scale back existing regulation of ethanol, and make other changes that, if adopted, could steer huge sums of money to farmers who engage in environmentally friendly practices.”
One of the most maddening things about Peterson’s obstructionism, Chris Bowers writes on Open Left, is that major green groups aren’t calling him out on it. The League of Conservation voters, which has called itself “the national political voice of the environmental and conservation community,” in 2004 named Peterson to its “Dirty Dozen” list for having “repeatedly voted to let corporate polluters off the hook.”
Yet, Bowers writes, “there is absolutely no information on the LCV website about Collin Peterson’s obstructionist efforts,” despite a home-page call to “strengthen and pass” the climate change bill. “They have no press releases on the subject. There isn’t a single blog post mentioning either Collin Peterson or the Agriculture Committee. … why is the LCV apparently doing nothing to Collin Peterson as he is escalating his efforts to weaken the most important piece of environmental legislation in decades?”
This is where you come in. If you’re concerned about climate change and you’re sick of seeing baby steps taken where big, bold strides are needed, then contact Peterson right now. But be smart about how you do it: He’s inclined to ignore you.
“I am very interested in hearing your views on issues of importance to you,” his website proclaims. However, “Due to the large volume of U.S. mail, e-mail and faxes I receive, I am only able to accept messages from residents of the Seventh Congressional District of Minnesota.”
Well, that’s just great. The guy is a key player in the most global of all issues, and yet he pretends that his sole role in Congress is as a provincial legislator, beholden only to his constituents and no one else. (A call to his press secretary, asking for an explanation of this bizarre assertion, went unreturned.)
Here’s my suggestion: Use the phone. An e-mail is easily ignored and a fax easily thrown out. (Recycling seems like a long shot here.) If Peterson’s staff has to personally answer a flood of calls urging him to stop standing in the way of common sense, it’s going to have some sort of impact. If they ask you where you’re from, which they surely will, simply tell them that you’re a concerned resident of planet Earth.
At the risk of sounding like a blaring late-night infomercial, CALL NOW!!! Open Left reports that 9:30 a.m. Thursday is the cutoff for amendments to the legislation.
Peterson’s D.C. office number is (202) 225-2165. Do it.
UPDATE (6/24/09): Politico reports that last night, bill sponsor Rep. Henry Waxman struck a deal with Peterson in which Peterson "got every concession he was seeking," according to Open Left's analysis. I guess recalcitrance and provincialism have their political rewards. In my opinion, it's still worth calling Peterson to let him know you disapprove of his obstructionist tactics and his weakening of the bill.
Sources: Treehugger, Wall Street Journal, Open Left, Politico
Thursday, September 25, 2008 10:33 AM
The country’s recent financial crisis has left Americans panicked and angry. My prevailing thought whenever I hear the ever-climbing tab of the bailout—after a colorful expletive or two, of course—is always “Where is that money going to come from? And where is it going?”
The likely answer to the first question is unfortunate: the taxpayers, of course. The Republicans, who hate taxes and government regulation, have ensured an unprecedented magnitude of each by woefully mismanaging the country’s economy.
The answer to the second question is trickier. And it may remain vague, as Kagro X points out at Daily Kos. For the Bush administration, oversight and transparency are like kryptonite, and the president has become notorious for, as Kagro X puts it, “threatening to use his veto crayon to force Congress to pass bills exactly as he wants them, accepting no changes.”
Bush only has four months left in office, but Kagro X is worried the president will still find a way to misappropriate $700 billion. “When you're talking about a guy who 'lost' $9 billion in cash in Iraq, you kind of have to wonder whether he's even going to use the money for its intended purposes.”
That we are bailing out private institutions with public funds is deplorable enough. But Kagro X believes the situation will only be worsened if we hand over the money while Bush is still in office.
If there were any justice in the world, the price for the bailout would be Bush and Cheney's resignation. No, it won't happen, but it should. Instead, almost no matter what approach is ultimately adopted, we'll be throwing (at least) $700 billion into the hole with nothing but crossed fingers to guide us through. The best oversight regimen in the world doesn't help you with people who don't think they have to answer subpoenas.
There is hope: “Thankfully, Congressional Democrats (and some Republicans, too) have for the most part balked at the notion that the bailout should come in the form of a blank check.” Let’s hope that Congress refuses the president this sort of absolute economic power during these final dark days of his presidency.
Image by Tracy O, licensed by Creative Commons.
Wednesday, September 17, 2008 3:18 PM
“My name is Gianna Jessen, born 31 years ago after a failed abortion. But if Barack Obama had his way, I wouldn’t be here." So goes the ad from a nonprofit 527 group called BornAliveTruth.org, which produced the 30-second spot (via PrezVid) amidst a swirl of confusion and controversy surrounding Barack Obama’s voting record on “born-alive” legislation before the Illinois State Senate.
The history of Obama’s actual stance, available via FactCheck.org, requires careful parsing. Essentially, Obama opposed “born-alive” bills at the state level in 2001, 2002, and 2003 that he says would have weakened Roe v. Wade. But he says he would have supported a federal version of the legislation signed by George W. Bush in 2002 because it contained protections for Roe v. Wade.
Jess Henig’s article for FactCheck notes inconsistencies in the reasoning behind Obama's votes: The Obama camp contended that there were differences in language between the state and federal versions of the bills, even after the 2003 state bill's language was revised so as to be identical to that of the federal one. The 2005 version of the state bill, which passed, included a protective clause stating that “Nothing in this Section shall be construed to affect existing federal or State law regarding abortion,” and Obama spokesperson Tommy Vietor says Obama would have voted for that bill, had he still been in state office at that point.
Henig goes on to suggest that Obama's stance on these bills may hinge on fine semantic distinctions:
The main bills under discussion, State Bill 1082 and the federal BAIPA [Born Alive Infant Protection Acts], are both definition bills. They are not about what can and should be done to babies; they are about how one defines “baby” in the first place. Those who believe that human life begins at conception or soon after can argue that even a fetus with no chance of surviving outside the womb is an “infant.” We won't try to settle that one. What we can say is that many other people – perhaps most – think of “infanticide” as the killing of an infant that would otherwise live. And there are already laws in Illinois, which Obama has said he supports, that protect these children even when they are born as the result of an abortion.
While there may be discrepancies in the reasoning behind Obama's votes, his support of abortion rights has never been in question. “Obama's critics are free to speculate on his motives for voting against the bills, and postulate a lack of concern for babies’ welfare,” Henig concludes. “But his stated reasons for opposing 'born-alive’ bills have to do with preserving abortion rights, a position he is known to support and has never hidden.”
It’s a complex matter whose emotional pitch is only raised by the use of freighted terms like infanticide and born-alive. Such videos are especially prone to glossing over the political nuances of an issue, which means the facts of Obama’s actual position will most likely be lost in the din.
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