The Silver Lining

December 7, 2007

I just finished reading Matt Bai’s “The Argument” and below is the comment I sent him about it (because I’ve been meaning to post about this for awhile):

I just finished reading “The Argument,” which I thoroughly enjoyed. And yes, it is going to make a fine Christmas gift.

One of the exciting themes of the book is the extent to which the frustration of the ordinary American with the non-responsiveness of our government has resulted in people voluntarily becoming involved with the process and speaking out. (By non-responsiveness, I mean, how often have you thought that some of the citizen uprisings of the sixties, which in many cases had a profound effect on events like the civil rights movement or our attitudes toward the Vietnam War, would now fall [and in fact are falling] on deaf ears? I watch all these anti-war marches now and think, W has cottoned on to the fact that he can get away with ignoring what the people want, and these demonstrators don’t seem to realize it.) I love seeing the increased involvement in the debate, and the extent to which progressives are not only demanding change but are willing to be the change they want to see.

A tandem trend I’m seeing is this: people are so frustrated with the lack of action by the current administration on truly pressing problems, they’re taking action themselves over and above speaking out. A good example is the issue of climate change — W refuses to do anything constructive about it, but nationwide people are changing their own habits and voting with their dollars in ways that will make a difference. I believe some of these problems (climate change is a good example here, too) are going to require intervention on two levels — governmental policy and citizen activism. I also think that it would be easy for citizens to bow out if government had taken the lead (“Well, the government is taking care of that so I don’t have to do anything.”). So, ironically, by failing to take the lead on these major issues, our non-responsive government might actually have done us a favor, by frustrating the citizens to the point where they themselves take the lead. By the time the government follows suit, the two-level intervention will be firmly in place.

Another area where this is happening is in helping Iraqis who are displaced or economically harmed by the war. There are funds out there through which ordinary Americans can make loans to Iraqis to help them get started again, and these funds (and other opportunities like them) have been publicized nationally in such places as ABC’s World News Tonight. No small feat.

Yet another — the program whereby U.S. teachers post projects they lack funding for, and citizens can voluntarily fund them, thus providing educational opportunities for children who otherwise wouldn’t get them. Education funding is cut, and the citizens, frustrated by the government’s failure to act on this priority, are taking action themselves.

I guess the silver lining is this: the failure of the GOP to behave in the best interests of Americans, and the failure of the Dems to come up with a solution, has, ultimately, opened the door for citizens to stop relying on government to solve everything and take some accountable, responsible, community-minded action themselves. Our government’s failure is making better citizens out of us, and in ways that I think harken back to the best characteristics of the founding fathers.

Anyway, enjoyed the book!

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Many of you know I just canceled my Hotmail account. I want to tell you why. Early in September, Hotmail stopped forwarding my subscription e-mails from Truthout.org. Note the use of the word “subscription” there — I CHOOSE to receive e-mails from Truthout and, despite the fact that I’m well past the age of majority and legally able to make my own choices, AND that this country allegedly enjoys freedom of speech, HOTMAIL unilaterally decided to call my subscription “spam” and stop forwarding it.

Mind you, it did NOT stop forwarding me “get your viagra here” e-mails, phony stock-scam e-mails, “easy russian bride” e-mails or a host of e-mails offering me advice on how to enlarge my penis. (For those of you who don’t know, I’m a woman.) THOSE aren’t considered spam, apparently.

But my e-mails from Truthout — which generally consist of links to stories from respected news outlets worldwide — apparently are. I’m not talking the Wack-Job Sun Times, here, people. I’m talking about the Washington Post. The New York Times. The LA Times. The New Orleans Times- Picayune. The Miami Herald. Reuters. The Associated Press. The Christian Science Monitor. A host of foreign news outlets.

I asked Hotmail to justify its actions and it quickly put the blame on Truthout. But it admitted to Truthout that it was “blocking and throttling” its e-mails. And it’s doing it to everyone who subscribes to Truthout from a Hotmail account, not just me. (There are also allegations that it’s doing it to the Independent Institute, but I don’t have confirmation on that.)
There are also allegations that AOL is doing the same thing.

Guys, this is serious. Communication consists of a speaker, a listener, and a medium of transmission — be it spoken voice traveling through air or electrons passing over the Internet. Those who would control our access to information can’t stop me from listening, and they haven’t yet dared shut down the media outlets from investigating and writing, so they’re attacking the vulnerable link between. This is censorship. And it’s wrong.

Everyone, regardless of where they sit on the political spectrum, should be up in arms about this. The party in power in this country changes regularly. Our right to be informed by anyone we choose to listen to should not.

I CHALLENGE YOU TO DO WHAT I DID: Vote with your dollar. Ditch Hotmail. If you’re having the same trouble with AOL, ditch AOL. Tell them why. Donate what you would have spent on Hotmail or AOL to Truthout, so they can continue their effort to put a stop to this censorship. More is at stake here than just Truthout — they’re small, non-corporate sponsored, and vulnerable, which makes them a good starting point. They’re also the place where this needs to end.

Cross-posted at Buck Naked Politics.

Last week, I noticed that my local grocery store was now advertising its milk as RBGH-free. What, I wondered, is RBGH? I have since found out.

I won’t go on at length about it. I’ll just give you the bare bones and the sources.

RBGH stands for Recombinant Bovine Growth Hormone and it is administered to cows (through the kind offices of its manufacturer, Monsanto) to increase milk production, which it does. It also makes the cows far more likely to contract several illnesses, including mastitis.

I watched a little segment about this very issue in a documentary called “The Corporation” (which I highly recommend) yesterday, and one eyewitness said the pus generated by the cows in trying to fight off the mastitis ends up in the milk.

Well, that was enough for me, but it turns out it isn’t all the bad news.

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Moving Toward Simple

June 9, 2007

Just as I was thinking of starting this forum, The Washington Post published “Breaking Free of Suburbia’s Stranglehold.” Although the article had a Christian bent that is utterly foreign to me, it otherwise spoke volumes. For one thing, it backed up my assertion that the urge to simplify isn’t merely something that’s happening to me or people I personally know. If it’s made the Washington Post, we must be looking at critical mass here ahead of us somewhere.

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Crossroads

June 7, 2007

This is not an especially political blog, although this may initially sound like a political post. It’s just that the world seems to be in trouble, and as we can’t seem to depend on the current powers that be to do anything meaningful about it, it’s up to us as individuals to change things.

But a lot of us don’t know how.

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