January 21, 2011

Perhaps she didn’t get the memo. Then again she’s not much of a reader. And as recent public pronouncements demonstrate, nuance, subtly and empathy are not her strong suit. Of course, I’m speaking of 2008 Republican vice presidential nominee Sarah Palin.

Despite calls from across the political spectrum to “tone down” the vitriol in the wake of the Tucson shootings, Palin keeps right on doing what she does best: manufacturing controversy in an effort to dominate the news cycle. Whether she’s releasing statements via Facebook or making the rounds on Fox News Channel, Palin is tone deaf to pleas -- even from within her own ranks -- to take a break from the partisan rancor and political gainsaying.

January 21, 2011

News Release
Citizens Action Coalition

State Senate Bill 102, authored by Sens. Beverly Gard, R-Greenfield, and Lindel Hume, D, Princeton, and co-authored by Sen. Jim Merritt, R-Indianapolis, gives electric utilities in Indiana a virtual blank check. It also, over time, would deregulate billions of dollars of utility revenue, leaving Indiana with multi-billion dollar, unregulated monopolies.

Executive Director of Citizens Action Coalition Grant Smith said, "The Indiana Senate for years has carried water for utility companies to the detriment of our economy and health. Indiana's monopoly utility industry and their high-dollar lobbyists have always had a highly corrupting influence over our administrative and legislative processes."

Americans' checkered history with environmental tragedy

January 17, 2011

While the world watched America respond to the Tucson Massacre, I've been preoccupied with how that same nation has reacted to tragedies of a different nature. I'm teaching a class this semester on the environment in the news, and for the first discussion I developed a timeline of environmental milestones and legislation in the post-World War II era, from early concerns over pesticides to the ongoing autism epidemic and global climate change.

A few glimmers of hope are tucked away in this particular view of American history -- especially the power public opinion wielded in the 1970s. But the nut graf to this tale isn't good. As illustrated by the following environmental retrospective, gleaned mostly from the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), the WorldWatch Institute and government Web sites, the milestones were mostly tragedies. And American leaders didn't react to them very well.

January 8, 2011

If you stay alert and get lucky, you might have a chance to witness the Hoosier Raging Grannies in action.

The Raging Grannies got their start in Victoria, B.C., Canada, 23 years ago, when a group of elderly women peace activists thought they weren’t getting their message across and came up with the idea of group of women donning costumes that are stereotypes of elderly women’s outfits and singing short, snappy, satirical lyrics to well-known songs. The best Granny songs base the words on those of the original tune, like “The Old Gray Granny,” about health care and sung to the tune of “The Old Gray Mare:”

The old, gray granny ain’t what she used to be,
Had a hysterectomy, needs a colonoscopy,
But she can’t afford to pay for her care and so
I guess we’ll have to shoot her now….

January 8, 2011

During the New Year's Day broadcast of NPR's Weekend Edition Saturday, guest host Jennifer Ludden introduced a special segment this way: "As we look ahead, we're putting a twist on that time-honored tradition of making resolutions, with something we call New Year's resolutions for other people." Cute, huh?

Ludden continued, "Throughout the program we'll hear recommendations for 2011 from business, sports and entertainment experts."

For instance, Ludden asked Washington Post columnist Dana Milbank about his resolutions for President Barack Obama, the 112th Congress and even the American electorate. Later on, actress Aisha Tyler offered a few recommendations for A-List celebrities, including Lady Gaga, Angelina Jolie and Charlie Sheen.

December 25, 2010

File this one under: “You can’t make this stuff up.”

According to Greg Miller at the Washington Post: “The Central intelligence Agency (CIA) has launched a task force to assess the impact of the exposure of thousands of US diplomatic cables and military files by WikiLeaks. Officially, the panel is called the WikiLeaks Task Force. But at CIA headquarters, it's mainly known by its all-too-apt acronym: WTF.”

December 24, 2010

Prior to the election in November, we communicated to the public about the importance of voting and supporting candidates who are friends of labor. Unfortunately, the political environment shifted and took many of our labor-endorsed candidates out of office.

We are now forced to deal with upcoming legislation in the state of Indiana that will be on the offensive to weaken labor unions and make them irrelevant in the workplace and in social and political arenas. As reported last month in the papers, Republican Wes Culver of Goshen has already introduced a misleading and intentionally misnamed "right-to-work" bill in the Indiana House of Representatives.

December 21, 2010

To communities opposing biomass power plants across the country, one part of the tax cut package approved by Congress is not good news: the extension of tax grants that will pay up to 30 percent of the cost of developing biomass plants. Biomass project proposals have sprouted like mushrooms in response to federal subsidies -- and have been met with fierce resistance from communities that don't want their trees cut down or their air and water polluted to keep the electricity coming.

Consider, for instance, Jasper, Indiana, a gem of a town with a fine courthouse square, furniture factories and just beyond the factories, a Patoka River walk where residents and occasional tourists stroll under a canopy of trees. Jasper also has an old city-owned coal-fired power plant, and that coal plant has become the crux of significant argument in the halls of power.

FDA to re-evaluate mercury in dental fillings

December 18, 2010

A new study linking autism to a specific type of neurological problem has buttressed the case against one possible environmental cause of the pervasive developmental disorder. And the conclusions are particularly compelling, given its release three months after the U.S. Vaccine Court awarded $20 million to a Georgia girl for the same condition.

The court ruled Hanna Poling's pre-existing mitochondrial disorder was aggravated by the MMR vaccine, which led to a brain disorder that manifested itself "with features of autism spectrum disorder." The just-published University of California-Davis study in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) found "children with autism were more likely to have mitochondrial dysfunction."

December 16, 2010

Wendell Potter, Deadly Spin: An Insurance Company Insider Speaks Out on How Corporate PR is Killing Health Care and Deceiving Americans. New York: Bloomsbury Press, 2010, 277 pages, $26.00

“About 45,000 people die in America every year because they have no health insurance. I am partly responsible for some of the deaths making up that shameful statistic.”

Those two sentences open a book by Wendell Potter called Deadly Spin: An Insurance Company Insider speaks Out on How Corporate PR Is Killing Health Care and Deceiving Americans. Part expose and part memoir of the author’s experience in the health care industry, the book’s as dramatic and suspenseful as a good novel.