Monkey-brained Musings

Monday, June 27, 2005
The Power of Scientology

Courtesy of Ian.


Sunday, June 26, 2005
Moving Austin Forward

On Saturday, Moving Austin Forward hosted an event at St. Edward’s on Saturday designed to bring progressive individuals and organizations together to create a shared vision and develop a positive agenda for Austin’s future. Based on some of the language used and statements made, there is definitely work to do on developing a positive agenda.

As outlined by Bill Spelman, the key elements for such an agenda should be (1) the development of a broad-based coalition (2) that encompasses multiple issues and linkages and (3) that addresses common needs across ethnic boundaries and (4) that takes a long-term and (5) strategic view. The large view is to serve as an organizing basis. The key is to break it down into achievable bite size pieces.

The highlight of the afternoon was the keynote speech by George Lakoff. Lakoff provided an overview and introduction to framing and to his analysis of the Strict Father model employed by conservatives and the Nurturing Parent model used by progressives. He noted how conservatives have skillfully spoken to where people employ the strict father model in their lives and have used the strict father model to reinforce universal conservative frames that are applied across issues. The universal conservative frames are (1) faith in a free market and the power of markets, (2) opposition to “big government,” (3) promotion of individual initiative, (4) message of opportunity and of pulling yourself up by your bootstraps, and (5) generally, that individuals know best.

The strict father model pairs power with morality in hierarchies. God is above man, man is above nature, men are above women, adults are above children, straights are above gays, whites are above others, and success is above struggle.

While listening to Lakoff, I had an insight on how conservatives see, and justify,the actions they take against gays and lesbians. Under the strict father model, gays and lesbians are seen as childish because, like children, they pursue what feels good to them. Thus, they should be treated as children until they reject their desires and take on the responsibilities of adults. A disturbing image, but one that resonates in light of the virulent opposition to gay marriage.

In contrast, the model of the nurturing parent emphasizes the nurturing of children in addition to respect and empathy for others, stressing that individuals take responsibility for themselves and for others. A model that is the opposite of permissiveness. Under this model, leadership is exhibited through care and through cooperation based on trust, honesty, and openness.

This model outlines core values that can serve as the basis for a progressive policy agenda. The progressive frame is use of the commonwealth for the common good so that all are free to pursue individual goals.


Friday, June 24, 2005
Stronger Hurricanes on the Way

Studies show that hurricanes are likely to intensify as warmer temperature draw more ocean water into the atmosphere. Warm waters and atmospheric water vapor are two of the factors that drive hurricane formation and strength. Increased temperatures will mean more of both.

During the 20th Century, water vapor over the oceans increased five percent. Current models indicate that there will be a seven percent increase in water vapor for every degree celsius that the earth warms.


Wednesday, June 22, 2005
Opposition to Drilling in the Inter-Mountain West

The NY Times reports on growing opposition to the Bush administration's aggressive program of leasing public lands for oil and gas development. The difference now is that the opposition is coming from property owners and other solid supporters from the Republican base.


Adios Mofo

Governor Perry is caught on an open mike insulting a Houston reporter. It just doesn't get any better than this. A quote so great, it's already on a t-shirt.


Tuesday, June 21, 2005
Houston BRT

Off the Kuff has a nice report and overview of the implementation of Bus Rapid Transit in Houston. BRT is part of Capital Metro's All Systems Go plan that was presented last fall along with the Leander Commuter Rail.


Where the Liars and the Antelope Roam

The Bush administration edited a scientific study that did not support proposed grazing rules. Scientific conclusions that the proposed rules would adversely affect water quality and wildlife were replaced with language justifying the less stringent regulations favored by cattle ranchers. The rules reverse a long-standing policy that allowed managers in the Bureau of Land Management to quickly determine whether livestock grazing was inflicting damage.


Democracy Fest

Well, the weekend is over, and I have had a chance to catch up on my sleep. What a weekend. There is nothing like being together with several hundred other folks who believe that with enough hard work we can make a difference.

I was there on Saturday and Sunday. The presentation on civil action networks set a key theme: the flexibility and innovation of small groups are assets that can be lost in larger groups, but they don’t have to be lost. It is actually beneficial for groups to subdivide and foster competition within. Jeffrey Feldman gave a great introduction to “framing.” The concept of framing regards the use of ideas and conceptual structures in public and political discussions and has been made popular by George Lakoff. George Grapski provided a passionate overview of the historical antecedents of what it means to be progressive. In a presentation on the need and opportunity to compete in the Red States and Red Congressional Districts, it was presented that between 2000 and 2004, underchallenged Republicans in Congressional races, those with no or only token opposition, raised $267 million and then transferred $63 million to other Republican candidates in tight races. By challenging candidates in such districts, the Republicans can be forced to spend money where they don’t think that they need to and the Democrats can build staff, tools, and skills for the future. Saturday night ended at Stubbs with a great mix of barbecue, music, and speeches.


Wednesday, June 15, 2005
Clarke Attacked for Posting

Last Friday, the day before the runoff election for Place 3, the Austin Review distributed an e-mail attacking Margot Clarke. One of the allegations criticized a posting that Clarke had made on Howard Dean's Blog for America in January 2004 during the Presidential campaign:

Perhaps Clarke's posting to the Howard Dean website referring to "President Bush and his gang of destructors" is most revealing. For one thing, it is not clear who she thinks the "gang of destructors" is - just the Cabinet or the entire military. Clarke's elitism is evidenced when she urges Dean to "bring our people out of their self-imposed darkness." It's the same government-knows-best attitude that motivates Clarke to shut down Wal-Mart and Lowe's, even though many people without her means work and shop there.

Clarke may have earned the dubious distinction of being the one of the first candidates for public office attacked for a posting that she made on a forum or bulletin board. There has been speculation for some time as to when this might happen. It is not surprising that it has occurred now, after the 2004 campaign when the web came into its own.


A Candidate for CD 10?

Off the Kuff reports that Ted Ankrum, a Harris County resident, is considering a run for Congressional District 10 and that he will be speaking at the Cy-Fair Area Democratic Club on July 7th. This is good news. CD 10 can be a competitive district, but a Democrat from the Harris or Brazos county end of the district will need to present the challenge. Last year, Travis County showed that we would support even a write-in Democrat. We'll support who ever runs. In order to win, though, the Democratic candidate has got to draw significant support from Harris County.

It still stuns me that any candidate for this district has to speak to both the Cy-Fair Area Democrats and the NXNW Democrats in Austin. What really pisses me off, though, is that the courts have decided that slicing and dicing local communities is not even worthy of consideration.


Saturday, June 11, 2005
End Divisive Politics - VOTE KIM TODAY

The runoff election for Place 3 on the City Council is today. I encourage you to vote for Jennifer Kim. Jennifer Kim has the skills, talent, and temperment to lead Austin, bringing our diverse citizens together on behalf of our great city.

The polls will be open until 7 p.m. Your election day polling place can be found here.


Sprawl Costs More

While gas may cost more in California, it costs more to commute in the sprawling cities of the South. A survey of 84 metropolitan areas by Sperling's Best Places found that the top five most expensive commutes, and seven of the top ten most expensive commutes, are in the South. Atlanta tops the list with an annual cost of $4,573. The other southern cities in the top ten are Birmingham, Nashville, Orlando, Jacksonville, Pensacola, and Raleigh-Durham. Commuters typically commute 60 miles a day across these sprawling cities.

Other cities in the top ten are Indianapolis (7), San Francisco-Oakland (8), and Los Angeles (10). Although the California commuters typically travel only 45 miles, high gas prices pushed those cities into the top ten. Gas prices for San Francisco and Los Angeles were $2.699 and $2.610, respectively, as compared to $2.200 in Atlanta and $2.252 in Raleigh-Durham (ninth on the list).

For Texas cities, Houston is 20th on the list, with an annual cost of $3,353 and a daily commute of 46 miles. Dallas is 22d with $3,312 and 44.5 miles. Austin is 24th with $3,294 and 45.8 miles. Beaumont is 25th with $3,293 and 50.1 miles. San Antonio is 30th with $3,219 and 46.2 miles.

Southern cities fared even worse when gas costs were calculated as a percentage of family income, taking all of the top seven spots. In this calculation, the most expensive city is Pensacola at 14.5 percent of income and gas at $2.281. The other six Southern cities were Birmingham, Orlando, Nashville, Louisville, Jacksonville, and Tampa-St. Petersburg. Finishing the top ten were Fresno (11.4%), Los Angeles (11.3%), and Indianapolis (11.3%).

The least expensive cities were distinguished by their shorter commutes, about 30 miles per day shorter than for the most expensive cities. The five least expensive cities were Brownsville, New Orleans, Anchorage, Allentown, and Boulder.


How Now Mad Cow

With another mad cow discovered in the U.S., MSNBC is reporting that the U.S. Department of Agriculture is promoting the safety of U.S. beef while doing little to actually prevent an outbreak of mad cow disease. The USDA continues to refuse to consider the World Health Organization's recommendations for further testing and for halting the practice of feeding cows blood, tissue, and slaughterhouse waste from other cows. These practices have halted the spread of mad cow disease in Europe.

The interesting question is how this issue might play out in the upcoming race for Texas Agricultural Commissioner. Last year,in San Angelo, a cow displaying signs of a brain disorder was not tested for mad cow disease despite a federal policy to screen all such animals.

This issue is a precarious one for anyone running for Agricultural Commissioner because it seemingly pits the interests of the meat producers in conflict with those of consumers and voters. However, it also could be a great issue to attract the interest of urban and suburban voters to this down ballot race. Although, the meat producers should realize that ensuring the integrity of the beef in our food supply is in their interest, both for the safety of the domestic market and to maintain their access to international markets.


Same As It Ever Was

So, it turns out that the chief of staff of the Council of Environmental Quality, Philip A. Cooney, was editing climate change reports to play up the scientific uncertainty and complexity. What else is new? Last year, a Bush appointee in the Atlanta regional office of the Environmental Protection Agency was found to be overruling scientific findings from a senior scientist in their Florida Office. The only comforting facts in this instance that the climate change edits made the front page and that Mr.Cooney, a former lobbyist with the American Petroleum Institute, has been forced to resign.


The scattered musings of Jeb Boyt, Austin Texas. A collection of the random bits that scamper through my monkey brain. This blog is my personal record. The opinions expressed here are my own and are in no way associated with any employer, board, commission, organization, or other entity that I may be affiliated with. So there.

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