Monday, December 24, 2007

Buy Everything

I haven't been around lately because I have been working at an undisclosed mid-to-upper tier retail establishment as Christmas help. The fact that my job is not only to enable consumption, but to make you consume more has challenged my values. I know consumption leads to container ships crashing into bridges and killing wildlife. I know consumption fills up landfills, off-gasses, and leads to a cycle of debt that threatens the health of our economy. I comfort myself with the notion that is only a month and while I work there I can help people think through their purchases.

The ironic thing is that as much as I hate consumerism I am very good at convincing people to buy stuff. It scares and facinates me. I think that I am good at it because I am honestly interested in helping people and I like the stuff I am selling (stemware, flatware, china, crystal, christmas stuff, and homewares). I like pretty, shiny stuff and that comes across as an endorsement that they should buy it. Yet, it makes me feel guilty.

Friday, November 16, 2007

C-Notes, Euros, and Liberty Dollars!

Back in the Summer of 84, life was wonderful traveling Europe with a strong dollar. WTF happened? You have serious whack-job goofballs printing their own inflation-proof currency. The rest of the world is wondering if the world belongs to European currency. Even rap stars are dissing our once illustrious currency.

C-Notes and P-Notes:
Wonkette reports that a group of Ron Paul supporters were raided because they were creating illegal currency, Liberty Dollars, featuring Paul. How are liberty dollars any different than Camel Cash? Save up enough liberty dollars and you can get Ron Paul lighters, shot glasses, ash trays, and a Ron Paul Members Only Jacket.

When surfing the net about camel cash, there was an old article from Bob from Accounting that our Dollar has been collapsing against the old C-note. A fact noted in an April 1997 Onion issue.

Show me the Euros: Jay-Z in his video, Blue Magic, flashes Euros as the new bling-bling bankroll.
The International Herald Tribune reports:
"Shortly after Angola and Iraq announced they may consider shifting their currency reserves away from the dollar and into the euro and other currencies, Nigeria's Finance Minister Shamsuddeen Usman said he was considering the same thing."

In related news, there was an OPEC oops today. OPEC accidentally broadcast Saudi Arabia rebuffing efforts of Iran and Venezuela to price oil in other currencies other than the US dollar. Saudi Arabia rejected the proposal because it didn't want to collapse the Dollar. It turns out that some oil producing countries will de-peg and diversify away from the US Dollar.

Sunday, November 4, 2007

Teevee Maven

Teevee Watching Maven
Our teevee watching is rarely done live anymore as the commercial vs. entertainment ratio just eats up time we can never get back. Between the old PVR and DVDs we are pretty set with our entertainment. It takes patience to wait and not read any spoilers until series getson DVD, but the quality of sound and picture is worth it. We do make a slight exception for Heroes, which we watch live for the High Definition broadcast.

The Sopranos DVD Season Six Part 2
We finally watched the final half of the last season of The Sopranos. Last night we watched the final, final episode. We could see why fans who watched it when it broadcast were disappointed. The first half of the last season was the strongest and reminded us of themagic of the first two seasons.

Popping in the second half revealed a dark turn of Tony Soprano's self-destructive spiral. We kept telling each other thatthis was going to end badly for Tony and family. We were expecting an almost epic Greek tragedy ending -- a logical ending a socio-path's life. It really didn't end that way and we were disappointed.

Tony's character needed to be punished for his behavior. He needed to lose both families and have real consequences for his actions.He needed to be arrested, in jail, and facing a long time in jail with the knowledge of his wife and daughter being killed and his son committing suicide. We needed him to call Malfi to the Jail where she finally tells him that she couldn't help him, and in fact, she may have been enabling him. It would have been a more impactful scene if it would happend after he lost his freedom and more members of both of his families.

It could have ended in the prison yard and you could have ducks flying referencing the first episode'sduck symbolism. Except the ducks would symbolize freedom as well as symbolizing that his family is slipping away.

It felt more like a season ender (a mediocre one at that) than a series ending episode.

The first season of Heroes was clearly the best series we have seen in a long time. This season is being carried by our admiration of the first season and that we actually care what happens to our characters.While nothing really happened until the very end of last week's episode, we expect things may start hitting the fan for our heroes.I have heard some interesting spoilers/theories about the identity of Adam, which make pretty good sense, but I will let you google that information on your own.

Flip This House
HGTV is known for its home improvement porn, and I recently discovered a show that was born during the real estate boom. People buy property, set a budget and schedule to fix it up, fall out of budget and behind schedule, and hope to make money on their "flip".My opinion of flipping is it contributes to the unaffordability of housing these days. Homes should be for shelter, not speculation. I do like when they take a house that is blighted and unliveable and fixes it up so it is liveable. At least, you are creating more housing that wayand helping turn neighborhoods into places where the working class feels a sense of pride.

From watching this show, I found that you should be skilled in contracting and have lots of family who are too to keep labor costs down. Plus, you need to make sure you don't make improvements that are more pricey than the neighborhood will bear.

The Next American Band

This music competition reality show is by the same folks you brought you the next American idol. We are and always will be a non-voting fans of American Idol, and so we decided to give this show a try.The Next American Band is even more enjoyable because you get people who can actually play instruments and writemusic. I think you get a better caliber of contestant than you get in American Idol.

I think my favorite band is Franklin Bridge, who are a funky jam musicians that remind me of a little Prince and Jimi Hendrix mixed with hip-hop. They may not last if they keep jamming and do not fit into the commercial packaging of songs that the judges are looking for.
I also like Dot Dot Dot, a band that has the 80s sound down to a science and an art form. Their sound could easily be a soundtrack for a John Hughes movie. I like this band because they don't take themselves so seriously and really embrace who they are in and entertaining way.
I think some of the most talented bands play genres I normally do not care much for -- country and bluegrass.The Clark Brothers are an all-string old school country, roots trio who just cook on their instruments and truly belong in the competition.

Cliff Wagner and The Ol' #7 are an incredibly tight bluegrass band, who visibly have fun and are comfortable with what they do. These guys were asked by the judges in their tryout toplay Madonna and went into "Like A Virgin" like pros. You cannot hate these guys. They make me smile.

Light of Doom is what happens when you cross metal with the Hansons. They are extremely talented and it is crazy to think what they will be like if they stay together when they are adults.

My secret favorite band is Rocket, the all-girl bandwho are a cross between the Go-Gos and The Ramones. Like Dot Dot Dot, they appeal to my own sense of musical nostalgia of living my formative years in High School and College in the 1980s. The problem with Rocket is that the lead singer does need to strengthen her vocals. She did a better job with the original song this week but butchered the Elton John cover. To be fair to her, Elton John is a tremendous vocalist and it will be very difficult to outsing Elton.

There is also a swing band called Denver and the Mile High Orchestra. Denver, thelead singer is pretty much a drag on a very talented and tight big band orchestra. With a different front man, they would be real contenders even though they have no chance to actually win.Big Bands are not pop bands and haven't been for 60 years.

The Muggs are this deep 70s motown rock band where all three musicians are incredibly talented. The lead singers gravel voice sometimes suits the material, butlike Rocket the vocalizations often fall short. He is an awesom guitar player, but not so strong at singing. The Muggs appeal to us old folk who remember the 1970s.

There is a pop-Country band, Sixwire, that is very professional but I personally do not like them. I prefer more old school country, roots, and bluegrass to the bland corporate crossover-country that they serve out.

Of all the bands, the Sixties-nostalgia band, Tres Bien, is fun, but feels too novelty to last in the competition.

The bands that were eliminated so far have deserved it and there are still a few more to go. We will see how it goes.

One thing I do not care for is that this show has an austrailian host and an aussie judge. You would figure that a show called, "The Next American Band" would at least have an all-american host and judge panel. I am getting tired of the accents already. I love Sheila E. I think she is better suited than Paula Abdul to be a music critic. I actually have seen her in concert with Prince and she really rocks. She carries herself really well, where Paula often acts a bit loopy. There is also a judge from the Goo-Goo Dolls who does okay. I would have prefered Tommy Lee, because he was highly entertaining in his stint on Rockstar: Supernova.

Friday, November 2, 2007

Strong Economy? Not!

Yesterday, the Dow has plunged 362 points just a day after the Fed lowered interest rates. The Dow is trying to recover today based on Job numbers. The economy added 166,000 jobs in October, the fastest pace in five months. Good news, right? Whenever I hear news like this, I ask the crucial question: What Kind of Jobs? I always want to see the numbers behind the headlines.
From Shaffers Research:

- of 278 industries, 53.4% were adding jobs in October, down slightly from 55.6% in September
- Of 84 manufacturing industries, 43.5% were hiring in October, which is the strongest figure since July.
- Jobs in goods-producing industries fell by 24,000.
- jobs were also lost at banks and mortgage brokers, where employment fell by 5,000 in October, bringing the cumulative loss to 56,000 since February
- the services industry saw strong jobs growth, where employment rose by 190,000, the most since May
- Food services added 37,000 positions
- health care added 34,000
- employment services added 34,000

So it appears that job growth is fueled by the healthcare industry that has become a drain on the pocketbooks of the average american and small businesses because no one wants to control health care costs. We have created jobs in the field of finding jobs, which is kind of messed up if you think about it. Finally, we have created burger-flipping jobs! Is this really good news? I hardly doubt any of these jobs can keep up with the real inflation in this country.

We are also told that inflation is holding steady. How could that be when costs for food, fuel, and health care are rising beyond our incomes? What do you know, Core inflation figures exclude volatile food and energy prices. The Christan Science Monitor reports that "overall inflation, as measured by the personal consumption expenditures deflator, is up 2.4 percent for the year, above the Fed’s so-called comfort zone of 1 percent to 2 percent. That rise, compared with 1.8 percent in August, most likely reflected the surging cost of crude oil, which pushes up gasoline and energy prices."

There are signs that inflation is really higher given the rise in the cost of fuel, food, health care combined with the declining value of the dollar, which effects our buying power. Another thing to keep in mind is that the cost of renting or buying a home due to the bubble and its aftermath, bites into the American wallet. The financial picture is excellent if you factor out all the basic necessities of living for the average american. Don't forget to factor in the rising costs of child care, education, and services and products.

We are also told that personal spending is still holding up, which is good news since personal spending, which accounts for two-thirds of the gross domestic product.
How long will Americans be able to keep spending? If you take a look at the New York Housing Bubble Blog, they have some very interesting news items including Bloomberg's report that US Home foreclosures Doubled in the 3rd Quarter of 2007 and that Realtytrac Inc reports there were 635,159 forclosure filings in the 3q or 1 in 196 households including default notices, auction notices,and bank repossessions.

Who is going to want to go Christmas shopping when they have just lost their home?

Keep in mind that we are at the beginning of the fallout of the real estate bubble.
Mortgage resets for the notorius subprime loans will end up spiking in the latter half of
2008. Then in 2010 and 2011, we will start seeing resets on option adjustable rate loans and Alt-A loans (or "Liars Loans"). Unless these people can refinance in fixed loans with monthly payments they can actually afford, a lot of people will lose their homes and there will be tough times ahead for all of us.

One of my favorite bloggers is Marinite from the Marin Real Estate Bubble website. He writes that the American people are being lied to when it comes to the economy. He quotes Peter Schiff's November 1st editorial about how bogus all these financial numbers are that are bolstering the belief that our economy is strong, when the average joe feels something is wrong. I have actually heard someone on CNBC boggle at that disconnect between what the "experts" are telling us and the reality Americans experience.

We have all heard about the decline of the Dollar and how good it is for our exports.
The US Dollar Index has declined from 92 to 78 in less than two years - a 15% depreciation
in value. This effects American buying power not just when they travel abroad, but what we
purchase in this country.

Interest rate cuts only make the situation worse. Rate cuts may make it easier to borrow
and provide relief for those who have already borrowed (especially those attached to Adjustible Rate Mortgages) but it punishes people who save and invest in safe investments and reduces overall purchasing power.

If one steps back, we can begin to realize that our consumer economy is broken. What buttresses our economy is the consumer's ability to spend. The consumer's ability to spend has a lot to do with their ability to borrow to buy beyond what they have on hand. Can you imagine our economy if people gave up their credit cards and didn't buy anything until they saved up for it? Where would our economy be if people scrimped and saved or just realized one day that the consumer appetite was unsustainable? Jobs would be lost and our economic system could collapse.

Jury Rules Against The Phelps Family Scourge

I am loving the fact that Rev. Phelps was ruled against in a civil trial for 10.9 million for invasion of privacy and inflicting emotional distress by picketing funerals of soldiers killed in Iraq and Afghanistan. I hope that this trial and others like it shut down Phelps, but somehow I am skeptical since this type of hate can survive financial ruin. Regardless, it does send a good message that regardless of one's political or social cause, a funeral is a sacred place where there is an expectation of privacy and a modicum of decency that needs to be enforced.

I only wish that these people were taken to court and stopped when they were picketing funerals of people who died of AIDS. It takes someone so void of humanity and soaked with evil that one could even think of desecrating a funeral to add emotional pain for those who suffer with grief. If there is a God and a Heaven and Hell, there must be a special place in Hell for Phelps and his family who join him on these things.

I have said it before and I will say it again, "Reverend" Phelps needs to have his minister status striped as he makes a mockery of Christ and God. He and his family need to have their citizenship stripped because these people are not Americans.

Monday, October 29, 2007

Video of the Day

Nifty Apple Ad parody about how toxic computing can be.

Friday, October 26, 2007

Quote of the Day

"To announce that there must be no criticism of the president, or that we are to stand by the president, right or wrong, is not only unpatriotic and servile, but is morally treasonable to the American public." --Theodore Roosevelt, 1918

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Our Craptastic Climate!

"It turns out that global warming critics were right when they said that global climate models did not do a good job at predicting climate change, but what has been wrong recently is that the climate is changing even faster than the models said. In fact, Arctic sea ice is melting much faster than any models predicted, and sea level is rising much faster than IPCC previously predicted." - Alan Robock, associate director of the Center for Environmental Prediction at Rutgers University

Holy crap.

Where the heck is my old conservative republican friend, Charles Winslow, who would mock me abut my alarm about global warming way back in 1990? He said we didn't have enough proof to do anything about global warming, if it existed at all. I responded back then that by the time we had enough proof to convince him, it would be too late to do anything. I wish I could find him so I could tell him, I told him so. Last time I heard from him he was working for Forbes at the republican convention in 1996 in San Diego.

British researchers have found that the oceans are not soaking up as much carbon dioxide as they used to and atmospheric carbon dioxide (CO2) growth has increased 35 percent faster than expected since 2000. The Southern Atlantic oceanic CO2 sink is weakening. Then

Greenland's ice sheet melts as temperatures rise. It seems that Greenland's ice melt area increased 30% in 30 years and is losing more ice each year than it gains from new snow. More melting means that sea levels can rise around the world and low lying coastal areas can become flooded. Two or three warm consecutive years in the polar region can result in the Greenland ice cap will face complete collapse, raising ocean levels 23 feet. 23 feet is about 7 meters, so I plugged 7m on the old google flood maps and it looks like the Golden Gate Bridge will be underwater and so will access to the closest shopping mall from where I live.

Holy crap.

No wonder Guyana may consider moving its capitol to higher ground.

There is now a topical coffee mug that will show you what the world map will look like when the sea levels rise every time you "warm it" by hot coffee. Check it out at Check out the higher res version. Every morning you can be reminded of our future. Hurray for us!

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Quote of the Day

"A great war leaves the country with three armies - an army of cripples, an army of mourners, and an army of thieves." ~ German proverb

28,327 U.S. service members have been wounded
3,836 members of the U.S. military have died
75,598 – 82,369 documented Iraqi deaths
U.S. Government unable to account for 1.2 Billion paid to Dynacorp in Iraq
A Pentagon audit has found overcharges of up to $61 million for gasoline that a Halliburton subsidiary delivered as part of its no-bid contract to help rebuild Iraq's oil industry.

Monday, October 15, 2007

The Beatitudes

Blessed are the poor (for yours is the kingdom of God.)
Blessed are the poor in spirit (for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.)
Blessed are they that mourn (for they shall be comforted)
Blessed are ye that weep now: (for ye shall laugh.)
Blessed are the meek (for they shall inherit the earth)
Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness (for they shall be filled).
Blessed are ye that hunger now (for ye shall be filled).
Blessed are the merciful (for they shall obtain mercy.)
Blessed are the pure in heart (for they shall see God)
Blessed are the
peacemakers (for they shall be called the children of God)
Blessed are they which are persecuted for righteousness' sake (for theirs is the kingdom of heaven)
Blessed are ye, when men shall revile you, and persecute you, and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely, for my sake (Rejoice, and be exceeding glad: for great is your reward in heaven: for so persecuted they the prophets which were before you.)

In the late Kurt Vonnegut's article, "Cold Turkey", Vonnegut notices that our current christain-based presidential administration hardly could be seen to embrace the teachings of Christ, the Beatitudes. He says the Beatitudes are, "Not exactly planks in a Republican platform. Not exactly Donald Rumsfeld or Dick Cheney stuff." For all the talk of posting the 10 commandments in school rooms and courthouses, Kurt has never seen the same furvor towards the Beatitudes.

The bulk of organized Christianity (sans the Quakers and the few progressive progressive wings of denominations), especially those who are active in the culture wars from the right, ignore the Beatitudes. The will exercise more the more hail and brimstone parts of Deuteronomy or Leviticus and choose to interpret passages in the most demeaning and judgemental way. How is any of this consistant with the Beatitudes, the very teachings of Jesus? This current administration and the republican can hardly be described as being meek, instead they approach their sense of certainty with not a shread of humility.

For all the claims of this country being Christain-based, we are most certainly a country who don't like to be bothered by the actual teachings of Christ. Gays and Lesbians have long been persecuted in the name of Christ and the poor have been maligned and blamed. All that are blessed are the weak and maligned in society and this is backed up by Christ's actions.

I am looking for a religious faith to follow that reflects the real values of Christ: anti-greed, anti-hypocracy, anti-war, pro-equality, anti-death penalty, pro-poor, pro-weak, pro-civil and human rights, and resists the literal translation of the bible. If none exist, I may have to start my own church.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Quote of the Day

"This would be the best of all possible worlds if there were no religion in it." - John Adams

So much for the idea that our country's founders intended this to be a Christian Nation. The men who wrote our constitution were men of the Enlightenment period. Recently, I read the book,Freethinkers: A History of American Secularism . The author really shatters the myths propagated by the religious right that this nation's birth was guided by Christianity. The biggest clue this was not true is that no where in our Constitution does it mention God, or "divine power". It was the first "godless constitution" which was a amazing in a world where there was still a divine right of kings or of government. Another innovation and clue to our secular founding is that the constitution spelled out quite plainly that there would be no religious tests to hold public office.

At the time of the drafting of our constitution, each state had its own laws regarding who could hold office based on religious affiliation. Some would allow Jews to hold office, but no Catholics, some were vice versa. Yet, the constitutional authors based their document on the state constitution of Virginia, which allowed rights for all beliefs and even those without belief.

One thing that informs secularism of that time was the history of religion and government in Britain and Europe. Princes of Europe would hold one sect as official and demand fidelity by force only to switch religious alliances to make former adherants into heretics. Much of the instability of government ruled by Churches and religion drove our ancestors to the New World. Religious and non-religious alike wanted to be left alone.

The key to freedom of belief and conscience is having a secular government which doesn't choose sides and treats all of its citizens equally despite what they believe. An American citizen needs to walk into a courtroom, city hall, or the halls of the legislature believing that they are represented and accepted regardless of their religion. Christians would feel out of place if there were Quotes from Allah in Arabic inscribed in stone as the walk through a courtroom, city hall, or the legislature, wouldn't they? The same holds true when citizen non-Christan citizens are confronted with Christian inscriptions or a post of the 10 Commandments.

I am currently reading The End of Faith: Religion, Terror, and the Future of Reason , it brutally argues that religion is failing to be a positive influence in the world. He argues that supporting moderates in religion do not help matters because moderates are just unfaithful to the original texts of their religions. In other words, moderate or progressive Catholics are bad Catholics because they ignore many of the brutal and backward parts of the bible and reject some of the dogma of their church. To truly believe in a religion, you must accept the notion that people who believe differently are condemned as the texts of each religion preach. The moderates and progressives among us are enabling those who interpret their texts literally and see us as misguided, unfaithful, and even condemned to be punished by their god. This book forces one to question whether religion is worth it for our world given that it causes so much conflict and violence. I have yet to finish this book, but it doesn't look good for religion.

Daydreaming a Better Way of Living

If I could, I would love to start over with our ouse and build in its place a green modular house. Pre-fabricated modular homes like livinghomes and Michelle Kaufmann Designs cut the construction time and costs by having pieces of the home pre-made offsite.

The first picture is a Michelle Kaufmann Design that comes solar ready and uses various passive systems to cool and heat the home. It is the The Sunset® Breezehouse. I also like the
Sidebreeze. Her website says costs excluding fees $250/sf and $275/sf for MKD pre-designed homes, and- $400/sf and up Custom Projects. Surfaces that come standard on these homes are extra on Livinghome houses, but have a great customizing tool that will allow you to pick and choose various options and calculate the total cost to you.

My custom home is Model: rk5.1 that has a base price of $585,200. This model has 3 bedrooms, 2 baths, 2090 sq. ft, 75 sq ft of decking, 40 ft width and 72 ft length. I selected $95,100 worth of options: Solar Hot Water Collector and radiant heating system, a Gray Water system, a Rain Water Harvesting, and a Photovoltaic Panel system that adds 80% capacity. There are other fees that one has to factor in like getting permits that end up totally approximately $905,157 or $433/sq ft.

It really is hard to tell which is a better deal. Surfing around there seems to be a consensus that modular homes are in their infancy and are too pricey for average homeowners. The problem is that given the housing bubble burst it really isn't wise to make improvements that exceed what your house is worth in the market if you ever hope to sell or if you have to move and sell. It only makes sense if you know for sure that you will be living in this house the rest of your life and are planning to hand down the house to your kids and grandkids. The feeling in the eco-blogosphere is that modular homes will have to get down to $100 per square foot to really be accessible.

Our property is 7,800 sq ft with a requirement of a 20ft space from the sidewalk, but it is long and narrow, so a 40ft width is the safest dimension for any house plan. The price of the living home includes about 20k worth of landscaping, since we will have to move around some plants and install a drip system to take advantage of grey water and rainwater collection.

I selected Michelle Kaufmann since her office in Oakland is relatively local, but the modules are constructed in Washington State. Living Homes is based in Southern California in Santa Monica. It would be cool if there was a local company in Marin, that would construct their modules in Richmond or close enough that you are not burning excess fossil fuels to get them there. It would be cool to support a local economy as much as possible.

The next photo is an example of livinghomes dwelling, but it isn't the model that I am interested since this particular one is the more home than we need and the most expensive. It's base price is 868k. It has five bedrooms on two stories, 3100 square feet, 1435 square feet of decking, and is 40 feet wide and 80 feet long. The extras cost 100, 300 and include all of the extras on the other model i picked, but also include an ecosmart denatured ethonol fireplace that is flueless and clean burning. The total is approximately 1,229, 887 or $397 per square foot including 20k landscaping.

The other option is to retrofit our existing 1285 square foot house with eco-features like photovoltaic power system including a water heater system, and remodel the house to include passive solar lighting and heating. We would also have to insulate the house using recycled materials that will not give off any unhealthy gases. There is a spray insulation that is soy-based that looks interesting. A mix of passive and active solar seems to be the trick, but it is hard to get a price on this because it really depends how many panels we can put on the house and on the ground. Also, we are not DIY'ers, so we would have to pay someone to do this. We live in a mostly moderate sunny climate, but we do have occasional frosts below freezing and have very intense heat waves up to 114 degrees.

We can install a cool roof that can keep our home cooler and reduce heat islands that contribute to smog.

I am sure not all solar panels are equal, and if we are going to invest in a system, you want to get something that gets an additional 80% capacity. It would be nice to power our needs as well as sell back power to the grid. My dream is to live in a zero energy home, or where the net cost of running the home is at minum -- zero.
Another thing I would have to do is invest on replacing all our appliances to energy star models like Sun Frost and all our bathroom fixtures to be high water efficient. Counters would have to be replaced with enviroglass and any additional flooring be done with cork tiles. All lighting would need to be converted to LED technology. Another thing we can do is fit the house with skylights and tubelights that can light up dark places in our house during the day without turning on the lights.

I also found these composting toilets that can turn human waste into compost usuable in landscaping. It would be cool to be able to do this. Of course, you would have to make sure that all pathogens in the fecal matter were killed and would be able to be used without having to worry about runoff damaging the enviroment.

There is a local company based in Oakland called, Waterspout. They do systems for grey water and rainwater collection, as well as sustainable landscaping using native drought tolerant plants, edible landscape, succulant zeriscapes, subtropical and aquatic landscapes, and creative recycling of materials for hardscapes. With combination of water collection systems and drip systems we can have landscaping that can withstand the harshest droughts and can be low maintainance. When it rains, it would be nice to have a rain garden feature that will help filter run off before it goes to the bay.

Low maintanance is important to us since we are not green thumbs and are currently overwhelmed with our 20 feet by 40 feet backyard and significant front yard. I want an outdoor space that could allow kids to play, grow edible foods like our grapevines, and have people over for bbq and be protected from the elements somewhat. It would be cool to have a guilt-free fountain built with recycled materials, using grey water, and powered by solar. Right now alot of our land is underutilized because it is so difficult to get access and water our fruit trees consistently.

Some of the things we can do to make better landscapes are to reduce turf areas, use shade trees, group plants by water needs, and mulch all planting beds. Green roofs and walls are the practice of growing drought tolerant plants on the roof and climbing plants along the walls which actually insulates the home. There is a company called Greenscreen that can allow you to train plants along fences and homes.

I would also like to integrate a composting system that will be easy to maintain and avoid attracting pests or vermin that will easily create fertilizer for our landscape. Another thing I would be interested in is a permiable paving systems that filter rain water through paving stones and collect rainwater or move it safely to municiple drainage systems to the bay.

My question is: where is the money going to come from to allow every homeowner convert their home to an eco-home? I really think the answer is requiring all new housing to have water collection systems and solar and wind generating systems. We really need to focus on getting financing to allow every existing home to be retrofitted with these systems. Water and power will be our greatest crisis points in this century and will start being dire issues quickly as scientists become surprised at the rapid signs of global warming appear.

One of the things government can do is not add property taxation for remodeling existing homes to be eco-efficient even if they add square footage to their homes. If homeowners can submit a design that achieves water conservation, storage, and reuse and incorporates passive and active renewable energies -- I think local and state governments should reduce the cost of fees and permits and the overall cost of making these things happen.

I also think that what is needed is local companies to be supported who design, build, and maintain these eco-features. All residential and commercial buildings should have all these features all over the world. We need to retool our global economy as well as national and regional economies to provide these services accessible to everyone.

Green Transport

(Photo By Rat Phlegm) I ran across this bike that has been turned into a Sports Utility Bike that can carry a child and 4 bags of groceries. It is from a company called Xtracycle and you can either by a new Sports Utility Bike for around 900 bucks, or add on a kit to create one from an existing bike for 400 bucks. The childseat costs 200 dollars. For 50 bucks you can add footsies so you can have older passengers safely. Then for about 1350.00 you can turn your S.U.B into a human-electric hybrid drive. You can get electric charger and extra batteries to keep the bike going longer. Unfortunately, the human-electric system is not currently able to be ordered right now.

I would love to get this system and be able to get groceries without getting into my car, but one concern is that I live near a freeway with lots of cars and safety from being hit by these clueless drivers on their cellphones is a real concern.

A Poison Kiss

It is not just toys from China that contain lead, but lipsticks made in the USA.

The Campaign for Safe Cosmetics has come out with a report called, "A Poison Kiss: The Problem with Lead in Lipstick." It turns out that 61% of named brand lipsticks contain detectable amounts of lead and 1/3 of lipsticks exceed the amount of lead the FDA allows for candy. Like candy, lipstick can be ingested, one study found that in a woman's lifetime she may inadvertently ingest 4 pounds of lipstick. Among the top brands testing positive for lead were:

• L’Oreal Colour Riche “True Red” – 0.65 ppm
• L’Oreal Colour Riche “Classic Wine” – 0.58 ppm
• Cover Girl Incredifull Lipcolor “Maximum Red” – 0.56 ppm
• Christian Dior Addict “Positive Red” – 0.21 ppm

Younger and younger girls are using lipstick. A 2004 survey of cosmetics use by 5,856 U.S. girls aged 7 to 19 found that 63 percent of the girls aged 10 and younger reported using lipstick. This means that females will have a longer lifetime of use and exposure to lead than a generation before. Given that lead is a neurotoxin that has been linked to learning, language and behavioral problems such as lowered IQ, impulsiveness, reduced school performance, increased aggression, seizures and brain damage, anemia, and, after long exposure, damage to the kidneys, we need to make sure we force companies to take lead out of lipsticks. Lead has also been linked to effecting hormones, fertility, and delay of menstruation, it is important to deal with this lead problem.

There are lipsticks that do not have any detectable levels of lead, so it is possible and necessary to make sure that lead is removed from cosmetic ingredients. It is good to hear that the FDA is looking to investigate these findings, it remains to be seen if they come down on the side of consumers or bow to the cosmetics industry.

Industry groups have long claimed that lead exposure is an unavoidable byproduct, is no more than any other environmental sources and that they are within what the FDA and California's Prop 65 limits for lead. The problem is that exposure is cumulative as it stays in the system and builds up over time. Women wear make up 7 days a week all day, and can spread to people they have contact with -- significant others, husbands, relatives, and kids. While it is true that there are other sources of lead in our environment that makes it even more important to reduce exposures as much as possible.


Despite continuous allegations over the years, lead is not intentionally added to cosmetics. Lead is a naturally occurring element that is found everywhere in the environment. Consumers are exposed daily to lead when they eat, drink water and breathe the air. The average amount of lead a woman would be exposed to when using cosmetics is 1,000 times less than the amount she would get from eating, breathing, and drinking water that meets Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) drinking water standards.

“The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has set daily safe levels for lead exposure for adults, children and pregnant women. The agency also has set strict limits for lead levels allowed in the colors used in lipsticks, and actually analyze most of these to ensure they are followed. The products identified in the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics (CSC) report meet these standards. In fact, all the products tested in the CSC report meet the California standards for safety established under their Prop 65 process.

“Despite the negligible levels of lead found in some lipsticks, cosmetic companies are committed to reducing that level even further. For decades, cosmetic companies have worked to minimize all product contamination, including lead. They actively and continually review all raw materials to ensure that they contain the lowest levels of impurities possible. Cosmetic companies have some of the world’s leading chemists, toxicologists, and biologists to evaluate all the safety information.”

I have long supported FDA regulation of the cosmetics industry based on the precautionary principle not just in regards to lead, but a whole host of chemicals that have been found to be toxins or carcinogens. Congress and the next president (since Bush is hopelessly anti-consumer) need to create a fully funded and mandated FDA who will be more concerned about consumer health than industry profits. Both the EPA and the FDA are not stringent enough in protecting us from products sold in the US and contaminants found in the air and water. As many of the news stories of recalls of various products show, we cannot rely on industry or government to protect us and our children. It is time for consumers to put pressure on government to crack down on industry in regards to product safety.

Friday, October 12, 2007

Gore for 2008

Despite the qualifications and positive attributes of the current Democratic candidates for President, there is only one American alive today who deserves to be president -- Al Gore.

Al Gore has won the presidency before in 2000, and would be our president if the Supreme Court hadn't betrayed their state's rights agenda to halt a fair count in Florida. Our country would have had the benefit of a man of intellect and good judgment to handle all of the challenges in the past 8 years and our country would have been in a better place. We would have found a better way to deal with Iraq and wouldn't have gotten trapped in this endless quagmire.

Al Gore has just won a Nobel Peace Prize and is internationally respected around the world. His top priorities are where they should be -- toward dealing with Global Warming. When the sea levels rise, Islamofacist terrorist cells will be the least of our problems. When the climate fundamentally changes where agriculture can take place or where water supplies are, the lack of democracy in the Middle East or the presence of Gay Marriage will seem petty. I want a president who believes that global warming is the most important thing to deal with, and Gore has proved that he is willing to go the extra mile to make change to prevent or at least soften the effects of global warming.

We need a president who has the respect and good will of the entire world to motivate other countries to help our country to solve problems. Gore is uniquely placed to completely turn our global reputation around. We need a president that can argue persuasively that all humanity must drop what they are doing and address global warming which will profoundly effect every political party, religion, and every socio-economic level on this planet.

I would love to see every democratic candidate to realize that Al Gore is the best person to be president and turn over their campaign war chests to help him get elected. It would require a miracle for this to happen.

Given the current line up of republicans, I will be voting for anyone who gets the democratic nomination. The only candidate that I would get excited by and actually work for is Al Gore. I would support a Gore-Obama, Gore-Clinton, Gore-Edwards, or Gore-Kucinich ticket.

Wednesday, September 5, 2007

Creationism: The Back To School Edition

"This is a great set of resources to prepare to for the School year. Complete with Dr. Hovind's award-winning seminar video number 4 (Lies in the Textbooks), this package will teach you how to defend your faith, and do so effectively. Also included "Are you being Brainwashed?" - a book designed to help students quickly and effectively defend Science from the attacks of evolutionism in their public school classrooms. The Gap Theory is also included, which will debunk the compromising idea of a gap between Genesis 1:1 and Genesis 1:2 allowing for millions of years to be inserted. And finally, Claws Jaws and Dinosaurs will be included in this limited-time offer. This insightful book covers many interesting stories of cryptozoology and other fascinating stories!"

This extensive "Back to School Preparation Package" is now available from Creation Science Evangelism, a website I found when I went to Rapture Ready's Blog on Yahoo 360. Rapture Ready says, "The Bible is the only truth in this corrupt world. And the Bible tells us the age of the earth quite plainly, about 6000 years old. Man wants to make the Bible fit into his own flawed thinking, so he interprets and believes what other men have told him."

Why would anyone take a document that was written by people who did not know that the Earth was round and consisted continents far beyond the Mediterranean? A thinking Christain would interpret the bible as documents that are limited by what men knew and believed at the time they were written. These documents were written for contemporary, pre-literate humanity in terms they could understand with the intent to grow a religion. These documents can be interpreted differently based on various translations of the original texts. This particular man, Rapture Ready, chooses to believe men who believe that everything in the bible is to be interpreted literally even if it contradicts a huge body of evidence and common sense. You can be a follower of Christ and believe in evolution and in science that is evidence-based rather than belief-based.

It is disturbing that there will be a generation of kids that will be learning to reject evidence-based science for belief-based science. This will certainly add to the trend of America falling behind in science globally. This ignorance education serves to undermine real science being done in global warming, stem-cell research, safety standards of our food, water, drugs, and other products we come in contact with. Planting doubt in the scientific method and the scientific research allows for the acceptance of propaganda that there is faux controversies about global warming, second-hand smoking causes cancer, mercury in our fish, etc.

Saturday, August 25, 2007

Rumors, Insinuations, and the Ridiculously Guilty or Castro, Clinton, and Canine Cruelty

My husband was playing World of Warcraft when he asked me to check CNN, because someone online said that Castro was dead. There was nothing on CNN, MSNBC, or the BBC. So I dug deeper to Wonkette who was making fun of the guy , who normally blogs about celebrities and supposedly broke the Story. Since these stories suggested that the State of Florida was making plans, I checked the local media which noted the buzz in the air, but seemed to remain doubtful of the rumors. Not being a Cuban-American, I have never got the whole anti-Castro thing. I am occasionally fascinated how cigar-smoking Fidel has been able to hold onto power and stay alive so long. Despite numerous attempts to overthrow him and assassinate him, he keeps on going like the energizer bunny. I guess I don't get too excited either way because I doubt that bringing capitalism along with Starbucks and Walmart to Cuba is going to improve things there.

It appears that Hillary has made quite a stir suggesting that a terrorist attack would benefit the republicans during this election. Everyone is SHOCKED! I don't know why everyone is so shocked since there are countless examples how republicans have milked the whole 9/11 tragedy for every ounce of political advantage during these six horrible years. Just recently they have advertisements that try to link the severely botched quagmire that is Iraq with the 9/11 attack. While I can see the reasoning that another attack may help the republicans, I am also thinking that it may hurt them. For all these years this war in Iraq has been waged, Bush and his cronies have claimed that the reason we haven't been attacked here is because we are fighting Al Queda in its entirety there. If we are attacked while we are still in Iraq and during The Surge, it would completely crumble that world view. Even without an attack, you can argue that Al Queda waited 8 years between attacks on the World Trade Center and Al Queda cells have been busy attacking our allies Britain and Spain during this time. One wonders if part of the anger of the native insurgency in Iraq towards American troops is having their own country turned into a front line battlefield between the US and Al Queda.

Ridiculously Guilty

Hazzah to the NFL for indefinitely suspended for funding a dogfighting and gambling operation. Vick deserves to be kicked out of the NFL and sent to prison. Here is a guy who is making a spectacular living and he uses that privilege to support brutality of animals for sport. What kind of person thinks that having dogs rip each other apart is entertainment?

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

The People You Meet in Heaven, Hell, and the Purgatory of Poor Fools

The Hell: Paving the Road to Hell by Convincing US it is going to Heaven

Red Rove'r, Red Rove'r send insane evil right over!
Somewhere in Texas an arch-demon, MC Rove, re-enters his demon-cave from whence he spawned. I wish I could report that our long national nightmare is over now that this creature has retreated into his fiery liar with his "family" or demon-kin of fear-sprites, bible-twisting fire-imps, and oozing oil sludges.

We are still fighting this impossible war, which "Manchurian Candidate" McCain insists we are winning, when everyone agrees that a political solution rather than military might is far from being accomplished. There are no guarantees that we can prevent full blown calamity regardless if we stay or go. People will continue to die and be maimed with or without our assistance.

Then we have the economy that has been lauded as Bush's creation that is going downhill due to overly-permissive lending practices that will have far reaching consequences for all of us. People who were lead to believe that they could afford their no-interest or adjustable loans because the value of homes would continue to go up are going to lose their homes. The day-traders of the nineties turned into real estate flippers of the aughts have returned to the stock market creating the false illusion that the stock market can only go up. Due to recent volatile dips in the stock market, people will simply not know where to invest if they have any money left to invest. If people have trouble getting loans or refinancing they will be unable to afford to remodel their homes, effecting all the contractors: plumbers, electricians, furniture, landscapers, appliance makers, masons, home builders, and all the service providers that were making the economy seem to hum. Due to home values declining there is less incentive to make improvements even if the money is there, because there is no guarantee that you will get that money back on the resell of the home.

Oh...and we can also talk about our indebtedness to China, that seems to want to poison our kids with lead paint and pets with bad pet food. In fairness we cannot lay that on the laps of the pantheon of demon-kin that is the Bush Whitehouse alone. We can blame them though for our spiraling debt.

The Heaven: Coffee and Art

In the past days, I have been able to compare side by side Peets Coffee against Henry's House of Coffee, and we have discovered that hands down -- Henry makes better coffee. We have one of those Krup Carafe coffeemakers and often we reheat what is left over from the day before in the morning. Peets coffee turns rancid tasting if left over night, but Henry's tastes like it did when it was first brewed. I am telling you that with the free shipping Henry offers, there is no reason why you shouldn't be drinking his coffee. Walk in his San Francisco shop while he is roasting his beans and it is surely what heaven must smell like. You will be dizzy with pleasure. I promise.

Stop right now and dial: 1.800.578.5282 and order his coffee. I prefer his 1/2 french roast and 1/2 mocha java blend and Henry's Blend Decaf. He has a wide variety of beans. Do it. Do it. Do it.

I came across a wonderful art blog called dear ada, there are countless wonderful finds from the art world. It is my heaven when i want a fresh dose of art to discover.

Purgatory of Poor Fools: Pig Biting Madness In Print No More

I remember in my sophomore year in high school, my friends and I took a train to San Francisco from Menlo Park and we bought a Weekly World News. We were astonished by various tales of genetic mishaps of Batboy and Ed Anger telling us that he would would join the troops in Lebanon if it weren't for the fact that he had a steel plate in his skull.

The Weekly World News has recently announced that they will be going web only and ceasing to kill trees to bring us news of pending Armageddon or new mutant babies.

While I like saving trees for real news, I somehow feel like it is an end of an era of buying this rag and using it for wrapping paper for kitchy gift giving.

This paper lives in a space between heaven and hell. It is uniquely American, haven for Photoshop hacks, and provides empty calories of useless, false information (which FoxNews takes to a high art). I will miss the appropriately seedy and tactile experience of having the newsprint bleed on your fingers -- something a website just can't do.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

The Buck Stops Nowhere

I wasn't at all surprised that convicted perjurer and justice obstructer, I. Lewis Libby, got his sentence commuted by Bush. What I am surprised about is how many people I run into in my highly educated enclave of suburban excess who have no recognition of who I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby is. It would be one thing if he was some obscure cabinet member who just recently got into the news, but Scooter has been in the news since the whole Plame scandal blew open and Fitzgerald handed down indictments. Reporters went to jail and there was a trial. You had deeper issues of an administration who would reveal the identity of a once covert agent which revealed every covert contact she dealt with that is still in the field trying to protect our country. It is weird to me that people seem so unaware of current events.

I am not surprised that Scooter got off. The Bush administration is in this alternative universe where the concept of personal responsibility is suspended in favor of praising gross incompetence. Mistakes were made and this job is hard are the constant mantras. This would be tolerable if there were not so many sobering and ghastly consequences of all these presidential failures, falsehoods, and foolhardiness.

It has just been reported that adjusted for inflation, we have spent just as much money in Iraq and Afghanistan as we did in Vietnam. Billions and billions are wasted and there is no accountability. The buck not only stops nowhere, but it evaporates into the ether of corruption and cronyism.

Wednesday, June 27, 2007


Thanks to my webspace friend, Dancing like nobodys watching, who thanks Jess for this. Read it and think and feel.

Whether you are homosexual or not, you should repost this in support of your friends and loved ones who are. Love is not defined by color, creed, or gender.

I am the mother who is not allowed to even visit the children I bore, nursed, and raised. The court says I am an unfit mother because I now live with another woman.

I am the boy who never finished high school, because I got called a fag everyday.

I am the girl kicked out of her home because I confided in my mother that I am a lesbian.

I am the prostitute working the streets because nobody will hire a transsexual woman.

I am the sister who holds her gay brother tight through the painful, tear-filled nights.

We are the parents who buried our daughter long before her time.

I am the man who died alone in the hospital because they would not let my partner of twenty-seven years into the room.

I am the foster child who wakes up with nightmares of being taken away from the two fathers who are the only loving family I have ever had. I wish they could adopt me.

I am not one of the lucky ones. I killed myself just weeks before graduating high school. It was simply too much to bear.

We are the couple who had the realtor hang up on us when she found out we wanted to rent a one-bedroom for two men.

I am the person who never knows which bathroom I should use if I want to avoid getting the management called on me.

I am the domestic-violence survivor who found the support system grow suddenly cold and distant when they found out my abusive partner is also a woman.

I am the domestic-violence survivor who has no support system to turn to because I am male.

I am the father who has never hugged his son because I grew up afraid to show affection to other men.

I am the home-economics teacher who always wanted to teach gym until someone told me that only lesbians do that.

I am the woman who died when the EMTs stopped treating me as soon as they realized I was transsexual.

I am the person who feels guilty because I think I could be a much better person if I didnt have to always deal with society hating me.

I am the man who stopped attending church, not because I don't believe, but because they closed their doors to my kind.

I am a warrior for my country serving proud, but can't be my true self because gays aren't allowed in the military.

I am the person who has to hide what this world needs most, love.

I am the person ashamed to tell my own friends I'm a lesbian, because they constantly make fun of them.

I am the boy tied to a fence, beaten to a bloody pulp and left to die because two straight men wanted to "teach me a lesson."

This is the boy, Matthew Shepard. On October 7, 1998 Aaron McKinney and Russell Henderson lead him to a remote area east of Laramie where they demonstrated unimaginable acts of hate. Matthew was tied to a split-rail fence where he was beaten and left to die in the cold of the night. Almost 18 hours later he was found by a cyclist who initially mistook him for a scarecrow. Matthew died on October 12 at 12:53 am at a hospital in Fort Collins, Colorado. KILLED BECAUSE HE WAS GAY!!!




Tuesday, June 12, 2007

On June 6th, it was the 39th anniversary of the assassination of Robert Kennedy. No one better summed up his life than his brother, Edward Kennedy during his eulogy. I was only two years old at the time, but the words and ideals mean so much to me. It is why I am a proud liberal and why I care so much about those who are discriminated against in this country and around the world. I will never know and never claim that the Kennedys ever had the answer, but they had this enormous ability to articulate what liberals are trying to fight for.

Sunday, June 3, 2007

Hot Fudge Sunday

[Painting by Mark Nobriga, "Chocolate Jesus", 2002, 67 1/2" X 67 1/2" - Oil and metal leaf on panel.]

So I am back from my journey, you all. Both fathers are home and recovering from their hospital stays. It is so weird, it seems like they always time their hospital stays so close together. One time they both went into the hospital for the same condition on the same weekend. Not only was I distressed, but I was kind of freaked out by the coincidence or fate of the whole thing.

Maven in Action...elsewhere...

I am in the process of reviving my old Voices of Adoption site, but this time calling it Voices in Adoption because some adoption agency horked the and Do you think they are holding them for me till I got back from my sabbatical? Anyway, I wrote a new article about the ethics and pitfalls of potential adoptive parents advertising their interest in adoption via road sign or other methods of casting a wide net.

Saturday, May 26, 2007

Supernatural History Museum

Now creationists have an "educational" place where they can take their kids and not have to worry about pesky facts, evidence, or even common sense. Dick and Jane know that the beginning of the earth 6000 years ago has far more in common with the Flintstones than once thought by those darned scientists.

From their website:

"We’ll begin the Museum experience by showing that “facts” don’t speak for themselves (click here for a proposed drawing of this exhibit). There aren’t separate sets of “evidences” for evolution and creation—we all deal with the same evidence (we all live on the same earth, have the same fossils, observe the same animals, etc.). The difference lies in how we interpret what we study. We’ll then explore why the Bible—the “history book of the universe”—provides a reliable, eye-witness account of the beginning of all things."

From the brain of Kirk Cameron actor from Growing Pains and from the Left Behind movies, Intelligent Design vs. Evolution Board Game counters "the brainwashing of an entire generation" with more brainwashing via the blessed three E's: Evangelistic, educational, entertaining.

From their website:

"Intelligent Design vs Evolution" is unique in that the playing pieces are small rubber brains and each team plays for "brain" cards. Each player uses his or her brains to get more brains, and the team with the most brains wins. It has been designed to make people think . . . and that's exactly what it does."

Sounds like Zombies...BRAINS!

Thursday, May 24, 2007

Maven's VideoWest

I remember in the late 70s watching a show late on Friday Nights which was the local precursor of MTV. Here is my version...enjoy.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Maven's Featured Artist: Lynne Taetzsch

"Time in Space", Lynne Taetzsch

One of my plans for this blog is to feature artists that I admire in my backgrounds. In my Internet travels I found an artist I totally love, Lynne Taetzsch. I love the colors and the sense of movement in her pieces. If I had enough money I would love to own a couple of her works.

Sunday, May 13, 2007

Maven's Movies: An Adoption Story

In 1966, Cynthia Anne Henke was born and relinquished for adoption. Months later she was adopted -- her named changed to Denise Kristina. Her original birth certificate was sealed forever.
In 1994, Denise reunited with both sides of her birthfamily and started the award-winning website, Voices of Adoption (1994-2001) which was recognized as the premier adoption website on the Internet. In 1998, Denise was named "The Top 25 Most Influential Women on the Web" and was a Webby Award Judge.
She also worked to open original birth certificates for adult adoptees through Bastard Nation. Her adoptive parents became lifetime members of Bastard Nation and supported her right to her own information that was sealed by the government. In the film, you see her parents modeling Bastard Nation t-shirts.
Denise can trace her birth roots to the 1200s yet she cannot get her original birth certificate.
In March 1997, Denise sat down with her parents to talk about their thoughts on adoption and her finding her birthparents.

From Denise:
This Mother's Day prompted me to do something with film I created ten years ago. Five years ago, my mother passed away after years of struggling with emphysema and osteoporosis. I ache for her especially when I need someone to talk with about motherhood. She comes to me in my dreams sometime and I choke with tears realizing that it is only a dream. It makes me sad that she died before my son came into the world, and that my son at three still doesn't register her existence yet. I am hoping this will help him visualize who she was. She would have adored my son.
I miss her deeply and even though we are not connected by birth there is no question that she is my mother -- mommy. She understood this and knew that not even my birth mother could replace her in my heart. I love her.

Thursday, May 10, 2007

Waiting for the Bling

Movement of Misinformation

There is a real movement in our country for abstinence-only education. There is Randy Wilson's Generations of Light Purity Balls where fathers take their daughters to a formal dance where they pledge to be the guardian of their daughter's purity. They may seem innocent enough, but they do not work and in some cases cause harm. There is the "Silver Ring Thing" where kids wear silver rings and make public pledges to stay celibate while being scared off from using birth control by over-estimating failure rates.

The follow misinformation has been found in federally funded abstinence-only programs: Condoms fail to prevent HIV infection 31 percent of the time during heterosexual sex. The chances of getting pregnant while using a condom are 1 in 6. And condoms break or slip off nearly 15 percent of the time.

A recent study came out as to the effectiveness of abstinence-only sex education.

The most recent findings is that such programs have no effect on teenage abstinence or sexual behavior. An earlier study on abstinence only programs showed that participants delayed sexual behavior on average of 18 months and that when they do started sexual relations, they do not use any protection opening themselves and their partners to pregnancy and STDs.

This latest study did not find that the participants of abstinence only education were less likely to use birth control or protection. I am wondering if there is a difference in which abstinence only programs they studied. Programs like "Silver Ring Thing" rely heavily on misinformation and scare tactics against birth control to get young people to be abstinent, and perhaps programs like those are the ones that lead to lack of use of birth control. Maybe the earlier study, got some programs to calm down the anti-birth control rhetoric.

The bottom line from the studies is that abstinence only sex education does not work. It is a shame since so much public monies have been devoted to these programs during the Bush Administration. In 1997, only 10 million dollars were spent on such programs as part of the Welfare Reform Act. The last Republican-controlled congress allotted 176 million

for abstinence only programs and the Bush Administration wanted 191 million for 2008. Now that the Democratic party has the majority, some members are looking critically

at this mess of a program. Around 2002, even moderate Republicans have supported alternative legislation, the Family Life Education Act, which would set aside 100 million dollars for programs that taught birth control along with abstinence education.

Strange Bedfellows: Abstinence-Only & The Marriage Movement

In doing research on abstinence-only education I found that there are weird twists and turns through a vast labyrinth of religious right organizations who have been feeding off the government trough during the Bush administration. The Bush adminstration's Health and Human Services along with the Office of Faith-based and Community Services are on the front lines of the religious right's culture war. It really isn't about making kids safe or preventing unwanted pregnancies or STDs, it is about funding their culture war based on their rather extreme puritanical views.

The man who was in charge of the federal government's abstinence only program which funnelled funds to states was Wade F. Horn, the Assistant Secretary of Health and Human Services, who recently resigned just as there were charges of cronyism with sending contracts to his wife's company through religious organizations that he granted money to and redirecting 1 million dollars to his own organization, National Fatherhood Initiative. Dissident Voice has a recent article about Wade that raises questions about his funding decisions.

Horn ended up working for Deloitte & Touche a big supporter of the Republican Party and a contractor for state computing systems. Horn will serve as a director in the organization’s Public Sector practice -- a key advisor to health and human services clients of Deloitte Consulting’s state government practice. It sounds to me a classic case of the whole revolving door between government and corporate interests.

Wade F. Horn is the co-founder of the National Fatherhood Initiative with Don Eberly and David Blankenhorn. Don Eberly is the Deputy Assistant to the President for Faith-based and Community intiatives. Eberly is the head of the Civil Society Project and has scholarly affiliations with the Institute for American Values, the Hudson Institute, and The George Gallop, Jr. International Institute.

On a side note, Eberly also acted as Acting Minister of Youth Sport in Iraq right after the invasion and the occupation, who angered the players of the Iraqi Soccer team by using their success in service of the Bush campaign for re-election.

Don Eberly has written that society's role is restraint rather than to liberate. He believes that the idea of the personal is political is a pernicious one of which feminism is the main culprit. The other founder, David Blankenhorn, is the president of the Institute for American Values. He believes that marriage can be the cure for domestic violence.(!!!)

From Fatherless America: Confronting Our Most Urgent Social Problem, by David Blankenhorn. 1995. pgs. 32-39.

"...[O]ur public discussion of domestic violence almost never acknowledges, much less analyzes, differences in marital status among men who assault women. Indeed, to avoid making these distinctions, certain rules of language are widely observed. Almost without exception, journalists, legislators, academics, and advocates for battered women adhere to the convention of calling perpetrators of domestic violence "husbands" or "partners," or sometimes, even more elliptically, "husbands and boyfriends." As a result, the public repeatedly hears that men who batter women are either husbands, or well, we would prefer to to be precise."

"Male violence is rooted in families is rooted in, and sustained by, male marital privilege. Because of the causal link between marriage and violence, and because husbands are the principle victimizers of women, "wife beating" properly emerges as a generic term for male violence against a female sex partner."

"...[M]arried fatherhood emerges as the primary inhibitor of male domestic violence. By reducing the likelihood of sexual jealousy and paternal uncertainty, and by directing the male's aggression towards the support of his child and the mother of his child, married fatherhood dramatically restricts the tendency among men toward violent behavior."

So the man who was in charge of abstinence-only as sex education in this nation is heavily aligned with men who have pretty scary views on women, social services, and personal freedom.

Saying "NO" To Just-Say-No

There are a growing number of states that are opting against taking the money and ending their abstinence only curriculum: Ohio, Wisconsin, Rhode Island, Connecticut, Montana, and

New Jersey. Just a couple of days ago, the Kansas Board of Education voted to return to comprehensive sex education sans parental permission slips from abstinence-only education with a requirement for parental permission slips for real sex education. Gov. Deval Patrick (D) late last month proposed that the state reject a $700,000 federal grant it has received annually since 1998 to teach abstinence-only sex education classes.

Washington Gov. Chris Gregoire (D) on Wednesday signed into law a bill (SB 5297) that prohibits abstinence-only sex education in public schools that choose to teach sex education, the AP/Longview Daily News reports (Woodward, AP/Longview Daily News, 5/3). Under the law, public schools that choose to provide sex education will be required to discuss abstinence with students, but schools are barred from teaching abstinence without also instructing students about other issues, including contraception. Medically and scientifically accurate sex education is mandatory. The measure defines "medically and scientifically accurate" information as that which is backed by research published in peer-review journals and is considered objective. The law allows parents to review the curriculum and allows them to opt their children out of the classes after filing a written request with the school board or principal.

The American Civil Liberties Union announced yesterday that they are initiating a multi-state action calling on the federal government to fix medical inaccuracies in federally funded abstinence-only-until-marriage curricula. Eleven ACLU affiliates sent letters to the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) alerting the agency to problematic curricula in their states and asking HHS to take steps to remedy the situation. According to the ACLU, three federally funded abstinence-only-until-marriage curricula, Me, My World, My Future; Sexuality, Commitment & Family; and Why kNOw, along with HHS’s own Web site and pamphlet, Parents, Speak Up!, all violate a federal law requiring certain educational materials to contain medically accurate information about condom effectiveness.

From Swift Boat to Silver Ring

Given such gloomy news, it is understandable that a lobbying group the National Abstinence Education Association (NAEA) has been formed to protect these programs when hundreds of

millions of funding is at stake. They have also hired Creative Response Concepts, the guys responsible for the whole Swift Boat controversy to fight for the future of abstinence only sex education. The head of the NAEA is Valerie Huber, who was the Director (or State Abstinence Coordinator for the Ohio Department of Health) of Ohio's Abstinence-only programs for the and coordinated the federal funding that was coming in.

It seems that the PR machine is already in high gear. I ran across a pro-life newsletter,, who published results of a poll of 1,000 parents saying that 83% support having their kids wait until marriage to have sex and a majority believe that sex education should reinforce abstinence. It also found that 6 out of 10 parents prefer abstinence education vs. comprehensive sex education. It is no surprise that this Zogby poll was commissioned by the NAEA itself.

Enter S. Michael Craven, Founding Director of the Center for Christ & Culture, which is a ministry of the National Coalition for the Protection of Children & Families. He grants that there are a lot of articles out there that state that abstinence-only programs don't work. Then he points to a HHS study that did come to the conclusion that such programs don't work and talks about that the study only included 4 of 900 programs out there. This is the same HHS that is very pro-abstinence only -- why they only decided to pick four out of 900 for their study brings up a lot of questions. Then Craven says that the programs studied only focus on kids from 9-11 and they didn't show their behavior four to six years later. Then he goes on to question that the programs were not which isn't sufficient since they are not at the age to absorb the message or have to deal with sexual activity. He states that programs don't work unless there is a reinforcing program in high school. So, Craven admits in a way these programs don't work as designed.

Craven goes on to state that the HHS had a conference in Baltimore had more that a dozen studies showing the positive effect of abstinence-only education. Since the HHS is pro-abstinence only education it is no surprise that they would fund research that would show a different outcome than research outside the pro-abstinence-only community. He also claims that abstinence only education is responsible for the decline. Crawling through the CDC data myself there has been a decline in young teens and teens from 15-17 having sex and the majority that wait do so for religious reasons or fear of getting a girl pregnant. My question is whether this isn't the delay of 18 months at work. Do these kids really wait for marriage before they have sex, or are they just delaying the act till they are older (i.e. College). Would the same amount of kids postpone sex in a comprehensive sex ed class?

Then he states that abstinence education teaches the social, psychological, and health gains of abstinence and that abstinence of sexual activity outside marriage as the expected standard for all school-age children. It teaches that abstinence from sexual activity is the only certain way to avoid out-of-wedlock pregnancy, sexually transmitted diseases, and other associated health problems. These programs teach that a mutually faithful, monogamous relationship in the context of marriage is the expected standard of sexual activity and that sexual activity outside the context of marriage is likely to have harmful psychological and physical effects.

Craven goes on the programs teach that bearing children out of wedlock is likely to have harmful consequences for the child, the child’s parents, and society. I am not sure if this is a positive message you want to be sending kids if you are also pro-life. All births should be welcome, if we really want to have a culture of life. We should work to remove consequences of out-of-wedlock births, shouldn't we?

I do agree with the importance of two purposes of abstinence only instruction: 1. teach young people how to reject sexual advances and how alcohol and drug use increases vulnerability to sexual advances; 2. Teach the importance of attaining self-sufficiency before engaging in sexual activity. I think these are wise things to point out to young people as they teach kids to be able to protect themselves and focus on other goals and life skills that could build their own self-esteem.

I question the motives of programs that give marriage as the only milestone to achieve to have sex. First of all gays and lesbians cannot get married, so it is basically telling 1%-10% of the population that they should never have sex. I question who's standards and morals these people want to impose on kids. Shouldn't we leave the morals and standards to parents, while schools make sure that for public health reasons that kids know how to protect themselves?

The whole shame-based, religious-based wait-til-your-married system of "sex education" doesn't really work. My birth and the birth of millions of Bastards born out-of-wedlock from 1945-1972 stand as testaments to the fact that shame and fear based sex ed doesn't work. Why should we keep pouring hundreds of millions of dollars toward this? It is time to end this cartel of morality draining the public coffers.