Thursday, February 10, 2011

MAVERICK CHRONICLES: 2/11/11

A CREATIONIST NATION?

Four in 10 Americans believe that humans were created by God about 10,000 years ago, while only 16 percent of us think we developed over millions of years without divine assistance. The rest say we’ve been evolving for millions of years – but God certainly helped.

Actually it’s not as bad as it sounds. The number of people who accept the “creationist” idea has actually gone down. The high was 47 percent back in the 1990s. As you might suspect, people with less education are more like to be creationists.

Most Americans believe in some sort of God, so it’s no shock that about 8 in 10 think human origins involve some kind of divine intervention—either God created humans according to The Book of Genesis, or merely guided a process of evolution. But it’s nevertheless noteworthy that 40 percent embrace the first of these explanations since such attitudes have political and cultural consequences. For example, communities have been arguing for decades about which explanation of human origins should be offered in school textbooks and curricula.

Soon we could hear it debated bit time, by people who want to run the country – people like Mike Huckabee, Sarah Palin, and other presidential wannabes. So, the question for this week is: What are the chances that the country will someday accept a true radical as its leader? I’m not talking about a leftist, of course, but rather someone who thinks science has a liberal bias and the Bible is a history book? Can it happen here?

This is Maverick Media’s Rebel News Round Up,* broadcast live at approximately 11:30 a.m. Friday on WOMM (105.9-FM/LP – The Radiator) in Burlington.

This Week’s Ten Big stories: Endangered shellfish, death of a detainee, Tea Party developments, creationist nation, New Orleans demographics and Big Brother in Chicago, an immigration video game, Burlington vs. Lockheed, a Great Moment in political payback history, and the rumor of the week.


Live Stream:
http://www.theradiator.org/drupal/webcam.html

NATIONAL SCENE

ANOTHER FISH BITES THE DUST

Here’s another addition to the list of creatures in jeopardy – shellfish. According to the Nature Conservancy, which has completed the first-ever comprehensive review of the state of the world's shellfish, the prognosis is basically awful. That’s a technical term.

Globally, about 85 percent of the world's oyster reefs have vanished. In other words, they’re functionally extinct. The main factors in the decline are – surprise! – destructive fishing practices, coastal over-development, and the effects of upstream activities like altered river flows, dams, poorly managed agriculture, and poor water quality.

Oysters are natural water filters and improve water quality. They are also natural coastal buffers, helping to protect shorelines and keep coastal wetlands intact. Basically, they protect coastal communities from storm surges and sea-level rise. So, that’s one more point for climate change.

DETAINED TO DEATH

Another casualty last week was Guantanamo detainee Awal Gul, a 48-year-old Afghan who died on Tuesday of an apparent heart attack. Gul was a father of 18 children and had been kept in a cage by the US for more than 9 years. In late 2001 he was captured in Afghanistan and brought to Gitmo. But he was never officially accused of a crime.

The US claimed he was a Taliban commander, but Gul insisted that he quit the Taliban a year before the 9/11 attack. As his lawyer put it, "he was disgusted by the Taliban's growing penchant for corruption and abuse." His death means that we’ll never know.

So, just to be clear, the US government’s detention policy is that it can impose a life sentence without bothering to prove that the person accused actually did anything wrong.

A TEA PARTY SURPRISE

Here is a strange development. More than two dozen Republicans, some of them new members with Tea Party credentials, joined Democrats in opposing extension of parts of the Patriot Act. A measure to extend counterterrorism-based surveillance provisions of the Act failed in the House when the Republicans bucked their party to oppose the measure.


Three key provisions of the law are set to expire on Feb. 28 unless Congress reauthorizes them. One says the FBI can continue using roving wiretaps on surveillance targets; another allows the government to access “tangible items" like library records as part of surveillance; and the third, known as a "lone wolf" provision, allows surveillance of people who aren’t connected to an identified terrorist group.

“The Patriot Act represents the undermining of civil liberties," says Dennis Kucinich, one of the few Congressmen who consistently speaks out and keeps his eye on this issue. But the Republican House establishment says that he’s wrong and blame Democrats for denying “their own administration's request for key weapons in the war on terror." With a little help from the Tea Party.

HERE COME DA PAULS

The big Tea Party news this week is that Ron Paul may be on the verge of announcing another presidential run. What’s the evidence – aside from wishful thinking? The Texas Congressman will give a speech in Iowa at an event called “presidential lecture series” that features likely Oval Office candidates.

Jesse Benton, advisor to Paul’s Campaign for Liberty organization, confirmed that he is seriously considering another run. Given the likelihood that Sarah Palin will put her assault rifle in the race, it’s important to note that a new Rasmussen poll gives Paul a better chance of defeating Obama than the Mama Grizzly. Palin trails Obama by 11 percent in current approval ratings. Paul is only 9 points behind the President.

The conventional wisdom is that Obama’s second term is virtually guaranteed if the Republicans go with Palin. Of course, that kind of wisdom sometimes proves to be closer to an old wives tale – due respect to “old wives.”

Still, an even bigger surprise is possible. Ron Paul could end up running against his own son, Rand. Last week the freshman Senator from Kentucky dropped hints that he too might make a run for the White House, according to the Wall Street Journal. He admitted such a decision would be premature, yet also told ABC News that he would step up if nominated. He put it this way: “Come back and ask me in a few months.”

Given Rand’s aspirations and his father’s chance of beating Obama, maybe the Republican dream ticket for 2012 is a father/son combination. Very Ayn Rand. Personally, I still prefer a Sanders-Paul independent alliance to a Ron / Rand combo. Nevertheless, here’s a possible slogan for a Paul-Paul slate:

America needs some R & R.

A TALE OF TWO CITIES

What changes a place more – public fears or man-made disasters? Let’s consider the cases of two cities, New Orleans and Chicago.

Since hurricane Katrina overpowered the levees of New Orleans and caused such extensive flooding that almost half the city’s residents had to flee, the population has dropped by almost 30 percent. In 2000 there were 485,000 people living there. Census figures released last week say that now there are no more than 343,000.

Before Katrina, New Orleans was an overwhelmingly black city. African Americans made up 67 percent of the population. Today there are 118,000 fewer black residents. Meanwhile, the white population has crept up to 30 percent. There has been a rise in the Hispanic presence, mostly due to a major influx of workers needed for reconstruction.

Almost 60,000 fewer children live in the city, a drop of about 44 percent. In the past New Orleans was proud of its vibrant youth culture. But the disaster has apparently turned the city both older and whiter.

Chicago also used to be a pretty wild and crazy place. Less so now that cameras watch people wherever they go. Last Monday the ACLU chapter in Illinois reported that the city has 10,000 cameras in public places. They’re operated by the police, schools, the public transit system and businesses linked to Chicago’s 911 Center. ACLU wants the city to stop adding more cameras and, perhaps more to point, stop zooming in on people, tracking their movements, or using facial recognition technology without probable cause.

Mayor Richard Daley calls surveillance a cost-effective way to help police fight crime. “We’re not spying on anyone or identifying anyone, or racially profiling anyone,” he claims. “We’re not.” Really. But he also says that it’s impractical to prove probable cause before zooming in. The nightmare scenario he sees involves a judge being awakened at two in the morning. “Judge, we have probable cause,” says the cop. “The person is walking down 22nd Street. By the time we get there,” Daley imagines, “the person’s already at Halsted Street.” Scary.

If you look around almost anywhere in Chicago, you’ll probably spot a surveillance camera: red light cameras, security surveillance cameras, police “blue light” pod cameras. The blue-light cameras have been strategically placed in high-crime areas since 2003. Police say the system works. But the public is divided. Some residents agree with the cops and don’t think privacy is being invaded if you know the camera is there. Others see it as a violation of their rights, or say criminals and gangs have simply moved from major streets with cameras to side streets without them.

It’s the most extensive and integrated camera network of any US city, according to former Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff. Civil libertarians consider it step toward Big Brother. “Chicago’s camera network invades the freedom to be anonymous in public places, a key aspect of the fundamental American right to be left alone,” says the ACLU report. “Each of us then will wonder whether the government is watching and recording us when we walk into a psychiatrist’s office, a reproductive health care center, a political meeting, a theater performance, or a bookstore.”

On the other hand, the cameras have played a role in several high-profile cases. In 2007 footage from a city bus camera helped persuade a suspected gang member to plead guilty to shooting a 16-year-old high school student. Cameras also helped police determine that the 2009 death of a school board president was a suicide.

So, concerns about crime have turned Chicago into a surveillance city-state, while unfortunate events have robbed New Orleans of its cultural edge. It’s hard to imagine how the latter can recapture its Mojo – aside from incentives for artists to move there. But Chicago could just stop installing the cameras.

GAME WITH A MESSAGE

Who says video games can’t have a social conscience? Take the game being developed that has users drive a truck full of immigrants through the desert. The object is to prevent them from being tossed out along the way.

It’s called "Smuggle Truck: Operation Immigration," and is targeted for release in March. In the game players navigate through what appears to be the US-Mexican border. As their truck deals with cliffs, mountains and dead animals, immigrants may fall off the truck's bed. Your scores depends on the number of immigrants you help cross the border.

Alex Schwartz says the idea for the game arose from the frustration some friends of his faced while trying to immigrate. "We felt like this issue was kind of taboo for games and popular media," he says. "So we wanted to build something…about this struggle that we could put into our work and our passion, which is making games."

The message, he claims, is that it’s so tough to emigrate legally that it's almost easier to smuggle yourself over the border despite the dangers. But immigrant advocates aren’t impressed. Eva Millona, director of the Massachusetts Immigrants & Refugee Advocacy Coalition, says the game is in poor taste and trivializes the risks immigrants face under a broken immigration system.
"Last year, 170 human beings died crossing the border," Millona said in statement. "It's disgraceful that anyone would try to make money out of this tragedy by making light of it in a game."

Patricia Montes, executive director of Centro Presente, a Somerville, Mass.-based Latino immigrant advocacy group, adds that people who are trying to emigrate into the US don’t think they are part of a game. "They do it because they are desperate."

The developers claim they aren’t trying to offend immigrants and their advocates. In fact, they went out of their way to make sure the game's characters weren't stereotypical. How? "For example, one of the immigrants is a nerdy looking guy with a pocket protector," Schwartz explained.

The game is currently being tested around Boston.

TOMORROW:

PART TWO – Lockheed, Vermont and the Rumor of the Week

* This is an edited transcript and does not include extemporaneous comments and last minute changes or additions.
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