Saturday, August 21, 2010

Making Money on Killers Close to Home

Cell Phones, Texting and Apps

It's all about making money. The more people talk and text, the more money the cell phone industry makes, and the more talking and texting in vehicles the more people die. 2,600 deaths and 330,000 injuries are caused each year by distracted drivers on cell phones. According to the National Safety Council, more than 1.6 million traffic crashes a year are caused by drivers using cell phones or texting, which is 28% of all vehicle wrecks. Meanwhile, the wireless communications industry makes out like bandits as it sells its fancy phones with a multitude of apps on countless TV commercials and actively lobbies to defeat legislation prohibiting cell phone use and texting while driving.

It's about making money with war too. Quartz, gold, lithium and copper are essential elements used in the wireless communications industry and are all found in mineral rich Afghanistan. The burgeoning industry will benefit if the US and NATO nations can control the government there.

Since I have battle fatigue from writing about war, cutting through the fog and exposing its folly, let’s take a break and look at another killer, one closer to home - the contagious, infectious, and ubiquitous cell phone syndrome. Cell phone obsession can be rude, demeaning -- and deadly.

In 2006, financial writer Jon Markman wrote about cell phone addiction while touting investments in the industry as a big money maker. “When you get in your car, you reach for it. When you're at work, you take a break to have a moment alone with it. When you get into an elevator, you fondle it. And experts say it is becoming more difficult for many people to curb their longing to hug it more tightly than most of their personal relationships. With its shiny surfaces, its sleek and satisfying touch, its mysteries and air of sophistication, the cell phone connects us to the world even as it disconnects us from people three feet away.”

Cell phones have become an escape from reality and a costly social problem for Americans like other harmful addictions. They distract from important one-on-one personal contact. Have you ever noticed parents talking on a phone at a restaurant, paying no attention to their texting children during the meal and wondered if they did the same thing at home, or people chatting on a phone in their car, ignoring their fellow passengers? A high school teacher told me her students are distracted from learning by text-messaging and they use their multiple phones apps to cheat.

I enjoy making eye contact and greeting people I casually encounter, whether or not I know them, and feel good when they respond in kind. Now-a-days most of them are so into a phone conversation or texting while walking down the sidewalk, or standing on the corner, that they are oblivious to my greeting. Is it cooler to talk or text to virtual people than be friendly to a real person?

Industrial sociologist Jim Williams says we don’t have as many pals as our parents and, "Just as more information has led to less wisdom, more acquaintances via the Internet and cell phones have produced fewer (real) friends."

But there can be even greater damage. Our law firm focuses on personal injury litigation. We investigate the causes of vehicle crashes that injure our clients and damage their vehicles. As talking and texting on cell phones increases, the number of vehicle crashes caused by talking and texting drivers increases. It is a common occurrence to see a vehicle that swerves for no apparent reason and is slow to respond to changes in the traffic flow. When you pass it you will notice its driver talking to a cell phone or looking down to text or do some apps—maybe watching a movie or YouTube video, tweeting or updating Facebook on their Blackberry or iPhone. A survey shows that 52% of 16 and 17-year-old teen drivers confess to using cell phones and 34% admit to text messaging while driving.

Pedestrians preoccupied with their phones wander out in front of cars.

Manufacturers and distributors of cell phones and related devices face no consequences when texting, talking and apping lead to accidents, injuries or death. A lawsuit can be brought against the negligent drivers or their employers (if they are on the job) but not the cell phone company which enabled their negligent behavior. Cell phone industry lobbyists work hard to prevent legislation and regulation to prohibit cell phone use and texting while driving. They push driver education as the answer and pander to the libertarian notion of saying no to any government interference with an individual’s freedom to cause wrecks and kill or injure people.

It's all about making money -- and it's deadly. Let's stop the killers close to home. Ban cell phone use while driving!

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Tea Partier, Action Figure, Green Partier

Will Jim Demint, Alvin Greene or Tom Clements Win the SC Senate Seat?

South Carolina’s US Sen
ate race is a media extravaganza. Jim DeMint, the radical right
Republican i
ncumbent and tea partier and Alvin Greene, a mysterious, unknown Democrat and action figure enthusiast who has been indicted on a felony obscenity charge are joined by Tom Clements, a peace and environmental activist. Newcomer Clements is the Green Party nominee and a life-long activist involved with vital public interest issues affecting South Carolina, the United States and the world. Clements excels in political research and advocacy.

DeMint, a former paper salesman and ad executive, is the hero of the far right. Media is drawn to the enigmatic Greene, giving him more coverage than any candidate in America according to the Pew Research Center. DeMint is the most ultra-conservative Senator in Congress. Greene would stimulate the economy by selling action figures of himself, which could include a jailbird, considering his indictment for showing pornography to a teenage student. But Clements’ record of public service and activism gives him the credibility to be a Senator for all the people.

I don’t know Jim DeMint or Alvin Greene personally. I do know Tom Clements. The candidates should have debates on critical issues such as war and peace, jobs with a living wage, economic and social justice, climate change, clean green energy, conservation of natural resources, health care, education, immigration reform, regulation of the finance industry and the national debt. The media has let us know plenty about DeMint and Greene. South Carolinians need to see and hear Tom Clements on these issues and understand why he will be a great senator.

The State in Columbia, SC reported that Clements has worked for Greenpeace International for 13 years. He has challenged leaders on nuclear issues in Russia, Japan, South Korea, and Europe. In South Carolina Clements led the environmental organization’s nuclear weapons watchdog efforts on operations at the Savannah River Site (SRS).

South Carolina has the most nuclear industry activity per capita of any state. This includes making nuclear weapons and electric power generation. Clements has led efforts to clean up deadly radioactive waste at the “bomb plant” aka SRS. He led the organizing of our demonstrations there which drew positive media coverage. Tom opposes bringing more nuclear waste to South Carolina and advocates a clean energy park at SRS that would help develop offshore wind, solar, geothermal and other renewable technologies and would create new jobs in our economy.

Clements led the fight in South Carolina against rate increases for utilities whose plans for costly nuclear reactor projects will force consumers to pay a decade in advance, and divert resources from developing energy efficiency and sustainable, non-polluting alternatives.

Clements has been recognized for his work as the Southeastern Nuclear Campaign Coordinator for Friends of the Earth, and received the Grassroots Activist of the Year award from the Alliance for Nuclear Accountability.

Working with Greenpeace International and as Director of the Nuclear Control Institute, Clements interacted with official representatives of other countries, at the United Nations in New York and Geneva, and at embassies in Washington, D.C. and abroad. He was a human rights activist in Central and South America, is fluent in Spanish and served in the Peace Corps in Costa Rica. He also worked for Peace Brigades International in Colombia, verifying human rights violations by the army, and paramilitary and guerrilla forces.

Clements says DeMint works for corporate interests rather than the people of South Carolina. “Jim DeMint is obviously more concerned about raising money for questionable radical candidates in other states than he is about listening to the people of South Carolina,” said Clements. “DeMint is AWOL and needs to come home and join in the discussion about who the people will choose to represent them.”

Clements contends that “military madness is killing our people, undermining our economy, and threatening our security. Costly and misguided military adventurism in Iraq and Afghanistan and expensive military bases around the globe continue to severely undermine our economy and threaten to bankrupt us financially and spiritually.” “The military budget for the Pentagon and other agencies comes close to $900 billion. Including costs for expenses incurred by past military spending, the tab comes to a whopping $1.4 trillion, or 48% of the budget. We now see the highest military spending in the past 60 years with over $1 trillion having been spent on the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan since 2001.”

South Carolina can do better than Jim DeMint and his radical right agenda. It is time to turn away from our legacy of militarism, racism and fundamentalism.

We have the highest ratio of military personnel and civilians working for the military to non military related people of any state. The military brings big bucks to our economy. Much of our media glorifies and romanticizes war even more than the national media. The Christian Coalition was founded in South Carolina and Lee Atwater brought fundamentalists from their revival tents into the "big tent" of the Republican Party.

The three bumper stickers on my car say "War is Terrorism, With a Bigger Budget" and "Peace on Earth" with “Tom Clements for US Senate” in the middle.

Tom Clements wants to end war and make peace. Find out more about him. I support Tom, a green partier who works for peace and social justice.

Thursday, August 5, 2010


In an earlier post I talked about the adventures of planting our garden. Of course, once the garden is planted, comes the hard part, the tending.  Now I know why I am not a farmer by trade.  How do they do it?
I know why I should want to be a farmer: being outside in the air and sunshine is wonderful, watching things grow from nothing before your eyes is awesome, staying strong and healthy in a natural way instead of with machines and exercise videos is good for your head--and your body.

Farming or gardening is really, really hard work, and full of risk.  So many things can go wrong-- devastating if you are a farmer, only irritating if you are a gardener. 

The Weather
If there is no rain, the garden will dry up.  We don't water our lawn at all any more, because we are trying to be more ecologically mindful.   If a drought comes, it just turns brown.  However, during a dry spell,  Tom--who 

does most of the garden tending-- waters it every day, either early in the morning or after we get home from work.  It is important not to water in the heat of the day--I forget why. 

I was the official waterer when Tom was recuperating from his hip replacement last year. We don't use one of those automatic waterers, again,  because it wastes water and we are trying to help the planet a bit.  So we water by hand,  holding the  hose and using the squeeze nozzle to regulate the spray of water. It takes at least 45 minutes to do our whole garden.  It is boring work, so I would try to amuse myself to make the time go faster. I would squeeze the nozzle different ways to see how big I could make the drops.  I would hold the hose up as high to see how far it would spray so I could cover as much area as possible.  I would count as I moved the hose back and forth in an arch, counting to 50 at each section of the garden. I liked to watch the birds and the squirrels, but if I did that, I would forget what I was doing and water in one place too long. By the end of the 45 minutes I was pretty sure my arm was falling off and I couldn't squeeze the nozzle anymore, even using two hands. But I usually didn't complain when I reported in to Tom, with his hip packed in ice and his next pain pill overdue.

Sometimes it rains too much and the wind blows the plants over.  We have to go straighten them back up and pack dirt around them or tie them back up.  Sometimes they have been broken too badly, are declared dead and are sent to the compost pile.  One thing Tom does that I didn't understand.  I imagine few amateur gardeners know to do it.  If the tiny plant gets splashed with mud or falls in the mud and we straighten it back up, Tom always carefully washes its little leaves off.  I follow suit, but I had to ask. Actually it is to expose the whole leaf to the sun for photosynthesis.  If the mud blocks the process, the leaf will die and if enough die, then the plant does too.

Tom's Expertize 
I marvel at Tom's knowledge of gardening. How does he know these things?  I grew up in Birmingham, a city of cement and steel mills; he grew up in a rural part of Mobile, Alabama, helping tend his family's WWII Victory garden as part of Roosevelt's call for patriotism.  After the family's move to the eastern shore, he and his brother won blue ribbons as members of the 4H Club and earned money by selling the corn they grew in the rich soil of the plot of land their father gave them to farm. He is the true son of an agricultural scientist.

So the difference in our background  may be why the part of the tending that involves pulling weeds is hard for me. I know weeds.  There were a lot of them that grew in the cracks in the sidewalks in Birmingham.  Trouble is, I can't tell in the early garden which are weeds and which are plants,  till they get big enough to see that some are in a row and some more random. In a row, plants--leave them alone; random, weeds--yank them up!  Until then, my weed pulling requires very close supervision by Tom.

Tom does much to encourage the plants along in our thin, clay soil.  Several years ago we bought some compost from a farmer in South Congaree.  Since then we have added only our own home made compost made of vegetable peels, egg shells, coffee grounds, leaves,etc., turned often and processed with the red wiggler worm.  Early in the tending season he transplants the delicate little seedlings a lot, moving them around in the garden, till he finds the very best spot for each to settle in,  take hold and flourish the best. Of course we rotate the crops each year.  Again, I forget why.

Different Crops
We have tried different crops over the years with varying luck. There has been eggplant; butternut, acorn, and yellow crookneck squash; strawberries; cabbage and lettuce.  This year, and every year, it is tomatoes, okra and peppers-jalapeno and banana.  We have added back one of my favorites, field peas, a real southern crop to go along with the okra.

Butternut Squash
Different plants bring different challenges.  Last year the prolific butternut squash spread like the plague and crept throughout the garden, its vines slithering up the tomato and okra stalks, its fruit appearing everywhere. There was a whole lot of choking going on.  We didn't replant.


Tom has to love the okra into growing. It is delicate at first and needs much tender care.  This year our cats decided to add a twist to the okra struggle by adopting one corner of the okra plot as their kitty litter.
   Each time they visited, they scratched up the tiny plants along with the dirt before they wandered off. We lost a fair number of plants, despite our various attempts to alter the cats' behaviour.  Puck and Muck are not good listeners.

The tomatoes every year have a different challenge.  One year it was stem rot -- the only year we used poison on the garden.  One year something tried to eat them on the vine--down low.  We figured rabbits, though we never saw them. 

 This year the birds have decided to take a bite out of each--and we have watched them do it. This is the first year that has ever happened! I think they have never liked the hybrid ones, but the heirloom ones we planted this year are to their liking.
 It may also be the squirrels.  We have loads, though for the life of me I can't imagine that they would be hungry with all the bird seed they eat. One of our Republican, NRA supporting, friends tells us with an evil grin that he handles the predator problem with a shotgun. I picture his garden strewn with the dear little bodies of wildlife.

Crookneck Squash
The biggest problem we ever had was with our crookneck squash. It began disappearing, the entire squash.  Turns out the raccoons were clipping them off at the stems and carrying them away.  We tried everything to discourage them, some suggested from Google, our primary research tool. Their big suggestion was to sprinkle cayenne pepper on them.

Fail. The raccoon does not care. Apparently he carries the squash to the closest water, washes the pepper off, and down the hatch it goes. Any he leaves for the next visit the rain takes care of and the pepper is washed away.  In desperation we called Tom's entomologist brother Sam for professional advice, knowing that he is better than Google any day.  Professor Sam, cleared his throat and said, "Hell, Tom.  Just plant enough for you and the raccoons."

Will all the hard work pay off?  What kind of yield will we have?  Every year I can't wait. Will this year be the best ever? 

*Tom wishes me to note that all photographs of vegetables are from our own garden.


We've waited all spring and into the summer for him to come.  We knew he was here.  We've had to add food to the hummingbird feeder several times.  Yesterday Tom shouted, "Judy, come quick!"  There he was, just outside the front window, hanging in the air.  He darted to the feeder, flicked back and forth between the flowers on the porch, and was gone. 

Today I saw him there again in the window, just before I walked out the door.

He flew away and I began to breathe again. Exquisite...........................