The Meliorist – It takes you…

{February 26, 2008}   CFLs – not the panacea?

So, yet again, I’ve been driven to question whether there is anything that is good for the environment.  CFLs or Compact Flourescent Lights have been touted as the answer to conserving energy and money in today’s well-lit homes and workplaces.  I had not done the total switchover, but had decided not to buy any more regular bulbs in order to utilize these savers.  So, imagine my surprise when I read this little blurb on Debt Proof Living:

CFLs do use less electricity, but I am not convinced the savings are sufficient to warrant the additional cost to buy them in the first place.
The jury is still out on whether CFLs are better for the environment. So far the companies and federal government haven’t come up with effective ways to get Americans to recycle them. It seems that disposing of them presents more problems than anything they’re supposed to fix. |
CFLs contain toxic mercury. Mercury is a potent neurotoxin, and it’s especially dangerous for children and fetuses. The problem with the bulbs is that they’ll break before they get to the landfill.
They’ll break in containers, or they’ll break in a dumpster or they’ll break in the trucks. Workers may be exposed to very high levels of mercury when that happens. And if they break at home, you run the risk of contaminating your home or yard. CFLs are troublesome.  (DPL, Feb. 2008)

I just heard a story this weekend about the horrific effects of mercury poisoning.  I was aware that mercury was dangerous, but I did not know just how bad the health effects of exposure could be.  I had not heard about these potential negatives of CFLs prior to reading this article.  I had heard a bevy of reasons as to why I should switch, but nothing I read ever provided these caveats.  So, I decided to do some fact checking.

I was relieved to read this blurb at

That said, the mercury in compact fluorescent bulbs currently does not pose a major problem — and you know I don’t take pollutants lightly. In municipalities such as Grist’s hometown of Seattle, which is emphasizing conservation as a cost-cutting measure and pushing CFLs to the point of sending them free to ratepayers, there is an attendant concern about the solid-waste-disposal effects down the road. But let me emphasize: The tiny punctuation of mercury should not stop you from buying CFLs, any more than it stops you from wearing a watch.
One final note: Burning fossil fuels to generate electricity creates mercury pollution. Thus using compact fluorescent bulbs actually reduces mercury pollution, because CFLs use far less electricity than incandescent bulbs.

Hmmmmm… equal to that of a watch battery eh?   That seems pretty darned miniscule.  But, it would not be the first time we had said that the effects would be small only to realize later that the we were wrong, wrong, wrong.  But, then I read this at National Geographic: “One CFL contains a hundred times less mercury than is found in a single dental amalgam filling or old-style glass thermometer, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).”  That is pretty miniscule!  And to add fuel to the fire – the reports on CFLs causing mercury pollution problems have been lobbied by Fox News.  Not the most dependable of news sources to be sure.

I’ll finish up with this quote from the National Geographic article:  “”By using less electricity, CFLs help reduce mercury emissions from coal-burning power plants, which are the largest source of human-caused mercury emissions in the United States,” said agency press officer Ernest Jones.”  I  feel like my previous decision to make the switchover to CFLs is a good one.  And I feel like I’m glad that I explored the issue further after reading the Debt Proof Living article.  Although I think that publication has some valuable money-saving information each month – it just proves that rumors and twisted reporting can call any concept into question if we are not careful.

So, get those CFLs burning – just be as careful as you can with them to prevent breakage and if possible, take them to a recycling or toxic waste facility when they burn out instead of throwing them in the garbage.  And do the same with those watches that stop running!  And those old thermometers you have laying around!


{February 26, 2008}   The Meliorist Returns…

I am returning from a long hiatus….its been a really busy six months and I’ve been trying to figure out where to focus my energies.  I have realized that although I have a ton of interest areas and a lot of things I would like to do, I need to focus my energies on a few things at a time.  I’ve spent the last six months focused on my job.  Since it was my first six months in this position, I felt like it was important to focus my energies on that.  But, I’ve also dipped my toe in the water of a few other bodies of water.  Although a few of those things seemed to be right at the time, my interest of them quickly wained.  I have some issues with commitment – no doubt about that.  But, I think its more of a problem with focus.  I just have too many things I want to do in life.

So, I’m returning to this blog in the hopes of focusing some of that energy into a blog about my political frustration, sharing knowledge that may help (or frustrate) others, and hopefully to spur people to think about multiple sides of an issue.

Its almost the end of February in this leap year – and if nothing else remains the same, time always seems to fly.  But, its still pretty early in the year and I’m jumping back in at a key time in US politics.

So, here’s to getting out there, gathering information and then taking the important step of acting on it when necessary!  It takes you!

{October 7, 2007}   Back in action…

Well, I’ve been on a hiatus.  Moving from one end of the big state of CA to the other and settling into a new job.  I questioned whether I would keep this blog going or not.  I’ve been exploring new ideas and trying to figure out the direction I want my larger life to go.  But, here I am.  And it is something that just clicked for me in the last two days.  I have a problem staying focused on singular issues.  There is so much stuff going on in the world that is worthy of my attention, how can you just look at one and say “that’s it”?  And although some would say a singular focus is necessary, I think it a singular focus ignores the complexity of our world.  Let’s face facts – many of our problems are completely interconnected, but by pitting groups against each other in a struggle for attention and resources and goal statements, we tend to not only downplay that complexity, but greatly decrease our capabilities at being able to solve our problems. 

So, I care about a lot of things.  I think the War in Iraq is going poorly and should be ended ASAP.  I think that we are seeing huge negative environmental effects across the globe from our overuse of petroleum products.  I think we have a generation of young people who are often directionless – taught to the test, and finding there is no “test” in the real world.  I think our government lies to us more often than not, and we don’t even know the half of it at this point.  I think that we have spent so long building bigger houses and bigger cars and bigger buildings that we have lost our ability to appreciate the small things. 

But, I have not lost hope.  And that is what this blog will be about.  It will be about my hope for the future.  My little things that I hope, when added to everyone else’s little things, will have big effects.  After all, we didn’t make a mess of this world in a day, or with only one person contributing, so it may take a while to clean it up and it will certainly take more people.  But, I’m excited.  I’m back to feeling positive and hopeful and excited about adopting new ideas, hearing new perspectives and taking new actions.

I had a conversation with someone about anti-war efforts the other day.  The gist of the conversation was organizing efforts that are taking place in our community and the difficulty of “staying focused” in those activities.  I was saying that I had considered having a “teach-in” night on Iran to demonstrate that they’re not all that different from us, even though they have been portrayed in mainstream media as being some sort of distant, backward society of American-haters.  The response to this shocked me – basically, I was told that the idea had already been pitched in their group and that this person had lobbied NOT to have the event because it would “divert our focus and efforts from the War in Iraq” to a “war that hasn’t happened yet.”  Although I can understand the fear, it seems to me that we need to stop saying no to expanding our educational efforts on issues, whether they “fit” exactly into our vision or not, and start saying yes and then explaining how all of the issues are intertwined.  I believe that these “singular focused efforts” are not really making them more effective, because it lends itself to creating divisions rather than coalitions.  Couldn’t we have had the Iran event and then talked about the similar messages that came out about Iraq prior to our invasion there?  Couldn’t we have tied in the anti-war goals of that group along with the educational efforts on the Iran issue to both solve and current problem and take a step toward preventing another problem? 

It seems to me that we need to start recognizing and welcoming those from other activist groups into ours and tying together the complexities that allow the problems to develop in the first place.  I envision a GIANT wall where we’re putting up pictures/logos from the groups, then drawing lines to other pictures/logos of groups that are working on issues related (even, especially if indirectly) and in the end, we would see that all pictures/logos tie into all other pictures/logos.  Because our world is a system – and any change in that system creates a ripple effect throughout the entirety of the system.  Let’s start making those ripples positive instead of negative.

So, my new goal here is to produce material that both educates and begins to build this big organizational chart of issues that are tied to one another.  As an activist, my goal is to start to learn more about the complexity of relationships between issues and start to produce common ground between activisms.  And, I’m going to go ahead and plan my Iran teach-in and I’m going to go ahead and invite the anti-war group.  If they choose not to see the relationship and take the opportunity to talk to those who are of a common belief, so be it. 

Let the organization chart begin!

Well, for anyone out there who has been reading, I apologize for the absence.  I’ve been moving from one end of California to the other and it has been a little bit of a tech upheaval.  And then there is the packing and unpacking.  And the new job.  So, I’ve been a little bit overwhelmed with it all.  But, today I read a post over at Feminist Philosophers that was a good kick in my pants to get me posting again!

 The blog entry is actually indicting a recent study finding that adult color preferences match up with those stereotypical color choices that our culture has assigned by gender.  The blog entry refers to readers to Bad Science to see all the problems with the study.  But, the most interesting thing to me in the blog entry was the following line:

A quote from Ladies Home Journal, 1918:  “There has been a great diversity of opinion on the subject, but the generally accepted rule is pink for the boy and blue for the girl. The reason is that pink being a more decided and stronger color is more suitable for the boy, while blue, which is more delicate and dainty, is prettier for the girl.” 

First of all, the fact that there was a “great diversity of opinion on the subject” is interesting.  I guess I never really thought about the root of all this color assignment – and people sitting around justifying certain color choices for certain genders.  But I did find it interesting that in 1918, pink was “a more decided (?) and stronger color” than blue.  It doesn’t seem that pink has changed as a color.  So, I guess perhaps arguing against using pink for girls is actually taking a step backwards in the gender wars!  I will definitely don my pink clothing with a little more gusto now. 

I always thought pastel green and yellow were nice colors for babies.  I haven’t gone through the birth of a child yet, so I can’t speak from experience.  But, I found this all very interesting!

Are you one of “those people”?  The person who is constantly referring to politicians by name and state while others can not even name our Vice President (21% according to a recent poll).  If so, you may have a new place to showcase your talents and a way to boast about it that others will be more able to understand.  Enter Fantasy Congress.  Created by students at Claremont McKenna University in California, the league makes following politics and legislation a competitive affair, with points being scored for introduction of legislation, passing through committee and the big points for the legislation actually passing into law. 

I think it sounds like a great tool for getting students of government classes in high school involved in following the legislative process, getting to know their representatives, etc.  Most college students could use the knowledge base as well.  If it increases awareness about our political system and encourages citizens to know more about their government representatives, than I think its a great idea. 

If anyone has experience using it, please chime in.  I think I might give it a try.  I could probably use some education on upcoming legislation and representatives myself.  In reality, couldn’t most of us?  To read more on Fantasy Congress (and some other less intellectual fantasy leagues) see this LA Times article from July 11.

This resource comes from Guy Kawasaki’s blog – Frontline is one of my favorite news shows. They always seem to do an excellent job of finding fascinating people and telling the stories well. I encourage you to check it out!

read more | digg story

Under the investing guidance that you should buy stock for the stores where you shop, I bought Wal-mart stocks a few years back.  I know, I know…it isn’t very local economy responsible of me.  But, I was not making much money and there was one right next to the apartment I was living in.  Sounds like a pretty lame excuse now, but at least I am willing to admit it.  I sold them, soon after, when I heard they were being sued for paying women less than male counterparts serving the same roles.  And if not then, I would definitely have sold them after reading Nickel and Dimed: On (not) getting by in AmericaSo, I have divested so-to-speak.  I only owned a few shares at the time and I was happy to get out.

Well, it seems that Wal-mart is still performing their dirty deeds against female employees.  The following is from Yahoo! News on June 20:

A pharmacist who claimed she was fired by Wal-Mart after asking to be paid the same as her male colleagues has won a nearly $2 million award against the retail giant.

A Berkshire Superior Court jury concluded Wal-Mart discriminated against Cynthia Haddad and awarded her nearly $1 million in compensatory damages and $1 million in punitive damages Tuesday.

“It sends a message that you can’t treat people poorly because of who they are,” said David Belfort, Haddad’s attorney.

Wal-Mart spokesman John Simley said Wednesday that the retailer was studying the verdict and has not ruled out filing an appeal.

“We respect the jury’s decision, but we feel it did not reflect the facts in the case,” Simley said. He said Haddad “was dismissed for numerous violations of company policy.”

Haddad was fired in April 2004 after more than 10 years at a Wal-Mart store in Pittsfield. She claimed in court that she was fired because she asked to be paid the same as her male counterparts, including a bonus given to pharmacy managers. The company paid the bonus, then fired her two weeks later.

Lawyers for the retailer said she was fired because she left the pharmacy unattended and allowed a technician to use her computer security code to issue prescriptions during her absence, including a fraudulent prescription for a painkiller.

Haddad’s lawyers argued that the prescription was filled 18 months before she was dismissed and without her knowledge, and that more severe infractions by male pharmacists went unpunished.

Will they ever learn?

In one of my many newsfeeds today, I came across this article and just had to write something on it.  It is important to realize that it was published in The Christian Post, but the research it is reporting on is from an Assistant Professor of Sociology at University of VA, W. Bradford Wilcox.  It seems that his research has found that feminism is bad for us because of its “androgynous impulse.”  In this article, this impulse is equated to the expectation of fathers to participate equally in the responsibilities of raising children and the expectation of mothers to have both a career and a family.  Following are a few choice quotes from the article:

Wilcox traces this “androgynous impulse” to international bodies associated with the United Nations. He documents the role played by the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women [CEDAW]. “This committee has called on countries like Armenia and Belarus to end public policies and practices that support distinctive maternal roles for women, such as Mother’s Day and maternal leave policies,” Wilcox reports. “Instead, it and other proponents of this type of feminist agenda would like to see public policies that promote an androgynous parenting ethic where fathers and mothers devote equal amounts of time to parenting, and parent with essentially the same style of parent-child interaction.”

In Great Britain, this is currently a matter of hot controversy. The British government is considering legislation that would equalize parental leave policies for men and women – and would encourage men to stay at home with their young children so that their wives can re-enter the workplace. Similarly, the current government in Spain has argued for making paternal leave mandatory in order to equalize male and female roles.

Now, I can figure out from the tone of these passages and the context in which they are delivered that they are viewed as some kind of affront to society and families.  Again, his conclusion is clear, equality of male and female roles is bad, but I’m not sure of his reasoning.

But fathers also play an important role in the raising of girls. The research indicates that fathers fulfill a very important function in minimizing the likelihood that their daughters will be sexually active prior to marriage. As Wilcox explains, “Fathers also protect their daughters from premarital sexual activity by setting clear disciplinary lines for their daughters, monitoring their whereabouts, and by signaling to young men that sexual activity will not be tolerated.”

It was difficult for me to figure out exactly what Wilcox’s argument was behind these conclusions.  Why can’t a mother be assertive enough to discipline a child effectively or protect their daughters by knowing their whereabouts?  It all seems rather specious to me.  So, I did some research. 

First off, I think that there needs to be more feminist reaction to this research.  In a proquest database search for Wilcox and feminism, only one source popped up:  a book review by Darren Sherkat in Social Forces, which definitely had a critical view of the text.  Shocking. I also did some google searches without much result.  Then I came across a very interesting blog.  The CBE Scroll.  Subtitle: Blog Voices from Christians for Biblical Equality.  A post from September 26, 2006 discusses an article by Sally Gallegher, “The marginalization of Evangelical Feminism,” and indicts views attacking the link between evangelical feminism and androgyny as representative of the fear in the evangelical church.  Fear of losing their evangelical identity and fear of critically thinking about scripture and its relationship to culture.  The entry ends with the following:

Evangelicals talk a lot about being “set apart” from the world. But that distinction often seems to be based in fear—a strict definition of what we are not rather than what we are. When discussing the evangelical identity as set apart from the broader culture, Sally Gallagher suggests that evangelicals could accept mutuality and still be distinguished from the “secular” world if:

“…they were demonstratively more egalitarian than the broader culture in sharing responsibility for, and not just helping each other with, paid and unpaid family labor.”

What if the church was about radical equality—where Christians practice mutual submission characterized by love, humility, and selflessness, where Christians’ gifts are used for the glory of God, and where gender is neither blurred or stereotyped, but celebrated? This sounds like the example of the early church. It also sounds like a way that evangelicals can set themselves apart from the rest of society—a way that evangelicals can still be evangelicals.

I like this idea of “radical equality”.  Whether driven by religious belief or simply feminist ideals, what if more couples were to embrace “radical equality”?  The reaction from the greater evangelical movement to this is obviously a big N-O.  If you do a google search for “radical equality” most of the entries fall into two distinct categories: (1) historical reference and (2) conservative christians lambasting anyone who holds this belief. 

Much of why I have been unable to embrace institutionalized religion falls in this area.  There are very few churches that seem to embrace this idea of “oneness in Christ,” with no one serving a more important role than any other person.  I have never been anti-religion persay, but institutionalized religion and much of what passes itself off as “preaching” or “sharing God” comes across to me as exclusionary and demeaning at times.  I just never really wanted to have a view of God that reduced what I had always saw as a powerful force for good to a humanized patriarchal, hierarchical and exclusionary force. 

I still pray.  I even read the bible sometimes.  I have nothing against religion itself, but I do resent the way it is weilded as a tool to dominate, to oppress, and to excuse unacceptable behavior.  I’ve read A Woman’s Journey to God and really felt like I connected with her message.  And of course there is The Woman’s Bible: A Classic Feminist Perspective by Elizabeth Cady Stanton. 

So, although at first glance, Wilcox’s findings and the Christian Post’s praise of it may make me feel like turning away from any religious beliefs, I almost feel like a rebel to be able to say, your God may not be my God, but I have access to God all the same.  I feel like to be fair and just in my criticism, I should go and read the book written by Wilcox instead of others writing about the book.  Perhaps I will see if I can get a copy of it and update this post after I have read it, in his words, so-to-speak. 

This relates back to my earlier “Are you a Feminist?” post and the discussion that happened.  I have a feeling that Veiled Glory is a big believer in confronting the androgynous impulse…and then destroying it.  I for one, say bring the androgynous impulse on, confront it, take what is good from it (more equality in both home and work life, “radical equality”, a better understanding of who we are as individuals rather than as social constructions) and move on. 

Broadsheet had this review of a new documentary about the fourteen women serving in the Senate in 2006.  A trailer of the film is available here.  It looks like an interesting film.  Although our current society has a lot of cynicism (rightfully so) toward politics, it looks like this film might show some of the positive things politicians are able to do for their constituents.  It also seems to show that politics is not as easy of a job as we might sometimes think it is.  I am definitely going to put it on my watch list!

{June 26, 2007}   Beauty in many forms…

A relaxing video…representations of feminine beauty throughout history.  Many shapes and faces, but lacking in color…but, still interesting to watch and notice the differences in the women’s faces, adornments, hair, etc. 

et cetera