Sunday, April 26, 2015

Return of Freedom Fries in Texas Means Increased Obesity for High School Students

by Nomad

Texas state officials continue to march backwards in the name of deregulation. Serving fat and sugar to Texas children is a salute of freedom.

According to a top official at the Texas Department of Agriculture, Commissioner Sid Miller, a decade-old statewide ban on deep fat fryers in public schools must be repealed. 
That ban prohibits deep fat fryers and soda machines on school campuses and places limits on the time and place that junk food can be sold there.

Miller says he thinks that repealing these parts of the Texas Public School Nutrition Policy will streamline things, pulling the state into line with less-strict national standards. Under his plans, the presently-mandated schools will be free to decide for themselves whether to abide by the policy. 

Miller claims that “it isn't about french fries, it's about freedom." 

And who on Earth could be against freedom?

For the Love of Freedom and Fat
The deep fat fryer and soda machine ban are the last of strict nutritional policies introduced by former Agriculture Commissioner Susan Combs. In 2004, in addition to those bans, Combs introduced the more comprehensive Texas Public School Nutrition Policy, which banned foods with high levels of sugar and fats in public schools. The policy was repealed last year, when Todd Staples was commissioner, and Miller has consistently expressed his support for less regulation of food in schools.
Three Texas whoops for de-regulation!

Saturday, April 25, 2015

Free Market Mayhem: Do You Really Want to Live in a World without Environmental Regulations?

by Nomad

For corporations, a world without rules, without any annoying government interference might be heaven on Earth. But for the rest of us, it could be pretty damned close to hell on Earth.
We already have plenty of evidence of what life could be like if de-regulators get their way.

We often hear a lot of chatter about the benefits of deregulation and how important it is to avoid government interference in the world of big business. 
True to their Ayn Rand roots, both Ted Cruz and Rand Paul, both candidates in 2016, have expressed the idea that "If only the government got its hands out of the private industries, then a purer form of capitalist harmony would emerge."

Free-market libertarians believe in a totally hands-off approach to government and this includes nearly all corporate oversight. Since governments (and the laws they create) are the only powers strong enough to regulate things, corporations would essentially become unrestricted and above the law. One way to that is by eliminating the agencies that are involved in policing.

In November of last year, Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky stated that his top priority was not going after the major polluters -such as the mining industry- His utmost concern was trying to do what he could “to get the EPA reined in.” 

The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is primarily tasked with effectively managing, overseeing, and enforcing environmental laws. It has the legal authority to go after and prosecute polluters who would choose the break the laws in the name of profits.
So, all in all, McConnell's soundbite might seem like an unusual position for a politician charged with protecting the public interest. However, an investigation explains his personal stake in shielding the coal industry. 

Monday, April 20, 2015

Conscience and Scripture: How the Abolition of Slavery and the Fight for Marriage Equality are Inseparable 2/2

by Nomad

In the second part of this series, we take a look at how the Presbyterian Assembly's recent decision to recognize marriage equality is entirely in keeping with its history on other progressive issues.
And whether it was slavery, segregation or mixed marriage, the opposition was always ready to use Scripture to justify their prejudices.

In the earlier post on this subject, we looked at the recent break between National Black Church Initiative (NBCI) and the Presbyterian Church over the subject of same-sex marriage. The decision to allow ceremonies to be conducted- as per the conscience of each church- created a backlash, involving approximately 15.7 million African Americans belonging to 34,000 churches. 

Rev. Anthony Evans. President of NBCI claimed that the Presbyterian Assembly had strayed from the Word of God, that is, the Holy book which defines marriage as between a man and a woman.

The History of Going Beyond Scripture
The history of the denomination reveals a centuries old pattern of free thinking. Presbyterianism was especially influenced by the French theologian John Calvin,
Two quotes by Calvin seem especially relevant.
Is it faith to understand nothing, and merely submit your convictions implicitly to the Church?
Clearly he believed that faith was more than submission without understanding.  He argued against relying solely on Scripture to resolve spiritual issues- or still worse, relying on the interpretations of church leaders. Faith shouldn't be a hand-me-down.

Another influence on Presbyterian doctrine was  a Scottish reformer, John Knox. He too objected to the absolute submission to Scripture and he had his reasons. 
The testimony of scripture is so plain that to add anything were superfluous, were it not that the world is almost now come to that blindness, that whatsoever pleases not the princes and the multitude, the same is rejected as doctrine newly forged, and is condemned for heresy.

Friday, April 17, 2015

Rebellion, Retrospect,and Regret: The 50th Anniversary of a Vietnam Peace March

by Nomad

Fifty years ago on this date, April 17, 1965, Washington saw one of the first and largest peace marches in its history. It was to become the first of many anti-war marches and demonstrations across the country.
Here's the story behind that history.

The planning for the anti-war march had been in the works since December 1964. Demonstrations against racial injustice had been remarkably successful in waking up the country and its leaders. Activists for peace were determined to inert similar pressures on Washington.
Up to that time, Students for a Democratic Society (SDS) was a little known student activist organization. However, as the America's involvement in the Vietnam War steadily grew, students and others in that age group suddenly faced the reality of the draft.
This was real and it was a matter of life and death.
As one source explains:
Even before they shipped out, those who were drafted had begun to see the horrors of the war, most notably on television. The growing presence of television in nearly every American household thus exacerbated divisions over the conflict and helped fuel the antiwar movement. What Americans watched on television each night shaped their perceptions of the Vietnam War, which came to be known as the “living room war.” For some young Americans, called on to fight but unable to vote until the age of 21, the situation was unacceptable.
The anti-war message was easy enough for a child to understand. America had no reason to be in Southeast Asia and the reason were equally simple: the war hurts the Vietnamese people, the war hurts the American people and the SDS was concerned for both Vietnamese and American people. Anybody who agreed with those three points was invited to join in on the march on Washington.
The book, The Sixties: Years of Hope, Days of Rage explains:
The official call, hoping to appeal to a broad opposition, maintained that the war was fundamentally a "civil war" as well as "losing," "self-defeating," "dangerous" "never declared by Congress" and "hideously immoral."
These objections, the establishment press immediately labeled "pro-Communist," unpatriotic and at the very best, misguided and naive.