Beyond Labels

A 360° Discussion of Foreign, National and Local Policy Issues

Mike Wolf

Notes: 12/17/18

Buffalo Holocaust
Once there were 50-to-100 million buffalo, they were the most numerous large mammals to ever exist on the face of the earth. Traveling in huge herds, they dominated much of North America from the Missouri River to the Rocky Mountains, from Mexico to Saskatchewan.

USDA Statistics
Total cattle and calves inventory as of January 1, 2016 was 92.0 million head, also 3 percent above previous year. The Overview of the United States Cattle Industry report provides an official periodic review of changes in the United States cattle industry and its impact on cattle supplies and disposition.

World Cattle Inventory:
Ranking of countries (FAO) According to the FAO, the world has 1.468 billion head of cattle. Brazil has the largest cattle inventory in the world followed by India and China. 

Ecomodernism – Wikipedia
Ecomodernism is an environmental philosophy which argues that humans can protect nature by using technology to “decouple” anthropogenic impacts from the natural world.

An Ecomodernist Manifesto
A manifesto to use humanity’s extraordinary powers in service of creating a good Anthropocene.
Founded by (among other people Stewart Brand)

Project Drawdown
We gathered a qualified and diverse group of researchers from around the world to identify, research, and model the 100 most substantive, existing solutions to address climate change. What was uncovered is a path forward that can roll back global greenhouse gas emissions within thirty years.

Breakthrough Institute
The Breakthrough Institute is a global research center that identifies and promotes technological solutions to environmental and human development challenges.

Community Compass (Website)
From Penobscott Bay Press
…created with a $2,500 Deborah Pulliam Social Justice Grant in late 2016, has since provided home visits to all newborns and their families in Deer Isle and Stonington and established three weekly playgroups in Deer Isle that also bring speakers and training opportunities to parents. It hopes to expand the program into Stonington this year, Houghton said.

Window Dressers

WindowDressers is a volunteer-driven non-profit organization dedicated to helping Maine residents reduce heating costs, fossil fuel consumption, and CO-2 emissions by lowering the amount of heat loss through windows.

Build Dates: Sept 23-30, 2018
Location: Halcyon Grange
1157 Pleasant St
Blue Hill, ME 04614 (map)
Ray Yardy – (207) 664-4104 –
Sign up to volunteer: Click Here

Build Dates: Sept 23-30, 2018
Location: Halcyon Grange
1157 Pleasant St
Blue Hill, ME 04614 (map)
Ray Yardy – (207) 664-4104 –
Sign up to volunteer: Click Here

Greenhouse Project
BROOKSVILLE — Now in its fourth season, the Greenhouse Project is growing like hothouse tomatoes.
Co-founded in 2009 by Tony Ferrara of Brooksville and Tom Adamo of Penobscot, the Greenhouse Project is changing landscapes in Hancock and Washington counties.

Citizen’s Climate Lobby
We are focused on what we see as the single most impactful solution to climate change — a national carbon fee and dividend. We know it will not solve the problem entirely, and appreciate the work that our friends in other groups are doing

Brooklin Youth Corps
local teenagers who spend up to 30 hours a week earning minimum wage doing chores for homeowners as well as public service projects around town.
(Weekly Packet)
Benjamin “Tig” Prendergast is the new coordinator for the Brooklin Youth Corps. This year’s BYC season began June 25 and runs through August 16, Monday through Thursday. Former BYC member and GSA graduate Seeta John will run the Garden Apprentice program this summer.
The youth corps is a town-sponsored summer program through which Brooklin teenagers earn minimum wage doing chores for homeowners as well as community service projects. The chores range from weeding to wood stacking, according to a news release from BYC.

America spends over $20bn per year on fossil fuel subsidies. Abolish them | Dana Nuccitelli | Environment | The Guardian

Energy Subsidies

NPR Federal Funding (Wikipedia)
While NPR does not receive any direct federal funding, it does receive a small number of competitive grants from CPB and federal agencies like the Department of Education and the Department of Commerce. This funding amounts to approximately 2% of NPR’s overall revenues.

In 2009, member stations derived 6% of their revenue from federal, state and local government funding, 10% of their revenue from CPB grants,

Public Radio Finances
While NPR shares a mission with our stations, we are funded in significantly different but interrelated ways. Get an overview of that system here. NPR’s latest financial statements and annual reports are included here too.

Dec 17: Local civic engagement

Instead of solving the world’s problem let’s look at local civic engagement. How can we get more local involvement–not just people complaining or criticizing, but people actually doing stuff. Among the questions we might want to answer are:

  1. Why don’t people get involved? (Do we know?)
  2. What could make involvement more productive?
  3. Could technology improve things? Is so, how?

Some links:
Wikipedia on Civic Engagement
Committing to Local Civic Action Is Something We Should All Be Doing – Pacific Standard

In an era of increasing distrust for governance institutions, we should return to the local level, seeking grassroots opportunities for civic life. 

ICMA: the international civic management association

Volunteer Maine Civic Organization H/T Greg


Becky has sent a few things to post:

Citizenship–what does it mean locally–nationally

  • Why don’t people get involved
  • The angry mob
  • Professionals – Volunteers
  • Are public debates effective
  • Feeling helpless
  • Compromised relationship with local government (schools, evictions, criminal records)
  • Fear of community retribution
  • Social media – Newspapers – on hand reporters
  • Lack of public speaking skills
  • No access to governing process

Are Civics Lessons a Constitutional Right? This Student Is Suing for Them

“I don’t know what I’m supposed to know,” said Aleita Cook, 17, one of the students who are suing Rhode Island, saying the state violated their constitutional rights by failing to prepare them for citizenship.CreditCreditTony Luong for The New York Times

Many see the lack of civics in schools as a national crisis. A federal lawsuit says it also violates the law.

“I don’t know what I’m supposed to know,” said Aleita Cook, 17, one of the students who are suing Rhode Island, saying the state violated their constitutional rights by failing to prepare them for citizenship.CreditCreditTony Luong for The New York Times

By Dana Goldstein

Aleita Cook, 17, has never taken a class in government, civics or economics. In the two social studies classes she took in her four years at a technical high school in Providence, R.I. — one in American history, the other in world history — she learned mostly about wars, she said.

Left unanswered were many practical questions she had about modern citizenship, from how to vote to “what the point of taxes are.” As for politics, she said, “What is a Democrat, a Republican, an independent? Those things I had to figure out myself.”

Now she and other Rhode Island public school students and parents are filing a federal lawsuit against the state on Thursday, arguing that failing to prepare children for citizenship violates their rights under the United States Constitution.

They say the state has not equipped all of its students with the skills to “function productively as civic participants” capable of voting, serving on a jury and understanding the nation’s political and economic life.

The state allows local school districts to decide for themselves whether and how to teach civics, and the lawsuit says that leads to big discrepancies. Students in affluent towns often have access to a rich curriculum and a range of extracurricular activities, like debate teams and field trips to the State Legislature, that are beyond the reach of poorer schools.

The lawyers for the plaintiffs hope the case will have implications far beyond Rhode Island, and potentially prompt the Supreme Court to reconsider its 45-year-old ruling that equal access to a quality education is not a constitutionally guaranteed right.

“Our real hope for reinvigorating our democratic institutions comes with the young people and the next generation,” said Michael Rebell, the lead lawyer for the plaintiffs and executive director of the Campaign for Educational Equity at Teachers College, Columbia University. “What we’re really seeking is for the courts, especially the Supreme Court, to take a strong stance on getting back to first principles on what the school system was established for in the United States.”

[Read: How do you get better schools? Take the state to court, more advocates are saying.]

Horace Mann, an early advocate of compulsory public schooling, wrote in 1847 that education’s purpose was to foster “conscientious jurors, true witnesses, incorruptible voters.”

More recently, the retired Supreme Court justices Sandra Day O’Connor and David Souter have called for a revival of civic instruction. Since the election of President Trump, politicians from both parties have proposed civics lessons as a way to combat political ignorance and division.

The case is riding a wave of bipartisan anxiety about a national lack of civic engagement and knowledge, from voter participation rates that are among the lowest in the developed world to pervasive disinformation on social media.

Fewer than half the states hold schools accountable for teaching civics, according to a review in 2016 by the Education Commission of the States. Only 23 percent of American eighth graders were proficient in civics on the 2014 National Assessment of Educational Progress, a test that included questions on the Constitution and the roles of the various branches of government.

Rhode Island does not require schools to offer courses in government or civics, does not require standardized tests in those subjects or in history, and does not provide training for teachers in civics, the lawsuit says.

Beyond civics classes, the suit also argues that the state’s neediest children, particularly Latino immigrants and students with special needs, are failing to acquire the basic academic skills they need to effectively exercise their rights to free speech and voter participation. Among eighth grade English-language learners in 39 states, those in Rhode Island ranked last in math and second to last in reading on the 2017 National Assessment of Educational Progress.

The Rhode Island Department of Education declined to comment on the allegations in the suit.

The argument Aleita’s lawyers are making will be a heavy legal lift, as federal courts have, for four decades, been hostile to education inequality claims.

In the 1973 case San Antonio v. Rodriguez, the Supreme Court ruled 5 to 4 that the State of Texas had not violated the equal protection clause of the 14th Amendment by funding schools in low-income neighborhoods at lower levels than schools in more affluent areas. In July, a federal judge in Michigan declined to challenge that precedent, ruling that “access to literacy” was not a constitutional right for schoolchildren in Detroit.

The plaintiffs’ lawyers in the Rhode Island case believe that, by focusing on civics, they can take advantage of an opening in the Rodriguez ruling. Justice Lewis F. Powell, writing for the majority, agreed with a dissenter in the case, Justice Thurgood Marshall, that educational inequality might rise to the level of a constitutional violation if it prevented students from exercising their “right to speak and to vote.”

Still, the difficulty of overcoming the Rodriguez precedent has led many education advocates to forgo federal courts in favor of state courts.

Nearly every state constitution guarantees the right to an adequate education. But “there is broad skepticism, even on the part of many legal liberals, that the Constitution of the United States gets involved in these sorts of matters,” said Justin Driver, a law professor at the University of Chicago and an expert on education litigation.

Mr. Rebell, the plaintiffs’ lawyer, represented New York students for 13 years in a state-level case, which led to a landmark 2003 ruling in the students’ favor over equitable school funding. But he said he continued to believe in the importance of a federal strategy. He said the civics case would make a novel, and nonpartisan, appeal to the nation’s most prominent judges and justices.

“Schools are the place where students can, and should, learn about democratic institutions, their importance, their values and disposition,” Mr. Rebell said. “I’m banking on the fact that what you might call establishment Republicans like John Roberts will really look at this on the merits, and will consider the broad implications.”

Chief Justice Roberts recently rebuked Mr. Trump for referring to a judge who ruled against the administration’s asylum policy as an “Obama judge” — and in doing so, offered a civics lesson of sorts on the independence of the judiciary.

History and civics have become curricular “stepchildren,” said Luther Spoehr, a professor of history and education at Brown University in Providence, because of the pressure on schools to raise test scores in reading and math and prepare children for work in an unforgiving economy.

Though he acknowledged that standardized tests are unpopular with many parents and teachers, Professor Spoehr said that without higher-stakes exams in government or history, schools would probably never give priority to those subjects.

“What’s taught is what’s tested,” he said.

Even if the Rhode Island lawsuit is not legally successful, he said he hoped it would create political pressure for better education in citizenship.

Aleita Cook, the plaintiff, is finally getting a powerful civics lesson by participating in the case. Though she will soon graduate from the Providence Career & Technical Academy, with plans to study photography in college, she said she wanted Rhode Island public schools to improve for her siblings’ sake.


Michaels832 commented November 29MMichaels832BostonNov. 29Times Pick

We’ve now had at least one full generation that hasn’t had civics in school. The result has been a crisis in our democracy, caused by candidates (especially one named Trump, but there are many others) who exploit citizens’ ignorance of how our government works. People accept these candidates’ rosy promises but lack the knowledge to realize those promises don’t make sense. 1 Reply51 RecommendShareFlagREAD 79 COMMENTS

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