What’s Your Ecological Footprint?

Oakland-based Redefining Progress and the Earthday Networtk have created an on-line quiz that might get you thinking about your lifestyle. Only 15 questions long, and requiring no registration, the quiz measures how much of the surface of the planet is required to sustain your existence.

In the United States, that average is 24 acres. Compare that with the fact that there are only 4.5 acres per person on the planet and you get some idea of how out of whack our consumer culture is.

Take the quiz here.

Katherine Harris, Citrus Canker, and Kabbalah Water. Really.

I am not making this up.

The Orlando Sentinel is reporting that while she was Florida’s Secretary of State, Katherine Harris ordered testing of “Celestial Drops” as a way to eradicate citrus canker, a disease that leaves a rusty looking scale on oranges, grapefruit, etc.

…For more than six months, the state, at the behest of then-Secretary of State Katherine Harris, did pursue one alternative method — a very alternative method.

Researchers worked with a rabbi and a cardiologist to test “Celestial Drops,” promoted as a canker inhibitor because of its “improved fractal design,” “infinite levels of order” and “high energy and low entropy.”

I don’t know whether to applaud Harris or boo her. O.K., I object to the heavy-handed way she went about it but I must say I didn’t think the girl had it in her.

The initial push came from Harris…the granddaughter of legendary citrus baron Ben Hill Griffin Jr., said she was introduced to one of the product’s promoters, New York Rabbi Abe Hardoon, in 2000.

Hardoon did not want to discuss Celestial Drops when contacted by the Orlando Sentinel.

But Harris said Hardoon told her he was working with Israeli scientists who had developed a compound that made plants resistant to canker. Harris acted as intermediary and urged state agriculture officials to work with Hardoon and his associates…

Canker spread quickly through Florida’s citrus groves, and the state’s only method for getting rid of it is to cut down the infected trees, even the ones in backyards. This has not been a popular program, with farmers or with homeowners.

…In the past 10 years, Florida has been swamped by companies claiming to have a cure for canker.

In virtually all cases, the state has thanked the companies for their interest and delivered the same message: “Test the product using accepted scientific principles and then show us the results.”

…But though the state told other companies it could not test their products, it made an exception for Celestial Drops. After months of correspondence, researchers took the unusual step of testing the product for Hardoon and his partner, New York cardiologist Artur Spokojny.

Wait. It gets better.

…Meanwhile, some scientists were wondering what role an ancient branch of Jewish mysticism played in the development of the solution.

One document in the state’s files indicates an official had searched the Internet for information on Hardoon and Spokojny and discovered both practiced Kabbalah, a religious movement whose followers include celebrities such as Madonna. Hardoon also teaches Kabbalah.

Mystically blessed water is a vital part of the faith and is sold for $3.80 a bottle at Kabbalah centers throughout the country.

Believers maintain the blessings performed over the water change its molecular structure and imbue it with supernatural healing powers. The traits attributed to so-called Kabbalah water — “elegant crystalline structures” and “high energy and low entropy” — are virtually identical to those of Celestial Drops.

Hardoon said he did not want to discuss any possible connection between the two.

Asked whether the mystery cure was really Kabbalah water, he said, “I can’t really give you that information.”

Asked whether the canker project was related at all to Kabbalah, he said, “It is, and it isn’t.”

He then referred all further questions to the Kabbalah Centre of Los Angeles, headquarters of the movement. Officials there did not return calls, and Spokojny was not available for comment.

As always, Katherine denied knowing anything about anything.

Harris seemed surprised Friday that the product she once hoped might cure canker may be nothing more than blessed water…

As for the possible Kabbalah connection, Harris said she was in the dark.

“Clearly, it isn’t something I knew about,” she said. “This is the first time I’ve heard any of this.”

Pumping Up the Volume is a Winner for the GOP

Great opinion piece on the Republican branding of Florida Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson in today’s Palm Beach Post:

How dare Sen. Bill Nelson accept support from MoveOnPAC.org?

…there it was in the black-and-white electrons of an e-mailed news release from the National Republican Senatorial Committee. “Left Coast Liberals’ Lackey: Bill Nelson,” the e-mail screeches…

How could Sen. Nelson, Democrat and one-time shuttle astronaut, let those left-leaning, Hollywood liberal peacenik wackos offer him support? MoveOn.org, famous for its ads against President Bush during the 2004 campaign, had the temerity to condone something less than all-out warfare after the 9/11 attacks, as the National Republican Senatorial Committee news release points out…

Is reelection really so important to Florida’s senior senator that he is willing to take help from people who suggested that the president rely on “international judicial institutions and international human rights law to bring to justice those responsible for the attacks.” Sen. Nelson must know that this group condoned same-sex marriage and that its real financial power is derived from left-wing billionaires, as so clearly spelled out by the National Republican Senatorial Committee in its release — 17 months before Election Day.

…The National Republican Senatorial Committee pumped $5.6 million into last year’s Florida Senate race, $3.6 million to defeat Democrat Betty Castor and $2 million to support the eventual winner, Republican Mel Martinez. By contrast, the Democratic Senatorial Committee put up $3.6 million on behalf of Ms. Castor. The race was decided by 1 percentage point…

The question isn’t even which viewpoint Americans will believe; it is which they will hear.

That’s the problem with politics today. Broad brushes obliterate subtle frescoes. It’s not the most sensible point of view that captures elections. It’s the loudest. The National Republican Senatorial Committee is counting on it.

Happy Birthday, Freedom of Info Act

July 4, 2005, marked the 39th anniversary of the signing into law of the Freedom of Information Act, a resource for public disclosure of government documents that has become essential to keeping the process of governance at least somewhat transparent. Though first proposed by the Democratic Party in 1956, it took a decade before the FOIA was signed into law by President Lyndon B. Johnson — one day before it would have expired in a “pocket veto” if he had not signed it.

Since then, the FOIA has been instrumental in bringing to light hundreds of thousands of documents and aiding investigations from Watergate in the 1970s to prisoner abuse at Guantanamo, Cuba, today.

The FOIA has spawned “sunshine law” statutes in all 50 U.S. states, and similar access laws in other nations. Only Sweden’s freedom of information law is older than ours.

According to Interpress News Service, the law is continuing to evolve through current legislation.

Efforts to strengthen FOIA are continuing, today by an unlikely partnership of one of the U.S. Senate’s most liberal members and one of its most conservative.

The odd couple is Senator John Cornyn, a conservative Republican from Texas and Senator Patrick Leahy, a liberal Democrat from Maine. Amid growing complaints about delays and difficulties in obtaining information from federal agencies, the pair has put together two bills.

One would create a commission to identify ways to reduce delays in processing FOIA requests. A second would establish a way for people to track their Freedom of Information Act requests on the Internet and would establish an ombudsman to mediate disputes between agencies and requesters.

It is interesting to note that with the current administration’s tight-fisted approach to information, the number of FOIA filings has increased dramatically as U.S. citizens seek to find out what our government ius up to. A recent Government Accountability Office report noted that during George Bush’s administration, FOIA requests increased 71% from 2002 to 2004, with a 68% rise in requests processed during that period, and a 14% rise in the backlog.

While the report found that 92% of 2004 requests resulted in ”responsive records” being provided in full, it noted that many of those seeking information still must sue the government to get it.

Christian Taliban vs. Islamic Taliban, Compare and Contrast

Saw this comparison of the Taliban in the Middle East versus our own special flavor here in America on DailyKos. Drawing this sort of analogy drives the Christianists crazy. “It goes too far,” they say.

Maybe so. But the case can be made that the difference between what they believe and the beliefs of their Islamist counterparts is simply a matter of degree. To wit: