Congress: Keep our National Parks Open

“We have fallen heirs to the most glorious heritage a people ever received, and each one must do his part if we wish to show that the nation is worthy of its good fortune.”

–Theodore Roosevelt

Dearest Congress:

I write to you with deep concern about the threat the current budget situation poses to national parks. Congress has allowed park budgets to continuously erode, and now face the possibility of an additional cut in January. We cannot allow our national parks to be the victims of a failed budget process, especially when parks are so important to millions of Americans like me and do so much to benefit many local economies.

     If Congress fails to find a solution by January, the National Park Service budget will automatically be cut by more than $200 million. That could mean some level of closure at virtually every national park in the system, including reductions in park hours or seasons, closures of campgrounds or visitor’s centers, and even the outright closure of many parks in the next year. And it will force the firing of as many as 9,000 rangers who serve the public, protect our parks, and keep the parks running—a devastating blow. We need a balanced approach to addressing the federal budget deficit that accounts for cuts to parks that have already occurred.

     Even if the mindless budget sequester does not occur, Congress needs to stop nickel and diming our nation’s national parks each year. The budget for the National Park Service in today’s dollars is already 15 percent less than it was a decade ago. Every driver knows you need to put enough gas in the tank or you run out. Congress isn’t putting enough gas in the tank, and the tires are about to fall off.

     Washington needs to solve our deficit problem, but national parks didn’t cause the deficit. Cutting or closing them won’t cure it. Our national parks attract nearly 280 million visitors each year. The parks support 258,000 jobs and more than $30 billion in private-sector spending and generate $10 in economic activity for every federal dollar spent. And they do it all with funding that is only 1/14th of 1 percent of the federal budget. Our national parks are job producers and economy builders (in the latest political parlance) and should be treated accordingly in federal budget deliberations, not subjected to mindless cuts. At the end of the day, slashing national park spending does not make sense.

     At a time when there is so much disagreement, the American public agrees that protecting our national parks should be a priority. According to a recent poll, 9 out of 10 likely voters–which includes Republicans, Democrats and Independents–agree that funding for our national parks should be held stable or increased. I am one of those people. Please prevent the January sequester from occurring, and support an alternative solution that protects our national treasures. We should be investing in what works.

Sincerely,

Daniel Morgan

If this is something YOU believe in, take action here.

(Edited from a boilerplate message on NPCA.org)

Here’s some history of the National Parks in the US.

Winter in Yosemite National Park from Henry Jun Wah Lee / Evosia on Vimeo.

Tuesday: A big day for Genetically Modified Food

Update: California disappointed me. Prop 37 did not pass.

I’ve been diving into the history of Genetically Modified foods lately. I find the difference between attitudes in Europe and those in the U.S. really striking (Yep, we’re an easy-going bunch of eaters in comparison). Here’s a snippet from an article titled Europe angers US with strict GM labeling posted in Nature Biotechnology in 2003 right when Europe began establishing its import bans on Genetically Modified Organisms:

…the new regime—agreed to in late November 2002 after lengthy negotiations between ministers of individual member states—extends labeling to end-products such as sugars and oils even when GM ingredients cannot be detected in them because they are physically and chemically identical to products derived from non-GM crops. Even meat suppliers who feed their animals with transgenic grain will have to GM-label their products.
Food items will be exempted only if they were derived from crop material of which less than 0.9% was genetically modified. Comprehensive tracing of GM corn shipments will be essential to verify this. The effect will be that North American manufacturers will soon find their corn- or soy-based foodstuffs—virtually all of which are GM-derived—tagged with what the National Grain and Feed Association (Washington, DC) has likened to a “skull and crossbones on the packet.”

The CFR put out a great report in April of 2001 with a great introduction to the rampant skepticism of GMOs in Europe. Paints us Yankees as corn-dog scarfing ne’er-do-wells. To remedy this, Californians will vote Tuesday whether Genetically Modified food must be labelled in the state — a right Europeans have enjoyed for a decade. Also within the bill are restrictions on use of the word ‘Natural’, ‘Naturally made’, ‘naturally grown’ and ‘all natural.’

It’s amazing that entire aisles of our supermarkets cannot be fed even to the swine of Europe.

The Corn Aisle

On a related note, I recommend watching the film (or even just the trailer) of Genetic Roulette and reading Michael Specter’s take in the New Yorker. I agree with the idea that seeds are at the root of the issue, but I have a huge amount of faith in the growing popularity of organic seed libraries sprouting all over America.

 

Go humans!

Felix Baumgartner’s freefall from near-space makes me wish we had a real manned mission planned — the world is INTO IT, judging by the millions tuned in. Maybe Red Bull would sponsor it?

HR 4158, wherein astronauts are allowed to own space-souvenirs (except lunar material)

The following bill was just Signed by Obama, which allows old heroes to sell mission checklists and ancient cameras taken to space in auctions (and Ebay)…

AN ACT
To confirm full ownership rights for certain United States astronauts to artifacts from the astronauts’ space missions.

Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled,
SECTION 1. DEFINITION OF ARTIFACT.

For purposes of this Act, the term `artifact’ means, with respect to an astronaut described in section 2(a), any expendable item utilized in missions for the Mercury, Gemini, or Apollo programs through the completion of the Apollo-Soyuz Test Project not expressly required to be returned to the National Aeronautics and Space Administration at the completion of the mission and other expendable, disposable, or personal-use items utilized by such astronaut during participation in any such program. The term includes personal logs, checklists, flight manuals, prototype and proof test articles used in training, and disposable flight hardware salvaged from jettisoned lunar modules. The term does not include lunar rocks and other lunar material.
SEC. 2. FULL OWNERSHIP OF ARTIFACTS.

(a) In General- A United States astronaut who participated in any of the Mercury, Gemini, or Apollo programs through the completion of the Apollo-Soyuz Test Project, who received an artifact during his participation in any such program, shall have full ownership of and clear title to such artifact.
(b) No Federal Government Claim- The Federal Government shall have no claim or right to ownership, control, or use of any artifact in possession of an astronaut as described in subsection (a) or any such artifact that was subsequently transferred, sold, or assigned to a third party by an astronaut described in subsection (a).
Passed the House of Representatives September 19, 2012.

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Legally accept Bitcoin donations for any political campaign in the U.S.

Bitcoin for political campaign donations is a no brainer, and Bitcoinbuilder seems to have made the go-to platform. So many small transactions are nearly zeroed out by the cost of credit card transaction fees.  Here’s hoping the Bitcoin donation system for Super PACs is just around the corner 😉

Here’s the minimum information required for a donation for Jeremy Hansen‘s campaign:

 

 

Bitcoin and Morality

Bitcoin — a currency by most measures — is consistently framed as ‘amoral.’ Let’s think about why currencies are not compatible with morality.

An unethical or amoral use for a unit of exchange says nothing about the unit, and everything about the user. Those who don’t understand Bitcoin seem to think its uses make it good or bad. Cash, silver, gold, diamonds & bitcoins: These are units of value that can be used to purchase things no matter how the larger society perceives them.

The fact that you can buy drugs, guns, and assasinations, with Bitcoins is indisputable. Bitcoin was not built for the narrow purpose to purchase ‘illicit’ things. Teddy bears, maple syrup and beef jerky are all for sale. It was built to be a secure network of exchange, secured by the computing power of its participants. Sure, Bitcoin’s creator endowed its very DNA with an offhanded critique of our current banking system, but Bitcoin is at its core lacking an ethical or moral position.

I can’t blame Gawker headlines for this persistent problem when it comes to the common man’s perception of Bitcoin. The currency is scary once you get know it. Let me introduce you to a world using Bitcoin:

Transactions can be anonymous (1). Sending money from neighbor to neighbor or Alaska to Istanbul is instantaneous and free (2). Money can be stored with a memorized passphrase, or stored on paper in a vault (3). Only complete disconnection from the Internet can stop a transaction from occurring or disrupt the network (4).

This seems pretty liberating to say the least. But of course, with all disruptive technologies, one can forsee problems.

Can you see why I want Bitcoin to be understood correctly, free of moral relativism? It is a unique unit of value built for the Internet age which has been derided since the beginning. Placing a moral judgement upon what is essentially an open source algorithm is like calling a tomato evil. Learn more about Bitcoin here.

“What is true for you is true for you, and what is true for me is true for me.” – Protagoras

Notes:

  1. There are numerous mixing services.
  2. The double spend problem is real, but difficult to perform (read more). After 6 confirmations (usually after a few minutes) a transaction of coins from point to point can be reasonably trusted. See the comments for more discussion on this. A technical explanation.
  3. See Brainwallet. Pick a long, memorable phrase, and use that to generate a private and public key (this is printable).
  4.  The nodes, miners, and clients spread across the world make Bitcoin the largest distributed computing project ever. Ever.

Donations appreciated. Find me @danielmorgan.

Proposition 37 Dunk Tank at the Heirloom Seed Exposition

One of my favorite things from my visit yesterday at the Heirloom Seed Exposition was this dunk tank, where kids flung balls at a rowdy man who represented the Monsanto Devil. Proposition 37 would require that GMO foods be labelled, and California is leading the way in this legislation that Europe has long ago decided was important. Unfortunately, $23 million from large corporations would want to keep things the way things are.

This is worth a watch to get up to speed on what the Food Industry is working on:


 

Motoi Yamamoto “Floating Garden” Saltworks at LMU

On view now at the Laband Art Gallery at LMU in Los Angeles:

Yamamoto forged a connection to salt while mourning the death of his sister, at the age of twenty-four, from brain cancer and began to create art out of the element in an effort to preserve his memories of her. Salt, a traditional symbol for purification and mourning in Japanese culture is used in funeral rituals and by sumo wrestlers before matches. It is frequently placed in small piles at the entrance to restaurants and other businesses to ward off evil spirits and to attract benevolent ones. Yamamoto’s art radiates an intense beauty and tranquility, but also conveys something ineffable, painful, and endless.

Exhibition organized by the Halsey Institute for Contemporary Art, College of Charleston, Charleston, South Carolina. This exhibition and its programming are made possible by the College of Communication and Fine Arts, LMU Theatre Arts program, LMU Music Department, William H. Hannon Library, the Japanese American Cultural and Community Center, MGS Architecture, and Moon & Associates. The salt was generously donated by Morton Salt (Newark, CA).

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First four photos by Paul Morgan

Last by Justin Lai: day one at the Laband Art Gallery, LMU