Friday, November 24, 2006

We're number 17! We're number 17!

Some bragging from our friends in Norway, although it seems it's the Swedes and the Icelanders who have best bragging rights. And a big shout out to our fellow former British colonies, Australia and Canada!

Norway fourth best democracy

Norway and the Nordic region are very highly ranked by the latest ratings from the Economist Intelligence Unit Index of Democracy.

The Netherlands and the Nordic countries took the top six places in the study, which considers 60 factors divided over five general categories; free and fair election process, civil liberties, functioning of government, political participation and political culture.

The study examined the state of democracy in 167 countries, with governments grouped in four categories, ranging from full democracies to authoritarian regimes.

Norway scored top marks of 10 in three categories, 9.64 in functioning government, and lost a higher ranking by only scoring 8.13 in political culture (factors like a lack of apathy and peaceful transfer of power).

The reports singled out the USA (17th) and Britain's (23rd) poor results, partly to blame on measures adopted to fight terrorism.

"The United States and Britain are near the bottom of the full democracy category, but for somewhat different reasons. America falls down on some aspects of governance and civil liberties. Despite low election turnouts, political participation in the United States is comparatively high," the report said.

"In Britain low political participation (the lowest in the developed world) is a major problem, and to a lesser extent, for now, so are eroding civil liberties," the report said.

The lowest scores on the scale of ten were seen in Myanmar (1.77), Togo (1.75), Chad (1.65), Central Africa (1.61) and North Korea (1.03).

Best functioning democracies
1. Sweden 9,88
2. Iceland 9,71
3. Netherlands 9.66
4. Norway 9,55
5. Denmark 9,52
6. Finland 9,25
7. Luxembourg 9,10
8. Australia 9,09
9. Canada 9.02
10. Switzerland 9.02

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Eat a Little, Learn a Little

The Social Action Committee

Wurzweiler School of Social Work / Yeshiva University


Families Affected by HIV:

Service Needs, Policy Issues, Daily Challenges

Presentations by:

The Family Center / Community Outreach Program

New York, NY

Wednesday, November 29th

1:00 – 2:30

Room 921

Lunch will be served.

Everyone is welcome to attend.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Meanwhile. . . .

While the federal government defines hunger away (see below), we have this, from the NYT:

November 21, 2006

City’s Welfare Chief Concedes Need for Food Aid Is Growing

New York City’s top welfare official offered an unusually candid assessment of shortcomings in social services yesterday, vividly describing offices where caseworkers are overwhelmed by paperwork, hindered by antiquated computers and not given adequate training.

Furthermore, the official, Verna Eggleston, acknowledged that the need for food and nutrition assistance is growing in the city — so much so that some of her own employees are receiving food from charities between paychecks.

Ms. Eggleston, commissioner of the Human Resources Administration, which has about 16,000 employees and an annual budget of $7 billion, made her remarks in testimony before Councilman Bill de Blasio of Brooklyn at a hearing to discuss hunger in the city.

The United States Department of Agriculture reported last week that the prevalence of “food insecurity” — a federal term for hunger — in New York State rose to an average of 10.4 percent in 2003-5 from 9.4 percent in 2000-2, though the level is still lower than the 11.9 percent reported in 1996-98.

About 1.1 million of the city’s 8.1 million residents receive food stamps, a federally subsidized benefit. Most observers believe that several hundred thousand more are eligible for the benefit but do not receive it — in part because of bureaucratic barriers, like a cumbersome application process.

Ms. Eggleston, acknowledging the criticisms, said that on Dec. 18, the agency would begin accepting food stamp applications over the Internet, in an experiment with two nonprofit groups, Food Change and the New York City Coalition Against Hunger.

Under the experiment, financed by an Agriculture Department grant, Food Change employees at several food pantries and other locations will take applications and submit information electronically to the city, obviating the need for a caseworker to manually enter the information into a state-run computer system.

Ms. Eggleston also said her staff would conduct an outreach campaign during the holiday season — involving bus and subway advertising and tens of thousands of copies of a new brochure — to encourage those eligible to apply for food stamps. City employees will also “visit high-volume food pantries and soup kitchens throughout the city” and help people fill out applications, she said.

Ms. Eggleston conceded that many food stamp recipients were barely scraping by, saying that at her neighborhood supermarket she recently overheard two older people talking about how their electronic benefits transfer cards — where the value of the food stamps is automatically uploaded each month — had run out well before the end of the month.

She added, “I do think there’s an increased demand, especially when I know that many of my staff in my own agency utilize food kitchens in between pay periods.”

She said the agency would soon revive a training academy to make sure that caseworkers were familiar with updated procedures. She recalled that one employee had disregarded a new policy even though a copy of it “was literally dangling above the worker’s head.”

She said she had been shocked at conditions in one office. “I was livid,” she said, describing “workers with applications in stacked cardboard boxes.” She added, “Even though it was a back-room operation, even though a customer didn’t go there, it didn’t matter because they lacked the tools to meet the commitments that this administration had made.”

Ms. Eggleston also said, “I’ve met workers who haven’t had a computer change in 20 years, where on the other extreme, I’ve met workers who had a computer change every 11 months.”

The agency’s chief of staff, David A. Hansell, testified that the city would petition Governor-elect Eliot Spitzer, after he takes office in January, and Congress, which is to take up reauthorization of the food stamp program next year, to grant more leeway in how the program is run.

Friday, November 17, 2006

And. . . .Presto!

Well, that was easy. With a simple change in definition, now no one in America goes hungry!

Read the whole article: (click on the image to see the whole table)

Turture and Human Rights

Warning: This is hard to watch.

Monday, November 13, 2006

It's still genocide

From some friends:

Darfur Benefit Concert
On Sunday, November 19, there will be an evening of tremendous talent and stimulating speakers, featuring Caissie Levy, Neshama Carlebach, Jane Kelly Williams, and other fine singers, musicians and performers.
The concert will raise money to help meet the humanitarian needs of refugees in Darfur .
To purchase a ticket , (even if you can't attend, but would like to help support this important cause), please go to the B’nai Jeshurun Website,
If you would prefer to pay by check, you can make the check payable to Congregation B’nai Jeshurun and write "Darfur 11/19" in the Memo section of the check. Send your payment to:
Shakeara Hatchett
Congregation B'nai Jeshurun
2109 Broadway - Suite 203
New York, NY 10023-2106
Tickets are also available at the door.
You can help save a life by making a telephone call!
Since 2003, government-backed militias have been terrorizing towns and villages in Darfur , Sudan , that they believe are friendly to anti-government groups.
Americans can use their influence to save lives in Darfur .
Encourage the President to send an international force to support African Union troops in Darfur to protect civilians. Make the " Darfur Calls" pledge to call the White House twice a week and pass this information to everyone you know who wants to be part of the solution . . .
Call President Bush at (202) 456-1111 and ask him to assert U.S. leadership to create security in Darfur through an international peacekeeping force.
Continue to make two phone calls each week. Act today to help bring safety and security to Darfur .
Your phone calls can change the world.

Saturday, November 11, 2006

A dash of cold water

(Scroll down for WSSW Student Government election results.)

I told friends and colleagues that I would wait 48 hours before talking about the mid-term elections since I was, well, harshing their buzz. Out of respect I waited even longer. You're welcome!

In some ways, what's happened is a mere return to the staus quo ante, in which the Congress can resume serving as a check on Executive power (almost always a good thing: power corrupts, etc.), a power central to the operations of our particular form of constitutional government that has recently been negated by the power of one-party rule (the framers, remember, were rather in denial about the power of mass parties to overhwhelm the system).

But in our unique system, change comes, by design, slowly and incrementally (the New Deal and the Great Society are the exceptions that prove the rule).

Former Labor Secretary Robert Reich offers some perspective:

The Democratic Victory: Keep Your Expectations Low

Hold the champagne. Don’t expect anything bold to come out of the new Democratic House.

First, Dems don’t have enough votes to overcome Bush vetoes. Second, the new Dems are from marginal districts where they will have to be moderate-to-conservative in order to be reelected. Third, the Dem leadership has its eyes on the big prize – the 2008 presidency – and doesn’t want to do anything to scare off voters.

Barney Frank at the financial services committee will, at most, require more company disclosure of executive pay – not push for legislation barring companies from deducting from their corporate income taxes any pay over, say, $1 million. John Dingle at energy and commerce is so concerned about the auto industry he won’t try to increase auto mileage standards (he has opposed increasing CAFÉ in the past). George Miller at education and commerce will at most seek additional money for Pell grants, but there won’t be additional money unless Dems cut defense discretionary, which they won’t do.

Dems will demand that Robert Gates, the new defense secretary, keep them in the loop over Iraq, but Dems won’t push him to set a timetable. Even though Iraq figured prominently in the election, Dems have no clear idea for what to do to get out of the mess. And they don’t want to be blamed for chaos and bloodshed when the 2008 election comes around. So they’ll have lots of hearings and do very little.

In other words, keep your expectations low.

On the other hand, if Dems take the Senate, there's one huge plus: Bush's next Supreme Court nominee (should he have the chance to nominate) won't get easy passage.

This is not to say we should abandon hope for change -- it is to say that we should remain in the reality-based community, and not set ourselves up for disappointment by expecting the impossible. And do keep in mind that it's Democrats who recently brought us welfare reform, NAFTA, the Telecommunications Act of 1996, the 1996 Crime Bill, and who, in very large numbers, supported the USA PATRIOT ACT and, yes, the Iraq War.

Friday, November 10, 2006

Wow! It's a whole new government!

No, no, no. Not the changing party control in Congress -- that's old news now! Sheesh. This is MUCH more important!

We are pleased to announce the results of the Wurzweiler School of Social Work's student government elections. There was a wonderful voter turnout and it was a very close race. There was a tie for member at large, so instead of four, there will be five member-at-large positions. All of the candidates received very strong support from the student body and we hope that those who were not officially elected as members of the executive board will consider taking leadership positions by serving on one or more committees.


President Concurrent - Grant Silverstein
President PEP - Daniel Sebbag

Vice President - Sherri Panikoff, Second Year Concurrent
Treasurer - Anita Kahan, Second Year Concurrent
Secretary - Erica Leibowitz, First Year PEP

Members at Large
Rebecca Leibowitz, First Year Concurrent
Erik Volper, First Year Concurrent
Jose Delgado, Second Year PEP
Isabel M. Adon, First Year PEP
Demecia Woolen Irizary, Second Year PEP

Congratulations to all!

Sunday, November 05, 2006


Scroll down for WSSW Student Government Candidate Statements. Meanwhile. . . . .

Friday, November 03, 2006

Ahhh, it's almost election day

Election day for WSSW, of course, and for, you know, almost all of the United States Congress and stuff. Scroll down for Student Government Candidate Statements. Meanwhile, to celebrate, we proudly steal images from, er, present. . . . . .

The Propaganda Remix Project: