Sometimes the best man for the job is a woman: Green Party candidates Jill Stein and Cheri Honkala

POSTED ON July 30th, 2012 - by Momatus1 Comment »

As the Republicans and Democrats fight it out during the Presidential race, you may not be aware that amongst all the blustering, canvassing, and fundraising, there is a third party contending for the highest office in the land.  This election cycle, the Green Party ticket is being represented by Presidential nominee Jill Stein and Vice Presidential candidate Cheri Honkala.

So, what does the Green Party stand for? 

GP legislation and principles have their roots in the commitment to social justice, non-violence, environmentalism, and grassroots organization.  Formed in 2001 from the Association of State Green Parties, members hope to renew the idea of democracy without the contributions of corporate donors.  Their primary goal is to assist state Green Parties in growth and policy debate.  They emphasize transparency and the democratic process and in building consensus.

The core of their political activity can be summarized through 10 Key Values: Grassroots Democracy, Social Justice and Equal Opportunity, Ecological Wisdom, Non-Violence, Decentralization, Community Based Economics, Feminism and Gender Equality, Respect for Diversity, Personal and Global Responsibility, and Future Focus and Sustainability.  (For a more detailed elaboration of these ideas, visit their website).

Who is running?

Dr. Jill Stein: A Harvard-educated doctor, author, and environmental advocate, Dr. Jill Stein has been nominated as the GP presidential candidate for 2012. She has co-authored widely-used reports on environmental health, including In Harm’s Way: Toxic Threats to Child Development and Environmental Threats to Aging.  Her “Healthy People, Healthy Planet” teaching program draws connections between human well-being, climate security, and economic stimulation.  She began her work as an environmental advocate in 1998, and has since used her expertise to testify before legislative panels, appear on nationally televised news programs, and sit on the board of such organizations as the Massachusetts Physicians for Social Responsibility.  Stein’s activism has earned her many awards including the Clean Water Action’s “Not in Anyone’s Backyard” Award and the Toxic Action Center’s Citizen Award.

Stein was approached in 2002 by the Massachusetts Green-Rainbow Party to run for governor of the state, and her acceptance marked her entry into the political sphere.  She has represented the party in two additional races, totaling some of the largest numbers of votes ever for a GP candidate. In 2003, she co-founded the Massachusetts Coalition for Healthy Communities, and in 2008 helped create the “Secure Green Ballot” initiative that asked lawmakers to make the establishment of a green economy a top priority.  Her “Green New Deal for America“, an idea rooted in Depression Era politics, is a four-part strategy designed to guide the economy out of crisis and establish a sustainable financial sector.

Cheri Honkala: Standing as one of the foremost leading advocates for the poor, Cheri Honkala is currently the National Coordinator for the Poor People’s Economic Human Rights Campaign.  Influenced by her personal experience as a homeless, single mother, she has dedicated nearly thirty years to build a movement to end poverty.  In 2011, she became the first woman to run for sheriff in Philadelphia and the only candidate to run on a “no evictions” platform. Honkala has received a number of awards for her social activism, and endorsed by Green Party and National Organization for Women.


Laughing matters: Marc Abrahams

POSTED ON April 16th, 2012 - by MomatusNo Comments »

Marc Abrahams has a funny way of looking at things.  Literally.  As the editor and co-founder of the scientific humor publication Annals of Improbable Research (AIR), author of many anthologies and articles including the new book This is Improbable, and creator of the Ig Nobel Prize Ceremony, the man has a great deal of experience in squeezing good laugh out of some serious research.  Holding a degree in mathematics from Harvard University, Abrahams has also spent many years developing optical character recognitions systems for computer product companies before founding his own educational software business.  When not producing blog posts or op-ed pieces, Abrahams is most likely busy producing his Internet TV series, giving interviews on public radio, or writing librettos for a series of science mini-operas.  Dubbed by the American Medical Association as “the Puck of Science” and by the Washington Post as “the nation’s guru of academic grunge”, Abrahams harnesses the power of levity and personal charisma to engage the public in science, technology, and medicine.

The next Ig Nobel Prize ceremony will be held on September 20, 2012 and broadcasted on public radio and webcast live from Harvard’s Sanders Theater.  The Prizes honor the achievements of those individuals, like Abrahams, inspire interest in scientific inquiry through laughter and creativity.  Many of these recipients are joined by real Nobel Laureates, adding some gravitas to the otherwise silliness of the awards.   Since 1991, 10 awards have been presented, and are available for perusal through their online archive.

The titles of the studies in each discipline are honestly some of the funniest pieces of literature I have ever read, and are worth looking through.  The ceremony itself allows delegations of five people or more to form colorful, costumed groups that can register to be officially celebrated during the event.  Winners are allowed 60 seconds to explain their projects, and are later invited the following weekend to further elaborate their motives and discuss the details of their research.

In disciplines that are regularly ignored or feared due to their intimidating jargon, complex methodologies, or dry content, it is wonderful to hear that there are champions of science that focus on outreach and accessibility.  How could you not giggle at the Luxuriant Flowing Hair Club for Scientists™?  Snicker over an engineer demonstrating how to turn a bra into a pair of emergency face masks?  Be awed by an opera based on a bacterium’s struggle to live in a woman’s infected tooth?  Go on and have a smile for science!