Greener Times

Promoting a sustainable society…one day at a time.

Archive for December, 2008

GT for Dec. 29 – Jan. 4

Posted by Trey Smith on December 28, 2008

Greener Times for the Week of December 29 – January 4

Volume 3 No. 37

an e-publication for Greens anywhere and everywhere

Trey Smith – Publisher/Editor
Tom Herring, Duff Badgley & Maryrose Asher – Columnists

In This Week’s Issue
* Tennessee Coal Waste Disaster and a New Approach
* Green Party Touts Environmental Action Plan
* Thoughts By the Way: Something in Your Eye
* Our Climate Crisis: A Crime Against Duff
* This Week in History

* Letters to the Editor
* Pencil Shavings: Will You Kill for Me?
* News You May Have Missed

Tennessee Coal Waste Disaster and a New Approach
by Jan Lundberg of Culture Change

Notions such as “clean” solar and wind power on a massive scale for a renewable-energy panacea, and the idea that roads are a good thing, are why idiocy and tragedy continue. The doomed petroleum infrastructure is just one reason, and all are ignored by our society wearing blinders. We’re the animal that errs — the incorrectly named homo sapiens sapiens. And when we consider “clean coal” or “clean cars” homo idiotus comes to my mind (someone correct my Latin).

The Kingston power plant whose lagoon of toxic waste gave way this week, and the Tennessee Valley Authority, tell us what’s wrong in the in large sense in their very names, and gives us an indication of what must be abolished: “King’s town” and “boss of a valley.” Question authority, question “reality.”

It a wrongheaded mindset that has allowed “more than 1 billion gallons of waste containing potentially dangerous levels of heavy metals including arsenic, cadmium, mercury and lead, as well as radioactive elements such as uranium and thorium, impurities typically found in coal.” [from Southern Exposure’s Dec. 26 report]

Self-defeating reforms are the rule, not the exception: “In recent years, the technology for capturing the pollutants from stacks of coal-fired power plants has become more sophisticated, which means coal combustion waste contains even higher concentrations of toxins.” The article exposed the absurdity of mining and development, as in “developers used 1.5 million tons of coal ash to build a golf course over a shallow aquifer in Chesapeake, Va.” But the conclusion of the Tennessee article was only a call for better regulation. Oh, sure.

You can expect nothing from the Obama regime or the dominant culture to directly rectify or transform the problems that plague us and the whole Earth. Even if there were 1,000 Ecovillage Training Centers (in Tennessee at The Farm), and as many Earth University’s (in Chiapas on autonomous land), plunked down from on high, there’s no logical argument that can herd the “sheople” to try a new approach to living, even if we could commandeer NPR, PBS, the BBC et al for a good spell. For the boss man is too strong, and there’s not an open commons where the land ain’t fenced or paved, so that people can gather food and erect shelters in peace and freedom. Too many people, divided as they are — what leader in power has ever tackled overpopulation? Doing so toppled Indira Gandhi. The Chinese have tackled it but rather too late.

Only a collapse of the entire system of industry and consumption will change the playing field. Are things finally crashing down as we speak? Being compassionate is essential. But to fight for changes on the policy level and possibly legitimize the system is in the end not compassionate, if we neglect to prioritize fundamental cultural change. Meanwhile some of us on the latter track continue to develop and point to ways of sustainability. Some of us even risk getting arrested for what we believe in. May the new year make more sense to us in terms of a positive flow of consciousness.

Green Party Touts Environmental Action Plan
Green Party leaders today said that Obama has the chance, when he becomes President, to take the lead on curbing global warming.

In May, 2008, the Green Party’s Eco-Action Committee announced a set of recommendations for environmental actions for the first 100 days as a guide for Green presidential candidates.

Greens are now promoting the “First 100 Days: Energy and Environmental Policy” as a plan for the Obama Administration.

“This is the Green Party’s holiday gift to the new administration — a set of policies and actions that would place the US in the lead among nations fighting the advance of catastrophic climate change,” said Wes Rolley, co-chair of the EcoAction Committee. “After the inconclusive results of the Poznan talks, President Obama has the opportunity to put the US at the forefront by the time nations meet again in Copenhagen next year.”

“Evidence presented by climate experts in Poznan that alternative energy may not be sufficient to solve the crisis. The emphasis must shift more towards conservation, lowered consumption, and drastic reduction in car traffic. The steps taken against global warming and to repair the current economic meltdown must include all three,” said Mr. Rolley.

On December 10, the Green Party published six recommendations for economic recovery that included environmentally based public works, expanded public transportation, and other conservation-based measures.

First 100 Days: Energy and Environmental Policy: summary of major recommendations

  • No new coal fired-power plants; no new nuclear power plants; reduce by 90% the mercury emissions of coal-fired power plants by 2012; protect human health and the environment.in the disposal of coal-fired power plant wastes
  • Ban mountaintop coal removal; ban the dumping of mountaintop removal wastes in stream beds and valleys
  • Reduce CO2 and SO2 emissions by 80% by 2020
  • Provide incentives for industry and citizens to reduce energy use through conservation and generate more renewable energy sources; enact a mandatory 25% renewable energy mix in the national grid by 2015; encourage all states to do the same (using oil and nuclear subsidy funds); encouraging local energy generation
  • Increase Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) standards to 60 mpg for cars and 45 mpg for light trucks by 2012
  • Set a national phosphorus standard for all US waters that will protect steams from nutrient growth; strengthen bacteria standards to protect human health
  • Require labeling of imported foods, foods with growth hormones, and foods produced by Confined Animal Feeding Operations (CAFOs)
  • Stop export of any technology abroad for projects that involve fossil fuel or deforestation
  • Require that all federal agencies continue their policy of direct negotiation with Indian tribes on a government to government basis
  • Protect the rights of Environmental Justice communities to be free from new proposals for permits that would potentially increase their burden of toxic contamination, and prioritize these communities for cleanup

Thoughts By the Way: Something in Your Eye
Tom Herring is a Community Council member on Vashon Island. Catch more of Tom’s thoughts on his blog.

Ever since I was dropped, diaperless, into the world of politics a mortal dispute has raged between the Democrats and the Third Party. It has been a long eight years. The dispute has taken on the life of something lodged in your eye. No amount of pulling down the lid, washing, rubbing, will make it go away because you have worried it to the point that you cannot tell if it is there or not. Here’s how it goes: the problem is the two-party system, but when Ralph, wearing his Green sport coat, tries to bust it, he is crucified for abetting the worst administration in US history. It’s there, menwomen, and it ain’t going away. Would Gore have murdered fewer Iraqis? Would Kerry have gotten rid of the Patriot act? Wring of hands and worry of heart, but nothing could resolve the dispute, could let the good guysngals win. And now with the election of Obama, the Democrats have vindicated their sabotage of the Third Party: He is Change. Well, that thing in our eye may have been voted out but it is still there and it hurts like hell.

The reason we the public could not resolve the dispute in favor of the good guysngals was that we could not agree on what is really at issue, what that thing in the eye really is. We still don’t. That’s because the two-party system is only a tool. The well-hidden issue is the golden grip of capitalism on the public, a grip facilitated by the two-party system. And so on the eve of 2009, at the obvious brink of an obvious unknown abyss, we foolishly bury Dennis, Ralph, and Cynthia and eulogize Obama.

Look again at 2000. Gore losing by fraud was the lesser message. The big message was that capital was running the Capitol, and if one were to have read this message then, the thing in hiserher eye would have gone away. If one were to have read this message then, heershe would have quit beating up on Ralph and looked with a clear eye at the role of capitalism in modern elections.

Now, back to 2008 going on 9. Capital has run the Capitol as usual, but this time it was forced to pick a Democrat because its batboy Bush had soiled the Republican trousers. This time the thing in our eye was smaller but hurt more. This time the only way Dennis, Ralph, and Cynthia could have gotten points was to have walked across the Potomac. This time, again, still, we do not realize that the issue is capitalism. Just as the bull is decoyed time and time again by the cape we do not realize that the issue is capitalism.

Therefore we stand at the brink and wring our hands. Give Obama a chance. Urge Obama to make good. Write to your congressperson. Send money. Enough. It is we who should do this and not do that. It is we who are the problem.

We had the knowledge, in spite of the media filter, to have stopped Bush from invading Iraq. To have stopped Kissinger from inciting the coup in Chile. To have deterred Israel from its genocide of the Palestinians. To have prevented Suharto from massacring half of East Timor. To have forced Bush to call off his DHS thugs in New Orleans. To have closed the torture School of the Americas. To have forced Congress to create national single payer healthcare. To have outlawed incarceration for profit. For eight years, however, we have steadfastly refused to give up consuming the things capitalism sells, and this has muzzled our outrage. We are the problem.

The brave sacrifices of the progressive opposition have failed because we the comfortable have not backed them. We are the problem

America’s path from rugged individualism to drugged consumption is paved with the concrete of roadways and lined with the billboards of television. We are the problem.

Having now belabored the point that the presidential elections embody everything that is wrong with America, which is that the public has gone soft on consumption of capital, I will spell out a cure so sound that the foregoing polemic recedes into window dressing. The cure is to dispense with all existing political parties and the like in favor of talking to everybody within walking distance. Before electronics, you see. Before cars, you see. Before de-humanization, you see. Then, step by step, we might retreat from the brink.

Our Climate Crisis: A Crime Against Duff
Duff Badgley is the leader of the One Earth Climate Action Group and was a candidate for Governor as a Green in 2008. He can be reached at 206-283-0621.

When you drive your car, you are committing a Crime Against Duff – against me.

When the Israelis slaughter masses of Palestinians in Gaza, as they did right after Christmas, they are committing many hideous crimes, including a Crime Against Duff.

When Barack Obama stacks his staff and cabinet with war-mongers (Emanuel, Gates, Clinton) and despoilers of our Earth (Vilsack, Chu, Salazar), he commits a Crime Against Duff.

The connection?

All these actions kill chances for our species acting collectively to cope with our greatest threat ever-what Ross Gelbspan calls “the overwhelming power of inflamed nature”- our Climate Crisis.

Driving your car cripples the Right to Exist for me and my kids and grandkids. It may be your car, but it’s my Planet! You as motorist become a criminal threatening my life.

The Israelis wantonly murder Palestinians under the approving eyes of Bush, Obama, Emanuel, Clinton and Gates.

As they mass-murder, the Israelis inflame hatred and division among billions of humans. And dramatically reduce the chances of global cooperation to adapt to and mitigate our Climate Crisis.

The Israelis’ murdering, and Obama & Gang’s murder-by-proxy, refutes the fundamental Climate Crisis lesson: We are ONE! What happens to some of us, literally happens to all of us.

Ken Salazar, Obama’s Interior Department pick, wants to mine public lands for coal and oil. Steven Chu, Energy Department nominee, wants to dedicate 50 million acres to ‘energy crops’. Agriculture Secretary nominee Tom Vilscack pushes corn ethanol in defiance of all science and reason. These Men from Obama are poised to inflict great harm on the Earth and me. And compromise my future.

What to do?

Gelbspan calls for “an elevation of public mission above private interest and an end to the free-market fundamentalism that has blinded much of the American public with its mindless belief in the divine power of markets.”

You driving your car is in your private interest-at least in the short term, you believe.

But I must breathe air, and endure a future, poisoned by carbon you produce when you drive your car.

You driving your car and harming me would not be possible if we had “an elevation of public mission”. I’m part of the public. Every one of us Earthlings is part of the public. We share a planet and share a fate.

We are not Americans. We are humans, one of a rapidly thinning tangle of species sharing this precious Blue Planet.

So, leave your car home. Throw away the keys. Take the bus each Saturday to Westlake Plaza to help us rally in support of the Palestinians. Rallies go from noon – 2 p.m.

This Week in History
This Week in History, published by Carl Bunin and edited by Al Frank, is a collection designed to help us appreciate the fact that we are part of a rich history advocating peace and social justice. While the entries often focus on large and dramatic events there are so many smaller things done everyday to promote peace and justice. Find more info at http://www.peacebuttons.info/E-News/thisweek.htm.

December 29, 1890: The U.S. Army killed approximately 400 Oglala Sioux at Wounded Knee, in the new state of South Dakota. The 7th Cavalry (Custer’s old command) fired their artillery amidst women, children, and fleeing men. The Wounded Knee Massacre was the final major military battle in the genocide against Native Americans. 18 soldiers received Congressional Medals of Honor for their “bravery.” The wounded and dying were taken to a makeshift hospital in the Pine Ridge Episcopal Church. Ironically, above the pulpit hung a Christmas banner which read: Peace on Earth, Good Will to Men.

January 1, 1994: On the day NAFTA took effect, more than 2,000 native Mayans in Mexico’s Chiapas state marched into the state capital, San Cristóbal de las Casas, and five neighboring towns, and seized control. Calling themselves Zapatistas, or the Zapatista Army of National Liberation (EZLN), a “declaration of war” was issued. Chiapas is among the poorest parts of Mexico. The indigenous peoples of Mexico long suffered as second-class citizens due to the dominance of the Roman Catholic church and the traditional Mestizo (mixed Spanish and Indian ancestry) political leadership of the country. The EZLN was certain that NAFTA would permanently lock in the top-down economic situation in Mexico. The Zapatistas’ slogan was !Ya basta! (“Enough is enough”). Employees at the Mexican stock exchange were evacuated by riot police. 25,000 Mexican soldiers arrived in Chiapas equipped with automatic weapons, tanks, helicopters and airplanes. 145 deaths were reported, mostly civilians. Massive arrests and subsequent torture of prisoners by the government took place.

January 3, 1961: A nuclear reactor exploded at the National Reactor Testing Station in Idaho Falls, Idaho, killing three military technicians, and released radioactivity which, in the words of John A. McCone, Director of the Atomic Energy Commission, was “largely confined” to the reactor building. One technician was blown to the ceiling of the containment dome and impaled on a control rod. His body remained there until it was taken down six days later. The men were so heavily exposed to radiation that their hands and heads had to be buried separately with other radioactive waste.

Letters to the Editor
Got something you want to get off your chest? Did an article in a previous edition of Greener Times make you madder than a hornet or cause you to stand up to say, “Right on!”? Well, this space is reserved each week for your comments and opinions.

Duff — Regarding your commentary on proposed cabinet picks Vilsack and Chu I suggest withholding judgment until we see how Obama uses their expertise. Who better than Vilsack to lead the farmbelt in a compassionate transition to a more sustainable economy? He understands the people and businesses entrapped in this government-created mess, and I think they trust him to some extent. And Chu — Steven Chu is a truly great scientist with good leadership and communication skills, who is committed to reducing greenhouse gas emissions. He has no illusions about what that will take. What a huge change from the Bush administration cutting and pasting scientific reports to hide the truth. I expect the Obama administration will make some mistakes, because we are in uncharted territory, and because there is a lot of Washington DC inertia tugging on his every move. It is going to take grassroots support to overcome the entrenched interests. I wince when I see the blows coming from the left.
~ Donna ~

Pencil Shavings: Will You Kill For Me?
Pencil Shavings appears in this space most weeks and solely represents the opinions of the publisher. If you’d like to read more of Trey’s ruminations, visit The Rambling Taoist.

Last Sunday evening in snow bound South Bend, my wife & I enjoyed a quiet night in front of the fireplace. A little before 8:00 p.m., we start flipping through the cable channels to find something to watch. My wife’s preference is to watch a movie. One of her favorite channels is Lifetime. I immediately recoil. “If you’re going to watch that crap, I will retire to my upstairs cave.”

So, we continue flipping around until we happen to notice an MSNBC documentary entitled, “Will You Kill for Me?” It’s all about Charlie Manson and The Family.

I know a lot about this topic. When the best seller Helter Skelter came out, I read it from cover to cover (and reread it several years later). I’ve probably watched most of the documentaries made concerning Manson and I’ve read a lot more than the aforementioned book. I find the whole topic very disturbing, yet interesting. As a former social worker, I’ve always been interested in why people commit heinous acts.

However, as I watched this program, I grew a bit uncomfortable. The main thesis seemed to be focused on the cult aspects of the Manson family and the observation that the events that took place were from a bygone era. More importantly, the viewpoint behind the program seemed to say that killing for someone else is a societal anomaly.

People kill for others all the time! It’s not an anomaly at all.

Right now the U.S. has over 100,000 troops stationed in Afghanistan and Iraq. Their underlying mission is to kill for our country — all of us here stateside. Our opponents are bent on killing our soldiers to defend their own supporters and countrymen.

While Manson used drugs and sex to mold and manipulate his disciples, the governments and insurgent forces alike involved in the current “wars” use religion, nationalism and sentiments like patriotism to mold and manipulate soldiers, freedom fighters and terrorists to commit unthinkable atrocities. How is this so different than Manson?

And it’s just not in “war” that we find this tragic circumstance. People are recruited everyday into companies that develop and peddle products that kill people and destroy the environment. Some do it solely for greed, but a lot of these people believe in what they’re creating and selling. The capitalist ethos has molded and manipulated them into believing that they are each serving a higher purpose.

Remember DDT? It was supposed to revoltionize agriculture and, thereby, be beneficial to humankind. And what did it really do? It made the planet and people very sick. Yet, the people who manufactured this vile substance defended it as beneficial until there absolutely was no question that it was anything but.

DDT is but one solitary example. I’m certain each reader can think of 100 more.

If truth be known, what scares people so much about the Charlie Mansons of the world, is that these individuals are not outside of the mainstream as much as we might like to believe. Yes, their tools of manipulation tend to be beyond the norm, but the end results aren’t altogether different.

News You May Have Missed

Rail Takes Back Seat in Obama Stimulus Plan
Missouri’s plan to spend $750 million in federal money on highways and nothing on mass transit in St. Louis doesn’t square with President-elect Barack Obama’s vision for a revolutionary re-engineering of the nation’s infrastructure. Utah would pour 87 percent of the funds it may receive in a new economic stimulus bill into new road capacity. Arizona would spend $869 million of its $1.2 billion wish list on highways. While many states are keeping their project lists secret, plans that have surfaced show why environmentalists and some development experts say much of the stimulus spending may promote urban sprawl while scrimping on more green-friendly rail and mass transit…

Obama Betrays Gays, Placates the Right with Rev. Warren
I don’t know why we need any religious leader delivering an invocation at a President’s inaugural. I thought we’re supposed to have separation of church and state in America. But the custom persists, and Obama announced on Wednesday that the Reverend Rick Warren would be giving the invocation on January 20. This has understandably ignited a firestorm of protest from Obama’s progressive base. For one thing, Warren is anti-abortion. For another, he threw his considerable weight behind Proposition 8, outlawing gay marriage in California…

We’re in for a Year of ‘Economic Hell’
Whatever the new administration does, we’re in for months, perhaps even a year, of economic hell. After that, things should get better, as President Obama’s stimulus plan — O.K., I’m told that the politically correct term is now “economic recovery plan” — begins to gain traction. Late next year the economy should begin to stabilize, and I’m fairly optimistic about 2010. But what comes after that?…

US: Soaring Rates of Rape and Violence Against Women
A new government report showing huge increases in the incidences of domestic violence, rape, and sexual assault over a two-year period in the United States deserves immediate attention from lawmakers and the incoming administration, Human Rights Watch said today. The statistics show a 42-percent increase in reported domestic violence and a 25-percent increase in the reported incidence of rape and sexual assault…

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Posted in Greener Times | Comments Off on GT for Dec. 29 – Jan. 4

GT for December 22 – 28

Posted by Trey Smith on December 21, 2008

Greener Times for the Week of December 15 – 21

Volume 3 No. 36

an e-publication for Greens anywhere and everywhere

Trey Smith – Publisher/Editor
Tom Herring, Duff Badgley & Maryrose Asher – Columnists

In This Week’s Issue
* Dissolve the U.S.: an Option for Proactive Change before Collapse
* Why President Elect Barack Obama is not the first Hip Hop President
* Thoughts By the Way: Three Seconds
* Our Climate Crisis: Obama Moves to Ruin Earth
* Un-Spinning the Spin: Time to Re-Think the “Protest Industry”, Conclusion
* This Week in History
* Pencil Shavings: So-Called Junk Science
* News You May Have Missed

Dissolve the U.S.: an Option for Proactive Change before Collapse
by Jan Lundberg of Culture Change

Housing starts in the U.S. are down 47% as of 13 months ago. Prices of commodities, not just oil, are falling because of job losses unseen since 1947. Oil is still very costly when subsidies are included. The prior recoveries from recessions were from bubbles: dot com and housing speculation — when oil extraction was still rising. Now peak money has come and gone. Climate disasters have barely begun. So to deny we’re slipping on a downward slope is getting harder, and more of us are wondering about the uncertain outcome.

Another bubble is highly unlikely, so we’re having to face the music. With nothing to reverse the trends, and with mounting effects of ecological degradation and overpopulation, we see things are headed in a terrible direction. Still, people don’t want to explore collapse, or they place a comforting limit on what it means and what might happen. “No one knows” passes for wisdom and even action.

Whether we have been hit mainly by crippling energy costs as part of peak oil and petrocollapse, or clobbered more by Wall Street greed, the state of the global corporate economy is sick and maybe terminal. It’s reasonable to expect — or get caught up in — food riots on a broader scale than ever. Same for the fall of governments. Fortunately, there’s something we can do to avoid the worst of the fallout if we act proactively.

Meanwhile, we are looking at the near certainty that the depression — “the Final Depression” or “Grand Collapse” or “Darkness before the Dawn” — will intensify. And, since we have to consider there’s no longer “unlimited” cheap energy to rebuild the infrastructure for rail, it is time to (1) anticipate what can happen to the nation in the throes of petrocollapse and the bursting of peak money, and (2) steer our megaship away from the iceberg in hopes of a glancing blow and launching all possible bioregional lifeboats.

The real danger is in clinging to the status quo. For example, we should not try to build ever-more cars to run on deteriorating roads built with and for oil. To do so is to throw good money after bad, to reward or bail out fat cats taking the whole ship down as we sit by. Given the late hour for cheap energy and rebuilding, we have to think bicycles more than trains to be produced from car-dinosaur factories.

Even the most visionary, radical thinkers seem to saying little more than, “Look, there’s a big problem out there!” Yes, we see it. Some of us see more than others. But we need to see what’s next, while visualizing the positive future we need.

The positive future that we’d like is basic security, more love, connection to community and healthy nature, and liberation from foolish work. What would you like? How can we get there? First we have to look at where our problems are pushing us. Then we can see how any handles we have on inescapable trends may be seized upon for improved results. Otherwise, it will be just maximum chaos and a doubtful rebuilding from utter collapse.

Risking chaos without any attempt to restructure for improvement is the prevailing tendency. Reforming a system of waste, while refusing to slash greenhouse gases and stop unproductive work, offers no hope except for green opportunism. As the recent International Arctic Change conference warned, “The roof of our house is on fire while the leaders of our family sit comfortably in the living room below preoccupied with “political realities” — the message from 1,000 scientists from around the world along with northern indigenous leaders.

What’s a real plan today

Beware of sellouts who trick people into thinking their plan is doable and realistic: is it a fantasy in any way, ignoring peak oil’s full effects or climate-change devastation? Is their plan a ruse to keep up the hopeless attempt to reform the dominant system into some green entity it has only resisted and rejected?

The denial of reality is about as strong as the trend to recognize it, which means things are getting more intense as the natural world collides with civilization for what’s stacking up to be a final showdown.

We may soon see how correct I was when I claimed in 1992, in the quarterly journal Population and Environment, that the Russian people were better off in their imperial collapse than people of the U.S. will be because of petroleum dependence. With the common practice of one out of five Russians growing their own potatoes, unlike U.S. folk who only drive to the supermarket, survival from the short term to long term looked not so bad comparatively. But one reason there was no major die-off, as I predict in the U.S. and elsewhere, is that Russia was in an economic world still “growing.”

For more guidance from history, we can look to the work of Dmitry Orlov who decided to compare the Soviet Union’s collapse to what he saw starting to happen in the U.S. His “five stages of collapse” seem to have begun. I don’t believe he sees a good outcome from potential U.S. efforts to turn negatives into a positive future. Perhaps it is the dreamer in me that makes me an activist that says we can imagine, as John Lennon did in his song Imagine, that we can be “sharing all the world.”

“What?” you exclaim, “isn’t the U.S. needed as a world leader as times get even tougher!”? Well, the U.S. has been worse than a lumbering giant of idiocy where it matters: standing in the way of climate protection, guzzling oil, and creating terror around the world through militarism and “intelligence” operations. There has been no nation worse, although let us be fair by defending the United States as having many wonderful people and some incomparable scenery.

“What about defense against the evil doers?!” With collapse there will be little of today’s overblown “defense”, and little possibility of full scale oil-driven invasion of the former USA. Today the biggest oil consumer in the world is the U.S. Defense Fuel Supply Center. The future bioregional nations will have their own defense, but probably basic and not gold-plated, high-tech or dominated by corporate mercenaries. If one dreams that the U.S., as presently structured, will become a paragon of good sense — somehow thwarting the selfish kleptocracy that calls the shots — this is the height of naivete. So we must get on with proactively dismantling the U.S. before the tsunami of change hits — much like dispersing before a wave crashes. If all are tied together, all drown. If we separate into bioregional local economies, we might survive and even help each other across divides. Manufacturing and crafts have all but disappeared in the U.S., as other countries in Asia usually send us whatever we think we need. So our future will include recreating capabilities to make and repair things, but probably not frivolous toys that use energy.

SharonAstyk.com said on Dec. 15 “2009 will be the year we say that things ‘collapsed’…a la the Great Depression.” Is anticipating collapse the best we can do? What about an intelligent restructuring? The word for restructuring in Russian is famous around the world: perestroika. In 1990 I published in the Earth Island Journal my article “Ecostroika.” (Actually, Sharon Astyk has great ideas along such lines.)

Mikhail Gorbachev and then Boris Yeltsin presided over the dissolution of the USSR, but had to go with what was already happening: collapse was inevitable, but it did not pose the threat that today’s higher house of cards represents globally.

Because the U.S. government is incompetent and cannot be trusted to handle the engineering job of the millennium — mitigating petrocollapse, overpopulation, peak money, and climate collapse — as we saw post-Katrina, local communities need to formulate their own plans with President Obama’s encouragement. He can thus be a greater Gorbachev for posterity. But let us not delude ourselves to imagine he can start telling the citizenry that we must stop population growth and start reducing our numbers. He is, after all, central to the one-party system for haphazard economic growth: the Democrats-and-Republicans.

Culturally the U.S. population is hooked on technology that makes them passive. A recent poll published in the Portland Oregonian states that 70% of the nation’s residents’ “favorite way to relax is watching a holiday movie.” Personally I find movies to be one of the greatest justifications for civilization — the new artistic documentary Blind Spot, on peak oil, comes to mind. But without the convenient power and gadgets we’ve enjoyed and been slaves to, we’ll have to become much more convivial, in ways described by Ivan Illich: be more social and interactive.

Nuts and Bolts/Nitty Gritty of Dissolution

Responsibility for the nuclear waste, weapons, superfund sites, and brownfields must be taken seriously — whereas today the byword is growth, growth, growth (i.e., profits, profits, profits for the few). Where has growth gotten the average person? Lower real wages and more working hours. Honest assessments of our predicament can be more easily made if we recognize our false system of values. We need to flush down our propaganda and national delusions brought to us by television and gossip magazines. Or, just wait for some plum job so we can get back to consuming like the global hogs and zombies we have been.

Dissolving the United States consciously is an actual proposal for a workable future, more clear than the “relocalization” that dissolution would automatically cause. Most analysis and speculation about the effects of peak oil and climate chaos are exercises in hand-wringing and waiting around for a vaguely anticipated involuntary dissolution of the nation and global economy.

Much like a failed marriage is better dissolved earlier rather than later, dissolution of the U.S. empire (domestic especially) will minimize pain and chaos that can take over completely — as anyone knows who went through a tough divorce long after the love and respect went splitsville.

Vermont has had a serious, although tiny, secession movement. Great things have come from that state, I mean nation, and will continue. Whereas there once were Committees of Correspondence for the American Revolution, revisited by the Green Party in the 1990s, there needs to be Committees for Dissolution in every state and local community too.

The idea of dissolution is not in any way meant as disrespect to God-fearing, my-country-right-or-wrong, anti-abortion, pro-war ways of living in our unraveling society of haves and have nots. Indeed, diversity is healthy, and no doubt there will be after dissolution strongholds of homophobic, patriarchal, gun-loving bible-toting whites, just as there will be nations or tribes of feministic, pagan vegans. Or, to bypass the ridiculous stereotyping and labeling, people everywhere will be adopting local survival strategies to suit their surroundings.

There may be acorns in abundance here, wild rice there, seaweed here, rats there, permaculture gardens everywhere — connected not through fossil fuels and steel/asphalt infrastructure ‘a crumbling, but through sail boats, bicycles, horses, and other means. The important feature for future economics and trade will be local resources that are renewable. By definition, with the passing of the Petroleum Age underway already, we will not have long-distance trade through jets and trucks and rail as we know it.

Let us not be bested by the Russians: steer our collapse as proactively as possible, applying available petroleum energy and society’s still-intact services to cushion the fall of our petroleum civilization.

For example, create millions of Victory Gardens for local food production. Make community barter networks, and call neighbors together for Citizen Petroleum Councils and Transition Town programs. Bicycle and bike-trailer facilities. Depaving. Ecological restoration for clean water and fish habitat.

If done later by hand and animal power, when petroleum power may be down forever, little would be accomplished, as little energy will be available and applied to the above measures — such that the enormous rubble that falls will stay there and hinder the survivors who will lack means. If these measures were undertaken before the U.S. and the global economy falls flat, available energy will make the tasks to a large extent doable, and we could see a transition to Balkanization or Ecotopiazation.

Conclusion

Dissolution is our future, so let’s get started proactively. Raise the issue with someone you know and watch the tension rise — touching a nerve means you’re close to the truth.

Why President Elect Barack Obama is not the first Hip Hop President
by Rosa Clemente for the Green Institute

It has been 45 days since the Hip Hop generation helped usher in the first Black male President of the United States of America. Since that historic night, many within Hip Hop culture, like writer Greg Kot of the Boston Globe, entrepreneur Russell Simmons, artists Common, Jay-Z and P. Diddy, have declared President-Elect Obama the first Hip Hop president. In my humble opinion they are wrong, dead wrong. It does not matter how many Hip Hop pundits, non-profit organizations, and recognizable figures within the culture declare it. Much like an MC or B-Girl battle, I’m ready to challenge that declaration.

As a long time community organizer and Hip Hop activist and journalist, I have always followed a rule: never allow someone to become your priority while you become his or her option. For President Elect Barack Obama and the entire Democrat Party leadership in this country, the Hip Hop generation has never been a priority, we have always been an option and that option is used mostly to get out the vote during elections. Efforts like Vote or Die, Generation Vote, Rock the Vote, Respect my Vote, do not empower a generation – they are catchy slogans emblazoned on pretty white tees that offer empty rhetoric. At the end of the day, those G.O.T.V. efforts become guaranteed votes for the Democratic Party and often fail to educate their followers about candidates that run outside of the two-party system.

I believe that like many before him, President-Elect Barack Obama’s campaign used Hip Hop to create excitement amongst young people in this country, but we must clearly see through the $750 million bling-bling marketing haze of his campaign. The few times he was pressed on his association to Hip Hop, he spoke about offensive rap lyrics and Black men having respect for themselves by pulling up their pants. I do not recall one specific mention of the political victories and social consciousness brought out by millions in the culture. Just because you brush off your shoulders, fist bump the future First Lady, or play a mean game of street ball, that does not make you Hip Hop. What we have now is an Obama administration that came into power with the promise of change, but is remixing that promise by sampling from the Bill Clinton Presidency, including Hillary herself, and this new remix will do nothing to change the mass conditions of our people.

In Van Jones new book, The Green Collar Economy, Van says, “It is time to change from fighting against something to fighting for something.” For me that statement encapsulates why I chose to accept Cynthia’s McKinney’s invitation to be her running mate and why the Green Party made history by choosing us as the first women-of-color ticket in American Presidential politics. I accepted the call because I was no longer interested in fighting against the Democratic or Republican Party.

I want to fight for a Hip Hop political movement not dominated by white liberal politics or white foundation money. I want to fight for a Hip Hop political movement that is African-centered, respects women as leaders and believes in Universal Health Care. A Hip Hop movement that fights for amnesty for undocumented immigrants and an end to the prison industrial complex. We must all fight for a Hip Hop political movement that wants to be at peace with our global brothers and sisters, that will build a truly independent media apparatus and will stand up and mobilize against the increasing racial violence against Latino/a immigrants and demands a live-able wage. We need a Hip Hop movement that is not afraid to say that the Palestinian people should have the full right of return and that the Israeli Occupation of their homeland is illegal. I need Hip Hop to affirm the right of the Puerto Rican people and our island to be an independent nation and I need Hip Hop to help free all of our political prisoners and prisoners of war. We need Hip Hop to end the war in Iraq and Afghanistan, to end the death penalty and we must create a Hip Hop political movement that empowers working class communities, fights for Green Jobs and will never deny L.G.B.T. brothers and sisters their God-given human rights. Finally I want Hip Hop to uplift and support its women, to accept women of color as capable much needed leaders, and to understand that as long as it continues to deny women their much fought place in the culture, Hip Hop will die.

So this is what I am fighting for. For me its not only about holding Obama, the House of Representatives, or the United States Senate accountable. Holding public officials accountable is important, but building a multi-racial social justice movement is a necessity for our very existence. Yes Hip Hop, President-Elect Barack Obama may be the first Black President, but he will not be the first Hip Hop President. Only we the people of Hip Hop can make that a reality.

Thoughts By the Way: Three Seconds
Tom Herring is a Community Council member on Vashon Island. Catch more of Tom’s thoughts on his blog.

Two agents of disaster will be upstaged by climate change in 2009, capitalism and the American Myth. That glibbity is the outcome of a day of depression following a report in the Guardian on climate change. When I got to the end of it the shield that gets my head through the day was gone, and for about three seconds I knew that I would live to see the end of our society.

The report comes from the Poznan Conference.

Climate science has matured to total agreement that with the recent finding of methane release there will come an ice-fall that will result in a sudden rise in the ocean. But capitalism, immune to human mortality, will not let science prevail: As we wait for the new year in the semi-coma of Christmas, new coal plants are planned here and in China. That is the showcase reason for this reported pessimism: none of the proposed carbon dioxide goals 400, 545, even 650 ppm can be met. In the words of one participant, setting a technically necessary goal that cannot be achieved will slow down, not help, progress. How’s that again? I’ll answer that this way: when the ice hits the ocean and stops the Gulf Stream, capitalism will revert to cannibalism.

The American Myth, may I be forgiven, as used here means our stupidity. Whereas national moral organizations like ANSWER and WIB and IVAW are outraged, local civic organizations are mute, and it is they, only they, which have the power to effect change. Not my unincorporated community, nor my county, nor my state, not one has bothered to take positions, let alone act, against capitalism’s agenda. You can list the exceptions if it makes you feel any better. This silence is the sole reason that America has been suckered, sold out, and “sent packing” to join the millions that will soon be roaming the earth for food and shelter.

(The Guardian article was posted to Stand Up Seattle by Marion Ward.)

Our Climate Crisis: Obama Moves to Ruin Earth
Duff Badgley is the leader of the One Earth Climate Action Group and was a candidate for Governor as a Green in 2008. He can be reached at 206-283-0621.

It’s agonizing to see confirmed what we already anticipated: Obama is rushing to inflict massive ruin on our One Earth via biofuels.

Tom Vilsack of Iowa is Obama’s nominee as Agriculture Secretary. Vilsack is a big supporter of industrial corn ethanol production. Corn ethanol is widely regarded as being the ‘worst of the worst’ among biofuels for its eco-destruction.

Another ardent biofueler, Steven Chu, is Obama’s nominee for Energy Secretary. But Chu is a shill for BP…that’s right, British Petroleum, as in Biggest Oil.

Chu wants to dedicate 50 million acres to ‘cellulosic energy crops’ (ethanol) to burn in our gas tanks!

But, current science shows, cellulosic ethanol is worse even than corn ethanol. It will rob more land for its destructive fuel than the monster corn crop in Iowa and other mid-western states.

Vilsack, Chu and Obama live in defiance of this central eco-truth: We cannot grow our fuel.

Every square inch of Our Sacred Planet is already taken. Either for existing human use (farms and cities) or for natural ecosystems that provide what is left of natural biospheric regulation (forests, oceans, soil, atmosphere).

So, if we take a square inch of what is already occupied either for food production or natural regulation, we further violate Our Earth–already so badly abused by humans we have changed the basic chemistry of life. Carbon, the Basic Stuff of Life, is now a pollutant threatening that same Life.

Obama and cronies are mouthing the same lethal platitudes about so-called ‘2nd gen’ and ‘cellulosic’ biofuels as are John Plaza (Imperium CEO), Greg Nickels, Christine Gregoire, Al Gore and George Bush. Their intent is to distract attention from the current global truth: Biofuels are a planetary scourge massively worsening our Climate Crisis while they force millions and millions of humans into starvation.

Biofuelers intentionally suppress this fact: these ‘2nd & 3rd gen’ biofuels are lab experiments. (Thanks to Russ Finley for the phrase.)

Biofuelers also expose our addiction to cars and our Car Culture.

Obama, Chu, Vilsack, Plaza, Bush et. al. willfully ignore the devastation being caused now by crop-based biofuels. And they push the virtues of something that might never be commercially available (cellulosic ethanol). How are they different from the street junkie promising to quit using while still shooting up? “Please, mister, let me keep driving! I promise I’ll put something good in my gas tank. Really, I will.”

Meanwhile, One Earth continues to protest the City of Seattle’s refusal to quit using. Seattle’s drug-of-choice: soy biodiesel from Cargill, one of the globe’s dirtiest polluters. Another link from Russ exposes just how bad soy biodiesel is (worse than corn ethanol).

See you in the streets!

Un-Spinning the Spin: Time to Re-Think the “Protest Industry”, Conclusion
Maryrose Asher is a former Chair of the Green Party of Washington State and a tireless activist of many causes.

Note: Maryrose will be taking the next 2 weeks off, so look for her next column in edition number 39 of GT.

A few days ago, I received an email from World Can’t Wait that strengthens the argument that the antiwar movement has been unduly influenced by the Democratic Party.

This past weekend at their National Assembly, United for Peace and Justice (UFPJ) voted 111-49 to not participate in the antiwar protest being held in Washington, DC, on March 21, 2009, the 6th anniversary of the Iraq War. Instead, they voted to have a separate protest, focusing on the recession, with an April 4 march on Wall Street. Debra Sweet from World Can’t Wait who was present at the national assembly states the reason for UFPJ’s decision was their unwillingness to challenge Obama’s escalation of the war in Afghanistan. This has been a consistent problem between UFPJ and other antiwar groups, with UFPJ in essence “splitting” the antiwar movement.

With this additional information, I believe the following can safely be stated:

1. The Democratic Party has operatives embedded in the antiwar movement in order to “control” the Left.
2. The Democratic Party supports wars and occupations.
3. Methods used by the antiwar movement to shape the course of government have been weak and ineffective.
4. Corporate campaign donations have had more of an influence on politicians than public opinion.

Therefore, the first criterion toward building a cohesive long-term People’s Movement, which from this point on I will simply call the “Movement,” is one of nonpartisanship. Both Democrats and Republicans have to be viewed equally responsible for corporatocracy and held accountable for such. Any actions by the Movement will not be used to benefit one of these parties over the other. The Movement will no longer support the “lesser of two evils” argument nor be afraid to be “spoilers” by the way it votes. By committing to this, it will strengthen its ability to shape the course of government and offer a counterbalance to the influence large corporations exert on politicians.

Following are some specific suggestions for building a cohesive movement for change but the goal of this series was to start the discussion, not provide the blueprint.

1. Set the vision. The Movement must have a vision for the future and what ideology will best bring that vision to fruition. There should be a frank discussion regarding socialism and how it fits into the goals of the Movement. Additionally, the Movement must define what is important and set specific goals and the means to achieve these goals. In other words, not just the “what” but also the “how” should be part of the vision. It does not mean the Movement needs to have all the answers but, to be taken seriously, it must show it does not just make demands but also offers concrete steps to make those demands possible.

2. Unite under common goals. We cannot continue to have a splintered movement. An activist once joked that if we go to a meeting of Leftists and someone is wearing blue socks and another person is wearing blue socks that before you know it they have broken away to start the Blue Sock Leftists. There is strength in numbers and in unified action. Why should each of these groups be competing for the same members and, more importantly, the same limited funding? Why not pool resources of volunteers and donations in order to run a more efficient and effective Movement? As a suggestion, many of the existing organizations could come together under the banner of support for human rights, international law, and stewardship of the earth. There is no reason the peace movement should be separate from the environmental movement.

There has been a long-standing division among activists over the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, with many claiming anti-Semitism. As long as the Movement takes a consistent stand in support of human rights and international law, whether it is due to the actions of the United States or its allies, and sees itself as part of an international community, these accusations will be unjustified. Individual members of the Movement should embrace a more global viewpoint and responsibility to others beyond their own special interests.

3. Reach out to the general public. Although the obvious way to start the Movement would be to form a coalition of existing groups, the Movement must also be prepared to outreach to a broader audience for long-term success. As part of his speech at Howard University, Black Panther leader and Howard University alumnus Stokely Carmichael told the students, “If you work among the people, the people will never forsake you.” The recent actions of the Chicago workers who fought being laid off, the Jena Six case that fought the judicial system, the New York high school students who fought censorship of their play Voices in Conflict about the Iraq War, all give examples of the potential, if the Movement can learn to take advantage of the opportunity. The Movement must look at local issues, such as a police brutality, mistreatment of undocumented workers, unsafe working conditions, union busting, the homeless—the myriad of injustices that occur every day in its own neighborhoods and towns—and find a way to be of support. This is a turnaround from the present approach of calling for a protest march or vigil and asking folks to join in, as it would mean a “tuning in” to local issues and joining THEM instead. There should be enough zeal for the Movement that there would be a willingness to “proselytize” by knocking on doors in each neighborhood, if necessary. The Movement should organize neighborhood survey teams to (1) determine the concerns of its neighbors and (2) serve as an introduction to the Movement. As evidenced by polls, the general public is not happy with the direction the country is going. The Movement must take advantage of this by viewing this as a form of union building on a massive scale.

The solution is simple: To implement real change and to address the concerns of its neighbors, the Movement needs to build a large base of support, and it will only build a large base of support if it addresses the concerns of its neighbors.

4. Work with the media. Request editorial board meetings and nurture personal contacts with reporters. Just as there are good relations with Indymedia, Real Change, and other alternative news, the Movement must learn how to work with the major newspapers, television, and radio stations. There are already activists who have made good contacts with the local media that could be used to promote the Movement. Don’t just write Letters to the Editor but personally contact reporters who are doing a good job of investigative reporting.

5. Demonstrate the strength of the Movement. If the Movement can unify and build a substantial base of folks willing to get involved, but not before then, the Movement can move on to “flex” its muscles. To make an impact on the political system, there are two things that work: (1) the power of a united vote to impact an election and (2) the ability to get the attention of elected representatives by the number of people the Movement represents. If representatives of the Movement go into the office of a legislator, and it is known that the Movement represents a substantial number of constituents, it will have much more influence than a small group or an individual doing so on their own. The Movement can also show its strength by calling for a boycott of a product or of a particular business to prove its ability to call for actions that will result in lost sales or in an actual shut-down of a retail business. This power will not go unnoticed and will begin to offset the power of corporate donors. A word of caution: the Movement must always be aware of the consequences of these calls to action. If Senator Lieberman and others have their way and pass the “Homegrown Terrorism Act,” these actions could result in arrests as “terrorists.” On December 17, 2008, Prime Minister Vladimir Putin’s Cabinet sent the draft of a new law to Parliament that “would allow authorities to label any government critic a traitor1.” Russian commentators say that the government is making preparations to curb protests due to the global financial crisis. Who is to say that the same will not happen here?

As to street vigils and marches, I have purposely omitted these. The Movement must become more sophisticated in its methods. In Part I of this series, I went into some detail as to why these methods have not been effective. The energy and resources now going into holding these events would be better spent on building a larger movement. There will come a time to use these forms of protest again but only when the Movement is large enough to have a real impact.

A December 13, 2008, email from Cindy Sheehan titled “CODE-RED: People for Revolution!” also addresses this subject:

“It is up to us. We are the sovereigns in this country. Will we continue to dress in pink, sing cutesy songs and drop frilly pink banners off of buildings hoping that our pink energy will waft up to the Robbers and overcome them with integrity, or will we rediscover our Revolutionary roots and start demanding a more equitable redistribution of the wealth and resources (and not just here in the US).”

Many are probably expecting me to say the Green Party should take the lead in this movement, but I believe it has to come from outside any political party. The most immediate need is for the Movement to exert its pressure on the present political system. This does not mean that third parties cannot be part of the Movement but the Movement cannot be representative of any one party.

There will be a time, as the Movement matures, to move into the political arena but to start out with an existing party in the lead would be a mistake, in my opinion, and would hold back the Movement from reaching out to a broader base. To again quote Stokely Carmichael, “If you work among the people, the people will never forsake you.” Once the confidence of the people has been obtained, then, and only then, will you get their votes.

I hope the above suggestions will stimulate thinking and an opportunity to offer ideas of your own. One thing we know for certain is the time is long overdue. Obama’s election is going to challenge and test the peace movement. Now is the time to unite and have a part in shaping the future we want, not what those in power want.

1. Russian Treason Bill Targets Kremlin Critics by David Nowak,  Wednesday, December 17, 2008.
Supplemental reading: Standing up to the Madness by Amy Goodman and David Goodman. The Uprising by David Sirota.

This Week in History
This Week in History, published by Carl Bunin and edited by Al Frank, is a collection designed to help us appreciate the fact that we are part of a rich history advocating peace and social justice. While the entries often focus on large and dramatic events there are so many smaller things done everyday to promote peace and justice. Find more info at http://www.peacebuttons.info/E-News/thisweek.htm.

December 24, 1865: Months after the fall of the Confederacy and the end of slavery, several veterans of the Confederate Army formed a private social club in Pulaski, Tennessee, called the Ku Klux Klan (KKK). Its first priority, declared in its creed, was “to protect the weak, the innocent, and the defenseless from the indignities, wrongs, and outrages of the lawless, the violent, and the brutal.”

December 25, 1914: Just after midnight on Christmas morning, German troops engaged in World War I ceased firing their guns and artillery, and began to sing Christmas carols. At the first light of dawn, many of the German soldiers emerged from their trenches and approached the Allied lines across no man’s land, calling out “Merry Christmas” in their enemies’ native tongues. At first the Allied soldiers suspected it to be a trick, but they soon climbed out of their trenches and shook hands with the German soldiers. The men exchanged presents of cigarettes and plum puddings; the fighting didn’t resume in earnest for several days, and then only on the insistence of the generals.

December 26, 1966: The first Kwanzaa was celebrated in Los Angeles, California. Kwanzaa is a non-religious day African-American holiday focusing on family, community, and culture. The name Kwanzaa is derived from the phrase “matunda ya kwanza”, which means “first fruits” in Swahili. The celebrations is expressed through song, dance, drum, storytelling, poetry and the lighting of candles in a Kinara all followed by a large traditional meal.

Pencil Shavings: So-Called Junk Science
Pencil Shavings appears in this space most weeks and solely represents the opinions of the publisher. If you’d like to read more of Trey’s ruminations, visit The Rambling Taoist.

There’s a local conservative who writes a letter to the editor for our local rag each week. One of his favorite topics is global warming. According to this Einstein, global warming doesn’t exist at all. It’s based on junk science developed by liberals and communists.

When other readers write letters about all the wacky weather we’ve been experiencing lately on the SW Washington Coast, “Joe” responds that weather runs in cycles — it’s a proven fact. When people write about peak oil, he responds, Poppycock. There’s oodles of oil. It’s just that the pinko commie government won’t drill for it. When others talk about pollution or species extinction, he is the first to say these problems are overblown.

I’ve written a few responses to this blowhard, but I’m waiting for him to write the most egregious letter amongst his egregious letters. When this day comes — and it’s coming soon as each week his letters get worse and worse — I’m going to write a rebuttal that goes something like this:

Joe,

Let’s say you’re right. Let’s say global warming is based on junk science. What’s it going to hurt to live life in a more sustainable manner? Even you have stated that you realize that many aspects of this world are not infinite. So, a more sustainable society will mean that we won’t use up resources as fast as we are now.

But Joe, here’s what worries me. What if you’re wrong? What if global warming is based on REAL science? If it actually does exist, then your urgings will only lead us down the path of ecological ruin, a path we are currently treading right now.

The old adage many parents teach their children — better safe than sorry — rings true. If we live our lives as if global warming exists and it doesn’t, then we can continue on living with a few inconveniences. If we live our lives as if global warming doesn’t exist and it does, then we die. There will be no do overs or second chances. Most importantly, when people like you wake up to reality, you won’t be able simply to say “Sorry, I guess I was wrong” and hope that everything will be okay…because it won’t and it will be too damn late.

So, whether a person believes in global warming or not, me thinks it’s better to be safer than sorrier — living versus dead.

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Disney Exhibit Gives Visitors a Warped Idea
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