Greener Times

Promoting a sustainable society…one day at a time.

Archive for February, 2009

GT for February 23 – March 1

Posted by Trey Smith on February 22, 2009

Greener Times for the Week of February 23 – March 1

Volume 3 No. 45

an e-publication for Greens anywhere and everywhere

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

In This Week’s Issue
* King County Green Party Launches New Website
* Derivatives Powder Keg Threatens Economy
* Thoughts By the Way: Beyond Words
* Our Climate Crisis: Obama Condemns Us to Our Climate Fate
* Un-Spinning the Spin: Want a Real Stimulus to the Economy? — Cut the Military Budget
* This Week in History
* Letters to the Editor
* Pencil Shavings: It’s Not All Bad News
* News You May Have Missed

King County Green Party Launches New Website
The KCGP has launched a new website. “We are grassroots activists, environmentalists, advocates for social justice, nonviolent resisters and other members of the public who’ve had enough of corporate-dominated politics.”

If you’d like to get involved, contact the Chair or the Secretary.

Derivatives Powder Keg Threatens Economy
by Chuck Barr of Culture Change

There is a quadrillion-dollar powder keg sitting at the center of the world financial markets. If the economy keeps on it present course, it will be ignited into a financial supernova. This is the result of the combination of greed and computers — derivatives.

The Derivatives Powder Keg

Derivatives are financial instruments whose values are derived from something else such as assets or indexes such as interest rates or the stock market. They are used to mitigate or hedge the risk of economic loss from the changes in the value of the underlining asset or index. Derivatives can also be used to acquire risk rather than insure against it to speculate, betting that the party seeking insurance will be wrong about the future value. The derivative market is largely unregulated with no loss reserve requirement thanks to Clinton’s 2000 Commodities Future Modernization Act.

Total world derivatives are $1000 trillion or 19 times the total world GDP of $54 trillion. Over-the-counter derivatives total $684 trillion of which 67 percent are interest rate swaps. Exchange-traded derivatives total $344 trillion. Interest rate swaps are the largest derivative powder keg waiting to blow the world financial markets to supernova.

Interest rates swaps are maintained by the spread between the Fed funds and prime mortgage rates. At the end of 2008, Fed funds were at 5.25 percent while mortgage rates were six percent, yielding a spread of less than one percent.

To increase the spread to avoid interest rate swaps from imploding, Wall Street bankers took advantage of the U.S. people’s ignorance of economics. People look at prices to gage inflation, when it is really the money supply that controls inflation. Prices are the symptom, not the cause. They ran up commodities for a time and then brought about a dramatic drop in prices later to give the perception that deflation might be setting in. This is how they justified the near-zero interest rates we see now, which can yield a huge spread of about five percent, which is more than five times what was available before all the trouble started.

Already we have seen the subprime derivatives, large insurers, and investment banks implode. Wall Street CEO’s lied through their teeth about the condition of their insolvent companies right up to the day they went bankrupt. The losses are going directly to the people through the bailouts.

But the $700 billion bailout to absorb banking toxic waste plus the new $787 stimulus package will ignite hyperinflation and bring double-digit interest rates. Because of the world economic downturn, foreign nations have fewer dollars to buy U.S. Treasuries with. Tax revenues are plummeting world wide as earnings collapse.

Bailouts Are Lighting the Fuse

The Fed and the Treasury are using debt instruments that are being monetized. In other words, creating money out of thin air. This is immediately very inflationary, and is how the fuse to interest rates swaps is being lit.

Inflation at the wholesale level surged unexpectedly by .8 percent in January well above the 0.2 percent increase that economists had expected.

Take JP Morgan Chase for example, and their $90 trillion derivative portfolio. Let’s say that $50 trillion are in interest rate swaps. If they have even a mere two percent overhang (loss) where they have to pay out variable rates of interest on two percent more of their total interest rate swaps than the portion of swaps on which they are, by contrast, receiving variable rates of interest, they could suffer horrendous losses that could easily put them under.

Let’s say that everything balances at a four percent spread as described earlier. But now rates move to 14 percent because of hyperinflation and everyone ignores the rates set by the central banks sending LIBOR and Treasury bill rates to unheard of high levels.

Two percent of $50 trillion is a trillion dollars of overhang loss on which you are now paying out 10 percent more, and 10 percent of one trillion is $100 billion, a killer loss. That would put them under. Even an overhang of only one half of one percent pumps out a loss of $25 billion. And what if the overhang is five percent, or 10 percent, or 20 percent? With an overhang of 20 percent, we hit one trillion in losses. And this is only one bank!

Our capitalist global casino is a house of cards. If the economy continues to sink, credit default swaps will be the first to blow as we move from hundreds of billions to trillions in corporate quarterly losses. This triggers more deficit spending, which ignites more inflation which lights the fuse to the interest rate swaps supernova.

The Pension Bomb

Greater financial risk plus plummeting earnings per share pushes stock markets lower, which increases pension deficits and defaults. As mentioned in my previous essay, America’s 500 largest companies have a deficit of $200 billion in their pension plans. If the Dow hits 4,000, pension deficits would rise to $400 to $500 billion. Retirees lose their pensions and stock market investments. Many will be left with just their FDIC insured deposits if the government does not default.

Standard and Poor’s estimates that by Q3 2009 S&P 500 earnings will have collapsed by 83 percent from their high in Q2 2007. This will push the Dow to between 5000 and 4000 over the next year. Japan’s GDP, formerly a major buyer of U.S. securities, shrank at an annual rate of 12.7 percent from October to December 2008 after contracting for two previous quarters. The UN International Labor Organization estimates that 50 million workers will lose their jobs worldwide in 2009. About 20,000 major banks worldwide collapsed, were sold, or were nationalized in 2008. An estimated 62,000 U.S. companies are expected to shut down this year.

The triple whammy is that during the great depression about half the Americans lived on farms, but today only two percent participate in their food production.

The big picture for me is that I do not see another Internet boom on the horizon to pull the world economy out of further decline. The Obama stimulus bump will last six to 12 months, but then wear off. Even if we avoid further financial meltdown, starting in the next two to four years peak oil is going to start building relentless downward pressure on the world economy.

The best solution is to start powering down to a steady-state economy, and build community gracefully now while we have the resources. Today you can plant your first backyard garden and still go to the grocery store if it does not work out.

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

Last week this column wrung its hands over two days worth of mail pleading for me to support worthy causes. This, it seemed, meant that the government was disintegrating. But the next boxful was dominated by direct evidence the government was trying to disintegrate me. Example, a War College monograph stating that the Army should prepare for “violent, strategic dislocation inside the United States”. Well, the bad news wins. Here we are a month into savior time and the score is we are carrying the baggage from the “war on terror” into more war, and this time we will be included along with the Moslems as victims.

Not believe? Then try to convince me that the “detention centers” going up around the country are where the Government is going to put the pin stripers who just heisted a trillion dollars of our money. It is perhaps unfortunate timing that just now Australia’s dried out bush has caught fire and Brazil’s rain forest is next. Also not cheerful is that the play money problems in the Wall Street financial sandbox have finally trickled out into the real economy and wrecked it. Even less cheerful than that is our “made in China” standard of living. And so, with a nod to some meager good news it is put to you that our plight is now beyond the power of ordinary words to describe.

If there is to be any valid communication between us regarding our plight it will be in poetry and art. This is the language of flesh and blood facing flesh and blood, the only language that can cut through the grammatical noise filling those hundred extra channels of digital television. It’s a language that’s been dying these long years of sped up consumption and digitization and is coming back little by little in a handful of communities. Funny thing about this language, almost like sexually transmitted disease, it is communicated face to face.

Our Climate Crisis: Obama Condemns Us to Our Climate Fate
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.

Obama condemned us this week to our climate fate.

I’m not surprised that he has. Well, maybe a little surprised he revealed so early his enslavement to the capitalist mantra of eternal growth, no matter the cost.

Here’s what Obama said last week in Canada, on his first foreign trip as president.

“So the dilemma that Canada faces, the United States faces and China and the entire world faces, is how do we obtain the energy that we need to grow our economies in a way that is not rapidly accelerating climate change?” — Barack Obama, Feb. 19, 2009, Ottawa.

The simple answer from the Earth, our morbidly ill Home Planet: “You don’t.” You do not ‘grow economies’ sustainably.

You do not ‘grow economies’ and avoid ‘rapidly accelerating climate change.’ It cannot be done. More money means more carbon.

We can shrink economies sustainably. We can shrink economies and possibly mitigate some of what’s coming to us from our Climate Crisis. We can shrink economies and certainly start adapting to some of what’s coming to us from our Climate Crisis.

We can retreat from our murder/suicide pact with all of Earth’s creatures that decrees humans must organize themselves into Planet Wrecking Armies. These armies are called capitalist economies.

When Obama made the ‘grow our economies’ comment, he and Canadian premier Stephen Harper were talking about extracting oil from the vast ‘tar sands’ fields in Alberta. America gets more oil from Canada than any other country. Much of Canada’s oil is found in these tar sands.

But, says our leading climate scientist Jim Hansen, continuing to extract Albertan tar sands oil “would be disastrous for life on our planet.”

“The tar sands of Canada constitute one of our planet’s greatest threats. They are a double-barreled threat. First, producing oil from tar sands emits two-to-three times the global warming pollution of conventional oil. But the process also diminishes one of the best carbon-reduction tools on the planet: Canada’s Boreal Forest.

“This forest plays a key role in the global carbon equation by serving as a major storehouse for terrestrial carbon – indeed, it is believed to store more carbon per hectare than any other ecosystem on Earth. When this pristine forest is strip mined for tar sands development, much of its stored carbon is lost.

“Canada’s Boreal Forest is also the reservoir for a large fraction of North America’s clean, fresh water, home to some five billion migratory birds, and some of largest remaining populations of caribou, moose, bear and wolves on the planet.”

Hansen’s pleas were neatly side stepped by master politician Obama.

He and Harper agreed to “a clean energy dialogue” that allows development of the tar sands fields to continue. This agreement keeps all that Canadian oil flowing to American gas tanks. While allowing both men to preserve their phony ‘green’ credentials.

This wink-and-nod treatment of an issue vital to the health and survival of All of Us is worse than reprehensible. It is a much deadlier version of the American military’s ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’ policy toward homosexuals. ‘Sure, we know Canada will keep selling us tar sands oil. But we won’t talk about it. We’ll hide behind talks about clean energy.’

Obama has joined the ranks recently vacated by George Bush: those politicians whose deceit is so shameless, it disarms most people – for a while.

Our Climate Crisis, however, does not give us much of “a while”.

Un-Spinning the Spin: Want a Real Stimulus to the Economy? — Cut the Military Budget
Maryrose Asher is a former Chair of the Green Party of Washington State and a tireless activist of many causes.

Perhaps, one of the most important briefings will be held this coming Tuesday, February 24, 2008. Congressman Barney Frank will present his proposal to cut the military/war budget by 25 percent.

While others talk of tax cuts or bailouts to stimulate the economy, Frank appeared on ABC to point out that the largest spending program has been the war in Iraq (projected to be 2.4 trillion by 2017). The host, George Stephanopoulos, responded by saying, “That is a whole ‘nother show.” Frank was quick to counter by saying,

No it isn’t. That’s the problem. The problem is that we look at spending and say oh don’t spend on highways, don’t spend on healthcare, but let’s build cold war weapons to defeat the Soviet Union when we don’t need them, let’s have hundreds and hundreds of billions of dollars going to the military without a check. Unless everything is on the table, then you’re going to have a disproportionate hit in some places.

Americans, on average, agree. The Program on International Policy Attitudes (PIPA) issued a report in March 2005 titled, “The Federal Budget: The Public’s Priorities.” In this report, participants were shown the distribution of funds in the federal budget. They were then asked to prioritize how they would re-distribute the funds. Regardless of political affiliation, Americans said they would slash 31 percent from the military budget. Cutbacks on spending for large-scale nuclear and conventional wars were first on their list, with cuts in the defense budget for Iraq and Afghanistan second.

Participants chose the biggest increases in funds to go to education, job training, employment and medical research, with the largest percentage of those surveyed choosing the conservation and development of renewable energy.

The expected push back to Frank’s proposal will be the loss of jobs in an already bad economy. However, a report by Robert Palin and Heidi Garrett-Peltier of the Political Economy Research Institute at University of Massachusetts – Amherst, “The U.S. Employment Effects of Military and Domestic Spending Priorities,” states the opposite. The report shows that investment in military jobs in fact provides fewer and lower-paying jobs for the economy than would public investment in education, health care, home construction, or mass transit.

Frank is inviting organizations to come to the briefing and to return to their communities to build support for his proposal. I hope the Green Party of the United States will be among those organizations invited to attend and that Green Party members at local levels will organize to push for a cut in the military budget.

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.

February 25, 1941: A general strike was called in Amsterdam to protest Nazi persecution of Jews under the German Nazi occupation. Truck drivers, dock and metal workers, civil servants and factory employees – Christians, Liberals, Social Democrats and Communists – answered the call and brought the city to a standstill. The work stoppages spread to Zaanstreek, Kennemerland and Utrecht. Two days later the strike was called off: nine people were dead, 50 injured and another 200 arrested, some of whom were to die in the concentration camps.

February 28, 1919: Mohandas Gandhi launched his campaign of non-cooperation with Imperial British control of India. He called his overall method of non-violent action Satyagraha, formed from satya (truth) and Agraha, used to describe an effort or endeavor. This translates roughly as “Truth-force.” A fuller rendering, though, would be “the force that is generated through adherence to Truth.”

March 1, 1961: President John F. Kennedy issued Executive Order 10924 establishing the Peace Corps as a new agency within the Department of State. The same day, he sent a message to Congress asking for permanent funding for the agency, which would send trained American men and women to foreign nations to assist in development efforts. The Peace Corps captured the imagination of the U.S. public, and during the week following its creation, thousands of letters poured into Washington from young Americans hoping to volunteer.

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.

No letters received.

Pencil Shavings: It’s Not All Bad News
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.

Everywhere we looks these days, things seem to be going down the toilet. The economy is tanking. More people are out of work. Foreclosures are climbing. Climate change is accelerating. More troops are headed to Afghanistan. On and on it goes…

So, where is any good news in all of this? One can’t seem to find it in DC or any other national capitol and it doesn’t seem to be coming from any state legislature either. No, the glimmer of hope is coming from our local communities. Across the nation, though beset with their own financial shortfalls, it is our cities and counties who are developing innovative programs to combat many of our societal ills.

With the wave of foreclosures steadily climbing, the city council in Euclid, OH has launched a Foreclosure Prevention Committee. In Kansas City, MO sustainability criteria have been added to the forms for every resolution and ordinance introduced. Local governments east to west and north to south are mandating green building standards in all new construction and many communities are establishing green funds to help carry out this work. And cities from Davis, CA to Guelph, Ontario are phasing out the use of bottled water.

All of this information and more can be found in the GreenPRO database. I’ve spent the better part of the last 1 1/2 years compiling this information. There are now nearly 2,150 entries and the list continues to grow.

As our national economy continues to collapse, more and more people will learn that the answers to our problems will not be forthcoming from the White House nor the Governor’s mansion. It’s going to be up to us in our own local communities to turn things around. So, why reinvent the wheel if we don’t have to? The great beauty of GreenPRO is that it allows us to see what is working in other locales and to modify these strategies to work in our own back yards.

News You May Have Missed

My Unwitting Role in Acts of Torture
I like to think that some of the things I write cause discomfort in those readers who deserve to feel it. Ideally, they should squirm, they should flinch, they might even experience fleeting gastro-intestinal symptoms. But I have always drawn the line at torture. It may be unpleasant to read some of my writings, especially if they have been assigned by a professor, but it should not result in uncontrollable screaming, genital mutilation or significant blood loss. With such stringent journalistic ethics in place, I was shocked to read online a Mail on Sunday article headed “Food writer’s online guide to building an H-bomb … the ‘evidence’ that put this man in Guantánamo.” The “food writer” was identified as me…

Is Economic Recovery Even Possible on a Planet Headed for Environmental Collapse?
It turns out that you don’t want to be a former city dweller in rural parts of southernmost Australia, a stalk of wheat in China or Iraq, a soybean in Argentina, an almond or grape in northern California, a cow in Texas, or almost anything in parts of east Africa right now. Let me explain…

Twitter Nation Has Arrived: How Scared Should We Be?
Welcome to Twitter Nation. What was once an easily avoided subculture of needy and annoying online souls is now a growing part of the social and media landscapes, with Twittering tentacles reaching into the operations of major newspapers, networks, corporations and political campaigns. Suddenly, our skies are dark with brightly colored cartoon birds. As in a nightmare, they are everywhere…

Posted in Greener Times | Comments Off on GT for February 23 – March 1

GT for February 16 – 22

Posted by Trey Smith on February 15, 2009

Greener Times for the Week of February 16 – 22

Volume 3 No. 44

an e-publication for Greens anywhere and everywhere

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

In This Week’s Issue
* Local Green Party Meetings
* The Old World Is Crashing Down, Welcome Back the Older
* Thoughts By the Way: Aesop
* Our Climate Crisis: Reduce Consumption or Die
* Un-Spinning the Spin: Vashon School Bond — Is it Time to Say ‘No’?
* This Week in History
* Letters to the Editor
* Pencil Shavings: Goober Pees
* News You May Have Missed

Local Green Party Meetings

Green Party of Whatcom County Monthly Meeting
Friday, February 20, Mount Bakery, 6 pm (after Peace Zone)
Cynthia McKinney, Riki Ott visits etc.
Contact: Johnny Grames

Future of Progressive Politics in Seattle
Thursday, February 26, 6:30 -9:30 p.m.
Cascade People’s Center, 309 Pontius Ave N in Seattle
Contact: Duncan Autrey

We will be having a potluck beginning at 6:30.

Starting at 7, we will have a world café style conversation about the how progressive political parties and those dedicated to progressive politics can or should fit into the local movement and politics, particularly in the new political landscape we are entering. World café discussions are designed to gather the collective intelligence of groups with similar goals and diverse perspectives, like the progressive political community. Everyone is encouraged to invite people who they think would have something to contribute to this important discussion.

After a break the official business meeting will begin at 8:55.

The Old World Is Crashing Down, Welcome Back the Older
by Jan Lundberg of Culture Change

This is the time we have been waiting for. Some of us, anyway. We wanted a better world, and we might just get it. The old one had to fall and get out of the way, and this must be finished for the sake of our faltering climate and for our own sakes. Meanwhile the old guard is floundering around and is as useless as tits on a bull, as my father used to say. People are still mesmerized by power and imagery, but the luster and facade are fading. While some government spending can be along healthy lines, it is certainly not “the answer.”

We have entered the time of the most rapid, sweeping change in culture. Great changes are in the works for the way people live and think. We are just beginning to see the failure of not just easy credit and overspending, but the failure of living for money and material things. Granted, most participants in the growth economy thought that’s how things were supposed to work, and now they feel at a loss. These are people who have had little use for traditions of their ancestors. They thought nature was something to dominate into submission and rape for pleasure and profit. They thought technology placed us above all life forms as well as primitive peoples, and that we could cast any number of them into the extinction bin. For we could continue to extract resources forever and solve any problem.

Now the humbling has begun, on several levels. By now only an idiot isn’t worried about climate change. Now that we know full well what we’re doing to the ecosystem, how can any sane person put the economy first instead of integrating it with ecology? How can defending our systemic destruction be tolerated?

There’s been progress from a rude awakening: now only an idiot trusts the big bankers and government regulators. Only a fool is comfortable with the oil companies and car companies. All these forces are seen to have brought us low, and no one can deny the joblessness caused by letting the big shots call the shots. And most people sense things will get worse before they get better. Printing money and throwing it at lenders and government programs is obviously just more of the same — the definition of insanity.

So far so good, in terms of better awareness. But real leadership would tell the people about the energy and oil reality and the consequences of overbuilding an economy based on a now depleted resource — the easily produced oil is bye-bye. Alternative fuels cannot pick up the slack meaningfully for hundreds of millions of consumers of petroleum-fed crops and animal foods.

Going further, real leadership admits the shortcomings of “our” system: the reward of greed and the acceptance of other antisocial values, and the unsustainable wrecking of nature for a higher overpopulation to ride out into oblivion. As the politicians and the sell-out columnists and commentators hold their tongues and pretend everything is still more or less in control — while nervously wondering what the free fall is going to do to their own security — the masses of people turn to whatever is at hand to survive. The answer for us in North America is not in Afghanistan or Iraq.

But let’s talk about goodness from the collapse of the established order. Keeping in mind that sudden decline is not pretty, and indeed is painful and tragic with many casualties on the way, there is reason for great optimism in the ending of big-money corporatism and the closing of the history book on unlimited growth. It had to be thus; any schoolkid knows that there can’t be an infinite supply of anything in a finite sphere. How can the abandonment of such stupidity usher in anything worse than the tyranny of denialists we’ve had to put up with?

Necessity is the mother of re-invention. We don’t need gadgetry invention; we need adaptations and skills to cope with a lower-energy world. We are increasingly forced to deal with a pissed off Mother Nature — she is overshadowing mere concerns about the growth economy, more and more each day. So our approach to meeting basic human needs has got to use common sense and — are you ready for this — mutual cooperation. Now that the economy is collapsing — I believe it will be final, total, and for good — essential needs have to be met locally. With food being shipped on average 1,500 miles from farm to the U.S plate, such extravagance and idiocy must give way to what is grown locally. And we’re stuck with our own local fresh water than can no longer be polluted by an employer, privatized by greedballs, or depleted for an animal-based diet.

The older world we threw out — when our parents and grandparents embraced techno-conveniences and slacked off on the responsibility of educating their own children to learn what the great-grandparents knew — is going to return shortly. Preserving food, repairing things, sitting down to all meals together, amusing ourselves with creativity and conviviality (instead of with machines in isolation), knowing our relatives well, respecting the land and waters that give us life — such traditions are not choices but requirements for survival. And it’s fun to survive, or more fun than the alternative. The individual will again feel pride that what one does matters to the community while not harming the planet. This does not mean that there won’t be opportunists and mistaken people obstructing positive change. But with the end of the old order and its narrow mindset of paving over the farmland for “progress” — largely because it will no longer be possible — we can’t help but restore our village ways and tribal ways of mutual aid, once again serving the common interest over personal gain. For we have just seen the era of personal gain start its free fall to the trash heap. Stimulus? Too bad there’s not any discussion on what might be stimulated for the needed fundamental change.

A common error is to promote sustainable systems in a vacuum as if their logical superiority over idiotic and subsidized capitalist anachronisms need only to be made available. It’s great to promote them, provided they are not pie-in-the-sky technofixes. The problem is that good models are suppressed as long as the dominant system is intact or while petroleum is available. Therefore, the right course of action is to pursue the kinds of alternative models that both starve the beast and educate people to reject the present system. Then people can start to glimpse a better culture of sustainability and all that goes with it: sensible economics, co-leadership, compassion for the rest of the Earth’s species, and the realization that we will never get another chance like now.

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

This column’s rotating corps of readers may not realize that it has but one thought. Yes, the title is plural, Thoughts BTW, but that’s just advertising. The thought is that people have no power other than the power of community, where by community I mean a group of people living in the same locality under the same government. Well, menwomen, we don’t have it. The evidence is the flood of pleas in my mail box for me to help run the government, a flood undiminished since the election. Here’s two days worth:

  • I should back up Senator Leahy’s Truth Commission on Bush.
  • I should send money to support a move to resist army recruiters.
  • I should ask George Mitchell to visit Gaza.
  • I should press congress to stop child cancer by supporting stem cell research.
  • I should phone Attorney General Eric Holder to ask him not to cover up torture.
  • I should tell Obama to protect wolves.
  • I should tell Congress to cut the “nuclear pork”.
  • I should send our Petition to Save Wolves to Interior Secretary Salazar.
  • I should give $30 to hold Senators accountable for tax cuts for the rich.
  • I should Stop Oil and Gas Leases of the “Polar Bear Seas”.
  • I should tell the State House to hear HJM 4009.
  • I should tell the Obama administration to probe 9/11.
  • I should demand bold and immediate action to stop global warming.
  • I should tell Congress no tax cuts for the rich.
  • I should not “forget the tremendous responsibility we have now, to see that Obama maintains his promise of change…(I) must not relinquish this moment nor his victory into his hands entirely. As he learns to lead us, so must (I) learn to lead him.”

Like the tumor tracker in one’s serum, this sad list means that our government is disintegrating. If we the people had any of our mythical “power” we could have elected Kucinich. He wouldn’t have been able to save us either, but at least he wouldn’t be kicking us as we lie prostrate. We never have had any more power than was granted to us by the establishments, and what little there was bit the dust behind Henry Ford’s tin lizzies. Then television put us in the idiot box for good. We could have been saved had we a sense of history, because what has befallen us was put into words in 300 BC by a Greek restaurant owner named Aesop:

An old man on the point of death summoned his sons around him to give them some parting advice. He ordered his servants to bring in a faggot of sticks, and said to his eldest son:

“Break it.”

The son strained and strained, but with all his efforts was unable to break the Bundle. The other sons also tried, but none of them was successful.

“Untie the faggots,” said the father, “and each of you take a stick.”

When they had done so, he called out to them,

“Now, break,” and each stick was easily broken. “You see my meaning,” said their father.

A person presented with the evidence and having read hiserher history book might reasonably be expected to conclude that a broken government means broken communities. Yet only a scattered handful of US communities have done so. Let’s compare the number of people presently tossing tomatoes at Congress, Wall Street, and Obama with the number of people in a medium sized city. You got it, the fat cats can duck the tomatoes but they could not duck a city that took a stand, say, on the stimulus bill. Is it rocket science to find where the power lies?

The process of finding the power leads down, down to the smallest social grouping and there at the dead grass root is a family watching NBC. No, it’s not the rot at the top, it’s the rot at the bottom.

We have Obama’s hundred days in which to figure out that he and his handlers are going to ignore us, our wolves, our polar bears, and our climate. We show no sign of figuring it out. We. Who? We, me and my 14,000 neighbors on Vashon, have to figure out that until our Council holds a referendum on the Stimulus package, one, and on sending more troops to Afgnanistan, two, and etcetera, the hundred days will land us right back where we were with dubya.

Our Climate Crisis: Reduce Consumption or Die
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.

Did I get your attention?

Here’s James Lovelock, the grand old man of climate science and inventor of the Gaia Theory, in his 2006 bestseller from Basic Books, The Revenge of Gaia.

“The great party of the twentieth century is coming to an end, and unless we now start preparing our survival kit we will soon be just another species eking out an existence in the few remaining habitable regions.”

Here’s James Howard Kunstler, author of The Long Emergency, in a March, 24, 2005 Rolling Stone interview.

“No combination of alternative fuels will allow us to run American life the way we have been used to running it, or even a substantial fraction of it.”

Let this stuff sink in.

Then compare it to the opiates we’re getting from Obama and Gang.

Energy Secretary Steven Chu, even as he predicts climate change could wipe out all California agriculture and cities-yes, cities!-by 2100, pumps renewable energy and cap-and-trade.

“Renewables that cannot run “even a substantial fraction of…American life the way we have been used to running it”.

Cap-and-trade that our best climatologist, Jim Hansen, told Obama directly will be “ineffectual and not commensurate with the climate threat. It could waste another decade, locking in disastrous consequences for our planet and humanity.”

Why is it American politicians and their appointees are so craven? Why is it they so utterly lack the courage and integrity to prepare for the Climate Crisis? Could it be that we, too, are craven?

Now listen to a politician of another kind, Evo Morales, president of Bolivia. “It is necessary for the US. and Europe to reduce their level of consumption and recognise that all of us are guests on this same land.”

Where’s our survival kit?

Can we survive by hogging world resources at a rate almost five times greater than what is sustainable?

Can we drive to survival?

Can we stop denying our Car Culture is what Kunstler calls our delusional “Happy Motoring Utopia”?

Can we stop denying new cars of any kind—gas guzzlers, electrics, hybrids, compacts— carry with them a grotesque carbon debt before you buy them? 20-40% of a new car’s lifetime carbon debt comes during its manufacture.
http://www.channel4.com/4car/ft/feature/feature/8074/2
http://www.ae-plus.com/key%20topics/kt-emissions-news4.htm

Is outlawing private cars the mandatory first step toward survival?

You bet it is.

Un-Spinning the Spin: Vashon School Bond — Is it Time to Say ‘No’?
Maryrose Asher is a former Chair of the Green Party of Washington State and a tireless activist of many causes.

At a time when Seattle is forced to close schools due to the economic crisis our city and state is facing, property owners on Vashon Island are being asked to support a $75.5 million school bond to renovate the high school. With interest included for this 20-year bond, the total will come to $150,000,000 for a community of just over 10,000 residents. The demographics also show that the community is getting older, with the number of students expected to decrease over the coming years.

However, education is highly respected here as elsewhere and is one of those untouchable subjects to voice a dissenting opinion. True, many of the dissenters are those who don’t want to pay taxes or feel we are taxed enough. My position is different.

There is no doubt Vashon High School has problems, outdated classrooms and a leaky gymnasium, as examples, but the school board has also decided to add a second gymnasium, additional parking (at a time when we should be encouraging less driving), artificial turf for the sports field, and a new grandstand, as well as a relocation of the tennis courts. The question is whether this additional cost correspondingly adds value to the basic education of the students.

Now, here’s where the “unspinning” comes in — not everyone who votes against a school bond is against education or a “bad” person.

Those of us working in the “peace” community would like our country to move away from a war economy to a peace economy.

If we truly believe this, should we support the high price tag of this particular school bond? In my opinion, to do so would in essence be saying, “It doesn’t matter how bad the economy is, how many may be losing their jobs or having their homes foreclosed, we are going to go ahead and give our community the best money can buy.” Instead of demanding more from our government in the way of better education and health care for all its citizens, as just two examples, and for an end to over 50 cents of every one of our tax dollars going to war, we say, “That’s okay. We, as individuals, will pick up the slack.” By doing so, how can we expect our government to re-prioritize its spending?

No one wants to see our school infrastructure resembling a third world country. However, there is a price to pay for the cost of war in Iraq and Afghanistan ($2.4 trillion by 2017) and an era of Wall Street executives seeking profits with little regard to risk and Congress not exerting regulatory scrutiny nor demanding accountability.

The global economy is collapsing and economists are saying we won’t see a quick turnaround. As of March 2008, 30% of Americans said the economic slowdown is forcing them to cut back on food, medicine, and other daily necessities. According to a report from Global Research, there will be a new tipping point in March 2009, “when the world will become aware that this crisis is worse than the 1930s crisis.”

I would like Green Party members, peace activists, environmentalists, all those working for a better tomorrow, to ask themselves, “Do you believe by continuing to support a broken system that you are exerting the influence necessary to exact change?” When we are given the opportunity to make a statement, such as with this school bond, we need to think about the broader implications.

Only when faced with a crumbling infrastructure and the realization that we are at the end of an era of having everything we want will people take more of an interest in the kind of government they have. War spending is way out of proportion to that in other countries and we need an outrage here in this country. Facing the reality that we need to maintain the schools we have and not have the luxury to do better, may wake our neighbors to take action.

Ask the school board to come back with a cost more in line with today’s economy or to defer this bond until there is less economic uncertainly.

For a better tomorrow, vote “no” today.

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.

February 16, 2005: The Kyoto Protocol went into effect after countries responsible for 55% of the world’s greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions had ratified the treaty, following Russia’s agreement to its terms. The agreement’s purpose is to reduce such gases to 12% below their levels in 1990 by 2012 and, thus, slow global warming. 180 countries had agreed (except for the United States and Australia, two of the world’s top emitters of GHG per capita) to rules for implementing the Kyoto Protocol on July 29, 2001, in Bonn, Germany. Pres. George W. Bush withdrew the U.S. from the process shortly after he took office. The U.S. is responsible for 25% of the earth’s GHG (with 5% of its population).

February 19, 2004: After sanctioning more than 2,800 gay marriages, the city of San Francisco sued the state of California, challenging its ban on same-sex marriages.

February 21, 1848: “The Communist Manifesto,” written by 29-year-old Karl Marx with the assistance of Friedrich Engels, was published in London (in German) by a group of German-born revolutionary socialists known as the Communist League. The political pamphlet-arguably the most influential in history-proclaimed that “the history of all hitherto existing society is the history of class struggles” and the inevitable victory of the proletariat, or working class, would put an end to class society forever.

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.

No letters received.

Pencil Shavings: Goober Pees
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.

I’m sure most of you either have read or heard about the mounting evidence that the Peanut Corporation of America (PCA) knowingly shipped salmonella-tainted peanut butter all across the country. Hundreds have been sickened and nine people have died to date.

Right after the tainted pb was fingered as the most likely culprit, the peanut growers trade group came out with a statement to the effect that this was an aberration and other peanut producers weren’t so crass nor sloppy. Well, of course they said that! What else could they say? They certainly couldn’t release a statement commending PCA for a job well done!!

This past week PCA filed for outright bankruptcy. This scandal has ruined them.

And why did they sell bad pb in the first place? Because they thought they could get away with it.

I really can’t blame them for adopting this kind of attitude. Lots of big corporations lay a heavy burden on the taxpayers, yet get away with it. Timber barons routinely clearcut vast tracts of forest. When a landslide on clearcut land occurs (wiping out homes, roads and/or bridges), the barons argue that no one can prove beyond a shadow of a doubt that the clearcut itself is the culprit. So, the timber moguls keep on raping the land and we taxpayers end up paying for it.

Chemical companies regularly release vile pollutants into the air, water and soil. When neighboring folks become sick and people point fingers at the polluters, their team of lawyers argue that no one can prove beyond a shadow of a doubt that the their chemicals were the chief cause. So, the chemical companies keep us gagging and puking, while we taxpayers clean up the mess.

I’m sure each of you can come up with many other such examples. Unfortunately, in this day of lax regulations and minimal enforcement, it ain’t that hard to do!

In a business climate such as this, I think it’s easy to understand why PCA was willing to take the risk that they too would get away with it. I mean, I’m sure they thought the authorities would never be able to trace it back them beyond a shadow of a doubt.

In this case, PCA turned out to be wrong — dead wrong.

News You May Have Missed

Obama and Liberals: A Counter-Productive Relationship
The New Republic’s John Judis today has an excellent analysis of the politics behind the stimulus package — one which applies equally to most other political controversies. Judis argues that the stimulus package ended up being far inferior to what it could have been and points to this reason why that happened: “But I think the main reason that Obama is having trouble is that there is not a popular left movement that is agitating for him to go well beyond where he would even ideally like to go. Sure, there are leftwing intellectuals like Paul Krugman who are beating the drums for nationalizing the banks and for a $1 trillion-plus stimulus. But I am not referring to intellectuals, but to movements that stir up trouble among voters and get people really angry. Instead, what exists of a popular left is either incapable of action or in Obama’s pocket…”

Things They Don’t Tell You About the Bailout Bill
Most members of Congress didn’t read it before they voted for it and then – along with Obama – left on a three day holiday prior to its ceremonial signing. Never in American history has so much money been appropriated in such a careless fashion. The huge and largely useless portion devoted to tax cuts had its origins in Obama’s obsession with palling around with Republicans. If he had approached the issues as a good negotiator, the original – and hence the final – sum would have been far smaller…

Death by Moron
Here is my strange confession: I miss my hate mail. It’s an odd thing to admit, but in a perverse sort of way, I actually miss the wretched river, the rancid flow of puerile, nasty, sickeningly homophobic email I used to receive on a regular basis from the ultra-right and the Christian right and the Mormon right and the Bush-impaired whenever I would post a friendly, pointed column full of tangy liberal attitude. Which is, of course, all of them. Oh, I miss all the lovely and positive email too, which outpaced the nasty stuff by a huge margin. But the hate mail was (and still is, what dribble I now get) very special indeed, great fodder for live readings, for the reaction of horrified disbelief of anyone who saw it, for the charming reminder of just how ugly and violent and grammatically challenged the human animal can be…

Posted in Greener Times | Comments Off on GT for February 16 – 22