Greener Times

Promoting a sustainable society…one day at a time.

GT for February 9 – 15

Posted by Trey Smith on February 8, 2009

Greener Times for the Week of February 9 – 15

Volume 3 No. 43

an e-publication for Greens anywhere and everywhere

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

In This Week’s Issue
* War Resister Held in Whatcom County Jail
* Thoughts By the Way: Elephant Scat
* Our Climate Crisis: Carbon Trading Is Lethal Charade
* Un-Spinning the Spin: America Today: Democracy or Totalitarianism?
* This Week in History
* Letters to the Editor
* Pencil Shavings: If They Asked Me…
* News You May Have Missed

War Resister Held in Whatcom County Jail
from Stoney Bird

U.S. war resister Cliff Cornell surrendered himself to U.S. border police on Wednesday after being ordered to leave Canada. He was promptly arrested for being AWOL from the U.S. Army, and is now being held at the Whatcom County Jail in Bellingham, Washington, twenty miles south of the U.S.-Canada border.

Cornell’s attorney and supporters expressed outrage at the arrest.

“Clifford Cornell came back to the United States so that he could voluntarily return to his old unit at Fort Stewart,” stated attorney James Branum. “He stated this intention to the Border Patrol, both verbally and in writing, by way of a letter I drafted on his behalf. I am disappointed that the Border Patrol chose to arrest my client and place him into a county jail with general population prisoners. This should not have happened.”

Cornell, 28, fled to Canada four years ago after his Army artillery unit was ordered to Iraq. But despite a popular outcry to provide sanctuary to soldiers who refuse to fight in illegal wars, Canada’s Conservative government is pressing ahead with deportations. Cornell, an Arkansas native, had come to call British Columbia home. But he now faces a possible court martial and imprisonment in the United States.

“Cliff Cornell should not be going to jail,” said Gerry Condon, director of Project Safe Haven, a war resister advocacy group. “He had the guts to follow his conscience and obey international law,” continued Condon. “President Obama should grant amnesty to Cliff Cornell and all war resisters.”

Cornell is the second Iraq War resister to be held in the Whatcom County Jail. He follows Robin Long, who was deported from Canada in July. Long is now serving a 15-month prison sentence at Miramar Naval Consolidated Brig near San Diego.

“We want Bellingham to be a Sanctuary City for war resisters,” said Gene Marx of Veterans For Peace, “not a way station for war resisters being sent to prison.” Bellingham is known for being a progressive city, having passed two anti-war resolutions through its city council.

A public vigil in support of Cliff Cornell was be held outside of the County jail on Thursday, organized by the Whatcom Peace and Justice Center and Bellingham’s Sanctuary City Campaign, a coalition that is working for a city ordinance that would prevent city tax dollars from being spent on the detention and prosecution of war resisters. The group is currently asking for citizens to call their city council members to express support for this ordinance.

A legal defense fund for Cliff Cornell is being established by Courage To Resist, a war resister support group, at www.couragetoresist.org.

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

Semi-firm evidence for the presence of an elephant in the room is plentiful, as listed:

FEMA has recruited pastors to respond to emergencies in accord with Romans 13:1-2 “Everyone must submit himself to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God. Consequently, he who rebels against the authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and those who do so will bring judgment on themselves.” (KSLA 12 News).

House Congressional Resolution 29 (H. Con. Res 29) questions US support for the United Nations Relief Works Agency (UNRWA), and alleges its support for terror organizations.

Regarding US Treasury plans for record debt sale: “…The upshot of all this, by the way, is that the Fed’s creation of new money to buy Treasury debt will result in the rampant acceleration of hyperinflation of the U.S. currency. The layers of madness in all this simply defy explanation. The financial pros are taking their money and exiting the U.S. banking system faster than a room full of Senators running away from responsibility.” (Michael Mackenzie and Krishna Guha)

Assisted by the US Merida Initiative, the Mexican military is a major recipient of President Felipe Calderon’s war against drug trafficking and organized crime. (War indeed, Btw)

Pierre Rousselin, Le Figaro, warns of social conflagration in Europe if governments fail to communicate and to equalize the sacrifices borne as a result of the [financial] crisis …

Insurance companies involved in the Medicare prescription drug benefit have overcharged subscribers and taxpayers by several billion dollars, according to the inspector general for the Department of Health and Human Services. (David Goldstein, McClatchy Newspapers)

Philosopher Sheldon S. Wolin says that the US “at worst is a state where corporate power no longer answers to state controls.”

Obama’s choice for Intelligence chief, Leon Panetta, said that extraordinary rendition would still be acceptable so long as no torture would occur.

US corn-based bio-ethanol is the worst carbon dioxide maker among alternate fuels.

Inmates in some US private prisons are rioting over bad conditions.

Homeland Security is building large “detention centers” of murky purpose.

The Boy Scouts of America are selling their considerable holdings in forest parkland to developers.

I could go on had I not got some of it on my shoes and fear to tread. Instead, meet the elephant: the exact same corporation lineup that arranged the 2000, 2004 and 2008 elections. Yep, and “he” ain’t changed a bit. We dance, cheer, yelp, and scream over this or that candidate as if we never are going to figure out where the stuff is coming from. As if we cannot read anything not thrust before our eyes.

I know what I am talking about because seventy percent of my community think that Obama is going to make substantial changes in direction of US foreign and domestic policy. He won’t. He will not risk jabbing the elephant with that ankus.

Our Climate Crisis: Carbon Trading Is Lethal Charade
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.

Carbon trading “would make money for some very large corporations, but don’t believe for a minute that this charade would do much about global warming.”—Wall Street Journal, March, 2007.

Carbon trading is, and always will be, a bribe to get industry to the Climate Crisis table. It is an unnecessary bribe if we can muster the vision and courage to implement effective climate programs — without caving to our worst polluters, as carbon trading does.

Washington governor Chris Gregoire, many of our state legislators, and zillions of so-called climate activists are engaging in lethal denial now by pushing carbon trading legislation. Carbon trading hasn’t worked to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. It won’t work. It can’t work. The overwhelming evidence, available for years from Europe and the World, confirms all this.

The head of Citigroup said in 2008 that the European Union’s Emissions Trading System (ETS) had “done nothing to curb emissions” and acted as “a highly regressive tax falling mostly on poor people.”

Hmm. Why is it the world’s leading financial newspaper and America’s largest bank both hold carbon trading to be a huge swindle? And that it funnels outrageous profits to carbon traders.

Gregoire, et al, apparently know carbon trading is an abject failure as a Climate Crisis program. They are currently trying hard to hide the carbon trading part of Senate Bill 5735 and House Bill 1819. Both would authorize Washington’s entry into a regional carbon trading scheme, the Western Climate Initiative (WCI). Proponents are calling these bills “cap and invest” legislation. Not “cap and trade”.

But central to these bills is the WCI. And the WCI, like all carbon trading schemes, creates huge escape ways for the most polluting corporations to avoid reducing their GHG emissions. And these loopholes gut the program. So GHG emissions continue to rise under carbon trading-as they have been doing, and do now, in the EU.

Carbon trading prevents the structural changes we desperately need to start mitigating our Climater Crisis. It promotes the very lethal Business-As- Usual.

What to do?

  • Impose severe GHG emissions caps on all sectors, with no escape.
  • Impose stiff carbon taxes to raise the cash for restructuring our economy.
  • Recycle carbon tax funds to our low income to offset high costs for housing, food and transportation.
  • Recycle carbon tax funds to the Global South, chiefly to preserve rainforests. Deforestation is the second worst source of GHG emissions after fossil fuel combustion.
  • Withdraw all troops from Iraq and Afghanistan. Route this War Dividend to climate programs.
  • Leave fossil fuels in the ground.
  • Invest in safe, clean and community-led renewable energy.
  • Enforce Indigenous land rights.

If enacted, the Washington State bills now being considered will give us lethal delays in implementing effective climate programs. They promote business-as-usual disguised as the “green economy”.

If you doubt, look to Europe. The facts are there.

Un-Spinning the Spin: America Today: Democracy or Totalitarianism?
Maryrose Asher is a former Chair of the Green Party of Washington State and a tireless activist of many causes.

This past week, I shared with an email group an article by Chris Hedges where he interviews political philosopher Sheldon S. Wolin. Wolin was a bombardier in the South Pacific during World War II, went to Harvard after the war to get his doctorate, and later taught political philosophy at the University of California in Berkeley and at Princeton. Wolin has written classics such as “Politics and Vision” and “Tocqueville Between Two Worlds.”

In his newest book, Democracy Incorporated, Wolin uses the phrase “inverted totalitarianism” to describe our system of power. Wolin states that in classical totalitarian regimes, such as Nazi fascism or Soviet communism, economics was subordinate to politics. “Under inverted totalitarianism the reverse is true,” Wolin writes. “Economics dominates politics — and with that domination comes different forms of ruthlessness.” According to Hedges, Wolin’s book “is one of the most important and prescient critiques to date of the American political system.”

Since I believe Wolin is effectively addressing the question of democracy in America today, below is a continuation of this email exchange as I would like to encourage further discussion on this topic with readers of Greener Times.

Excerpts below, but full article by Hedges can be found in 1st link in the “News You May Have Missed” section below.

“In the 1930s there were all kinds of alternative understandings, from socialism to more extensive governmental involvement,” he said. “There was a range of different approaches. But what I am struck by now is the narrow range within which palliatives are being modeled. We are supposed to work with the financial system. So the people who helped create this system are put in charge of the solution. There has to be some major effort to think outside the box.”

“The puzzle to me is the lack of social unrest,” Wolin said when I asked why we have not yet seen rioting or protests. He said he worried that popular protests will be dismissed and ignored by the corporate media. This, he said, is what happened when tens of thousands protested the war in Iraq. This will permit the state to ruthlessly suppress local protests, as happened during the Democratic and Republic conventions. Anti-war protests in the 1960s gained momentum from their ability to spread across the country, he noted. This, he said, may not happen this time. “The ways they can isolate protests and prevent it from [becoming] a contagion are formidable,” he said.

…The American left, he said, has crumbled. It sold out to a bankrupt Democratic Party, abandoned the working class and has no ability to organize. Unions are a spent force. The universities are mills for corporate employees. The press churns out info-entertainment or fatuous pundits. The left, he said, no longer has the capacity to be a counterweight to the corporate state. He said that if an extreme right gains momentum there will probably be very little organized resistance.

“The left is amorphous,” he said. “I despair over the left. Left parties may be small in number in Europe but they are a coherent organization that keeps going. Here, except for Nader’s efforts, we don’t have that. We have a few voices here, a magazine there, and that’s about it. It goes nowhere.”

Below is the Blurb for Wolin’s book which offers additional insight:

Democracy is struggling in America — by now this statement is almost cliché. But what if the country is no longer a democracy at all? In Democracy Incorporated, Sheldon Wolin considers the unthinkable: has America unwittingly morphed into a new and strange kind of political hybrid, one where economic and state powers are conjoined and virtually unbridled? Can the nation check its descent into what the author terms “inverted totalitarianism”?

Wolin portrays a country where citizens are politically uninterested and submissive — and where elites are eager to keep them that way. At best, the nation has become a “managed democracy” where the public is shepherded, not sovereign. At worst, it is a place where corporate power no longer answers to state controls. Wolin makes clear that today’s America is in no way morally or politically comparable to totalitarian states like Nazi Germany, yet he warns that unchecked economic power risks verging on total power and has its own unnerving pathologies. Wolin examines the myths and mythmaking that justify today’s politics, the quest for an ever-expanding economy, and the perverse attractions of an endless war on terror. He argues passionately that democracy’s best hope lies in citizens themselves learning anew to exercise power at the local level.

Democracy Incorporated is one of the most worrying diagnoses of America’s political ills to emerge in decades. It is sure to be a lightning rod for political debate for years to come.

In response to this email I received the following thoughtful response that reflects the way many view the American political system.

Hedges is interesting, Wolin is interesting. However, I think coming up with phrases such as inverted totalitarianism are part of a long tradition of apologetics. Both of these people see the results of the economic political military system that dominates the entire globe and are accurate in saying that something is not working. Then they proceed to avoid coming to the conclusion that capitalism does not, never has, and never will deliver basic necessities for ordinary people. Instead they come up with excuses and phrases.

Even if we had the most well meaning politicians possible and the whole list of reforms got legislated, capitalism would still not deliver. Profit is the motive force of capitalism and there is no way to get good results for ordinary people as long as that motive prevails.

I am not saying that I am against working for reforms such as say single payer healthcare. I am saying that I believe such reforms are a means not an end. As a people, we have to go through the process of proving to ourselves capitalism does not deliver and that we need our own organizations so that we can act in our own name and do the things that need to be done to get our needs met.

I replied that the reason for my post was not to discuss the merits of capitalism vs. another political system but to get into a discussion of our so-called “democracy.” I believe this is the thrust of Wolin’s writings and used the following as examples:

“Our thesis is this: it is possible for a form of totalitarianism, different from the classical one, to evolve from a putatively ‘strong democracy’ instead of a ‘failed’ one.” His understanding of democracy is classical but also populist, anti-elitist and only slightly represented in the Constitution of the United States. “Democracy,” he writes, “is about the conditions that make it possible for ordinary people to better their lives by becoming political beings and by making power responsive to their hopes and needs.” It depends on the existence of a demos — “a politically engaged and empowered citizenry, one that voted, deliberated, and occupied all branches of public office.” Wolin argues that to the extent the United States on occasion came close to genuine democracy, it was because its citizens struggled against and momentarily defeated the elitism that was written into the Constitution.

“No working man or ordinary farmer or shopkeeper,” Wolin points out, “helped to write the Constitution.” He argues, “The American political system was not born a democracy, but born with a bias against democracy. It was constructed by those who were either skeptical about democracy or hostile to it. Democratic advance proved to be slow, uphill, forever incomplete. The republic existed for three-quarters of a century before formal slavery was ended; another hundred years before black Americans were assured of their voting rights. Only in the twentieth century were women guaranteed the vote and trade unions the right to bargain collectively. In none of these instances has victory been complete: women still lack full equality, racism persists, and the destruction of the remnants of trade unions remains a goal of corporate strategies. Far from being innate, democracy in America has gone against the grain, against the very forms by which the political and economic power of the country has been and continues to be ordered.” Wolin can easily control his enthusiasm for James Madison, the primary author of the Constitution, and he sees the New Deal as perhaps the only period of American history in which rule by a true demos prevailed.

…From the time of the United States’ founding, its citizens have had a long history of being complicit in the country’s imperial ventures, including its transcontinental expansion at the expense of native Americans, Mexicans and Spanish imperialists. Theodore Roosevelt often commented that Americans were deeply opposed to imperialism because of their successful escape from the British empire but that “expansionism” was in their blood. Over the years, American political analysis has carefully tried to separate the military from imperialism, even though militarism is imperialism’s inescapable accompaniment. The military creates the empire in the first place and is indispensable to its defense, policing and expansion. Wolin observes, “That the patriotic citizen unswervingly supports the military and its huge budgets means that conservatives have succeeded in persuading the public that the military is distinct from the government. Thus the most substantial element of state power is removed from public debate.”

I concluded by asking, “As an aside, have you ever considered that the present political system IS in fact meeting, to use your term, “the basic necessities for ordinary people”? Now you may be thinking health care, education, living wage, etc., but what if the “basic necessities” to keep its citizens under control by meeting their more baser needs were the Super Bowl, sex, video games, beer, and access to fast food outlets?

Be sure to read Chalmers Johnson’s review of Democracy Incorporated, “Inverted Totalitarianism: A New Way of Understanding How the U.S. Is Controlled”  and share your thoughts.

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 9, 1950: United States Senator Joseph P. McCarthy (D-WI) accused more than 200 staff members in the State Department of being Communists, launching his anti-red crusade. He made the allegation in a public speech in Wheeling, West Virginia, saying that State was infested with communists, and brandished a sheet of paper which purportedly contained the alleged traitors’ names. “I have here in my hand,” he said, “the names of 205 men that were known to the Secretary of State [Dean Acheson] as being members of the Communist party and who nevertheless are still working and shaping the policy of the State Department.” Some years later, he confided the paper was actually just a laundry list.

February 11, 1990: Nelson Mandela was freed after 27 years in a South African prison following months of secret negotiations with South African President F.W. (Frederik Willem) de Klerk. In 1952, Mandela became deputy national president of the African National Congress (ANC), the oldest black political organization in South Africa, having joined as a young lawyer in 1944. He advocated nonviolent resistance to apartheid – South Africa’s institutionalized system of white supremacy, black disenfranchisement and rigid racial segregation.

February 13, 1991: Two precision-guided missiles destroyed the Amiriyah subterranean bunker in Baghdad being used as an air-raid shelter by 408 Iraqi civilians during the first Gulf War. The deaths of all made it the single most lethal incident for non-combatants in modern air warfare. Only 3% of the the 250,000 bombs and missiles fired during that conflict were considered such “smart bombs.”

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: If They Asked 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.

As the Senate continues to wrangle with the many aspects of President Obama’s economic stimulus bill, I was thinking what I would tell them IF, for some crazy reason, they actually cared what I thought. Here’s what I would recommend.

Scrap most of the plan!! Most of it is nothing more than a repackaging of many of the same economic strategies that got us into this mess in the first place. Our mantra should be sustainability and that should be the driving force behind this plan.

I would allocate at least 50% of the money toward the recreation of FDR’s Works Progress Administration (WPA) with a nod to the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC). This would put millions of unemployed Americans back to work and would go a long way toward repairing our degraded infrastructure. We could repair millions of miles of roadways and bridges, hospitals, and schools plus retrofit thousands of other buildings to withstand tornadoes, earthquakes, hurricanes and tsunamis.

I would divide most of the rest of the funds between pursuing sustainable renewable energy resources (far more than the piddly amount of money earmarked currently for this major undertaking) and for bringing broadband to every nook and cranny of the nation. I would also ensure there was significant money available for Amtrak and other means of public mass transportation.

Of course, I’m very certain no one will ask for my opinion and the signed bill will look nothing like the above.

News You May Have Missed

It’s Not Going to Be OK
The daily bleeding of thousands of jobs will soon turn our economic crisis into a political crisis. The street protests, strikes and riots that have rattled France, Turkey, Greece, Ukraine, Russia, Latvia, Lithuania, Bulgaria and Iceland will descend on us. It is only a matter of time. And not much time. When things start to go sour, when Barack Obama is exposed as a mortal waving a sword at a tidal wave, the United States could plunge into a long period of precarious social instability. At no period in American history has our democracy been in such peril or has the possibility of totalitarianism been as real…

Despite Obama’s Promises, Rival Views Are Scrubbed from White House
Only weeks ago, the political world was buzzing about a “team of rivals.” America was told that finally, after years of yes-men running the government, we were getting a president who would follow President Abraham Lincoln’s lead, fill his administration with varying viewpoints, and glean empirically sound policy from the clash of ideas. Little did we know that “team of rivals” was what George Orwell calls “newspeak”: an empty slogan “claiming that black is white, in contradiction of the plain facts.” Obama’s national security team, for instance, includes not a single Iraq war opponent. The president has not only retained President George W. Bush’s defense secretary, Robert Gates, but also 150 other Bush Pentagon appointees. The only “rivalry” is between those who back increasing the already bloated defense budget by an absurd amount and those who aim to boost it by a ludicrous amount…

Nuclear Power – One of Humankind’s Biggest Mistakes
Nuclear Power was a mistake and remains a mistake. If the human family survives it, our descendants will wonder what we were thinking to justify leaving them nuclear power’s toxic legacy — a legacy they will be dealing with for hundreds if not thousands of generations. And why did we do it? To power our lights, TVs, radios, stereos, air conditioners, etc. and the tools we used to make them. Our creation of nuclear power will be especially difficult for our descendants to understand because they will know that in the nuclear era, we already had all the technologies and know-how needed to power everything in ways that are perpetually recyclable, powered by free solar energy and which leave zero harmful residues in their wake…

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