Greener Times

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Archive for March, 2009

GT for March 30 – April 5

Posted by Trey Smith on March 28, 2009

Greener Times for the Week of March 30 – April 5

Volume 3 No. 50

an e-publication for Greens anywhere and everywhere

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

In This Week’s Issue
* Obama Beginning to Look Like Bush
* Thoughts By the Way: Ode to Willapa
* Our Climate Crisis: One Earth Climate Manifesto
* Un-Spinning the Spin: On the Financial Crisis: What Democrats Fail to Mention
* This Week in History
* Letters to the Editor
* Pencil Shavings: Testing for AID (No “S”)
* News You May Have Missed

Obama Beginning to Look Like Bush
from Amnesty International USA

This past weekend we got a deeply troubling glimpse into the heart of the Obama administration’s counter-terrorism policies.

On March 13, in a symbolic break with the past, the Obama administration announced it would drop the term “enemy combatant” – only to argue in the same breath that the administration has the legal authority to hold detainees indefinitely, without charge.

We’re beginning to fear the worst: that the Obama administration will hold onto the failed counter-terrorism policies of the Bush administration. Such a move would solidify and make indefinite detention and other Bush policies the new norm in America.

Our most powerful antidote to these cancerous counter-terrorism policies is a full investigation that includes holding those responsible accountable.

We know this is a big ask. But one face-to-face visit can move a Member of Congress off the fence and turn him or her into a supporter. We’ll support you to make your face-to-face visit both easy and empowering.

How did we become a nation that tortures? And will we really reject the failed counter-terrorism policies of the Bush administration? Our best chance is a full and independent investigation.

Two weeks ago, Senator Leahy held his “getting to the truth” hearing on whether or not the Senate should setup a commission of inquiry.2 Now the clock is ticking for him to find other Senators and Representatives to join his efforts.

As if we needed additional justification for a full investigation, a new report by the International Committee of Red Cross was leaked this past weekend that describes in great detail the unfathomable horrific abuse of detainees well into 2007.

How did this happen? And why does the government continue to defend the policies that allowed such shocking treatment in the first place?

The more that comes out, the more we are outraged. And we know this is only the tip of the iceberg.

Our outrage, if expressed, can force our politicians to do the right thing: to fully reject the failed, ineffective Bush policies both in name and substance.

To get involved: http://tinyurl.com/c4da34

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

As my ego recovers from a week without nurture I’ll celebrate by examining last week’s GT content from the vantage of my take on America’s woes: We are losing our planet because we do not agree on the root cause of its destruction. The root cause is loss of community.

Causes come in two extremes, proximate and root, and also in every onion layer in between. To take a recent (2008) example, it is now known that the root cause of the Titanic sinking was White Star president Ismay’s directive to remove certain hull strengthening plates added to fix a sea-trial problem. Too much extra coal needed, he said. (When the forward compartments flooded, the stress on the hull caused it to break in half and that was what sunk the Titanic.)

Dean Myerson begins his engaging memoir with, “…ownership of a car is not the be-all and end-all of one’s carbon footprint.” I have to say he’s right (disclosure, I have three cars even though there’s a bus stop in front of my house). Nevertheless, this misses Duff’s central message about cars, which is that car culture has to be parked. Undertaking a task that huge on something so insidious requires unprecedented determination. As to my take on moving to White Salmon, it’s a great move because this town, unlike the disaster just across the Columbia, is still a community.

Tara Malone brings H.D. Thoreau front and center on today’s stage of fools. And I thought that Thoreau just went to Walden to ponder.

To review Alby is to trace the shape of a great sculpture with your foot. I resort to a table of contents:
Here’s the whole of the mess.
We keep trying to make sense of crime.
We can’t remember what we were before we got dumb like this.
In 5000 years, we haven’t learned to say no to evil.
“Paradigm” is French for two shovels. We will get a new pair only when the compost is ripe for rebirth.
No solutions at the center.
Alby lines up the ducks.
Our mistake.

Each of these paragraphs is a pomegranate of graceful phrases which fit together perfectly without shims, noise, or glue. In his saying that things have always been so, he differs from my take that we are newly amiss. Alby makes clear just how serious our amiss is.

Duff Badgley, ever alert, nails our neo-lubricated Governor for advocating biofuels in Evergreen State ferries. His research also found out where she got the idea. He gently suggests that we join his small band in the trenches. And so we should, us Islanders who use these compromised boats. We should, indeed, embellish our protests of lowered service and raised rates with a complaint on those laws Duff found. A community response, you see. But my “community” has other priorities.

Maryrose Asher reaches from the Bishop of Constantinople to the stultifying John Kerry to show up our limp resolve. After firing a few shots across our bow, she let’s us have the broadside: “Are Americans angry? If not, why not?” Part of the reason might be that Americans do not see clearly, and give themselves that alibi for not making trouble. Maryrose has neither problem. My vision is somewhat selective, and I tend to avoid confrontation. I have a lot of company. Most of my community is right behind me. At a recent retreat of one of our civic groups, concern for Gaza was mentioned. The only response came from one of the more competent members. Looking contemplative, he said, no, I would not include Gaza as one of my concerns. His tone was like that of a chef at a British gourmet convention who was approached by a reporter who had sampled some jellied eel. The chef looked thoughtful and said slowly, no, I would not eat jellied eel. Well, if our latest civic project, Vision for Vashon, does not see the school closings in Seattle, the illegal immigrant prison in Tacoma, the ungodly wars, et al, then our slide into civil unrest will be nice and peaceful.

Marjorie Rhodes says that the federal government is more interested in protecting big business than protecting the environment. On closer examination, the root might be interest in its campaign funding to the exclusion of all else.

Trey Smith measures our stupidity in a number of inventive ways.  From the tone, I daresay it was not edited much. Fortunately, the scope was the contiguous United States leaving Vashon out by tacit omission. Fortunately, Trey has taken care of the gall bladder problem and can return to caring for our growing frustration. I know I speak for all of us ingratitude for having Trey’s anchor planted in the Willapa mud.

Our Climate Crisis: One Earth Climate Manifesto
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.

Profound structural change is needed now to address our Climate Crisis. As in childbirth, pain will attend this change. We are birthing ourselves into a world radically different from the one middle-class Industrial World citizens have known for a century.

Because of humans, the Earth is changing in non-linear ways. We can no longer avoid this change. Those leaders who sell the lethal notion that we can ‘prosper’ and avoid painful change with our Climate Crisis are false leaders. Reject them now.

We must convene Climate Emergency sessions of Congress and state legislatures now to enact emergency World War II-type mobilization laws that will restructure our economy.

Our plan is to, first, centralize so we can implement globally the changes needed to adapt to and mitigate the Climate Crisis. Second, with this restructuring in place, we must then localize economies to survive in the changed new world we will inhabit.

For the affluent, income will fall. Collective local efforts will provide sustainable shelter and food. Transport and health care will be localized.

EMERGENCY CLIMATE PROGRAMS

  1. Prepare abandonment plans for low-lying coastal areas, including the Florida peninsula;
  2. Assign top priority to relocation plans for climate refugees at local, national and global levels;
  3. Start a global campaign to support women’s reproductive rights and equal access to education. Exploding human population threatens all climate programs and our survival.
  4. Nationalize the defense (war) industry. Divert defense contractors like Boeing from airplanes and weapons of mass destruction to making solar, wind and wave power equipment;
  5. Nationalize the auto industry. Divert auto manufacturers from private vehicle production to making mass transit vehicles for bus and rail;
  6. Nationalize the oil industry. Ration and radically reduce petrol use;
  7. Nationalize the coal industry. Phase out all coal operations in five years;
  8. Nationalize the banking industry. Low income people to serve as majorities on Boards of Directors;
  9. Nationalize airline and shipping industries. Phase out both over ten years;
  10. Nationalize concrete production industry. Restrict production to maintenance and repair of defensible, existing public infra-structure. Concrete production is the 3rd worst global greenhouse gas polluter after fossil fuel combustion and deforestation;
  11. Vastly increase public transport system-low income ride free;
  12. Phase out private vehicles over five years, except where no public transport exists;
  13. Impose aggressive, corporate carbon taxes to fund our economic restructuring;
  14. Assess bold, progressive individual carbon taxes–low income exempt;
  15. Carbon taxes to subsidize local, small-scale food production and penalize agro-business;
  16. Establish steadily reducing carbon caps for industry, regions and government;
  17. Outlaw carbon trading schemes;
  18. Begin personal annual carbon allowances (carbon rationing);
  19. Carbon tax funds channeled to poor to offset high food, housing, transportation costs;
  20. Carbon tax funds channeled to global Rainforest Protection and Global South recipients;
  21. Enforce and expand rights of Indigenous and Local People in all countries.
  22. Withdraw all foreign troops from Iraq, Afghanistan and Palestine. Divert war funds to climate programs;
  23. Outlaw crop-based biofuels production and use;
  24. Provide energy retro-fit for all commercial, residential and government buildings;
  25. Adopt federal, state and local land use laws requiring affordable density. Stop sprawl;
  26. Protect all trees as our Common Good, critically benefiting our climate, needing permit to kill.

Environmental justice cannot occur without economic justice.

OUR CALL TO ACTION

Our Climate Crisis is a global emergency happening now. Our house is on fire. Emergency climate action must be taken now or many of us will perish.

In the face of this unfolding disaster unlike any other, we choose activism. There is our Livable Planet to be salvaged. There are countless Sacred Creatures to be saved from extinction or mass death-including humans. We refuse to feed the climate beast now threatening All of Us.

THE EMERGENCY

“Do politicians understand just how difficult it could be, just how devastating rises of 4C, 5C or 6C could be? I think, not yet,” Lord Stern of Britain said to a March, 2009 meeting of climate scientists in Copenhagen.

If global temperatures rise by the predicted 4C to 7C by 2100, “agriculture would be destroyed and life would be impossible over much of the planet, the former World Bank chief economist said.”

“We can forget about the 2C (average global temperature rise)”,” said Professor Katharine Richardson, chair of the 2009 international Climate Congress in Copenhagen. “We are now facing the situation where we have to avoid a 5-6C rise in temperature.”

This same conference heard warnings of a five-to-nine feet rise in sea levels by 2100, caused by the historic melting of the Antarctic and Greenland ice sheets. Areas where one-tenth of humans live would be “hit hard”. That means at least one billion people would become climate refugees from rising sea level alone. Where would they go?

Florida, Bangladesh, the Maldives and the Netherlands now face “a major risk” of “catastrophic flooding” by 2100.

HOW TO RESPOND

The Australian climate scientists of Code Red state we must take emergency measures now.

“We need now,” they write, “to ‘think the unthinkable’, because the sustainability emergency (climate crisis) is not so much a radical idea as now simply a necessary mode of action.”

Lester Brown, of the Earth Policy Institute, agrees. “…unless we restructure the economy and do it quickly, we will almost certainly fail,” says Brown. “Time is our scarcest resource.”

Follow this link to download a free copy of Brown’s 2008 book, Plan B 3.0: Mobilizing to Save Civilization. http://www.earth-policy.org/Books/PB3/Contents.htm

Our pre-eminent climate scientist, Jim Hansen, has taken to the streets to demand fast, dramatic response to our Climate Crisis. Hansen is director of NASA’s Goddard Space Institute. Hansen delivered the first warning to Congress about global warming on June, 23, 1988.

“The democratic process doesn’t … seem to be working,” Hansen said before joining a March, 2009 protest against the headquarters of a British firm planning a new coal-fired power plant. “What we get… from political leaders is greenwash… peaceful demonstration is not out of order, because we’re running out of time.”

Un-Spinning the Spin: On the Financial Crisis: What Democrats Fail to Mention
Maryrose Asher is a former Chair of the Green Party of Washington State and a tireless activist of many causes.

Democrats find it easier to blame the Bush administration or Reaganomics than to admit the role of the Democratic Party in the current financial crisis. However, the repeal of the Glass-Steagall Act of 1933 during Bill Clinton’s term of office is a major contributing factor to the financial crisis Americans are experiencing.

The first Glass-Steagall Act was passed in 1932 in an effort to stop deflation. Due to the collapse of a large number of American commercial banks in early 1933, the Glass-Steagall Act of 1933 was enacted. This Act established barriers between the banking and security industries to protect investors from the hazards of speculation and risky investments.

During the late 1990s, the Clinton administration, Congress, the Federal Reserve, big banks, security firms, and insurers worked together to dismantle the Glass-Steagall Act.

Democratic liberals such as Dodd, Kennedy, Kerry, Reid, and Schumer went along with other Senate Democrats (Biden included) for a total of 38 out of 45 Senate Democrats voting to repeal Glass-Steagall. The final vote was 90-8. The House Democrats were equally to blame by voting 138 for and 69 against, a 2:1 ratio. Final vote total: 343-86.

As a result, on November 12, 1999, Bill Clinton repealed Glass-Steagall by signing into law the Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act.

Economists have criticized the repeal of the Glass-Steagall Act of 1933 as contributing to the 2007 subprime mortgage financial crisis.

The repeal enabled commercial lenders such as Citigroup, which was in 1999 then the largest U.S. bank by assets, to underwrite and trade instruments such as mortgage-backed securities and collateralized debt obligations and establish so-called structured investment vehicles, or SIVs, that bought those securities. It is therefore seen by some that the repeal of this act contributed to the global financial crisis of 2008-2009. The year before the repeal, subprime loans were just 5% of all mortgage lending. By the time the credit crisis peaked in 2008, they were approaching 30%. — Wikipedia

Lobbyists for the finance, insurance, and real estate industries (known as the FIRE sector) spent over $200 million on lobbying and made more than $150 million in political donations to ensure passage of the Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act. Members of congressional banking committees or committees with jurisdiction over financial services legislation were the primary beneficiaries.

The influence of the FIRE sector on American politics can be shown by the statistics compiled for the 2008 presidential election. The information below is provided by OpenSecrets.org, Center for Responsive Politics, and reveals the contributions to the Obama campaign under the category of “Industry.” The FIRE sector contributions amount to $38,089,102 or just over 46% of all money raised from the industry sector as a whole.

Agribusiness $2,174,939
Communications/Electronics $25,124,769
Construction $5,204,082
Defense $1,057,239
Energy & Natural Resources $2,531,625
Finance, Insurance & Real Estate $38,089,102
Health $18,803,350
Lawyers & Lobbyists $43,440,058
Transportation $1,608,070
Misc Business $35,258,103
Labor $466,324
Ideological/Single-Issue $13,544,921
Other $82,729,375

It is also interesting that, as of March 2008, Obama had taken more money from the top 10 subprime issuers than had been the case in any other presidential campaign. Obama’s contributions from the subprime lending industry, again as of March 2008, totaled $1.8 million. An article by Gerald McEntee in the Huffington Post, “Obama and His Subprime Supporters—Are His Words for Real?” (3/27/08) raised doubt about Obama’s campaign promises to reform the subprime lending industry.

There’s an important reason to doubt the Obama campaign’s public expressions of support for reform of the subprime lending industry: Contributors from the industry have provided more than a million dollars to Senator Obama’s campaign. In fact, Senator Obama has taken $1.8 million from the folks who have pushed these loans on unsuspecting working families. He’s taken more money from the top ten subprime issuers — more than $400,000 — than any other presidential campaign. Even today, following his economic speech in New York, the senator scheduled a fundraiser at Credit Suisse, one of the top subprime underwriters in the country.

Does Professor Goolsbee’s* get tough approach on subprime lenders really reflect Senator Obama’s plans? Or do the lenders who have given so much to Senator Obama’s campaign know something different? Is the Obama campaign once again talking tough in public while sending private messages behind the scenes?

Senator Obama should answer this simple question: Is he planning on following the public advice of Professor Goolsbee on the subprime crisis, or is he working behind the scenes to keep his fat cat contributors happy?

Tough questions but they give us some insight as to why Wall Street, big banks, and AIG are getting the government bailouts, CEOs are getting their fat bonuses, and Main Street is feeling the pain.

*Austan Dean Goolsbee is on leave from the University of Chicago Graduate School of Business where he a professor of economics. He is currently serving under President Barack Obama as a member of the Council of Economic Advisers and as staff director and chief economist of a new federal panel, the President’s Economic Recovery Advisory Board chaired by Paul Volcker. Goolsbee’s “get tough” position on subprime lenders is a reversal of his long-held position. In an article by Goolsbee in the New York Times (3/29/07), he warns regulators to “be mindful of the potential downside in tightening too much” as it may impact African-American and Hispanic homeowners who have benefited from these subprime loans. He closes by saying, “For be it ever so humble, there really is no place like home, even if it does come with a balloon payment mortgage.”

Resource Material:
William Kaufman: Shattering the Glass-Steagall Act

Top Industries, Barack Obama – OpenSecrets

Glass-Steagall Act – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Gerald McEntee: Obama and His Subprime Supporters — Are His Words For Real?

Frontline: the wall street fix: mr. weill goes to washington: the long demise of glass-steagall – PBS

Economic Scene – ‘Irresponsible’ Mortgages Have Opened Doors to Many of the Excluded – NYTimes.com by Austan Goolsbee

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.

March 31, 1997: Four East Timorese were arrested in Warton, England, at the British Aerospace factory where Hawk fighter jets were built for the Indonesian military, who used them in the ongoing occupation and genocide of their homeland.

April 2, 1970: Massachusetts, in the midst of the Vietnam war, enacted a law which exempted its citizens from having to fight in an undeclared war.

April 4, 1968: Martin Luther King, Jr., 39, was assassinated in Memphis, Tennessee, where he had come to help with a strike by sanitation workers. Riots in reaction to the assassination broke out in over a hundred cities across the U.S., lasting up to a week; cities included Chicago, Baltimore, Washington, DC, Cincinnati, Boston, Detroit, Philadelphia, San Francisco, Toledo, Pittsburgh, and Seattle. The government deployed 75,000 National Guard troops. 39 people died and 2,500 were injured.

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: Testing for AID (No “S”)
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.

According to a report Thursday by the Associated Press, “Lawmakers in at least eight states want recipients of food stamps, unemployment benefits or welfare to submit to random drug testing.” The main message supporters of this scheme want to send is “you don’t get something for nothing.”

Most of my lefty comrades will be against such laws and regulations because, they will argue, it amounts to nothing more than an invasion of privacy. While this argument indeed has merit, I could actually get behind such efforts with one small proviso — that states apply the very same criteria to those receiving corporate welfare too!!

If the families of people needing a boost to survive will be forced to submit to random drug testing, then I think the CEOs and board members of any company receiving outright grants, guaranteed loans, property tax abatements and other forms of taxpayer-funded handouts should do the same because we don’t want to give them something for nothing!

Drug abuse should be a medical/mental health issue, not a criminal one. It spans gender, age, ethnicity, race and financial standing. It’s certainly not a problem of the poor only. Rich and middle class Americans abuse drugs too.

So, if these lawmakers really mean what they say, then the rule should apply across the board. If they don’t want public funds used to feed drug habits, then turn off the spigot for everyone.

News You May Have Missed

Obama’s Economic Plan: A Version of the Monopoly Game, But No One Loses
President Obama has invented a new board game for Wall Street money guys to play that promises to be a lot of fun. It’s very much like the regular Monopoly game that kids play — only better — because this one uses real money, provided courtesy of the taxpayers. The best thing about Obama’s game is nobody loses. Usually, the winner in Monopoly is the one who winds up with the most money. In the Obama version, the losers get any losses back from the government at the end of the game. The president has promised…

Global Capitalism: The Suicide Version
The globalization of the international economy launched by the United States as an accidental policy of the Clinton administration has since been much lauded as benefiting (some of) the poor of the world by drawing them into the international capitalist system. This is not actually what it was designed to do. It has proved, like the god Janus, to have two aspects. The second face now has been revealed. Economic globalization has, as its second result, impoverished (some of) the rich of the world…

Hemp Is Not Pot: It’s the Economic Stimulus and Green Jobs Solution We Need
While Uncle Sam’s scramble for new revenue sources has recently kicked up the marijuana debate — to legalize and tax, or not? — hemp’s feasibility as a stimulus plan has received less airtime. But with a North American market that exceeds $300 million in annual retail sales and continued rising demand, industrial hemp could generate thousands of sustainable new jobs, helping America to get back on track…

Posted in Greener Times | Comments Off on GT for March 30 – April 5

GT for March 23 – 29

Posted by Trey Smith on March 23, 2009

Greener Times for the Week of March 23 – 29

Volume 3 No. 49

an e-publication for Greens anywhere and everywhere

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

In This Week’s Issue
* Response on Rural Living
* Thoreau, Economy Inspire Students to Learn Lessons of Less
* Compost
* Thoughts By the Way:
* Our Climate Crisis: Climate Crisis Claims Vashon
* Un-Spinning the Spin: The Virtue of Anger
* This Week in History
* Letters to the Editor
* Pencil Shavings: An Extended Age of Stupidity
* News You May Have Missed

Response on Rural Living
by Dean Myerson of White Salmon, WA. (Dean is the Executive Director of the Green Institute)

I’d like to respond to recent comments about rural living. At the last Global Greens conference, one of the US delegates, a resident of Manhattan, discussed how city living was in fact one of the most sustainable forms of living if one lives in a city with public transportation and avoids large detached housing.

However, I noted that recent articles in Greener Times focused extensively on car ownership. But while transportation is a significant part of the climate challenge, ownership of a car is not the be-all and end-all of one’s carbon footprint. I currently live in a small town with no public transportation and previously lived in a large east coast city where I did not own a car and lived in a small apartment, so I have some experience with both lifestyles.

I moved to White Salmon in the Columbia River Gorge – and bought a car – to be closer to nature and wilderness. I work out of my house over the internet, and so on many days do not even use my car. I bought a 10-year old car 2 years ago, fairly good mileage. My primary use for my car is for hiking and cross-country ski trips. But the longer I live here, the more I meet people and do these trips in groups. Car-pooling may have no more impact than public transportation, depending on just how full those buses are and how much they get stuck in traffic. I’ve ridden plenty of buses over the years, and there is no such thing as a bus system that is always well-used. They all have nearly empty buses sometimes. This is the cost of making them convenient enough for most people to use.

Despite owning a car, rural energy usage may be largest for heating. There are very few apartments in rural areas, and I rent a detached building. I think that the lack of much shared housing in rural areas is probably the greatest climate impact, more than transportation. But much of my heating energy comes from hydro power. While dams have a problematic impact on the ecology and are not zero climate impact, they are less of an impact, which lessens the impact of heating my home. Large dams in some climates can be as bad as fossil fuels, if they submerge extensive plant life, but dams in deserts or on rivers in the temperate zones do not have that impact. I do not have any cooling. After living in Washington DC for five years, the occasional heat waves here are not a problem for me.

I also attempt to eat local food as much as possible. I can’t say that I completely avoid food imported from a long distance, but feel confident that the carbon footprint of my diet is less than most city dwellers, and the agricultural contribution to climate emissions in this country is significant. Some of my food comes from my yard.

It’s important to remember that our culture is not monolithic and different kinds of lifestyles can be enjoyed while minimizing our effect on climate. But each lifestyle comes with its own choices that must be made if we are to minimize the extent of climate change as much as possible (since it is already too late to prevent it). Rural lifestyles are sometimes worse, when people living in these locales want city convenience with their space and views, but city lifestyles can be very damaging as well if bad choices are made. Duff says that “Our need to experience nature has come to mean the destruction of nature”, but this is a generalization. In a city, you have to make the choice to live in efficient and small housing, and nearby to public transportation. In rural areas, you can save in different ways, but you can do it. The key is to make the choices needed for your specific location.

Thoreau, Economy Inspire Students to Learn Lessons of Less
by Tara Malone, Chicago Tribune

Nathen Cantu jotted down dozens of telephone numbers he had programmed into his cell phone but never bothered to learn.

The Mundelein High School senior then shut down the phone that for years has been a social lifeline to his friends and a reassurance to his family. He surrendered it to his teacher last week, beginning a month without a text message or single call.

Five days later, Cantu was feeling twinges of withdrawal.

“It kind of feels naked, like you don’t have something there that should be there,” Cantu said.

More than a dozen students at the north suburban high school this year committed to going without something different each month, borrowing a page from author Henry David Thoreau, who famously withdrew to Walden Pond for two years “to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what (nature) had to teach.”

The Mundelein teens’ project began in November, when they gave up sugar and eating at chain restaurants. A television blackout followed in December, and January’s challenge was to forgo using sheets of new paper. They pledged in February to avoid buying anything that might end up in a landfill.

The next challenges are the boldest yet: a March without cell phones and an April without the Internet.

Cantu said he and his classmates have discovered parts of themselves with every sacrifice. As his voluntary cell phone ban continues, Cantu said he’s more focused and inclined to spend time with friends rather than just send a text message.

“There’s a pride to it too. There’s a pride to saying ‘no’ to things,” Cantu said.

The experiment in self-restraint comes as many families make real-life concessions to an economy gone bad, forgoing gym memberships, vacations and even private school tuition.

Although many students said they joined the group for reasons other than the economy, they acknowledge the lessons they’re learning may help them make the transition to an era of tighter teen budgets. In a recent survey, two-thirds of young people said they were concerned about their financial situation, according to a national report by TRU, a Chicago-based market research firm. Only 11 percent of those surveyed said they were not at all concerned.

“The longer and more drawn out the economic troubles are, the more likely they are going to be open to changing the way they live,” said TRU trends director Rob Callender.

Going without can be good for teens, said Madeline Levine, author of “The Price of Privilege: How Parental Pressure and Material Advantage Are Creating a Generation of Disconnected and Unhappy Kids.”

Packing lunches, skipping the trendiest jeans or canceling cell phone service gives children a new role as a family contributor and a vital lesson in self-discipline, she said. In the process, young people reared in times of economic abundance may rethink their expectations.

“For many kids, this is an opportunity. I think that most of them are rising to the challenge,” she said.

Just after 6 p.m. on a recent school day, 13 students filed into a Mundelein High School classroom. Teacher Steve Jordan reminded them of the offer he’d made a week before.

“I’d like to take and keep your cell phone for a month, to remove the temptation,” Jordan told his students.

“No, thank you,” quipped senior Karlie Alms, 17.

“Damn,” sighed another student.

“These months are the hardest, and that’s OK. We want this to be hard,” Jordan said. “You can do it.”

Jordan conceived of the Voluntary Simplicity experiment last fall as an after-school class in which students earn a pass or fail credit. They gather every week to compare notes and write about the experience.

Most students said they joined the simple-living experiment because it was a creative endeavor that would also help the environment. For many, the economic implications came later.

For two weeks last month, students collected every spent paper towel and granola bar wrapper to show how much trash they generated even as they were cutting back in February. The group agreed to buy only food, fuel, deodorant and toothpaste.

As students compared garbage, senior Emily Bauer confessed about a bracelet she’d been ogling for weeks.

She’d spotted the thick, banded bracelet on her favorite music stars and went online to get a closer look at the $10 wristlets, stamped with phrases such as “Stay Gold” or “Believe.” Bauer, 18, honored the pledge to avoid buying anything but the bare essentials. The nagging temptation remained.

“I want it really badly. I’m not going to lie,” she said, laughing.

Ryan Menary, 16, a junior, said he’s been tempted to buy new CDs and download a song or two. But holding back hasn’t been too hard.

Senior Patrick Bradley said the exercise in restraint has felt surprisingly good. He spent less money by cutting back on the things he buys.

“You don’t miss it that much when you don’t have it,” Bradley said.

(c) 2009, Chicago Tribune

Compost
by Alby Baker

Disaster capitalism is having its field day. Wars everywhere. Economic wars. Environmental wars. Resource wars. Drug wars. Even weather and climate wars. (Katrina, Asian tsunami, global war-ming/cooling) Bombs and buildings, economies and ecologies to blow up, then rebuild to bomb again; the SOS rolls on. Beyond borders and nation states, the boardroom royals and dynasties move as one, no matter the seeming debate, players, and show we are invited to watch or ignore. And the PTB play both/all sides from the shadows — nothing “rational” to be found or made in any of this, ever; not a functional exercise. Still mesmerized? Trash that bottle of blue pills.

Nothing really changes, just the numbers and places of desperate people. Those of us who care and look deeply would love to make sense of all this, and find the appropriate solutions — which seem ever at hand… But at the higher echelons of “The Great Game”, it is a different and separate reality. The PTB don’t do solutions. They aren’t interested in solving the crimes, mayhem, and circumstances they create. Why would they be? We keep trying to make sense of it from “our reality”, and that has never worked. Can’t. When we/our consciousness changes, then the whole thing changes… but NOT from within the shadows and old paradigm.

The realities are unfortunate, unfortunately, and the ironies are stacking up — no real civil rights or democracy, a severely dumbed down population, a controlled media/propaganda circus for our distracted wonderment, religions from hell, a sewer for government, business, etc. Ignorance and evil, the perfect storm. Would have been nice if more folks had awakened on the train to Hades. But then again, who wouldn’t want to miss this? Divine intervention? Sounds terrific these days, but who was minding the store before? (was that supposed to be us?) “We” haven’t even begun to explore the evil that waylaid and deranged the script and DNA so long ago — with all that has inspired poor memory and minimal self-inventory, erased critical thinking/feeling skills, fashioned this willingness to ignorance and submission. Slaves and slavers, same as it ever was.

I’d have to say that the dynamics and policies of the last 60, make it 200 years — hell, make it 5000+, have been incredibly successful… for those implementing them. These are not “failed policies”. There is no benign state here and no saviors that last very long, (just us) only the control of populations and resources. There is no negotiating with evil, or criminal psychosis, as there is no making rational sense/debate out of “policies” emerging from these. We also have mistaken “us” for the good guys — something we have yet to explore/understand. Still, saying “NO” to evil may be the last and only thing we get to do before the cycle turns over. In doing that, (and in knowing thyself) we begin to say “yes” to the birthing paradigm coming in on flood tide.

“What difference does it make to the dead, the orphans and the homeless, whether the mad destruction is wrought under the name of totalitarianism or the holy name of liberty and democracy?” Mohandas K. Ghandi, ‘Non-Violence and Peace and War’, 1948.

Intentional paradigm shifts emerge from free, involved, evolved, and critically thinking beings. When we are free we hardly need leaders, and certainly we wouldn’t be picking them out of the creature swamp we do now. At the bottom of the great cycles (the kali yuga, the end of the Mayan calendar, whatever, pick your poison), and at the end of the world as we know it, the shift is made from Elsewhere — outside/beyond the consciousness that created the trouble in the first place, which is still locked up within the old paradigm. (to paraphrase Einstein, all apologies) Right now we just get to be (and witness!) the compost/chrysalis phase, while the old patterns come apart, and something new/different comes into being. (hopefully something Mother could love…)

And so there are no solutions and pathways to be found or sought within D.C. or the other central and hidden “banks” of power. Really, nothing has changed there since Saint Obama was elected… it is the same old place and players — how not? What did people expect?

Neither demands nor elections mean anything to darkness, unless you are willing to sell your soul to it. And that looks to be pretty much what happened in aggregate. Urging the system and its denizens to play nice makes them laugh all the way to the banks and slaughter fields. There is no “representative democracy”, never has been — only kool-aid for the masses, worker-bees, soldiers, and the intelligentsia who debate the merits of this and that, tweedle dee dee and twaddle dum endlessly. A new economic theory! Exhort the democrats! That will work…

It is time to consider and create something “other”.

We bypassed the contexts, source issues, and actualities to choose wishful thinking and enslavement. In case you hadn’t noticed, that was the dark to which we succumbed.

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

Tom is taking this week off.

Our Climate Crisis: Climate Crisis Claims Vashon
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.

People of Vashon Island are about to fall victim to our self-inflicted Climate Crisis. So sorry, Tom and Maryrose.

No, Vashon Islanders are not about to succumb to rising Puget Sound waters – yet. But they are about to be marooned by insane state biofuels policy.

Starting June 1, 2009, each ferry from or to Vashon will be burning rainforests in its fuel tanks. That’s because state biofuel mandates will then require all Washington State Ferry boats to burn a 20% blend of biodiesel. And all current generation biofuels trigger rainforest destruction, releasing plumes of CO2 and massively worsening our Climate Crisis. http://www.sciencemag.org/cgi/content/abstract/1152747 http://www.sciencemag.org/cgi/rapidpdf/1152747v1.pdf

Here it is in the words of the state, making Institutionalized Insanity into law:

“Effective June 1, 2009, state agencies as a whole are required to use a minimum of 20% biodiesel to operate diesel-powered vessels, vehicles, and construction equipment. (RCW 43.19.642)” http://www.bioenergy.wa.gov/BiofuelIncentives.aspx

So, if Tom or Maryrose or anyone wants to exit or enter Vashon, a wonderfully forested preserve, they must burn rainforests. This rule will apply to anyone riding the WSF anywhere. Our Institutionalized Insanity is claiming Vashon and converting the waters of Puget Sound into a Killing Sea.

It gets worse. The words of the state, again:

“Effective June 1, 2015, all state agencies and local governments, to the extent practicable, are required to satisfy 100% of their fuel usage for operating publicly owned vessels, vehicles, and construction equipment from electricity or biofuel. (RCW 43.19.648)” http://www.bioenergy.wa.gov/BiofuelIncentives.aspx

You know the biofuel industry people will spare no expense to get their share of this incredibly lucrative, state-induced market. Why shouldn’t they? They helped write these laws. 100%? What an amazing cash cow in service to destroying our Planet.

If you hold out hope for ‘2nd generation’ biofuels to come to the rescue, dash those hopes. Cellulosic ethanol, the darling of Obama, Governor Chris Gregoire, and neo-liberals everywhere, is worse than petrol. It’s also worse than regular biofuels.

Won’t you join us fighting for our Livable Planet? We are One Earth Climate Action Group. We are the Northwest leaders of the biofuels resistance movement.

We need you… Now!

Un-Spinning the Spin: The Virtue of Anger
Maryrose Asher is a former Chair of the Green Party of Washington State and a tireless activist of many causes.

Ray McGovern, retired CIA analyst, was recently a guest speaker at the Veterans for Peace Northwest Regional Conference in Kirkland, Washington. In his speech, McGovern used a quote from John Chrysostom (c.347-407), archbishop of Constantinople, who was known for publicly denouncing the abuse of power by religious and political leaders.

He who is not angry when there is just cause for anger, sins. Why? Because anger looks to the good of justice, and if you can live amid injustice without anger, you are unjust.

Quoting from theologian Thomas Aquinas, McGovern continued, “Unreasoned patience sows the seeds of vice, nourishes negligence, and invites not only evil people but even good people to do evil.”

On the subject of anger, Glenn Greenwald, NY Times bestselling author and former constitutional law and civil rights litigator, posted “Embrace the anger—It’s not 1972 anymore” (5/10/06) on his political blog. Below is an excerpt:

This argument [that anger is a bad thing] is false — dangerously so — for so many reasons. Most successful political movements need passion. Anger, when constructively directed, is a potent and inspiring passion. It is noble to be angry about dangerous situations and corrupt leaders, and there are few passions which can compete with anger for inspiring oneself and others to meaningful action.

Conversely, those who are entirely devoid of anger are often lifeless, limp, uninspiring figures who seem to be drained of soul and purpose. An anger-less political movement is embodied by a plodding, bespecled, muttering Jay Rockefeller. Or John Kerry’s non-response to the Swift Boat attacks. Or the Democrats’ often ponderous, half-hearted, overly-rational mutterings on all too many issues or in response to all too many corruption and lawbreaking scandals. Or craven, eager-to-please “liberals” who are more interested in convincing Fox News and other Bush followers how balanced and reasonable they are than they are than in fighting for any actual political ideals — like Joe Klein, or Richard Cohen, for example.

This raises the questions, “Are Americans angry? If not, why not?”

In last week’s column, I raised the possibility that the unresolved issue of what happened on 9/11 has permeated the psyche of Americans to the point where they are incapable of acting. In addition to that premise, I would like to raise the possibility that culturally Americans see Anger as a vice and Patience as a virtue.

Too willing to put off judgment in the name of “patience,” Americans are collectively silent while corruption, greed, and the undermining of civil liberties go unchallenged. Water boarding is torture; an act of aggression against another country is a war crime; and, the government transfer of wealth from the poor to the rich is theft. Each, on its own, is reason enough to cause anger and yet the majority of Americans continue to put their faith in their political leaders to hopefully lead them, like Moses, out of the troubled waters.

Some Americans are disturbed to the point where they will sign an on-line petition or write to their government representatives, and a few more will even turn out for a march or rally. The majority, however, although willing to complain via public opinion polls, do nothing to stop the injustices.

In this “too nice” society where the collective etiquette is “don’t rock the boat,” where the everyday greeting is “have a nice day,” we have forgotten the virtue of anger.

Now is the time to duplicate the scene from the movie Network, where the evening news anchor Howard Beale, played by Peter Finch, persuades the American TV audience to vent their frustrations about life by shouting out their windows, “I’m mad as hell and not going to take it anymore!” But we need more. We need to unite with enough collective, virtuous anger to actually stop the abuse of power we see today. Repeating the words of John Chrysostom, “anger looks to the good of justice, and if you can live amid injustice without anger, you are unjust.”

We have put off our anger for far too long.

Reference material
Talk – Ray McGovern – Holding Our Leaders Accountable
Recorded by Mike McCormick
Unclaimed Territory – by Glenn Greenwald: Embrace the anger – It’s not 1972 anymore

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.

March 23, 1918: The trial of 101 Wobblies (members of the Industrial Workers of the World or IWW) began in Chicago, for opposition to World War I. In September 1917, 165 IWW members were arrested for conspiring to hinder the draft, encourage desertion, and intimidate others in connection with labor disputes. The trial lasted five months, the longest criminal trial in American history to date. The jury found them all guilty. The judge sentenced IWW leader “Big Bill” Haywood and 14 others to 20 years in prison; 33 were given 10 years, the rest shorter sentences. They were fined a total of $2,500,000 and the IWW was shattered as a result. Haywood jumped bail and fled to Russia, where he remained until his death 10 years later.

March 24, 1989: The most environmentally damaging oil spill ever began when the supertanker Exxon Valdez, owned and operated by the Exxon Corporation, ran aground on Bligh Reef in southern Alaska’s Prince William Sound. An estimated 11 million gallons of oil (257,000 barrels or 38,800 metric tonnes) eventually leaked into the water. Attempts to contain the massive spill were unsuccessful, and wind and currents spread the oil nearly 500 miles from its source, eventually polluting more than 1300 miles of coastline. Hundreds of thousands of birds and thousands of sea mammals were lost in the disaster.

March 26, 1839: The Cherokee Indians came to the end of the “Trail of Tears,” a forced march from their ancestral home in the Smoky Mountains to the Oklahoma Territory. General Winfield Scott, under orders from Pres. Andrew Jackson, arrested then drove the tribe’s members through the winter, leaving 4000 dead along the route. According to John Ross, an interpreter with the U.S. Army, “. . . covetousness on the part of the white race was the cause of all that the Cherokees had to suffer . . . .” The train of 645 wagons stretched for five km (three miles), leaving behind as many as twenty graves in one day, principally victims of exposure.

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.

Did the federal government subsidize covered-wagon manufacturers when people were no longer crossing the plains in these? I doubt it! So why then does the federal government bail out the auto industry or any other industry that becomes obsolete? ‘Our’ government is still determined to keep people using cars, fighting against any effort on the part of Americans to minimize the use of these. What more proof do people need in order to know that the federal government is more interested in protecting big business than protecting the environment?
~ Marjorie Rhodes ~

Pencil Shavings: An Extended Age of Stupidity
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.

In the section just below, we reference the film, Living in the Age of Stupid. It focuses on our willing stupidity in terms of the impending ecological crisis. I submit, however, that our collective stupidity stretches far beyond environmental concerns. In fact, if an alien were to peer down on the USA, I would venture to guess it would be lead to believe that few, if any, of us appear to value rational intelligence at all!!

We live in a country that elected George W. Bush to the highest office in the land twice — Talk about utter stupidity! Even if you believe that Dubya stole both elections, the fact remains that enough gullible Americans voted for the doofus to make stealing the election possible.

We live in one of the very few industrialized nations that does not have universal health care. Despite the fact that statistics from a multitude of other nations clearly show that socialized medicine is cheaper and more efficient than our outmoded system, we cling to a failing model. Dumb. Dumb. Dumb.

We live in a nation that embraces the concept of preemptive war. We’re in the throes of a deepening economic crisis and yet we continue to heap billions upon billions of dollars on killing and maiming people — many of them innocents — in foreign lands. Stupid times ten!!

Look at issue after issue and this nation tends to pick the dumbest option. Even worse, we do it over and over again with little more than a whimper. When future generations look back through their history books, they will point to the leaders of the Age of Stupid — us. What a legacy!

News You May Have Missed

Sweetness and Blight
High-fructose corn syrup doesn’t just deliver a jolt of sweetness to thousands of processed food items consumed by tens of millions of Americans each day. It also may add a touch of mercury, a powerful neurotoxin that may not be safe to consume at any level. That’s the message of two separate studies published last month. The first, led by a former FDA researcher named Renee Dufault and published in the peer-reviewed Environmental Health Journal, found mercury in nearly half of high-fructose corn syrup samples collected in 2005. Dufault had alerted her superiors about the finding in 2005 and got no response, she told me in a recent interview…

Living in the Age of Stupid
London is underwater, New Orleans won’t be rebuilt a third time, the arctic is ice free, and agriculture is failing, which leads to global food riots and ultimately the collapse of civilization…. This is the premise of the new crowd-funded British independent film The Age of Stupid. Set in 2055, the film portrays a post-apocalyptic world ravaged by the worst impacts of climate change, and looks back at the critical period between 2005 and 2015 to examine why we didn’t save ourselves when we still had the chance…

Nearly a Third of U.S. Bird Species in Trouble
Nearly one-third of all U.S. bird species are endangered, threatened or in significant decline, with birds in Hawaii facing a “borderline ecological disaster,” scientists reported on Thursday. The State of the Birds report, issued by Interior Secretary Ken Salazar along with conservation groups and university ornithologists, also noted some successes, including the recovery of the bald eagle, the peregrine falcon and other species after the banning of the chemical DDT…

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