Greener Times

Promoting a sustainable society…one day at a time.

GT for March 2 – 8

Posted by Trey Smith on March 1, 2009

Greener Times for the Week of March 2 – 8

Volume 3 No. 46

an e-publication for Greens anywhere and everywhere

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

In This Week’s Issue
* Silent Armageddon?
* Thoughts By the Way: Poems By the Way
* Our Climate Crisis: Obama & the False Hope Industry
* Un-Spinning the Spin: President Obama vs Candidate Obama
* This Week in History
* Letters to the Editor
* Pencil Shavings: Confessions of a Gasoholic
* News You May Have Missed

Silent Armageddon?
by Alexis Zeigler for Culture Change

The greatest danger of the ecological collapse of civilization is that we might not notice. There are a few taboos in political and academic discussion that serve to make our leaders look important and moral. We are not supposed to admit that our minds are directly influenced by the Earth on which we walk, or the degree to which we benefit from the exploitation of the global underclass. Our failure to recognize these things hides the impacts of ecological collapse.

As much as those in the progressive environmental community are striving to have a realistic discussion of the combined impacts of peak oil, global warming, the breaching of other environmental limits, we seem to be largely ignoring the most obvious scenarios. The most likely future, at least in the medium to near term, is a simple extrapolation of current trends. We seem to talk as if ecological limits are going to disrupt all of modern society, and transform our lives. The reality is that both in the U.S. and the world, incomes have been polarizing rapidly, especially since the early 1980s. (For a number of decades before that, the income gap in the U.S. was actually growing smaller owing to progressive taxation and other factors.)

A simple extrapolation of current trends would indicate that those in power are going to try to stay in power, try to maintain their privilege, and will be willing to use many different schemes, overt and covert, to do so. They are going to try to shuffle the distress downward. This will likely require a greater centralization of state power. A brutal reality of the modern environmental crisis is that for much of humanity it is already here. The number of malnourished people in the world has increased by about 20% in the last decade, from 800 million to near a billion people. That’s the number of starving people, not the number of poor people. The increase in poverty is much higher, owing to the efforts of neoliberal economic adjustment in the 1990s and oil price spikes in the 2000s.

These increases in poverty and hunger are not merely coincidental with the “war on terror.” Now that the global energy pie is stalled in growth or shrinking, the only way the U.S. can continue to eat gluttonously (literally and figuratively) is to eat an ever larger share of the remaining pie. The only way the U.S. and the other wealthy nations can continue to expand their claim on a shrinking resource pie is to maintain an aggressive foreign policy, and that in turn demands a greater concentration of state power. If one simply extrapolates these current trends into the future, the picture seems both dire and very different from most of what is painted regarding environmental limits.

It is highly likely that environmental limits will be manifest as a series of economic shocks that will be noticed by everyone, but the greater brunt of these shocks are going to be borne by the very poor. The problem is that the entire process is likely to be so hidden and politicized that we are likely to be fighting the “barbarians at the gates” for a long time to come without any open recognition of the ecological linkages between their well being and political change in our own society. Specifically, although oil prices have fallen dramatically with the current economic downturn, grain as traded on world markets has not fallen nearly as much. Why is that? There are three reasons. First, global warming is already making itself felt in the drying out of grain producing areas in Australia, China, Africa, and arguably the American west. Second, because of the global polarization of wealth, the upper classes are eating more meat, thus putting greater strain on global grain supplies. Meat production has in the last few decades increased about twice as fast as population itself. And thirdly, the competition for agricultural outputs for biofuel is supporting global food prices at higher levels, again with a direct linkage to the consumption of the wealthier classes.

In short, a simple extrapolation of current trends indicates increasing prices in general, as the world becomes more crowded as resources of all kinds become more scarce. As prices go up, those with less money are going to grow hungrier, and more restless. We can expect to see both an increase in state power and conflict over resources, except these trends are likely to be shrouded in religion and ideology. The bottom line is that the global upper class is likely to remain largely shielded and purposefully unaware for quite some time to come of the ecological roots of political conflict.

The reality is that the industrial powers, the U.S. in particular, have the power the debt their way out of extraordinary problems. Other countries do not have the privilege to act like that. We get away with it because we print the global trade currency, and we have a great deal of military and economic power to back up our profligacy.

We may be able to debt our way out of the current crisis, or it may be that so much purchasing power has now been cornered by the upper class that the economy itself, apart from ecological concerns, has been undermined by removing the capacity of the middle and lower classes to generate consumer demand. That, in a nutshell, is one way to describe the Great Depression. Class conflict is often played out as a battle over the supply of money. Rich people want to keep that supply limited, and controlled. That is why the Great Depression lasted so long, because of the tendency of wealthy conservatives to maintain a tight fiscal policy. The problem now is not so much tight fiscal policy per se, but the fact that so much of the money supply is simply being soaked up by the wealthy that our consumer, demand-driven economy is being undermined.

In as much as the concentration of state power is a predictable response to ecological constraints, don’t expect anyone to announce that on the evening news. The various convulsions through which we travel will always be cast in immediate, political terms, and our understanding of history tends to get whitewashed beyond recognition.

The root of the problem is that our ecological overshoot is changing much faster than our thinking about it. By various measures, we are in overshoot, meaning we are already consuming more resources than the Earth can sustain by any reasonable measure. The further we progress into overshoot, the more divorced our “solutions” to the ecological crisis become. Ever since the 1970s, we have been advocating for “alternative energy” and more efficiency. Let us extrapolate this trend into the future. Suppose current trends continue (which is likely), and the consumer society goes through various economic convulsions, but remains essentially intact. Meanwhile, starvation across the world continues to grow. Are we going to continue to advocate plug-in hybrid cars and other expensive technologies as the “solution” to the environmental crises when two billion people are severely malnourished? When there are three billion? Four? At what point do we recognize that expensive technologies meant to maintain a “sustainable” consumer society among the world’s wealthiest people are utterly divorced from any reasonable moral coherence?

The history of Nazi propaganda is interesting in this context. The Nazis had very active charity programs, collecting money on the street to feed the poor. This program was accompanied by heart-rending posters exhorting good Germans to give to the less fortunate, and workers who collected funds on the street for that purpose did so in the name of the Nazi party. The Nazis also had some rather progressive environmental polices, not the least of which was an aggressive anti-smoking campaign. The Supreme Aryan Race was supposed to be freed of such polluting influences. The Nazis are easy to pick on because they have become such an archetype of evil that one does not have to explain that there was something fundamentally astray in their social order. One does not have to expand upon the extremely cynical nature of collecting funds to feed the poor while simultaneously building an efficient industrial genocide machine.

If we transpose this historical lesson onto the modern world, the lessons are a bit more sobering. The number of hungry people in the modern world is growing, and that growth is accelerating upward on a parabolic (geometric) curve. The rate of increase in the number of hungry people is increasing. Because of the aforementioned factors (global warming, increased meat consumption, and biofuel) this trend is likely to continue. Given this rapid acceleration of poverty and starvation, is trying to solve the modern environmental crisis with plug-in hybrids and other expensive technologies that are ultimately intended to simply pad the lifestyles of the world’s wealthy the moral equivalent of Nazi “charity”? If not now, will the comparison become more appropriate when there are two billion malnourished? Three billion? Are we ever going to provide plug in hybrids and a “hydrogen economy” to the citizens of Darfur?

Based on an extrapolation of current trends we can predict that the supplying of expensive alternative energy technologies to the poorest of the world’s peoples can be described on a timetable that might be surmised as “never.” The problem is changing much faster than our thinking is changing. One could perhaps plausibly argue in 1972 that improving the efficiency of the consumer society would ramp down consumption among the rich even as we developed efficient technologies that might “trickle down” to everyone else. Without debating the finer points of what was true in 1972, that approach becomes less and less morally viable as we move further into overshoot. When we are down to naked mass genocide, which is the mature state of a market economy operating on a contracting energy supply, are we still going to be advocating expensive techno-toys for the rich as a solution to the environmental crisis? How many billions equals “naked mass genocide”?

It is my contention that we are already over that line. What may have made sense in 1972 does not now make sense. Improving efficiency of the consumer society with no recognition of the blood flowing through our fuel lines puts us in unsavory company. The problem is that we have gotten to the point where the easy answers are wrong and the right answers are difficult, at least from a political perspective.

The reality is that the modern economy is going to undergo some enormous changes in the next few decades whether we like it or not. A simple extrapolation of current trends, including the success of most of the conservation and alternative energy aspirations of the mainstream environmental movement, leads us to a world where a few live in the sustainable techno-bubble while billions die.

The political distress generated by the demise of so many people from “natural causes” will be manifest as a decline of democracy and civil liberty and the rise of authoritarian government. As much as we have a highly flattering and mental notion of modern democracy as being a triumph of social progress, the reality for ancient states and ourselves is that democracy is the process by which economically empowered persons express that power in the political forum. Inasmuch as a general decline in resources, or an increase in prices, results in a decline in the number of economically empowered persons, democracy will decline. But the process will be, as it always has been, highly politicized. The speeches from the late Roman Empire are most instructive on this regard. They hearken back to a golden age when men were virtuous, the barbarian terrorists were not to be found, and prosperity reigned. I suppose we will be dusting those off soon.

A lack of efficiency is not the driving force behind our ecological predicament. It is a red herring that allows us to ignore the realities of the division of class power. The reality is that the western industrial economy is driven by throughput. If we leave the coal in the ground and the trees standing in the forest, nothing much happens economically. If we dig up the coal, cut down the trees, and then sell, buy, and burn these “resources,” we generate economic activity. Particularly given that the U.S. prints the global trade currency (the U.S. dollar), and given that we can issue debt seemingly at will (perhaps we will find a limit to that soon), we are a consumption driven society. The more we consume, the more we stimulate the economy, the more powerful we become. The consumption of cars and houses has historically driven our economy, notably the great booms of the “roaring twenties,” the post World War II boom, and all the growth period since then, not the least of which was the most recent housing bubble. In a consumption-driven economy, the more we consume, the more powerful we become. That is the reason why Americans drive SUVs while people starve in Darfur. That’s why, when we hit hard times, our political leaders tell us to go shopping.

Efficiency cannot touch throughput. The reality is that, if current trends continue and the market economy remains intact, then the throughput economy will remain functional, eating up unfathomable volumes of “resources” to feed the lifestyles of the rich and famous, even as we slide down the scale of global decline. We may paint a green veneer of efficiency or “alternative” energy over these consumption habits, but that does not change the basic equation. The upper class maintains its power, in part, by consuming so much. The power to consume means that great resources, financial and otherwise, can also be diverted to such police and military endeavors will serve to maintain the social order under conditions of energy decline.

The bitter irony is that we are almost certain to hesitate just long enough in embracing real solutions as to ensure the destruction of countless millions of people and our civil society, to arrive only slightly later at the same material circumstance, but under very different political conditions, than if we had embraced these real solutions much sooner. One hundred years from now, our descendants will not be living in a consumption-driven economy. They will not be propping up the economy by buying cars they cannot afford and building spacious private houses they cannot pay for even in the course of decades. They will be doing what they have to do — sharing meager technologies that actually work. Our children’s children will be living cooperatively, growing food locally and without chemical inputs, not because of some higher ideological calling, but rather because they are compelled to do so. The difference will be political. If we can create a movement now that downscales faster than we are compelled to do so, a movement that creates a conscious culture that undermines the power of the ruling elite by building a localized economy from the bottom up, then we can arrive at the future cooperative society with some measure of democracy and civil liberty left in place. If we wait until we are forced to scale down by actual scarcity, then our children’s children will arrive at their cooperative future under an ecofascist boot.

Nationalism is so deeply and profoundly embedded in American culture that we easily fall under its persuasion without even noticing. Nationalism has overtaken the environmental movement. We have become focused on “alternative” energy production, in spite of the fact that these technologies are not a real solution. The real solutions are actually fairly easy. They simply involve doing what we will be doing in the future — using resources cooperatively — a little sooner than we are compelled to do so. Unwinding the throughput economy cannot and will not be achieved by enlightened social policy. The throughput economy can only be changed by a bottom-up movement that seeks fundamental structural change in our society.

Phrases like “culture change” or “conscious culture” seem to evoke the image that we should all play nice — liberal utopianism. A real understanding of culture leads us to the conclusion that the ecological and economic foundations of a society have a dominating influence over the social structure and belief system over time. A sustainable future does not mean we teach everyone to be tolerant. Though there is no harm in such lessons here and now, to achieve real “culture change” means rebuilding society from the bottom up, building a truly localized and sustainable society. You might imagine that is unlikely, but that is precisely what is going to happen, either by plan or by default. The latter would be much messier, and lead to a society that is neither equitable nor conscious. By getting ahead of the curve, we could arrive at the same point, but in a society that is conscious of its own process of social evolution. That society will not be a liberal utopia. It will be a sustainable society where power is devolved to the community level so people are empowered to defend themselves, and to create the future they want. It will not happen by policy, nor will it ever be announced on the evening news. It will happen as the minority movement of people who want to see it happen grows through the coming waves of change. See you in the street.

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

Last week the news from Australia shocked Thoughts By the Way into hitting the brake on its word machine. This week TomDispatch had an update on Australia so frightening it set me to work reorganizing my den. Books I’d had for years on the intent to read shelf were tossed. Records of my profession, so laden with ego, out the door. Works of high intrinsic value but poor weight-effectiveness were culled. Replacing these expendables were family albums and letters. Suddenly gaining importance, these were yanked from dusty corners and arrayed.

The process in which an unpleasant reality worries its way deeper into one’s consciousness is like peeling an onion. There’s that thin flaky outer and then a kind of rind, then layer after layer getting thicker until finally the dense core is exposed, pale and anomalous. I’m getting too close to that core and don’t want to see it. I still click off the scenes from Gaza, but each time the pain lasts a little longer. The snowball of our money rolling up Wall Street gets bigger, yet Congress has become immune to powers of ten — kind of like the deadening of nerves behind the dentist’s probing needle. I ask, when will my social security begin to shrivel. But mostly as I said last week, it’s beyond ordinary words.

Reorganizing, I found this by Carly Sheehan:

Carly’s Poem

Have you ever heard the sound of a mother screaming for her son?
The torrential rains of a mother’s weeping will never be done
They call him a hero, you should be glad that he’s one, but
Have you ever heard the sound of a mother screaming for her son?
Have you ever heard the sound of a father holding back his cries?
He must be brave because his boy died for another man’s lies
The only grief he allows himself are long, deep sighs
Have you ever heard the sound of a father holding back his cries?
Have you ever heard the sound of taps played at your brother’s grave?
They say that he died so that the flag will continue to wave
But I believe he died because they had oil to save
Have you ever heard the sound of taps played at your brother’s grave?
Have you ever heard the sound of a nation being rocked to sleep?
The leaders want to keep you numb so the pain won’t be so deep
But if we the people let them continue another mother will weep
Have you ever heard the sound of a nation being rocked to sleep?

Well, maybe yes to that last question. Reorganization then reached deeper, into a pile of the weekly titled Real Change, where this:

Thoughts and Dreams
by David Burke

Yes, my child
This world to you
My apologies I offer
mistakes made
Global travesties, a burden to you
forgiveness asked
New wisdom by you needed
Your eyes see much
Tomorrow is close
To you we now turn
The moon, stars, and all else
In your hands we leave
It’s now to you our hopes
Dreams and thoughts
we pass to you

And also from Real Change, an overdue reminder that philosophy is not ordinary words, offered by Director Timothy Harris:

“This is a time when enormous possibil­ity for change is colliding directly with the prospect of system collapse. This leaves one with a vertiginous feeling of com­bined hope and dread. As my car made its way down 1-5, I drifted to the theolo­gians who have addressed the times in which we live.

…I thought of Reinhold Niebuhr’s take on Matthew 10:16,” which reads, “Behold, I send you forth as sheep in the midst of wolves: be ye therefore wise as serpents, and harmless as doves.” Niebuhr writes concisely on institutional self-interest as a reflection of the human capacity for evil, and how liberals are often naive on this point. His work was enormously influential during the nation’s last civil rights move­ment, and it needs to be revived.”

In ordinary words, amen.

Our Climate Crisis: Obama & the False Hope Industry
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.

Important Notice for all the millions of job-seekers in our collapsing economy: The fastest growing industry is the American False Hope Industry.

It’s lead by Barack Obama, Jay Inslee, Christine Gregoire, Greg Nickels and politicians of every stripe. It’s followed by hundreds of millions of ordinary folks including, tragically, many college and high school kids.

Here’s Obama from January’s inaugural:

“We will harness the sun and the winds and the soil to fuel our cars and run our factories.”

No mention here of reducing our addictive and terminal dependence on cars. No mention that some of the biggest of those factories to be kept running produce the cars to which we are addicted. No mention that each new car produced-compacts, electrics, gas guzzlers, hybrids-causes 6-12 tons of carbon dioxide emissions before you buy it. That’s during car manufacture responsible for 20-40% of a car’s lifetime carbon debt.

No mention that the “soil” Obama claims as key to “fueling our cars” mean biofuels. Growing our fuels is much worse than burning petrol.

All biofuels, like the State of Washington and the City of Seattle use, do two things:

1. Trigger rainforest destruction through land use change, releasing massive amounts of CO2 and greatly worsening our Climate Crisis.
2. Cause global starvation and hunger, again, through land use change. These biofuels rob land from human food production.

Cellulosic ethanol, a so-called “2nd generation biofuel”, is the now darling of Obama, Energy Secretary Chu and countless neo-liberals who promise a ‘green economy’. But, it’s also much worse for our Earth than fossil fuels and worse, even, than regular biofuels.

In his inaugural, Obama issued a call to further violate our Earth. He defended the right of Americans to keep driving us ever closer to a mass species die-off – including human – that will dwarf the current appalling extinctions.

While we stay cozy in our cars driving in what author James Howard Kunstler calls our Happy Motoring Utopia. Obama sells us the great American False Hope Industry as the solution to soaring unemployment.

Consider these folks from Canada as an antidote to the breath-taking denial and implicit suicidality offered by Obama.

The root cause of climate change is “the large per capita over-consumption of natural resources in the industrialized countries”, according to a gathering of Canadian Nobel scientists, called the Wasan Group.

Instead of “relying on technological fixes… we need to focus on sustainable levels of consumption, which means finding ways to rein in our currently insatiable demand for more and more.”

There is no better way to wean yourself from ‘technological fixes’ than by getting out of your car-now. And staying out.

There is no better way to radically reduce your consumption than by getting out of your car-now. And staying out.

Un-Spinning the Spin: President Obama vs Candidate Obama
Maryrose Asher is a former Chair of the Green Party of Washington State and a tireless activist of many causes.

From the Obama/Biden campaign website:

Secrecy Dominates Government Action: The Bush administration has ignored public disclosure rules and has invoked a legal tool known as the “state secrets” privilege more than any other previous administration to get cases thrown out of civil court.

Candidate Obama promised to reform the abuse of “state secrets,” however President Obama through his Justice Department is reversing his campaign statements. With the Obama administration’s first test in court, the Department of Justice (DOJ) invoked the same “state secrets” privilege of the Bush era, thereby denying victims of torture their day in court.

This should be of extreme concern to all of us. Today, it is foreigners caught up in the “war on terror” but a case coming up in March involves the Bush administration’s use of “enemy combatant” status to apply to U.S. citizens. Will the Obama administration continue along this dangerous path of taking away civil liberties under the cover of “national security”? Legal scholars indicate “enemy combatant” status could apply, for example, to environmentalists or animal rights activists. Anyone protesting against corporations and causing these corporations physical or financial harm could be classified an “enemy combatant,” rendered just as in the case I will describe in this article, with no right to their day in court.

The case Mohamed et al v. Jeppesen was brought on behalf of five men who were caught up in the CIA’s extraordinary rendition program, kidnapped, secretly transferred to US-run prisons or foreign intelligence agencies overseas, and interrogated under torture. Previously, the Bush administration had intervened in the case, asserting the “state secrets” privilege, and the case was dismissed in February 2008. However, on February 9, 2009, the ACLU presented oral arguments on appeal for dismissal in front of the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit. To the dismay of ACLU lawyers, the Obama administration chose not to change the Bush administration’s position and instead reasserted the “state secret” privilege.

In response, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) issued a press release, stating that the Department of Justice “shockingly refused to reverse the indefensible Bush administration stance – despite the fact that much of what the government wants to keep secret has already been widely reported in the news and investigated by foreign governments.”

As to whether this was a “rogue” action on the part of the DOJ, we have an interesting exchange between Judge Schroeder and the government’s lawyer, Douglas N. Letter.

“Is there anything material that has happened” that might have caused the Justice Department to shift its views, asked Judge Mary Schroeder, an appointee of President Jimmy Carter, coyly referring to the recent election.

“No, your honor,” Letter replied.

Judge Schroeder asked, “The change in administration has no bearing?”

Once more, he said, “No, Your Honor.” The position he was taking in court on behalf of the government had been “thoroughly vetted with the appropriate officials within the new administration,” and “these are the authorized positions,” he said.

Anthony D. Romero, Executive Director of the ACLU, representing the plaintiffs, was so angered by this response that he issued the following statement:

Eric Holder’s Justice Department stood up in court today and said that it would continue the Bush policy of invoking state secrets to hide the reprehensible history of torture, rendition and the most grievous human rights violations committed by the American government. This is not change. This is definitely more of the same. Candidate Obama ran on a platform that would reform the abuse of state secrets, but President Obama’s Justice Department has disappointingly reneged on that important civil liberties issue. If this is a harbinger of things to come, it will be a long and arduous road to give us back an American we can be proud of again.

Although this case has received little attention here in the United States, it has been widely publicized in Britain due to one of the plaintiffs being a British resident. Binyam Mohamed, an Ethiopian citizen and British resident, was arrested in Pakistan in 2002. He was then “rendered” by the U.S. to a series of countries and held without access to anyone, not lawyers or the Red Cross. After being interrogated by U.S. agents from the time of his arrest until 2004, he was then sent to Guantanamo where his genitals were sliced and hot, stinging liquid poured into the open wounds, severely beaten, and threatened with rape, electrocution, and death if he did not confess.

In May 2008, the Guantanamo military commission accused Mohamed of various acts of terrorism that carried the death penalty if he was convicted. Although the British government acknowledged it had evidence showing that Mohamed’s confessions came about due to torture, it refused to disclose this exculpatory evidence. However, in August 2008, the British High Court ruled in Mohamed’s behalf stating there was credible evidence in their possession that indeed Mohamed had been tortured and entitled to disclosure of that evidence. Because of this ruling, the U.S. government also released previously withheld documents to Mohamed’s lawyers and, surprisingly, in October 2008, dropped all charges against Mohamed.

But, that’s not the end of the story.

Mohamed remained imprisoned at Guantanamo and, at the request of the British government, the court redacted their summary so the details of Mohamed’s torture would not be made public. The reason—the Bush administration threatened the British government. If Britain revealed the details of Mohamed’s torture to the public, it would not get intelligence information to ward off future terrorist attacks.

Below is the statement by the British High Court:

The United States Government’s position is that, if the redacted paragraphs are made public, then the United States will re-evaluate its intelligence-sharing relationship with the United Kingdom with the real risk that it would reduce the intelligence it provided (para. 62)…[and] there is a real risk, if we restored the redacted paragraphs, the United States Government, by its review of the shared intelligence arrangements, could inflict on the citizens of the United Kingdom a very considerable increase in the dangers they face at time when a serious terrorist threat still pertains (para. 106).

Although the threat came under the Bush administration, this was a threat the Obama administration affirmed when the White House said it “thanked the UK government for its continued commitment to protect sensitive national security information” and added that this would “preserve the long-standing intelligence sharing relationship that enables both countries to protect their citizens.”

Additional criticism of the Obama administration is found in evidence that Mohamed continued to be tortured in the period between President Obama’s announcement that he was closing Guantanamo and Mohamed’s release to the British government on February 22, 2009. Mark Townsend of the London Observer in his article, “Revealed: full horror of Gitmo inmate’s beatings” (Sunday, February 22, 2009), wrote, “Binyam Mohamed will return to Britain suffering from a huge range of injuries after being beaten by U.S. guards right up to the point of his departure from Guantanamo Bay, according to the first detailed accounts of his treatment inside the camp.” Mohamed’s British lawyer, Clive Safford Smith, stated, “What Binyam has been through should have been left behind in the middle ages.”

By these actions and by continuing the Bush administration’s legal tactic of concealing evidence by invoking “state secrets” privilege, we find the Obama administration complicit in the war crimes committed under the Bush administration. Torture is a war crime and against international law as established by the Nuremberg Trials, the war crimes of Yugoslav leaders, and international treaties to which the U.S. and Britain are parties, including the Convention Against Torture.

The Obama administration has two choices: continue to conceal evidence of war crimes and thereby become an accessory to the fact or release the evidence and pursue the war criminals.


Watch a 5-minute video of a Channel 4 News in London broadcast for an excellent report on this subject found below at the second link listed. Also, take action by contacting your government representatives and by supporting the State Secrets Protection Act of 2009 (see “Take Action” below).

Supplementary reading:

1. “Binyam Mohamed, war crimes investigations, and American exceptionalism” by Glenn Greenwald.
2. “The 180-degree reversal of Obama’s State Secrets position” by Glenn Greenwald.
3. Justice Department Stands Behind Bush Secrecy in Extraordinary Rendition Case
4. “Is this the ‘Change We Can Believe in'”
5. “Obama Backs Off a Reversal on Secrets”
6. “Obama Administration Sides With Bush Administration on Key Cases Involving Missing Emails, Right to DNA Evidence, and Executive Privilege” by Jonathan Turley.


The State Secrets Protection Act of 2009 was submitted in both the House and Senate on 2/11/09. The companion bills are S.417 and H.R.984. You can look these up at to see the sponsors and cosponsors. None of the Washington State delegation has yet sponsored these bills.

Sample letter:

On Wednesday, February 11, 2009, the State Secrets Protection Act of 2009 (S.417) was introduced to narrow the scope of the “state secrets” privilege. This essential bill requires a court to make an independent assessment of any government state secrets claim.  And it allows victims of government wrongdoing to seek justice without running into a wall of secrecy.

The Bush administration constantly abused the “state secrets” doctrine, broadly claiming legal cases couldn’t go forward without jeopardizing national security.  Because they used this doctrine to escape accountability for illegal behavior, not a single torture victim has had his or her day in court.

No one is interested in taking away the government’s legitimate right to protect sensitive national security information.  But, as Representative Jerrold Nadler (D-NY), a key sponsor of companion legislation in the House (H.R.984) makes clear, “The right to have one’s day in court is fundamental to protecting basic civil liberties, and it must not be sacrificed to overbroad claims of secrecy.”

As a supporter of civil liberties and the rule of law, I urge you to support this critical bill and become a co-sponsor of the State Secrets Protection Act of 2009.

In addition, please sign Senator Leahy’s online petition — urging Congress to consider establishing a truth and reconciliation commission to investigate the Bush-Cheney Administration’s abuses.

Or, go to

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

March 3, 1863: In the midst of the Civil War, Pres. Abraham Lincoln signed a conscription act that created the first draft lottery of American citizens. The act called for registration of all males between the ages of 20 and 35, and unmarried men up to 45, including aliens with the intention of becoming citizens, by April 1. Exemptions from the draft could be bought for $300 or by finding a substitute draftee, raising the objection, “rich man’s war, but poor man’s fight.” Black Americans were also not eligible because they weren’t considered citizens.

March 4, 1917: Montana elected Republican Jeanette Rankin as the first woman to sit in the U.S. House of Representatives. Rankin voted against American entry into both world wars, and later led marches against the Vietnam war.

March 6, 1884: Susan B. Anthony and more than 100 delegates from the National Woman Suffrage Association met with Pres. Chester Alan Arthur concerning women’s right to vote. Anthony asked him, “Ought not women have full equality and political rights?” He responded, “We should probably differ on the details of that question.”

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: Confessions of a Gasoholic
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.

My name is Trey Smith and I’m a gasoholic! I love getting from one point to another. It gives me a rush to know that I arrived on time for a doctor’s appointment. I live for the smell of exhaust fumes. I get goosebumps just thinking about oil stains on hot asphalt.

Enough of the sarcasm. This past week my wife & I got a newer car (paid for by my father). It’s a 5-speed 2008 Chevy Aveo 5 that gets good gas mileage and has a high EPA rating for lesser emissions. It has very lows miles (only 10,400) and it comes with a warranty.

Because we live in a rural county without adequate public transportation, we had to get a car when our old lemon died. You simply can’t get around a great deal of north Pacific County without one. If you want to visit friends in the east part of the county (East Raymond, Menlo or Lebam), Pacific Transit doesn’t travel one inch up Highway 6. If you want to travel to the north side of our bay to Tokeland or North Cove, the bus runs one day per week! Heck, it’s even difficult to get around South Bend & Raymond because the bus route hardly leaves Highway 101. In short, if a person wants to go almost anywhere in our general vicinity, the bus isn’t very helpful and we also have no taxi service.

This circumstance is absolutely vulgar and insane in this day and age of worsening climate change. While we pour billions and trillions of dollars down the toilet in Iraq & Afghanistan, the hope for a sustainable local infrastructure goes with it.

It is because of this mass insanity that I have to be a gasoholic.

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