Greener Times

Promoting a sustainable society…one day at a time.

GT for March 9 – 15

Posted by Trey Smith on March 8, 2009

Greener Times for the Week of March 9 – 15

Volume 3 No. 47

an e-publication for Greens anywhere and everywhere

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

In This Week’s Issue
* Health Care Lobby Day
* Thoughts By the Way: Back to the Soil
* Our Climate Crisis: Bad for Cars, Good for Us
* Un-Spinning the Spin: Bagram: Obama’s Secret Prison
* This Week in History
* Letters to the Editor — 1
* Pencil Shavings: The Difference of One Year
* News You May Have Missed

Health Care Lobby Day

Health Care for All – Washington will join with the Healthy Washington Coalition on Wednesday, March 11 at 10:00 a.m. in Olympia to lobby our legislators about how important health care is to you.

Register today.

The purpose of Lobby Day is to:

* Meet your lawmakers,
* Receive training on the top health care issues facing our state, and
* Participate in the dramatic creation of a symbolic and colorful health care safety-net.

Lunch is provided, so you must RSVP. Register today.

At the lobby day, we will ask our lawmakers to:

* Save the health care safety-net. We should use health care dollars from the federal economic stimulus to stop proposed cuts to our health care safety-net.
* Cover all Washingtonians by 2012. Pass legislation committing Washington to work with the federal government to achieve the goal of guaranteeing secure, quality, affordable health care for everyone by the year 2012.

The most effective way to influence your representative is to talk to them in person, especially if you want major health care reform.

Supporters with Health Care for All – Washington are asked to meet on the steps of the Pritchard Building [behind the Capitol building] at 9:30 a.m. to pick up T-shirts [donations gladly accepted!] and message cards for our legislators, and then we will proceed as a group to where the rest of the Healthy Washington Coalition is meeting.

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

Now that ordinary words have lost their wolfishness, even are belittled as the cries of a distraught chicken, the search for alternate carriers of thought obsesses this column. However, the problem took care of itself early this morning upon reading Rik Rey’s posting of the Market Ticker.

This is an obituary for society as we know it, putting paid to my medicare, pension, and social security not to mention FDIC accounts. It follows by one week a speech by a local Russian, Dmitri Orlov, which painted toe-nail red the fault lines in America’s social structure.

Read those, and then you needn’t read the rest of this column. Unless you didn’t get the chicken reference and await explanation. At any rate the impact of Ticker and Orlov sent me searching for a hidey-hole in which to sequester my credit union statements. Is it ironic or what that economics is likely to beat out war and climate change in the race to destroy us, that the desperate starving homeless will be the first of the four horsemen to breach our cocoon?

The impact did more than set off that search, it blew me off my moral high ground. Gone was my fascination with climate dynamics, gone was my empathy with the Palestinians, gone was the belief in community I inherited from my father, gone was my budding understanding of financial crime, gone was my share of the national guilt for throwing black men in prison for profit, gone was my vocation of applying Physics to home heating. All this gone in a panic to save our money and protect our home from bandits. Could we get the cash in time? Where to stash it? How about that gate I was going to put up across our driveway five years ago during that vandalism spree? Should we find a place across the Cascades, a shack with water and wood?

I think it was that gate that brought me to my senses. It’s common knowledge on Vashon that neighbor looking out for neighbor is the foundation of our safety. That a collection of gated homes is not a community. That when the ferries quit we will have to get our oars going in unison. I feel better now, if shaken.

Orlov spells out how we will be obliged to live when the big fan in the sky spreads Wall Street’s effluent from coast to coast and Big Bend to the forty ninth. No born-here American has done this. Us born-heres are still writing letters urging this or that criminal to straighten up, still joining issue-based groups, still risking imprisonment to place a monkey wrench where it will do the most good, still believing we can bring down a capitalism of concrete reinforced by total media control. Orlov and Market Ticker say we cannot, because we cannot reach a critical mass of clout, and that’s so because we live in single family residences, have cars, and have property rights. It’s reasonable to sum up the situation this way: The constitution has given control to the rich and a few play-levers to the opposition. This was okay as long as the rich could grow richer and still let us have porridge. But now that the rich have tapped out the best veins of grist they have to work us harder. We do not realize that play-levers as usual may save some wolves and some patches of land but will not inconvenience the rich. Look at your e-mail box and try to tell me that opposition as usual is working. Orlov is correct. When government for the people vaporizes we will be unprepared. No village smithys, no pea patches, no organized village defense, and in the cities, nothing, nothing at all.

The saddest aspect of our refusal to go back to the soil is that it would be fun.

Our Climate Crisis: Bad for Cars, Good for Us
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.

Our capitalist-consumer culture is so toxic to life, including human, that our current economic collapse is good for our Home Planet.

As millions of people lose their jobs, homeless ranks swell, and empty, foreclosed homes blight the countryside, human greenhouse gas emissions are falling fast. Falling GHGs are great news for our rapidly escalating Climate Crisis. So, our economic depression is good for every species except one— us.

A glimpse at our auto industry tells the story well.

In December, 2008, compared to December, 2007, American motorists drove 3.8 billion fewer miles. A main reason is “millions of laid off workers stopped commuting to work.”

If a car averages 30 miles per gallon (higher than actual average mileage ratings), it emits 2/3 of a pound of CO2 per mile.

That doesn’t sound like much. But the math shows those 3.8 billion fewer miles driven mean 1,250,000 tons fewer CO2 emitted. Just in one month from American drivers. If the drop remains, that would mean 15,000,000 tons per year fewer CO2 emissions from America alone. Since the economy has continued to tank further since December, it’s likely this CO2 emissions fall has accelerated.

Remember, CO2 from car tailpipes dominates GHG emissions in the NW.

But it’s not just tailpipe emissions that are dropping in our economic free fall. Car production is way down, too. And we know each new car produced emits 6-12 tons of CO2 during its manufacture. Car manufacturers don’t want us to know this stat. It guts the entire new car industry since it reveals the utter non-sustainability of our cars, even before we buy them.

In 2007, more than 73 million motor vehicles (cars and commercial vehicles) were produced worldwide. In 2007, a total of 71.9 million new automobiles were sold worldwide. 19.4 million of those cars were sold in the U.S. and Canada.

But, industry sources expected 2008 production to fall dramatically as the economic collapse started to bite down hard. The projections for the U.S. and Canada showed a 65% fall to 12.7 million vehicles manufactured.

That’s a reduction of 6.7 million cars manufactured and a big downturn in iron extracted, steel smelted, glass melted and plastic formed from petrol. At an average of 9 tons of CO2 emitted per car manufactured, 2008 likely saw 60,000,000 fewer tons of CO2 emissions from U.S. and Canadian car manufacture than 2007.

Way to go humans! Except the Earth’s gain is our misery.

Perhaps a new definition of ‘prosperity’ might take hold to resolve this lethal conflict of interest. Perhaps prosperity could come to mean a psychically- and physically-grounded life free of cars.

Try it today…and tomorrow…and tomorrow. And don’t buy that new car. Beaters are better.

Un-Spinning the Spin: Bagram: Obama’s Secret Prison
Maryrose Asher is a former Chair of the Green Party of Washington State and a tireless activist of many causes.

As described in last week’s column, in recent cases before the Court, the Obama administration’s Department of Justice (DOJ) has continued the Bush legal tactics of “state secrets” and “enemy combatant status.” These tactics hide the war crimes of torture and “extraordinary rendition” committed by the Bush administration. This week’s topic will be “secret prisons,” specifically Bagram Theater Internment Facility, and the Government’s response to the Court on February 22, 2009, in regard to four detainess held at Bagram. Here again, the Obama DOJ took the same position regarding habeas corpus as the Bush administration, thereby attempting to deny defendants a right to trial.

The Bagram Theater Internment Facility is a detention center set up by the US military after the US invaded Afghanistan in 2001 and has lasted longer and holds more detainees than Guantánamo. Like Guantánamo, it was set up as a legal black hole as part of the US government’s “war on terror.” In addition to those captured in combat, like Guantánamo, Bagram has detainees from other countries where there are no combat operations, terrorists not captured on the battlefield, and captives of the CIA’s illegal “extraordinary rendition” program under the Bush administration.

There are also well documented reports of serious mistreatment of prisoners and torture. The documentary Taxi to the Dark Side which won an Academy Award for “Best Documentary Film” in 2007 is said to be the first film to show images taken within Bagram Air Base and addresses the question of what happens when the executive branch of government undermines the constitutional principles of the United States. In regard to Bagram, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) has stated, “Bagram is even worse than Guantánamo because there is less judicial oversight, process and public scrutiny.” Captives confined at both detention centers say the conditions are far worse in Bagram.

On January 22, 2009, US District Court Judge John D. Bates gave the US government one month to respond “whether it intends to refine its position on whether the Court has jurisdiction over habeas petitions filed by detainees held at the United States military base in Bagram, Afghanistan.” On February 20, 2009, Acting Assistant Obama Attorney General Michael Hertz responded, “Having considered the matter, the Government adheres to its previously articulated position.”

By this response, the Obama administration held to the same position as the Bush administration that prisoners housed at the US military base in Bagram, Afghanistan, should not have the right to take legal action to challenge their detention as detainees as they were enemy combatants captured in a war zone. Needless to say, this action by the Obama DOJ shocked human rights lawyers.

Jonathan Hafez, an attorney with the ACLU, said in response, “They’ve now embraced the Bush policy that you can create prisons outside the law.”

The Government claims:
* Bagram is different from Guantánamo as Bagram is in an overseas war zone and this is part of a military action.
* Releasing enemy combatants into the war zone (Afghanistan) or, even diverting US personnel to the area to handle the legal cases, could threaten security.
* If Bagram detainees got access to the courts, foreigners captured by the US in conflicts around the world could do the same.

Again, we have a difference between Candidate Obama’s campaign promises to restore the constitution and President Obama’s actions. As stated in a CNN report, January 20, 2009, “The president said he was issuing the order to close the facility [Guantánamo] in order to ‘restore the standards of due process and the core constitutional values that have made this country great even in the midst of war, even in dealing with terrorism.'”

Marjorie Cohn, President of the National Lawyers Guild, told Inter Press Service (IPS), “In Boumediene v. Bush, the Supreme Court held that Guantánamo detainees have a right to habeas corpus to challenge their detention but it did not limit that right to Guantánamo. Justice Kennedy said the Court would not look kindly on the executive who imprisons people in other countries to avoid the jurisdiction of U.S. courts.” She added, “The Obama administration is reportedly sending detainees to Bagram instead of Guantánamo. It is alarming that hundreds of people in U.S. custody in Iraq and Afghanistan will evidently be denied access to courts to review their ‘enemy combatant’ designations.”

The statement below from the official blog of the American Civil Liberties Union emphasizes their concern over the Government’s position:

President Obama took the admirable first step of ordering the closure of Guantanamo. And he’s spoken about recommitting this country to justice and rule of law, not only here at home, but abroad as well. This can’t happen if the United States refuses detainees the right to challenge their detention. When the U.S. detains anyone, anywhere, it must ensure that humane treatment and some fair process for challenging detention are provided. When prisoners are in American custody, anywhere, our values and commitment to the rule of law are at stake.

If we’ve learned anything from Gitmo, it’s that U.S.-run detention facilities cannot be beyond the reach of the courts and left only to the political branches. Closing Guantánamo is not enough if we repeat the same mistakes elsewhere.

But, perhaps saying it best is a statement from The International Justice Network, in partnership with Stanford Law School and Yale Law School, as counsel in all four Bagram detainee cases in response to the Obama administration’s decision:

Yesterday’s announcement, that the Obama administration has not even considered departing from the very same unjust and inhumane policies of his predecessor, is an ominous sign that human rights and the rule of law are simply not a priority of this administration. We expected more from this President when he promised that we would not trade our fundamental values for false promises of security. Unless there is a serious reconsideration of this issue at the highest levels of the Obama government, America will not be able to put this dark chapter of our history behind us.

This action by the Obama administration, alarmingly, shows no reversal from the previous administration and, by these recent court responses on the part of the Government, the trend is of concern to human rights lawyers as well. Those who voted for Obama had not expected the same erosion of human rights and departure from the rule of law as the previous Bush administration. This certainly cannot be “The Change” they had wanted.

Background material:
* International Justice NetworkObama Administration Continues to Deny Bagram Prisoners Court Access
* RIGHTS-US: What About Bagram?
* Blog of Rights: Official Blog of the American Civil Liberties Union » No “Other Gitmos”
* The Raw Story | Despite rhetoric, Obama continues Bush policy on detainees: Indefinite detention, no legal rights
* The ACLU of Massachusetts
* Bagram Theater Internment FacilityWikipedia, the free encyclopedia
* CNN Report: Obama Signs Orders to Close Guantánamo Bay Facility

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 9, 1969: CBS canceled “The Smothers Brothers’ Comedy Hour,” a television show which featured edgy political satire and such rock bands as the Beatles, the Who, Jefferson Airplane and the Doors. The brothers had refused to censor a comment made by Joan Baez. She wanted to dedicate a song to her husband, David, who was about to go to jail for objecting to the draft during the Vietnam War.

March 11, 1968: Cesar Chavez ended a 23-day fast for U.S. farm workers in a Delano, California, public park with 4000 supporters at his side, including Senator Robert Kennedy (D-New York). Cesar Chavez led the effort to organize farm workers into a union for better working conditions.

March 13, 1864: The first contingent of 14,030 Navajo reached Fort Sumner, New Mexico. Men, women and children had been forced to march almost 400 miles from northeastern Arizona and northwestern New Mexico to Bosque Redondo, a desolate tract on the Pecos River in eastern New Mexico. Traveling in harsh winter conditions for almost two months, about 200 Navajo died of cold and starvation. More died after they arrived at the barren reservation. The forced march, led by Kit Carson, became known by the Navajos as the “Long Walk.”

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.

Let me start off by saying that I don’t know much about Pacific County, so I did some quick research. I found out that (according to the 2000 census) the population density is 22 people per square mile. In contrast, King County (where I live and am familiar with transit) has a population density of 817 people per square mile. I’m wondering why you blame your need to own a car on the “lack of sustainable local infrastructure,” because I’m not sure that investing in bus routes in a county with 22 people per square mile is in any way sustainable. How many of those buses would run empty trip after trip?

Taxi service? Is that a sustainable option? Someone is driving to your location, taking you where you need to go and then driving away. Three one-way trips instead of one, not to mention the return trip, and who knows how much gas is wasted through idling and driving around in between fares.

What I find “vulgar and insane” is that people feel the need to live in single family homes (as big as they can afford) on as much land as they can afford. Meanwhile viable habitat continues to shrink.

If you truly don’t want to own a car, move to an area with adequate transit to meet your needs.
~ Julie Ann ~

Pencil Shavings: The Difference of One Year
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.

One night in April 2008 I awoke with a piercing pain under my right ribcage. After trying to quell the horrific ache with home remedies, it became obvious I needed to go to the local ER. After running some tests, the diagnosis was a gall stone stuck in my bile duct. I was given a high-powered pain reliever and sent home. A different ache hit me less than one week later — a nearly $4000 bill for my hour or two in the ER!

This past Thursday night, the piercing pain returned again (too much grapefruit!). This necessitated a trip back to the local ER. Again, tests were run, a potent pain reliever was administered and the diagnosis was the same. The cost to my wallet for this trip – $0.

The difference between then and now is that I’m on Medicaid. All I had to do upon arrival was flash my monthly Medicaid coupon. I didn’t have to fill out any forms. I didn’t have to talk to them about payment arrangements.

This is the way it should be for every American resident!!! If we had universal health care, that is. As it stands right now, only a portion of the American populace is served: the poor (me), the elderly, politicians elected to federal office, US service personnel and some children. The rest of you are forced to run the health care gauntlet and hope it doesn’t bankrupt you in the process.

News You May Have Missed

Eco Groups Fear Opportunity Lost
Economic stimulus plans being rolled out across the world could commit countries to rapid growth in greenhouse gas emissions, canceling some of the green initiatives included within them, analysis has found. The packages of tax cuts, credits and extra spending have been trumpeted for their environmental credentials by the governments proposing them, but a closer look shows that green spending account for only a small part of the bigger initiatives. “This is a once in a lifetime opportunity that is being fumbled,” said Ben Stewart, spokesman for Greenpeace, the environmental group…

The Case for Giving Eli Lilly the Corporate Death Penalty
Eli Lilly & Company’s rap sheet as a public menace is so long that for Lilly watchers to overcome the “banality-of-Lilly-sleaziness” phenomenon, the drug company must break some type of record measuring egregiousness. Lilly obliged earlier this year, receiving the largest criminal fine ever imposed on a corporation. If Americans are ever going to revoke the publicly granted charters of reckless, giant corporations — well within our rights — we might want to get the ball rolling with Lilly, whose recent actions appalled even the mainstream media. And with Lilly’s chums, the Bush family, out of power, now might be the right time…

Foreclosures Now Affecting 1 in 8 American Homeowners
Foreclosures are spreading by epidemic proportions, expanding beyond a handful of problem states and now affecting almost 1 in every 8 American homeowners. It’s an economic role-reversal: The economy, driven down by the collapse of the housing bubble, is causing the housing crisis to spread. Figures released Thursday show that nearly 12 percent of all Americans with a mortgage – a record 5.4 million homeowners – were at least one month late or in foreclosure at the end of last year…

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