Greener Times

Promoting a sustainable society…one day at a time.

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…

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