Greener Times

Promoting a sustainable society…one day at a time.

GT for April 27 – May 3

Posted by Trey Smith on April 26, 2009

Greener Times for the Week of April 27 – May 3

Volume 4 No. 2

an e-publication for Greens anywhere and everywhere

Trey Smith – Publisher/Editor

Tom Herring, Duff Badgley & Maryrose Asher – Columnists

In This Week’s Issue
* Industry Spin on Climate is Still Working on Media
* Rule of Law Vetoed by President Obama
* Thoughts By the Way: Spring Hits the Fan
* Our Climate Crisis: Obama’s Fateful EPA Decision
* Un-Spinning the Spin: No Column This Week
* This Week in History
* Letters to the Editor
* Pencil Shavings: Working Out the Math
* News You May Have Missed

Industry Spin on Climate is Still Working on Media
by Glenn Hurowitz, Grist Magazine

New York Times reporter Andy Revkin has a blockbuster story showing that the Global Climate Coalition, the main industry group that spent much of the 1990s seeking to sow doubt in journalists’ and politicians’ minds about the reality of climate change, knew all along that it was real and dangerous:

The role of greenhouse gases in climate change is not well understood,” the coalition said in a scientific “backgrounder” provided to lawmakers and journalists through the early 1990s, adding that “scientists differ” on the issue.

But a document filed in a federal lawsuit demonstrates that even as the coalition worked to sway opinion, its own scientific and technical experts were advising that the science backing the role of greenhouse gases in global warming could not be refuted.

The scientific basis for the Greenhouse Effect and the potential impact of human emissions of greenhouse gases such as CO2 on climate is well established and cannot be denied,” the experts wrote in an internal report compiled for the coalition in 1995.

The amazing thing about this story is not that industry deceived journalists about the threat of climate change, but that journalists are still buying industry deceptions to this day – just different ones.

Having finally lost the battle about the reality of climate change, these same industries and their backers in Congress have come up with a different deception: that bold action on climate change would somehow negatively affect the economy.

In fact, there’s overwhelming evidence showing that climate change is causing hundreds of billions of dollars in drag on the U.S. and world economies as a result of drought, flood, sea level rise (Hurricane Katrina alone caused more than $100 billion in damage), and greater spending on hot-weather accouterments like air conditioning. NRDC estimates the damage from just four impacts at $2,000 per family every single year. And that number doesn’t even consider, for example, the $167 billion annual health care costs attributable to regular old cancer-and-asthma inducing coal fired power plants.

Nevertheless, many journalists, including even many at The New York Times repeat as received truth industry lobbyists’ latest myth that continuing to spew pollution is somehow good for the economy.

I’m sure the oil and coal industries have a memo somewhere that will come out in 15 years showing that, in fact, their economists knew the environmentalists were right all along: a clean energy economy will in fact boost GDP, create millions of new clean energy jobs, and save consumers money on their electricity bills.

But until that memo comes out, they’re going to continue peddling totally concocted junk economics about dirty energy to reporters – and impede the creation of the clean energy economy.

It’s time for journalists to learn from experience that no matter what your instincts or how slick and knowing the industry flacks seem, they cannot be trusted. They can’t be trusted when they say tobacco is safe, they can’t be trusted when they deny the need for seat belts, they can’t be trusted when they deny the dangers of climate change, and they most certainly can’t be trusted when it comes to the new green economy.

Rule of Law Vetoed by President Obama
By Joel S. Hirschhorn, for The Intelligence Daily

There are no headlines or pontificating pundits, but the real news that has become crystal clear to any but the most delusional and distracted Americans is that President Obama has no commitment to applying the rule of law where it counts. Certainly, not applying it to the large number of rich and powerful people that have violated our Constitution and plunged the nation into economic disaster.

Again and again we hear the flimsy argument from Obama and his top advisers that he wants to look forward and not backward. This is tortured logic when it comes to delivering justice in a nation supposedly cherishing the rule of law.

The fundamental logic of honoring and applying the rule of law fairly to absolutely everyone is that people who have broken the law in the past must be held accountable and placed into the justice system after they have misbehaved. In other words, there is no actionable rule of law other than by looking backward into past misdeeds. So how can rational and intelligent people follow the logic of Obama and still believe that he truly understands and honors the rule of law?

It is not believable when Obama says he will honor the rule of law in the future. Why should we trust his rhetoric when he refuses to enforce the rule of law for past actions by some of the most powerful people in America?

There is warranted and massive public disapproval of government as evidenced in the tea parties held across the nation last week. How can Americans respect government when it is so evident that the president stubbornly refuses to seek justice and punishment for those that have violated the public trust? Obama’s reluctance to seek justice for those that have damaged the nation undermines his credibility as an honest public servant.

All of this has taken on new importance as official documents from the Bush administration totally support the view that the US tortured prisoners in violation of international and domestic laws. President George W. Bush lied to us. And even before the latest events there were surely incredible amounts of evidence that high Bush administration officials savaged our Constitution. The constitutional balance of powers among the three branches of government has become a fiction.

What Americans have every right to see is a large number of former elected and appointed officials in the Bush administration as well as many in the financial sector being arrested, indicted and confronted with criminal trials. Americans want to see aggressive prosecution and punishment. They want and deserve revenge and retribution, considering the astounding pain and suffering the vast majority of Americans now experience.

We have every right to see in the public limelight what the world saw after World War II when Nazi criminals were tried and punished on the world stage.

This is not happening because Obama seems to have more allegiance to the plutocracy that brought him to the presidency than to the public that has seen thousands of Americans killed in the unjust war in Iraq and now see their families, friends and neighbors suffering loss of jobs, retirement nest eggs, financial security, personal health and homes. When any politician does not enforce the rule of law then I worry that he or she may fear having the rule of law applied to them.

We have witnessed crimes against humanity. We want President Obama to show complete commitment to the rule of law so that the many lying, corrupt and criminal Americans from both the public and private sectors that have caused so much harm are punished. That includes Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld and many, many others in the Bush administration, including those that were supposed to regulate the financial sector.

Obama and his underlings seem to say that doing this would be a distraction and a waste of time. Nuts! It is exactly what the nation needs to rebuild confidence in government and the justice system. On the positive side, there are some in Congress showing interest in prosecuting many culprits. But the White House may be exerting pressure behind the scenes to limit their actions.

Applying the rule of law: If not now, then when? Yes, we can and should.

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

Spring 2009 has hit the fan and my friends are chasing the pieces. In Ballard, a friend is waging guerrilla war against a city mistakenly pushing biofuel. In Lake City, a friend makes a weekly assault on public misperception of Palestine. In the Central District, a friend besieges military recruiters and inconveniences herself for the homeless. Somewhere in Seattle, a friend daily gives the needle to criminal pomposity. In Jordan, a friend patches up families broken by US destruction of Iraq. And on Vashon, two friends who are doing more than the rest of us to hold our cold moral feet to the fire of decency have reached exasperation.

Nationally, Easter has fed the fan with a basket of rotten eggs. Hillary is off playing traffic cop at the ancient crossroads of oriental trade with bland indifference to the criminal role of US forces there. Obama is everywhere spreading unction and meanwhile, with his wife as cover, is selling the real US economy to Wall Street and sending US youth to the Pentagon. He keeps this up, he’s gonna segregate himself. Our campuses have been hoisted on a double petard: corporate and military monies have corrupted the curricula while, at the same time, AIPAC has cowed free expression. Mexico has followed the US into the gutter of callous oligarchy. And likely the clearest message on the wall left by impacts from the fan is this phrase: Made in China. That’s clearer, to me anyway, than the G-20 consensus that the dollar’s status as world reserve currency, c’est fini.

Why all this, why do I punish my faithful readers with wring,wring, wring of the hands? It’s so I can deliver this old song, that’s why:

They’re Rioting In Africa
(The Kingston Trio plays John Foster Dulles)

They’re rioting in Africa, they’re starving in Spain.
There’s hurricanes in Florida, and Texas needs rain.
The whole world is festering with unhappy souls.
The French hate the Germans, the Germans hate the Poles.
Italians hate Yugoslavs, South Africans hate the Dutch.
And I don’t like anybody very much!

But we can be tranquil, and thankful, and proud,
For mans’ been endowed with a mushroom-shaped cloud.
And we know for certain that some lovely day
Someone will set the spark off, and we will all be blown away.

They’re rioting in Africa, there’s strife in Iran.
What nature doesn’t do to us, will be done by our fellow man.

Our Climate Crisis: Obama’s Fateful EPA Decision
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.

To EPA or not to EPA, this is the question now before Barack Obama. His decision will decide the fate of countless billions.

Obama is possibly considering using the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) – not the mass-murdering scheme of carbon trading — as the main way we cope with our Climate Crisis.

Until now, Obama’s climate centerpiece has been cap-and-trade, condemning us to our worst possible climate fate. But his EPA has just issued a “finding of endangerment” clearing the way for possible direct government regulation of greenhouse gases (GHGs).

The EPA ruled that the six main GHGs constitute “a threat to current and future generations” and are subject to its regulation under the Clean Air Act of 1970. This older act has been a wonderfully effective program of direct government regulation. It was implemented before the neo-liberals insanely invented market-based carbon trading that mortally threatens every creature on Earth.

Direct EPA regulation of GHGs tantalizes. Could it be Obama is thinking of imposing dramatic top-down GHG reductions across all sectors America? The endangerment finding gives him the legal authority to do exactly that. Although the EPA ruling applied narrowly to tailpipe emissions, all sources of GHG emissions—motor vehicles, factories, power plants, maybe even agriculture—would likely be subject to regulation. This ruling could spark the structural revolution the Climate Crisis demands of us now. Or not.

At the same time the EPA made its ruling, Obama’s White house issued the expected blather about “preferring a market solution” to the climate crisis. Obama’s spokespeople also said they wanted Congress to take the climate lead by passing new laws that would make EPA regulations unnecessary. The dominant climate bill Congress is now considering, Waxman/Markey, is – you guessed it — cap-and-trade.

As America goes, so goes the world. China and India have made it clear they will do nothing effective about reining in GHG emissions unless, and until, the U.S. does so first. Europe will stay mired in its monstrously ineffective European Union Emissions Trading System until the U.S. shows it a non-market-based alternative that works.

So what will it be, Obama? EPA regs that hold out for the world the only real promise of mitigating and adapting to our rapidly worsening Climate Crisis. Or, more of the lethal, planet-murdering madness of carbon trading.

Un-Spinning the Spin: No Column This Week
Maryrose Asher is a former Chair of the Green Party of Washington State and a tireless activist of many causes.

Maryrose spent the past week north of the border. Will her visit impact next week’s column? Stay tuned.

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.

April 28, 1987: Benjamin Linder, a volunteer engineer from Seattle, was murdered by the U.S.-sponsored contras (characterized by then Pres. Reagan as “the moral equivalent of our founding fathers”) while working on a hydroelectric project in rural Nicaragua.

April 29, 1992: Deadly rioting erupted in Los Angeles that claimed 54 lives, caused hundreds of injuries, cost $1 billion in damage, and resulted in 12,000 arrests. An all-white jury in Simi Valley had acquitted four Los Angeles police officers of almost all state charges in the videotaped beating of Rodney King that had been seen around the world. 17 officers who had watched the beating and had not intervened were never charged. The National Guard was called out to help restore civil order.

May 3, 1963: In Birmingham, Alabama, Public Safety Commissioner and recently failed mayoral candidate Theophilus Eugene “Bull” Connor used fire hoses and police dogs on children near the 16th Street Baptist Church to keep them from marching out of the “Negro section” of town. With no room left to jail them (after arresting nearly 1000 the day before), Connor brought firefighters out and ordered them to turn hoses on the children. Most ran away, but one group refused to budge. The firefighters turned more hoses on them, powerful enough to break bones. The force of the water rolled the protesters down the street. In addition, Connor had mobilized K-9 (police dog) forces who attacked protesters trying to re-enter the church. Pictures of the confrontation between the children and the police were televised across the nation.

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: Working Out the Math
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.

The Washington Legislature will soon put the finishing touches on legislation that will pare about $4 billion from the state budget — another $4 billion in savings will come through other measures. With a deficit this large, almost every program in the state will be affected. It doesn’t matter what side of the aisle you hail from, some near and dear programs and services will feel the budget’s wrath.

I don’t know about you, but once we get beyond talking about hundreds of thousands or even millions of dollars, my eyes begin to glaze over. What exactly does a billion of anything look like? A billion is so large and expansive that it’s really difficult for me to wrap my head around it.

So, I started doing some simple calculations to bring this gaudy number down to size. For example, if the legislature decided that you alone were responsible for the deficit and you were expected to pay the money back, how long would it take? If you earn $40,000 per year, it would only take a measly 100,000 years to pay every penny back! (Conversely, if you bring home $400,000, you could pare that number back to an easy 10,000 years!)

OK, I can already here your complaint, “Trey, I really hadn’t planned on working past 70.” Hey, don’t worry, we’ve got you covered. If your future progeny earn about the same as you and they work for 50 years each, you can have the bill paid off in ONLY 2000 generations.

Of course, all this is factored on you being able to find and keep a $40K per year job and every penny you earn going to the state coffers. If you earn less or lose a job or spend any of your salary on silly things like food, shelter, education, transportation or going to the movie theater once every decade (don’t buy any popcorn), your indentured enslavement will increase accordingly!

If, on the other hand, your name happens to be Bill Gates or Paul Allen, you could probably pay the whole thing off by cracking open a piggy bank. 🙂

News You May Have Missed

Greenwashing Rampant in Consumer Marketing
A new report released last week by consulting firm TerraChoice Environmental Marketing found that just 2% of the self-proclaimed “green” products on shelves in big box stores across North America live up to their sustainable claims. The firm accuses the manufacturers of the other 98% of so-called “green” consumer items tested to be guilty of “greenwashing,” that is, misleading consumers about the environmental benefits of their products and/or practices…

Firms Infused With Rescue Cash Find Money to Fund Lobbying
Top recipients of federal bailout money spent more than $10 million on political lobbying in the first three months of this year, including aggressive efforts aimed at blocking executive pay limits and tougher financial regulations, according to newly filed disclosure records. The biggest spenders among major firms in the group included General Motors, which spent nearly $1 million a month on lobbying, and Citigroup and J.P. Morgan Chase, which together spent more than $2.5 million in their efforts to sway lawmakers and Obama administration officials on a wide range of financial issues. In all, major bailout recipients have spent more than $22 million on lobbying in the six months since the government began doling out rescue funds, Senate disclosure records show…

Killing Civilians: Questions to Ask in the Dead of Night
Almost like clockwork, the reports float up to us from thousands of miles away, as if from another universe. Every couple of days they seem to arrive from Afghan villages that few Americans will ever see without weapon in hand. Every few days, they appear from a world almost beyond our imagining, and always they concern death — so many lives snuffed out so regularly for more than seven years now. Unfortunately, those news stories are so unimportant in our world that they seldom make it onto, no less off of, the inside pages of our papers. They’re so repetitive that, once you’ve started reading them, you could write them in your sleep from thousands of miles away. Like obituaries, they follow a simple pattern…

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