Greener Times

Promoting a sustainable society…one day at a time.

October 12 – 18

Posted by Trey Smith on October 11, 2009

Greener Times for the Week of October 12 – 18
Volume 4 No. 26
an e-publication for Greens anywhere and everywhere

Greener Times Collective: Maryrose Asher, Duff Badgley, Tom Herring and Trey Smith (Editor)

In This Week’s Issue
* Tinkering with the Machinery of Life
* 5 Crazy Right-Wing Freak-Outs in Just One Glorious Week
* Thoughts By the Way: Evolution
* Our Climate Crisis: Reject Cantwell’s CLEAR Climate Bill
* Un-Spinning the Spin: Obama Receives Nobel Peace Prize
* This Week in History
* Pencil Shavings: The “Naked” Truth
* News You May Have Missed

Tinkering with the Machinery of Life
by Jim DiPeso in The Daily Green

Time to give climate change a short break and focus a bit on other ways that our civilization is imprudently tinkering with the machinery of life.

Last week, scientists spoke at the Northwest Children’s Environmental Health Forum to share the latest research on the health consequences of chemical exposures.

New information paints a picture that is both more complex and more troubling than we had understood before. Toxic exposures – heavy metals, synthetic chemicals, and combustion byproducts, for example – don’t affect the body in isolation. They work in combination with genetic, diet, and social factors at the cellular level, and those combinations might push the body down any one of many paths that could lead to disease.

Environmental exposures are “entangled in a complex causal web,” said Dr. Ted Schettler, science director of the Science and Environmental Health Network.

For example, researchers have found that asthmatic children living below the poverty line tend to be more susceptible to asthma attacks during ozone smog episodes than children living in households above the poverty line. What’s the explanation? Poor diet? Lack of health care?

Schettler said that stress appears to be a factor. Poverty raises household stress. Take two kids who have asthma and live in a smoggy city. The kid under stress will be more susceptible to an asthma attack than the kid who’s not stressed.

Ozone smog is a public health threat that comes around every summer in many of the nation’s cities. Lead, however, is a public health success story. Thanks to the removal of lead from gasoline, lead exposure has fallen dramatically.

That doesn’t mean, however, that we can stop paying attention to the dangers of lead exposure. Recent research suggests that low levels of lead exposure are associated with incidence of attention deficit-hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) in kids. Dr. Bruce Lanphear, who studies children’s diseases and disabilities at British Columbia’s Simon Fraser University, co-authored a 2006 report finding an association between low blood levels – less than 5 micrograms per deciliter – and ADHD.

Lanphear said the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s “action levels” for blood lead levels are too low. In view of the risks, he said the CDC’s action level for blood lead should be reduced from 10 micrograms per deciliter to below 1.

Perhaps the most far-reaching research was the “ghost in the genes” presentation of Dr. Michael Skinner, who studies molecular biology at Washington State University. His work has found provocative evidence that exposure to endocrine disruptors leaves a marker in gene activity that is passed on to future generations, leading to onset of disease in descendants.

In an interview with ScienceWatch.com, Skinner said: “In essence, what your grandmother was exposed to when she was pregnant may cause disease in you and your grandchildren.”

The sins of the father – and of the mother – indeed.

5 Crazy Right-Wing Freak-Outs in Just One Glorious Week
by Brad Reed in AlterNet

For reasons that I don’t understand — perhaps it’s subconscious karmic payback for murdering children in a past life — I feel compelled to read a lot of right-wing blogs.

The wonderful thing about them is the window they offer into the pulsing id of the conservative movement — up close and personal and without the filters of focus groups or dog whistles. For instance, do you think that Glenn Beck is insane? Oh puh-lease. Beck has precisely nothing on your typical Red State diarist or NewsMax columnist, each of whom is likely to support abolishing women’s suffrage or launching a military coup against Obama at any given time.

To give you an idea of the level of madness we’re looking at here, I’ve decided to share with you the five stupidest, craziest and most inflammatory things that right-wingers said over the span of a single week. When you read these things, keep in mind that these are the sorts of people Republican officials have to interact with on a regular basis. Indeed, the following five crazed tirades are almost enough to make you feel a little sorry for those staffers. Most of them came to Washington to act as soulless money funnels for corporate interests. Instead, they end up spending much of their time taking angry calls from some screamer who wants to privatize his local police force.

Number 5: John Derbyshire takes a bold stand against women’s suffrage
Last week, John Derbyshire, the National Review’s resident British crank, outlined a bold strategy to help Republicans return to power: by denying women the right to vote. The Derb explained that the trouble with women is that “they want someone to nurture, they want someone to help raise their kids, and if men aren’t inclined to do it… then they’d like the state to do it for them.” In other words, uterus-afflicted individuals should be barred from voting because they’re more likely to vote for people who disagree with John Derbyshire. Democracy in action!

Derb tried to show that he wasn’t completely out to lunch, however, by acknowledging that it’s highly unlikely that women will ever give up their right to vote. Of course, if women ever did find their right to vote repealed someday, Derb also said that he “wouldn’t lose a minute’s sleep” over it.

What is refreshing about Derbyshire is that he doesn’t try to hide his bigotry or to disguise it with code words – he just has it right out there. Derbyshire has been known to openly game-plan future race wars, to declare that blacks and Latinos are too stupid to educate and to write entire columns declaring his hatred for Chelsea Clinton back when she was just 20 years old. So in this respect, it’s not shocking that Derbyshire opposes women’s suffrage. What’s shocking is that it took him this long to say it.

Number 4: Erick Erickson threatens to dissolve his own town’s police department
Erick Erickson, the founder and managing editor of RedState.com, has a second gig as a city councilor in his hometown of Macon, Georgia. And apparently, the police force in that town is upset by low pay and long hours and they want to form a union. Erickson’s response? He threatens to simply abolish the entire department!

Writing at the PeachPundit blog, Erickson said that he actually asked the city attorney about the possibility of dissolving the police department. The attorney replied that police unions in the state of Georgia cannot strike or collectively bargain, meaning that any union the police formed would be essentially worthless. This didn’t deter Erickson entirely, however, as he said he’d still rather “contract out to the sheriff’s office than see a union come in” because unions “breed inefficiency, corruption, and taint.”

Regardless of how this ultimately turns out, you have to seriously question the intelligence of a man who talks openly of canning his entire police department. It’s almost as if he’s begging to be pulled over and subjected to multiple anal cavity searches.

Number 3: John L. Perry urges a military coup against Obama
I knew that right-wingers would at some point start harboring fantasies of launching a military coup against Barack Obama, but even I confess that I didn’t expect them to come less than 10 months into his presidency.

But NewsMax columnist John L. Perry decided that the threat of Obamunism was too dire to ignore much longer and felt forced to go Full Metal Wingnut in his column this week. The piece was hilariously titled “Obama Risks a Domestic Military Intervention,” thus suggesting that if the military decided to launch a coup against the president it would be entirely his own fault. The best part about having a coup, says Perry, is that it would be practically guaranteed to be non-violent, since “America isn’t the Third World” and “if a military coup does occur here it will be civilized.”

I’m not sure how this would play out in real life. I’m picturing military troopers storming the White House dressed in rainbow-colored uniforms and armed with guns that fire only flowers and puffy white clouds.

“Please come out to play with us!” the commandos would yell at Obama.

At any rate, this column was so nutty that apparently even NewsMax decided to yank it.

Number 2: Dan Riehl suggests that dead census worker could have been a “child predator”
While there is still much we don’t know about the death of census worker Bill Sparkman – who was found hanging from a tree with the word “Fed” written across his chest – it’s probably safe to assume that it wasn’t a suicide. Blogger Dan Riehl, however, took a bold new tack in the investigation this week when he used flimsy circumstantial evid… hell, it doesn’t even qualify as that. Long story short, Riehl speculated that Sparkman may have been a “child predator.”

Why? Because according to Riehl, “Sparkman’s bio and work history suggests at the least he was not just your average guy. No teaching degree, no full-time means of employment and no wife or kids so far as I am aware. But he certainly did gravitate towards children. I can’t help but wonder if this wasn’t a revenge killing disguised to look like something else. If he did have issues in this regard and messed with the wrong kid, it isn’t as if something like that can be ruled out until we know more.”

There are times when reading conservative blogs makes me feel outright dirty. This is one of those times.

Number 1: Conservatives everywhere declare that it’s their patriotic duty to stop America from hosting the Olympics
Conservatives are well-known for not only wearing their American flags on their hearts, but on their nipples and groins as well. But all that changed last week when Barack Obama began lobbying the International Olympic Committee to let his hometown of Chicago host the summer Olympics in 2016.

Immediately after Obama started his push, conservatives began attacking Chicago as a crime-infested hellhole unfit to hold prestigious international events. Fox News contributor Kimberly Guilfoyle, for instance, said Chicago had problems of “lawlessness, violence on the street, innocent bystanders being killed, children beaten and unable to go to schools.” The ever-classy Sean Hannity, meanwhile, decided to help Chicago’s Olympic bid by highlighting the story of a 14-year-old boy who was chased down and beaten with a pipe. And Michelle Malkin decided to do her part to help Obama by highlighting his “Chicago cronies Olympics bid.”

When Obama’s push failed, of course, conservatives across the nation leaped up in joy, apparently ecstatic that they had smeared the reputation of a great American city. (Ironically, winning city Rio de Janeiro has a murder rate more than three times as high as Chicago’s.)

It used to be that I felt I understood what conservatives wanted: strong defense, low taxes and no illegal immigrants. But now with their vociferous opposition to hosting the Olympics in their own country, I admit that I literally do not understand what the hell motivates them anymore.

Thoughts By the Way: Evolution
Tom Herring is a former Vashon Island Community Council member, but now chooses to sort nails in his shop. Catch more of Tom’s thoughts on his blog.

The degree to which this column has become an organ of frustration is of some concern although not for column ego which continues full bore. The concern is for lack of new insight into this country’s plight. Yes it’s the result of 9/11 hysteria, yes it’s the result of media complicity, yes it’s the result of corporate takeover of Congress, but, but, it’s been ten years since suppurating evil hit the fan, ten years without substantive restoration of democracy. This may push the column towards bizarre explanations involving carbon dioxide, poisonous plastic toys, the Bible, and so forth, but a better direction is sociology. Those of us who most suffer have no clout while those of us who know what’s wrong and have the clout are not suffering. Indeed, whereas the poor have only the option of revolt, we, the shrinking middle class could turn things around in a few months using the marketplace of goods. Our editor was on the mark last week in adjuring us to look in the mirror. I’d like now to investigate what’s keeping us from doing that.

A logic was furnished this week by the PBS dramatization of Darwin’s agony as church, convention, and family tragedy held back fulfillment of his vision. Today in our superior knowledge we easily put down his peers, but in doing so we are shallow put-downers. We fail to appreciate the stark fear of discovering a flaw in our, their, very foundation of consciousness. Two images come to mind. In one I am swimming in a deep lake and do not want my feet to go down too far. In the other I am Conrad’s protagonist third mate in the novel Lord Jim when the rust bucket freighter hits a deadhead in the Indian Ocean and a compartment fills. There is no shock, just a sensation that something had happened. Darwin’s peers were not stupid, they were frightened. Are we?

I did not enjoy the dramatization because for one thing Darwin seemed to overact. To be fair, the reason was the high-frequency bias of my hearing aid which made the poor man’s every sigh sound like his last gasp. But the show did get me thinking about evolution, and as I just tried to explain, its shock. Could it be that evolution’s other shoe was about to drop? Like, was this matter of a god entering into the process of creation going to have another day in court? This sort of ponder clicked on lawyer Kenneth Starr’s berating the president for his insistence that he did not make it into Monica Lewinsky. So confusing. A Roosevelt would have shredded Starr into kindling. Sexual differentiation was supposed to have been the jump start of natural selection, yet in dressgate we cannot distinguish between impropriety and impotence. I wonder if god screwed up sexual differentiation. He rigged the machinery to give the male control over the sex of the zygote, but also paid ghost writers of the Bible to put the blame on women as needed. Is this matter being sorted out? Maybe the answer will arise from a feminine contest between the likes of the Feinstein, Palin, and Albright and the likes of Sheehan, McKinney and Clemente. Forget Clinton. She, or he, is or are running for the Neo-Socialist ticket in 2012.

Okay, okay, that look at evolution went nowhere. Here’s another. Put the present situation in the context of the great enlightenments of human history, viz:

Recognition that the earth is not flat but a sphere.
Recognition that the earth revolves around the sun.
Recognition that animal species were evolved. not given.
Recognition that we are physiologically identical to mammals.

Think of these as slaps on the forehead, as “OhBoys”. Could there be a fifth OhBoy? Here’s a definition:

An OhBoy is one of the three pillars of learning. The three: language, natural law, and OhBoy. Here’s one from elementary algebra. Start with this language: when a number, say 5, is multiplied by itself repeatedly, say three times, the result, which is 125, can be magically written as 5 with a superscript of 3. The “magic” form spoken would be five to the power three. That’s language. Now, take any number and raise it to a power of say 9. Then raise the same number to power 7 and divide the latter into the former: you write on top of the line a row of nine “factors”, each being the any-number, and under the line a similar row of seven factors. Some more language got introduced there. Doing the division, the seven factors below cancel seven of the ones on top to give the quotient equal to our “base” number raised to power 2. So far, language and arithmetic have combined to teach this: given a pair of superscripted numbers having the same base you can divide one by the other just by subtracting the superscripts, ie, the “powers”. Nine less seven is two. Now comes the OhBoy. Again take two superscripted numbers having the same base but this time make the superscripts equal. Do the divison. Now you learn that any number raised to the zero power is equal to one. And that, menwomen in the ninth grade, is an OhBoy.

Back to the question, will there be a fifth OhBoy? Not by us apparently. Ten years of clinging to the good life have proven that nothing will make this US middle class park its plastic and meet our brothers and sisters of color and caste “in the streets”. No, we are afraid that if we do sabotage the Federal Reserve’s economic suction pump, then when we put our plastic card into the little box on the wall no money will come out. We are as mired in fear as was Darwin’s opposition. But Darwin was on to something, a great natural law, that soon would bring down the opposition, mostly. Can we picture the present global situation as the sequel to 1850? A sequel in which we experience termination of the ancient process discovered by Darwin? Can we meaningfully place our century of destruction in the same frame as the millions of years it took for creation? Can we, not Obama, reach down deep into that dread cold water below our toes and find truth? Or have we forgotten what a slap on the forehead feels like?

Our Climate Crisis: Reject Cantwell’s CLEAR Climate Bill
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.

Dear Senator Cantwell,

I salute your hard work and creativity on your draft climate bill, CLEAR. I love its brevity!

But, while CLEAR contains marked improvements over Waxman/Markey and Boxer/Kerry, it shares with them a fatal flaw: its embrace of 450ppm of atmospheric CO2 as a target to achieve stable climate conditions.

450ppm assures climate ‘cataclysm’ per the science of Dr. James Hansen and many other peer-reviewed and published scientists. Regardless of the merits or demerits of other provisions in CLEAR, if global atmospheric CO2 reaches 450ppm, a grisly scenario of mass deaths and catastrophic extinctions will be triggered.

So, I must reject your CLEAR bill as drafted.

I also have grave concerns about the modified carbon trading scheme outlined in CLEAR. Introducing market forces to set the price of carbon invites speculation and corruption. The restrictions you propose for carbon trading under CLEAR acknowledge these dangers. Why have carbon trading at all?

I would like to enter into dialog with you about how some very good points in CLEAR — especially, ‘upstream’ carbon pricing — might be incorporated into a bill that embraces a global atmospheric CO2 target supported by our best science.

I look forward to continuing discussions with you and your staff.

Un-Spinning the Spin: Obama Receives Nobel Peace Prize
Maryrose Asher is a former Chair of the Green Party of Washington State and a tireless activist of many causes.

I was working on another column for this week’s Greener Times, when news broke of President Obama being awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. It made me want to throw up my hands and say, “I quit.” Why am I even taking the time to write weekly columns or post articles to email lists or any of my other actions to “fight the system?”

We are definitely living in the Bizarro World of “Htrae” (“Earth” spelled backwards) and under the Bizarro Code where everything is opposite. Corrupt politicians make everything perfect on Bizarro World and, obviously, peace awards are given to those who make war.

Being in a total “blue funk,” I would just like to use my column space to reprint a Green Party of the United States press release http://www.gp.org. Below is their list of what the Nobel Committee should have taken into consideration before awarding Obama the Nobel Peace Prize.

* President Obama has expanded the war in Afghanistan, with air attacks now inside Pakistan’s borders. He will send 21,000 more US troops to Afghanistan, raising the number to 68,000 by November. Tens of thousands of civilians have been killed and maimed in the Afghanistan War, with the UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) counting 1,500 civilian deaths from January to August in 2009. Mr. Obama’s preemptive deployment of drones since his inauguration has resulted in at least 700 civilian deaths. (UNAMA admits that Afghan civilian casualty figures are significantly underreported.)

* He has maintained an occupation force of 124,000 US troops in Iraq (to be reduced to 120,000 later in October). While pledging to withdraw troops in 2010, he intends to leave up to 50,000 military personnel to protect western interests — which means US and UK control over Iraqi oil resources. Hundreds of thousands of Iraqi civilians have been killed because of the US invasion and occupation, with millions more injured and displaced.

* He has maintained most Bush policies on the Middle East, with little criticism of Israel’s brutal record of human rights abuses against Palestinians, no accountability for Israel’s invasion of Gaza, and continued arms shipments to Israel.

* He has allowed an increase in the export of weapons, with the US now supplying 2/3 of arms around the world. He has refused to sign the treaty to ban cluster bombs, which mainly kill and maim civilians.

* He has pressed for more military funding, which is now at the highest level in US history. The day before the Peace Prize was announced, the US House complied with the Pentagon’s budget request and passed a 680-billion-dollar defense authorization bill. Mr. Obama has also increased the use of private mercenary forces, which are unaccountable to laws that curtail abuses in the US armed forces.

* He has threatened sanctions against Iran over the latter’s nuclear plants, recently accusing Iran of secrecy on its Qom facility despite Iran’s voluntary report to the IAEA on the site. While repeating unproven claims that Iran is seeking nuclear weapons, President Obama is cooperating with Israel’s attempts to keep its own nuclear arms a secret. (See also Juan Cole on US disinformation about Iran.) Sanctions and other actions against Iran, including a possible Israeli air strike with US permission, risk a greater regional or global conflict.

* He has failed to join other world and Latin American leaders in condemning the military coup in Honduras. Instead, the Obama administration has negotiated with the coup leaders before and after the coup, siding with wealthy interests seeking to block the democratically elected government’s efforts to improve the living standards of the country’s workers. By refusing to call it a coup, Mr. Obama has blocked automatic sanctions that would legally be triggered against the coup leaders and would help restore Honduras’ constitutional government.

* In his efforts to curb global warming, President Obama’s concessions to corporate polluters (cap and trade schemes, unregulated markets, etc.) are placing future generations at risk of war over resources. (See Green Party press releases: here and here.)

* Despite the new ban on torture, the Obama Administration has maintained most Bush policies on the suppression of US war crimes evidence, denial of habeas corpus rights to victims of extraordinary rendition and torture, warrantless surveillance of US citizens, attempts to chisel away protections for whistleblowers and investigative journalists, and other violations of US constitutional and international law.

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.

October 12, 1945: Pfc. Desmond Doss became the first conscientious objector ever to be awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor. Doss, a Seventh Day Adventist, enlisted in 1942 but refused to carry a rifle or train on Saturdays. On the island of Okinawa, under heavy Japanese fire, he saved the lives of 75 sick and wounded soldiers by lowering them, one by one, down a 400-foot cliff. The guest house at Walter Reed Army Medical Center is Doss Memorial Hall in his honor.

October 15, 1966: The “Endangered Species Preservation Act” became law. It allowed the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to identify plant and animal varieties threatened with extinction, and to acquire land to preserve their habitats.

October 16, 1973: U.S. Secretary of State Henry Kissinger, though accused of war crimes by some for the massive bombing of Laos and Cambodia, was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize jointly with North Vietnam’s Le Duc Tho (who refused the honor) for the cease-fire agreement they had negotiated. This occurred just a month after the bloody military coup, fully supported by the Nixon administration and aided by the CIA, that overturned the democratically elected government of Chile, and installed Gen. Augusto Pinochet as military dictator for the next 17 years.

Pencil Shavings: The “Naked” Truth
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.

I put a lot of thought into the headings I use for the posts on my personal blog. Long ago — when I was earning my BA in Journalism — we were taught that the headline should be an attention grabber. I took this lesson to heart and I often spend as much time on developing the title as I do on the post itself.

I recently wrote a post about the Religious Right and sex on TV and in films. (If you’re interested, you can read it here.) I decided to employ a tongue-in-cheek title, “Bare Naked Breasts”. Since my blog is NOT widely popular — I only average about 100 visitors per day plus another 300 feed subscribers — I didn’t think said title was any big deal. More than anything else, I figured my regular readers would get a good laugh out of it.

Boy was I ever wrong! Traffic to my my blog has increased exponentially because of that one little post!! While I can’t know for sure who all these folks are who have come calling recently, I have a fairly good idea. My guess is that most of them are male, horny and Republican! I’m also betting that a lot of ’em are the same people who consider themselves a teabagger and are none too happy that a white MAN is not sitting in the White House.

I base these guesses on the fact that, during the nearly 5 years I’ve been blogging, progressive-minded folks tend to leave lots of comments and conservatives tend not to. When they infrequently do, they represent little more than misspelled, fundamentalist-inspired rants.

My site tracking software informs me that a good number of such folks come to my blog after searching for the terms “breasts”, “naked breasts”, “bare breasts” and “bare naked breasts”. In fact, I’m embarrassed to report that, if you type the latter search criteria into Google, my blog comes up number one!!

I’m not naive. I realize that a lot of people — predominantly male — use the internet for nothing more than a way to feed their needs for pornography 24/7. However, I am a bit shocked at the number of people who need a daily infusion of photos of women’s mammary glands. I’m even feeling a tad bit guilty for my subterfuge. All these sex-crazed people want is a few titty pictures and, unwittingly, they wind up on a blog that discusses philosophical Taoism. Talk about a letdown!

News You May Have Missed

Climate Talks Stall on Developed Countries’ Weak Commitments
The total of commitments made by developed countries to reduce greenhouse gas emissions falls short of stabilizing global temperatures at a level that will avert dangerous climate change, finds a new analysis by the nonprofit World Resources Institute. The working paper was released Tuesday as United Nations negotiations in Bangkok inch towards a new global climate deal that is supposed to pick up when the Kyoto Protocol’s first commitment period expires at the end of 2012. In Copenhagen in December, governments are expected to write an effective and ambitious agreement to stabilize greenhouse gas emissions and begin the reduction process…

The Chamber’s Inconvenient Truth
Faced with a wave of bad publicity over his organization’s obstructionist role in the climate debate, US Chamber of Commerce president Tom Donohue is fighting back. “We don’t have regrets about our position, and we’re not going to change it,” he told reporters yesterday. The National Journal also published a letter from Donohue in which he told Chamber members that he wasn’t opposed to tackling climate change and urged them to stand united for a business-friendly solution. But many of the claims he and other Chamber officials are making are contradicted by interviews with Chamber board members and its own lobbying record…

Four Degrees of Devastation
The prospect of a four-degree Celsius rise in global average temperatures in 50 years is alarming – but not alarmist, climate scientists now believe. Eighteen months ago, no one dared imagine humanity pushing the climate beyond an additional two degrees C of heating, but rising carbon emissions and inability to agree on cuts has meant science must now consider the previously unthinkable…

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