Greener Times

Promoting a sustainable society…one day at a time.

October 26 – November 1

Posted by Trey Smith on October 25, 2009

Greener Times for the Week of October 26 – November 1
Volume 4 No. 28
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
* Fewer Americans Believe in Global Warming, New Poll Finds
* Youth Unemployment Surges: Economic Crisis Leads to Record Military Recruitment
* Thoughts By the Way: Acupuncture
* Our Climate Crisis: Homeland Security Calls Me
* Un-Spinning the Spin: Americans Are Homophobic, Xenophobic, And Euphoriaphobic
* This Week in History
* Pencil Shavings: Happy Birthday to Me
* News You May Have Missed

Fewer Americans Believe in Global Warming, New Poll Finds
from e360

Fewer Americans say they see evidence of a warming world than a year ago, and a declining percentage say they view global warming as a “very serious problem,” according to a new survey published by the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press (http://people-press.org/report/556/global-warming). The poll of 1,500 people, conducted from Sept. 30 to Oct. 4, found that only 57 percent think there is solid evidence that temperatures on Earth have increased in recent decades, compared with 71 percent in April, 2008. While 47 percent said last year that they believed temperature change is the result of human activities, only 36 percent said so this year. Yet despite the rising skepticism, 50 percent of the respondents support government limits on carbon emissions; 39 percent oppose such limits. Only 14 percent, however, say they know much about the proposed cap-and-trade mechanism that is favored by President Obama and is key to the climate legislation being debated in the Senate. While the rising skepticism is reflected across political party lines, it is most acute among independent voters. Only 53 percent of independent voters said they see solid evidence of global warming; about 75 percent said they saw that evidence last year.

Youth Unemployment Surges: Economic Crisis Leads to Record Military Recruitment
from The Intelligence Daily

The recruitment number reached is 103 percent above all goals for this fiscal year. The National Guard and reserve forces recruited at a level 104 percent above their targets.

The Pentagon has correctly cited the current economic crisis, the worst since the Great Depression, as the motivating factor for the latest wave of recruits. The official unemployment rate stood at 9.8 percent in September. The real unemployment rate, according to the AFL-CIO, is around 17 percent.

Unemployment for youth between the ages of 16 and 19 is 25.8 percent. Unemployment for youth between the ages of 20 and 24 is 15.1 percent. For African Americans, it is 40.7 and 27.1, respectively.

The recent rise in workers entering the military highlights the nature of military recruitment: It is a vulture-like economic draft that thrives off capitalist unemployment, underemployment and lack of educational opportunities, especially amongst the poorest youth. There is no other way to explain the entirely unprecedented enlistment numbers in a time when signing up for the imperialist war machine means going off to fight and die in unpopular colonial-style wars.

The military bribes and lies to unemployed and poor youth with promises of bonuses, health care, housing and financial aid for school — average signing bonuses were $14,000 in 2009, which is a $2,000 increase from 2008.

Recent tactics in recruiting have been to simply flood the streets and schools with military recruiters who target youth from poor and oppressed communities and to swell the budget for youth-oriented advertising campaigns.

Now that opportunities are disappearing and joblessness and evictions are soaring, the number of recruits with high school diplomas increased from 83 percent to 95 percent.

In reality, only 35 percent of veterans receive money for college, and only 15 percent ever graduate. The majority of those who do receive financial aid get little more in educational stipends than they would receive from Pell Grants, federal grants given to low-income students.

More than 18 percent of veterans from the current wars who look for work upon returning find themselves unemployed, and more and more find themselves homeless.

An outrageous sum, $5 billion, was spent on military recruiting in 2009. Trillions of dollars have been spent on wars for the billionaires and their oil companies, while money for education and health care are being mercilessly slashed all across the country. There is more than enough money: All working people should fight to bring home the troops and give every young worker a quality education and a job.

Thoughts By the Way: Acupuncture
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.

Thoughts have fallen by the wayside this week as the column’s ego got damaged plus the news is so bad it makes little difference which way to aim this limp quill. I think I’ll end up dumping Robert Reich. First, here’s the damage.

It was set off by a woman’s organization suggesting that the US should keep troops in Afghanistan to protect Afghan women from the Taliban. Aside from the abysmal ignorance displayed regarding Afghanistan the suggestion blithely ignored the one in four US women raped by their fellow soldiers. So I posted this comment:

“Afghan women will be relieved to learn that the US troops will indeed rape only American women.”

When I had finished congratulating myself on the wit, I realized the insult to the vast majority of our troops and posted an apology. Mea culpa aside, what a mess.

This past month you’ll have noticed an increasingly desperate tone by the way. Much of that has been due to capture of the opposition by baiting the trap with selected good works: clamping down on the West Bank settlements, reversing a few Bush era domestic abuses, and promoting electric cars. And so war and domestic crack down continue under the aegis of the Nobel Peace Prize.

Capture is bad enough, but my desperation is maintained by Television’s daily pounding of nails into the cover of the box in which we have been placed. Except, the “nails” are like acupuncture, a tingle here, here, and there, and next morning you hate Muslims. It starts with Television and spreads. Good people are heard repeating words from infoland, words like, “the US aims in Afghanistan cannot be met until a friendly administration comes into power.” Aims, what aims?

I hit bottom yesterday, October 20th, when a close friend listened to me run on about the real reason we are in Afghanistan, which is pipeline routes, and then said, “but what are we going to do if the Taliban wins?” We? I suddenly realized that the human mind can store beliefs in hidden vaults access to which is available only to operators well versed in Machiavellian arts. To the mind’s owner, these vaults are “read only”.

The degree to which a belief can be kept is mind boggling. One instance that stays with me is a bit off the point but does have a lot of degree: In his book Aku-Aku Thor Heyerdahl tells of crawling with a guide into a tunnel on Easter Island. Heyerdahl was in front when he realized that they had taken a wrong turn. He told the guide they would have to turn around. The guide believed otherwise and refused. Heyerdahl, was – somehow – able to convince the fellow to turn around. Here’s a pair of examples closer to the point, one fictional and one real: In a short story by Jorge Luis Borges a traveler on the Argentine Pampas seeks shelter from the rain. The ranch owner is absent but the workers take him in. The rain does not stop. The traveler decides to entertain his benefactors by reading from his Bible. The workers are entranced and increasingly care for him. The rain does not stop. The workers wash the traveler’s feet, and one day the traveler chances to look behind the ranch house whereupon he sees a cross being constructed. The real example took place in modern Mexico a few years ago and is closest to the point. I’ve lost the reference, sorry about the fuzziness. A woman civil rights worker/reporter visited a pagan Indian village at a time of crisis. The women of the village decide that the visitor is a witch. Nothing she says can dissuade them from a conviction that they must destroy her. Somehow she got out of there to write about it. There’s surely lots better examples, but maybe these are enough to show how easy it is for a perceived authority such as the US administration to render the public permanently unable to pronounce the phrase natural gas pipeline if there’s any Muslims there.

A strongly held belief constitutes one of the walls in the box we are supposed to think outside of. The media haserhave planted so many of them that the box is closing in on the public with consequent panic, an affliction also of caged rats. Issues like illegal immigration are getting trampled inside the box. Health care is another.

Before getting to health care and the exit of Robert Reich from my pantheon of godlike persons, here’s a note of caution on the sturdy metaphor “thinking outside the box”.

Letting the metaphor lead the meaning could shoehorn us off the path to perfect opinion. Let’s accordingly have Wikipedia help keep the original notion in mind.

Paraphrased from Wikipedia, the phrase came about in the seventies or eighties in the course of wide use of a clever puzzle having nine dots to be connected.. Industry management consultants loved it, and the boxlike shape of the array of dots led to the phrase. The nine dots puzzle itself is much older having appeared in Sam Loyd’s 1914 Cyclopedia of Puzzles. Thank you Wiki, but how grubby to be hooked on a consultant’s buzzword. Call the box a frame? Wiggle away, columnist, you are stuck with the box, just don’t squash it.

Health care has been placed into a box labeled Health Care Insurance. I recently attended a meeting of single payer enthusiasts at which the insurance companies took their ritualistic flaying. Unaware of the box, the enthusiasts did not seem to realize that the public “debate” excluded prevention and also combined elective surgery with basic care. Nor did they accept overwhelming evidence that whatever bill comes out of Congress would favor the insurance industry. Instead, the meeting raised money for the cause and sent postcards to our reps informing them of the need for single payer, doubtless a big surprise to these worthies and not redeemable for campaign funds. No harm done, but given a peek out of the box what good might have come? A self-funded single payer plan for Vashon could have been born. No? Well think again, and this time include exactly what basic health care is.

Back at the national level, the always reliable Greg Palast  is apoplectic:

“We can’t cure our ills, as our president has attempted, by attacking the problem ass-backwards. No, Mr. Obama, we don’t need HEALTH INSURANCE for everyone, we need HEALTH CARE for everyone. There’s a giant difference. Instead of concentrating on PAYMENT, we need to focus solely on providing the health SERVICE.”

Also at the national level my hero Robert Reich – the good Robert in contrast to Goldman Robert – has jumped inside the selfsame health care box noted above and closed the cover: he appeared on YouTube to pitch health care reform in terms of reducing the cost of insurance premiums. The box cover notably closed with the clang of a dumpster lid.

Our Climate Crisis: Homeland Security Calls Me
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.

Note: Duff wrote his column on Friday, October 23.

Homeland Security called me today — the day before our Seattle NVCD demanding KILL THE BILL and NO 450ppm. Federal Protective Services called, too. I had friendly chats with both offices.

Yesterday, I sent out our press release to the state directors of senators Cantwell and Murray. It detailed our planned polar bear arrest at the Seattle federal building on National Climate Action Day, Oct. 24. The idea was to have Cantwell and Murray’s offices alert the feds. They did.

So, both senators’ offices are now aware that we no longer will accept climate business-as-usual and cap-and-trade. The press release acknowledged Cantwell calling carbon trading “toxic”. But it said her bill promoting 450-700ppm meant “mass deaths”.

Homeland Security asked me what we planned. I said we will always be peaceful. He pressed for details about the planned arrest. I said, “I respectfully decline to answer that.”

He asked me if I was aware of federal laws (Title 41) and where they applied. I said I was. We reviewed the rules of engagement to minimize chance of bodily injury. The Homeland Security commander and the inspector from Federal Protective Services both said they planned to personally come to our DA.

So, we will have armed men and women in blue at our action tomorrow. Plus video press. Sure hope we can get some activists, too.

Un-Spinning the Spin: Americans Are Homophobic, Xenophobic, And Euphoriaphobic
Maryrose Asher is a former Chair of the Green Party of Washington State and a tireless activist of many causes.

Local Northwest writer (Olympia) Jim Lynch has a new book out, Border Songs. In the book there is an exchange between two neighbors, one Canadian and one American, whose properties are right across from one another on different sides of the US-Canadian border. Discussing marijuana laws, the American says that it is illegal in the United States for a reason. The Canadian replies, “You’re right about that, and the reason is your leaders are cowards, your drug czar’s an audacious moron and most of you are not only homophobic and xenophobic but euphoriaphobic too.”

As for Americans being homophobic, you just have to follow the recent pros and cons on Referendum 71 (R-71) here in Washington State. The legislature has passed Senate Bill 5688 (SB-5688) extending partnership rights to gay and lesbian couples (and same sex, unmarried heterosexual couples) which would have taken effect at the end of July 2009 if R-71 had not gathered enough signatures to be on the fall ballot.

SB-5688 expands the rights and responsibilities of state-registered domestic partners to include:

  • The right to use sick leave to care for a domestic partner.
  • The right to wages and benefits when a domestic partner is injured, and to unpaid wages upon the death of a domestic partner.
  • The right to unemployment and disability insurance benefits.
  • The right to workers’ compensation coverage.
  • Insurance rights, including rights under group policies, policy rights after the death of a domestic partner, conversion rights and continuing coverage rights.
  • Rights related to adoption, child custody and child support.
  • Business succession rights.

However, the Washington Values Alliance, along with other individuals and organizations, formed a political action committee, Protect Marriage Washington, and gathered enough signatures to put R-71 on the ballot in an attempt to overturn SB-5688.

The following statement of Larry Stickney, President of Washington Values Alliance, is from their website, “I will continue to warn my fellow citizens and to defend my children from the harmful teachings about same-sex marriage and the homosexual lifestyle that the radical gay lobby is forcing into school curriculums everywhere.” And, from the Protect Marriage Washington website, “Just as David defeated Goliath and our forefathers defeated the British Empire, so can we slay the giants if we move together in faith that our cause is just and rooted in ultimate truth.”

Please be aware that a “Yes” vote is needed if you want to see an expansion of partnership laws as outlined above and SB-5688 signed into law. When voters are confused about an issue, they will choose “No,” giving up to a 13 percent advantage to those supporting a “No” vote. Be careful you do not inadvertently play into the hands of Washington Values Alliance and Protect Marriage Washington who want to block the expansion of partnership rights. Vote “Yes” on R-71.

As to xenophobia, readers of Greener Times are sophisticated enough to recognize that whenever there is an economic downturn, there is a rise in xenophobia (fear of foreigners). It is always easier to blame losing your job or not finding a job on the foreigners who are being used to supply cheap labor. It is never the fault of government policies, and even if it is, it is easier to attack a person from the targeted group, someone you can reach, not the employer using these undocumented workers or, even more removed, some bureaucrats in Washington, DC.

We see that today with the attacks upon Latino undocumented workers. Xenophobia pits laborers against each other jockeying for their place on the bottom rung of the economic ladder.

Of interest, from 1942-1964, during an economic upturn, the US government brought in “guest workers” from Mexico under the Bracero Program. From Wikipedia, “Over the twenty-two year period, The Mexican Farm Labor Program, informally known as the Bracero Program, sponsored some 4.5 million border crossings of guest workers from Mexico (some among these representing repeat visits by returned braceros).”

The Latinos seem to be particularly targeted, probably due to their large numbers, but also due to underlying racism as there are undocumented workers coming in from Canada and European countries as well. However, they look more like “real” Americans and are not usually stopped by the militiamen and the INS does not raid their employers’ businesses.

For example, Microsoft’s advocacy of the H-1B visa program under the guise of needing highly skilled workers who Microsoft claims are unavailable here in the United States is rarely criticized and those foreign workers do not arouse the same passion we see surrounding the issue of undocumented Latino workers. As recently as January 5, 2009, Microsoft presented a policy proposal requesting the Obama administration to “remove caps that bar entry into the U.S. by high-skilled immigrants,” and, on January 22, 2009, felt it necessary to announce 5,000 layoffs. Jobs, I might add, of workers NOT holding an H-1B visa. See “Microsoft: Layoffs for Some, Visas for Others – BusinessWeek”.

As for Americans being euphoriaphobic, that was a new term for me. Euphoriaphobia is not in the dictionary and is a word, as far as I can determine, coined by Jim Lynch but let’s consider the word for a moment. If “euphoria” is defined as a feeling of great happiness or well being and “phobia” a dread of or aversion to, euphoriaphobic would be defined as “being in dread of feeling great happiness or well being.”

Looking further into the medical definition of “euphoria” it is defined a “feeling of great happiness or well being, commonly exaggerated and not necessarily well founded.” So now we seem to be getting into the realm of euphoria being a medical condition, a mania.

If you look at the popularity of reality shows, 24 hour news programs, and even the propensity to enjoy sports to see brutality, i.e. boxing, or even hockey fights where the crowd stands to catch a better look, you can see that these activities feed into negativity, not happiness. In fact, few Americans describe themselves as “happy” and clinical depression a major medical malady.

I am troubled by the thought that there are sources for homophobia (religious prejudice) and xenophobia (economic downturns), but why this fear among Americans of feeling happiness? Why, as a society, do we dwell on the negative?

Perhaps, Americans would not have so many phobias, and society would improve as a whole, if more thought was given to the Jamaican slogan, “Don’t worry, Be happy.” At least it’s worth a try!

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 27, 1659: William Robinson and Marmaduke Stevenson, two Quakers (formally, members of the Society of Friends) who came from England in 1656 to escape religious persecution, were executed in the Massachusetts Bay Colony for their religious beliefs. The two had violated a law, passed by the Massachusetts General Court the year before, banning Quakers from the colony under penalty of death. Quakers opposed central church authority, preferring to seek spiritual insight and consensus through egalitarian Quaker meetings. They advocated sexual equality and became some of the most outspoken opponents of slavery in early America.

October 29, 1969: U.S. Federal Judge Julius Hoffman ordered a defendant in the courtroom gagged and chained to a chair during his trial after he repeatedly asserted his right to an attorney of his own choosing or to defend himself. The defendant, Black Panther Party leader Bobby Seale, and seven others had been charged with conspiring to cross state lines “with the intent to incite, organize, promote, encourage, participate in, and carry out a riot” by organizing the anti-war demonstrations in Chicago during the 1968 Democratic National Convention.

October 31, 1984: Indian Prime Minister Indira Gandhi was shot to death by two Sikh members of her own security guard while walking in the garden of her New Delhi (now Mumbai) home. Gandhi’s son, Rajiv, a member of parliament and a leader in the Congress-I Party, was sworn in as Prime Minister following the assassination.

Pencil Shavings: Happy Birthday to Me
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.

Today (Sunday, October 25) is my 52nd birthday. Instead of sending me email well wishes, I have a simple request for everyone reading this week’s GT. Do something nice for a stranger or the planet today. Feed someone who is hungry. Talk to someone who is lonely. Cheer up someone who is down. Warm someone who is cold. Love someone who is unloved. Provide food or water for a stray animal. Offer to take a neighbor’s recyclables to a recycling center. Leave your car at home and go for a walk or ride a bicycle. Turn down the thermostat. The possibilities are endless.

News You May Have Missed

The Economic Case for Slashing Carbon Emissions
The climate change news from Washington is cautiously encouraging. No one in power is listening to the climate skeptics any more; the economic stimulus package included real money for clean energy; a bill capping U.S. carbon emissions emerged, battered but still standing, from the House of Representatives, and might even survive the Senate. This, along with stricter emission standards in Europe and a big push for clean energy and efficiency standards in China, provides grounds for hope for genuine progress on emissions reduction. But while climate policy is finally moving forward, climate science is moving faster. One discovery after another suggests the world is warming faster, and climate damages are appearing sooner, than anyone had expected…

Wealth is a System of Concentration
Wealth is not what we are taught. Wealth is not stuff; it is a fiercely protected system of concentration. Wealth is a verb, not a noun. It is the act of the hoarding, and is a key pillar of our culture…

Stop the Getaway Car
Slashing executive salaries, bonuses and perks at the seven bailed-out companies that gorged most gluttonously at the public trough is emotionally satisfying, but it shouldn’t be. It’s like arresting jaywalkers while ignoring the bank robbery that’s happening in broad daylight down the block…

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