Greener Times

Promoting a sustainable society…one day at a time.

November 16 – 22

Posted by Trey Smith on November 15, 2009

Greener Times for the Week of November 16 – 22
Volume 4 No. 31
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
* Retooling Greener Times
* For Your Consideration…
* Thoughts By the Way: Too Late
* Our Climate Crisis: Non-Violent Civil Disobedience on November 30
* From Where I Stand: Richard Curtis on Civilian Trials for Alleged Terrorists
* This Week in History
* Pencil Shavings: The Ego Problem

Retooling Greener Times
We’ve noticed lately that GT has become a bit too wordy! We’ve got a great stable of writers — both within our collective and throughout the worldwide web — and we each have a lot to write about on a myriad of topics. But too much of a good thing can become a problem in and of itself!

Over the past year or so, GT has seemed to grow longer and longer by the week. However, we understand that most of you lead busy lives and you simply don’t have the time nor energy to plow through a weekly tome of verbiage. To this end, we’re going to recommit ourselves to work to be more succinct and to shrink the volume of this weekly newsletter. Beginning next week, our columnists will try to say what they have to say in no more than 650 words (about 7 full paragraphs) or less each week. “News You May Have Missed” has been moved to the top of the page and I’ve renamed it “For Your Consideration…” Each week I’ll feature 4, 5 or 6 snippets instead of the long articles I used to lead with and, rather than being simply news, I hope to mix in some green advice or self-help articles. We also ask that Letters to the Editor be as short as possible while, of course, making the points you feel need to be made.

If I find a really good article that I want to share in its entirety, you won’t find it in your in box; it will be posted solely on the GT website.

For Your Consideration…
Which Is Greener, a Real or Fake Christmas Tree?

For many families, the centerpiece of Christmas celebrations is the luminous, awe-inspiring tree set up with care in the living room. But with all the options now available, how do you know which Christmas tree is the greenest choice for the environment? Should you go for a real, fresh tree, as nearly 29 million households do, according to the National Christmas Tree Association? Most Christmas trees are now raised on established farms, meaning deforestation isn’t an issue, but they must be shipped, often from long distances. They do require pesticides and fueled vehicles to maintain, and may end up taking up space in landfills. On the other hand, most artificial Christmas trees are made in China, typically from oil-derived, pollution-releasing polyvinyl chloride (PVC). A number have been found to contain lead. Once finally disposed of, artificial trees will last for centuries in landfills. These days, roughly 70% of Americans choose artificial…

Urinate on the Compost Heap to Save the Planet Says the National Trust
The rather unusual practice is already actively encouraged at stately homes around the country where “pee bales” have been deposited in secluded areas of National Trust gardens to allow male members of staff to relieve themselves. The Trust, which actively campaigns on climate change, said answering the call of nature outside saves both on water and the energy used in flushing the lavatory. Urine can also speed up the chemical process in the compost heap, making it a better fertiliser to help grow vegetables and save even more energy in reducing food miles. Male urine is better than female urine because it is slightly less acidic…

Stalling Justice
In Texas and Illinois, recent controversies have exposed our broken criminal justice system. Mounting evidence indicates that Texas Governor Rick Perry ordered the wrongful execution of Cameron Todd Willingham in 2004 and has subsequently tried to cover up the details of the case, recently dismissing three experts on the state’s Forensic Science Commission forty-eight hours before they were set to examine the evidence. Willingham’s case has rightly generated national headlines, and another case of prosecutorial overreach is unfolding in Illinois…

U.S. Record High Temperatures Double Record Lows Since 2000
Daily record high temperatures occurred twice as often as record lows over the last decade across the continental United States, according to new research released today. “Climate change is making itself felt in terms of day-to-day weather in the United States,” says Gerald Meehl, lead author of the study and a senior scientist at the National Center for Atmospheric Research. “The ways these records are being broken show how our climate is already shifting.” The ratio of record highs to lows is likely to increase in coming decades if emissions of greenhouse gases continue to climb, he says…

Goldman Sachs Tells How to Cash in on Health Care Reform
First we bailed out the teetering Wall Street giant Goldman Sachs; then we had to watch this behemoth firm, flush with taxpayer funds, recoup its losses and plan more big bonuses, while one in ten Americans is jobless. Now we learn, via Huffington Post, of Goldman’s dispassionate analysis of which health care reform scenario stands to make its clients the most money. Best bet, says Goldman, is to jettison reform altogether and watch insurance stocks rise 59 percent. And if that can’t happen, they should hope for the weakest bill possible. This, folks, is how power really operates in this country. While the rest of us suckers, who cling to the notion that we still live in a democracy, are dutifully calling our members of Congress about health care reform, the movers and shakers are calling their brokers…

Thoughts By the Way: Too Late
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 big event on Vashon this week was a visiting fireman named Tom Greco. His book is “The End of Money”. An alternate currency buff with first-rate credentials, he is into local exchange in a big way. He is so far in I could not follow him. As you know, money is such a simple concept it is impossible to understand, and so after his speech had covered the simple part he used the remaining five minutes to unload local exchange credit clearing. I mention this as introduction to his aside that Vashon is not big enough to sustain an independent economy. That was a pregnant aside for it gave birth to an epiphany of sorts: If Vashon with its 150 square miles cannot sustain 10,000 people, then explain to me how come Wall Street can sustain as many with only five city blocks?

Reminds me of a joke that went around Boeing during the cold war in which a fellow pushing a wheelbarrow full of sand wants to exit the property. The guard probes, finds no tools, and lets him go. This is repeated for quite some time before the guards catch on. The fellow is stealing wheelbarrows.

Greco is on a book tour and cannot be faulted for misjudging Vashon’s potential, wheelbarrow joke notwithstanding. And why should I object to his assessment as we ourselves do the same? But he is wrong and so are we. The ski factory was a pleasant aberration; one cannot eat skis, they make poor firewood, and they only go downhill. Vashon’s potential lies in its unique location, not only an island, but also central. Its present use as a bedroom for commuters and triple L rated mansion sites is a travesty. Here’s a summary of ideas that have been floated around: Put back the berries, add some quince, plant scions of threatened apple cultivars, and go big time into the old Wax Orchard products [plus my apple leather recipe]. Build a family of unique watercraft for recreational rowing and group rowing tours, and an updated mosquito fleet with no auto deck. A maritime university showcasing a floating college offering degrees in marine science and piloting; this goes with the tide, packing a small tug in case. A solar energy infrastructure that breaks the cost barrier of hot water heating. Re-think the dump to use more and bury less. Use the ski plant to make stuff from trash, perhaps by smithy, and to recycle lead-acid batteries. I should dry up? I am just getting started, and every bit of this comes from Betty McDonald’s kitchen. But Greco is partly right: Vashon will not have its own economy/local exchange because it is too late.

Signs of a deteriorating society darken our days. We have Homeland Security arresting protesters at Pelosi’s office. The occupation of Iraq is joined by occupation of Afghanistan. The US will continue to prop up its puppet in Pakistan, prop up, that is, inches above the red flames of revolution. The healthcare plan out of the House is a sway-backed Trojan Horse; no funding for abortions, a tiny few benefit, for the rest no change or worse off, Medicare robbed, and the insurance industry still subsidized. The US will build a military base in Colombia, same for Africa in plural. Chris Dodd’s bill for financial reform is a bag of band-aids. Under all, however, the progressive public is getting subtle misguidance from public radio, public television, and left-leaning but centrist pundits. Just so, Paul Krugman defends that horse apple House healthcare bill. Just so Muslims are relentlessly de-humanized. Just so Honduras is “controversial”. I’m trying to say that the public has been hijacked into becoming the battering ram that is finishing the job of civil disintegration. We have joined the enemy. Even if we come to our senses, it is too late.

Disintegration, yes. Take the healthcare debate swirling about in blogdom. A public option is the Democrat’s grail and the liberal’s lesser evil, but many of the same people say it’s a straw option, as in straw forked out of a stall. How’s that for unity. Just so the swine flu vaccine is either too hard to get or too poisonous, you choose. How’s that for unity. One might hope that Congress will sort out these messes and promote our health, but it is too late.

Meanwhile the environmental groups are saving wolves, whales, polar bears, The fallacy in that tactic was exposed in 2004 by Adam Werbach (before he overreached) for one, but these ngos apparently still believe that we are an intact society needing only gentle nudges to further the human cause. Goodness, they must know that Washington has slowly been taken over by headless bodies that care not a whit for biological diversity. That known, are they then being paid to keep us thinking everything is okay? What they should have done was to have thrown their weight into the anti-empire movement. But it is too late now.

Don’t think for a minute that I include Duff with the ngos. He puts a monkey wrench in a root cause of environmental destruction.

It’s been a bad week here on King County’s damp shirt tail. Greco’s thrust fizzled, a meeting to seek a consensus on Vashon priorities didn’t, my e-mail box had been particularly depressing, and I watched the movie For My Father which is about a suicide bomber. At the end, I sat there for a minute, two minutes, five, I don’t know, crying. The others at the café rose and were moving about but I left to avoid having to speak. This week also a blogger came out with an essay titled How to Stop the War. It was a tutorial on House control of the national purse. But we the people control only ten percent of the House. It is too late to hope for enough control to cut off war funding.

The reason it is too late is that positive feedback is bringing on the end game before its time. Feedback causes non-linear, sudden, change. Lacking feedback, the final war for dominance would not start for another fifty years, my guess. Then the steady ocean rise will force migrations, not emigrations, and competition for oil will simplify world demography into US v. China/Russia. That’s without the feedback. As things are, Climate feedback has become evident for about two years now with resultant speeding up of ice loss. Bangladesh is already preparing for higher water. Political feedback, in part, became evident with the planning of natural gas pipelines in Asia, say roughly with the Reagan presidency. The subsequent combination of corporate invasion of India, military occupation of Afghanistan, and political invasion of Pakistan, has produced a near critical mass of popular dissent. The feedback center is Kashmir. Political feedback in the US became evident in 2008 with re-visitation by the Great Depression. Whereas the Fed acted too late then, this time it has for years aided and abetted rogue investors. Feedback is evident in the role of derived investment vehicles. Or use your analysis, the result of financial takeover of the US is instability. I conclude that the feeding back of climate change, resource depletion and financial takeover will shorten the arrival of the end game to between five and ten years. Then will come the migrations, the disunited police states of America, and the last war.

What got to me at the café was the enormity of stolen beauty, joy, wonder, and love that we have allowed happen.

Our Climate Crisis: Non-Violent Civil Disobedience on November 30
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.

November 30 will witness climate non-violent civil disobedience in Seattle as part of the “Seattle + Ten” Peoples’ Summit. The Summit will commemorate the tenth anniversary of the WTO shut down in Seattle. The Summit will be held Nov. 28-29 at Seattle University.

Seattle NVCD planners are working to coordinate local efforts with nationwide “N30” protests. These actions will demand strong climate legislation that includes no ‘false solutions’ like cap-and-trade and protects the rights and health of low income and at-risk communities.

We are fast losing our Livable Planet to the Climate Crisis. NVCD is our action most commensurate with the dire threat. NVCD is the missing element in our climate strategy. We need numbers of climate protestors in the streets willing to risk arrest and demand an end to Business-As-Usual.

All federal climate cap-and-trade bills lead us toward climate “cataclysm” as pre-eminent climate scientist Jim Hansen says. All point us to pathetically inadequate carbon emissions reductions. All foist a lethal scam on us by pretending to cut emissions but giving away billions and billions of dollars in pollution rights to our worst polluters—so upward spiraling carbon emissions are guaranteed to continue.

Only profound structural changes to our economy implemented on an emergency basis have a chance of successfully mitigating and adapting to our Climate Crisis. Reports from the Copenhagen Climate Congress in March, 2009, showed unchecked carbon emissions could make global temperatures rise by 5-6C this century. That’s a death sentence for the Earth as Livable Planet.

My 3-Point Plan for Activists and Everyone:
1. Get out of your car. It will change your life. It will open you to another world where bold climate actions are possible. It will radically reduce your emissions while you adapt to a world where private cars will no longer be possible.

2. Go Vegan. Stop eating animal products—meat, dairy, eggs—and you will live healthier and stop your share of global emissions from livestock. Livestock are responsible for as much as 50% of global GHG emissions.

3. Get in the streets. The time for only polite talk is past. We need climate activists in the streets now, shutting down Business-As-Usual. People in the streets stopped the Vietnam War. People in the streets must again lead us to a fundamentally restructured economy that embraces the laws of nature rather than destroys them.

From Where I Stand: Richard Curtis on Civilian Trials for Alleged Terrorists
“From Where I Stand” is a revolving column currently featuring the writings of Swaneagle Harijan and Dr. Richard Curtis. If you’d like to get in on the act and contribute to this feature, contact editor Trey Smith.

The headline in the Seattle Times last Saturday read, “NYC Trial for 9/11 Suspects Poses Risks.” What risks?

According to the Associated Press there is an issue with evidence. It turns out that military courts don’t mind tortured confessions. Isn’t that comforting? We are told the military is protecting “our way of life” and somehow this seems to include torturing people.

We are quite lofty in our moral ideals aren’t we?

The AP would have us believe the risk is that the defendants will not be found guilty. Really? The biggest risk we should worry about here is that people who are presumed innocent will not be found guilty?

Oh, that’s right we gave up the notion of presumed innocence with the 2nd Bush Administration. That was our old way of life and the military does not protect that. So just what is the military protecting? We aren’t supposed to ask that.

What is most remarkable about all this is how ridiculous the whole thing is. And we are not supposed to notice that either. The AP quoted a former Justice Department official (what was his job, chief of rationalizations?) who said, “When you consider everything that has come out in the proceedings at Gitmo, either from the mouth of Khalid Sheik Mohammed and others or from their written statements to the court, it seems clear that they [the prosecutors] won’t need to use any coerced confessions in order to demonstrate their guilt.”

We are supposed to believe that this makes sense. It does not. The treatment of the prisoners at Gitmo is abhorrent and a violation of every relevant law and moral principle. It is thus clear that the very presence of the accused at Gitmo is evidence that anything they said or wrote to anyone for any reason cannot be taken at face value. This is obvious to everyone who studies the law and is foundational to how our justice system works – oh, right, used to work.

According to the Chairs of the 9/11 Commission, “What we do know is that government officials decided not to inform a lawfully constituted body, created by Congress and the president, to investigate one the greatest tragedies to confront this country. We call that obstruction.” Thomas Kean and Lee Hamilton wrote that in the NY Times January 2, 2008.

What we do know is that we don’t know much of anything about what really happened on 9/11, let alone who the mastermind was and who might have worked with that person.

So the case seems pretty risky from a certain point of view. The only evidence that has been used follows from torture. We know, that is every expert in the world knows, that information derived from torture is remarkably unreliable. The one thing you can count on is that whatever the accused may have said it is not something any rational person should accept.

The government is going to drag four people into a civilian court, where they have failed to successful prosecute any terrorist case of any significance in all of their many attempts, and try to convince a jury that in spite of not having any evidence, any real evidence, that this jury should find these men guilty of whatever charges the government has dreamed up.

And what is worse, they probably will. The government will make sure to have a judge who does not care about proper procedures, rules of evidence, logic or common sense. This judge will make sure that rational discussion is not allowed and any challenge to illegitimate evidence is suppressed. And will we be expected to believe that they have done something to make us safer.

They will have protected “our way of life” but sadly “our way of life” seems to be pawns they lie to whenever they want us to believe something no matter how absurd. Most people will go along with this…

….or will they?

The Rev. Dr. Richard Curtis is a resident of West Seattle, an adjunct professor of philosophy at Seattle Central Community College, a decade long member of the Green Party of Seattle and a deeply concerned citizen.

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

November 16, 1989: Six Jesuit priests, their housekeeper and her daughter were brutally murdered by U.S.-trained and -supported death squads in El Salvador. In 1995 the United Nations Commission on the Truth for El Salvador linked the slayings to 19 members of the armed forces who were graduates of the School of the Americas (SOA, now known as Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation), a facility run by the U.S. Army at Fort Benning, Georgia.

November 18, 1964: FBI director J. Edgar Hoover publicly characterized Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. as “the most notorious liar in the country.” King replied that Hoover “has apparently faltered under the awesome burden, complexities, and responsibilities of his office.”

November 21, 1986: National Security Council member Oliver North and his secretary, Fawn Hall, began shredding documents that would have exposed their participation in a range of illegal activities regarding the sale of arms to Iran in an attempt to free hostages, and the diversion of the proceeds to an insurgent Nicaraguan group known as the contras.

Pencil Shavings: The Ego Problem
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.

In his Future Hope column for the Independent Progressive Political Network this week, Ted Glick calls for the formation of a third party political group he dubs United Progressives. It’s not a new idea. The strategy would be that progressive candidates could run independently, as a third party (like the Green Party) or through the Democratic Party. If any of the candidates made the general election ballot, then the candidates who didn’t make it would pledge to support that candidate! If two candidates made the general ballot:

The bottom line would be that there could be no United Progressives candidates running against one another for the same political office and that the relevant organizational unit—a local chapter, a state chapter or the national organization—would have the power to decide which candidate to support if there was a conflict.

It sounds like a winning strategy, except for one tiny little problem — ego. Just like everybody else, progressives have egos and I find it hard to believe that one candidate or the other would simply step aside to support the more “viable” choice. While it’s certainly true that most progressives who run for office don’t truly expect to win, most invest a portion of their ego to be the local standard bearer. They receive prestige and standing within their group and, sometimes, the overall progressive and left community.

The ONLY way I could see such a strategy working is if we could find enough candidates who were willing to dampen their individual egos for the overall cause. I’m speaking here of people willing to run for office and equally willing to stand aside, if the situation calls for it. Do you know many people like that?

Neither do I!


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