Greener Times

Promoting a sustainable society…one day at a time.

Nov. 30 – Dec. 6

Posted by Trey Smith on November 29, 2009

Greener Times for the Week of November 30 – December 6
Volume 4 No. 33
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
* For Your Consideration…
* Thoughts By the Way: Local, Local & Local
* Our Climate Crisis: Bank of America & Chase Bank Are Climate Criminals
* From Where I Stand: Richard Curtis on Democratic Excuses
* This Week in History
* Pencil Shavings: In Defense of Pesticides?

For Your Consideration…
The Copenhagen Diagnosis: Sobering Update on the Science

Ahead of talks in Copenhagen, a group of leading climate scientists has issued a new report summarizing the most recent research findings from around the world and concluding that scientists have underestimated the pace and extent of global warming. The report — titled “The Copenhagen Diagnosis” — finds that in several key areas observed changes are outstripping the most recent projections by the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change and warns that “there is a very high probability of the warming exceeding 2 °C unless global emissions peak and start to decline rapidly” within the next decade. The report points to dramatic declines in Arctic sea ice, recent measurements that show a large net loss of ice from both Greenland and Antarctica, and the relatively rapid rise in global sea levels…

Get Ready for the Obama/GOP Alliance
With Obama pushing a huge troop escalation in Afghanistan, history may well repeat itself with a vengeance. And it’s not just the apt comparison to LBJ, who destroyed his presidency on the battlefields of Vietnam with an escalation that delivered power to Nixon and the GOP. There’s another frightening parallel: Obama seems to be following in the footsteps of Bill Clinton, who accomplished perhaps his single biggest legislative “triumph” – NAFTA – thanks to an alliance with Republicans that overcame strong Democratic and grassroots opposition…

Bailed-Out AIG Forcing Poor to Choose Between Running Water and Food
What are we getting in return for the bailout? So far, predatory credit card rates, exorbitant bank fees and obscene Wall Street bonuses. But we’re being robbed in other, sneakier ways, too. It seems that taxpayers in the poorest, most vulnerable parts of the county are getting plundered by the same institutions they bailed out. One example is AIG’s underhanded fleecing of residents of rural Kentucky…

Shock Over Obama Decision to Reject Landmine Ban
The Obama administration announced yesterday that it would not be joining a treaty signed by 158 other countries to ban landmines. Human Rights Watch (HRW) said the decision “lacks vision, compassion, and basic common sense.” The group was also stunned by the manner in which the decision was apparently made and subsequently announced. Although anti-landmine activists and congressional leaders had been urging the administration to begin reviewing the treaty for months, Obama administration officials never indicated that it had even started the process…

Toxic Turf?
Champions of turf fields rave about their vivid green hue, easy maintenance, longevity and year-round availability. All of which has left old-fashioned grass virtually scoreless in the “real versus fake” debate. But underneath turf’s bright exterior lies a potential health threat that has led both state and federal government organizations, including the Environmental Protection Agency, to take a second look at the seemingly perfect surface…

Thoughts By the Way: Local, Local & Local
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.

When Tip O’Neall said ”all politics is local” he meant electoral politics, and today he’d be wrong because money has no locality. But if instead of nit-picking one goes to the heart of the man and what matters, then it will approach truism that local is everything. And so please welcome the new truism that in progressive politics the three most important words are local, local, and local. Proof? How about these two industrial strength travesties, the Senate health bill and the Administration’s proposal at Copenhagen? They’re the best that national politics can muster: throwing money at the insurance industry to cure a poisoned public, and admitting to the world that our government is straight out of the Land of Oz. It is put to you that an individual seeking to influence the government by joining, using, or following the guidance of, any kind of national organization, to use my wife’s Norwegian phrase, is a mouse pissing in the ocean. It is put to you that acting locally is not only your duty to family and neighbor but also creates the only hope of wresting our government from corporate control.

Breast cancer is addressed by mammogram, surgery, radiation, and chemo. If addressed locally, the first priority would be prevention.

Homeland Security is the advance corps of a police state. Its contract prison on the Tacoma tideflats incarcerates Mexicans. This has illegally expanded and continues to operate in spite of valiant effort by people like Ivy Rose Williams working in several groups. What is missing is action by the adjoining property owners.

Israel’s aggression towards Palestinians seems to grow daily in spite of opposition by many American Jews, and with collusion by Congress, e.g. voting to bury the Goldstone Report on war crime in Gaza. Here on decent, peaceful, Vashon some prominent Jews continue to support Israel regardless. Yet here is where a consensus is possible. In Congress finding consensus with AIPAC in the hallways is proving to be impossible. Every town in America needs its Jews and needs to reach a consensus.

My neighbor’s farmer uncle lost everything in 1929. He’d sold his crop and banked the money. Next morning the bank closed its doors. So long as Vashon relies entirely on the dollar we remain vulnerable. Listen to Dmitry Orlov, menwomen: Cultivate your community because when things go bad it will be all you have. How obvious can it get is how my chimes ring.

Some examples there. There will be no health care reform, there will be no serious US commitment to air carbon control, there will be no pull back from military bases on foreign soil, there will be no stop to criminal meddling in the affairs of Latin America. The airwaves are sewers. Congress is toast, dirty and useless. And the borderline between police and psychotic thugs is becoming indistinct.

I’ve been pounding the sticky keys on this keyboard for two years in an effort to convince my community to act locally in all matters of vital importance, health, welfare, security, all of it. Carelessly, I’ve called this circling the wagons and have been criticized for head hiding in sand, of protectionism. I’ve failed to make clear that the only way the public can influence national matters is by first finding local consensus. I’ve repeated the reasons why broken communities play into the hands of power. Maybe it’s the spilled coffee that makes these keys incoherent. Think about it, menwomen. Power now controls what most of us think is news. We solemnly nod when Obama says solemnly that he “intends to finish the job in Afghanistan”. High definition television is damnation by television. From cracker barrel to coffee shop to precinct to county to state, communal voices uncontaminated by network “news” are the only force shy of revolt that can overcome beltway and cloakroom control of America.

Our Climate Crisis: Bank of America & Chase Bank Are Climate Criminals
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.

“Every week, big coal is detonating the explosive equivalent of one Hiroshima bomb in the heart of America’s oldest mountains…”—The Daily Kos, 3/21/08

Both Bank of America and Chase Bank heavily finance mountaintop removal (MTR) for coal extraction. MTR has blown up more than 472 mountains in Appalachia, polluting rivers with over 100 million pounds of heavy metal. Local tap water runs orange and black from the contamination.

Both Bank of America and Chase Bank are top financiers of global oil and gas industries. Chase is the #1 corporate oil and gas financier, Bank of America is #3. (Bloomberg)

Both Bank of America and Chase Bank are top financiers of global coal industries. Chase is # 3 corporate coal financier in the U.S., Bank of America is #2. (Bloomberg)

Both Bank of America and Chase Bank are major global carbon traders. Pre-eminent climate scientist James Hansen calls carbon trading the “Temple of Doom” that is “a subterfuge allowing Business-As-Usual to continue”. Carbon trading guarantees upward spiraling greenhouse gas emissions.

Both Bank of America and Chase Bank lobby against strong climate policy. Both are members of the U.S. Council for International Business — the U.S. arm of the International Chamber of Commerce, one of the worst corporate lobbyists on climate issues.

Both Bank of America and Chase Bank played central roles in the subprime mortgage crisis (the cause of the current global recession). Chase heavily financed Countrywide Financial, the country’s top subprime lender. Bank of America heavily financed Countrywide, then bought it.

Do you bank with these banks? Stop.

Do you have branches of these banks near you. Protest them.

From Where I Stand: Richard Curtis on Democratic Excuses
“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.

For those not following labor politics this year, some interesting things are afoot. The Washington State Labor Council has set up a PAC they call DIME (Don’t Invest In More Excuses). Big Labor is threatening to withhold support from Democratic candidates and perhaps even work to defeat them when they are on the wrong side of working people’s issues.

On the face of it this is a good thing, but don’t hope for much.

I personally contacted the political action director of the state labor council and he seems to be completely oblivious to any thought that would take him in the direction of doing more than begging more forcefully. This is Labor’s established role in the Democratic Party and even though the party really represents the interests of finance capital (see Michael Moore’s new movie, if this is not obvious to you yet) unions here, because they are not being led by people with a vision for the future, cannot see their way out of this dysfunctional relationship. They are clearly frustrated, and rightly so, but have no sense of political possibility and so cannot move beyond what their blinders allow.

Washington State Democratic Party Chair, Dwight Pelz told the Seattle Times, “I don’t think anybody in the labor movement would be served by Republican majorities in the [WA State] House or Senate.” Of course this is true, but why is it a Democrat or Republican issue? What about the Green Party? Sadly, that is not an issue for those who refuse to think.

The Seattle Times itself opined, “The revolt of organized labor within the state Democratic Party is a kamikaze effort that works against the interests of the Democratic Party and the workers of Washington State.” They are right, but not for their sniveling, “shill for the rulers” sort of reasons. The Times’ reasons have to do with what it calls “a competitive business environment” but that is just corporate lies for pitting workers against each other. It is also contrary to the basics of modern economic theory as developed by John Maynard Keynes, but that is to be expected from the brain dead members of the Times editorial board.

The real point is that this effort will fail because the state labor council is married to the Democratic Party and is incapable of thinking outside that box. This was the gist of my conversation with the people who make the decisions. They seem to be simply incapable of independent thought and so even when they do start to notice that the Democratic Party is really their enemy, as it is the enemy of all who support it and hope (irrationally) that it is on the side of moral decency, labor still thinks only in terms of two-party dictatorship.

But am I perhaps too pessimistic?

No.

The tragedy here is this shortsightedness. In my email exchanges it did not even occur to the people who are supposed to think strategically about labor and politics that there is another approach other than begging. Well, I suppose there is. The Teamsters actually endorsed Reagan. It is hard to argue that the people who made that decision are allies to organized labor, even when (or perhaps especially when) they are the leaders of organized labor.

My own analysis is that the whole of our political life is dominated by Straussian politics. We think of the teachings of Strauss as applying to the Republicans because they endorse him directly, but the Democrats play the same game. What seems to confuse people is they do it with a different electoral base. So Republicans appeal to people who are culturally confused and economically deluded, and their social programs reflect the values of the most backward thinking people in society. The Democrats appeal to labor and similarly have a social program that appears to fit with that group. But both parties simply work for the capitalist class and pursue its imperial interests, doggedly. The social policy debate at home is just a diversion to keep us from noticing that there is nothing democratic about our system. Thus Obama has fulfilled an optimistically calculated 0.1% of his promises for change.

Labor plays this game and hopes that by begging for scraps that the Democratic Party will abandon its actual base (finance capital) – but it won’t and never has. Labor can learn from this and think and act independently or not, at our collective peril.

The Rev. Dr. Richard Curtis is a disgruntled member of the American Federation of Teachers, an educator and writer, currently teaching philosophy at Seattle Central Community College.

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.

November 30, 1999: Tens of thousands of activists, students, union members and environmentalists demonstrating for global justice shut down the World Trade Organization (WTO) summit in Seattle, Washington. Their slogan: “What are they trading away?” International media coverage ignored both the blockade and the police riot (and an enormous labor-sponsored rally and march), focusing instead on minor property damage committed by a few dozen self-described anarchists.

December 1, 1948: Following a brief but bloody civil war in 1948, Costa Rican President Jose Figueres helped draft a constitution that abolished the military and guaranteed free election with universal suffrage (all adult citizens can vote). Money not spent on a military allowed the country to adequately fund health care and education, yielding one of the highest literacy rates on the continent, ninety-six percent. This is judged to be a factor in the nation’s never having fallen prey to corruption, dictatorships, or the bloodshed that has marred the history of much of the region.

December 4, 1969: Pres. Richard Nixon, Vice-President Spiro T. Agnew and 40 U.S. governors embarked on a fact-finding mission to discover the causes of the generation gap. They viewed films of “simulated acid trips” and listened to hours of “anti-establishment rock music.”

Pencil Shavings: In Defense of Pesticides?
Pencil Shavings appears in this space most weeks and solely represents the opinions of the publisher. If you’d like to read more of Trey’s ruminations, visit The Rambling Taoist.

According to a recent New York Times article,

When Michael Mack, the chief executive of Syngenta, a Swiss agribusiness giant that makes pesticides and seeds, hears people say that organic food is better for the planet, he has one response: “Au contraire.”

“Organic food is not only not better for the planet,” he said, in an interview at The New York Times building on Tuesday. “It is categorically worse.”

And why, pray tell, does Mack make such assertions? His reasoning sits on two points: 1) Organic farming utilizes more land than traditional farming for the same yield and 2) Pesticides aren’t harmful — if they were, they would be banned for use on US soils.

After picking myself up off the floor and regaining my composure from one of my biggest belly laughs of the year, the term “conflict of interest” immediately entered my mind. Of course, Mack would pan organic methods; if adopted the world over, it would put his carcinogenic empire out of business! He might have to sell three or four of his homes and maybe a yacht or two! Even worse, do they serve caviar in bread lines?

Needless to say, using the US Government’s shameless acceptance of a witches’ brew of pesticides for use in this country is a weak leg to stand on. Since most of the so-called regulations are written to satisfy agribusinesses like Mack’s, it’s quite apparent that potential big dollar campaign contributions are vastly more important than trivial things LIKE PUBLIC HEALTH AND WELL-BEING.

To read the article, go here.

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