Greener Times

Promoting a sustainable society…one day at a time.

January 25 – 31

Posted by Trey Smith on January 26, 2010

Greener Times for the Week of January 25 – 31
Volume 4 No. 41
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: Haiti
* Our Climate Crisis: Fight Biomass Burning
* From Where I Stand: Planting Doubt
* This Week in History
* Pencil Shavings: Beyond Labels

For Your Consideration…
Foe of EPA Carbon Rules Is Top Recipient of Industry Contributions

A U.S. senator from Alaska who is leading the fight to block federal regulation of greenhouse gas emissions is also Congress’ top recipient of campaign contributions from the nation’s electric utilities, according to a new report. U.S. Sen. Lisa Murkowski, a Republican who holds a key position on the Energy and Natural Resources Committee, received $157,000 from the electric utilities industry last year, the highest among U.S. lawmakers, according to data compiled by the Center for Responsive Politics. Since 2005, she has received more than $244,000 from the industry. The Washington Post has reported that a lobbyist for two major utility companies helped Murkowski craft a 2009 amendment that would have blocked the federal Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) from regulating carbon dioxide as a pollutant under the Clean Air Act…

What Massachusetts Got Right
The president got creamed in Massachusetts. No amount of blaming this disastrous outcome on the weaknesses of the local Democratic candidate or her Republican opponent’s strengths can gainsay that fact. Obama’s opportunistic search for win-win solutions to our health care concerns and our larger economic problems is leading to a lose-lose outcome for the president and the country. The two issues that mattered on Election Day were the economy, which Obama has sold out to Wall Street — as quite a few disgruntled voters pointed out — and his plea to save health care reform, which the voters who had backed him for the presidency with a huge majority now spurned. It is significant that it was the voters of Massachusetts who have now derailed the Democrats’ efforts to revamp the country’s health care system by denying them the necessary 60th vote in the Senate, for these voters know the subject well. The federal proposal is based on their own state’s model requiring people to obtain health insurance without the state doing anything to effectively control costs through an alternative to the private insurance corporations. Lacking a public option, the cost of health care in Massachusetts, already the highest in the nation at the time of the plan’s implementation, has spiraled upward. Services have been curtailed, and many, particularly younger people, feel they are being forced to sacrifice to pay for a system that doesn’t work…

For Sen. Patty Murray and Democrats, Voter Anger is Wild Card
Sen. Patty Murray has ample reasons to expect to keep her job for six more years. In three previous elections, the Washington Democrat vanquished experienced Republican foes by comfortable margins. This year not a single high-profile opponent has stepped up to challenge her yet. The half-dozen Republicans seeking her seat include a chiropractor, a real-estate broker and an NFL player-turned-alfalfa farmer…But though no one is predicting Murray’s defeat in the fall, the potential for voter backlash nationally against Democrats could be a wild card in her race. What normally might be her biggest edge — her status as a senior member of the party in power — could prove a handicap among some voters…

George W. Obama
Before President Obama, it was grimly accurate to write, as I often did in the Voice, that George W. Bush came into the presidency with no discernible background in constitutional civil liberties or any acquaintance with the Constitution itself. Accordingly, he turned the “war on terror” over to Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld—ardent believers that the Constitution presents grave obstacles in a time of global jihad. But now, Bush’s successor — who actually taught constitutional law at the University of Chicago — is continuing much of the Bush-Cheney parallel government and, in some cases, is going much further in disregarding our laws and the international treaties we’ve signed…

Haitians Dying by the Thousands as US Escalates Military Intervention
Thousands of Haitians are dying every day for lack of medical care and supplies, according to a leading humanitarian aid group. Meanwhile, the Pentagon has announced that it is expanding the US military presence in the country, maintaining Washington’s priority of troops over humanitarian aid. The US-based medical aid group Partners in Health has warned that as many as 20,000 Haitians may be dying daily due to infections such as gangrene and sepsis that have set in, as the majority of the injured receive no medical care or are treated in facilities that lack the most basic supplies…

Thoughts By the Way: Haiti
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.

For the past one hundred years US banks and corporations aided by our government have systematically impoverished the people of Haiti. Farmers have been forced into bankruptcy by dumped US agricultural products, and sweatshop labor earns 28 cents an hour. Enforcement has been supplied first by US Marines then by Duvalier’s Tonton Macoutes, then by puppet regimes brought in by the CIA. Two elected presidents have been deposed by the US for trying to raise the minimum wage. Yet Hilary Clinton has the gall to block aid traffic for three hours so she can stand on Haitian soil and tell the Haitians how much the US wants to help.

For those who may be caught with their checkbooks open by that revelation, make sure the money goes directly to local organizations in Haiti. Jesse Hagopian knows first hand what’s going on there.

Ted Rall and Greg Palast have written primers on Haitian impoverishment and brutality. One number: Eighty percent of world aid to Haiti has gone into the pockets of the Duvaliers and subsequent puppets. Another number, armed militia of one stripe or another have murdered somewhere between 30,000 and 60,000 Haitians.

Deaf to Hilary’s speech the Navy is blockading Haiti to keep escaping people from reaching the US shore. Also deaf, the Army apparently has sent no aid but has sent armed soldiers to keep Haitians from helping themselves to whatever they can find. The NY Times reports that the World Food Program finally was able to land flights of food, medicine, and water on Saturday, after failing on Thursday and Friday, an official with the agency said. Those flights had been diverted so that the United States could land troops and equipment, and lift Americans and other foreigners to safety.

The French minister in charge of humanitarian relief called on the UN to “clarify” the American role amid claims the military build up was hampering aid efforts.

Benjamin Dangl writes: “US corporations, private mercenaries, Washington and the International Monetary fund are using the crisis in Haiti to make a profit, promote unpopular neoliberal policies, and extend military and economic control over the Haitian people.”

Iceland, China, and Cuba responded before the US. The primary US disaster responder, FEMA still has sent nothing. And what about us, menwomen? The upstanding community of Vashon steadfastly maintains a see no evil stance regarding US callousness abroad, here in Haiti, there in Gaza, what a list by now, yet upon visitation of Haiti by Nature we come all weepy and generous to its aid. Sound familiar? Facebook it, US foreign policy has been hijacked by Ike’s bogeymen. We know it but cannot openly admit that we know, and so we weep, shell out, and keep quiet.

How much longer are we going to pretend that we have a national government? That the national bank is necessary? That the Defense Department defends anybody? That the Supreme Court believes in the Bill of Rights, Habeas Corpus and the Magna Carta? Or that God ever blessed America? How much longer?

Our Climate Crisis: Fight Biomass Burning
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.

Biomass burning is coming to Washington State. With it comes devastation of our forests, our wildlife, our water, our air — our climate. Join us as we engage our Killer Culture in another battle we must win, if humans and All Creatures are to have a chance at a Livable Planet.

Join us, please, in our fight against four Washington State biomass incineration pilot projects that will spew carbon emissions worse than coal into our air. Join us, please, in our fight against two bills in the Washington legislature that will throw the full weight of state government on the side of biomass burning devastation. The WA Department of Natural Resources is already a key biomass incineration supporter and mastermind of the four biomass burning pilot projects.

These projects and bills, if enacted, will throw open state-owned forests to industry for gathering of wood — either fallen tree parts left from logging, or whole trees — to burn in biomass incinerators. But the effects of burning wood from our forests will be enormously harmful. They include:

1. CO2 much greater than from burning coal will be released further worsening our climate crisis. Wood burning generates 50% more carbon dioxide than coal. Biomass burning releases about 3,300 pounds of carbon dioxide per megawatt, while coal releases 2,100 pounds.

2. Biomass energy endangers our health. Biomass releases dioxins, and as much particulates as coal burning, plus carbon monoxide, nitrogen oxide, sulfur dioxide, and contribute to ozone formation. Pollution from a biomass burner is often the source of numerous health ailments.

3. Biomass is not carbon neutral. It takes decades for new forest growth to capture the carbon that is released by trees consumed in a biomass burner. We need to reduce large scale carbon emissions now, not in 50 or 100 years as forests sequester carbon over decades.

4. Biomass energy creates far more CO2 with far less energy output than other energy sources. Wood is not nearly as concentrated a heat source as coal, gas, oil, or any other fossil fuel. Most biomass energy operations are only able to capture 20-25% of the latent energy by burning wood.

5. Biomass burning devastates our forests and wildlife. One mid-sized biomass incineration plant planned for Burlington, Vermont would devour 32,500 acres of forest each year if it ran at full capacity entirely on wood. Biomass burning also strips the forest floor of woody debris essential to wildlife habitat and nutrient-rich soils the trees need. Almost one million gallons of cooling water per day are sucked from adjacent rivers or streams to cool a large-scale biomass burner. 85% of the water is lost as steam. The rest of that heated water is dumped back into our streams and rivers where it threatens to kill temperature-sensitive fish.

6. Biomass burning costs jobs by reducing the amount of pulp wood needed by plywood, furniture and other forest products industries. Fewer raw materials, fewer jobs.

7. Biomass burning rips money from other clean energy programs. Biomass burning qualifies in most states and by federal regulation for Renewable Energy Credits (RECs), thus diverting federal and state subsidy money intended to move us away from fossil fuels. Programs like wind and solar power have less funding.

8. Biomass incineration-produced energy costs more than coal energy. When subsidies are counted, biomass energy can cost as much as .16/kwh, compared to coal-produced energy around .07/kwh.

Join our campaign now. Time is short. NO BIOMASS BURN!

Parts of this article were excerpted or adapted from “Why Biomass Wood Energy is Not the Answer” by George Wuerthner and published by Counterpunch on January 12, 2010.

From Where I Stand: Planting Doubt
“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.

Planting Doubt
by Richard Curtis

I study religion and have always been close to Judaism. It is the religion about which I know the most. I know from years of study that the things one hears anti-Semites say are really quite ridiculous, when they aren’t dangerous.

Shortly after 9/11 people started noticing that what we were being told didn’t make sense. Steel doesn’t melt at the temperature jet fuel burns. People gathered and talked, and over time a movement was born. Virtually from the beginning, people in the movement talked about Israel. Here it is vital to know that “Israel” is a concept as much as it is a place. As a concept, it functions in a variety of roles, some of them ridiculous. As a place, it has this really awful and racist government. You have to pay attention to whether someone means the idea or the place.

In this case, they talked specifically about the place, but the content sounded a lot like the ridiculous stuff. There are people out there who believe that Israel was responsible for 9/11. If that does not strike you as one of the silliest things you have heard, then you might be confusing idea with place. The place is this little tiny thing, utterly dependent on the largess of outside interests. In its sphere, it is powerful. It is the big fish in a little pond, but out in the ocean it is tiny.

People call Dr. David Ray Griffin the “Dean of 9/11 Studies.” He has written a dozen books on the subject (30 others on other topics). He is one of the leading thinkers in Process Theology, which is the fastest growing theological movement in Christianity today (which sounds like a lot, but theology changes slowly, still it is on top these days). When he came to Seattle to introduce his sixth book about 9/11 he spoke at Town Hall and I moderated the event (on the web as “Let’s Get Empirical”). I did my PhD with his colleagues, and met him a few times. He, like my professors, was intrigued that an atheist and a Marxist, even, had come to study theology with them.

We passed out note cards and asked people to write down questions. These were collected and during his talk I sorted through them to pick out the dozen or so that we could do in a Q&A. As an aside, the best question was, “The engine in my 1973 Volkswagen is made out of steel; how long can I drive it before the engine melts?” If the government’s story about 9/11 was correct the answer would be, “about 50 minutes.” Anyway, out of the many dozens that came in, there were a dozen that asked something about Israel. Griffin doesn’t mention Israel in any of his books because there is nothing especially important to note.

Why so many cards? There seem to be some details that involve Israel, but there are many more important ones that involve Pakistan and Saudi Arabia. Why Israel? This question has bothered me for years now. Why Israel? It is so patently irrelevant, and the details that people point to are hardly primary. Why Israel? Is it just that our society is more racist than I realized? Perhaps, but it turns out there is some reason to suspect that it was not organic.

Why Israel? Cass Sunstein, Obama’s Harvard Law School friend, and now Administrator of the White House Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs and co-author Adrian Vermeule wrote this:

[W]e suggest a distinctive tactic for breaking up the hard core of extremists who supply conspiracy theories: cognitive infiltration of extremist groups, whereby government agents or their allies (acting either virtually or in real space, and either openly or anonymously) will undermine the crippled epistemology of believers by planting doubts about the theories and stylized facts that circulate within such groups, thereby introducing beneficial cognitive diversity. (“Conspiracy Theories: Causes and Cures” J. Political Philosophy, 7, 2009, p. 219.)

Perhaps someone is already working on this. Actually we know they are. They have been perfecting these plans since the 1950’s, when Hoover started COINTELPRO to sabotage social justice movements from the inside. What is new here is the “distinctive” emphasis put on “cognitive diversity.” That means “conceptual confusion” in my trade, and “false beliefs” in ordinary language. “Crippled epistemology” means relying on evidence instead of believing everything the ruling class and its toddy government say.

The reason I am bothering you with details from the inside of another movement is because the term “extremist groups” includes Greens, in the minds of these fanatics. The enemy is well armed, well funded, and utterly corrupted by greed such that their thinking is so compromised that they now take their own lies as definitive of reality.

God help us all!

Rev. Dr. Richard Curtis, PhD is a “Hard Core Extremist” currently living in West Seattle

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.

January 25, 1930: Mahatma Gandhi issued the Declaration of Independence of India. To achieve this goal Gandhi adopted the non-violent tactic of challenging the British monopoly on salt – it was illegal for anyone other than the British government in India to manufacture or sell salt. Gathering supporters as he walked 241 miles in 24 days to the sea where he made salt. Salt was sold, illegally, all over the seacoast of India and the British government incarcerated over sixty thousand people. This march was a key turning point in India’s struggle for independence from British colonial rule.

January 26, 1962: Bishop Joseph A. Burke of the Buffalo, New York, Catholic Diocese banned a new song and dance, “The Twist,” by Chubby Checker. It couldn’t be danced, sung, or listened to in any Catholic school, parish, or youth event. Later in the year, the Twist was banned from community center dances in Tampa, Florida, as well. It was claimed the Twist was actually a pagan fertility dance.

January 27, 1988: The Center for Constitutional Rights revealed the FBI had spied on numerous organizations critical of Reagan administration policies in Central America. The principal target was the Committee in Solidarity with the People of El Salvador (CISPES). 100 other groups were also investigated, including the Roman Catholic Maryknoll Sisters, the United Auto Workers, the United Steel Workers, and the National Education Association. FBI Director William Sessions said the investigations were an outgrowth of the belief that CISPES was aiding a “terrorist organization.”

Pencil Shavings: Beyond Labels
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.

For years, I’ve thrown around a variety of labels: Green, leftist, socialist and progressive. Like most people, I use these labels as a sort of shorthand because it’s so much easier than having to explain my political perspective in detail every time someone asks. Beginning today, however, I’m going to try to move beyond such labels here in my Pencil Shavings column and in life, in general.

Why am I taking this drastic step? Because each of those four words has NO UNIVERSAL MEANING. Each of those words means different things to different people and different things to the same people at different times.

Take, for example, the label Green. Some people self-identify as a Green and yet they drive a gas guzzler or they jet around the country on airlines. Other people claim to be Greens, yet support the US strategy of trying to blow up the world country by country. Some people claim to be devout Greens who will only support candidates who advocate strong environmental laws and regulations, yet they vote for Democrats and Republicans who only pay lip service to such things. Still others support ONLY Green Party candidates who have no hope of impacting the political landscape. So, what in the heck does Green really mean?

What does it mean to be a leftist? Left of what? The middle ground of political discourse in this nation has been moving to the right for the past 20 years or so. To be left of today’s middle ground starts in the territory of what was once considered a moderate Democrat.

What does it mean to be a socialist? There are about as many varieties of socialist as there are Christian denominations and, just like the myriad of denominations, all these groups and parties can’t seem to agree on much of anything. I mean, if there wasn’t so much disagreement on what it meant to be a socialist, there wouldn’t be so many different groups in the first place.

But the one word I’m really going to try to stay away from is progressive. It has always been a vague and nebulous term. And it means so many different things to different people. There are folks who have voted a straight Democratic Party ticket their entire voting lives who consider themselves die-hard progressives. There are people who have supported every war the US has fought or threatens to fight who will tell you that they are as progressive as they come. There are activists who support/oppose the death penalty, a woman’s right to choose, gay rights, universal health care, labor rights and a plethora of other issues and, regardless of which side they take on these issues and more, each will tell you that he or she is progressive.

In each case, these labels don’t really tell us that much about a person’s political leanings. We each filter those labels through our own lens, but the other person’s lens may be altogether different. So, we think we understand each other when, in reality, we’re really speaking foreign languages. All it inevitably leads to is arguments and conflict — arguments like who is the most Green, left, red or progressive.

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