Greener Times

Promoting a sustainable society…one day at a time.

February 8 – 14

Posted by Trey Smith on February 10, 2010

Greener Times for the Week of February 8 – 14
Volume 4 No. 43
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
* Thoughts By the Way: The War Plays
* Our Climate Crisis: Light Rail, Racism & Classism
* From Where I Stand: Credit Scores and the Hypocrisies of Capitalism
* Pencil Shavings: Near the End of the Line

Note: This is an abbreviated version of GT as the publisher recovers from surgery.

Thoughts By the Way: The War Plays
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.

In 1995 the British dramatist Edward Bond wrote a trilogy on nuclear war titled, The War Plays. By this time he had become so controversial that he was indicted and censured and had moved to the Continent. The titles of the plays are something like: A Life Destroyed, Existence Predicated on Death, and A Post-Apocalyptic Mother Courage. When in 2007 the trilogy was produced by the drama class at Vashon High School the local members of the America Legion and Veterans of Foreign Wars erupted with indignation. Something about the way the military was portrayed had touched a nerve. The letters to editor flamed with outrage that the school could have permitted such demeaning trash. Students and the drama teacher defended their case reasonably. I was fascinated by the sharpness of the divide between the drama class and the veterans and so sent in a consideration of elemental causes such as difference in intelligence, religion, and culture. I recall some of it next:

Since my awakening in 2006 I have thought that anybody putting up a support our troops sticker was either stupid or illiterate. Except, that is, for my best friend who was neither, yet sported the sticker. But my bias took a beating that Veteran’s day in 2007 (a coincidence with the play?), during a demonstration at Westlake Center in Seattle for three men refusing to deploy to Iraq. A well-respected friend (not my buddy) expressed strong disapproval of the demonstration. His reason: in signing up they pledged to obey, and that trumped the illegality of the war. Reeling from that, I next was hit by the P-I’s Jamieson who put down Cindy Sheehan for dissing Bush. Jamieson was, or had been, an icon of reason. Somehow, intelligence wasn’t doing too well, cause-wise.

Religion certainly was a suspect, as usual. Most military people know they have God on their side, open meetings with a prayer, while on the other hand our youth are predominantly secular in outlook. But after the play the veterans in the trenches did not load any religious rounds in their guns.

How about the Code of the West, then, also known as the military culture? Right on, I thought, young minds born into peacetime versus old hands steeped in war’s heady tragedy. And what I came up with was close to culture but with a twist: Those who are more comfortable with authority are the more likely to be attracted to, or to remain with, the military culture.

Forward to 2010, and in regard to that comfort, or its lack, this is a nature v nurture question of the sort referable to, uh, Steven Pinker. He wrote a whole book on just that called The Blank Slate. On the other hand, it’s none of his business. We on Vashon should can the theories and sit each other down for a little talk. I have proposed to my friends that our culture is dysfunctional because our youth are not included in matters of importance, and that we desperately need to rectify that. Forget rebuilding the material school (levy, levy) and instead build a conversation, I said. It could go like this:

Youth: Where’s the skate park downtown?
Adult: What skate park?

And so on. Plug the empty space between us with words. What dentist will let me pay for my child’s toothache with labor? Why cannot the students care for the school grounds in return for shares in something? Will the student council hold a referendum on the war? On Leonard Peltier? Should not the high school have a program leading to a degree in island culture, as in agri? And do the youth of Vashon think the island should be self-sustainable? I mean, to be ready for when things, uh, hit bottom.

Our Climate Crisis: Light Rail, Racism & Classism
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.

In 2009, the WA legislature debated Transit Oriented Development (TOD) bills. The idea was, and is, to subsidize new office, retail and residential development around new transit centers—reducing commutes and carbon emissions.

The Seattle Displacement Coalition then published excellent analyses linking new transit stations (of any kind— Seattle’s light rail project, LINK dominates this category in Seattle now) to escalating real estate values. This unleashes a market-driven spiral that includes: (1) rapidly rising rents that (2) force low income people, predominately people of color, to move to cheaper regions with lower rents that (3) are farther from population centers and employment, (4) thus increasing commutes to jobs (5) from areas less likely to be served by public transport and (6) increasing carbon emissions from cars used in those longer commutes.

These analyses, and experiences in big cities around the country (see Transit Riders for Public transport website) suggest that shiny new rail projects often oppress low income communities. These projects also deliver construction carbon footprints that threaten our climate. In many cases, environmental justice is best served by buses.

A further point about the non-sustainable pollution from LINK.

Construction activity producing massive carbon emissions should not escape the climate criteria we apply to other sectors like transport, agriculture, power generation and de-forestation.

Future operation of LINK is not the core issue for me. Construction emissions from LINK are my worry. The bulk of LINK construction is still to come. Carbon emissions from this construction will dwarf emissions reductions from future operation for any time frame that is meaningful. At best, we have ten years to radically reduce emissions or face climate catastrophe.

If continued construction of LINK will grossly pollute our atmosphere and worsen our Climate Crisis, I suggest we should not continue that construction. What we do, or don’t do, now is crucial. Carbon emitted today, regardless of source, will plague the earth for decades and centuries and millennia.

Traffic jams are frustrating and hugely polluting. Buses do get stuck in traffic jams. Light rail does not. But filling more buses can be an efficient way to take cars off the roads. And without the non-sustainable infrastructure projects LINK is requiring. In downtown Seattle, I favor a Car Free Zone within the current borders of the bus Ride Free Area.

From Where I Stand: Credit Scores and the Hypocrisies of Capitalism
“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.

Credit Scores and the Hypocrisies of Capitalism
by Richard Curtis

According to the web site “Wise Geek”:
“The amount of credit inquiries made on your report can also make your credit score go down. This is because lenders believe you may be planning to go on spending spree if you’re trying to open several new accounts in a short period of time.”

This sounds so reasonable, right? Yes, that assumption might hold, and in those cases it is wise to pay attention. But what other motives might people have for multiple credit inquiries? And more importantly is that other reason more common and therefore more likely related to the banks’ motive for penalizing people via their credit score?

Yes and yes!

What is most remarkable about conversations with people involved in lending or knowledgeable about it is how freely they can brattle off that little rationalization above. “Banks discourage you from making credit inquires because you might be planning to go on a spending spree.” Banks have said this over and over and now people believe it.

You see, this is patently ridiculous and obviously just a cheap lie to cover their real motives. How do I know it is a lie? Because the thing that they are worried about is the credit you have and are using, not the credit about which you might be asking. It indicates nothing that one has inquiries into their credit other than someone needed to know that person’s credit to do something. Banks want and need to know how much credit you actually have (and asking is not equivalent to having). They are interested in whether to give you more credit or not, so inquiries are irrelevant, actual credit granted and used is all that matters.

Why would there be multiple inquiries into someone’s credit? Because they are preparing to make a major purchase and want to compare loan offers!

That is the real reason banks want to penalize you for inquiries into your credit. You cannot possibly make a rational decision about borrowing money for a large purchase (like a home) without comparing offers from various lenders. But to get an accurate estimate the lender has to pull your credit to see what is real. The only way for an individual to be a rational actor in a borrowing situation is to do things that undermine their credit score, which is not rational. So it is a Catch-22 they have created in which they punish us for being rational.

Well…lend me a nickel and lend me a dime,
repossess my house any old time.
Financial institutions think they’re so high-falutin’…
Just a bunch of fruits in three piece suits,
trying to steal all my loot.
— Mojo Nixon & Skid Roper, “I Hate Banks”

At this point, I want someone to appear to try to argue that capitalism is a glorious system that works according to this magical market in which the rational decisions of various actors are all balanced and out pops an ideal society. What is remarkable to me about this is that anybody believes it. It is the most ludicrous fantasy, completely devoid of evidence, and yet our whole society is based on that wishful thinking.

Obviously when you look at the situation of borrowing it is clear that the arguments in support of capitalism are pure drivel. In these cases, as I have shown, we cannot be rational actors so the assumption that the market is mediating between rational actors is demonstrably false, pure delusion.

More humorously, “the market” is a mystical idea only crazy people believe. When Adam Smith wrote about “the invisible hand of the market” he was talking about a particular God. Smith was a devout Calvinist. Remember Calvin is the scary one who came up with the idea of double predestination. In Calvin’s view God is responsible for and in control of everything. Smith was deeply passionate about Calvin’s theology and then wrote about economics. To Smith it is obvious that the market should work out because God is in control of everything.

Now, no one believes in Calvin’s God any longer (well, no sane person). It is a crazy notion, religiously speaking. Ironically it is logical. Calvin was simply working through the implications of omnipotence. If one believes that god is omnipotent then one ought to follow Calvin as his theology is the only one that is completely rational in its treatment of the concept of omnipotence. But no one believes it these days. Some argue any omnipotent concept of god is incoherent and that is why there are so many competing and equally ungrounded views out in the world.

So why does anyone believe Smith? They don’t! They just say they do. Anyone who reads Smith and knows anything about his biography knows that he accepts beliefs that are simply outrageous in the modern world. So why do people say they believe Smith? Because he has such an elegant rationalization for why we should accept capitalism, it is just that it is wishful thinking. But it is so elegant! Surely anything that elegant should be true? Well, no, but it is a nice thought.

Capitalism is simply an organized plan to screw the most people possible out of their money and their lives. If you don’t believe this yet try to find the best loan for a home.

I hate banks…
I just can’t stand ’em.
Gimme a shovel and man I’ll plant ’em.
Six feet under that’s where they belong…

[Richard Curtis, PhD has a couple of advanced degrees in the study of religion and just bought a house.]

Pencil Shavings: Near the End of the Line
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.

Next week’s Greener Times will be the last edition of this incarnation. As many of you know, I’ve been battling a number of health issues the past year and I’m at the point in which I need to focus more of my attention in that direction. So, Greener Times is going on an extended hiatus.

I decided that, rather than make some big pronouncements, I will let GT live or die organically. If the time comes in the not-so-distant future when I feel I can devote the needed time to keep it going, it may bob back up to the surface and keep on going as if it never stopped. On the other hand, the next edition may well be the final swan song. We’ll just need to play it by ear.


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