defn. a mixture of various things
12-2-13: One More Spill of Fracked Petrochemicals: this time in Alabama
A train derailment in Alabama on November 7th resulted in a 2.7 Million gallon spill, impacting a creek and adjacent wetlands. Spill contents were hydrofracked North Dakota Bakken Shale ‘crude oil’ being transported for refining near the U.S. Gulf Coast. This news article has much to ponder. It discusses the apparent (and improper) use of water to ‘dilute’ the spill, and the related failure to use technologies that effectively absorb spilled hydrocarbons. The article also presents a concise list (with links) of some of the major pipeline failures, derailments, and other hydrocarbon spills since 2010. As we continue to irresponsibly add even more carbon dioxide to our atmosphere, perhaps the time will soon arrive when we realize we need to stop this mad hyper-consumption of fossil fuels. The problem is not pipeline safety, nor is it railcar safety, both of which have repeatedly proven to be poorly managed by both operators and federal regulators. One good quote near the end of this article sums it up:
10-11-13: Another Large Pipeline Spill!
A North Dakota farmer began noticing an oil smell while harvesting wheat. A few days later, he noticed the tires on his equipment were oily. Then he found the reason: a spot of ground with oil bubbling up, caused by yet another ruptured pipeline. The spill is estimated at 20,600 barrels, thus four times the size of the spill last Spring that contaminated Lake Conway, in Mayflower, AR. The pipeline, operated by Tesoro, is said to carry fracked crude from the Bakken shale. “Protection and care of the environment are fundamental to our core values, and we deeply regret any impact to the landowner,” Tesoro CEO Greg Goff said in a statement. “We will continue to work tirelessly to fully remediate the release area.” (…Oh, really?) As has been the pattern in recent years, the initial pipeline rupture and environmental contamination is bad enough, but the mishandling by corporate and government officials is arguable far worse. The news stories show that North Dakota government officials dilly dallied, staying quiet for days. While it was first reported on 9/29/13, the Governor first learned of this problem ten days later, on 10/9/13. And, the public was not informed until 10/10/13.
9-15-13: Razing the Garden of Eden
Is it fair to suggest we are experiencing the rise of the ‘Ninja Bureaucrat’, and a trend toward overkill where authority is arbitrarily asserted, sometimes to benefit cronies? Check out this short blog by Jim Hightower, about a SWAT raid in Arlington, TX. It has all appearances of a simple story where a local organic farm, named ‘Garden of Eden’, was not properly trimming their lawn and controlling their blackberries, thus failing to comply with local residential codes. So, they were raided by ‘authorities’, and handcuffed while their garden was searched and many plants destroyed. No marijuana plants were found, but ‘authorities’ did seize “17 blackberry bushes, 15 okra plants, 14 tomatillo plants … and native grasses and sunflowers,” according to the property owner. On top of the violation of personal liberties, there appears to be a disturbing trend toward overkill and excessive force. Why is this happening? It just seems too plausible that, as local police authorities build up their assets (such as assembling SWAT units), they create a need to use these new assets, to prove their value and, well, just to have something to do. Sort of like needing to hoe the weeds in your garden, so, gee, why not get the job done with a bulldozer? Not too different from the ‘overkill’ in California, when a volunteer died falling from a National Guard helicopter being used to clean up a remote marijuana grow. One wonders, was the Arlington SWAT unit created using only local Arlington tax money, or did it evolve with substantial state and or federal funding support? In other words, would this SWAT raid (or the helicopter death) have happened, if less money was being directed to create new assets (SWAT units and additional helicopters) with not enough real work to do?
Norman Solomon opines about how critical Whistleblowers are today, to guard against government PR campaigns (and other propaganda). His Op/Ed is posted at Nation of Change, along with the above artwork by Stephen Pitt, which graphically presents the same message. Solomon’s closing comment: “…real journalism can’t function without whistleblowers. Democracy can’t function without real journalism. And we can’t stop the warfare state without democracy. In the long run, the struggles for peace and democracy are one and the same….”
8-20-2013: The Big Silicon Valley Super Powerball Lottery
Dean Baker’s article touching on redistribution of wealth via crazy stock ideas. An excerpt: “Just as Wall Street is now largely about ripping off suckers, the high tech world of Silicon Valley seems to have evolved into the West Coast version. And it ain’t pretty.”
8-3-2013: Do Some People Want Jobs to Stay Anemic?
Robert Reich’s webpage offers many posts with thought-provoking views and analysis. In this post, he suggests that those with money have a set of incentives to maintain higher unemployment levels. Here are the three incentives he lists in his post:
7-26-2013: Despite the BigOil PR hogwash, U.S. hydrocarbon production is in decline
Three charts presented by Tom Lewis at DailyImpact.net argue convincingly that the ads and spin about U.S. energy production and independence are, well, just a lot of hot air. The article notes that hydrofracked wells, on top of their environmental damage, are costly to produce yet last for very few years. The article closes with this:
See also an earlier post at DailyImpact.net, with a summary of a new DoEnergy report showing how Climate Change is undermining the entire U.S. energy sector. Some interesting points are made.
7-15-2013: Mix of Arsenic and Estrogen Increases Risk of Prostate Cancer
An article posted at Beyond Pesticides, via EcoWatch.com. Peer-reviewed studies are cited (and linked), discussing the health risks associated with low dosages of toxic, commonly-used chemicals such as 2,4-D and bisphenol-A. As stated by one research scientist: “Only about 5 to 10 percent of cancers are due to genetic predisposition. Science has looked at these chemicals, such as arsenic, and tested them in a lab to find the amounts that may cause cancer. But that’s just a single chemical in a single test. In the real world, we are getting exposed to many chemicals at once.”
7-12-2013: Uranium Titan Tumbles
Geoffrey Sea has written a series of five articles looking at the history of what may be the greatest failure of cronyistic privatization. It focuses on an issue with very serious health consequences, too: the production of nuclear fuel, in Paducah, KY.
Back in 1992, Congress approved the sale of federal assets in Kentucky, which enabled a private firm, United States Enrichment Corporation, aka USEC, Inc., to establish a monopoly interest in the uranium enrichment business. The sale/transition was completed in July 1998, with the sale of USEC stock — which has been in a rapid decline the past five years. In the early years, it was a sweet partnership for USEC, which could rely on handsome contracts to do uranium enrichment for the Department of Energy (DoE). This relationship has all but disintegrated in recent years; in fact, USEC filed a lawsuit against DoE on 5/30/13 (see Part IV of this article series). History has shown that the Federal Government can be extraordinarily wasteful. Privatization can work to end that waste … but it can also work to amplify that waste, while feeding a bunch of greedy cronies. Anyone interested in the issue of privatization, and how it can fail, should spend some time reading the USEC story.
6-22-2013: Cranking Up the Washington Lie Machine
Dave Lindorff offers another thoughtful Op/Ed at Nation of Change. He expresses his doubts about claims by both NSA and the administration to defend the wholesale violation of our individual privacy. At first, they came out saying the secret snooping stopped two attacks; then, they quickly said it was fifty. They claim bigger numbers but, of course, they cannot and will not show evidence to confirm their larger claims. An excerpt: “… we don’t get to learn what those alleged busted plots were. If they were as hairbrained as the underwear bomber’s plan, which succeeded only in scorching his own privates, or as poorly conceived as the Times Square bomber’s plot, which succeeded only in burning some of the upholstery in his SUV, we don’t really have much to show for the freedom we’ve had stolen from us….”
6-20-2013: Rising Seas: A City-by-City Forecast
The Atlantic coast between North Carolina and Massachusetts is at high risk. This Rolling Stone magazine article lists some of the U.S. cities most at risk due to climate change. A companion article offers images of what Miami might look like after a hurricane in the year 2030.
6-20-2013: Warming Ocean Biggest Driver of Antarctic Ice Melt
A recent study assesses rates of Antarctic ice melt in its two primary modes: the calving of large pieces of ice into the sea, and the ‘basal melting’ of ice by warming seawater beneath. The Antarctic ice shelves help hold the massive land-ice in place; faster ice shelf melting may accelerate the flow of the Antarctic glaciers, thus also accelerating sea level rise. Estimates are that if all Antarctic ice were to melt, it would add approximately 200-feet to the average sea level. There is still ample research to be done. If we wait to see how fast it melts, a rise of only 20-feet will flood over many coastal communities, many key airports, and even much of the state of Florida. Bangkok, Thailand will become a small island, until that too disappears; 14 million people live in and around Bangkok.
6-20-2013: Monsanto’s Website Hacked After Two Million March
The ‘Hacktivist’ group Anonymous reportedly hacked into the website just days after more than two million people protested against GMO’s and Monsanto’s anti-small-farmer practices. The frequency of this type of activism appears to be on the rise. And, it sure feels like many more people appreciate the work, as a brave and necessary push-back. Sixty years ago, the whole country would have freaked out. Let’s hope the balance of power shifts so that these activities can become unnecessary. [Link to article at Nation of Change]
6-2-2013: Greyhound Therapy
Here’s a disturbing story. This is not about taking care of dogs. This is about taking care of the problem of homeless people, by shipping them off to another city. In its earliest forms, this tactic involved one-way tickets on a Greyhound Bus, hence the name.
Of course, this is no way to ‘take care’ of problems such as homelessness and mental illness (which two problems often coincide for the same impoverished individual).
An example of this disturbing practice is provided in a Sacramento Bee article by Cynthia Hubert, Phillip Reese and Jim Sanders. The reporters reviewed bus receipts kept by Nevada’s mental health division, and found that in the past five years, the Rawson-Neal Psychiatric Hospital in Las Vegas has sent away more than 1,500 patients. Many were sent to California cities, via Greyhound Bus one-way tickets. Typically, they were put on the bus with enough food to last a couple days. Also, they were routinely provided with a dosage of the appropriate medication to control their disorder for a few days … which of course ran out, soon after they arrived at their new ‘home’.
I did say this was a disturbing story, right? It is a sick system, that would treat people so poorly, and create so many huge problems for others. On 4/30/13, Dr. Ami Bera and twenty other Congressional representatives from California sent a letter to Eric Holder and HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, requesting a full investigation. A 5/1/13 Op/Ed in the Oakland Tribune amplified their concerns. Judge it yourself. Here is a collection of links:
…hover over the green-box links below for brief descriptions…
…The detailed story of how Nevada mental health system mishandled the case of James Flavy Coy Brown. And, his case appears to be just the tip of the iceberg for a larger problem … a system that fails to manage mental illness.
…A good article, with many links. Focuses on the larger history. This problem has roots in the Kennedy administration, and was compounded during the Reagan administration. Also notes the connection with similar policies for handling illegal immigrants.
6-2-2013: Unrest in Turkey
Tens of thousands occupied Taksim Square in Istanbul for three days, and faced teargas from police. A NYTimes article with numerous photos calls it a fight for identity, where the Turkish government is rapidly displacing residents to develop malls and other projects.
Interestingly, conflict boundaries appear to align with age, with both older and younger generations protesting the abuse of power by middle-year generations. Protest ideals appear to come from the oldest generation (many in their 80’s), while protest actions come from the young (mostly in their twenties, as happened in Egypt and elsewhere). The target of the protest is clearly the generation in power: those in their 40’s through 60’s, who are perceived to be abusing their power to implement projects for personal financial gain, much as happened with the bank collapse five years ago.
6-2-2013: Obama’s Covert Trade Deal
An op/ed in the NYTimes by Lori Wallach & Ben Beachy highlights the contradiction between the oft-stated ‘transparency’ goals of the Obama administration and the reality of non-transparent performance. The example cited is the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), “…the most significant international commercial agreement since the creation of the World Trade Organization in 1995.” Some excerpts:
5-29-2013: Global Citizen Media Project
It is nice to find there are people in this world who move beyond words and take action. One such person is Diana Gross. A teacher in Maryland, she started to travel in 2011, using an iPad and other digital technologies to connect students between classrooms in distant corners of the world. ‘The Traveling Teacher Project’ includes workshops and classroom participation, where she is primarily teaching Citizen Journalism, while also seeking to engage citizens in a global discussion. Diana has taken her program to sixteen nations, and currently resides in Cambodia…
“This past week, temperatures were over 42 degrees celsius (110 degrees fahrenheit), but it didn’t diminish the enthusiasm in the room as we published, student by student, their first WordPress-based websites and blogs. Before pressing ‘Publish’ on each account, I asked the student, “Are you ready to share your ideas with the world?” “Yes,” each one answered. And after pressing, ‘Publish’, the room erupted in cheers. And the look of pride on the students will stay with me for a lifetime.”
Here are some links:
— Diana received National Geographic Magazine’s annual award.
— After a year and a half, her program continues to evolve. Next stop may be Africa.
5-13-2013: Atlas Shrugged Off Taxes
An Op/Ed piece by Paul Buchheit appears at Nation of Change. It is an interesting read, and opens with: “Ayn Rand’s novel “Atlas Shrugged” fantasizes a world in which anti-government citizens reject taxes and regulations, and “stop the motor” by withdrawing themselves from the system of production. In a perverse twist on the writer’s theme the prediction is coming true. But instead of productive people rejecting taxes, rejected taxes are shutting down productive people.” He also comments about the appearance that the very corporations who dodge taxes and use off-shore shelters, those same corporations get a lot of support from FAA and others in government: “…corporations use highways and shipping lanes and airports to ship their products, the FAA and TSA and Coast Guard and Department of Transportation to safeguard them….”
This diagram shows the location and relative impact of fourteen giant-scale projects aimed at tapping and consuming coal and other carbon sources. Some would argue that the principal beneficiaries are a few energy companies, who gain financially while the rest of the world loses. Not just in terms of land destroyed, but also in terms of pollution, global warming, sea rising, …the list goes on and on. Is there something within the human DNA that we MUST extract and consume every hydrocarbon molecule? Is there some way to tame our addiction, so as to avoid the demise that inevitably follows such behavior? Would it be reasonable for a federal government to declare it illegal to remove the coal layer that lies under two-thirds of Illinois — to declare that, all things considered, that coal is best left under that farmland?
5-8-2013: In Praise of Richard Falk
Connecting to the issue of what we need to do to prevent future terrorist attacks like the Boston Marathon bombing, this opinion piece by Lawrence Davidson discusses Richard Falk. Mr. Falk is a professor emeritus of international law at Princeton University and the United Nations Special Rapporteur on Human Rights in the Palestinian territories. He applied his expertise and offered some suggestions shortly after the 4/15/13 bombing. This article effectively presents Mr. Falk as speaking up, from a position of authority and with a valid concern, but with the misfortune that his words offend those in power; i.e., Mr. Falk shows the same pattern of speaking up and thus triggering suppression, as happens against whistleblowers. Here are a few excerpts:
5-8-2013: EPA Approves Sulfoxaflor
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) approved the unconditional registration of the new insecticide sulfoxaflor, which the agency classifies as highly toxic to honey bees. Despite warnings and concerns raised by beekeepers and environmental groups, sulfoxaflor will further endanger bees and beekeeping. The U.S. EPA continues to put industry interests first to exacerbate an already dire pollinator crisis. Sulfoxaflor is a new active ingredient, whose mode of action is similar to that of neonicotinoid pesticides—it acts on the nicotinic acetylcholine receptor in insects. Even though it has not been classified as a neonicotinoid, it elicits similar neurological responses in honey bees, with many believing that sulfoxaflor is the new generation of neonicotinoid. Sulfoxaflor will be registered for use on vegetables, fruits, barley, canola, ornamentals, soybeans, wheat and others. Neonicotinoid pesticide use was recently suspended by the European Union for two years, as a measure to arrest declining bee health. The EPA also approved new pollinator label language it believes to be “robust” to protect pollinators. Sulfoxaflor labels will state language such as:
“Do not apply this product at any time between 3 days prior to bloom and until after petal fall.”
…and advisory pollinator statement:
“Notifying known beekeepers within 1 mile of the treatment area 48 hours before the product is applied will allow them to take additional steps to protect their bees. Also limiting application to times when managed bees and native pollinators are least active, e.g., before 7 a.m. or after 7 p.m. local time or when temperature is below 55oF at the site of application, will minimize risk to bees.”
So, clearly EPA recognizes the hazard of this chemical they have now approved. But, how about a dose of reality here? How in the hell does EPA expect to ensure farmers comply with these guidelines? Farmers (and the laborers they hire) lack the flexibility to ‘wait’ until the right application conditions. And, how will they enforce non-compliances? Well, they won’t. The short answer is simple: EPA has again proven they exist only to provide cover for the pesticide industry. Dow (and others) have the backing of EPA to protect them from consequences of their chemical designs; EPA has some well-paid civil servants building their retirement pensions while pretending to protect the environment; farmers have the new chemical that they can misapply for short-term gain but long-term disaster; consumers have one more layer of oblivion; and the bees and other vitally needed insects face collapse and/or extinction.
5-6-2013: Boston Marathon, this thing called terrorism, and the United States
An interesting opinion piece by William Blum; here are a few excerpts:
…Let’s be done with it. Coal kills in so many ways: during its extraction, with the pollutants from its use, and in the massive toxic waste disposal. Show me a pile of coal and I will show you an ongoing conflict that will never go away … where money buys mine disasters, corrupt officials, land despoliation, air and water pollution, health declines and early death. Plunder, really, so that the resource extractor may make a small profit.
Coal. Let’s be done with it.
…a new novel, as reviewed in NYTimes. It ponders ‘…the virus of shortsightedness, hypocrisy, lies and unfettered greed that plagues the “post-imperial, post-cold-war world”…’
3-22-2013: The Veal Pen
David Pardo at MSPBWatch has proven to be something of a lightning rod among whistleblowers. He has done some brilliant work, and is strongly dedicated to transparency, but he has also at times engaged in battles with people like Tom Devine at GAP. I am not going to try to judge the right or wrong of those battles, but I think it is fair to say: it is a frustration to all of us in the whistleblower community that these battles keep happening. In the latest flare-up, David is expressing concerns about GAP’s Jesselyn Radack and a blogger for FireDogLake, Kevin Gosztola. Generally, I choose to not even start to read these exchanges, as I have enough work to do related to FAA failures and whistleblowers. But, this time, my eye did catch one reference that piqued my curiosity: the VEAL PEN. A quick online search reveals a 2009 article, with an explanation of the VEAL PEN, as a symbol of failure within modern politics. A fascinating read (here’s the link), not just for what it was articulating in the fall of 2009, but even more so because it appears, in three and a half years, not much has changed.
…the VEAL PEN persists, as a symbol of Progressive failure…
Back to David Pardo and MSPBWatch, and maybe some closure…. Much of my respect for David is rooted in his having pushed back against my agency, the FAA. David hired on in late 2009, and worked at FAA’s General Counsel office, headed by David Grizzle at FAA Headquarters. He saw problems in how FAA was handling rules related to fatigue, and he spoke up. This remains a big issue at FAA; there was and is a lack of regulation for hours worked by pilots, mechanics, rampers, schedulers, and this has created a history of many fatal accidents over many decades. David spoke up, and he was terminated near the end of his probationary ‘first year’. I first learned of David’s case because he exercised his right to free speech and created a blog, which essentially provided a real-time insight into the retaliation FAA was taking against him. He had the guts – and the heart – to speak up on his way out; he was still employed by FAA, yet was posting online for all to see: “…hey, look at what FAA is doing now … how wrong is this?” The very core of being a whistleblower is allowing your instinct toward truth and transparency to prevail over your narrow self-interest. This quality is a threat to others, as it undermines the absolute authority of abusive corporations, agencies and/or bureaucrats. David followed his whistleblower instinct, and he went even further by adding a layer of internet transparency. His work helped many whistleblowers to deal with their own harsh situations.
Thanks for your work, David, but I do hope we can all quit expending too much energy on attacking other members of the whistleblower community. And, I also hope that GAP and others will work hard to prove they are not in the VEAL PEN business.
3-1-2013:. Will Newest National Park Be Marred by Oil Drilling?
Pinnacles, a rugged area an hour south of San Jose, serves as home to condors, but is under threat of oil development, including possible fracking. Article from Earth Island Journal, as posted at EcoWatch. New Study of Ice Age Bolsters Carbon and Warming Link
One strategy used by those who deny mankind’s role in climate change (hey, all that fossil fuel burning produces huge quantities of CO2, which has to go somewhere!) has been to claim there is no link. Even more, they discredit the science that has been done, by acting like there is a real significance to the timing… which came first, the temperature rise or the CO2 rise? They make a big deal out of an alleged 800-year gap, in which temperatures lead CO2. Now, a new study is proving the 800-year gap may be closer to 200-years, and may not exist at all. The theory to explain the gap is that air bubbles trapped within crystallizing glacial ice do not become fully ‘trapped’ for decades or even centuries; thus, the composition of that air reflects air qualities from the later time … hence, a delay. Of course, delay or no delay, it is irrefutable that we create one helluva lot of CO2 (and other pollutants) due to our modern, consumption-focused lifestyles. [NYTimes article]*[JunkScience.com article]
2-22-2013: Instead of Trying to Feed the World, Let’s Help it Feed Itself.
An opinion piece by Shannon Hayes, in Yes! Magazine. She works on a family farm in upstate New York and advocates local sustainability. Here is an excerpt…
2-21-2013: Fracking Our Farms: A Tale of Five Farming Families
An article by Alexis Baden-Mayer of the Organic Consumers Association. Includes brief case summaries where fracking has caused health issues on family farms. [link to article]
“Everyone is talking about reform, but in fact everyone has a fear of reform.”
QUOTATION OF THE DAY, in the New York Times. By Ma Yong, a historian at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, on the conflicting messages delivered by China’s Communist Party officials on their commitment to reforms.
2-12-2013: Happy to be Here
Steve Stockman, a Republican representative from Texas, invited 64-year-old rockstar Ted Nugent as a guest to President Obama’s State of the Union address. He happily accepted. Well, sort of…As described by Jonathan Weisman at the New York Times, “…in a House chamber filled conspicuously with the victims of gun violence and family members still grieving for lost loved ones, Mr. Nugent seemed like a provocation, a saber-toothed tiger invited to a garden party.”
2-6-2013: Drones to be Discussed During CIA Confirmation Hearings
New York Times has published an article, Drone Strikes’ Dangers to Get Rare Moment in Public Eye, written by Scott Shane, Robert Worth and Mark Mazzetti. It outlines the impact of drones being used to assassinate targets in places like Yemen, with mounting collateral damages. John O. Brennan, the White House counter-terrorism adviser, faces a Senate confirmation hearing to become the new CIA director. Domestically, drones are regulated by FAA. Drones have potential to have both positive and negative impacts. On the positive side, they are a very energy-efficient means of assessing surface conditions, toward land monitoring and management. But, on the negative side, when the ‘herd’ being monitored and managed consists of homo sapiens, drone usage becomes a gross violation of privacy rights. [link to article] Update on Boeing and the 787 Battery Fires Leeham News and Comment has again compiled a solid update, with links. UBS is estimating a writeoff by Boeing of at least $6 Billion, due to the battery problems. A link to a copy of a 6-12-05 Press Release is provided, showing the award of the Li-ion battery contract to GS Yuasa (that was two years before manufacturers gained FAA approval for use of the Li-ion technology). An 11-14-12 presentation by a Boeing official discusses Li-ion designs, cargo hazards, and more. Lastly, there is a link to a 4.7Mb color PDF study prepared in July 2011, by the Fire Protection Research Foundation; the title is Lithium-Ion Batteries Hazard and Use Assessment. [link to LeehamNews]
2-5-2013: Acceptance of Climate Change through Anecdotal Evidence
To many of us concerned about Climate Change, there is a grave concern at how quiet the media and our political leaders have become. We witness an incessant onslaught of climate change denial by specific corporations, paid hacks and political leaders (pardon the apparent redundancy!), while watching so many leaders with real power and potential simply shy away. So, a mere mention of this issue by President Obama in his acceptance and inaugural speeches, stirs hope for change. Maybe, just maybe, he will shoot down Keystone XL, for example. Reflecting on this past year, it seems the denial efforts are losing. The acceptance that ‘yes, we have a problem’, is slowly growing through anecdotal evidence. Last summer’s parched American midland, the late-season Hurricane Sandy, the diminishing Arctic ice, the record average temperatures, and now news from the Iditarod. Big Carbon and its allies spend millions of dollars to confuse and convince, but much of this spin is undone by straight comments from a sled-dog racer. The area north of Fairbanks, where mushers train, has a snowpack at 21% of normal. Daily temperatures in the 30’s and 40’s are producing rain, not snow. Other races have been cancelled. Dog owners are breeding dogs that have thinner coats, more suitable to warmer weather. The leaders may be quiet, but the evidence declares that ‘yes, we have a problem’. [link to article]
1-29-2013: The Hypocrisy of Drone Warfare
I enjoyed most of the Inaugural speech, but came across a harshly negative view on that same speech today. Dave Lindorff wrote an opinion piece that appeared in Nation of Change: “Hey, Hey, Barack, what do you say, how many kids have you killed today?” He explains his disgust for the speech, pointing to the hypocrisy he sees; we have billion dollar contracts producing drones and other weaponry being used to kill innocents far from home. He notes that Obama has been President for 310 of the 362 drone strikes on Pakistan. More than 3,000 have died, and of those, at least 172 were reportedly children. Yeah, I can see some hypocrisy, a basis for disgust there. Troubling. And worth thinking about. Not necessarily attributable to the man in the White House, given the layers within our government and the complexity of the world, including the distortions of the media (including the internet). But, it also presents a great opportunity to lead. How do we change courses, and stop the killing? [link to article]*[link to org.]
The human spirit is indomitable.
Like ants, we will build and move what we must, to live our lives.
But one thing that has changed is that technology enables those few in power to scale up their defenses (such as these massive concrete blocks), as well as their offensive weaponry (such as fighters, missiles and now drones).
The ancestors of these young men built the pyramids. It is debated whether they were slaves. Today, enraged by a sense that they lack liberty, they employ the same tools — not to build pyramids, but to remove the obstacles emplaced by the few in power. It is (again) debated, whether they are slaves.
I stumbled into this 8-9-12 NYTimes article by Thomas Fuller. My country first applied Agent Orange in Vietnam in 1961, and continued for a decade, dropping 20 million gallons of various herbicides. Five decades later, the rates of local birth defects remain extraordinary. The reality of this tragedy was amplified for me, since I recently viewed the documentary about Daniel Ellsberg and the Pentagon Papers. 1961 was three years before Tonkin Gulf; here, in the homeland, we were eating Wonderbread and Sunny Jim, oblivious to the fact we were so deeply engaged in Southeast Asia. Would it be too strong for me to question: “what the hell was wrong with us?” It all drives home the absolute point: we can not afford failures where these atrocities become revealed decades later. If a government official (or a private employee) is going to screw up, at least be open about it. We must have far greater transparency and accountability.
1-23-2013: Climate Change: How to Tackle the Most Pressing Challenge Facing Humanity. A brief article at EcoWatch summarizing the present state of affairs with the climate change issue: what we know, what is being challenged, who is challenging it, etc.
1-18-2013: A 21-count indictment has been filed against Ray Nagin, New Orleans mayor from 2002-2010, accused of receiving numerous kickbacks related to the rebuilding after Hurricane Katrina.
1-17-2013: A new gyre of plastic debris has been located, the first to be found in the southern hemisphere. Located west of South America.
1-14-2013: A trio of photos, showing how bad recent smog was in Beijing. Pollutants were reported as 40-times maximum safe levels.
1-11-2013: A Cancer Cycle, From Here to China; NYTimes Op-Ed by Dan Fagin. interesting article relating a recent carcinogen spill in China to aniline contamination and cancer clusters decades ago, at Toms River, NJ. Fagin has a forthcoming book, after years of research.
1-10-2013: Just a few months before accepting President Nixon’s request to become a Supreme Court Justice, Lewis F. Powell, Jr. wrote a memo to an official at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, entitled ‘Attack on American Free Enterprise System’. It took this slow learner forty years to even know about it. Fascinating perspective by an important U.S. legal mind, at a critical juncture in U.S. history. This was during a short period when Congress was passing lots of laws to save our environment, though at the time there was virtually no comprehension of an eventual CO2 problem related to our accelerating fossil fuel consumption. It was also a volatile time: we were mired in a war in Vietnam; clandestine release of the Pentagon Papers; covert illegalities by our President, such as Watergate; and, setting the roots of today’s Mideast tensions. What most impressed me about Justice Powell’s memo were two things: first, the clearly articulated perception of the problem of dissidents within our society (along with the need to manage those dissidents); and, second, that more than forty years later, it looks like nothing has changed. Nada.
1-2-2013: David Suzuki’s recent article, It’s Time to Stop Spinning Our Wheels, is well worth reading. He points out that we are failing to address the CO2 problem. He presents details of the 1988 climate change conference in Toronto, attended by hundreds of scientists and policymakers. In 1988, George H. W. Bush was seeking election, on the promise to be an ‘environmental’ president. A photo-op of Margaret Thatcher picking up a piece of litter was ‘proof’ that she was a ‘greenie’, too. Twenty-five years later, as we crush the North American geology above and below the surface, desperate to produce both shale-gas and frack-gas, it appears we have done virtually NOTHING to meaningfully reduce our fossil fuel addiction. This needs to change.
12-22-12: Interesting article by Janet Larsen, Director of Research at the Earth Policy Institute. Looks at the 1930’s U.S. dustbowl, the Soviet dustbowl of the 1950’s and 1960’s, and two new dustbowls in NW China and south of the African Sahara.
12-15-12: “I like my cases to age as long as possible, like a fine wine.”
The Legal Aid lawyer was articulating a basic principle of criminal defense practice: delay helps the accused. People forget, they get scared, they move, and things get lost. [link to NYT Op/Ed]
A time-lapse video of five hours of arrivals at San Diego International Airport, condensed into 26-seconds. Put together by Cy Kuckenbacker, using a camera shooting the sky upward from near/under a bridge, on ‘Black Friday’, 11/23/12.
The Union of Concerned Scientists has a “Half the Oil Plan“, presented in June 2012 as “…a practical plan to dramatically reduce U.S. oil consumption, save consumers billions of dollars, and position the United States as a global leader in transportation technology.” Emphasis is on fuel efficiency and the development of biofuels, to reduce the projected 2035 U.S. oil consumption of 22 million barrels/day. It appears the plan does not include savings that might result from altering consumption habits, such as getting Americans to cut in half the number of car-miles or air-miles consumed per capita. Here are the savings estimates, borrowed from the UCSUSA.org webpage:
|Oil Savings Strategies||Oil Savings (millions of barrels per day) in 2035*|
|Double the fuel efficiency of new cars and light trucks by 2025.||4 mbd|
|Double the fuel efficiency of most commercial vehicles (delivery trucks, buses, and big rigs) by 2030.||1 mbd|
|Make planes, trains, and ships more fuel-efficient.||0.5 mbd|
|Retrofit buildings to use less energy, make boilers more efficient, and adopt substitutes for oil to heat our homes and manufacture goods.||2 mbd|
|Unleash the full potential of electric vehicles so that more than 40 percent of new vehicles sold by 2035 run on electricity instead of oil.||1.5 mbd|
|Produce 40 billion gallons of better biofuels from non-food sources like perennial grasses and waste products.||1.5 mbd|
|Expand transportation options.||1.5 mbd|
Total Oil Savings: Roughly 12 million barrels per day by 2035