Archive for the ‘power’ Category

This latest news from Huffington Post should make all of us political bloggers sit up and take notice.  Apparently one of Alaska’s marginally competent Republican Congressmen took issue with being a regular feature on the now-famous Mudflats blog and decided to go on a personal crusade to reveal the identity of his tormentor.

In a recent letter to his constituents, the “Honorable” Mr. Doogan included this little missive:

The identity of the person who writes the liberal Democratic Mudflats blog has been secret since the blog began, protected by the Anchorage Daily News, among others. My own theory about the public process is you can say what you want, as long as you are willing to stand behind it using your real name. So I was interested to learn that the woman who writes the blog is Anchorage resident *name redacted*.

Best wishes,

Mike

It’s nice to know he’s got such deep thoughts about free speech and democracy in America.  What a lunatic.  He, and jackasses like him, are the reason so many of us choose to blog anonymously.  Anonymity is not a sign of cowardice, it’s a sign of prudence.  Anonymity and privacy are rights guaranteed by the Constitution, and have been a cornerstone of American politics since the Revolution.  Doogan’s actions are nothing short of political harrassment, the most anti-American thing any politician can do.  He has abused his power and position.  It’s not for Doogan to reveal the identity of anyone whose opinions he disagrees with.  If his critics choose to attack him anonymously, that’s their choice.  Obviously, based on recent events, they have their reasons.  Doogan isn’t a good American – he’s a coward and a traitor.

And that’s my anonymous 2 cents.

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Following is a letter I wrote but did not send to my local paper, in response to a front-page article this week.
Sir,
Re. the January 6th article, “Towns lose watershed suit“, it comes as no surprise that a court based in Manhattan would rule against the rights of upstate citizens and communities.Under an EPA mandate waived last year, New York City would have had to install filtration systems and desalination plants, both of which would have reduced its dependency on Upstate New York for water and lessened the burden imposed on less wealthy communities in the Catskills. Instead of taking responsibility for its own water supply, the City succeeded in convincing a federal court that such measures would be too “costly” and was granted a ten-year waiver, in effect being given a license to pillage and plunder the poor for another decade. And at the end of this extension, I’m sure we can expect more of the same.

Interestingly, a search of the state’s premier newspaper, the New York Times, turns up not a single word written about this latest development. In fact, it’s very difficult to find any ink or bits devoted to covering Catskill Watershed issues between the pages of the Times. It’s very easy, however, to find articles about where to find “second homes”, “weekend retreats” and other “inexpensive” real estate. In other words, the City only really cares about upstate New York when it’s to their benefit to do so. Otherwise, they turn a blind eye to the damage they cause to the local communities by their insatiable desire for land.

New York City has been allowed to get away with treating the rest of the state as its feudal fiefdom for far too long. It’s time it started acting like a good neighbor instead of the greedy, grasping, overweening, bloodsucking parasite it’s been.

Why did I not send it?  Well, as it happens, the editor beat me to it.  The lead editorial was almost as scathing, but without the direct insults:

Surprise! NYC wins yet again

It’s not a surprise that a David lost another battle against a Goliath when Delaware watershed towns lost their legal battle to stop New York City’s exemption from filtering its water until at least 2017.

The towns of Hamden, Roxbury and Hunter had joined the Coalition of Watershed Towns in a suit against the federal Environmental Protection Agency over the Filtration Avoidance Determination waiver issued in 2007.

The 10-year waiver allows New York City to use water from the Catskill/Delaware system, which includes reservoirs at Cannonsville and Pepacton, provided it continues to take steps to ensure the quality of the water.

The fact that the city doesn’t have to spend $10 billion to build a filtration plant is the root of most of the animosity felt by leaders and residents of watershed towns in the Catskills and Delaware County.

That’s because the only way the EPA would issue filtration waivers to NYC is if the feds are sure that the water will be clean and drinkable anyway. And to achieve that certainty, the NYC Department of Environmental Protection is granted the authority to control most of the lands in the watershed. (click the link to read the rest)

New York City is nothing but a fat, bloated parasite leeching off its upstate neighbors.  I fucking hate the place.  New York would be much better off if the state would cut itself loose from the manacles of its feudal lords to the south.

Maybe if we started charging NYC use-taxes for the water and land it takes, the city leaders might think twice about what they’re doing.

These days everyone seems to be talking about “energy independence”. The ever-rising price of oil is dragging the costs of everything upward with it, as anyone who’s been to the grocery store lately knows. I predict as well that the costs of toys, computers and nearly everything else made from petroleum plastics will begin rising as well, sooner rather than later. So the cost of oil affects nearly every aspect of daily life. And keeping your personal cost of living down is not a simple matter of driving less or turning the thermostat down a couple of notches. It takes, on average, over 900 gallons of petroleum to feed each and every American, every year. That includes the oil used in farm implements, fertilizers and transportation of food to market. When you factor in the amount of oil and petroleum the average family uses each year – about 1,500 gallons – you begin to understand the scope of our problem.

So we need, as a nation, to come up with a comprehensive solution to the problem, and fast. As I stated in an earlier post, we’ve had 30 years to do something about this. Experts (geologists, not Republican propagandists) have been predicting this for nearly 80 years. The scientific data are clear – we will run out of exploitable oil. The signs are already there. Production reached a peak in 2004-2005 and has been dropping since. It’s not happening because of “profiteering” or “greed”, either. It’s happening because of one simple, incontrovertible fact – that to pump oil from a well, you need pressure within that well. The more you pump, the lower the pressure becomes. Eventually the well reaches a point of no return, where it becomes economically unfeasible and physically impossible to extract any more oil from the hole. You can use other substances to re-create that back pressure (water, carbon dioxide, and nitrogen are common methods) but It turns out that even with advanced drilling and pumping techniques, only about half of the total oil in any given well can be extracted (Deffeys, 2005). The rest will remain underground, tantalizingly out of reach.

Two years ago in his state of the union address, President Bush said that America is “addicted to oil”. It’s not just America – the entire world economy revolves around the black stuff. Today there is no developed or developing country on Earth that does not either import or export it. We are all dependent on oil.

Our response to this current crisis has been mixed. For almost his entire presidency, Bush has been pushing to open up the Alaskan Northern Wildlife Refuge (ANWR) to oil exploration and drilling. Environmentalists have been just as consistently and fanatically opposed to it. It’s become such a hot topic it’s hard to have a rational discussion about it. Those on the exploration side of the fence seem to think opening up ANWR will be the Holy Grail that will save us from dependence on foreign oil; conservationists think pipelines and oil wells in Alaska will destroy a pristine and beautiful landscape. The reality is, even if we’d started drilling ANWR six years ago, the price of oil would still be where it is today. Production would just now be getting started at full capacity, and third world demand for oil would still be driving the prices upward. Exploiting yet another undeveloped landscape in our desperate search for our favorite drug will not save us from the inevitable crash; it will only delay it.

The same goes for offshore drilling. Even if we could “wave a magic wand” as the President likes to say, and conjure up hundreds of offshore rigs and refineries today, it would not save us from our dependence on oil imports. Our demand for oil is simply too great. Oil prices might dip slightly, but would basically stabilize over the longer term. The end result would be the same as ANWR drilling – delaying the inevitable.

So, to return to the original thesis, how are we going to achieve energy independence, and is such a thing even possible? I believe it is not only possible, it is necessary to our survival as a civilization. The fact is, oil as an energy source is on the down slope. It had a good run during its 150 year history, but it’s time to move on. But to what? Is there a “magic bullet” that will free us from dependence on foreign sources of energy?

And what is “energy independence”, anyway? The trouble with the term as employed by politicians and businessmen is that it can mean very different things to different people. McCain and Bush talk about it in terms of America being free from dependence on foreign oil. All well and good, but the scope of the problem is far greater than that. Besides, when most Americans hear “foreign oil” they almost reflexively think of Saudi Arabia. In fact, as shown on this chart from the Energy Information Agency the vast majority of our imported oil comes from non-Arab countries. We import nearly 2 million barrels per day from Canada. So getting “free from foreign oil” is not just a matter of opening up more wells here. The world economy depends on our oil imports.

Besides, drilling at home won’t create true energy independence, at least not for the average consumer. Switching from one drug dealer to another closer to home doesn’t solve your problem.

Nuclear power won’t solve it either. Politicians love to tout nuclear as “clean” energy, but nothing could be further from the truth. If you only consider the actual production phase, then yes, it is nearly emission-free. But before the uranium gets to the plant, it must be mined, refined, and processed, and each phase produces environmental damage of its own. And then there’s the inevitable and so far unanswered question of what to do with the waste. The end result of nuclear energy is so dangerously radioactive that effective long-term solutions have so far proved unobtainable. Besides, once again we’d just be trading one giant energy syndicate for another. Energy independence? I think not.

Senator McCain mentioned “clean coal” in a recent speech regarding his energy plan. “Clean coal” is one of those industry oxymorons that refers to coal that has been chemically cleansed of impurities, burned, and the gases treated with steam and reclaimed so as to reduce or hopefully eliminate carbon emissions. Don’t be fooled – there is nothing “clean” about coal. Mining it is a filty, dangerous proces that always produces toxic byproducts, and there is no way to burn it cleanly. It would be more accurate to call it “cleaner coal” or even “slightly less dirty coal” but then it wouldn’t be so easy to sell to the public. Coal in any form is a dead-end technology. There’s a reason we stopped using it at the end of the industrial revolution.

Ethanol isn’t any better than oil.  It takes about 30% more energy to produce a liter of ethanol than you get from using the resultant liter.  That means higher oil demands and increased greenhouse gases not less.  And then there’s the ethically questionable practice of transforming farmland into fuel production.  Food prices are already high enough and trending upward; ethanol production will only drive them higher.

True energy independence requires radical change in both thought and method. This must be both evolutionary and revolutionary in nature. The way we produce and use power must change simultaneously with the way we think about energy. This goes beyond any discussion of “green collar jobs” or “renewable energy”, though both will be essential to our future. To me, energy independence means each family, community, or city has the ability to produce its own energy, as dictated by its individual needs. The answer will not be found in the sort of large-scale national-level projects of the sort we’ve become accustomed to, but in a new emphasis on small-scale power production. I believe wind turbines, solar power, fuel cells and other emergent technologies will be critical to this effort.

Instead of offering tax incentives to corporations for developing green technologies, the government should be in the business of offering tax breaks to individuals and communities that choose to use them. I was always shocked at the relative lack of solar power use in the Southwest, where such a thing should be an obvious choice. Perhaps all people need is an incentive to do it, and less propaganda. In more rural settings where communities have more land available, and especially in farm country, similar incentives could be offered to encourage the use of wind turbines for power production. This would be true “power to the people” – allowing individuals and communities to choose where they get their electricity and by what means. Some states already offer rebates to homeowners and investors that choose to go solar. We need to expand this and make it nationwide.

What I’m proposing here is nothing more and nothing less than an energy revolution. In any true revolution, power is taken from one group with a history of abusing it (in this case, the oil industry) and redistributing or decentralizing it to a new power base (in this case, the American people). We will probably still need large-scale projects to power large-scale communities, at least for the shorter term. But if we can make the radical shift away from everyone relying on the same enormous power grid and enable true energy independence – i.e., independence from the energy cartels and monopolies that currently rule our lives – then we, the people, will all be much better off in the end.

Eventually – within the next 20 to 50 years – we will run out of exploitable oil. The ball has already started rolling. We’re already behind the power curve; as I stated before, we’ve had 30 years to work on solving the problem, and done nothing in that time but continue to waste oil at ever-increasing rates. We now have half the time left in order to solve twice the problem. If we’re going to remain the world’s main superpower and regain our economic strength, we’d better get started now.

Sources:

Beyond Oil: The View from Hubbert’s Peak by Kenneth Deffeyes
Peak Oil: Life After the Oil Crash
Energy Information Administration
Wikipedia: Clean Coal Technology
Sunpowercorp

After seeing this little exchange earlier this week on ABC, there’s only one thing to say to Dick Cheney:

Mr. Vice President…

 

Go fuck yourself.

Last I checked, we live in a democratic republic.  And in a democracy like ours, public opinion matters, even when it disagrees with the chosen course of action of it so-called “leaders”.

Oh well.  At least we only have 304 days of these assholes left.

Thirty-seven years ago a group of veterans met in Detroit, Michigan to discuss and expose the abuses, immorality and misconduct of the Vietnam War. They called themselves the “Winter Soldiers” and though their actions were widely criticized by many Conservative pundits and politicians, it is clear their courage in speaking out against the war contributed greatly to its eventual end. During the three day symposium such atrocities as the My Lai massacre were exposed and shown to be not isolated incidents, but a direct result of misguided foreign policy and incompetent military management.

Some of the testimony offered may well have been, shall we say, not grounded in truth. Certainly there were people at the conference who had an axe to grind, and who were willing to say anything to end the war. However, the fact remains that the Vietnam war and our prosecution of it was nothing short of a disaster. The end of that bloody and atrocious conflict was an undeniably good end.

Last week a group of Iraq and Afghanistan veterans met, this time in Washington, DC, to discuss and expose abuses and atrocities committed in the name of freedom in the so-called Global War on Terror.

What they hope to gain from this is not entirely clear. After all, the worst atrocities of the war – Abu Ghraib, Guantanamo Bay, and the use of secret prisons in, shall we say, less democratic countries for detention of “suspects”, and the use of mercenaries – have already been reported. America yawned. We’re not very good at outrage any more, unless it involves us personally.

The difference, of course, is that in 1971 we still had a draft.  Because of this, young men everywhere had good reason to take a very close and personal interest in the war.  Some went and served, most honorably.  Many came back scarred and bitter.  Many didn’t come back at all.  Some dodged the draft, others got deferments, a privileged few used their family’s wealth and power to avoid actual combat.  The point is, everyone had a dog in that fight.

Today it’s different.  We have an all-volunteer force, and for many that means easily-avoided service.  Sacrifice is something other people do.  Less than 1% of the American public actually is serving on either active duty or in the Guard or Reserves, and if you total up the number of people directly related to a serviceman (or -woman) you barely get to 4%.  Military service is an honor reserved for the less privileged.  Sacrifice is something other people do.  Too many Americans are willing to sacrifice other people’s children for abstract ideals like “freedom” or “democracy” without understanding what that sacrifice entails.  Worse, many don’t even really understand the ideals they claim they support.  As long as

And when someone stands up to criticize the prosecution and conduct of a war that never should have been started in the first place, they’re shouted down by a chorus of lunacy from the right.  Actual Conservatism has been replaced by a psychotic brand of “ends-justify-the-means” amorality.  So what if we tortured terror suspects?  Who cares if we bomb a few mosques?  So what if prison guards desecrated the Koran?  If it gets us what we wanted, then it’s all good!  After all, we’re the U.S. of A!  We can do what we want!  Hoo-Rah!

Sorry folks.   Got off the rails a bit there.  My point is this, though.  If the “Winter Soldiers” truly want to effect change in this country, and bring about the end of this latest quagmire, they’ve got to make it personal for the voting public.  The war has to be made real for everyone, not just the self-selected few.

Unfortunately, I think it’s going to be an impossible task.  Unless we as a society finally pluck up the courage to re-institute the draft and really fight this thing for all we’ve been told it’s worth, the war will remain, for the majority of Americans, no more real than the latest version of “Unreal”, “Gears of War” or “Halo”.

It’s an honor to serve your country.  Everyone deserves that honor, and the sooner the better.  Starting with these ladies right here (the two on the outsides):

Jenna and Barbara Bush (left and right above)

But, the war was started based on “information” that later turned out to be nothing but smoke and hot air.  That’s ultimately why the wealthy and privileged don’t want their spawn serving in this debacle.  They know they’d be propping up a colossal falsehood.

Lies got us into this mess, lies have kept us there.  Only the truth will get us out.

No, really. KKKarl Rove is going to be part of their regular lineup. Seriously. I’m not kidding.

Just when you thought Fox Noise couldn’t sink any lower, they go and hire the biggest propagandist since Joseph Goebbels.

And they’re supposed to be “Fair and Balanced.” What a sick joke.

In case you were looking for a story that will inspire absolutely no sympathy, look no further. This week’s Newsweek has the ultimate:

Ah, the Secluded Life

We should all have such problems. The world’s plutocracy were already becoming increasingly isolated from the “rest of us”, and now they’re back to doing it intentionally.

It used to be that the rich tried to pass themselves off as being “regular guys”. We all knew it was bullshit, but at least the pretense was nice to see. Now they’re not even trying. Rich bitches like Paris Hilton flaunt their wealth and uselessness, CEOs of lending companies abscond with millions while their corporations implode, leaving the “regular joes” to pay the consequences. And now they’re buying into gated, guarded communities populated only by their fellow plutocrats. They shop, dine, and do pretty much everything privately, or at least comfortably sequestered well away from the real world.

I don’t see how this can be a good thing. Separation leads to division, which leads to envy and strife. The further they distance themselves from the “common” people, the less likely they are to be sympathetic to their needs. The rise of these wealthy “members-only” communities will only exacerbate the problems of class and poverty the world has today.

I can understand how it would be difficult to relate, when your net worth is in the hundreds of millions, to someone making $20 an hour. And I can certainly understand how it would be difficult for a CEO making $1.5 billion annually to look his secretary in the eye when the salary difference is probably four decimal places. But I don’t think the answer is to return to the robber-baron capitalism of the 1920’s. What we really need is a more reasonable distribution of wealth.

I’m not talking about Marxism or socialism. Neither of those systems worked very well – there will always be the social elite who think they deserve a bigger slice of the pie than anyone else, and have the political and social clout to get it. In other words, to paraphrase Jesus, the rich will always be with us, whether we want them or not.

No, I’m talking about an attitudinal shift. Those who occupy the stratospheric layers of society need to change their outlook from the current “I’ve got mine and screw the rest of you” to something more socially responsible. After all, they may have the wealth, but chances are very good it was the work of thousands of much lower-paid people who made their lifestyles possible. For every multi-million dollar CEO there are thousands of middle- and lower- income workers struggling to pay the bills and find affordable health insurance.

The economic conditions of today, especially in the United States, are almost identical to those of the 1920’s, or even pre-Revolution Russia. We have a wealthy, detached, selfish and basically useless corporate aristocracy, a struggling but losing middle class, and a near-permanent underclass. We all know how that worked out. 70 years of tyranny in Russia, and a complete economic crash in 1929.

The next crash will be spectacular in its ferocity and destructiveness. The first signs have already been happening – the housing bubble, rising gas prices, foreclosures, spiraling consumer debt – and the effects are only beginning to be felt. It’s only a matter of time before even the super-wealthy can’t hide from the country’s problems.

Pride goes before a fall. And we Americans have been very, very proud.