Tuesday, November 24, 2009

As Miami Slips Under the Waves...

Sometimes, when people deny the effects of climate change, it reminds me of the Black Knight in "Monty Python and the Holy Grail" who, as his limbs are lopped off by King Arthur, says, "Just a scratch," "Just a flesh wound" ...

How bad does it have to get before some people will accept the evidence that we're in a little trouble here?

Catastrophic global warming wouldn't be that hard to prevent (or at this point, mitigate), either: Energy

(I was prompted to make this comparison on the Huffington Post when some doubters of climate change posted skeptical comments: "Hundreds Of Icebergs Breaking Off Of Antarctica, Headed For New Zealand.")

I just read another comment that reminded me of this, a concise little evaluation of the risk of doing nothing to combat global warming:

Monday, November 23, 2009

Really Bad Ideas for Saving the Planet

Blue Marble from Apollo 17 (Image courtesy NASA Johnson Space Center)

Arun Gupta, at The Indypendent (which seems very eager for life support donations at the moment), in his article, "Hacking the Planet," rounds up the most widely circulated ideas for "geoengineering" our way out of greenhouse gas induced climate change. Of course, all of these solutions would be unmitigated disasters (see article), but they will get traction because they avoid upsetting the corporate-energy balance of power, and the concepts are easy to relate (if you leave out the ugly, complicating details).

If you want real, simple, least-cost solutions, read some stuff from the Rocky Mountain Institute's library, such as: "Four Nuclear Myths: A Commentary on Stewart Brand's Whole Earth Discipline and on Similar Writings"

RMI's credentials are unimpeachable, and they actually use evidence-based science, complete with footnoted references, to arrive at their conclusions. Very refreshing. Especially, after hearing the blather that issues from the halls of Congress, Fox News, and the Heritage Foundation. (You don't get links to those places, you know where to find that noise if you must.)

The point is, we could prevent (have prevented? past-tense now required?) catastrophic global warming, without detrimentally changing our industrialized life styles (do you care where the electricity comes from if it's cheaper, and the lights stay on?), but we need to take the advice of disinterested parties who offer real solutions derived from proven technology, and ignore big energy industry representatives and snake-oil traders. The best solutions are simple, elegant, cheap, proven, and already profitably used elsewhere. So what's the problem? Maybe it's just too easy, and we're just too cynical. Fatally cynical.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Stop Shooting My Wolves on My Land

UPDATE -- 04.11.2011:
From the National Resource Defense Council:
...the last-minute budget deal agreed to by Congressional leaders on Friday night (04.08.2011) will strip endangered species protection from gray wolves across most of the Northern Rockies, leaving them at the mercy of states that plan to kill hundreds of them.

This stealth attack on wolves -- which circumvents the will of the courts and good science -- was inserted by Representative Mike Simpson (R, ID) and Senator Jon Tester (D, MT). It was approved by the leadership of both the House and the Senate, and it was okayed by the White House.

It is a shameful day for this nation when both parties unite behind the slaughter of an endangered species -- without public hearing or debate.

And there is another victim here as well: the Endangered Species Act.

Congress has never before removed an animal from the endangered species list. By replacing scientific judgment with political calculation, the House and Senate have struck at the very heart of wildlife protection in America.

We have to make sure that the political door is not thrown open to new attacks on other imperiled species.

Send a message to your Senators and Representative right now, expressing your outrage at this attack on wolves and telling them to keep their hands off the Endangered Species Act.
Original post:
At the behest of the National Resource Defense Council, I fired off the following:
I urge you to restore the wolf's protection under the Endangered Species Act and submit your plan to rigorous scientific review. Trading these native inhabitants for sheep and cattle grazing on public land is despicable. Preserve your integrity, preserve my integrity. Call off the guns and develop a sound wolf recovery plan that ensures a healthy future for this essential member of the western ecosystem.


You should write a note, too. Protect our wildlife, and our landscape.
Find your representatives: Congress.org

Monday, November 9, 2009

A shout into the void...

Stop killing our damn mountains!(an image shamelessly borrowed from: Rob Perks)

And blasting continues un-abated on Coal River Mountain. Where's the outrage? Where's the rancor? If nasty Massey Energy were dredging beach sand in the Hamptons, you can be sure the protest would be audible on the national media circuit from day one until the bitter end. And in the Hamptons parallel universe beach sand strip mine, the bitter end would would mean Massey slinking home with its tail between its legs. Why is that? Do landscapes count more when rich people use them for a playground? In our land of justice and equality, is that really it?

Let's go, folks. Save those gorgeous, pristine, ancestral hardwood forests and the hardworking people who's families have called those mountains home for centuries. Make a call, send an e-mail. Make noise!

visit: ilovemountains.org or Coal River Mountain Watch

Health Care Reform -- A Letter to the Editor

If past American presidents had a vantage point from which they could watch the events of last Saturday, November 7, the House passage of the Health Care Bill, H.R. 3200, several would have breathed a sigh of relief:

Teddy Roosevelt, in 1912, made health care one of the planks of his campaign. It stated, "We pledge ourselves to work unceasingly in State and Nation for ... the protection of home life against the hazards of sickness, irregular employment and old age through the adoption of a system of social insurance adapted to American use." (www.politifact.com)

Franklin Roosevelt, after passing the Social Security Act in 1935, believed that health care should be provided for Americans as well. In 1938, an advisory board appointed by him issued a report revealingly entitled, "The Need For a National Health Program." (www.ssa.gov)

On November 19, 1945, only 7 months into his presidency, Harry S. Truman sent a Presidential message to the United States Congress proposing a new national health care program. In his message, Truman argued that the federal government should play a role in health care, and stated, "The health of American children, like their education, should be recognized as a definite public responsibility." (www.trumanlibrary.org)

John F. Kennedy endorsed Medicare in 1960, and argued in favor of universal health care modeled on existing policy in Europe. (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HI2iV6kbWBs)

Lyndon Johnson, in 1965, got done Medicare for the elderly, and Medicaid for the impoverished. I wonder what choice words he would have for today's debate? (Ronald Reagan, by the way, in 1961, was a spokesman for a campaign by the American Medical Association to block the passage of Medicare. Now, Republicans and Conservatives heartily endorse this vast government run behemoth called Medicare, and claim to defend it against cuts proposed by merciless Democrats. [http://pastinprint.com]) (http://www.lbjlib.utexas.edu)

Richard Nixon called for comprehensive health care reform in 1974: "Now it is time that we move forward again in still another critical area: health care. Without adequate health care, no one can make full use of his or her talents and opportunities. ... I proposed a major health insurance program to the Congress, seeking to guarantee adequate financing of health care on a nationwide basis." (http://www.kaiserhealthnews.org)

These presidents, and other less partisan advocates have insisted for decades that the United States will see its prosperity bolstered by universal health care. We are a step closer today. Thank your representatives who have the courage to support health care reform, and remind those who don't that they should. We need this. Now. It'll save money today, and grow our anemic economy tomorrow. Get with it America!

Friday, November 6, 2009

Why Bankers Love Bonuses

I'll poach one more story from the DailyKos, which gives an outstanding historical perspective on the current financial predicament of the United States and Europe. It neatly clarifies the migration of funds out of the industrial base and into the coffers of financial firms over the last thirty or forty years, and the inciting de-regulation initiatives by vested politicians.

Anyway, here 'tis if you're so inclined toward feasting on anti-free market elucidation:

Goldman Sachs Vice-Chair: Tolerate the Inequality

Wind Energy Economics...

the value of wind
                   by Jerome a Paris
If you wonder at all about the economics of wind turbine electricity generation (and renewables in general) vs. coal, gas, nuclear (old school) electricity generation, you'd do yourself (and those who have to listen to you rant) a service by reading the above linked article in the Daily Kos by Jerome a Paris (Jerome Guillet's nom de guerre). His credentials are good (he works in finance), and his arguments are concise and well-supported by evidence. Read it. You'll rejoice at the author's clarity and balance.

Massey Coal is blowing Coal River Mountain away...

...for a few bucks and a pile of rotten coal (more info?).These are excerpts from a letter I sent to the EPA, which I modeled after a Rainforest Action Network letter:

Put a stop to mountaintop removal coal mining on Coal River Mountain in West Virginia, which is the area's last mountain untouched by mountaintop removal. The blasting not only threatens communities in the vicinity, it will also destroy the potential for a wind project that had rallied local residents as a prime opportunity to create permanent jobs, strengthen the local economy and provide renewable energy to the region.

Coal River Mountain has enough wind potential to accommodate a 328-megawatt wind farm. Show Appalachia you care. Press for, approve and encourage the windfarm.

Worse, the blasting is near the Brushy Fork slurry impoundment, which holds 8.2 billion gallons of toxic coal slurry. Should the blasting cause the impoundment to fail, nearby residents would have just minutes to evacuate before they were overtaken by a 50-foot wall of coal slurry that could cost more than 1,000 lives.

Blasting near this unlined impoundment increases the risk of failure, and we know it. If the impoundment fails, we are all complicit in the destruction to Brushy Fork and its ground water. Let's act. Now.

Visit the Rainforest Action Network, and take action to preserve beautiful, verdant Appalachia. Now!

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Go, Senator Hollings -- End Free Trade

My comments on a post by Senator Fritz Hollings on the Huffington Post: "Perfect Desertion"
Good stuff, Senator Hollings.

I'll put in my two cents, and reiterate some of your previous arguments:

Free trade is bad policy unless the foreign businesses we trade with adhere to exactly the same labor and environmental rules (and incur the same costs) as businesses in the U.S.

Wages may be lower elsewhere, but when they are, it is also generally true that workers have little or no collective bargaining rights, few or no worker safety rules, little or no worker compensation for on the job injuries, and little or no health care. Low wage countries also often ignore the environmental impact of unsound manufacturing processes, rendering air and drinking water toxic. All this eventually leads to civil unrest and global environmental impact. Both of which cost everyone when supply chains are disrupted, and landscapes and species are destroyed.

A VAT is preferable to corporate taxes, as you point out in earlier posts, since most corporations only pay about 3% corporate income tax on profit -- not the mandated 27% -- because they hire lawyers and accountants to move profits offshore. So, lawyers and accountants benefit instead of U.S. citizens who subsidize the corporations with infrastructure and defense investments (not to mention property tax rebates, and other incentives, paid for relocation). Plus, any economist will point out that corporate income tax is passed on to consumers in the form of higher prices. With a VAT, at least, taxes paid by consumers go into public coffers instead of personal incomes for accountants, lawyers, and executives (27% levied minus 3% actually paid = 24% retained by corporate entities).

Further, a VAT benefits the national economy by discouraging consumption (tax on final sale -- regressive, but remember, corporate taxes are passed through -- equally regressive), while encouraging production (no taxes on manufacturing supply chain costs, just "value added" -- corporate profits). This, in turn, reduces prices to the consumer (demand is down), and encourages exports (price is down because domestic demand is down). Plus, most nations refund all or some VAT taxes paid by manufacturers when a product is exported (China, Europe, etc.), which further encourages exportation rather than leveraged (credit card debt) consumption at home. Finally, to alleviate regressive impact, we need not charge VAT on necessities like food, utilities, and medical care.

I hope all that reads true. I'm sure many will take issue, but I think the arguments against free trade and for a VAT are indisputable. Someone just needs to sell 'em. Go, Senator! (visit former Senator Hollings' web site: www.citizensforacompetitiveamerica.com.