Monday, November 22, 2010

Gore Admits Error

Al Gore recently expressed that he was wrong to champion the use of corn as a fuel alternative. Speaking in Greece, Gore noted that his own promotion of the food as fuel was likely influenced by his political aspirations and farmers in his home state of Tennessee and the important caucus state, Iowa.

Gore is absolutely right. Turning food into fuel is little more than a financial boondoggle to corn producers. The fuel created is neither efficient nor cheap. Its real value is the subsidy to the producers. Its real costs is to the food budgets of the poor.

Alternative energy is a necessity, but converting food into fuel seems incomprehensible. Incomprehensible to everyone but a corn producer.

The subsidy for corn to ethanol is due to expire. Whether it is renewed or not will likely depend on the factors that have little or nothing to do with energy independence or security. Instead, it will depend on lobbyists. Who will win? In a battle between the profits of agribusiness and food for the poor, I'm afraid the decision has already been made. Please pass the fuel.

Pelicans in Siberia

According to Reuters News Service, a flock of African pink pelicans became confused during their migration and ended up in Siberia. The pelicans, native to Africa (as the name suggests) were apparently fooled by the warm weather in Siberia.

African birds ending up in Siberia is more than a curiosity. It is a sign of things to come. The birds were thrown off their normal migratory patterns by what is being described as abnormally warm temperatures. Abnormally warm for the past, but maybe not the future. Animals such as birds and insects operate largely out of instinct. When this instinct becomes confused or the signals that trigger migration change, behavior is altered in unpredictable ways.

Global warming is more than a abstract concept about the temperature of the earth. In an inter-related system, what affects one thing will affect others. The future is upon us and its going to the birds.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Bush Admits War Crimes

George W. Bush, in his new memoir, Decision Points (he was "The Decider" after all), admitted that he authorized water-boarding. Admission of water-boarding, held to be torture by treaties the U.S. has signed, is grounds for prosecution as a war criminal. The ACLU has already called on Bush to be tried and will be joined by this writer and others interested in international law in the very near future.

Under international law, the country in which the war criminal lives is given first responsibility for the prosecution of such acts. Should the U.S. fail to act, then other countries are then tasked with prosecution. While it is unlikely that Bush will ever be prosecuted in the U.S., it is likely that he will soon find it difficult to travel outside the boundaries of the country without risk of arrest.

What an embarrassment this man has been to the nation. "W" doesn't just stand for wrong, it also stands for war criminal.

Why We're Doomed - Part 3

This morning I stopped at a local cafe for breakfast. Having an aversion to chain restaurants I am always on the lookout for unique local places. Traveling a route that I don't normally take I spied a red barn styled place that had a full parking lot, the greatest endorsement any restaurant can have. When I entered the place appeared full of promise. It was just the way I like local places; cramped, chaotic and confusing. Coffee was only ninety-nine cents.

Then the food came. First of all, let me say that the food was first rate. Tasty and filling, all at a reasonable price. I will never eat there again. The food came served on a plastic plate with plastic utensils. The coffee was in a Styrofoam cup.

Clearly this packed restaurant could afford to upgrade to real plates and silverware. I cannot imagine that in the long term it is not cheaper to buy reusable plates, cups, and utensils than to constantly buy them and throw them away. I inquired as to why they used the approach they did. The answer was that it cost too much in the short run to make the change. In effect, short term costs were more relevant to the owners than long term profitability. Environmental costs aside, this is simply a bad business decision.

I grow more pessimistic every day when it comes to reversing the tide building towards an impending ecological disaster. When businesses won't do the environmentally responsible thing even when it is in their economic interests there is little hope that society as a whole will address these issues.

Forget cap and trade legislation. The economic world is governed by short term concerns and appears unable to consider what is in its best interests in the long term. My local restaurant is only a symbol of this mindset. They will get no more of my business, no matter how good the food.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

One Small Sliver of Light

As the cloud of knee-jerk conservatism descends upon the nation, there emerges on sliver of light on the otherwise dark horizon. That small sliver is the election of Jerry Brown as Governor of California. Brown, who now holds the distinction of being both the youngest and oldest person elected to lead the most populous state, is in a position to actually push an agenda that affects the whole country.

California, with its overwhelming size and economy (8th largest in the world according to EconPost), can and does alter what goes on in the country as a whole. When California passes environmental regulations or manufacturing standards the nation as a whole is generally forced to adopt them in order to do business in the state. With corporate shill Meg Whitman as the alternative, Brown's election is important. Coupled with the defeat of Proposition 23, which would have rolled back environmental protections, California is now likely to be the backstop that prevents the country from abandoning efforts to produce green technology.

Jerry Brown has long advocated alternative energy and green power. Long before it was popular or fashionable to do so, Brown was a major supported of environmental initiatives. Embracing the label of liberal when others ran from it he was declared dead in the political arena. But Brown did something few politicians have ever done - he put his career on the line and held to his values. Becoming mayor after being a presidential candidate is almost unheard of in American politics, yet that is what Brown did. He became mayor of Oakland and quickly proved himself a capable leader who could get things done. Now he is in a position to effect the entire nation.

Jerry Brown - good to have you back.

Send in the Clowns

In a fit of collective amnesia the American electorate has decided to return to power the very people who created the mess in which we now find ourselves. After spending 30 years busting the bank while pleading fiscal conservatism, Republicans have returned to power after only two short years. How? The clown approach.

Clowns are loud and obnoxious and create a big distraction for the audience while one act leaves the circus and the next gets ready. The clowns serve to keep the crowd from getting bored and noticing what else is going on. Their true selves are hidden by costumes, make-up and general garishness. Now they have taken over the political arena.

Claiming that they will cut the deficit while pushing a tax cut for the wealthy that will increase the national debt by 4 TRILLION dollars, promising smaller government while pushing a social agenda that will have government in everyone's private lives, championing the rights of seniors while attempting to privatize Social Security, the Republican Party and their incoherent allies in the Tea Party have seized the government. This election is a triumph of propaganda and manipulation. Now the clowns will leave the stage and the elephants will stomp all over us all.

Get ready for efforts to roll back every piece of progressive legislation passed in the last 50 years. The government will now belong to corporate interests and the poor will now fund a tax break for the wealthy.

A study conducted at the University of Sheffield in 2008 found that children almost universally fear clowns. It is time to listen to the children.

British Petroleum Gulf Oil Spill Costs

  • 11 workers killed in initial blast
  • Damage to Ocean Ecosystem
  • 35,000 to 60.000 Barrels of Oil Per Day. That's somewhere between 1,500,000 to 2,500,000 gallons a day or 150 to 300 million gallons already spilled into the ocean as of July 27th by that estimate.
  • Gulf Fisheries Industry
  • Gulf Tourism (ongoing costs)
  • Long Term Health Effects to Humans and Wildlife (to be determined)

Worst Oil Spills

  • Kuwait 1991 - 520 million gallons: Gulf War I
  • Gulf of Mexico 2010 - 206 million gallons: BP Oil
  • Mexico, Bay of Campiche 1979 - 140 million gallons: Pemex Oil
  • Trinidad & Tobago 1979 - 90 million gallons: Greek Oil Tanker Atlantic Empress
  • Russia 1983 - 84 million gallons: Leaky Pipeline collapsed into Kolva River
  • Iran 1983 - 80 million gallons: Tanker collided with Oil Platform
  • South Africa 1983 -79 million gallons:Tanker Castillo de Bellver sank
  • France 1978 - 69 million Gallons: Amoco Cadiz ran aground and broke in half.
  • Angola Coastal Waters (700 miles at sea) 1991 - 51-81 million gallons: ABT Summer exploded at sea.
  • Italy 1991 - 45 million gallons: M/T Haven Oil Tanker exploded.
  • Source: Mother Nature Network. The 13 largest oil spills in history. by Laura Moss. Friday July 16, 2010.

Nuclear Accidents (Under Construction)

  • 1957 Windscale, UK
  • 1961 Idaho Falls, Idaho, US
  • 1979 Three Mile Island, Pennsylvania, US
  • 1984 Athens, Alabama, US
  • 1985 Athens, Alabama, US
  • 1986 Plymouth, Masachusetts, US
  • 1986 Chernobyl, Ukraine, USSR
  • 1996 Waterford, Connecticut, US
  • 1989 Griefwald, Germany
  • 1999 Ibaraki Prefecture, Japan
  • 2002 Oak Harbor, Ohio, US
  • 2004 Fukui Prefecture, Japan
  • Source: Benjamin Sovacool

Mining Disasters (Under Construction)

  • China 1942 - 1549 deaths
  • France 1906 - 1100 deaths
  • Japan 1963 - 447 deaths
  • Wales 1913 - 438 deaths
  • South Africa 1960 - 437 deaths
  • Source: Epic Disasters Website
  • Note: Do not look at the dates herein and conclue that mining disasters are a things of the past. Every year thousands of miners die worldwide in largely unreported accidents.

OIL IS OVER! - Resources

  • Hibbert's Peak - "The" source that explains why Oil is Over.
  • Tragedy of the Commons -Garrett Hardin
  • The Land Ethic - Aldo Leopold
  • Last Hours of Ancient Sunlight - Thom Hartmann
  • Eco-Defense: A Field Guide to Monkeywrenching


  • The Dirt People - Ray Bawarchi (yes, that's me)
  • The Razor's Edge - Somerset Maugham
  • Demian - Herman Hesse
  • Black Elk Speaks - Black Elk (as told to R. Neimur)
  • The Quiet Don - Mikhail Sholokov
  • Catcher in the Rye - J.D. Salinger
  • Catch-22 - Joseph Heller
  • 1984 - George Orwell
  • Delicious Laughter - Jallahudin Rumi
  • The Sybil - Par Lagerksvitz
  • The Fixer - Bernard Malamud
  • Spirits Rebellious - Khalil Gibran
  • The Quiet American - Graham Greene
  • Midaq Alley - Nagib Mafouz
  • Cat's Cradle - Kurt Vonnegut
  • Slaughterhouse 5 - Kurt Vonnegut
  • Farenheit 451- Ray Bradbury
  • We - Yevgeny Zamyatin


  • John Coltrane - St. John the Divine
  • Patti Smith
  • The Clash - the only band that matters
  • Billy Bragg
  • Yo Mama's Big Fat Booty Band
  • Art Blakey
  • Death - pre-punk visionaries from Detroit
  • PJ Harvey - Polly Jean, Polly Jean
  • Woody Guthrie
  • Michael Franti (Spearhead)
  • Public Enemy
  • Ray Charles - the Genius
  • Bob Dylan
  • Velvet Underground
  • Flaming Lips
  • John Doe & X
  • The Beatles

opiate of the masses

  • God is a comedian, playing to an audience too afraid to laugh. - Voltaire
  • I do not feel obliged to believe that the same god who has endowed us with sense, reason and inellect has intended us to forgo their use. - Galileo Galilei
  • The ink of a scholar is worth far more than the blood of a martyr.- Mohammad
  • If you meet the Buddha on the road, kill him. - Sheldon Kopp
  • No one will be free until the last king is strangled with the entrails of the last priest. - Louisa Mae Alcott
  • When it is a question of money, everyone is of the same religion.- Voltaire
  • If God were alive today, he'd be an athiest. - Kurt Vonnegut
  • The god I worship is not short of cash, Mister. - Bono
  • Jesus died for somebody's sins, but not mine. My sins they only belong to me. - Patti Smith
  • God sure baked a lot of fruitcake baby, when Adam met the Eden lady. - Joe Strummer