Thursday, March 31, 2011

Gasland and wind energy

With panning shots of the sprawling arrays of giant wind turbines in Texas, Josh Fox thought he was silently offering an alternative vision at the end of his eye-opening documentary Gasland.

He obviously hadn't seen Laura Israel's documentary Windfall yet. Anyone who knows how wind developers operate and have suffered the consequences saw the same story played out by gas developers in Fox's film.

To anyone aware of the facts about wind energy development, those eerie shots of the Texas turbines were clearly foreboding rather than promising. They seemed to promise part 2 of the exploration of energy's unpublicized dark side, not the end of the story.

Especially considering that more wind means more natural gas, which is required to balance the erratic production of wind turbines.

Part 1: Gasland.  Part 2: Windfall.

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Saturday, March 26, 2011

Greens for Nuclear: Useful Idiots

Alexander Cockburn writes at Counterpunch:

On the recruitment of Greens to the cause of the nuclear industry, Martin Kokus sent us the following very interesting letter:
“Instead of saying that global warming rescued the nuclear lobby, I would say the nuclear complex invented global warming. I was working on man-made climate change during the 70's and I think that even the biggest conspiracy theorist is underestimating the role that the nuclear complex played in shaping the debate on AGW. When I say nuclear complex, I am not just referring to the power lobby, but also the weapons manufacturers, the military, the nuclear labs, the academics who are funded by nuclear labs, and those who think that there is some huge geopolitical advantage for the west to go nuclear.

“The nukes were pushing AGW from my earliest political memory. In 1973-74, the Hoover Institute funded a tour by Edward Teller where he described co2 as the real environmental problem and nuclear power was its only solution. (I am sure that you are aware that the Hoover Institute is now espousing AGW as a liberal conspiracy.) During the same time period Bernard Cohen, head of U of Pitt's Nuke Labs, self-appointed expert on safety, and proponent of nuclear power was funded by Americans for Energy Independence (AEI) to do the same thing. One of the organizers of AEI was longtime Cohen associate Zalman Shapiro who was the subject of a series of Counterpunch essays by Grant Smith in regards to the Israeli nuke program. These speakers were not sponsored by climatology departments but by nuclear engineering departments.

“I was in the first US seminar on man-made climate change at UVA. We were worried about particulates, land use, deforestation, and most of all the introduction of agribusiness into the third world. My profs dismissed AGW in about 15 minutes. But even then, one of our contract monitors from Oak Ridge AEC was pushing me to get interested in the greenhouse effect. I also remember Outside magazine (which I always considered right wing and phony environmentalist [indeed, its interest is clearly in conquering nature —Ed.]) doing a series that considered AGW to be the most serious environmental threat. I always found this interesting because there were absolutely no data behind it.

“The real money came into AGW after Thatcher got elected. I am sure that you are familiar with the Centre for Policy Studies', a conservative British think tank, decision to hype AGW. Well, the Reagan administration more than matched that money. We funded half the Hadley Centre and the University of East Anglia’s climate group. The UEA was the scene of the recent Climategate scandal. The Hadley Centre and the UEA were the incubators for the IPCC. The money was monitored by what used to be the AEC lab at Oakridge which is now under DOE. The older climatologists were ignored in this funding buildup. In fact, existing funding for non co2 climate change research disappeared.”

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Green Development?

To the Editor, New York Times:

By painting as "Nimby" all who question development plans, Elisabeth Rosenthal does a disservice to community participation in decision-making ["Green Development? Not in My (Liberal) Backyard", Week in Review, Mar. 13]. Such pejorative name-calling serves only to quash serious and open discussion.

Every development project requires a cost-benefit analysis, but the "greater good" is often evoked as a means of shutting out local concerns. The people who will be directly affected are best placed to ensure that the costs -- and the claimed benefits -- are properly assessed. It should not be a surprise that their conclusions are frequently different from those of developers and politicians.

This is certainly the case with wind power, which, when examined with the cold eye of someone facing major industrial development of a rural or even wild area, seems to be primarily a tax avoidance scheme for energy companies and investors. After decades of deployment, its other benefits (e.g., less carbon emissions from fossil fuel burning) have proven to be elusive at best. And its impacts -- on the environment, wildlife, and human neighbors -- far exceed the developers' reassurances.

Rosenthal also describes overseas acquiescence, but the European Platform Against Windfarms includes at last count 473 organizations from 21 countries, including 6 from Denmark and 68 from Germany. In the U.K. (with 78 groups signed on to the EPAW), industrialists regularly complain that a third of proposed wind energy facilities are blocked because of locals having a say on the future of their landscapes and their lives.

Eric Rosenbloom
President, National Wind Watch

wind power, wind energy, wind farms, environment, environmentalism, human rights, animal rights

Monday, March 21, 2011

Joke of the day

A CEO, a union worker, and a Tea Partier are at a table with 12 cookies. The CEO takes 11 and says to the Tea Partier: "Keep an eye on that union guy, he wants your cookie."

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Wind power kept going in Japan by other sources surviving earthquake

The blogosphere is aquiver with a press release from the Japanese Wind Power Association noting that all of the country's wind energy facilities survived the recent earthquake. Since only one facility is in or even anywhere near the hardest hit region, and they are designed to withstand earthquakes (as were the Fukushima nuclear plants -- it was the tsunami that took them out), that is hardly surprising.

In all the parroting of this self-serving and shamelessly opportunistic industry press release, not one blogger attempts to establish context. How did Japan's 100,000 MW or so of coal, oil, gas, hydro, and most nuclear plants fare? Compared with the <300 MW (<100 MW actual average output) of wind, those other sources obviously are what is keeping Japan going. But what should be most informative is the fact that 36% of the wind plant was inoperable because the rest of the grid was down. In fact, wind turbines require power from the grid to operate, though in this case it was probably transmissi­on that was down. So the remaining 64% were still operating only because the other sources on the grid were still operating.

wind power, wind energy

Friday, March 18, 2011

The "Green" Nuclear Cabal

Jeffrey St. Clair writes about how global warming and the nuclear lobby (click the title of this post for the entire piece, an excerpt from his book "Been Brown So Long It Looked Like Green to Me: the Politics of Nature":

Even when compared to coal, nuclear power fails the test if investments are made to increase the efficient use of the existing energy supply. One recent study by the Rocky Mountain Institute found that "even under the most optimistic cost projections for future nuclear electricity, efficiency is found to be 2.5 to 10 times more cost effective for CO2-abatement. Thus, to the extent that investments in nuclear power divert funds away from efficiency, the pursuit of a nuclear response to global warming would effectively exacerbate the problem."

environment, environmentalism

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Brotherhood of Man

Motorhead reminds you to get back in line:


And from the song "Brotherhood of Man":

We are worse than animals, we hunger for the kill.
We put our faith in maniacs, the triumph of the will,
We kill for money, wealth and lust, for this we should be damned.
We are disease upon the world, brotherhood of man.
environment, environmentalism, human rights, animal rights, vegetarianism, anarchism, ecoanarchism, anarchosyndicalism

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

No Face, but Plants Like Life Too

Carol Kaesuk Yoon has written a most amoral attempt to morally justify eating animals. It's at the New York Times. Basically, she argues that that killing plants is just as bad as killing animals.

But she applies her absurdist logic only as far as rationalizing her own diet. If she can't draw a line between plants and animals, how can she draw a line between humans and other animals? In other words, she can not argue against cannibalism.

In pretending a transcendence of speciesism to the extent even of plants, she actually entrenches her bigotry: Only her appetite matters. Rather than being equally alive and demanding of respect, everything is equally only food to her, equally subject to disrespect.

animal rights, vegetarianism

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Make Wall Street Pay

This year Bank of America is receiving the "income tax refund from hell" — $666 million for 2010, according to its annual report filed in late February 2011. This is following a $3.5 billion refund reported in 2009. Bank of America's federal income tax benefit this year is roughly two times the Obama administration's proposed cuts to the Community Development Block Grant program ($299 million).

Six banks — Bank of America, Wells Fargo, Citigroup, JPMorgan Chase, Goldman Sachs, and Morgan Stanley together paid income tax at an approximate rate of 11% of their pre-tax US earnings in 2009 and 2010. Had they paid at 35%, what they are legally mandated to pay, the federal government would have received an additional $13 billion in tax revenue. This would cover more than two years of salaries for the 132,000 teacher jobs lost since the economic crisis began in 2008.

Wells Fargo reportedly received a $4 billion federal income tax refund on $18 billion in pre-tax income in 2009, and paid 7.5% of its pre-tax income of $19 billion in 2010 in federal taxes. Its net federal income tax benefit for 2009 and 2010 combined, $2.5 billion, is equal to the Obama administration's proposed cuts of 50% to the Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program.

Banks use a variety of mechanisms to avoid corporate income taxes, including offshore tax shelters. 50% of the six banks' 1871 foreign subsidiaries are incorporated in jurisdictions that have been identified as offshore tax havens, such as the Cayman Islands.

Bank of America operates 371 tax-sheltered subsidiaries, more than any other big bank studied, and 204 subsidiaries in the Cayman Islands alone, according to its latest regulatory filings. 75% of Goldman Sachs's foreign subsidiaries are incorporated in offshore tax havens.

The banks' private banking arms also protect the wealth of rich clients from taxation through offshore investment strategies. Bank of America's wealth management arm encourages clients to register their yachts in foreign jurisdictions for tax reasons.

Closing special tax loopholes on the financial sector and implementing sensible revenue-raising initiatives such as the Financial Speculation Tax could generate over $150 billion in federal tax revenue each year.

Download the report: "Big Bank Tax Drain".

Right Sights Rites Sigh

To the Editor:

Dick Tracy has provided an amusing political lesson with his March 10 "Right Sights" (Vermont Standard). The entire piece can stand just as well (or rather, as weakly) if all instances of "conservative" and "progressive" are simply switched. Every criticism he makes of progressives applies equally, and often more aptly, to conservatives. This may be because he limits his definitions to big government versus big business, which are effectively one and the same.

Another problem is that no thinking person actually lives according to Tracy's broad abstractions and crude absolutes. Each of us is an ever-evolving stew of democrat and reactionary, liberal and puritan, anarchist and authoritarian - even, I venture to suggest, Dick Tracy, if he dare admit it.

Until then, the ritual recital of caricatures and fantasy scenarios, not only of others but even more revealing of himself, that characterize Tracy's column remains meaningless, "full of sound and fury, signifying nothing."

[Related to this, see "Dooleysprudence" by James Joyce (1916).]

[Also: "Is it time for Obama to nationalize and peopleize America's industrial production and its profits?" ('In the early twentieth century, Theodore Roosevelt agreed with progressives and reformers that the greatest threat to the nation's economy and its security was excessive corporate centralization of power and the consolidation of wealth in the hands of the very rich and powerful. ... Roosevelt recognized the growing possibilities of a Workers Revolution and proclaimed: "We should enter upon a course of supervision, control, and regulation of those great corporations — a regulation which we should not fear, if necessary, to bring to the point of control of monopoly practices and prices." One of the lines he drew in the sand against massive corporate power and its abuses was to be the 1902 Anthracite Coal Strike and the right for workers to strike and collectively bargain.')]

Vermont

Loving Liberty

Tom Hodgkinson writes in his book The Idle Parent (Click here to visit The Idler web site):

As John Locke wisely observed, children are lovers of liberty. They resist confinement. They appear to have naturally imperious, even insolent natures. Clearly the purpose of 'civilizing' through parental nagging and school-based education systems is to squash the imperiousness and introduce docility. To make slaves out of gods. That the kids resist the process tooth and nail should be celebrated. Might their resistance not demonstrate that there is something at fault with the enclosing system rather than the things enclosed? We should learn from these liberty-lovers to resist enclosure ourselves, rather than attempting to drag the kids down to our slavish level. Forget ideas of 'good' and 'bad' behaviour. Keep instead the poles of 'free' and 'enslaved' in your mind. Reduce authority and enlarge freedom. Revere and respect the little creatures in your house. As Bertrand Russell wrote in 'Freedom Versus Authority in Education': 'Reverence for human personality is the beginning of wisdom, in every social question, but above all in education.'

And George Meredith writes in his novel The Ordeal of Richard Feverel:

It is difficult for those who think very earnestly for their children to know when their children are thinking on their own account. The exercise of their volition we construe as revolt. Our love does not like to be invalided and deposed from its command ...

Friday, March 11, 2011

Republican or Democrat?

The difference between today's Democratic and Republican parties is that whereas the latter simply take us backward step by step, the former, for every step forward, take us 2 steps backward. The result is the same.

Embarrassments of Empire

David Bromwich writes at Tomgram (click the title of this post):

The need to give assurance seems to be an inseparable trait of Obama’s character. He deals with big decisions by first moving to cement a secure alliance with the powers-that-be, no matter how discredited they are, no matter how resounding his previous contempt for them may have been. Yet this is a reflex that often prematurely cedes control to the powerful over whom he might otherwise be in a position to exert leverage. That fight, however, is not for him.

To say it another way, Obama visibly hates crisis. He is so averse to the very idea of instability that he seems unable to use a crisis to his advantage. Seldom, to judge by the evidence thus far, is he the first, second, or third person in the room to recognize that a state of crisis exists. The hesitation that looked like apathy and the hyper-managerial tone of his response to the BP oil spill offered a vivid illustration of this trait. Egypt brought out the same pattern.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Thomas Friedman is off today

From the New York Times:

Thomas L. Friedman is off today.

It's a start, but at some point they will have to admit that Thomas Friedman is always off.

Wednesday, March 09, 2011

Energy Cycling

Ben Falk writes in Vermont Commons (click the title of this post for the entire piece):

Why are trees – especially nut trees – at the basis of these regenerative land use systems and highly adapted human cultures? In the simplest terms, it has to do with inputs and outputs. A nut tree is simply more effective and efficient at converting sunlight and precipitation into value, over the long term, than any other technology humans have yet designed.

This becomes clear when comparing biological systems in general with non-living technologies. Consider a photovoltaic panel or wind turbine. Each requires large and damaging inputs to generate single outputs. What are the inputs for a photovoltaic panel? Bauxite from which to smelt the aluminum frame, silicon and numerous other minerals (many only found in difficult-to-access and a dwindling number of places on the planet), and myriad other mined and smelted metals and minerals. These all must be mined, transported, refined, transported again, then fabricated, then shipped again. All for one output: electricity.

What are the inputs required for a nut tree? An exchange between breeder and planter, transporting of the seed or seedling, some woodchip mulch, rain, and sunshine. And time. What are its yields? Oxygen, soil, wildlife food and housing, moisture retention, carbon sequestration, air filtration, human food, stock feed, building materials, shade, windbreak, and beauty, to name a few.

The former resource path – the abiotic – provides us with a practical service at great cost. The latter, biological (or “soft”) path creates an enduring and generative legacy of positive value. And whereas a solar panel or wind turbine or green building offers diminishing yields over time, a nut tree’s output actually increases, for at least the first century or two of its lifetime.

Such is the power – and imperative – of biological systems: they are the only means we have of sidestepping entropy, at least for significant periods of time, on this planet. That’s what tips the balance; it all comes down to capture, storage, and transfer. The best system is the one that can harvest the most sunlight and moisture, then store that value for the longest period of time while converting some of it into products and services that other living things, like humans, can use. And biological systems do this very well, while non-living mechanical systems cannot.

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Tuesday, March 08, 2011

Anarchism: What It Really Stands For

Emma Goldman, 1910:

... Anarchism is the great liberator of man from the phantoms that have held him captive; it is the arbiter and pacifier of the two forces for individual and social harmony. To accomplish that unity, Anarchism has declared war on the pernicious influences which have so far prevented the harmonious blending of individual and social instincts, the individual and society.

Religion, the dominion of the human mind; Property, the dominion of human needs; and Government, the dominion of human conduct, represent the stronghold of man's enslavement and all the horrors it entails. Religion! How it dominates man's mind, how it humiliates and degrades his soul. God is everything, man is nothing, says religion. But out of that nothing God has created a kingdom so despotic, so tyrannical, so cruel, so terribly exacting that naught but gloom and tears and blood have ruled the world since gods began. Anarchism rouses man to rebellion against this black monster. Break your mental fetters, says Anarchism to man, for not until you think and judge for yourself will you get rid of the dominion of darkness, the greatest obstacle to all progress.

Property, the dominion of man's needs, the denial of the right to satisfy his needs. Time was when property claimed a divine right, when it came to man with the same refrain, even as religion, "Sacrifice! Abnegate! Submit!" The spirit of Anarchism has lifted man from his prostrate position. He now stands erect, with his face toward the light. He has learned to see the insatiable, devouring, devastating nature of property, and he is preparing to strike the monster dead.

"Property is robbery," said the great French Anarchist Proudhon. Yes, but without risk and danger to the robber. Monopolizing the accumulated efforts of man, property has robbed him of his birthright, and has turned him loose a pauper and an outcast. Property has not even the time-worn excuse that man does not create enough to satisfy all needs. The A B C student of economics knows that the productivity of labor within the last few decades far exceeds normal demand. But what are normal demands to an abnormal institution? The only demand that property recognizes is its own gluttonous appetite for greater wealth, because wealth means power; the power to subdue, to crush, to exploit, the power to enslave, to outrage, to degrade. America is particularly boastful of her great power, her enormous national wealth. Poor America, of what avail is all her wealth, if the individuals comprising the nation are wretchedly poor? If they live in squalor, in filth, in crime, with hope and joy gone, a homeless, soulless army of human prey. ...

Such free display of human energy being possible only under complete individual and social freedom, Anarchism directs its forces against the third and greatest foe of all social equality; namely, the State, organized authority, or statutory law,–the dominion of human conduct.

Just as religion has fettered the human mind, and as property, or the monopoly of things, has subdued and stifled man's needs, so has the State enslaved his spirit, dictating every phase of conduct. "All government in essence," says Emerson, "is tyranny." It matters not whether it is government by divine right or majority rule. In every instance its aim is the absolute subordination of the individual.

Referring to the American government, the greatest American Anarchist, David Thoreau, said: "Government, what is it but a tradition, though a recent one, endeavoring to transmit itself unimpaired to posterity, but each instance losing its integrity; it has not the vitality and force of a single living man. Law never made man a whit more just; and by means of their respect for it, even the well disposed are daily made agents of injustice."

Indeed, the keynote of government is injustice. With the arrogance and self-sufficiency of the King who could do no wrong, governments ordain, judge, condemn, and punish the most insignificant offenses, while maintaining themselves by the greatest of all offenses, the annihilation of individual liberty. Thus Ouida is right when she maintains that "the State only aims at instilling those qualities in its public by which its demands are obeyed, and its exchequer is filled. Its highest attainment is the reduction of mankind to clockwork. In its atmosphere all those finer and more delicate liberties, which require treatment and spacious expansion, inevitably dry up and perish. The State requires a taxpaying machine in which there is no hitch, an exchequer in which there is never a deficit, and a public, monotonous, obedient, colorless, spiritless, moving humbly like a flock of sheep along a straight high road between two walls."

Yet even a flock of sheep would resist the chicanery of the State, if it were not for the corruptive, tyrannical, and oppressive methods it employs to serve its purposes. Therefore Bakunin repudiates the State as synonymous with the surrender of the liberty of the individual or small minorities,–the destruction of social relationship, the curtailment, or complete denial even, of life itself, for its own aggrandizement. The State is the altar of political freedom and, like the religious altar, it is maintained for the purpose of human sacrifice.

In fact, there is hardly a modern thinker who does not agree that government, organized authority, or the State, is necessary only to maintain or protect property and monopoly. It has proven efficient in that function only. ...

The most absurd apology for authority and law is that they serve to diminish crime. Aside from the fact that the State is itself the greatest criminal, breaking every written and natural law, stealing in the form of taxes, killing in the form of war and capital punishment, it has come to an absolute standstill in coping with crime. It has failed utterly to destroy or even minimize the horrible scourge of its own creation.

Crime is naught but misdirected energy. So long as every institution of today, economic, political, social, and moral, conspires to misdirect human energy into wrong channels; so long as most people are out of place doing the things they hate to do, living a life they loathe to live, crime will be inevitable, and all the laws on the statutes can only increase, but never do away with, crime. What does society, as it exists today, know of the process of despair, the poverty, the horrors, the fearful struggle the human soul must pass on its way to crime and degradation. ...

But what about human nature? Can it be changed? And if not, will it endure under Anarchism?

Poor human nature, what horrible crimes have been committed in thy name! Every fool, from king to policeman, from the flatheaded parson to the visionless dabbler in science, presumes to speak authoritatively of human nature. The greater the mental charlatan, the more definite his insistence on the wickedness and weaknesses of human nature. Yet, how can any one speak of it today, with every soul in a prison, with every heart fettered, wounded, and maimed?

John Burroughs has stated that experimental study of animals in captivity is absolutely useless. Their character, their habits, their appetites undergo a complete transformation when torn from their soil in field and forest. With human nature caged in a narrow space, whipped daily into submission, how can we speak of its potentialities?

Freedom, expansion, opportunity, and, above all, peace and repose, alone can teach us the real dominant factors of human nature and all its wonderful possibilities.

Anarchism, then, really stands for the liberation of the human mind from the dominion of religion; the liberation of the human body from the dominion of property; liberation from the shackles and restraint of government. Anarchism stands for a social order based on the free grouping of individuals for the purpose of producing real social wealth; an order that will guarantee to every human being free access to the earth and full enjoyment of the necessities of life, according to individual desires, tastes, and inclinations. ...

[click here for complete essay]

human rights, anarchism, anarchosyndicalism

Monday, March 07, 2011

Wedding music

More than an hour of vintage North African and Middle Eastern wedding music from the wonderful Radio Bastet, in honor of that region's uprisings for freedom:

Sunday, March 06, 2011

Patriotism, a Menace to Liberty

Emma Goldman, 1911:

WHAT is patriotism? Is it love of one’s birthplace, the place of childhood’s recollections and hopes, dreams and aspirations? Is it the place where, in childlike naïveté, we would watch the fleeting clouds, and wonder why we, too, could not run so swiftly? The place where we would count the milliard glittering stars, terror-stricken lest each one “an eye should be,” piercing the very depths of our little souls? Is it the place where we would listen to the music of the birds, and long to have wings to fly, even as they, to distant lands? Or the place where we would sit at mother’s knee, enraptured by wonderful tales of great deeds and conquests? In short, is it love for the spot, every inch representing dear and precious recollections of a happy, joyous, and playful childhood?

If that were patriotism, few American men of today could be called upon to be patriotic, since the place of play has been turned into factory, mill, and mine, while deafening sounds of machinery have replaced the music of the birds. Nor can we longer hear the tales of great deeds, for the stories our mothers tell today are but those of sorrow, tears, and grief.

What, then, is patriotism? “Patriotism, sir, is the last resort of scoundrels,” said Dr. Johnson. Leo Tolstoy, the greatest anti-patriot of our times, defines patriotism as the principle that will justify the training of wholesale murderers; a trade that requires better equipment for the exercise of man-killing than the making of such necessities of life as shoes, clothing, and houses; a trade that guarantees better returns and greater glory than that of the average workingman.

Gustave Hervé, another great anti-patriot, justly calls patriotism a superstition - one far more injurious, brutal, and inhumane than religion. The superstition of religion originated in man’s inability to explain natural phenomena. That is, when primitive man heard thunder or saw the lightning, he could not account for either, and therefore concluded that back of them must be a force greater than himself. Similarly he saw a supernatural force in the rain, and in the various other changes in nature. Patriotism, on the other hand, is a superstition artificially created and maintained through a network of lies and falsehoods; a superstition that robs man of his self-respect and dignity, and increases his arrogance and conceit.

Indeed, conceit, arrogance, and egotism are the essentials of patriotism. Let me illustrate. Patriotism assumes that our globe is divided into little spots, each one surrounded by an iron gate. Those who have had the fortune of being born on some particular spot, consider themselves better, nobler, grander, more intelligent than the living beings inhabiting any other spot. It is, therefore, the duty of everyone living on that chosen spot to fight, kill, and die in the attempt to impose his superiority upon all the others.

The inhabitants of the other spots reason in like manner, of course, with the result that, from early infancy, the mind of the child is poisoned with bloodcurdling stories about the Germans, the French, the Italians, Russians, etc. When the child has reached manhood, he is thoroughly saturated with the belief that he is chosen by the Lord himself to defend his country against the attack or invasion of any foreigner. It is for that purpose that we are clamoring for a greater army and navy, more battleships and ammunition. It is for that purpose that America has within a short time spent four hundred million dollars. Just think of it - four hundred million dollars taken from the produce of the people. For surely it is not the rich who contribute to patriotism. They are cosmopolitans, perfectly at home in every land. We in America know well the truth of this. Are not our rich Americans Frenchmen in France, Germans in Germany, or Englishmen in England? And do they not squander with cosmopolitan grace fortunes coined by American factory children and cotton slaves? Yes, theirs is the patriotism that will make it possible to send messages of condolence to a despot like the Russian Tsar, when any mishap befalls him, as President Roosevelt did in the name of his people, when Sergius was punished by the Russian revolutionists. ...

But, then, patriotism is not for those who represent wealth and power. It is good enough for the people. It reminds one of the historic wisdom of Frederick the Great, the bosom friend of Voltaire, who said: “Religion is a fraud, but it must be maintained for the masses.” ...

Let us take our own Spanish-American war, supposedly a great and patriotic event in the history of the United States. How our hearts burned with indignation against the atrocious Spaniards! True, our indignation did not flare up spontaneously. It was nurtured by months of newspaper agitation, and long after Butcher Weyler had killed off many noble Cubans and outraged many Cuban women. Still, in justice to the American Nation be it said, it did grow indignant and was willing to fight, and that it fought bravely. But when the smoke was over, the dead buried, and the cost of the war came back to the people in an increase in the price of commodities and rent - that is, when we sobered up from our patriotic spree it suddenly dawned on us that the cause of the Spanish-American war was the consideration of the price of sugar; or, to be more explicit, that the lives, blood, and money of the American people were used to protect the interests of American capitalists, which were threatened by the Spanish government. That this is not an exaggeration, but is based on absolute facts and figures, is best proven by the attitude of the American government to Cuban labor. When Cuba was firmly in the clutches of the United States, the very soldiers sent to liberate Cuba were ordered to shoot Cuban workingmen during the great cigarmakers’ strike, which took place shortly after the war.

Nor do we stand alone in waging war for such causes. The curtain is beginning to be lifted on the motives of the terrible Russo-Japanese war, which cost so much blood and tears. And we see again that back of the fierce Moloch of war stands the still fiercer god of Commercialism. Kuropatkin, the Russian Minister of War during the Russo-Japanese struggle, has revealed the true secret behind the latter. The Tsar and his Grand Dukes, having invested money in Corean concessions, the war was forced for the sole purpose of speedily accumulating large fortunes.

The contention that a standing army and navy is the best security of peace is about as logical as the claim that the most peaceful citizen is he who goes about heavily armed. The experience of every-day life fully proves that the armed individual is invariably anxious to try his strength. The same is historically true of governments. Really peaceful countries do not waste life and energy in war preparations, With the result that peace is maintained.

However, the clamor for an increased army and navy is not due to any foreign danger. It is owing to the dread of the growing discontent of the masses and of the international spirit among the workers. It is to meet the internal enemy that the Powers of various countries are preparing themselves; an enemy, who, once awakened to consciousness, will prove more dangerous than any foreign invader.

The powers that have for centuries been engaged in enslaving the masses have made a thorough study of their psychology. They know that the people at large are like children whose despair, sorrow, and tears can be turned into joy with a little toy. And the more gorgeously the toy is dressed, the louder the colors, the more it will appeal to the million-headed child.

An army and navy represents the people’s toys. To make them more attractive and acceptable, hundreds and thousands of dollars are being spent for the display of these toys. That was the purpose of the American government in equipping a fleet and sending it along the Pacific coast, that every American citizen should be made to feel the pride and glory of the United States. The city of San Francisco spent one hundred thousand dollars for the entertainment of the fleet; Los Angeles, sixty thousand; Seattle and Tacoma, about one hundred thousand. To entertain the fleet, did I say? To dine and wine a few superior officers, while the “brave boys” had to mutiny to get sufficient food. Yes, two hundred and sixty thousand dollars were spent on fireworks, theatre parties, and revelries, at a time when men, women, and children through the breadth and length of the country were starving in the streets; when thousands of unemployed were ready to sell their labor at any price. ...

We Americans claim to be a peace-loving people. We hate bloodshed; we are opposed to violence. Yet we go into spasms of joy over the possibility of projecting dynamite bombs from flying machines upon helpless citizens. We are ready to hang, electrocute, or lynch anyone, who, from economic necessity, will risk his own life in the attempt upon that of some industrial magnate. Yet our hearts swell with pride at the thought that America is becoming the most powerful nation on earth, and that it will eventually plant her iron foot on the necks of all other nations.

Such is the logic of patriotism. ...

[click here for complete essay]

human rights, anarchism, anarchosyndicalism

Wednesday, March 02, 2011

$1.22 trillion: feeling secure?

2012 budget request:

Pentagon base budget:  $558 billion
Iraq & Afghanistan operations:  $118 billion
Dept. of Energy nuclear weapons activity:  $19.3 billion
Pentagon miscellaneous:  $7.8 billion
State Dept. counterterrorism activity:  $8.7 billion
Non–Dept. of Defense homeland security activities (Depts. of Homeland Security, Health & Human Services, and Justice):  $53.5 billion
National Intelligence Program:  $53.1 billion (2010 figure)
Veterans' hospital and medical care:  $59 billion
Veterans' disability pensions and education programs:  $70.3 billion
Foreign military aid:  $6.6 billion
International peacekeeping:  $2 billion
Countering WMDs, combating terrorism, clearing landmines:  $0.7 billion
Military pensions:  $48.5 billion
Civilian Dept. of Defense pensions:  $20 billion
Interest on Pentagon debt:  $185 billion (estimate)

Total:  $1,219.2 billion, or $1.22 trillion

Unknowns:
Security-related activities of NASA
Security-related activities of State Dept.
Pensions of Non–Dept. of Defense security-related employees
Interest on Non-pentagon security-related debt

Tuesday, March 01, 2011

Prayer for the Republic of Vermont

Thomas Naylor writes at Counterpunch:

Ladies and gentlemen, it is my solemn duty to inform you that on 4 March 1791 the First Vermont Republic, the only American republic which truly invented itself, entered immortality and became the fourteenth state of the American empire. Fourteen years after declaring its independence, Vermont was seduced into the union by the promise of Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness.

Two hundred twenty years later the Green Mountain state finds itself in a nation whose government condones the annihilation of Afghanistan and Iraq , a convoluted war on terrorism which it helped create, the illegal rendition of terrorist suspects, prisoner abuse and torture, citizen surveillance, the Patriot Act, the Military Commissions Act, staggering deficits, corporate greed, Wall Street bailouts, pandering to the rich and powerful, a culture of deceit, and a foreign policy based on full spectrum dominance, imperial overstretch, and unconditional support for Israel.

A state convention convened by the Vermont Assembly on 10 January 1791 petitioned the United States Congress for admission into the Union. By a vote of 105 to 4 the delegates of the convention opted to sell the soul of the independent Republic of Vermont to the Empire. Vermont’s statehood petition was ratified by the U.S. Congress on 4 March, a day that will go down in history as a day of infamy.

America was supposed to have been immortal, but in the end it could not deliver. Its government has lost its moral authority. It has no soul. As a nation it has become unsustainable and unfixable because it is effectively ungovernable.

Is it possible that out of the ashes of the First Vermont Republic a Second Vermont Republic might emerge? Might not Vermont experience a kind of resurrection from the dead, or at least from its two-century long slumber, resulting in a new state of consciousness opposed to the tyranny of Corporate America and the U.S. government and committed to once again becoming an independent republic? Might such a republic embrace these principles: political independence, human scale, sustainability, economic solidarity, power sharing, equal opportunity, tension reduction, and community?

What if tiny Vermont, the second smallest state in the Union, were to become an example for other states to follow leading to the peaceful dissolution of the largest, most powerful empire of all time—the United States of America? Literally every reason why Vermont might want to opt out of the Union is equally applicable to every other state. Vermont’s paradigm for secession could easily be adapted to any other state.

Is it possible that the Green Mountain state might actually help save America from itself and help save the rest of the world from America by seceding from the Union and leading the nation into peaceful disunion?

In the words of Reverend Ben T. Matchstick, we pray for Vermont independence “in the name of the flounder, the sunfish, and the holy mackerel.”

Amen

[Note: On Jan. 10, 2011, Time Magazine included Vermont in its list of top 10 aspiring nations.]

human rights, Vermont