August 29, 2004

Police riot

Twenty-six years ago today, police beat hundreds of protesters, bystanders, and the press to disrupt the Democratic Party convention in Chicago.

August 28, 2004

Anarchism and Violence

"The Jurassic, the Spanish, and the Italian federation and sections of the International Working Men's association, as also the French, the German and the American Anarchist groups, were for the next years the chief centres of Anarchist thought and propaganda. They refrained from any participation in parliamentary politics and always kept in close contact with the labour organizations. However, in the second half of the 1880s and the early 1890s, when the influence of the Anarchists began to be felt in strikes, in May-day demonstrations, where they promoted the idea of a general strike for an eight-hour day, and in the antimilitarist propaganda in the army, violent prosecutions were directed against them, especially in the Latin countries (including physical torture in the Barcelona castle and the United States (the execution of four Chicago Anarchists in 1887 [for being part of a protest meeting on May 4, 1886, in Haymarket Square against the murder of several workers, and wounding of many more, by police responding to a strike at the McCormick Harvester factory -- the meeting (already seen to be peaceful by the mayor) was ordered dispersed by the police chief and 180 of his armed officers, when a bomb was thrown, killing 6 policemen and wounding others]). Against these prosecutions the Anarchists retaliated by acts of violence which in their turn were followed by more executions from above and new acts of revenge from below. This created in the general public the impression that violence is the substance of Anarchism, a view repudiated by its supporters, who hold that in reality violence is resorted to by all parties in proportion as their open action is obstructed by repression, and exceptional laws render them outlaws."

-- Peter Kropotkin, from "Anarchism," Encyclopedia Britannica

This ought to be considered by the authorities in New York this week as they do all they can to intimidate and prevent lawful protest during the Republican Party convention.

August 26, 2004


Peter Simple writes in the 20 August Daily Telegraph:
What is the real issue in the wind power controversy? It is not just a question of preserving beautiful landscapes. It is a choice between a country fit for human beings to live in and a country wholly devoted to material progress, where what is still coyly described as "the countryside" will be absorbed by industrial developments.

What are improved methods of generating electrical power -- always supposing that wind farms are among them, which seems doubtful -- for, apart from our comfort and convenience?

They are for the manufacture of more and more superfluous gadgets and more and more superfluous methods of communication and moronic entertainment in order that our present demented kind of life may grow indefinitely.

Bumper sticker disconnect

During a long weekend in New Paltz, New York, the following bumper stickers (among many) were seen.
"War is not the answer"

"Love is always right -- end homophobia"
The kicker is that next to the first was a sticker for John Kerry -- who says "Yes!" to war -- and next to the second was one for Kerry/Edwards -- who say "No!" to gay marriage.

August 17, 2004

More Kropotkin

"It always happens that after a political party has set before itself a purpose, and has proclaimed that nothing short of the complete attainment of that aim will satisfy it, it divides into two factions. One of them remains what it was, while the other, although it professes not to have changed a word of its previous intentions, accepts some sort of compromise, and gradually, from compromise to compromise, is driven farther from its primitive programme, and becomes a party of modest makeshift reform."

-- Peter Kropotkin, 1899, Memoirs of a Revolutionist

August 13, 2004

Technology exists to halt global warming, say scientists

Rob Socolow, co-author of an article in the 13 August Science, says:
"There are plenty of money-making prospects related to production of what would be needed to reduce carbon emissions, such as 200 million windmills ..."
Aside from that horrifying figure of 200 million windmills, there is what we could call the Industrial-Capitalist Law of Thermodynamics: The only way to make more money is to consume more energy. The eco-industrialists will indeed make money with these dark satanic mills but therefore they will not reduce carbon emissions. An essay by Stan Goff in Counterpunch examines the situation.

August 10, 2004

Save energy. Eat less meat.

'Darley touches briefly on alternative sources of energy, such as hydrogen, solar and wind, but discounts them as full-scale replacements for oil and gas because their implementation is too expensive.

'So what can be done? Darley offers some small-scale steps for ordinary people to take, including turning off appliances, insulating homes, using cloth instead of plastic grocery shopping bags, wearing sweaters instead of cranking the heat up, and eating less meat (which requires far more energy to produce than plants).'

-- Salon review (August 8) of High Noon for Natural Gas by Julian Darley
Here are some facts about the waste of resources that go to meat production.
  • Producing a calorie of beef protein requires 40 times more fuel than producing a calorie of soy protein.
  • One third of all raw materials and fuels used in the U.S. are used in the production of meat.
  • More than half of all the water used in the U.S. is used for livestock production.
  • Producing a pound of beef uses 200 times more water than producing a pound of wheat.
  • Eighty percent of the corn and 95% of the oats grown in the U.S. go to animals raised as food. Worldwide, 75% of all grain produced goes to animals.
  • Meat contains only 10% of the protein that was in the grains the animals ate. The same amount of grain used to produce a pound of beef could feed more than 30 people.

August 9, 2004

Photos of Cefn Croes, Wales

The Cefn Croes Action Group in Wales has a collection of photos documenting the extensive damage done by the construction of a wind "farm." The planned facility will comprise 39 100-meter-high 1.5-MW turbine towers (the same size as proposed throughout Vermont). Click the title of this post for the complete gallery. Here are some examples.

Upgrading the roads . . .

before:    after:

before:    after:

before:    after:

Clearing the way for new powerlines:

On-site concrete factory:

Foundation pit:

Remember, all this is for "clean, green" energy! The joke is that it has no effect on regular fuel use, because it depends on the vagaries of the wind so other sources have to remain to really supply the demands of the grid. Even when the wind is just right, this huge facility will be producing at a rate of less than 0.15% of the U.K.'s electricity consumption. But over a year, it will likely produce but a fourth of that (24% of capacity is the average output in the U.K.). To fulfill their goal of 20% electricity from renewable sources, the U.K. will have to destroy over 500 such areas. And they will still have to rely on other sources just as much as before!

Monday round-up

"Mr Still [renewables adviser with the U.K. Department of Trade and Industry], who has been brought to New Zealand by Meridian Energy ..." [via CNN Industry Watch, August 8]
It is hardly unusual but still ought to pointed out when a government minister acts as a hired pitchman for private industry rather than a representative of the people. Before joining DTI in 2003, David Still was chairman of the British Wind Energy Association, making his position in government all the more inappropriate.

It is even more galling that the greens and other environmental groups perform the same service to the industry.


Here's a lesson from Ireland for "nuanced" and "sensible" (and out-of-touch) progressives:

"Many of their election posters showed a wind turbine. Once you’ve seen one wind turbine, you’ve seen them all. They define repetitive ugliness. Yet the Greens put up pictures of chilly spikey wind turbines instead of human beings. ... Not starring the candidates they hoped to get elected to Europe and to local authorities. Instead, we were treated to a shot of a wind turbine and some unreadably small print suggesting that wind power was a good thing.

"Without attributing too much significance to posters, the fact is that wind turbines are among the ugliest artifacts ever designed: cold, spiky, inhuman. And that’s when you get them on their own. Breed them on a farm and the end result is the visual quintessence of chilly inhumanity. Yet the Greens gave hero status to the wind turbine during the election -- and now, a few weeks later, are questioning their location in some areas.

"It can be argued that this is a nuanced approach to the energy issue. Nuance never won an election and never will."

-- Terry Prone, Irish Examiner, 9 August (registration required)

Another lesson from Peter Kropotkin, in his 1899 Memoirs of a Revolutionist, about "softening" your demands:

"The Commune of Paris was a terrible example of an outbreak with insufficiently determined ideals. When the workers became, in March 1871, the masters of the great city, they did not attack the property rights vested in the middle classes. On the contrary, they took these rights under their protection. The leaders of the Commune covered the National Bank with their bodies, and notwithstanding the crisis which had paralyzed industry and the consequent absence of earnings for a mass of workers, they proetected the rights of the owners of the factories, the trade establishments, and the dwelling-houses at Paris with their decrees. However, when the movement was crushed, no account was taken by the middle clasees of the modesty of the communalistic claims of the insurgents. Having lived for two months in fear that the workers would make an assault upon their property rights, the rich men of France took upon them just the same revenge as if they had made the assault in reality. Nearly thirty thousand of them were slaughtered, as is known, not in battle, but after they had lost the battle. If they had taken steps towards the socialization of property, the revenge could not have been more terrible."

August 7, 2004

Kropotkin on the '60s generation

'As soon as the ["liberals of the sixties"], which ten years before had made the force of the reform movement, refused to hear any more of "all that sentimentalism," the "joy of living" became their goddess and they hastened to enjoy the riches which poured into the hands of "practical" men.'

--Peter Kropotkin, 1899, Memoirs of a Revolutionist

August 5, 2004

Stupid editorial

There's no other word to describe the August 4 editorial in the Bennington Banner criticizing the Vermont Agency of Natural Resources' draft policy to forbid large-scale wind facilities on state land.

The writer acknowledges that the policy reflects overwhelming public opinion, that only 1% of state land is feasible for such development anyway, that it would require cutting down the forest and building roads on a wild mountain top, and that the contribution to our electricity would be minuscule.

But, the editorialist argues, the symbolic importance of appearing to support renewable energy trumps any argument against installing expensive, intrusive, destructive, and ineffective industrial-size wind turbines.

Therefore, the state should destroy at least one mountaintop and its neighborhood for the merely symbolic gesture of supporting one industry's dubious claim of a viable alternative energy source.

And they wonder why environmentalists oppose the industrial wind juggernaut. See earlier post for more on this topic.

August 3, 2004

VPIRG: We need commercial development of public land

Vermont Public Interest Research Group (VPIRG) sent out an "action alert" last month to urge its subscribers to tell the Agency of Natural Resources (ANR) to allow commercial wind development on state lands. They say that is a hypocritical policy because the state allows other development.

They neglect to point out that "other" developments rarely target ridgelines and are subject to rigorous environmental review, whereas wind facilities are subject to only a "common good" review as a utility.

It is amusing that VPIRG opposes all "other" development except the installation of giant wind towers (with their huge foundations, roads, substations, and transmission lines) and then accuses ANR of being hypocritical.

It is also amusing that they accuse the opponents of such commercial development of being "a small group" "bankrolled by a handful of business interests," printing "misleading information illustrated by glossy doctored photos" to "systematically derail an open public process." I thought that was our charge!

At the forefront of wind development in Vermont is Enxco, a multinational consortium based in France. Local communities have been subjected to transparent sales pitches -- complete with "misleading information illustrated by glossy doctored photos" -- but everywhere a project is proposed, there are nonetheless widespread misgivings about the selling off of our ridgelines. Noticing this, ANR held a series of meetings around the state to gather people thoughts. This "open public process" showed that Vermonters were pretty much against large-scale wind on the ridge lines, which became ANR's proposed policy: "large-scale renewable energy development such as commercial wind farms would be incompatible with the uses and contrary to the purposes of ANR lands and therefore will not be allowed."

On Monday, VPIRG convened a gathering on the statehouse steps to publicly criticize the policy. Energy advocate Azur Moulaert said, "There's a difference between window dressing ... and having true engaging policies to show there is a commitment toward renewable energy in this state." ANR's draft policy supports the installation of small turbines to help power buildings on a site, but VPIRG thinks energy independence means turning public lands over to profit-making giants like Enxco.

Finally, VPIRG raises the specter of "71%" of Vermont's electricity supplies "shutting down" as the contract with Hydro-Quebec and the license of Vermont Yankee expire. Both, however, are likely to be renewed. Even if they were not, Vermont borders two very populous states and a large province that could very easily accommodate our small needs. There is no looming crisis of supply, and even the most ambitious and deluded wind advocates know that wind would be able to supply only a small fraction of our needs. On the issue of state lands, there is only one public parcel in the whole state that is feasible for wind generation, and only two or three towers would fit on it. [Click here for notes about industry claims in Vermont.]

"Window dressing" is precisely what large-scale wind is. Even its advocates try assuring the public that there are only a few possible sites in Vermont, so the environmental and visual impact won't be large (unless you happen to live there). One hundred giant 1.5-MW turbines would produce electricity equal to only 5% of Vermont's annual consumption. If the developers got all they wished for it might approach 200 such turbines, covering miles of prominent ridgelines to produce electricity equal to only 10% of what we use. Because the wind isn't always blowing just right, however, we would still need other sources running all the time, and when the wind is blowing right but not when demand is high (or more reliable sources are already covering for it) it needs to be dumped -- sent wandering the grid until it dissipates as heat. Some "vision"! In fact, it's worse than window dressing, it's a black-out curtain.

Democrats Prefer Bush

According to "Washington Whispers" in the August 9 U.S. News & World Report, twice as many Democrats respect George W. Bush than they do Ralph Nader (24% to 12%). And they wonder why Gore lost. Eleven percent of the Democrats voted for Bush, 5.5 times more than voted for Nader!

[For more analysis of the 2000 election, see "Ralph's Fault?"]

August 2, 2004

Prince Edward Island

Another island destination for lovers of nature (see earlier post about Lewis) is threatened by wind developers. Yesterday's Boston Globe Magazine recommended getting away to the "beach heaven" of Prince Edward Island. You'd better go soon, however, because the provincial minister of environment and energy, Jamie Ballem, wants to see hundreds of giant wind turbines lining the shores to provide "100%" of PEI's electricity and plenty to sell to other provinces.

There are already a huge 3-MW turbine off the coast of Norway and a 16-tower (and likely to expand) facility on North Cape in operation. A 60-MW facility (40 turbines) is proposed near Malpeque. Jamie Ballem's plans would require at least 11 times more than these, in addition to miles of new transmission lines. They also plan a new high-capacity cable to the mainland to provide power when the wind isn't blowing enough or is blowing too hard, as well as to allow dumping the power when the wind is blowing just right but not when local demand is high.

They would simply outsource the "dirty" production of their electricity in exchange for desecrating the very beaches that make PEI attractive to visitors and many residents.