March 31, 2005

"The Wild Palms of Etowah"

Joe Bageant writes from Etowah, Tennessee, one-time "rubberized hair capitol of the world," in praise of holy madness -- giving crazed inspired voice to the divine monster . . . a so-called "must read."
"Elevating carnage to cultural protocol is very dangerous. And official rationalization of it is disastrous. Why isn't someone talking about these things?" We have no examples. We have no ideals. We have only corruption and self-justifying silliness in service of capitalism as it runs further and more terribly amok.
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March 30, 2005

Conservationist doublespeak

Deutsche Welle reports today that NABU (Naturschutzbund Deutschland) has given industrial wind parks a thumbs up. Although a recent worldwide study by NABU estimates that 60 birds and 50 bats per year collide with the average turbine, and that this particularly puts birds of prey and some bat species at risk, German wind facilities are claimed to be miraculously exempt from these problems.

Environment Minister Jürgen Trittin says NABU's findings refute the "horror story" that industrial wind turbines kill birds. Excuse me, Herr Trittin, but the evidence appears to do the opposite.

The NABU report is available in German as a 644-KB PDF file. It includes a 3-page summary in English, which points out, as has Paul Kerlinger at a recent American Wind Energy Association workshop, that habitat displacement, degradation, and fragmentation also are serious threats to birds. They also note, "Wind farms had significantly negative effects on local populations of geese, Wigeons, Golden Plovers and Lapwings." And, "There was no evidence that birds generally 'habituated' to wind farms in the years after their construction." And, "In Germany the relatively high numbers of killed White-tailed Eagles and Red Kites give reason for concern. Germany hosts about half of the world population of breeding Red Kites and has a particular responsibility for this species."

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The president's shoulders and the anti-life right

An article in Monday's New York Times examines (as if it's a new development!) Dear Leader W's blithe disregard for reality and his blatant insensitivity and ignorance. They call it "flirty" and "impish." I think they meant "asshole." Anyway, it is reported that Dear Leader receives a shoulder massage most Sundays "to relieve tension and muscle aches from exercise." Lest one think that his exercise regime is more strenuous than the job of running the country into the toilet and the planet into chaos -- and keeping these facts well away from conscious awareness -- it's probably not the exercise at all causing the strain. It's the continuous shrugging off of responsibility.

Free association corner: imp, chimp, shrimp. flirt, pervert, dirt.

((((((( )))))))

Meanwhile, on Counterpunch yesterday, Stew Albert wrote:

'What we of the original and most honest pro life movement should be saying to those who have stolen our words, is that we are going to take back the life force. You guys are hypocrites who forget about the care and welfare of human beings once they are born and can actually think and feel and ask questions about the meaning of life. You lose interest in them because they are no longer "pure" and "innocent" but let one of them experience a major trauma to their brain and lose any capacity to think and act. Ah, then the "purity" returns and those who want to end their misery and the artificial maintenance of a breathing brainless heart, become anti-life crucifying mean spirited absolutely evil Nazis. You guys must hate the fact that human beings have free will, that's why you don't care about executions, people living out on the streets, napalmed cities and back alley abortions. People with free will might commit sins, so let them live in hell.

'Let us progressive, liberals, humanists and reasonable thinkers reclaim the banner of life culture by saying, we are about stopping wars, providing health care, protecting social security, letting women decide about what should happen in and to, their own body, saving the environment, making sure everyone gets three square and nutritionally worthy meals a day and gets to think for themselves and speak for themselves and let people know that maybe they don't ever want to live on as a brainless vegetable, and let's reclaim life by making sure every homeless person is offered a home that isn't a prison.'

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March 29, 2005

Canadian seal management began today

Canada is resuming the slaughter of hundreds of thousands of baby seals, because seals eat fish. Humans eat fish, too, but the seals are the ones who get killed for it. The Canadians think it's their fish that the seals are eating and have come up with this effective means of managing the competition. (South Korea and Japan are having a similar dispute over fishing grounds -- one hopes neither of them looks to Canada for guidance!)

Bad as eating fish already is -- for them as well as for us -- the destruction of a whole generation of seals can now be added to the gumbo.

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March 28, 2005

Again with the meat?

To the editor, New York Times Magazine:

Kate Hirson, featured in "Kitchen Voyeur," March 20, complains about the depressing repetition of "the vegetarian menu." I immediately wondered why she picks on her vegetarian friends, since most non-vegetarians also -- perhaps more so -- tend towards repetition and predictability.

As Hirson prepared yet another hunk of flesh from yet another dead animal, I also wondered why so few people notice that what makes the meal interesting (not to mention palatable) is the vegetarian component. The animal part could easily be replaced with some of the beautiful root vegetables described a week before in the same space.

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March 26, 2005

New details of U.S. attempt to kill Giuliana Sgrena

Naomi Klein recently met with Italian journalist Giuliana Sgrena and was interviewed by Amy Goodman on Democracy Now. The U.S. has refused to allow Italian police to examine the car in which she was fired upon. Here are some excerpts.
But when I met with her, she was clearly very, very ill, and that's why she's not on the show this morning. She was fired on by a gun at the top of a tank, which means that the artillery was very, very large. It was a four-inch bullet that entered her body and broke apart. And it didn't just injure her shoulder, it punctured her lung. And her lung continues to fill with fluid, and there continues to be complications stemming from that fairly serious injury. ...

... Giuliana is not saying that she's certain in any way that the attack on the car was intentional. She is simply saying that she has many, many unanswered questions, and there are many parts of her direct experience that simply don't coincide with the official U.S. version of the story. One of the things that we keep hearing is that she was fired on on the road to the airport, which is a notoriously dangerous road. ... What Giuliana told me that I had not realized before is that she wasn't on that road at all. She was on a completely different road that I actually didn't know existed. It's a secured road that you can only enter through the Green Zone and is reserved exclusively for ambassadors and top military officials. So, when Calipari, the Italian security intelligence officer, released her from captivity, they drove directly to the Green Zone, went through the elaborate checkpoint process which everyone must go through to enter the Green Zone, which involves checking in obviously with U.S. forces, and then they drove onto this secured road. And the other thing that Giuliana told me that she's quite frustrated about is the description of the vehicle that fired on her as being part of a checkpoint. She says it wasn't a checkpoint at all. It was simply a tank that was parked on the side of the road that opened fire on them. There was no process of trying to stop the car, she said, or any signals. From her perspective, they were just -- it was just opening fire by a tank. The other thing she told me that was surprising to me was that they were fired on from behind.

"A Problem With Wind Power"

A couple of excerpts from "A Problem With Wind Power," by Eric Rosenbloom:

'The DOE says there are 18,000 square miles of good wind sites in the U.S., which with current technology could produce 20% of the country's electricity. This rosy plan, based on the wind industry's sales brochures, as well as on a claim of electricity use that is only three-quarters of the actual use in 2002, would require "only" 142,060 1.5-MW towers. They also explain, "If the wind resource is well matched to peak loads, wind energy can effectively contribute to system capacity." That's a big if -- counting on the wind to blow exactly when demand rises -- especially if you expect the wind to cover 20% (or even 5%) of that demand. As in Denmark and Germany, you would quickly learn that the prudent thing to do is to look elsewhere first in meeting the load demand. And we'd be stuck with a lot of generally unhelpful hardware covering every windy spot in the U.S., while the developers would be looking to put up yet more to make up for and deny their failings.'

'We are reminded that there are trade-offs necessary to living in a technologically advanced industrial society, that fossil fuels will run out, that global warming must be slowed, and that the procurement and transport of fossil and nuclear fuels is environmentally, politically, and socially destructive. Sooner or later the realities of this modern life will have to reach into our own back yards, the commons must be developed for our economic survival, and it would be elitist in the extreme to believe we deserve better. So wilderness areas are sacrificed, rural communities are bribed into becoming live-in (but ineffective) power plants, our governments boast that they are looking beyond fossil fuels (while doing nothing to actually reduce their use), and our electric bills go up to support "investment in a greener future." And at the other end of this trade-off, multinational energy companies reap greater profits and fossil and nuclear fuel use continues to grow.'

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March 25, 2005

Vegetarianism (and veganism) for peace

Ecofeminists and many anarchists see vegetarianism as an essential response against exploitation of other beings. Many religious people see vegetarianism as consistent with a message of peace.

Unfortunately, most people who call themselves progressive (let alone liberal) do not see the defense of all animals as relevant to their concerns about human society.

Yet the way that humans treat other animals is one of the most indicators of how we treat the environment and each other. Eating, hunting, wearing, poisoning, abusing animals is one way everyone participates in a social organization based on exploitation and jealous protection of power.

Besides hunting and fishing and fur farming and beings tortured and killed in labs, in the U.S. one third of what is spent for raw materials and half of all our water are used just to produce food for the animals of the "meat" industry -- 26 billion individuals killed and eaten every year.

Like the reality of our invasion of Iraq, the reality of the meat and other animal-exploitation industries are hidden behind euphemistic doublespeak and outright lies. To speak the truth is considered treasonous, a threat to traditional values and the cohesion of society. People would rather not hear it. Yet the pursuit both of meat and of war is ridiculously wasteful, counterproductive, and self-destructive.

If there is to be an anti-war movement, vegetarians, those who understand the intersection of all violence against another, should join it openly as vegetarians.

Vegetarianism for Peace -- Nonviolence begins with our diet

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"What Happens Once the Oil Runs Out?"

Kenneth Deffeyes, a geologist and author of Beyond Oil, writes in today's New York Times that the desire to drill in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge is a distraction from the real issue of oil's decline. He points out that even the very productive Prudhoe Bay fields did not add much to our supply of oil, and that nobody knows if oil will be found at all in the Refuge, much less save us in our continuing thirst for an ever-dwindling supply.

A paragraph at the end suggests what can be done as oil production declines, notably more efficient transport and conservation. But he also calls for a greater reliance on wind and nuclear power. Surely he knows that these are sources off electricity, of which less than 2.5% is generated by burning oil. The issue of wind and nuclear power is irrelevant to the issue of oil.

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March 24, 2005

"First pour at wind farm"

A report from Australia describes the foundation for a 2-MW Enercon E-70 wind turbine (85-m tower + 35-m blades):
The Mount Millar Wind Farm between Cowell and Cleve moved into its next phase on Tuesday when the first foundation for a turbine tower was poured.

About 325 cubic metres of concrete was poured into the foundation, which represents about 65 truck loads.

The first foundation to be poured was in a hole about 2.5 metres deep with a diameter of 17 metres.

Just over 40 tonnes of reinforcing rod was used in the hole as strengthening for the foundation. The reinforcing rod forms a cage in the hole, which gives the base its strength.
That's 425 cubic yards of concrete and 44 tons of steel in an 8-ft-deep 56-ft-diameter hole.

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March 23, 2005

"Satan's Delight"

There is an excellent letter in today's local paper about the everyday atrocities that humans commit against other animals. The writer includes a quote that "Hunting is a variant of mental illness." [Click the title of this post to read it.]


Wake up and smell the coffee

A letter in the March 22 [Burlington, Vt.] Free Press asks if "selfish" worries about aesthetics, safety, and threats to wildlife are all (!) that opponents to industrial wind power have to weigh against the promise of a clean energy source. The writer makes a couple of errors, however, in his enthusiasm for that as yet unproven (despite decades of experience) promise.

First, he raises the specter of terrorists supported by our purchases of oil. Only 3% of our oil use is for generating electricity. Transportation uses 88%, and we export 7%. Windmills, even if they performed as well as the sales brochures promise, would have pretty much no effect at all on our use of oil.

Second, he is mistaken that the turbines and towers can just be torn down when no longer needed and the trees can grown back. Unfortunately, the wide straight strong roads that are necessary for installing the facilities will have already permanently altered the landscape, including water flow. And each tower is set in a 2,000-square-foot foundation containing hundreds, even thousands, of yards of concrete and tons of steel. On most mountaintops in Vermont, the bedrock will have been blasted to make that huge hole. Removal of these facilities will not be easy (or cheap), and it would certainly not leave the site anywhere near as it was before.

It's true that our current energy use threatens the mountains as well. But that does not excuse industrializing them instead, particularly with a technology that does little, if anything, towards actually changing our energy use.

-- letter published in the Burlington Free Press, March 29, 2005

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March 22, 2005

"Patriotism, a Menace to Liberty"

Here is an excerpt from Emma Goldman's 1911 still dismayingly relevant essay, available at the Emma Goldman Reference Archive.
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 child}en 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.

Two hundred and sixty thousand dollars! What could not have been accomplished with such an enormous sum ? But instead of bread and shelter, the children of those cities were taken to see the fleet, that it may remain, as one of the newspapers said, "a lasting memory for the child."

A wonderful thing to remember, is it not? The implements of civilized slaughter. If the mind of the child is to be poisoned with such memories, what hope is there for a true realization of human brotherhood?

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.

They see a good thing -- profits and tax evasion in one

The New York Times notes today that "[a] spate of takeovers in the wind-energy business this year shows that large energy companies and investment banks are seeking to increase their holdings in wind power."

Scottish Power's American subsidiary, PPM Energy, has been buying up developers, most recently Atlantic Renewable Energy. As has AES Corporation (most recently Sea West Holdings). Today's news was that Goldman Sachs (yes, an investment banker, not an energy company) is buying Zilkha Renewable Energy. Another outfit, Noble Environmental Power, is owned by another banker, J.P. Morgan Chase. Britain's Airtricity is also getting active in the U.S., following France's Enxco, a subsidiary of nuclear powerhouse EDF.

According to Citizens for Tax Justice (340-KB PDF), FPL [Florida Power & Light] Group, parent of FPL Energy, the largest owner of wind energy in the U.S., paid no federal income taxes for 2002 and 2003 profits of $2.243 billion. In fact, they got tax refunds totaling $252 million. They were able to claim $1.276 billion just in accelerated depreciation.

Thar's gold in thim thar hills!

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March 21, 2005

The future in wind resistance

I must comment on a couple of recent pieces about industrial wind power, one by Doug Hufnagel of Maine and one by the editorial staff of the Boston Globe.

While the writer's heart is in the right place, he exaggerates wind power's potential contribution towards more sustainable energy use. The 11,000 wind turbines of Altamont and Tehachapi in California produce only 1% of the state's electricity use. At that rate, Maine would need almost 38,000 turbines to produce the amount of electricity people in the state use (not just in their homes). Most of the California turbines are smaller than the ones now proposed, but new ones require the same space, 30-60 acres per megawatt. At a capacity factor of 20%-25% (the record of facilities in similar areas), Maine's electricity use would require 132,000-330,000 acres of wind plant, 100-260 square miles.

But the wind doesn't blow at a constant rate, much less in response to actual demand for electricity. In fact, the wind turbines would produce at or above their average level only one third of the time. So Maine will have turned hundreds of square miles over to industrial development and still need the old sources of electricity most of the time.

The Boston Globe editorial not only exaggerates Cape Wind's possible contribution but also downplays the significant impact so many giant turbines, along with the necessary substations and cables, would obviously have. I just want to address the uncritically repeated claim from the developer that the project will provide 3/4 of the electricity used by Cape Cod and the Islands. First, that represents a 40% capacity factor, which is quite exaggerated -- it should be 20%-30% (in theory, off-shore wind is more steady, but 20%-30% is the record of existing facilities), so the figure should be revised to less than half. But, as above, average or more output of a wind plant is seen only one third of the time. Most of the time, the Cape Wind facility will not be providing much electricity at all, making a mockery of the huge investment and desecration of the seascape.

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March 18, 2005

Greenpeace lobbies for wind farms in Arctic National Wildlife Refuge

No, they aren't, of course. That would be absurd -- an environmental group promoting the industrial development of wild places. Oh, wait, but they do. Just call it green and urgently necessary, and formerly inaccessible ridgelines and prairies are yours to exploit.

While I completely share Greenpeace's concerns and the goals of their "Clean Energy Now" campaign, they say that wind could supply 10% of the world's electricity by 2025. To supply 10% the world's use in 2001 (13,934 TW-h) would have required an average output of 159,064 MW, representing an installed wind capacity of 636,256 (25% capacity factor) to 795,320 (20% c.f.) MW, or 424,171-530,213 1.5-MW turbines. Greenpeace urges aggressive use of off-shore sites, which can use larger-capacity turbines and might initially show better capacity factors, but the number required is still outrageous. In 2025, projected electricity demand will require 1.75 times more than the numbers just calculated: 750,000-1,000,000 turbine towers to provide just 10% of our electricity.

Besides being so much and doing so little, it does nothing at all about other energy use besides that for generating electricity. Ten percent reduction in all energy use could more easily, more cheaply, and -- most significantly for environmentalists -- without adding more industry to our already so diminished landscapes be achieved by implementing simple conservation and efficiency measures.

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March 17, 2005


There's still 3 feet of snow on the ground, but the road's a treacherous mudslick and sugaring is expected to begin at any day now. Most dramatically on this feast of St Patrick was when we went outside this morning for taking the wee one to what they euphemistically call a school and the sun was already above the ridge and shining down on us.

Speaking of electricity use in Massachusetts

As noted in the previous post, there has been some confusion about electricity demand in Massachusetts (actually, at issue was the whole New England grid, but also at issue are wind turbines proposed in the Berkshires of Massachusetts). According to the U.S. Energy Information Agency, 52,410 GW-h of electricity were sold in Massachusetts in 2002. The annual output of a 1.5-MW wind turbine can be expected to be (granting a generous 25% capacity factor) not quite 3.3 GW-h. Therefore, each turbine might produce electricity equivalent to six one-thousandths of a percent of the state's electricity needs. In other words, almost 16,000 of them would be required to provide only 1% of the state's needs.

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Letters of note

A couple recent letters in the the North Adams (Mass.) Transcript are illustrative of the diversion (i.e., evasion) and misrepresentation typically seen in response to critics of industrial wind power.

Christopher Vadnais criticizes an earlier piece by Clark Billings for ignoring the many problems and inefficiencies of oil and coal use. The issue, of course, is not oil and coal but wind power, and Vadnais neglects to show how it would move us away from, much less improve the efficient use of, oil and coal. Particularly as he simply ignores Billings' point that only 3% of our oil goes to electricity production, generating less than 2.5% of it.

(Vadnais does correctly note an error in Billings' piece, in which he confuses grid capacity with actual production or demand.)

There is an assumption among many pro-wind people that to point out the shortcomings of industrial wind power is to ignore the problems of coal burning and nuclear fission. In fact, it is sincere concern about pollution and sustainability that compels one to make sure the expensive and disruptive construction of thousands of giant wind turbines on formerly nonindustrial, even wild, sites will actually be worth it. To find that it's not is not to express satisfaction with things as they are, it is simply to conclude that industrial wind power is not a solution.

To insist in response that at least wind power is a sign that we're doing something is just infantile and absurd.

Simon Zelazo starts with a personal note about how much he enjoys visiting the Searsburg (Vt.) facility and recently "had the pleasure" of visiting the turbine in Hull (Mass.) and experiencing its mesmerizing "whomp, whomp." He describes the sad interruption of his revery by an airplane, apparently meaning thus to dramatize the need for large-scale wind power. Unfortunately, the airplane -- representing one of the biggest sources of man-made greenhouse gases and one that would be totally unaffected by a small alternative source of electricity -- only illustrates the futility of such windmills as the one at Hull or the dozens proposed for the Berkshires.

The rest of the letter echos the usual industry propaganda.

First, that opposition vanishes after a wind plant is installed, handily ignoring the fact that it doesn't -- as the growing reports of ill experience attests -- along with the fact that most people are stuck where they live and tend to try reconciling themselves to the situation. The main opposition group in Denmark is called "Neighbors of Windmills."

Second, that low-frequency noise is not a problem, despite plenty of personal testimony and the lack of any systematic study. The quote from Geoff Leventhall, who has reported on the effects of low-frequency noise for the U.K. Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra), is found in an anonymous paper by the British Wind Energy Association and is referenced only as "personal communication." Leventhall has apparently not actually studied low-frequency noise from wind turbines, so his "personal communication" is not backed up by any data. In fact, his work for Defra makes it clear that low-frequency noise is a serious annoyance and stress problem that is generally underestimated. He points out that in the U.K. sound regulations are meant to protect only 80-90% of the population but concludes that is inadequate for low-frequency noise.

Third, ice risk. Zelazo claims there has never been injury from ice throw, and that homes are far enough away. That does not address the fact that a large area around each turbine is effectively taken from public use. As Hoosac developer John Zimmerman has written about Searsburg, "When there is heavy rime ice build up on the blades and the machines are running you instinctually want to stay away. ... They roar and sound scarey. One time we found a piece near the base of the turbines that was pretty impressive. Three adults jumping on it couldn't break. It looked to be 5 or 6 inches thick, 3 feet wide and about 5 feet long. Probably weighed several hundred pounds. We couldn't lift it."

Zimmerman has also stated, "Wind turbines don't make good neigbors."


In other news, Bruce Giffin, CEO of the Illinois Rural Electric Cooperative, is excited by the impending connection of a large turbine west of Pittsfield.

He explained that even when the wind is not blowing hard the turbine is able to build torque and store energy, and even when the blades are not moving at all the turbine is still producing electricity.

A remarkable turbine indeed!

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March 16, 2005

"Not surprised"

There's a brave letter in the St. Johnsbury (Vt.) Caledonian-Record today about the show of outrage over a particularly horrendous instance of animal abuse in Lyndonville. It is similar to what Joe Bageant wrote about why liberals hate Bush even as they go along with almost everything he does, namely, he shows the true face of the power they enjoy. So, too, did the abuse of Kacy show the true face, the inevitable consequence, of most people's every-day attitude towards animals.
"If God created it, it feels pain. I just don't get people's way of thinking and please don't take offense at what I am going to say. But then again, if the shoe fits wear it. When you teach a child to kill (hunting) an animal at an early age and call it sport then why are you so surprised over this. How are they supposed to distinguish the difference."

March 15, 2005

"Are you a man or a mouse?"

Jeremy Rifkin writes in The Guardian today about frightening developments in the development of lab animals: mice with human brains, pigs with human blood, sheep with human livers and hearts. He describes speculation about creating a human-chimpanzee chimera. Chimpanzees and humans already have in common 98% of their genetic code, and, Rifkin says, and adult chimpanzees has the mental abilities and consciousness of a 4-year-old human.

Of course, a 4-year-old human does not in return have the mental abilities and consciousness of an adult chimpanzee. Which is to say, the chimpanzee has its own consciousness. Rifkin worries about the ethical challenges these chimeras will raise. But if researchers can rationalize their abuse of "98% human" chimpanzees, they will have no problem continuing with "99% human" models, especially if they are the ones that create such an animal.

Rifkin says this can not go farther. But it has already gone too far. He implies that research with "normal" animals is ethically sound. It is not.

Animal research is justified in that it provides "models" for human physiology and even psychology where it would be unethical to experiment on people. Ethics should tell us that such similarity, not to mention the integrity of each animal's own individual and social life, means that using them so is as wrong as using people. Well, the researchers say, they are not in fact so very like us, because human tests are ultimately necessary to prove what was found in the animals. Then the animal tests are not only unethical but ultimately unjustifiable! What does it mean to be human? For many, it seems, it means to be different from the other animals, which we can easily prove by using them for tawdry entertainment, useless research, wasteful food, and decadent clothing -- just as racists and sexists cling to their historical or imagined privileges, to their sense, however deluded, of being above their victims.

Are you a man or a mouse? Yes.

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March 14, 2005

parturient montes, nascetur ridiculus mus

a fable . . .

The environmental groups were very worried about the ill effects of fossil and nuclear fuels. They quaked and roared that people must cut back their lavish wasteful lifestyles. The deregulated energy industry did not fear. They showed the environmental groups how they don't have to tell people to give anything up. The industrialists told them that energy from the wind could replace most of the energy from fossil and nuclear fuels.

The environmental groups swelled with pride and joined with industry to build the fabulous turbines. They built them bigger and bigger, more and more of them. The ground shook, trees fell, wild animals fled as the giant wings began to roar with the wind. People were full of awe. They fell to their knees with wonder.

And like the mountain that labored to produce but a little mouse, the thousands of wind turbines -- hundreds of feet high, covering landscapes in every direction, swallowing billions of dollars of resources -- produced but a ridiculous trickle of electricity.

Aesop's crowd laughed at their credulity and returned to their homes. Horace warned poets about promising a mountain lest only a mouse emerges from their pen. The energy industry, however, promises even bigger mountains, and the environmental groups won't admit their folly as long as more people join them. The people are still on their knees, denying the mouse has already run past.

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"It Ain't Easy Being White"

'Hang around the working class places very long and you'll see that they almost never talk about current events. They never mention politics except in an election year. They never mention any larger issues than sports, movies, and where to get good ribs and seafood and why GM just can't seem to build a decent engine. They put up flags and patriotic symbols because it seems like the right thing to do because everybody else does. But no conscious analysis takes place. Most working whites, blue collar, technical, service or whatever, are nonpolitical. And to the extent that they hold beliefs, they hold the beliefs they think they are expected to hold. Just like they hold little flags, and ribbons for the troops. That's to tell you who they believe they are, Americans and Americans only. Plain Americans, cut from the rest of the world by a self isolating belief that it's better to be American than anything else, even if they really can't prove why. Ignorance is bliss and, somehow, America is where everyone supposedly dreams to be. No depth of thought and consciousness involved or required. There is the American on top and the rest of the world who is envious and plotting to steal their freedom.

'In the end maybe we cannot count on white Americans to change. An African American friend writes me that, "As long as Americans have that belief, Bush is safe and the world is in trouble. For all I know, the liberals and the suburbanites, even the progressives and leftists are a bunch of know it alls with the same supremacist tendencies in sheep clothing. They just can't shed this hubris of the curse of being better than the rest of the world for no good reason. There is something pathetic about this world view. So I'll just work with people of color because they don't seem to have this illusion and actually like other cultures and the world. They are the future and they need to be in power because they will change the status quo. I don't believe that white people in general want to change anything at all."

'... Let's be honest. The liberal elite is not entirely a Republican myth. This generation of white liberals is not involved in class issues, and have become more about trendiness. To the average working American Friends and Sex and the City is the face of modern liberal culture. They are not wrong. The very fact that most elite celebrities call themselves "liberal" and don't receive any heat tells you something is very wrong. A real class warrior would spit on the celebrities and materialistic, narcissistic celebrity itself.

'... The United States no longer has citizens. It has consumers. So middle class liberals delude themselves into thinking they are so different from people like Pooty, Dink and the others who break wind and pool sticks down here at Burt's Tavern based upon their consumer choices. Most liberals are not in a much higher income bracket, but their consumer choices -- paid for on credit -- allow them to mimic the ruling class. Starbucks vs Sanka, Mother Jones vs George Jones. Mark Twain vs Shania Twain. . . . There is little hope for us until we realize these ultimately meaningless consumer choices are not representative of any competing or compelling values, but merely distractions that stimulate and keep alive class divisions and hatreds.

'... Liberals hate Bush because he is a traitor to the white classes. Bush revealed the true face of American power and exposed it as the corrupt hoax it really is. He is a "cowboy" imperialist as opposed to the more acceptable kind -- the Kennedy, Carter, Clinton type who conducted their dark little murders at the edge of the empire in secrecy while Americans wasted most of the worlds resources. The Anybody But Bush crowd would have approved the use of force against Iraq if it had been presented by a senator from a Blue State with a bullshit UN resolution, as opposed to a simple 'Yeeee-ha' from a retard frat-boy from Texas and overwhelming international revulsion. Either way, the ruling political and corporate elites still maintain their privileges and status. The ABB movement was not about stripping anyone of those; it was simply about keeping self-serving appearances to preserve our Jabba the Hutt worldview and lifestyle.'

-- Joe Bageant


March 12, 2005

"Bush's Horse Killers"

'Once protected by federal law, the nation's 3,000 wild burros and 33,000 wild horses, as well as 24,000 horses in short- and long-term sanctuaries, now face Congressionally approved slaughter.

'Sen. Conrad Burns (R-Mont.) inserted a rider into the 3,000-page omnibus spending bill of 2005, approved by Congress and signed into law by President Bush, that requires the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) to sell all wild horses and burros which have not been adopted in three attempts or which are 10 years or older. Wild burros have life spans of 25-30 years; domesticated burros can live 45 years; wild horses have life spans of 20-25 years. The animals, according to the legislation, "shall" be sold, and can be butchered. There were no hearings or debate.

'The public may not know what forces helped convince Burns to silently insert the rider into the Appropriations Act, but one thing is certain -- the beef industry has its brand all over it.

'During the mid-1800s, more than 2.3 million wild horses and 60 million bison freely roamed America's west. But, ranchers, who had already seized land from the Indians and were deep into a land war with farmers, saw horses as competition for unfenced grazing land. They poisoned the horses' watering holes, blinded the lead stallions by shooting their eyes out, or simply ran them to death, up and over cliffs, according to Mike Markarian, executive vice-president of the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS). Ranchers "even captured wild mustangs, sewed their nostrils shut with rawhide so they could barely breathe, and returned them to their herds so they would slow down the other horses and make them much easier to capture," says Markarian. In 1897, Nevada allowed unlimited killing of mustangs.

'By 1900, the bison were almost extinct, the result of indiscriminate killing during the nation's "Manifest Destiny." A half-century later, mustangs were close to meeting the same fate as the bison. That's when Velma Johnston, to become known as "Wild Horse Annie," began a national campaign to save wild horses and burros. It took two decades until Congress unanimously passed the Wild and Free-Roaming Horses and Burros Act of 1971 that gave federal protection to the animals and made it a felony for anyone to capture or harm them.

'In 1974, the first federal census of wild horses and burros revealed that only 60,000 remained in Arizona, California, Idaho, Colorado, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, Oregon, Utah, and Wyoming. The BLM plans to reduce the population on public lands to about 20,000, removing at least 11,500 wild horses and burros in 2005. This number is below the minimum necessary to sustain healthy populations, according Dr. Gus Cothran, equine geneticist at the University of Kentucky. The minimum number of horses and burros in each herd management area (HMA) needs to be at least 150, says Cothran; under BLM plans, about 70 percent of the HMAs will have fewer than 100 animals. Estimates by animal rights groups place the number that will probably be slaughtered by the end of the year at 6,000-14,000.'

-- Walter Brasch

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"Prototype blades blown away"

The Manawatu (New Zealand) Standard reported that the blades of the prototype Windflow turbine on the Tararua Range were blown off by strong winds Thursday night.

It was estimated that the wind had gusted to 90 km/h (56 mph). The turbine is rated to operate in winds up to 108 km/h (67 mph) and then lock down. The New Zealand Herald reported that the whole blade assembly and the gearbox inside the turbine housing was torn off. Windflow's stock price also fell.

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March 11, 2005

"Targeting Giuliana"

"I also believe that a clear motivation for preventing Sgrena from telling her story is quite evident. Let us recall that the first target in the second attack upon the city of Fallujah was al-Fallujah General Hospital. Why? It was the reporting of enormous civilian casualties from this hospital that compelled the US to halt its attack. In other words, the control of information from Fallujah as to consequences of the US assault, particularly with regard to civilians, became a critical element in the military operation.

"Now, in a report by Iraq's health ministry we are learning that the US used mustard, nerve gas and napalm ­ in the manner of Saddam ­ against the civilian population of Fallujah. Sgrena, herself, has provided photographic evidence of the use of cluster bombs and the wounding of children there. I have searched in vain to find these reports in any major corporate media. The American population, for the most part, is ignorant of what its military is doing in their name and must remain so in order for the US to wage its war against the Iraqi people.

"Information, based upon intelligence or the reporting of brave journalists, may be the most important weapon in the war in Iraq. From this point of view, the vehicle in which Nicola and Giuliana were riding wasn't simply a vehicle carrying a hostage to freedom. It is quite reasonable to assume, given the immorality of war and of this war in particular, that it was considered a military target."

-- Jerry Fresia

It has been reported in the Italian press, and confirmed by the U.S. ambassador, that the soldiers who targeted Giuliana Sgrena (the Italian journalist who had just been freed after a month with kidnappers) were a special guard patrol for U.S. ambassador to Iraq John "Death Squad" Negroponte.


Green energy?

The beautiful desert of Coachella Valley, California:

Ron (at Flickr)

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March 9, 2005

News Quiz

The latest quiz from Ironic Times:

To protect those most deserving of a second chance to get out of debt, Congress has added which one of the following provisions to the Bankruptcy Reform Bill?
A )Exemption for military personnel forced into bankruptcy by serving in Iraq.
B )Exemption for those forced into bankruptcy by job loss or medical crisis.
C )Exemption for those forced into bankruptcy after being taken aboard flying saucers for medical experiments.
D ) Exemption for millionaires who have taken the precaution of hiding their assets in “Asset Protection Trusts.”

Hull's "cash cow" wind turbine

E (The Environmental Magazine) has a "heart-warming" story on the 3-year anniversary of Hull, Mass., connecting their 660-KW wind turbine (click the title of the this post). I have read elsewhere that sales of the resulting renewable energy certificates (ROCs) has enabled Hull to reduce its electricity bill by 15%, and that's the story here as well.

Isn't something missing? There is no mention that other electricity use went down. If the wind turbine actually allowed them to reduce the use of other sources, that would undoubtedly be the main point of the story, i.e., the success of alternative energy in reducing need for conventional energy. Instead, the story is only how lucrative ROC sales are.

They're just selling the right to say you're buying "green" power even as your (and their) purchase of "dirty" power remains unchanged.

March 7, 2005

Navy sonar and beached dolphins

"[M]ounting evidence indicates that mid- and low- frequency range sonar can cause [whales and dolphins] to beach, surface too quickly, or behave in other unusual ways."

Imagine what hundreds of giant wind turbines throbbing at low frequencies must sound like to our sea-borne kin.

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R Crumb is man of the hour in the U.K.

Following are some excerpts from a nice interview in the Guardian at Crumb's manse in southern France.

'It's strange talking to Crumb - his words are depressive and lugubrious, and yet he appears mellow, laughing easily through his existential nausea.'

'He accepts, reluctantly, that his misanthropy may well be rooted in idealism.'

'"I see the worst aspects of everything. Aline used to roll her eyes because she thinks I ranted and raved about everything that is wrong, so she moved us over here and got us outta there." What did he think was wrong? He doesn't know where to start - corporatism, Coca-Cola, George W, intolerance, Christian fundamentalism, red tape, prices, logos, environmental destruction, property developers. "Oy!" he says.'

'Aline says meditation has made him far more balanced and has slightly eased his self-loathing.'

March 6, 2005

The story so far

The news editor of Renewable Energy Access returned my query about the removal of comments (that has continued since that query) that referred readers to Here is the exchange so far.

From: Eric Rosenbloom
Sent: Wednesday, March 02, 2005 6:14 PM

It was brought to my attention yesterday that a comment on the article at was removed. Suspecting the reason to be a reference to, that person put up a new similar comment and I added one as well. This morning both were gone.

I don't understand this, as other comments cite other web sites, both pro- and anti-wind. (And please remember that many opponents, including myself, to large-scale wind power are in fact very supportive of many other renewable energy sources.) Could you please explain what happened?

From: Jesse Broehl
Date: Fri, 4 Mar 2005 15:54:47 -0500


We welcome spirited, opposing, anti-RE comments in our news forum but we don't welcome comments that simply refer people off-site without actually contributing to a discussion or at least summarizing their arguments. That appeared to be the case with your comments regarding ""

Just curious, if you're against commercial wind power, what are your suggestions to our increasing energy needs? More coal, oil, nuclear, etc? Now that would be a terrifc item to post in our comment forum!

Jesse Broehl, Editor, News

From: Eric Rosenbloom
Date: Fri, 04 Mar 2005 16:57:19 -0500

Fair enough. Thanks for responding. My impression of the first instance, however, was that it was simply in response to the earlier referral to 4 pro-wind sites. I notice that references to still stand in the comments at, perhaps because the second one is just such a counter-referral as the instance I wrote to you about. Yet that second referral, recommending 2 pro-wind sites, contains no discussion or summary of their arguments.

To your curiosity, the thing that seems obvious to me about commercial wind power is that it can not contribute significantly to our existing energy needs, let alone any increase. That is, I reject the premise of your question. Your goading options ("coal, oil, nuclear, etc") also appear to equate rejection of big wind power with rejection of all alternative energy sources. My interest in alternative energy is precisely what led me to research wind and discover its many shortcomings, for which rural communities and wild habitats are being nonetheless sacrificed.


From: Jesse Broehl
Date: Fri, 4 Mar 2005 17:51:27 -0500


I always regret following up these conversations ........ but I don't follow your position that commercial wind power doesn't contribute significantly to existing energy needs. Every MW of wind power means that amount doesn't need to be generated somewhere else, through dirty means.

One quick anecdotal example: The 420 MW proposed Cape Wind farm would displace, at full capacity, more than the entire electrical output of the fuel oil plant near buzzard's bay. You may recall that over a year ago, roughly 40,000 gallons of oil were spilled in Buzzard's Bay on their way to that power plant. I'm sure you'll pick holes in this example (the wind is intermittent, they're an "eyesore", etc) but that's a real example of wind power contributing a large amount of commercial energy in a clean fashion.

As I said, we welcome any type of comment as long as it attempts to keep people on our site and contributes in some way as either a basic comment or part of a discussion.

Have a good weekend,

Jesse Broehl, Editor, News

From: Eric Rosenbloom
Date: Fri, 04 Mar 2005 21:03:51 -0500

Well, you brought up the example of Cape Wind, and the salient phrase is "at full capacity." You know that its average output will be at best a third of that, and that it will generate at or above that average level only about a third of the time. You also know that oil-fired plants are precisely the quick-response generators necessary to balance the fluctuations of wind plant on the system. Oil will still have to be shipped to Buzzard's Bay.

And as the Cape Wind proposal is still being reviewed, it is certainly not a "real example of wind power contributing a large amount of commercial energy in a clean fashion." I often note that wind advocates always talk about the future rather than what has already been achieved in Denmark, Germany, or Spain -- which is not very much.


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Another beautiful sunset

at Montfort Wind Farm, Wisconsin:

Monfort, Wisconsin

Dale Guldan, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

March 3, 2005

References to anti-wind site removed

Renewable Energy Access removed a comment to one of their news articles, apparently because it referred readers to for a good presentation of the arguments against industrial wind power. It followed a comment that similarly cited four pro-industry sites. An earlier comment cited on-line articles aginst wind turbines' destruction of birds. The correspondent who noticed the removal and brought it to my attention added a new comment recommending, and I added one as well. Both were gone the next morning. I wrote to the webmaster on Tuesday and to the news editor on Wednesday for an explanation but haven't received an answer yet. No doubt the American Wind Energy Association ( is peeved and too big an account to reject their cowardice.

March 1, 2005

Mole Chaser windmill

"The Mole Chaser Windmill takes even a gentle breeze and creates underground vibrations so intolerable, moles quickly vacate your premises ..."

"Our Natural Mole Chaser Drives Them Crazy! Our durable windmill is fun to watch, but that's only part of the story. While the 18" rustproof steel blades spin silently above ground, they rattle and vibrate relentlessly underground. Moles can't stand it and quickly move out."

If this is the effect of a tiny $20 contraption, imagine what havoc a collection of 160-ton versions can wreak. Here is an account from the Mountaineer wind facility on Backbone Mountain in West Virginia (which ridge is targeted for hundreds more turbines in West Virginia, Maryland, and Pennsylvania).
"I looked around me, to a place where months before had been prime country for deer, wild turkey, and yes, black bear, to see positively no sign of any of the animals about at all. This alarmed me, so I scouted in the woods that afternoon. I am accustomed to these woods, and know them and the signs of animals well. All afternoon, I found no sign, sight, or peek of any animal about.

"I did notice, in the next few months, that the animals were more abundant down here in the valley, in the farmers' fields and such. Places that they had steered away from before, they now were in, and causing trouble for man, and, in turn, getting shot. I saw more bear and bob cats in the populated areas than I had ever seen. I went up to the windmills several times to check, and it seemed that the animals had moved away from that area. There were no sight of them, no prints, no sign."

Beautiful kinetic sculpture garden

-- Reuters; Daban, China