July 31, 2012

Seven Roadblocks to the Good Life: (3) Six Corrosives Which Deplete Vitality

Human beings are unable to devote themselves to constructive and creative tasks because of six corrosives which deplete vitality. They are malnutrition, ill health (physical, mental, emotional), worry, anger, fear, and hatred. Each one of the six is present, to a greater or less degree, in every human life.

Food intake is one of the chief sources of human energy. The human organism, like any other functional apparatus, can operate only so long as it is adequately supplied with the necessary nourishment. Perhaps three-fifths of mankind attempts to survive on a diet that is insufficient in quantity. Many among the other two-fifths consume stale, processed, devitalized food which is lacking in nutritive value. Comparatively few people are aware of the need for correct food combinations. A rapidly increasing proportion of mankind is being actively poisoned by pollution of the water supply, by the use of chemicals in food processing, and by spraying and dusting foods with high-power poisons aimed at the prevention of food deterioration and at the destruction of harmful micro-organisms and vermin.

Resulting malnutrition leads to a crippling failure of energy. Continued over long periods it lowers vitality, impairs the efficiency of body tissues and organs and becomes a major factor in physical degeneration. Malnutrition is one of the chief causes of physical, mental and emotional disability. There is a direct relation between nutritional deficiencies and the mal-functioning of the human organism.

Ill health also can be caused by natal influences, by accidents, by contagions and infections, by the disintegration of the organism. Where these causes are sufficiently severe, they result in premature death; otherwise they use up vital energy, and force their victims to drag themselves about, suffering constant pain or to spend their days in wheel chairs or in bed.

Worry is hard to measure. There are chronic worriers who devote their lives to this futile practice. There are victims of occasional worry spells. Under stress, most people worry-devoting their attention and consuming their energies upon some imaginary situation which seldom or never actually arises.

Anger, fear and hatred are widely prevalent in the daily lives of human beings. All consume energy, lower vitality and detract attention from constructive and creative endeavors.

Corrosive factors which deplete human vitality should be avoided with the same care that one takes in avoiding collision with a tree, a wall or a moving vehicle. All detract from health and well-being. The normal, healthy individual attempts to avoid them as a matter of course. But mass poverty, mass infection and mass unemployment cannot be dealt with by individuals acting singly. They are social mal-adjustments. As such they can be handled effectively only by social plans and action programs aimed to revive the victims of social maladjustment and to make the changes necessary to remove the causes that undermine individual health and fitness and thus lower the levels of community well-being.

(from Chapter III, The Conscience of a Radical, Scott Nearing, Harborside, Maine: Social Science Institute, 1965)

Buy a copy of the book directly from The Good Life Center, Harborside, Maine.

[Click here for all seven roadblocks.]

Thoughts on Americanism and Freedom

When I was growing up in Florida some decades ago, the state required an “Americanism versus Communism” course in 11th grade. “Communism” meant not any economic system, but rather the totalitarian Soviet Union, and “Americanism” presumably its opposite — not only in the means of working towards achieving the universal aspirations of human society, but also in what those aspirations might be. Mostly, of course, the intention was to define Communism as all bad and Americanism as all good. (Our teacher subverted the state’s intention by teaching us a lot of Russian history and about world power politics. She used the official course guide as a spur to commentary and analysis. Today, illustrating how much freedom has been lost with the ascendancy of capitalism, it is unlikely that she could have gotten away with that.)

Americanism is the premise that market capitalism is the best means of securing individual freedom. At its most crude level, it is the belief that everyone striving to maximize his or her own acquisition of wealth ensures the most equitable distribution of wealth. (And too bad if you have other interests than such striving and acquisition — that’s your choice — or if you lack the advantages of the already wealthy — that’s just a greater spur.) The belief has followed that capitalism is synonymous with freedom; and consequently, that any social structure that limits the liberty of capital is an enemy of freedom itself.

Yet by definition, capitalism is a system of hoarding, such that the success of one requires the diminished wealth of many. The imperatives of Americanism require an imperial program of conquest and exploitation both to prevent socialist sharing and to expand wealth.

As more of the world is forced to live by the terms of Americanism, however, it must keep more of its own wealth. American capital must turn on its own citizens to maintain the level of hoarding it expects. Capitalism becomes the enemy of freedom, and Americanism reveals itself as fascism — no longer pretending to benefit the many and redoubling the myth that a weakening of the power of capital is a threat to the liberty of all.

The lie of American democracy also is revealed. Dissent that challenges the myth of Americanism is viewed as not just subversive, but even treasonous: a rebellious act of war. As for an alternate vision of individual freedom, secured by a social system that equitably shares the common wealth, that does not allow one individual or group to hoard while others suffer a lack of food, shelter, leisure, medical care, education, and economic security — such a vision can not be allowed publicity. Its proponents must be vilified as terrorists, whose aim is no less than to bring down the American way of life (which is true, as far as Americanism is a barrier to freedom and not its guarantor).

Politics in the U.S.A. forbids a challenge to Americanism. Only a tinkering with the capitalist myth is allowed, an occasional crumb when the people clamor for bread. One party continues to work to expand Americanism throughout the world, and the other party works to reinforce the equation of unfettered capital and individual freedom. Liberalism is the tool of the former, religion the latter’s weapon. Both muster the energies of self-righteousness and fear which characterize their cynical politics. Hand in hand, they protect capital and strengthen its power against the needs of the people. War — at home as well as abroad — is the price the people must pay for the freedom of capital. The approved parties must either minimize or deny, or deny as currently impractical, the fact that every expansion of popular freedom has been by the limitation of capitalist power.

human rights, anarchism, anarchosyndicalism

July 30, 2012

Seven Roadblocks to the Good Life: (2) Greed for Wealth, Prestige, Power

Webster’s dictionary defines greed as “an unsatiable desire to possess or acquire something to an amount inordinately beyond what one needs or desires.” I would modify this definition thus: greed is the desire to have more of a good, service, or experience after one has had a reasonable sufficiency. Greed violates the Greek slogan “nothing too much.”

Greed shows itself in five chief directions: getting and keeping goods and services; attracting attention to oneself; gaining recognition, prestige, status; attaining and maintaining security, and achieving and holding power.

Miserliness is the most extreme expression of greed for goods and services. The miser accumulates for the sake of accumulation, and short of extreme provocation he refuses to part with any of his hoard. In a society based on scarcity only a genius can reach this level of greed. In a modern, affluent society, however, the abundance and variety of goods and services makes it possible for even the rag-picker to acquire and accumulate more than he can use. Stories of beggars who die leaving valuable property and large bank accounts often make the news columns.

The average home in an industrialized community is littered, cluttered and stuffed with clothing, bric-a-brac, gadgets, utensils, appliances, most of which have no great aesthetic appeal and are seldom used. Despite this glut, the householder continues to acquire, greedily, as occasion offers.

Attracting notice to oneself is a second expression of greed. It begins in infancy and grows into extreme forms of egomania among adults. It is particularly prevalent in a society of potential abundance which measures success in life by the quantity and variety of possessions. “How much is he worth” means “how much has he accumulated.”

Greed finds a third outlet in the desire to gain and hold recognition, prestige, position, status. Status seeking and status keeping preoccupy people whose objective is to get ahead of others by climbing toward the top of the social pyramid.

Greed turned in the direction of power is usually called “ambition.” Power is the possibility of pushing others around, using others to advance the interests of the power-seeker, keeping others in a permanent position of subordination and, if possible, servility. The power-holder is able to satisfy his power urge by keeping the largest possible number of his fellows at his beck and call. In a private enterprise society the power-hungry gain and hold economic, political and social positions which enable them to say: “You work and I will enjoy the product of your labor.”

Greed for power may be seen in families, on school playgrounds, in the economy, notably in politics and in general social relations. It is found at all levels, local, regional, national.

Greed is one of the chief driving forces in an acquisitive society. The clever, the shrewd, the unscrupulous use their talents to get and keep more than their just share of life’s good things. By this unreasonable accumulation of material possessions the greedy separate themselves from their fellows and lay the foundations for a class and caste-divided society.

Greed is an essentially anti-social force. In an acquisitive society it not only has unique opportunities for expression but it absorbs attention, consumes energy and expresses itself in activities which are directed to the aggrandizement of one, rather than the advancement of general well-being.

(from Chapter III, The Conscience of a Radical, Scott Nearing, Harborside, Maine: Social Science Institute, 1965)

Buy a copy of the book directly from The Good Life Center, Harborside, Maine.

[Click here for all seven roadblocks.]

Wildlife consultants hired to find minimal wildlife impact

Westwood Professional Services was hired as wildlife consultants by National Wind to find no threat to eagles from their proposed wind energy plant in Goodhue County, Minnesota. A presentation by Rob Bouta of Westwood Professional Services, titled “Wildlife Consultants: Narrowing the Gap between Wildlife Agencies and Wind Energy Developers”, clearly shows the fact that their interest is not in reducing — let alone preventing — risks to wildlife but in reducing the developer's risk of losing financing and approval by minimizing the perception of risks to wildlife with the appearance of objective science. Some excerpts:
Goal of Wildlife Consultants
• Establish scientific credibility.
• Achieve an acceptable level of wildlife risk.
• Obtain agency approval or concurrence.

Scientific Credibility
• Consultants demonstrate or earn credibility
• Support conclusions with data
• Address concerns of neighbors
• Wildlife agencies have default credibility
• Viewed as experts by permitting agencies

How Much Does Science Matter?
• Permitting decisions are based on politics rather than science
• Perception is reality
• Null hypothesis of agencies: Presumed risk
• Influence the perception of decision makers

What Is Risk?
USFWS Land-Based Wind Energy Guidelines:
• The likelihood that adverse impacts will occur to individuals or populations of species of concern as a result of wind energy development and operation.
Wind Energy Developers:
• Anything that threatens the likelihood that a wind project can be successfully designed, permitted, financed, and constructed.

Challenges and Obstacles
Affect potential for wind project financing:
• Wind turbine curtailment
• Agency requests viewed as project risks
• Requests for concurrence met with requests for more studies
wind power, wind energy, wind turbines, wind farms, environment, environmentalism, animal rights

July 29, 2012

Seven Roadblocks to the Good Life: (1) Ignorance, Indifference, Inertia

Most universal of all the obstacles to human advancement and social improvement is the failure of most human beings to play a rational, energetic and conscious part in the direction of their own lives and of the social groups to which they belong. We attribute this failure to ignorance (not understanding or knowing); to indifference (not caring sufficiently to translate discomfort into action), and [to] inertia (continuing in the established ruts of tradition, custom and habit.

Ignorance, indifference and inertia are due to a failure of vision, and to unwillingness to couple understanding with effective action. Together they exercise their immense blocking influence over the thoughts and actions of human beings, because it is easier to stay put or drift with the current than it is to break away and swim upstream. Their influence is felt by all members of the human race. In the lives of most people, most of the time, these are the influences which determine both thought and action.

The immense hold which ignorance, indifference and inertia have over men’s lives is not due in the main to any deficiency in human nature, but to the deliberate, determined efforts of ruling minorities to maintain their authority and perpetuate their power. Until recent years, landlords, ecclesiasts and militarists needed docile, obedient dependents who would work, pay rent, contribute to the church and when necessary turn from their ordinary pursuits to fight in wars arranged by their masters.

Industrial revolution brought with it the need of sufficient technical skills to build, service, improve and direct the new machines and the increasingly complex social apparatus. A working class capable of reading drawings and specifications, carrying out technical directives and writing reports became a prime necessity. General education, developed to meet these new requirements, entailed grave dangers. Men and women trained to read and reason would not be content to promote the interests of their masters. Once trained, they were more than likely to advance their own interests and those of the groups or classes to which they belonged. In order to counter this danger, the masters provided the bread, beer and luxuries which have played such an important role in keeping industrial wage earners and the ranks of the rapidly growing middle class in line behind the interests of those who owned the economy and formulated public policy.

Today this phase of masters class activity is called variously advertising, persuasion, indoctrination, brain-washing or propaganda and is covered by one word: “promotion,” or, in the vernacular, “selling.” Men “sell” themselves. Enterprises “sell” ideas, merchandise, services, beliefs, policies. Promotion is taken for granted in business. It is equally widespread in politics. It is the coin current in religion, education and in the multitude of patriotic and social service organizations.

New means of communication and recently developed channels of information have played an important part in this process. Tidal waves of national loyalties, pride and aspiration have helped in the same direction. Equipped with the new technology of persuasion and coercion, the masters are able to keep 24 hour supervision over those who serve them and promote their interests. The same instruments are equally effective against their opponents and enemies at home and abroad.

Modern society is conditioned, rather than enlightened, at state expense and under state control. The process is called “educational.” Unquestionably modern education encourages and imparts technical skills. The educational apparatus presently existing in the “free world” turns out a citizen who is ignorant, insensitive and unaware of the forces, techniques, instruments and machinations which plan, arrange, organize and supervise the environment in which he exists. The products of this conditioning live in deadly fear of change, lest it lead to “communism.” Dulled into the belief that whatever is, is right in this best of all possible worlds, citizens accept regulation, and conform to a social pattern designed by their exploiters to keep their victims ignorant, indifferent, inert.

(from Chapter III, The Conscience of a Radical, Scott Nearing, Harborside, Maine: Social Science Institute, 1965)

Buy a copy of the book directly from The Good Life Center, Harborside, Maine.

[Click here for all seven roadblocks.]

July 20, 2012

I live in a dangerous neighborhood

Roger Ebert writes:

I was sitting in a Chicago bar one night with my friend McHugh when a guy from down the street came in and let us see that he was packing heat.

“Why do you need to carry a gun?” McHugh asked him.

“I live in a dangerous neighborhood.”

“It would be safer if you moved.”

July 17, 2012

Diggers 2012: towards a new Magna Carta

George Monbiot writes in The Guardian:

To be young in the post-industrial nations today is to be excluded. Excluded from the comforts enjoyed by preceding generations; excluded from jobs; excluded from hopes of a better world; excluded from self-ownership.

Those with degrees are owned by the banks before they leave college. Housing benefit is being choked off. Landlords now demand rents so high that only those with the better jobs can pay. Work has been sliced up and outsourced into a series of mindless repetitive tasks, whose practitioners are interchangeable. Through globalization and standardization, through unemployment and the erosion of collective bargaining and employment laws, big business now asserts a control over its workforce almost unprecedented in the age of universal suffrage.

The promise the old hold out to the young is a lifetime of rent, debt and insecurity.


human rights, anarchism, ecoanarchism

July 16, 2012

Wind Energy Impacts on Groundwater Resources

If a wind energy project is proposed for a site that is within a groundwater recharge area, any contaminants released at the site have the potential to be carried downward with the infiltrating stormwater, leading to contamination of the aquifer. Groundwater discharge points occur as seepage into wetlands, lakes, and streams. If a site is proposed in a groundwater discharge area, surface disturbances (such as construction or the building of stormwater retention facilities) that disrupt the local hydrology can lead to such consequences as draining the wetland or causing stream flow to become intermittent, even if the activity does not occur directly in the wetland or surface water.

During construction blasting can have an adverse impact on water supplies. Groundwater yields (including both wells and springs) are influenced by the flow of groundwater through the aquifer materials. Any disruption to these materials can potentially affect both groundwater flow and water quality. In some cases, vibrations from blasting can cause aquifer materials to collapse and compact, thereby limiting flow. In addition, bedrock fractures may be created that draw in flow from other portions of bedrock with poorer water quality, and the use of blasting agents that contain perchlorate may result in groundwater contamination.

—Wind Energy Siting Handbook, American Wind Energy Association

wind power, wind energy, wind turbines, wind farms, environment, environmentalism

July 15, 2012

‘Dominion’: Judeo-Christian justification for meat-eating?

And God said: Let us make man in our image, after our likeness; and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth.

And God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he them. And God blessed them; and God said unto them: Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth, and subdue it; and have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over every living thing that creepeth upon the earth.

And God said: Behold, I have given you every herb yielding seed, which is upon the face of all the earth, and every tree, in which is the fruit of a tree yielding seed — to you it shall be for food; and to every beast of the earth, and to every fowl of the air, and to every thing that creepeth upon the earth, wherein there is a living soul, every green herb for food.

The last word above is rendered as “meat” in the King James and many other translations. The original Hebrew word, AKLH, in fact means simply “food” or “eating”. The translation used here is that of the Jewish Publication Society of America (1917).

Regarding “dominion”, compare “rule”:

And God made the two great lights: the greater light to rule the day, and the lesser light to rule the night; and the stars. And God set them in the firmament of the heaven to give light upon the earth, and to rule over the day and over the night, and to divide the light from the darkness.

The words are also different in the original Hebrew. Whereas the sun, moon, and stars provide guiding lights to and define day and night, man simply dominates the rest of creation as the conscious embodiment of the creator, as a trustee of the creator. In the next section describing food, the word dominion is not used.

There is nothing here to justify destructive exploitation of the earth's resources or harassment, enslavement, and consumption of animals, human or otherwise.

As for the commandment to “subdue” the earth, following the command to “replenish” the earth it clearly refers to a nurturing agriculture. Indeed, God plants a garden in Eden and puts man in charge:

And the Lord God took the man, and put him into the garden of Eden to dress it and to keep it.

But this is a prelapsarian idyll and hardly applicable to the realities of later life. Because, of course, the overseers eventually took what was meant for only the boss, who readily sensed they were hiding something and expelled them:

Cursed is the ground for thy sake; in toil shalt thou eat of it all the days of thy life. Thorns also and thistles shall it bring forth to thee; and thou shalt eat the herb of the field. In the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat bread ...

Still nothing about exploitation and consumption of animals.

Alas, by chapter 4 of Genesis, “the Lord had respect unto Abel and to his offering” of “the firstlings of his flock and of the fat thereof”, even to the extent of not respecting Cain and Cain's offering of “the fruit of the ground”. The writers are already rationalizing their way of life, which was rather different from what God (called “ALHYM” in the first 3 chapters) commanded Adam and Eve, even to now represent the thoughts of God (now called “YHVH”) as simply reflecting their own.

Which is exactly where we still are today, where vegetarians are cursed as Cain and the only moral demand in slaughtering animals is that it be done with “respect”, which doesn't change anything. A being killed without respect is as dead as one killed with. It means nothing to talk about acting “humanely” when the result is the same as without such talk.

Latter-day apologists of the killing and eating of animals are as degraded as the priests writing Genesis 4, shaping morality to fit their habits and appetites and prejudices rather than the other way around. Making the effort to make sure your victim is healthy and happy, and/or taking the time to pray over your act, is not acting morally, but rather psychotically.

And there is nothing nothing new under the sun. Is there a thing whereof it is said: See this is new? — it hath been already, in the ages which were before us.

environment, environmentalism, animal rights, vegetarianism, ecoanarchism

July 13, 2012

What do you mean by the Green Party’s “majoritarian agendas”?

“They’re for single-payer, everybody in, nobody out, free choice of doctor and hospital. That’s been a majoritarian position for years. Living wage? Overwhelming. Anti-war? [About] 70% want us out of Afghanistan now. The Green Party stands for bringing the soldiers back and curtailing the American empire. Cutting the military budget? A majority of Americans think that the military’s budget is too big and should be cut. Getting rid of special tax breaks for corporations? Overwhelming support. Renegotiating NAFTA and WTO? Majority support. I can go on and on.”

So why doesn’t the Green Party have a majority-sized following?

“That’s the conundrum. A minority party fostering a majority agenda. The reason is that the two-party duopoly has every conceivable way to exclude and depress and harass a third-party. Whether it’s ballot access. Whether it’s harassing petitioners on the street. Whether it’s excluding them from debates. Whether it’s not polling them. And with a two-party, winner-take-all electoral system, it’s easy to enforce all those. Unlike multi-party Western countries where you have proportional representation, the voters [in America] know that if you get 10% of the vote, you don’t get anything. Whereas in Germany, you get 10% of the parliament. So voters say, ‘Let’s just vote for the least worst.’”

—Ralph Nader, Q&A at Time Magazine

[related:  see “Ralph’s Fault” about Bush's stealing of the 2000 election]

[also see: Basic Steps of Election Reform”]

July 12, 2012

Mix Tapes

A few sites with groovy mix/compilation tapes to download:


Aquarium Drunkard

Global Groove

1967 — O Ano da Psicodelia

All of these sites have links to other great music blogs.

July 7, 2012

Low Benefit — Huge Negative Impact

Industrial wind promoters claim their machines produce on average 30–40% of their rated capacity. For example, a 400-ft-high 2-megawatt (2,000-kilowatt) turbine assembly would produce an average of 600–800 kilowatts over a year.

The actual experience of industrial wind power in the U.S., however, as reported to the federal Energy Information Agency, is that it produces at only about 25% of its capacity, or 500 kilowatts.

It will produce at or above that average rate only two-fifths (40%) of the time. It will generate nothing at all (yet draw power from the grid) a third of the time.

Because the output is highly variable and rarely correlates with demand, other sources of energy cannot be taken off line. With the extra burden of balancing the wind energy, those sources may even use more fuel (just as cars use more gas in stop-and-go city driving than in more steady highway driving).

The industry is unable to show any evidence that wind power on the grid reduces the use of other fuels.

Denmark, despite claims that wind turbines produce 20% of its electricity, has not reduced its use of other fuels because of them.

Large-scale wind power does not reduce our dependence on other fuels, does not stabilize prices, does not reduce emissions or pollution, and does not mitigate global warming.

Instead, each turbine assembly requires dozens of acres of clearance and dominates the typically rural or wild landscape where it is sited. Its extreme height, turning rotor blades, unavoidable noise and vibration, and strobe lighting night and day ensure an intrusiveness far out of proportion to its elusive contribution.

Each facility requires new transmission infrastructure and new or upgraded (strengthened, widened, and straightened) roads, further degrading the environment and fragmenting habitats.

Why do utilities support them?

Given a choice, most utilities choose to avoid such an unreliable nondispatchable source. In many states, they are required to get a certain percentage of their energy from renewable sources. In other states, they anticipate being required to do so in the near future. These requirements do not require utilities to show any benefit (e.g., in terms of emissions) from using renewables—they just need to have them on line.

In Japan, many utilities limit the amount of wind power that they will accept. In Germany, the grid managers frequently shut down the wind turbines to keep the system stable. In Denmark, most of the energy from wind turbines has to be shunted to pumped hydro facilities in Norway and Sweden.

Yet wind energy is profitable. Taxpayers cover two-thirds to three-fourths of the cost of erecting giant wind turbines. Governments require utilities to buy the energy, even though it does not effectively displace other sources.

In addition, wind companies can sell “renewable energy credits,” or “green tags,” an invention of Enron. They are thus able to sell the same energy twice.

The companies generally cut the local utilities in on some of the easy profits.

Why do communities support them?

Developers typically target poor commu­nities and make deals with individual landowners and the town boards (which are very often the same people) long before anything is made public.

With the prospect of adding substantially to the tax rolls and/or hundreds of thousands of dollars in payoffs each year, it is understandable that a lot of people are reluctant to consider the negative impacts. They are willing to ignore the effects of such large machines on themselves and their neighbors. Excited by the financial promises of the wind companies, they forget that their giant machines will destroy precisely what makes their community livable.

As people find out more, support for this harmful boondoggle evaporates.

—from “SAY NO! to destroying the environment and our communities”, brochure by National Wind Watch

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

July 6, 2012

Sanders voted yes

Alexander Cockburn wrote in The Golden Age Is In Us (1995), entry from September 6, 1994:

I thought the point of having an independent socialist in Congress was precisely that: to be an independent and a socialist. Instead of which we have Bernie Sanders (supposedly the ‘independent socialist’ from Vermont), hack Democrat. He voted for Clinton’s budget, and now he’s voted for the crime bill, a milepost in the development of the repressive corporate state.

This summer we passed, for the first time, the million mark for people in US prisons (not counting city and county jails). Steve Whitman of the Committee to End the Marion Lockdown calculates that the imprisonment rate for blacks is now 1,534 per 100,000, compared with a white rate of 197. The central aim of the crime bill, passed on August 25, is to lock up even more black people. ...

People designated as gang members can have their sentence for certain offenses (even those unconnected with gang membership) increased by up to ten years. ... There's no medical or scientific distinction between the two substances, but poor people use crack and rich people use powder. ... Get five years for first-time possession of more than five grams of crack; get no jail time for possession of the same amount of coke powder. The crime bill did nothing to alter such inequities.

This is to pass over the rest of the fascist panorama of the bill: the three-strikes provision, the enhanced mandatory sentencing, the stripping of federal judges of their power to enforce constitutional rights of prisoners, the ending of Pell grants which provide funding for prisoners to get higher education, the car searches, the hysterical and unjust treatment of sex offenders, and on and on, through the expansion of the death penalty to cover more than fifty crimes.

... Sanders voted yes. I asked him why and he faxed me four paragraphs of pitiful blather — almost all other ‘Progressives’ had voted yes; rejection of this bill would have meant a worse one down the road ...; there was money in the bill for cities and towns and for battered women's shelters.

For over a decade I've listened to the rap from Sanders and the Progressive Coalition in Vermont about the need for an alternative to the two-party system. Some alternative! Sanders’ record is scarcely more liberal than that of Vermont’s Republican senator, Jim Jeffords. To their everlasting shame, not one squeak, so far as I can ascertain, was raised by the Vermont Pwogwessives abut Sanders’ crime bill vote. I suppose the money for battered women’s shelters caused them not to notice one of the most rabid expressions of racism in the nation’s legislative history.

human rights, anarchism, ecoanarchism, Vermont

July 5, 2012

Coercive Harmony

Alexander Cockburn wrote in The Golden Age Is In Us (1995), entry from September 9, 1993:

These days we have the numbing rituals of consensus formation, a collective act of brainwashing dictated, as always, by the most unstable participant, exercising the tyranny of the hysteric, the unhinged, anybody whom sensible people in the group decide it’s not worth the trouble to upset. So there's consensus, since these more-or-less stable participants realize that their concerted objective is to please this weakest member, who obviously agrees.

Laura Nader, professor of anthropology at UC Berkeley, gave a striking interview in the San Francisco Examiner the other day in which she noted the growth of ‘coercive harmony’, a process she recognized from methods of pacification introduced by European missionaries during the colonial period to control indigenous villagers.

According to the article, ‘Alternative dispute resolution’, she said, ‘was a response to the confrontation and litigiousness of the 1960s civil rights movement.’ Spearheaded by former US Chief Justice Warren Burger, it aimed to free courts of cases that could be settled through mediation or arbitration. But in the pursuit of compromise, justice often has been forgotten ... and the pursuit itself has carried far beyond the justice system.

‘It's basically a movement against the contentious in anything, and it has very strange bedfellows, from people with various psychiatric therapy movements, Christian fundamentalists, corporations sick of paying lawyers, activists who believe we should love each other ... and it’s spread into different parts of American life.

‘We are talking about coercive harmony — an ideology that says if you disagree, you should really keep your mouth shut.’

[These days we have the corporatist development of coercive harmony and consensus formation in ‘community consultation’ to find the ‘win-win’ solution, that is, what does the developer need to pay to get the community to support its own destruction. The developer representing the most unhinged of society, the most sociopathic participant. Because the only purpose of these ‘consultations’ is to bless the developer's plans.]

human rights, anarchism, ecoanarchism

July 4, 2012

Bombs bursting in the air

      And the rockets’ red glare, the bombs bursting in air,
      Gave proof through the night that our flag was still there

There it is.

By the destroying light of bombs and rockets they hail their flag.


July 2, 2012

Wind Power: a Model of Successful Public Policy?

An article published today at the World Energy Forum by Antoine Dechezleprêtre, Grantham Research Institute on Climate Change and the Environment, London School of Economics, and Matthieu Glachant, CERNA, Mines ParisTech, has some interesting statements undercutting wind industry claims of success:
The massive deployment of wind turbines across the world has been driven mainly by public policy support. European countries like Spain, Portugal, Germany or Ireland have mostly relied on feed-in tariffs. In the USA, Renewable Portfolio Standards and systems of tradable certificates [and tax breaks] have been implemented. The Clean Development Mechanism has played a prominent role in emerging countries. For instance, almost all Chinese wind farms are either registered as CDM projects or are in the pipeline.

The spread of wind policies and the rapid growth of wind energy have gone hand in hand. So can we consider these policies a success? Installation of wind capacity is not an end in itself, and in the short term these policies have actually increased the cost of energy. The cost of wind power generation is still high relative to conventional electricity. According to the International Energy Agency, the cost of onshore wind ranges from 70-130 US$/MWh compared to 20-50 US$/MWh for coal-fired power plants and 40-55 US$/MWh for CCGT [combined-cycle natural gas–fired turbines]. Offshore wind is even more expensive (110-130 US$/MWh).

Even counting the benefits of avoided carbon emissions, it is not clear whether the social cost of wind energy is lower. The social cost of carbon according to the World Bank is around $20/ton, which in the best conditions puts wind energy and coal at parity. However, the net impact of wind energy on carbon emissions remains a controversial issue as the intermittency of wind power production requires a carbon-emitting backup such as combined cycle gas turbines. Moreover, in developing countries, the so-called additionality of some CDM wind projects has been challenged, casting serious doubt about their net carbon impacts.
The result of the need for backup is actually worse than suggested there, because wind power production is highly variable, requiring open-cycle gas turbines (OCGT) which are able to ramp their output fast enough to balance that from wind. But the carbon emissions from OCGT are about twice those from CCGT, so that a system of wind + OCGT may actually see more carbon emissions than a system of CCGT alone.

And if wind does not actually do much to reduce carbon emissions, then CDM compounds that debacle not only by driving the construction of sprawling, almost useless, wind energy facilities in developing countries, but by providing the means for developed countries to continue emitting as much carbon as ever.

wind power, wind energy, environment, environmentalism