January 31, 2011

Laura Israel and Lynda Barry on WNYC

The Leonard Lopate Show, WNYC, Nov. 5, 2010: Director Laura Israel and cartoonist Lynda Barry talk about the controversy over wind turbines. Israel directed Windfall, a revealing look at wind energy that tells the story of residents of Meredith, NY, who are divided when companies want to build wind turbines in the traditional dairy farm community. Windfall is playing as part of DOC NYC Friday, November 5, and Monday, November 8, at IFC Center. Lynda Barry is researching a book on homes near turbines. Her latest book is titled Picture This.

wind power, wind energy, wind turbines, wind farms, human rights

January 30, 2011

Green energy

The lake of toxic waste at Baotou, China, poisons Chinese farmers, their children, and their land. It's what's left behind by the rare earth processing plants in the background, making the magnets for wind turbines and hybrid cars.

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

January 29, 2011


When imperialism has expended itself in the world, it starts to feed on itself. The war against nature and people is intensified at home.

Dallas Darling writes at World News:

At the outset of The Great Depression, General Douglass MacArthur, Chief of Staff of the Armed Forces, observed millions of homeless Americans sleeping on sidewalks and attending "hunger marches." He witnessed food riots and angry farmers resisting foreclosures and brutal evictions. And yet, General MacArthur used these injustices to validate building an even stronger military. He used such incidences and injuries against his fellow citizens to justify a greater military presence. ...

The Bonus Army consisted of World War I veterans who were promised a small sum for their military service. Since their families were hungry and homeless, they had marched to Washington in an attempt to ask President Hoover and the Congress for their bonuses. When Congress denied their funds, and when President Hoover refused to meet with them, 30,000 veterans occupied vacant buildings and camped outside of Washington in tents and shacks.

MacArthur ordered the encampment to be burned to the ground. With bristling guns and tanks, with fixed bayonets and teargas, and with raised sabers, the American infantrymen and cavalry attacked the Bonus Army marchers and set fire to the camp. In doing this, MacArthur had hoped to show President Hoover, Congress, and the rest of America, of the importance of a strong military force. He wanted to prove too Congress that military funding needed to be increased for security reasons, even while Americans were hungry.

Instead, a nine-month old baby and mother lay dead, as did two Bonus Army marchers. At first, General MacArthur believed the news press would back him. It did not. Images of ragged veterans being assaulted presented a ugly picture to most Americans. In order to save his career and keep the U.S. Army from being shamed, he bullied President Hoover into taking the blame for this enormous debacle. In the name of militarism, not only had General MacArthur usurped the President's powers, but the jurisprudence of the police district.

Still, and in the name of increased military funding and expansion, General MacArthur had crushed a popular movement and completely destroyed basic human rights. Instead of an external or foreign military operation, he implemented an internal and domestic one. It was pure military power for economic and psychological gains against American citizens, a kind of reversed imperialism. The U.S. Army itself became an end in itself. Unlike the Red Scare, which caused mass hysteria in regards to Communism, the Security Scare was an insidious strategy for the purpose of allocating more public funds for militarism. ...

Compared to what the top twenty-five nations spend on their armies (combined!), America still spends more each year. MacArthurism is felt when social, education and unemployment benefits are cut, but more weapons systems and wars are funded.

MacArthurism is the new House Armed Services Committee Chairman, Representative Buck McKeon, who warned that any cuts in the military and Pentagon's budget would be drastic and dangerous to American security. It is claiming that the U.S. needs to continue funding the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, and that China and the Soviet Union are still viable threats. The Pentagon and its vast media empire spreads MacArthurism when they espouse the same kind of Security Scare rhetoric as mentioned above, in order to expand their military power, absolute control and wealth. ...

The crisis at the door step, as Gates called it, is not a $23 billion shortfall for the Pentagon and its wasteful and parasitic military complex. It is MacArthurism, or the reliance on, and continued support of, military power and perpetual wars. It is a battle fought over America's existing and ever declining wealth and it's human and national resources. It is an internal battle fought for the hearts and minds of Americans. Unless they realize they have been outmaneuvered and marginalized by MacArthurism, their fates will tragically be like those of the Bonus Army marchers.

January 27, 2011

Coal use up two-thirds in 10 years

James Melik of the BBC writes:
"The consumption of coal is growing at a massive rate at the moment, particularly in Asia," says David Price, director of Cambridge Energy Research Associates

The Chinese and the Indians are pushing their consumption up very rapidly and production levels are now approaching five billion tonnes a year, which compares with about three billion tonnes at the beginning of the millennium.

The increase in China and India is a simple case of raising living standards. These countries are still classified as developing countries.

"In India, half the population still has no access to electricity and government policy is firmly fixed on ensuring that they are connected to the grid at some stage in the next 10-20 years," Mr Price says.

"Coal is the cheapest available and the most available fuel which will enable that."
This underscores the futility of minimally useful (and additionally destructive) wind power. As long as people want power, and access to power grows (as it must), coal is going to be at the base. Pretending, in promoting large-scale wind, that you can have your power and your clean earth too, simply legitimizes the craving for more power and thus the continued expansion of coal use.

January 26, 2011

The Politics of Violence in America

Thomas H. Naylor writes at Counterpunch:

Although I am no fan of either Sarah Palin or the Tea Party crowd, blaming them for the tragic shooting of Representative Gabrielle Giffords in Tucson is patently absurd. Equally problematic is the idea that the Tucson massacre was caused by the uncivil nature of public discourse in the United States. The attack on Congresswoman Giffords was grounded not in political rhetoric but in an all consuming culture of violence – the same culture which brought down John F. Kennedy, Robert Kennedy, and Martin Luther King, Jr. in the 1960s. Americans are obsessed with violence and have been since the inception of our nation. We have always turned to violence when provoked by either domestic or foreign enemies. Our penchant for intergroup violence – geopolitical, ethnic, racial, agrarian, frontier, religious, and industrial – is without equal.

From the very outset, early European settlers who came to America brought with them a regimen for relating to Native Americans that was based on demonization, dominance, destruction, and death – a regimen which still provides the rationale underlying American foreign policy five hundred years later. Even though we are a predominantly Christian nation, our love affair with the death penalty and our entire criminal justice system are driven by revenge, not forgiveness.

Although our nation was founded on the principles of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, the story of how Native Americans were relentlessly forced to abandon their homes and lands and move into Indian territories to make room for American states is one of arrogance, greed, and raw military power. Our barbaric conquest of the Native Americans continued for several hundred years and involved many of our most cherished national heroes, including George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, James Monroe, and Andrew Jackson, to mention only a few. To add insult to injury, we have violated three hundred treaties which we signed to protect the rights of American Indians.

In over two hundred years, the North American continent has never been attacked – nor even seriously threatened with invasion by Japan, Germany, the Soviet Union, or anyone else. Despite this fact, over a million Americans have been killed in wars and trillions of dollars have been spent by the military -- $13 trillion on the Cold War alone.

Far from defending our population, our government has drafted Americans and sent them to die in the battle fields of Europe (twice), on tropical Pacific islands, and in the jungles of Southeast Asia. On dozens of occasions our political leaders have used minor incidents as provocation to justify sending troops to such far-flung places as China, Russia, Egypt, Greenland, Uruguay, the Samoa Islands, Cuba, Mexico, Haiti, Nicaragua, Panama, Grenada, Lebanon, and Iraq. Today the United States has over 1,000 military bases in 153 countries.

While accusing the Soviet Union of excessive military aggression, the Reagan administration was participating in nine known wars – in Afghanistan, Angola, Cambodia, Chad, El Salvador, Ethiopia, Lebanon, Morocco, and Nicaragua – not to mention our bombing of Libya, invasion of Grenada, and repeated attempts to bring down Panamanian dictator Manual Antonio Noriega. President Bush I deployed over a half million American troops, fifty warships, and over one thousand warplanes to the Persian Gulf in 1991 at the “invitation of King Fahd of Saudi Arabia to teach Saddam Hussein a lesson.” Most Americans were beside themselves over this little war. President Clinton’s repeated bombing of Iraq invoked a similar response, even though the Iraqi people had never inflicted any harm on the United States. It matters not whether we send troops to Haiti, Somalia, Bosnia, or Kosovo or bomb Afghanistan or Sudan; few Americans raise any objections whatsoever. Indeed, they seem to like it.

Why does it come as no surprise to learn that bullying is on the rise in public schools in America? America is the world’s global bully. Our foreign policy of full spectrum dominance is based entirely on the premise that might makes right. Either get out of our way, or be prepared to die!

Barack Obama’s Nobel Peace Prize acceptance speech was nothing short of a call to arms. His hypocrisy in lecturing Chinese President Hu Jintao on human rights is almost beyond belief. Does Obama think that the annihilation of innocent Afghan and Iraqi civilians by the Pentagon constitutes a laudatory human rights posture on the part of the United States? What about the way the Israelis, with our full support, treat the Palestinians? Human rights, surely the White House has to be kidding!

To illustrate how absurd the politics of violence is consider the case of Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders, who now refers to himself as “the most progressive member of the United States Senate.” So progressive is Sanders that he currently supports: (1) all funding for the illegal wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, (2) the deployment of Vermont National Guard troops abroad, (3) military aid for the apartheid state of Israel, (4) the replacement of the Vermont Air National Guard’s F-16 fighter jets with F-35s, and (5) the highly racist war on terror. He is also promoting a Vermont-based satellite station to be designed and built by the U.S. government-owned Sandia National Laboratories. Sandia designs, builds, and tests weapons of mass destruction.

Unfortunately, Sanders, who claims to be a socialist, does not stand alone in the hypocrisy which he brings to the culture of violence. Like many of his other left-wing Democratic colleagues in the Congress, Sanders is an unconditional apologist for the Pentagon and the right-wing Likud government of Israel.

Whenever there is a mass shooting such as the one which took place recently in Tucson, liberals call for tougher gun control laws and conservatives demand revenge – the death penalty. Yet Vermont, which is arguably the least violent state in the Union, has no death penalty and virtually no state imposed restrictions on the use of guns.

So long as violence remains official U.S. Government policy at home and abroad, neither tougher gun control laws nor the increased use of the death penalty will prevent another Tucson, Virginia Tech, Fort Hood, or Columbine mass murder.

Since violence is inextricably linked to the Empire, there may be no escape from violence in America – no escape from the Temple of Doom.

Thomas H. Naylor is founder of the Second Vermont Republic and Professor Emeritus of Economics at Duke University. His books include: Downsizing the U.S.A., Affluenza, The Search for Meaning and The Abandoned Generation: Rethinking Higher Education

January 21, 2011

I love you by killing you

I don't know what Sandor Katz, the fermentation evangelist, said to inspire this response from the band Propagandhi (I couldn't find anything especially offensive in his book, which I happen to own), but it's a great answer to any self-congratulatory promoter of "humane" meat, particularly those who try to resolve the obvious disjunction between their words and their actions by berating vegetarians as somehow morally wanting compared to their twisted efforts to have their animals and eat them too — such as Michael Pollan, who at least does urge people to not eat so damn much meat. I learned of this song, "Human(e) Meat (The Flensing of Sandor Katz)", from Propagandhi's Supporting Caste album, from a comment at The Guardian — that was later removed (for copyright reasons, I assume) — to perhaps the most idiotic defense of meat-eating yet attempted.

[lyrics from Lyrics Mania]

I swear I did my best to ensure that
His final moments were swift and free from fear
But consideration should be made for the fact
That Sandor Katz was my first kill
So I trust the meter wheel

Understand that while the screams may wear the seam
The conscious objections they were a reality
Simply a regress to honour his strength and speed
With gratitude and tenderness I seared
Every single hair from his body
Gently placed his decapitated head in a stock pot
Boiled off his flesh and made a spreadable head cheese

Because I believe that one can only relate with
Another living creature by completely destroying it
I’m sure Sandors’ friends and family would appreciate this
A rationale so moronic it defies belief
Post-vegetarian I must submit to you respectfully
Be careful what kind of world you wish for
Someday it may come knocking on your door

Let me in . . . Let me the fuck in!
I just wanna
Fully relate

I swear I’ll do my best to ensure that
Your final moments are swift and free from fear

January 20, 2011

Self-perpetuating violence

Leo Tolstoy writes in Resurrection (as translated by Mrs. Louise Maude):

And, fifthly, the fact that all sorts of violence, cruelty, inhumanity, are not only tolerated, but even permitted by the government, when it suits its purposes, was impressed on them most forcibly by the inhuman treatment they were subjected to; by the sufferings inflicted on children, women and old men; by floggings with rods and whips; by rewards offered for bringing a fugitive back, dead or alive; by the separation of husbands and wives, and the uniting them with the wives and husbands of others for sexual intercourse; by shooting or hanging them. To those who were deprived of their freedom, who were in want and misery, acts of violence were evidently still more permissible. All these institutions seemed purposely invented for the production of depravity and vice, condensed to such a degree that no other conditions could produce it, and for the spreading of this condensed depravity and vice broadcast among the whole population.

“Just as if a problem had been set to find the best, the surest means of depraving the greatest number of persons,” thought Nekhlúdoff, while investigating the deeds that were being done in the prisons and halting stations. Every year hundreds of thousands were brought to the highest pitch of depravity, and when completely depraved they were set free to carry the depravity they had caught in prison among the people. In the prisons of Tamen, Ekaterinburg, Tomsk and at the halting stations Nekhlúdoff saw how successfully the object society seemed to have set itself was attained.

Ordinary, simple men with a conception of the demands of the social and Christian Russian peasant morality lost this conception, and found a new one, founded chiefly on the idea that any outrage or violence was justifiable if it seemed profitable. After living in a prison those people became conscious with the whole of their being that, judging by what was happening to themselves, all the moral laws, the respect and the sympathy for others which church and the moral teachers preach, was really set aside, and that, therefore, they, too, need not keep the laws. Nekhlúdoff noticed the effects of prison life on all the convicts he knew — on Fédoroff, on Makár, and even on Tarás, who, after two months among the convicts, struck Nekhlúdoff by the want of morality in his arguments. Nekhlúdoff found out during his journey how tramps, escaping into the marshes, persuade a comrade to escape with them, and then kill him and feed on his flesh. (He saw a living man who was accused of this and acknowledged the fact.) And the most terrible part was that this was not a solitary, but a recurring case.

Only by a special cultivation of vice, such as was perpetrated in these establishments, could a Russian be brought to the state of this tramp, who excelled Nietzsche’s newest teaching, and held that everything was possible and nothing forbidden, and who spread this teaching first among the convicts and then among the people in general.

The only explanation of all that was being done was the wish to put a stop to crime by fear, by correction, by lawful vengeance as it was written in the books. But in reality nothing in the least resembling any of these results came to pass. Instead of vice being put a stop to, it only spread further; instead of being frightened, the criminals were encouraged (many a tramp returned to prison of his own free will). Instead of being corrected, every kind of vice was systematically instilled, while the desire for vengeance did not weaken by the measures of the government, but was bred in the people who had none of it.

“Then why is it done?” Nekhlúdoff asked himself, but could find no answer. And what seemed most surprising was that all this was not being done accidentally, not by mistake, not once, but that it had continued for centuries, with this difference only, that at first the people’s nostrils used to be torn and their ears cut off; then they were branded, and now they were manacled and transported by steam instead of on the old carts. The arguments brought forward by those in government service, who said that the things which aroused his indignation were simply due to the imperfect arrangements of the places of confinement, and that they could all be put to rights if prisons of a modern type were built, did not satisfy Nekhlúdoff, because he knew that what revolted him was not the consequence of a better or worse arrangement of the prisons. He had read of model prisons with electric bells, of executions by electricity, recommended by Tard; but this refined kind of violence revolted him even more.

But what revolted Nekhlúdoff most was that there were men in the law courts and in the ministry who received large salaries, taken from the people, for referring to books written by men like themselves and with like motives, and sorting actions that violated laws made by themselves according to different statutes; and, in obedience to these statutes, sending those guilty of such actions to places where they were completely at the mercy of cruel, hardened inspectors, jailers, convoy soldiers, where millions of them perished body and soul.

Now that he had a closer knowledge of prisons, Nekhlúdoff found out that all those vices which developed among the prisoners — drunkenness, gambling, cruelty, and all these terrible crimes, even cannibalism — were not casual or due to degeneration or to the existence of monstrosities of the criminal type, as science, going hand in hand with the government, explained it, but an unavoidable consequence of the incomprehensible delusion that men may punish one another. Nekhlúdoff saw that cannibalism did not commence in the marshes, but in the ministry. He saw that his brother-in-law, for example, and, in fact, all the lawyers and officials, from the usher to the minister, do not care in the least for justice or the good of the people about whom they spoke, but only for the roubles they were paid for doing the things that were the source whence all this degradation and suffering flowed. This was quite evident. ...

It became clear to him that all the dreadful evil he had been witnessing in prisons and jails and the quiet self-satisfaction of the perpetrators of this evil were the consequences of men trying to do what was impossible; trying to correct evil while being evil themselves; vicious men were trying to correct other vicious men, and thought they could do it by using mechanical means, and the only consequence of all this was that the needs and the cupidity of some men induced them to take up this so-called punishment and correction as a profession, and have themselves become utterly corrupt, and go on unceasingly depraving those whom they torment. ...

Nekhlúdoff now understood that society and order in general exists not because of these lawful criminals who judge and punish others, but because in spite of men being thus depraved, they still pity and love one another.