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