New Civilization News: Apocalypse Anonymous    
 Apocalypse Anonymous27 comments
picture13 May 2008 @ 09:52, by Richard Carlson

Winter solitude---
in a world of one color
the sound of wind.


Loneliness, my everyday life.
The sweeping winds pass on the night-bell sound.

---Ching An

Science...means unresting endeavor and continually progressing development toward an end which the poetic intuition may apprehend, but which the intellect can never fully grasp.

---Max Planck

The fresco is titled The End of the World, Apocalypse, created by Luca Signorelli from 1499 through 1502, in Orvieto Cathedral, San Brizio Chapel, Orvieto, Italy.

Bill McKibben's latest essay, Civilization’s Last Chance: The Planet Is Nearing a Tipping Point on Climate Change, and It Gets Much Worse, Fast, may have appeared first in Sunday's Los Angeles Times, but it's making the rounds fast. Common Dreams put it up yesterday and it has 146 comments so far. [link] When I read it my first thought was to send it out too, but then I realized I was too depressed to do it. What's the use, I thought. People who will read it already know and either are changing their own personal habits or sending money somewhere. Those who won't read it are the problem.

Psychotherapist and professor of history Carolyn Baker linked it in her newsletter and made this comment: "I have great respect for Bill McKibben, but unlike me, he is still waiting for some miracle of mass consciousness to save civilization. In this article he says we are 'nearing' a tipping point which in my opinion, we have already crossed. I believe that climate change now has a life of its own and that our best human efforts cannot stop it. In contrast to McKibben, I believe that it is only the END of civilization that can save what is left of the earth and its inhabitants, and for me, that cannot happen soon enough."

A friend of mine said a couple years ago, "The sooner we run out of oil the better. Aren't a hundred years of war about the stuff enough?" NASA climatologist James Hansen, quoted in McKibben's article, thinks burning coal to make our electricity is what's done it. President Bush said the U.S. is "addicted" to oil...and then advises us to go shopping. The guy sounds like a pusher. I remember his father being interviewed on television, sitting on the family cabin cruiser in Kennebunkport, in the midst of the gasoline shortage during his administration. At the end of it he was asked if he didn't want to urge Americans to conserve gas. He chuckled audibly...and then said, "Sure, conserve."

Is this the problem? Are we addicts now? I mean real addiction to stuff. Do we think we can't live without gasoline engines and the shopping mall? Or is it I don't want to live if I can't have it? I remember a guy in AA telling me once, "Before I gave it up I used to feel all I wanted to do was drink and smoke until I die." Maybe AA is the answer for consumerism too. Carolyn Baker thinks it is...and so last week she offered her 12 Step Plan to kick the habit. Maybe she's got something here.

Friday, 09 May 2008

The end of everything we call life is close at hand and cannot be evaded.

H.G. Wells, 1946

I recently received an email from a reader, frustrated with my insistence on holding a vision of what is possible alongside the dismal, inevitable current realities of civilization's collapse. Admonishing me to bear in mind America's Oprah and NASCAR world view and therefore abdicate any sense of optimism I might have, this reader accused me of suggesting that we should 12 Step our way through Armageddon. Rather than being offended, however, I was overcome with gratitude for this reader's image, frustrated with me as he may be, because in spite of the regular "wordsmithing" that I do as a writer, I always feel a sense of relief and validation when someone else gives words that I may not yet have for what I've been thinking, feeling, or doing.

With the image of the 12 Steps in mind, I decided to look more closely at them in relation to the end of the world as we know it (TEOTWAWKI) and notice how they might in fact be useful not only for recovering from addiction, but for navigating Armageddon. At first I felt shy about applying the Steps to the collapse of civilization, thinking that my readers would think I had seriously gone around the bend, but then someone sent me the "12 Steps Of Peak Oil" from a Vancouver newspaper. At that point, I realized how relevant the Steps might be not only to Peak Oil, but to Peak Civilization itself. Seasoned 12 Steppers argue that despite their 1930s origin, the Steps are applicable to any situation-no matter how monumental, and the collapse of civilization is about as big as it gets. So let's take a closer look.

Step 1: We admitted we were powerless - that our lives had become unmanageable.

Step 1 requires that I admit my powerlessness over the situation with which I'm confronted. Maybe you're thinking, "Well hey, that's no problem-did I ask for this debacle? All those years that I was an upstanding citizen and voted in elections and had faith in the American dream? What was that for? I did all the right things and now we're looking at Armageddon. Of course, I know that I'm powerless."

But that's not exactly what I mean by admitting that one is powerless. Many of us are stockpiling food, learning skills, busily relocating to other parts of the country or world, investing in precious metals, and so much more, but let's not forget that no matter how much we prepare, we're ultimately powerless over the outcome. While we may know that intellectually, letting it sink into the gut is a whole different story.

Powerless means that we don't know the outcome and can't control it, and that's really scary. I mean what it really all comes down to is the "D" word, you know: Death. And even if we end up celebrating a 100th birthday eating soy cupcakes with our friends in some groovy ecovillage, collapse means that we'll be encountering many more endings than we can now imagine, beginning with the end of our current way of life no matter how small our footprint may be.

Control freaks won't do well with TEOTWAWKI; flexibility, on the other hand, is an essential attribute for survival. No matter how "manageable" our lives might be in the current moment, the collapse of empire is certain to challenge that and will compel us to align with others, give and receive support, trust our intuition as well as our intellect, and be willing to adapt to ever-changing circumstances. As a 12 Stepper might say, true empowerment lies in admitting one's powerlessness.

Step 2: Came to believe that a power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.

People entering recovery often have a terrible time with this one. First of all, they feel they might have to buy into all that God stuff, but worse, they feel as if in order to recover, they have to admit that they are insane.

Let me hasten to emphasize that I too recoil at the use of the word "God" and wish to define "power greater than ourselves" as broadly as possible. Over the decades, countless atheists have benefited from using the 12 Steps for addiction recovery precisely because they were able to do the same. Atheists, agnostics, and feminists will have a much easier time with the Steps if they widen their concept of Higher Power to something non-theistic and gender-neutral.

"Insanity" as the Steps define it simply means that one does not recognize anything larger or more significant than one's own ego. Simply put, "something greater" could be one's concept of nature or one's confidence in the human spirit or anything else that one considers more benevolently powerful than oneself.

The 12 Steps inherently fly in the face of the ethics of civilization, based as those values are on the supremacy of the human ego-a pre-eminence that consciously or unconsciously deifies itself and whatever material gain it can amass unto itself at the expense of everyone and everything else. Now what could be more insane than that, and isn't everyone reading these words interested in transforming that paradigm into something more compassionate and sustainable? 12 Step programs further define insanity as doing the same thing that doesn't work over and over again, each time expecting different results. I can think of myriad examples of this in the culture of empire, starting with, "Maybe this time, if we just elect the right candidate for president then...."

12 Stepping into Armageddon begins with thoroughly examining how the culture of empire has inculcated us on every level and in every aspect of our lives. It means understanding how empire has programmed us to believe that we are all-powerful and that if we just do all the right things, we will succeed because our ego needs are the raison d'etre for our existence. When we are unable to recognize our powerlessness and resist acknowledging something greater than ourselves, we also rebel against the limits that life on this planet demand of us. We walk around as little "gods" and "goddesses" believing that we can consume whatever we like whenever we like at the expense of all other species as well as our own.

Step 3: Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to that power.

OK, breathe. Remember-you don't have to use the word "God", and this Higher Power thing is gender-neutral.

This Step is particularly challenging because it requires action. Steps 1 and 2 just require me to admit something, but Step 3 asks me to DO something-something repugnant to the children of empire. It means I have to surrender my will to that "something greater". Eeeeeeew!

Step 3 is where the rubber meets the road-or not. In order to continue with the rest of the Steps, and therefore recovery, if that's what I'm using them for, or navigating collapse, as the case may be, I have to defer to a greater wisdom. What's even more distasteful is that I'm asked to surrender not only my will but my life.

Well, here we are again back to the dreaded "D" word. Anyone who has been researching and preparing for collapse knows the precarious position of the planet and the human race. If 200 species per day are going extinct, then the bottom line is that we are all staring our own mortality in the face as never before in human history. Collapse is, above all, forcing us to confront our personal mortality and that of our loved ones which is the principal reason so few are willing to deal with it. Who would sign up to feel that vulnerable? However, if we can allow that particular emotion, it becomes more possible to surrender our will and our life because what else do we have to lose?

The logical progression of the Steps is simply that since I'm powerless over the outcome, and there is something greater than my human ego and my five physical senses, it behooves me to consider abdicating my attempt to control what my finite humanity cannot. For this reason, I find that Step 3 relinquishes me from having "hope" because hope is ultimately another attempt to control what I cannot.

4. Made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves

So now that I know that my ego can't manage my life, and I'm willing to surrender the outcome of my life and the world as I have known it to a power greater than myself, I have to look more deeply within. If we are using the Steps in relation to TEOTWAWKI, then a moral inventory could be a somewhat different experience than if we're applying the steps in relation to an addiction. Nevertheless, TEOTWAWKI is not unrelated to the addiction issue. In fact, humanity's addiction to material gain and economic growth has resulted in a delusional disregard for the earth's limits. An expression often heard among 12 Steppers is "self-will run riot" which pretty much summarizes humankind's obliviousness and even contempt toward the earth community.

But let's define our terms. Inventory simply means taking stock of what we have and don't have-what we may need more of or less of. The collapse of empire forces all of us, whether we consciously intend to or not, to consider our values and priorities. People losing houses, jobs, having to relocate out of necessity or by choice, finding that their pensions have suddenly evaporated or who have lost health insurance are forced to make tough decision about priorities.

Those of us who have been aware of collapse for some time and have been preparing for it are faced not only with making decisions such as the ones mentioned above, but are also compelled to look more deeply within to notice what qualities we need to develop in the face of collapse and which ones we may need to minimize. For example, I grew up as an only child and have lived an extremely independent life as an adult. I currently find myself working on reaching out to trusted others, making plans to live in community, and although fiercely committed to personal space and daily periods of solitude, consciously forsaking a life that is all about just me and my needs.

In so doing, I am taken to deeper layers of Step 4 as I contemplate my own part in the collapse of civilization. Although I have left a very small footprint on the earth for most of my life, I must own responsibility for the ways, no matter how small, in which I've polluted the ecosystem, my disconnection from the earth community, aspects of personal independence that have manifested in dysfunction, isolation, arrogance, and rationalization about my need for interdependent connection. In other words, although I'm not on the board of Monsanto, I have played a role in violating the human and more than human worlds.

5. Admitted the exact nature of our wrongs.

Taking a searching and fearless moral inventory compels us to admit our errors to ourselves, to something greater, and to someone else. I begin this process by verbalizing these errors to the power greater than me and then to whomever or whatever I have harmed.

With respect to TEOTWAWKI, I must apologize to generations younger than mine for the failure of my generation to preserve and protect the earth. For example, when teaching college students about the collapse of civilization and its repercussions, I'm often confronted with, "Yeah, and it's your fault and the fault of your generation." Without the slightest hesitation, I wholeheartedly agree, and I tell them that I am genuinely sorry. I also point out that collapse has built up over a period of centuries and that inherent within the values of civilization were the seeds of its own demise. Nevertheless, I have made choices in my lifetime that reinforced those values.

6. Were entirely ready to have all these defects of character removed.

Defects of character? What is this?

It's easy to become defensive around this Step unless one takes it to the next level. I define "defects of character" as those aspects of my personality that have resulted from the programming of empire, or my wounds, if you will. These are the qualities that I have taken on while growing up in empire culture which mitigate against the earth community and my connection with it. I'm very ready to have those removed, but I'm also aware that that means I may need to change my lifestyle, perhaps in drastic ways. Speaking only for myself, I need to look at my appetite for meat (which I've almost extinguished); my tendency to think of my own needs first even when I know I shouldn't; my workaholism, which although greatly diminished in recent years is not entirely absent; my tendency to isolate; my quickness to judge others-the list goes on and on. None of these qualities will be useful as collapse accelerates, and I am working to transform their presence in my life which the next Step facilitates.

7. Humbly asked for the shortcomings to be removed

Now I'm back to Step 3 and my relationship with "something greater". Because I've surrendered the outcome to it, I can also surrender my character defects and ask them to be transformed-a word that I personally prefer over "removed" since I have come to believe that no part of me can ever be totally removed. Like energy, parts of myself can be transformed but never made to disappear.

8. Made a list of all we had harmed, and became willing to make amends to them all.

While Steps 4 through 7 are about oneself, Steps 8, 9, and 10 are relational. Step 8 asks me to notice carefully who has been harmed by my empire-inflicted wounds. This definitely does not apply exclusively to people. Without meaning to, I've harmed animals, birds, trees, soil, water, air-myriad members of the earth community, and I need to reflect on that. In fact, even after learning about collapse and how I need to live differently, I have not changed my behavior to the extent that I want and need to. Step 8 is about willingness and paying attention.

9. Made direct amends wherever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others.

So now that I'm willing to make amends, I must do so. Certainly I must make amends to the people in my life that I've harmed, but just as important are those members of the more than human world that I've overlooked, minimized, disregarded, or just simply didn't notice. Just as a 9th Step may require me to sit down with another human whom I've harmed and make amends, it may also require me to spend a day in the forest, or somewhere else in nature, expressing my regrets to trees, insects, streams, birds, or other non-humans for my obliviousness to them and the countless services they perform in the ecosytem from which I benefit.

10. Continued to take personal inventory and when we were wrong promptly admitted it.

So Steps 6-9 are not one-shot deals. I am asked to practice them repeatedly. Inventory-taking is forever because what I have or don't have constantly changes, and it's important that I use both the "glass half empty" and "glass half full" approaches to my evolution. Just as I cannot successfully navigate collapse by myself, neither can I practice the Steps in isolation. I need the entire earth community in order to utilize them effectively.

11. Sought through prayer and meditation to improve our conscious contact with something greater

Some readers may recoil at the words "prayer" and "meditation", but I remind all of us of one of the key slogans of 12 Step programs which is: "Take what you like and leave the rest." If you find yourself reacting to "prayer" and "meditation", don't worry about it. The point of this Step is to improve conscious contact with something greater, and how we choose to do that is far less important than that we do it. Armageddon will not be easy to navigate, but it will be impossible without a conscious, working connection with a power greater than oneself.

12. Having had a spiritual awakening as the result of these steps, we tried to carry this message and to practice these principles in all our affairs.

Virtually every person preparing for collapse has had at least one, if not countless experiences, of attempting to share research, options, and the realities of collapse with others, only to find oneself blown off by the other person. Not unlike the individual addict who must be ready for recovery before fully applying the Steps, the people with whom we share information about TEOTWAWKI will either be ready to learn more or they will resist and maintain their head-in-the-sand posture. So we must be discreet and respectful, remembering that walking our talk (practicing these principles in all our affairs) is the most important message we can carry.

Waking up is an extraordinarily mixed blessing. With it comes tremendous clarity and joy, as well as sometimes excruciating sorrow as one witnesses more clearly civilization's trajectory of self-and-other destruction. Just as addicts in recovery frequently experience the tragic deaths of other addicts in their lives who will not engage in the recovery process, individuals preparing for collapse invariably encounter numerous loved ones about whom they care deeply who prefer to remain asleep. I feel sorrow daily for those I know who will probably never open their eyes. But I have opened mine, and I imagine that most people reading these words have as well. I carry that and these incredibly practical Steps with me, alongside a plethora of emotions and wonderfully awake allies, as each day we journey more deeply into Armageddon.

While I do not feel optimistic about survival in the abyss into which we appear to be descending, I believe that the principles inherent in the Steps can facilitate our planting seeds that may ultimately germinate and flourish as a new paradigm lived out by some of us and our descendents who are committed to creating lifeboats of localized, sustainable living that serve the entire earth community.


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16 May 2008 @ 10:06 by jazzolog : Bush Equates Diplomacy With Appeasement
You think you can't get anywhere talking with "terrorists?" Try teaching Bush something. Clearly a terrorist is anyone who disagrees with this man about absolutely anything in the world. Especially the wondrous "invisible hand" that guides the free market of democracy. Praise God from Whom all these wonders flow! Or praise Keith Olbermann for continuing to dog this president. Many of the rest of us are trusting the stats that show the worst approval rating in the history of the republic---but that isn't the way you squash psychopaths like this...or win elections. They squeak and ooze out from under such boulders of rejection.

Here's Bush before the Israeli Parliament yesterday likening Barack Obama to the Nazi appeasers~~~

And here's Will Bunch's pointed response in The Philadelphia Daily News~~~

I've seen a lot of sad things in American politics in my lifetime -- the resignation of a president who became a national disgrace after he oversaw a campaign of break-ins and cover-ups, another who circumvented the Constitution to trade arms for hostages, and yet is now hailed as national hero. And those paled to what we have seen in the last seven years -- flagrant disregard for the Constitution, the launching of a "pre-emptive" war on false pretenses, and discussions about torture and other shocking abuses inside the White House inner sanctum.

But now it's come to this: A new low that I never imagined was even possible.

President Bush went on foreign soil today, and committed what I consider an act of political treason: Comparing the candidate of the U.S. opposition party to appeasers of Nazi Germany -- in the very nation that was carved out from the horrific calamity of the Holocaust. Bush's bizarre and beyond-appropriate detour into American presidential politics took place in the middle of what should have been an occasion for joy: A speech to Israeli's Knesset to honor that nation's 60th birthday.

But here's what he said:

JERUSALEM (CNN) – In a particularly sharp blast from halfway around the world, President Bush suggested Thursday that Sen. Barack Obama and other Democrats are in favor of "appeasement" of terrorists in the same way U.S. leaders appeased Nazis in the run-up to World War II.

"Some seem to believe we should negotiate with terrorists and radicals, as if some ingenious argument will persuade them they have been wrong all along," said Bush, in what White House aides privately acknowledged was a reference to calls by Obama and other Democrats for the U.S. president to sit down for talks with leaders like Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

"We have heard this foolish delusion before," Bush said in remarks to the Israeli Knesset. "As Nazi tanks crossed into Poland in 1939, an American Senator declared: 'Lord, if only I could have talked to Hitler, all of this might have been avoided.' We have an obligation to call this what it is — the false comfort of appeasement, which has been repeatedly discredited by history."

As a believer in free speech, I think Bush has a right to say what he wants, but as a President of the United States who swore to uphold the Constitution, his freedom also carries an awesome and solemn responsibility, and what this president said today is a serious breach of that high moral standard.

Of course, there are differences of opinion on how America should handle Iran, and that's why we're having an election here at home, to sort these issues out -- hopefully with respect and not with emotional and inaccurate appeals. Not only is the president's comment a gross misrepresentation of Barack Obama's stance on the issue, but ironically, it comes just a day after his own Secretary of Defense, Robert Gates, said of Iran: "We need to figure out a way to develop some leverage . . . and then sit down and talk with them." Is Gates a Nazi appeaser-type, too? And Bush has been hardly consistent on this point, either. Look at his own dealings with oil-rich Libyan dictator Moammar Gadhafi, linked to deadly terror attacks like Pan Am Flight 103.

But what Bush did in Israel this morning goes well beyond the accepted confines of American political debate, When the president speaks to a foreign parliament on behalf of our country, his message needs to be clear and unambiguous. Our democracy may look messy to outsiders, and we may have our disagreements with some sharp elbows thrown around, but at the end of the day we are not Republicans or Democrats or liberals or conservatives.

We are Americans.

And you, Mr. Bush, are the leader of us all. To use a diplomatic setting on foreign soil to score a cheap political point at home is way beneath your office, way beneath your country, and way beneath the people you serve. You have been handed an office once uplifted to great heights by fellow countrymen from Washington to Lincoln to Roosevelt to Eisenhower, and have plunged it so deeply into the Karl-Rove-and-Rush-Limbaugh-fueled world of political destruction and survival of all costs that have lost all perspective -- and all sense of decency. To travel to Israel and to associate a sitting American senator and your possible successor in the Oval Office with those who at one time gave comfort to an enemy of the United States is, in and of itself, an act of political treason.

In another irony, this comes from an administration that has already committed such grave abuses that its former officials are becoming fearful of traveling overseas, lest they be arrested for war crimes. Despite the alleged crimes and misdemeanors of the Bush administration, the Democrats who control the House have until now been restrained in their use of the impeachment process, hoping that the final eight months of our American nightmare can pass by quickly. Indeed, one has to wonder how much of Bush's outrageous statement this morning arose from fear -- fear that a President Obama will go after his wrongdoing in 2009.

Today, it's a whole new ballgame. I believe this treacherous statement by a U.S. president in Israel is a signal to the Democrats in the House in Washington, that it's time to play its Constitutional role in ending this trauma, before even greater acts against the interest of America are wrongly committed in our name. with 148 comments at this hour.

By now you may have viewed Keith Olbermann's searing commentary Wednesday night about Bush's whining again that he was misled by bad intelligence and his assertion that he gave up golf for the troops. (As I recall Ike played golf through the Korean War and it didn't look all that bad.) If you missed it TruthOut has the transcript for you~~~

Finally back to the imminent apocalypse toward which this president has led us, thanks to Bob Sheak and TruthOut for leading me to this revealing interview at AlterNet about the food crisis. Raj Patel has authored a book entitled Stuffed And Starved, which charges the guiding hand of the free market has created consumers out of citizens and is merely a glove controlled by some sneaky capitalists who are becoming more visible every day~~~  

16 May 2008 @ 11:52 by jerryvest : Thanks Jazzo for presenting
such a great overview of these remarks and overview of Bush. We watch Keith Olberman every evening and appreciate that he stands up for our Country and challenges this creep that should have been impeached before he even started his second term. I feel nervous that this maniac will do something catastrophic before he leaves office and would feel safer if he was in prison.

Keep up the great logs, Jazzo. I don't have much time to write these days, but will continue to read your posts and comments as they are the best. Jerry  

16 May 2008 @ 11:55 by quinty : Another opportunity lost?

We appear to have a national memory in this country which often goes no further back than yesterday’s soundbite. And the collective Democratic response to Bush’s comments seem to reflect that tendency.

Bush may have had Obama in mind when he made his comments on “appeasement” (the political trajectory is telling) but if so he included many other critics of the war. This has been the Neocon and far right argument for advancing their war for many years now.

“If we don’t fight them there we will have to fight them here.” Our enemies represent an “existential threat” to us, and if we don’t stand up to and face this great threat we are either blind fools or weaklings. Appeasers, like Neville Chamberlain, who allowed “evil” to grow by not standing up in time to it. And whoever the leader of our enemy is becomes, in the Neocon world, the latest “Hitler.”

The Neocons are all great admirers of Winston Churchill, the imperialistic Tory who understood and stood up to Hitler. And they see the iraq war in the same terms as Britain (the US) standing up to Germany (Iran.) The Hitlers (how many have there been?) come and go in this dark world. Maybe Hugo Chavez will be next?

Of course this world view is foolish, and paranoid. But the force and basis of its strength is in heightening the suspicions and fears of the far right’s followers. You don’t need to be a shrink to know that most of our fears are merely imagined. We have (myself included) an enormous capacity for that. And that when there is a danger (al Qaeda, other terrorists) you need to respond with a cool and realistic head. You have to employ that “understanding” the right so strenuously objected to at the start of the Iraq war. Remember how they ridiculed us?

This is the boil the Democrats should lance. It is the larger issue behind choosing whether or not to “talk” to our enemies. The Neocons have been using the Chamberlain analogy for many years now.

As for talking, of course we should. Are we so weak that we will be manipulated and fooled by the representatives of our “enemies?”

Bush may have a genuine fear of that. After all, selecting young grads of Regent University and the like who worked hard for the Republican Party is not the best approach to filling important government positions. And such short sighted folks are far more likely to be fooled and gullible in negotiations. And wasn’t Bush himself the one who became so highly impressed when he looked into Putin’s eyes? So perhaps for him and his kind talks are a genuine danger.

Now, having gotten that off my chest I’ll read the piece by Will Bunch.  

16 May 2008 @ 17:33 by jazzolog : Clinton Defends Obama From Bush
Now we're getting somewhere! Five hundred and thirty comments grace this entry thus far at Ben Smith's Blog~~~

May 15, 2008

Hillary, today in Rapid City, South Dakota, defended Obama from President Bush's apparent comparison of him to Neville Chamberlain, Ken Vogel reports.

She told reporters:

President Bush’s comparison of any Democrat to Nazi appeasers is both offensive and outrageous on the face of it, especially in light of his failures in foreign policy. This is the kind of statement that has no place in any presidential address and certainly to use an important moment like the 60th anniversary celebration of Israel to make a political point seems terribly misplaced. Unfortunately, this is what we’ve come to expect from President Bush.

“There is a very clear difference between Democrats and Republicans on foreign policy and that difference will be evident once we take back the White House.

Obama also released a statement this afternoon attacking McCain, who said in Columbus that he took Bush's press secretary's word that Bush had not meant to refer to Obama, but picked up the thread, saying, "This does bring up an issue that we will be discussing with the American people, and that is, why does Barack Obama, Senator Obama, want to sit down with a state sponsor of terrorism?"

Obama spokesman Tommy Vietor responded:

It is the height of hypocrisy for John McCain to deliver a lofty speech about civility and bipartisanship in the morning and then embrace George Bush's disgraceful political attack in the afternoon. Instead of delivering meaningful change, John McCain wants to continue George Bush’s irresponsible and failed Iran policy by refusing to engage in tough, direct diplomacy like Presidents from Kennedy to Reagan have done.

Clinton took a similar tack, linking Bush's comment to McCain's speech on his vision for his first term.

"I think today we’ve had two examples of why this country is going to be voting for a Democratic president. And I hope that people really look seriously both at President Bush’s comment and at Sen. McCain’s speech and realize that the only way we’re going to restore our leadership and our moral authority and deal with the very real challenges we face in the world is by electing a democratic president and I believe that I am a stronger candidate against Sen. McCain and will be a president who could accomplish that," she said.

By Ben Smith 04:12 PM

A hundred and forty-one comments at the Boston Globe's coverage this afternoon of Barack Obama's amplification on his response~~~

"That is a debate that I am happy to have anytime, anyplace, and that's a debate that I will win because George Bush and John McCain have a lot to answer for," Obama said, listing an Iraq war in its sixth year, Osama bin Laden still at large, Al Qaeda stronger than ever, Iran strengthened by the Iraq war, and Hamas controlling Gaza.

"Those are the failed policies that John McCain wants to double down on," Obama told supporters in Watertown, S.D...

"After eight years, I did not think I could be surprised by anything George Bush says, but I was wrong," Obama said. Instead of celebrating the 60th anniversary of Israel's founding, the president flouted tradition and launched a political attack before a foreign audience, Obama argued.

"That's exactly the kind of appalling attack that has divided our country and that alienates us from the world. That's why we need change in Washington," he said...  

16 May 2008 @ 20:46 by quinty : It gets curiouser and curiouser,
doesn't it?

Rather than leap to the right where she could attack Obama as weak she defended him. Has Hillary seen the handwriting on the wall?

It’s also curious that Bush felt comfortable (he usually likes a lot of people in uniform surrounding him when he speechafies knowing they will be very polite) speaking to the Knesset, which has gone very far to the right in recent years.

Does the Israeli government buy into the hardline Neocon worldview Bush offered them? Is it all the US and Israel against the world? Speaking of appeasement and Nazism must have closely touched most of his audience. And Bush must have been very confident in them before spewing his paranoia.

He wants peace in the Middle East. Yet he does nothing to offer any confidence to the Arabs. Nor will he talk to Hamas. The penumbra, which is all we can see of the talks through the mass media, appears very Bushlike. Feeble, in other words, giddy and incompetent and unrealistic. Rice is just as bad as the rest in the Bush innercircle.

How can he expect to achieve peace if he offers nothing to one side? Or throws only a few sops? That, by the way, was why the 2000 settlement fell apart. Who would give away all their water rights, air space, control of the borders and access roads? Even if they received more than 90% of the land they asked for. (Never mind it was mostly theirs in the first place.) As well as receiving no right of return. (Please correct me if I'm wrong in some of these points regarding 2000. I've only seen them made in one place.)

But Bush offered the Democrats an excellent opportunity to link his own nakba to McCain. And whether McCain likes it or not he’s stuck with Bush’s Neocon entourage. It appears Obama will be able to bore his way into that deep dark and perhaps finally shed some light. The McCains and Bushes have been flinging this "appeasement" nonsense at us for years. Wouldn’t it be nice if Obama, with his eloquence, can blast it all to smithereens? Does he have the guts? Will he risk irritating the Israel Firsters?

That Bush rehashed these paranoid comments before the Knesset must have made its mark on Obama. Of course Obama is a friend of Israel’s. But among the Israel Firsters even considering Palestinian rights is a sign of “anti Semitism.” He doesn’t want to lose that vote.

The Bush years have institutionalized the Neocon dark. Much of Obama’s promise is that he will bring back some sunshine and light. How far will he go?  

18 May 2008 @ 16:31 by quinty : To get back on topic
We are addicts to our way of life. Perhaps the average consumer wouldn't care what he pours into his tank so long as it keeps the big SUV rolling.

Gas, at this time, is that magic ingredient. Replace it with something economical and renewable which also happens to be clean and the majority of American consumers will probably accept it.

So long as our “average American” can roll out from his quarter acre and an apple tree to work or wherever he desires to cruise along that day (free as the air) in his car he won’t care. This needs, though, a push from government. A big private/public initiative to transform the overall infrastructure.

I think we, the American people, engage in many cultural fantasies. I suppose any quick glance at human history reveals one vast cultural fantasy following another. But a majority of today’s Americans see themselves as being somehow special, living far better than everyone else in the world. Perhaps the Roman elite felt the same way.

How one enjoys one’s immediate culture is a matter af taste, of course. Criticizing it though is not somehow unpatriotic. Or is it necessarily negative, and should be listened to and considered. Facing the facts is, of course, always the first step to bettering things.

There is much in Europe which wins me over, which is both civilized and life enhancing. Just the fact that entire “downtowns” in ancient villages are set aside for pedestrians is one. “Paseos” (as the Spanish call them) are everywhere, and people come out and walk in the millions in Europe every evening. Just to walk. Cars are small, and relegated to a second place status among the thousands walking along enjoying the views, the company of family or friends, taking in the air for no other reason than the pleasure of taking in the air. Stopping at many taverns and restaurants to “tapear” as they do in Spain. Have a taste of something delicious and a small glass of wine. Move on.

While here, in our own United States, many downtowns are dead and depressing places. Even in large urban areas where the suburbs have passed them by. People never walk, unless its “organized” and with a purpose, for fitness and health, or to take a dog out on a leash. But drive instead. Even if the destination would only be a short walk away. Getting people to live in such downtowns is hard. Look at what happened to "revitalized" downtown San Jose, California.

No, I think asking Americans to give up their way of life is the wrong approach. They may be willing to make adjustments but the national infrastructure has already been set. The unlimited, vast spaces which were once available to all on this continent are going and gone. But many Americans still desire their quarter acre and an apple tree far from the urban heart of the city. Many Americans see cities as grim and dangerous places, and that’s what many indeed have become.

Change the dirty stuff which keeps it all going to something clean and then a majority of Americans will probably accept that change. Under an inspiring leadership they may even be willing to make some sacrifices. Our infrastructure can’t sustain the kind of vast adjustments some critics of American life demand.

A man or woman who lives in a house fifty miles from work can not be told he is immoral and destroying the planet by driving his car. He or she will simply complain of being in a bind: for families have to be fed. There are some things which can’t be changed, though a change of the fuel which keeps the cars rolling, especially if it’s cheaper, will probably be accepted.  

20 May 2008 @ 08:14 by jazzolog : American Peasants & The Upper Crust
Mourning the passing of his beloved wife Mary, who, like him, also was a professor emeritus (emerita) at Ohio University, did not stop Gifford Doxsee from alerting some of us to a blog article yesterday morning. The essay, at HuffingtonPost, was written by Larisa Alexandrovna in response to remarks made by Bush in Israel about Nazi appeasement. A prisoner of the Nazis himself, who shared a cleanup detail with Kurt Vonnegut after the bombing of Dresden, the historian Doxsee maintains avid interest in those in America who carried on business as usual with the Nazi regime. As Ms. Alexandrovna reminds us, among them was Bush's own grandfather.
I suppose Bush could have doused the flames of the firestorm he created himself with accusations on foreign soil that most interpret were directed at Barack Obama, who favors diplomatic negotiation as a foreign policy tool. Bush could have confessed he was referring to Prescott Bush as an appeaser, whose resulting family fortune financed the various adventures of our president. I wonder why he didn't do that. Journalist Robert Parry, who broke many of the Iran-Contra stories for the Associated Press in the 1980s, on Sunday posted a concise history of Grandfather Prescott and his Nazi connections at ConsortiumNews.

Also over the weekend, a selection from Bill Moyers' new book Moyers On Democracy appeared at CommonDreams, and soon was picked up as well by TruthOut. The book itself is a collection of those stirring talks he's been giving lately at such diverse locations as West Point, the Jewish Theological Seminary, and the Texas State Historical Association. I don't recall this particular selection being offered before, and perhaps Moyers chronicles best how it has come to pass that America seems to have stumbled as the world leader of freely elected government.

"Our democracy has prospered most when it was firmly anchored in the idea that 'We the People' — not just a favored few — would identify and remedy common distempers and dilemmas and win the gamble our forebears undertook when they espoused the radical idea that people could govern themselves wisely. Whatever and whoever tries to supplant that with notions of a wholly privatized society of competitive consumers undermines a country that, as Gordon S. Wood puts it in his landmark book The Radicalism of the American Revolution, discovered its greatness 'by creating a prosperous free society belonging to obscure people with their workaday concerns and their pecuniary pursuits of happiness' — a democracy that changed the lives of 'hitherto neglected and despised masses of common laboring people.'" where, at this hour, there are 110 comments.

Another way of looking at the troubles of US citizenship these days was demonstrated on Sunday's Writer's Almanac, which is a journal and brief daily radio show offered by Garrison Keillor. The featured poem that day was by Jim Harrison, and here it is~~~

Easter Morning

On Easter morning all over America
the peasants are frying potatoes in bacon grease.

We're not supposed to have "peasants"
but there are tens of millions of them
frying potatoes on Easter morning,
cheap and delicious with catsup.

If Jesus were here this morning he might
be eating fried potatoes with my friend
who has a '51 Dodge and a '72 Pontiac.

When his kids ask why they don't have
a new car he says, "these cars were new once
and now they are experienced."

He can fix anything and when rich folks
call to get a toilet repaired he pauses
extra hours so that they can further
learn what we're made of.

I told him that in Mexico the poor say
that when there's lightning the rich
think that God is taking their picture.
He laughed.

Like peasants everywhere in the history
of the world ours can't figure out why
they're getting poorer. Their sons join
the army to get work being shot at.

Your ideals are invisible clouds
so try not to suffocate the poor,
the peasants, with your sympathies.
They know that you're staring at them.  

20 May 2008 @ 14:03 by Quinty @ : That's a great
poem by Harrison.

"I told him that in Mexico the poor say
that when there's lightning the rich
think that God is taking their picture."

An unforgettable image. And so true. The last stinging line ("you're staring at them") is wonderful too.

Yeah, ol' George comes from a long line of those who knew and know what's best for THEMSELVES. Themselves exclusively. Let's not forget - and it's worth repeating - that the great appeasers in the thirties were on the right. They hoped Hitler would (like Chamberlain, Stanley Baldwin, et al) deal with Stalin. And many thought Herr Hitler wasn't really such a bad guy.

In the US it was a somewhat different matter. We had a vicious right, of course, but many Americans also remembered the horrible needless slaughter of the First World War. Never again, they vowed. Though the more prescient knew the fascists would have to be stopped. That's why so many volunteers went to Spain to fight in my father's war  

22 May 2008 @ 10:15 by jazzolog : I Confess I'm Worried
I've never been a particularly popular guy...well, not since rating-and-dating took over my social scene somewhere between junior high and high school. So, in my 68 years, I've become used to being an outsider, a voice in the wilderness. When my instincts tell me something is wrong, I'm accustomed to announce my concerns and be shrugged off. I'm the guy who campaigns for a stop sign at the street corner, before we finally get one after the kid is run over. Over the years, I've become someone who just holds in big anxieties and walks around work without the cheery "HI's" to everybody. But this morning, maybe I've reached my limit and have to try again. Perhaps enough other people have become worried too that we might get some conversations going.

It started after I read Kevin Phillips' article from Sunday, titled The Old Titans All Collapsed. Is the U.S. Next? Yeah, big bold headline. This is at a site called Information Clearing House, which apparently is an alternative news source run by one guy out in California. The article didn't upset me so much because there are a lot of them out there these days. What shook me were the comments. One after another, real economic gloom and doom. And the writers don't seem just flamers and ranters. They seem, unlike me when it comes to world economics, the banking system and all that, to know whereof they speak. The article is here~~~

and, if you dare, the comments follow~~~

Then I got referred to a blog called

Feeling concerned about the seriousness of what is taking place ecologically in the world today and the personal, spiritual, and economic consequences is not a mental illness. It's a normal reaction to a growing awareness of a real threat and a call for healing and action by caring individuals and helping professionals."

OK. The blog is a product of Sarah Anne Edwards, PhD, LCSW, who lists herself as an ecopsychologist. Last Tuesday she posted

"Eco-Anger: A Worldview under Threat, Part 2
Personal Insights into What’s Up"

From eco-anxiety she has gone on to eco-anger apparently. Her anger is about people still in denial about climate change and how you can cope with them. She has a therapy she suggests on how to deal with your frustration over people who make fun of your attempts to conserve stuff. Here's the entry~~~

My own therapy is to make this comment about my worry...essentially NOT to hear back from anyone to not worry or that worry doesn't solve anything. It's to vent. In my situation of being a lone wolf, I have to howl once in a while---just to let the pack know I'm still around.  

22 May 2008 @ 17:51 by quinty : Eco 101

I find the "dismal science" fascinating. Though I find finding answers to common economic questions quite difficult to obtain since no one seems to agree on anything. Everyone looks upon the elephant (in the dark) and offers a totally different description.

Short sightedness is characteristic of greed. And Bush wanted his party without paying the tab. For the past several decades we have leapt from speculative bubble to speculative bubble. All fine and well while the party lasts for the players are only interested in immediate gratification. Nor do they seem to care if others have to pick up the pieces after them. This too is George Bush’s world.

In the United States there is a common acceptance that profit and wealth are such great virtues that nearly anything becomes acceptable to obtain them. So many of us secretly admire the powerful CEOs who walk away with millions when a corporation fails. They too, in this view, achieved the American dream.

Kevin Phillips says: “More than 80 percent of Americans now say that we are on the wrong track, but many if not most still believe that the history of other nations is irrelevant -- that the United States is unique, chosen by God.”

Many Americans won’t concede we are an empire, and do not think in such terms. Though we have hundreds of military bases all over the world, and an incredible “defense” budget, one which greatly exceeds all our needs for defense. Many Americans associate their own isolation in the “heartland” with America’s greater place in the world. As if the seas really kept us far apart from the rest of the world. Nativism has been on the rise for the past few years. And the complications of our society and economy are increasingly hard to grasp. Though when the collapse comes we will all feel them vividly.

The American economy is enormously powerful and has a life of its own. It can take a serious shellacking without being ruined. But that can only go so far. And the kind of wanton recklessness Bush’s policies have imposed upon it appear to be finally having their affects.

Bush failed his own class. And he was a very poor choice to maintain his class interests. Perhaps Dick Cheney’s job was to keep George on the right course. He and Rumsfeld certainly had many successes in that regard. But Bush is also expressive of his class’s ambitions and desires, of something larger than his own failings and incompetence. And now the oligarchs are running scared.  

23 May 2008 @ 08:40 by jazzolog : Eco Means Home (Greek)
so only an economist, I guess, would call his own study "dismal." I don't know, maybe somebody else invented the phrase "dismal science" (how can it be a science?) but I've always wondered at it. Why is it dismal? Perhaps it's capitalists who think of it that way...and the notion probably influences their attitude. Is it because ultimately economics is hopeless? Is the appetite of the species so ravenous and our instinct to procreate so ongoing (other mammals get the urge during a season, while we lust continuously) that we have no destiny but to eat ourselves out of house and home? So capitalists eat, drink and are merry. Thus based on an outlook of greed, economics is dismal.

Here's further freakout for you~~~

"Far From Normal"
James Kunstler
May 19th

Those were the words that Fed chairman Ben Bernanke used to describe the financial markets (and by extension the economy) these heady spring days when everybody else with a rostrum, it seems, has pronounced the so-called liquidity crisis contained. There's a great wish for American finance to return to business-as-usual -- raking in fantastic fees for innovating new modes of tradable paper, and engineering mergers and buy-outs that generate huge fees plus $100 million kiss-offs for corporate CEOs in the noble struggle to dismantle America's productive capacity -- but apparently events are still out of hand.

The Federal Reserve itself has been instrumental in promoting abnormality by doing everything possible to prevent the work-out of bad debts in the system. Since money is loaned into existence, and loans are debts, the work-out of bad debt suggests the discovery that a lot of money has disappeared -- which is exactly the case. The Fed has postponed the work-out by sucking up truckloads of impaired, untradable securities in exchange for loans to giant banks who don't have enough cash on hand to pay their janitors.
Personally, my theory has been that the specter of peak oil pretty clearly implies the inability of industrial economies to continue producing real wealth in the customary way. In the face of this, either consciously or at a more mystical level, the worker bees in banking recognize that, in order to maintain their villas in the Hamptons, money has to be loaned into existence some other way (than in the service of industrial productivity).
We've tried just about everything else. There was the so-called service economy, an attempt to replace manufacturing with hamburger sales. Then there was the information economy, in which work would be replaced with knowing about stuff. Then there was the tech thing, which was about bringing internet companies that existed only on the back of cocktail napkins to the initial public offering stage of capitalization -- which allowed a few-hundred-or-so thirty-year-old smoothies to retire to vineyards in the Napa Valley, while hundreds of thousands of retirees lost half the value of their investment portfolios. Then there was the housing boom, which was all about the creation of more suburban sprawl under the theory that houses (or "homes" in the jargon of the realtors) represent an obvious sort of wealth, and therefore that using houses as collateral would allow humongous sums of money to be loaned into existence -- along with massive fees for structuring the loans into bundles of bond-like thingies.
This has all failed now because the racket went too far. Every possible candidate for a snookering got snookered. Too much collateral for which there were no takers went into the ground. The insane run-up in house values made a downward price movement inevitable, and as soon as the turnaround happened, it fell into the remorseless algebra of a deflationary death spiral. More importantly, however, this society ran out of tricks for loaning money into existence and instead began to experience the pain of money thought-to-be-in-existence being defaulted into a vapor -- and worse, these defaults led to logarithmic chains of money destruction in its places of origin, the investment banks that had created the racket.
The important part of this is that the money is gone. What makes matters truly eerie is that the "bubble" in suburban houses has occurred at exactly the moment in history when the chief enabling resource for suburban life -- oil -- has entered its scarcity stage.
The logical conclusion of all this is not what the American public wants to hear: we have become a much poorer society and are now faced with the unavoidable task of making major changes in how we live. All the three-card-monte moves at the highest level of finance lately amount to an effort to avoid the unavoidable, acknowledging our losses. Certainly the political fallout of all this will be awesome. But it's not about politics, really. It's about the entire society's inability to form a workable new consensus of reality.
It's hard to predict how long these institutions at the heart of our economic system can linger in the "far from normal" limbo of pretending that money has not been defaulted out of existence. Since the same process is underway in Great Britain and Spain, places beyond the control of Bernanke, Secretary Paulson, and the Boyz on Wall Street, and since actions and reactions there will affect the destiny of money here, its hard to escape the conclusion that we're at most months away from the brutal recognition that Wall Street has managed to bankrupt itself (and, by extension, the United States). This is dark heart of the matter of which no one dares speak.
Meantime, on the ground, every mook and minion in the land sees the gas pumps levitate beyond the $4 hash mark, and notes with bugged-out eyes the double-digit price stickers on common supermarket items, and feels the rush of blood from the extremities when some check-out clerk at the WalMart declares that a certain proffered credit card is maxed out, and some strangers in overalls -- the neighbors say -- managed to hot-wire the GMC Sierra in the driveway, and took it away....
The candidates for president will have a lot to talk about. I wonder if they'll dare to. (503 comments so far!)  

26 May 2008 @ 09:23 by jazzolog : A memorial to chickens
Since the seasons have become so screwed up, opening wide the windows during the first consistently warm days and shaking out all the rugs doesn't have quite the ring of joy about it as it did when I was a kid. The 2 or 3 feet of snow finally had melted completely, the crocuses and daffodils done their stuff, lilacs were in bloom and the robins' first brood ready to fly. Instead of Winter to Spring, now we move from tornado season into hurricane season. Fire and drought season comes after that I think.

But still it cleanses the soul to tackle the stacks of dusty mess that have collected over the past year---or in my case, several years. There are the receipts and summonses of all the traumas, evidence of which you knew you should save...just in case. Accidents, surgeries, insurance stuff, tax long should you keep these documents? I recycled almost all of it yesterday. I feel like a fresh start!

So imagine my happiness when I ran across a note sent by old friend Pat Holderith Rusch (Bates '62) from July of 2003? Somehow it had gotten "sorted" into this mass of drudgery. In the meantime Pat has moved from Minneapolis down to the Carolina mountains, and we've actually visited her there, reconnecting after so many years. But in the note was tucked a poem by John Tagliabue, that had gotten published in The American Scholar back when he still was alive. It's a wonderful memorial to chickens, and though you too may misplace it you'll never forget it!

Confessing and Chanting more or less clearly

John Tagliabue

I am not a vegetarian like some of my grandchildren
and pacifist friends
and I have eaten, Italian style, Chinese style, Japanese style,
Indian style,
thousands I guess of chickens, I imagine them all over
the turning world
pecking pecking pecking scampering vocalizing in their unpompous
ways, putting up
with insistent roosters, I heard thousands of them waking up in
amazing Bali,
I vaguely at various times feel guilty, but then so-called
Reasoning comes
to help me make excuses, reasoning that all must eat
something or other,
cabbage, chickpeas, carrots, etc., all of which might
have been living
longer; reason or not, I continue my slightly
carnivorous ways
apologetically. Odes to chickens! they might give me (I who
so far
have not been eaten) a slightly chanticleer future. I know you
ignore this
passing thought, sister hens, sisters east and west, north
and south,
as you go on all over the world pecking pecking pecking and
like all of us
doing what we can; we all take our chances when we awaken
in the world.  

26 May 2008 @ 15:51 by quinty : Has anyone here
paused recently to look at a chicken? I know that's difficult to do in the city.

They are truly beautiful animals.

Leave it to Tagliabue to see our sister and brotherhood with chickens. True enough, they are merely beautiful without ever being pompous. I wish I could always say the same.

Here's a thought.

What if God turns out to be a fruitfly?

That will require a lot of explaining for us humans down below.

(And leave it up to Pat to preserve such a poem.)  

27 May 2008 @ 22:03 by Vibe @ : God
God/dess is the chicken AND the fruitfly and the human, Quinty :-)  

3 Jun 2008 @ 10:13 by jazzolog : More On Chickens, but mostly about eggs
this time and how things are all connected. Thanks to Garrison Keillor for finding this poem and reading it on Writer's Almanac yesterday~~~

A Quiet Life
by Baron Wormser

What a person desires in life
is a properly boiled egg.
This isn't as easy as it seems.
There must be gas and a stove,
the gas requires pipelines, mastodon drills,
banks that dispense the lozenge of capital.
There must be a pot, the product of mines
and furnaces and factories,
of dim early mornings and night-owl shifts,
of women in kerchiefs and men with
sweat-soaked hair.
Then water, the stuff of clouds and skies
and God knows what causes it to happen.
There seems always too much or too little
of it and more pipelines, meters, pumping
stations, towers, tanks.
And salt---a miracle of the first order,
the ace in any argument for God.
Only God could have imagined from
nothingness the pang of salt.
Political peace too. It should be quiet
when one eats an egg. No political hoodlums
knocking down doors, no lieutenants who are
ticked off at their scheming girlfriends and
take it out on you, no dictators
posing as tribunes.
It should be quiet, so quiet you can hear
the chicken, a creature usually mocked as a type
of fool, a cluck chained to the chore of her body.
Listen, she is there, pecking at a bit of grain
that came from nowhere.

"A Quiet Life" by Baron Wormser, from Scattered Chapters. © Sarabande Books, 2008.

Here's what Amazon has of Baron Wormser~~~  

4 Jun 2008 @ 23:18 by istvan : dear quinty
"The Neocons are all great admirers of Winston Churchill, the imperialistic Tory who understood and stood up to Hitler. And they see the iraq war in the same terms as Britain (the US) standing up to Germany (Iran.) The Hitlers (how many have there been?) come and go in this dark world. Maybe Hugo Chavez will be next?"

I might have miss understood your above comment, but if I read right you equate Hugo Chavez with Hitler?
Straighten me out on this or better yet Study and understand this man. He is the only hope of the world to break the neocon stronghold.
Viva La Che Guevara!  

4 Jun 2008 @ 23:48 by quinty : Quite the contrary
I'm a supporter of Chavez, and have been appalled by the US mainstream treatment of Chavez. By the common characterization he has received here in the US.

A dictator?

How many free and fair elections does he have to win before he ceases being a "dictator?" The count is eight or nine, so far. With one loss which he abided by. One which any legitimate "dictator" wouldn't have allowed to simply get by, since winning would have greatly expanded his power.

By abiding by the electorate’s popular will he allowed a dictatorial chance to pass by, something our mainstream media ignored.

What I meant was that Chavez, like other past US enemies, might become our next "Hitler." Saddam Hussein and Noriega and now Ahkmadinijhad (sp?) have all been the Hitler of the hour. Which is a crude propaganda ploy to legitimize a US attack of some kind.

My fear is that we, with our negative policies, may force Chavez into a more rigid position. One which is more authoritarian.

We should help and encourage him with his policies to help the Venezuelan poor. But instead we stick to our ancient belief South America is our "backyard," our "playground," our very own personal property. And back the Venezuelan oligarchs.

The US has never liked any South American leader straying off the reservation in that part of the world. We have a long and tragic history in that regard. Which, judging from your criticism, I’m sure you’re aware of.  

23 Aug 2008 @ 11:26 by jazzolog : Should We Build More "Powerhouses"?
This article at Salon last month requires a site pass to read so, to save you time if you're not a member, I'm posting the whole thing. Joseph Romm is a senior fellow at the Center for American Progress, where he oversees He is the author of "Hell and High Water: Global Warming -- The Solution and the Politics." Romm served as acting assistant secretary of energy for energy efficiency and renewable energy in 1997. He holds a Ph.D. in physics from MIT.

Why we never need to build another polluting power plant

Coal? Natural gas? Nuke? We can wipe them all off the drawing board by using current energy more efficiently. Are you listening, Washington?

By Joseph Romm

July 28, 2008 | Suppose I paid you for every pound of pollution you generated and punished you for every pound you reduced. You would probably spend most of your time trying to figure out how to generate more pollution. And suppose that if you generated enough pollution, I had to pay you to build a new plant, no matter what the cost, and no matter how much cheaper it might be to not pollute in the first place.

Well, that's pretty much how we have run the U.S. electric grid for nearly a century. The more electricity a utility sells, the more money it makes. If it's able to boost electricity demand enough, the utility is allowed to build a new power plant with a guaranteed profit. The only way a typical utility can lose money is if demand drops. So the last thing most utilities want to do is seriously push strategies that save energy, strategies that do not pollute in the first place.

America is the Saudi Arabia of energy waste. A 2007 report from the international consulting firm McKinsey and Co. found that improving energy efficiency in buildings, appliances and factories could offset almost all of the projected demand for electricity in 2030 and largely negate the need for new coal-fired power plants. McKinsey estimates that one-third of the U.S. greenhouse gas reductions by 2030 could come from electricity efficiency and be achieved at negative marginal costs. In short, the cost of the efficient equipment would quickly pay for itself in energy savings.

While a few states have energy-efficiency strategies, none matches what California has done. In the past three decades, electricity consumption per capita grew 60 percent in the rest of the nation, while it stayed flat in high-tech, fast-growing California. If all Americans had the same per capita electricity demand as Californians currently do, we would cut electricity consumption 40 percent. If the entire nation had California's much cleaner electric grid, we would cut total U.S. global-warming pollution by more than a quarter without raising American electric bills. And if all of America adopted the same energy-efficiency policies that California is now putting in place, the country would never have to build another polluting power plant.

How did California do it? In part, a smart California Energy Commission has promoted strong building standards and the aggressive deployment of energy-efficient technologies and strategies -- and has done so with support of both Democratic and Republican leadership over three decades.

Many of the strategies are obvious: better insulation, energy-efficient lighting, heating and cooling. But some of the strategies were unexpected. The state found that the average residential air duct leaked 20 to 30 percent of the heated and cooled air it carried. It then required leakage rates below 6 percent, and every seventh new house is inspected. The state found that in outdoor lighting for parking lots and streets, about 15 percent of the light was directed up, illuminating nothing but the sky. The state required new outdoor lighting to cut that to below 6 percent. Flat roofs on commercial buildings must be white, which reflects the sunlight and keeps the buildings cooler, reducing air-conditioning energy demands. The state subsidized high-efficiency LED traffic lights for cities that lacked the money, ultimately converting the entire state.

Significantly, California adopted regulations so that utility company profits are not tied to how much electricity they sell. This is called "decoupling." It also allowed utilities to take a share of any energy savings they help consumers and businesses achieve. The bottom line is that California utilities can make money when their customers save money. That puts energy-efficiency investments on the same competitive playing field as generation from new power plants.

The cost of efficiency programs has averaged 2 to 3 cents per avoided kilowatt hour, which is about one-fifth the cost of electricity generated from new nuclear, coal and natural gas-fired plants. And, of course, energy efficiency does not require new power lines and does not generate greenhouse-gas emissions or long-lived radioactive waste. While California is far more efficient than the rest of the country, the state still thinks that with an even more aggressive effort, it can achieve as much additional electricity savings by 2020 as it has in the past three decades.

Serious energy efficiency is not a one-shot resource, where you pick the low-hanging fruit and you're done. In fact, the fruit grows back. The efficiency resource never gets exhausted because technology keeps improving and knowledge spreads to more people.

The best corporate example is Dow Chemical's Louisiana division, consisting of more than 20 plants. In 1982, the division's energy manager, Ken Nelson, began a yearly contest to identify and fund energy-saving projects. Some of the projects were simple, like more efficient compressors and motors, or better insulation for steam lines. Some involved more sophisticated thermodynamic "pinch" analysis, which allows engineers to figure out where to place heat exchangers to capture heat emitted in one part of a chemical process and transfer it to a different part of the process where heat is needed. His success was nothing short of astonishing.

The first year of the contest had 27 winners requiring a total capital investment of $1.7 million with an average annual return on investment of 173 percent. Many at Dow felt that there couldn't be others with such high returns. The skeptics were wrong. The 1983 contest had 32 winners requiring a total capital investment of $2.2 million and a 340 percent return -- a savings of $7.5 million in the first year and every year after that. Even as fuel prices declined in the mid-1980s, the savings kept growing. The average return to the 1989 contest was the highest ever, an astounding 470 percent in 1989 -- a payback of 11 weeks that saved the company $37 million a year.

You might think that after 10 years, and nearly 700 projects, the 2,000 Dow employees would be tapped out of ideas. Yet the contest in 1991, 1992 and 1993 each had in excess of 120 winners with an average return on investment of 300 percent. Total savings to Dow from just those projects exceeded $75 million a year.

When I worked at the Department of Energy in the mid-1990s, we hired Nelson, who had recently retired from Dow, to run a "return on investment" contest to reduce DOE's pollution. As they were at Dow, many DOE employees were skeptical such opportunities existed. Yet the first two contest rounds identified and funded 18 projects that cost $4.6 million and provided the department $10 million in savings every year, while avoiding more than 100 tons of low-level radioactive pollution and other kinds of waste. The DOE's regional operating officers ended up funding 260 projects costing $20 million that have been estimated to achieve annual savings of $90 million a year.

Economic models greatly overestimate the cost of carbon mitigation because economists simply don't believe that the economy has lots of high-return energy-efficiency opportunities. In their theory, the economy is always operating near efficiency. Reality is very different than economic models.

In my five years at DOE, working with companies to develop and deploy efficient and renewable technologies, and then in nearly a decade of consulting with companies in the private sector, I never saw a building or factory that couldn't cut electricity consumption or greenhouse-gas emissions 25 percent to 50 percent with rapid payback (under four years). My 1999 book, "Cool Companies," detailed some 100 case studies of companies that have done just that and made a great deal of money.

There are many reasons that most companies don't match what the best companies do. Until recently, saving energy has been a low priority for most of them. Most utilities, as noted, have little or no incentive to help companies save energy. Funding for government programs to help companies adopt energy-saving strategies has been cut under the Bush administration.

Government has a very important role in enabling energy savings. The office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy at the U.S. Department of Energy has lots of (underfunded) programs that deliver savings every day. Consider, for instance, Chrysler's St. Louis complex, which recently received a DOE Save Energy Now energy assessment. Using DOE software, Chrysler identified a variety of energy-saving measures and saved the company $627,000 a year in energy costs -- for an upfront implementation cost of only $125,000.

The key point for policymakers now is that we have more than two decades of experience with successful state and federal energy-efficiency programs. We know what works. As California energy commissioner Art Rosenfeld -- a former DOE colleague and the godfather of energy efficiency -- put it in a recent conversation, "A lot of technology and strategies that are tried and true in California are waiting to be adopted by the rest of country."
So how do we overcome barriers and tap our nearly limitless efficiency resource? Obviously, the first thing would be to get all the states to embrace smarter utility regulations, which is a core strategy of Barack Obama's plan to reduce greenhouse gases. But how does the federal government get all the states to embrace efficiency?

We should establish a federal matching program to co-fund state-based efficiency programs, with a special incentive to encourage states without an efficiency program to start one. This was a key recommendation of the End-Use Efficiency Working Group to the Energy Future Coalition, a bipartisan effort to develop consensus policies, in which I participated. The first year should offer $1 billion in federal matching funds, then $2 billion, $3 billion, $4 billion, and finally stabilizing at $5 billion. This will give every state time to change their regulations and establish a learning curve for energy efficiency.

This program would cost $15 billion in the first five years, but save several times that amount in lower energy bills and reduced pollution. Since the next president will put in place a cap-and-trade system for greenhouse gases, the revenues from auctioning the emissions permits can ultimately be used to pay for the program.

We should restore a federal focus on the energy-intensive industries, such as pulp and paper, steel, aluminum, petroleum refining and chemicals. They account for 80 percent of energy consumed by U.S. manufacturers and 90 percent of the hazardous waste. They represent the best chance for increasing efficiency while cutting pollution. Many are major emitters of greenhouse gases other than carbon dioxide. A 1993 analysis for the DOE found that a 10 to 20 percent reduction in waste by American industry would generate a cumulative increase of $2 trillion in the gross domestic product from 1996 to 2010. By 2010, the improvements would be generating 2 million new jobs.

For these reasons, in the 1990s, the Energy Department began forming partnerships with energy-intensive industries to develop clean technologies. We worked with scientists and engineers to identify areas of joint research into technologies that would simultaneously save energy, reduce pollution and increase productivity. The Bush administration slashed funding for this program by 50 percent -- and keeps trying to shut it down entirely.

Indeed, conservatives in general have cut the funding or shut down entirely almost all federal programs aimed at deploying energy-efficient technologies. Conservatives simply have a blind spot when it comes to energy efficiency and conservation, seeing them as inconsequential "Jimmy Carter programs."
I recently testified at a Senate Environment and Public Works Committee hearing on nuclear power and spoke about how alternative technologies, particularly energy efficiency, were a much better bet for the country. Senator George Voinovich (R-Ohio) said this was "poppycock," and then asked all the pro-nuclear witnesses to address the question, "If nuclear power is so uncompetitive, why are so many utilities building reactors?"

Voinovich apparently has forgotten about the massive subsidies he himself voted to give the nuclear industry in 2005. He seems to be unaware that states like Florida allow utilities to sharply raise electric rates years in advance of a nuclear plant delivering even a single electron to customers. If you could do that same forward-pricing with energy efficiency, we would never need to build another polluting plant.

Although he is a senior member of the Senate and a powerful voice on energy and climate issues, Voinovich doesn't seem to know the first thing about the electricity business; namely, that a great many utilities have a huge profit incentive to build even the most expensive power plants, since they can pass all costs on to consumers while retaining a guaranteed profit. But they have a strong disincentive from investing in much less costly efforts to reduce electricity demand, since that would eat into their profits.

The next president must challenge the public service commission in every state to allow utilities to receive the same return on energy efficiency as they are allowed to receive on generation. That single step could lead the country the furthest in solving our ever-worsening climate and energy problems.  

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