June 28, 2006

Energy Literacy – What You Don’t Know Can Hurt You

It’s sadly true. Most Americans don’t know very much about energy, much less about the energy issue facing America today-all they know is that gasoline is more expensive than it used to be, and somehow it’s the Arabs’ fault. Conservatives might like it that way, with the American people dull, uninformed, and full of hate, but progressives don’t. Information and knowledge are the keys to unlock the doors of power and change.

So let’s get everyone an energy primer-debunking the notion that Americans have some “right” to cheap energy and that when energy gets expensive, something must be “wrong.” What’s “wrong” is our insistance on continued and unending supplies of cheap and environmentally harmful energy, and what’s “wrong” is our collective (and that includes industry) resistance to improving energy technology, investing in new forms of energy, and resisting change and progressive reform and improvement of our societal energy consumption. America could lead the world in this regard; we have the people and the technology, but instead we opt to sit and spin, and that’s unacceptable. Get informed, and act for change.

This article serves to give readers some of the basics about the current energy situation in America, what we can do, and acknowledge that there’ll be no silver bullet, no magic energy source to change everything-we’ll have to conserve, we’ll have to invest in new technologies, we’ll have to work with global partners to make changes, it’ll have to be comprehensive. But the first thing we can all do is realize what’s truly good or bad for us, and it’s not just the numbers on the board at your local BP.

[ Energy Literacy – What You Don’t Know Can Hurt You ]
Source: The Augusta Free Press

Pine Ridge Leader Faces Battle Over Abortion Ban

Perhaps one of the bravest women in the country is being tossed around again, this time by her own people.

I don’t think Cecelia Fire Thunder, president of the Oglala Sioux Nation, misunderstood the risks she was taking at all-I think she knew there would be an anti-choice backlash against her from her own people, probably pressed on and encouraged by the radical right-wingers outside the reservation in South Dakota who would, like with any revolutionary, want to see her quieted or worse. Sadly, Fire Thunder now faces impeachment after the tribal council-all men, by the way, at the behest of your typical torches and pitchforks style mob, suspended her and is calling for her impeachment. They passed a resolution to ban abortion on the reservation and banish anyone who participates in or aids anyone in obtaining an abortion on the reservation from the reservation. She could certainly use some support.

It seems that as usual, the anti-choicers are completely blind to the facts, instead turning their heads to their own contradictory sense of morality:

Legal abortion, Fire Thunder said, is particularly important for Native American women, who lack access to birth control, who tend to live in poverty and who face epidemic sexual violence.

Native American women are raped three times more often than women of all other races in the United States, according to 1999 U.S. Department of Justice data.

Abortion, Fire Thunder said, is part of the aboriginal right of tribal women throughout North America.

Okay, so let me get this straight: what kind of “life” are they “pro,” again? No birth control and they don’t want to tackle that. Horrific rape and sexual assault, and they don’t want to tackle that. As usual, a group of mostly men and misguidedly religious women who want definitive control over not just their own bodies, but everyone’s body-they want to choose for us all when we can have children, when we can raise a family, and what goes on between our doctors and our selves.

We’ve seen this line before, and even if Fire Thunder isn’t successful in her efforts, the only people who will truly suffer will be her own people and the people of South Dakota, and the only ones to gain will be those obliged few who demand complete control over the lives of others. It’s saddening, and I can only hope she prevails. From the looks of it, Fire Thunder’s bravery hasn’t wavered in the least. She’s not one to shy away from a fight. And for that, regardless of what happens, she has my eternal respect.

[ Pine Ridge Leader Faces Battle Over Abortion Ban ]
Source: Women’s ENews

Our Energy Challenge

On Monday, John Kerry gave a speech in Boston, where he announced, with more vision and leadership than any American official has to date, especially considering the current administration, a plan that would significantly address America’s energy issues with regard to national security and energy self-reliance as well as environmental protection. His plan consists of three parts:

(1) Reverse and Stop Emissions that Cause Global Warming

(2) Mandates for Reducing Oil Consumption

(3) Developing Energy Technologies for the Future

And he makes an excellent case for all three.

He perhaps spends the most time at the second, explaining that it’s not just about a spearhead approach in the form of forcing auto makers to build more fuel efficient cars (although that’s in there) by raising federal fuel economy standards, but also by investing in cellulosic ethanol that promises to bring ethanol closer to being a true gasoline replacement by giving us more sources from which we can produce ethanol that don’t include food crops, and developing methods to keep ethanol competitive with gasoline, as well as closing the “SUV loophole” that allows SUVs to be considered “light trucks” that don’t have strong fuel requirements, and giving tax incentives and credits to companies that move towards more fuel efficient vehicles, rather than those that just complain and lobby over keeping the status quo.

Beyond Kerry’s lengthy speech transcript are the breakdown and bullet points of the plan, and what he’d very much like to do. It’s excellent reading, and I seriously hope that it’s taken seriously. Unfortunately, conservative republicans who could care less about the economy or the environment, much less watching out for both, will fly the “it’ll wreck the economy/cost jobs” flag they always do, capitulate to the energy and auto industries, and pretend Kerry’s words don’t ring true and timely.

[ Our Energy Challenge ]
Source: TruthOut

Bush Is Not Incompetent

Okay, well, I don’t completely agree with the statement that Bush isn’t incompetent, I really do think he is, but George Lakoff, Marc Ettlinger and Sam Ferguson of the Rockridge Institute have an excellent point that helps flesh out a point I’ve been sorely worried about for a very long time, ever since I read parodies of conservative commentators on the radio that wildly exclaimed that liberals and progressives have “no positive agenda.”

Progressives, to a certain degree, have fallen into the “We hate Bush” trap-this endless loop of criticizing everything he does without seeing wider implications, focusing on the man on the throne instead of the workings of his regime. I’ll allow the authors to say it, as they do in the introduction to their exceptional article:

Progressives have fallen into a trap. Emboldened by President Bush’s plummeting approval ratings, progressives increasingly point to Bush’s “failures” and label him and his administration as incompetent. Self-satisfying as this criticism may be, it misses the bigger point. Bush’s disasters — Katrina, the Iraq War, the budget deficit — are not so much a testament to his incompetence or a failure of execution. Rather, they are the natural, even inevitable result of his conservative governing philosophy. It is conservatism itself, carried out according to plan, that is at fault.

Without a doubt, this is truth. Conservatism is the enemy here, not so much the current administration, not so much the current president, not even the republicans in congress. While we should very much continue to criticize them, and root out similar mindsets from the progressive community, the problem is that we’re looking past the issue to the people who embody it-the problem with America isn’t so much the President himself, or the people in power, but their mindset and their political and social philosophy-one so backwards and contrary to the equality, justice, freedom, and civil society that America stands for at her very foundation.

This is the root of the problem, this is where our attacks should be aimed, and in the process, by rooting out this philosophy and exposing its cracks and corrupt, base nature for the world to see, we can then topple the puppets and narcissistic figures who stand atop it.

[ Bush is Not Imcompetent ]
Source: The Rockridge Institute

The Hatred Behind ‘Hadji Girl’

Get a load of this:

They pulled out their AKs so I could see

… So I grabbed her little sister and pulled her in front of me.

As the bullets began to fly
The blood sprayed from between her eyes
And then I laughed maniacally

Then I hid behind the TV
And I locked and loaded my M-16
And I blew those little fuckers to eternity.

And I said…
Dirka Dirka Mohammed Jihad

Sherpa Sherpa Bak Allah
They should have known they were fucking with a Marine.

Wow. So much for “winning hearts and minds,” eh?

That’s just part of the song, “Hadji Girl,” written and performed by U.S. Marine Corporal Joshua Belile. Now let’s not mince words; the Marine corps isn’t there to be sensitive. They’re not there to be receptive to the feelings and mindsets of the people of Iraq. The Marine Corps, and every other serviceperson in the middle east are soliders and seamen, trained to do their job, and that job is to kill people and keep themselves from being killed. There’s no plainer way to say it; that’s the ultimate mission and responsibility of the military. Kill the enemy and avoid casualties. When you task the military with occupying territory, with having to live among people who can and will turn on them in an instant, hatred burns, anger looms, and evil like this springs forth in a way that only the soliders on the front lines can find amusing. Those of us back home can’t possibly understand.

Now. That all being said and the benefit of the doubt being given, let’s flip the coin.

There’s no circumstance that really allows this kind of behavior to be forgiven, acceptable, or glorified. As long as American troops have to be in Iraq-a mistake from the get go-this kind of behavior is to be expected-the head of the spear is being wieghed down by the handle-our military forces, excellent at what they do, are being pushed into being policement and occupiers, something they’re not so good at. We saw the same condition in World War II, when the “japs” were the enemy, and wide American propaganda used stereotyped images to stir up hatred of the enemy. In the Korean war and Vietnam we had “gooks” and “chinks,” and they were equally hated. I’m sure songs were written about them too. Perhaps the beauty of America is that we’re perfectly capable of showing shock and horror at this kind of behavior, but understanding it at the same time, but there is no beauty in making excuses for it.

For example, I’m not nearly about to side with these folks, some of the people to comment on the outrage about the song:

“Damn it, we are in a fucking war! Nobody whined about ‘insensitivity’ to the fucking Japs and Jerries.”

Sheldon Rampton, of the Center for Media and Democracy, calls this nonsense for what it is; another conservative’s lament at having to give up their comfortable old hatreds, the same as the racists and homophones have to-keep it to yourself, and stop whining about “oh no! The PC police are out to get me! I should be angry about this!” Rampton has this to say:

As these comments illustrate, defense for the song quickly turns into traditional conservative anger at what they see as censorious “political correctness.” They have a right, they insist, to be insensitive and hostile to Arabs and Muslims. I would argue, in fact, that this cultural xenophobia is the main theme of the song and that the violence in it is a secondary byproduct.

That sounds about right. Another example of people who are threatened and frightened by a pluralistic society that just might happen to value equality and justice, so they burn the torches of their hatred for everyone to see, and for like-minded people to rally around and stare. Sadly, those are the same people who burn crosses, beat up gay and lesbian people over their bumper stickers. It’s not acceptable, and the only “understanding” that can be applied in this scenario is that it’s a war zone, which changes some of the numbers on the dial, but it’s the same station, don’t doubt that.

What worries me more than the hypocritical nature of Americans in this regard is the adverse effect it’ll have on any kind of relationship we’ll have with the Iraqi people, and any people in the middle east. They already constantly view America as a nation that could case less about the people but will do whatever it takes to get the resources under the soil that they have, and this only exacerbates the problem. The Iraqi people already view our soldiers as men and women who’ll shoot anyone who moves the wrong way, for no other reason than they feel like it, and stories coming out of Hamdaniya and Hadditha don’t help matters any. And then this turns up? How on earth are they supposed to trust us, and how on earth are we supposed to react to keep our soldiers as safe as possible? A stunt like this, by one marine, can breed a whole new group of jihadis and incense the anger of many many more.

So in the end, a very sarcastic tip of the hat to Corporal Belile. I couldn’t possibly have come up with a better way to put both your fellow soldiers and brothers-in-arms in Iraq in harms way by just opening your mouth, and put every single American citizen you’re sworn to protect in harm’s way from terrorists who will now only hate us more because of our hypocritical view of “liberation through bullets and hatred.” Great job.

[ The Hatred Behind ‘Hadji Girl’ ]
Source: AlterNet

June 23, 2006

National Academies of Science: Earth Hottest it Has Been in 400 Years, Human Activity Specifically to Blame

I for one am tired of the global warming haters encouraging others to put their heads in the sand to a very scientifically proven and real situation that is affecting and will continue to affect life on earth in all forms because they simply aren’t responsible enough to consider, just for a moment, how they can do better by their communities, countries, and environments.

As I pointed out in the Four Stages of Global Warming Denial, it takes most people to come to grips with the fact that global warming is real, is a phenomenon-whether natural or not-that is exacerbated and accelerated by the massive amounts of greenhouse gases that human global activity and industry is carelessly dumping into the atmosphere, and is having very real effects on ecosystems around the world and the planetary environment as we speak. Many people, in choosing to shove their heads in the sand and deny global warming, subsequently use it as an opportunity to shove off any kind of environmental caution at the same time; since they choose not to care on the macro level, they’ll also choose not to care on the micro level also; and sadly I worry that it won’t matter how many scientists have their say on this issue-the ignorant will choose to stay ignorant and believe that they themselves obviously must know more than the body of America’s climatologists, ecologists, and finest scientists. Unfortunately, I’ve seen the beginnings of it already.

But that being said, the National Academy of Sciences have released a press release heralding a new publication stating that a new aggregate of data from various sources around the globe has proven that the world is warmer now than it has been in the past hundred years, sea ice levels are progressing to record lows, within the next 20-50 years the Arctic could potentially be completely iceless during the summer, and that human activity on the planet is to a significant degree to blame for the worsening conditions of the global ecology. This is no surprise to those of us who have been following environmental issues, but the issue will be convincing the segment of the public that still stubbornly refuses to care.

Part of the issue is that environmentalism has been subtly moved to the political fringe, with people concerned about the environment negatively labeled as anti-business, hippies, and crazy liberals. Environmentalism needs to come back into context with community service, and needs to be emphasized as not just part of what you can do for the planet, but what you can do for your community, for the animals and plants that you see around you, and for the enriching of the ecosystem in your backyard, at your favorite campground or picnic site, you favorite national park, and for the planet as a whole. Environmentalism needs to be re-tied to national security; a stronger ecosystem in the United States is a more robust and self-sustaining country in terms of energy use and waste management, for example.

In the meantime though, all we can do is continue to press the message and alert the masses to this new study. My question though, is how many studies and publications will it take before we really sit up and take notice? Will the waters of the oceans be threatening to flood the coasts of the world before global communities really get their act together? And by then, whenever it’ll be that we’ll collectively come to terms with our own actions, I can only hope that it’s not too late for all of us.

[ High Confidence in Surface Temp Reconstructions Since A.D. 1600 (Hub for information on the publication, including the press release) ]
Source: National Academy of Sciences

How Progressives Can Win

Bernie Horn is policy director at the Center for Policy Alternatives. In the Nation magazine, Horn writes an excellent essay on what kinds of strategies and techniques that progressives can and should take in order to get their message out to the public in a way that’s truly accessible and believable. and in a way that’s positive but also stands out and above the rhetoric of the conservatives.

But that’s the crux of the problem, not just rising above the noise of the conservative disinformation and smear campaigns, but also selling a message to the public that goes beyond equality and justice, but security and stability, and pressing the notion that progressives truly do have the desires of the American people at heart; greater social prosperity-a healthier America-equality in practice and in justice for all Americans-and it has to be more than a progressive utopian dream, we have to prove to the American people that we can make it happen, that we have made progress when we can, and that conservatives, when given the opportunity, have turned back that progress to the detriment of every American citizen for their own benefit. In addition, sometimes it’s not so much the message, but how we get it out.

Horn says of progressive political strategy:

It is an exaggeration to say that today’s progressives don’t have a philosophy. Progressives have a fairly consistent agenda—we know what we stand for. The problem is, we don’t have an effective framework to communicate our philosophy to persuadable voters.

How do we persuade people who are so different? By assuring them that we share their values. “Values” need not be the anti-choice, anti-gay, anti-science mores of the right wing. In politics, they are ideals that describe the kind of society we are trying to build. There is a set of values that progressives can employ to frame public policy in language that will win over persuadable voters. And to those we are trying to reach, our values will sound very familiar: freedom, opportunity, security and responsibility.

What’s so special about these rather moderate-sounding words? First, they resonate with all Americans. When we use these values to describe and defend progressive policies, voters understand that we’re on their side. But more important, they summarize a progressive philosophy that voters can grasp and remember. Successful message framing isn’t just repetition of preselected words and phrases. (Anybody remember how often Kerry said “values”?) The trick is using those words and phrases to communicate a coherent set of principles—a vision for the future.

I couldn’t have said it better myself, and I can only hope that progressives in politics take her points to heart.

[ How Progressives Can Win ]
Source: TomPaine.com

Jim Crow GOP

And the battle begins. The Republicans, especially southern Republicans, are on the attack against the Voting Rights Act, claiming that it unfairly targets southern states with, heaven forbid, protections to make sure that people can get out and vote. I know, I know, the last thing the American people can possibly have is the government making sure that everyone who’s registered to vote has the opportunity to do so free of hindrance and prejudice. I know, too much big government.

Big government snooping on your phone records and financial transactions is one thing, but big government making sure you exercise your rights as a citizen is just out of control.

This is a significant problem; while we’re on one side of the fence fighting for voting machines with paper trails and one man-one vote programs, the southern conservatives will likely be on the other side of the line while no one’s looking, and make sure that minorities in the south in particular stay away from the polls. Whether it’s locking out early voting options, discounting provisional ballots, effecting poll taxes in the form of requiring expensive forms of identification in order to vote at all, and so on. The tools are already in the hands of the conservatives, and more such laws are being quietly and slowly passing in many jurisdictions with little opposition.

Steve Rosenfeld, executive producer of RadioNation, tells it like it is:

These Republicans want elections in their states to return to the good old days, when mostly white people voted—just substitute registered Republicans in 2006—and ballots were only in English—no Español, por favor. Their grassroots rebellion reveals a dirty secret about elections that liberals and Democrats still haven’t learned from the 2004 presidential race: The GOP wins elections by targeting likely Democrats, especially minorities and new voters, by creating barriers in voter registration and obstacles to voting itself and ballot counting.

Read his entire comments, and his statements that the political left are too absorbed with other voting issues to take notice of this, and it we should wake up, here:

[ Jim Crow GOP ]
Source: TomPaine.com

Also, news on the recent House GOP effort to delay the re-approval of the Voting Rights Act here:

[ House Delays Renewal of Voting Rights Act ]
Source: New York Times

Senate Defeats Democrats Minimum Wage Increase

It’s amazing; tax cuts for the wealthy power the economy, but a raise in the minimum wage would apparently wreck it, right? So how does giving billions to the wealthiest Americans equal powering the economy, but giving billions spread among the masses of the American lower and middle class is somehow the worst possible thing we could do.

Right. That’s typical Republican logic for you.

Billions for their base are good for you, billions for the people who actually need it are horrible. Remember that when election day comes back around. America? Are you listening? You should now know your worth to the Republican party.

[ Senate Defeats Democrats Minimum Wage Increase ]
Source: Reuters (courtesy of The New York Times)

June 16, 2006

African-American Voters Scrubbed by Secret GOP Hit List

The racism of the right rears its ugly head again.

This time, the GOP hatched a plan, much like the kind of the George Wallaces of yesteryear, likely in a conference room somewhere deciding how they could possibly save their sorry behinds from being evicted from the Capitol steps, to disenfranchise thousands of American citizens. But not just any American citizens, not even just any Black American citizens, Black American solders who are serving in Iraq.

In 2004, as reported to the BBC by Greg Palast and echoed on Democracy Now, the Republicans let slip that they had a brilliant idea; challenge the legitimacy of Black soliders serving overseas, where they have other things to worry about than being able to provide the documents to their home states and communities to prove that they’re registered voters, and then throw their votes out, especially those in black-majority districts. The result? More Republicans pressing their suits for their first meetings under the Capitol dome with their favorite lobbyist of choice. It’s sickening, disheartening, and another example of the reason why minorities tend to vote Democratic, and another reason why the Democrats will continue taking Black votes for granted. But that point aside, this is perhaps one of the most repugnant things I’ve seen the conservatives do in a very long time, but then again-I should be used to it; the conservative right and republican politicos have absolutely no need or respect for Black America, except when they need someone to stand at the podium and cry “I don’t need rights! Who needs rights,” a la Alan Keyes or any of the small gaggle of conservative Black preachers or politicians they have begging for scraps from the master’s table these days.

Want to know how the whole thing was done? Pretty intelligent, actually, for being a travesty against the democracy the right-wing slime claims to be protecting:

Here’s how the scheme worked: The RNC mailed these voters letters in envelopes marked, “Do not forward”, to be returned to the sender. These letters were mailed to servicemen and women, some stationed overseas, to their US home addresses. The letters then returned to the Bush-Cheney campaign as “undeliverable.”

The lists of soldiers of “undeliverable” letters were transmitted from state headquarters, in this case Florida, to the RNC in Washington. The party could then challenge the voters’ registration and thereby prevent their absentee ballots being counted.

One target list was comprised exclusively of voters registered at the Jacksonville, Florida, Naval Air Station. Jacksonville is third largest naval installation in the US, best known as home of the Blue Angels fighting squandron.

Our team contacted the homes of several on the caging list, such as Randall Prausa, a serviceman, whose wife said he had been ordered overseas.

A soldier returning home in time to vote in November 2004 could also be challenged on the basis of the returned envelope. Soldiers challenged would be required to vote by “provisional” ballot.

Over one million provisional ballots cast in the 2004 race were never counted; over half a million absentee ballots were also rejected. The extraordinary rise in the number of rejected ballots was the result of the widespread multi-state voter challenge campaign by the Republican Party. The operation, of which the purge of Black soldiers was a small part, was the first mass challenge to voting America had seen in two decades.

You can see the scrub lists for yourself at the link below, the proof is right there in the light for everyone to see. Now to press congressional Democrats to bring this matter to the forefront, make it news, and then challenge the Republicans on the legality of their behavior-if it’s legal, make it illegal. If it’s illegal, I want heads to roll. Seriously, wasn’t I just talking about how the Voting Rights Act is still important?

Seriously, this makes me gag.

[ Massacre of the Buffalo Soldiers: African-American Voters Scrubbed by Secret GOP Hit List ]
Source: GregPalast.com (courtesy of Democracy Now! and TruthOut)