Saturday, November 3, 2007

Separation ... and tears for Henry Moses

I've known Henry Moses for about five years; he was one of founders of the Rhythm Workers Union -- an activist African Drumming group I've been playing with since early 2003 when we went to NY City to drum in the big peace march. He's been a teacher, friend and an example of how to live boldly and love fearlessly.

On Saturday (October 20), I read an e-mail from his close friend and former lover Kristen, that he was in the hospital so I called him there. I tried to be cavalier---- I said, "What the hell are you doing in the hospital, Henry-- that's no place for you." He said, "Well, this isn't bad as hospitals go. I've got cancer kicking my ass." He'd been having trouble breathing and abdominal pain. He said they'd found cancer in his lungs (metastasized) from somewhere else. He said he was scheduled for a biopsy to locate the cancer on Monday. Then they'd discuss treatment.

I could hear the oxygen hissing as we talked-- Henry was surprisingly upbeat. "Don't know exactly what's going on inside me, but don't worry, James, my MOJO's still work'in," he said. We both laughed. I heard his cell phone ring and he asked me if I could hold on. (I'd called on the hospital phone.) I held on, but Henry didn't come back on the line. Called back a few minutes later and his partner, Jim picked up and said Henry'd had four or five calls since mine and had some visitors too. So I figured I'd wait a few days and see how he was doing.

Went to the beach over the weekend -- it was hot (in late October!) and I kept thinking of Henry as I swam in the Ocean. He loves the water. I kept wondering how long he would live and whether he would ever get to swim in the ocean again.

On Tuesday, I called and Henry didn't answer. On Wednesday, I called Kristen who was sobbing and said that if I wanted to say goodbye to Henry, I'd better go soon. She said he'd gone into respiratory distress when they'd put him out for the biopsy and was on a respirator and heavily sedated.

I sent the following message to the other Rhythm Workers after my visit with Henry:

Hi Rhythmies,

Cycled over to GW hosp to be with Henry mid-afternoon. Held his hand and called his name softly -- he did not open his eyes. I thought of my memories of Henry. About the Ailanthus tree that bucked back and almost crushed us as we were cutting it last spring... About getting lost in NYC subway after the peace march...

I didn't know whether to continue-- I sat quietly and watched his smooth, shiny ebony face, his long eyelashes, his beautiful round shoulders and his perfect, bronze toes sticking out from the blue cooling blanked that covered most of his body. Then I looked out at the (much-needed) rain starting to fall gently onto the trees and people below the window -- umbrellas popping open as commuters came up the Metro escalators, and the bronze bust of George Washington glistening in the rain. How exquisite. Life and well, not death but actually another part of life.

Henry's doctor (Ratliff) came by and explained that they'd sedated him because he'd tried to pull the ventilator out when he woke up. I sat with Henry a while longer and then around 5, the nurse, Jennifer, came and had to do some evaluation and asked me to wait outside for 15 minutes. As I was leaving to get a bite, the elevator doors opened on the ground floor and Mark, Kristen, Alexandra and Hawah got on, so I rode back up with them.

The bed next to Henry had been occupied when I arrived but they moved that patient this evening and the nurses didn't seem to mind four or five of us being there with Henry-- we weren't disturbing anyone.

When we were all in his room, Henry opened his eyes (a bit droopy but open and looking at us-- actually looking at Kristen mostly) and he nodded, "yes" that he was comfortable and "no" he wasn't cold. His eyes opened about a fourth of the time for the next few hours as we talked and sang and remembered things that had happened with him and massaged his feet, hands and head. He winked and wrinkled his forehead in response to what we were saying and doing. He looked straight into Kristen's eyes as she talked and sang to him and his face became placid -- the creases in his forehead and between his eyebrows smoothed out -- when Hawah massaged his feet. We chanted and sang softly and there were tears in all eyes...

Jim, his brother and Brian(?) joined us for much of the time. Jim seemed to be surprisingly composed and is acting as Henry's advocate. Kristen was sad and teary but also very strong, brave and incredibly sweet towards Henry-- offering him peace and love and so much empathy.

We're planning to do some quiet drumming and singing tomorrow around 3 and Katy has offered her place for an evening vigil for Henry.

I don't know the details of his condition, but I understand that Henry isn't expected to recover, though the nurse did say they would be putting food into his tube tomorrow which they hadn't done since Monday-- he's being nourished on an IV feed.

I felt pain and yet incredible sweetness to be there to let Henry know how much we love him and to remember a few of the moments we've shared.

I was struck by how strange it is that we are each in these bodies all alone-- no one can feel what he feels, or what I feel, and how much we struggle to connect and communicate because we so desperately want to be known and understood by others and to understand and know them. This almost unbearable distance and our struggle to connect felt so much magnified by the breathing tube and sedatives that kept the ever-vivacious and social (not to mention musical and rhythmic) Henry from speech.

It's very hard to accept Henry as anything less than the quirky force of nature that I've always known him to be.

It's a cliche, I guess, but I was struck by the fact that we all came from the same stuff and that we all must somehow be reduced to it again. Henry is going out like a supernova-- a big, bright, searing flash.

When I saw him, I wanted to pull him out of that bed and run out of that hospital into the streets we occupied and sang and drummed and chanted in. And yet I also want to go with him into that peaceful place that I saw in his face when Kristen sang to him.

Separation -- is it the excruciating price we pay for begin alive, for loving, for every breath?

What a wicked and sacred scheme.

How is it that I feel both profound gratitude and incendiary outrage?

- james


Post Script: Henry pulled the respirator out at around 1 PM on Thursday (October 25)-- He had given instructions not to be resuscitated and Jim courageously honored them. So we played softly to Henry's now-peaceful body in the hospital room. No more tubes or beeping machines. To us, he seemed to have a slight smile on his face. It was sad and beautiful to say our goodbyes musically.

We played at Katy and John's house that night and I don't remember when we've ever sounded better. Henry's musical spirit seemed very present. He was gifted at supporting other musicians and we were truly listening and supporting. We sang his favorite-- "I want to thank you for letting me be myself, again" and one he composed called "I put my roots down into the Earth."

His funeral a few days later was overflowing with people of all ages and diverse colors whose lives he'd touched. His family, his loves, his friends, the girls he mentored in the Young Women's Drumming Empowerment Project, were all there. We gave him a fitting tribute in word, song and rhythm. Once again, Henry brought together his African-American family, his friends in the GBL commmunity, his colleagues in the labor and environmental movements and his musical collaborators. I only wish it hadn't taken his departure to connect us so emotionally and primally.

Henry seemed to live and love fearlessly. I'm noticing an extra urge to make every day count and to give a bit more to others as he did. Henry worried me sometimes-- he showed up at my place with bruises after a fight with his partner, and he seemed to push himself beyond what his body could handle-- especially when we were on the streets marching and drumming for peace and social justice. But I think Henry knew what he was doing.

I find myself asking why am I alive and he's not. He was only 39. He is free. I feel such gratitude to have known him.

Goodbye, dear Henry. You leave a big hole in my heart. I didn't know how much I loved you. Thankyou.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Amazing Birthday Present

Two days before my 50th birthday, hopped the B-2 bus to my friend Bill Jenkins' for a vegetarian potluck and jam in Mt. Rainer. The evening was delightful-- highlights included improvising a raga-like number on violin with Bill's flute and Leslie's drumming, dancing and singing.

After the party, went to the bus station carrying my rectangular violin case, and a young man in a wheelchair asked me if it was a saxophone. I said "no, it's a violin, but I'm learning blues and jazz." Just then, a guy (wearing expensive looking sneakers) came up and asked us for spare change. I politely declined, but my companion dug into his bag, pulled out a plastic bag, scooped up his change and poured it all into the beggar's hand. Amazing generousity.

The bus arrived, I got on and the man in the wheelchair boarded with help of the driver and his friend. He sat across from me near the front, so we continued our conversation about jazz. He sang a melody in a jazz chord progression that I haven't learned yet, (II-IV-I) and I asked how he'd learned. He said he grew up with jazz musicians but didn't play himself. "Oh, but yes, you do," I said.

I asked his name. He said "Wayne Roney."

"Wallace Roney's brother?" I asked?


Told him I'd heard Wallace at a Smithsonian concert a few years before: the program mentioned that Wallace had been awarded full scholarships to Harvard Law and the Julliard. He'd chosen music. So I was sitting on the bus across from Wallace Roney's brother! I mentioned that my 50th birthday was coming up and Wayne said he is turning 50 this year too. We chatted about jazz until the bus approached my stop, I pulled the cord, started to say goodbye and got ready to get off the bus. Wayne reached into his bag saying "just a second," he had something for me.

He said, "I have doubles of this, so here's a present for you." And he handed me a cassette of Lester Young and Roy Eldridge recorded 51 years ago in 1956! He said, "happy birthday" and I hopped off the bus.

Is that a sweet birthday present or what? It's a great recording too. I especially love the rendition of "I didn't know what time it was." Kinda of fits my sentiments about turning 50.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Time Travel: back to the beginning of environmental protection

Strange dream before waking this morning. I've been re-reading parts of "Slaughterhouse Five" to commemorate Kurt Vonnegut's life. His writing shook me up when I took an English elective on him in high school. (In his story, Bill Pilgrim travels in time to witness the Allied bombing of Dresden (a non-military target) in WWII.)

In my dream, I'm in the EPA Adminstrator's conference room in Waterside Mall (I've sat in that room a few times) back in the 70's. (The dream was vivid-- 70's art on the walls; green shag carpet on the floor, goose-neck lamp on the desk. Wide, colorful ties.) The Administrator's assistant (a woman I didn't know) was having a meeting; some of the people there knew I was visiting from 2007 and was there to listen. They were talking about how to help the states reduce pollution from automobiles.

After the meeting, as I was leaving, a young man and a woman asked me in whispered tones what had happened. I hesitated and said EPA had made cars much cleaner, but we'd built everything so spread out that everyone drove even more and even bigger cars and the air pollution got worse instead of better. In the 80s we'd discovered that co2 could make Earth's climate to go out of control but we hadn't done anything to cut down.

They asked, "Why not?" I said the Supreme Court had decided that abortions were protected by the Constitution, and since then, the country had been battling over abortions in every presidential election and had elected religious fanatics who had gotten us into wars and were torturing people and didn't care about much else. And I said, we'd allowed population to reach over 6 billion and that nobody was talking anymore about how having more children meant making other kids miserable or leaving them to starve (as I'd read in "The Population Bomb" in the '70s).

As I spoke, I saw their faces go ashen. I was upset, realized that I'd done something terrible, and tried to think of what to say to reassure them, then woke up.

And today, in 2007, my letter to the editor suggesting carbon taxes as a better alternative to EPA regulation of greenhouse emissions ran in the Post.

OK. As Kurt would say, "so it goes."

Wednesday, April 4, 2007

Supreme Ct: EPA can regulate greenhouse gases, but will that help?

Ok, we got a little good news... Five of the nine Supreme Court Justices agree that harm from climate change is a sufficiently direct and tangible injury to confer "standing to sue." ("Standing" requires that a party asking a court to intervene must suffer or be likely to suffer specific harm so courts don't waste time and money on cases about speculative harm or harm to others.) And the same 5-4 court majority ruled that the Clean Air Act empowers EPA to regulate greenhouse gas emissions. Terrific, we're on the road to salvation, right?

No. Not really. Here's a little perspective from one who's battled for environmental protection for 20 years... EPA regulation won't do much if (it even happens at all), but carbon taxes might.

The "Supremes" ruled that EPA may regulate greenhouse gas emissions under the Clean Air Act. Sounds great, but EPA regulation hasn't achieved any of the major objectives of the Clean Air Act which is 40 years old now. For instance, most major cities are what EPA calls "non-attainment" areas: we haven't reduced pollutants to even modestly "safe" levels. EPA has all but abandoned the Act's program to retain visibility in pristine areas ("prevention of significant deterioration"). And the picture is no better in other areas of environmental regulation.

Let's take a walk through the legislative / regulatory process:

1) A member of Congress introduces a proposed law. Industry (which has been paying for everyone's campaigns) either defeats or weakens it (usually in committee) with exceptions and escape clauses. A compromise may be enacted if the sponsors can muster votes for majorities in both the House and Senate and the Prez doesn't veto.

2) EPA drafts proposed regulations and asks for comment. Industry and public interest groups meet with EPA officials and submit comments on the draft. EPA must use rigorous cost-benefit calculations to show the Office of Management and Budget and the public that its regulations are "cost effective." (This involves either explicitly or overtly comparing the value of public health and the environment to say, more products made out of a carcinogen like vinyl chloride.) EPA typically weakens or delays the rules in response to industry or OMB comments and finally issues a compromise final rule after a decade or so. Then industry challenges the rule in federal court. Reagan, Bush I and II have packed the Federal Courts with right-wingers who don't think regulations are a good idea. So they often weaken or invalidate the rules, handing them back to EPA which has to re-draft and re-propose them. (Many environmental rules are strangled by federal courts -- the Asbestos phase out rule was killed by the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals because it didn't like EPA's cost-benefit analysis, EPA just threw in the towel and has left asbestos on the market despite the fact that it's the most well-documented carcinogen around, and there are good substitutes.)

3) Then another decade after the law was passed by Congress, if we're lucky, EPA starts very timidly to enforce, choosing cases where it can be assured of easy victories to establish good precidents. Industry defends in court asserting that they didn't violate the law or that the rules aren't fair, and often wins but always buys more time. Then, if EPA prevails, the polluters pay miniscule penalties, sometimes have to comply with EPA or court orders, but mostly they continue on their way, occasionally adding some new technology to reduce pollution, if it doesn't cost much and can't be avoided in court and if there is more enforcement and public pressure.

So, what makes anyone think that an EPA-regulatory approach to greenhouse gas emissions will do better? We face the prospect of a planet that, a generation from now, (as NASA-Goddard's lead climate scientist, Dr. Jim Hansen puts it) will not even resemble the Earth we know. Climate change is moving at exponentially-increasing speed. (See my article "Climate Chaos, an Escalating Avalanche" and links to sources in footnotes.) Even in the best of scenarios, regulatory approaches can't and won't catch up or even take effect for decades. Basically, EPA regulations are a dangerous distraction in an all-out emergency!!!

We need massive, broad incentives to give everyone the right price signals to drastically reduce fossil fuel use immediately and to develop and implement alternatives. Dr. Hansen says we must now reduce greenhouse emissions by 80% to avoid pushing Earth's climate past the tipping point, after which accelerating climate change will cascade like an avalanche. (Think dozens of Hurricane Katrina and Ritas, flooding and refugee crises worldwide, and waves of disease and famine.) Dr. Hansen and many economists (including former Federal Reserve Chairman Paul Volcker) call for broad-based, gradually-increasing carbon fees so we all feel the pinch when we burn fossil fuels and are motivated to shift to conservation and alternatives.

Carbon fees would be assessed on fossil fuels in proportion to their carbon content (which is a measure of the damage they do to the climate when burned and converted to carbon dioxide), and the revenue could be used to offset other more regressive taxes, like payroll taxes. The idea is to remove a tax on work and add a gradually-increasing tax disincentive to fossil fuel waste that would shift expectations so everyone started to make plans for tighter fuel supplies and higher prices. (Another way is just to refunde the carbon revenue per capita (an equal share to each person). In this "progressive tax shift," energy hogs (usually rich people) would pay more in higher fuel prices but get the same per capita refund as everyone; poor people would pay less because they use less energy, and get more back than they spent. Everyone would have incentives to use less and pay less tax.)

Presently, the US (5% of world population, we produce 26% of greenhouse gases) wastes about half its fossil fuel use because our artifically low price structure encourages and subsidizes gross, wanton waste on a gargantuan scale. We must change that or our we'll just burn the planet and ourselves while new, cleaner (but more costly) technologies and ways of life won't be developed or implemented. Check out the carbon tax center for more information about this incentive strategy. Without strong incentives to conserve and implement better technology and information about how to reduce climate impacts, we won't turn the corner. I worked at EPA enforcement for 14 years and I guarantee that regulation won't do it. (And that includes "cap and trade" which the Wall St Journal very aptly called called "cap and charade.") Regulation hasn't caught up with even the slow-moving environmental problems. Climate Chaos is moving very fast and speeding up. We need a dynamic set of market incentives to move us off the collision course.

Sunday, March 11, 2007

Weird Energy

A friend teaches an activism class at a local private school. Her students want to take concrete steps to curb climate change. She knows I'm fired up about this (and have an engineering degree) so she asked me to work with the class to figure out what needs to be done and how to persuade the administration.

We started with the building where the class meets and found that the heating system (which circulates hot water from the boiler to radiators) was over-heating the upstairs rooms (people had propped windows open on a cold snowy winter day) while the basement was very chilly. I talked to maintenance people and got permission (and instructions) to adjust the radiator valves. We found that every one of the valves was wide open. People told us that the building had always been hot upstairs and cold down since it was built in 1959. (Hot water is less dense than cold, so the top rooms were getting most of the hot water and very little was going downstairs.) Bet the system had been operated that way for 48 years!

The students and I spent the afternoon adjusting the radiators valves and I was feeling pretty good when we'd finished. Stopped at the maintenance bldg to return some tools. Sean Hannity was blasting from the radio, ripping into Al Gore for his hypocracy (huge energy-hogging house, jetting hither and yon...) Hannity was also asserting that the carbon offsets Al is touting are a sham designed to enrich Al. Shocked to find myself agreeing with Hannity until that last one. Since no one was in the maintenance building, I turned the radio and the lights off in the name of energy conservation... Yikes.

So why hadn't the building maintenance staff ever bothered to balance the heating system? Well, maybe because they don't pay the gas bill. I'm recommending that the school pay the maintenance staff a percentage of the reduction in energy bills they achieve next year. The school spent over $500,000 for gas and electricity last year. If maintenance can cut the bill by 20% that's 100,000! So pay 'em 5% of what they save-- that's $5,000. I think their staff is about 5 people. Will $1000 bonus motivate them? I bet it will! They knew how to balance the heating system-- they just didn't have much incentive to bother.

So when NASA-Goddard's lead climate scientist, James Hansen says we need to reduce our carbon emissions by 80% to avoid pushing Earth's climate past a catastrophic tipping point, I now believe it's possible. We waste so much energy.

We all need incentives to fight climate change. A gradually-increasing carbon tax would shift expectations and start us down a much better path. It's a simple concept-- tax fossil fuels. But don't take the money out of the economy-- pay a share to each person. Those who use more than average fossil fuel would pay more in higher prices than they got back. Those who beat the average would reap rewards. Check out the slide show on

Friday, February 9, 2007

Democrats sit on their hands

THE WAR: Lots of wrangling this week over the NONBINDING resolution against continuing or escalating the war. It's NONBINDING-- but that's a first step, a way to build consensus and support.

Congress has the Constituional authority through legislation or the "power of the purse" to end or limit this war.

Good testimony by former soldiers. The opposition of returning soldiers was a turning point in ending the Vietnam war.

After the big peace march on January 27 (seems like a lifetime ago) went with some Code Pink folks to "occupy" Sen. Clinton's office and urge her to end the war. It was fun and theatrical, though I don't think Hillary is listening.

She should listen though. If she led the fight to end the war, she'd have proved her leadership and be in a very strong position to win both the nomination and the presidency. (Sen. Hagel seems to be positioning himself very well as the only visible Republican blasting Bush on the war...) If Hillary dithers like all the rest, well, again, why bother? She's in a quandry. Many of her downstate New York (City) constituents are war supporters because of a desire for US military presence in the Middle East to protect Israel from the neighbors that it has occupied and attacked. But the broader national electorate is increasingly fed up with this war. So far, she's acting like the Senator from Israel (oh, sorry Joe Lieberman's got that title) and not the next President of the United States.

The Libby trial. Fascinating. But probably inconsequential. Bet Bush will pardon him. The trial does reveal Cheney's paranoid machinations. Why does Nixon keep coming to mind? Will Dick testify? Hard for me to imagine, but the defense says they're going to call him.


On climate change, Pelosi and Dingell "made nice." She gets her special committee that has no legislative power, just information gathering (and the committee expires a few days before the 2008 elections), and he gets to continue his decades of obstrution of anything that might inconvenience the auto industry.

So we're going to wait at least two more years for Congress to do anything substantial about climate change. The fossil fuel industry wins another round without even a fight.

Check out . Both former Fed chair Paul Volcker and lead NASA-Goddard climate scientist, James Hansen have endorsed carbon taxes to tilt the economic table away from fossil fuel and towards energy conservation and renewables and thus to soften the blow of climate change. Volcker said we have to act now, or there won't be much left of our economy in 30 years. How about that?

Wednesday, February 7, 2007

CARBON TAXES: Powerful Incentives to Steer Us Away From Climate Catastrophe

The weather outside is frightening... Time to transfer fear into, well, how about prices?

Dr. James Hansen, NASA-Goddard's lead climate scientist calculates that we need to reduce carbon emissions by 80% to avoid pushing Earth's climate past a cataclysmic tipping point. Everything we do must shift dramatically, starting yesterday!

The good news: We could vastly reduce emissions by cutting waste and implementing known technologies. The bad news: We're being bribed not to do it.

Present fossil fuel prices don't reflect the global and future costs of burning them. We're not paying for the devastation of the polar regions, the loss of crop land and inundation of cities and even entire countries as sea level rises and storms become more destructive. In fact, fuel prices don't even reflect the costs of obtaining fuel, especially the military and human toll. So we use far too much fuel because it falsely appears less costly than conservation or renewables.

Dr. Hansen and many economists advocate a gradually-increasing carbon tax to shift our entire economy towards energy conservation and renewables. Taxes sound repellant to most of us, but carbon taxes don't have to mean a higher total tax burden. They could replace other taxes, fund new infrastructure (e.g., high-speed trains) or their revenue could be refunded per capita so everyone would get an equal "allowance" and could decide how much to spend on fuel while reaping rewards for using less. The newly-formed Carbon Tax Center provides many resources including a concise slide show explaining the advantages of carbon taxes. They point to the advantages of a carbon tax over "cap and trade" systems that lack transparency (allowing manipulation and profiteering) and don't provide incentives to the entire economy.

Carbon taxes now!

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

State of the Union

hi friends,

Rode my bike over to a Capitol Hill watering hole called "The Hawk and Dove" and watched the proceedings with the Hill staffers etc gathered there. Interesting to listen to their reactions. The woman next to me ("Temple" from Atlanta) said the Dems don't have the balls to cut off the war. Had to agree. And she didn't think Bush was serious about his domestic agenda but that the Dems might force his hand a bit here and there.

My take:

1) Energy and Climate Chaos:

Bush intends to make sure the federal government will not do much that makes any real difference about climate change or our profligate energy-wasting habits. Bush is touting ethanol. On an energy vs energy accounting basis ("Energy return on Investment" or EROI)), ethanol is a large scale loser -- it provides about 20% less that is used to make it. (They use gas or coal to process corn or other grain into ethanol and ADM makes millions on it because of huge government subsidies (your money) protected by corn-belt Senators.) Bush and the Dems' talk about "energy independence" is so far from reality in the US as to be ludicrous. Bush told the truth last year-- we are addicted to oil. He should know, he's the pusher.

The Dems have some obstructions to clear too. The Washington Post reported Tuesday that Rep. Dingell (D--Mich), who now chairs the House Energy and Commerce committee won't allow Pelosi to bypass him (by setting up another committee to deal with climate issues) without getting very bloody. (Dingell is to the auto industry roughly what Bush and Cheney are to the oil industry.) But Nancy's trying. There are a few proposals to address carbon emissions but they're stuck in old thinking about "cap and trade." Carbon taxes (which don't have to mean higher overall taxes) would do a lot more to steer us away from a climate crash. Check out the Carbon Tax Center at

2) The War:

Bush is not only rushing to shove more troops into Iraq, he wants to expand the military to include non-uniformed civilians (who are not employees of the federal government). Thus, he will try to expand the military by "outsourcing" even the fighting to mercenaries.

Jim Webb gave as clear a response as anyone could have hoped for, but left the Dems a way out of their responsibilty to stop the war. He said we are now "held hostage to the predictable and predicted disarray..." in Iraq. It's not true-- the Dems control the House and could cut off the funds, as Gingrich and the House did to EPA enforcement starting in 1995. With great effort, and strong pressure from the public, the Dems might stop Bush from attacking Iran but they can't stop Israel from doing it (with our guns and money) and Israel is getting ready right now. Lebanon was a practice round. No one is even talking about reducing the billions we supply in military and other aid to Israel, which as former President Carter has pointed out is engaged in apartheid which enrages all of its neighbors and creates the climate of terrorism.

Condi: You want peace in the Middle East and an end to terrorism? Call a Middle East peace conference -- invite everyone and 1) press Israel to withdraw to its 1967 borders -- the only ones that it has a "right" to defend under UN mandates and international law and 2) simultaneously press Iran to drop the nukes. The US continues to send billions to Israel despite its illegal occupation... We have lots of leverage, and the other Middle Eastern nations would surely help us keep Iran's nuclear ambitions in check if we had the slightest credibilty as an honest broker with Israel.

Happy New Year.

"In a culture of rampant deception, telling the truth is a radical act." (George Orwell)

Thursday, January 4, 2007

On Love and Truth

From "On Truth" (Ch. III) by Princeton Prof. Emeritus of Philosophy, Harry G. Frankfort. (Little book next to the US Constitution by the checkout at Borders.)

Spinoza defines joy as "passion by which [one] passes to greater perfection." When our capacity [to reach goals, i.e., our development] is increased, we experience a sense of increased vitality. (Similar effect to exercise.) Expanding one's ability to realize and sustain one's true nature is inherently exhilarating.

If one recognizes that joy (stemming from the process of increasing in one's capacity) has an external cause, one inevitably loves that object or person. We can't help loving (protecting and nurturing) that which we recognize as a source of joy, that which helps us become ourselves.

People cannot help loving truth because we cannot help recognizing that truth is indispensable to enable us to stay alive and to live fully in accord with their own natures. If one is indifferent to truth, one is indifferent to or despises one's own life.

Normally, with people we don't know well, we assess whether what they say is true by reference to our own observations. Over time, we begin to rely on people who win our trust. If we believe them, liars damage our grasp of reality -- they intend to make us a little crazy. We realize that in believing them, our judgment was flawed --we lose confidence in our ability to discern truth, to decide who to believe, and we begin to question anything the liar said.

Spinoza [1632-1677] is best known for his "Ethics" -- a monumental work that presents an ethical vision unfolding out of a monistic metaphysics in which God is no longer the transcendent creator of the universe who rules it via providence, but Nature (understood as an infinite, necessary, and fully deterministic system of which humans are a part) is supreme. Humans find happiness only through a rational understanding of this system and their place within it.

Perhaps ironically, Spinoza, whose definition of love works for me, was never married, never had children and didn't even ever have a steady.

Professor Frankfort's clear perspective on the vital importance of truth and why we need and love it, gives me some hope that humans may begin to embrace the "inconvenient truth" that we are causing and can mitigate the damage from climate change. Our experience with life tells us that lies lead us into danger.

Tuesday, January 2, 2007

The price (of fossil fuel) is wrong.

Hello Blogosphere,

This is my first attempt at blogging...

I'm trying to get the word out about climate change-- how it really works and what we can do about it. Here's a compilation of information that I've researched: "Climate Chaos, Earth's Health".

Basic thrust: Climate change will not be gradual or stable, but chaotic. Expect more powerful and dangerous storms, droughts, floods, crop failures, and disease. Our accelerating use of fossil fuels will shove the Earth's climate into chaos -- it's not a situation that humans can adapt to, at least not very many of us for very long. We can cut our carbon emissions but it will require a huge change in the incentives that currently encourage fossil fuel use and waste. I'm supporting market incentives (green taxes) to harness the power of markets to change behavior.

(In the US we waste so much energy that a 50% reduction within a decade is quite feasible.)

The footnotes are linked to my sources and there is some really great stuff there-- including some great graphics and interactive material, so click away. I want this to be a tool for activists to inform and educate everyone.

I'm encouraged that in announcing his candidacy for President, John Edwards has made climate change one of his three top priorities. (His other two priorities were eliminating poverty, and universal health care. Do we have a genuine progressive here?)

Best in the New Year,

- james