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