Archive for the politics Category

An Excellent View on GM’s Demise, by Michael Moore

Posted in clean energy, ethical consumerism, politics on June 1, 2009 by theseep

Although Michael Moore makes excellent and valid points in his documentaries, you have to take them with a grain of salt as he’s decidedly biased in his views.  This forwarded letter, however, rang so true with many of my views on the environment and what we can do with this opportunity as we try to bail out GM.  I don’t necessarily agree with the bailout in the first place, but if that’s what were doing, we might as well make it as productive as possible for the American workforce and the American people.  Definitely worth a read, even for the anti-Moore crowd.

Goodbye, GM by Michael Moore

June 1, 2009

I write this on the morning of the end of the once-mighty General Motors. By high noon, the President of the United States will have made it official: General Motors, as we know it, has been totaled.

As I sit here in GM’s birthplace, Flint, Michigan, I am surrounded by friends and family who are filled with anxiety about what will happen to them and to the town. Forty percent of the homes and businesses in the city have been abandoned. Imagine what it would be like if you lived in a city where almost every other house is empty. What would be your state of mind?

It is with sad irony that the company which invented “planned obsolescence” — the decision to build cars that would fall apart after a few years so that the customer would then have to buy a new one — has now made itself obsolete. It refused to build automobiles that the public wanted, cars that got great gas mileage, were as safe as they could be, and were exceedingly comfortable to drive. Oh — and that wouldn’t start falling apart after two years. GM stubbornly fought environmental and safety regulations. Its executives arrogantly ignored the “inferior” Japanese and German cars, cars which would become the gold standard for automobile buyers. And it was hell-bent on punishing its unionized workforce, lopping off thousands of workers for no good reason other than to “improve” the short-term bottom line of the corporation. Beginning in the 1980s, when GM was posting record profits, it moved countless jobs to Mexico and elsewhere, thus destroying the lives of tens of thousands of hard-working Americans. The glaring stupidity of this policy was that, when they eliminated the income of so many middle class families, who did they think was going to be able to afford to buy their cars? History will record this blunder in the same way it now writes about the French building the Maginot Line or how the Romans cluelessly poisoned their own water system with lethal lead in its pipes.

So here we are at the deathbed of General Motors. The company’s body not yet cold, and I find myself filled with — dare I say it — joy. It is not the joy of revenge against a corporation that ruined my hometown and brought misery, divorce, alcoholism, homelessness, physical and mental debilitation, and drug addiction to the people I grew up with. Nor do I, obviously, claim any joy in knowing that 21,000 more GM workers will be told that they, too, are without a job.

But you and I and the rest of America now own a car company! I know, I know — who on earth wants to run a car company? Who among us wants $50 billion of our tax dollars thrown down the rat hole of still trying to save GM? Let’s be clear about this: The only way to save GM is to kill GM. Saving our precious industrial infrastructure, though, is another matter and must be a top priority. If we allow the shutting down and tearing down of our auto plants, we will sorely wish we still had them when we realize that those factories could have built the alternative energy systems we now desperately need. And when we realize that the best way to transport ourselves is on light rail and bullet trains and cleaner buses, how will we do this if we’ve allowed our industrial capacity and its skilled workforce to disappear?

Thus, as GM is “reorganized” by the federal government and the bankruptcy court, here is the plan I am asking President Obama to implement for the good of the workers, the GM communities, and the nation as a whole. Twenty years ago when I made “Roger & Me,” I tried to warn people about what was ahead for General Motors. Had the power structure and the punditocracy listened, maybe much of this could have been avoided. Based on my track record, I request an honest and sincere consideration of the following suggestions:

1. Just as President Roosevelt did after the attack on Pearl Harbor, the President must tell the nation that we are at war and we must immediately convert our auto factories to factories that build mass transit vehicles and alternative energy devices. Within months in Flint in 1942, GM halted all car production and immediately used the assembly lines to build planes, tanks and machine guns. The conversion took no time at all. Everyone pitched in. The fascists were defeated. We are now in a different kind of war — a war that we have conducted against the ecosystem and has been conducted by our very own corporate leaders. This current war has two fronts. One is headquartered in Detroit. The products built in the factories of GM, Ford and Chrysler are some of the greatest weapons of mass destruction responsible for global warming and the melting of our polar icecaps. The things we call “cars” may have been fun to drive, but they are like a million daggers into the heart of Mother Nature. To continue to build them would only lead to the ruin of our species and much of the planet. The other front in this war is being waged by the oil companies against you and me. They are committed to fleecing us whenever they can, and they have been reckless stewards of the finite amount of oil that is located under the surface of the earth. They know they are sucking it bone dry. And like the lumber tycoons of the early 20th century who didn’t give a damn about future generations as they tore down every forest they could get their hands on, these oil barons are not telling the public what they know to be true — that there are only a few more decades of useable oil on this planet. And as the end days of oil approach us, get ready for some very desperate people willing to kill and be killed just to get their hands on a gallon can of gasoline. President Obama, now that he has taken control of GM, needs to convert the factories to new and needed uses immediately.

2. Don’t put another $30 billion into the coffers of GM to build cars. Instead, use that money to keep the current workforce — and most of those who have been laid off — employed so that they can build the new modes of 21st century transportation. Let them start the conversion work now.

3. Announce that we will have bullet trains criss-crossing this country in the next five years. Japan is celebrating the 45th anniversary of its first bullet train this year. Now they have dozens of them. Average speed: 165 mph. Average time a train is late: under 30 seconds. They have had these high speed trains for nearly five decades — and we don’t even have one! The fact that the technology already exists for us to go from New York to L.A. in 17 hours by train, and that we haven’t used it, is criminal. Let’s hire the unemployed to build the new high speed lines all over the country. Chicago to Detroit in less than two hours. Miami to DC in under 7 hours. Denver to Dallas in five and a half. This can be done and done now.

4. Initiate a program to put light rail mass transit lines in all our large and medium-sized cities. Build those trains in the GM factories. And hire local people everywhere to install and run this system.

5. For people in rural areas not served by the train lines, have the GM plants produce energy efficient clean buses.

6. For the time being, have some factories build hybrid or all-electric cars (and batteries). It will take a few years for people to get used to the new ways to transport ourselves, so if we’re going to have automobiles, let’s have kinder, gentler ones. We can be building these next month (do not believe anyone who tells you it will take years to retool the factories — that simply isn’t true).

7. Transform some of the empty GM factories to facilities that build windmills, solar panels and other means of alternate forms of energy. We need tens of millions of solar panels right now. And there is an eager and skilled workforce who can build them.

8. Provide tax incentives for those who travel by hybrid car or bus or train. Also, credits for those who convert their home to alternative energy.

9. To help pay for this, impose a two-dollar tax on every gallon of gasoline. This will get people to switch to more energy saving cars or to use the new rail lines and rail cars the former autoworkers have built for them.

Well, that’s a start. Please, please, please don’t save GM so that a smaller version of it will simply do nothing more than build Chevys or Cadillacs. This is not a long-term solution. Don’t throw bad money into a company whose tailpipe is malfunctioning, causing a strange odor to fill the car.

100 years ago this year, the founders of General Motors convinced the world to give up their horses and saddles and buggy whips to try a new form of transportation. Now it is time for us to say goodbye to the internal combustion engine. It seemed to serve us well for so long. We enjoyed the car hops at the A&W. We made out in the front — and the back — seat. We watched movies on large outdoor screens, went to the races at NASCAR tracks across the country, and saw the Pacific Ocean for the first time through the window down Hwy. 1. And now it’s over. It’s a new day and a new century. The President — and the UAW — must seize this moment and create a big batch of lemonade from this very sour and sad lemon.

Yesterday, the last surviving person from the Titanic disaster passed away. She escaped certain death that night and went on to live another 97 years.

So can we survive our own Titanic in all the Flint Michigans of this country. 60% of GM is ours. I think we can do a better job.

Yours,

Michael Moore

MMFlint@aol.com MichaelMoore.com

Volatile Organic Compounds, Why They’re Bad, Why They’re In Your House, and Why FEMA Wasn’t Really at Fault for the Trailer Formaldehyde Debacle.

Posted in Environmental Health, ethical consumerism, healthcare, politics, sustainability on March 18, 2009 by theseep

In the course of my classes for my Master’s of Public Health, I’ve been doing quite a bit on environmental health. I’m sorry I’ve been a bit slack on the posts, but it’s because of school so besides a baby blog, I’m going to start posting excerpts from some of my papers and discussions. The bonus is that I’ll be adding citations for references and data support for the discussion. This is from a paper on environmental causes of health problems and exposure to chemicals, the section on volatile organic compounds, or VOCs:

“This problem effects us all in varying levels, but can disproportionally effect those living in areas with concentrated levels of certain chemicals, those that regularly utilize potentially hazardous products, and especially those in developing nations where many modern potentially hazardous substances and products are produced or disposed of. Children, pregnant women, and the elderly are also at greater risk for developing disease from lower levels of exposure (Freedman, et al, 2001). Shifts in exposure can occur quickly as well, as in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, where thousands of people were displaced from their homes and many were provided trailers to live in by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). It was found later that these trailers, made from standard off-the-shelf building materials, were off-gassing enough volatile organic compounds (VOCs) such as formaldehyde to cause significant health problems in many of those living in them (Final Report on Formaldehyde, 2008). Although it was dismissed by some, offering that these types of trailers were not meant to live in for prolonged periods, these very same materials such as pressboard, melamine, paints and sealants, are used in regular home construction as well and can affect any homeowner given the proper concentrations and conditions.” (Slaughter, Environmental, 2009)

Next is a brief definition of VOCs and some human health effects:

The selected toxicologic agent for discussion is Toluene, described on the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry website as “among the most abundantly produced chemicals in the United States.” (Toluene: Medical Management, 2007). Toluene is an aromatic hydrocarbon molecule that is a type of volatile organic compound (VOC). It is found abundantly throughout our society, in gasoline, glues, inks, dyes, lacquers, paints, pesticides, cleaners, and other household and industrial products (Olson, 1999). Although exposures and overdoses are seen in industrial accidents, it is also commonly abused through “huffing” or “sniffing” the fumes to produce dizzyness and euphoria. It can produce human toxicity through inhalation, ingestion, skin or mucous membrane exposure, is passed through uterine circulation to a fetus, and is also passed in breast milk (Toluene: Medical Management, 2007). Toluene causes a significant amount of toxicity, often from acute exposures, although chronic exposures occur as well, with effects including skin irritation, corneal abrasions, tremors, ataxia (unsteady gait), nausea, headache, and even renal failure and death in high enough doses. Also, because of it’s physical properties like other VOCs, toluene can cause asphyxiation from concentrated inhalation as well as chemical pneumonitis and respiratory failure from aspiration (Olson, 1999). ” (Slaughter, Online discussion, 2009)

So really, even though FEMA made some mistakes, people getting sick from the formaldehyde levels in the trailers wasn’t their fault. The trailers were actually the fault of the EPA and other regulatory bodies that should have been keeping VOCs out of our building materials in the first place, and a building materials industry that doesn’t always take adequate precautions to protect their consumers. Bottom line – have an idea of what you’re consuming and what’s in it.

There are over 85,000 chemicals used in the U.S. in industry and consumer goods, of which we have full toxicologic data for about 7%. That’s a lot we don’t know. Even though we don’t know all of the effects of many of the chemicals we are being exposed to, there is good scientific evidence that some of the more toxic ones and some of the commonly used chemicals cause significant human health problems, even cancer. Exposures are incredibly variable and many of the severe health effects are often accidental or one-time exposures, occupational, or from long-term, chronic exposures, so most people will probably be just fine. However, we’ll see a few thousand people die or get ill from pesticide exposure here, a few hundred thousand cancers from smoking and other carcinogen exposures there, some kids losing 30 or 40 IQ points from lead exposure in homes and toys, male frogs turning into females or having extra legs, little stuff, not really a big deal, right? OR, we could change the way we regulate chemicals to use the precautionary principle and properly test chemicals for human health risks before allowing them to be sold to consumers. Pretty easy way to save lives and an incredible amount of healthcare spending, really.

References

Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (2007). Toluene: Medical Management Guidelines. Retrieved on March 12, 2009 from: http://www.atsdr.cdc.gov/MHMI/mmg56.html

Freedman, D., Stewart, P., Kleinerman, R., Wacholder, S., Hatch, E., Tarone, R., Robison, L., Linet, M. (2001). Household Solvent Exposures and Childhood Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia. American Journal of Public Health. 91:4

Centers for Disease Control (2008). Final Report on Formaldehyde Levels in FEMA-Supplied Travel Trailers, Park Models, and Mobile Homes. Retrieved on December 28, 2008 from: http://www.cdc.gov/nceh/ehhe/trailerstudy/

Olgar, S., Oktem, F., Dindar, A., Kilbas, A., Turkoglu, U., Cetin, H., et al. (2008). Volatile solvent abuse caused glomerulopathy and tubulopathy in street children. Human and Experimental Toxicology. 27:477-483. Retrieved on March 12, 2009 from: EBSCO Database, Walden Library.

Olson, K. (Ed.). (1999). Poisoning and Drug Overdose. Stamford: Appleton and Lange.

Slaughter, C. (2009). Online Discussion. PUBH 6105 Environmental Health Class. Walden University

Slaughter, C. (2009). Environmental Causes of Illness. Final Paper. Course 6115: Social, Behavioral and Cultural Factors in Public Health. Walden University

Obama Understands Our Environmental Problem: “We can’t solve global warming because I f—ing changed light bulbs in my house.”

Posted in clean energy, conservation, ethical consumerism, global warming, green energy, politics, sustainability on November 16, 2008 by theseep

Newsweek picked up this off-the-record comment by Senator Obama prior barack-obama1to the debates:

“I don’t consider this to be a good format for me, which makes me more cautious. I often find myself trapped by the questions and thinking to myself, ‘You know, this is a stupid question, but let me … answer it.’ So when Brian Williams is asking me about what’s a personal thing that you’ve done [that’s green], and I say, you know, ‘Well, I planted a bunch of trees.’ And he says, ‘I’m talking about personal.’ What I’m thinking in my head is, ‘Well, the truth is, Brian, we can’t solve global warming because I f—ing changed light bulbs in my house. It’s because of something collective’.”

The beauty of this unscripted, honest response to climate change is that it demonstrates that Barack Obama isn’t just about the superficial, pop-media responses to the crisis, he has a deeper understanding of the work we have in front of us.  He realizes that this isn’t something that a few token efforts will solve, it will require sweeping changes in how we live, how we utilize energy and our resources, and massive changes in our fuel and energy infrastructure.  He knows that it’s not about the effing light bulbs.

via treehugger.com

Californians Need To Vote No on Proposition 8 To Protect Civil Liberties and Freedom.

Posted in politics on October 19, 2008 by theseep

I had thought that we lived in a free society, where we are all entitled by the constitution to “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness” in a country founded upon the separation of church and state and the promise of freedom of religion, or lack thereof.  As I was making a trip to the hardware store 2 days ago, I saw two young men in front of the entrance to the strip mall with signs saying “Save Marriage : Vote Yes on Prop 8” (a proposition to outlaw same-sex marriages for you non-Californians out there).  Well, in the usual S.E.E.P. fashion, I felt the need to have a discussion with one of them to try figure out why someone would want to stomp on someone else’s civil liberties like that.   I asked, “Why are you campaigning for the suppression of freedom?  I don’t understand why anyone would do such a thing.”

In the 20 minute conversation that ensued, his main defense was that gay marraige undermines the institution of marraige and that “we believe” that it’s not right.  I said, “There you go – when you say, “we believe,” you mean that it’s your opinion and your personal and religious beliefs that you are trying to impose on other people.”  You are certainly entitled to your opinion, that’s the wonderful thing about our country – for the most part you have freedom to do and say what you like as long as you’re not hurting anyone else. But just because you don’t personally approve of what someone else is doing, that does not give you the right to take away their rights. If you want to teach your children hate, intolerance, and bigotry within the confines of your own home, so be it. That’s your right, but it’s not a decision that should even be brought up for a vote! It doesn’t matter that your bible says that being gay is a sin – you might need to remember that not everyone believes in the same religious text that  you do.  It doesn’t matter that it makes you feel uncomfortable (possibly because of your latent homosexual urges?), people have the right to have relationships with whomever they please and they should have the rights that any other couple have.

On the ridiculous argument of “undermining the institution of marriage” – please people.  If you really think that two homosexual people getting married takes away from the meaning of the concept, then you clearly have no idea what marriage is and what it means.  It is a word.  A word describing an incredible bond between two people that is impossible to put into words.  A connection for which you would do anything for the other person, sacrifice everything for their happiness, and go to the ends of the earth to be with them. It’s the bond that I proudly share with my heterosexual partner Laura, and it’s a bond that homosexual partners share as well.

I find it incredulous that the same right-wing, bible-wielding Republicans that proudly fly the American flag and claim to value so highly the freedom that we share, feel such a need to take freedoms and liberties away from other people (I apologize to all of the bible-wielding Republicans who understand the place of government, value civil liberties, and will be voting against Prop 8).  You can’t pick and choose what freedoms you grant – you are either free or you are not.  End of story.  Stop mixing your personal hangups and religious “morality” (don’t get me started on the hypocrisy of religion and morality throughout history) and come to terms with the fact that the United States of America is (was?) the greatest country in the world because it was founded on freedom and justice for all.  And that true freedom is what we should all continue to fight for, regardless of our race, creed, religion, color, or sexual orientation.

Insulate Yourself Against Recession With Renewable Energy and Urban Farming

Posted in clean energy, conservation, ethical consumerism, green energy, politics, sustainability, transportation on October 18, 2008 by theseep

Like it or not, we’re in at least a recession and possibly heading for a depression.  The federal government can bail out banks and throw money into the system without having any real inkling as to whether it will actually work or not, but there’s no denying that we will all be affected.  Some will lose jobs, some will take a hit on retirement, some will lose their homes, and some might even have to sell their second yacht.  Regardless of where you stand, as we approach peak oil, energy, food, and transportation will continue to become more costly, and as finances become tighter, we will all have to take a good look at how we use our money and our resources.

How can you protect yourself against this downturn?   Become as self-sufficient as possible.  With the renewed and expanded tax credits, and more payment plans available, residential solar installations are now within reach of many Americans.  Solar hot water and solar ovens to cook your food will decrease your gas or electric bill.  Plant a garden for cheap, fresh vegetables and herbs and some free exercise instead of a gym membership.  Compost your kitchen waste for free fertilizer for your plants and garden.  Look into a commuter bike or an electric bike or scooter for fast, nearly free local transportation.  Find out what public transportation is available to you and take the bus or the train to work, or find other commuters to carpool with.  Perform an energy audit of your home and replace incandescents with CFL bulbs or even better, energy-sipping LEDs.  Turn off unused lights and electronics with power strips to combat phantom power loads.  If you’re upgrading or changing appliances, make sure that your new ones are Energy Star certified, particularly your computer, refrigerator, dishwasher, clothes washer and dryer.  Reinsulate your home and seal doors and windows against drafts.  Plant fruit trees and berry bushes around your property for year after year of seasonal food that can be canned for use later or given away as inexpensive but creative and sustainable gifts.  There are hundreds of other small changes that you can make that are not only rewarding and will decrease your impact on the planet, but will save significant amounts of money for you and your family as food and energy prices rise.  This is not only a conscientious thing to do, it’s fiscally responsible!

Sarah Palin is a Self-Proclaimed “Energy Expert” Because There’s Oil in Alaska, Just Like She’s a Foreign Policy Expert Because Russia is Next Door.

Posted in clean energy, conservation, global warming, green energy, politics, sustainability on October 9, 2008 by theseep

I hate to keep harping on Governor Palin, but unfortunately she deserves it.  It is imperative that the middle America that she somehow appeals to understands how utterly inappropriate she is as a Vice Presidential Candidate, making the otherwise reasonable McCain ticket a no-deal (I’d still vote for Obama, but McCain isn’t a bad guy).  In the vice-presidential debate, Palin called herself an “energy expert”, which, it seems, is a moniker earned in a similar manner to her supposed foreign policy prowess. By her reckoning, she is close to Russia, making her a foreign policy expert, and there’s oil in Alaska, making her an energy expert.

Nothing could be further from the truth. Actually, none of our candidates fully understand the dire nature of our global energy crisis.  It’s not just climate change that we should be worried about – it’s peak oil.  Just like the economy taking a downward spiral in a “perfect storm” of deregulation, risky mortgages, bad decisions on consumer’s behalves, industry greed, and bipartisan legislative ineptitude, climate change and peak oil are intimately intertwined and we are heading straight into the eye of yet another perfect storm.   By nearly all estimates, peak oil, or the time when we cannot pump anymore oil from the earth in a day, is either happening now or will happen within the next 5-20 years.  What this means practically is that as daily oil extraction levels off and starts to decline, as long as demand continues to rise, we will see an astronomical spike in oil costs and worldwide shortages.  Let me repeat – if we continue to use oil as we do today, within the next few years to few decades, we are guaranteed to see huge oil shortages and massive price increases.  This is not supposition, it is supported by oil industry insiders, geologists, and energy experts alike and if we do not shift to alternative forms of energy quickly, starting right now, civilization as we know it, fueled by oil, will grind to a halt.  Not only that, but once the oil is gone, if we haven’t prepared ourselves, we’ll likely fall back on the other, dirtier fossil fuel that is still plentiful – coal.  This, in turn, will accelerate the already unstoppable threat of climate change.

The fact is, that offshore drilling and drilling in ANWR will give us a few measly percent of our annual oil use. The rest must still be bought from unstable Middle Eastern dictatorships, some of whom continue to funnel oil money into the hands of the very terrrorists that we are trying to defeat. We can pour money into drilling for more of a dying paradigm and building multi-billion dollar nuclear plants, neither of which will yield any power for a decade. Or, we can focus our efforts and resources on researching and building a renewable energy infrastructure for our entire country, which will protect us from the global economic collapse that will occur as peak oil hits. We will be actively fighting climate change, we will generate domestic jobs, we will wean ourselves off of foreign oil, and we can reclaim our role as a leader and innovator in the world.

Not one of our presidential or vice presidential candidates has even mentioned peak oil, and we’ve barely heard a peep about the environment or climate change. None of these people are energy experts, especially not Governor Palin, who continues to spew her “Drill, baby, drill” mantra. She will not bring you lower gas prices, nobody will. If you calculate the true cost of a gallon of gas, including extraction, refining, transport, and environmental impact, it should be around $12/gallon. For the better part of a century, we have enjoyed cheap gas subsidized by government tax breaks, political power plays, and even war, and now that we’re starting to see fuel prices rise towards what a true and fair market price would be, Americans have cried in outrage rather than taken action to become part of the solution.

At least Senator Obama and Senator McCain recognize the importance of climate change and renewable energy, at least they have an inkling of the true crisis at hand. Governor Palin is still in denial about climate change and is proposing to waste more of the taxpayers dollars on what will become a nearly obselete energy source within our lifetimes. Sorry, but this “Joe Six-Pack” needs a leader who has the intelligence and foresight to set aside their preconcieved notions, objectively evaluate the evidence and take steps to lead us into a prosperous and sustainable future, and Sarah Palin is not that leader.

Sarah Palin Report: Uberconservative, Pro-corporation With No Regard for the Environment, Nepotism, Half-truths, Bullying, and Bush-like Secretism.

Posted in politics on September 22, 2008 by theseep

Looking at our presidential candidates over the past few weeks, along with their new running mates, has caused a flurry of media attention, especially with the introduction of formerly unknown Alaskan Governor, SarahPalin. While I admit up front that I am an Obama supporter, I feel a certain due diligence is in order to review what our possibilities could be and see what we could have in store if McCain andPalin are elected.

The media has been frankly ridiculous, hanging on every comment with the right-wingers uncharacteristically pulling the sexism card at every opportunity and playing up the “downhome” quality of Palin’s background, going so far as calling her husband “The First Dude” almost exclusively.  The less biased mainstream media has been pretty harsh as well, playing the usual game of digging up every possible piece of dirt that they can find.  The truth is, we need to look at Palin’s qualifications and her political record thus far.  Although there has been media attention focused on her past record, but much of this has been drowned out by the starry-eyed wonder with which many conservatives and women voters are looking at Palin.

The NYTimes article entitled “Once Elected, Palin Hired Friends and Lashed Foes,” is a chilling tale of secrecy, nepotism, and Bush-esque politics, describing how Palin and her staffers have used alternative communications methods outside of government email systems to be less trackable, avoid being subpoenaed, and reduce accountability. It describes how Palin has hired many friends, most without proper qualifications, to various state political positions – my favorite example is Palin’s high school classmate hired to head the Alaska Department of Agriculture who listed a “childhood love of cows” as a qualification for the job. This article, along with the now-infamous blog of Alaskan conservative Sherry Whitstein, details the strong-arming and bullying that Palin, her family, and her supporters have used to manipulate opponents in her seemingly desperate quest for political power. There are tales of phone calls from Palin’s staff, her husband and other family members with yelling, cursing, and threats, to reporters, interviewers, and opponents, basically trying to bully those who speak out against her actions or policies. This tactic comes up over and over with their camp, from the librarian who she tried to get fired for not banning books, to the “Troopergate” scandal, it seems that Palin thinks it fine to use her political power inappropriately as a means to her own ends, be they “moral”, personal, or political.

Meanwhile, it seems that during Palin’s reign in Wasillia, Alaska, she reversed much of the work that was being done by the previous Mayor to limit commercial growth and reduce the pollution of the town’s lakes. UnderPalin , big-box retailers were given what sounds to be free reign, building complexes next to the lake and allowing toxic parking lot runoff to drain into an already polluted lake system. Add the pro-drilling stance, the disbelief in human-caused climate change, a bear pelt over her interview couch, and a wonderful photo of her entire family ensconced in fur, demonstrates clearly thatPalin is no friend to the environment and will choose a money-making opportunity with corporate deals regardless of any potential environmental impacts.

Deepak Chopra, M.D.,  the renowned mind-body physician has written an article entitled “Obama and the Palin Effect” about the psychological phenomenon that makes Palin so appealing to so many, then discusses in plain terms what she stands for:

  • “Small town values — a nostaligic return to simpler times disguises a denial of America’s global role, a return to petty, small-minded parochialism.
  • Ignorance of world affairs — a repudiation of the need to repair America’s image abroad.
  • Family values — a code for walling out anybody who makes a claim for social justice. Such strangers, being outside the family, don’t need to be needed.
  • Rigid stands on guns and abortion — a scornful repudiation that these issues can be negotiated with those who disagree.
  • Patriotism — the usual fallback in a failed war.
  • ”Reform” — an italicized term, since in addition to cleaning out corruption and excessive spending, one also throws out anyone who doesn’t fit your ideology.”

There is, unfortunately, much more to say, but The S.E.E.P.’s official position on Palin is that although she is attractive to a large section of our conservative citizens, much of her appeal is on the surface and there are some very concerning issues in how she has conducted her politics in Alaska and this is not the type of people we want leading our country, as Vice-President, or for the remote possibility of President.  Her environmental record is abysmal and we can only hope that conservative Americans do not misinterpret her being “outdoorsy” and a hunter with being remotely concerned with the environment.  We need more integrity and openness, we need someone who will work for the will of the people, not someone who plans to push their own personal agenda, especially if they feel that the ends justify the questionable means.

via NYTimes

Obama’s Acceptance Speech at the DNC: Inspiring and Right on Target.

Posted in politics on August 29, 2008 by theseep


This speech is a must-watch for Democrats, Republicans, Independents, and even non-voters – it will probably get you to vote for Obama. Senator Obama describes specific policy changes that he plans to address social security, healthcare, trade deficits, unemployment, renewable energy, foreign policy and more. This is certainly anything but the “empty rhetoric” that the conservatives have been describing of Obama’s speeches. It is powerful, honest, and inspires the hope that our country can redeem itself and return to our former glory.

Continuing Right-Wing Shortsightedness on Oil: Drilling Won’t Bring Down Gas Prices!

Posted in conservation, ethical consumerism, global warming, politics, sustainability, transportation on August 19, 2008 by theseep


In the continuing media campaign to get Americans to want to drill offshore and in the National Arctic Wildlife Refuge, Hannity and Gingrich are shown here once again making fun of conservation techniques and attempting to discredit the real solution: DECREASE OIL CONSUMPTION AND TRANSITION TO ALTERNATIVE ENERGY SOURCES. It’s really that simple. The “drill, drill, drill” philosophy might get us a little more oil in the relative short term (3-5 years before we start seeing any actual oil), but by staying with our current infrastructure, demand will continue to rise, and the future result will be the same – rising oil prices and the continued “addiction to oil”.

The alternative is to change how we use oil now by conserving, and continue to develop battery and alternative fuel technology so that in the next 1-5 years your next new car will be electric or fueled with cellulosic ethanol or algae-based biodiesel instead of oil. In the same time it would take to see anything from drilling new wells, we’ll be well on our way to kicking fossil fuels to the curb.

What kills me is the continued lack of professionalism and blatant skew put on this type of reporting from Fox News and many conservatives. They scoff at inflating your tires, where in fact, keeping your tires at proper pressure can improve mileage by as much as 3.3%, which is not bad for such an easy solution. Combine that with people using public transportation, riding bikes for local trips, carpooling, and other basic, money-saving conservation strategies, and a solid plan for renewable technology implementation, and we simply won’t need to drill.

We can only hope that our future and current leaders have the foresight and wisdom to guide us there rather than staying with the reactionary, short-sighted status quo.

video via treehugger.com

White House Strongarms EPA Into Lying About Climate Change . . . Again

Posted in clean energy, conservation, global warming, green energy, politics, sustainability on June 26, 2008 by theseep

NY Times article here

It seems that once again, the Bush Administration has taken to distorting facts and even outright lying in order to further their agenda.  Here’s the story:  In 2007, the Supreme Court made a ruling requiring the EPA to determine whether greenhouse gases were a danger to human health or the environment. In December of 2007, after gathering data and consensus opinion, the EPA had prepared a report concluding “that greenhouse gases are pollutants that must be controlled” and that it would be cost effective to regulate greenhouse gas emissions as well as tough fleet mileage requirements, producing an estimated 500 billion to 2 trillion dollars in economic benefits over the next 32 years. The report says basically what the entire rest of the world has embraced and started taking action about: climate change is happening, it is due to man’s actions on our planet and the burning of fossil fuels, and unless we act quickly to control it, we will see significant global economic, health, and environmental implications.  Sounds pretty on target, right?

Interestingly, this report was sent via email to the White House in December as requested by the Supreme Court. The Bush Administration, however, in an act of childish negligence, has buried it’s head in the sand and has flatly refused to open the email. Because of this and other pressure from the administration, the EPA has “been forced” to water down the report so that it only “reviews the legal and economic issues presented by declaring greenhouse gases a pollutant, ” rather than actually addressing the issue. This whole kerfuffle is being reviewed by Henry Waxman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, as well as by Representative Edward J. Markey of The House Select Committee for Energy Independence and Global Warming, and the Bush Administration has already once again evoked “executive privilege” to avoid handing over incriminating documents on the matter.

All I can say is, WTF? Why can’t the EPA simply hand over the original report to the Supreme Court and let the Judicial Branch get involved. Or better yet, release it to the public so that we can all see the true reports that our tax dollars pay for rather than a document full of irrelevant discussion and half-truths? I think that Mr. Johnson of the EPA needs to stand up and do what the American people have hired him to do: protect them from environmental hazards with integrity and honor, not bowing down to criminal political pressure. Send out the Global Warming report to the Supreme Court, every Senator and Representative, and the New York Times. I’ll take a copy as well.

What’s worse, it that this report doesn’t even have any revolutionary information in it, the U.N.’s Panel on Climate Change has pages and pages of documentation on the subject and whether or not global warming is real is no longer up for discussion. What is up for discussion is what we will do about it and if we will be a leader, or act like we’re 5 years old and hold our hands over our ears, kicking and screaming, because we don’t want to be told to clean up our mess. This type of attitude by our government simply slows down the necessary changes to deal with climate change and further discredits our country in the eyes of the global community.

Here is a link to the EPA director, Stephen Johnson’s email address and phone number, let’s all drop him a line to let him know that these types of shenanigans will not be tolerated.

via: NYT

treehugger

The Story of Stuff: An Excellent Short Movie For Kids And Adults Alike

Posted in conservation, ethical consumerism, politics, sustainability on June 19, 2008 by theseep

I had heard about Annie Leonard’s “The Story of Stuff” a while ago, and recently finally watched it. Only 20 minutes and 40 seconds long, it delivers a clear, easily followed path of, for lack of a better word, stuff. From the resource use and depletion, to the manufacturing process and toxic chemical use, to the political manipulation by corporate entities, to the disposal (or lack thereof) of “stuff”, this story is a must see for everyone. Simplistic enough for a child to understand but sophisticated enough and stylish enough to keep an adult’s attention, it is clearly designed to spread it’s message to the masses. The Story of Stuff should be standard curriculum in every home and school, reminding us that what we buy had to come from somewhere, has to go somewhere when we’re done, and every action carries some sort of consequence. Whether we choose to acknowledge these consequences and how we act on this knowledge is up to us and our own consciences.

News Flash: Gas Prices Will Continue to Rise! Stop Whining and Start Acting!

Posted in clean energy, conservation, ethical consumerism, global warming, green energy, politics, sustainability, transportation on May 31, 2008 by theseep

We’re all tired of hearing everyone complain about gas prices. Besides the everyday complainers, we have truckers protesting, middle class families in suburbia going broke driving to work, and now McCain and Hillary are pushing a summertime “gas tax holiday”. Although it is unfortunate that so many people are being effected by the rising prices of fuel, the reality is that our days of cheap, government-subsidized cabon-based fuels are at an end. To put it in perspective, Germany just hit $8/gallon as the already expensive fuel prices throughout Europe continue to increase.
Peter Schwartz, PhD., a local Cal Poly Professor of sustainability calculated that the true cost of a gallon of gas, when you factor in extraction, refining, the environmental impacts, transport, associated human and health impacts, and every other estimatable cost, is around $12/gallon. As we approach this true cost, people will be forced to reconsider how they are utilizing energy resources.

Because we have manipulated the market for so long and fought wars for “energy security”, the U.S. has enjoyed falsely lowered fuel prices for half a century. This cheap gas market allowed the expansion of suburbia, the cheap transport of goods and services, the rise of the unparalleled American car culture, a booming vacation and travel market, and an incredible number of other unsustainable luxurious activities. It has also allowed us to waste an incredible amount of energy and resources because they have been so cheap. We have built grandiose, inefficient stick houses with poor insulation, installed energy-sucking appliances, and we drive down the street in our image-conscious, 12mpg SUVs, all choices based on what many people call the “free market”, but what is in reality a subsidized, racketeered, bastardized version of capitalism. The oil subsidies unto themselves are incredible, with an estimated $17.8 billion in tax subsidies and between $38 billion and $114.6 billion in government program subsidies, according to an article on treehugger.com.

Many conservative economists, would like us to “stay the course”, saying that this “free market” will direct where our money goes, ie: as consumer demand for renewable energy, efficient and electric cars, and sustainable business increases, we will see more of these products available. Although they are correct in basic theory, their entire paradigm of capitalism has been so twisted by political deals, unfair trade agreements, the aforementioned fuel subsidies, and a lack of accountability for the impacts of industrial production, that the basic tenets of the conceptual free market no longer apply. If not for these modifying factors falsely lowering the prices of certain goods and services, opening access to unsustainable development, as well as the effect of psychologically based marketing to sell us wasteful, often toxic products and foods, we would have likely been well on the way to being sustainable 30 years ago with the first energy crisis. If we had been paying European energy prices as we should have been, we would be living efficiently in closer communities, with less waste, public transportation, and more local food production, the very direction that we need to move in immediately if we are to decrease the looming effects of our self-induced climate change.

I recently saw a few minutes of Glenn Beck on a near-sighted, unthoughtful rant on why we should start drilling in Alaska to get us more cheap oil. This is the same lunacy that brings us the gas tax holiday and the “economic stimulus package”, maneuvers that don’t even prolong the inevitable, they don’t even actually help anyone, except that they make some of the more oblivious public feel like something is being done. For us to actually make any progress, each individual must first take responsibility for their energy use and carbon footprint: If you haven’t dumped your SUV yet, do it! Change your lightbulbs, install solar, bike more, compost, start your garden, stop buying things from China and overseas, buy local, organic foods, consume like you give a damn!

We also need to pass sweeping changes in legislation, here are a few examples:

1. Immediate moratorium on new coal-fired or nuclear power plants with required emissions-reducing equipment on all existing plants.

2. Home and industrial efficiency requirements to meet LEED certification on ALL new construction and a program to require and assist in efficiency retrofitting on existing homes and industrial buildings.

3. Increased support for renewable energy research and infrastructure with

4. Standardization in electric vehicle battery and/or charging units to allow for swappable battery packs and the deployment of universal charging stations.

5. Better subsidies for residential solar and electric/plug-in hybrid vehicles with significantly increased fees/taxes on non-industrial/non-farming vehicles getting less than 25mpg (this should quickly increase to 30+mpg)

6. Integrated waste management systems with greywater recycling, green waste reutilization for biomass digestion and composting, extensive recycling programs, and increased tariffs for waste and refuse.

With significant conservation initiatives and continued development of existing renewable energy technologies, we can negate the need for new coal power plants, we can avoid drilling in the arctic, and we can decrease some of the effects of climate change. I doubt that any of our current legislators have the courage to make many of these changes, so it is up to us, the citizens, to first do our part, then support our leaders in taking the steps needed to protect our society, our people, and our environment.

Biofuels Comparison Study – Conclusion: Properly Planned Biofuel Is A Great Transition Fuel, Poorly Designed Is Superbad.

Posted in biodiesel, clean energy, conservation, ethical consumerism, global warming, green energy, politics, sustainability, transportation on May 11, 2008 by theseep

The results of a study by University of Washington and The Nature Conservancy are shown in the chart below, detailing the efficiency and impact of various biofuel production strategies.
Basically it shows what we already know about corn ethanol and soy biodiesel, and other “food-for-fuel” crops – they are extraordinarily inefficient, using large amounts of fossil fuels, water, pesticides, and fertilizer to produce, and directly detracting from food sources. Because of the recent food shortages, these biofuels are getting another look as a potential part of the problem. Unfortunately all biofuels are being vilified by this media hype, and even efficient processes like sugar cane and cellulosic ethanol or waste oil and algae-based biodiesel are getting a bad name as well.

One of our biggest problems is the lack of foresight – the U.S. government has been supporting corn ethanol extensively due to lobbying and special interests even though it is though it actually uses more resources than it produces. If we can put our resources toward developing technologies like cellulosic ethanol and algae biodiesel, we will have bridging biofuels that will allow us to continue to use existing combustion technology as we reach peak oil. This will be a critical phase for further development of the next generation of renewable energy production and infrastructure.

In 20 years, after peak oil has been reached and fossil fuel prices are ridiculously high, our combustion technology will be mostly obsolete and electric cars powered by next-gen battery technology. Once again, for this to happen smoothly, we need strong and wise leadership that will resist corporate and lobbyist influence and be able to encourage the most efficient and promising technologies.

via treehugger and Seattle Post-Intelligencer

NY Times Magazine Green Issue Is Worth The Read

Posted in clean energy, conservation, ethical consumerism, global warming, green energy, politics, sustainability on April 25, 2008 by theseep
The NY Times just published their “Green Issue” on Sunday with a plethora of articles discussing the movement towards sustainability and the battle against climate change. One of the best articles is “Why Bother“, by Michael Pollan, author of The Omnivores Dilemma and In Defense of Food. In the essay, Pollan discusses the notion of hopelessness in decreasing our personal footprint – why should we change our daily practices when on the other side of the world, families in China are buying cars and firing up refrigerators for the first time, thereby undoing any good we may do on an individual level. Frustrating though it may be, the truth is that it is not hopeless. Everything we do makes a small impact on our earth. Everything we buy supports the system wherein it is produced – from the oppressed laborer in horrific working conditions, to the toxic chemicals used in it’s manufacture and packaging, to the fossil fuels used in shipping, to the local business owner pushed out of work by the corporate machine delivering the product. Every time we don’t speak up to our families, friends, neighbors, and our politicians, we support the status quo rather than being a part of the change. It starts with individuals, and like the proverbial butterfly flapping it’s wings causing a storm across the world, this is what personal action leads to. It is not the only answer, and needs to be done in conjunction with wise and foresightful governmental leadership, but it is imperative that we all contribute what we can to the solution.
photo from NYT Magazine Green Issue

Spark-EV Closed Down – A Torrid Tale of Broken Promises and Vaporware

Posted in clean energy, conservation, ethical consumerism, global warming, green energy, politics, sustainability, transportation on April 11, 2008 by theseep

Edit:  It seems that Spark-EV has shut it’s doors, the owner replacing the former website with a description of events that led to Spark’s downfall.  I’m sorry for posting without researching the company better, but the posted letter is interesting reading!

Previous Post:

I had thought that I was keeping up on the development of this generation of electric vehicles, being completely disappointed by the lack of commitment from American carmakers and the plethora of vaporware from the likes of Zap!, and anxiously awaiting a “new” EV1 that is affordable, practical, and has a decent range. While Tesla has finally started production of their legendary electric roadster, at 100,000 clams, this is still far out of reach of the average eco-conscious consumer. However, I recently came across Spark-EV, a U.S. company that supposedly already has 3 models in production and 2 more pending certification for 75+mph highway operation and over 100 miles to a charge. All that plus a few neighborhood electric vehicles (NEVs), 2 electric scooters, and a futuristic 3 wheel EV in the works as well!

The largest option currently available is the Qilin, a 5-seater mini-SUV akin to a Honda CRV with a range of 100+ miles/charge, top speed of 80mph, and a price tag of $27,950. Next is the Zotye (pictured) with a range of 110+ miles, top speed of 75mph, and goes for $24,900. The smallest current full-speed option is the Dragon, a compact similar to a VW Golf or Toyota Matrix with a range of 125+ miles, top speed of 80mph, and sells for $24,950. They also have a micro-compact dubbed the Panda, that is pending full-speed certification, but is a 2-seater similar to a SmartCar that will get you 80mph and 125+ miles per charge for $21,950. These all run on LiFePO4 batteries that charge fully in 10 hours, but can get 75% charge in 5 hours.
Let’s do some simple calculations: The average commuter drives 15,000 miles/year, estimate fuel efficiency at a generous 30mpg, and you’re using 500 gallons of fuel per year. Over the next 10 years, with fuel prices climbing, let’s estimate a lowball average cost of $5/gallon. If you add in solar panels for “free” charging at home (the solar installation will pay itself off in 10-15 years as well in savings), by this calculation, your fuel savings alone in the next 10 years will pay for the price of the entire car! If you’re still a skeptic, you can refer to The S.E.E.P.’s New Car Buyer’s Guide, which basically says – don’t buy a new car! Over the next 10 years peak oil, emissions restrictions, and rising fuel prices will force a significant change in our transportation infrastructure. Combine that with the upfront cost of a new vehicle and the incredibly fast depreciation, you’re much better off either buying a used vehicle, preferably one capable of using biofuels, so you can wait for the next generation of electrics and new technology, or buy an all-electric now, which will save you more and more money as fuel prices increase.  For the DIY’er, you can build your own EV with a kit from Electro-Auto, EV USA, or pick up kit plans from Riley Enterprises.  In addition, battery technology will continue to improve at a rapid pace, so by the time your new EV needs new batteries, it is probable that you’ll be able to extend your range by upgrading to an ultracapacitor, hydrogen, or other type of next-generation battery.
We need to stop fearing new technology and think outside of our fossil-fuel box. We still have a chance to change what we have set in motion and preserve much of the planet for our children, but we all need to make some sacrifices and take some risks.