The Dirt on Coal

Special Series by the Sightline Institute

The Dirt on Coal

The Dirt on Coal

Here in the Northwest, coal feels like someone else’s problem. We know that much of the electricity that powers our homes comes from carbon-free hydropower, which can make flipping a light switch feel almost virtuous. But the numbers tell a different story: coal is big in the Northwest. In this series, Sightline researchers look at the region’s real reliance on coal and examine how we can get ourselves off the dirtiest of fuels.

Click here to see the reports.

This content reprinted by permission of Sightline.

Boycott Koch Industries? Are You Down With That?

I am down with that.

If you want to get the attention of the Koch brothers and express your disapproval of their attack on unions, the middle class and working folks, all you have to do is stop giving your dollars to purchase Koch Industries products.

Alternet has picked up this story:

How You Can Boycott the Kochs

 

Photo Credit: Fibonacci Blue on Flickr

Over the past few weeks, the billionaire Koch brothers and their front groups have steadily increased their involvement in Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker’s efforts to strip state workers of their collective bargaining rights. The Kochs’ outsized wealth and influence are forces to be reckoned with; that’s why we should all be grateful that a Koch backlash, including a boycott of Koch Industries’ products, has started picking up steam.

Geebeebee at Daily KOS has put together a pretty comprehensive list of Koch Industry goods that you might want to avoid if you want to send a message.

 

Some Thoughts on Justice

Arthur Miller has been working for decades now in the Puget Sound area to build public support and pressure to release Leonard Peltier. He has been a steady organizer behind the annual northwest regional march event to rally support for Leonard’s release. The march is tentatively set for May 14th, 2011.

Why can’t we get Dick Cheney in jail and Leonard Peltier out of jail?
Why would Clinton and now Obama fail to give a presidential pardon as a humanitarian gesture and recognition that this man does not pose a danger to any of us and has spent too many years in jail?

Get in touch with Arthur – bayou@blarg.net – if you feel the call.

Courtesy Wikimedia Commons

Are conservatives mean, greedy, and stupid? Or just different? A response to Lakoff

In a recent article The “New Centrism” and Its Discontents, George Lakoff wrote

Progressives have to get over the idea that conservatives are either stupid, or mean, or greedy – or all three. Conservatives are mostly people who have a different moral system from progressives.

That statement irked me, because it seems to me that there are plenty of powerful, mean, and greedy conservatives, and plenty of uninformed and gullible — if not stupid — voters.

For example, how about the infamous Koch brothers? Aren’t they greedy? And how about wealthy Senators pushing for tax cuts for the rich? (See this page.) Plenty of rich corporations and individuals (e.g., insurance company executives and even doctors) donate handsomely to conservative causes partly in hope of keeping taxes and regulations low. Surely, that’s based largely on greed. Military contractors who support (neo)conservative policies are another example.

Whether these people are mean is harder to say. I’m sure many conservatives are loving parents. George Bush is probably a likable fellow in person. And the vast majority of middle and lower class conservatives are good people too, I’m sure.

But, damn, it sure seems that sending young men to fight and die for lies is mean. Actively deceiving the populace and the Congress about the evidence for going to war is about as mean as you can get. Same with supporting torture. (See Defenders of Torture Unite.) Cutting taxes for the super-rich when millions of people are struggling to survive and the country is in debt sure seems mean. Conservative corruption, privatization, and indifference to corporate malfeasance (e.g., toxic pollution) are also mean. Perhaps the meanness is impersonal and bureaucratic — banal, in Hannah Arendt’s verbiage. But it’s still mean.

So, it’s a gross simplification to say that conservatives aren’t greedy and mean, in my opinion.

Perhaps some conservatives actually think they’re doing the right thing for the nation and the world. No excuse. They’re still mean.

As for the whether conservatives are stupid, I admit: rich conservatives aren’t usually stupid. They’re smart enough to protect their own interests. Karl Rove wasn’t stupid.

The conservatives who appear to be stupid are the middle and lower class people who vote against their own (economic) self-interest by supporting candidates who will ship their jobs overseas, send their sons off to immoral wars, slash government services, defund their pensions (including Social Security), and cut taxes and regulations on the rich.

It’s unwise and elitist to call such voters “stupid”. (In fact, calling people whose support we need “stupid” is pretty darn stupid.) But the point remains, why are people voting against their own self-interest? Are they dupes?

Perhaps some of them sincerely value the wedge issues (guns, gays, abortion, and religion) more than they value their economic well-being. In that case, they’re not stupid, they just have different values, right?

Perhaps.

But perhaps some of these people need to be trained to have the right values and beliefs. (Yeah, call me elitist.) Like valuing peace and empathy and non-violence. And believing in more science and less superstition.

On this issue, Lakoff argues that conservatives’ values are based on a strict paternal morality, while progressives’ values are based on a morality of ethics (“maternal morality”, I presume, though Lakoff didn’t use that phrase). In fact, I think it’s a sexist to say that men are inherently and significantly less empathetic than women, but it’s an informative generalization nonetheless.

Lakoff states his standard case about not using conservative language and talking points. “If you start adopting conservative language and/or positions, you become conservative-lite, or worse. ” Lakoff criticizes President Obama for often using conservative language, and (implicitly) for being too centrist:

Obama’s message in his warm-up video to his supporters said that the economy can be rebuilt only if we put aside our differences, work together, find common ground, and so on. It’s the E Pluribus Unum message – no red states or blue states, just red, white, and blue states message. It’s a message that resonates with a majority of Americans. And so his poll numbers have risen.

Such centrism will be the death of the New Deal.

As Lakoff says, “A well funded and tightly organized right wing has been pulling American politics to the right for three decades now. And with a few instructive exceptions, Democrats who respond by calling for a new centrism are just acting as the right’s enablers.”

I think that by insisting that conservatives are neither mean, greedy, or stupid, Lakoff too is enabling the right.

If Democrats and progressives don’t fight the right, we’re screwed. The best defense is a good offense. Right now, the right is kicking our butts.

Louis CK for President

Does Rumsfeld have lizard dna? I don’t know, but I sure get a kick out of listening to Louis CK ask the question. Louis says that the lizards can only answer honestly to that question or avoid answering the question. Something lizardy about their inability to directly lie about their lizard origins.

I guess the lizard dna question is going to be one of the known unknowns. Buy the Rumsfeld book for more background.

Cameron Peters charts the path into – and out of – Washington state’s budget morass

(Originally published here.  Reprinted by permission of Economic Opportunity Institute)

When you’re lost, it’s best to figure out where you are before trying to get to where you want to go. So if you’re finding it difficult to get a clear handle on what’s going on with the state budget, try reading these two succinct and accessible columns by Cameron Peters in the Kitsap Sun.

maze

Peters’ first column, written just after the November 2010 elections, examines the campaign rhetoric surrounding the state budget. He finds much of it wanting:

Locally, the refrain from nearly all of the challengers for the state Legislature concerned government overspending. If only our representatives were more frugal and responsible, we wouldn’t have had a multi-billion-dollar gap to close for the 2009-2011 biennium budget. But is the assertion of overspending true? What evidence exists to support such a claim?

As it turns out, there is no significant evidence to support that claim. But there are three underlying factors that do explain the state’s current budget woes – and none of them have to do with spending. They are: inflation, population growth, and most importantly: a severe recession that caused a massive drop in state revenue. In other words, while the rhetoric about government spending may be loud, it rings hollow.

But combine those factors with November’s election results, writes Peters, and you have a recipe for an all cuts budget that will hit education, health care and human services – which make up most general fund expenditures.

And that is, unfortunately, exactly what has happened. As Peters writes in his second column, the true costs of those cuts are now becoming clear:

Those who believe that the state government was bloated and spending on programs unrelated to government’s perceived role should be pleased. Programs and commissions have been eliminated. Most departments have seen budget cuts. Personnel are being cut, positions consolidated.

In the end, balancing the budget may be a Pyrrhic victory. Our neediest citizens, devastated by a recession that was not their fault, will fall through the cracks without the support they need. More families will find themselves unable to send their kids to our state colleges. Our park lands and environmental resources will continue to be degraded without the ability to maintain and improve them. Schools will continue to have to do more with less.

Peters calls for a “21st century solution” for the state budget. That means examining the usefulness and necessity of the 500+ tax exemptions and preferences now on the books (which EOI has documented here and here). And it means changing the fundamentals of Washington’s tax structure, so the poorest residents of Washington no longer pay the highest percentage of their income in taxes, while the richest pay a tiny share.

Follow these links to read the full text of Peters’ columns:

Voters Want Services, But Don’t Want to Pay »

Seeking a 21st-century solution to today’s problems »

 

Is Roger Ailes About to Be Indicted?

That is the story making the rounds.

Here are some links to that story:

Courtesy Spud of Inside Cable news and Wiki Commons

Off to work for a few hours. Then over to Centralia to shoot some video of a Roller Derby Benefit Event to raise funds for Human Response Network, the domestic violence and sexual assault response agency in Lewis County.

Solar Seattle?

Absolutely!

Here is the news, with a tip of the hat to Nan at Envirotalk in Olympia for spreading the news.

 

 

This is how we do it. We stop waiting for the leaders to figure out the obvious and we jump in to build from the grassroots level.

Here’s an organization that may be able to help you make this happen or to start the line in your community to make this happen. One Block Off the Grid.

Hopes for this site

It appears that we have some energy to post about events and happening. I am excited about the possibilities for this site. Maybe eventually, we can become the Washington State page for DFA. So far, DFA has not responded to repeated requests to turn on a page for us to use. Migrating or cross-linking should not be too difficult.

Thanks, Don, for putting this site together. I can tell you are turning on more functionality every day. Feels dynamic. We are in motion.

Army of Fake Social Media Friends to Promote Propaganda

I have posted about this before, but I think the story and its importance have not gotten any traction yet. I am not sure why that is the case because this is a pretty amazing revelation about the automation of propaganda and disinformation by the intelligence community against the American people.

Darlene Storm over at Computerworld has now taken up the story. Here is Darlene’s lead:

By Darlene Storm, Computerworld Feb 23, 2011 2:03 pm

It’s recently been revealed that the U.S. government contracted HBGary Federal for the development of software which could create multiple fake social media profiles to manipulate and sway public opinion on controversial issues by promoting propaganda. It could also be used as surveillance to find public opinions with points of view the powers-that-be didn’t like. It could then potentially have their “fake” people run smear campaigns against those “real” people. As disturbing as this is, it’s not really new for U.S. intelligence or private intelligence firms to do the dirty work behind closed doors.

It’s not a big surprise that the U.S. military also wants to use social media to its benefit. Last year, Public Intelligence published the U.S. Air Force social media guide which gave 10 tips for social media such as, “The enemy is engaged in this battlespace and you must engage there as well.” Number three was “DON’T LIE. Credibility is critical, without it, no one cares what you have to say…it’s also punishable by the UCMJ to give a false statement.” The Air Force used the chart below to show how social media influences public opinion. Click on the link to jump to the Air Force website

The 6th Contracting Squadron at MacDill Air Force Base sought the development of Persona Management Software which could be used for creating and managing fake profiles on social media sites to distort the truth and make it appear as if there was a generally accepted agreement on controversial issues. “Personas must be able to appear to originate in nearly any part of the world and can interact through conventional online services and social media platforms.” What happened to don’t lie and the Uniform Code of Military Justice?

Everything revealed after Anonymous leaked emails from private security firm HBGary Federal is disturbing on many levels. However, the Daily Kos said with the Persona Management Software it would take very few people to create “an army of sockpuppets” which could distort the truth while appearing to be “an entire Brooks Brothers riot online.”

So again I ask, what happened to number three . . . the rule about not lying that was also “punishable by the UCMJ to give a false statement”?

I think the problem is that it is theoretically possible to be punished for breaking laws or giving a false statement. The application of law and punishment is tilted heavily in favor of getting away with law breaking within the context of maintaining the status quo. Bernie Madoff goes to jail, but he’s the exception. He went off the deep-end and simply fabricated financial statements instead of making a fortune creating hyper-inflated derivatives to sell off to the rubes, the pension boards, the 401k patrons in the manner of more mainstream Wall Street raiders. Bradley Manning is in solitary for months as the military and government use their tools and playbook to torture Manning in this way that leaves no fingerprints, but clearly breaks human beings who are clearly social creatures. Deprive us of all social contact and context for months and we come apart. This is hardly news, yet it continues to happen.

You tell me, is the government and the military committing crimes when they engage in lying and propaganda to manipulate public opinion using social media? Is it or should it be a crime to hold any human being in social isolation? and the really big question, is there any way that we can level the playing field and encourage the prosecutorial powers to ply their trade against the insiders who are breaking laws or is the justice system primarily reserved for harassing the enemies of the status quo?