Thursday, October 2, 2008

News That Matters - October 2, 2008

News That Matters
Brought to you by PlanPutnam.Org

"Frankly, Mr. Hall, I don't give a tinker's damn about the way you voted. This is a world-wide economic problem and it deserves a little bit more time and consideration than you seem willing to allow." - Lois Carneiro

Good Thursday Morning,

And so the Senate voted to bailout their buddies on Wall Street last night and there's nothing of substance in the bill for normal folk who are finding it harder to make ends meet.

There were only 25 brave souls who had the vision to say No. With higher taxes (we like our municipal services) and higher fuel costs and higher food costs due to moving corn from food to energy production, and increases in transportation costs, everywhere you turn it costs more but your salaries are not increasing at the same rate... or even close. And woe be unto them that miss a credit card payment by a single day! Hell hath no fury like a credit card company.

So what to do? If you're earning less than $100K a year and are having financial troubles that go beyond impulse purchases like the plasma TV you just *had* to have and the $100 sneakers your kids demand, and the thrice a week meals at a restaurant, stop paying your mortgage. That's right: if you've been a responsible consumer and still find yourself in economic trouble, stop paying your mortgage.

See, there's no help in Congressional bills for you unless foreclosure comes near and when it does that's when you'll be able to renegotiate your loan agreements. It matters not to Congress the actual state of the economy (nor the free-market policies that got us here), it only matters that the campaign contributions keep flowing in - and how can they if Wall Street brokers and the financial industry PAC's are begging for cash?

And, how has Congress decided to pay for the near one trillion dollars required to keep their golf club memberships? By continuing popular tax cuts. Yeah, you do the math and tell me if government leaders shouldn't be hogtied and dosed with Thorazine.

But you know what? You think that somehow you'll continue getting some sort of tax "cut" and that the money for the bailout will come from somewhere else, somewhere you don't have to worry about. Somewhere magical, perhaps even biblical! That's what the politicians will tell you...

But not to worry, our Reps will do what they've always done: send the bill to your great grandchildren with your permission.

In the meantime, the President himself and notable members of both the House and Senate are using economic terrorism as a basis to engender support to bail out the yachting set. They warn of dire consequences, massive corporate failures, shuttered storefronts and millions of homeless wage earners unless action is taken on their behalf.

In the past few weeks, hundreds of thousands of Americans have taken to the streets to say NO to the Bailout, even right here in Putnam County on the steps of the county Courthouse. Millions of Americans have written, made phone calls... deluged Congressional offices with the same message and what does Congress do? The very same thing they did all those years ago when the people - by our millions - said NO to the war against Iraq... they ignored us and did what the powers that be told them to do - and so they shall again.

But the truth is this, and you're going to really hate to hear it from the likes of me:

Free market capitalism backed by a government run by free market capitalists is what got us here and the only way out is to find another way.

Luckily for us there are dozens of successful models around the world. Wealthy, comfortable nations have managed to provide basic services (including preventative health care) to their citizens, while controlling the way money is earned, banked and loaned, and they've done it rather more successfully than we have. Sure, prices for everything will go up and the luxuries we've been told are ours by the grace of some capitalist god are going to have to be memories from the past. Yes, we're going to have to slim down our lifestyles and pay the actual, real costs of goods and services. Our consumer driven economy is going to have to switch to a provider based economy and the mantra of constant growth is going to have to join those memories as just another quasi-religious sect gone mad.

We've known for a very long time that our economic model was not sustainable but we prefer the myth that it was; the myth that one day each and every one of us can live as comfortably and as luxuriously as those Madison Avenue portrays as "average" people and all we had to do was buy more, spend more and borrow more. Don't worry! Go Shopping! That 1500 sq ft cape you grew up in? That's for immigrants now. Build yourself the 4000 sq ft dream home and don't worry about heating or cooling it. Spend! Spend! Spend!

But now we're faced with reality: the myth was a myth, the American Empire is in decline and our government must be purged of free market capitalists and replaced by those who see service to the people and providers of basic human needs as the sole reason for government, not the continuance of a trickle down theory of economics that only showers us with the treacle urine of the wealthy.

I know, hard words to hear on a Thursday morning, but true words nonetheless.

And now, the News:

  1. Boston Tea Party, 2008
  2. State lawmakers get graded on environmental performance
  3. Congress Undoes Ban on Destructive Oil Shale Development
  4. County Fair: The Nuclear Option
  5. Study eases fear about wind farm threat to birds
  6. Wild and Scenic Rivers Anniversary a Time to Renew Commitment to River Protection
  7. Crowd turns out for forest wind farm meeting

Boston Tea Party, 2008

By Robert Scheer
October 1, 2008

It was a time for some of the best commentators to fail and, as much as I hate to admit it, for Lou Dobbs, and even Newt Gingrich, to shine. Dobbs called it correctly: The sky is not falling, there is time for reasoned debate, and why isn't the public being listened to? Gingrich put it best when he said short-circuiting serious Congressional oversight over an enormous transfer of taxpayer dollars to an industry is "un-American." Others, with whom I typically am in far greater agreement, just rolled over to give the bankers what they demanded.

"When Madmen Reign" was the headline on a column by Bob Herbert in the New York Times that absolves the Democrats from any responsibility for the crisis despite a willingness of their party's leadership in the past to vote for key legislation proposed by what Herbert condemns as the "anti-regulation, free market zealots" of the Republican Party. Both parties betrayed the principles of a true free market--remember Adam Smith's invisible hand, under which no market player could unilaterally set price?--in favor of the concentrated power of oligopoly to control everything.

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State lawmakers get graded on environmental performance

Jay Gallagher
Albany Bureau

ALBANY - A leading environmental group yesterday credited the Legislature for approving measures to cap carbon emissions and encouraging solar power, but blamed them for blocking congestion pricing in Manhattan and nixing deposits on water and juice containers.

The statewide group EPL/Environmental Advocates released its annual environmental report card of state legislators, finding that Senate Republicans have increasingly supported environmental initiatives along with their Democratic colleagues, but that the Democratic-controlled Assembly overall is the more environmentally friendly chamber.

While Senate Democrats, who are in the minority, scored an average of 85, the report card found, Senate Republicans averaged a score of 75 - a five-point increase from last year.

"Increasingly, senators on both sides of the aisle recognize their constituents' interest in protecting our air, land and water and are voting accordingly," said Robert Moore, the group's executive director.

The overall Assembly average was 93. Speaker Sheldon Silver, D-Manhattan, scored 100, while Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos, R-Nassau County, recorded a 76.

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Congress Undoes Ban on Destructive Oil Shale Development

While Offshore Oil Dominated Debate, A Proposal 4-Times More Destructive Sneaked By

At midnight tonight, the moratorium banning offshore drilling will expire, allowing oil companies to drill as close as three miles from our shores. The energy debate devolved into a narrow argument over drilling, which my colleague Rob Perks addresses in his blog.

The calls for "drill baby drill" provided enough distraction for some members of Congress to push through the expiration of another moratorium - this one on oil shale. According to many of our experts at NRDC, the potential impact of this development could be far worse than drilling for oil.

Oil shale, which is found in Colorado, Utah and Wyoming, releases four times the amount of global warming pollution as conventional fuel. It can be converted into liquid petroleum and then transportation fuel, but only after being heated to 900 degrees for five years or more. It's also a technology that is largely untested.

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County Fair: The Nuclear Option

Thursday, October 02, 2008
By Dave Bonan

A few weeks ago, a piece of campaign literature arrived in the mail from my congressman, Chris Murphy. It was a delight both because it was the calm before the storm of the election season's lit blitz and because I helped Murphy get elected after years under Republican Nancy Johnson's special interests-fueled reign over the Fifth District. I worked for Ned Lamont's senate campaign in 2006 in the Bethel and Danbury offices, which shared workers, space and advocacy with Murphy's first congressional bid

The literature's bullet points were Murphy's involvement in 1) expanding domestic oil and gas development on and offshore, 2) investing in wind and solar power, 3) investing in safe nuclear energy development, and 4) ending tax breaks to giant oil companies earning record profits.

Wait, what was that third one? "Investing in safe nuclear energy?" I had never heard that issue raised by Murphy before.

Even though nuclear energy on the surface is green with no emissions, one would think Murphy, a progressive Democrat, would stay clear of it, given that all of his constituents live 44 to 85 miles from the Indian Point Energy Center in Buchanan, N.Y., controversial for its aging equipment, Nuclear Regulator Commission–fined siren system, and faulty evacuation plan if the plant—which is frighteningly close to New York City—was to blow.

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Study eases fear about wind farm threat to birds

Wed Oct 1, 2008 8:53am EDT

LONDON (Reuters) - Wind turbines do not drive birds from surrounding areas, British researchers said on Wednesday, in findings which could make it easier to build more wind farms.

Conservation groups have raised fears that large birds could get caught in the turbines and that the structures could disturb other species.

But scientists found only one of the 23 species studied, the pheasant, was affected during their survey of two wind farms in eastern England.

The findings published in the Journal of Applied Ecology could help government and business efforts to boost the number of wind farms as a way to increase production of renewable energy.

"This is the first evidence suggesting that the present and future location of large numbers of wind turbines on European farmland is unlikely to have detrimental effects on farmland birds," Mark Whittingham, whose team from Newcastle University carried out the research, said in a statement.

"This should be welcome news for nature conservationists, wind energy companies and policy makers."

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Wild and Scenic Rivers Anniversary a Time to Renew Commitment to River Protection

Wednesday, October 1, 2008
By: American Rivers

October 2 marks 40th anniversary of nation's wild rivers system

David Moryc, American Rivers, 202-347-7550
Amy Kober, American Rivers, 206-213-0330 x23

Washington, DC -- On the eve of the 40th anniversary of the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act, American Rivers today called on Congress to renew its commitment to protect the nation’s clean water and river heritage by passing bills to add more than 850 miles of rivers to the National Wild and Scenic Rivers System.

“We have come a long way in 40 years, but we still have a long way to go. There are 3.5 million miles of rivers in our country, and less than one percent are protected,” said Rebecca Wodder, president of American Rivers.

“From the Taunton River in Massachusetts to the Snake headwaters of Wyoming, from the clear waters of Arizona’s Fossil Creek to the streams of Oregon’s Mount Hood and Wild Rogue, communities around the country are eager for Congress to act on these new Wild and Scenic designations,” said Wodder.

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Crowd turns out for forest wind farm meeting

Wednesday, October 1, 2008
By Brian Mulherin

Daily News Staff Writer

AMBER TWP. — Wind turbines may or may not someday be a tourist attraction in Mason County, but they sure drew a crowd Tuesday.

About 125 people crammed into one of Ramada Inn of Ludington’s conference rooms for an open-house-style meeting about a proposed 70-megawatt wind farm in the Manistee National Forest.

Many of those in attendance were property owners concerned about having a wind farm so close to their homes. Others were area residents concerned or curious about the proposal and some were wind energy backers interested and enthused about the project.

The conference room contained easels with maps of the project area, photographs of turbines and a virtual ride-through of Forest Trail and computer-generated views from Lake Michigan and the observation platform in the Lake Michigan Recreation Area.

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