Archive for December, 2007


Got the post-holiday blues? The doctor is in …

Sunday, December 30th, 2007

Just when you think the consumer culture of the United States in all its pornographic proportions has us all down and out thanks to the “buy now” holiday mentality, the good doctor offers some sage advice on how to find your way in this wacky world. I’m speaking of Dr. Bruce E. Levine, the author of Surviving America’s Depression Epidemic: How to Find Morale, Energy, and Community in a World Gone Crazy. Bruce capped off 2007 with a remarkable Book Salon with our friends over at Firedoglake, and the host of the salon—nyceve of Daily Kos dairy fame—also put up a spectacular plug for the book on her own diary in hopes of getting people to read and discuss Bruce’s important book. Her diary is now up to 280-plus comments, while the Book Salon went into overtime and sported more than 200 comments.

Here’s one of Eve’s riffs on Bruce’s book in her intro:

I’m convinced that shopping/spending/buying is a means of dulling the intense psychic distress of being an American citizen in 2007 — nearly 2008. Let’s be straight, as Dr. Levine suggests, it’s not easy living in George Bush’s America.

I’m not a scholar of depression. Thankfully, I’ve never had to grapple with it, though I am very close to several people who struggle with depression every day. And I can tell you from watching them, it’s a daily battle. What fascinates me about Dr. Levine’s book is that it approaches the American epidemic of depression from an entirely new perspective.

Thanks Eve, and great work Bruce! This is an important book for anyone who has been labeled by society, or finds themselves struggling with how to cope in today’s society.

Naomi Wolf’s most favorite mistake?

Thursday, December 27th, 2007

In a new interview on Huffington Post with Seema Kalia (her biweekly post called “My Favorite Mistake”), New York Times bestselling author Naomi Wolf (The End of America) reveals that her most favorite mistake was working on Al Gore’s 2000 presidential bid as a paid consultant, rather than an unpaid volunteer. This left her unable to take on the urban myth created by the GOP that she was helping Gore with being an “alpha” male and with picking out “earth tones.”

Here’s what she has to say:

Writers have to be free to criticize anybody and criticize the powers that be and to always be transparent with their readers. So since I was formally signed up with the campaign rather than volunteering as I had in ’96 I wasn’t in a position, contractually, to hit back against the evil Republican National Committee when they started to circulate pernicious things about what I was doing on the campaign. The whole “Alpha Male” flap, the whole “earth tone” (wardrobe) flap was completely invented out of whole cloth – the stuff of urban legends, but they were such good urban legends they quickly got picked up by the mainstream media because no one was fact-checking it, and my hands were tied.

Wolf said she signed up for a paid slot on the Gore campaign because, as a feminist, she wanted to be paid to do what men were paid to do when consulting for a campaign, rather than just being a volunteer. She was also there to advise Gore on women’s issues, such as social security, family leave, and flextime—NOT his outfits.
She then went on to talk about her current campaign work, which is that of the American Freedom Campaign and its effort to get 1,000 lawyers to call for a special prosecutor to investigate crimes committed by the Bush Administration.

To be sure, such a call for a prosecutor is no mistake.

Top ten “green” colleges

Monday, December 24th, 2007

For those high school juniors and seniors looking for a place to expand their minds, there is a new list of “green” colleges out, and thankfully one of them was from our home state of Vermont—Middlebury College.

Middlebury College students, and some key professors like Bill McKibben (ever heard of him?), launched a little program called Step it Up!

In any event, we present a little hometown pride below with an excerpt about Middlebury, but everyone should read the full article here to find a green institution of higher learning near you!

Middlebury College, Middlebury, VT (2,400 students)

The school that spawned the national Step It Up protests against global warming is all about energy — in both senses of the word. Students lobbied hard for the $11 million biomass plant now being built, which will be a big player in making Middlebury College carbon neutral by 2016. They’ve also convinced residence halls to lower their thermostats two degrees in the winter; exchanged more than 2,000 incandescent lightbulbs for energy-efficient ones; and worked with the college’s ski facility, the Snow Bowl, to offset its carbon dioxide emissions. Wood used in on-campus construction comes from sustainable, local forestry operations, and a ten-kilowatt wind turbine provides power to Middlebury’s recycling facility, which has helped divert more than 55 percent of the college’s waste since 1994.

Do the issues matter in choosing a candidate? Some web tools for the lazy voter who cares about issues.

Friday, December 21st, 2007

Democracy might be the best of a bad set of governing systems, to paraphrase Churchill; it’s also time consuming. Sometimes the siren song of being a sheep is strong. If you are interested in how the candidates stack up on the issues, and not only on your gut feeling about amorphous aspects of their potential presidential prowess, here are a bunch of online survey tools that ask you what you think of a few issues and then match your answers to the candidates’ supposed stances and rank the candidates according to how well they suit you. They’re all far from ideal, and the options they give for answering the issue questions are limited and limiting. Still, taken together they’re mildly fun and mildly informative, and definitely better than a poke in the eye with a sharp stick.

If you actually want to know more about the candidates and how they stand, spend just a little bit of your time over at Project Vote Smart. That’s a rock solid site.

Solar power too cheap to meter? Well, not quite, but we can dream!

Wednesday, December 19th, 2007

Our friends at Le Kos du Jour have put this one on our radar screen: a newish solar panel company is currently producing panels that have an installed cost-per-watt of electricity the same as from building a new coal-powered facility. Daily Kos‘s source of the New York Times reports that

Nanosolar’s founder and chief executive, Martin Roscheisen, claims to be the first solar panel manufacturer to be able to profitably sell solar panels for less than $1 a watt. That is the price at which solar energy becomes less expensive than coal.

“With a $1-per-watt panel,” he said, “it is possible to build $2-per-watt systems.”

According to the Energy Department, building a new coal plant costs about $2.1 a watt, plus the cost of fuel and emissions, he said.

My, oh my. What that means is that the movement to establish a moratorium on all new coal-powered electricity plants has one more debating point on its side. (More on the moratorium, and more, and more, and cetera.)

And now for a little diatribe.

This winning debating point does have one drawback: Nanosolar is one company with newly opened manufacturing facilities, and demand for their panels totally outstrips their ability to produce. According to the NYT, Nanosolar is already sold out on their next 18 months of production. Their cheapest-on-the-block solar panels are built using numerous patent-protected proprietary techniques. On the one hand is the old argument that the creative engineering folks behind this innovation wouldn’t have come up with it in the first place if they didn’t think they’d have patent protection that allows them to make a bajillion dollars with their technological monopoly. (Of course, that old argument leaks like a sieve; consider the millions and millions of hours of creative labor that have gone into development of open-source software.) Even assuming that’s true in this case, what do we do with the other hand: the desperate need by society at large to have this kind of technology (assuming it’s as good as advertised) available on a wider scale than one startup company is capable of providing? During WW2, the government saw fit to ration food and fuel and to implement price caps throughout the economy. Price controls were used during the Vietnam War as well. Businesses providing stuff for the war effort were guaranteed enough payment for their products to cover their costs plus a reasonable bit of profit, without letting them use their lottery-luck position on the supply side of the economy to drain taxpayers dry. And of course there’s always the example of the draft. Global warming is as threatening in its own ways as political domination by an invading army. “Free” (never was nor will be such a thing) market principles are fine enough under normal circumstances, but how bad does global warming have to get before we come to a collective decision that those with clever energy ideas are obligated to share them openly–with guarantees of reasonable payment for their cleverness, but, sorry folks, no lottery payouts? When you’re on a sinking ship and someone quickly invents a new life raft using deck chairs, duct tape, and a secret ingredient, nobody would seriously consider sitting around and negotiating with the inventor over the cost of getting in the raft. You just get yer rear end in it, no questions asked. After everyone is back safe on land, the survivors will surely thank the inventor, take him out to dinner, present him with a plaque, and all sorts of fine and dandy things like that. And that’s the question: just how fast is our ship sinking? (To be clear, this is not intended as just a bunch of rhetorical questions. I am not advocating that Nanosolar be legally forced to open up its patented technological tool chest to the competition. I am advocating that that possibility be considered, not just for Nanosolar, but for any and all patents that have an ability to affect large scale social problems.)

Ralph Nader taps The Man Who Hated Work as top holiday book

Tuesday, December 18th, 2007

The man many people would like to see run for president — again — just released his holiday reading list, and The Man Who Hated Work and Loved Labor—Les Leopold’s biography of Tony Mazzocchi, a true unsung hero of the modern labor movement—is number two on the list. And, he tells us why.
Nader released his list on CounterPunch. He said Leopold’s book is:

[T]he story of whom I consider to be the greatest labor leader of our generation. It was Mazzocchi who connected the labor movement with environmental group and scientists specializing in occupational diseases, with a broad humane agenda for working people so that they had a decent living standard and plenty of time for other pursuits. This World War II combat veteran probably traveled more miles, spoke with more blue collar workers and championed “just health care” more than any other American before his passing from cancer in 2002.

Thanks, Ralph!

Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell is NOT working

Friday, December 14th, 2007

Chelsea Green author Cholene Espinoza (Through the Eye of the Storm, 2006) will be on 60 Minutes this Sunday (December 16th) as a key figure in the program’s lead story (reported by Lesley Stahl) on the military’s policy “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.”

Espinoza, who is part of The Servicemembers Legal Defense Network, a group of former military members dedicated to the policy’s repeal, was the second woman to fly the U-2 reconnaissance aircraft in the U.S. Air Force. She logged more than 200 hours of combat time and was awarded the Air Medal and Aerial Achievement Medal for her service. She graduated from the United States Air Force Academy in 1987. She was selected to be a jet instructor pilot in 1988. She trained pilots from all over the world, including the United States, the Middle East, and South America.
Excerpts are already on the 60 Minutes website. The program airs at 7 p.m. EST unless there is a football game. It shows how ridiculous the policy is at Stahl interviews several active-duty soldiers. Hmm, I guess that policy is really being equally enforced, right?

Watch and spread the word!

Worry, Be Happy this Holiday Season

Wednesday, December 12th, 2007

From the ever-helpful consumer education department here at Chelsea Green (and Exposed author Mark Schapiro) comes ToxicHoliday.com, a site devoted to informing shoppers about what lurks inside the products they buy. The site is currently geared toward items many folks will buy this holiday shopping season to give as gifts, and provides links to organizations that have screened and evaluated a variety of products. This season, give the gift of information and protect yourself and your loved ones.

You can call him Al

Tuesday, December 11th, 2007

Driving in to work this morning and my favorite morning news station, a locally-owned operation here in Vermont (WDEV-FM out of Waterbury) pre-empted their regular programming to go live to Oslo, Norway for former Vice Pres. Al Gore’s Nobel Peace Prize acceptance speech.

In the day and age when radio formats seem as formulaic and celebrity-gossip driven as every other form of entertainment, it’s nice to see a station break for news that was both informative, and interesting. I was able to find Gore’s speech online later, and am posting it after the jump.

Here is a highlight:

In the years since this prize was first awarded, the entire relationship between humankind and the earth has been radically transformed. And still, we have remained largely oblivious to the impact of our cumulative actions.

Indeed, without realizing it, we have begun to wage war on the earth itself. Now, we and the earth’s climate are locked in a relationship familiar to war planners: “Mutually assured destruction.”

More than two decades ago,scientists calculated that nuclear war could throw so much debris and smoke into the air that it would block life-giving sunlight from our atmosphere, causing a “nuclear winter.” Their eloquent warnings here in Oslo helped galvanize the world’s resolve to halt the nuclear arms race.

Now science is warning us that if we do not quickly reduce the global warming pollution that is trapping so much of the heat our planet normally radiates back out of the atmosphere, we are in danger of creating a permanent “carbon summer.”

And, given our own forthcoming book on climate change—Climate Solutions by Peter Barnes—I especially enjoyed these comments from the would-be President of the United States.

And most important of all, we need to put a price on carbon—with a CO2 tax that is then rebated back to the people, progressively, according to the laws of each nation, in ways that shift the burden of taxation from employment to pollution. This is by far the most effective and simplest way to accelerate solutions to this crisis.

The world needs an alliance—especially of those nations that weigh heaviest in the scales where earth is in the balance. I salute Europe and Japan for the steps they’ve taken in recent years to meet the challenge, and the new government in Australia, which has made solving the climate crisis its first priority.

But the outcome will be decisively influenced by two nations that are now failing to do enough: the United States and China. While India is also growing fast in importance, it should be absolutely clear that it is the two largest CO2 emitters—most of all, my own country—that will need to make the boldest moves, or stand accountable before history for their failure to act.

Both countries should stop using the other’s behavior as an excuse for stalemate and instead develop an agenda for mutual survival in a shared global environment.

In any event, read on.

(more…)

That old demon alcohol

Friday, December 7th, 2007

Recently, The New York Times wrote up a piece on the growth of micro distillers, Farmyard Stills Quench a Thirst for Local Spirits. We couldn’t help but be reminded of Gene “The Contrary Farmer” Logsdon’s book Good Spirits. Maybe it’s time to revive that book.

The Times article points out: “On the heels of the microbrewing boom, new microdistilleries are thriving from coast to coast. And some of the latest and quirkiest entrants to the industry are in places like Iowa, Indiana, Illinois, [and] Michigan.”

One Kansas farmer, Seth Fox, said no bank would give him a loan, so he struck out on his own.

“I talked to banks, told them I wanted to make vodka on my farm here, and they said, ‘Yeah, right you are,’” recalled Mr. Fox, whose company went on to become the first distillery in Kansas since Prohibition. “Well, I had a million dollars in sales last year.”

“I’m the seventh generation to be in alcohol,” he said proudly. “Just the first to do it legally.”

In his book, Logsdon focuses on the traditional role of alcohol on the family homestead. Alcohol has historically played a significant role in agricultural life. In colonial times it was the most “liquid” alternative to hard currency as a means of exchange. Alcohol was the most reliable, safest, and most convenient way to store the grain harvest, and was an integral commodity on nearly every farmstead. Because it was so valued—does this surprise us?—the government muscled in, looking for its own piece of the action. George Washington was the first of many politicians to regulate alcohol as a means to generate revenues and gain political control.

In between good-natured tirades, Logsdon makes sure the reader learns some valuable lessons. He tells us how to make beer; he teaches the rudiments of distilling; he interviews Booker Noe (patron of America’s First Family of bourbon) to tell us how to sip and tell; and he adds lively tales from alcohol’s quasi-legitimate past. This is vintage Contrary Farmer: 100-proof, single-barrel select. Good Spirits is outrageous, entertaining, enlightening, and an eye-poppingly interesting, natural and holistic look at the role of alcohol. You will savor this book like a snifter of Calvados, the double-distilled apple brandy of Normandy that evaporates on the tongue like a heavenly ambrosia. Heady stuff, but delicious when consumed in moderation.


Follow us
Get every new post delivered to your inbox
Join millions of other followers
Powered By WPFruits.com