Archive for October, 2008


The Crash of ’08, The Depression of ’09

Tuesday, October 28th, 2008

[I]f it quacks like a bank it has to be regulated like a bank…. [F]inancial institutions should be regulated for what they do, not for what they are…. So whether you call yourself a commercial bank or an investment bank or a private equity company or Charlie Brown, if you’re giving credit, you are creating risks for the system and you need to be kept honest.

Terrance Heath of Campaign for America’s Future talks to author, economist, and co-founder of The American Prospect Robert Kuttner about the Stock Market Crash of 1929, the Meltdown of 2008, and four steps to avoid the Depression of 2009.

Terrance Heath: In his column about the 79th anniversary of the 1929 Wall Street Crash, Professor Maury Klein asked, “Is it 1929 all over again?” Is it?

Robert Kuttner: Yes, this is 1929 all over again. For the same reasons. The crash of 1929 was caused by too much speculation, with too much borrowed money, with too many conflicts of interest and too little transparency. And in the 1930′s the New Deal mostly repaired that by much tighter regulation of banks, much stricter supervision of conflict of interest, much greater controls on leverage and much grater disclosure for investors.

But it fixed the problem for the known universe of financial institutions, and after the ’70s all kinds of new exotic financial instruments were invented. And because deregulation came back into fashion, and the right wing really took over the conversation as well as government regulators did not keep up with the new instruments that Wall Street invented. And so all the same kinds of abuses crept back in, and it took about 20 years until the house of cards was so high and so rickety that you then had the same kind of crash.

TH: When did the rolling back of those New Deal measures start?

RK: Well, it’s interesting; it happened in fits and starts. Some of it was deliberate and some of it was simply people taking advantage of other things that had happened. For instance, in the period between 1971 and 1973 the Nixon administration dismantled one of the main pillars of Bretton Woods from 1944, which had created a regime of fixed exchange rates and along the way prevented a great deal of international speculation in currencies

So, after the 1970s little by little you had a whole category of speculation that had been prohibited by the ground rules obtained in the ’50s and ’60s, namely a lot of currency speculation. You had the so-called eurodollar market of dollars that existed in Europe that are not really regulated by anybody.

Then in the ’70s also you had Wall Street taking something that had been the monopoly of Fannie Mae back when Fannie Mae was a public institution and part of the government, namely the securitization of mortgage, and privatizing it, and having lower standards than Fannie Mae did.

Again this was OK from the first decade or so but then when securitized mortgages rendezvoused with subprime and subprime rendezvoused with contracts written against the risk of bonds going bad, the whole house of cards just goes higher and higher and because in the ’80s and the ’90s Democrats fingerprints were on this, too. Regulators were not really interested in keeping up with these new risk products that Wall Street invented.

So, then in 1999, the capstone of this is the repeal of the Glass-Steagall Act. One other aspect of this was Greenspan’s failure to enforce the Home Ownership Equity Protection Act of 1994, which, had Greenspan enforced it, subprime never would have happened, because that legislation required anybody who made mortgage loans to use sound underwriting standards. And you had Democrats and Republicans preventing the Commodity Futures Trading Commission from regulating many categories of derivatives.

So it was in the air, the idea that whatever Wall Street invents is by definition efficient, by definition virtuous, by definition self-regulating, and little by little a whole parallel banking system gets created that is beyond the scope of what the regulators can monitor.

[...]

TH: Beyond enforcing what’s already in place, what needs to be done — and can be done — to put the brakes on this crisis?

RK: Let me reduce it to basic principles, and Barack Obama gave a wonderful speech to this effect on March 28th at Cooper Union in New York, where he basically said if it quacks like a bank it has to be regulated like a bank. He basically said financial institutions should be regulated for what they do, not for what they are.

And that’s the point. So whether you call yourself a commercial bank or an investment bank or a private equity company or Charlie Brown, if you’re giving credit, you are creating risks for the system and you need to be kept honest. So the problem is that in recent years something like 60 percent of the created was created institutions that are not part of banking system, institutions like subprime mortgage institutions and people creating credit swaps and all sorts of exotic derivatives that are not even understood by the people that create them, let alone by the people who buy them or by the regulators.

So you need to eliminate what some people call the shadow banking system, institutions that are not banks but that do what banks to, and every kind of institution needs to have capital requirements, needs to have limitations on leverage, it needs to have limitation of conflicts of interest. And there are some specific abuses, like the abuses on the part of the bond rating agencies that were walking conflicts of interest. And the fact the that derivatives are traded outside of stock exchanges or commodity future exchanges, so that nobody knows what they’re worth until there’s a crisis and and they turn out to be worth nothing.

[...]

TH: One thing Maury Klein pointed out was that the Great Crash and the Great Depression were separate events, the Depression taking more than a year after the crash to make its grip on the economy felt. Have we dodged a depression yet? Can we still?

RK: We’re still in danger of one and whether we have one or not depends entirely on what the next administration does. A depression is preventable and I think there are four things that the next administration has to do. This administration has done one of them rather badly, and it hasn’t done the other three at all.

The first thing it has to do is recapitalize the financial system. And Paulson has gone about that in a very clumsy way.

If the government and the taxpayers are going to put money into banks, they need much greater supervision of banks, not just the banks that get the money but the banking system in general. So the second thing we need to do is re-regulate it to that you don’t invite more speculation, more bubbles and more crashes and more bailouts.

The third thing we need to do is put a floor under housing prices. The way Paulson has gone about this, you rescue the banks, you rescue the bondholders, and if the mortgage holder gets any relief, it’s incidental or accidental. We need direct federal refinancing of mortgages, so that this downward spiral of housing prices ceases.

And then most importantly we need massive public spending to compensate for the huge hit that demand is taking. Some of that can be deficit-financed in the short run. Some of it can be financed by raising taxes on very wealthy people, and winding down the war.

And if the next president does all those things, we’ll have a recession but we won’t have a depression. If the president lets this thing get out of control and plays catch-up we could well have a depression.

What’s interesting is that if you look at how long it took after October 24th for the air to come out of the economy, and those were the years when Hoover dithered and didn’t do enough to prevent a crash from turning in to a depression, and that’s why it’s so important that the next president get out ahead of this.

Read the whole article on Alternet.

Tom Philpott: Notes from Terra Madre

Tuesday, October 28th, 2008

Every two years, “the Terra Madre Network brings together food communities, cooks, academics and youth delegates for four days to work towards increasing small-scale, traditional, and sustainable food production.” This year, the artisanal food conference was held in Turin, Italy. Tom Philpott, writing for the Gristmill blog, was there to document it.

On Day One, Tom ran into Chelsea Green authors Sandor Katz and Jeffrey Roberts, the gurus of fermentation and artisan cheese, respectively. Their enthusiasm was infectious and their knowledge heartening, and turned what promised to be a a tasty but uninspiring trade show on olives, vinegar, and cured meat into a delightful gastronomic adventure, with a look at some little-known—and endangered—foods.

Yesterday I left off at the Presidia section of the Salone del Gusto, having met up with my friend the fermentation scholar and teacher Sandor Katz, and his friend the food scholar Jeffrey Roberts, author of The Atlas of American [Artisan] Cheese.

By that point, I was overwhelmed by the variety on display and unsure what to make of it all. Sandor’s enthusiasm changed all that. “We’re sampling some English pear cider,” he informed me. “Only she won’t let us call it that,” he whispered, glancing briefly in the direction of a formidable elderly British woman. “She calls it something different.”

She called it “perry” — and it was delicious: dry, slightly sharp, ever so slightly carbonated. Turned out it was from some sort of heirloom pear variety from the British countryside, in danger of going extinct if people stop making cider — I mean, perry — from it.

And that’s what the Presidia section was about. While the main part of the Salone del Gusto focused on prestigious Italian producers of well-established stuff — think Parmigiano-Reggiano and Prosciutto di Parma — the Presidia part focused on quirky products. And the producers hailed from all over the world, including, but not limited to, Italy.

And it’s here where I think Slow Food has done essential work — not just in terms of gastronomy, but also in terms of future sustainability.

Here’s a paradox of the modern food world: Italy, now universally hailed as a culinary nation par excellence, was until very recently largely a poor country. Indeed, the entire Mediterranean region — celebrated for its healthy and delicious cuisine — was riddled for centuries with a stunning lack of food.

Clifford A. Wright’s ironically titled A Mediterranean Feast documents the crushing poverty under which the great majority of Mediterraneans labored under for centuries. Under heavy population pressure and with few resources, Mediterranean peasants worked miracles in the field and in the kitchen to survive.

And in doing so, they created the diet now so widely admired. As we enter an era marked by population pressure and increasingly scarce resources, we may well have vital lessons to learn from these artisan peasants. Slow Food deserves great credit for fighting to preserve remaining traditions from this era.

Read the whole article here.

Read Tom’s entry from Day One of the show here.

[Thanks to multimedia.slowfood.it for the image.]

LISTEN: George Lakoff: Obama May Be the Democratic Reagan

Tuesday, October 28th, 2008

Author George Lakoff recently spoke to Mark Green on the Air America program 7 Days in America about cognitive science, Republican marketing, the voter’s brain, and Barack Obama’s contagious cool.

The following is an excerpt from the transcript, originally posted on the Huffington Post:

GREEN: Explain to our listeners your analysis of how the brain’s functions affects the way people vote.

LAKOFF: Well, it’s straight out of neuroscience and cognitive science…. We all grew up with a view of reason that goes like this: that reason is conscious, that it is dispassionate (that emotion gets in the way of it), that it is literal (it can fit the world exactly as it is), that it is logical, that it is universal (we all have the same reason), that it is abstract, and that it is based on self-interest…. [But] it turns out every single part of that is empirically false, and disproved in neuroscience and cognitive science. First of all, 98 percent of our reason is unconscious; it’s what our brain is doing when we’re busy being conscious. Second, it turns out that you can’t be rational without being emotional; emotional is necessary for rationality.

GREEN: How do Republicans use this insight to their political advantage?

LAKOFF: They come out of marketing, and since the early 70s they’ve been marketing their product very well — and they’ve built the institutions to do so. They’ve spent over four billion dollars so far on think tanks, they have training institutes, they have bought media, and they come out every day with language that they’ve developed for their ideas, which they’ve repeated over and over. And the more you repeat the language for a frame or a metaphor, every time that happens, that frame or metaphor is activated in the brain, the synapses of the brain get stronger, and that becomes part of your brain.

GREEN: Can your analysis explain how Obama beat Clinton in the primaries?

LAKOFF: Well, first of all, Ronald Reagan learned from all of this that people vote not on the basis of positions on issues and on programs but on five things. Namely, values, communication and connection, trust, authenticity (do you tell the truth), and identity (do you identify with the candidate). Obama understood that, and ran his campaign that way. Clinton ran on the basis of positions on issues, and bored people, basically. She didn’t run on those five things. Now, Obama had the positions on issues and all the experts, but that’s not how he ran his operation against Clinton.

GREEN: OK, but now in the general election, is Obama’s lead based on his positions on the issues — the 2% of conscious decision-making according to you — or on the other 98% based on images, stories, style and “authenticity”?

LAKOFF: Both. First, there’s a very important fact, which is we have what are called “mirror neurons,” that is, when the same neurons are firing when we perform an action as when we see someone else perform them, and that means that we react to people’s bodies. When we see Obama, our bodies are loose because his body is loose: we feel comfortable in our skins. McCain is never comfortable in his skin: you feel tense when you see McCain. So body language is one important part of this. In addition, the most important concepts in the campaign that Obama is running is not “change,” because “change” doesn’t tell you anything. The most important concepts are the unconscious ones that he occasionally consciously talks about: empathy (caring about other people, having a government that cares about other people), responsibility (not just for yourself, but also social responsibility and community responsibility), and aspiration (for yourself, for your children, for your community and your country).

GREEN: Can the Republican ticket overcome his natural skills here by relentless personal attacks that appeal to the 98% of our brains that are not conscious?

LAKOFF: Well, this goes back to the late 60′s. One of the things that Lee Atwater and his friends figured out in the Nixon campaign was to create the idea of the liberal elite: the tax-and-spend liberals, the Hollywood liberals, the limousine liberals who looked down on working people, the liberal media who made fun of working people. And they repeated that over and over for 40 years through their institutions that repeat this day after day. As a result, they created a bunch of folks through brain change: namely, the conservative populists. And that’s who they were appealing to; they were trying to get the conservative populists in Ohio, Pennsylvania, many of the Democratic states to vote Republican, because these were among the Reagan Democrats

GREEN: Might Obama’s intellectual style — the way he’s so linear, logcial, legal — be a liability by only appealing to 2%?

LAKOFF: If you read his books, he is great at the other 98%. He’s a grand storyteller, the stories are about metaphor. He’s a master at those things, and he’s thinking about the economy and foreign policy in a very imaginative way.

GREEN: Beyond ideology then, is Obama the Democratic Reagan?

LAKOFF: He may very well be, because he can bring people together, he can communicate amazingly, he has a charisma beyond anything that we’ve seen since Bobby Kennedy, and because he’s really deep. He’s not just smart, not just intellectual, not just rational — this is a person who is really deep.

Read the whole article here,

~OR~

  Listen to the interview here.

Food Glorious Food

Tuesday, October 28th, 2008

Michael Pollan is our second favorite writer on food. (Hey, we’re Chelsea Green after all. Our own writers are all tied for first.) Ezra Klein also likes Michael Pollan, and Pollan’s recent NYT Magazine article got Ezra thinking (and blogging) about food issues. And then readers of Ezra’s blog got to commenting. And that lead Ezra to write this interesting post, “Why is bad food cheap?

Put aside the externalities. The weight gain and the chronic diseases and the carbon pumped into the atmosphere. Bracket it, as my college political science professors used to say. There’s a tendency to believe bad food is simply cheap. We make it like that because it saves us money. Sometimes, that’s true. More often, it’s not. Bad food is subsidized. Take high-fructose corn syrup. These days, the average American consumes almost 60 pounds of the stuff each year. Forty years ago, they consumed a pound or two of corn-based sweeteners. What happened? Well, high fructose corn syrup was invented. But that wasn’t enough. It’s not — or at least, was not — naturally cheaper than sugar. It’s subsidized:

He also takes on the example of concentrated feedlot production of meat animals. Again: it’s not the “free market” that makes them a cheaper system for producing meat, it’s badly conceived and politically inertia’ed subsidy policies. I spend my fair share of time harshing on “free markets,” but I’m not foolish enough to think that that’s the only system that can fail. Sometimes it is definitely the lesser evil.

Anyhow, reader comments to that posting led Ezra to draft yet another on the food topic that clarified some of what he was trying to show, and you might want to see that as well.

But more interesting, to me at least, was what was still to come. (That Ezra really likes his food blogging!) This time it was more on the political side of the “political economy” equation.

I have enormous respect for Pollan as an author, so it’s odd to say this, but I think some of the problem here might have been in the writing. The discussions of subsidies — the key issue in food policy — is subsumed within section one’s discussion of polycultures. They exist in the piece, but not clearly, and not with sufficient force. Sections two and three, on “reregionalizing” food and changing our food culture, are important, but from a policy perspective, rather muddled. The polycultures portion did come first, so there’s evidence that Pollan thought it most important. But I think he’s focusing on the wrong end of the issue: We need to dismantle the subsidies before we can really talk about incentivizing different agricultural behavior. To do otherwise is to put the tractor before that weird machine that sprays pesticides.

Laskawy also links to the Q&A with Pollan, where he engages the political economy of the issue. And I’d argue that this is actually a more compelling and important idea than anything that appears in the actual piece:

Michael Pollan: An Open Letter to the Next Farmer-in-Chief

Monday, October 27th, 2008

Michael Pollan, author of The Omnivore’s Dilemma, contributed this open letter to the next President-Elect advising him on how to deal with the coming food crisis. The modern American industrial food system is so complex that the issue touches on aspects of health care, national security, energy independence, and climate change.

The following is an excerpt:

Dear Mr. President-Elect,

It may surprise you to learn that among the issues that will occupy much of your time in the coming years is one you barely mentioned during the campaign: food. Food policy is not something American presidents have had to give much thought to, at least since the Nixon administration — the last time high food prices presented a serious political peril. Since then, federal policies to promote maximum production of the commodity crops (corn, soybeans, wheat and rice) from which most of our supermarket foods are derived have succeeded impressively in keeping prices low and food more or less off the national political agenda. But with a suddenness that has taken us all by surprise, the era of cheap and abundant food appears to be drawing to a close. What this means is that you, like so many other leaders through history, will find yourself confronting the fact — so easy to overlook these past few years — that the health of a nation’s food system is a critical issue of national security. Food is about to demand your attention.

Complicating matters is the fact that the price and abundance of food are not the only problems we face; if they were, you could simply follow Nixon’s example, appoint a latter-day Earl Butz as your secretary of agriculture and instruct him or her to do whatever it takes to boost production. But there are reasons to think that the old approach won’t work this time around; for one thing, it depends on cheap energy that we can no longer count on. For another, expanding production of industrial agriculture today would require you to sacrifice important values on which you did campaign. Which brings me to the deeper reason you will need not simply to address food prices but to make the reform of the entire food system one of the highest priorities of your administration: unless you do, you will not be able to make significant progress on the health care crisis, energy independence or climate change. Unlike food, these are issues you did campaign on — but as you try to address them you will quickly discover that the way we currently grow, process and eat food in America goes to the heart of all three problems and will have to change if we hope to solve them. Let me explain.

After cars, the food system uses more fossil fuel than any other sector of the economy — 19 percent. And while the experts disagree about the exact amount, the way we feed ourselves contributes more greenhouse gases to the atmosphere than anything else we do — as much as 37 percent, according to one study. Whenever farmers clear land for crops and till the soil, large quantities of carbon are released into the air. But the 20th-century industrialization of agriculture has increased the amount of greenhouse gases emitted by the food system by an order of magnitude; chemical fertilizers (made from natural gas), pesticides (made from petroleum), farm machinery, modern food processing and packaging and transportation have together transformed a system that in 1940 produced 2.3 calories of food energy for every calorie of fossil-fuel energy it used into one that now takes 10 calories of fossil-fuel energy to produce a single calorie of modern supermarket food. Put another way, when we eat from the industrial-food system, we are eating oil and spewing greenhouse gases. This state of affairs appears all the more absurd when you recall that every calorie we eat is ultimately the product of photosynthesis — a process based on making food energy from sunshine. There is hope and possibility in that simple fact.

In addition to the problems of climate change and America’s oil addiction, you have spoken at length on the campaign trail of the health care crisis. Spending on health care has risen from 5 percent of national income in 1960 to 16 percent today, putting a significant drag on the economy. The goal of ensuring the health of all Americans depends on getting those costs under control. There are several reasons health care has gotten so expensive, but one of the biggest, and perhaps most tractable, is the cost to the system of preventable chronic diseases. Four of the top 10 killers in America today are chronic diseases linked to diet: heart disease, stroke, Type 2 diabetes and cancer. It is no coincidence that in the years national spending on health care went from 5 percent to 16 percent of national income, spending on food has fallen by a comparable amount — from 18 percent of household income to less than 10 percent. While the surfeit of cheap calories that the U.S. food system has produced since the late 1970s may have taken food prices off the political agenda, this has come at a steep cost to public health. You cannot expect to reform the health care system, much less expand coverage, without confronting the public-health catastrophe that is the modern American diet.

The impact of the American food system on the rest of the world will have implications for your foreign and trade policies as well. In the past several months more than 30 nations have experienced food riots, and so far one government has fallen. Should high grain prices persist and shortages develop, you can expect to see the pendulum shift decisively away from free trade, at least in food. Nations that opened their markets to the global flood of cheap grain (under pressure from previous administrations as well as the World Bank and the I.M.F.) lost so many farmers that they now find their ability to feed their own populations hinges on decisions made in Washington (like your predecessor’s precipitous embrace of biofuels) and on Wall Street. They will now rush to rebuild their own agricultural sectors and then seek to protect them by erecting trade barriers. Expect to hear the phrases “food sovereignty” and “food security” on the lips of every foreign leader you meet. Not only the Doha round, but the whole cause of free trade in agriculture is probably dead, the casualty of a cheap food policy that a scant two years ago seemed like a boon for everyone. It is one of the larger paradoxes of our time that the very same food policies that have contributed to overnutrition in the first world are now contributing to undernutrition in the third. But it turns out that too much food can be nearly as big a problem as too little — a lesson we should keep in mind as we set about designing a new approach to food policy.

Read the whole article here.

Matthew Stein and The Failure of the Free Market

Monday, October 27th, 2008

Matthew Stein, author of When Technology Fails: A Manual for Self-Reliance, Sustainability, and Surviving the Long Emergency, just published this article to The Huffington Post about the failure we’re witnessing of the free markets and trickle-down economics.

Here’s an excerpt:

Unregulated greed will result in the demise of our planet just as surely as it is causing the collapse of our economy.

There has been a morbid fascination lately in watching the “greed bubble” collapse, taking with it what is left of the equity in many American’s homes at the same time as their retirement investments evaporate before their eyes. If allowed continued free reign, the same unregulated greed that resulted in the Great Depression also led to today’s financial crisis and will just as surely take down the environmental systems of our planet.

What is the “free market” anyways? It is the basic philosophy that the laws of “supply and demand” will automatically regulate the pricing, manufacture and supply of goods and services. “The Free Market” essentially puts our planet’s environmental resources up for sale to the quickest bidder who can consume and process those resources with maximum efficiency and speed to capitalize on available profits before the next guy gets to them first. Do we really want to continue putting our planet up for a once-in-a lifetime “fire sale”?

Free market corporate decision makers are responsible to their stockholders for maximizing the profitability of their corporations. In today’s global market, unless a corporation is operating in a highly profitable niche market, this usually means mass producing products where labor is cheapest (essentially slave labor), environmental controls are at a minimum, and with little concern or regard for the future sustainability of the world. Spending extra money in any of these areas would cut into profits and may impair that corporate entity’s ability to compete with other corporations that are already operating without ethical concerns for the welfare of their workers, pollution of the environment, consumption of nonrenewable resources, and so on. Society often applauds and rewards the corporate warrior whose dedication to the “bottom line” dictates the cold-hearted decision to replace older workers nearing the top of their pay scale with younger associates who are willing to work longer hours for half the pay of their more seasoned counterparts, or lay off thousands of American workers as they close local manufacturing facilities while opening similar plants in offshore locations.

 Read the full article here.

US to Open Federal Lands for Geothermal Energy

Monday, October 27th, 2008

Once in a while, we Grasshoppers© will take a few minutes out of our whirlwind day to “chat” about the relevant issues of the day.

Here’s one such chat (via Skype):

dp
How do you feel about opening up federal land for geothermal energy?

jte
1. okay so long as it doesn’t entail ruination of otherwise “wild” land
2. okay so long as reasonable fees are required from private businesses that utilize the public resource.
2a. “reasonable fees” are those that don’t inhibit the utilization of the resource (see point 1) but that also don’t hand high profit resources to private businesses for cheap.

dp
“proceeds shared by local, state and federal governments”

jte
2b. just cuz they say proceeds will be shared by governments doesn’t tell us how much proceeds there will be.
e.g. on forest lands, sometimes they charge like $1 per acre to loggers. the loggers can make a lot of money and the governments have very little to share with one another.
it shouldn’t be that hard to estimate the commercial value of the geothermal energy ventures…
…and the cost of building the infrastructure and all that…
and so figuring out how high the fees would have to be before the expected profits become too measly.

dp
the article also doesn’t say whether the land is “wild” or not—only that it’s not Yellowstone

jte
national parks are a tiny little drop in the federal land holdings.
they are the “crown jewels” but millions of acres of land—much of it mostly undeveloped—is in the form of national forest and under the control of the bureau of land management. (or something like that)

dp
are they going to have to cut down a bunch of trees to get to the geothermal?

jte
yes, but hopefully only as a city person would define ‘bunch.’ i mean, hundreds or thousands of trees will have to be cut for sure,

dp
hm

jte
but if that is out of 10 million trees in the relevant area then it probably doesn’t matter.
if it involves the creation of lots of new roads into previously roadless areas, that’s a problem. (see point 1)
if the new roads are minimal, then we’ve got ourselves a deal.
but all in all, could definitely be a great thing and a good piece of the G.O.R.E. Project.

Here’s an excerpt from the piece that started it all, from MSNBC.com:

WASHINGTON – The Interior Department plans to make available 190 million acres of federal land in a dozen Western states for development of geothermal energy projects—a move that could produce enough clean electricity for 5 million homes.

Interior Secretary Dirk Kempthorne said Wednesday that under a leasing program, as many as 270 communities could benefit from direct use of geothermal energy, generated from intense heat deep beneath the Earth.

“Geothermal energy is replenished, is a renewable resource that generates electricity with minimal carbon emissions …(and) reduces the need for conventional energy sources,” said Kempthorne.

[...]

The plan, expected to be made final in two months, calls for leasing land to project developers with the proceeds shared by local, state and federal governments.

[...]

He said it is estimated that the available leases could produce enough energy to generate 5,540 megawatts of electricity, enough to power 5.5 million homes. Geothermal energy also can be used directly for heating buildings.

“Today both city and state buildings in Boise are heated and powered by some of Idaho’s geothermal resources,” Kempthorne, a former mayor of Boise and former Idaho governor, said in a conference call with reporters.

Read the whole article here.

Video: Naomi Wolf Discusses the Fascist Threat Against America on the Today Show

Sunday, October 26th, 2008

On October 17th, Naomi Wolf, author of The End of America: Letter of Warning to a Young Patriot, appeared on NBC’s Today Show in an interview with Meredith Vieira.

Naomi lays out the ten steps that have been taken toward American fascism (wire-tapping, suspension of habeus corpus, ignoring posse comitatus, etc.) and the threat they pose to American citizens. Meredith tries to paint Naomi as a leftist fear-monger, and Naomi does a great job explaining that this is not a partisan issue and that she is not just scaring up votes for Obama.

Despite Meredith’s dismissive performance, it’s a great interview and on major national television. Way to go Naomi!

Video: Simran Sethi Discredits the Political Push for “Clean Coal” and Nuclear

Sunday, October 26th, 2008

Simran Sethi, co-author of Ethical Markets: Growing the Green Economy, appeared on Brave New Foundation’s MeetTheBloggers a few weeks ago and gave a concise argument against the recent political push for more nuclear and “clean coal” power generation. She also explains where our nation’s energy money should go, and why.

Video: Diane Wilson Interviewed at Fairfield University

Saturday, October 25th, 2008

Diane Wilson, author of An Unreasonable Woman: A True Story of Shrimpers, Politicos, Polluters, and the Fight for Seadrift, Texas and Holy Roller: Growing Up in the Church of Knock Down, Drag Out; or, How I Quit Loving a Blue-Eyed Jesus, recently visited Fairfield University in Fairfield, Connecticut where she was interviewed by Finding Our Way, one of the school campus television programs.

Diane speaks about her arrests, founding Code Pink, and both of her books.


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