Archive for April, 2009

Armentano: Legalizing Pot Makes Lots of Cents for Our Cash-Starved Government

Friday, April 24th, 2009

“Legalizing cannabis just makes sense. So why aren’t we doing it?” —Paul Armentano, co-author of Marijuana Is Safer: So Why Are We Driving People to Drink? (Chelsea Green, Fall 2009)

From Alternet:

What could you do with an extra $14 billion? Members of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML) and other like-minded organizations will be asking government officials that very question on April 15 when they present a mock check to the U.S. Treasury.

“We represent the millions of otherwise law-abiding cannabis consumers who are ready, willing, vocal and able to contribute needed tax revenue to America’s struggling economy,” says Allen St. Pierre, NORML’s executive director. “All we ask in exchange for our $14 billion is that our government respects our decision to use marijuana privately and responsibly.”

But it’s not just NORML calling on lawmakers to tax and regulate marijuana. In today’s economic climate, the question is: Who isn’t?

Late last month, during President Barack Obama’s first-ever Internet town hall, questions pertaining to whether legalizing marijuana like alcohol could help boost the economy received more votes from the public than did any other topic.

The questions’ popularity — and the president’s half-hearted reply (“No,” he said and laughed.) — stimulated a torrent of mainstream media attention. In the past two weeks alone, commentators like David Sirota (The Nation), Kathleen Parker (Washington Post), Paul Jacob (, Clarence Page (Chicago Tribune) and Jack Cafferty (CNN) have expressed sympathy for regulating pot. Even Joe Klein at Time magazine weighed in on the issue, writing this month that “legalizing marijuana makes sense.”

It makes cents, too.

According to a 2005 analysis by Harvard University senior lecturer Jeffrey Miron — and endorsed by over 500 distinguished economists — replacing pot prohibition with a system of taxation and regulation similar to that used for alcohol would produce combined savings and tax revenues of between $10 billion and $14 billion per year.

A separate economic analysis conducted by George Mason University professor Jon Gettman in 2007 estimates that the total amount of tax revenue derived from cannabis could be far higher. According to Gettman, the retail value of the total U.S. marijuana market now stands at a whopping $113 billion per year.

Read the whole article here.


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Woody Tasch Talks Sustainable Cash on The Peter Laufer Show

Thursday, April 23rd, 2009

Woody Tasch, author of Inquiries into the Nature of Slow Money: Investing as if Food, Farms, and Fertility Mattered, spoke with Peter Laufer (Mission Rejected: U.S. Soldiers Who Say No to Iraq) on The Peter Laufer Show concerning the nascent slow money movement (recently featured on NPR).

The slow money movement is, I guess you’d say, as it sounds, which is part of the beauty of it. It’s an alternative to fast money, which is something which, you know, if we tried to talk about it as recently as six months or a year ago probably would have had a very different response in the general public, certainly in the investing public…. I did not write this book in the last six months as a response to the, quote, correction, or crash, or whatever it is we’re going through or about to go through…. I’ve been working on this for thirty years in one way or another.

Listen Now (The Woody Tasch interview begins at about 23:00.)

Robert Kuttner Stands Up for Single-Payer Health Care

Thursday, April 23rd, 2009

Two nationally known health care policy thinkers will be in Vermont this week, engaging in a debate over health care organized by the Janus forum at UVM.

One of the two figures mentioned above is Robert Kuttner, co-founder and co-editor of The American Prospect and author of Obama’s Challenge: America’s Economic Crisis and the Power of a Transformative Presidency. He’ll be arguing on the side of single-payer, universal health care. He’ll be debating Arnold Kling of the Conservative think tank the Cato Institute, who, in his own VPR interview, tossed off scary Conservative buzzwords like “rationing,” “bureaucrats,” and “loss of choice” (irony, anyone?) without actually offering any new ideas—unless “that won’t work” counts as an idea.

Update: David Corn, Washington bureau chief of Mother Jones magazine, replaced Robert Kuttner in the debate; Robert was forced to withdraw due to illness (which actually sort of underscores the need for a good healthcare safety net in this country). Feel better, Bob!

LISTEN NOW: Robert Kuttner discusses single-payer health care on VPR

Naomi Wolf: Investigating Torture, Congress? Look in the Mirror.

Thursday, April 23rd, 2009

Naomi Wolf, author of The End of America: Letter of Warning to a Young Patriot, warns that going after rank-and-file soldiers and operatives who committed torture is just scapegoating at its shameful worst. As in the Nuremberg trials, we need to go after and prosecute the masterminds—the architects of the legal rationale, and those at the top who handed down the orders—starting with Rumsfeld, Cheney, Rice, and Bush.

From the Huffington Post:

As citizens’ outrage over the torture memos heats up, and Congress is barraged with calls to appoint a special prosecutor, we may be about to commit an egregious error.

Today Republicans accused Democrats in Congress of having “blood on your hands too” in relation to the escalating calls to investigate. I would like to say that this is exactly right.

I will go further: not only do Congressional Democrats have “blood on their hands” — but so do we, the American people. And CIA agents may be about to be sacrificed to assuage their, and our, guilt.

Today’s suddenly urgent calls by our Congressional Democratic leaders, and even by many of the American people, to prosecute CIA operatives, military men and women and contractors who were certainly involved with, colluded in or turned a blind eye to torture are not only the height of hypocrisy, they are a form of unconscionable scapegoating. The scapegoating is political on the part of Congressional leaders, and psychological on the part of many Americans who are now “shocked, shocked” at what was done in their name.

Hello, America? Hello? Were you asleep for the past seven years? The fact that the Bush administration used torture for the past seven years has been the furthest thing from a secret. When the political winds were with the last administration, which framed qualms about torture as being soft on “the war on terror,” just about every Congressional Democrat fell right into line to accept it, if not cheer it on. Even Hillary Clinton supported torture, right up through her Presidential run. Nancy Pelosi was briefed on the torture in closed-door meetings. When activist groups and citizens called for a special prosecutor, all we heard from Congressional Democrats was that they did not wish to spend the political capital. [...]

So we should call for former chief judge of the army General James Cullen’s solution. He has been at the forefront of calling for accountability — but the right kind of accountability: Cullen urges us to indemnify those lower down the chain of command to get their testimonies. So they implicate the ringleaders, and then the only people who should be prosecuted are, as at Nuremberg, those who directed otherwise honorable men and women to commit crimes: the lawyers, and those who are on record having given the orders: Rice, Cheney, Rumsfeld, and Bush himself. The psychiatrist who reverse-engineered the SERE tactics should be prosecuted as well.

Read the whole article here.


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WATCH: Mat Stein’s 10 Steps to Saving Ourselves Before It’s Too Late

Thursday, April 23rd, 2009

Matthew Stein, author of When Technology Fails: A Manual for Self-Reliance, Sustainability, and Surviving the Long Emergency, sits down with the folks at Sustainability Television to talk about his book, which has been described as the bible of emergency preparedness and green and healthy living.

When I first wrote the book, it was pre-9/11 and pre-Hurricane Katrina. The world was a very different place…. Really, things couldn’t be much better in the short run, and this sort of bomb got dropped in my lap, the inspiration to write this book about dealing with a world where things are changing and shifting, and what we take for granted may not always be there so consistently.

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WATCH: Lewis Black: A Bucket of Humanure and One Dead Spongebob

Wednesday, April 22nd, 2009

Folks, if you really want to get people to abandon their wasteful ways and embrace a greener lifestyle, you’ve got to get ‘em while they’re young. As a child I remember watching all the kid-oriented Earth Day programming with rapt attention. I even watched Captain Planet—and Captain Planet was not a good show.

That’s the lesson we should all take away from Lewis Black’s “Back in Black” segment on The Daily Show with Jon Stewart. Kids’ minds are like empty, pristine buckets just waiting to be filled with knowledge, compassion, and—if you want to get really ambitious—human poop.

The Daily Show With Jon Stewart M – Th 11p / 10c
Back in Black – Kids’ Earth Day
Daily Show
Full Episodes
Economic Crisis Political Humor

Who knew saving the world could feel so good?
—Lewis Black, The Daily Show with Jon Stewart

WATCH: We are Rats in a Global Chemical Experiment

Wednesday, April 22nd, 2009

Mark Schapiro, editorial director of the Center for Investigative Reporting and author of Exposed: The Toxic Chemistry of Everyday Products and What’s at Stake for American Power, recently participated in Current:Green’s Earth Day question series. In this video, Mark addresses the following question:

Here’s my Earth Day burning question. How bad are the chemicals that are found in things like everyday household items? And how do these chemicals affect our health and the earth?

Here’s the transcript:

The thing that concerns me most about toxic chemicals is this thought: that we—over the past 50 years or so—have been participants in this great global experiment as to what the effect of chemicals are on the human body. And we’re talking here about the substances that human beings have not evolved over millions of years to metabolize—these are wholly new synthetic substances. And one of the things that’s been happening over the last number of years is the results from this experiment are coming in. And what they’re telling us is that there are higher rates of cancer in the United States and elsewhere in the world, higher rates of reproductive troubles among young women and young men, higher rates of problems of the nervous system, and that over and over again we’re seeing these conditions.

At the same time, toxicologists have basically begun to identify the particular characteristics of some of these chemicals that we see in things like cosmetics and electronics and toys and a whole array of consumer products that we deal with on a regular basis. And what we have now is a government which does not have the ability to even regulate these substances—often they don’t even have the power to analyze the ingredients in a whole array of substances. I think it’s about time that that begin to change, because I—like I imagine you—don’t really fancy being a rat in this global experiment.

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Walk Out for Earth Day: Chelsea Green’s Recommendations for Proper Celebration

Wednesday, April 22nd, 2009

In case you weren’t already made aware by the media frenzy running rampant across the green bolognasphere, today is Earth Day. So, we here at Chelsea Green have only one question for you…What are you still doing at your desk?! Get up! Go! Walk out of the office and go enjoy the natural world! I give you permission. You weren’t meant to spend your life indoors, “being productive,” working at a desk, staring at an electronic screen! You were meant to work with nature, grow your own food, build your own shelter, travel…on foot!

We, as a people, have lost our connection to the Earth. We spend all day inside, or in a car, which we park inside, and walk into our climate controlled homes…safe from our scary neighbors. The climate troubles we’re experiencing, the unnatural arrogance we’re displaying, the stress we’re carrying, and the disconnectedness we suffer through all stem from the fact that we’re living unnatural, disconnected lives. Today, Earth Day, should not be a day devoted to guilting you into living a life more in-line with a marketer’s idea of the “green lifestyle.” It should be a day celebrating (and re-establishing) our natural connection to the Earth. We should be learning and understanding WHY we should build sustainable lives, not only HOW.

So, in the interest of helping you reconnect with the Earth, I’ve put together this quick list of recommendations for how to celebrate Earth Day. Do them in order. Optional where noted.

  1. Look out your window.
  2. Stand up. Leave your desk.
  3. Run out of your office, screaming, “I’m going to my garden! You drones can’t stop me!”
  4. Flip off your boss. (Mooning optional.)
  5. Stop running. Apologize. Continue running.
  6. Drive to your garden (if you have one) or the nearest park (if there is one) or to West Virginia (if you live in New Jersey).
  7. Find a rock. Threaten your cellphone with it. (So it REALLY knows you hate it.)
  8. Find a spot in the sunshine and lie down in the grass. Away from the highways. Away from the city.
  9. Breathe. Slowly.
  10. Dig your hands in the dirt.
  11. Contemplate your food. Your shelter. Your family. Your time left on Earth.
  12. Contemplate your job.
  13. Take cell phone picture of your middle finger. Send it to your boss.
  14. Sleep in the sunshine.

From all of us ne’er-do-wells at Chelsea Green: Enjoy your Earth Day!

WATCH: How Green Are You? Are You ACTUALLY Green?

Wednesday, April 22nd, 2009

SuperNews! is an animated sketch comedy series airing on Current TV every Friday night at 10 PM ET/PT. In their Earth Day episode, they take on the issue of green-wannabes. You know…those friends of yours who talk a big game but continue to drive SUVs, use plastic shopping bags, buy “disposable” items, drink bottled water, run air conditioners, buy gas from Mobil, drive past the farmers’ market on the way to the Wal-Mart, get attitudie when you say ‘localvore,’ leave the lights on, think you mean Star Wars when you talk about “phantom load.” Yeah. Them.

Eco-Love from Treehugger for The Carbon-Free Home

Wednesday, April 22nd, 2009

Yay! Treehugger just gave high marks to Stephen and Rebekah Hren‘s The Carbon-Free Home: 36 Remodeling Projects to Help Kick the Fossil-Fuel Habit. Nice to get a little love from an organization we deeply respect.

The Hrens have learned the hard way, and pass on their experiences, from their first attempt in a cob house they built thirty miles out of town, from their realization that driving that distance negated all the carbon savings and that they were not competent farmers, and then the move back into town.

They then take us through what they did to their house, doing the math and showing us how, all with links, references and cute little drawings.

Some of the projects are easy, that anyone could do; others are a lot more complicated, like this extraordinary solar wall oven.

Looking at Windows

I am preoccupied by windows, and use them as my test to judge what the writers’ values are. Here the Hrens are music to my ears:

In our opinion, replacing a functioning window that could potentially last many decades if not several centuries with a window that will be defunct in twenty years is planned obsolescence designed to sell as much product as possible. It is inherently energy inefficient and not viable in the long run.

They also do a very sensible bang-for-the-buck analysis of solar power comparing photovoltaics to solar hot water, and a wonderful comparison of biofuels to bicycles, noting that 41 pounds of soybeans made into biodiesel will push a car 30 miles, but if fed to a cyclist, the same number of calories would push that bike 3,332 miles.[...]

When the book was written, the big front-of-mind issue was climate and energy; now it is money and the economy. Yet every trick that Stephen and Rebekah teach us will save money in heating, cooling, transportation and food, from their freedom from utility bills to their rooftop vegetable garden. Whatever your reasons for going carbon free, this book is the operating manual.

Read the whole review here.

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