Thursday, June 30, 2011

Global Disruption, Global Diaspora, Global Systems Collapse

Headlines don't just include Al Gore's newest essay, published in Rolling Stone magazine. Take a look at the last three days worth, on Democracy Now, but first, a bit on Gore's newest article blogged by the Washington Post:

Al Gore strikes back in Rolling Stone article

By Conor Williams

Former vice president Al Gore isn't known for his great political timing, so perhaps it's no surprise that he's published an environmental broadside in Rolling Stone during a week in which there's almost no political oxygen left. The Beltway is clogged with dreary economic news, debt ceiling worries and President Obama's Afghanistan speech. Even given Gore's prodigious talent for generating heat, he's fighting a losing battle.

That's a shame. Because it's worth a read.

[T]he scientific consensus [on climate change] is even stronger. It has been endorsed by every National Academy of science of every major country on the planet, every major professional scientific society related to the study of global warming and 98 percent of climate scientists throughout the world. In the latest and most authoritative study by 3,000 of the very best scientific experts in the world, the evidence was judged "unequivocal."

Gore goes on to lament that widespread denial of these facts makes meaningful political action on climate change nigh on impossible.

What is it that makes some of us so reticent to take climate scientists seriously? Gore spends a lot of time blasting corporate-funded climate denial. But what makes some Americans willing to listen to it? Climate scientists aren't completely drowned out of the public square, but their message seems to fall on deaf ears.

Read, Climate of Denial here --


Leading U.S. Climate Scientist: Current Extreme Weather in Line with Climate Change

A top U.S. government climate scientist said this past spring had some of the most extreme weather the country has seen in the past century with epic floods, massive wildfires, drought and deadly tornadoes. Deke Arndt, the chief of climate monitoring for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, said the extreme weather is in line with what is forecast for the future as a consequence of global warming. Arndt said, "In general, but not everywhere, it is expected that the wetter places will get wetter and the drier places will tend to see more prolonged dry periods."

Drought In Somalia Causes Mass Influx Of Climate Refugees To Kenya

In climate news, the aid group, Save the Children, is reporting the massive drought in Somalia has resulted in a mass influx of climate refugees fleeing for Kenya. The group estimates 800 Somali children cross into Kenya every day to escape the drought. The United Nations estimates the drought has impacted 10 million people in Djibouti, Ethiopia, Kenya, Somalia and Uganda. Mark Bowden is the United Nations Humanitarian Coordinator for Somalia.

Mark Bowden, United Nations Humanitarian Coordinator for Somalia: "My final message is that we need to take action if we’re to avert a far larger scale of crisis. There are worrying reports from international agencies working in south Somalia that levels of malnutrition are increasing, possibly some rates of adult malnutrition which I think is a very critical indicator of the levels of distress that are being faced in the area. Unless we are able to take action now, I think that we are likely to see not just more migration, but a level of deaths in Somalia that takes us back almost 20 years and certainly has been unparalleled in the recent decade."

Extreme weather from Texas to Somalia may indicate that a new era of climate war is upon us. Just this month, massive floods have shut down two nuclear power facilities in Nebraska. In New Mexico, the nation’s top nuclear weapons lab in Los Alamos is being threatened by an uncontrolled wildfire. Meanwhile, the United Nations warns the Horn of Africa is facing its worst drought in 60 years, affecting more than 10 million in Djibouti, Ethiopia, Kenya, Somalia and Uganda. We speak with award-winning journalist Christian Parenti who argues in his new book that global warming is leading to social and environmental catastrophe.

"The weather associated with climate change, extreme weather such as the drought, punctuated by flooding in East Africa, punctuated by flooding in East Africa, is adding to this.Climate change very often doesn’t just look bad weather, it looks like ethnic violence or religious violence or banditry or civil war,” says Parenti.

Flood Waters Begin to Recede in North Dakota Following Widespread Destruction

Flood waters are beginning to slowly recede near the North Dakota town of Minot after record-breaking water levels displaced some 12,000 residents there and destroyed more than 4,000 homes. According to a Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) spokesperson, just 375 of the 4,000 ruined homes were protected by flood insurance. Residents say they were led to believe the coverage was unnecessary because levees were constructed and the Souris River channel was straightened following a major flood in 1969. Residents are not expected to return to their homes for at least 10 days.

Leading scientist John Holdren says "global warming" is not the correct term to use; he prefers "global disruption." "'Global warming' [is] misleading. It implies something that’s mainly about temperature, that’s gradual, and that’s uniform across the planet," says Holdren. "In fact, temperature is only one of the things that’s changing. It’s a sort of an index of the state of the climate. The whole climate is changing: the winds, the ocean currents, the storm patterns, snow packs, snowmelt, flooding, droughts. Temperature is just a bit of it."


Nine Out of Ten Top Climate Deniers Linked to ExxonMobil
By RP Siegel May 9th, 2011

Today’s story probably won’t come as a big surprise to anyone, but in an era where unsubstantiated assertions fly through the news media like raindrops in a hurricane, obscuring the truth to the point of near-invisibility, it’s nice when a bright beam of factual research and analysis shines in to cut through the haze.

A recent analysis conducted by Carbon Brief which investigated the authors of more than 900 published papers that cast doubt on the science underlying climate change, found that nine of the ten most prolific had some kind of relationship with ExxonMobil.

Links to these papers were proudly displayed on the denialist Global Warming Policy Foundation website, where they are still fanning the dying embers of Climategate hoping something will catch, under the heading, “900+ Peer-Reviewed Papers Supporting Skepticism Of ‘Man-Made’ Global Warming (AGW) Alarm.”

The top ten contributors to this list were responsible for 186 of the 938 papers cited.
Foremost among them was Dr Sherwood B Idso, who personally authored 67 of them. Idso is the president of the Center for the Study of Carbon Dioxide and Global Change, an ExxonMobil funded think tank. The second most prolific, Dr Patrick J Michaels, a senior fellow at the Cato Institute, receives roughly 40% of his funding from the oil industry. Number 3 on the list, Agricultural Biologist Bruce Kimball co-authored all of his papers with the aforementioned Dr. Idso.

The report does not mention the Koch Brothers, who as we know, spent twice as much supporting climate denial groups as Exxon Mobil did.

The researchers utilized the website Needlebase to help conduct their analysis.

The idea of maintaining an atmosphere of doubt in order to keep consumers from changing their behavior is not a new one. It was developed by the tobacco industry decades ago, in their efforts to dispel research results linking second hand smoke exposure to cancer and keep the public confused on the issue.

A recent book on these tactics by Naomi Oreskes and Erik M. Conway, entitled Merchants of Doubt explores “how ideology and corporate interests, aided by a too-compliant media, have skewed public understanding of some of the most pressing issues of our era.”

Other prolific authors of climate-change denying include Willie Soon, John R. Christy and Sallie L Baliunas who are all associated with the George C. Marshall Institute, whose website asserts that “…efforts to reach agreement on inferences about human influence on the climate system that can be drawn from science and policy prescriptions for addressing the climate change risk have been controversial.”

Ross McKitrick is a senior fellow at the Exxon funded Fraser institute and Richard Lindzen is a member of the ‘Annapolis Center for Science-Based Public Policy,’ which has also received Exxon funding.

Of course, the fact that these scientists’ livelihoods depend to one degree or another on a very rich oil industry with an extremely large vested interest in the outcome of the climate change “debate,” or more precisely in perpetuating the idea that there is in fact still a debate over anything more than minor details of the climate change phenomenon, does not mean that their positions on the subject are necessarily biased. However, human nature being what it is, a healthy dose of skepticism should be brought to bear here as we try to move forward on the repeated urgent warnings coming from the overwhelming majority of scientists who have studied the subject.

RP Siegel is the co-author of the eco-thriller Vapor Trails, the first in a series covering the human side of various sustainability issues including energy, food, and water. Like airplanes, we all leave behind a vapor trail. And though we can easily see others’, we rarely see our own.


Yes, you can go to the link at the Guardian and sign on, but I thought this would be best to run the entire story on that "peer-reviewed" journal published climate change denier who was bought off by none other than Koch Brothers and Exxon.

Climate sceptic Willie Soon received $1m from oil companies, papers show

Documents obtained by Greenpeace show prominent opponent of climate change was funded by ExxonMobil, among others
Willie Soon received over $1m from oil companies including ExxonMobil, documents reveal. Photograph: Donna Williams/AP
One of the world's most prominent scientific figures to be sceptical about climate change has admitted to being paid more than $1m in the past decade by major US oil and coal companies.

Dr Willie Soon, an astrophysicist at the Solar, Stellar and Planetary Sciences Division of the Harvard-Smithsonian Centre for Astrophysics, is known for his view that global warming and the melting of the arctic sea ice is caused by solar variation rather than human-caused CO2 emissions, and that polar bears are not primarily threatened by climate change.

But according to a Greenpeace US investigation, he has been heavily funded by coal and oil industry interests since 2001, receiving money from ExxonMobil, the American Petroleum Insitute and Koch Industries along with Southern, one of the world's largest coal-burning utility companies. Since 2002, it is alleged, every new grant he has received has been from either oil or coal interests.

In addition, freedom of information documents suggest that Soon corresponded in 2003 with other prominent climate sceptics to try to weaken a major assessment of global warming being conducted by the UN's leading climate science body, the Nobel prize-winning Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.

Soon, who had previously disclosed corporate funding he received in the 1990s, was today reportely unapologetic, telling Reuters that he agreed that he had received money from all of the groups and companies named in the report but denied that any group would have influenced his studies.

"I have never been motivated by financial reward in any of my scientific research," he said. "I would have accepted money from Greenpeace if they had offered it to do my research." He did not respond to a request from the Guardian to comment.

Documents provided to Greenpeace by the Smithsonian under the US Freedom of Information Act (FoIA) show that the Charles G Koch Foundation, a leading provider of funds for climate sceptic groups, gave Soon two grants totalling $175,000 (then roughly £102,000) in 2005/6 and again in 2010. In addition the American Petroleum insitute (API), which represents the US petroleum and natural gas industries, gave him multiple grants between 2001 and 2007 totalling $274,000, oil company Exxon Mobil provided $335,000 between 2005 and 2010, and Soon received other grants from coal and oil industry sources including the Mobil Foundation, the Texaco Foundation and the Electric Power Research Institute.

As one of very few scientists to publish in peer-reviewed literature denying climate change, Soon is widely regarded as one of the leading sceptical voices. His scientific position and the vehemence of his views has made him a central figure in a heated political debate that has informed the US right wing and helped to undermine public trust in the science of global warming and UN negotiations.

"A campaign of climate change denial has been waged for over 20 years by big oil and big coal," said Kert Davies, a research director at Greenpeace US. "Scientists like Dr Soon, who take fossil fuel money and pretend to be independent scientists, are pawns."

Soon has strongly argued that the 20th century was not a uniquely extreme climatic period. His most famous work challenged the "hockey stick" graph of temperature records published by Michael Mann, which showed a relatively sharp rise in temperatures during the second half of the 20th century. A paper published with Sallie Baliunas in 2003 in the journal Climate Research which attacked the hockey stick on flimsy evidence led to a group of leading climate scientists including Mann deciding to boycott the journal. In a letter to the Guardian in February 2004, Soon wrote that the authors had been open about their sources of funding. "All sources of funding for our research were fully disclosed in our manuscript. Most of our funding came from federal agencies, including the Air Force Office of Scientific Research and Nasa," he wrote.

He has also questioned the health risks of mercury emissions from coal and in 2007 co-wrote a paper that down-played the idea that polar bears are threatened by human-caused climate change

The investigation is likely to embarrass Exxon, the world's largest oil company, which for many years funded climate sceptics but in 2008 declared it would cut funds to lobby groups that "divert attention" from the need to find new sources of clean energy. According to the documents, Exxon provided $55,000 for Soon to study Arctic climate change in 2007 and 2008, and another $76,106 for research into solar variability between 2008 and 2010.

Exxon spokesman Alan Jeffers said this week the company did not fund Soon last year, and that it funds hundreds of organisations to do research on climate and the environment.

Southern gave Soon $120,000 starting in 2008 to study the Sun's relation to climate change, according to the FIA documents. Spokeswoman Stephanie Kirijan said the company has spent about $500m on funding environmental research and development ,and that it did not fund Soon last year.

In one 2003 email released to Greenpeace, that Soon sent, it is believed, to four other leading sceptics, he writes: "Clearly [the fourth assessment report] chapters may be too much for any one of us to tackle them all ... But as a team, we may give it our best shot to try to anticipate and counter some of the chapters ..." He adds: "I hope we can ... see what we can do to weaken the fourth assessment report."

In 2003 Soon said at a US senate hearing that he had "not knowingly been hired by, nor employed by, nor received grants from any organisation that had taken advocacy positions with respect to the Kyoto protocol or the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change."


Check out this site on climate change news -- more than 4600 articles collected thus far:

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Seattle Green Festival the crossroads, crosshairs for Green movement

Since this is the first of a couple of articles about this year’s Pacific Northwest Green Festival in Seattle, there’s no need to start off describing the world’s “largest sustainability-green-eco aware” extravaganza.

However, a few stalwarts present included Amy Goodman of Democracy Now, Dennis Kucinich of Ohio and DC, and a few groups looking “beyond green” to help redefine a new economy, new community structures, and safety nets for a world that’s heating up, drying up, and going belly up, agriculturally speaking.

Seattle’s Revolution Books and the newspaper, Revolution, which tried to get people interested in a deeper, radical view, made more sense to be there than reps from Ford Motor Company or Safeway’s O Organics. Stuart Vasquez of Mexico, who started a bi-lingual magazine, Eco-Logica, was another highlight.

The bottom line for some is whether the Festival was a success. Green Festivals – held in San Francisco, Chicago, New York, Los Angeles ( – aren’t exactly Bioneers happenings, where philosophical and spiritual constructs ebb and flow.

Even this quasi-trade show brings out hope from critics like myself, curious if something different, radical, holistic and in-your-face would emerge.

This year’s fest was low-key and milquetoast, a cluster jam of wandering souls trying out Clif Bars and others looking for the right speaker from which to inspire. Lots of swag in reusable bags.

One would think after a decade, Seattle could organize a great outdoor event – in a park or brownfields – dealing with the gray miasma that defines the Emerald City. Something bigger, and community-energized than what felt like a weekend marketing “thing.”

Fortunately, taking the bad with the good is a tool of a green critic. It’s never fun looking at the “go-green movement” with skepticism, but someone must do it. It’s a dirty job because, a, one doesn’t want to nay-say efforts to push the fossil fuel/economic/ecological injustice bucket over, and, b, when you do, you end up flushing out people in the sustainability movement who can’t get over that our

ENTIRE system of consumption, capitalism, globalization, and First World vs. Third thinking must be imploded in the desert with someone like George Hayduke (from The Monkey Wrench Gang) holding the gun’s trigger.

It’s amazing to have been a part of a movement in the 1970s in Tucson, where some of us demanded an end to the sprawl into the Sonora Desert.

I was active in environmental direct action in high school and college. Eventually, I ended up as a newspaper reporter forced to stay objective, reporting on the razing of the Southwest, forced to keep my trap shut where my heart was – deep ecology and environmental justice.

Craziness seeing pygmy owls, kit foxes, reptiles, javelina, mule deer, black bear, coyotes, insects and flora galore get pushed out and depopulated by the tools of the Chamber of Commerce – builders, developers, folk who thought the land, once purchased, was meant for human scarring.

First the environmentalists talked with planning and zoning commissions. Then pressure was put on politicians and developers. Then scientists shared how those animal and plant species would be toast if the development of homes into the foothills wasn’t stopped.

Rotary clubs, Chambers of Commerce and construction lobbyists never listened to communities’ concerns over the ecological slash, burn, build-and-pave over process they helped to unleash. The power of regressive taxation – where communities can only collect the bulk of their operating expenses through property taxes – has aided and abetted the sprawl-ization of America the past 40 years.

At some point, monkeywrenching, and the ghost of Edward Abbey, energized the movement. Evening sessions talking about draft x, y and z of plan a, b and c got us nowhere – canyons, gullies, palos verde, saguaro and other cacti ended up chopped up for trendy, sprawling Southwest-style homes.

Like a community trying to keep a super Wal-mart or K-Mart from cutting into a neighborhood’s livability, we faced bigwigs who thought leaving a slash of cactus or half acre for a “wild” buffer was a grand gesture.

The result of this direct action? Billboards hacked down. Front-end loaders and dump trucks sabotaged.

So, writing about Seattle’s Green Festival, I am filled with trepidation because a festival might just be nothing more than a rendezvous for various green proponents, some looking to engage in real discourse, others trying to market the next green thing.

I understand the purpose of shifting thinking toward sustainable development, design, marketing and

energy is to change thinking and habits, and in a capitalistic and consumer-based economy, most people need lots of sugar to swallow medicine to inoculate society from resource greed, climate change and chemical and radioactive pollution.

I know about incremental change, and why many still misanthropically posit that baby steps will change humanity.

I understand the zeal for hope in small places when it comes to environmentalism, and see the rationale behind the futile push to try and frame a movement through social networks and superficial formulas of messaging and popular culture.

This doesn’t mean all of us in the camp of wanting measures of sustainability to become policy and creation of a survival kit for our species and the rest of ecology’s members must flash a green light on anything and everything tied to “being or living green,” environmentalism, or eco-justice and sustainability.

When the happening is dubbed, “The Green Festival,” there is a tendency to look for cracks in the message, folly in delivery and contradictions in ways of thinking.

It’s easy to be waylaid by Ford as a major sponsor displaying bells and whistles of its supposedly “sustainable” loads; by the consumer-driven atmosphere of some of the participants; or by the absurdity of a box store gaining the spotlight as speaker Edward Humes discussing Wal-Mart’s role in saving the world during his talk, “Wal-Mart’s Unlikely Green Revolution.”

Seattle’s green movement, and those beyond the Emerald City, celebrated 10 years and 1 million attendees holding what is dubbed “the largest sustainability-focused event in the US.”

Using the glass half-full perspective of the May 21-22 event, I can impart the value of speaking with instructors and students from Evergreen State College’s Master of Environmental Studies Program. It’s a two-year program that not only needs across the board support from other institutions, but necessitates a larger frame from which our entire country might move forward on sustainability and community justice programs.

You’ve got minds grasping a meta-cognitive approach to the region’s environment and following through on working with the contexts and tools of ecological and social sustainability. Evergreen’s MES program is about evening coursework in ecology, sustainability and community, plus energy and climate change. Independent Learning Contracts and internships are big on the academic agenda.

The weird thing is that Evergreen’s program was just a booth amongst other booths hawking products, giving away organic taste samples and promoting this or that.

However, the entire green festival could be drawn into the fold of this Olympia-based graduate program. It could have used program graduates, professionals connected to the program , and faculty and entrepreneurs tied to MES’s goals of taking to the stage to help the wanderers at the event reframe how to really move “green” into hearts and minds of Americans.

Of course, people like this never were invited on the stage, just big-name authors and players in the sustainability movement … and Amy Goodman and Dennis Kucinich, thankfully.

[This is the first in a series of columns about the 10th edition of the Seattle Green Festival and the current state of sustainability in the Northwest. Future pieces will explore more of the event and the roots of greenwashing. ]

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Gumbo, gumption and Gulf Coast Blues revisited

Interest remains strong in Spokane filmmaker’s oil chronicle

These days, he’s lifting fencing with rougher and rougher hands – not exactly the mitts of a film editor.

His face is burnt by the sun, and the shadowy basalt up-bursts near the Mount Spokane farm he and his girlfriend share are his treasure in his thoughts, and heart. He talks about raising rabbits, growing vegetables, and the coming hot days of summer.

The Gulf Coast debacle and terror campaign by British Petroleum are not far from Marc Gauthier’s mind, though.

He shuttles through the 70-minute film, “Gulf Coast Blues: Oil in Our Veins.” Showing highlights for 50-minute campus time slots. He punctuates the frustration he experienced last year trying to get help for birds and animals, the shame of living in a country addicted to oil and mired in political and bureaucratic malaise and intentional incompetence.

“You just have to go out there and get involved in something in your community … and don’t take no for an answer,” Gauthier said. The crowd at a recent showing at Spokane Falls Community College was sparse – 40 – considering the topic, the local angle, the magnificent applicability of a Spokane guy who took on an issue 2,000 miles away.

One 30-year-old student came up to him after the event and expressed how tough the economic times are: “My three boys are selling tomato plants to help us get by.”

Gauthier listened to the SFCC student, who just a year ago made a hefty $40 an hour installing alarm systems, a job gone belly-up because of Wall Street, K-Street and the unraveling of the American education system and consumer-dying economy.

The male student kept repeating how he has to keep teaching his kids about sustainability and conservation because the public schools are not. Sustainability, localism, and new ways to lift families and communities to a survival mode were topics many in the audience in Building 24 broached.

Students and others were held in rapt concentration as Marc Gauthier talked activism, filmmaking, and what it means to be a 36-year-old with a double degree from the Evergreen State College and SFCC/SCC coursework from long ago.

“I knew I had to do something with my training in wildlife biology when I saw the news of the oil,” he told the audience as part of the school’s theme, Survival: Enduring Humanity (see )

The book, Zeitoun, is part of the year-long theme as a common reader. It’s about a Syrian-American construction contractor, essentially a hero, who stayed behind during the dark days after New Orleans was gutted by Katrina and government ineptitude. (For more on Abdulrahman Zeitoun, go here:

I’ve had Marc on my radio show, “Tipping Points: Voices from the Edge" (see here: ), and we’ve reconvened the story of 480 million gallons of crude, methane and so-called dispersant dumped into the Gulf of Mexico.

“Those people I came to know and befriend are worse off now than when I was there for the first traces of oil hitting Grand Isle’s shores,” he said.

One of the scenes the SFCC crowd saw included the poignant exposure of Marc’s emotions as he tried holding back tears May 20, 2010, when he witnessed the oil sheen, oil globules and toxic vapors rising as Gulf dolphins, covered in oil, breached the surface for air.

Since then, we’ve learned that tens of thousands of marine animals died, and we know BP and their thugs collected animal species and shipped them off to be immolated.

One of the remarkable aspects of this May 25 event was the students who talked to Marc one-on-one before the screening as he served up drinks and food in the building’s foyer. More than 120 people enjoyed Northern Lights Brewery’s coleslaw, vegetarian gumbo and lemonade. Sarah Dyer, SFCC student and Northern Lights cook, was more than happy to share food in what she described as “rotten economic times.”

In the audience were several canoe guides from the Chewelah-based Voyages of Rediscovery outdoor river trip company. Annie Forman and Adam Wicks-Arshack (look for a story on their experiential learning non-profit in DTE soon), Evergreen College grads, asked Marc about safety — his own — during the initial thuggery BP and the U.S. government unleashed onto locals and paid clean-up folk, as well as the media.

One scene (see trailer here: has Marc frustrated by the lack of coordination by BP, the National Guard and other governments, and so he travels into the swamps outside the Grand Isle area to stash his video tapes after receiving dozens of threats and intimations of “go on back to your Pacific Northwest … this isn’t your affair” from many sources.

On the SFCC campus, Marc caught the air of downtrodden students who see fewer opportunities to be part of a green, sustainable and alternative energy future. Many argued about the retreating overpaid administrators and state lawmakers gutting their futures, literally, by hacking at course offerings, sacking faculty and generally failing to make concerted efforts to keep Washington’s economy going with a vibrant community college system feeding into four-year schools.

Dyer laughed when she recognized one “overpaid” dean walking in the building near the food – “Why is he always walking around with such a dour face?” We overheard another SFCC staffer blurt out – “You aren’t serving students on that nice Chinaware, are you?”

On that warm day Marc stood speaking with dynamic, interested and uninformed students about the oil industry, the overreliance on fossil fuel, and the fight ahead: “You all have to take your education and make community solutions to all these problems we have with oil and the environment … it’s up to you, the future generations.”

It was a good day to be a human, in a building named in Salish for “community gathering place, where community and commerce come together” — sn-w’ey’-mn.

“Man, I never thought vegetarian gumbo could be so tasty,” one Running Start student told us.

Marc smiled, his face ruddy from outdoor work: “After you eat that, be sure to hear what oil companies and your government do not want you to know.”

Stay tuned for more Gulf Coast Blues: Oil in Our Veins screenings, and look for Marc’s produce in local restaurants.

Solar fest in Delhi on longest day of the year

So what does it mean to you, this solstice? The fabric of time levels out human angst and our titling of earth systems by unending consumption? Probably.

New Delhi: With scores of students and others in attendance, Delhi Tuesday celebrated the longest day of the year, called the summer solstice, with a skit and public outreach programme.

SPACE, an NGO, organised a skit performance with school and college students explaining what a solstice is and how solar eclipses occur.

"More than 250 people came today (Tuesday) at Jantar Mantar where we had a public outreach programme and then a skit was performed. A pin-hole projector was also set up to demonstrate how to view the sun through it during an eclipse without causing damage to the eyes," a member of SPACE said.

"The functioning of the various astronomical devices at Jantar Mantar was also explained to the gathering by our representatives in the solar fest," he added.

Explaining what the summer solstice means, a SPACE statement said: "At the June solstice, the earth is positioned in its orbit so that the north pole is leaning 23 and a half degrees toward the sun."

As seen from the earth, the sun is directly overhead at noon, 23 and a half degrees north of the equator, at an imaginary line encircling the globe, known as the Tropic of Cancer. The sun's rays are directly overhead along the Tropic of Cancer (the latitude line at 23.5 degrees north, passing through Mexico, Saharan Africa, and India), it said.

"This is as far north as the sun ever gets. This results in the longest day of the year. For example in New Delhi, sunrise on summer solstice day in 2011 will be at 5:24 a.m. and sunset will be at 7:22 p.m., making it a day which is almost of 14 hours' duration," the statement said.

While this marks the height of summer in the northern hemisphere, it simultaneously marks the height of winter in the southern hemisphere.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

China 1,000, Denmark 500 and the USA? Goose Eggs in the Realm of Climate Change and Green

[Photo -- The EK-2 electric car from Chinese automaker Geely is displayed at the Beijing Auto China 2010 show]

This Juan Cole piece pulls together much of what this PacifiCAD blog has been pointing toward the past 6 months -- failure of US political will to be honorable about education and climate change; the USA no longer able to live in the mythology of exceptionalism it has espoused for so long; and the shift happens --- US is out in the cold when it comes to smarts and the future.

Note that Juan Cole has been a staple of Democracy Now the past six years looking at the Middle East and America's war adventures in Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan. And, guess what? He's been spied on:

Ex-Spy Alleges Bush White House Sought to Discredit Critic

Published: June 15, 2011

Glenn L. Carle, a former Central Intelligence Agency officer who was a top counterterrorism official during the administration of President George W. Bush, said the White House at least twice asked intelligence officials to gather sensitive information on Juan Cole, a University of Michigan professor who writes an influential blog -- -- that criticized the war.

Welcome to Kafka-land. For now, read the piece Cole wrote a month ago about China's push for a green energy future:

The New Sputnik

Posted on May 10, 2011

By Juan Cole

In 1957, a United States shocked by the Soviet launch of the Sputnik 1 satellite bounced into action to compete on the world stage. More than 50 years later, in May of 2011, the U.S. is facing a new challenge. The Chinese Communist Party has decided to launch a crash program to produce green energy, a field where it already has a commanding lead over the U.S. The difference between 1957 and 2011 is that American politics in the meantime have been captured by parasitic or corrupt industries such as high finance and big oil and gas. The Green Gap produced by China’s increasing lead in the technologies of the future is not even headlined in America’s corporate mass media, much less galvanizing a nation of gas guzzlers and coal junkies.

The disaster at Japan’s Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant has caused the Chinese Communist Party to reconsider its plans to vastly expand its own nuclear power industry. The government of President Hu Jintao is thinking instead of vastly expanding the green energy sector, aiming to produce 50 gigawatts from solar energy by 2020, up from a previous goal of 20 gigawatts. If the new goal can be met, it will be an impressive accomplishment in its own right. The six reactors at the Fukushima nuclear power plant, among the largest such plants in the world, produced 4.7 gigawatts, so the Chinese solar plants would be the solar equivalent of more than four such complexes.

The real promise, however, is that if the Chinese government really does throw a trillion and a half dollars at solar and other renewables over the next decade and a half, the cost of producing energy in that way is likely to plummet. The Middle Kingdom already produces half of the world’s solar panels. The bad news for the United States is that China could dominate the rapidly growing and crucial world market for green technology in coming decades, leaving literally in the dust a Rust Belt America wedded to dirty coal, oil and water-slurping shale extraction.

China’s production of green technology has been growing 77 percent a year, and solar panels, wind turbines and other green manufactures account for 1.4 percent of its gross domestic product. Only tiny Denmark outdoes China on this score, deriving 3.1 percent of its GDP from renewable energy technology. But of course in absolute terms China’s production in this sector, at $64 billion annually, leads the world. The U.S. derives only 0.3 percent of its GDP from green tech and substantially trails China in absolute terms. Last year Beijing installed three times as much new wind turbine capacity as the United States. It added 18.9 gigawatts of new wind power-generating capacity in 2010, or about half of all the new wind installations in the world.

Chinese officials, unlike many representatives in the U.S. House of Representatives, have no doubt that spewing carbon into the atmosphere is causing climate change of a sort that threatens the world’s and their own country’s future prosperity. China’s dirty coal-burning plants are a major source of this pollution, and it is they that the clean energy installations will replace.

The time is coming when the rest of the world will launch lawsuits at the World Trade Organization against the United States and its hydrocarbon corporations for destroying their crops and submerging their shorelines through its deadly carbon emissions. China may face much less global anger because, although it is now the world’s leading source of carbon emissions, it is moving much more quickly and responsibly to address this global challenge than is the U.S., currently the world’s No. 2 carbon dioxide producer.

The Eisenhower administration responded vigorously to the Soviet Union’s Sputnik program. Americans were shocked to discover that they were No. 2 in so important a scientific and technological field. In the 1950s, the wealthiest 1 percent of Americans were still paying their taxes, and so the government had the wherewithal to found the National Aeronautics and Space Administration and to bump up research and development in a number of other agencies, as well as promote science education in the K-12 system.

The anxiety did not stop with concern that Americans were not very good at mathematics and science. Rather, Washington suddenly realized that the United States needed a cadre of academics and officials who knew the languages and cultures of the societies over which capitalism and communism were competing. Congress therefore passed the National Defense Education Act (NDEA), providing funds to universities for the study of world areas such as China, India and Eastern Europe. The language of the act later became Title VI in the Department of Education, which supports nearly 120 National Resource Centers at universities across America, studying everything from Afghanistan to Brazil.

In contrast to the strenuous efforts of 1958 to expand Americans’ horizons, the House of Representatives in 2011 is full of politicians who actively despise science and higher education, hate environmentalism, deny global climate change and are in the back pocket of Big Oil. They have delivered themselves of a budget that increases funding for the Department of War, implies long-term and deeper cuts in taxes for the super-wealthy, and devours the seed corn of America’s K-12 and higher education programs. America has already fallen behind Macao and Latvia in math and science skills and ranks only ninth globally in the percentage of its youths who are college graduates. (It used to be first.) Instead of increasing funding for Title VI and the area studies centers (the descendants of 1958’s NDEA), governmental agents of the proudly monolingual tea party in their wisdom have cut that program by half.

The U.S. won the space race that was kicked off in earnest by Sputnik. Now, this Congress, full of climate change contrarians, hasn’t even gotten up off the couch or laced up its sneakers in reaction to China’s solar challenge. It would be as though the 1958 House not only ignored Sputnik, but also denied that the Earth is round or could be orbited. Since Congress has halved the federal money for Chinese studies centers, American young people won’t have the opportunity to study Mandarin in the same numbers, and won’t even be able to understand the scientific papers of Chinese scientists or get jobs in the mailrooms of the burgeoning Chinese solar corporations. The original Tea Party kicked off the independence of the United States from a hegemonic power. This one seems intent on delivering us into the hands of a new one.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Green Econmies, Green Cities, and the Red-faced US Chamber of Commerce's Scopes Climate Trial

It's a coin toss just how affective organizations like Chamber of Commerce, building lobby, construction industry, chemical purveyors, and the like can really conceptualize what cities actually need -- recall cities are people and the health and safety they require, and their offspring's offspring and beyond require for a safe and healthy life, one that is sustainable, way beyond the paradigm of buy-buy-buy, consume-consume-consume, and a few have's and more have's not.

[Note that Burger King was running this campaign two years ago!!!!!!!! See photo above!]

Here's Chris Hedges interviewing Bill McKibben

The Earth has already begun to react to our hubris. Freak weather unleashed deadly tornados in Joplin, Mo., and Tuscaloosa, Ala. It has triggered wildfires that have engulfed large tracts in California, Oklahoma, New Mexico and Texas. It has brought severe droughts to the Southwest, parts of China and the Amazon. It has caused massive flooding along the Mississippi as well as in Australia, New Zealand, China and Pakistan. It is killing off the fish stocks in the oceans and obliterating the polar ice caps. Steadily rising sea levels will eventually submerge coastal cities, islands and some countries. These disturbing weather patterns presage a world where it will be harder and harder to sustain human life. Massive human migrations, which have already begun, will create chaos and violence. India is building a 4,000-kilometer fence along its border with Bangladesh to, in part, hold back the refugees who will flee if Bangladesh is submerged. There are mounting food shortages and sharp price increases in basic staples such as wheat as weather patterns disrupt crop production. The failed grain harvests in Russia, China and Australia, along with the death of the winter wheat crop in Texas, have, as McKibben points out, been exacerbated by the inability of Midwestern farmers to plant corn in water-logged fields. These portents of an angry Gaia are nothing compared to what will follow if we do not swiftly act.

“We are going to have to adapt a good deal,” said McKibben, with whom I spoke by phone from his home in Vermont. “It is going to be a century that calls for being resilient and durable. Most of that adaptation is going to take the form of economies getting smaller and lower to the ground, local food, local energy, things like that. But that alone won’t do it, because the scale of change we are now talking about is so great that no one can adapt to it. Temperatures have gone up one degree so far and that has been enough to melt the Arctic. If we let it go up three or four degrees, the rule of thumb the agronomists go by is every degree Celsius of temperature rise represents about a 10 percent reduction in grain yields. If we let it go up three or four degrees we are really not talking about a planet that can support a civilization anything like the one we’ve got.

“I have sympathy for those who are trying hard to figure out how to adapt, but they are behind the curve of the science by a good deal,” he said. “I have less sympathy for the companies that are brainwashing everyone along the line ‘We’re taking small steps here and there to improve.’ The problem, at this point, is not going to be dealt with by small steps. It is going to be dealt with by getting off fossil fuel in the next 10 or 20 years or not at all.

“The most appropriate thing going on in Chicago right now is that Greenpeace occupied [on Thursday] the coal-fired power plant in Chicago,” he said. “That’s been helpful. It reminded people what the real answers are. We’re going to see more civil disobedience. I hope we are. I am planning hard for some stuff this summer.

“The task that we are about is essentially political and symbolic,” McKibben admitted. “There is no actual way to shut down the fossil fuel system with our bodies. It is simply too big. It’s far too integrated in everything we do. The actions have to be symbolic, and the most important part of that symbolism is to make it clear to the onlookers that those of us doing this kind of thing are not radical in any way. We are conservatives. The real radicals in this scenario are people who are willing to fundamentally alter the composition of the atmosphere. I can’t think of a more radical thing that any human has ever thought of doing. If it wasn’t happening it would be like the plot from a Bond movie.

“The only way around this is to defeat the system, and the name of that system is the fossil fuel industry, which is the most profitable industry in the world by a large margin,” McKibben said. “Fighting it is extraordinarily difficult. Maybe you can’t do it. The only way to do it is to build a movement big enough to make a difference. And that is what we are trying desperately to do with It is something we should have done 20 years ago, instead of figuring that we were going to fight climate change by convincing political elites that they should do something about this problem. It is a tactic that has not worked.

“One of our big targets this year is the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, which is the biggest front group for fossil fuel there is,” he said. “We are figuring out how to take them on. I don’t think they are worried about us yet. And maybe they are right not to be, because they’ve got so much money they’re invulnerable.

“There are huge decisive battles coming,” he said. “This year the Obama administration has to decide whether it will grant a permit or not for this giant pipeline to run from the tar sands of Alberta down to the refineries on the Gulf of Mexico. That is like a 1,500-mile fuse to the biggest carbon bomb on the planet. We have to figure out how to keep that from happening. The Obama administration, very sadly, a couple of months ago opened 750 million tons of western coal under federal land for mining. That was a disgrace. But they still have to figure out how to get it to port so they can ship it to China, which is where the market for it is. We are trying hard to keep that from happening. I’m on my way to Bellingham, Wash., next week because there is a plan for a deep-water port in Bellingham that would allow these giant freighters to show up and collect that coal.

“In moral terms, it’s all our personal responsibility and we should be doing those things,” McKibben said when I asked him about changing our own lifestyles to conserve energy. “But don’t confuse that with having much of an impact on the concentration of carbon in the atmosphere. You can’t make the math work one house or one campus at a time. We should do those things. I’ve got a little plaque for having built the most energy-efficient house in Vermont the year we built it. I’ve got solar panels everywhere. But I don’t confuse myself into thinking that that’s actually doing very much. This argument is a political argument. I spend much of my life on airplanes spewing carbon behind me as we try to build a global movement. Either we are going to break the power of the fossil fuel industry and put a price on carbon or the planet is going to heat past the point where we can deal with it.

“It goes far beyond party affiliation or ideology,” he said. “Fossil fuel undergirds every ideology we have. Breaking with it is going to be a traumatic and difficult task. The natural world is going to continue to provide us, unfortunately, with many reminders about why we have to do that. Sooner or later, we will wise up. The question is all about that sooner or later.

“I’d like people to go to and sign up,” McKibben said. “We are going to be issuing calls for people to be involved in civil disobedience. I’d like people to join in this campaign against the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. It’s very easy to sign up. If you don’t own a little business yourself, you probably shop at 10 or 20 of them a week. It’s very easy to sign those guys up to say the U.S. Chamber doesn’t speak for me. We can’t take away their [the Chamber’s] money, but we can take away some of their respectability. I would like people to demonstrate their solidarity with people all around the world in this fight. The next big chance to do that will be Sept. 24, a huge global day of action that we’re calling ‘Moving Planet.’ It will be largely bicycle based, because the bicycle is one of the few tools that both rich and poor use and because it is part of the solution we need. On that day we will be delivering demands via bicycle to every capital and statehouse around the world.

The Complete Story at:

So, I will look at the framing, political posturing, and information flow that comes from this event in Spokane, dubbed, "state of the green economy," which is an oxymoron in any sense of the word for a city that is in constant gridlock, road tear-up/paving hell and with city leaders watching as more and more propoerties go vacant. I will be using some of what I hear in my national journal, Planning, article.

State of the Green Economy

Greater Spokane Incorporated and CLEEN/NW will host the Third Annual State of the Green Economy Event Wednesday, June 15 at The Spokane Club from 3:30 p.m. - 5:30 p.m.

CH2MHILL and Avista are the major sponsors of this year's event.

A panel of clean technology industry leaders will provide updates on current successes, initiatives, challenges and future opportunities in Spokane and Washington State. Updates include information about Sustainable Aviation Fuels, the City of Spokane's Energy Project, free-market environmental policy, and the newly created Clean Tech agency, Innovate Washington.

The panel includes:

•State Senate Majority Leader Lisa Brown
•City of Spokane Mayor Mary Verner
•Todd Myers - Director for the Environment, Washington Policy Center
•Ross McFarlane - Sr. Advisor, Business Partnerships, Climate Solutions
•Kim Zentz - Executive Director, Sirti; member of the Washington Clean Energy Leadership Council (CELC)

Hal Calbom, host of the groundbreaking film Evergreen: The Washington Clean Tech Story, will be the moderator.

The panel presentation will conclude with an opportunity for questions. A reception immediately following provides time for general discussion and networking.

The price to attend is $10, increasing to $15 starting June 9.

About CLEEN/NW (Consortium of Leading Energy Efficiency Northwest Companies)
CLEEN/NW was formed to:

•PROMOTE awareness of the region's Clean Technology and Energy Efficiency industries locally, regionally, nationally and globally to attract companies and entrepreneurs to the area.

•ESTABLISH an effective, comprehensive network of Clean Technology and Energy Efficiency businesses and the capabilities necessary to grow the regional industry.

•PROVIDE information and resources to keep CLEEN NW members educated and aware of industry developments.

•ASSIST in the IMPLEMENTATION of a Clean Technology Workforce Development Strategy, partnering with K-12 and higher education around awareness and opportunities.

•ATTRACT and EFFECTIVELY ORGANIZE and ENGAGE a membership and partner base sufficient to achieve the CLEEN NW mission.
So, back to the US Chamber of Commerce's bizarre anti-science agenda:

Leo Hickman Tuesday 8 September 2009

It would be wise for anyone concerned about climate change to keep an eye on the movements and pronouncements of the US Chamber of Commerce over the next few months as Barack Obama's cap-and-trade bill finally reaches the Senate.

The world's largest not-for-profit business federation has made it patently clear in recent months that it does not like the look of the so-called Waxman-Markey bill. In fact, it thinks it stinks. So much so that it is currently trying every trick in the lobbyist's handbook to scupper its legislative progress.

For example, it is currently supporting the Energy Citizens campaign, which bills itself as a nationwide alliance of organisations and individuals formed to bring together people across America to remind Congress that energy is the backbone of our nation's economy and our way of life.

On the surface, Energy Citizens has the look and feel of AN Other citizen movement holding folksy grassroots "rallies" across the US to get across its point of view. In the past week or so, it has held events in Indiana, Colorado, Florida, North Dakota, Missouri and Tennessee. On its website it promotes a "Share Your Stories" facility for citizens to post their own messages and videos. One recent example is "Shaka" from Tennessee urging the Senate to "do the smart thing and defeat this bill". The use of his first name helps to give the video that all-important "ordinary joe" impression.

But hang on: could our Shaka actually be this Shaka, the one who is listed as the executive vice president of the Tennessee Center for Policy Research which is "dedicated to providing concerned citizens, the media and public leaders with expert empirical research and timely free market policy solutions to public policy issues in Tennessee", and provides a link on its website to the Carnival of Climate Change sceptics site?

There sure does seem to be a striking resemblance between the two. Uncanny. Almost.

Is it really any wonder that Energy Citizens is now being cited as little more than a front for the sorts of big business/free-market lobbyists – a la the US Chamber of Commerce - who are instinctively drawn to the global-warming-is-baloney school of thinking? (for more on Energy Citizens and the rise of astroturfing, read Bobbie Johnson's blog --

Professional lobby groups have been bending, cajoling and manipulating public discourse and opinion in ways similar to this for decades. If they can interrupt the debate, or better still muddy or even stall it, then their vested interests can be protected and allowed to prosper without hindrance. Such dark arts have been described in the past as "manufacturing doubt".

But in an interesting recent twist, the US Chamber of Commerce is now calling for the "truth" to be outed once and for all. It is demanding that the science that underpins our understanding of anthropogenic climate change be "put on trial". In papers filed with the federal court on 25 August, it argues that the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) should hold a public hearing "complete with witnesses, cross-examinations and a judge who would rule, essentially, on whether humans are warming the planet to dangerous effect".

The LA Times, which broke the story, reported a US Chamber of Commerce official as describing the hearing as "the Scopes monkey trial of the 21st century", in reference to the 1925 test case that saw the prosecution of a Tennessee teacher named John Scopes for violating a state law that forbade any public school teacher from denying the Bible's account of man's origin.

"It would be evolution versus creationism," said William L Kovacs, the US Chamber of Commerce's senior vice president for environment, technology and regulatory affairs. "It would be the science of climate change on trial."

The papers filed with the federal court make interesting reading. The US Chamber of Commerce is saying that it wants the EPA to hold its "Endangerment Finding Proceeding" into whether carbon dioxide emissions are harmful to public health in public and on the record.
It says that a proceeding on the record …

… is necessary to narrow the areas of scientific uncertainty, to permit a credible weighing of the scientific evidence, and to enable submitters of proof to demonstrate the falsity of some [the EPA's] key erroneous claims.

… will narrow any uncertainty on the question whether, on balance, higher temperatures will not lead to net increases in human mortality.

… will enable the EPA to resolve any uncertainties about the impacts of higher temperatures on the conventional pollutants entitled to the greatest weight in considering the issue of endangerment.

… will permit the parties to provide any necessary confirmation that temperature increases would overall benefit human welfare and the environment, and allow the EPA to receive evidence rebutting unsubstantiated claims to the contrary.

… is the most efficient and only complete method for testing the competing claims in the record concerning extreme weather events and disease.

… is necessary because the EPA has generated legitimate concern that it has prejudged the outcome of the proposed endangerment finding, only an on-the-record process can produce a reliable and legally durable outcome.

It also argues that a "transparent, on-the-record process with no ex parte communications or political interference is required, would be manageable here, and indeed would be the best way to ensure that scientific integrity prevails".

Go to the bottom of the document and you can see that it means business: it has hired the services of Kirkland & Ellis LLP, one of the world's largest corporate law firms. As it says on its own website:

In every year since 1995, Kirkland has ranked as one of the most frequently used firms by Fortune 100 companies in The National Law Journal survey, 'Who Represents Corporate America'.

It then proceeds to list its corporate clients, which include Boeing, BP America, Dow Chemical, General Motors, McDonalds, Raytheon and Siemens.

Far more pertinent, though, is a quick look though the membership list of the US Chamber of Commerce itself. It claims 3m small businesses as members, but also boasts some big household names on its board, including Pfizer, ConocoPhillips, Caterpillar Inc, IBM, Accenture, Eastman Kodak, Lockheed Martin, Deloitte, FedEx Express, Fox Entertainment, The Carlyle Group, Rolls-Royce North America, and US Airways.

Do all these companies really want to be associated with such a trial? Possibly not, as it happens. It appears that not all of the board members are happy with the US Chamber of Commerce's public position on climate change. Back in May, a group of members including Nike and Johnson & Johnson publicly expressed their dissatisfaction with the US Chamber of Commerce's increasingly strident stance on the issue.

According to ---

Johnson & Johnson asked the Chamber to refrain from making comments on climate change unless they "reflect the full range of views, especially those of Chamber members advocating for congressional action." Meanwhile, a Nike spokeswoman said her company has also been "vocal" with the Chamber's leaders "about wanting them to take a more progressive stance on the issue of climate change."

It's highly tempting to call the Chamber's bluff on such a trial and say "bring it on". It sure would be fun – and deeply revealing – to see who it would call as its expert witnesses. But the reality is such a trial would provide the distraction and delay it so evidently craves. What the proposed trial does provide, though, is a sobering reminder about the combined might and resources of the forces that are now working so hard to scupper any meaningful action on reducing emissions.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Spokane is Red, Seattle is a Bubble, Most Americans can't see their own Flashlight Beam through the Fog of Agnotology

Okay, you have to look up that word, agnotology. Here's a good primer into it:

**see at the end of the blog more on agnotology, our modern culture's syphillis of the mind, memory, history, facts.

I'm embarking on a move from Spokane to Seattle, and while the economic news is abysmal for a college teacher, journalist, guy with masters in urban planning, in this off-shoring and money grubbing corptocracy, I am going into this move with steel -- a couple of novels to write, articles already assigned -- as in freelancing -- teaching, and a robust search for some of those part-time jobs the US of A is now famous for, and moving into the next evolution of a relationship.

Alas, the blog, is going to keep going strong.

As part of the move, I get to attend the U of British Columbia's Summer Sustainability Institute. I'm working on a long article for Planning Journal -- on greenwashing, as in how US cities might be pushing programs, architecture, building, transportation and other forms of messing with the built environment as a panacea, not the real things: climate change, climate disruption, oil and fossil fuel shortages, heat waves, economic and climate Diasporas, and pollution and economic instability based on a flawed model of consumer empire and war mongering.

The problem as always are the delayers, deniers and climate idiots. Those who think sustainability is some sort of UN plot are not only reckless, but now considered dangers to human and non-human populations. Media do not help, as most mainstream outlets are untrained and superficial, to say the least. Weiner or Palin or any of the rotten Republican contenders for the paid-off high office -- US presidency -- certainly need to be pushed way back into the commode of the news cycle. Rabid dogs are more important news stories than the next ethically-challenged politico.

So, here we go again -- more idiocy coming from the dead-end boys:


Republican presidential candidate Rick Santorum sure doesn’t think so. The other day he told Rush Limbaugh "the idea that man… is somehow responsible for climate change is, I think, just patently absurd." He went on to call it a left-wing conspiracy, "just an excuse for more government control of your life… I’ve never been for any scheme or even accepted the junk science behind the whole narrative."

Better you should listen to Ram Khatri Yadav, a rice farmer in northeastern India, who recently complained to The New York Times, "It will not rain in the rainy season, but it will rain in the nonrainy season. The cold season is also shrinking." He’s experiencing climate change as a life or death reality. In a June 4 article headlined "A Warming Planet Struggles to Feed Itself," the Times reported, “The great agricultural system that feeds the human race is in trouble… Many of the failed harvests of the past decade were a consequence of weather disasters, like floods in the United States, drought in Australia and blistering heat waves in Europe and Russia. Scientists believe some, though not all, of those events were caused or worsened by human-induced global warming.”

For years, scientists believed that the carbon dioxide produced by greenhouse emissions were at least in part beneficial for crops, acting as a fertilizer that helped counterbalance the deleterious effects of climate change. But according to the Times, new research indicates "extra carbon dioxide does act as plant fertilizer, but that the benefits are less than previously believed -- and probably less than needed to avert food shortages."

The World Bank estimates that there may be as many 940 million hungry people this year. The international relief agency Oxfam projects already high food prices more than doubling by 2030 with perhaps half of that spike due to climate change. With those increases could come hoarding, gouging, panic buying and food riots like those that led to the overthrow of the Haitian government in 2008.

Nor is it just our food supply that has climate change breathing hot and heavy down our collective necks. City and state planners also are examining its impact on urban centers and preparing for the worst. A May 22 Times article notes, "Climate scientists have told city planners that based on current trends, Chicago will feel more like Baton Rouge than a Northern metropolis before the end of this century... New York City, which is doing its own adaptation planning, is worried about flooding from the rising ocean."


The attack against science is the same attack against liberal arts, against critical thinking, and against P/K-12 and public universities and colleges. Teachers who read deeply, research widely and innovate in focused ways, those who are part of the larger body of instructors, lecturers, adjuncts, professors, faculty, what have you, who in turn look to the academy as a large and multi-interdisciplinary body where innovation and collaboration works both at the experimental level and intellectual level -- they are under attack from the tea baggers and right-wing camps.

So how difficult is it to see the writing in the geophysics about climate change?

Maybe these lobbyists' heroes can't read --

The Stockholm Memorandum

Tipping the Scales towards Sustainability

3rd Nobel Laureate Symposium* on Global
Sustainability, Stockholm, Sweden, 16-19 May 2011

So here's the first section to this recent paper on climate and a species, us, failing to act:

I. Mind-shift for a Great Transformation

The Earth system is complex. There are many aspects that we do not yet understand.
Nevertheless, we are the first generation with the insight of the new global risks facing humanity.

We face the evidence that our progress as the dominant species has come at a very high price. Unsustainable patterns of production, consumption, and population growth are challenging the resilience of the planet to support human activity. At the same time, inequalities between and within societies remain high, leaving behind billions with unmet basic human needs and disproportionate vulnerability to global environmental change.

This situation concerns us deeply. As members of the 3rd Nobel Laureate Symposium we call upon all leaders of the 21st century to exercise a collective responsibility of planetary stewardship. This means laying the foundation for a sustainable and equitable global civilization in which the entire Earth community is secure and prosperous.

Science indicates that we are transgressing planetary boundaries that have kept civilization safe for the past 10,000 years. Evidence is growing that human pressures are starting to overwhelm the Earth’s buffering capacity. Humans are now the most significant driver of global change, propelling the planet into a new geological epoch, the Anthropocene. We can no longer exclude the possibility that our collective actions will trigger tipping points, risking abrupt and irreversible consequences for human communities and ecological systems.

We cannot continue on our current path. The time for procrastination is over. We cannot afford the luxury of denial. We must respond rationally, equipped with scientific evidence.

Our predicament can only be redressed by reconnecting human development and global sustainability, moving away from the false dichotomy that places them in opposition.

In an interconnected and constrained world, in which we have a symbiotic relationship with the planet, environmental sustainability is a precondition for poverty eradication, economic development, and social justice.

Our call is for fundamental transformation and innovation in all spheres and at all scales in order to stop and reverse global environmental change and move toward fair and lasting prosperity for present and future generations.


What more do we have to do to convince these haywire politicians and business tyrants like the Koch "brothers" that they are in a whole other century, one broken by superstition, feudalism, and oligarchy?

Here's another great blog, from afar, that deals with rain, storms and disruptions:

News from Down Under, on the stormy climate --

from blogger -- Barry Brook

I was asked by the Adelaide Advertiser newspaper to write a short piece last week which addressed the question “Does all the recent rain across the country prove man made climate change is real?“, in less than 500 words. My response, given below, appeared in the print edition on Thursday 9 September 2010:
Does all the recent rain across the country prove man made climate change is real?


As Dorothea Mackellar wrote over a century ago, Australia is naturally “A land… Of droughts and flooding rains”.

Putting the impossible issue of ‘proof’ aside, scientists certainly do expect climate change to lead to an increase the frequency and intensity of extreme weather events. After all, a warmer planet holds extra energy, making today’s climate system more dynamic than when Mackellar penned her poem.

In short, as the Earth’s atmosphere traps more heat due to an increase in greenhouse gases, it triggers more evaporation of water from the oceans. Average global humidity and precipitation rise in response.

As such, climate scientists predict increasingly energetic storms, heavier bursts of rain, and more intense flooding. In many parts of the world, deeper droughts and longer, hotter heat waves are also forecast.

So, while it is impossible to attribute any one event solely to human-caused warming, a useful analogy is that “weather throws the punches, but climate trains the boxer”. Another way to look at it is that human impacts are “loading the climate dice” towards more unfavourable (and previously unlikely) outcomes.

We have probably witnessed this in the unprecedented heat wave in Russia and record floods in Pakistan. These impacts cause great human misery and severe economic and environmental damage.

Earlier this year in Australia, the Bureau of Meteorology released a Special Climate Statement on the recent exceptional rain and flooding events in central Australia and Queensland. February 28th 2010 was the wettest day on record for the Northern Territory, and March 2nd set a new record for Queensland. Over the 10-day period ending March 3rd, an estimated 403 cubic kilometres (403,000 gigalitres) of rainfall fell across the NT and QLD. Extreme, indeed.

It’s clear that if such ‘unusual’ climatic events are visited upon us ever more regularly, then there will be practical limits to adaptation, or at least exponentially rising costs involved in coping.

The need for action on eliminating our dependence on fossil fuels is urgent and our window of opportunity for avoiding severe impacts of climate change is rapidly closing. Yet the obstacles to change are not principally technical or economic, they are political and social. But that’s another story.


This story is dead on arrival, when it comes to the sad humans -- mostly in this country -- who are running around thinking a few moments with Rush Limbaugh or Ted Nugent make them experts in the fields they couldn't even pass as introductory courses in biochemistry, geophysics, meteorology, anthropology, marine sciences, physics, chemistry, what have you.


Okay, the answer to, What is agnotology?

"Agnotology: Ways of Producing, Preserving, and Dealing with Ignorance," Bielefeld University, May 30-June 1, 2011.

Within the last 10 years historians of science such as Robert Proctor, Londa Schiebinger, Peter Galison, and Naomi Oreskes, have been promoting a new area of enquiry—Proctor calls it agnotology, the study of ignorance—which they suggest is of as much relevance to philosophers and social scientists and others as it is to historians. Indeed, the suggestion is that agnotology offers a new approach to the study of knowledge, an approach at least as complex and important as its more established sister, epistemology. The aim of this workshop is to map out this new ignorance-centered terrain in an effort to determine just what and where it might add to knowledge-centered terrains such as epistemology and philosophy of science and how valuable the additions might be. Topics will range over the naturalness and even inevitability of certain kinds of ignorance and the unnaturalness or deliberate production of other kinds—for example, on ignorance created through government secrecy and censorship, cultural prejudice, industry influence on scientific research, and so on—and the epistemological and societal implications of such ignorance. The ultimate goal is to make a significant contribution to this new kind of enquiry.

Speakers will include historians Norton Wise (UCLA), Naomi Oreskes (San Diego), Peter Galison (Harvard), and Robert Proctor (Stanford); sociologists Peter Weingart (Bielefeld) and Stefan Böschen (Augsburg); neurobiologist Stuart Firestein (Columbia); mathematician/philosopher of science Daniel Andler (Sorbonne); and philosophers Nancy Cartwright (LSE and San Diego), Philip Kitcher (Columbia), Pat Kitcher (Columbia), Hugh Lacey (Swarthmore and São Paulo), Kevin Elliott (South Carolina), Torsten Wilholt (Bielefeld), Martin Carrier (Bielefeld), and Janet Kourany (Notre Dame). The program will also feature a screening of Peter Galison and Robb Moss’s documentary film “Secrecy.”

Friday, June 10, 2011

Longtime activists throwing in the towel

Will human greed finally trump interest in global health?

Paul K. Haeder

(This is a conclusion of a series about the possible death, or at least the lack of relevance, of the environmental movement. Read past stories, here, below.)

What is an environmentalist in this day and age, when writers like Michael Shellenberger and Ted Nordhaus write essays like “Death of Environmentalism” which basically throw in the towel on the environmental “movement”?

“The three-part strategic framework for environmental policy-making hasn’t changed in 40 years: first, define a problem (e.g. global warming) as ‘environmental.’ Second, craft a technical remedy (e.g. cap-and-trade). Third, sell the technical proposal to legislators through a variety of tactics, such as lobbying, third-party allies, research reports, advertising, and public relations.”

Do the activists in Pennsylvania fighting coordinated pigeon shoots get laurels for being environmental activists by both lobbying the lawmakers in that state and disrupting the bizarre shoots?

Is that 75 percent for and 25 percent against rule for Spokane we talked about in Part 3 apply to these shooting events where one bird is confined to a small box about 25–30 yards in front of the firing line. Then, the birds are released from five separate spring-loaded boxes known as “traps.”

Is it blood sport – like the bear kill of 1994 – since the shooter then gets to fire at five released birds in five separate rounds? In most other states this is prohibited, but in Pennsylvania each shooter tries to kill a total of 25 birds, attempting to get each one to fall within a designated circle, for a “perfect score.”

Here’s the macho factor that has to get stuck in the craw of guys like my teacher friend’s hunter dad: the birds are often dazed and confused due to no feeding and crowded confinement. As many as three-fourths of all birds, according to investigators from the Humane Society of the United States, are not killed instantly, but are wounded, usually to die slow and painful deaths.

It gets worse — wounded and dead birds are picked up by trapper boys and girls. The heads are sheared off, or other trappers wring their necks, hours after they are wounded.

The carcasses are thrown into garbage bins. Protestors have “outed” the claims of the shooters that they are ridding the state of “vermin” or “winged rats”: most of the birds have been raised to be shot, some trucked from out of state.

So these hunters hone their skills in these shoots, where illegal side bets are placed and drinking occurs.

Each generation on this planet, which will reach 7 billion people on Halloween 2011, must confront the old paradigms, whether they are late 19th century internal combustion technologies we use to move automobiles and Walmart container ships, or coal- burning energy generation that goes back 400 years to fire up your computer.

Delisting wolves from the Edangered Species Act, or shooting black bears for trophies or for gall bladders to feed the Chinese medicine racket, these issues confront our species.

Humankind scrambles to grow food, save water; to understand the true effects of climate change on twisters hitting Alabama, or cyclones in the Indian Sea flooding homes along the Bangladeshi coast; to stave off corporations who would have us all give up the last free man/woman for a few crumbs.

Sometimes activism starts with a short letter to the editor. Sometimes activism dies because of the surmounting evidence of wildlife and environmental losses.

For my teacher friend who was inspired by the bear killing discussion more than a decade ago, she talks of throwing in the towel daily. She repeats how humanity has screwed the planet for good and has retreated into a state of pessimisms and cynicisms. The glimmer of pugnacity she showed in those 15-year-old letters and columns is gone.

In 1989 Bill McKibben wrote the first climate change book – “The End of Nature.” He’s famous now for his Step it Up and campaigns. The subtext of the book is that for us to survive, we must make major philosophical shifts in how we relate to nature.

The ending then, and now, 20 years later, is bleak: Human beings value themselves and their interests primarily and these values will likely win out. We are so much closer to a state of managed climate, genetics and ecology. De facto, environmentalism is dead on arrival.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Barak and JP Morgan, and Rockefeller

An email to me, today, June 2, 2011 -- for money donation to political campaign!

Friend --

Someone is about to tap you on the shoulder.

It's someone who's already made a donation to the 2012 campaign, and who's willing to give again if you'll step up and take ownership of it, too.

They've made a promise to match your first donation to this campaign, effectively making your $5 donation a gift of $10. If you give now, you'll double your impact.

Will you?

We're not just gathering donations here. We're gathering people.

We didn't get this far by doing things the usual way. Our campaign doesn't take money from Washington lobbyists or special-interest PACs.

We're doing this the right way -- with a whole lot of people like you taking the lead.

One of our earliest supporters is prepared to make a second donation in order to persuade you to make your first. It's that kind of commitment that creates a grassroots campaign capable of changing the outcome of an election -- and capable of changing the course of this country.

That's the spirit that drives us. And it starts with a tap on the shoulder.

Now all you have to do is take them up on the offer. Give it a go:

Thank you,



You have got to be kidding. Obama, Bush, Clinton, Bush, Reagan -- all facilitators in what is now a crumbling empire of 8 percent of USA population raking in 90 percent of wealth, power, political influence. I just talked with a realtor in Spokane, who sold me the house I have now (2006) on the market to head out of this town for the Westside. Banks are screwing home sellers and buyers -- won't loan to low or middle income families, buyers. When a house gets close to closing, the too-big-to-jail banks won't loan the money for the house's selling price?

I think I will pass on trying to buy off Obama with my $5. Politics, my friend, are as corrupt as they can ever get. My realtor has a bead on Spokane, this economy. Talk about schools, and she has soon-to-be Costa Rica bound administrators saying how the system in this town's district is corrupt. They are bailing. Teachers who can't take dumb and dumber administrators forcing bad curriculum down their throats -- they too are on the retreat.

That's a whole other column, speaking to power, challenging them daily, not letting their nonsense be the only message youth and workers hear.

The bottom line, though, is what issue should I send to the re-elect team of Obama to point out why I'd not waste a wooden nickel on his or any of his competitions' campaign? Climate change? Stopping big energy from killing economies, communities? Corporations' big sucking of our communities' hopes and dreams and ability to function with high prostitution-level inside dealing and payoffs?

Well, let's just get back to the housing crisis -- Democracy Now. Is this enough for Obama and the other politicos to understand why some of us will never support political campaigns of the big-league kind.

Check out the Uncut movement --

JUAN GONZALEZ: A prominent Wall Street analyst predicted this week that not a single top executive at Goldman Sachs will face criminal prosecution for the company’s role in causing the financial meltdown of 2008. The analyst, Brad Hintz, said the U.S. government still views Goldman Sachs as "too big to fail."

So far, the Securities and Exchange Commission has filed suit against only one Goldman Sachs employee: a young mid-level trader named Fabrice Tourre who was part of an effort at the bank to essentially place bets that the housing market would collapse. The prosecution of Tourre was the subject of a front-page article in the New York Times this week, written by one of our next guests, Gretchen Morgenson.

AMY GOODMAN: Gretchen Morgenson is the Pulitzer Prizer-winning business reporter at the New York Times who has written extensively on how the U.S. government has failed to prosecute any of the top figures who played a role in the economic crash. She is co-author of a new book called Reckless Endangerment: How Outsized Ambition, Greed, and Corruption Led to Economic Armageddon. Her co-author, Joshua Rosner, is an expert on housing finance and a partner at the independent research consultancy firm of Graham Fisher & Co.

In the book, they argue that the root of the financial crisis lies in President Clinton’s decision to heavily promote home ownership in the ’90s and the lowering of lending standards by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.

Gretchen Morgenson and Joshua Rosner, thanks so much for being with us.


AMY GOODMAN: Let us start with Gretchen Morgenson. Just lay out the thesis of this book.

GRETCHEN MORGENSON: Well, the thesis really is that Fannie Mae, which of course was created in 1938 to, you know, help homeowners have access to credit to borrow to get a home, really sort of expanded in a way that was designed very much to benefit the insiders at the company. Remember, this is a company that was both public and private, had a lot of government perquisites, and received those perquisites and used them to its own advantage. So, it’s a story, I think, of how sort of good and noble ideas can go awry and really a lesson in how not to allow that to happen again.

JUAN GONZALEZ: And Joshua, how exactly did Fannie Mae go from being a government-created agency to basically a private corporation backed by the government?

JOSHUA ROSNER: Yeah. So, the government, in the late 1960s, decided that they needed a competitor for Fannie Mae, so they created Freddie Mac. They ended up privatizing both of those a decade later. And in privatizing, they retained a line of credit to the Treasury, which wasn’t really large enough to matter, fundamentally, but it told the markets, it implied to the markets, along with other benefits that they had, such as not having to file financial statements with the SEC as all other companies did, that these were special companies, these were companies that retained some government support. And so, publicly, they would say, and they would put on all of their debt issuances, that these are not obligations guaranteed by the government. But privately and quietly, there would always be a "wink wink, nudge nudge" that went along with that comment, to the point where foreign central banks became more and more and more comfortable buying government-sponsored enterprise debt, Fannie and Freddie debt, as a proxy for U.S. Treasury debt, because they’d get the extra yield, and they believed that it was government-guaranteed.

JUAN GONZALEZ: Well, if there’s a—if I can say, if there’s a key villain in your story, it’s James Johnson, who was, for a long period of time, the chief executive of Fannie Mae. You quote at one point that, "Under Johnson, Fannie Mae led the way in encouraging loose lending practices among the banks whose loans the company bought. A Pied Piper of the financial sector, Johnson led both the private and public sectors down a path that led directly to the credit crisis of 2008." But now, some people, though, have questioned whether you’re not sort of echoing the criticism that’s been raised by some of the Republican Tea Partiers, Sarah Palin herself, saying Freddie and Fannie were behind the whole crisis. This whole issue of the reduction of lending standards by the government and by Fannie Mae and how that affected the crisis, could you talk about that?

GRETCHEN MORGENSON: We’re certainly not saying that Fannie and Freddie were the, you know, key movers in this. They were—Fannie was a lead mover, a prime mover, first mover. And Jim Johnson really was a person who really taught the entire financial services industry how to co-opt their regulator, how to co-opt Congress, so that they could achieve what they wanted. And in many ways, this was personal enrichment, made a lot of money, the top executives of Fannie Mae. This, you know, is not our idea of what a government-sponsored enterprise should do. But so they were a primary mover, not the only movers. We had Wall Street very involved after Fannie Mae led the way. So, it really isn’t that simple.

JOSHUA ROSNER: Including the fact that you have to remember there was a symbiotic relationship between Fannie and Freddie and the private firms. Fannie Mae’s largest customer was Countrywide. Countrywide sold more of their volume to Fannie Mae than any other lender. And that relationship is really part of the ebb and flow of the private versus the government-sponsored. So, even as early as 2001, I had written a paper called "Housing in the New Millennium: A Home Without Equity is Just a Rental with Debt," in which I warned that we would end up where we ended up. Fannie and Freddie were really the only players. There wasn’t very much of a private market. The private market was where banks would make loans and hold them on their balance sheet. But the private-label securitization market, the mortgage-backed securities market, really was innovated after that. And so, Fannie and Freddie were part of the drivers of the creation of that private-label market and supported it, buying a lot of the private-label mortgages, mortgage-backed securities, that these other firms, Countrywide and Deutsche Bank and others, would end up issuing, Goldman Sachs.

AMY GOODMAN: One of the revelations in your book has made headlines in Massachusetts. In 1991, Fannie Mae hired Frank’s partner Herb Moses out of graduate school.

JUAN GONZALEZ: Barney Frank’s.

AMY GOODMAN: Barney Frank, congressman. Frank called up a VP at Fannie to praise Moses’ qualifications at the time. Congressman Frank was a member and later became chair of the House Financial Services Committee. Gretchen?

GRETCHEN MORGENSON: You know, we spoke with Barney about this as we were preparing the book and really wanted to ask him. You know, ’91 was a crucial moment in time, because after the S&L crisis, Congress was concerned that there would be losses at Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac that the taxpayer might have to bear, and so they were putting in place some new regulation to keep those losses from happening. And so, this was a crucial moment for the company.

And yet, Barney Frank spoke with people at Fannie Mae about hiring his partner. His partner was then hired. There was a red carpet rolled out for him by the company, because of course they were eager to provide this kind of a favor for a person who was in a position of power. We asked Frank if he felt that this conflicted him at all. He said, "Absolutely not." But if you look at the record, you see tremendous pushback from Frank in congressional hearings against the very idea of being careful about safety and soundness at Fannie Mae.


JOSHUA ROSNER: Yeah, no, I was just going to say, I think that that example, which has made headlines because it’s a little bit salacious, is really one example—and it’s not just Barney Frank, it’s both sides of the aisle, it’s Republicans and Dems—of the way the financial service industry really captured Congress with favors, with relationships, hiring senators’ sons to run their partnership offices.

Barney Frank—you know, there’s one that I don’t think had ever been reported at all that we include, which I think is even more sort of interesting, which is that the Fannie Mae Foundation, which provided annual awards and grants to folks who helped housing the most, awarded a charity that was founded by Barney Frank’s mother, annual awards on at least—


JOSHUA ROSNER:—two occasions. And that type of relationship really does bind elected officials to corporate interests in a way that we feel is important to discuss, not necessarily in the public interest.

JUAN GONZALEZ: I want to get back to this issue of the lowering of lending standards, because one of the—I’d say the first half of the book is really sort of dedicated to how this process unraveled. And you say at one point that when the Boston Fed—I think it was in the '90s, early ’90s—comes up with a report showing that there had in fact been discrimination in the lending industry toward minority groups, that there was—that one of the few publications that raised issues about this report was Forbes magazine. And I think you quote some of the staff members—Peter Brimelow, who I remember in particular—challenging this whole notion that there had been racial discrimination in lending practices. Now, I happen to know a little bit about Brimelow, because later on, a few years later, he wrote a book, Alien Nation, that became widely criticized because the theory was that the United States was being brought down by massive Third World immigration. So I don't expect that Peter Brimelow would be the kind of person who would, like, stand up against racial discrimination. But the question of the impact—how central was the lowering of standards by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac in lending standards? How much was that a part of it? And how much was actual fraud by the industry, by the brokers, by the appraisers, by the Mazilos of the world, who actually engineered fraudulent loans?

JOSHUA ROSNER: Right. So, on the most simple level, if you were to think about it today, we have about 40 percent of American homeowners have, or are close to having, negative equity. OK? If we had retained the lending standards that existed prior to 1995, where you really had to have 20 percent down payment, it would be a fraction of that that would have negative equity. We would not be sitting here having this conversation about a national housing crisis. That is a major part of this, was we went from 20 percent down, other than through explicit and direct government subsidy programs, right? The VA programs, right? Certain Ginnie programs, the farm credit programs. We went from that to Fannie and Freddie driving from a 20 percent down, down to a five percent down, down to a three percent down, to starting to play with, as early as 2001, zero percent down programs, which, by the way, if you put zero down, closing costs are about five percent, so really you’ve got negative equity day one. That is a setup for a disaster if home prices start falling. And so, if you start talking to congressmen and senators about, you know, at some point if home prices fall, the people who you loved the ribbon-cutting ceremonies that you got for putting them in homes are going to start accusing you of trapping them in homes that they couldn’t afford, becomes a reality.

JUAN GONZALEZ: But what percentage of it was new buyers, poor folks buying their first home, and what percentage was well-to-do people trying to refinance, constantly refinance, or interest-only loans—

JOSHUA ROSNER: Absolutely.

JUAN GONZALEZ:—to be able to get equity out of their house, on the theory that the house was going to continue to increase in value?

JOSHUA ROSNER: That’s a really important and great point. So, homeownership rates, which had been stagnant in the early 1990s at between—at about 63 percent, started rising to 64, 64.5 percent. Out comes this initiative to increase homeownership to record levels by the end of the decade. We get to 69.5 percent by the end of 2000. And we end up peaking in homeownership late 2003, early 2004. So that’s really—homeownership rates did peak long before the real estate market peaked. So, 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007 were a combination, as I think you’re pointing out, of refinancing activity, which was stripping equity—and it wasn’t just the well-to-do, it was anyone who had equity, was given incentives to take mortgages that allowed them to strip the equity out of their home to remodel their bathroom, to buy that other—you know, the riding lawn mower or whatever it was, and it was second home and investment property purchases on speculation.

GRETCHEN MORGENSON: Don’t forget that incomes were stagnant throughout this period. And so, for many people, it wasn’t taking equity out to go to Europe, to spend on some frivolous item. It was to maintain a lifestyle—

JOSHUA ROSNER: Absolutely.

GRETCHEN MORGENSON:—or keep, you know, their income at a level that they could actually live. So, there was a lot of equity extraction that was not based upon buying or consumerism or something that was frivolous. You know, I think that one of the most poisonous paradoxes that we found in our reporting for the book was that the very people that the government was claiming to want to help—first-time home buyers, minorities, immigrants—were the people who were hurt the most by this crisis. If you look at foreclosure rates among minorities, far higher. If you look at delinquency rates and problem mortgages and bankruptcy filings, it’s really so much worse among these very people.

AMY GOODMAN: You’ve also written extensively about how the government has failed to prosecute. We started this segment talking about a prominent Wall Street analyst predicting this week not a single top executive at Goldman Sachs will face criminal prosecution for the company’s role in the financial meltdown. Talk about that.

GRETCHEN MORGENSON: Well, of course, not being a prosecutor, it’s very difficult for me to really understand what goes through their minds when they bring cases or investigate. But I think that there is a genuine sense out there that there are two sets of rules, one for big and powerful institutions that are deemed to be too politically interconnected or powerful to fail, and the rest of us, Main Street. And I think that feeds a—that’s a very pernicious view. And unfortunately, if you don’t have investigations and if you don’t have cases being brought, that view will continue. In the S&L crisis, for example, many, many people went to jail. High-level executives went to jail. CEOs went to jail. And to have a crisis that was this much larger than that one and to have no one go to jail is very troubling to a lot of people.

JOSHUA ROSNER: And part of that really is—you know, to reiterate what Gretchen said—this view that if we really investigate, if we really find wrongdoing by senior executives at these firms who now are too big to fail, we’re going to risk destabilizing the system. That’s really the psyche.

AMY GOODMAN: And how much of it is—well, for example, President Obama will be raising—hopes to raise more than a billion dollars for the 2012 election cycle to become president again. And the people he surrounds himself by, the very people involved in 2008 in the financial meltdown.

GRETCHEN MORGENSON: Exactly. And this brings us back to the original point we were talking about, about this public-private partnership with homeownership and how Fannie Mae co-opted Congress. It’s again that story. And so, I think it’s quite disturbing to many people.

JUAN GONZALEZ: I’m curious about your sense of the role of the news media as this crisis unfolded, because it seems to me that throughout the '90s many of the newspapers—and, of course, you had the growth of business networks and cable—the business sections of the newspapers grew, but they grew basically as cheerleaders for the industry, rewriting the press releases of the analysts, not really doing independent reporting and analysis or investigations of what was going on in the business world. Now, after the whole thing collapses, now there's lots of reporters saying, “Hey, the government should have done this.” But where were those reporters when the crisis was developing?

GRETCHEN MORGENSON: Excellent, excellent point. I have, myself, taken on a lot of these individuals and institutions well before others. And believe me, it’s not easy. They are very powerful. They come at you with guns blazing. And I totally get that. That’s fine. But I think there was a sense among a lot of my colleagues in the press that—of a collegiality with people, almost that you wanted to be invited to the parties, instead of being outside with your nose pressed up against the glass, which is where I’d rather be. You wanted to be in the mix with the CEOs. There’s this sense of adulation. There’s a sense that if the CEO takes your call, that you’re, you know, sort of increasing in your own power. I think that’s a very hypnotic effect that happens in the media.

AMY GOODMAN: Let’s talk about how all of this affects average Americans. In the face of the massive budget shortfalls, calls are mounting across the country for wealthy individuals and corporations to pay a greater share of taxes. Here in New York City, hundreds rallied at City Hall yesterday demanding officials close tax loopholes and regulate financial practices, instead of targeting the public sector with layoffs and budget cuts. Protesters cut a symbolic Social Security net to represent the effects of cuts to vital services. This is a Brooklyn resident, Bobby Talbert. bq.

BOBBY TALBERT: Major corporations and the big banks are getting tremendous tax breaks. They’re getting bailed out, and they have a tremendous amount of loopholes, as far as financial is concerned. Meanwhile, services are being cut for marginalized families and even for the working class in New York City.

AMY GOODMAN: Gretchen Morgenson?

GRETCHEN MORGENSON: He’s absolutely right. And again, this is this feeling that the bailouts benefited Wall Street, they benefited corporate America, and did not benefit Main Street. I think, from the very outset of this crisis and the government’s reaction to it, we have had that feeling. And Main Street has been left out in the cold. The foreclosure programs are abysmal. The banks are not responding in a way that everyone had hoped they would. So I completely agree.
AMY GOODMAN: Lloyd Blankfein told you he felt waterboarded?

GRETCHEN MORGENSON: That was, yes, the word.

AMY GOODMAN: Explain the conversation, what was happening at the time. And then I want to ask you about Fabrice Tourre.

GRETCHEN MORGENSON: I think that what Mr. Blankfein meant was that he just felt, you know, overwhelmed by the public attention. I think that they felt at Goldman Sachs—and he had said this at one point—that they were doing the Lord’s work, or God’s work. And I’m going to take him at his word, if he really believes that. And, you know, I think that financial institutions are important. They are an intermediary. We need to have banks. I’m not saying, “Let’s get rid of them.” But I think that that tells you a little bit about his mindset. And, you know, many, many CEOs live in a bubble. They’re not used to having people speak truth to them. And so, I think that was his reaction. But I don’t know. I’m not in his brain.

AMY GOODMAN: And Tourre?

GRETCHEN MORGENSON: This is a—was a 28-year-old individual, seemed pretty junior in the organization.

AMY GOODMAN: He’s the only guy being brought up on charges. GRETCHEN MORGENSON: He’s the only—

AMY GOODMAN: We just have 30 seconds.

GRETCHEN MORGENSON: Yes, he’s the only guy being brought up on charges. And so, you just once again wonder why are there no—why aren’t more people further up the ladder being singled out or focused upon?

AMY GOODMAN: Finally, your solution, what you think needs to happen?

GRETCHEN MORGENSON: Well, I think we need to address the foreclosure problem immediately. We need to have the banks, I think, face the music about what kinds of assets they own that they are not accurately reporting on their value. And I think that we have to try to balance it out between Main Street and Wall Street. Josh?

JOSHUA ROSNER: Yeah, I also think we need to turn the society from being geared for debt to equity. So, instead of a mortgage interest deduction, which incents borrowers to become indebted, maybe we should have principal equity tax credits so that they have incentives to save.

AMY GOODMAN: On that note, I want to thank you both for being with us, Joshua Rosner and Gretchen Morgenson, authors of Reckless Endangerment.

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