Save Public Broadcasting

The House of Representatives recently voted to eliminate public broadcasting. This means no more NPR, no more Sesame Street (won’t somebody think of the children?!), no more Wait! Wait! Don’t Tell Me, no more PBS Kids. As a parent with a child who loves Elmo, as well as a frequent listener of npr’s great programs, I cannot remain silent while this great resource is voted out of existence. I know that our corporate house representatives want to make this last public supported media resource, I do not!If you won’t listen to me, listen to Mr. Roger’s saving public broadcasting in 1969.

Check out this infographic released by the campaign to save public broadcasting, 170 Million Americans:

Tell you senator to vote against this bill.

Perhaps instead of eliminating a valuable public resource (that costs relatively nothing when compared to the rest of the budget) we should start taxing our corporations – you know those business that make billions of dollars a year and pay practically nothing in taxes! Read my last post about the One Good Cut Campaign or check out the newest issue of Mother Jones to see just how much we pay and how little those big fat cats pay.

2010 Washington State Voter’s Guide

This November offers up some serious measures and elections, as well as seriously confusing measures and initiatives. I’ve outlined why I’m voting for some and not others, as well as my picks for the state elections. Democracy in action: research and vote!

I don’t usually use this blog as a direct political outlet, but after opening up my mail-in ballet for the Washington State November Election I was inspired to write something. This election is important – not only because it represents a serious threat to progressive action on a national level (don’t vote in republicans!) but also here in Washington there are some important initiatives and elections. You can’t just read the ballet and understand the implications of these measures – especially since many of them include multiple changes to law, overlap in odd ways and are all the source of much campaigning by corporate interests.

I did a little research, as all members of a democracy should – be educated and involved. There are numerous sites out there, but you should at least look at your state voter’s guide to read about the measures before you vote. In the past I have used the local free newspaper, The Stranger, and the county/state guides to help me come to a decision. This year I did a little more research on these complicated measures, although I’ll admit I came to similar conclusions as The Stranger on most of them, it was of my own decision making skills.

Continue reading “2010 Washington State Voter’s Guide”

The Green Economy vs US Politics

My apologies for the near two weeks of silence, we’ve had some computer issues in my house and a wave of fall cold. I’ve been twitting when possible, but limited computer time has made it difficult to write much. Here is something I think you might find interesting…

The United States political arena is mind-bogglingly idiotic. There, I said it. The fact that our media and politics can take a scientific fact (climate change) and turn it into a “four-letter word that many U.S. politicians won’t even dare utter in public” is despicable, detestable and degrading to the intelligence of the American people. Thomas Friedman just wrote a great article about the “next great global industry” and how our media-political system has pushed us behind the curve.

China’s leaders are mostly engineers and scientist. They understand scientific data, unlike our leaders that are politically-driven lawyers and scoundrels – they only seem understand money. It’s just unfortunate that most of the money is held by oil and coal companies with free reign to purchase elections and fund anti-climate campaigns. From Friedman’s short article “Aren’t We Clever?“:

“‘There is really no debate about climate change in China,’ said Peggy Liu, chairwoman of the Joint U.S.-China Collaboration on Clean Energy, a nonprofit group working to accelerate the greening of China… The push for green in China, she added, ‘is a practical discussion on health and wealth. There is no need to emphasize future consequences when people already see, eat and breathe pollution every day.’

“So while America’s Republicans turned ‘climate change’ into a four-letter word — J-O-K-E — China’s Communists also turned it into a four-letter word — J-O-B-S.

“‘China is changing from the factory of the world to the clean-tech laboratory of the world,’ said Liu. ‘It has the unique ability to pit low-cost capital with large-scale experiments to find models that work.’ China has designated and invested in pilot cities for electric vehicles, smart grids, LED lighting, rural biomass and low-carbon communities. ‘They’re able to quickly throw spaghetti on the wall to see what clean-tech models stick, and then have the political will to scale them quickly across the country,’ Liu added. ‘This allows China to create jobs and learn quickly.'”

So the old worry of communism may not be too far off – they are in fact stealing jobs from us. But not because they are communists and we are capitalists, but because they are intelligently transitioning to a new green economy and we are busy arguing over whether or not to trust the science.

Note: don’t let my tone make you think I don’t believe the US can transition to a greener economy, far from it. It is just frustrating to be in the one country with a non-functioning congress. If anything, I want you to not let the regressive party (republicans) win seats in this next election – it will make things worse. Vote out the idiots who don’t “believe” in the science!

Mr President, Put Solar On The White House

Lead By Example, Symbols Are Powerful

Symbols are important. The Statue of Liberty, the Eiffel Tower, the Pyramids, the Great Wall are all examples of important cultural symbols. But even small symbols are important, in fact I would venture that smaller, local symbols are even more important on a day-to-day basis – the example of a father, the blessing of a ship, the courtesy of a door held open.

In order for the United States to survive the coming few decades as a society it will need to invest in something called resilience. This term has devoid from our lives for the past 50-100 years in part because of our belief that we will forever have cheap energy. The truth of the matter is that oil is peaking, and will run out soon.

Even before it runs out completely, it will get super expensive. This might not seem like a big deal to some, but to many this will increase the costs of everything we do, because nearly all of it relies on oil. Electricity, supermarket food, pencils, transportation, fresh water, lawn mowers, sewer, medical supplies, and waste water systems – everything either requires oil directly or indirectly.

Therefore, in order to increase our society’s resilience, we need to be able to take the shock of post-peak oil in stride. This means, among many other things, having readily available renewable energy. We should take advantage of our cheap(er) oil now to build the structures that will sustain a more resilient society after the peak. Once the shocks come it will likely be too late to make any proper transition to a renewable energy-powered society without hardship.

Back to symbols – we need a strong leader in this venture towards a sustainable society. President Obama has a great opportunity to provide a great symbol of our commitment on top of his house – for free! The Glõbama Campaign is provide a means for us to send a message to the president that he should do just that – put solar panels on the white house!

Check it out here.

The Earth Bleeds Out

If only the words “back from whence ye came” could really have magical powers and plug the mortal wound we have inflicted upon the Gulf of Mexico (and soon her bigger cousin, the Atlantic Ocean and Eastern Coastline). Whilst our human brains convince us over and over again that we are above nature, can outsmart her, or take over her services, she shows us again and again the error in our ways. From Katrina, to Taiwan, to Haiti and many more, Mother Nature is an unrelenting and all-powerful presence in our lives. This shouldn’t be seen as an unwelcomed presence – far too often we seem to run away from nature, when we are, in fact, of nature and in nature.

I have been avoiding writing about the Gulf Disaster because it seems pretty well covered: it’s everywhere, whether you read it, watch it, or listen to it. However, I couldn’t resist promoting this incredibly moving image tool: Ifitwasmyhome.com. What would the oil disaster look like if it was centered over your home? Check it out for me here in Seattle: (Thanks to nef’s Triple Crunch Blog for first showing me this site)

Gush Forth! Oh, Mighty Earth!

Imagine this were true: the largest populated area in the Pacific Northwest would be almost entirely covered in oil, even up over the Canadian border. They’re our allies, but I can’t imagine they’d be happy with that type of sharing. All of the Olympic Rainforest and National Park would be dripping wet with crude. Lake Chelan would be filled with black gold. As far south as Centralia and stretching over the many islands of the Puget Sound – all wiped out by BP’s greed for a fossil fuel. Good-bye Orcas! good-bye Salmon! Audios watersheds, fisheries, and my beautiful hometown.

They seem completely incapable of stopping the leak (some wonder if they won’t be able to do it or it might wait until Christmas). Personally, I think it is motivation to sell your car, ride your bike, and vote for a constitutional amendment outlawing corporate personhood (had this occurred prior to 1886, the government could have liquidated BP’s assets to cover everything and thrown everyone involved in jail).

All of this is the direct result of our lust for oil. We are destroying the largest fishery in the US (something like 70% of our shellfish and 30% of all our seafood comes from the Gulf), destroying priceless natural capital. For what? BP’s giant profits. This won’t finish them unless we take them to court, and even that is doubtful to have a large, positive result within a decade. At least the local economy will get a bump in GDP while everyone rushes down there to clean it up, right?

What do you think of the developments down there?

Capitalism, Socialism and Communism

Okay, I am tired of these terms being used improperly. The last two are thrown around by politicos like they’re handing out free candy. Usually socialism is used by someone (we all know who) to label something they want to attack without using an actual argument or facts to support their opinion (also called bullshit).

Let’s quickly review the actual definitions of these three types of systems:

Capitalism: An economic system that allows private ownership of production. That’s it, that’s all capitalism actually entails – not low taxes, or private health care, or small government. Capitalism is simply a system that does not have government control of production (the government doesn’t own the factories, the companies – well, outside of car companies now – or the processes to produce products. Period). Capitalism refers to a type of economy, not a necessarily a type of government (“Social democracies” in Europe are still capitalistic countries, as the government does not control production).

Socialism: An economic system that advocates either public or direct worker ownership and administration of production and allocation of resources. Socialism removes production and wage labor as commodities, maximizing the “use value” instead of the “exchange value” – that is to say, real wealth versus phantom wealth. In a socialist economy the worker owns the production means and rights to resources.

Communism: An economic and social structure that advocates complete public ownership of production and allocation of resources. Communism is by far the most intertwined with political control of classes, wages, and policies to eliminate poverty or wealth gaps. Communism is considered more of a political expansion of the economic system of socialism and has been in the past portrayed as an attempt to create a Marxism utopia through government (ironic, as true Marxism would have no government).

Each of these systems has political ramifications in any society that institutes it. However, capitalism and socialism in-and-of themselves are economic systems. More importantly, none of these systems require economic growth. You can easily have privately owned production (flourishing production) without a continual expansion of the entire economy. Each of them are human creations. Economic growth is a human creation!

Any human system will be flawed, but hopefully we learn from our mistakes and get closer and closer to perfecting it. Perhaps this is humanity’s own Zeno paradox. While communism doesn’t work for us and socialism has its flaws, why should we assume that rampant capitalism is the answer? We should question the flaws in our system and work to correct them. A non-growth economy can be communist, socialist, capitalist, or anything else we want it to be – the economy is our creation.

Consuming Our Way To Prosperity

First off let me say that I have had a crazy couple of weeks between holidays and family and then getting my wisdom teeth pulled. As such, I haven’t had much time to read, let alone write, so the blog will be a little slow for the next week or so. But feat not! In just two weeks I will be on my way to the Capital City to attend the New Green Economy Conference. There I will be keeping you all up to date on the daily workshops, volunteer activities, and events!

While reading an article I was reminded of a topic I have been trying to formulate words on: measuring progress. As George Monbiot puts it,

“In our hearts most of us know it is true, but we live as if it isn’t. Progress is measured by the speed at which we destroy the conditions which sustain life. Governments are deemed to succeed or fail by how well they make money go round, regardless of whether it serves any useful purpose. They regard it as a sacred duty to encourage the country’s most revolting spectacle: the annual feeding frenzy in which shoppers queue all night, then stampede into the shops, elbow, trample and sometimes fight to be the first to carry off some designer junk which will go into landfill before the sales next year. The madder the orgy, the greater the triumph of economic management.

“Though we know they aren’t the same, we can’t help conflating growth and well-being… GDP is a measure of economic activity, not standard of living.”

Read through Prosperity Without Growth and the new economics foundation‘s publications and you will find tons of information about prosperity, progress and the measuring of it. In fact, there are numerous metrics out there to choose from. I just wrote a post for new project I am working on with some fellow steady staters on the subject of measuring progress, read it here.

Governance and Economy

The Wall Fell, But We Didn't Learn
The Wall Fell, But We Didn't Learn

The fall of the Berlin wall was a monumental event in history. Interestingly enough it acted as the end of a large-scale governance/economic experiment. Here we have two societies, each with similar backgrounds, but each with drastically different views of government and economics. On one side was placed a highly controlled society and on the other was placed a free market society. The prevalence of the capitalism in this instance was taken as proof of its superiority and also acted to secure it in our minds as they way for the future. However, there have not been any others to step up in competition – even if they would have been allowed socially.

So we are still locked in the same debate – capitalistic democracy or communism/socialism. Note how it is one or the other in this debate; no one seems to question that perhaps neither is the correct form for human prosperity. Given that the two extremes are both unsustainable, and the incredibly unlikely (and perhaps socially unwanted) possibility of a green, benign dictator coming to our rescue, we are ultimately left to our own devices to re-envision government So how do we make this change in the bureaucracies we have established and entrenched in unsustainable growth? How do we transition to a truly beneficial and socially just form of governance?

I would suggest we first ignore the initial pessimistic view (however likely it might seem to be) of a collapse of society in favor of an optimistic view of successfully transitioning without collapse. Why bother? Because the latter option gives us a challenge to work towards while the former option encourages laziness (and, in my case, would significantly increase my drinking habits in order to cope).

Continue reading “Governance and Economy”