Thursday, March 24, 2011

Naomi Klein on The Increasingly Risky Behavior of Energy Addicted Nations

On December 8, 2010, Naomi Klein delivered a TED talk at the first-ever TEDWomen conference in Washington, DC.,  during which she raised the question of why our culture is so prone to reckless high-stakes gambles in our pursuit of energy.  

In light of this past weekend's oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, and the renewed calls in the United States for off-shore oil drilling, I have to wonder if we will ever get serious about investing in clean and safe energy solutions.

Just days before giving her Ted talk, Naomi had been on a boat in the Gulf of Mexico, looking at the catastrophic results of BP's risky pursuit of oil. 

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

The Hypocrisy of War

For the past few days, it has been interestin­g listening to the political pundits and foreign policy analysts debate the merits of the interventi­on in Libya. Few, if any, have had the courage to state, as Rev. Wallis has in this post, that the decisions of where and when to use US military force often have less to do with political ideology, humanitari­an concerns or a defined foreign policy than it does with corporate interests.

While I support the President'­s decision to participat­e in the military action in Libya and, to do so only after waiting for the UN resolution­, it would have been fascinatin­g to see the issue debated in Congress, if for no other reason that to see the Republican­s justify the expense. It would have been pure theatre to watch Louie Gohmert rant, Michele Bachmann twist history and Speaker Boehner in tears trying to make an argument that would be the opposite of the President'­s.

Sadly, we will probably have another chance to have this discussion­. We can't always rush to war, can we?
Read the Article at HuffingtonPost

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Pennsylvania, Budget Cuts, Nuclear Energy & a State Energy Executive?

While Wisconsin didn't have a budget deficit until Governor Scott Walker created one, Pennsylvania did.  However, as in the case of Wisconsin,  Pennsylvania's newly-elected Republican Governor wants to preserve tax cuts for corporations and balance the state budget by making deep cuts to programs that aid those who need help the most.

As Tami Luhby reported last week for CNN:
"The state is facing a budget gap of more than $4 billion, and its new governor is keeping his promise not to raise taxes to close it. Instead, he is looking for concessions from public employees and for cuts from a wide array of agencies. Also, some 1,500 positions would disappear in the budget that cuts overall spending by 3%.
The governor is leaning hard on education -- both K-12 and college level. Together, these suck up 38% of the state budget.
Corbett is asking teachers to freeze their salaries for a year, saying it would save $400 million, and he wants school districts to be allowed to furlough employees during tough budget times.
But he still plans to cut $550 million from basic education funding. He is also looking to reduce state mandates and promote school choice. And he wants to allow voters to rule on property tax hikes school districts may propose to make up for state funding cuts.
The state university system would see its state funding slashed $271 million, while Penn State, University of Pittsburgh, Temple and Lincoln universities would lose half of their funding. 
The governor also said he will be looking for salary roll-backs and freezes from the state's 62,000 employees, as well as having them pay more for health care. And he wants to start discussions on fixing the pension system, which could mean higher contributions or less generous benefits."

Until last week, those cuts may have been seen as the most troubling items in the Governor's proposed budget.  But as Rachel Maddow pointed out on her March 11th broadcast, there is a not widely reported element in the Governor's plan that may have far greater and potentially dangerous consequences, his plan to appoint a state energy executive.

As the Pennsylvania Environment Digest reports: 

As part of his campaign platform, Gov.-elect Tom Corbett laid out a series of commitments on protecting the environment, developing Pennsylvania's energy resources, enhancing agriculture and promoting sportsmen's  issues.
 Tom Corbett’s energy plan has five core areas: 
-- Growing Our Energy Infrastructure;
-- Encouraging Renewable, Alternative; Clean Energy in Pennsylvania;
-- Cultivating Pennsylvania’s Coal Resources; and
-- Transitioning to Competitive Markets.
            Harnessing Pennsylvania’s energy potential to reduce our dependence on foreign oil and make energy affordable for all
Sounds great doesn't it.  Until you read a little further and find out what the Governor means by "Transitioning to Competitive Markets."  
"As Governor, Tom Corbett will issue an immediate Executive Order to designate a senior advisor within the Governor’s office to serve as the state Energy Executive, who will be charged with coordinating the overall state energy policy, utilizing expertise within the relevant agencies of state government."

As I mentioned, this was the topic of discussion on a recent broadcast of the Rachel Maddow Show.  On March 11th, Abrahm Lustgarten of ProPublica joined Rachel to discuss how the aforementioned provision in Pennsylvania Governor Tom Corbett's budget could give authority over the state's environmental permitting process to an energy executive.  The proposal would give C. Alan Walker, the head of the Department of Community and Economic Development, the unprecedented authority to "expedite any permit or action pending in any agency where the creation of jobs may be impacted" - including coal, oil, gas and trucking.

( and nuclear power plants ?)

I'm sure that you see where I'm going with this.

A Nuclear Regulatory Commission study released less than a year ago ranked Exelon Nuclear's Limerick Generating Station, (a nuclear energy plant located in southeastern Pennsylvania, about 20 miles northwest of Philadelphia in Montgomery County), as being the nation's nuclear plant that is at the third highest risk of being damaged by an earthquake.  The study also reveals that of the top 10 nuclear plants most at risk from earthquake damage, three are in Pennsylvania, more than any other state.

Limerick has two General Electric boiling water reactor (BWR) units, cooled by natural draft cooling towers similar to but slightly newer than the reactors in Fukushima, Japan.  Limerick has Mark II reactors instead of the Mark I's in Fukushima.  Limerick reactors 1 and 2 were licensed in 1984 and 1989, respectively. Nuclear energy plants in the United States are licensed to operate for 40 years which reflects the amortization period generally used by electric utility companies for large capital investments.  But 40 years in the world of nuclear physics may not be the same as 40 years on Wall Street. 

Are nuclear reactors meant to last 40 years?
Is it like comparing dog years to human years?

And what happens if a Governor gives a non-elected representative from the private sector the power to expedite nuclear power plant licenses ( for the sake of corporate profits) even if another government agency prohibits it?

Until these questions are answered, Governor Corbett's plan to appoint a State Energy Executive is deeply trooubling

The following is a video clip of Rep. Dennis Kucinich (D-OH) speaking to Ed Schultz on licensing nuclear power plants. 

Good luck Rep. Kucinich and thank you for being a voice of reason.

Thankfully God Is Not As Prejudiced As Some of His People

graphic by Tim Nyberg
In the days since the earthquake and tsunami in Japan,  the world has marveled at the calm and courage of the Japanese people.  Their sense of unity has truly been an example to all of us.

Conversely,  the very same tragedy has, as many recent natural disasters have, brought out the ugly face of Christianity, people, identifying themselves as Christians, who can't resist making the most ignorant, hateful and un-Christlike comments.    I will not repeat these hateful comments because I'm sure that you've all heard them.  I am writing this post hoping that it might just encourage a few of the spewers of this hateful rhetoric to take the time to pick up a bible, read it, and realize the ignorance of their comments.

For the record:  GOD IS NOT MAD OR PUNISHING ANYONE!  In fact God has not been in the business of punishing mankind since, ...

oh let me see, ....

since the birth of Jesus.

Yes, the God of the Old Testament did dish out a little righteous wrath on more than one occasion.   However, isn't it amazing that so many of the same people who complain every year about a "war on Christmas"  conveniently forget the Christmas message. 

Let's review basic tenets of the Christianity.  I'll begin with what is probably the most recognized bible verse in the world.

 The Gospel of John, Chapter 3, verses 16 & 17

"For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life. For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved.  New King James Version

or as it reads in The Mesage Bible 
This is how much God loved the world: He gave his Son, his one and only Son. And this is why: so that no one need be destroyed; by believing in him, anyone can have a whole and lasting life. God didn't go to all the trouble of sending his Son merely to point an accusing finger, telling the world how bad it was. He came to help, to put the world right again.
Doesn't sound like a God who just can't wait to dose out a earthquake or hurricane to me.

Then there's the Christmas story itself:

The Gospel of Luke, Chapter 2, Verses 8-14
Now there were in the same country shepherds living out in the fields, keeping watch over their flock by night. 
And behold, an angel of the Lord stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were greatly afraid. Then the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid, for behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy which will be to all people. For there is born to you this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. And this will be the sign to you: You will find a Babe wrapped in swaddling cloths, lying in a manger.”
And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying:
        “ Glory to God in the highest,
      And on earth peace, goodwill toward men!”  New King James Version

Gee, that doesn't sound like a God who wants to kill thousands of people.

In fact Jesus himself warned us about trying to play God by judging others.
  “Judge not, that you be not judged. For with what judgment you judge, you will be judged; and with the measure you use, it will be measured back to you. 
And why do you look at the speck in your brother’s eye, but do not consider the plank in your own eye?  Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me remove the speck from your eye’; and look, a plank is in your own eye? 
Hypocrite! First remove the plank from your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye."  The Gospel of Matthew, Chapter 7, verses 1-5

And lastly, as we approach the holiest of seasons in the Christian faith, let's remember that Jesus died and paid the price for the sins of ALL mankind.  Therefore God is not angry with mankind, just read the New Testament.

Of course, there is much more to the Christian faith.  But these are the basics.

Oh, there is one more that I'll share now:
Then one of the scribes came, and having heard them reasoning together, perceiving that He had answered them well, asked Him, “Which is the first commandment of all?”
Jesus answered him, “The first of all the commandments is: ‘Hear, O Israel, the LORD our God, the LORD is one And you shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength. This is the first commandment. And the second, like it, is this: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.”  The Gospel of Mark, Chapter 12: verses, 28-30

So Christians please stop saying stupid things in times of crisis. And please, please stop lying on God and pretendng that he shares your prejudices. 

Related posts:

Some People Think Japan's Earthquake and Tsunami are Payback for Pearl Harbor, Really
by Gil Asakawa for Huffington Post

Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour's Aide Resigns Over Japan Remark

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Florida Loses $2.4 Billion For High-Speed Trains

"The project, which would have connected Tampa and Orlando with high-speed trains, was rejected by Florida Gov. Rick Scott, a Republican­. He said he didn't want to obligate the state to pay for what could be expensive operating costs for the line. However, the Florida DOT shows the line connecting Tampa to Orlando would have had an operating surplus in 2015, its first year of operation.­"

So Gov. Scott does not want the expense of operating a train line that would provide the thousands of minimum wage employees as well as the tourists of Florida's theme parks a less expensive mode of travel. Maybe he just doesn't want Floridians to spend less on gasoline, have fewer highway accidents or breath cleaner air. Or just maybe Gov. Scott is more concerned about the 2012 Presidenti­al election than he is about the residents of Florida. Hmm!
Read the Article at HuffingtonPost