Thursday, September 25, 2008

Wasting Resources In A Time Of Crises

It was the first week in September and the Republican National Convention was in full swing while outside, the Saint Paul Police Department and the Ramsey County Sheriff's Department, with the help of federal and state agencies, were arresting journalists and brutalizing those not in agreement with the Republican Party. Having already become saturated with information concerning the injustices taking place outside of the convention hall, I turned on the TV one evening in order to see just what was going on inside.

I knew that I wouldn't be able to stomach the proceedings for very long, but I hadn't considered that my very first view of the Republicans would be totally offensive; yet, I gasped in horror at what I saw. I don't remember who was speaking at the moment I tuned in, but it didn't matter. As the camera swept though the listening crowd, it exposed an absolute sea of signs that were being waved. These contained only a one-word message, which said "drill."

Ignored was the fact that the super-rich oil companies are already in possession of various leases or oil reserves from which they have so far not begun the extraction process; this, in order to control the price of their product. Also ignored was any consideration for the opinion of millions of Americans that beaches and certain environmental treasures should be kept intact without human interference. There seemed to be no opinion expressed anywhere inside the convention hall that conservation of our energy resources might be a viable option for moving toward energy independence; this, while exploring sources of renewable and sustainable energy. Sadly and unfortunately, the horrifying attitude expressed so succinctly at the RNC earlier this month seems to reflect the attitude of far too many Americans in general - Americans whose activities demonstrate a complete disconnect from the various crises that we, as a nation, are now facing.

Here's a case in point: This week, The City of Fayetteville is once again hosting that which has become one of the biggest motorcycle rallies in the United States - Bikes, Blues & Barbecue. During this event, the population of Fayetteville swells by some four times the number of residents. During this four-day festival, the roar of thousands of motorcycles fills the air from mid-morning until well into the early-morning hours of the following day. While it's true that motorcycles are a very fuel-efficient means of transportation, the movement of literally thousands of them from all across the United States to Fayetteville, some of these transported on trailers pulled by trucks or other vehicles, must account for a sizable amount of gasoline used unnecessarily; this, during a time that has been described as a crises.

Even more unnecessary however, is the scheduled new event that is supposed to take place at this year's event. During the day and early evening hours of Friday and Saturday helicopter rides will be offered; this, so that interested parties will be able to see the crowds from the air. While there has been some public dissent over the notion of offering these flights, it has been due mainly to the perceived increase in noise levels that come as a result of the aircraft. There has been no public discussion that I know of concerning that which, in my opinion, is a disregard for the current energy crises that we are now facing.

It is not my purpose here to criticize motorcycle enthusiasts for wanting to get together in order to party, sell their wares, show off their bikes, or listen to bands such as the Allman Brothers. It does occur to me however, that mainstream Americans appear to be absolutely oblivious as to how the various crises we face, whether concerning energy, economic, or whatever, relates to them, their consumption habits, and the way in which they live in general. Certainly, holding such events as Bikes, Blues, & BBQ and offering helicopter rides at the event does nothing to bring down the price of gasoline. It's sad for me to stand on the sidelines watching however, as so many people seem to thoughtlessly continue with their wasteful habits while apparently, not giving any thought as to how their actions will impact everything and everyone around them. Perhaps, I think too much about what's at stake.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Last Public Hearing On Proposed Coal-Fired Power-plant

As many Arkansas Residents may already be aware, a lot of controversy has been generated by the proposal to construct two new coal-fired power-plants in Arkansas and a third in eastern Oklahoma. Two of these plants are the focus of current attention; these include the proposed Turk power-plant, which would be situated in Hempstead County Arkansas and the Oklahoma Plant.

On Thursday September 18, the Arkansas Department of Environmental Quality (ADEQ) will be holding its last public meeting for comments in Hope. The OMNI Center for Peace, Justice & Ecology is planning a trip to Hope in order to get as many comments in opposition to the plant registered with Arkansas' environmental- regulation agency. If you cannot ride down or otherwise attend the meeting, comments can be made by e-mail. Contact information will be included at the end of this article.

Since this writer is not able to attend, a letter was written and sent via e-mail to the ADEQ. I am including it below, not because it is better than anyone Else's; but rather, because some talking points were included that may not be a part of those mentioned by others. It is important however, that as many citizens get their comments registered with the regulatory agency as coal-fired power plants, among other things, emit toxic mercury - a threat to both human health and the health of the environment in general. My letter follows:

"To whom it may concern,

"I am sending you this e-mail in order to voice my strong opposition to a coal-fired plant, which is being considered in Hempstead County.

"The environmental effects of burning coal are well known. In addition to releasing vast amounts of toxic mercury, coal is a leading cause of CO2 and other particulates pollution. The use of more coal will cause the escalation of cases of asthma and other respiratory problems. Have you ever watched a child suffer an asthma attack? Why would anyone want to take action that would cause an increase in such suffering?

"Additionally, I want to state emphatically, that there is no such thing as clean coal. Sure, it may burn cleaner, but the process used in order to create so-called clean coal is extremely toxic. Further, our reliance upon coal is the leading cause of the desecration of the once beautiful Appalachian Mountain range under a process called "mountain-top removal. Under this process, the tops of mountains are literally pushed down into the valleys and streams below. The process is sometimes being conducted close to communities and even schools where residents and even school children are forced to breath coal dust into their lungs. Toxic slurry ponds and chemicals are the legacy of mountain-top removal coal mining; this, in areas that used to be beautiful and pristine. We simply must end our addiction to coal.

"Not being one to simply oppose something without offering a solution, I am hoping that the electrical industry will consider the following suggestion:

"Solar and wind technology have come a long way lately therefore, I would like to suggest that electric companies and cooperatives begin offering these alternatives to their customers. Solar panels and/or small wind generators could be leased to electrical customers with an option to buy or simply sold to these customers. These, after having been installed upon the customer's rooftops, could be used to offset the demand that would otherwise, be met by building more polluting power plants. Those desiring these devices could pay a certain amount each month to the company, and after the passage of an agreed-upon period of time, the customer would own these energy devices.

"Under the above-mentioned scenario, the electrical companies would have made a profit, new jobs would have been created by the manufacture of these devices, no further pollution would threaten the public health, and some of the Appalachian Mountain range could retain its natural beauty and wealth of wildlife. It would be a win/win situation for all involved.

"Please take my comments under consideration."

If you are able and willing to take the trip to Hope with the OMNI people you can contact Maggie Baily at

Ms. Baily's group plans to leave from the Walton Arts Center Parking lot at 11:00 a.m.

In order to contact the ADEQ by e-mail send your message to: .

Let's wish the OMNI people luck in their attempts to persuade the regulatory agency that it should not approve any permit for more coal-fired electrical power-plants.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

All We Get Is A Puppet Show

I was sitting at my favorite watering hole a few days ago when I received a call on my cell phone. It was a friend of mine from Madison County. Although he is not very political and ordinarily prefers not to discuss politics, he is nevertheless, keenly aware of what's going on in the world. I often consider that he usually avoids political discussions because the state of the world is very painful for him. On that afternoon, our conversation went something like this:

"Hey R," I said, "What's going on?"
"What a bunch of sh*t!" he responded.
"What sh*t are you talking about? The stuff is flying everywhere these days."
"I'm talking about the g*d dam*ed election! It's just f*#cking entertainment - a puppet show to keep everybody occupied while they get away with all kinds of sh*t everywhere else in the world!"

The conversation continued for awhile of course, but my unpolitical friend gets it, if you catch my meaning, and I certainly cannot disagree with his observation of either the presidential race, or current events in general. The current debate between the two major presidential candidates and their running mates should be viewed as an insult to the intelligence of every American. Therefore, it is truly sad to observe just how many millions of voters are emotionally caught up within the trite sound bites that we are being treated to; these, including references to lipstick on a pig or the possibility of Barak Obama having been exposed to Islam as a child.

The show that we're being treated to, particularly at the hands of the Republicans, is truly a spectacle. There are images of Governor Palin holding her youngest child, who was born with down syndrome. There is nothing wrong with that in and of itself of course, but the subliminal message here is clear; I chose to have this child in spite of his/her birth defect and therefore you should believe in continuing your pregnancy to term as well. It is absolutely amazing that such messages and similar statements coming from the Alaskan governor have electrified, not only the Republican party's evangelical base, but many American independents as well.

So why does so much of this appear to be nothing more than persuasive entertainment? The answer lies in the fact that very little of substance is being discussed before the voters. Additionally, contradictions in the presidential candidate's talking points abound. Was it all that long ago that John McCain had made the argument that Barak Obama was too inexperienced in foreign-policy matters to hold the office of president? Suddenly, Governor Palin, who has less such experience than Obama, was chosen as McCain's running mate and since then, has been put on display as one who shows good judgement. Cindy McCain, went so far as to say that Palin has foreign-policy experience simply because Alaska is geographically close to Russia (Is this where the canned laughter comes in?). Today, it's not experience that matters, but good judgement. This was exactly the argument that Barak Obama was making only weeks ago; apparently, it has now been hijacked by the Republicans.

Even here however, it should be evident to all that this argument about good judgement is completely bogus. If any of the readers here saw Governor Palin's interview with Charles Gibson, it would likely have been apparent that Palin's good judgement is as equally horrifying as her understanding of the facts.

Consider this: While discussing Iran's alleged ambitions to develop a nuclear weapon, Palin kept referring to that country's president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, as the one seeking a nuclear device. In truth however, it is the Ayatollah Khamenei, who is Iran's spiritual and political leader. If Iran has any desire to acquire nuclear weapons, and the evidence is to the contrary, it would be Khamenei who would be responsible for their development and use, not Ahmadinejad.

Even more horrifying than Governor Palin's apparent ignorance of Iranian government was her inability to answer properly when Gibson asked her about the so-called Bush Doctrine, a recipe for pre-emptive war. Governor Palin's apparent willingness to go to war with Russia, a country that has the world's second largest arsenal of nuclear weapons, should horrify everyone on the planet. In speaking about defending the former Soviet State of Georgia against Russia's aggresion, Governor Palin referred to that country as a "democracy." The facts however, show that it is hardly a democracy; Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili is highly unpopular in his own country due of allegations of corruption, and it was he who gave the order to launch genocidal attacks upon the civilian population in the province of South Ossetia; most of whom incidentally, are of Russian heritage.

All of the above evidence should seriously undermine Republican attempts to maintain control of the White House. The problem is that the image being presented of Sarah Palin as being the gun-toting, elk-hunting, anti-choice hockey mom is apparently overwhelming any intelligent criticism of her and John McCain's candidacy. Meanwhile, the deceptive political attack ads continue while Barak Obama, once considered to be inspirational, seems to have resigned himself to playing a leading role in a game of "you said/no I didn't say." Justin Raimondo, the editor for recently referred to this national debacle as a "Punch and Judy Show."

Mr. Obama is apparently trying his hardest to shed any appearance of being liberal. This appears to be the Democratic leadership's greatest fear and once again, they and their candidates are determined to show that they can out conservative the conservatives on many issues, particularly, on the issue of terrrorism. It is my opinion that they are almost completely disenfranchising their more progressive base - simply in order to avoid being called names such as liberal or soft on terrorism.

All of this and more is happening on the stage set before us. Meanwhile, our relationship with Russia is becoming more strained by the day, U.S. forces have launched raids into Pakistan and reportedly, the Pakistani military has begun firing upon American personnel. Martial law has been declared in part of Bolivia as a U.S. supported coup is being attempted against that country's legitimate democratically-elected President, Evo Morales, the U.S. economy is in deep trouble, powerful corporations with the full support of the Bush Administration are unravelling environmental safeguards and launching an all-out assault upon our national treasures, and a war with Iran may still be in the cards - soon!

It is difficult to believe that, even as all of the above is presenting itself upon the national and world stage, all that we the people get sadly, is a puppet show.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Fascism Rears Its Ugly Head In The Twin Cities

As Hurricane Gustav bore down on New Orleans and the gulf coast, Republican presidential contender John McCain and other higher-ups in his party made the decision to show concern and compassion toward residents living in the storm's path by scaling down the partying and celebration at the Republican National Convention (RNC), which is currently being held in the Minneapolis/Saint Paul area. President Bush announced that he would not be attending or speaking at the convention. Instead, he would be flying down to San Antonio in order to oversee emergency operations once the hurricane had passed.

After their slow response and lack of empathy for Katrina survivors, the Bush Administration and all of their Republican supporters were given a second chance by Gustav to respond to a natural disaster in a much more appropriate manner; this time they would show their compassion for the suffering masses. How could they not? With the presidential elections only some two months away, the party that had shown so much disdain for Katrina victims three years ago needed to put on a new face - to show how much they now care.

Events in the twin cities area however, tell a much different story. Here, there are no kind smiles - no platitudes of compassion or love for humanity. Instead, there is only a police state with its violation of our most basic rights to free speech and peaceful assembly.

On Friday August 29, armed police and agents from the Ramsey County Sheriff's Department broke into a building where members of the RNC Welcoming Committee were eating and watching a movie. Those unfortunate enough to be present during the raid, including at least one child, were forced down on the floor at gunpoint, then handcuffed and detained. None of those present had committed a crime, nor had any even engaged in so much as an act of civil disobedience.

The raid upon the welcoming committee was only the first of many however, as reports coming from the independent media tell of the municipal police, Ramsey County Sheriff's Department, and the FBI bursting into private homes with guns pointed at activists and children in what is allegedly being called by that county's sheriff's department, pre-emptive raids. It has been reported that before the raids against citizens even began, Sheriff Bob Fletcher had referred to the anarchists, who would be coming to the twin cities area to protest Republican policies, as "criminals." Those actually protesting in the streets are facing a welcoming to Saint Paul with
concussion grenades, tear gas, pepper spray, batons, charging horses, gas masks, rubber bullets and more.

Reports coming out of the area indicate that the police seem to be targeting journalists and those with video cameras. On Monday, two co-producers for the daily news program Democracy Now, Sharif Abdel Kouddous and Nicole Salazar, were arrested on suspicion of rioting. Upon hearing the news of their arrest, program host Amy Goodman rushed to their location in order to free them. Upon asking to talk to the police commander in charge, she too was arrested. At the time of this writing, all three have been released. Some however, have not been so fortunate. Reports coming out of Saint Paul now tell of some detainees being kept in 23-hour solitary confinement; yet, many of these have not even been charged with a crime.

I called the Ramsey County Sheriff's Department this morning in order to register my complaint against its unlawful and unconstitutional actions against journalists and activists expressing their First Amendment rights. Upon asking the receptionist what in God's name does the Sheriff's Department think it's doing, she replied, "We're trying to make things nicer."

"Nicer?" I asked. "You call pointing guns at and handcuffing children, traumatising them by roughing up their parents, and arresting journalists and other people who have committed no crime nice?"

She simply replied by saying, "I'll pass your opinion along to the sheriff." I'm sure that she will.

What's happening outside of the Republican National Convention is unconstitutional, criminal, and is an afront to anyone who believes in freedom. It is fascism, pure and simple. It is however and excellent indicator of where our society is heading under the security state that has been imposed upon us by the Bush Administration, and its enablers, both Republican and Democratic.

In recent months, many have wondered what has happened to the anti-war movement in the United States. The consensus of some has been that it slowly running out of steam. Further, overall attendance by protesters at both the Democratic National Convention (DNC) and the RNC has been lower than organizers had hoped for. The ever escalating brutality and outright violation of civil liberties at the hands of those to whom the public trust is given - the local sheriff's and police departments, might have something to do with the low turnout of protesters. Author and activist Naomi Wolf, in her recent book entitled The End of America: A Letter of Warning to a Young Patriot describes a scenario in which it becomes no longer a viable option for a person to engage in political dissent due to the severity of consequences imposed by a fascist state against one's freedom, family or even life. The ruthless behavior of law-enforcement agencies in the Minneapolis/Saint Paul area is a prime example of such a scenario in action, and similar situations, which have taken place in the recent past, might account for the diminishing numbers of dissenters willing to risk themselves before the new national security state.

While the mainstream media appears to be giving scant coverage of the travesties taking place in the twin cities area, the independent media is filled with reports, photos, and video of events taking place there. A good start would be by going to Twin Cities Indymedia. Lots of resources can be found there.