Archive for the ‘Environment’ Category

Grow your own hemp industry

January 9, 2009

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China’s insatiable demand for iron ore has been the basis for Western Australia’s booming export industry, but another natural resource has been making its way to the East.
According to Nimbin-based hemp researcher and grower Klara Marosszeky, a Western Australian hemp grower is exporting all of his crop to China, including a contract to supply the Chinese military. The military are using the material to create “hemp food packs” that include hemp milk, hemp chocolate, hemp cake, hemp coffee and hemp protein powder amongst other food products.
“You can use the meal like flour. It was used by most cultures of the world in the last century,” she said.
Ms Marosszeky is hoping that a hemp-based food industry will be a reality in Australia within a few years, but at the moment the authority that regulates the food industry, FSANZ (Food Standards Australia New Zealand), does not allow any hemp food products to be sold here.
“The industry is ready to grow and we think we will be growing it for food, either for local production or for export to meet the growing world food crisis,” she said.
This week the NSW Parliament passed legislation allowing for the licensing of industrial hemp to be grown in this state for the first time.
“Industrial hemp has the potential to provide farmers with a much-needed additional fast growing summer crop option that can be used in rotation with winter grain crops,” NSW Minister for Primary Industries Ian Macdonald said. “It’s a potentially lucrative industry due to the environmentally friendly nature of (it) and there is strong interest for hemp products in the market.”
Klara Marosszeky held a workshop last weekend for 15 local growers to assist them to fill out the licence application forms and she is hoping they will be planting within weeks.
“Farmers are growing for a couple of different reasons; some are growing to develop a seed base for the Northern Rivers region because that’s the only way we can keep the price of seed reasonable. A few will be growing for the natural fibre industry, and the Regional Development Corporation is also working with Southern Cross University and the Northern Rivers Hemp Association to do seed research with the long term view of developing a good eating variety.”
However, Klara’s main interest and speciality is hemp masonry – using hemp fibre with a mixture of lime-based materials to create a building material.
“This year we’re hoping to get investment to get a bagging and batching facility in the region to produce a dry mix in one tonne bulk bags for the affordable housing market,” she said. “I’ve been talking with the Northern Rivers Regional Development Board who have supported my work through the innovation award process.”
Some previous trials of growing hemp in cane growing areas on the North Coast have been less than successful, so one of the other things Klara is hoping to do is to plant a “a wet footed cultivar”.
“We’ve got all sorts of cultivars from all over world… cultivars being worked on by Dr Keith Bolton and myself. For example we’ve got seeds in from Canada which give you height, European ones that are good for food, and Hungarian ones that give a combination of food and fibre suitable for textiles.”
http://www.echonews.com/index.php?page=News%20Article&article=24434&issue=375

Bush’s King Midas in reverse – everthing he touches turns to shit

March 16, 2008

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by Ed Naha | March 15, 2008 -dit_title=Mission accomplished: FUBAR 'R' us digg_skin=’compact’; 

Which one of these headlines scares you the most? “Recession fears rise on more job cuts.” “Fed takes new steps to boost cash for banks.” “World markets slide as US economy groans.” “Housing market spirals, no end in sight.” “Consumer confidence at lowest since 2002.” “Studies: Iraq costs US $12B per month.” “Gas prices rise to new national record.” “Consumers increased their borrowing by $6.9 billion in January.” “Bush says no recession in sight.”

Yeah, I know. It’s not even close. Once again, our President emerges victorious.

Over the years, Bush has acquired many critics. Some think him as being arrogant, stubborn, ill informed, short-sighted, paranoid, clueless and out of touch. Others consider him an ideologue, an overgrown frat boy with a warped sense of entitlement, a dry drunk, a sociopath, a fascist, a belligerent blow-hard, a monarch wannabe with the inherent intelligence of a kadota fig and a total failure. To be fair to Bush, he is all that and more – an unprecedented Black Hole in the history of American governance.

Our president, who believes in the piss on ’em, I mean, er, trickle down theory of economics and who has made a practice out of robbing the poor to give to the rich, is now faced with his latest monstrous creation: an American economy that has gone bust. The only reason there aren’t Hoovervilles popping up around the country is that nobody can afford the cardboard.

The sheer madness of King George has been highlighted in the past week by dire financial headline after headline and Bush’s reaction, or lack of it, to the consequences of his “let them eat caca” economic policies.

Last week, the Labor Department announced that 63,000 non-farm jobs were lost in February, following January’s 22,000 goners. February’s figures were the worst in five years. In addition, 450,000 folks bade adios to the labor force. They just stopped looking for jobs that weren’t there. (As a result, our unemployment rate eased to 4.8% from 4.9%, a fact Bush actually bragged about.)

The real job loss for February is a tad higher than the official number. Construction lost 39,000 posts. Manufacturing took a 52,000 hit. Retailers cut 34,100 jobs. Financial companies slashed 12,000 positions. Even temp agencies reported 27,600 jobs cut. The total job loss number was offset by the creation of new jobs in such sectors as government, service, prostitution and television punditry. (Okay, I made some of that last stuff up.)

Consumer confidence sank to a new low of 33.1%.

“We’ve gotten to a point where there’s very little for the consumer to cheer about. Everywhere you look – homes, grocery stores, gasoline stations – there are things that are all weighing on consumer attitudes,” said Richard Yamarone, economist at Argus Research. “You have soaring energy and food prices, rising home foreclosures and uncertainties about the jobs climate. When you mix it altogether it is a recipe for miserable consumer sentiment.”

D’ya think?

Adding to the hilarity, the dollar slid to record international lows this past week. It’s right down there with colored beads, trinkets and beaver pelts.

Oil soared to a new high, just about $110 a barrel. Gas prices hit an all-time record, with regular unleaded going for $3.2272 a gallon, a figure that doesn’t accurately reflect what’s happening at the pump. In California, for instance, a gallon of unleaded averages $3.50, with one station in the northern part of the state pumping it up to $5.19! In other words, gas is now almost as costly as a D.C. hooker.

The amount of consumer credit owed to banks and credit cards rose to $6.9 billion this year because people are now using their credit cards to survive.

Probably not coincidentally, a survey measuring an individual’s outlook about their personal financial standing as well as that of the country’s came up with a resounding NEGATIVE 41.6%

Think of this way: all those folks who wanted to have a beer with Bush can no longer afford the beer. (Nor can they afford his policies.)

Bush’s King Midas in reverse financial touch is spreading across the land. Retail sales in January fell at the fastest pace in the last five years.

Retailers including AnnTaylor Stores Corp., Talbots Inc. and Pacific Sunwear of California Inc. have closed hundreds of stores so far this year. Gadget seller Sharper Image filed for bankruptcy protection last month and plans to shutter nearly half of its 184 stores.

That, along with the Chapter 11 bankruptcy of catalog retailer Lillian Vernon Corp., could mark the beginning of a wave of retail bankruptcies that’s expected to go well beyond the home furnishings stores hurt by the housing disaster.

Unless the economy dramatically improves, retail bankruptcies this year could reach the highest level since the 1991 recession. More closings could leave gaping holes in the nation’s retail centers, which have already seen average vacancy rates creep up to between 7 percent and 8 percent from 5 percent over the last six months.

David Solomon, president and CEO of ReStore, NAI Global’s retail division, expects the vacancy rate could hit 10 percent by the end of the year. Suzanne Mulvee, senior economist at Property & Portfolio Research, figures that vacancies could rise as high as 12.5 percent this year. Her figure includes retail spaces where tenants have defaulted on their rents.

Part of the problem, according to Mulvee, is that more retail space is coming to the market just as consumer demand is falling. Another 130 million square feet of retail space will become available this year, she predicts, on top of last year’s 143 million.

Another reason malls are being hit hard is that, despite dwindling business, landlords are raising rents, driving a lot of small stores out. Clearly, landlords subscribe to Bush’s sunny economic views. Either that or Helen Keller’s.

U.S. home foreclosure filings jumped 60 percent and bank seizures more than doubled in February as rates on adjustable mortgages rose and property owners were unable to sell or refinance amid falling prices.

More than 223,000 properties were in some stage of default, or 1 in every 557 U.S. households.

About $460 billion of adjustable-rate mortgages are scheduled to reset this year and another $420 billion will rise in 2011, according to New York-based analysts at Citigroup Inc. Homeowners faced higher payments as fourth-quarter home prices fell 8.9 percent, the biggest drop in 20 years as measured by the S&P/Case- Shiller home price index.

Foreclosure filings are likely to be “explosive” in May and June as more payments jump Rick Sharga, executive vice president of RealtyTrac, said in an interview. There may be between 750,000 and 1 million bank repossessions in 2008. Bank seizures rose 110 percent in February from a year ago, he said.

Even interest rates on 30-year fixed-rate mortgage are rising. Why? The mortgage market is short by roughly $1 trillion in capital.

Despite BushCo.’s efforts to make it nearly impossible for regular folks to declare bankruptcy, an average of 4,000 bankruptcy filings were made PER DAY in February.

Meanwhile, hidden bank fees are on the rise, with consumers paying over $36 billion in 2006, the last year on record.

Americans are getting slapped around worse than Curly of The Three Stooges. The official government response? “I’m not saying there’s a recession,” insists Edward Lazear, chairman of the White House Council of Economic Advisers. (Bush has Council of Economic Advisers??? One that even has a president??? Who knew?) Ever the realist, Lazear stated: “We have definitely downgraded our forecast for this quarter.”

That sort of thinking is akin to the National Weather Service forecasting “drizzle” before Katrina hit New Orleans.

The Ponzi Schemes run by unregulated lenders while Bush was asleep at the wheel has resulted in a housing credit mess that is almost unparalleled in American history.

For the first time since the Federal Reserve started tracking the data in 1945, the amount of debt tied up in American homes now exceeds the equity homeowners have built.

The Fed reported last week that homeowner equity actually slipped below 50 percent in the second quarter of last year, and fell to just below 48 percent in the fourth quarter.

Economy.com estimates 8.8 million homeowners, or about 10 percent of homes, will have zero or negative equity by the end of this month. Even more disturbing, about 13.8 million households will be “upside down” if prices fall 20 percent from their peak. Again, U.S. home prices plunged 8.9 percent in the final quarter of 2007, so that 20 percent figure isn’t all that far-fetched.

So far, the government has stepped in with a number of half-assed measures to contain the housing fallout. Last month, Congress passed a $168 billion economic stimulus package with provisions aimed at helping homeowners refinance into more affordable loans. The Federal Reserve has also slashed interest rates in hopes of spurring growth.

Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke suggested lenders reduce loan amounts to provide relief to beleaguered homeowners. (The lenders are sure to cave. That “pretty please with sugar on top” negotiating style has worked so well nationally during the last seven years.) Most economists believe that it’s all too little too late.

Peter Morici of the University of Maryland School of Business stated, on CNN: “This is a wholesale meltdown… Across the board the economy is shrinking. Over 600,000 Americans left the labor force. The labor department reports that unemployment is falling. That is simply because so many people have quit the labor market. They only count those that are looking for a job, not all those that are discouraged and decided to stay at home.

“We need 115,000 jobs (created a month) to break even. We lost over 100,000 jobs (in February). So, by all rights, the unemployment rate should have gone up to over 5 percent. The labor department only computes it on the basis of people that are actually participating, those that are employed and those that are looking. Those that quit looking don’t count in their mind. If we counted all the people that have quit, if we adjusted it for the labor force participation rate we had seven or eight years ago, the unemployment rate would be near 7 percent.”

As for Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson and Fed chief Ben Bernanke insisting that the sun will come out tomorrow, betcha bottom dollar that tomorrow, there’ll be sun, Morici was less than impressed.

“If you look at the (Congressional) testimony last week, Ben Bernanke’s testimony and Paulson’s speech in Chicago, according to Paulson, our manufacturing sector is just plain healthy, and there is nothing to worry about, even though it lost 50,000 jobs last month and over 3.5 million jobs during the course of the Bush administration. As for Bernanke, he keeps cutting interest rates thinking that is going to push the economy forward. But as he cuts interests rates credit card terms are becoming more difficult. Housing loans have all but dried up. The reason is that we have a wholesale breakdown in the credit markets.

“Normally, banks loan money to homeowners and they turn around and turn them into bonds and sell them to insurance companies. Because of the sub prime meltdown and all of the bad bonds they wrote, all of the bogus securities that are melting away in value, the fixed income buyers, the insurance companies, large private buyers, foreign governments and investors are no longer willing to accept paper that Citibank and the other large banks create. Bernanke has showed no recognition of this problem. He is not addressing it, instead he tells the banks to mark down the debt a bit. The credit markets are not functioning. Cutting the Fed rates will not help.”

But surely, our fearless leader has planned for such an economic emergency! Surely, he can face down a recession. Uh, not really. In fact, he doesn’t even think we’re in a recession. We’re experiencing a “slowdown.” And, once again, he’s on the case. (Uh-oh.) He’s administered, what he calls, “a booster shot.”

Bush addressed the economy in-between FISA snit-fits and anti-Cuba rants. “Losing a job is painful,” he imagined, “and I know Americans are concerned about our economy. So am I. It’s clear our economy has slowed, but the good news is, we anticipated this and took decisive action to bolster the economy, by passing a growth package that will put money into the hands of American workers and businesses.”

Unfortunately, Bush was not done in his speechifying: “I signed this growth package into law just three weeks ago, and its provisions are just starting to kick in. First, a growth package includes incentives for businesses to make investments in new equipment this year. These incentives are now in place, and they are starting to have an impact. My advisors tell me that investment in new equipment remains solid thus far in the first quarter.”

So, lets review. Businesses are going belly up. What’s the first thing on their minds? “Hey, we’re going under! Let’s expand and upgrade.” Note to whoever is advising Bush. Hide the bong when Cheney shows up.

Bush summed up his sunny views with a succinct: “So my message to the American people is this: I know this is a difficult time for our economy, but we recognized the problem early (Note: what tipped you off? The quiche lines in Kennebunkport?), and provided the economy with a booster shot. We will begin to see the impact over the coming months. And in the long run, we can have confidence that so long as we pursue pro-growth, low-tax policies that put faith in the American people, our economy will prosper.”

In other words, we’re fucked until a new president takes over.

The checks that Bush is sending out to some Americans are in the $600 to $1200 range. (“Look, ma! Now we kin buy ourselves that terlet paper we’ve been a’ hankerin’ for.”) Bush sincerely believes that these checks will perk up the economy. Why? Because, with all that dough burning a hole in their pockets, Americans will spend like drunken sailors.

Theorized Bush: “The purpose is to encourage our consumers. The purpose is to give them money — their own to begin with, by the way — but give them money to help deal with the adverse effects of the decline in housing value. Consumerism is a significant part of our GDP growth, and we want to sustain the American consumer, encourage the American consumer and, at the same time, we want to encourage investment. So we’ll see how the plan works.”

In other words: lost your home, your job, and your health insurance? Buy shit! You know like you did after 9/11! Buy lotsa shit! “When the money reaches the American people, we expect they will use it to boost consumer spending,” Bush fantasized.

Clearly Bush has his pulse on the upraised finger of the nation.

Why else would he be moved towards such profundities as: “I’m concerned about the economy because I’m concerned about working Americans, concerned about people who want to put money on the table and save for their kids’ education.”

If you’re like me, you put that money right next to the mashed potatoes on your table. Yum. Pass the unpaid mortgage, please. I’m saving bankruptcy for dessert!

One day after “The Wall Street Journal” ran the results of a survey wherein 71% of economists polled thought we were in a recession now, Bush gave a speech devoted to our current crises. “I’m coming to you as an optimistic fellow,” he golly-geed. “I’ve seen what happens when America deals with difficulty. I believe that we’re a resilient economy, and I believe that the ingenuity and resolve of the American people is what helps us deal with these issues.”

If you’re religious by nature, that nails it. All gods have officially abandoned us.

Probably the most telling reflection of America’s current Bizarro state of affairs can be found in the story headlined: “Dr. Death to run for US Congress.”

It seems that assisted-suicide advocate Jack (“Dr. Death”) Kevorkian has decided to throw his cowl into the ring and run as an independent in Oakland, California’s 9th Congressional district. Kevorkian spent more than eight years in jail for the murder of a man whose videotaped assisted suicide was aired on national television. He claims to have helped 130 folks kick the bucket.

In a sense, Bush has fashioned a political career doing what Kevorkian does but on a much larger scale. Unlike Bush, Kevorkian was always upfront with his patients as he ended their suffering.

With Bush, all you get is: don’t worry, be happy.

And don’t worry about that dirty needle.

It’s good for you.

The Politics of Extinction, Remain a parasite OR become an Earth Warrior

February 9, 2008

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By Captain Paul Watson

We are at the present time living in an age of mass extinction. Each year, more than 20,000 unique species disappear from this planet forever. This represents more that two species per hour. Species extinction is the fuel that supports the ever increasing progress of the machinery of civilization.

Individual humans are for the most part insulated from the reality of species loss. Alienated from the natural world, guided by anthropocentric attitudes, the average human being is unaware and non-caring about the biological holocaust that is transpiring each and every day.

The facts are clear. More plant and animal species will go through extinction within our generation than have been lost thorough natural causes over the past two hundred million years. Our single human generation, that is, all people born between 1930 and 2010 will witness the complete obliteration of one third to one half of all the Earth’s life forms, each and every one of them the product of more than two billion years of evolution. This is biological meltdown, and what this really means is the end to vertebrate evolution on planet Earth.

Nature is under siege on a global scale. Biotopes, i.e., environmentally distinct regions, from tropical and temperate rainforests to coral reefs and coastal estuaries, are disintegrating in the wake of human onslaught.

The destruction of forests and the proliferation of human activity will remove more than 20 percent of all terrestrial plant species over the next fifty years. Because plants form the foundation for entire biotic communities, their demise will carry with it the extinction of an exponentially greater number of animal species — perhaps ten times as many faunal species for each type of plant eliminated.

Sixty-five million years ago, a natural cataclysmic event resulted in extinction of the dinosaurs. Even with a plant foundation intact, it took more than 100,000 years for faunal biological diversity to re-establish itself. More importantly, the resurrection of biological diversity assumes an intact zone of tropical forests to provide for new speciation after extinction. Today, the tropical rain forests are disappearing more rapidly than any other bio-region, ensuring that after the age of humans, the Earth will remain a biological, if not a literal desert for eons to come. The present course of civilization points to ecocide — the death of nature.

Like a run-a-way train, civilization is speeding along tracks of our own manufacture towards the stone wall of extinction. The human passengers sitting comfortably in their seats, laughing, partying, and choosing to not look out the window. Environmentalists are those perceptive few who have their faces pressed against the glass, watching the hurling bodies of plants and animals go screaming by. Environmental activists are those even fewer people who are trying desperately to break into the fortified engine of greed that propels this destructive specicidal juggernaut. Others are desperately throwing out anchors in an attempt to slow the monster down while all the while, the authorities, blind to their own impending destruction, are clubbing, shooting and jailing those who would save us all.

SHORT MEMORIES

Civilized humans have for ten thousand years been marching across the face of the Earth leaving deserts in their footprints. Because we have such short memories, we forgot the wonder and splendor of a virgin nature. We revise history and make it fit into our present perceptions.

For instance, are you aware that only two thousand years ago, the coast of North Africa was a mighty forest? The Phoenicians and the Carthaginians built powerful ships from the strong timbers of the region. Rome was a major exporter of timber to Europe. The temple of Jerusalem was built with titanic cedar logs, one image of which adorns the flag of Lebanon today. Jesus Christ did not live in a desert, he was a man of the forest. The Sumerians were renowned for clearing the forests of Mesopotamia for agriculture.

But the destruction of the coastal swath of the North African forest stopped the rain from advancing into the interior. Without the rain, the trees died and thus was born the mighty Sahara, sired by man and continued to grow southward at a rate of ten miles per year, advancing down the length of the continent of Africa.

And so will go Brazil. The precipitation off the Atlantic strikes the coastal rain forest and is absorbed and sent skyward again by the trees, falling further into the interior. Twelve times the moisture falls and twelve times it is returned to the sky — all the way to the Andes mountains. Destroy the coastal swath and desertify Amazonia — it is as simple as that. Create a swath anywhere between the coast and the mountains and the rains will be stopped. We did it before while relatively primitive. We learned nothing. We forgot.

So too, have we forgotten that walrus once mated and bred along the coast of Nova Scotia, that sixty million bison once roamed the North American plains. One hundred years ago, the white bear once roamed the forests of New England and the Canadian Maritime provinces. Now it is called the polar bear because that is where it now makes its last stand.

EXTINCTION IS DIFFICULT TO APPRECIATE

Gone forever are the European elephant, lion and tiger. The Labrador duck, giant auk, Carolina parakeet will never again grace this planet of ours. Lost for all time are the Atlantic grey whales, the Biscayan right whales and the Stellar sea cow. Our children will never look upon the California condor in the wild or watch the Palos Verde blue butterfly dart from flower to flower.

Extinction is a difficult concept to fully appreciate. What has been is no more and never shall be again. It would take another creation and billions of years to recreate the passenger pigeon. It is the loss of billions of years of evolutionary programming. It is the destruction of beauty, the obliteration of truth, the removal of uniqueness, the scarring of the sacred web of life

To be responsible for an extinction is to commit blasphemy against the divine. It is the greatest of all possible crimes, more evil than murder, more appalling than genocide, more monstrous than even the apparent unlimited perversities of the human mind. To be responsible for the complete and utter destruction of a unique and sacred life form is arrogance that seethes with evil, for the very opposite of evil is live. It is no accident that these two words spell out each other in reverse.

And yet, a reporter in California recently told me that “all the redwoods in California are not worth the life on one human being.” What incredible arrogance. The rights a species, any species, must take precedence over the life of an individual or another species. This is a basic ecological law. It is not to be tampered with by primates who have molded themselves into divine legends in their own mind. For each and every one of the thirty million plus species that grace this beautiful planet are essential for the continued well-being of which we are all a part, the planet Earth — the divine entity which brought us forth from the fertility of her sacred womb.

As a sea-captain I like to compare the structural integrity of the biosphere to that of a ship’s hull. Each species is a rivet that keeps the hull intact. If I were to go into my engine room and find my engineers busily popping rivets from the hull, I would be upset and naturally I would ask them what they were doing.

If they told me that they discovered that they could make a dollar each from the rivets, I could do one of three things. I could ignore them. I could ask them to cut me in for a share of the profits, or I could kick their asses out of the engine room and off my ship. If I was a responsible captain, I would do the latter. If I did not, I would soon find the ocean pouring through the holes left by the stolen rivets and very shortly after, my ship, my crew and myself would disappear beneath the waves.

And that is the state of the world today. The political leaders, i.e., the captains at the helms of their nation states, are ignoring the rivet poppers or they are cutting themselves in for the profits. There are very few asses being kicked out of the engine room of spaceship Earth.

With the rivet poppers in command, it will not be long until the biospheric integrity of the Earth collapses under the weight of ecological strain and tides of death come pouring in. And that will be the price of progress — ecological collapse, the death of nature, and with it the horrendous and mind numbing specter of massive human destruction.

And where does that leave us, dear reader? Do you intend to remain in your seat, oblivious to the impending destruction? Have you got you face pressed up against the window, watching the grim reapings of progress? Or are you engaged in throwing out anchors, sacrificing the materialistic pleasures of civilization and risking your all, that your planet and your children may live?

The choice is unique to this generation. Future generations will not have the chance and those that came before us did not have the vision nor theknowledge. It is up to us — you and I.

Remain a parasite OR become an Earth Warrior. Serve your Mother and prosper OR serve civilization and besmear yourself with the filth and guilt of ecocide.


for more about Paul Watson, and what is happening now, see Sea Shepherd website.

You’re Damn Right I’m Angry. Why Isn’t Everybody?

December 30, 2007

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I write articles each week with titles like “Everything I Need to Know About the Regressive Right I Learned In Junior High”, or “Conservatism Is Politics For Kindergartners”, or “Schadenfreude Is My Middle Name”.

I regret doing so very much. Believe it or not, I really don’t like spewing venom, sarcasm and rage all over my computer keyboard.

I particularly don’t like it because I have friends who are conservative, and it’s not my nature to trash-talk anybody, let alone friends.

Indeed, none of this is in my nature. I don’t start fights and I don’t go looking for them. I’m not an angry, bitter or mean-spirited person. But I can understand how I might be seen as such in the absence of the appropriate context, and it truly chagrins me that I might be so misperceived, and so negatively.

But I don’t intend to change, and I don’t intend to stop making the arguments contained in my rants. I’m angry for a very good set of reasons, and I’m angry because I care about my country just the way conservatives claim to. I’m angry, in short, because I’m a patriot and defender of the ideas that America is supposed to stand for. And what I really want to know is why those on the right aren’t equally outraged?

I was a teenager when Nixon was being Nixon, destroying democracy at home, napalming civilians in Vietnam, conducting secret wars in Laos and Cambodia, employing racism to win elections. At that age I knew enough to dislike what I saw (and what I learned of what Nixon and McCarthy had done to innocent Americans even earlier, before I was born, in order to serve their political ambitions), but I didn’t know enough yet to feel genuine rage at what regressives were doing to my country and to the world.

I began to experience those feelings in my twenties, first as truly sociopathically insane gun laws in this country helped to claim the life of John Lennon, and then as Ronald Reagan began to systematically turn his back on the poor and the middle-class in order to further enrich the country’s already wealthy economic elites. I also felt deep shame and outrage that America – the country that had supported if not literally created every two-bit dictator in Latin America, ‘our backyard’, (and well beyond) for a century – began to murder Nicaraguan peasants in order to halt their struggle to free themselves from the economic and political tyranny of one of those Washington-run caudillo clients, the sickening Somoza regime.

Then I watched in disgust as Newt Gingrich and his merry band of infantile hypocrites impeached a president for lying about a consensual sexual affair, while they were themselves all doing worse, like dumping a wife while she was lying in her hospital bed recovering from cancer surgery, or fathering children with a mistress, or carrying on many years-long affairs.

All of this was truly noxious. Nothing to that point had prepared me, however, for the regressive politics of our time. And they have turned me very angry indeed.

Regressives like to call people like me Bush-haters, and so it is important to address that claim before proceeding, because the entire intent of hurling that label at the president’s critics is to undermine their credibility. If you simply hate the man, they imply, you’re not rational, and your critiques can be dismissed. But it isn’t that simple – not by a long shot. First, it should be noted that the regressive right is far wider a phenomenon than just one person. It currently includes an entire executive branch administration, almost (and, just a year ago, more than) half of Congress, a majority of the Supreme Court and probably a majority of the lower federal courts, a biased-to-the-point-of-being-a-joke mainstream media, and tons of lobbyists, think tanks and profitable industries.

But as to George W. Bush, himself, I suspect it’s quite fair to say that most Americans and even most progressives did not originally despise or loathe him. I didn’t. I certainly didn’t admire the guy, nor did I think he was remotely prepared to be president of the United States. (Nor, by the way, was I particularly impressed with Al Gore in 2000.) Bush campaigned as a center-right pragmatist (a “compassionate conservative”, in his words), much as his father had been, and I expected that’s how he would govern if elected. You know, more embarrassing most of the time than truly destructive.

I mention all this because it is important to note what has – and what has not – been responsible for my/our anger, and to make clear that attempts to dismiss that anger as some Bush-hating bias or predisposition are false, a ploy to destroy the messenger when one doesn’t care for the message he’s carrying. If Bush had governed like he campaigned I’m sure I would have disliked him, but neither hated him nor his policies, nor experienced the rage that I feel about what he’s done to the country and the world. Frankly, my feelings toward another center-right Bush presidency would have likely been largely the same as my feelings toward the center-right Clinton presidency which preceded it.

But he hasn’t governed anywhere near to how he campaigned, and he wasn’t even elected properly, and I do in fact feel huge anger at the damage done. Moreover, I cannot for the life of me imagine how anyone – even conservatives – could feel differently. Even the wealthy, to whose interests this presidency is so wholly devoted, have to sleep at night. Even they have children who will inherit a broken country existing in an environmentally and politically hostile world, though no doubt they figure that big enough fences, mean enough private armies, and loads of central air conditioning will insulate them from the damage.

I don’t mind that the Bush campaign fought hard to win the 2000 election. That was certainly a legitimate goal for them to pursue. But it nauseates me beyond belief that their agents in the Florida government disenfranchised tens of thousands of African Americans in order to keep them from voting Democratic. And it sickens me that they gathered up a bunch of congressional staffers pretending to be an angry local mob and stormed election canvassers, using pure Gestapo techniques to shut down the most fundamental act of democracy, counting the votes.

I don’t mind that the Bush campaign took the election to the Supreme Court, even though they were simultaneously accusing the Gore folks of being litigious. What disgusts me beyond words is that a regressive majority of the Court anointed Bush president in a sheer act of partisan politics. And that they were so anxious to achieve that end that they repudiated all their own judicial politics previously espoused in case after case – from states’ rights, to equal protection, to judicial restraint. And that they were so conscious of what they were actually doing that they took the unprecedented step of stating that no lasting principles were involved in the matter, that their decision would forever apply to this case and this case only.

Once in office, there was still the possibility that the administration would govern as it had campaigned, as a rather centrist, status quo-style government, perhaps especially tempered from arrogance and overstretch by the knowledge that the country was deeply divided and that Bush had in fact actually lost the popular vote. In fact, though, they did precisely the opposite.

The first order of business, certainly the top priority for the administration, and arguably the only thing they were ever completely seriously about, was their tax restructuring program. It was grim enough that the tax cuts, as under Reagan, where dramatically tilted in favor of the wealthy. But what made them especially disgusting was that – again, as under Reagan – these wholesale revenue reductions were not only not accompanied by expenditure cuts, but in fact were coupled with increased spending. Can you say “voodoo economics”? Bush’s father once had, before he treasonously changed his tune to win the vice presidency (leading to the presidency) for himself. But he was right the first time, before he put personal ambition and transparent insecurity ahead of the national interest. And thus we’ve witnessed the only possible result of the combination of massive revenue cuts and continuing spending increases: astronomical debt, now well over nine trillion dollars in total, and rapidly growing. What I want to know is how can we – especially so-called family-oriented, so-called fiscal conservatives – not be outraged, not be scandalized, not be boiling with anger at the debt we have transferred to our own children, all so that we could avoid paying our own way, like every generation before us has?

I am outraged as well at how the administration polarized the country in the wake of one of the greatest traumas it had ever experienced. Let us leave aside the ample evidence demonstrating that the Bush team was asleep at the wheel before 9/11 – or perhaps far, far worse – a set of facts which is noteworthy in part because progressives did not use them to attack the president and score cheap but easy political points. But the administration did precisely that. It is disgusting – and it fills me with anger – how they used a national security crisis to win partisan political contests. How they scheduled a vote on the Iraq war resolution right before the midterm elections of 2002, thus politicizing the gravest decision a country can make by forcing Democrats to choose between voting their conscience and campaign accusations of being soft on national security.

It boils my blood that these chickenhawks – almost none of whom showed up for duty in Vietnam when it was their turn – could dare to accuse Max Cleland of being weak on national security, a guy who gave three of his four limbs to that very cause on the battlefields of Southeast Asia. How could they run ads morphing his face into Saddam’s or bin Laden’s, when his opponent – of course – took Vietnam deferments, just like Cheney and Ashcroft and the rest? And how could they accuse him of being weak on national defense because he opposed the bureaucratic reshuffling to create the Homeland Security Department, when Bush himself had also opposed it? That is, before Rove politicized it by inserting union-busting language applying to tens of thousands of civil servants covered by the act.

It nauseates me beyond words that this president could use the tragedy of 9/11 to justify invading a country which had nothing to do with that attack whatsoever. It enrages me that those who had the courage to oppose this policy so transparently deceitful (and it truly was – from the proof of the Downing Street Memos, to Colin Powell’s charade at the UN, to the assurances that the US knew where the WMD were, to the rejection of the weapons inspectors’ request to have two more months to finish the job) were labeled as traitors and worse for telling the truth. And that 4,000 Americans and over a million Iraqis have died for these lies.

And speaking of treason, what sort of looking glass have we all fallen through when the government of the United States exposes its own CIA undercover agent in order to punish her spouse for revealing administration lies about the war? When did that cease to be a cause of outrage, especially among our super-patriotic friends on the right?

How is it possible not to be angry looking at the destruction of Hurricane Katrina, and the bungled response of the government before, during and after that tragedy? Indeed, even journalists who had spent so many years licking government boots that their tongues had long ago turned black were moved to outrage at the magnitude of that failure, with the president meanwhile on a stage in San Diego pretending to play guitar at a Republican fundraiser.

I am outraged, as well, by one of the most insane and avoidable tragedies of all human history, the slow-motion holocaust of global warming. How can anyone not be angry at a political movement and a government that puts the short-term profits of one or two industries ahead of the viability of the entire planet? How can anyone not be mortified as we one-twentieth of the world’s population, who generate one-fourth of the greenhouse gases causing the problem, not only do nothing about the problem, but actively block the rest of the world from saving all of us from this folly?

I’m furious because the Bush administration and its ideological allies have shredded the Constitution at every turn, destroying the institutional gift of those they pretend to revere (but only when it’s convenient to upholding their own depredations). This president, who has gotten virtually everything he has ever wanted throughout his life and his presidency, once privately exclaimed in frustration at not getting something he wanted when he wanted it, “It’s just a goddam piece of paper!”, and that is precisely how he has treated America’s founding document. His signing statements – probably over a thousand in count now – completely obliterate the checks and balances principle of the Constitution, its most central idea. His admitted spying on Americans without warrant smashes the Fourth Amendment. His fiasco in Guantanamo and beyond mocks due process and habeas corpus guarantees. His invasion of Iraq against the international law codified in the UN Charter, to which the United States is a signatory, violates the Constitutional requirement to hold such treaties as the highest law of the land. Altogether, Americans have never seen a presidency with such imperial ambitions, and anyone who cares about the Constitution should be furious. A year from now, it is quite possible that Hillary Clinton will be president of the United States (ugh). Would our conservative friends silently countenance, let alone viciously support, such a monarchy in the White House if it belonged to Queen Hillary rather than King George? I think not.

We could go on and on from here. This administration and the movement it fronts at least gets high marks for consistency. Everything they touch turns to stone. There’s Pat Tillman and Terri Schiavo. There’s the politicization of the US Attorneys and the corruption of DeLay and Abramoff. There’s North Korea, Pakistan and the Middle East. There’s the shame of torture and rendition. There’s the wrecking of the American military and of the country’s reputation abroad. There’s Afghanistan and the failure to capture bin Laden. And much, much more. But above all, and driving all, there’s the kleptocracy – the doing of everything in every way to facilitate the looting of the national fisc.

What an unbelievable record of deceit, destruction, hypocrisy, incompetence, treason and greed. What a tragic tale of debt, lost wars, stolen elections, environmental crises, Constitution shredding, national shame and diminished security.

All done by the very most pious amongst us, of course. Merry Christmas, eh? I guess those are our presents, all carefully wrapped in spin, contempt, and preemptive attacks on any of us impertinent enough to say “No thanks, Santa”.

So, yeah, you’re goddam right I’m angry about what’s been done to my country, and what’s been done by my country in my name.

How could anyone who claims to care about America not be?

David Michael Green is a professor of political science at Hofstra University in New York. He is delighted to receive readers’ reactions to his articles (dmg@regressiveantidote.net), but regrets that time constraints do not always allow him to respond. More of his work can be found at his website, www.regressiveantidote.net.

Fusion Energy device in funding limbo for two decades — dying on the vine for lack of nuclear weapons potential.

December 4, 2007

by Ed Ward, MD

Edited by Sterling D. Allan


US Physicist Dr. Robert W. Bussard has produced proven, consistent, working prototypes of a fusion device that does not need to release neutrons as part of the fusion process.

Neutrons induce radioactivity to their immediate surroundings. Bussard’s method does not do this.

This just one of the major drawbacks of other fusion projects such as the Tokamak project. The massive (30 meters X 110 feet) Tokamak/ITER project (D-T/Deuterium – Tritium) fusion reaction produces about 20 million units of energy mostly in the deadly neutron (neutral charge) production and requires gravitational strength containment/compression.

In contrast, Bussard’s Inertial Electrostatic Confinement (IEC) Fusion reaction produces about 10 million units of energy per reaction, requires much weaker electric forces/fields for confinement of the reaction and is only about 2% of the size (about 15 X 12 feet) of the Tokamak reactor.

Radioactive Tokamak technology has received 18 billion dollars of US subsidy with 30 billion more earmarked for future development. There has never been a working prototype of ITER technology. Funding is based on theories and equations. A working model is not even anticipated for another 30 to 50 years. There are many proponents of Tokamak that believe that this technology will never be economically viable and others that believe it will never come to fruition at all.

In contrast, IEC/Electric fusion devices are smaller, significantly more economical, non radioactive, has had working prototypes producing 10 kv of energy, much more likely to be a viable option, and could come to reality in about 5 – 6 years from appropriation of 200 million dollars. That is less than the cost of one day of economic support for the Middle East oil wars without a single loss of life; and is a mere 1/90th of what has been spent on D-T fusion.
Dr. Bussard’s IEC fusion advancements are based on the 1924 concepts of Langmuir and Blodgett, the efforts of Watson in 1959, and the developments of Philo Farnsworth and Robert Hirsch. These early works all involved the use of a grid which defeats the process involved. The Polywell device using magnetic fields removes the hindrance of the previously required grids in the fusion reactors (fusors). Over the years there have been isolated reports on Dr. Bussard’s works similar to ex-NASA employee Kelly Starks’ 1996 post, but as usual, the corporate media has been and is still currently ignoring this major breakthrough in energy production.

In 1996, through some awesome diplomatic expertise (along with the assistance of several patriot scientist friends) Bussard landed a deal with the DOD/DARPA for 50 million dollars and 12 years of research. Four moths later when the DOD found out what they were getting, they cancelled the contract by saying that the DOD doesn’t do fusion? With the approximate $6 million dollars (by Bussard’s general statement and $14 million by the navy’s specific statements) he funded a renowned scientist working on revolutionary clean fusion, 5 – 10 members, 35% overhead for filling in 64,000 pages of documents, the first machine (very expensive for its stage), and 12 years of work. One million dollars worth of equipment was saved by transferring it to a propulsion lab. It is amazing what they were able to accomplish with so little money.

Part of the 50 million deal that turned into 6 million was an agreement that Dr. Bussard not publish — a complete gag order. For 6 million the DOD took away all knowledge of clean, safe energy from The People, virtually assured a non-viable product, and was able to keep massive funding to D-T fusion (Thermonuclear Weapons), and allows continued experiments for the development of thermonuclear weapons, such as the Bunker Buster B-61.

When the 12-year contract expired and was not renewed, Dr. Bussard was able to publicize his accomplishments. This knowledge of clean energy must be exposed to the world.

It’s been a year since the DOD/DARPA refused to renew the IEC contract. Since then, Dr. Bussard has tried desperately to get exposure for his breakthrough technology and possibly planet-saving technology. He presented a paper at an International Conference in Spain. He has also made presentations to corporations as a profit venture.

Only after his fusion efforts had shown proof of fusion and had won the Outstanding Technology of the Year award did the DOD renew the contract. But they did not fund it. It looks like the DOD has stifled the information and is under-funding it again. However, the crucial information for the technology is available to any scientist, group, or nation that stumbles across it and is willing to invest.Dr. Bussard’s excellent 93 minute taped presentation to Google explains the Electric Fusion process in basic physics context and concepts in a way that most with a minimal background of basics physics can relate. The video contains a lot of the previously noted information as well as his well-founded belief that the physics of IEC is proven and merely awaits engineering development which already exists, but needs to be applied to this particular instance. Data being consistent with IEC fusion statements, it certainly appears the essence of what Bussard says is true.

Refinement of semi-sphere electromagnet shapes and placements still needs further evaluation. Significantly more energy is required for the Boron non radioactive fusion reaction. The equipment must be tested for viability, dependability and durability when running in a steady state and will need to be refined. A large number of variables – heat, pressure, introduction, removal, collection, etc – will need to be fine tuned for continuous vs pulsed operation. Time is also of the essence and one year’s worth of precious time has already been wasted.”At 78, he (Bussard) is in ill health and his scientific allies fear that the long-sought breakthrough he appears to have achieved may fade into obscurity before it can be fully developed.” Dr. Bussard believes there may only be about 5 people on the planet with the background, experience, training and qualifications to make in-depth evaluations and comments regarding IEC fusion. Bussard is the foremost expert on IEC fusion. His loss would surely be a significant hindrance to the completion of the project. Is the DOD trying to stall to insure massive continued funding for nuclear weapons and oblivion of safe and cheap energy?

The title ‘Technology for the Year” hardly does this discovery justice. Electric Fusion is the “Technology of the Century”. Millions could gain access to cheap energy and pure water as a result.

The potential of one Electric Fusion reactor is impressive. Google rumors IEC output to be in the range of between 100 MW and 1,000 MW (100,000 to 1 Million kW). To be able to grasp the amount of energy produced, the average home usage peaks at 3 to 4 kW for about 4 hours a day. One Electric Fusion device would provide the peak power for 25,000 to 33,000 home with an on demand output of 100 MW. Or, 250,000 to 330,000 homes at peak output with an on demand output of 1,000 MW.

US Physicist Dr. Robert Bussard, a Princeton graduate, has 57 years of research and development experience working in the energy field. His credits range from rocket propulsion to fusion. During that time Dr. Bussard has had significant roles at Los Alamos National Labs, Oakridge Labs, TRW Systems and was the Assistant Director of the US Atomic Energy Commission. He conceived the aptly name Bussard Ramjet propulsion system and has 3 patents on his non-neutron (no radiation) fusion device. In 2006, he won The Outstanding Technology of the Year Award from the International Academy of Science (an insightful basic partial summation of the process) for his achievements regarding fusion.

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SOURCE:

See also

12 states sue EPA for data on toxins – another mission accomplished

November 29, 2007

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By MICHAEL GORMLEY, Associated Press Writer 

ALBANY, N.Y. – Twelve states sued the Bush administration on Wednesday to force greater disclosure of data on toxic chemicals that companies store, use and release into the environment.

The state officials oppose new federal Environmental Protection Agency rules that allow thousands of companies to limit the information they disclose to the public about toxic chemicals, according to New York Attorney General Andrew Cuomo, the lead attorney general in the civil lawsuit.

The EPA this year rolled back a regulation on the Toxics Release Inventory law signed by President Ronald Reagan after the deadly Bhopal toxic chemical catastrophe in India in 1984, according to the states involved in the lawsuit. That law required companies to provide a lengthy, detailed report whenever they store or emit 500 pounds of specific toxins.

The new rule adopted this year requires that lengthy accounting only for companies storing or releasing 5,000 pounds of toxins or more. Companies storing or releasing 500 to 4,999 pounds of toxins would have to file an abbreviated form, said Katherine Kennedy, New York‘s special deputy attorney general for environmental protection.

The lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court in New York City seeks to invalidate the EPA’s revised regulations.

“The EPA’s new regulations rob New Yorkers — and people across the country — of their right to know about toxic dangers in their own backyards,” said Cuomo. “Along with eleven other states throughout the nation, we will restore the public’s right to information about chemical hazards, despite the Bush administration’s best attempts to hide it.”

Connecticut Attorney General Richard Blumenthal said the EPA’s action cripples a 20-year program that required companies to report the amount of lead, mercury and other toxins they released.

“Polluters can release 10 times more toxins like lead and mercury without telling anyone,” he said.

An EPA spokesman had no immediate comment.

The other states suing the EPA are Arizona, California, Connecticut, Illinois, Maine, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New Hampshire, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and Vermont.

Poisoning for profit: Book exposes US corporate cover-up of toxic pollution

November 2, 2007

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Part 1

By E. Galen
2 February 2004

http://www.wsws.org/articles/2004/feb2004/poll-f02.shtml

Deceit and Denial: The Deadly Politics of Industrial Pollution, by Gerald Markowitz and David Rosner, University of California Press

The 1999 film The Insider exposed the criminal methods of the tobacco industry. The tobacco industry moguls weren’t ignorant of the health risks of smoking. They weren’t misguided. The health risks of smoking had been well researched and documented—by the industry’s own scientists. Through suppression of information, cover-ups, lies and outright gangsterism, these industry heads sought to continue their conspiracy against the public.

Such methods are not the exception for corporate America, they are standard operating procedure. In Deceit and Denial, Gerald Markowitz and David Rosner examine in detail how the lead and plastics industries covered up and suppressed the truth about the dangers of poisoning by lead and vinyl chloride monomer (VCM), the base from which polyvinyl chloride (PVC) is produced. The book, well written and engrossing, lays bare the incompatibility between production for profit and public health.

Markowitz is a professor of history at John Jay College and the Graduate Center of City University of New York. Rosner is a professor of history and public health at Columbia University and director of the Center for the History and Ethics of Public Health at Columbia’s Mailman School of Public Health. The two previously collaborated on a 1994 book, Deadly Dust: Silicosis and the Politics of Occupational Disease in 20th Century America, and on other volumes on working conditions in industry.

The two authors had unique access to materials on the inner workings of the two industries they studied. Because of their expertise on occupational health, they were asked to review corporate records of the lead industry and the plastics industry by lawyers working on class action suits on behalf of child victims of lead poisoning and workers harmed by exposure to vinyl chloride in chemical plants. The result is a chronicle of corporate malfeasance, using internal memos, letters, minutes and other corporate and industry documents.

Lead and plastics are not peripheral industries, but played central roles in the expansion of the American economy, in the first and second half of the twentieth century, respectively. Lead was critical to every industry involved in building the infrastructure of modern cities and their suburbs, as well in agriculture and, above all, transportation (through leaded gasoline). Plastics, used in vinyl siding, flooring, tabletops, computers and thousands of other products, became pervasive in American life after World War Two.

Whitewashing a known poisonThe harmful effects of lead have been well known for over 100 years. In the early 1900s, Alice Hamilton, an occupational physician, published studies on the effects of lead in popular magazines and in medical journals such as the Journal of the American Medical Association. In 1910, she pointed out that “the study of the past thirty years has shown that lead enters the body through inhalation and swallowing, not through the skin.” Her 1913 report for the US Bureau of Labor Statistics asserted the danger of white lead in paint. White lead is the paint pigment usually made of lead carbonate. It was also known at that time that children’s health was especially at risk from lead poisoning.Outside the US, many countries investigated lead poisoning and recommended the substitution of non-lead pigments that were available. Countries that banned or restricted the use of white lead for paint included France, Belgium and Austria in 1909; Tunisia and Greece in 1922; Czechoslovakia in 1924; Great Britain, Sweden and Belgium in 1926; Poland in 1927; Spain and Yugoslavia in 1931; and Cuba in 1934.

Any restriction on the use of lead was a threat to a major American industry. By the late nineteenth century, the United States was the largest lead-producing country in the world, with mines in Minnesota, Missouri, Kansas, Oklahoma and Montana. The development of rail transportation meant lead could be shipped by train and barge to manufacturing plants in towns like Pittsburgh, Chicago and Buffalo, where it was refined into consumer goods.

During this period, millions of working class families moved into new single-family homes, where lead was used in pipes, solder for plumbing, appliances, and paint, as well as to seal canned food. The major lead companies, such as the largest, National Lead, owned everything from smelters to factories to paint companies.

As the authors point out, in 1906 National Lead began a 50-year campaign to promote white lead: “Beginning in 1906, with the introduction of the Dutch Boy Painter, the young boy in workman’s cap, clogs, and overalls with a paintbrush in his hand, as its advertising symbol, National Lead linked lead, whiteness, healthfulness, prosperity, and purity with its ‘pure white lead’ product.” Lead was advertised as healthful, pure and benign, with ads urging parents to use the paint for children’s rooms because it was bright, clean and “helps to guard your health.”

There soon came to be another use for lead. In the early 1920s, Ford dominated the auto industry with its Model A and Model T, cars that were nearly indestructible. General Motors (GM), on the verge of bankruptcy, decided to try to compete through a new marketing strategy. It offered more powerful cars whose styling and features changed annually. And with its interlocking directorate relationship with the DuPont Company and the petrochemical industry, GM looked for a fuel it could patent and profit from. Tetraethyl lead was developed by Thomas Midgley, Jr. in 1922 at the General Motors Research Laboratory in Dayton, Ohio, as an additive for gasoline. Ethyl became the brand name for leaded gas, and in 1924 GM and DuPont created the Ethyl Gasoline Corporation to produce and market it. By 1927, the race of changing styles and increasing power was on.

Scientists warned that the production of tetraethyl lead could seriously jeopardize public health. The response of the surgeon general at the time, H.S. Cummings, was to ask Pierre S. DuPont, GM’s board chairman, about the safety of Ethyl. In response, Thomas Midgley himself reassured Cummings that GM and DuPont were confident of Ethyl’s harmlessness.

Sanitizing scientific researchAs the authors demonstrate, industry repeatedly used a series of well-developed techniques to ward off criticisms of dangerous products and to increase their market among consumers. This included making sure that research supported company claims of safe products. In the case of tetraethyl lead, DuPont and GM paid for an investigation by the US Bureau of Mines at government facilities. The bureau had often done testing as a service to the mining and metal industries. The bureau agreed to GM’s demands: it did not allow its scientists to give out the usual progress reports, and it used the brand name Ethyl instead of “lead” even in internal correspondence because it was afraid of popular sentiment against lead.The agreement between the Bureau of Mines and GM, DuPont, and the Ethyl Gasoline Corporation in June 1924 gave GM control over the research reports, stipulating that “‘all manuscripts, before publication, will be submitted to the Company for comment, criticism, and approval (emphasis added).’”

As the bureau research on lead continued, 40 of the 49 workers at Standard Oil’s Bayway labs in Elizabeth, New Jersey, were severely poisoned. During five days in October 1924, five workers died and 35 others showed severe neurological symptoms of lead poisoning from what everyone at the plant called “insanity gas.” The poisoned workers were taken from the plant in straitjackets, hallucinating, convulsing and screaming.

Nonetheless, the industry set out to convince the public that lead was not a threat to the public health. Rather, poisonings by industrial products could be confined and perhaps solved within the factory. Industry defined the problem as an occupational health issue for the workforce, not a threat to the general public.

The day after the fifth worker died, the Bureau of Mines released its preliminary findings exonerating tetraethyl lead. The New York Times headlined the story, “No Peril to Public Seen in Ethyl Gas/Bureau of Mines Reports after Long Experiments with Motor Exhausts/More Deaths Unlikely.”

Dr. Emery Hayhurst, of the Ohio Department of Health, became a key figure in convincing the public lead was not a danger, writing an unsigned editorial in the American Journal of Public Health that lead was completely safe. The public knew him as a respected and independent industrial hygienist. What the public didn’t know was that at the same time he was advising labor organizations on industrial hygiene, he was working for the Ethyl Corporation as a consultant.

At the University of Cincinnati College of Medicine, Professor of Physiology Robert Kehoe promulgated a view that is heard commonly today about PCBs and other chemicals. Kehoe ran Kettering Laboratories, which was funded by Ethyl and the major auto producers and controlled the research on tetraethyl lead. It was normal, Kehoe stated, for certain amounts of lead to be in all human beings; it was a natural ingredient in the human environment; and people had natural mechanisms for eliminating it. To show this, Kehoe experimented on 16 of his employees, feeding them measured amounts of lead or subjecting them to lead fumes. The human experiments continued from 1937 until 1971.

Another big part of the Ethyl Corporation’s public relations campaign was to frame the discussion as one between those for progress and those against it. In a three-pronged argument, Ethyl claimed that leaded gasoline was essential to industrial progress and civilization, that along with innovation comes risks, and that the poisonings in the plants happened because the workers did not follow instructions and were careless. In addition, tetraethyl lead was “an apparent gift of God,” in the opinion of the first vice president of Ethyl.

Continuing technical advances were made in the auto industry, and the catalytic converter was invented in the late 1960s. The catalytic converter reduced pollution by converting carbon monoxide into carbon dioxide and water. Use of the catalytic converter created a rift between the auto industry and the Ethyl Corporation because it was incompatible with leaded gas.

By the 1970s, the known dangers of lead in gasoline had led to reduced use but not a ban. It wasn’t until the end of 1995 that the Clean Air Act and corresponding EPA regulations finally prohibited leaded gasoline as a motor vehicle fuel.

To be continued http://www.wsws.org/articles/2004/feb2004/poll-f02.shtml

See Also:
US: Report shows additional millions affected by lead poisoning
[24 July 2003]
US chemical pollution threatens child health and development
[6 October 2000]
Cancer and social life: Review of Living Downstream: An Ecologist Looks at Cancer and the Environment , by Sandra Steingraber
[13 May 1999]


Gallery of
Lead Pollution Promotions

Ban on leaded Gas ‘has cut crime rates around the world’

October 28, 2007

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I wonder if this startling piece of research will have any impact on Giuliani’s campaign.

Remember this is a Republican candidate who loves to remind us that: “I reduced homicides by 67 per cent; I reduced overall crime by 57 per cent.”

Well, recent research appears to suggest that Giuliani, although thinking he is telling the truth, is actually greatly overstating his own achievement and that there is a greater link between banning lead in petrol and a reduction in the crime rate than any law and order action taken by any politician.

Published in the peer-reviewed journal, Environmental Research, the study reports a “very strong association” over more than 50 years between the exposure of young children to the toxic metal and crime rates 20 years later when they are young adults.

And it says the association holds true for a wide variety of countries with differing social conditions, law and order policies.

Rates of violent and other crimes began falling sharply in the US in the early 1990s, and have continued to do so, followed by similar tends elsewhere.

Yet evidence is growing that the banning of lead should take much more of the credit for reducing crime rates. The toxic metal has long been known to damage brains and to lead to criminal and aggressive behaviour.

Research at Pittsburgh University found that adolescents arrested for crime in the city had lead levels four times higher than their law-abiding contemporaries, and a study of 3,000 possible causes of criminality in 1,000 young people by Fordham University, New York, found that high lead levels were the best predictor of delinquent and violent behaviour.

Two studies by leading criminologists, Professor Richard Rosenfeld of the University of Missouri-St Louis and Professor Steven F Messner of the University of Albany, have concluded that Giuliani’s zero tolerance policy was actually only responsible for a tenth of the reduction in crime rates that Giuliani is claiming.

The metal was first added to petrol in the 1920s to boost engine power and its use grew rapidly: levels in blood rose in parallel. It was phased out first in the US, starting in 1974, to be followed by other countries.

Britain – one of the last to get rid of the toxic metal – is one of the latest to enjoy a decline in crime.

So it appears that, twenty years after phasing out lead in petrol, this kind of reduction in crime is commonplace across the world wherever this is done.

Giuliani, the man famous for being New York’s Mayor on the worst day in it’s history, now finds his crime fighting record – of which he is so proud – might have had very little to do with him after all.

must read!  The Secret History of Lead

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Farmers sue DEA for right to grow industrial hemp

October 20, 2007

(CNN) — The feds call industrial hemp a controlled substance — the same as pot, heroin, LSD — but advocates say a sober analysis reveals a harmless, renewable cash crop with thousands of applications that are good for the environment.

 

 

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Industrial hemp, left, looks a lot like its cousin in the cannabis family, marijuana.

 

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Two North Dakota farmers are taking that argument to federal court, where a November 14 hearing is scheduled in a lawsuit to determine if the Drug Enforcement Administration is stifling the farmers’ efforts to grow industrial hemp. The DEA says it’s merely enforcing the law.

Marijuana and industrial hemp are members of the Cannabis sativa L. species and have similar characteristics. One major difference: Hemp won’t get you high. Hemp contains only traces of delta-9 tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC, the compound that gets pot smokers stoned. However, the Controlled Substances Act makes little distinction, banning the species almost outright.

Marijuana, which has only recreational and limited medical uses, is the shiftless counterpart to the go-getter hemp, which has a centuries-old history of handiness.

The February 1938 issue of Popular Mechanics magazine heralded hemp as the “new billion-dollar crop,” saying it had 25,000 uses. Today, it is a base element for textiles, paper, construction materials, car parts, food and body care products.

It’s not a panacea for health and environmental problems, advocates concede, but it’s not the menace the Controlled Substances Act makes it out to be. Video Watch why a North Dakota official thinks the U.S. should be in the hemp business »

“This is actually an anti-drug. It’s a healthy food,” explained Adam Eidinger of the Washington advocacy group Vote Hemp. “We’re not using this as a statement to end the drug war.”

Rather, Eidinger said, Vote Hemp wants to vindicate a plant that has been falsely accused because of its mischievous cousin.

North Dakota farmers Wayne Hauge and Dave Monson say comparing industrial hemp to marijuana is like comparing pop guns and M-16s. They’ve successfully petitioned the state Legislature

— of which Monson is a member — to authorize the farming of industrial hemp.

They’ve applied for federal permits and submitted a collective $5,733 in nonrefundable fees, to no avail, so they’re suing the DEA.

North Dakota is one of seven states to OK hemp production or research. California would have made eight until Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger last week vetoed the California Industrial Hemp Farming Act, citing the burden on law enforcement which would have to inspect hemp fields to make sure they were marijuana-free.

Administration skeptical of initiatives

The DEA claims the farmers’ lawsuit is misguided because the agency is obligated to enforce the Controlled Substances Act.

“Hemp comes from cannabis. It’s kind of a Catch 22 there,” said DEA spokesman Michael Sanders. “Until Congress does something, we have to enforce the laws.” The difference between marijuana, industrial hemp »

Asked if the DEA opposes the stalled House Resolution 1009, which would nix industrial hemp from the definition of marijuana, Sanders said the Justice Department and President Bush would make that call.

“When it comes to laws, we don’t have a dog in that fight,” he said.

The Justice Department has no position yet on the resolution, said spokesman Erik Ablin. The White House Office of National Drug Control Policy, however, is skeptical because of the burden hemp would place on law enforcement resources. Also, hemp advocates are regularly backed — sometimes surreptitiously — by the pro-marijuana movement, the office alleges.

“ONDCP cautions that, historically, the hemp movement has been almost entirely funded by the well-organized and well-funded marijuana legalization lobby,” said spokesman Tom Riley. “All we do is ask people not to be naive about what’s really going on here.”

Often, the hemp movement — like hemp legislation — is inextricably tied to marijuana. Pot advocates like actor Woody Harrelson and activist Jack Herer have double or ulterior agendas when they expound the virtues of hemp.

Not so with Monson, 57. The assistant GOP leader in the state House, who returned to the family farm where he was reared in 1975, said he became interested in hemp in 1993 when scab, or Fusarium head blight, devastated his wheat and barley crops.

 

What Is It Good For?

Hemp’s handiness can be traced back hundreds of years. Here are a few examples of its myriad applications:

Paper — The plant’s long, strong fibers make it an alternative to timber for paper. The Declaration of Independence and first Gutenberg Bibles were drafted on hemp.
Construction — Hemp’s woody core makes a good source of boards for construction materials.
Auto parts — The plant’s fiber can be crafted into a composite that is used for interior automobile parts typically made of fiberglass or other materials.
Textiles — For centuries, hemp fibers have been used for fabrics, both fine and coarse.
Body and health care products — Oil from the seeds is used in lotions, balms and cosmetics.
Food — The seeds and oil are high in protein and essential fatty acids and are used in a variety of edibles.
Ethanol — Though the technology is embryonic at best, hemp’s high cellulose content makes it a good candidate for biofuel production.

Source: Vote Hemp, Hemp Industries Association
Monson grows canola, too, but wants another crop in his rotation. Soybeans are too finicky for the weather and rocky soil. Monson also tried pinto beans, fava beans and buckwheat with no luck.

“None of them seemed to really be a surefire thing,” he said. “We were looking for anything that was potentially able to make us some money.”

Hemp, said the lifelong farmer, seemed an apt fit. It likes the climate, its deep roots irrigate soil, it doesn’t need herbicides because it grows tall quickly and it breaks the disease cycles in other crops, Monson said.

States follow Canada’s lead

About 20 miles north of Monson’s Osnabrock farm lies the Canadian border, the hemp dividing line. Just over the border in Manitoba, farmers have been reaping the benefits of hemp since 1998, when Health Canada reversed a longtime ban.

In a Vote Hemp video, Shaun Crew, president of Hemp Oil Canada Inc., a processing company in Sainte-Agathe, praised Canada’s foresight in differentiating between hemp and marijuana.

While marijuana THC levels can range between 3 and 20 percent, Canada demands its hemp contain no more than 0.3 percent. In some hemp, the THC levels can sink as low as one part per million, Crew said.

“There’s probably more arsenic in your red wine, there’s more mercury in your water and there’s definitely more opiates in the poppy seed bagel you ate this morning,” Crew said on the video.

The North Dakota Legislature is convinced, as are the general assemblies in Hawaii, Kentucky, Maine, Maryland, Montana and West Virginia.

With his state’s blessing, North Dakota Agriculture Commissioner Roger Johnson is backing the farmers and has proposed modeling North Dakota’s hemp laws after Canada’s strict regulations.

“We weren’t just going to tell the DEA to take a hike,” Johnson said. “We’re serious about this, and we want to do it in concert with the DEA.”

In a March 27 letter to Johnson, Joseph Rannazzisi of the DEA’s Office of Diversion Control, said the permits were denied because the state hadn’t satisfied the agency’s security and logistical requirements.

Security aspects require careful evaluation because “the substance at issue is marijuana — the most widely abused controlled substance in the United States,” Rannazzisi wrote.

“We’ve been terribly brainwashed”

Hemp wasn’t always banned in the U.S. Jamestown Colony required farmers to grow it in 1619. Even after Congress cracked down on marijuana in 1937, farmers were encouraged to grow the crop for rope, sails and parachutes during World War II’s “Hemp for Victory” campaign.

Jake Graves, 81, heeded the call. Graves, whose father grew hemp in both world wars and whose grandfather grew it during the Civil War, was a teen when his father died in 1942. At the time, Graves’ family was growing hemp for the Army.

The Graveses continued growing hemp on their 500-acre Kentucky farm until 1945, when the market dried up after the advent of synthetic fabrics and the post-war reinvigoration of international trade.

 

Don’t Miss

But Graves stands by the crop and its versatility and says that by lumping hemp in with marijuana, lawmakers “threw the baby out with the wash.”

“We’ve been terribly brainwashed as a society,” Graves said. “Man didn’t use it for all those hundreds and hundreds of years without knowing what they were doing.”

In the U.S., tapping hemp’s versatility relies on imports. The DEA clamped down on most hemp imports in 1999 and 2001, but relented after a Canadian company sued, saying the ban violated its rights under the North American Free Trade Agreement.

Though advocates considered it a victory, Johnson said hemp won’t be fully utilized until it can be grown and researched stateside.

“For us to grow it isn’t enough. You have to build that infrastructure,” Johnson said. “None of those uses is really going to develop to any great degree until we’re able to grow this commodity.”

Johnson said the farmers’ Vote Hemp-funded lawsuit has no hidden agenda. It’s aimed solely at allowing farmers to grow hemp — without going to jail because federal law says hemp and marijuana are the same.

“I’ve got a state Legislature saying they aren’t and the entire world saying they aren’t. This is about a crop that is a legitimate crop every place else in the world,” Johnson said. “It’s not a crusade thing. It’s a crop. Let farmers grow it. We don’t want anyone to be growing drugs.”

Mystery: How Wealth Creates Poverty In The World

October 19, 2007

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by Michael Parenti

http://www.zmag.org/content/showarticle.cfm?ItemID=12674

There is a “mystery” we must explain: How is it that as corporate investments and foreign aid and international loans to poor countries have increased dramatically throughout the world over the last half century, so has poverty? The number of people living in poverty is growing at a faster rate than the world’s population. What do we make of this?

Over the last half century, U.S. industries and banks (and other western corporations) have invested heavily in those poorer regions of Asia, Africa, and Latin America known as the “Third World.” The transnationals are attracted by the rich natural resources, the high return that comes from low-paid labor, and the nearly complete absence of taxes, environmental regulations, worker benefits, and occupational safety costs.

The U.S. government has subsidized this flight of capital by granting corporations tax concessions on their overseas investments, and even paying some of their relocation expenses—much to the outrage of labor unions here at home who see their jobs evaporating.

The transnationals push out local businesses in the Third World and preempt their markets. American agribusiness cartels, heavily subsidized by U.S. taxpayers, dump surplus products in other countries at below cost and undersell local farmers. As Christopher Cook describes it in his Diet for a Dead Planet, they expropriate the best land in these countries for cash-crop exports, usually monoculture crops requiring large amounts of pesticides, leaving less and less acreage for the hundreds of varieties of organically grown foods that feed the local populations.

By displacing local populations from their lands and robbing them of their self-sufficiency, corporations create overcrowded labor markets of desperate people who are forced into shanty towns to toil for poverty wages (when they can get work), often in violation of the countries’ own minimum wage laws.

In Haiti, for instance, workers are paid 11 cents an hour by corporate giants such as Disney, Wal-Mart, and J.C. Penny. The United States is one of the few countries that has refused to sign an international convention for the abolition of child labor and forced labor. This position stems from the child labor practices of U.S. corporations throughout the Third World and within the United States itself, where children as young as 12 suffer high rates of injuries and fatalities, and are often paid less than the minimum wage.

The savings that big business reaps from cheap labor abroad are not passed on in lower prices to their customers elsewhere. Corporations do not outsource to far-off regions so that U.S. consumers can save money. They outsource in order to increase their margin of profit. In 1990, shoes made by Indonesian children working twelve-hour days for 13 cents an hour, cost only $2.60 but still sold for $100 or more in the United States.

U.S. foreign aid usually works hand in hand with transnational investment. It subsidizes construction of the infrastructure needed by corporations in the Third World: ports, highways, and refineries.

The aid given to Third World governments comes with strings attached. It often must be spent on U.S. products, and the recipient nation is required to give investment preferences to U.S. companies, shifting consumption away from home produced commodities and foods in favor of imported ones, creating more dependency, hunger, and debt.

A good chunk of the aid money never sees the light of day, going directly into the personal coffers of sticky-fingered officials in the recipient countries.

Aid (of a sort) also comes from other sources. In 1944, the United Nations created the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund (IMF). Voting power in both organizations is determined by a country’s financial contribution. As the largest “donor,” the United States has a dominant voice, followed by Germany, Japan, France, and Great Britain. The IMF operates in secrecy with a select group of bankers and finance ministry staffs drawn mostly from the rich nations.

The World Bank and IMF are supposed to assist nations in their development. What actually happens is another story. A poor country borrows from the World Bank to build up some aspect of its economy. Should it be unable to pay back the heavy interest because of declining export sales or some other reason, it must borrow again, this time from the IMF.

But the IMF imposes a “structural adjustment program” (SAP), requiring debtor countries to grant tax breaks to the transnational corporations, reduce wages, and make no attempt to protect local enterprises from foreign imports and foreign takeovers. The debtor nations are pressured to privatize their economies, selling at scandalously low prices their state-owned mines, railroads, and utilities to private corporations.

They are forced to open their forests to clear-cutting and their lands to strip mining, without regard to the ecological damage done. The debtor nations also must cut back on subsidies for health, education, transportation and food, spending less on their people in order to have more money to meet debt payments. Required to grow cash crops for export earnings, they become even less able to feed their own populations.

So it is that throughout the Third World, real wages have declined, and national debts have soared to the point where debt payments absorb almost all of the poorer countries’ export earnings—which creates further impoverishment as it leaves the debtor country even less able to provide the things its population needs.

Here then we have explained a “mystery.” It is, of course, no mystery at all if you don’t adhere to trickle-down mystification. Why has poverty deepened while foreign aid and loans and investments have grown? Answer: Loans, investments, and most forms of aid are designed not to fight poverty but to augment the wealth of transnational investors at the expense of local populations.

There is no trickle down, only a siphoning up from the toiling many to the moneyed few.

In their perpetual confusion, some liberal critics conclude that foreign aid and IMF and World Bank structural adjustments “do not work”; the end result is less self-sufficiency and more poverty for the recipient nations, they point out. Why then do the rich member states continue to fund the IMF and World Bank? Are their leaders just less intelligent than the critics who keep pointing out to them that their policies are having the opposite effect?

No, it is the critics who are stupid not the western leaders and investors who own so much of the world and enjoy such immense wealth and success. They pursue their aid and foreign loan programs because such programs do work. The question is, work for whom? Cui bono?

The purpose behind their investments, loans, and aid programs is not to uplift the masses in other countries. That is certainly not the business they are in. The purpose is to serve the interests of global capital accumulation, to take over the lands and local economies of Third World peoples, monopolize their markets, depress their wages, indenture their labor with enormous debts, privatize their public service sector, and prevent these nations from emerging as trade competitors by not allowing them a normal development.

In these respects, investments, foreign loans, and structural adjustments work very well indeed.

The real mystery is: why do some people find such an analysis to be so improbable, a “conspiratorial” imagining? Why are they skeptical that U.S. rulers knowingly and deliberately pursue such ruthless policies (suppress wages, rollback environmental protections, eliminate the public sector, cut human services) in the Third World? These rulers are pursuing much the same policies right here in our own country!

Isn’t it time that liberal critics stop thinking that the people who own so much of the world—and want to own it all—are “incompetent” or “misguided” or “failing to see the unintended consequences of their policies”? You are not being very smart when you think your enemies are not as smart as you. They know where their interests lie, and so should we.

Michael Parenti’s recent books include The Assassination of Julius Caesar (New Press), Superpatriotism (City Lights), and The Culture Struggle (Seven Stories Press). For more information visit: www.michaelparenti.org.