Sunday, April 25, 2010

Ayn Rand's Fingerprints, Tom Paine's Shadow and the Fall of Weimar

Yves Tanguy: Ribbon of Extremities (1932)

"[Ayn] Rand's fingerprints are all over the recent Goldman story." Matt Taibbi, Guardian/UK, 4-24-10

“It is very similar to late Weimar Germany ... The parallels are striking ..." Chris Hedges, Noam Chomsky Has ‘Never Seen Anything Like This,' Truthdig, 4-19-10

Ayn Rand's Fingerprints, Tom Paine's Shadow and the Fall of Weimar

By Richard Power

Here we are. It has all come to this.

It was bad enough that five major corporations had taken control of the U.S. mainstream news media; now six banks control 60% of U.S. GDP.

Bill Moyers: And you say that these, this oligarchy consists of six megabanks. What are the six banks?
James Kwak: They are Goldman Sachs, Morgan Stanley, JPMorgan Chase, Citigroup, Bank of America, and Wells Fargo.
Bill Moyers: And you write that they control 60 percent of our gross national product?
James Kwak: They have assets equivalent to 60 percent of our gross national product.
Bill Moyers: Six Banks Control 60% of Gross National Product -- Is the U.S. at the Mercy of an Unstoppable Oligarchy?, AlterNet, 4-23-10

Our people’s jobs have been shipped overseas, our people’s health insurance costs have grown like a malignant tumor, our people’s houses have slipped underwater in a deluge of “esoteric” financial instruments, our people’s public school systems have been decimated, our people’s critical infrastructure has been left to rot, and our people’s treasury has been gutted for unnecessary wars and disproportionate tax-cuts – all for the greater profit of a very few, who were already wealthy.

So, yeah, right, let's start stopping Mexican-Americans in the street and demanding that they show proof of citizenship. Yes, let’s get the rabble all whipped up about the illegal immigration of brown-skinned people, and anything else that will keep their attention distracted from the actual causes of our decline and fall.

In the Randian ethos, called objectivism, the only real morality is self-interest, and society is divided into groups who are efficiently self-interested (i.e, the rich) and the "parasites" and "moochers" who wish to take their earnings through taxes, which are an unjust use of force in Randian politics ... [Ayn] Rand's fingerprints are all over the recent Goldman story. Matt Taibbi, Guardian/UK, 4-24-10

By electing Obama-Biden instead of McCain-Palin in 2008, we succeeded in avoiding utter ruin. But did we simply delay the inevitable? Or have really turned the corner on our way back to some continuity of sane governance? That remains an open question. The 2010 mid-term elections will tell us more.

As I write this, I am in an airliner high above the country I love; in the galley, a flight attendant is reading Sean Hannity’s Conservative Victory. Profoundly disturbing to see the witless leading the clueless toward oblivion.

The Obama administration and the Democratic Party establishment have been dangerously compromised by decades of pursuing corporatist cash to be competitive in the depraved contest that is our campaign financing system; worse yet, because of the abominable SCOTUS decision on United, they will soon face a choice between even greater compromise and appeasement, or losing their current cash advantage.

And what of the Republicans? Well, they are gone. The party of Dwight Eisenhower, Everett Dirksen, Edward Brook, Earl Warren, Barry Goldwater, Nelson Rockefeller, Henry Cabot Lodge, Elliot Richardson, and even Robert Dole, all gone; supplanted by something that for years now I have referred to, soberly and sadly, as the Cult formerly known as the Republican Party.

The Republican Governors Association has embraced the symbolism of Fawkes, launching a rather striking website, [ed. note: warning: really creeepy!], with a video that showcases far more Hollywood savvy than one can usually expect from Republicans. Again, the Fawkes tale has been twisted a bit. This time, President Obama plays the role of King James, the Democratic leadership is Parliament, and the Republican Party represents the aggrieved Catholic mass. Michael Shirer, Swampland, Time, 4-23-10

Yes, they are morphing the distant legend of Guy Fawkes (as well as the Wachowski brothers' brilliant, mythical 21st Century treatment of the graphic novel version, V for Vendetta) into cover for something that has much more in common with the recent realities of the Burning of Reichstag and Kristallnacht; just as they have morphed the Boston Tea Party, a progressive, anti-corporatist, historical event, into cover for something that has much more in common with the Beer Hall Putsch. Furthermore, by absurdly hurling slurs of "Nazis" and "Fascists" at Obama and the Democrats, they also neutralize the very clear and relevant analogies that Noam Chomsky and others are legitimately articulating. Orwellian mind games at their best, or should I say, worst; well, you know what I mean.

No surprise, though.

Throughout the Bush-Cheney era, Words of Power called for a second Boston Tea Party, and invoked the spectre of Tom Paine, e.g., David Gregory Meet I.F. Stone and Tom Paine x 10,000 (12-3-07) and Michael Moore Brings Us Closer to 2nd Boston Tea Party, But Not Just Boston, All Over the USA, & Not Tea This Time -- TVs (7-11-07).

Throughout the Bush-Cheney era, Words of Power called for criminal investigation of the election fraud of 2000 and 2004, only to see cowardly Democrats assist in the destruction of ACORN, falsely accused of having perpetrated voter fraud among other things.

During the Bush-Cheney era, Words of Power also warned that Glenn Beck was not only unstable, he was being thrust into the mainstream, e.g., Is Glenn Beck Going John-Hickley-Jr.? 7 Stories CNN Could Have Aired Instead of Beck's Eco-Nazi Conspiracy Theory (5-4-07) (that was before Beck amassed his personal fortune of tens of millions of dollars, and is now on the cover of Forbes Magazine).

So far, Obama-Biden has offered little more than ceremonial resistance, and incremental reform; it is unclear that they have any better options available to them, however easy it is to second-guess at them from the luxuries of exile, obscurity or even privileged punditry.

No, it is not enough, but it is buying us time; precious time desperately needed to prepare the progressive movement for what lies ahead.

I do not know what Obama-Biden should do; but I do know what those of us who want to rescue the temple of this republic from the money-lenders should do.

We must be loud, and vigilant, informed, and fearless in our dissent, and at the same time, we must be loud, vigilant, informed and fearless in our determination to protect Obama-Biden, and the Democratic majorities in the House and Senate, from what is being hurled against them, because in so doing we are protecting ourselves and all that we cherish from the abomination that is already scratching at the door.

“It is very similar to late Weimar Germany ... The parallels are striking ... The United States is extremely lucky that no honest, charismatic figure has arisen,” Chomsky went on. “Every charismatic figure is such an obvious crook that he destroys himself, like McCarthy or Nixon or the evangelist preachers. If somebody comes along who is charismatic and honest this country is in real trouble because of the frustration, disillusionment, the justified anger and the absence of any coherent response ... I don’t think all this is very far away ... Chomsky reserves his fiercest venom for the liberal elite in the press, the universities and the political system who serve as a smoke screen for the cruelty of unchecked capitalism and imperial war. He exposes their moral and intellectual posturing as a fraud ... “I don’t bother writing about Fox News,” Chomsky said. “It is too easy. What I talk about are the liberal intellectuals, the ones who portray themselves and perceive themselves as challenging power, as courageous, as standing up for truth and justice. They are basically the guardians of the faith. They set the limits. They tell us how far we can go. They say, ‘Look how courageous I am.’ But do not go one millimeter beyond that. At least for the educated sectors, they are the most dangerous in supporting power.” Chris Hedges, Noam Chomsky Has ‘Never Seen Anything Like This,' Truthdig, 4-19-10

Here's Jim Harrison's extraordinary 4:24 video, American Grace, which I have embedded below. It should go viral, please view it and share it far and wide if you resonate with its message, as I do:

American Grace from Jim Harrison on Vimeo.

Richard Power's True North on the Pathless Path: Toward 21st Century Spirituality is available from

Richard Power's Left-Handed Security: Overcoming Fear, Greed & Ignorance in This Era of Global Crisis is available from

Visit Richard Power author's page at

Ayn Rand, Goldman Sachs, Glenn Beck,Tom Paine, , , Noam Chomskey

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Do You Understand the Power of the Pebble People? For Benazir Bhutto on Earth Day, with Help from Alice Walker, Yoko Ono and Bill McKibben

BILL McKIBBEN: ... the trouble is that what we’re dealing with, Amy, is not a debate between China and the US or between Republicans and Democrats, fundamentally; it’s a debate between human beings and physics and chemistry. And physics and chemistry don’t suspend their operations just because we’re in an economic rough patch. We’ve got to get our carbon emissions down, and fast, and we’ve got to help the rest of the world do the same thing. Amy Goodman and Juan Gonzalez Interview Bill McKibben on Democracy Now!, 4-15-10

ALICE WALKER: ... things can be so horrible that people lose the ability to talk about them. And I had this happen when I was in college, actually, when I learned that the King of Belgium had decided that if the Africans in the Belgian Congo could not fulfill their rubber quota that he had imposed on them, he could order their hands to be chopped off ... But if we don’t speak, then there’s more of it, and more people suffer. So it’s a call to overcoming speechlessness ... Alice Walker on Overcoming Speechlessness: : A Poet Encounters the Horror in Rwanda, Eastern Congo and Palestine/Israel, Democracy Now!, 4-13-10

Benazir Bhutto in Karachi (AFP Photo/Amir Qureshi, Copyright AFP/Corbis)

In the old days, gurus sat and meditated day and night. That was pretty powerful. But we live in a different world. Time is so precious to us now. A million kids can be killed in one second as we are wondering what to do. So we can’t just sit and meditate. We should IMAGINE PEACE day and night, as we go about our daily lives ... Send your message through the internet of how you love life and why ... if you did that for three months you will see the difference in your life and even a difference in our planet. Thus, we will be making a quiet revolution together. Yoko Ono, A Quiet Revolution, 4-16-10

Do You Understand the Power of the Pebble People? For Benazir Bhutto on Earth Day, with Help from Alice Walker, Yoko Ono and Bill McKibben

By Richard Power

Do understand the power of a pebble? Can you count to 350 in the arithmetic of survival? Can you locate the Congo on the map of human suffering?

It is an extraordinary time to be alive. Embrace it.

Here is a look back at the week behind us, and the week ahead; of course, it is also a look at the decade behind us, and the decade we have just begun. The three times, i.e., past, present and future, have never seemed more transparent, and less linear.

The story of how the eruption of an Icelandic volcano has impacted air travel and the economy of Europe is a humbling reminder of the awesome and inhuman power of the Goddess, i.e., Gaia, Kali, Pele, that Nameless One with Countless Names.

She is not our friend. She is not caring for us alone; She is caring only for the Web itself, of which we are but a strand (albeit one that threatens to strangle the whole)

Millions of stranded travellers face further air chaos as the volcanic ash from Iceland that has closed most of Europe's airspace continues to spread.
An estimated three-quarters of flights were cancelled on Saturday. About 20 countries closed their airspace - some have extended flight bans into Monday.
Scientists say the Icelandic volcano activity shows no sign of abating.
BBC, 3-18-10

There was also further corroboration that, as I have written before, climatologists and geophysicists are going to have a lot to discuss as the planetary changes accelerate:

A thaw of Iceland's ice caps in coming decades caused by climate change may trigger more volcanic eruptions by removing a vast weight and freeing magma from deep below ground, scientists said on Friday. Reuters, 4-16-10

For years, I have been blogging about the Climate Crisis, human rights crises in Darfur, Burma and the Congo, the inter-dependence of human rights and sustainability, and how security, sustainability and spirituality intersect in the 21st Century. The truth and timeliness of these preoccupations has never been more acutely obvious -- at least for those, as I say, with eyes to hear and ears to see.

Two recently released reports, one from the U.N. on the assassination of Benazir Bhutto, the other from Oxfam on sexual violence in the Eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) underscore how horrifically we have failed to live up to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

The only surprising element in the report on Bhutto’s assassination is how unequivocal it is about this outrage facilitated (if not perpetrated directly) by our so-called “strong allies” in what I have come to call the “war IN, OF and FOR terror.”

Security arrangements by Pakistan’s federal and local authorities to protect assassinated Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto were “fatally insufficient and ineffective” and subsequent investigations into her death were prejudiced and involved a whitewash, an independent United Nations inquiry reported today ...
“A range of Government officials failed profoundly …
“Particularly inexcusable was the Government’s failure to direct provincial authorities to provide Ms. Bhutto the same stringent and specific security measures it ordered on 22 October 2007 for two other former prime ministers who belonged to the main political party supporting General Musharraf” …
“This discriminatory treatment is profoundly troubling given the devastating attempt on her life only three days earlier and the specific threats against her which were being tracked by the ISI (Inter-Services Intelligence agency) …
Turning to the immediate aftermath of the attack, the Commission found that police actions and omissions, including the hosing down of the crime scene and failure to collect and preserve evidence, inflicted irreparable damage to the investigation … “The Commission believes that the failures of the police and other officials to react effectively to Ms. Bhutto’s assassination were, in most cases, deliberate,” it declared.
UN report on Bhutto murder finds Pakistani officials ‘failed profoundly’, UN News Centre, 4-15-10

So who killed Benazir Bhutto? Was it al-Qaeda, Taliban or elements within Pakistani military and intelligence? The answer is “All of the above.”

Imagine peace.

Remember, just as it is ALWAYS a bad omen when the leaders who won an election are denied office, as with Aung San Suu Kyi in Burma in 1990, and with Al Gore in the USA in 2000; it is ALWAYS a bad omen when leaders are murdered in order to change the course of a country’s future, as in the USA in 1963 and 1968, as with Rabin in Israel in 1995.

Consider what has happened to Burma, Israel and the USA since those murders, and then ponder the future of nuclear-tipped Pakistan.

Imagine peace.

Nor are there any surprises in Oxfam’s report on the crimes against humanity in the Congo, and that should be profoundly disturbing to us all:

In South Kivu, sexual violence is pervasive, affecting women of all ages, ethnicities and marital statuses. Women are attacked everywhere, even in the privacy of their own homes. The sexual assaults are ruthless, with horrific reports of gang rape, sexual slavery, genital trauma, forced rape between victims and rape in the presence of family members. Sexual violence survivors often witness the torture and murder of their children and spouses. … These findings imply a normalization of rape among the civilian population, suggesting the erosion of all constructive social mechanisms that ought to protect civilians from sexual violence.
Key recommendations
To the Congolese government and the international community must:
* Ensure that quality care is available for women in all areas, in order to save lives and preserve quality of life;
* Work to reduce sexual violence linked to military action;
* Build on the legal/justice initiatives taken to date, particularly the law on sexual violence and the government’s announcement of “zero tolerance” for crimes against civilians by its armed forces;
* Ensure that their protective deployments are tailored to local realities.
No the World is Without Me, Oxfam, 4-15-10

Imagine peace.

The USA of course is increasing the size of its military footprint in Africa. (See Clinton Sprinkles US Military Aid Across Africa and The Pentagon's New Africa Command Raises Suspicions About US Motives) And China, too, seems so very concerned about the continent’s future. (See Confucianism at large in Africa) And yet, all of this beneficence does not seem to translate into any relief from suffering in the Congo or the Sudan, has it?

Ah yes, well, in that interview with Democracy Now about her new book, Overcoming Speechlessness, Alice Walker provided some background:

ALICE WALKER: I was in eastern Congo, and I met some women who were survivors of enslavement and sexual abuse that was so horrendous that it was a challenge to even hear it and even to see some of the damage …
AMY GOODMAN: You began, though, by talking about Rwanda, and then you trace the violence to Congo. Talk about Rwanda.
ALICE WALKER: Yes. Well, in Rwanda, because of the killing of so many Tutsis by the Hutu and the—really a slaughter—
AMY GOODMAN: And you trace it back. You go all the way—
ALICE WALKER: Well, I went all the way back to, again, those Belgians, the Belgians, and before them, the Germans. They came into the Congo, and they decided that the Tutsi people, because they had larger skulls, were more like Europeans, and so they should be in charge of the Hutu people, whose skulls apparently were not as large. Anyway, they instigated this rule of one clan by the other, even though these people had been fairly peaceful living together for centuries. And after they had done this, finally, after many years of domination, a century or so, they left. But they left the Hutu in charge of the Tutsi. And so, eventually, the hatred that had been building over a long, long period erupted into genocide.
And so, I had heard about this awful thing that the Hutu Interahamwe people had killed 800,000 of the Tutsi people. And that again was so awful, I couldn’t really entirely let myself feel what it must be like to actually have your body hacked away from you, which is what happened to all of those people. But eventually, I needed to go there, and so I did. And what I found was, you know, that the Rwandan people have done a wonderful job of memorializing what happened, and they have also elected more women to help run the country than almost anywhere else.
But on the other hand, the soldiers and the murderers, a lot of them, just went into the Congo.
Alice Walker on Overcoming Speechlessness: : A Poet Encounters the Horror in Rwanda, Eastern Congo and Palestine/Israel, Democracy Now!, 4-13-10

Imagine peace.

Meanwhile, the Climate Crisis continues to deepen, engulfing more and more of the planet:

Brazilian authorities evacuated thousands of shantytown residents Sunday so their houses could be demolished after heavy rains that killed 224 people last week threatened further landslides. Agence France Press, 4-11-10

A huge glacier breaks off and plunges into a lake in Peru, causing a 75-foot tsunami wave that sweeps away at least three people and destroys a water processing plant.MSNBC, 4-13-10

The most up-to-date study of temperatures in India, from 1901 to 2007, has found that while it’s getting warmer across regions and seasons, night temperatures have been rising significantly in almost all parts of the country. The rise in night temperatures — 0.2 degrees Celsius per decade since 1970, according to the study — could have potentially adverse impact on yields of cereal crops like rice. Times of India, 4-12-10

Climate change and the probability that a current water shortage would worsen may make constantly bickering neighbours, India and Pakistan, take a closer look at a 50-year-old treaty under which they share rivers originating from the Himalayas. IPS, 4-13-10

And in another recent Democracy Now! interview, Bill McKibben of talked about his new book, Eaarth (not a typo).

JUAN GONZALEZ: And Bill, in terms of your proposals for solutions, you—in your book, you don’t focus so much on governmental or top-down solutions. What are some of the—what are some of the key ingredients of how the world’s population can reverse this trend?
BILL McKIBBEN: Well, reversing the trend is hard—impossible, in fact. We’re not going to stop global warming. We can keep it from getting worse than it has to get. For that to happen, Juan, we need things to happen at two levels. One is the governmental, national and global. We need a stiff price on carbon, one that reflects the damage it does in the atmosphere, that will reorient our economy in the direction of renewable energy instead of fossil fuel. But we’re also going to need, because we have a new planet, a new set of habits for inhabiting it successfully.
Our fundamental habit for the last couple of hundred years has been to assume that growth is going to solve every problem that we face. I think now we’ve fundamentally reached the limits to growth that people started talking about fifty years ago. When you melt the Arctic, that’s not a good sign. So we’re going to need, instead, to start focusing on security, on stability, on resilience, on figuring out how to allow communities to thrive, even on a tough planet. And I think that that has a lot to do with decentralization, with scaling down, with spreading out, with building food systems and energy systems that aren’t too big to fail, that are small enough and stable enough to succeed ...
This year, on October 10th, we’re organizing what we’re calling a global work party. There will be thousands upon thousands of communities around the world where people will be putting of solar panels or digging community gardens, not because we think that we’re going to solve this problem one project at a time—we are not—but because we want to send a message finally to our leaders: get to work ...
Amy Goodman and Juan Gonzalez Interview Bill McKibben on Democracy Now!, 4-15-10

All of it may seem overwhelming, and hopeless, but it is neither.

It is, as I said at the beginning of this post, an extraordinary time to be alive; but we have to embrace it, and know how to hold it while letting it go.

In a recent speech for Oxford University, Yoko Ono simply and powerfully articulated just how to perform this feat:

Just do what you can do. Nothing more.
By that, you will be starting the wheels of goodness to turn.
Something especially wonderful was told to me just recently. Two scientists who were researching the effect of waves in the ocean for two years, came to the conclusion that the smallest stimulus to the water be it a drop of a pebble, or a child splashing the water at the shore, affects the whole ocean, each time. Well, I thought we do affect each other on land, but I hadn’t realized that that was true in the ocean as well! What a blessing! Nature is making things so easy for us!
So now I call ourselves the small pebble people. Send small pebbles to the world. Don’t make big splashes with large stones. That will attract people and the wrong people as well. Our quiet revolution will not make announcements, but one day will be accepted by all people as the norm of life. The human race has done that with many things. Like we wanted to fly, and invented aeroplanes. We wanted to see the other side of the moon, and we have. This time, we want to heal our planet, and bring peace to this world. We will ... So we’ll just keep dropping small pebbles. Together. That’s how we will change the world. We change, and the world changes. Have trust in what you can do. Have trust in how fast we can change our world for the better. Why? Because we have to.
Yoko Ono, A Quiet Revolution, 4-16-10

Earth Day 2010 will be observed on 4-22-10. It will be used for hypocrisy and hyperbole as much as for action and awareness. But none of that matters; all that matters is what you do with it. And what you do with it is as simple as how you are in your heart and mind on that day, and on the day before it, and on the day after it.

Remember, too, that human rights and sustainability are utterly inter-dependent; we cannot achieve one without the other. Nor can anyone anywhere truly rely on human rights or sustainability until everyone everywhere can rely on it.

It is not too late.

Imagine. Act. Do. Be.

Whatever happens, remember the love at the throbbing heart of the universe and reflect that love from within your molten core.

We are the pebble people.

In what is becoming the hippest environment meeting of the year, presidents, politicians, intellectuals, scientists and Hollywood stars will join more than 15,000 indigenous people and thousands of grass roots groups from more than 100 countries to debate climate change in one of the world's poorest nations. Guardian, 4-14-01

To learn more about the Congo -- read Who Pays the Price? Raped for Technology at A Safe World for Women, and go to the Enough Project's Raise Hope for Congo, and Ben Affleck's Eastern Congo Initiative

For the Words of Power Climate Crisis Updates Archive, click here.

Have you met Al Gore at the Wall yet?

I encourage you to find out why 350 is the most important number in your life and the lives of everyone you love: go to or Google "Bill McKibben" for the answer.

Richard Power's True North on the Pathless Path: Toward 21st Century Spirituality is available from

Richard Power's Left-Handed Security: Overcoming Fear, Greed & Ignorance in This Era of Global Crisis is available from

Visit Richard Power author's page at

Alice Walker, Benazir Bhutto, Bill McKibben,Yoko Ono, , , Sustainability

Hard Rain Late Night: Joni Mitchell - Three Great Stimulants (Live w/ Wayne Shorter & Herbie Hancock

Hard Rain Late Night: Joni Mitchell - Three Great Stimulants (Live w/ Wayne Shorter & Herbie Hancock

Saturday, April 10, 2010

On National Security, Iran and the Climate Crisis: What You Don't Hear on Fork the Nation, Meat the Press or Weak in Revision

On National Security, Iran and the Climate Crisis: What You Don't Hear on Fork the Nation, Meat the Press or Weak in Revision

By Richard Power

Unfortunately, although the economic and environmental challenges ahead of us are almost unthinkable, most people can't even come to grips with the reality of our present circumstances. Coal miners in West Virginia and Shanxi are dying, in unsafe mines that should be shutdown because the fossil fuel they produce are killing all of us, including the miners' grieving loved ones, by poisoning the air and destroying the climate; meanwhile, the US body politic is so out of whack that to facilitate passage of climate crisis legislation intended to deal with the destructive impact of fossil fuel, President Obama feels compelled to promise more fossil fuel production.

Those of us who understand must speak out boldly, and act urgently; but perhaps even more importantly, those of us who understand must radiate compassion and clarity of mind. Tell everyone you know this simple truth: the path to dealing with our Climate Crisis is also the path to dealing with our Economic and National Security Crises.

Consider this analysis from Think Progress:

A strong cap on carbon would significantly cut the flow of petrodollars to Iran’s hostile regime ... Iran, “which holds the world’s second-biggest oil and gas reserves and supplies about 4.5 percent of the world’s oil production,” uses its oil power “as a strategic asset.” ... ThinkProgress has found that a carbon cap that reduces global warming pollution by 80 percent by 2050 would mean Iran would lose approximately $1.8 trillion worth of oil revenues over the next forty years — over $100 million a day ... Think Progress, 4-9-10

Why pursue failed national security strategies, i.e., protecting the oiligarchies and fomentng war, when we could change the geopolitical realities as a by-product of saving our species and our planet?

The climate crisis is, as James Hansen says, "the predominant moral issue of the 21st century." Unfortunately, instead of engaging in the profound debate on what to do and how fast to move, the US mainstream news media is still pandering to the false meme of credible doubts about the validity of the scientific consensus, the US Chamber of Commerce is still stoking its furnace of disinformation, and the political establishment is still looking for ways to put off decisions that should have been made a decade ago.

Instead of indulging the fantasies and deceits of the denialists, we should be debating whether to go with the esotericism of cap and trade or the cold shower of carbon tax.

Since you won't hear it on Meat the Press or Fork the Nation or Weak in Revision, here is a virtual debate between James Hansen, who headed NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies, and Nobel-Prize winner Paul Krugman, followed by some insightful commentary from Alex Steffen of WorldChanging (a wonderful resource):

First, James Hansen --

President Obama, finally, took a get-involved get-tough approach to negotiations on health care legislation and the arms control treaty with Russia -- with success. Could this be the turn-around for what might still be a great presidency?
The predominant moral issue of the 21st century, almost surely, will be climate change, comparable to Nazism faced by Churchill in the 20th century and slavery faced by Lincoln in the 19th century. Our fossil fuel addiction, if unabated, threatens our children and grandchildren, and most species on the planet ...
The fundamental requirement for solving our fossil fuel addiction and moving to a clean energy future is a rising price on carbon emissions. Otherwise, if we refuse to make fossil fuels pay for their damage to human health, the environment, and our children's future, fossil fuels will remain the cheapest energy and we will squeeze every drop from tar sands, oil shale, pristine lands, and offshore areas.
An essential corollary to the rising carbon price is 100 percent redistribution of collected fees to the public -- otherwise the public will never allow the fee to be high enough to affect lifestyles and energy choices ...
The fee-and-green-check approach is transparent, fair and effective. Congressman John Larson defined an appropriate rising fee. $15 per ton of carbon dioxide the first year and $10 more per ton each year. Economic modeling shows that carbon emissions would decline 30 percent by 2020. The annual dividend then would be $2000-3000 per legal adult resident, $6000-9000 per family with two or more children ...
James Hansen, Huffington Post, 4-5-10

And Paul Krugman's response --

What about the case for an emissions tax rather than cap and trade? There’s no question that a straightforward tax would have many advantages over legislation like Waxman-Markey, which is full of exceptions and special situations. But that’s not really a useful comparison: of course an idealized emissions tax looks better than a cap-and-trade system that has already passed the House with all its attendant compromises. The question is whether the emissions tax that could actually be put in place is better than cap and trade. There is no reason to believe that it would be — indeed, there is no reason to believe that a broad-based emissions tax would make it through Congress.
To be fair, Hansen has made an interesting moral argument against cap and trade, one that’s much more sophisticated than the old view that it’s wrong to let polluters buy the right to pollute. What Hansen draws attention to is the fact that in a cap-and-trade world, acts of individual virtue do not contribute to social goals. If you choose to drive a hybrid car or buy a house with a small carbon footprint, all you are doing is freeing up emissions permits for someone else, which means that you have done nothing to reduce the threat of climate change. He has a point. But altruism cannot effectively deal with climate change. Any serious solution must rely mainly on creating a system that gives everyone a self-interested reason to produce fewer emissions ...
Paul Krugman, Building a Green Economy, New York Times, 4-7-10

In conclusion, Alex Steffen leads beyond Kurgman's cautious steps and takes the discussion farther out to where the ice is thinner, and so it is eassier to see just how deep the abyss below us really is --

Where Krugman disappoints is on two counts: the cost of inaction and the benefits of action ... Here's the reality with which our economy is colliding:
* Climate change is already unfolding much more quickly than we thought it would.
* The models upon which we're basing our discussions today (largely the IPCC models) are known to be seriously out-of-date and overly conservative in predicting the speed and consequences of climate change.
* Steady losses that are climate-related (such as losses of ecosystem services) are already exacting a serious economic cost, while droughts, heat waves, flooding and freak storms grow steadily more common and expensive.
* Many of the negative effects of climate change are expected to be catastrophic cascading failures -- a phenomenon baseline economic models seem unable to incorporate. Large, permanent collapses are entirely within the scope of reasonable expectation and yet are not generally accounted for in economic studies ...
* Geopolitical stability is likely to unravel in a climate crisis world. Wars, famines, epidemics, mass migrations, economically devastating local disasters -- all are expected to multiply, bringing all sorts of disruptions to trade, public health costs, and irrational destruction of ecological assets (people fighting over a oasis in a deserted Sahel are not always the most rational economic actors) ...
Perhaps, as I've been told, economists would have to break long-established traditions and count more externalities in order for their models to reflect that reality. Maybe it's time they got started.
Alex Steffen, Does Paul Krugman Vastly Understate the Economic Argument for Climate Action?, World Changing, 4-8-10

For the Words of Power Climate Crisis Updates Archive, click here.

Have you met Al Gore at the Wall yet?

I encourage you to find out why 350 is the most important number in your life and the lives of everyone you love: go to or Google "Bill McKibben" for the answer.

Richard Power's True North on the Pathless Path: Toward 21st Century Spirituality is available from

Richard Power's Left-Handed Security: Overcoming Fear, Greed & Ignorance in This Era of Global Crisis is available from

Visit Richard Power author's page at

Al Gore, Paul Krugman,James Hansen, , , Sustainability

Saturday, April 03, 2010

Bigger Question than "Can We Save Burma & Darfur" -- Will the Nation & the Planet Go the Way of Burma & Darfur? Can We Save Ourselves from Ourselves?

At a recent panel lecture in Boston, abolitionist scholar Zoe Trodd stated that the average price of a slave in 2010 is about $40. That's compared to the cost of a slave in 1840, which in today's dollars would have been between $30,000 and $50,00 -- as much as a brand new luxury car. Even just ten years ago, experts estimated that the global average for buying a human being was closer to $100 or $200. And, now, it's cheaper in many parts of the world to buy a human being than it is to buy an iPod shuffle. Amanda Kloer,, 4-3-10

Humans have wrought such vast and unprecedented changes on the planet that we may be ushering in a new period of geological history. Through pollution, population growth, urbanisation, travel, mining and use of fossil fuels we have altered the planet in ways which will be felt for millions of years, experts believe.
It is feared that the damage mankind has inflicted will lead to the sixth largest mass extinction in Earth's history with thousands of plants and animals being wiped out.
The new epoch, called the Anthropocene - meaning new man - would be the first period of geological time shaped by the action of a single species. Although the term has been in informal use among scientists for more than a decade, it is now under consideration as an official term.
Murray Wardrop, Entering New Age of Geological Time, Telegraph/UK, 3-27-10

Bigger Question than "Can We Save Burma & Darfur" -- Will the Nation & the Planet Go the Way of Burma & Darfur? Can We Save Ourselves from Ourselves?

By Richard Power

Ponder this, we are entering "the first period of geological time shaped by the action of a single species" (the species is us, and the action is our unsustainable and destructive growth); at the same time, "it's cheaper in many parts of the world to buy a human being than it is to buy an iPod shuffle."

This is my ninetieth post on Darfur, my sixty-third post on Burma and my one hundred ninetieth post on the Climate Crisis. Increasingly, every post touches on two or more these issues; because, increasingly, they are inter-related.

Burma and Darfur, and yes, the Congo, are not only human rights issues that demand action from people of conscience, they are also laboratories in which our possible future can be glimpsed; and the Climate Crisis (as well as the Hydra-headed Sustainability Crisis it fronts for) is the Great Humbler that threatens to deliver us all to that possible future.

Currently, Sudan and Burma are staggering toward "elections." But in both case, these exercises in democracy are being hopelessly compromised by the ruling thugs.

The prosecutor of the International Criminal Court (ICC) said on Tuesday that monitoring Sudan's election next month would be like monitoring a vote in Hitler's Germany. Prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo pressed for the arrest warrant issued by the ICC a year ago against Sudanese President Omar Hassan al-Bashir for alleged war crimes and crimes against humanity in Darfur region. Bashir is contesting the poll.
Speaking a day after Bashir threatened to expel international election monitors for saying the vote may have to be delayed to deal with logistical problems, Moreno-Campo told a Brussels seminar: "It's like monitoring a Hitler election. It's a huge challenge."
Washington Post, 3-23-10

For all the attention Darfur has received and for all the humanitarian assistance that it has been provided, innocent civilians are once again being killed as part of a ruthless counter- insurgency campaign by the Khartoum regime. Poised to retain power in next month’s thoroughly compromised national elections, this regime will continue its 20-year history of civilian destruction throughout Sudan until the world gets serious about pressuring it to stop ... Eric Reeves, Sudan Research, 3-26-10

If Burma’s military regime goes ahead with its promised general election this year, some 27.2 million voters will be deprived of the chance to cast a ballot for the political party that has come to symbolise democratic hope in that oppressed nation. This is the scenario taking shape after the National League for Democracy (NLD), led by pro-democracy icon and party leader Aung San Suu Syi, decided on Monday to boycott the general election ... Suu Kyi, who has been placed under house arrest for over 14 of the past 20 years, had said "she will never accept registration (of her party to contest the poll) under unjust (electoral) laws." BURMA: In Opting for Poll Boycott, Suu Kyi’s Party Goes for Broke, Inter Press Service, 3-31-10

The great nations, and the giant corporations that exert undue influences on the great nations, are using these two elections as cover, just as surely as the thugs in Karthoum and Naypyidaw are using them as cover. Babbling about such elections gives the great nations the cover necessary to avoid taking more forceful action; and it gives giant corporations the cover necessary to avoid disrupting business as usual (which of course involves oil and gas).

I encourage you to help the people of Burma, Darfur, the Congo, Haiti, etc., in whatever way occurs to you -- even if it is simply in your meditation. But I also want you to realize that in caring about them, and working for them, you are fighting for yourselves, and your loved ones. Because the reality is that the fates of the Burmese and the Dafuri are a preview of our own possible future.

Here in the USA, for decades, life has been relentlessly cheapened, infrastructure has been willfully neglected, information has been insidiously contaminated ...

Human rights and sustainability are inextricably entwined. You cannot have one without the other. We must champion them both, and we must deliver on them both -- if we are to survive, and if our life is to be something worth surviving for. The crimes against humanity (and nature) that have been perpetrated in Darfur, Burma and Congo are not far from your door. They really aren't. Nor can you achieve human rights and sustainability in one place while failing to achieve it in another (especially not when your relative human rights and sustainability is predicated in part on the denial of human rights and sustainability elsewhere). One planet, one life, one love ...

Consider the difference that one election cycle can make.

This chart created by Speaker Pelosi's office, and based on U.S. Labor Department Statistics tells you all you need to know about voting against your own best interests (or allowing your elections to be stolen).

Of course, as we have seen before, the difference a single election cycle can make is a very sharp, double-edged sword. And to meet the challenge of the Climate Crisis (and the Hydra-headed Sustainability Crisis it fronts for) we need to summon an indomitable political will to change our way of life, and to restore our democratic institutions in the process, not simply win an election or two.

There is evidence that a way out of our predicament is possible ...

Europe could meet all its electricity needs from renewable sources by mid-century, according to a report released Monday by services giant PricewaterhouseCoopers.
A "super-smart" grid powered by solar farms in North Africa, wind farms in northern Europe and the North Sea, hydro-electric from Scandinavia and the Alps and a complement of biomass and marine energy could render carbon-based fuels obsolete for electricity by 2050, said the report.
The goal is achievable even without the use of nuclear energy, the mainstay of electricity in France, it said.
Europe's electricity could be all renewables by 2050, Agence France Press, 3-29-10

But there is also evidence that we are incapable of coming to grips with the imperatives of this moment:

Humans are too stupid to prevent climate change from radically impacting on our lives over the coming decades. This is the stark conclusion of James Lovelock, the globally respected environmental thinker and independent scientist who developed the Gaia theory ... "I don't think we're yet evolved to the point where we're clever enough to handle a complex a situation as climate change," said Lovelock in his first in-depth interview since the theft of the UEA emails last November. "The inertia of humans is so huge that you can't really do anything meaningful."
One of the main obstructions to meaningful action is "modern democracy", he added. "Even the best democracies agree that when a major war approaches, democracy must be put on hold for the time being. I have a feeling that climate change may be an issue as severe as a war. It may be necessary to put democracy on hold for a while."
James Lovelock: Humans Are Too Stupid to Prevent Climate Change, Guardian, 3-29-10

According to the Smithsonian Institution, it doesn’t matter how toxic your politics are or how dirty your money is, as long as you give the cash to them. Paleoanthropologist Rick Potts, director of the Smithsonian’s Human Origins Program and curator of anthropology at the National Museum of Natural History, defended pollution scion David H. Koch as a “philanthropist who is deeply interested in science.” David Koch’s oil and manufacturing conglomerate Koch Industries is one of the greatest contributors to global warming in the country. Koch also funds the largest network of climate-change-denying organizations and political operatives in the world.” A ‘Grateful’ Smithsonian Denies Greenwashing ‘Philanthropist’ David H. Koch’s Dirty Money, Think Progress, 4-1-10

Climate Progress: Mass media have been a key vehicle by which climate change contrarianism has traveled, according to Maxwell Boykoff, a University of Colorado at Boulder professor and fellow of the Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Sciences, or CIRES.

Perhaps hope and the power to compel urgent, meaningful change will come from below ...

A different way of fighting global warming will be tried out in the central Bolivian city of Cochabamba when government representatives and thousands of activists gather for the World People's Conference on Climate Change and the Rights of Mother Earth ... The defence of Mother Earth, championed by Bolivian President Evo Morales, has the support of more than 240 grassroots and indigenous movements, non-governmental organisations, activists and intellectuals who are calling for a charter of rights for the planet ... The agenda priorities are: climate debt, climate change migrants and refugees, greenhouse gas emission cuts, adaptation, technology transfer, financing, forests and climate change, shared visions and indigenous peoples. Franz Chávez, CLIMATE CHANGE: From Copenhagen to Cochabamba, Inter Press Service, 3-30-10

In regard to the Climate Crisis, it is vital that we move beyond the false debate about the reality of Climate Change and our role in it, and move on to a real debate about how much we are doing, and whether it is enough. For this shift to occur, the U.S. Senate must act. (The House already has acted, of course.) And in the end the result will be something similar to the recent healthcare insurance reform legislation; it will not be what we want or need, but it will be enough to start moving us toward what we want and need. That's why I am not going to get exacerbated about President Obama's proposals concerning off-shore drilling, or nuclear energy, or even clean coal. If these reverse bribes to industry are the pound (or two or three) of flesh required to move us forward into a political reality that includes an climate and energy policy signed into law, which can then be debated on its efficacy rather than on talking points from Faux News and the Chamber of Horrors, so be it.

In regard to Darfur, from my perspective, US Special Envoy Scott Gration has been a profound disappointment, and so has the administration's policy on Sudan. There is something terrible happening in the Sudan; the unthinkable is still possible there. I do not know what the answer is, but it is not some Pollyanna ingratiating himself with his offers of cookies.

In regard to Burma, just as in Darfur, the great nations and the giant corporations are complicit. We may not be able to act against the Junta, but we can act against Chevron and say no US corporation should do business in Burma until Aung San Suu Kyi is sworn into to the office she was elected to in 1990! If you can do anything to the Burmese Junta, Madame Secretary, you can't; but you sure could embarrass the Board of Directors of Chevron, and inspire the planetary consciousness in the process.

In regard to Congo, well, the problem is in your hands, literally -- if you are holding a cell phone. Learn more -- read Who Pays the Price? Raped for Technology at A Safe World for Women, and go to the Enough Project's Raise Hope for Congo, and Ben Affleck's Eastern Congo Initiative

As always, I encourage you to follow events in Darfur on Mia Farrow's site, it is the real-time journal of a humanitarian at work; the content is compelling, insightful and fiercely independent.

For an archive of Words of Power posts on the Crisis in Darfur, click here.

Support Rep. Alan Grayson (D-FL) and his six bills to Save Democracy.

For the Words of Power Climate Crisis Updates Archive, click here.

Have you met Al Gore at the Wall yet?

I encourage you to find out why 350 is the most important number in your life and the lives of everyone you love: go to or Google "Bill McKibben" for the answer.

Richard Power's True North on the Pathless Path: Toward 21st Century Spirituality is available from

Richard Power's Left-Handed Security: Overcoming Fear, Greed & Ignorance in This Era of Global Crisis is available from

Visit Richard Power author's page at

Al Gore, Mia Farrow, James Lovelock, Evo Morales, , , , Darfur, Burma, Sustainability, Aung San Suu Kyi

Hard Rain Late Night: Eryka Badu -- Window Seat

Hard Rain Late Night: Eryka Badu -- Window Seat