Saturday, August 07, 2010

Fossil-fuel Dependency is a Slippery Slope Lubricated by Gushing Oil

The following comes to us courtesy of Barbara O’Brien (of Mahablog fame), who clearly has an excellent grasp of many issues related to the Gulf Oil Blowout. Thank you, Barbara, for sharing your insights.

What You Need to Know About the Gulf Oil Disaster

Every day, news about the massive oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico gets worse. This week we learned that a large section of the Gulf could become a "dead zone" as oil-eating microorganisms proliferate and suck oxygen out of the water.
Whether anything positive could somehow come from this disaster remains to be seen. But ecologically conscious people should be aware of and involved in the political response to the spill. Because if you aren't, the people whose greed, ignorance and negligence led to the disaster will be the ones creating the "solutions."
For example, Mississippi Governor Haley Barbour is urging the federal government to allow offshore oil drilling to continue, in spite of the damage being done to Mississippi's beaches. Note that Barbour was once a Washington lobbyist for the oil industry.
For years, conservatives have pushed issues that were and are central to the Deepwater Horizon spill. One is "drill, baby, drill," or turning the planet inside out to suck up every last drop of oil before investing in alternative energies or conservation.
Another is deregulation, or the belief that industries must be freed from interference by government regulation, including environmental and consumer protections. For example, already a few politicians are calling for deregulation of the oil industry, as if government caused British Petroleum to mismanage its oil rig. Some pundits are saying the disaster proves government regulations "don't work."
The truth is that the federal agency responsible for inspecting offshore oil rigs did not do its job. The Minerals Management Service (MMS) was not conducting the monthly inspections at Deepwater Horizon that its own policies required. It appears BP was running the rig without adhering to all safety procedure. Critics say the MMS is staffed by "industry friendly" people who don't believe government regulations should get in the way of making money.
Regarding the cost of repairing the damage, there are two kinds of cost -- environmental cleanup and economic damages. The environmental cleanup part is relatively straightforward, although there will be a fight to be sure it gets done. In 2009, a full 20 years after the Exxon Valdez disaster, 16,000 gallons of oil remained in the intertidal zones of Prince William Sound.
The more contentious issue will be paying for the economic damages. These include revenue lost to fishing and tourism businesses and income lost by their employees. The federal Oil Pollution Act written into law after the Exxon Valdez spill caps an oil company's liability for economic damages at only $75 million in the case of an oil spill caused by accident.
And this brings us to another issue pushed hard by conservatives -- "tort reform." Tort "reformers" want to change personal liability law to protect industries from being sued by people they injure. This campaign was begun in the 1980s by big tobacco companies facing lawsuits from lung cancer sufferers. It was joined by asbestos manufacturers being sued to pay for employees' mesothelioma treatments. More industries followed suit.
Democrats in Congress have proposed raising the oil spill liability cap to $10 billion, although this could probably only be applied to future spills. But Republicans, long the champions of "tort reform," strongly oppose the change.
The cap issue may be moot if investigation shows criminal negligence on BP's part. But already the conservative U.S. Chamber of Commerce has been calling for putting cleanup and damages costs on the backs of taxpayers. And this week House Minority Leader John Boehner concurred, although the subsequent uproar caused him to walk his comments back.
In November, the U.S. will be holding midterm elections. At the very least, find out where candidates in your state stand on these issues before you vote. And some faxes and phone calls to your congress critters wouldn't hurt.
Barbara O’Brien is a long-time political blogger and activist who writes for several websites, including her own blog, The Mahablog, and Mesothelioma Law and Politics. She also is the Guide to Buddhism for

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

The Case for Marijuana Legalization: Food & Medicine*

Research conducted between 1966 and 1976, by American and Canadian universities—some 10,000 studies in all—proved unequivocally that cannabis has well defined medicinal properties. Of the handful of studies (about a dozen) that failed to return a positive finding of medicinal benefits, none could be replicated in subsequent studies using the same test criteria.

Indeed, cannabis was one of the best known and most widely used medicinal plants, in many parts of the world, for more than 3500 years. In U.S. pharmacopoeia, cannabis was the primary medicine prescribed to treat more than 100 illnesses or diseases until 1937, when growing hemp in the U.S. was effectively banned.

Among the therapeutic uses of cannabis are treatments for asthma, glaucoma, epilepsy, nausea, multiple sclerosis, tumors, arthritis, rheumatism, cystic fibrosis, herpes, back pain, muscle spasms, insomnia, stress, migraine headaches, anorexia, depression, and many others.

A healthy diet equates to a healthy immune system. Were hemp seed, a highly nutritious and easily digestible source of protein, essential amino acids and omega-3 fatty acids incorporated into the typical diet, the number of occurrences of the aforementioned illnesses and diseases would plummet.

Be advised that cannabis is not a panacea. Different people sometimes obtain different results and a small percentage experience allergic reactions. People who experience adverse reactions shouldn't use cannabis, but that's not to say that no one should use it. Lots of people are allergic to some things, some people are allergic to lots of things, but it just doesn't follow that because a small percentage of people are allergic to peanuts or hemp, peanuts and hemp should be off-limits to everyone.

It's worth noting that adverse reactions to cannabis are generally mild and no known deaths have occurred due to liver or kidney failure, or to overdose. If only the same could be said for aspirin and Tylenol.

The U.S. Government continues to spread misinformation, disinformation, negative propaganda and outright undisguised lies about cannabis hemp to the citizens it governs. It's a thinly veiled ploy to maintain hemp's illegal status for the benefit of vested pharmaceutical interests at the expense of the people who could most benefit from easy access to legalized hemp and its many medicinal and nutritional properties.

In 1937, the year that cannabis became illegal, one ounce of medicinal cannabis sold for $1 at local pharmacies all across the nation. Today, one ounce of kick-ass bud typically sells for $300 – $400 on the black market, no prescription needed. Obviously, legalized hemp would lower the cost of most other therapeutic drugs, and go a long way toward making healthcare affordable for everyone.

Anti-marijuana forces have used specious, disingenuous arguments to make their case against marijuana since day one. When one weighs all the facts about cannabis honestly, the moral and ethical concerns of marijuana legalization line up on the side of legalization.

When people finally shed their fear and ignorance of cannabis, they will vote to legalize it. When they finally see and experience the benefits to be had, they will wonder why it took so long.

Why, indeed!

When the people lead, politicians will follow.

*This brief article originally appeared in Petey's Pipeline E-zine, Issue #34, July 3, 2006

Register your vote for cannabis legalization, today. Visit for more information.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

How Much is Enough?

Here’s a couple of interesting items, which I shamelessly lifted from the Too Much Web site. Perhaps you’ll find them interesting, too.

Stat of the Week:

How could U.S. income inequality be undone? Larry Summers, Barack Obama's pick to lead the National Economic Council, has worked out the math. If every top 1 percent household — average income: $1.7 million — wrote a check for $800,000, and if all these checks were pooled together, then $10,000 could be sent to every U.S. household making under $120,000 — and Americans would be as economically equal, by income, as they were three decades ago.

Quote of the Week:

“America’s wealthy have benefitted more than anyone else from the stability and safety provided by government, as well as the infrastructure and educated workforce and countless other public goods that make commerce possible. It is entirely fair to ask more from these families than we do from families who are struggling.”Citizens for Tax Justice, Principles for Progressive Taxation During a Recession, December 2008

Ponder these while the U.S. economy continues its death spiral.

Harry Kwanukkahmas!

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Bailout Blues

Congress did right by denying $25 billion in bailout money to U.S. automakers unless they presented rescue plans detailing how the money would be spent. (Too bad lawmakers didn’t hold Wall Street to the same high standards before approving $700 billion to shore up financial institutions that were finally experiencing the consequences of their own unethical practices and rampant greed.)

Properly chastised for showing up on Capitol Hill (or Capital Hill—from the CEOs’ perspective, either term applies) in their corporate jets, the Big Three’s CEOs failed to make their case and went away empty-handed. A few days later, they were back, this time riding in on the latest in American automotive hybrid technology. Once again, they pitched their case, only this time the price for their bailout had risen from $25 billion to $34 billion. Once again, they were rebuffed. Now, it seems that the Big Three are about to get a bailout package, after all, but significantly less than they’d asked for and under conditions that have real teeth.

It’s increasingly hard to justify saving Detroit’s Big Three when they’ve done little more than churn out crappy products for more than 60 years. The U.S. auto industry chose to ignore numerous warnings from numerous sources, instead hitting the snooze button at every wake-up call. Making business decisions based on what’s good for investors during the current quarter and possibly the next while steadfastly ignoring the necessity of making long-range plans to ensure long-term profitability is not a strategy for long-term success.

Instead of heeding Alvin Toffler’s prophecies (Future Shock, 1970; The Third Wave, 1980; Powershift, 1990) regarding sweeping changes about to overtake entire societies, economies, and governments, the Big Three pursued about-to-become-extinct technology while Toyota, Honda, Tesla and Karma (among others) got the jump on them.

While tempting, letting the Big Three fail is not something we should seriously consider. Too many other businesses and industries are tied directly or indirectly to U.S. automakers; allowing the Big Three to fail would impact these and send a ripple effect across the broader economy, ultimately costing taxpayers many times more than the amounts proposed for an initial bailout package.

However, any bailout money forthcoming should have some serious strings attached. Without incentives, corporate CEOs have no reason to change and past bad management practices will continue. Government, rather than making cash loans or gifts to the Big Three, should buy up all the common stock in those companies, nationalize them, kick the CEOs out of their corporate jets (sans golden parachutes), hire new managers, redefine corporate missions and rewrite corporate charters, and chart a new course for each company that best reflects the changing dynamics of 21st –century reality as dictated by environmental, economic, demographic, societal, sustainability and peak oil considerations.

When profitability has been restored—and surely it will be—government should divest itself of ownership in these companies and invest ownership in the people who actually manufacture the tangible products. When workers have an ownership interest in the companies they work for, they tend to be happier, more satisfied, more stable and more productive. Everyone wins.

To do nothing to save the Big Three automakers from total collapse would be irresponsible; some 3 million jobs ultimately hang in the balance. But more stilted 20th-century thinking is not the answer, either. That’s precisely what brought the economy to its knees to begin with.

What we need now are radical new paradigms for economic survival, environmental sustainability, and social equity. We need brilliant minds and bold visionaries to show us the way. We need wise and selfless leaders to take us there. But most of all we need the collective will to make it happen.

Friday, November 07, 2008

Bold Career Move

As a political candidate, Sarah Palin bombed. But she comported herself admirably on SNL, and that leads me to believe that she could begin a successful new career in show business. After apprenticing as Tina Fey’s stunt double, she could segue into the title role in The Tina Fey Story. From there, she could transition into a daytime soap opera about a lunatic bitch with political aspirations, from which she could retire in relative obscurity (hmmm, Whoopie Goldberg’s movie, The Telephone, springs immediately to mind).

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

About Last Night

The long nightmare is almost over. Last night, the Obama juggernaut blew the doors off the Straight Talk Express. No surprise there; it was obvious to anyone who was paying attention that the wheels had come off that bus long before it ever left the depot.

Last night, Senator Barack Obama became President-elect of the United States of America.

Last night, Senator John McCain delivered what was probably the finest speech of his political career.

Last night, our nation took its first tentative steps into the 21st century.

Last night delivered hope for a better future.

At this time I’d like to extend my sincere congratulations to the Obama campaign team for a hard-won victory, and to express my best wishes to Obama for much good luck and many successes. He’s going to need an abundance of both to erase the ill effects of eight years of the Bush League’s bad decisions and failed policies.

And for those of you who were disappointed or outraged by the election results—especially if you cringe at the mention of the name Barack Hussein Obama—repeat after me: Barry “who’s sane” O’Bama, Barry “who’s sane” O’Bama, Barry “who’s sane” O’Bama.

Chant it like a mantra for the rest of the day. By tomorrow, he’ll seem just like reg’lar folks, and you’ll begin to realize how fortunate the nation is to have this exceptional man as our next President.

As I said at the beginning, the long nightmare is almost over. Now, let the dreaming begin.

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Election Selection

Color played a big role in who I voted for in this election. No, it’s not what you think. Let me explain.

Not race nor skin color nor ethnicity had a part in helping me decide which candidates to vote for. The contenders could all be purple with orange polka-dots and green racing stripes for all I care. The important thing for a candidate to earn my vote is to share my ideals and represent my interests.

Although Obama is a better choice for President than McCain (and I fully expect him to win the Presidency by a decisive margin), I voted for Cynthia McKinney. And that’s where color enters the picture; she’s got the “green” racing stripes.