Friday, April 28, 2006

He Giveth and He Taketh

Spoof of 2004 Time Magazine cover picture
On Tuesday, April 25th, President Bush outlined a series of short-term steps intended to ease the rise in energy prices. But in his 2007 budget, spending is down 17% for research aimed at cutting energy costs.


Let me recite the facts:
  • BusinessWeek's May 1, 2006 issue, in an article entitled "Dark Days for Energy Efficiency," describes federal funding cutbacks for research aimed at cutting energy use.

    • An increasing share of research money is going to biofuels and hyrodgen. "They talk the talk but are pulling the rug out from under these [efficiency] programs just when they are needed most."

    • In his State of the Union speech on Jan.31, President Bush called for investment in technology to break our "addiction" to oil. Just before a follow-up Presidential visit to the National Renewable Energy Laboratory in Golden, Colo., the White House found that the lab had just laid of 32 workers because of budget cuts.

    • These government efforts pay big dividends. Setting efficiency standards for refrigerators alone is saving nearly $20 billion a year, the California Energy Commission estimates. But the Bush Administration has so far failed to update appliance standards.

    • In another federal program, university engineering students help small and medium-size companies reduce energy use. The $6 million per year effort brings $40 million in annual savings and trains new efficiency experts. But the number of universities involved is slated to be cut in half.

  • The White House's four-part plan to confront high gasoline prices called for price-fixing investigations and several measures aimed at holding down the fast-rising costs of driving including easing pollution rules and diverting oil reserves.

    • The Washington Post said in a 4/26/06 article by Jim VandeHei and Steven Mufson: "Privately, Republicans said price-fixing investigations are good politics but unlikely to result in any significant punishments or price changes this year. Bob Slaughter, president of the National Petrochemical & Refiners Assoc., said that it "does smack of 'round up the usual suspects.'"

    • From the same Washington Post article: "Bush's order to suspend oil shipments to the strategic oil reserve -- the government's emergency supply for national security or other crisis -- will increase the domestic supply by less than 1 percent. This could save consumers a few cents per gallon at best, energy experts said. Philip K. Verleger, an Aspen, Colo.-based oil consultant, said that Bush's proposals were "more or less like prescribing aspirin to take care of prostate cancer.""

Me thinketh someone speaks with forked tongue.

* The Time Magazine cover shown above is a spoof of the February, 2004 cover about Bush's credibility gap.

Thursday, April 27, 2006

Don't Shoot The Global Warming Messengers

Dr. James Hansen, director of NASA's Goddard Institute for Space Studies, is a courageous man. He's unpopular within the Bush White House (and treated and written about accordingly), and has even been subject to pressure within his own agency as well.

  • From the New York Times, January 29, 2006: "After a December 6th speech to the American Geophysical Union's annual meeting in San Francisco, officials at the headquarters of the space agency repeatedly phone public affairs officers, who relayed the warning to Dr. Hansen that there would be "dire consequences" if such statements continued."

  • From the same article: "[Dr. Hansen said...] Communicating with the public seems to be essential because public concern is probably the only thing capable of overcoming the special interests that have obfuscated the topic."

  • And again, showing that this obfuscation doesn't only affect Dr. Hansen: "At climate laboratories of NOAA, many scientists who routinely took calls from reporters can now do so only if the interview is approved by administration officials in Washington, and then only if a public affairs officer is present or on the phone. Where scientists' points of view on climate policy align with those of the administration, however, there are few signs of restrictions on extracurricular lectures or writing."

  • The Washington Post, on January 29, 2006, said: "When Hansen posted data on the Internet in the fall suggesting that 2005 could be the warmest year on record [which turned out to be the case], NASA officials ordered Hansen to withdraw the information because he had not had it screened by the administration in advance, according to a Goddard scientist who spoke on the condition of anonymity. More recently, NASA officials tried to discourage a reporter from interviewing Hansen for this article and later insisted he could speak on the record only if an agency spokeswoman listened in on the conversation. They're trying to control what's getting out to the public," Hansen said, adding that many of his colleagues are afraid to talk about the issue. "They're not willing to say much, because they've been pressured and they're afraid they'll get into trouble."

Most scientists agree that human activity has caused the Earth to warm. The debate now is whether climate change is progressing so rapidly that, within the lifetime of your children, humans may be helpless to slow or reverse the trend toward "changes that constitute practically a different planet."*

More on this subject to follow soon . . .

* Dr. James Hansen quoted in The Washington Post, 1/29/06

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

"Please take a moment to locate this planet's emergency exits . . .

. . . As you can see, there aren't any."

From a wonderfully entertaining video clip by the Blue Man Group featured on "Earth to America!" and one of many videos on

More and more entertainers, politicians, reporters and concerned people are paying attention to our global weather crisis. Traffic on Google’s and Craigslist’s groups and forums about this issue, these are the ones that have the most activity and the least misdirection.

This momentum is not just in America; it’s happening everywhere. As I browse my various news sources, the number of citations and column inches is growing daily.

Let’s hope that momentum continues but let’s not naively believe that that’s all it takes. Things happen person by person. You can help by voicing your opinions, donating your money (which could be seen as an investment), and talking it over with your friends, encouraging them to do the same.

More on this subject shortly . . .

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

How Spin Has Been Used to Deny the Dangers of Global Warming

Queen Elizabeth II opened a major British-German conference: "Climate Change: Meeting the Challenge Together" at the British Embassy Berlin on November 3, 2004, signaling her concern about climate change. Good things happened at that conference:
  • The UK's Chief Scientific Adviser Sir David King said: "In less than 200 years human activity has increased the atmospheric concentration of greenhouse gases by some 50% relative to pre-industrial levels. At about 378 parts per million (ppm), today's atmospheric carbon dioxide level is higher than at any time in the past 800,000 years."

  • He also said: "There is no previous human experience of the Earth's atmosphere at current levels of greenhouse gases to assist us to predict the outcomes. It is likely, though, that the natural oscillating pattern of ice ages and warm periods is now being rapidly disturbed."

  • Gerhard Schröder said: "Combating climate change is one of the key challenges of the 21st century. In order to effectively counter its consequences, the emission of greenhouse gases around the world must be substantially reduced."

  • He also said that:"Under the EU burden-sharing mechanism, Germany has pledged to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions by 21% from 1990 levels by the year 2012. We are making good progress. In 2002 we had already reduced emissions by some 19%."
In America, our debate on global warming has been reduced to whether Michael Crichton is right or not; whether the discussion about energy needs and prudent environmental precautions is shepherded by oil industry thinking; whether White House utterances are intended to frighten and tie up scientific statements putting those scientific spokesmen on the defensive; whether information provided to the government by Dr. Frederick Seitz* is slanted or not; or all of these.

Spin has played a big part in this squashing of debate. It's hard to present clearly when you're always on the defensive, when the attacks are personal and virulent, when popular writers and purchased pseudo-scientists are given more credibility than billion-dollar governmental think tanks. NASA's Dr. James Hansen is a courageous man to have stood his ground for all these years to this type of attack.

There is momentum to open this dialogue. May 24th Al Gore's move premiers; the press is paying more attention; the world community is demanding that we pay attention; the Internet is proliferating with information about our weather crisis; the major weekly and monthly magazines are running feature stories on the subject; and Bush has lost so much credibility and has had to retrench so radically that Americans are beginning to pay attention once again.

More to follow shortly . . .

* I'm researching him presently.

Climate Crisis Cannot Be Spun

Coordinating messages on a topic is necessary in politics. It insures that everyone that might have the opportunity to speak or be queried on the subject is staying on topic and not giving personal interpretations that might stray from the intended message. That's why, after every significant political speech, many things happen simultaneously:

  • The precis of the message (with excerpted quotes and one-liners) gets faxed and e-mailed to reporters, news editors, campaign coordinators, and movers and shakers nationwide.

  • Digital versions of the audio and video of the excerpted quotes and one-liners gets uploaded to online repositories where press and campaign people can download and replay them for their various purposes.

That's what we call spinning an issue. And it's effectiveness can shut down debate and sanction a single point of view.

Did you know that the Queen of England made a rare intervention in world issues by telling Blair of her grave concerns over the White House's stance on global warming*.
She wanted to raise awareness about the crisis and wanted Blair to intervene with Bush and other White House officials because she saw our publically spun position on the issue as thwarting worldwide action to alleviate the crisis.

The present climate crisis must not be spun. It must be open to rigorous and extended debate and overseen by a body that wants to get answers so that it can act intelligently and effectively. But in order for that to happen, White House spin has to stop so that real dialogue can begin.

More to follow shortly . . .

* As reported 10/31/04 in the London Observer

Sunday, April 23, 2006

Carl Bernstein Calls For Senate Impeachment Hearings

In a recent Vanity article entitled "Senate Hearings on Bush, Now" Bernstein details the many events and issues that he feels deserve to be investigated and concludes with the following:
We have never had a presidency in which the single unifying thread that flows through its major decision-making was incompetence – stitched together with hubris and mendacity on a Nixonian scale.
The article included an inciteful quote by Retired General Gregory Newbold who said, “The decision to invade Iraq was done with a casualness and swagger that are the special province of those who have never had to execute [war]… or bury the results.”

At the end of the article Bernstein says:
There was understandable reluctance in the Congress to begin a serious investigation of the Nixon presidency. Then there came a time when it was unavoidable. That time in the Bush presidency has arrived.
As an interesting aside, Bernstein showed the chronology of the Senate Watergate Committee’s hearings about Nixon.

  • February 6, 1974 -- House voted to empower its Judiciary Committee to begin an impeachment investigation

  • July 27, 1974 -- The first of three articles of impeachment was approved by the committee

  • July 29-30, 1974 -- Two more articles were approved

  • August 8, 1974 -- Facing certain conviction, Nixion resigned and Gerald Ford became president

Six months. Six months of hell that could enable the next elected president to begin the mending process that can enable us to rejoin the world community instead of stand at odds with it. Six months during which there would be so much pressure on Cheney to bow out and make possible an honorable replacement to begin the restoration.

Too much to hope? Let’s not let hope have anything to do with it.

If you agree with the article, sit down and write a note to your two US senators and your congressperson. Then copy the letter to your local newspaper’s letters to the editor section. Then copy that and send it to all your friends by snail and e-mail.

I’m doing it today, right after I finish this blog entry. Care to join me?

Saturday, April 22, 2006

The CBS Sunday Morning Formula for Democrats

"We accentuate the positive and don't try to shock," says host Charles Osgood. "I think there's a growing appetite for that. We're surrounded by shock."

Osgood also says that his program assumes viewers have an attention span. "We're very lucky to be on at a time when people can actually sit down and watch — as opposed to a weekday-morning audience walking in and out of the room." It's like reading the paper on a Sunday morning: a mix of stories about politics, the arts and culture -- and the time to read and digest it and perhaps discuss it with the family.

Sounds like a winning formula for Democrats to follow in their campaigns.

  • Accentuate the positive.

  • Don't shock. It's just another form of fear.

  • Assume that voters have an attention span.

Don't you agree?

PS: In a report on The State of the News Media 2006 by the Project for Excellence in Journalism, the audience for CBS Sunday Morning is growing where almost all other network news programs have diminishing market share. It's one of the very few programs I TIVO just in case I can't see it live.

Friday, April 21, 2006

Pat Robertson and Grassroots Activism

From an interview by Rita Braver on CBS News Sunday Morning, April 9, 2006.

PR: My race for the Presidency-- I didn't do all that bad for an amateur, you know. I beat the sitting Vice President in a number of states. But nevertheless-- when it was all over with, I had mobilized 300,000 plus people in about 35 states.

And that became the core of the Christian Coalition, which in turn became a very highly visible part of the Republican Party, and perhaps has been a major influence in winning the Congress for the Republicans and maybe putting a born again Christian in the White House. So I was sort of a forerunner of a group that was given a voice.

RB: You helped form the Christian Coalition. Then you sort of--

PR: That's right.

RB: --stepped away from it.

PR: Right.

RB: But why?

PR: Well I'd had enough. We had accomplished our goals. We had a 10 year set of goals. And we got every one of them. The only one we didn't get is the Supreme Court, and we're only one judge short of that. (LAUGHTER) So I think the Congress is conservative, a majority of governorships is conservative, a born again Christian is in the White House, and-- so-- I-- I had done what I set out to do.

I'll say it again: Regardless how often Carl Rove stokes the flames of terror, we need to look past our fears and keep close watch on the neighborhood. Municipal, county and state elections happen throughout this year and next. Become informed and vote. Don't let your kids grow up under Conservative tutorage.

Grassroots Activism: It's Time to Catch Up

Gore Vidal said in a radio interview with Marc Cooper on KPFK's "The Nation," that Richard Viguerie had changed his methods when he got frustrated with the ineffectiveness of national politics. Viguerie decided that he could exert more Conservative influence by sharpening his focus: grassroots is his new credo and local elections are his domain.

In this one-minute audio excerpt from that broadcast, Vidal demonstrates just how powerful this tactic has been.
Click the arrow to listen.      

School and other local boards and commissions, city and county offices, and non-partisan offices like mayor, sheriff, council members, judges, DA’s, are the fodder for his programs. These offices comprise the worker-bees of real-action government and very often take less than 1,000 votes to win.

Viguerie's process isn’t just a to provide voter information. It also involves targeted recruitment. Recruitment? Yes – and that’s where the infection begins. From the pulpits and from his database of activists, they find like-minded people and encourage and help them to take on these jobs.

It's not been on the Democratic radar screen for a very long time. Our attentions have been on President Bush ever since 9/11. Our focus has been national and global. We've been too afraid to look elsewhere. The more we gather and process global information, the more fearful our world and our lives become.

That’s where psychology kicks in. Fear and other reminders of death increase the need for psychological security and causes a focus on (and appeal for) leaders who emphasize the greatness of the nation and participation in a heroic victory over evil. Solomon, Greenberg and Pyszczynski in their book "In The Wake of 9/11: The Psychology of Terror" developed an experiment that proved their point. Students were asked to think about their own death or a non-fearful control topic and then read campaign statements purportedly written by three political candidates. The candidates varied in leadership style. The charismatic leader stated: "You are not just an ordinary citizen, you are part of a special state and a special nation." The task-oriented leader stated: "I can accomplish all the goals that I set out to do. I am very careful in laying out a detailed blueprint of what needs to be done so that there is no ambiguity." The relationship-oriented leader stated: "I encourage all citizens to take an active role in improving their state. I know that each individual can make a difference."

After reading these statements, participants selected their candidate and voted. Results were striking. After thinking about a non-fearful control topic, only four of 95 participants voted for the charismatic candidate, with the rest of the votes split evenly between the task and relationship oriented leaders. However, following a reminder of death, there was almost an 800 percent increase in votes for the charismatic leader (31); votes for the task-oriented leader were unaffected, and the relationship-oriented leader's votes significantly declined.

Regardless how often Carl Rove stokes the flames of terror, we need to look past our fears and keep close watch on the neighborhood. Municipal, county and state elections happen throughout this year and next. Become informed and vote. Don't let your kids grow up under Conservative tutorage.

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

An Inconvenient Truth

Boring Al Gore has made a movie ["An Inconvenient Truth"]. It is on the most boring of all subjects -- global warming. It is more than 80 minutes long, and the first two or three go by slowly enough that you can notice that Gore has gained weight and that his speech still seems oddly out of sync. But a moment later, I promise, you will be captivated, and then riveted and then scared out of your wits. Our Earth is going to hell in a handbasket.

You will see the Arctic and Antarctic ice caps melting. You will see Greenland oozing into the sea. You will see the atmosphere polluted with greenhouse gases that block heat from escaping. You will see photos from space of what the ice caps looked like once and what they look like now and, in animation, you will see how high the oceans might rise. Shanghai and Calcutta swamped. Much of Florida, too. The water takes a hunk of New York. The fuss about what to do with Ground Zero will turn to naught. It will be underwater.

By Richard Cohen, Today in the Washington Post
Click to see the movie trailer.
The movie will be in theaters beginning May 24th.

Oh how I want this to be the beginning of the beginning of a serious, ongoing dialogue that leads to important and effective change. I take seriously what the scientist from NASA said earlier this year: "We have 10 years to slash carbon fuel use... or else watch as the ice melts, the oceans rise and much of our land goes underwater."

Oh how I don't want this to be just another politicized and spun issue . . . just another fearful subject that's not talked about.

Not discussing issues like global warming is a bad habit that all of us share to some extent.

Silence is a method which humans adapt as a front line of defense against fearful subjects that are difficult to process. It's a form of denial which enables people to become insensitive and inhuman to others and clamor for a parental figure to take charge and lead. In recent years, as the flames of fear have been stoked, there is actually a conspiracy of silence about many important subjects, including global warming, and a blind following of a leader that misleads and who has a political agenda that avoids and trivializes environmental issues such as this one.

In this case, for this issue, silence is not an option. I hope this movie is a catalyst for an immediate and international dialogue leading to effective change. The first step is to see it and form your own opinion.


Saturday, April 15, 2006

Satire, Fact, or an Ominous Prediction?

A recent video blog on politicsTV entitled "Media Wars - Episode 2006: A New Hope" purports to advertise the Democratic plan for recapturing our country from the team of Conservatives that presently control it, but instead, ends in the void of candidates and proposals that will/can/should get the job done.

As the spoof vblog shows, it's going to be difficult to counter what's been done. There are no heroes to make those changes nor are there any immediately evident workable plans. Can you think of any? Sure there's a lot of good ideas and needed plans. But can you propose a single plan that has a chance of working in our present highly antagonistic and polarized political environment? As I see it, something needs to happen before things can begin to happen.

Possibly it's this: in his new book, Dick Morris thinks there will be a presidential duel between Hillary and Condi where these ideas will actually be discussed.
Perhaps he's not too far off. Certainly there's been a void of that kind of dialogue: educated, informed, passionate, articulate. Neither of them presently play to their personal strengths -- Hillary's thorough understanding of every social issue, why and where they're needed, and the impact their passage has had and will have, and Condi's brilliance with long-term economic and geo-political issues. Come campaign time some smart consultant is going to insist that each change her ways and let surrogates cover the other bases. Presently, neither of them strays far from [Condi] following Presidential instructions or [Hillary] attacking Presidential proposals.

What about John McCain and all the other candidates you might ask? McCain at Bob Jones U? Or Campaigning for Bill Kristal and the Neo-Cons? And now bowing to Jerry Falwell. These are the fodder of campaign attacks that could seriously hinder McCain's chances for the presidency. McCain had his bipartisan moment when he stood up against the smears on Kerry's war record by the Swift boat veterans. That moment won't be enough to offset Falwell, Bob Jones and standing by Bush as he has done. There's so many others but are there any that you want to support? That you can sink your teeth into? Invest your heart and passions?

It's still early in the process of presidential campaigning but here's something for you to think about now: the President doesn't count half as much as the representatives in your city, county and state. And those elections are happening this year and next. The President (and presidential campaigns) can open and pursue the dialogue but the action happens on the playing field where you live, work and play.

Care to vote?

Friday, April 14, 2006

Bush vs Bush and the REALLY big lie

One of the early Daily Shows with John Stewart, set up a mock debate between Governor Bush, the candidate running for president, and President Bush. It's a wonderfully funny bit comparing what he said then and says now.

It makes my point about campaign rhetoric not being a predictor for future action.

And it makes me wonder how the word "compassionate" came to be connected with his brand of conservatism. Does anybody know when it began? Who started it?

For a fact, it's in his presidential biography. It was quoted in his first campaign for president in 2000.

Whether it was Rove or Bush that gave us that spin on Bush's conservatism, most of us bought it. Since then we've seen that it was just words, truly a spin. A more harsh interpretation would be that it was a lie.

Remember Lee Atwater? How ruthless he was? How harsh? How his words were so well chosen that they drilled their message into the hearts of the intended victims but sailed by everyone else?

Did you know that Bush was good friends with Atwater and worked across the hall from him during his father's campaign for president? He learned from and repeatedly endorsed Atwater's tactics and practices. One of Atwater's lessons was repetition. Repeat a key phrase or idea from a variety of sources and people's disbelief will slowly deteriorate.

Having been in that business and known the players - including Atwater - it's hard to be compassionate to Bush regarding his and other's repeated use of the term "compassionate." I see it as nothing other than a ploy to rename his conservatism and favoritism of the wealthy. I see it as the tactical lie that it was then and the really BIG lie that it has proven to be now. And I don't feel that I'm naive in this belief because I knew Atwater and felt the blows of his attacks and the pain of his victories. It was good training for Bush and there's no doubt that he was a quick and thorough learner.

Atwater came to recant what he had done.

In a February 1991 article for Life Magazine, Atwater wrote:

My illness helped me to see that what was missing in society is what was missing in me: a little heart, a lot of brotherhood. The '80s were about acquiring -- acquiring wealth, power, prestige. I know. I acquired more wealth, power, and prestige than most. But you can acquire all you want and still feel empty. What power wouldn't I trade for a little more time with my family? What price wouldn't I pay for an evening with friends? It took a deadly illness to put me eye to eye with that truth, but it is a truth that the country, caught up in its ruthless ambitions and moral decay, can learn on my dime. I don't know who will lead us through the '90s, but they must be made to speak to this spiritual vacuum at the heart of American society, this tumor of the soul.

It took a fatal brain tumor to elicit Atwater's poignent repentence. I don't see anything short of that which could shake President Bush's repeated lie that he is a compassionate conservative when all his actions say otherwise.

PS: is distributing a petition to not nuke Iran. It's not that far-fetched.

Great Moments in Presidential Speeches

For the last couple of weeks David Letterman has had a nightly comedy routine entitled "Great Moments in Presidential Speeches." There's a quick, nicely put, and often touching blurb from JFK or Reagan or Roosevelt. And then there's President Bush sputtering on about literally nothing -- in one instance it was onions!! -- looking like a total boob.

It's embarrassing! I'm embarrassed. But more honestly, I'm ashamed of Bush and all that he stands for and has brought upon us.

I'm ashamed enough to start writing this blog with the hope that some or many of you will no longer tune out what is happening around (and often to) us but instead tune in and become activists for real change. Not the rhetoric for change that occurs during campaigns, but REAL change from dedicated, caring individuals with a backbone.

Recently I've traveled outside the US. In every conversation people have pointedly asked how we could have elected such a person to represent us. They say how much harm he's done not only to America but to the rest of the world as well and how it will take years, if ever, to repair all the damage done and being done. Of course I agree. These conversations happen everywhere: on trains, in restaurants, with hotel workers, in coffee shops and airport lounges. I don't instigate them. In fact, I'm slightly fearful that they'll turn nasty. But they don't. People are polite and interested and somewhat scolding (but only slightly so).

The people I met really wanted to know what we were going to do about him and what he has done. How could I answer that? How can I say that in the next election things will be different and change will happen? What with the two-facedness of McCain and Hillary, I’m not confident of that. Are you?

Hence, this blog to inspire dissent, challenge naive beliefs, encourage action (including voting), and give you something to ponder and discuss with your friends and me.