Debunktion Junction: US Chamber of Commerce Lies About Keystone XL Pipeline

Welcome to today’s edition of Debunktion Junction: Keystone XL Pipeline

The Keystone XL pipeline is, at its core, a deeply destructive concept, and a lightning rod for deception and politicization. Big-monied interests have a huge stake in manipulating the public into thinking that it should be built, and if you listen to conservatives like Mitt Romney, Rush Limbaugh, John Boehner, and even the supposedly “moderate” Scott Brown (who is one of the few Republicans who claim to believe in Global Warming), you would think that the pipeline is the answer to all of our problems; they say it would create jobs (it wouldn’t), decrease price at the pump (it wouldn’t),  and decrease our reliance on foreign oil by increasing our domestic supply (it wouldn’t).

So where do these lies come from, and what is the truth?

In the January 18, 2012 print of Rupert Murdoch’s Wall Street Journal, the US Chamber of Commerce (whose president recently called for a civilization-ending amount of pollution) took out a full-page ad that made two main claims about the Keystone XL pipeline. Both claims are blatant lies…

I will leave the most obvious lie (20,000 jobs) for last, and start with the one that’s buried deeper in the text:

1) The Chamber of Commerce claimed that the pipeline would “provide our nation with a safe, secure supply of reliable and affordable energy.”

This is a 2-part lie. First, the Chamber implies that the oil from the Tar Sands would be for American use. Wrong. In fact, the existing Keystone pipeline currently brings the oil to Midwestern refineries to use in the US, but the whole point of the new pipeline is to BYPASS the interior US refineries, transporting the oil to the Gulf coast where it can be exported to other countries (in Europe and Latin America). So the Keystone XL pipeline would actually COST America oil.

Second, the Chamber claims it would result in ‘affordable energy’ for the US. Wrong.  Being that the oil would actually be taken away from the US, gas prices would rise for Americans by roughly 20 cents per gallon. And to suggest otherwise is a lie designed to manipulate the uninformed.

2) As seen by the headline text, the Chamber claimed that it would create 20,000 jobs… this number has long-since been debunked – and by the very person who first created the lie: TransCanada’s Chief Executive Russ Girling. For the Chamber to bring it up as a ‘fact’ is completely disingenuous.

The number first got reduced to 13,000 jobs… then Girling finally admitted that it’d be more like 6,500 jobs, because they used a misleading metric that said if a job lasted two years it counted as two jobs. (Apparently I need to update my resume, because since I’ve stayed with the same company for 5 years, that means I’ve had 5 jobs…)

But even the 6,500 jobs is misleadingly optimistic. In the only independently-funded study (all others are funded by TransCanada itself),  Cornell University’s Global Labor Institute found that it would only create 500-1400 temporary jobs, and then the long-term job effect would actually be negative.

But this hasn’t stopped FOX ‘News’ (Rupert Murdoch’s other media empire) from pushing the lie even further: Neil Cavuto claimed that the pipeline would create 130,000 jobs. Where does that number come from? Who knows – it’s FOX… they likely just made it up like they usually do. They’ve previously claimed 50,000 jobs, 118,000 jobs, 120,000 jobs, and 1 million jobs.  As Stephen Colbert pointed out, “those numbers come straight from the pipeline they built from their ass to the airwaves.”

But regardless of which random number they choose, it’s probably loosely based on estimate of so-called “spin-off jobs,” or those created as a result of the pipeline being in existence. This analysis was done by Ray Perryman, a Texas-based consultant, and hinges on the pipeline becoming some sort of tourist attraction. His number includes the ludicrous claim that 51 NYC dancers would move to the Midwest to put on shows… apparently for the “100 librarians, 510 bread bakers” and “1,714 bartenders” that the pipeline would supposedly create jobs for.

As Bill McKibben once pointed out to Keith Olbermann, any jobs created by the pipeline would be “dwarfed by the number of people who would be employed if we turned to the wind and the sun – if we decide that we are no longer going to allow our addiction to oil to grow.”

This sentiment was enforced by environmentalist and actor Mark Rufalo on Olbermann’s Countdown show when he said “the Solar Jobs bill for NY State alone would create 22,000 jobs. You put a Solar Jobs bill in each of the 6 states that the pipeline would go through, and that’s 132,000 jobs – real jobs that are clean jobs that will really get us off of foreign oil.”

And even if the jobs claim were accurate… some things are more important than jobs and money — like humanity’s ability to inhabit the earth.

According to the NY Times: “the extraction of petroleum from the tar sands creates far more greenhouse gas emissions than conventional production does.” And in a second interview with Keith Olbermann, Bill McKibben said:

“The Tar Sands in Alberta is the second largest pool of carbon on Earth. Only the oil fields of Saudi Arabia are larger. When we plumbed the oil fields in Saudi Arabia, we didn’t know about Climate Change. Now that we do, if we just repeat the same thing, then we’re idiots. That’s why NASA’s Jim Hansen – our foremost climatologist – said ‘tap this stuff heavily, and it’s game over for the climate.’ … It’s a reminder that we need to leave carbon in the ground.”

I’m reminded of one of Bill Maher’s “New Rules” in response to the 2010 BP oil disaster… “Fuck your jobs… Sorry roughnecks, but eventually you’re going to have to find something else to do – try building windmills. … Calling something your job doesn’t make it sacred … maybe your job needs to go when it starts killing things.”

*          *          *          *

One final note: while President Obama struck down part of the Keystone XL pipeline as it’s currently being proposed, he did so not because he is necessarily opposed to it, but rather because Republicans forced his hand before a thorough review could be completed:

“This announcement is not a judgement on the merits of the pipeline, but the arbitrary nature of a deadline…”

In fact, few people realize that President Obama approved part of the pipeline – the southern leg that takes oil from Oklahoma to Texas for export. This will likely cause an increase in cost at the pump, so be on the watch for conservatives to blame Obama for approving the pipeline that they are currently blaming for not approving.

The Keystone pipeline is still in existence and growing. It poses a serious threat to humanity’s ability to inhabit planet Earth. It’s time for change.

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Lowe’s Caves to Anti-Muslim Extremists

Over the weekend it was revealed that 65 companies pulled their commercials from the TLC show “All American Muslim.” 

The Islamic Circle of North America (ICNA) issued a statement asking for a boycott of one of the companies, Lowe’s, unless they reinstate their commercials. Read the full statement here: Take Action Against Bigotry and Hate. Companies like Lowe’s are bowing to extreme right-wing bigots who do not want Muslims to be shown as real people, rather than stereotypical “terrorists”.

I have created a petition on Change.org specifically directed at Lowe’s CEO Robert Niblock, asking him to reinstate their commercials. This would send a clear message that Lowe’s, and the other 64 companies, were wrong to bow to extreme right-wing bigotry.

Please sign the petition, and pass it along: http://www.change.org/petitions/lowes-reinstate-commercials-on-all-american-muslim

Thinkprogress.org (the article linked at the top) has a good summary of the background:

The TLC reality TV show All-American Muslim chronicles the lives of a group of Muslims in Dearborn, Michigan. The show has been well-received for its fair and realistic portrayal of the Muslim American experience in the United States. Watch a trailer for the show here.

But a reality TV show that lets Americans relate to the lives of Muslims in the United States is an offensive idea to those who want to demonize Islam. The Florida Family Association (FFA) launched a campaign earlier this year to get companies to pull their advertising from the program. FFA claims that 65 of the 67 companies targeted have done this, including home improvement giant Lowe’s and megabank Bank of America:The Florida Family Association, a Tampa Bay group, has led a campaign urging companies to pull ads on ‘All-American Muslim.’ The FFA contends that 65 of 67 companies it has targeted have pulled their ads, including Bank of America, the Campbell Soup Co., Dell, Estee Lauder, General Motors, Goodyear, Green Mountain Coffee, McDonalds, Sears, and Wal-Mart.

In addition to the companies listed above, I was able to find a list of all the other ones as well. The hate-filled website “Bare Naked Islam” (deliberately left out a link for them) is taking partial credit for the ad-pull. They list the following companies having pulled their ads  (note that Lowe’s competitor Home Depot did NOT pull their ads):

**SEE BELOW FOR UPDATES**

3M (Command, Scotchbrand tape), Airborne Vitamin, Amway, Anheuser Busch Inbev (Select55), Art Instruction Schools, Bamboozles,  Bank of America (Cash Rewards), Bare Escentuals, Brother International (Ptouch), Campbell’s Soup, Capital One, Church & Dwight (Oxi Clean, Arm & Hammer), City Furniture, Conagra (Hunt’s Diced Tomatoes), Corinthian Colleges (Everst411), Cotton, Inc., Cumberland Packing (Sweet’N Low), Dell computers,  Diamond Foods (Kettlebrand Chips),  Estee Lauder (Clinique),  ET Browe (Palmer’s Cocoa butter),  Gap,  General Motors (Chevy Runs Deep), Good Year,  Green Mountain Coffee, Guthy Renker (Proactiv), Hershey kisses, Home Depot,  Honda North America,  HTC Phones, Ikea, JC Penney, JP Morgan Chase (Chase Sapphire), Kayak.com, Kellogg (Special K), Koa Brands (John Frieda),  Leapfrog Enterprise (Leapster Explorer),  Lowe’s Mars (Dove Chocolate), McDonald’s, Nationwide Insurance, News Corp (We bought a zoo movie), Nintendo (Mariokartz.com),  Novartis (Theraflu), Old Navy, Pernod Ricard (Kahlua), Petsmart, Pier One,  Pfizer (Centrum vitamin),  Procter & Gamble (Align Probiotic, Crest, Febreze, Mr. Clean Magic Eraser, Pur, Tide),  Progressive Insurance, Prudential Financial,  Radio Shack, Ruth’s Chris Steakhouse,  SC Johnson (Drano, Glade, Scrubbing Bubbles),  Sears , Signet (Kay Jewelers), Sonic Drive-ins, Subaru, THQ (uDraw), T-Mobil,  Toyota (Camry), Volkswagen,  Vtech (Mobi Go, V Reader), Wal-Mart, Whirlpool (Maytag).

****

UPDATE: WaitISeeSomething.com reader, Sue, contacted Progressive Insurance, and they stated that they “did NOT pull their ads,” as they “purchased a rotational ad, not a block ad.” Also, Amway says that reports of them pulling their ads are incorrect as well.

According to a new article at ThinkProgress.org, several of the companies in the above list haven’t actually pulled their ads from All American Muslim. (Shows how unreliable hate-websites like “Bare Naked Islam” are…). Campbell Soup Company, Sears, and Bank of America have all condemned FFA’s boycott of All American Muslim. In addition, Gap, Green mountain Coffee, Home Depot, Art Instruction Schools, and Cumberland Packing have all said that it is a misrepresentation to say they pulled their ads. Lowe’s has confirmed they pulled there ads, but for the others, the best thing to do is get in touch with them directly.

****

Assuming that the above list is at least somewhat accurate, perhaps it is unfair to single out Lowe’s. But if we can convince Lowe’s, then maybe the others will follow suit. Also, Lowe’s has also been especially cavalier in their responses, saying via Twitter: “Lowe’s values diversity of thought in everyone, including our employees and prospective customers.” But by caving to to bigots, Lowe’s is showing they only care about some of their employees and prospective customers, and they don’t care about others.

For too long, hate-groups like the Florida Family Association have been allowed to go unchecked. Please stand with me and sign my petition to Lowes: http://www.change.org/petitions/lowes-reinstate-commercials-on-all-american-muslim

** UPDATE **

In addition to my petition (which I hope you’ve signed!!), there is another one on Change.org that has over 8000 signatures that you can sign as well, and another on SignOn.org with over 35,000 signatures that’s also open!

This issue has been getting a lot of coverage in the media, including Lowe’s CEO Robert Niblock being Keith Olberman’s “Worst Person in the World” for December 13, 2011, and a segment on The Daily Show entitled “kabulvision”

Also, please check out this viral video by www.ArabAmericanNY.org:

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Debunktion Junction: War on Christmas Myth

FOX & the equally disgusting Drudge Report are drumming up the stupid “War on Christmas” gibberish early this year.  It’s not even “War on Thanksgiving” time yet!

Four points shows how utterly ridiculous this whole “Obama’s Christmas Tree Tax” / “War on Christmas” / “War on Christianity” nonsense is:

1) As MediaMatters.org pointed out, the tax on xmas trees has nothing to do with Obama. This is just another attempt by the right-wing to smear the President, and make him seem like an “other.”

2) Christmas trees have nothing to do with Christianity. Evergreen trees are a Pagan tradition that originated at the Winter Solstice celebration of Saturnalia.  Christians took it over as a way to gain converts, and began hanging apples on them to reference the story of Adam & Eve. That’s how we got ornaments.

3) Christmas has nothing to do with Christianity. Jesus wasn’t even born on December 25. In fact, the first “War on Christmas” was waged by the Puritans in the 1600’s because they wanted to be true to the bible, which doesn’t mention the date of Jesus’ birth (Pope Julius I chose it). Celebrations of Christmas were banned in Boston when the Pilgrims came to America.

Over the years, Christmas became an excuse to riot and cause mischief, and it wasn’t until the 19th century that our modern views of Christmas were invented. Washington Irving wrote fictional, but nostalgic, stories of celebrations of the holiday that never actually happened, and Charles Dickens wrote the popular A Christmas Carol. It was then that Americans decided Christmas was a good excuse to celebrate peace, family, and social equality. It was also a way to reward children, and to stimulate the economy. Christmas as we know it has always been a non-religious, commercial holiday.

4) As much as right-wing media such as FOX, The Drudge Report, Rush Limbaugh, or the Wall Street Journal want everyone to believe that Christians are the most oppressed religious group, that distinction goes to another group…. Atheists.

Okay, that’s cheating a little bit. Atheists, by definition, are not a religious group… but we are about religion.  And a new poll by Public Religion Research Institute shows that voters are most uncomfortable voting for an Atheist president – slightly edging out the idea of a Muslim president.  By contrast, they do seem to be quite comfortable with an Evangelical Christian president… like Rick Perry… or George W. Bush…

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First OFFICIAL Release from OCCUPY WALL STREET – Reprint

Earlier, the OccupyWallSt.org website was temporarily down for upgrades, and I wanted people to still be to access their first declaration. Here it is directly from their website.


This was unanimously voted on by all members of Occupy Wall Street last night, around 8pm, Sept 29. It is our first official document for release. We have three more underway, that will likely be released in the upcoming days: 1) A declaration of demands. 2) Principles of Solidarity 3) Documentation on how to form your own Direct Democracy Occupation Group.

This is a living document. you can receive an official press copy of the latest version by emailing c2anycga@gmail.com.

First OFFICIAL Release from OCCUPY WALL STREET

Declaration of the Occupation of New York City

As we gather together in solidarity to express a feeling of mass injustice, we must not lose sight of what brought us together. We write so that all people who feel wronged by the corporate forces of the world can know that we are your allies.

As one people, united, we acknowledge the reality: that the future of the human race requires the cooperation of its members; that our system must protect our rights, and upon corruption of that system, it is up to the individuals to protect their own rights, and those of their neighbors; that a democratic government derives its just power from the people, but corporations do not seek consent to extract wealth from the people and the Earth; and that no true democracy is attainable when the process is determined by economic power. We come to you at a time when corporations, which place profit over people, self-interest over justice, and oppression over equality, run our governments. We have peaceably assembled here, as is our right, to let these facts be known.

They have taken our houses through an illegal foreclosure process, despite not having the original mortgage.

They have taken bailouts from taxpayers with impunity, and continue to give Executives exorbitant bonuses.

They have perpetuated inequality and discrimination in the workplace based on age, the color of one’s skin, sex, gender identity and sexual orientation.

They have poisoned the food supply through negligence, and undermined the farming system through monopolization.

They have profited off of the torture, confinement, and cruel treatment of countless nonhuman animals, and actively hide these practices.

They have continuously sought to strip employees of the right to negotiate for better pay and safer working conditions.

They have held students hostage with tens of thousands of dollars of debt on education, which is itself a human right.

They have consistently outsourced labor and used that outsourcing as leverage to cut workers’ healthcare and pay.

They have influenced the courts to achieve the same rights as people, with none of the culpability or responsibility.

They have spent millions of dollars on legal teams that look for ways to get them out of contracts in regards to health insurance.

They have sold our privacy as a commodity.

They have used the military and police force to prevent freedom of the press.

They have deliberately declined to recall faulty products endangering lives in pursuit of profit.

They determine economic policy, despite the catastrophic failures their policies have produced and continue to produce.

They have donated large sums of money to politicians supposed to be regulating them.

They continue to block alternate forms of energy to keep us dependent on oil.

They continue to block generic forms of medicine that could save people’s lives in order to protect investments that have already turned a substantive profit.

They have purposely covered up oil spills, accidents, faulty bookkeeping, and inactive ingredients in pursuit of profit.

They purposefully keep people misinformed and fearful through their control of the media.

They have accepted private contracts to murder prisoners even when presented with serious doubts about their guilt.

They have perpetuated colonialism at home and abroad.

They have participated in the torture and murder of innocent civilians overseas.

They continue to create weapons of mass destruction in order to receive government contracts. *

To the people of the world,

We, the New York City General Assembly occupying Wall Street in Liberty Square, urge you to assert your power.

Exercise your right to peaceably assemble; occupy public space; create a process to address the problems we face, and generate solutions accessible to everyone.

To all communities that take action and form groups in the spirit of direct democracy, we offer support, documentation, and all of the resources at our disposal.

Join us and make your voices heard!

*These grievances are not all-inclusive.

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In Case You Missed It – Week In Review

Welcome to “In Case You Missed It – Week in Review” for Sept 26 – Oct 1.

I share a lot of news & commentary through my various social media networks (Facebook, Google+, and Twitter), but sometimes things get lost in the sea of everyone’s content. Plus, I’m hoping this will reach an even larger audience!  Here’s what I shared last week.


Voice of Choice: Peaceful counter-protests to Anti-abortion harassment and intimidation.
It is a phenomenal organization that is long overdue. vofchoice.org

“Voice of Choice was established as a calm, measured response to anti-abortion activists who engage in misguided, raging protest tactics that are often ill-informed and only serve to victimize women, pro-choice professionals, law-abiding businesses and unaligned bystanders.”


Debunktion Junction: $16 Muffin = FALSE. Bill O’Reilly is a lying idiot = true.

STALE REPORTING: Breaking Down The ‘Muffingate’ Myth (Huffington Post)

If you were unfortunate enough to watch FOX’s Bill O’Reilly on The Daily Show this week, you saw him literally yell at Jon Stewart for not knowing that the government “wasted” money on 250 muffins for $16 each at a recent conference. Stewart responded with a great point (“Have you heard of Wall Street? They had a little problem that added up to a little more than – what’s $16 times 250 muffins?”), but didn’t address how completely wrong O’Reilly was.

Bill O’Reilly is the ‘pinhead’ here (what else is new?), because Hilton Hotels clarified that the $16 was for a full continental breakfast + tax. But instead of a detailed invoice, the hotel just listed the charge as “muffins.” FOX viewers will never know the truth, but now you do.


(from Harley Quinzy on Facebook)


Debunktion Junction: Obama wants to take away your guns = FALSE.

“It’s just so crazy, it’s f***ing crazy.”

Another topic introduced on the Daily Show this week, but this time the debunktion happened right there. From news video clips:

“Since the President took office, he has actually signed bills loosening gun control, including allowing guns to be carried inside national parks and in luggage in Amtrak trains. … The President’s record on guns has earned him straight F’s from the Brady Gun Violence Prevention campaign.”

That’s still not enough for the crazy NRA crowd, who think Obama not taking their guns away is just a conspiracy to take their guns away.


“We’ve tried conservatism, and we’ve tried centrism, but the one thing we haven’t tried is liberalism. Maybe that works” –Seth MacFarlane


“Liberals have got to get out and vote, and give Obama a Congress he can work with.” –Jennifer Granholm


While giving a speech this week, a heckler called Obama the anti-Christ.
49% of Americans believe in the anti-Christ, and that he’ll arrive sometime in the future.

“I think it’s good he’s [supposedly] here – it’s about time we have an antidote to all this crazy Christ shit.” -Salman Rushdie


Mr. Boehner, where are the jobs?

“House Republicans yesterday released their draft budget proposal for labor, health, and human service, which in one fell swoop revives the assault on all their favorite bugaboos, including Planned Parenthood, NPR, the National Labor Relations Board, and President Obama’s health care reform law.”

“Perhaps most surprisingly for a party that claims to be focused on job creation, the GOP budget reduces funding for job training programs that give the unemployed the skills they need to find work in an ailing economy”

Breaking Their Promise To Focus On Job Creation, House GOP Proposes Slashing Job Training Programs


“While the goals behind No Child Left Behind were admirable… teachers are being forced to teach to the test, while subjects like history and science are being squeezed out. And in order to avoid having their schools labeled as failures, some states lowered their standards in a race to the bottom. … For years Congress has failed to fix [these problems], so now I will.”

President Obama’s Weekly Address: Strengthening the American Education System


“Republicans sometimes win elections by suppressing voter turnout, and it’s really un-American.” -Senator Sherrod Brown


Tainted Cantaloupes Cause Deadliest Food Outbreak In A Decade As GOP Continues Fight To Gut Food Safety

But don’t worry, because people like Glenn Beck ‘know’ their food is safe without the pesky government enacting all their ‘needless’ regulations, simply because *he* is the one who goes to the store to buy the cantaloupes.


How Corporations and Special Interest Groups Can Influence Citizens Through Astroturfing


“We are drowning in propaganda. It’s making real democracy all but impossible. People are very much unaware of front groups – unaware of how their thoughts are being manipulated… this is deception on a massive scale.”

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In Case You Missed It – Week in Review

Sept 18 – 25, 2011

Welcome to the first edition of “In Case You Missed It – Week in Review.”

I’m hoping to make this a regular feature here, because I share a lot of news & commentary through my various social media networks (Facebook, Google+, and Twitter), but sometimes things get lost in the sea of everyone’s content. Plus, I’m hoping this will reach an even larger audience!


“If we raise taxes on corporations, what incentive will they have to make money – other than the fact it’s their sole reason to exist?” – Stephen Colbert


“What’s hurting us is that Wall St and corporate America own our members of Congress, that is the problem.” -Michael Moore


“NFL on FOX” shows signs of Rupert Murdoch’s deceitful business practices.

The Emmy’s on FOX broadcasting channel shows signs of Rupert Murdoch’s editing of reality.

If you thought all you had to do was avoid “FOX News Channel,” you were wrong.

Don’t let Congress sweep the Murdoch scandal under the rug.
Take action and demand an investigation:
Petition at Free Press Action Network


Solar is the “Fastest Growing Industry in America” and Made Record Cost Reductions in 2010

“The GOP has been using the Solyndra debacle to talk about ‘pet alternative energy.’ This nonsense ignores the incredible growth and cost reductions taking place in the solar industry. Since 2008, average PV prices have fallen 80%. And with innovative approaches to installation, the total installed cost of installations have fallen substantially as well. … Green jobs are growing as well. Some 93,500 Americans worked in the US solar industry in 2010, and more than half of the country’s solar companies are planning to expand hiring in 2011” -ThinkProgress


“I’ve got a message for Obama: it’s time to grow a pair. A lot of people put you in office to fight for them; to fight against the Tea Party, fight against the bullshit in Congress, the sons of bitches who are attacking the working class and the poor in this country.

At the same time, I’m not waiting for him. When progressive, radical, or even revolutionary changes happen in this country, it’s always come from below.”
-Tom Morello, Rage Against the Machine


1 million flee as typhoon menaces Japan
http://www.abc.net.au/news/2011-09-20/japan-evacuates-as-typhoon-looms/2908552


Republicans are curbing voting rights to benefit their own political interests.

“The only principle that could guide opposite policies in 2 states is that it will make it harder for Obama to get re-elected.”
-Rachel Maddow


Totally awesome science break!
CERN: Light Speed May Have Been Exceeded By Subatomic Particle

I can just see how FOX would report this: “Science proven wrong,” with the crawler saying something like “does this mean we shouldn’t trust ‘science’ about the global warming hoax?”

And here to discuss how this proves Obama should be impeached is a conservative hot blonde girl who flunked out of college but has big boobs, a conservative billionaire CEO, and to represent the liberal side is a homeless man we found wandering around outside muttering to himself.


Happy REPEAL Day!

Nine months after ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ was unofficially repealed, today it is officially no more, and gays can now serve openly!


Reid: I’m Not Confident A Government Shutdown Can Be Avoided

Another potential government shutdown? This time over disaster relief funding.

We all know what this means: Republicans will get everything they want, and the American people will get screwed over again.

More info: “Funding for the federal government runs out at the end of the month and Congress is set to adjourn for recess at the end of the week. That means the House and Senate have to come to terms in a matter of days over legislation to keep the lights on. There’s just one problem: they disagree about how much to re-up FEMA’s disaster fund. House Republicans want to provide FEMA with $1 billion in emergency funds (fully offset by cutting a program to incentivize the production of hybrid vehicles) and $2.65 billion as a down payment of sorts on FEMA’s annual disaster funding. The Senate passed stand-alone legislation last week to provide FEMA nearly $7 billion.”


Senate rejects GOP spending plan as shutdown looms

Gov’t shutdown? Democrats in the Senate refused to be blackmailed by this awful bill.

“Republicans want less disaster aid than their Democratic counterparts, and want to pay for it partly by slashing funding for programs designed to spur clean energy innovation.”

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The Cost of Tax Cuts

A little over ten years ago, on June 7, 2001, then-President George W. Bush signed a law to cut taxes for American citizens under the promise of prosperity. However, in reality, it cost the government $2.5 trillion over the next 9 years, and ushered in an era of abysmal economic growth.

ThinkProgress.org recently posted an article detailing exactly what this has meant in terms of what the Federal government could have spent that money on. Among other options, we could have:

  • Hired 4.19 Million Firefighters every year for ten years. OR…
  • Given 49.2 Million People Access To Low-Income Healthcare every year for ten years. OR…
  • Retrofit 144.6 Million Households For Wind Power every year for ten years. OR…
  • Retrofit 54.2 Million Households For Solar Photovoltaic Energy every year for ten years. OR…
  • check out the article (linked above) for the rest

    Arizona wildfires (photo credit: Marcio Jose Sanchez - AP)

The first option might have come in handy this year as wildfires have ravaged 12 states, including 58 fires currently burning – the worst of which is a record-breaking fire in Arizona. According to the US Forest Service, “the number of acres burned [this year] is three times that of the 10-year average.”

The third and fourth options would not only help fight Climate Change, but it would also reduce America’s dependence on foreign oil — something that all of our last 8 Presidents have advocated for the past 30+ years, but none have been able to permanently accomplish.

Perhaps the tax cuts might have been worth it (but still probably not) if they had actually promoted economic growth… but they didn’t. In 2008, Ezra Klein created a chart (below) based on Dean Baker’s analysis, which shows that economic growth under W was the 2nd worst of any recent President. (The worst was under his father).The tax cuts for the wealthiest 2% were extended at the end of 2010 as part of a compromise Obama struck with Republicans. While this is largely viewed as caving (myself included), it is important to remember that Republicans flat-out refused to tackle any other issues unless Democrats allowed the tax cuts to be extended. Republicans argued that increasing taxes on the wealthy during a recession would stifle recovery, because the rich (as job-creators) would use the money they weren’t spending on taxes to do things like hire more workers.

Have the wealthy used that money to hire more workers? Not really. When the extension was signed in December 2010, national unemployment was 9.4%. As of this May, national unemployed has dropped only slightly to 9.1%. According to an article in the Huffington Post: “the payroll tax cut enacted in December hasn’t spurred the additional consumer spending that many economists expected. Americans have had to spend most of the extra money to pay higher prices for food and gas. The economy grew by only 1.8 percent in the January-March period, a sharp slowdown from the 3.1 percent annual pace in the October-December quarter.”

So if they aren’t creating jobs, what have the wealthy been doing with their tax savings? In an article in the Huffington Post, the group “Patriotic Millionaires”revealed that they have used the tax savings to do many frivolous things, including: traveling, buying larger boats, and adding dance floors & parking lots to their mansions.

This is inline with what the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office found when they analyzed which policies were the most and least effective for stimulating economic growth. The most effective policy: increasing aid for the unemployed. Republicans said ‘no’ to that. Meanwhile, the least effective policy for economic recovery was cutting taxes.

A few related articles worth reading:

  • A ThinkProgress.org article points out that the GOP wants to pass their Agriculture Appropriations Bill, which “slashes funding for food assistance, preventing hundreds of thousands of people from accessing aid.” If the Tax Cuts for the Wealthy were reduced by 1 day in length, we would have the revenue to continue paying for this service without cuts.
  • Another ThinkProgress.org article points out (with animation) “as the Center for American Progress’ Michael Ettlinger and Michael Linden found, the federal debt would be at a sustainable level today — even with the wars and the financial crisis — were it not for the Bush tax cuts.”
  • For a different, and non-reality-based, perspective: Texas Governor Rick Perry thinks the economic crisis is punishment from God because we spend too much. This is similar to how he believed the solution to his state’s historic drought & wildfires was a 3-day prayer event. (It didn’t work.) Perhaps a more worthwhile course of action would have been not to cut funding to the agency responsible for fighting wildfires. Something else that would have been helpful would have been to heed the EPA’s warnings that Greenhouse Gases are causing Climate Change, which increases the likelihood of things like droughts and wildfires. Instead, Rick Perry sued them. Of note: Texas is the most polluting state in the nation.
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Republicans are illegally overturning Roe v Wade. Can they be stopped?

In October of 2010 I was having a discussion with a conservative Tea Partier on Facebook about the upcoming midterm elections.  A friend of mine posted a link to a fundraising blog from the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, authored by Nancy Pelosi.  Pelosi’s point was “women have the most to gain from this election. We also have the most to lose.

The Tea Partier – a woman – argued that Pelosi was wrong, and that women did not have anything to lose in that election. She argued this despite the fact that there was an extraordinary amount of Republican candidates who were extremely anti-abortion. Many went so far as to support the “no exceptions” clause, which forbids abortions even in the case of rape or incest.  To put this into perspective: if a 14 year old girl is raped and impregnated by her uncle, those Republicans want to put her in jail if she doesn’t then give birth to that baby. 1

I pointed out that women stood to lose a lot if those Republicans were elected – namely, their right to choose what they can do with their own bodies.  The Tea Partier saw it differently.  Her reply was: “as far as Roe v. Wade, that’s never going to be overturned. I really believe that.  There are plenty Republicans who are pro-choice.”  In her mind, it was okay if some anti-abortion Republicans were elected, because they wouldn’t be enough to affect abortion rights.  She was wrong.

The situation we find ourselves in now is that Republicans – thanks to their gains in the last election – have introduced laws that would make abortions illegal in their states, even though that violates Roe v Wade.  Why are they empowered to take this illegal action? Because it was drafted by the National Right to Life in such a way that if pro-choice advocates sue, the case will likely end up in the Supreme Court.  The Supreme Court has a likely 5-to-4 anti-abortion majority, thanks to George W. Bush’s appointment of Samuel Alito.

If the state laws are challenged, Roe v Wade will likely be overturned in the Supreme Court.  If they are not challenged, Roe v Wade will effectively be overturned without it officially be overturned.  Commence outrage…

(I couldn’t get the actual video on here, but click the picture and it’ll bring you there.)

“The problem with bringing a lawsuit in federal court to challenge these state laws is exactly what you said. We are afraid that the Supreme Court actually might take the opportunity to overturn Roe versus Wade. This is a court that is led by John Roberts, a man who frankly misled the United States Senate during his confirmation hearings. He talked about how he thought that being a Supreme Court justice would mean that he needs to be an umpire, just calling the balls and strikes. You know, not putting his thumb on the scale.

And then under Roberts’ leadership, the Supreme Court reached out in the Citizens United case to actually address an issue that had not been presented to the court. And in Citizens United, they reach out, take an issue that was not presented to the court, and they open the floodgates for corporations to basically buy elections.

So, this is a court that is extremely activist when it wants to be. And I am really afraid that under Roberts’ leadership, and with Samuel Alito on the court, we could have a 5-4 decision either overturning Roe versus Wade or so gutting it that it might as well be overturned.

If it’s not challenged, then, yeah, the law does stand. Unless you can take it to court and get a preliminary injunction or an injunction against the enforcement of it — yes, the law would stand.

And here’s the thing — this hostility to women’s abortion rights doesn’t stop with abortion. What we’re seeing across the board really is hostility to women’s reproductive health care rights. We just had a fight in which the extremists in the House of Representatives and in Congress tried to cut off funding, all funding, for family planning clinics that serve more than 5 million women and men every year, right? These are family planning clinics that don’t provide abortions, that provide contraception, pap tests, mammograms, STD testing and treatment, HIV/AIDS testing.

What’s happening is that as anti-abortion laws gain more and more traction, we’re also seeing attacks on all of the other aspects of women’s reproductive health. And frankly, defunding the family planning clinics is a public health nightmare in the making.”

–Terry O’Neill, President of the National Organization for Women

There were at least 5 candidates for Senate in 2010 who supported “no exceptions” anti-abortion: Sharron Angle (NV), Ken Buck (CO), Rand Paul (KY), Joe Miller (AK), Christine O’Donnell (DE). Luckily, four of the five lost, but Rand Paul is now a sitting US Senator.  Sharron Angle has expressed interest in running for Congress in 2012

According to Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D – IL, Chief Deputy Whip): “…63 House members that [were] running for re-election as Republicans belong to the pro-life [belief that abortions should be illegal] under any circumstance [including] rape or incest.”

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Global Warming and the Questionable Credentials of Rush Limbaugh’s Patrick Moore

Global Warming / Climate Change is the most important issue facing humanity right now, as it will determine if humans can continue to inhabit this planet in the years to come.

Not coincidentally, it is also the issue that suffers the most from disinformation, lies, conspiracy theories, and manipulation of public opinion. It is a war the 1% has been waging on the 99% for years. Powerful, big-monied interests feed the common citizen lies under the guise of protecting them. A huge player in this game of lies is Rush Limbaugh and his resident Global Warming Denier, Patrick Moore.

Patrick Moore

At the start of 2011, Rush Limbaugh (an adamant Global Warming denier) hosted Moore, who seemed to validate his anti-science beliefs.   Moore said that Global Warming (Climate Change) is a natural occurrence, and a warmer planet would actually be a good thing.  Normally, being that it was on Limbaugh’s show, it would be quite obvious that a guest is either completely ignorant or is outright lying in order to manipulate the audience of (self-described) “ditto-heads.” But Moore seemed to have an impressive background – billed as a “co-founder of Greenpeace,” a scientist, and even an environmentalist. Wait – an environmentalist was saying that Climate Change is not as big of a deal as many other environmentalists say it is?  There’s got to be more going on here…

About f40 years ago, Moore was a “radical” environmentalist. He could still be described as such, but for a much different reason: he now takes a lot of controversial stances that many consider to fly in the face of environmentalism.  For example, while he supports increased use of alternative forms of energy, he also advocates increased nuclear power, and he is very supportive of the logging industry (more on this shortly).  Also, while he is not an all-out Global Warming denier, he does not believe that is anthropogenic (humans having anything to do with it); he believes that what we are currently experiencing is completely natural.

Conservatives love him because they can point to him as an “environmentalist” who supposedly “saw through all of the Left’s moonbat craziness,” and frequently criticizes the environmentalist movement – he says it is too extreme and not based on science.  They can say “this guy founded Greenpeace, so he’s as environmental as you can be, and even he thinks liberals are insane!”

But who is he really, and where do his views come from?

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Jim Bohlen, Paul Cote, and Irving Stowe (credit: greenpeace.org)

Not Really a Greenpeace Co-Founder
In 2004, Rex Wyler wrote a book called Greenpeace: How a Group of Ecologists, Journalists, and Visionaries Changed the World.  Prior to becoming an author, Wyler studied physics, was an engineer at Lockheed, and was a director of the original Greenpeace.  According to his book, Greenpeace was originally founded as the “Don’t Make a Wave” committee.

The progression was as follows: “the ‘Don’t Make a Wave’ committee was formed in January 1970 by Dorothy and Irving Stowe, Ben Metcalfe, Marie and Jim Bohlen, Paul Cote, and Bob Hunter. The Committee had formed to plan opposition to the testing of a one-megaton hydrogen bomb in 1969 by the United States Atomic Energy Commission on Amchitka Island in the Aleutians.  Moore joined the committee in 1971 and, as Greenpeace co-founder Bob Hunter wrote, ‘Moore was quickly accepted into the inner circle on the basis of his scientific background, his reputation [as an environmental activist], and his ability to inject practical, no-nonsense insights into the discussions.'” Note that following their first protest in 1971, the committee changed their name to Greenpeace.

So Moore wasn’t technically a founder of Greenpeace (the Greenpeace website actually has a PDF of his application, as a way to debunk claims that he helped found the organization) but he was in the inner circle around the time Greenpeace was founded.  Moore’s scientific background that Hunter spoke of came in the form of a PhD in ecology from the Institute of Animal Resource Ecology, University of British Columbia.  In 1977 he was elected president of Greenpeace, but the original founders didn’t like how he ran it so they decided to split from him.  He responded by suing them for copyright infringement. They reached a deal in which Greenpeace International was formed, and Moore would serve as president of Greenpeace Canada.  He also served as a director of Greenpeace International.

Time After Greenpeace: Logging Industry

In 1986, Moore left Greenpeace – although lobbywatch.org points out that “according to Greenpeace’s Tamara Stark, Moore’s exit from the organization was ‘not necessarily by his own choice’.” From there he started a fish farm and began his own environmental consulting firm, Greenspirit Strategies.

Clear-cut logging in Tasmania (picture taken by a friend while I was there)

Also from lobbywatch.org: “Around the same time, he became a full-time paid director and consultant for the British Columbia Forest Alliance. The Alliance, although presented as a ‘citizens group’, was the brainchild of PR firm Burson-Marsteller. The Alliance has a budget of around $2m derived mostly from the forest industry and its 170 or so corporate members, and it campaigns for clear-cutting.”  This was also reported in O’Dwyer’s PR Services Report.

The name Burson-Marsteller should ring a bell and sound alarms.  On the January 24, 2011 edition of The Rachel Maddow Show, Maddow discussed how they are the go-to PR firm for notable clients when large-scale crises need to be managed. They were hired by Romanian dictator Nicolae Ceausescu, who often staged PR events in which dubious tactics were used to make things seem better in Romania than they actually were (such as flying healthy cows in to the farms he was going to visit).  They also represented Indonesia during the East Timor uprisings (following the Santa Cruz massacre), and they represented Saudi Arabia within days of the terrorist attacks on September 11th  They then represented the controversial private security firm Blackwater USA following their murder of 17 Iraqi citizens.

BP Deepwater Horizon oil spill (picture credit: Associated Press)

In researching the points that Maddow made, I found out that besides representing generally shady clients, most notable to this discussion is that Burson-Marsteller also reportedly helped ExxonMobil clean up their public image following their disastrous Exxon Valdez incident.  This association is what caused the Unibomber, Ted Kaczynski, to murder Thomas J. Mosser who was an executive at B-M at the time.  B-M denies their involvement with Exxon’s image, but admits to conducting a survey of the case for Exxon.  Exxon isn’t the only oil company Burson-Marstellar has ties to.  The list also includes Shell, Conoco, Cheveron, BP, Repsol, and Gulf.

B-M’s ties to oil companies goes back at least as far as the early 1990’s when, as the Times reported, they were hired by the American Energy Alliance (formed by the National Association of Manufacturers and the American Petroleum Institute) to oppose Bill Clinton’s BTU tax on fossil fuels.  B-M also has a history of being explicitly anti-environmental.  In 1998, the NY Times reported that B-M was the driving force behind advocacy against emissions standards for cars in California, and the Washington Post reported in 1997 that B-M was behind the deceptively named “Foundation for Clean Air Progress” that was a “multimillion-dollar campaign to turn back EPA regulations for smog and soot”.

So Patrick Moore went from helping to shape Greenpeace’s beginnings, to leading Greenpeace, to basically being kicked out of Greenpeace, to earning his living from a company with ties to anti-environmental campaigns and many of the world’s oil companies.

Old-growth forest in BC (AncientForestAlliance.org)

In fairness to Moore, he doesn’t technically work for Burson-Marstellar – he works for their subsidiary, British Columbia Forest Alliance.  So let’s look at them.  The name sounds environmentally friendly, doesn’t it?  But much like the “Foundation for Clean Air Progress”, the name is deceiving.  The actual environmentally friendly British Columbia organization for forests is the similarly named Ancient Forest Alliance.  Their goal is protecting the province’s old growth forests from being cut down.  In direct contrast, the Moore-directed British Columbia Forest Alliance is a joint venture of the major logging companies in British Columbia.  You see, Moore is an advocate for deforestation…

Moore once defended deforestation the same way he now defends his anti-Climate Change views: that Leftist environmentalists have abandoned science, and we must undertake certain activities in the name of Sustainable Development.  I’ll get into this more in a minute, but here’s what Moore said in an article titled “Give Public ‘New Pair of Eyes’ to View Landscape, Says Ex-Radical”: “Deforestation is nearly always caused by friendly farmers growing our food, and by nice carpenters building our houses, towns, and cities. Deforestation is not an evil plot; it is something we do on purpose in order to feed and house the growing population of 6 billion humans.”

He paints a nice, pastoral, and innocent picture doesn’t he?  ‘Cutting down trees isn’t bad – it’s like a puppy wrapped in a rainbow!  We need to cut down trees because “friendly farmers” need to do their friendly farming so we can all eat happy food!’  You see, he tried to evoke the same false images that are ubiquitous throughout the modern food industry…

Go into your local grocery store, and count how many images there are of pastures, traditional single-family farms, and general small-town scenes.  The truth is that most of that food has been mass-produced in factories – not farms.  And the farms that have been used would be virtually unrecognizable to anyone expecting the picture on the label. The animals have been tortured, not befriended.  And the farmers, who are anything but “friendly” to their animals, probably are in massive debt and are enslaved to a much larger corporate entity that is actually calling the shots.  But the labels don’t show that, because then people would feel bad and possibly not buy it.  So they use propaganda to make what they do seem happier – just like Moore was attempting to do with deforestation.

(trailer credit: Earthlings.com)

Moore was technically correct in that “most” deforestation is driven by the need for increased agricultural land, but his argument is misleading.  According to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, 80% of deforestation is due to farming.  However, only 48% of deforestation is due to subsistence farming – that’s the “friendly farmer” he was referring to.   Commercial agriculture is responsible for 32% of deforestation (factory farming).  He didn’t mention that logging is responsible for 14% of deforestation, and wood for fuel makes up 5% of deforestation.  It’s a clever use of statistics and imagery on Moore’s part, but it’s deceiving. It also ignores that Moore himself has ties to a deforestion company (Asia Pulp & Paper) that has nothing to do with farming or construction of homes…

Perhaps why he has such a positive view of cutting down trees is because his father was president of the British Columbia Truck Loggers Association as well as president of the Pacific Logging Congress.  Not to mention that he, himself, is being paid by a company that makes its money by cutting down trees.  Also, he admits that he is well paid for his speaking and consulting services through his company Greenspirit Strategies.  He insists that “people don’t pay me to say things they’ve written down or made up. They pay me to tell them what I think.”  However, evidence from one of their clients suggests otherwise.

Following allegations of widespread illegal logging, Asia Pulp & Paper (APP) hired Greenspirit Strategies to conduct an “investigation,” but the resulting report was no more than a PR puff piece.  George Monbiot reviewed Moore’s results and said “sections of his report have been copied from a PR brochure produced by APP earlier this year. In some places APP’s text is reproduced verbatim; elsewhere it appears to have been paraphrased

Left, the Sungai Sembilang National Park, Sumatra; right, an area cleared by paper companies. Photograph: Romeo Gacad 7

Deforestation is harmful in two main ways:  the first is that it ruins habitats for wild animals.  In the APP controversy, deforestation was threatening the tiger, orangutan, elephant and clouded leopard of Sumatra.  In North America, deforestation threatens species such as grizzly bear.  Dr. Richard “Nels” Nelson touched on this in one of his radio shows, Encounters, “in southeast Alaska, scientists studying the Brown Bear – especially on Admiralty and Chichagof islands – have found that these bears make very little use of new, raw clear cut forests, other than to pass through them on the logging roads, and to do some minor feeding. When the second-growth forest comes in after clear cutting, they make absolutely no use of those areas whatsoever.”

The second main reason why deforestion is bad, is that it contributes to Global Warming / Climate Change by releasing stored carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. Some of the most important areas on the planet for keeping carbon dioxide in the ground and not in the atmosphere are the boreal forests of Eurasia and North America (the other is the Amazon).  Nels also spoke of the boreal forests in an episode of Encounters:

“2.5 million acres of boreal forest are being cut down every year – mostly for paper and other ephemeral products. … Since the 1960s, the acres of boreal forest burned in wildfires has doubled as the climate gets drier.  The lakes and the wetlands are drying out with climate change.  … The main cause of Global Warming, according to atmospheric scientists, is increasing amounts of carbon dioxide in the earth’s atmosphere.  And a major source of that carbon dioxide is decomposition.  The cold climate in the subarctic slows decomposition, so vast amounts of plant material have accumulated here on the forest floor.  This is called ‘carbon sequestration.’  The boreal forest is storing more carbon than any other terrestrial ecosystem on Earth.  So it has a major buffering affect then, on the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.  Many scientists conclude that this is an important reason to limit cutting of this forest, and to try to control the growing amount of wildfire here.”

It appears that those who have nothing to gain financially from defending deforestation have reached a different conclusion than someone who does: Patrick Moore.

Patrick Moore claims that the Left has hijacked Environmentalism as a way to push their ideology without scientific evidence.  However, it certainly appears to me that he is the one who has been pushing his own ideology (and those of his corporate benefactors) at the sacrifice of scientific evidence.

Scientific evidence of Global Warming arises from understanding (through experiments) that releasing carbon dioxide into the atmosphere warms the planet (a fact discovered by Swedish chemist Svante Arrhenius in 1895, not Al Gore in 2006 – as conservatives want you to think).  Scientific evidence of Global Warming arises from understanding the chemical process of decomposition, and from studying ice cores to determine what atmospheric conditions in the past can teach us about the future.

Global Warming deniers like Patrick Moore, Rush Limbaugh, and Limbaugh’s audience of self-described “dittoheads” want everyone to ignore the scientific evidence. They want everyone to instead rely on the anti-science propaganda of corporations that stand to financially benefit from a manipulated population.

We cannot believes their lies.

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Intro

Who am I, and what is this blog about?

As evidenced by the picture below, I was surrounded by politics from an early age.  Growing up, my father was a county legislator in upstate NY for the Democratic Party.  In fact, the first “celebrity” I ever met was Jon Jackson, son of Jesse Jackson.  Visits with relatives usually involved political discussions that I always listened to, but never really comprehended.  I didn’t really care that much about politics or social issues back then — in fact, when a local reporter once asked my sister and me if we wanted to follow in our dad’s footsteps, I said that I wanted to be a pro-wrestler instead…

As I grew older, I began learning and caring more about the goings on of the world.  I was a senior in high school during the 2000 Presidential Election, and the Gore / Bush debate was the first I had ever watched.  Though I was about a month shy of being able to vote in that election, for the first time I saw why politics mattered, and why it was important to pay attention to policy and social issues.

In college I was a member a themed residence house (called Symposium) that was based around hosting weekly “intellectual discussions” with members of the campus and community.  Though I was obtaining my bachelors in Computer and Electrical Engineering, I traveled to Australia for an anthropology semester abroad in my junior year.  It was an absolutely incredible experience – not only because Australia is a beautiful and unique country, but also because I was able to learn from people who were so different from me, and have amazingly unique experiences that shaped the course of the rest of my life…

My research project in Australia was about Sustainable Development and environmental conservation.  I focused on the community interactions over usage rights of the Little Swanport River in Swansea, Tasmania.  The river begins near inland farms, and flows through my host family’s wilderness preserve on its way to the Tasman Sea.  To get a holistic view, I spent time on the wilderness preserve (left – don’t worry, I didn’t actually cut down that tree), and I worked for a few days on the oyster farm that exists where the fresh water meets the ocean.  I didn’t get to spend time on any of the farms, but I attended a meeting that included their representation.  In hindsight, it was a fantastic learning experience for looking at issues from multiple angles; approaching a solution from only one perspective could have had disastrous effects for the other parties involved.

Since college I have become a news junkie obsessed with learning as much as I can about the world.  I love getting news and information from as many sources as I can – local, national, and international – print, TV, internet, documentaries, radio, and pretty much whatever else I can get my hands on.

Over the past several years of engaging in sociopolitical discussions, I’ve noticed that all too often many people are more concerned with quickness – who is the first to break a story, tweet or comment (“FIRST!!!!”), or to express an opinion – than with truly understanding what is actually going on. But there are so many issues in the world that warrant deeper understanding than a passing comment or a slogan that would fit on a bumper sticker (or within a tweet).

I try to learn from as many sources as I can, and I often find myself making connections between topics that others have seemingly missed… or perhaps just don’t care about. What I would love this blog to be, is a space where I might not be the first to comment on a topic, but where I am able to provide the reader with a more thoughtful analysis, or different perspective, than they have been presented before.  Or perhaps just share an article, video, etc. that I think is worth paying attention to.  The phrase “wait, I see something” seemed to fit – plus, I like its origin…

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What’s in a name?

“Wait, I see something” is how Koyukon Native Americans begin traditional riddles that describe things in the natural world.  It is similar to the game of “I Spy,” but more metaphorical.  Here’s an example: “Wait, I see something.  I drag my shovel along the trail.”  What could be described like this in the natural world?  The answer: a beaver with its flat, broad tail.

I learned of the phrase from my friend and former professor, Dr. Richard “Nels” Nelson (right).  An anthropologist, naturalist, and author, Nels has spent the majority of his life studying the people and the natural environment of the Alaskan wilderness.  He is also one of the inspirations for this blog, which is based on my philosophy that one should always strive to understand topics holistically – never to approach it myopically from only one point of view. (photo credit: EncountersNorth.org)

In a wonderful summary of this philosophy, Nels once quoted famed naturalist John Muir (from the book My First Summer in the Sierra) on his radio show, Encounters: “When we try to pick out anything by itself, we find it hitched to everything else in the universe.”

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I hope you will stay tuned for my upcoming entries (coming soon), which will hopefully be way more interesting than this intro was!!

~ Mike

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