Thursday, December 30, 2010

Failure to Obey a Lawful Order

Failure to Obey a Lawful Order

by Leah Bolger
Imagine you are taking a walk in a park and you witness a mugging.  What would you do?  Would you look the other way or would you try to stop it?   If you are one who would try to stop it, then what would you do when it is your government that is committing the crime?  As citizens we are told that we should call our Congressman or write a letter to the editor when we are dissatisfied with our government.  But writing a letter to the editor is no more effective at stopping the crimes of our government than it is at stopping a mugging.

On December 16th, 2010, I participated in an act of civil resistance in an attempt to stop my government from continuing to commit crimes—namely the ongoing wars of aggression in Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan.  In the middle of a heavy snowstorm, I was arrested along with 130 other people in front of the White House who refused to move off the sidewalk when ordered to by the police.  We were not violent, we carried no weapons, and we damaged no property.  We were, however, willing to disobey the police as an act of resistance to our government; as a way of saying “No” to the senseless slaughter of innocent people; “No” to outrageous war profiteering, “No” to our government’s flagrant disregard of international law, ”No” to the squandering of hundreds of billions of dollars.  

Although it is we who were treated like criminals—handcuffed, arrested and charged, we are not the ones ordering drone strikes or sending in troops. We are not the ones using illegal weapons and poisoning the earth.  We are not the ones with blood on our hands.  The real criminals continue unabated, shamelessly claiming that they are “making progress,” and unabashedly announcing that they plan to continue their crimes for many years to come.

None of us expected that these illegal wars of aggression would immediately stop due to our simple action, but we did hope that we would send a message--a message that there are citizens who do not support our government’s illegal wars and occupations; a message to the world that we are shamed by the actions of our government and we will do everything we can to stop it.  It is our sincere hope that this action will be a spark that ignites the consciousness of others; that our refusal to obey and willingness to put our liberty on the line will give them the courage of their own convictions and they will also begin to act in resistance as well. 

We will continue to defy and disobey, to resist and to rebel.  We will not stop until the real criminals have been stopped. We will keep pushing the public to wake up to the horror of war and to take responsibility for ending it. We will rail against these crimes of inhumanity with all the force we can muster.  We will continue to try with our voices and our bodies, to throw ourselves onto the machine of greed and killing.

“Failure to Obey a Lawful Order” is a misdemeanor and carries a maximum penalty of a $1000 fine.  So what is the penalty for failure to obey international law? 
Leah Bolger spent 20 years on active duty in the U.S. Navy and retired in 2000 at the rank of Commander.  She is currently a full-time peace activist and serves as the National Vice-President of Veterans For Peace.

Friday, December 24, 2010

Hypocrisy At The State Department?

WikiLeaked Upon by the State Department

by Tom Engelhardt
[Note: This piece is, in fact, an introduction by Engelhardt at his website.  It had a piece of curious WikiLeaks news we thought it worth bringing your way.]
I have a friend who sends a note every year in December, pleading with me to pen one upbeat, hopeful piece before the next year rolls around.  Mind you, I consider myself an upbeat guy in a downbeat world and, for me, when it comes to pure upbeatness, you couldn't have beaten this week if you tried.  This was when my Oscar came in -- or the equivalent on the political Internet anyway. 
On December 7th, the State Department announced its brave decision to host UNESCO's World Press Freedom Day in 2011. ("[W]e are concerned about the determination of some governments to censor and silence individuals, and to restrict the free flow of information...")  Less than two weeks later, I learned that if you try to go to from a State Department computer, you can't get there.  The following message appears instead:
"Access Denied for Security Risk (policy_wikileaks)
"Your requested URL has been blocked to prevent classified information from being downloaded to OpenNet."
OpenNet is what the State Department calls its unclassified Web system.  Maybe it should now consider changing that name as it prepares for World Press Freedom Day. (Small tip to State Department officials: remember that TomDispatch is just as good a read at home as at work!)  I'm sure this is all part of the Obama administration's fabulous sunshine policy, that "new standard of openness" the president embraced on his first day in the Oval Office.  It's certainly part of the U.S. government's ridiculous attempt to bar its officials, contractors, and anyone else it can reach from the once-secret State Department documents that WikiLeaks is slowly releasing and that everyone else on Earth has access to.
As for me in this holiday season, I couldn't be happier.  Among those sites banned by the State Department, I'm sure in good company and, of course, you're not likely to be banned if no one's reading you in the first place.  And here's the holiday miracle: somehow TomDispatch made it onto The List without revealing a single secret document or even hosting one at the site, evidently on the basis of having commented in passing on the WikiLeaks affair.
So that's the news here at TD when it comes to upbeat.  As for hope, hey, I've learned from the Bush years.  As they privatized war, I've privatized hope, farming it out to Rebecca Solnit, who from her first appearance at TomDispatch has filled the endowed Hope Chair brilliantly.  It's now nothing short of a tradition at this site that she have the last word of the year.
So, as the eighth year of ends, it's up the chimney with me.  Enjoy the Solnitsian present I've left under the tree -- and to all a goodnight (until January 4th when TomDispatch returns).
Tom Engelhardt, co-founder of the American Empire Project, runs the Nation Institute's  His latest book is The American Way of War: How Bush's Wars Became Obama's (Haymarket Books).

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Organic Consumers Association Fights Monsanto

USDA Recommends "Coexistence" with Monsanto: We Say Hell No! by Ronnie Cummins

"If you put a label on genetically engineered food you might as well put a skull and crossbones on it." - Norman Braksick, president of Asgrow Seed Co., a subsidiary of Monsanto, quoted in the Kansas City Star, March 7, 1994

"Monsanto should not have to vouchsafe the safety of biotech food. Our interest is in selling as much of it as possible. Assuring its safety is the FDA's job." - Phil Angell, Monsanto's director of corporate communications, quoted in the New York Times, October 25, 1998

After 16 years of non-stop biotech bullying and force-feeding Genetically Engineered or Modified (GE or GM) crops to farm animals and "Frankenfoods" to unwitting consumers, Monsanto has a big problem, or rather several big problems. A growing number of published scientific studies indicate that GE foods pose serious human health threats.  The American Academy of Environmental Medicine (AAEM) recently stated that "Several animal studies indicate serious health risks associated with GM food," including infertility, immune problems, accelerated aging, faulty insulin regulation, and changes in major organs and the gastrointestinal system. The AAEM advises consumers to avoid GM foods. Before the FDA arbitrarily decided to allow Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs) into food products in 1994, FDA scientists had repeatedly warned that GM foods can set off serious, hard-to-detect side effects, including allergies, toxins, new diseases, and nutritional problems. They urged long-term safety studies, but were ignored.

Federal judges are finally starting to acknowledge what organic farmers and consumers have said all along: uncontrollable and unpredictable GMO crops such as alfalfa and sugar beets spread their mutant genes onto organic farms and into non-GMO varieties and plant relatives, and should be halted.

An appeals court recently ruled that consumers have the right to know whether the dairy products they are purchasing are derived from cows injected with Monsanto's (now Elanco's) controversial recombinant Bovine Growth Hormone (rBGH), linked to serious animal health problems and increased cancer risk for humans.

Monsanto's Roundup, the agro-toxic companion herbicide for millions of acres of GM soybeans, corn, cotton, alfalfa, canola, and sugar beets, is losing market share. Its overuse has spawned a new generation of superweeds that can only be killed with super-toxic herbicides such as 2,4, D and paraquat. Moreover, patented "Roundup Ready" crops require massive amounts of climate destabilizing nitrate fertilizer. Compounding Monsanto's damage to the environment and climate, rampant Roundup use is literally killing the soil, destroying essential soil microorganisms, degrading the living soil's ability to capture and sequester CO2, and spreading deadly plant diseases.

In just one year, Monsanto has moved from being Forbes' "Company of the Year" to the Worst Stock of the Year. The Biotech Bully of St. Louis has become one of the most hated corporations on Earth.

Monsanto and their agro-toxic allies are now turning to Obama's pro-biotech USDA for assistance. They want the organic community to stop suing them and boycotting their products. They want food activists and the OCA to mute our criticisms and stop tarnishing the image of their brands, their seeds, and companies. They want us to resign ourselves to the fact that one-third of U.S. croplands, and one-tenth of global cultivated acreage, are already contaminated with GMOs. That's why Monsanto recently hired the notorious mercenary firm, Blackwater, to spy on us. That's why Monsanto has teamed up with the Gates Foundation to bribe government officials and scientists and spread GMOs throughout Africa and the developing world.  That's why the biotech bullies and the Farm Bureau have joined hands with the Obama Administration to preach their new doctrine of "coexistence."

"Coexistence" or Cooptation?

The Agriculture Department is dutifully drafting a comprehensive "coexistence policy" that supposedly will diffuse tensions between conventional (chemical but non-GMO), biotech, and organic farmers. Earlier this week industry and Administration officials met in Washington, D.C. to talk about coexistence. Even though the Organic Consumers Association tried to get into the meeting, we were told we weren't welcome. The powers that be claim that the OCA doesn't meet their criteria of being "stakeholders." The unifying theme in these closed-door meetings is apparently that Monsanto and the other biotech companies will set aside a "compensation" fund to reimburse organic farmers whose crops or fields get contaminated. That way we'll all be happy. Monsanto, Bayer, Syngenta, Dow, and Dupont will continue planting their hazardous crops and force-feeding animals and consumers with GMOs. Organic farmers and companies willing to cooperate will get a little compensation or "hush money." But of course our response to Monsanto and the USDA's plan, as you might have guessed, is hell no!

There can be no such thing as "coexistence" with a reckless and monopolistic industry that harms human health, destroys biodiversity, damages the environment, tortures and poisons animals, destabilizes the climate, and economically devastates the world's 1.5 billion seed-saving small farmers.  Enough talk of coexistence. We need a new regime that empowers consumers, small farmers, and the organic community. We need a new set of rules, based on "truth-in-labeling" and the "precautionary principle" - consumer and farmer-friendly regulations that are basically already in place in the European Union - so that "we the people" can regain control over Monsanto, indentured politicians, and the presently out-of-control technology of genetic engineering.

Truth-in-Labeling: Monsanto and the Biotech Industry's Greatest Fear

In practical terms coexistence between GMOs and organics in the European Union, the largest agricultural market in the world, is a non-issue. Why? Because there are almost no GMO crops under cultivation, nor consumer food products on supermarket shelves, in the EU, period. And why is this? There are almost no GMOs in Europe, because under EU law, as demanded by consumers, all foods containing GMOs or GMO ingredients must be labeled. Consumers have the freedom to choose or not to consume GMOs, while farmers, food processors, and retailers have (at least legally) the right to lace foods with GMOs, as long as they are labeled. Of course consumers, for the most part, do not want to consume GM Frankenfoods. European farmers and food companies, even junk food purveyors like McDonald's and Wal-Mart, understand quite well the axiom expressed by the Monsanto executive at the beginning of this article: "If you put a label on genetically engineered food you might as well put a skull and crossbones on it."

The biotech industry and Food Inc. are acutely aware of the fact that North American consumers, like their European counterparts, are wary and suspicious of GMO foods. Even without a PhD, consumers understand you don't want to be part of an involuntary food safety experiment. You don't want your food safety or environmental sustainability decisions to be made by profit-at-any-cost chemical companies like Monsanto, Dow, or Dupont-the same people who brought you toxic pesticides, Agent Orange, PCBs, and now global warming. Industry leaders are acutely aware of the fact that every single industry or government poll over the last 16 years has shown that 85-95% of American consumers want mandatory labels on GMO foods. Why? So that we can avoid buying them. GMO foods have absolutely no benefits for consumers or the environment, only hazards. This is why Monsanto and their friends in the Bush, Clinton, and Obama administrations have prevented consumer GMO truth-in-labeling laws from getting a public discussion in Congress, much less allowing such legislation to be put up for a vote. Obama (and Hilary Clinton) campaign operatives in 2008 claimed that Obama supported mandatory labels for GMOs, but we haven't heard a word from the White House on this topic since Inauguration Day.

Although Congressman Dennis Kucinich (Democrat, Ohio) introduces a bill in every Congress calling for mandatory labeling and safety testing for GMOs, don't hold your breath for Congress to take a stand for truth-in-labeling and consumers' right to know what's in their food. Especially since the 2010 Supreme Court decision in the so-called "Citizens United" case gave big corporations and billionaires the right to spend unlimited amounts of money (and remain anonymous, as they do so) to buy elections, our chances of passing federal GMO labeling laws against the wishes of Monsanto and Food Inc. are all but non-existent.

Therefore we need to shift our focus and go local. We've got to concentrate our forces where our leverage and power lie, in the marketplace, at the retail level; pressuring retail food stores to voluntarily label their products; while on the legislative front we must organize a broad coalition to pass mandatory GMO (and CAFO) labeling laws, at the city, county, and state levels.

Millions Against Monsanto: Launching a Nationwide Truth-in-Labeling Campaign, Starting with Local City Council Ordinances or Ballot Initiatives

Early in 2011 the Organic Consumers Association, joined by our consumer, farmer, environmental, and labor allies, plans to launch a nationwide campaign to stop Monsanto and the Biotech Bullies from force-feeding unlabeled GMOs to animals and humans. Utilizing scientific data, legal precedent, and consumer power the OCA and our local coalitions will educate and mobilize at the grassroots level to pressure retailers to implement "truth-in-labeling" practices; while simultaneously organizing a critical mass to pass mandatory local and state truth-in-labeling ordinances or ballot initiatives similar to labeling laws already in effect for country of origin, irradiated food, allergens, and carcinogens. If local government bodies refuse to take action, wherever possible we will gather petition signatures and place these truth-in-labeling initiatives directly on the ballot in 2011 or 2012. Stay tuned for details, but please send an email to: if you're interesting in helping organize a truth-in-labeling campaign in your local community. Millions Against Monsanto. Power to the people! ___________________________________________________________________

Ronnie Cummins is the International Director of the Organic Consumers Association

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Fraser Takes Issue With Matera

Chris Matera's "Burning Wood Better Left to Cavemen" touts the advantages of coal vs. wood without examining the carbon footprint of extracting the two as a fuel source.  Nor does Matera acknowledge the historic destruction coal has caused to Northeast forests due to its release of mercury compounds and acid rain producing sulphur. Burning coal and other fossil fuels has led to climate change; whereas, wood has been utilized as a fuel source - as Matera aptly points out - since the caveman and did not contribute to this phenomena. 
But perhaps the worst impact of coal is the wholesale destruction of mountains and forests and the vast scarring and pollution resulting from its extraction.  Compare this to sustainably-managed and environmentally-sensitive logging practices, mandated by Massachusetts law, that do not destroy forests, but enhances them by allowing for regenerate growth, diversity of age composition and species, and the creation of vitally needed habitat for wildlife. 
Currently, area public and private forests are plagued by Red Pine Scale, Elongate Hemlock Scale and Hemlock Woolley Adelgids.  These trees need to be removed and allow for natural processes to replace them with a healthy forest.  If these diseases are allowed to spread unchecked, our Massachusetts forest will be increasing plagued by forest fires that allow for the unmitigated release of carbon dioxide.  And though I agree with Matera that large-scale biomass power generation may not be the most effective use of the resource, small-scale, minimally polluting, combined heat and power (CHP) biomass can be used by industries such as Erving Paper Mills to reduce heat and electricity costs - a win-win for the environment, jobs, and the overall economic health of the region.
Genevieve Fraser
211 Dana Road
Orange, MA 01364
(978) 544-1872

Friday, December 17, 2010

Wikileaks Shows The Dark Underside of US Policy Towards Haiti

Wikileaks Cables Show Why Washington Won't Allow Democracy in Haiti

by Mark Weisbrot
The polarisation of the debate around WikiLeaks is pretty simple, really. Of all the governments in the world, the United States government is the greatest threat to world peace and security today. This is obvious to anyone who looks at the facts with a modicum of objectivity. The Iraq war has claimed certainly hundreds of thousands, and, most likely, more than a million lives. It was completely unnecessary and unjustifiable, and based on lies. Now, Washington is moving toward a military confrontation with Iran.
As Lawrence Wilkerson, former chief of staff to Colin Powell, pointed out in an interview recently, in the preparation for a war with Iran, we are at about the level of 1998 in the buildup to the Iraq war.
On this basis, even ignoring the tremendous harm that Washington causes to developing countries in such areas as economic development (through such institutions as the International Monetary Fund and World Trade Organisation), or climate change, it is clear that any information which sheds light on US "diplomacy" is more than useful. It has the potential to help save millions of human lives.
You either get this or you don't. Brazil's president Lula da Silva, who earned Washington's displeasure last May when he tried to help defuse the confrontation with Iran, gets it. That's why he defended and declared his "solidarity" with embattled WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, even though the leaked cables were not pleasant reading for his own government.
One area of US foreign policy that the WikiLeaks cables help illuminate, which the major media has predictably ignored, is the occupation of Haiti. In 2004, the country's democratically elected president, Jean-Bertrand Aristide, was overthrown for the second time, through an effort led by the United States government. Officials of the constitutional government were jailed and thousands of its supporters were killed.
The Haitian coup, besides being a repeat of Aristide's overthrow in 1991, was also very similar to the attempted coup in Venezuela in 2002 – which also had Washington's fingerprints all over it. Some of the same people in Washington were even involved in both efforts. But the Venezuelan coup failed – partly because Latin American governments immediately and forcefully declared that they would not recognise the coup government.
In the case of Haiti, Washington had learned from its mistakes in the Venezuelan coup and had gathered support for an illegitimate government in advance. A UN resolution was passed just days after the coup, and UN forces, headed by Brazil, were sent to the country. The mission is still headed by Brazil, and has troops from a number of other Latin American governments that are left of centre, including Bolivia, Argentina and Uruguay. They are also joined by Chile, Peru and Guatemala from Latin America.
Would these governments have sent troops to occupy Venezuela if that coup had succeeded? Clearly, they would not have considered such a move, yet the occupation of Haiti is no more justifiable. South America's progressive governments have strongly challenged US foreign policy in the region and the world, with some of them regularly using words like imperialism and empire as synonyms for Washington. They have built new institutions such as UNASUR to prevent these kinds of abuses from the north. Bolivia expelled the US ambassador in September of 2008 for interfering in the country's internal affairs.
Is it because Haitians are poor and black that their most fundamental human and democratic rights can be trampled upon?
The participation of these governments in the occupation of Haiti is a serious political contradiction for them, and it is getting worse. The WikiLeaks cables illustrate how important the control of Haiti is to the United States. A long memo from the US embassy in Port-au-Prince to the US secretary of state answers detailed questions about Haitian president Rene Preval's political, personal and family life, including such vital national security questions as "How many drinks can Preval consume before he shows signs of inebriation?" It also expresses one of Washington's main concerns:
"His reflexive nationalism, and his disinterest in managing bilateral relations in a broad diplomatic sense, will lead to periodic frictions as we move forward our bilateral agenda. Case in point, we believe that in terms of foreign policy, Preval is most interested in gaining increased assistance from any available resource. He is likely to be tempted to frame his relationship with Venezuela and Chávez-allies in the hemisphere in a way that he hopes will create a competitive atmosphere as far as who can provide the most to Haiti."
This logic is why they got rid of Aristide – who was much to the left of Preval – and won't let him back in the country. This is why Washington funded the recent "elections" that excluded Haiti's largest political party, the equivalent of shutting out the Democrats and Republicans in the United States. And this is why Minustah is still occupying the country, more than six years after the coup, without any apparent mission other than replacing the hated Haitian army – which Aristide had abolished – as a repressive force.
People who do not understand US foreign policy think that control over Haiti does not matter to Washington, because it is so poor and has no strategic minerals or resources. But that is not how Washington operates, as the WikiLeaks cables repeatedly illustrate. For the state department and its allies, it is all a ruthless chess game, and every pawn matters. Left governments will be removed or prevented from taking power where it is possible to do so; and the poorest countries – like Honduras last year – present the most opportune targets. A democratically elected government in Haiti, due to its history and the consciousness of the population, will inevitably be a left government – and one that will not line up with Washington's foreign policy priorities for the region. Thus, democracy is not allowed.
Thousands of Haitians have been protesting the sham elections, as well as Minustah's role in causing the cholera epidemic, which has already taken more than 2,300 lives and can be expected to kill thousands more in the coming months and years. Judging from the rapid spread of the disease, there may have been gross criminal negligence on the part of Minustah – that is, large-scale dumping of fecal waste into the Artibonite river. This is another huge reason for the force to leave Haiti.
This is a mission that costs over $500m a year, when the UN can't even raise a third of that to fight the epidemic that the mission caused, or to provide clean water for Haitians. And now the UN is asking for an increase to over $850m.
It is high time that the progressive governments of Latin America quit this occupation, which goes against their own principles and deeply-held beliefs, and is against the will of the Haitian people.
Mark Weisbrot is Co-Director of the Center for Economic and Policy Research (CEPR), in Washington, DC.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Opeyemi Parham: Hooray For Bernie Sanders

I am a Mass resident who ALMOST made it to the big time.  I "maxed out" with an income of $106,000 a year when I worked as a physician in the prison system.
I am now "post consumer" in my lifestyle. Because I gave up my license to practice medicine along the way, I fit the box for "poor' these days; no regular income, living hand to mouth as a free lance health educator, taking small odd jobs as I find them.

That means I know how much $200,000 a year is, and how little under  $19,000 a year is for a family of four, and what middle income means.

What is happening in the senate today reminds me more than any other action to date that we are in the middle of the fall of our very own Roman Empire.

It is absolutely unethical and UNTHINKABLE that the continuation of the tax break to middle income Americans is being tied to a continuation of the tax break to those who will not be stimulating our economy, but continuing to eat, drink, and be merry as the rest of us go down in flames.

Shame on any senator who does not work to disentangle these two issues.

Hooray for Senator Bernie Sanders, who has the gumption to speak truth to power.

                        Opeyemi  413-336-1291
                        P.O. Box 264
                        Hadley, MA. 01035
buy Hope Beneath Our Feet: 
Restoring Our Place in the Natural World .. it will INSPIRE and encourage you!

Thursday, December 2, 2010

The Invisible Government

Logo used by WikileaksImage via Wikipedia

The Invisible Government

by Robert C. Koehler
Once again, the curtain of secrecy is drawn back and Olympus looks more like Oz. The machinations of empire turn out to be banal and ordinary.
In a time of endless war, when democracy is an orchestrated charade and citizen engagement is less welcome in the corridors of power than it has ever been, when the traditional checks and balances of government are in unchallenged collusion with one another, when the media act not as watchdogs of democracy but guard dogs of the interests and clichés of the status quo . . . we have WikiLeaks, disrupting the game of national security, ringing its bell, changing the rules.
“Never before in history,” writes Der Spiegel, one of five international publications to get advance copies of more than 250,000 State Department cables dating back to 1966, “has a superpower lost control of such vast amounts of such sensitive information — data that can help paint a picture of the foundation upon which US foreign policy is built.”
The revelations so far seem less significant than the fact that the American government’s bin of secrets has — once again — been raided, and that the raw data of diplomacy has been strewn across cyberspace, for the likes of you and me to ogle and, if we choose, draw our own conclusions. We get to have real-time looks at how geopolitics actually works.
While temporary secrecy, or at least privacy, is sometimes necessary in any endeavor, permanent secrecy — secrecy as entitlement — is nothing but dangerous. Over the last several decades, with an enormous push from the Bush administration, we have devolved toward a secrecy state, with more and more information hidden from American citizens in the spurious name of national security. Meanwhile, the government and the corporotocracy have pursued war and global dominance with impunity.
So Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s claim that WikiLeaks has put lives in danger — the lives of “human rights activists, religious leaders, the critics of governments who speak to members of our embassy about abuses in their own country” — is not only a red herring, in that there is no evidence that anyone has been harmed by any of the hundreds of thousands of classified items about the war on terror that WikiLeaks has liberated so far this year, but sanctimonious damage control, implying that under normal circumstances the U.S. government cares about such lives.
“If it’s loss of life the U.S. government is concerned about, it should begin with paying more attention to the soldiers and civilians it’s putting in harm’s way every hour in Iraq and Afghanistan,” Pierre Tristam writes at
The sort of data WikiLeaks has outed this time around seems less than shocking, but nonetheless revealing. We now know, for instance, that various tiny nations haggled with U.S. diplomats over the amount of money they would get if they took in a released Guantanamo prisoner; and that American diplomats’ behind-the-scenes assessments of foreign leaders were sometimes blunt and unflattering, unlike the smiling niceties uttered for public consumption in front of the TV cameras.
This is no more than Truth 101, compelling in the way the sheer, raw detail of truth is always compelling.
Perhaps the biggest revelation of the outed cables so far is what they don’t say, as Noam Chomsky discussed a few days ago on “Democracy Now!” What our diplomats aren’t talking about, and don’t particularly care about, is what ordinary Arabs think, he said, citing a Brookings Institution poll in which 80 percent of Arabs said they regard the U.S. and Israel as major threats, while only 10 percent see Iran as a threat.
“What that reveals is the profound hatred for democracy on the part of our political leadership and the Israeli political leadership,” Chomsky said. “These things aren’t even to be mentioned. This seeps its way all through the diplomatic service. . . .When they talk about Arabs, they mean the Arab dictators, not the population.”
An obsession with secrecy is always anti-democratic; it’s an obsession with domination, control and the maintenance of power — and it’s a perfectly natural temptation for those in positions of great power. They want to cut their deals in private and present a face of Olympian righteousness in public.
According to the New York Times Lede Blog, WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange began a manifesto he wrote four years ago, explaining the purpose of the organization, with a 1912 quote from Theodore Roosevelt’s Progressive Party platform:
“Behind the ostensible government sits enthroned an invisible government, owing no allegiance and acknowledging no responsibility to the people. To destroy this invisible government, to dissolve the unholy alliance between corrupt business and corrupt politics is the first task of the statesmanship of the day.”
The invisible government has always been in power. The continuously revolutionary premise of democracy is that power itself — the power to dominate and exert one’s will — must not be allowed to coalesce in a single individual or institution, but must be constantly challenged, broken down and redistributed. I fear that most Americans, or at least the media they stay glued to, are content with a charade democracy. That’s why WikiLeaks is controversial.
Robert Koehler is an award-winning, Chicago-based journalist and nationally syndicated writer. His new book, Courage Grows Strong at the Wound (Xenos Press) is now available for pre-orders. Contact him at or visit his website at
Enhanced by Zemanta

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Geoengineering Is a Recipe for Disaster

Marian Koshland Science Museum of the National...Image via Wikipedia

Geoengineering Is a Recipe for Disaster

This Climate Plan B approach could cause wars and mass starvation.

by Diana Bronson
Think you've heard enough about climate change? Chances are you haven't heard anything about the dangerous and costly sci-fi climate fixes known as geoengineering.
Geo-what? Geoengineering is a set of speculative, massive-scale technologies that would have humans intentionally modify the climate--rather than accidentally, as we've been doing since the Industrial Revolution. Many U.S. lawmakers are starting to take it seriously as a climate change Plan B.
Yet, proposed geoengineering schemes are absurd and potentially devastating for the Earth.
Here are a few examples of how you could make the Earth cooler by "managing solar radiation" (i.e. manipulating the sun):
  • Put trillions of tiny mirrors between Earth and sun to reflect sunlight back to space.
  • Whiten the clouds over our oceans by increasing the droplet size, making the Earth more reflective.
  • Blast sulphate particles into the stratosphere to simulate volcanic eruptions, again to block sunlight and diminish warming.
Then there are technologies under development to actually suck carbon out of the atmosphere and bury it, either:
  • In oceans through growing algae, which feeds on CO₂, or
  • On highways, by lining them with giant synthetic trees (which use chemical processes to suck CO₂ out of the air).
Yeah, right.
You'd think that only mad scientists could conjure up these schemes. That may be true with some of them. But in a world where carbon--whose excess is causing the climate to change in ways that endanger human health--has become a tradable commodity, there's money to be made out of contrived carbon business ventures.
Neither national laws nor international negotiations are making much progress to halt the accumulation of atmospheric carbon. Technophiles are taking advantage of that void by promoting their own schemes.
Logically, since these schemes will cost incalculable billions of dollars, there's a geoengineering lobby comprised of scientists, engineers, entrepreneurs. It includes a few eminent scientists like geochemist Ken Caldeira and businessmen like Richard Branson. This lobby is seizing the moment, loudly proclaiming that there's no alternative and that they're only coming up with these proposals out of their duty to save the world.
Their ideas are nuts, but prestigious science academies, the media, and Congress are listening to them.
Several reports examining geoengineering options have been published in London and Washington over the past year. Congress has held hearings. The Government Accountability Office has called for a coordinated federal strategy. Bill Gates is funding research. The National Academy of Sciences is devoting attention to it and scientists are looking at "voluntary standards" for tampering with the climate.
Experts expect the federal government to announce plans to spend much more money on geoengineering research.
Ironically, some of geoengineering's most ardent advocates are best known for their arguments against climate action, including outfits like the American Enterprise Institute and individuals like Bjørn Lomborg of Denmark. Somehow they're now urgently calling for a massive techno-fix for a problem they have spent their careers saying is exaggerated.
Fortunately, a few cooler heads are prevailing. The pace at which these technologies were being pushed to the fore so alarmed participants at a UN meeting in Japan in October, that the 193 countries present adopted a moratorium on geoengineering experiments.
The world's governments, which had convened to discuss the alarming decline of natural biodiversity, rightly saw geoengineering's potential for ecological disaster.
They saw the possibility of these harebrained schemes destroying the oceans, disturbing weather patterns, concentrating unprecedented power to control the Earth's thermostat in a very small number of hands, and the possibility of unilateral deployment of unsafe technologies.
Geoengineering's potential political fallout could include war, mass starvation, and an inability to ever "switch off" the technological systems these crazy operations would deploy. Plus, think of the chaos that would result if our ecosystems never returned to anything close to their natural state.
Of course, we can't even predict the most serious consequences because we don't even fully understand the complex climate system geoengineers propose to manipulate.
Our planet's health is at stake. Geoengineering is a reckless gamble we can't afford.
Diana Bronson is a Montreal-based program manager with ETC Group, an international NGO which monitors new technologies.
Enhanced by Zemanta

Monday, November 29, 2010

Reinhardt Inconsistent On Heathcare?

President Barack Obama delivers his weekly add...Image via Wikipedia
November 28, 2010
Reinhardt: Repeal Health Care, Make GOP Cut Costs
By John Greenwald

In a freewheeling interview with The Fiscal Times, (Uwe Reinhardt) critiques the new health care reform law — including its lack of cost containment — and recent proposals from the president's deficit-cutting panel. Never one to mince words, Reinhardt also discusses what he sees as the real culprit behind soaring health care costs, why he doubts a single payer health care system could work in the United States — and where he believes the country's founding fathers went wrong.

The Fiscal Times (TFT): What would a high-performing national health care system look like?

Uwe Reinhardt (UR): I think the Germans, the Swiss, the Dutch have a perfectly fine approach. It's not a single-payer system. While I'm a Canadian I am not for [single payer] in the U.S. because we do not have a political system that can handle it responsibly. Canada has a parliamentary system that insulates considerably the public program from lobbying.

TFT: So you favor universal coverage but not a single payer system?

UR: For other countries I do [favor single payer] but we can't run it. You need a responsible system of governance. Whatever you can say about U.S. governance, you cannot call it responsible. You really couldn't. I think the founding fathers gave us an impotent government that acts quite irresponsibly. I don't think parliamentary systems are that bad.

Comment:  Single payer advocates frequently are perplexed by Uwe Reinhardt's positions on health care reform.

He seems to support health care justice. He frequently uses the example of the waitress who is trying her best to support herself and her child, but who is unable to afford health care. By extrapolation, a just society would not let her or her child go without the essential health care services that they might need.

Yet what about single payer? He is a supporter for single payer, but for other countries. In this interview he states that he does not support single payer for the United States. The reason he gives is that "the founding fathers gave us an impotent government that acts quite irresponsibly."

Right now the British and the Canadians are facing an assault on their public health systems by their conservative governments. In the United States, we are facing an assault on our Medicare program by the conservatives and right-leaning moderates. Although we don't know how much damage, if any, will be done to the systems, it is highly probable that all three of the systems will survive intact considering the strong public support in each nation.

Does our government act irresponsibly? Wars? Income transfer from the workers to the wealthy? Neglect of poverty and other social inequities? Of course our leaders have been irresponsible, and so have the leaders of all other nations, but only at times. Social Security? Medicare? Our national parks? Most government activities are quite responsible and certainly do not set us apart from other nations.

Although Reinhardt criticizes the new health care reform law for failing to contain costs, he states, "The private sector is the inflationary component of health care, not Medicare or Medicaid." Can he seriously contend that these government programs are irresponsible and impotent when they continue to outperform the private plans on cost containment? Considering this, how can he support single payer for other nations, yet reject it for the United States?

Government impotence and irresponsibility are not reasons to reject single payer. They are merely an excuse as to why we haven't enacted it yet. What we need is more responsible people power. Let's get busy stirring it up
Enhanced by Zemanta

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Hear About National Listening Day?

Listening To Ourselves

by Terry Plumb

One way to make a newspaperman wince is to request publicity for a day of observance. Hardly a day goes by when someone isn’t promoting a day or week dedicated to, say, the fight against cancer or the importance of eating more blueberries.
So when my younger daughter requested a column in support of National Listening Day, my initial reaction was lukewarm. When I learned that the third annual event would take place Friday, the day after Thanksgiving, I was even more dubious. Every real American knows that’s the day we rush, lemming like, to the nearest mall. What was she thinking?
The more I thought about it, however, the merits of a designating a day for listening during Thanksgiving made sense. Despite the best efforts of supermarket chains and greeting card companies, Thanksgiving remains largely unsullied by commercialization. And with the possible exception of Christmas, it’s the holiday most associated with family.
First some background: National Listening Day is the creation of StoryCorps, a nonprofit organization that provides people the opportunity to record and share the stories of their lives. It’s best known for the sometimes humorous, often gripping interviews that National Public Radio airs on “Morning Edition” each Friday.
StoryCorps is the brainchild of Dave Isay. A former radio documentary reporter, Isay believes passionately that the story of America is best told – not by politicians or talking heads who fill the airways with their ego-centric ranting – but by ordinary people speaking to someone who cares about them. The art of listening, he maintains, can be mastered by anyone and has the potential to enrich our lives, both as individuals and as a nation.
I first became familiar with StoryCorps several years ago while visiting our daughter in New York City. She took my wife and I to Foley Square, where StoryCorps maintains a permanent booth. She interviewed us for 40 minutes, asking such questions as how we met, what we remembered about our childhoods and what she and her older sister were like as children. At the end of the interview, we were handed a CD of the interview and, with our permission, a copy was sent to the American Folklife Center at the Library of Congress, where it’s preserved for posterity along with more than 30,000 similar interviews.
In the interest of disclosure, I need to say that our same daughter later would go to work for StoryCorps. She now manages the StoryCorps office in Atlanta.
StoryCorps doesn’t charge for its services, although donations are welcome. For National Listening Day, however, the organization isn’t asking for anything other than that people record their own stories, using tape recorders, cell phones or any other recording devices they may have around the house.
Typically, interviews are between family members, but I’ve heard excerpts of moving conversations between co-workers and neighbors. The only essential ingredients are curiosity about another human being and a willingness to listen to what they have to say.
To facilitate participation, StoryCorps has created a Web link,, where visitors may find tips on how to conduct an interview, find advice on choosing equipment, etc.
Best of all, there is a list of favorite StoryCorps questions that are likely to evoke fruitful responses. Some are designed for specific relationships. For example, you may want ask your mother, “If you could do everything again, would you raise me differently?”
There are sample questions for friends, questions about working, serious illness and military service – among others. War veterans are notorious for not wanting to talk about their battlefield experiences, but many will open up if asked, “How did war change you?”
Isay would say that just as there are no wrong answers, there are no wrong questions. Indeed, the use of such open-ended questions is a technique that journalists have long employed. Some experts say the best question a reporter can ask is, “What do you think about that?”
We seldom are asked that question. Even more rarely do we ask it of ourselves. Why bother when public opinion pollsters are constantly ready to tell us what we think.
National Listening Day won’t provide a cure-all for what ails we Americans, but it’s the least bitter medicine I’ve heard prescribed lately.

Enhanced by Zemanta

Monday, November 22, 2010

My Apologies to Michael Moore and the Health Insurance Industry

Cover of "Sicko (Special Edition)"Cover of Sicko (Special Edition)

My Apologies to Michael Moore and the Health Insurance Industry

by Wendell Potter
In advance of my appearance with Michael Moore on Countdown with Keith Olbermann tonight on MSNBC (8 and 11 p.m. ET), I would like to offer an apology to both Moore and his arch enemy, the health insurance industry, which spent a lot of policyholder premiums in 2007 to attack his movie, Sicko.
I need to apologize to Moore for the role I played in the insurance industry's public relations attack campaign again him and Sicko, which was about the increasingly unfair and dysfunctional U.S. health care system. (I was head of corporate communications at one of the country's biggest insurance companies when I left my job in May 2008.) And I need to apologize to health insurers for failing to note in my new book, Deadly Spin, that the front group they used to attack Moore and Sicko -- Health Care America -- was originally a front group for drug companies. APCO Worldwide, the PR firm that operated the front group for insurers during the summer of 2007, was outraged -- outraged, I tell you -- that I wrote in the book that the raison d'être for Health Care America was to disseminate the insurance industry's talking points as part of a multi-pronged, fear-mongering campaign against Moore and his movie. An APCO executive told a reporter who had reviewed the book that I was guilty of one of the deceptive PR tactics I condemned: the selective disclosure of information to manipulate public opinion.

Which Industry Was Really Behind "Health Care America?"

Well, shucks. Ignorance is no defense, I know, but no one at APCO ever told me, even when I was on the insurance industry's side, that Health Care America's first benefactor was Big Pharma.
Here are the offending sentences, excerpted from the chapter entitled "The Campaign Against Sicko," in which I described a top-secret meeting of insurance company flacks -- including me -- where APCO and America's Health Insurance Plans (AHIP), the lobbying group for insurers, laid out the industry's strategy:
(AHIP's Mike) Tuffin and (APCO's Robert) Schooling said they had already begun recruiting conservative and free-market think tanks, including the American Enterprise Institute and the Galen Institute, as third-party allies. Those allies, they said, would be working aggressively to discredit Moore and his movie. They then mentioned an ally that most of us had never heard of, Health Care America. It had been created by AHIP and APCO for the sole purpose of attacking Moore and his contention that people in countries with government-run systems spent far less and got better care than people in the United States. The sole reason Health Care America exists, they said, was to talk about the shortcomings of government-run systems.
I learned a few days ago from Jack O'Dwyer, longtime watchdog of the PR profession and publisher of O'Dwyer's PR Daily, that an APCO executive told him I had failed to disclose that APCO had originally set up Health Care America in 2006 with money primarily from big drug companies. Big Pharma was worried at the time that drug makers would be Moore's main target in the movie. Thinking ahead, they feared that being vilified in Sicko would increase the odds that lawmakers would cast them as the chief villain when the health care reform debate got underway.
O'Dwyer blogged last Tuesday that, "Just about every known evil practice that PR has ever engaged in is described in 'Deadly Spin.' " He noted that I had mentioned APCO -- the second biggest firm in the O'Dwyer ranking, with $100.3 million in fees in 2009 -- several times in the book. APCO and AHIP must be paying a media monitoring service to alert them immediately when I am mentioned in the media, as they did for Michael Moore and Sicko three years ago. Within hours, APCO Senior Vice President William Pierce sent O'Dwyer an email to challenge my credibility because of my failure to disclose Health Care America's original incarnation. He's right --partially. I should have pointed out in the book that APCO repurposed Health Care America for the insurance industry and other special interests who were concerned that Sicko might lead to reforms that would threaten their profits, too. I would have disclosed it if I had known about it. Unlike PR people who practice the dark arts of PR, I had no intention of misleading anyone.

Now, Even More Info About "Health Care America"

After hearing from O'Dwyer, I discovered even more about Health Care America than I had recalled. I came across a couple of interesting articles and a press release from 2006 that Pierce had sent to the media. (He was listed as the organization's media contact, although he was an employee of APCO during the entire brief existence of Health Care America. If you called the number on the press release, you would have reached Pierce at his APCO office.) I also found Health Care America's federal tax returns for 2006 and 2007, which were helpful in understanding just how much of a front group it really was.
In a press release dated April 6, 2006, Pierce announced that Health Care America -- which he described as a non-partisan, non-profit organization --had "opened for business as a champion for common-sense solutions to improving our health care system without furthering government control."

The Old PR Dodge and Weave

In one of the hardest-working paragraphs of spin I've come across in a long time, the release went on to quote Sarah Berk, the outfit's executive director, as saying: "We will promote access, choice, innovation, quality and competition in the U.S. health care system. And we will highlight how government-controlled systems around the world limit payment choice, stifle innovation and force thousands to wait for health care services in the U.S."
(Note to Ms. Berk: Please make plans now to join me next July at the 11th annual Remote Area Medical Free Health Care Expedition at the Wise County, Virginia Fairgrounds. If you come early enough, you can help other volunteers scrub and sanitize the animal stalls where doctors and nurses treat the thousands of patients who wait for a year to get the care they need, but cannot afford in the United States of America. Be forewarned, however. The experience might force you to consider another line of work, as it did for me when I went to  Wise County in 2007. I knew then that my days as a spinmeister for the insurance industry were numbered.)
The release did not disclose that Ms. Berk had recently left the American Hospital Association where, according to a story in Roll Call, she was director of "grassroots" advocacy and federal relations. Roll Call also reported that she earlier had "worked on health issues" for former Sen. Rick Santorum (R-Pennsylvania).
So what were the common-sense solutions Health Care America promised to champion? Well, according to Roll Call, Ms. Berk "declined" to talk about them.   "We're not there yet," Roll Call quoted her as saying. "We're not here to get in the weeds on issues."
That was not the only declining she did that day. According to Roll Call, "Berk declined to name any specific companies or groups that were backing (Health Care America)." Oh, well.
Roll Call did disclose a tidbit that the Pierce's press release did not: "Health Care America is represented by public affairs firm APCO Worldwide and is currently leasing office space from APCO." One has to wonder how much space APCO's front group leased from APCO. Berk was identified as the only employee, although she was quoted in Roll Call as saying that she planned to hire at least one other person within three months.

Undisclosed Income Source, Mysterious Expenditures, Virtual Offices ...

According to the Form 990 Health Care America filed with the IRS for 2006, it took in $822,298.00 from undisclosed sources. Of that, $142,500 was paid out in compensation, presumably to Ms. Berk, and $9,000 was spent for "occupancy." Accounting and legal fees totaled nearly $47,000. By far the biggest expenditure -- $240,000 -- was for "consultant services."  One has to wonder how much of that went to APCO.
Health Care America's Form 990 for 2007 disclosed that Ms. Berk was even more handsomely rewarded for her work during the second and apparently final year of the organization's existence (I could not find a Form 990 for any subsequent year), one presumes because she apparently never got around to hiring anyone else and consequently had to work an average of 60 hours a week, or so she claimed. She was paid $197,917 in 2007. Legal and accounting fees skyrocketed to more than $80,000, and the amount spent for "occupancy" jumped to $15,870 in 2007.
One has to wonder who got that $15,870. In the 2006 Form 990, Ms. Berk listed her office address as 1455 Pennsylvania Avenue, N.W., Suite 400, Washington, D.C. 20004. That is not where APCO is located. In fact, that is the address of a "virtual office" at the Willard Office Building. Well, of course. How appropriate. Why would a front group need a real office?
The Web site for the virtual office at the Willard lists these amenities: a prime business address; a "live" receptionist; a lobby greeter, a business support center, a client drop-off/pick-up point; and mail forwarding, all for $125 a month. That's a heck of a deal for an "office" in the heart of arguably the most important city on the planet. Note, however, that you will have to pay extra to have your organization's name in the lobby directory and to actually use a real office or conference room. You can rent a real office for $10-$35 an hour, which for some reason reminds me of the fleabag motels I've heard about that rent rooms by the hour. Make no mistake, though, the Willard is no fleabag. Here's a fun fact, noted on the Web site for Suite 400:
The Willard Office Building is nestled between the famous Willard Intercontinental Hotel, where the term 'lobbyist' was coined, and the Occidental Restaurant, where D.C.'s power brokers negotiate deals over fabulous American fare."
Go ahead. Google the address. You'll find that oodles of organizations claim to occupy Suite 400. Let's hope that all those folks don't show up for work on the same day.

Operating Front Groups Isn't Criminal, Just Shameful

While the Forms 990 disclosed some interesting information, they didn't disclose the details that would be most helpful in determining who is really behind Health Care America. The government doesn't require such disclosure, even though front groups play a major role in persuading people to think the way the groups' financiers want them to think and to do what they want them to do, such as disrupting Congressional Democrats' town hall meetings. The ultimate goal, of course, is to influence public policy.
"Where's the felony Potter is saying took place?" Pierce asked O'Dwyer.
There was no felony (that I have personal knowledge of), and I never said that anyone at APCO had committed one. That's the problem. Setting up and operating front groups -- and not having to disclose who is behind them -- is shameful and, according to the code of ethics of the Public Relations Society of America, unethical. But it's perfectly legal.
So APCO, I've apologized for failing to disclose something I didn't know when I wrote Deadly Spin. Now it's your turn. How about you apologizing to the American people for the role you played in making it necessary for me to write the book in the first place.
P.S.: I just received a message from an APCO spokesperson who wrote to chastise me for writing that the insurance industry would "push Moore off the cliff" in a worst-case scenario. "You know there was never any suggestion to do anyone personal harm," she wrote. Yes, I knew that and I wrote that. She should read the book. Here's what I wrote on page 38 of the chapter about Sicko:
"Tuffin and Schooling wrapped up their presentation with a 'worse-case scenario' plan. If Sicko showed signs of being as influential in shaping public opinion on health care reform as An Inconvenient Truth had been in changing attitudes about climate change, then the industry would have to consider implementing a plan 'to push Moore off the cliff.' They didn't elaborate, and no one asked what they meant by that. We knew they didn't mean it literally--that a hit man would be sent to take Moore out. Rather, an all-out effort wuld be made to depict Moore as someone intent on destroying the free-market health care system and with it, the American way of life."
The APCO spokesperson denied the firm had done research on Moore's family and said APCO "did not attempt to suppress turnout for the movie." I'll let the PR plan, which I first discussed on Bill Moyers Journal in July 2009, speak for itself. Moyers' staff obtained copies of May 2007 and June 2007 versions of the PR plan developed by APCO and AHIP. To view the interview and PDF versions of the documents, click this link.
P.P.S: I also want to apologize to Moore for not disclosing until now that, while I was still working for the insurance industry, I traveled as an industry spy to his hometown of Bellaire, Michigan, to attend the official U.S. premiere of Sicko on June 16, 2007. Moore and I actually met that day, although he doesn't know it. (I didn't tell him who I was or who I worked for). The picture accompanying this blog, taken at a pre-screening reception by another movie-goer, shows me on Moore's left and my son, Alex, on his right. Alex, who has always been a big fan of Moore's, traveled with me on the reconnaissance mission. Moore even autographed a Sicko poster for Alex. It's quite a momento.
Wendell Potter is the Senior Fellow on Health Care for the Center for Media and Democracy in Madison, Wisconsin.
Enhanced by Zemanta

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Bio-Mass Rules Go To Far?

by Morris Housen
CEO & President
Erving Paper Mills

Erving Paper Mills operates 24 hours a day, 355 days per year and has done so continuously since 1905.
We employ 120 people in Central Massachusetts and we buy almost all of our purchased goods and
services from other Massachusetts / New England companies. As a 120 tons per day manufacturer of
recycled napkin, toweling and tissue paper, our operations are energy intensive. In fact, each year we
use almost 50 million kilowatts of electricity (enough to power 4,500 average homes) and about 2.9
million gallons of oil (enough to heat 4,000 average homes).

Erving Paper Mills is committed to environmental stewardship. Every day, we recycle 9 truckloads of
wastepaper that would otherwise go to a Massachusetts landfill. We constantly manage our system
of pumps and motors to ensure that they are optimized for energy efficiency and we recycle the water
used in our production process in order to minimize our ecological footprint.

The time has come for all of us, including Erving Paper Mills, to transition away from fossil fuels and
towards local renewable fuel sources. To this end, in late 2008, our plant commissioned an exhaustive
study to look at energy alternatives. The study found that a biomass-powered combined heat and
power (CHP) system would meet our needs perfectly. Biomass delivers a solution that is both the most
economically viable solution and, unlike solar and wind power, leverages the only renewable source of
energy that can provide a continuous stream of power within a reasonable amount of real estate. We
would need 46 acres of solar panels or 15 industrial-sized wind turbines and a steady 30 – 55 mph wind
to meet our electricity needs alone.

What is biomass? Biomass is organic material, primarily waste wood and brush that is generated during
proper forest management and unusable as timber, which can be used to power an industrial facility
such as ours. The shift is analogous to switching from heating one’s house with oil to heating one’s
house with a wood-burning stove. Yet, we would not just heat our factory, but actually power our
entire process with waste wood. In Central New England, we are surrounded by a natural, abundant,
sustainable and renewable supply of waste wood, clearly a compelling energy source for us.

Two months ago, in September, the Massachusetts Department of Energy Resources (DOER) released

draft rules on the qualification of biomass as it relates to the state’s renewable energy portfolio. The
original purpose of these rules was to properly incentivize the more efficient and appropriate use of
biomass and other alternate fuel sources. Unfortunately, due to political meandering, the effect of the
rules as currently drafted will prevent us and others like us from moving away from fossil fuels. Even
though, biomass (32% efficient) is more efficient than wind (25%) or solar (17%) power, its use is being
singled out and unfairly targeted by legislators. Efficiency benchmarks are being established that will
restrict biomass installations in the Commonwealth.

We strongly urge Massachusetts lawmakers to amend the draft rules. We suggest that the
Commonwealth implement an efficiency standard that is achievable for alternative energy sources
like biomass and provide a full renewable energy credit for CHP facilities. We also suggest that
thermal RECS be introduced that will specifically incentivize CHP plants Without attending to these
changes, the ability of Erving Paper Mills and Massachusetts companies like ours to transition away
from fossil fuels will be severely hampered. Our companies will be less competitive, economic value
to the Commonwealth will be lost and an opportunity to reduce our carbon footprint will have been

In addition, we support science-based forest sustainability standards and believe that the proposed 15%
limit on what can be counted as biomass is arbitrary and does not allow for site-specific conditions to
be taken into account. We believe that a better approach would be the recommendations made by the
Forest Guild in the Manomet Study.

Erving Paper Mills is fully committed to deepening our investment in the local community and to
providing environmental stewardship by transitioning away from fossil fuels towards a renewable,
locally-sourced alternative that will not only lower our future emissions but also make us more
competitive. This is exactly the type of energy strategy that the DOER and the Patrick Administration
should want to encourage. Unfortunately, the rules, as currently proposed, would not allow us to make
this transition. A significant change is needed so that the final rules will take our situation and that of
companies in a similar situation into account.

Erving Paper Mills, Inc.
Morris Housen
CEO & President
Enhanced by Zemanta