Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Fraser Assails Sheehan on Anti BioMass Efforts

An Environmental Wolf in Sheep’s Clothing:
Leading Anti-Biomass Proponent Tied to Oil/Gas/Coal and Mining Industry 
Journalist, Genevieve Fraser
By Genevieve Fraser
 Margaret Sheehan, a lawyer with EcoLaw, a volunteer group promoting renewable energy policy and chair of the Stop Spewing Carbon Campaign, which sponsored a proposed 2010 ballot initiative aimed at stripping biomass-derived energy of its label as renewable, has ties to world-wide oil, gas, coal and mining industries as well as with the world's largest producer of vinyl compounds and a leading North American producer of polyvinyl chloride (PVC), through her association with the Sheehan Family Foundation, according to tax records on file at the National Center for Charitable Statistics
Along with shares from corporations such as Merck and Abbot Laboratories, the Foundation has millions of dollars in shares tied to fossil fuels and other polluting industries.  The Foundation also receives major donations from family members and the L. Knife & Sons, a family owned corporation.  Their tax records can be viewed electronically athttp://nccsdataweb.urban.org/orgs/profile/043197325?popup=1#forms  
The Sheehan Family Foundation was established in 1992, according to a Foundation press release, “Its mission is to protect the environment and enhance the quality of education including youth serving programs.”  Though the Foundation has a geographic focus in eastern Massachusetts, it has expanded in recent years to include Haiti and other international projects.   Grants made by the Foundation from 1992 to 2007 totaled over $10 million.  But despite the obvious good it does, many of the Foundations financial dealing run counter to its expressed mission.

The Foundation’s mining interests include 2,200 shares from the Newmont Mining Corporation, recipient of the “Hall of Shame 2009 Public Eye Award” for its Akyem project in Ghana. “According to the jury it had destroyed unique natural habitats, carried out forced resettlement of local people and polluted soil and rivers,” the Public Eye states.  Newmont was also the subject of a 2005 Frontline expose of South American activities, “Peru – The Curse of Inca Gold.”  That same year, the company was cited for illegal toxic waste dumping in Indonesia. The Foundation sold its shares in 2007.


The Foundation also has maintained over 10,500 shares of the Southern Copper Company which is 75 percent owned by Mexican mining conglomerate Gropo Mexico. The company is a major producer and refiner of copper, molybdenum, zinc, silver, lead, and gold, and operates mines and smelters inMexico and in Peru, in the Andes mountains southeast of Lima.  In 2003, a lawsuit was filed (02-9008. Docket No.)  under the Alien Tort Claims Act (“ATCA”), 28 U.S.C. in which plaintiffs claimed that the defendant's conduct violates the “law of nations”-commonly referred to as “international law” or, when limited to non-treaty law, as “customary international law.” They brought personal injury claims “alleging that pollution from SPCC's copper mining, refining, and smelting operations in and around Ilo caused plaintiffs' or their decedents' severe lung disease.  Plaintiffs in this case are residents of Ilo,Peru, and the representatives of deceased Ilo residents. In particular, they asserted that defendant infringed ---upon their customary international law “right to life,” “right to health,” and right to “sustainable development.”  
Harvard Forest logging operation
Anti-biomass activist Margaret Sheehan is a native of Plymouth and former Executive Director of the Sheehan Family Foundation which has also provided grants to theManomet Center for Conservation Sciences as well as hundreds of thousands of dollars to environmental organizations such as The Nature Conservancy, Massachusetts Audubon Society, the Environmental League of Massachusetts, and Earthwatch among others. 

In 2008, with Sheehan serving as Executive Director, the Sheehan Family Foundation lists their “net value of non-charitable use assets” at $7,655,764, according to their 2009 tax return.  A significant portion of these assets were derived from sales of coal, oil and gas industry stocks.  In 2007, the Foundation’s 24,970 shares of Exxon Mobile stock sold for $2,016,55; their 1,295 shares of Chevron Corporation stocks commanded a sale price of $104,718, while their 1,240 Occidental Petroleum Corporation shares netted $61,510.  

By 2008, the Sheehan Family Foundation sold 5,125 shares of Yanzhou Coal Mining Co Ltd stocks which they had held since 2006 for $77,573, but the sale listed a net loss of $21,758.  The Chinese-based company, the forth largest inChina, is mainly engaged in coal production, preparation and processing, marketing and railway transportation.  According to their website, two large coalfields of Yanzhou and Jinig East owned by the Company contain six large-scale modern coal mines. In 2007, the Company produced 34.66 million tones of raw coal, of which 7.25 million tones were exported.  Though China’s coal mining industry is considered to be the largest and deadliest in the world in terms of human safety, the Yanzhou Company claims that they are in compliance with all safety regulations; however, pollution emanating fromChina’s coal burning power plants is notorious.

Despite the 2007 coal, oil and gas divestments, the following year the Foundation lists 4,400 shares of ConocoPhilips corporate stock with a book value of $348,844.  ConocoPhilips boasts of extracting hydrocarbons fromCanada’s oil sands which constitutes “one of the largest proven oil reserves in the world,” according to their website. 

In 2009, The Nature Conservancy received a $110,000 contribution from the Foundation, while the Massachusetts Audubon Society received a $160,000 grant.  This was in addition to the hundreds of thousands from years past. For example, in 2008, The Nature Conservancy received $210,696 from the Foundation, and MA Audubon received $80,000; whereas, in 2007, The Nature Conservancy received $85,000, and MA Audubon received $80,000.  Whether or not these funds impacted their receptivity to Sheehan’s anti-biomass message and whether or not these environmental organizations knew of the source of much of the Foundation’s wealth can only be assessed by the many agencies who were the recipients of the Foundation’s largess.

In addition to coal, oil and gas companies, the Sheehan Family Foundation maintains millions of dollars worth of shares in companies that provide infrastructure and transport to these industries.  Their vast holdings include DryShips, Inc., owner and operation of a world-wide drybulk carrier and offshore oil deep water drilling operations; National Oilwell Varco, a multinational, Texas-based corporation which manufactures land-based and off-shore oil drilling rigs as well as all the major mechanical components for such rigs; Pioneer Natural Resources Co., an Irving, Texas-based oil and gas company that has expanded internationally and has made major investments in Tunisia and South Africa and is also active in Alaska; and Pride International, Inc., which provides contract drilling and related services to oil and gas companies worldwide and operates a global fleet of 26 rigs. In 2009, SeaHawk Drilling was added to the Sheehan Family Foundation assets. 

On November 10, 2009, Sheehan sent a letter addressed to the president of the ManometCenter, John M. Hagan regarding the “Biomass Study.”  The Manomet biomass report was released seven months later on June 10, 2010, without peer review, and became the basis of the Administration’s about-face regarding their support of biomass as a green, renewable energy resource. 
In her letter to the Manomet director, Sheehan closed with the following, “...As I indicated in my phone message to you, I am a native of Plymouth and former Executive Director of the Sheehan Family Foundation of Kingston, which has provided grants to MCCS over the years.  It would be unfortunate if MCCS proceeded with this study without an understanding of full range of public health and environmental impacts of biomass burning as a means of generating electricity.  Even though these impacts may be beyond the scope of work for the study, the study is intertwined with critical policy and regulatory issues that effect the future of our citizens and the planet.”
An electronic copy of the Sheehan correspondence to the MCCS director was submitted to Ian Bowles, Secretary of Energy and Environmental Affairs,Commonwealth of Massachusetts, by electronic mail, and to his Chief of Staff at EOEEA, Jane Corr.  The correspondence has since circulated widely.
Following the firestorm of support and protest which erupted after the release of the Center’s “Biomass Sustainability and Carbon Policy Study,” Manomet released a statement which reads, in part, “There has been much press coverage of our study about using forest biomass for energy in Massachusetts.  This study was commissioned and funded by the Massachusetts Department of Energy Resources (DOER).  Many of the resulting press articles have oversimplified the results.  Indeed, a key lesson of the study is that understanding the greenhouse gas (GHG) impacts and benefits of using wood for energy is more complex than most people have assumed, and that a lifecycle assessment is needed in order to assess these GHG costs and benefits...”
“One commonly used press headline has been ‘wood worse than coal’ for GHG emissions or for ‘the environment.’  This is an inaccurate interpretation of our findings, which paint a much more complex picture.  While burning wood does emit more GHGs initially than fossil fuels, these emissions are removed from the atmosphere as harvested forests re-grow.  ....the timing and magnitude of the recovery is a function of forest productivity, land management choices, and technology and fuel characteristics...”
Despite the Manomet Center’s attempt to clarify the report and end the controversy surrounding its release. The Stop Spewing CarbonCampaign collected over 130,000 signatures from Massachusetts’ voters, and Sheehan, as Chair of the Campaign issued a statement on July 7, 2010.  “Today, Secretary of Energy and Environmental Affairs Ian Bowles issued a letter saying his agency will change our state laws to bring them in line with current science and public policy requiring biomass incinerators to meet strict standards for forest protection, greenhouse gas emissions, and efficiency,” Sheehan stated. 

“This is a groundbreaking development that means an end to commercial biomass electric power plants in Massachusetts.  Science confirms that the greenhouse gas emissions of burning forests are worse than coal and there’s no reason to subsidize this form of energy,” Sheehan said.  Sheehan had won the battle and so withdrew the 2010 Ballot Petition from consideration.

On May 2, 2011 Final regulations were issued by the Massachusetts Department of Energy Resources which would severely restrict Renewable Energy Credits (RECs)—a taxpayer and ratepayer funded subsidy under the state Renewable Portfolio Standard (RPS)—for biomass electricity.  Meg Sheehan once again took credit for the DOER restrictions.

Proposed Palmer Renewable Energy: Springfield Biomass Plant
On May 17, 2011, union laborers were out in force to jeer biomass opponents who were holding a protest rally on the steps of Springfield City Hall during a public hearing on a proposal to revoke a special permit granted in 2008 to Palmer Renewable Energy (PRE).  Despite a written legal opinion presented by City Solicitor Edward Pikula — who warned the 13-member City Council that it doesn’t have “just cause” to revoke a special permit issued in 2008 for a proposed 35-megawatt biomass power plant — the City Council voted 10-2 against the project.

“We’ve got $5 million in development costs invested here,” Lawyer Frank Fitzgerald, speaking for Palmer Renewable Energy stated. “And we’ve played by the rules.” The economic benefits to the City of Springfield were estimated to be in excess of one million dollars a year, and would have provided 50 full-time employment opportunities.  PRE plans to litigate the matter which may prove quite costly to the city.

Along with creating havoc within the biomass industry, the regulatory restrictions have had a significant economic impact on the wood products industry which claims that if they are to avoid “high grading,” cutting only the most valuable trees, they need to integrate forest improvement cuttings to the mix.  Biomass, when harvested within the forest is typically low grade wood that can be costly to remove unless there is a market for it. The use of biomass as a fuel source creates an economic value that helps justify the cost of its removal. 

Foresters and the wood products industry also argue that sustainably harvested wood allows for new growth and provides vitally needed wildlife habitat.  Most species are wholly or partially dependent on early successional or young forest growth.  Also, diseases and insects are now infesting the forest.  Over 90% of the Massachusetts forest is now mature forest cover (older trees).  These woods are badly in need of thinning with infested wood burnt and destroyed, not left in place or transported and sold as wood chips or other products.

Biomass is also created from power line and roadside cuttings as well as land clearings for development.  When disposed of in landfills, woody biomass generates methane, a major greenhouse gas.  Decomposition in forests also releases CO2.

Meanwhile fossil fuels, which are not sustainable because they were created eons ago and are not a living, breathing part of our atmosphere, continue to spew carbon, hydro-chemicals, radionuclides and heavy metals that impact air quality, soil and water.  Though renewables such as hydro, wind, solar, biomass and geothermal are now part of the energy mix, for the most part, fossil fuels still power electrical generation, cars, buses, trucks, trains, planes, boats, plus most of our homes and industry in the United States and across the globe.   

According to a recently released report by the International Energy Agency (IEA), “Energy-related carbon-dioxide (CO2) emissions in 2010 were the highest in history.”
“After a dip in 2009 caused by the global financial crisis, emissions are estimated to have climbed to a record 30.6 Gigatonnes (Gt), a 5% jump from the previous record year in 2008, when levels reached 29.3 Gt. In addition, the IEA has estimated that 80% of projected emissions from the power sector in 2020 are already locked in, as they will come from power plants that are currently in place or under construction today,” the report stated.

In terms of fuels, 44% of the estimated CO2 emissions in 2010 came from coal, 36% from oil, and 20% from natural gas, according to the IEA.

And though Margaret Sheehan talks an environmental talk, she has, through the Foundation, financially supported to the tune of millions and millions of dollars, companies that pollute the earth in every conceivable fashion. 

Take for instance the Foundation’s 100,000 shares of the Geon Company, the leading producer of vinyl compounds, including polyvinyl chloride (PVC), that have been linked to exposures in the womb.  Hyperactivity, learning disabilities, asthma, reproductive health issues, obesity and a host of other ills including cancer are believed to be linked to these products. 

As for the environmental impact of coal, oil and natural gas extractions which destroy forests, remove mountaintops, and pollute our waters, these concerns have been the subject of thousands of research projects, books and articles, and now movies such as “Gasland” which explores the many problems associated with choosing natural gas as an alternative to oil.  Yet the Sheehan Family Foundation supports these and other industries such as the cigarette giant Philip Morris (SFF owned 5,147 shares valued at 223,945 in 2008) that have pitted adverse impacts to human health and the planet against the greater good of increased profits.

What Sheehan’s real motives are only time will tell. But for the record, humans have been building with, cooking with, and heating with wood since the dawn of creation. Our homes, furniture, paper and a myriad of other products are created with wood.  If the impact of woody biomass is as bad as Sheehan and her cohorts claim it is man would be extinct!

Genevieve Fraser, a resident of Orange, MA, is a professional writer, former Exhibits Developer for the New England Science Center, and Environmental Technical Writer. In 1984-85, Genevieve was the state-wide coordinator for the Massachusetts Acid Rain Awareness Weeks and received an Environmental Commendation from the Massachusetts Secretary of the Environment for her efforts. In 1997, she was commissioned by the Commonwealth to write the EcoTheater drama, "Giants in the Wilderness with John Muir," which toured as part of the Centennial Celebration of the Massachusetts State Forest and Park System. 
Contact FraserGenevieve@gmail.com or cal (978) 544-1872 for further information.

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Wednesday, May 18, 2011

One Lawman With the Guts to Go After Wall Street

One Lawman With the Guts to Go After Wall Street

The fix was in to let the Wall Street scoundrels off the hook for the enormous damage they caused in creating the Great Recession. All of the leading politicians and officials, federal and state, Republican and Democrat, were on board to complete the job of saving the banks while ignoring their victims ... until last week when the attorney general of New York refused to go along. Eric Schneiderman will probably fail, as did his predecessors in that job; the honest sheriff doesn’t last long in a town that houses the Wall Street casino. But decent folks should be cheering him on. (AP / Frank Franklin II)
Eric Schneiderman will probably fail, as did his predecessors in that job; the honest sheriff doesn’t last long in a town that houses the Wall Street casino. But decent folks should be cheering him on. Despite a mountain of evidence of robo-signed mortgage contracts, deceitful mortgage-based securities and fraudulent foreclosures, the banks were going to be able to cut their potential losses to what was, for them, a minuscule amount.
In a deal that had the blessing of the White House and many federal regulators and state attorneys general—a settlement probably for not much more than the $5 billion pittance the top financial institutions found acceptable—the banks would be freed of any further claims by federal and state officials over their shady mortgage packaging and servicing practices and deceptive foreclosure proceedings.
At the same time, the SEC and other federal regulatory bodies are making sweetheart deals with the bankers to close off accountability for creating and collecting on more than a trillion dollars’ worth of toxic mortgage-based securities at the heart of the nation’s economic meltdown—a meltdown that has seen the national debt grow by more than 50 percent, stuck us with an unyielding 9 percent unemployment and left 50 million Americans losing their homes to foreclosure or clinging desperately to underwater mortgages. On top of which an all-time high of 44 million people are living below the official poverty line and fewer new homes were started in April than at any other time in the past half century. With housing values still in free fall, we continue to make the bankers whole.
As Gretchen Morgenson reported in The New York Times, the Justice Department division responsible for checking for fraud in the bankruptcy system has found a widespread pattern of deception by banks foreclosing homes, and she concluded: “So an authoritative source with access to a lot of data has identified industry practices as not only pernicious but also pervasive. Which makes it all the more mystifying that regulators seem eager to strike a cheap and easy settlement with the banks.”

Not really surprising given both the enormous hold of Wall Street money over the two major political parties and the revolving door through which executives travel between firms like Goldman Sachs and the top positions in the U.S. Treasury Department and elsewhere in the government. The financial crisis occurred only because Republicans and Democrats passed the laws that Wall Street lobbyists wrote ending reasonable banking industry regulation installed in the 1930s in response to the Depression. And when the greed they enabled threatened the foundations of our economy, under Bill Clinton, George W. Bush and Barack Obama, it was the bankers who were assisted into lifeboats that had no room for ordinary people.

Not surprising then to find all of the power players in on the latest deals: the Obama administration that had bailed out the banks but not troubled homeowners; the regulators and Fed officials who all looked the other way when the housing bubble was inflated; and the state attorneys general who backed away from going after the perpetrators of robo-signed mortgages and other scams used to foreclose homes.

But now Schneiderman has a chance to derail the deals, given that he is supported by the state’s tough 1921 Martin Act, which one of his predecessors as New York state attorney general, Eliot Spitzer, had used to good advantage in exposing the financial behemoths that are so heavily based in New York. The Wall Street Journal describes the Martin Act as “one of the most potent prosecutorial tools against financial fraud” because, as opposed to federal law, it doesn’t carry the more difficult standard of proving intent to defraud.
Last week, it was revealed that Schneiderman’s office has demanded an accounting from Bank of America, Morgan Stanley and Goldman Sachs as to the details of their past practice of securitizing those mortgage-based packages that proved so toxic. Maybe he will fail against such powerful forces, as did Spitzer and Andrew Cuomo after him, but it is a test worth watching, since no one else, from the White House on down, seems to be concerned with holding the bailed-out banks accountable for the massive pain and suffering they inflicted on the public.
Robert Scheer
Robert Scheer is editor of Truthdig.com and a regular columnist for The San Francisco Chronicle.
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Sunday, May 15, 2011

Puns for Educated Minds

Puns for Educated Minds

    • 1. The fattest knight at King Arthur's round table was Sir Cumference. He acquired his size from too much pi.

    • 2. I thought I saw an eye doctor on an Alaskan island, but it turned out to be an optical Aleutian .

    • 3. She was only a whiskey maker, but he loved her still.

    • 4. A rubber band pistol was confiscated from algebra class, because it was a weapon of math disruption.

    • 5. No matter how much you push the envelope, it'll still be stationery.

    • 6. A dog gave birth to puppies near the road and was cited for littering.

    • 7. A grenade thrown into a kitchen in  France  would result in Linoleum Blownapart.

    • 8. Two silk worms had a race. They ended up in a tie.

    • 9. A hole has been found in the nudist camp wall. The police are looking into it.

    • 10. Time flies like an arrow. Fruit flies like a banana.

    • 11. Atheism is a non-prophet organization.

    • 12. Two hats were hanging on a hat rack in the hallway. One hat said to the other: 'You stay here; I'll go on a head.'

    • 13. I wondered why the baseball kept getting bigger. Then it hit me.

    • 14. A sign on the lawn at a drug rehab center said: 'Keep off the Grass.'

    • 15. The midget fortune-teller who escaped from prison was a small medium at large.

    • 16. The soldier who survived mustard gas and pepper spray is now a seasoned veteran.

    • 17. A backward poet writes inverse.

    • 18. In a democracy it's your vote that counts. In feudalism it's your count that votes.

    • 20. If you jumped off the bridge in  Paris , you'd be in Seine .

    • 21. A vulture boards an airplane, carrying two dead raccoons. The stewardess looks at him and says, 'I'm sorry, sir, only one carrion allowed per passenger.'

    • 23. Two Eskimos sitting in a kayak were chilly, so they lit a fire in the craft. Unsurprisingly it sank, proving once again that you can't have your kayak and heat it too.

    • 24. Two hydrogen atoms meet. One says, 'I've lost my electron.' The other says 'Are you sure?' The first replies, 'Yes, I'm positive.'

    • 25. There was the person who sent ten puns to friends, with the hope that at least one of the puns would make them laugh.  No pun in ten did.

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Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Let's Join Japan and Junk New Nukes

Let's Join Japan and Junk New Nukes

Japan will build no new nuclear reactors. It's a huge body blow to the global industry, and could mark a major turning point in the future of energy. (Photo: Toru Namayaka/Getty Images)
Says Prime Minister Naoto Kan: "We need to start from scratch… and do more to promote renewables."
Wind power alone could--and now probably will--replace 40 nukes in Japan.
The United States must join them. Axing the $36 billion currently stuck in the 2012 federal budget for loan guarantees to build new reactors could do the trick.
Wind potential alone between the Mississippi and the Rockies could produce 300% of the nation's electricity. That doesn't include solar, geothermal, ocean thermal, sustainable bio-fuels and the many more renewable sources poised to re-shape the Amercian energy future once the prospect of new nukes is discarded.
Japan was set to build 14 new nukes before Fukushima. Six of Japan's total of 55 reactors were shut by the earthquake and tsunami. Three at Kashiwazaki remain shut from the seven that were hit by an earthquake less than five years ago. Kan wants three more closed at Hamaoka, also in an earthquake/tsunami zone.
Japan's reactor fleet remains the world's third-largest, behind the US and France. The General Electric and Westinghouse nuclear divisions, builders of nearly all the commercial reactors in the US, are at least partly controlled by Japanese companies. Reactor Pressure Vessels and other major components are built there.
Four California reactors also sit in earthquake zones vulnerable to tsunamis. San Onofre, between Los Angeles and San Diego, has 7.5 million people living within a 50-mile radius. Its two operating and one dead reactor sit less than a mile from the high tide line.
Diablo Canyon, near San Luis Obispo, sits near a series of earthquake faults, including one newly discovered less than two miles from the two reactor cores there.
Numerous other US reactors are perilously close to earthquake faults, including two operating at Indian Point, 35 miles north of Manhattan. The Perry reactor, on Lake Erie east of Cleveland, was damaged by an earthquake in January, 1986.
Massive quantities of heat have poured into the global eco-system from the multiple explosions, partial melt-downs and spent fuel fires at Fukushima, contributing significantly to global warming.
Highly radioactive fallout has been found miles from the site. Millions of gallons of extremely contaminated water have poured into the ocean.
Radioactive fallout has also been detected in rainwater, milk and on vegetables throughout the United States, threatening the health of millions of Americans, especially small children and embryos in utero.
Now Fukushima Unit Four appears to be on the brink of physical collapse. Fission may be continuing in at least one spent fuel pool, and possibly in one or more cores. Radiation levels are high enough at the site to guarantee certain near-term death to workers, many of whom have come to consider work at Fukushima to be a virtual suicide mission. A definitive end to the disaster could be years away.
Kan's decision to shut Hamaoka and then to cancel future nukes came as a shock. Widely criticized for weakness in the wake of Fukushima, he has now redefined Japan's energy future.
Though dependent on imported fossil fuels, major Japanese corporations have substantial investments in wind, solar and other Solartopian technologies. This will push them to the forefront of Japan's energy future.
Likewise Germany. In the wake of huge public demonstrations and a major electoral defeat, Prime Minister Angela Merkel has shut seven old reactors and says ten more will go down by 2020, making Germany nuke-free. For decades Germany has been pushing wind, solar and other green technologies harder than any other industrial nation, with enormously profitable results.
In the US, renewables are also booming, while the reactor industry has been taking hard hits. Just this week a major French-operated component factory proposed for Virginia has been pushed back two years--which means likely cancellation. A $5 billion taxpayer-funded facility in South Carolina to produce plutonium-based Mixed Oxide reactor fuel faces a lack of customers, and growing doubts about the project's viability or real purpose.
Overall, Fukushima has complicated an already dark financial picture. A Texas project meant for Japanese financing is now all but dead. So, too, is one proposed for Maryland by the French.
While the Obama Administration continues to push for those $36 billion in loan guarantees, it's unclear what reactor projects are in credible shape to accept them.
Meanwhile ferocious battles to shut old reactors in Vermont, New York, New Jersey and elsewhere are heating up. With roughly two dozen of similar design to Fukushima Unit One now operating in the US, the public demand for more shut-downs continues to escalate.
We need to finish the job and get to a green-powered Earth.
Nuclear power makes global warming worse, and spells economic as well as ecological doom.
The industry can't get private financing, can't get meaningful liability insurance, can't deal with its wastes, can't compete in the marketplace, can't guarantee us we won't suffer a Fukushima of our own, can't provide a reliable energy supply into the future.
What lies before us once we kill these loan guarantees is a Solartopian reality powered by the sun, wind, tides, waves, earth's heat and more.
Those countries like Germany, Denmark and now Japan that head definitively toward a nuke-free future are in the process of turning toward survivability and prosperity.
Let's kill that loan guarantee package, shut the dying nukes like Vermont Yankee and Indian Point, and join them in truly green-powered future.
Harvey Wasserman
Harvey Wasserman's Solartopia! Our Green-Powered Earth, A.D. 2030, is at www.solartopia.org. He is senior advisor to Greenpeace USA and the Nuclear Information & Resource Service, and writes regularly for www.freepress.org. He and Bob Fitrakis have co-authored four books on election protection, including Did George W. Bush Steal America's 2004 Election?, As Goes Ohio: Election Theft Since 2004 , How the GOP Stole America's 2004 Election & Is Rigging 2008, and What Happened in Ohio
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Monday, May 9, 2011

Setti Seeks Senate Seat?


Setti Warren Launches Senate Bid To Take On Incumbent Scott Brown


Newton Mayor Setti Warren (D)
Newton Massachusetts Mayor Setti Warren (D) formally added his name to the growing list of Democrats aiming to take on incumbent Sen. Scott Brown (R-MA) when he seeks reelection next year in one of the nation's bluest states.
In a campaign video posted to his website, Warren talked at length about his parents' lives as civil rights activists, and how they founded in him a sense of "shared responsibility." Warren often returned to that theme throughout the five-minute video, taking some direct swipes at Brown along the way.
"I believe Scott Brown is an honorable man, but he has not been the independent voice in the Senate that so many expected him to be," Warren says in the video.
In particular, he accused Brown of voting against policies that would help some of the state's most needy individuals.
"Scott Brown admits that he doesn't think about his own life when he votes against the very same programs that helped lift him as a troubled teen out of poverty," Warren says.
"We can never forget the sacrifices that others have made on our behalf," he adds.
Democrats see the Massachusetts Senate race as an important opportunity to wrest back control of a longtime Democratic seat, despite Brown being enormously popular with his constituents. Brown assumed office last year after winning the special election to replace the late Sen. Ted Kennedy, who had held the seat for nearly a half century.
Several polls have shown Brown cleaning up in hypothetical head-to-head contests. A Suffolk university poll released last month showed Brown trouncing the virtually-unknown Warren, 52% to 9%.
Warren, the mayor of an affluent Boston suburb, is the first incumbent politician to enter the race so far. City Year co-founder Alan Khazei, attorney Marisa DeFranco, and local activist Bob Massie have all thrown their hats in the ring, though some big-name Democrats -- including Boston Mayor Tom Menino and Gov. Deval Patrick -- have stayed on the sidelines.
Despite being the first African American to win a mayoral election in Massachusetts, Warren is still relatively unknown, even in Massachusetts. A Suffolk poll last month found that over 70% of Massachusetts voters didn't know who he was.
Warren addressed that anonymity up front in his campaign video, hearkening back to how Brown seemingly came out of nowhere to win the 2010 election.
"Many of you don't know me," Warren says. "I'm probably about as well known as Scott Brown was two years ago."
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How Do Wrong Economic Ideas Become Conventional Wisdom?

How Do Wrong Economic Ideas Become Conventional Wisdom?

The ideas of Friedrich Hayek (1899-1992) are making a comeback, in large part due to Glenn Beck, who has touted the libertarian economist and philosopher's views on his TV show. The essence of Hayek's views -- spelled out in his most well-known book, The Road to Serfdom -- is that government stifles freedom and liberty. With a few exceptions, he viewed almost any governmental intervention in economic affairs as a slippery slope toward totalitarian socialism. No wonder that Beck has been hawking Hayek.
Now comes Francis Fukuyama, the neoconservative political scientist, who uses the pages of the New York Times Book Review to hawk his own version of government-bashing. Unfortunately, Fukuyama, who claims to be something of a student of Hayek's ideas, hasn't done his homework.
In his review of the new edition of Hayek's The Constitution of Liberty, published in the Review on Sunday (May 8), Fukuyama off-handedly comments that three of Hayek's ideas "have become broadly accepted by economists." But it so happens that economists don't agree on these three ideas. Moreover, the policy conclusions that Fukuyama draws happen to be untrue.

First, Fukuyama claims that "labor unions create a privileged labor sector at the expense of the nonunionized." It is true that unionized employees earn better wages and benefits than their nonunion counterparts, even those with comparable experience and education. But economists know that it is also true that unions raise wages and benefits for nonunionized workers. The higher the "density" of union workers in an industry or area, the more likely it is that employers will increase the wages and benefits of nonunion employees in order to stave off a union drive. Thus, unions lift the floor for everyone, not just union members, contrary to Hayek.
Second, Fukuyama claims that economists agree with Hayek that "rent control reduces the supply of housing." Economists differ on the wisdom of price controls in general, but it helps to test economist theories in the real world. There is absolutely no empirical evidence for the statement that rent control -- which some cities use to maintain a supply of affordable housing -- reduces the housing supply in general or even rental housing in particular. Every study of rent control in U.S. cities (except those funded by the real estate industry) -- including those that compare similar cities with and without rent control -- shows that rent control has no impact on either the level of new housing construction or the level of housing abandonment. Local rent control laws exempt new construction and allow landlords to raise rents annually based on expenses. Cities with various forms of rent control are often in "hot" markets in which developers want to build rental and other forms of housing. The evidence is clear that rent control does not dampen private investment.
Finally, Fukuyama claims that economists agree that "agricultural subsidies lower the general welfare and create a bonanza for politicians." Again, there is no evidence for this statement. The impact of farm subsidies depends on who gets them, what they are used for, and the general economic condition of the period. During the Depression, subsidies saved many family farmers from going under, helped stabilize prices, and kept entire farm communities, and the nonfarm jobs that depended on agriculture, alive. Today, the vast majority of federal farm subsidies go to large agribusiness conglomerates like Archer Daniels Midland and Cargill that don't need them rather than small family farmers. President Obama campaigned on a pledge to limit individual farm payments to $250,000 to ensure family farms and not "corporate agribusiness" got the money. This is still a good idea. But food stamps, which are an indirect subsidy to farmers, clearly improve the general welfare by dramatically reducing the incidence of hunger and malnutrition.
Hayek's ideas may be making a comeback, as Fukuyama asserts, but it is not because his economic ideas have been proven correct by empirical research, but because they've been promoted by the likes of Glenn Beck to justify a conservative ideological and political agenda.
If conservatives don't like labor unions, they are entitled to their opinions. But when they attack unions by arguing that they actually hurt working people, they don't have the facts on their side. They are crying wolf.
Echoing Hayek and Beck, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, House Speaker John Boehner, Rep. Darrell Issa, and the Tea Party can fulminate all they want that government policies to make corporations behave more responsibly -- such as the minimum wage, consumer and environmental protection laws, rules to improve workplace safety, regulations to restrain Wall Street abuses, and health care reform -- are "job killers." But repeating this libertarian mantra doesn't make it true.
Peter Dreier
Peter Dreier is E.P. Clapp Distinguished Professor of Politics, and director of the Urban & Environmental Policy program, at Occidental College. He is coauthor of Place Matters: Metropolitics for the 21st Century and The Next Los Angeles: The Struggle for a Livable City. He writes regularly for the Los Angeles Times, The Nation, and American Prospect.
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