Progressive Calendar 02.15.07
From: David Shove (
Date: Thu, 15 Feb 2007 17:11:54 -0800 (PST)
            P R O G R E S S I V E   C A L E N D A R    02.15.07

1. NWN4P demos        2.17 11am
2. Northtown vigil    2.17 1pm
3. Light energy/films 2.17 12noon
4. Lovely war/film    2.17 5:30pm
5. Hugo Chavez/film   2.17 6:30pm
6. Genocide/TV        2.17 8pm
7. Circus reform      2.17

8. Stillwater vigil   2.18 1pm
9. AWC phonebank      2.18 1pm
10. PFLAG/GLBT        2.18 2pm
11. Amnesty Intl      2.18 3pm
12. Climate crisis    2.18 3pm
13. Af-Am women/play  2.18 3pm
14. Nonviolence       2.18 3pm

15. Glen Ford   - Putting black faces on imperial policies
16. Kevin Zeese - A congressional kabuki show
17. Don Fitz    - Hyrids, biofuels and other false idols
18. SatireWire  - Study finds you really don't make a difference

--------1 of 18--------

From: Carole Rydberg <carydberg [at]>
Subject: NWN4P demos 2.17 11am

There are now two NWN4P weekly demonstrations as follows:

NWN4P-Plymouth demonstration- Every Saturday, 11 AM to noon, along
Vinewood, just north of 42nd Ave.  and one block east of 494 in
Plymouth. Drive toward the Rainbow and Target Greatland on Vinewood,
turn right by Bakers Square and right again into the parking lot near
the sidewalk.  Bring your own sign or use ours.
NWN4P-Minnetonka demonstration- Every Saturday, 11 AM to noon, at Hwy. 7
and 101.  Park in the Target Greatland lot; meet near the entrance
fountain. Bring your own signs or use ours.

--------2 of 18--------

From: Lennie <major18 [at]>
Subject: Northtown vigil 2.17 1pm

Mounds View peace vigil EVERY SATURDAY from 1-2pm at the at the southeast
corner of the intersection of Co. Hwy 10 and University Ave NE in Blaine,
which is the northwest most corner of the Northtown Mall area. This is a
MUCH better location.

We'll have extra signs.  Communities situated near the Northtown Mall
include: Blaine, Mounds View, New Brighton, Roseville, Shoreview, Arden
Hills, Spring Lake Park, Fridley, and Coon Rapids.

For further information, email major18 [at] or call Lennie at

--------3 of 18--------

From: Lydia Howell <lhowell [at]>
Subject: Light energy/films 2.17 12noon

The Sierra Club and MCAD present the 2007 See The Light Energy Film
Festival by Simon Anderson

The Sierra Club and the Minneapolis College of Art & Design present the
2007 See The Light Energy Film Festival on Saturday Feb. 17. Admission is
free. The festival examines our energy use and how it relates to global
climate change, and showcases opportunities for moving toward a cleaner,
safer, and sustainable energy future. Films include Too Hot Not to Handle,
French Fries To Go, Being Caribou, Power of Community, Kilowatt Ours,
Green Green Water, and more. Come for one or stay for them all. Other
highlights include a reception with Minneapolis Mayor, R.T. Rybak, door
prizes, speakers, and opportunities to take action on energy issues.

The festival will be held from 12 noon to 10 p.m. at the Minneapolis
College of Art & Design, 2501 Stevens Avenue, Minneapolis, 55404.

This primer on global warming shows how businesses, local governments,
and citizens are taking positive actions to reduce global warming emissions.

In 2003, filmmaker Leanne Allison and wildlife biologist Karsten Heuer
migrated on foot with the 120,000-member Porcupine Caribou Herd from Old
Crow, Yukon, Canada, to the caribou calving grounds in Alaska, and back.
They took along a 15-inch George Bush replica doll. One week after their
return they traveled to Washington D.C. to convey their story to
Senators on Capitol Hill.

Narrated by Cameron Diaz, this film explores the remarkable ways energy
touches our daily lives. Activists from around the world share action
steps you can take to reduce global warming.

A public service announcement about the vast wind energy potential on
tribal lands of the northern great plains.

This film portrays Martha's Vineyard's successful effort to implement
sustainable energy solutions using solar power.

This funny and hopeful short film documents the origins of Telluride,
Colorado's biodiesel project, and features cameos by Daryl Hannah,
Dennis Weaver and Dr. Andrew Weil.

This uplifting film tells the story of how, when the Cuban people lost
access to Soviet oil in the early 1990's they survived through
cooperation, conservation and community.

Filmmaker Jeff Barrie takes viewers on a journey from the coal mines of
West Virginia to the solar panel fields of Florida, as he discovers
solutions to America's energy related problems.

6:25-7:25pm RECEPTION w/Mayor R.T. Rybak

Green Green Water is a story about power... power from hydroelectric
dams... the power to destroy an ancient culture... the power of money...
the power of Indigenous people who refuse to be powerless in their
struggle to survive... and the power of activism. Follows U.S. filmmaker
Dawn Mikkelson as she traces the source of her 'green energy' back to
the displacement of the indigenous Cree and Metis in Northern Manitoba
exposing the important story of displacement, resistance and insidious
public relations that lie beyond the energy grid.
Film Q&A

NOBELITY 18 min.
Nobelity follows filmmaker Turk Pipkin's personal journey to find
enlightening answers about the kind of world our children and
grandchildren will know. Filmed across the U.S., and in France, England,
India and Kenya, Nobelity combines the insights of nine distinguished
Nobel laureates with a first-person view of world problems and the
children who are most challenged by them.

NOTE: Films and screening times are subject to change.

Please see

--------4 of 18--------

From: Jeffrey Alan Haas <jeffhaas [at]>
Subject: Lovely war/film 2.17 5:30pm

MMS is proud to announce its Oscure Classics Series movie screenings.

You are all cordially invited to attend these screenings. All screenings
will be held at the Masterwork Theatre 52" HD TV widescreen, Dolby Digital
Surround Sound 1423 E 35th Street #4 Minneapolis, MN 55407

They will be potluck movie parties and bring your own beverage.

The OCS screenings will include:

February 17, 5:30pm
Theme: Anti-War/Politics/History
"Oh! What a Lovely War"
starring Laurence Olivier, John Geilgud, Vanessa Redgrave, Maggie Smith
Comedy-Drama-Satire-with music
1969; Color, ultra widescreen

A biting satire on the games warwonger's play, as WWI as the backdrop.  But
its an anti-war manifesto on how corporatist government uses common people
as pawns to satisfy their greedy ends.   Timeless film that links WWI to
Vietnam to Iraq.  Hilariously funny sometimes, sometimes sad and sometimes
boldly satirical about the nature of war.  Stars an all-star cast that,
without graphic violence, is "Saving Private Ryan" + "Cabaret" + "Dr.
Strangelove."   Maggie Smith is a standout as representing appearance vs
reality, ie: what appears to be the "glory of war" is a sham and depraved.

*Rated "G" for General Audiences

--------5 of 18--------

From: Charles Underwood <charleyunderwood [at]>
Subject: Hugo Chavez/film 2.17 6:30pm

Saturday, 2/17, 6:30 pm, MN Cuba Committee presents free film "Chavez,
Venequela and the New Latin America: An Interview with Hugo Chavez," Mapps
Coffee House, 1810 Riverside Ave, Mpls.  612-624-1512.

--------6 of 18--------

From: Stephen Feinstein <feins001 [at]>
Subject: Genocide/TV 2.17 8pm

Armenians and Turkey's Lingering Past
Saturday, February 17, 8:00pm
CHANNEL 17 (TPT 17 & 17D)
Historians Taner Akcam and Eric Weitz discuss Akcam's book A Shameful
Act: The Armenian Genocide and the Question of Turkish Responsibility at
the University of Minnesota.

--------7 of 18--------

From: erin [at]
Subject: Circus reform 2.17

February 17 and 18: Circus Reform Yes needs volunteers to help work their
booth at the Pet Expo at the Minneapolis Convention Center. No special
skills necessary! You'll be working alongside experienced CRY volunteers.
More info at 612/276-0659 or

--------8 of 18--------

From: scot b <earthmannow [at]>
Subject: Stillwater vigil 2.18 1pm

A weekly Vigil for Peace

The Vigil will begin Sunday, February 18, at the St. Croix River bridge in
Stillwater from 1- 2 p.m.  All are invited to join in song and witness to
the human desire for peace in our world.  Signs need to be positive.
Sponsored by the St. Croix Valley Peacemakers.

For more information go to

--------9 of 1`8--------

From: Meredith Aby <awcmere [at]>
Subject: AWC phonebank 2.18 1pm

Volunteering for the 4th Anniversary of the War Demonstration - Help with
build up!

Phonebanking dates & hours:
Sunday 2/18  1p3pm, Monday 2/19 4-6pm, Wednesday 2/21 pm 7-9pm, Thursday
2/22 6:30-8:30 pm, and Friday 2/23 6- 8 pm

The Anti-War Committee wants to reach out to as many of our supporters as
possible so that March 17th & 18th will be huge in both Minneapolis & in
DC! We will be phoning as many of our supporters as possible from 2/18th -
2/23rd, but we need your help.  If you are interested in volunteering
please come to our office (1313 5th St. SE, Minneapolis, 55414 Suite 213)
on one of the days & times below.  This is a great way to help stop the
war - but inside - so you won't have to be cold like at a demonstration.
:)  We will orient all volunteers.  No experience is neccessary!

--------10 of 18--------

From: erin [at]
Subject: PFLAG/GLBT 2.18 2pm

Sunday, February 18: PFLAG St. Paul/Minneapolis. Minneapolis Meeting &
Straight Spouse Network Meeting. 2 PM program - a panel of actors,
directors, producers, drama critics, and other well-known TC theatre people
will discuss GLBT-themed theatre intended for mainstream audiences. 3:30 PM
Support Groups. Mayflower Congregational, 35W & Diamond Lake Road,
Minneapolis. 62/825-1660.

--------11 of 18--------

From: Gabe Ormsby <gabeo [at]>
Subject: Amnesty Intl 2.18 3pm

Join Group 37 for our regular meeting on Sunday, February 18th, from 3:00
to 5:00 p.m.

This month we plan to watch a DVD that outlines Amnesty International's
new focus on economic, social, and cultural rights. A discussion will
follow. We will begin promptly at 3:00.

In our second hour, we will catch up with the work of our various
sub-groups and other Amnesty International news and campaigns.

Everyone is welcome, and refreshments will be provided.

Location: Center for Victims of Torture, 717 E. River Rd. SE, Minneapolis
(corner of E. River Rd. and Oak St.). Park on street or in the small lot
behind the center (the Center is a house set back on a large lawn).

A map and directions are available on-line:

--------12 of 18--------

From: Eric Angell <eric-angell [at]>
Subject: Climate crisis 2.18 3pm

Sunday, Feb. 18, 3 pm
Mayday Bookstore

Christine Frank of the Climate Crisis Coalition of the Twin Cities will
lead a discussion of the climate crisis.  The warmest years on record have
occurred in the last decade.  Carbon dioxide concentrations have risen to
382 ppm with the largest increase in 2005.  Because a business-as-usual
scenario persists in our society, the planet continues to melt down.  Can
we still have hope for the future and stabilize Earth's climate?

While events are FREE, please consider giving a donation to our host,
Mayday Bookstore, which generously provides space to us!

IMPACT (Ideas to Mobilize People Against Corporate Tyranny) is a
grassroots group of concerned citizens whose purpose is to raise awareness
about the impact of corporations on our society, promote sustainable
lifestyles, and mobilize ourselves and our communities to take cooperative
action.  We believe another world is possible: a world where people and
the earth are more valued than profits!

--------13 of 18--------

From: Lydia Howell <lhowell [at]>
Subject: Af-Am women/play 2.18 3pm

"Ain't I A Woman", February 18, Macalester Collge Concert Hall, St. Paul

Playwright Kim Hine's portrait of four extraordinary African-American
women is set to a musical mix of jazz, spiritual and blues. 'Ain't I A
Woman" honors anthroplogist and novelist Zora Neale Hurston, folk artist
Clementine Huner, civil rights activist Fannie Lou Hamer and the titles'
author, abolitionist Sojourner Truth.FREE. Sunday, February 18th at 3pm at
Janet Walace Concert Hall, 1600 Grand Avenue, on Macalaester campus in St.
Paul. More info, call (651)696-6808

--------14 of 18--------

From: Charles Underwood <charleyunderwood [at]>
Subject: Nonviolence 2.18 3pm

Sunday, 2/18, 3 to 6 pm, Friends for a Nonviolent World annual meeting "To
Make Nonviolence Come Alive," Mpls Friends Meetinghouse, 44th and York
Ave, Mpls.  list [at] or 651-917-0383.

--------15 of 18--------

Putting Black Faces on Imperial Policies
by Glen Ford
February 14, 2007
First Published in Black Agenda Report

"What a spectacle: American imperialism in black-face."

"Barack Obama is our son and he deserves our support," declared Illinois
Senate President Emil Jones Jr., speaking to a gathering of Black
Democrats at the party's winter meeting, in Washington, earlier this
month. By Jones' logic, Condoleezza Rice deserves automatic African
American support as "our daughter," and Colin Powell, her predecessor as
George Bush's Secretary of State, was due fealty as "our brother".

Jones' embrace of the entire African American family tree must also,
therefore, extend to US Supreme Court Associate Justice Clarence Thomas,
the most reactionary, anti-Black member of the High Court; and to "our
brother" J. Kenneth Blackwell, the former Ohio Secretary of State whose
consuming mission in 2004 was to deny the franchise to as many fellow
Blacks as possible.

Although the winter meetings are traditionally showcases for candidates to
display their positions on the issues of the day, State Sen. Jones saw no
need to present his appeal on Obama's behalf in any packaging other than
race. In effect, Jones attempted to relieve Obama of any political
obligation to Black people. Under Jones' formula, the relationship between
the Black office seeker and the African American public is reversed: it is
the people that owe allegiance to the candidate, who is in turn set free
to woo groups and promote interests that may be inimical to those of the
Black public.

Jones and the larger political current he represents would utterly gut
Black politics of all substance, rendering the entire electoral process
worthless to the Black masses. Perhaps the greatest irony of Jones'
issue-less directive is that it masquerades as a Black empowerment
strategy. In a transparent bid to shame Blacks in the Hillary Clinton camp
- another political desert - Jones said African Americans don't "owe"
anyone. Jones elaborated later, in a conversation with a Chicago Sun-Times
reporter. "How long do we have to owe before we have an opportunity to
support our son?" he said.

In other words, Black people's "debt" to the Clintons - as if such ever
existed - has been paid, and now it's time to herd Black voters behind
Obama, like so many cattle. Jones' brand of politics holds that Black
people don't have interests or political ideals, only obligations to one
politician or the other. In Jones' world, African Americans are constantly
indebted, but nobody owes them anything - certainly not Obama, "our son."

The Emil Jones brand of Black politics is based on the assumption that
African American aspirations are limited to a simple desire to see Black
faces on display in high places, no matter the public policy content of
that representation. It is as if emancipation of the slaves could be
achieved by moving Ol' Massa out of the Big House, and installing the
Black butler in his place, while the conditions of life and labor in the
fields remain unchanged. After all, the butler is one of "ours." The
slaves should be happy to experience a vicarious freedom, through their
"son." Further, it would be downright un-family like to pester our own kin
about the need for forty acres and a mule per household.

Jones' remarks exemplify an extraordinary vulgarization of African
American politics, the product of uncritical, Jim Crow-era reflexes that
linger within the Black polity, combined with the growing influence of
corporate money in the Black leadership-creation process. The advent of
Barack Obama's stealth corporate presidential candidacy could create the
conditions for a "perfect storm" that sweeps away what remains of
issues-based coherence in Black electoral and institutional politics.
Should that occur - and there is much evidence that the unraveling is
already well advanced - the collapse of progressive American politics
becomes inevitable, a high price to pay for a Black face in the Oval

                             Imperial Obama

African Americans will pay a special, historical price if a
corporate-molded Black politician becomes the titular leader of an
unreconstructed US imperial state - and, make no mistake about it, Barack
Obama is an imperialist.  No one but a deep-fried imperialist could
describe US behavior in Iraq as "coddling" the Iraqis, as Obama said to an
establishment foreign policy gathering in Chicago, late last year. His
Iraq War De-escalation Act, carefully calibrated to make him appear
slightly less belligerent than Hillary Clinton, allows the US to wage war
until March 31, 2008, at the very least, and to maintain a military
presence in the country thereafter. It is a sham measure, more helpful in
buying time for Bush than in encouraging effective dissent.

At his core, Obama is not opposed to US violations of other nations'
sovereignty; he simply opposes "dumb wars" - as he told a reporter for
the Chicago Reader - meaning, aggressions executed by less-than-bright
American Commanders-in-Chief. US-designated "interests," not adherence to
international law, are paramount - the fundamental tenet of imperialism.

Of the declared Democratic candidates, only Ohio Rep. Dennis Kucinich can
pass anti-imperialist muster; thus the near certainty of another
imperialist in the White House in 2009. Which brings us to the special
price that African Americans will pay if the face of US imperialism, is

                        The Face of Aggression

There was a time not that long ago, when the historic struggles of Black
Americans for racial equality, decolonization and peace were admired
throughout the African Diaspora and beyond. Especially in what was called
the Third World, African Americans were perceived as different than the
arrogant, racist "ugly Americans" - the whites that strutted around other
people's nations as if they owned them. In the early years of the Vietnam
War, there were many reports of Viet Cong attempts to spare Black American
soldiers' lives, if practical, as an acknowledgment of shared suffering
under white rule. When Iranian students seized the US embassy in Tehran,
in 1979, African Americans were soon released, along with female staffers.

It is difficult to imagine such differentiations being made on foreign
shores, today. General Colin Powell emerged from Gulf War One as the
personification of American military might - and threat. As George Bush's
Secretary of State, Powell sacrificed his reputation - and an
immeasurable portion of remaining African American planetary good will -
in a lie-soaked justification of the impending invasion of Iraq before the
United Nations.

Colin Powell became the Black face of international piracy, to be
succeeded by Condoleezza Rice.

In her first act as the Black American female face of imperial aggression,
in April, 2002, then National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice could not
contain her disappointment at the failure of a US-backed coup against
Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez. "We do hope that Chavez recognizes that
the whole world is watching," she sneered, "and that he takes advantage of
this opportunity to right his own ship, which has been moving, frankly, in
the wrong direction for quite a long time."

As Secretary of State, Rice is the reigning imperial drum major. Despite a
string of Chavez victories in fair elections and his overwhelming support
among the poor and mostly non-white Venezuelan majority, Rice last week
loosed another transparent threat against his government. "I believe there
is an assault on democracy in Venezuela," she told a congressional
committee. "I do believe that the president of Venezuela is really, really
destroying his own country, economically, politically." What a spectacle:
American imperialism in black-face, threatening a mixed-race president
whose government has arguably adopted the most racially progressive and
inclusive policies on the South American continent.

When Rice claimed that the US had been meeting with Venezuelan Catholic
leaders who were "under fire" from Chavez's government, the vice-president
of the Venezuelan Bishops' Conference - no friend of Chavez - called her
a "liar." Contrast this with Barack Obama's exchange of pleasantries with
Rice before voting to confirm her as chief diplomatic operative of the
Bush endless war doctrine.

>From Beirut to Caracas, Condoleezza Rice is the Black, snarling symbol of
US lawlessness - a perception of our African American "daughter" that the
NAACP must not have anticipated when it bestowed on her its Image Award,
in early 2002. Back then, Rice told the civil rights group's gala affair:
"As I travel with President Bush around the world and as we meet with
leaders from around the world, I see America through other people's eyes."

After two consecutive Black Secretaries of State fronting for a
hyper-aggressive US regime, the world no doubt sees Black America in a
very different light.

African Americans, who care so much for image - some, to the exclusion of
all else - should contemplate what the ascension of a Black face to the
Oval Office will mean to world perceptions of Black Americans as a group.
Would Barack Obama be a worse international criminal than Hillary Clinton?
My guess is, they'd function identically, as stewards of empire. But a
Barack Obama presidency would leave an unindelible impression on the
planet: The Blacks of the United States have arrived! They, too, are "ugly

Glen Ford is Executive Editor of Black Agenda Report, where this article
first appeared. He can be contacted at: Glen.Ford [at]

---------16 of 18--------

A Congressional Kabuki Show
House Debates Surge as Popularity Drops
February 15, 2007

The House is in the midst of debate over the Iraq War - three days of
debate on the floor of the House of Representatives over whether the
Congress supports the surge. The outcome is pre-ordained - the House will
oppose the surge. The questions are two-fold, first, how many Republicans
will join the Democrats? And, second, what comes next, will the House
threaten continued funding of the war? The Democratic leadership seems
split on this second issue.

The debate comes at a time when public opposition to the war is hardening
and when voters are already losing confidence in the Democrats. A USA
Today poll released on February 12th found that only 30% approve of the
way the Democrats in Congress are handling the war, compared to 27% who
approve of the way the Republicans are handling the war. Perhaps the
failure of the Democrats to do anything real on ending the war, bringing
the troops home safely and reflecting the will of the voters is already
weakening their new majority status.

MSNBC reported: "This is like theater," said one Democratic House member
who opposes the war but did not want to be identified by name. "People
will get up on the floor and make sententious statements - and then we'll
walk out of here and we'll still be in a war."

"What this means is we pass the non-binding resolution, yet Congress is
not truly exercising its authority to end this war. The only way Congress
can do that is by cutting off funds," said Rep. Kucinich (D-OH) who is
running for president as an anti-war candidate. "Once the president gets
the supplemental he'll have enough money to continue the war to the very
end of his term - and enough money to attack Iran."

The Republicans were stuck in a box when the Democrats refused to allow
any amendments to House Concurrent Resolution 63. They were mocked by Dana
Milbank of the Washington Post for the inconsistency of their arguments,
on the one hand they pointed out that the Resolution being debated was
non-binding and therefore a meaningless gesture that would not stop the
war. On the other hand they argued that the Resolution would be
catastrophic, it would undermine the morale of the troops and result in
U.S. enemies seeing that the U.S. is divided.

Other Republicans tried to avoid a debate on the surge. The New York Times
reports "two Republicans, John Shadegg of Arizona and Peter Hoekstra of
Michigan, instructed their colleagues to make the debate about the fight
against terrorism. 'If we let Democrats force us into a debate on the
surge or the current situation in Iraq, we lose,' they wrote in a letter."
While the Democrats trapped the Republicans, the Democrats are also
trapped in their own divisions over how to handle the continued funding of
the war. Speaker Nancy Pelosi struck a vague if hopeful note saying
"Friday's vote will signal whether the House has heard the American
people: No more blank checks for President Bush on Iraq."

Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Tom Lantos (D-CA) promised that passage
of the resolution would be only a first step toward ending what he called
"this nightmare" saying "This simple resolution will establish the first
marker. Those who want to draw down the U.S. presence will be on one side
of that marker. Those who want to take further steps into the quagmire
will be on the other."

But will there be a real challenge to the funding of the war, will the
Democratic majority use the "power of the purse" to end the war? There
were strong signals that anti-war voters would be disappointed. Rep. Alcee
Hastings (D-FL), a senior member of the Rules Committee pledged that the
resolution was "not a first step to cut off funding of the troops." And,
the very powerful Majority Leader Steny Hoyer re-affirmed that in a
briefing for reporters before the Iraq debate started saying, "We're going
to fund the troops there will be no de-funding of troops in the field, no
de-funding which will cause any risk to the troops."

Rep. Jack Murtha (D-PA) who chairs the subcommittee on Defense
Appropriations is moving toward restricting funds in the supplemental.
This approach seems to be gaining support among Democrats. The four
conditions being considered, according to the Washington Post, are:

- Soldiers and Marines could be deployed to Iraq only after being
certified as fully trained and equipped.

- National Guardsmen and reservists could be subject to no more than two
deployments, or roughly 12 months of combat duty.

- The administration could use none of the money for permanent bases in

- And additional funding for the National Guard and reserves must be spent
to retool operations at home, such as emergency response.

Whether this approach will get through the appropriations process of both
the Senate and House, and whether it will be effective in moving toward
ending the war remains to be seen. A critical question is, how will the
Congress enforce these restrictions on the president?

Others in the anti-war movement are urging those in the Senate opposed to
the war to use the power of the filibuster to prevent the supplemental
appropriation arguing that there are 51 Democrats in the Senate and only
41 votes are needed to sustain a filibuster. The author, John Walsh says
"it is time for the Democrats to start working for the anti-war movement
and not the anti-war movement for the Democrats."

With their popularity low in the polls Congressional Democrats should
listen to Walsh. If they fail to follow through and end the war, as the
voters want and clearly said in the last election, they may find
themselves paying for their lack of action.

Kevin Zeese is director of Democracy Rising (www.DemocracyRising.US) and
co-founder of VotersForPeace.US.

--------17 of 18--------

Hyrids, Biofuels and Other False Idols
What's Being Left Out of Solutions to Fossil Fuel?
February 14, 2007

Everyone from the Republicans to Democrats to major environmental groups
are singing hosannas to biofuels and hybrid cars as the salvation from
peak oil and global warming. Will trusting corporations to manufacture
environmentally friendly cars make a dent in the world's ecological
crises? Or could the "solutions" actually be making the problem worse?

The planned obsolescence and massive production of consumer objects in the
overdeveloped countries is responsible for catastrophic climate change and
species extinction. The question which we obviously need to address is how
to improve the quality of life while decreasing the quantity of useless
junk and not throwing anyone out of work. But unflinching loyalty to a
growth economy prevents corporate environmentalists from searching for
serious transportation options.

Cars are a huge problem, both for global warming and the exhaustion of oil
reserves. With less than 5% of the world's population, the US produces 25%
of carbon emissions. Transportation causes a quarter of greenhouse gas

The wastefulness of the automobile is staggering. Roughly 10% of the
chemical energy of gasoline makes wheels turn around. Amory Lovins
computes that, with a 10% efficient car with a driver, passenger and
luggage weighing 300 pounds (which is about 10% of the car weight), only
1% of the fuel's energy actually moves what needs to be moved.

There is an unending stream of stories in the corporate media that
biofuels and hybrid cars are the answer. Biofuels promise to reduce oil
use and decrease pollution by making fuel from corn and soy instead of
petroleum. By generating their own electricity, hybrid cars use less
gasoline and therefore emit fewer greenhouse gases.

Techno-fantasies fixate on one portion of transportation: the use of fuel
to make a machine go. In reality, transportation is a system for getting
around. That system requires energy for manufacture and disposal of
machines, land use for moving and storing the things that move, related
impacts of moving machines, and an ideology that weaves transportation
into a society.

                         The horror of the car

Let's look at seven dimensions of the destructiveness of gasoline-powered

1. Manufacture. According to Richard Heinberg, "more than half of the
energy consumption attributable to each vehicle on the road occurs in the
manufacturing process." Thus, unless an alternative approach to
transportation significantly reduces manufacturing, it is not even
addressing half the problem.

2. Operation. Driving cars results in huge releases of carbon dioxide, the
major greenhouse gas that causes global warming. Myopic views of
transportation can't see beyond the driving phase.

3. Disposal. Car batteries have one of the widest arrays of toxic
chemicals short of a nuclear dump. Their poisoning of countless
generations is virtually ignored by automobile apologists.

4. Land use for roads. Roads break up neighborhoods, farms and animal
habitat and contribute directly to global warming. Paved surfaces convert
sunlight to heat and do not convert sunlight to photosynthesis as do the
plants they eliminate.

5. Land use for storage. What could be uglier and ruin more urban areas
than parking lots? Vast expanses of parking lots contribute to "urban
warming," which makes cities warmer than the surrounding countryside.

The problem is not just parking lots at shopping centers, work, school,
church, hospitals and sporting events - we have our own little parking
lots at home. Most likely, driveways for home garages average even higher
ratios of access-to-destination paving than do business parking lots. The
millions of little driveways to home parking garages comprise an extremely
inefficient use of land and probably contribute to urban warming.

6. Other effects. Negative effects from cars which are even less likely to
make it into official equations include horrible pollution from burning
off ("flaring") unwanted gas from pipelines in Nigeria and elsewhere and
over a million animals a year killed on US highways annually. Health
effects from toxic automobile emissions could fill many volumes (and
probably have).

7. Ideology of idolatry. I remember going to church as a kid and hearing
the preacher say that "idolatry" is not limited to worshipping a little
carved figure but is any groveling after material possessions. US society
has no idol as perverse, as pervasive and as evil as the automobile. The
car is the apex and the focus of the ideology that the accumulation of
objects is the source of all happiness. This accumulation of objects is
killing Life on Earth. Any proposed energy plan that leaves the car
unchallenged is a plan to increase the destruction of life and is not a
plan to preserve it.

                    Biofuels, hybrids and motorcycles.

Biofuels such as ethnol from corn and biodiesel from soy are often touted
as the world's great salvation from the scarcity of oil and its polluting
consequences. Biofuels do neither and introduce problems even worse than
oil. Brian Tokar's summary documents that "every domestic biofuel
sourceproduces less energy than is consumed in growing and processing the
crops." The small reductions in greenhouse gases from burning biofuels are
outweighed by their environmental damage of increased deforestation,
pesticide usage, nitrate runoff, and water depletion.

Biofuels do nothing to lessen the energy used for manufacturing or
disposing of cars or lessen land usage for driving and parking cars. But
biofuels require massive land use for growing crops, which means less food
for people as there is more food for cars. Widespread use of biofuels
would massively increase world hunger and transform wars for oil to wars
for land to grow biofuel crops.

Hybrid cars, on the other hand, offer real advantages by combining the use
of electricity with gasoline. According to Consumer Reports, "All hybrids
save fuel by using an integrated starter motor. It automatically shuts off
the gasoline engine when the vehicle comes to a stop, such as at a stop
sign or traffic light. The engine automatically starts again when needed."
This results in fewer carbon dioxide emissions from the use of less

The advantage of hybrids is not as much as their enthusiasts might have us
believe. The Consumer Reports rating for overall fuel economy of Toyota's
Prius is 44 mpg (not 50 to 60 mpg). This is better than 34 mph for the
Volkswagon Jetta TDI, but hardly a night and day difference.

Since hybrids average $3000 more than comparable cars, it is reasonable to
ask if they require more energy to manufacture. Maybe not, because the
$3000 could include initial costs for research and development. But a much
higher cost to manufacture could be hidden by government subsidies to help
hybrids gain a share of the market. There is a real possibility that
hybrids transfer energy from the driving portion of their use-cycle to the
manufacturing phase.

There is no reason to believe that hybrids offer any advantage over
conventional cars in terms of energy used for disposal, land used for
roads or parking lots or road kill. The amount of fuel needed for driving
is a real issue and no one doubts hybrids excel in this area. The hybrid
with the best fuel economy is the Honda Insight, which Consumer Reports
rates at 51 mpg. To get this fuel savings, the Insight is a two-seater.

This leads to the question: If the greatest fuel saving in a hybrid comes
from reducing the number of passengers, why not reduce it again from 2 to
1 and ride a motorcycle? Are there advantages of hybrids that have not
been available for decades via motorcycles?

There is good reason for suspecting that motorcycles might have less total
negative effect than hybrids. Being smaller, they certainly require less
energy for manufacture and disposal than any car. Though they require road
space, a "motorcycle lane" would be more enforceable and more narrow than
a "carpool lane." Parking 1000 motorcycles would certainly require less
space than parking 1000 cars.

Despite their popularity among some environmentalists, both biofuels and
hybrids leave the consumerist mentality untouched. They both create an
obscenely false sense of security, much like advising someone to put a
band-aid on an arterial wound.

If hybrids were promoted as part of a larger plan to reduce automobile
production by 95% and require that those few cars that are manufactured be
hybrids (or get equivalent gas mileage), we could be far more enthusiastic
about them. I don't think that's what Toyota and Honda have in mind. At
least Philip-Morris pretends to believe that smoking is bad. The current
fad for hybrids has more in common with a campaign to improve health by
smoking low tar and nicotine cigarettes than it does with confronting the
need to quit the addiction.

                       Sharing transportation

Shared rides and mass transit involve collective solutions rather than
individual life style changes. There is so much hype that people should
make the moral decision to car pool that it is easy to overlook the fact
that ride sharing is a collective rather than an individual approach.

Car pooling, even with designated lanes, will have minimal environmental
effects if the same number of people own cars and simply rotate whose turn
it is to drive. Though it does reduce the number of cars on the road, it
has no effect on the energy to manufacture cars and little, if any, effect
on car ideology.

Hitchhiking is car pooling with a new friend. Since those who hitchhike
are less likely to own cars, the practice helps combat the ideology of
consumerism. Perhaps the greatest barrier to hitchhiking is that it can
land you in jail. For politicians who whine that environmentally friendly
transportation is too expensive, a zero-cost option would be repealing
laws against hitchhiking. If corporate media had a genuine concern with
global warming, they would suspend car ads and replace them with messages
encouraging drivers to pick up hitchhikers.

Motor pooling goes beyond car pooling because it involves an intentional
reduction in the number of cars. Many state agencies and businesses have
cars that employees can reserve for job-related travel.

One of the most practical ways to decrease cars would be for housing
cooperatives or co-housing groups to have a certain number of cars for
every 100 families. People could use mass transit, bicycles or walking for
the vast majority of their travel. They would reserve a car only for trips
where mass transit was unlikely or they had things to haul. Mass transit
must exist for motor pooling to effectively reduce the number of cars.

Mass transit is often promoted as one of the best options for energy
reduction. The recognition is well-deserved. Nevertheless, there is a
downside to mass transit: a lightly loaded bus or train will use more
energy per passenger than a car.

Auto companies have done their best to push car addiction and undermine
mass transit. In the 1940s auto companies bought up several urban rail
systems and ran them into the ground. Many US bus systems are so awful
that it takes over two hours for what would be less than a 30 minute car
ride. This includes long waits in weather that is often cold or wet.

Biofuels and hybrids actively undermine development of environmentally
friendly mass transit in two ways. To be effective, mass transit must have
a large number of users. Promotion of individual modes of transportation
lowers the average occupancy on buses and trains. In addition, low costs
for mass transit are based on people living in close proximity. Since
biofuels and hybrids fail to reduce land use for parking lots, they help
spread out space needed for living and working, thereby working against
the high density that mass transit depends on.

However, shared rides and mass transit are not positive across the board.
Though definitely less damaging than gasoline-powered cars, buses and
trains require energy to manufacture and energy for disposal. Mass transit
requires less land use for operation and vastly less land use for storage.

                      Human-powered transportation

Not much fossil fuel is needed for cycling and walking. This is far from
their only advantage. Energy required to manufacture and dispose of bikes
is tiny compared to autos and mass transit. Manufacturing to prepare for
walking includes an extra winter coat and a hat for a sunny day.

Land use for biking and walking paths is minuscule in comparison to roads
for cars. Bikes require a little storage space and walking, none.

For every machine mode of transportation, usage involves road kill and the
release of toxins which make the "other effects" a negative. For cycling
and walking, the "other effects" take on a positive value. They are the
only forms of transportation where people actually receive health benefits
from moving from place to place. With our country suffering epidemics of
obesity, diabetes and heart disease, it is unpatriotic to oppose tearing
up roads and replacing them with walking paths.

The way we move about is not an isolated issue unrelated to other areas of
our lives. Types of transportation we utilize affect other modes of
transportation and how our communities are structured. Bicycling and
walking can only become major ways to get around if our homes are located
near work, schools, churches and recreation. They lead us to ask, "Do we
want mega-grocery stores, WalMarts, Home Depots and shopping malls, or do
we want small businesses that we can get to without a traffic jam?"

The most valuable part of person-powered transportation is that it
encourages a collective reassessment of how we want to organize society.
We need to decide together how we want to construct urban space so that
people can readily get to where they need to go without contaminating
their community.

                     Deep green vs. shallow green

It cannot be stated too often that the value of biking and walking is not
limited to saving the fuel from driving a machine. It includes savings
from the fuel used to build and dismantle the machine, land usage and
storage, bodily movement instead of breathing poisons while watching
animals die, and the creation of communities which share resources instead
of mindlessly consuming.

There is a sharp divide between a "deep green" look at the social nature
of ecological problems and the "shallow green" approach of corporate
environmentalism. Deep greens emphasize that America can improve its
health and quality of life while manufacturing fewer objects and
shortening the work week. Shallow greens are loathe to say anything about
the need to produce less and flee from addressing moral and political
dilemmas of a growth economy.

Shallow greens often accuse deeps of being uncompromising and refusing to
accept small steps in the right direction. Mass transit shows the opposite
to be true. While mass transit has negative aspects, it is a step in the
right direction because it reduces the number of cars.

But mass transit needs population density and high use to be effective.
Preserving cars via biofuels and hybrids requires using land space for
driving and parking, thereby lowering population density. They encourage
people to drive cars instead of ride trains. In both ways, the shallow
green approach undermines mass transit. Chasing after techno-fixes to a
social problem is not a small step in the right direction - it is a blind
step in the wrong direction.

                         Spiritual afterthought

As Moses smashed the 10 Commandments on the golden calf and climbed the
mountain for a back-up copy, little did he know that he would return to
find those who worshipped a silver calf. For they imagined that
substituting silver for gold would mean their behavior was no longer
idolatrous. Those who worshipped the silver calf begat followers, who
begat more followers, and so on, until they begat those who use biofuels
and drive hybrid cars with silver calves as hood ornaments. And they
imagine that adorning the hood of their Prius with a silver calf means
that it is no longer an idol.

Don Fitz is editor of Synthesis/Regeneration: A Magazine of Green Social
Thought, which is sent to members of The Greens/Green Party USA. He can be
reached at fitzdon [at]


Fitz, D., Half hour hurricanes: Where were the warnings about St. Louis's
ultra storm?

Heinberg, R. The party's over. New Society Publishers, 2003, p. 161.

Heywood, J., Fueling our transportation future. Scientific American,
September 2006, p. 60-61.

Stix, G., A climate repair manual. Scientific American, September 2006, p.

Tokar, B., The real scoop on biofuels, Synthesis/Regeneration 42, Winter
2007, pp. 8-9

--------18 of 18--------

[This merely confirms what all but the most deluded among us have long
suspected. -ed]

In Grand Scheme of Things, Your Hard Work, Diligence, Found to Mean Squat

London, England ( - In an unprecedented study, British and
American researchers have concluded that despite what you've been told at
work, you really don't make a difference, and are not remotely integral to
your company's success.

"In our research, we found that you've been encouraged to believe that
your hard work and contributions are substantial, and that you are a
significant member of the team. But what we discovered is that in your
particular case, there's no way," said Neil Romsby of the London School of

In the study, jointly conducted by the LSE and Stanford University's
Business School, researchers interviewed your superiors and colleagues,
and uncovered a variety of slogans meant to boost employees' sense of
worth, such as "Our employees are our greatest asset," and, "Our value is
in our employees."

"We're not necessarily saying these platitudes are all lies," said
Stanford economics professor Harold Bloom. "We're just saying they have
nothing to do with you."

"That may seem sad," Bloom noted, "but it's actually rather funny because
your situation is quite obvious to everyone else."

Romsby added that it's also ironic. "When you tell your boss he is doing a
good job, you know you are lying, but when your boss tells you the same
thing, you actually believe it. That's priceless."

Romsby cautions you, however, not to assume you are simply a meaningless
number to your company. "No, that's not a fair comparison," he said,
"because numbers are actually quite meaningful to your company. Unlike

Researchers concede the study may be difficult to accept - even though
your colleagues insist it shouldn't really be a surprise - but suggest you
begin by substituting the word meaningless for important whenever your
boss or colleagues speak to you. For example: "Diane, this is a really
meaningless project and I think you can make some meaningless
contributions as a meaningless member of the team." Once you feel
comfortable with that, Bloom added, substitute the word "shitty" for
"meaningless," and you'll have a pretty good sense of where you stand.

In another finding, researchers also learned that contrary to your
company's public relations claims, your company is not really "creating
the future" or "improving people's lives." This, Romsby explained, is
actually good news for you.

"By failing to make a difference at a place that also doesn't make a
difference, at least you're not really hurting anybody," he said.

In other research findings:

 When your company says "Great companies are made by great employees,"
they aren't talking about you.

 When your company insists that "Each employee makes a special
contribution," that's not you either, unless you consider having your head
up your ass half the day as "special."

 When your company discusses its relatively low turnover rate, it wouldn't
mind if it went up another point, if you catch our empirical drift.

 Your deep-seated fear of being revealed as a fraud who doesn't really
deserve the job you have is unfounded. Everybody knows.

Copyright  2001-2004, SatireWire.


   - David Shove             shove001 [at]
   rhymes with clove         Progressive Calendar
                     over 2225 subscribers as of 12.19.02
              please send all messages in plain text no attachments

  • (no other messages in thread)

Results generated by Tiger Technologies Web hosting using MHonArc.