19 01 2008

Coal Industry Plugs Into the Campaign


Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, January 18, 2008; Page D01

A group backed by the coal industry and its utility allies is waging a $35 million campaign in primary and caucus states to rally public support for coal-fired electricity and to fuel opposition to legislation that Congress is crafting to slow climate change.

The group, called Americans for Balanced Energy Choices, has spent $1.3 million on billboard, newspaper, television and radio ads in Iowa, NevadaSouth Carolina. and

One of its television ads shows a power cord being plugged into a lump of coal, which it calls “an American resource that will help us with vital energy security” and “the fuel that powers our way of life.” The ads note that half of U.S. electricity comes from coal-fired plants.

Yes, and as Uberfuhrer Cheney has proclaimed, “the American way of life is not negotiable,” even if it means keeping our hobnailed boot on the neck of a bunch of ignorant ragheads and darkies no matter how much they bitch and moan and plot our demise…. we will live as we please until we choke on it…private cars, fast food, big-screen tv, central heat and air…build me ever more pretentious mcmansions, oh beelzebub….in the Bible that all these so-called Christians profess to elevate above all other books in wisdom, the pagan god Baal was reviled for demanding the sacrifice of small children….but what are we doing with the non-negotiable Amerikan way of life but demanding the sacrifice of small children–Bill (and Hillary’s) Iraq boycott back in the good ol’days killed thousands of Iraqi children, and the Bush-Cheney junta’s war for oil has killed thousands more…who do they worship?

music:  Leonard Cohen, “The Story of Isaac”


13 01 2008

I recently received an email communique from Tennessee Rep. Gary Odom, touting the legislature’s achievements this year. He didn’t mention my favorite, which was a state resolution opposing the Real ID Act. That passed back in June and was sponsored by my State Representative, Gary Moore, and I am quite proud of him for that. Hey, it was a bipartisan agreement–even Lamar Alexander came out against it. Lamar’s opposition is not enough to make me proud of him, however, for a wide variety of reasons. He does get a Truth In Strange Places nomination, though, for saying,

“We have just assumed that every single State will want to ante up, turn its driver’s licenses examiners into CIA agents, and pay hundreds of millions of dollars to do an almost impossible task over the next 3 years.

“We did that without any recognition in this legislation that we are not the state government, we are the federal government, and, if we want a national ID card, we should be creating a federal ID card. “

And that’s something Lamar thinks we need. Maybe after this term in the Senate, he’ll be nominated for a position in the Supreme Soviet. May I see your papers?

(After I wrote this, Homeland Sekurity Reichsfuhrer Michael Jerkoff announced that they have set the compliance date back to 2014, which gives a possibly saner Congress the chance to repeal the mess.  The junta never admits it’s flat-out wrong about anything, but this is probably as close as we’re going to get.)

Well, opposition to Bush junta policies is probably a little edgy for Mr. Odom, who, as the Majority Leader in the Tennessee House, has got to keep himself firmly in the mainstream.

And the mainstream achievements Mr. Odom is proudest of are: more funding for education out of the lottery revenue stream, continued funding for highways in the state, and a tougher crime package.

Ah, the lottery revenue stream. A lottery is OK, but an income tax is unmentionable…lottery participation is voluntary, but an income tax in Tennessee will mostly come out of the pockets of the wealthy, which is why the anti-tax demonstrations we had here a few years ago consisted of well-dressed, mostly overweight people stopping traffic around the State Capitol while they honked the horns of their SUVs.

Lottery ticket buyers, on the other hand, tend to be under-educated, low-income, and black. Not a political force to be reckoned with, y’know? There is something strangely ironic about having the least-educated members of society fund improvements to the educational system that are unlikely to ever be of any benefit to them–unless they’ve got four-year olds, which, come to think of it, is a good possibility, since ignorance breeds children. But how many of those children will ever make it into college?

The Nashville Scene recently wrote an editorial chiding the Democrats for moral laxity over the Tennessee Waltz convictions and a couple of other incidents of lawmaker misbehavior. The Republicans, they seemed to imply, held the high moral ground in this state. As a Green, I’m not about to carry water for the Democrats, but the Repugs certainly have done their share of sinning. After all, the Tennessee Waltz entrapment was schemed up by a politicized Republican Justice Department that was out to make the Democrats look bad. How moral is that? And how moral is it to completely demonize the idea of a progressive income tax in Tennessee, leaving us with a sales tax system that burdens the poor much more than the wealthy? All these so-called pious Christians don’t seem to have much regard for the Jesus who frequently warned against the dangers of too much material accumulation, or for the early Christian community described in Acts, in which believers pooled their belongings and gave to each person as he or she had need. But I digress. I am not advocating turning Tennessee into a Christian Communist state!

Back to Rep. Odom and his list of achievements…he was happy to report that state highway funding will continue, hand in hand with efforts to produce ethanol from non-food crops here in the state. both of which indicate a determination to carry on with things just as they are for as long as we possibly can rather than look for serious alternatives like mass transit that works, redesigning our infrastructure to lessen the need for commuting, or widespread local solar power generation (which, among other things, could power electric cars). These bold moves were not made.

The legislature “got tough on crime” by creating more DA’s and public defenders and making gun crime penalties harsher. Well, from a certain perspective, this approach has worked. Between 1994 and 2004, the crime rate in Tennessee dropped about 4%, but the number of people incarcerated went up 58%. “Getting tough on crime” is now a for-profit industry, with prisons replacing factories as the economic engine that drives some counties in our state. This is not a healthy development, and I don’t think that pushing people through the court system faster and mandating longer sentences is a good answer. A courageous criminal justice program would end the death penalty, outlaw private prisons, decriminalize or at least abolish jail time for victimless crimes, and put more money into educational and psychological services for violent or large-property criminals. Let’s be clear: by “psychological services” I don’t mean putting them on meds! And white-collar criminals? Let ’em chop cotton and break rocks! But seriously, it’s a scare tactic to keep the public focussed on violent crime and the occasional twisted child molester while our environment is raped and plundered, corporate thievery is rampant, and elected officials steal elections and vandalize the Constitution.

Speaking of stolen elections, Tennessee does appear to be on the verge of dumping its touchscreen voting machines and working with optical scan equipment. There has been a lot of citizen pressure on this issue which seems to have helped move it along–state legislators don’t get the volume of mail that national legislators receive, so it’s easier to influence them, which is a good thing. has a website set up that makes it easy to contact the committee members.

The legislature did allocate money to improve broadband internet access in rural parts of the state. This is a good thing. Some of us are on the information superhighway, and some of us are following mud ruts to town. With physical travel due to get a lot more difficult as the price of gas, or ethanol, or whatever, continues to spiral on up, we need to do what we can to expedite the flow of information and communication. The four million they put into broadband should have been forty million.

In a sop to low-income Tennesseans, the legislature cut the sales tax on food by a half of one percent. That’s fifty cents less taxes on every hundred dollars worth of groceries. Whoopie! How magnanamous!

Other key issues that saw no action from the legislature, from my “deep green perspective,” are questions of land use planning and forest preservation and regeneration and promotion of local agriculture and industry that might return a measure of self-sufficiency to a state that has to import just about everything that it uses. A century ago, Tennessee was a poor but self-reliant state; the current widespread ownership of automobiles, electronic devices, fancy kitchen appliances, and central heat and air systems would certainly appear lavish to a traveller from the past, as would the proliferation of supermarkets and big box stores.

But with oil, consumer credit, and our whole economy sliding down the tubes, we may soon be asking ourselves if we really are better off than our horse-drawn, wood-heated, dirt farming predecessors. If I were a state legislator, I would be thinking about that. Judging by Rep. Odom’s report, they’re not.

music: Richard and Linda Thompson, “Civilization”


10 03 2007

Stacey Campfield, a member of the Tennessee House of Representatives, has gotten a lot of publicity for his bill proposing that aborted foetuses be issued death warrants. This bill was termed “the most preposterous bill I’ve seen” by Judiciary committee chairman Rob Briley. It joins Campfield’s list of wacko unpassable legislation, such as a bill that would require women to pay their husbands’ legal bills if they filed for an order of protection and it was denied. Some have termed this “the wife beater protection act.” Campfield has also introduced legislation to substitute a tax on pornography for the state sales tax on food, and another bill intended to prevent university professors from introducing their opinions into classroom discussions. In his two terms in the legislature, he has not introduced any legislation that actually passed.

Campfield actually managed to win a contested election to get into the Tennessee House, unlike many of his fellow Republicans and Democrats. His opponent promises to try harder next time, and the ten thousand people who voted for him should be ashamed of themselves for giving this bully a bully pulpit.

If Stacey Campfield were serious about being a Christian and upholding the preciousness of life, he would be doing something to free Paul House from death row here in Tennessee. Paul House was found innocent by the US Supreme Court, but somehow, nearly a year later, he is still in jail, suffering terribly from multiple sclerosis and getting virtually no medical care for his condition. Call Governor Phil Bredesen at (615) 741-2001 and ask him to grant a full pardon to Paul House.

music: Eliza Gilkyson, “Man of God”


17 07 2005

Let’s engage in a little freewheeling fantasy, folks:

What would a demon do?

A demon, in Western religious tradition, is a servant of Satan It’s a demon’s job to make hell unpleasant for the rest of its inhabitants. And how might a demon torture thee? Let me count some of the ways:

Demons can make sure souls are trapped in unhappy situations—for example, a life in which your mother didn’t want to have you in the first place and lacks the motivation, support, and resources to bring you up happily. Hell for you, hell for her.

Or a life born to parents who wanted you, but who find their own lives disrupted and crushed by vast forces beyond their control—drought, flood, war, disease, overpopulation, famine, marauding oil companies—you know, the classic horsemen of the apocalypse. A refugee camp in Africa for your kindergarten? Hell for everyone.

Or something subtler—a life in the American underclasses as reshaped by the skinflints who have controlled our government for the last 25 years—Bill Clinton was the best Republican president this country’s had since Teddy Roosevelt–a life devoid of intellectual stimulation, emotional support, psychological understanding, nutritional intelligence, material comfort, and challenging opportunity, a life filled with distraction, exploitation, denial, dead-end jobs and constant glimpses of inaccessible luxuries enjoyed by the rich and famous. That’s America for a lot of people—and that’s hell.

These are all things demons could or would do to make life miserable for people—and the sad thing is, most of the people trapped in those hells would have no idea they were in hell.

Another thing demons can do to torment souls is to keep them from dying. For example, suppose someone were blind and unable to speak or move, suppose they needed a feeding tube to eat and were unable to respond to, or possibly even notice, any kind of outside stimulus whatsoever. Suppose that person’s brain had decayed to half its normal size?

Whatever shred of consciousness such a person might have left would perceive itself as being in a dark, soundless room, unable to move, for a period of time that would seem infinite, for they would have no way to mark time. Doesn’t that sound like the kind of torture someone would encounter in hell?

Wouldn’t the compassionate, loving, Christian thing to do be to let that poor, trapped soul die and go to heaven? Doesn’t it seem demonic to force such a person to stay for years in the dark room of what is left of her mind? Sounds worse than Abu Ghairab to me!

Of course, to be a demon, you need to be inconsistent, so while you are sparing no expense to keep people alive, you must at the same time make it harder for people who are consciously and intentionally clinging to life to do so—by limiting how much financial assistance you give them, and making it harder for them to declare bankruptcy.

Another thing a demon would do to make life hell for people is be unforgiving. If you’re a young girl and you get pregnant, you’re going to have that baby. If you’re a young person whose learning curve happens to include petty theft, overt expressions of anger, wild driving, or the indiscreet enjoyment of sex or the wrong drugs, the demons would make sure that your youthful deeds follow you and cripple your opportunities for the rest of your life.

But—inconsistency rules! Demons let other demons get away with all kinds of behavior, especially if they are corporate demons. Did you ever notice that for-profit corporations are demons? They are legally considered “persons” but their basic, declared purpose is profit—that is, the “soul” of a for-profit corporation is essentially selfish. That’s quite different from how you and I are set up, isn’t it? I believe that my basic purpose is to bring about greater peace, love and understanding, and I believe that generosity is a far better impulse to exercise than selfishness. I’d guess you think pretty much the same way. You can’t write generosity into the charter of a for-profit corporation. But I digress.

Another thing a demon would do is demean the creation. Cut down the forests, pave the plains, pollute the air and water and be sure to spread shame and distortion around that extraordinary Divine creation, the human body. You know, it’s only flesh and blood and electricity, and it blooms and decays in the blink of an eye, but there really is nothing else like it in the Universe, as far as we can tell so far. We seem to be the only, almost infinitely tiny, piece of this entire, vast cosmos that knows that the whole show is here.

I have respect and admiration for the intelligence, wisdom, and communicative capacities of dolphins, pigs, wolves,and our various primate cousins, as well as octopi and the fabled giant squid, but until I hear them weigh in on cosmology or its equivalent, I’m presuming we know some very important things they don’t. But, I digress.

Maybe it’s just my DNA talking, but I appreciate the human form and like to see it celebrated—as in Alan Lequire’s exuberant sculpture at the head of Music Row. Well, maybe it’s because one of my friends posed for that sculpture and I love seeing her in all her radiant glory right there in the middle of that vast ugliness. But a bunch of people picketed that statue recently—there’s a campaign going on complaining that Alan’s statue is indecent. As they said in this week’s Nashville Scene, uncovered breast cancer is a lot more indecent than uncovered breasts. But this is just another aspect of the demonic campaign to convince us there’s something wrong with our bodies and their needs and urges.

Too big, too small, wrong color, smells wrong, wants to relax the wrong way with the wrong person—wrong, wrong, wrong. Love is not the law among demons—the name of their game is control and shame.

Is oppressing souls unpleasant for the demon? The demon doesn’t think so—demons are inured to their obnoxious environment and the pain they cause others. They are full of the self-righteousness that comes from knowing that you are doing the Lord’s Work and Giving Sinners What They Deserve.

But the fact is, that the evil a demon does is corrosive to him or her. Poor diet, stultified emotions, a blunted intellect and a warped world view eventually take their toll, and it is far more unpleasant to be a dying demon than it is to have been one of their victims, though that is scant consolation to those victims.

Now, you may have noticed something through my little discourse on demonology: All those things that would logically be done by a demon for the right and proper conduct of hell are being done by people who call themselves Christian. So-called Christians are against abortion, birth control, and serious aid to the profoundly impoverished. So-called Christians support the bland, malnourishing pablum of mainstream culture—their self-serving squawks against Hollywood vulgarity are just windowdressing.

So-called Christians fought to keep the tortured remains of Terry Schaivo alive, even as they moved to cut welfare, medicaid, and social security. So-called Christians have propelled the so-called war on drugs until it and its collateral damage have given this so-called Land of the Free the highest prison population per capita of any country in the world. So-called Christians have moved to relax environmental standards and ease up on corporate crime, while tightening the bankruptcy laws and changing the tax laws to remove incentives to large-scale charitable giving. So-called Christians create an atmosphere of obsession and compulsion around the human body that distorts perceptions for all of us and makes a rational, emotionally adult society an impossibility.

And yes, the good news is that these so-called Christians’ indulgent disinclination towards personal lifestyle changes and spiritual evolution means that those of us who know how to take care of ourselves in those ways will probably outlast them, although we may not have much of a world left to enjoy.

Meanwhile, under the thick armor of every smug, selfish, self-righteous Christian/demon there stirs a sad soul that is crying out for love and understanding.

It is our compassionate duty to them to dodge their thrashing as best we can, regard them with love and caring, and pray that a chink in their armor somewhere, sometime, somehow, will let someone give them the love they need. Hang in there, brothers and sisters—patience is a cardinal virtue.

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