8 11 2014

There’s a lot of wind being blown out there about the “Republican resurgence” in the recent election.  Too bad we can’t turn a few turbines with it!

In my view, it comes down to this:  the Democrats paid the price for the Grand Canyon-sized gap between their populist rhetoric and their corporatist reality.   People didn’t turn out to vote for Democrats because the Democrats haven’t delivered on their promises. The reason they beat the “we’re pro-choice” drum so hard is that, when you come right down to it, that’s one of the few real differences between the two wings of the American Corporate Party, but grabbing people by the short hairs didn’t motivate enough voters to come out and participate in the charade this time.  The average voter turnout in the U.S. was 33.9%.  More than 50% of the voters showed up in only 3 states, and the highest rate rates of participation were in Wisconsin and Maine, where a whopping 56% of the voters cast ballots.  In other words, the GOP’s “mandate” comes from less than a quarter of the electorate.  Just as in the Middle East, a small, radical, committed minority is ramming its agenda down the throats, to be polite, of the rest of us.

This was especially evident here in Tennessee, where voter turnout was only 28.5%, meaning that Governor Haslam’s “landslide” reflected the wishes of about 20% of the potential voters in the state.  The number of voters who chose Lamar Alexander and banned a state income tax was lower, down in the upper teens, and our legislature now has the permission of about 15% of the electorate to regulate abortion out of the realm of possibility in Tennessee, which I am quite sure they will do to the best of their ability, as has happened in several other states.

I want to talk more about the abortion issue, because I think the level of deceit employed around the passage of Issue One was truly appalling.  It was billed as a way to “make abortion safer,” but you couldn’t help but notice that its backers were all the churches who think abortion is as sinful as non-marital sex and that the government should enforce their views on this subject.  For these people, Christianity is more about controlling women’s bodies and behavior than it is about being honest and truthful, even though their ostensible guidebook, The Bible, has a lot of bad things to say about “people who love a lie.”

Well, lies or no lies, we can now expect that our legislature will be emboldened to subject all Tennesseans to the “Christian” version of Shari’a.  I wonder what other precepts of Dominionism they will enact,  Perhaps slavery will be reintroduced?  Will the death penalty be inflicted on those who work on Sundays? No, that’s highly unlikely–it would be bad for business! Read the rest of this entry »


9 09 2012

As I reported last month, the 6th Circuit Appeals Court heard the state of Tennessee’s appeal of our case at the end of July, and apparently largely agreed with us, telling the state to go ahead and put our candidates on the ballot while they wrote their final decision.  They didn’t order the state to conduct a lottery to determine ballot placement, but shortly after the court hearing, the state primary gave, uh, “primary facie” evidence of why that might be a good idea, when the first candidate listed  (alphabetically) on the Democrat primary ballot beat out the DP’s anointed candidate by a 2-1 margin and became their official candidate for U.S. Senate, in spite of being a gun-toting racist tea partier who thinks corporate Republican Bob Corker is way too tame.

Well, at least he’s got it right about Corker being a corporate whore–although, as a multi-millionaire, maybe Corker is more of a corporate whore-monger than an actual whore. Read the rest of this entry »


11 07 2010

This month’s “Truth in Strange Places” award goes to Tennessee’s  own Lamar Alexander, for saying, in a speech on the Senate floor:

“We use 25 percent of all the energy in the world to produce about 25 percent of all the money in the world—five percent of the people in the world. In order to keep our high standard of living we need to remember we’re not a desert island. Solar, wind and biomass are an important supplement, but America’s 21st Century reliable, low-cost energy needs are not going to be met by electricity produced by a windmill, a controlled bonfire and a few solar panels.”

What makes the placement of this truth strange is the overall context, and the presumptions that surround it.  Senator Alexander apparently thinks that America can keep relying on petroleum and coal, build more nuclear power plants, and thus maintain our current lifestyle.

Senator Alexander’s remarks contain numerous fallacies about our energy supply and its future.

First, he assumes we can keep on relying on petroleum, when the truth is that we on the brink of seeing our petroleum supply diminish rapidly.  One of the rarely mentioned significances of deep water oil drilling is that we are only doing it because all the easy oil is gone.  We are at the point of peak oil.  Demand, especially from India and China, is increasing, while the rate of new oil discoveries has fallen dramatically and the amount of oil produced annually has plateaued.  .  Senator Alexander refuses to face the fact that we are running out of oil.

Second, he assumes that we can go on mining coal indefinitely.  This is not the case; carbon issues aside, some students of our energy future think we may hit “peak coal” in just another fifteen years or so. Let’s face it: mountaintop removal is to coal what deep water drilling is to oil–scraping the bottom of the jar for the last scraps of its contents.  Large-scale coal mining is also heavily dependent on petroleum for lubricants and transportation, and will become more expensive as the price of oil continues to increase.  Sen. Alexander further assumes that the sacrifice of much of West Virginia and Kentucky, and parts of Tennessee, is an acceptable price to pay for that coal.  Many of the area’s residents would disagree with him.  The fact that coal companies do not have to pay out of pocket for the destruction of the Appalachian ecosystem does not make it any less expensive.  It just means that somebody besides the coal companies is having to pay the cost.

Senator Alexander ignores the climate change aspect of coal and oil extraction, as well, and falsely claims that nuclear power is a low-carbon option.  The increasing carbonation of our atmosphere and oceans has spun the planet’s climate out of equilibrium and in a much, much warmer direction.  By cutting back our carbon emissions, we can at least soften the blow that is falling on us, but Senator Alexander recklessly disregards these realities in his demand for comfort now.  Where is his respect for the rights of the unborn on this issue?

“The rights of the unborn”—yes, I find it extremely ironic that many of those who campaign against abortion on this slogan seem to have no compunction about living a high-consumption lifestyle that will leave little in the way of natural resources for those who are not yet born….but I digress…

Nuclear power, too, faces looming limits on the availability of its primary fuel, uranium, and has the further disadvantage of creating radioactive wastes that remain lethal for a quarter of a million years, at least.  Not surprisingly, we have yet to come up with a technology or even a location for safe containment and storage of these poisons.  A quarter of a million years ago, our ancestors were not yet homo sapiens.   That’s how long we’re talking about here.  And, while Senator Alexander rails against subsidies for wind power, he conveniently ignores the massive subsidies that have made nuclear power appear to be a viable option for producing electricity.When the subsidies are factored in, nuclear energy is one of the most expensive ways to produce electricity.  A program that improved the efficiency of insulation, lighting, heating and cooling, and other common uses of electricity could eliminate the need for nearly 400 power plants in this country  We don’t need more, thank you.  The Europeans are doing quite nicely on about half of US per capita energy consumption.

And then there’s the question of how we are supposed to pay for more energy production, or even continue to pay for what we are currently using.  Sure, we have been “five percent of the people with twenty-five percent of the money,” but those days are just about over.  The American middle class is tapped out–in addition to everybody’s personal debts, we middle-class taxpayers are footing the bills for the bank bailout and our country’s military adventures in the Middle East, and just printing up more dollar bills will only go so far.

Can you say bankruptcy, boys and girls?

And the sad thing about all Senator Alexander’s errors of fact and perception is that they are not just one man’s opinion.  They are presumably shared by the million and a half Tennesseans who elected him, as well as millions of Americans around the country, many of whom are not even Republicans.  After all, Obama’s energy guy, Steven Chu, is calling for an expanded nuclear program in this country.  “Meet the new boss, same as the old boss,” eh?

The one thing that Senator Alexander did get right is that renewable energy sources cannot maintain the energy supply to which we have become accustomed.  The American lifestyle–indeed, the lifestyle of any even moderately wealthy person anywhere on the planet–is possible only because we have burned the greater part of the planet’s accessible supplies of coal and oil in the last two hundred years, leaving only scraps for our descendants.  There is no way we can keep living as we have been.  We are going to need to orchestrate a sensible and orderly return to a simpler lifestyle, or face the chaotic consequences of ignoring that reality.  It’s not what most people in America want to hear, but that’s the way it is.  The party’s over, Lamar.

music:  Eliza Gilkyson, “The Party’s Over


7 07 2010

In contrast to the cockeyed optimism of Lamar “nuclear option” Alexander and many genuine advocates of sustainable, alternative energy, the sobering truth about our energy future can be found in a short but incisive book by Richard Heinberg, entitled “Searching For A Miracle–‘Net Energy’ Limits and the Fate of Industrial Society.”  It’s available for free from the website of the Post-Carbon Institute.

In a mere eighty-three pages, Heinberg makes it clear that it  will, indeed, take a miracle for our energy-intensive way of life to continue.

He begins by laying out “ten key criteria for comparing energy systems and their limits,” and then he rates the full spectrum of energy production possibilities, from the greenest to the grungiest,  by those criteria.  In the third section, Heinberg expounds his view of our most likely energy path into the future, and closes with  “The Case for Conservation.”

The criteria are:  direct monetary cost,  dependence on additional resources, environmental impacts, renewability, potential scale of contribution, location, reliability, “energy density” (how much energy can be derived from a given quantity of the energy source), transportability, and “energy returned on energy invested,” (“EROEI” for short) more simply referred to as “net energy,” analogous to “net profit.”  That seems like something that any capitalist should be able to understand, right?

The net energy return of the petroleum we have used for the last hundred years or so was extremely high–a hundred to one for most of the twentieth century. This fantastic profit is what has enabled us to create the civilization we think of as normal.  The problem, as Heinberg is quick to point out, is that there is no other energy source that offers a return anywhere near as favorable.  Domestic petroleum production today, which mostly comes from technologically complex sources like offshore wells, clocks in at around 10:1, while imported oil has an EROEI ratio of about 20:1–the cost of getting it to the USA does not completely offset the greater ease of extraction from Saudi, Mexican, and other oil fields. Coal still offers a fairly good net energy return, around 70:1 by Heinberg’s calculation, but at an unacceptable environmental cost.  And nuclear power, the darling of so many on both sides of the aisle in Washington, is near the bottom of the pile with an EROEI of about 10:1.  That ratio, interestingly enough, is the same EROEI that anthropologists calculate for hunter-gatherer societies  Ain’t that enough to make ya think?

If it’s any consolation to you nukeheads out there, photovoltaic power also has a dismally low EROEI, and wind generators are only a nose ahead of the solar/nuclear bottom dwellers.  The EROEI of extracting oil from tar sands comes close to being negative, especially if larger environmental factors are considered.

Petroleum currently provides about a third of the world’s energy needs.  The only major oil fields that are still increasing production are in Russia.  Mexico, which is one of the US’s major suppliers, is in steep decline, and the status of the oil fields in Iran, Saudi Arabia, Iraq, and Kuwait are closely guarded state secrets–and the Saudis have recently announced that they are no longer looking for new oil fields “so part of this wealth is left for our sons and successors God willing,” as King Abdullah put it.  A wise monarch, at least on this issue.

About a quarter of our civilization’s energy comes from burning coal.  Its high environmental price, both at the mine and out the smokestack, goes without saying; but Heinberg predicts that we are at the point of peak coal as well as peak oil, and that in another three decades much of the coal that remains in the ground will take more energy to extract than it will provide.

Natural gas provides another quarter of what keeps our lights on, and it, too, is pushing its limits.  The recent invention of “fracking” technology, which injects chemicals into deep formations to loosen up gas deposits, is creating an epic ecological conflict:  is it more important for companies to get rich harvesting natural gas in the eastern US, or is it more important for New York City to continue to have potable water?  While natural gas once blew freely out of the ground along with oil, giving it a very favorable EROEI, the new, high-tech extraction methods have made natural gas much more expensive to extract, and Heinberg pins the EROEI of fracted natural gas as equal to or less than 10:1, which he estimates is also the threshold below which energy extraction is not worthwhile.

Hydropower, aka “dams,” provides about a fifth of the world’s electricity.  There are actually quite a few rivers in the world that could still be harnessed, but the environmental price tag of doing this would be quite high, in terms of carbon release and ecosystem disruption for humans and other animals.  Dams also depend on a steady supply of flowing water, which, in a time of erratic climate change, could be problematic, and dams do fill up with silt after a while, a problem the US is encountering with Hoover and Glenn Canyon dams on the Colorado River.  When, not if, these dams become full of silt and empty of water, it will be “game over” for much of the southwestern US.  Sooner or later, China’s massive dam projects will meet the same fate.  Increased hydropower is not a long-term solution to our demand for electricity.

Heinberg next analyzes nuclear power, which accounts for a mere 6% of world electrical production.  If we attempted to achieve Senator Alexander’s fantasy of replacing coal and oil with nuclear power, we would need to build nearly ten times as many nuclear power plants as are now in existence–but there’s a supply choke-chain for uranium that, like coal and oil supplies, gets tight about the middle of this century–and that’s without a massive increase in demand for nuclear fuel–production of which, Heinberg is quick to point out, is neither clean nor carbon-neutral.  Nuclear power advocates have been promising for decades that reprocessed nuclear fuel will give nuclear energy long-term viability, but the reality of nuclear fuel “reprocessing” is, Heinberg points out, still experimental at best and highly polluting at worst.  France, which Senator Alexander likes to hold up as a shining example of nuclear power, has a radioactive hot zone around its reprocessing plant that should be enough to give anybody pause.

Heinberg then goes on to give us the mostly bad news about all the “green” and not-so-green energy alternatives.  Wind power is intermittent and land-intensive; photovoltaic power is too high-tech and dependent on rare elements; biofuels have ridiculously low EROEIs and all too often  take food out of people’s mouths, biomass is at or beyond its sustainable supply limits already, passive solar doesn’t really generate energy, it just conserves it.  He has some good things to say about solar mirrors and geothermal energy, but both are dependent on a fossil-fuel economy–which, it appears, is going to be fading away in the coming decades.

So–what is to be done?

On page 58, Heinberg tells us:

…there is no single “silver-bullet” energy source capable of replacing conventional fossil fuels directly….Though several of the sources discussed already serve, or are capable of serving, as secondary energy sources.
This means that as fossil fuels deplete, and as society reduces reliance on them in order to avert catastrophic climate impacts, we will have to use every available alternative energy source strategically. Instead of a silver bullet, we have in our arsenal only BBs, each with a unique profile of strengths and weaknesses that must be taken into account.

And even if we fire all our BB’s, the result will still be, in his words

…the world’s economy is likely to become increasingly energy-constrained as fossil fuels deplete and are phased out for environmental reasons. It is highly unlikely that the entire world will ever reach an American or even a European level of energy consumption,and even the maintenance of current energy consumption levels will require massive investment.

That “massive investment,” as he sees it, is quite unlikely.  Why?  He doesn’t say it, but I will: there is too much inertia in the status quo.  The world’s wealthiest people believe that there is not enough to go around, and they have determined that they will do whatever it takes to hang on to what they have, and to hell with the rest of us.  If the planet would be better off with fewer humans, let social Darwinism determine who survives–but candy-coat it, spin it carefully, find charismatic spokespeople like Barack Obama who project caring and compassion and hope for the future; but, behind the friendly facade, circle the wagons and load the machine guns.  If the US did not have such a massive military establishment, we would have enough money to fund energy transition, social programs, and health care, and still cut the budget.  Why don’t we?  Because of who the army answers to, and why those people want to make sure they maintain control…but, as I do so often, I have digressed…back to the book review!

As I said, the final quarter of the book is devoted to energy conservation.  Early in it, Heinberg lays out the results of continuing down the path we are on:

How far will supplies fall, and how fast? Taking into account depletion-led declines in oil and natural gas production, a leveling off of energy from coal, and the recent shrinkage of investment in the energy sector, it may be reasonable to expect a reduction in global energy availability of 20 percent or more during the next quarter century. Factoring in expected population growth, this implies substantial per-capita reductions in available energy.  These declines are unlikely to be evenly distributed among nations, with oil and gas importers being hardest hit, and with the poorest countries seeing energy consumption returning to pre-industrial levels (with energy coming almost entirely from food crops and forests and work being done almost entirely by muscle power).

Thus, the question the world faces is no longer whether to reduce energy consumption, but how.  Policy makers could choose to manage energy unintelligently (maintaining fossil fuel dependency as long as possible while making poor choices of alternatives, such as biofuels or tar sands, and insufficient investments in the far more promising options such as wind and solar). In the latter case, results will be catastrophic. Transport systems will wither (especially ones relying on the most energy-intensive vehicles—such as airplanes, automobiles, and trucks). Global trade will contract dramatically, as shipping becomes more costly. And energy-dependent food systems will falter, as chemical input and transport costs soar. All of this could in turn lead to very high long-term unemployment and perhaps even famine.

Yes, folks, we are staring down the road to Hell, and yes, it is paved with good intentions.

The other road, the one we have not yet taken, involves rethinking, restructuring, and restraint.  For an example of “rethinking,” one of the most important points Heinberg makes is that we need to quit thinking of “growth” as a measure of the health of an economy.

There are a lot of “re-words” in Heinberg’s list of, uh, re-medies:  research, retrofit, reduction, re-localization, re-ruralization, re-direction, and return–as in,

The return of control of the bulk of the world’s remaining natural resources from corporations and financial institutions in the industrialized countries to the people of the less industrialized nations where those resources are located.

For me, this simple statement has incredible ramifications.  For one thing, I think the corporate pirates and their puppets in government are highly unlikely to let go of their ill-gotten gains.  On the other hand, this is what many corporate mouthpieces are talking about when they say of people who are not co-operating with their agenda, “They hate us for our freedom.”  They hate us for our freedom to go into their back yard and take their stuff–and well they should.

Heinberg also points out that this greed is unnecessary, citing studies that relate human satisfaction to energy access:

The data appear to show that well-being requires at least 50 to 70 Giga Joules (of energy) per capita per year. As consumption above that level slightly expands, a sense of well being also expands, but only up to about 100 GJ per capita… above and beyond that level of consumption, there is no increase in a sense of well being. In fact the more consumptive and wealthy we become, the less content and satisfied we apparently are….. North America’s energy consumption is currently about 325 GJ per annum.

And there you have it….we are using three or four times more energy than we would really be happy with….a kind of “energy obesity.”  I submit that the extreme reactivity of all those, Tea-Partiers and “liberals” alike,  who subscribe to the doctrine that ‘the American way of life is not negotiable”  is rooted in denial and a guilty conscience.

Will enough Americans (especially our corporate overlords) break through the cycle of anger and denial, let go, and allow a sane future to evolve?  Or will we burn up the last petroleum in a battle over the last clean water, and pollute it in the process?  It’s an exciting time to be alive, folks.

music:  Eliza Gilkyson, “Unsustainable


6 11 2008

I spent election day as a paid poll worker, showing people how to use touch-screen voting machines.  I found this extremely ironic, but played by the rules and kept my amusement and skepticism to myself.  I was working in a mostly-black precinct in a mostly-Democratic county in a mostly-racist (excuse me, I mean Republican) state.  There was no reason for anybody to mess with the machines or the voters where I was, and everything went smoothly.  No votes were flipped, only two people were turned away for not having enough ID, and only one person was asked to cast a provisional ballot, out of 156 votes cast that day.  We all thought it would be much busier, but once we studied the voting rolls and discovered that about three-quarters of the eligible voters had voted early, we realized our hardest job of the day would be staying awake and alert.  Election day was strictly a mop-up operation.

The lack of voting “problems,” i.e. hacked voting machines, and the paucity of complaints about disenfranchisement seems to have been a nationwide phenomenon.  Obama won in Ohio, Florida, and Virginia.  The first two states were the most recent sites for election night robberies, and Virginia was widely considered to be this election’s equivalent.  My sense is that Repugs could see the writing on the wall and so didn’t try to flip votes, since the likely consequence of trying to cheat in an election you lose is investigation and punishment.

Here in Tennessee, the Green Party’s results were encouraging.  Chris Lugo tripled the number of votes he drew in his 2006 Senate run, going from about 3,000 to over 9,000, while first-time candidate John Miglietta fell about 500 votes shy of Ginny Welsch’s 3600-vote pinprick in the leg of the mighty Jim Cooper.   Oh well, Ginny spent a lot more money.  Are people hypnotized by brand names or what?  My precinct polled 2-1 for Obama, but gave Cooper a landslide and split evenly between Republifascist Lamar Alexander and Obama Democrat Bob Tuke–sorry, Chris, you only got 3 votes out of the 155 cast yesterday up where I live.

I’m disappointed, but not surprised, that people can think voting for Obama is voting for “change we can believe in” and not see that supporting Cooper and especially Alexander is shooting that change in the foot, if not the kneecap.  Well, you know what I think about the likelihood of serious change under Obama’s leadership.  As I quipped to a friend of mine, all those “Change” signs will take only a few modifications to be perfect for panhandling–like, “Change I can believe in–but bills would be better,” or something like that.  Mr. Obama faces a challenge at least as serious as the one faced by Franklin Roosevelt in 1932, perhaps more serious because, at that time, we still had domestic oil production, a manufacturing infrastructure, a population accustomed to and capable of hard physical labor, and medical costs were not out of hand.  That’s just the top of the list.

Speaking of the top of the list, Green Party presidential candidate Cynthia McKinney got almost 2500 votes in Tennessee, which shows the value of getting on the ballot–in 2004, GP candidate David Cobb was a write in and only 33 people wrote him in.  (Hillary Clinton and Sarah Palin each got one write-in vote in the precinct I worked.)  Ralph Nader, who is thought of as a Green by most people who aren’t in the Party, increased his vote in the state from just shy of 9,000 four years ago to just shy of 12,000 this time.  If there’s a mathematical continuity of increase for Chris and Ralph, Chris can expect to be elected to the Senate in 10 years, but Ralph Nader will be 138 before he carries Tennessee, even without factoring in the dip from the 20,000 votes he garnered as the Green Party’s nominee in 2000.  I hope he lives that long.   Gotta love ‘im when he says:

Dear Senator Obama:

In your nearly two-year presidential campaign, the words “hope and change,” “change and hope” have been your trademark declarations. Yet there is an asymmetry between those objectives and your political character that succumbs to contrary centers of power that want not “hope and change” but the continuation of the power-entrenched status quo.

Far more than Senator McCain, you have received enormous, unprecedented contributions from corporate interests, Wall Street interests and, most interestingly, big corporate law firm attorneys. Never before has a Democratic nominee for President achieved this supremacy over his Republican counterpart. Why, apart from your unconditional vote for the $700 billion Wall Street bailout, are these large corporate interests investing so much in Senator Obama? Could it be that in your state Senate record, your U.S. Senate record and your presidential campaign record (favoring nuclear power, coal plants, offshore oil drilling, corporate subsidies including the 1872 Mining Act and avoiding any comprehensive program to crack down on the corporate crime wave and the bloated, wasteful military budget, for example) you have shown that you are their man?

In a post-election interview, Nader was bold enough to say that Obama could be a great President or “an Uncle Tom” for the powers that be, which caused the interviewer to launch a totally misguided attack on him.  Hey, Rahm Emmanuel is going to be White House Chief of Staff–what part of “Uncle Tom” don’t you understand?  Nationwide, Nader got about 539,000 votes, and Cynthia McKinney got about 119,000.  Too bad we couldn’t have figured out a fusion ticket.

I went to an election-night party at Green Party candidate John Miglietta’s; the room was full of people with Obama t-shirts, social activist-types who supported Miglietta over Cooper but viewed Obama as “one of us” and who felt that his election was an affirmation of their values, permission for them to press ahead with their programs and agendas, conveniently ignoring the facts of Obama’s career that Nader so eloquently set forth.  I think that’s the good news about Obama’s election.  Whether he supports them or not, the activists are going to cut loose, and that is going to shake things up for the better in this country, but  I suspect there will be a lot fewer “Obama” shirts at our next election party.

The bad news will come as it sinks in that America has been financially castrated by not just the eight years of the Bush junta’s’s ripoff reign, but by the seeds sown in the supposedly Democratic Clinton years:  the deindustrialization caused by NAFTA and the WTO, the investment bubble blown due to the Democrats’ collusion in the repeal of Glass-Steagall, and the military buildup that is silently sucking America dry.  I think my activist friends are going to bump up against the reality that there is no money for social programs, because the rich got to the trough first and emptied it.   Whatever the rest of us do, we will have to figure it out on our own and among ourselves.  Me, I’m glad I always liked gardening.  It’s probably going to figure large in my future.

In the shorter term, once-and (likely) future candidates John Miglietta and Chris Lugo have announced that they are starting a Green Party PAC with their leftover campaign contributions.  The PAC will enable them to keep raising funds even though the election is over.  This will provide seed money for the next round of Green Party candidates here in Tennessee.  I hope they are many.  Whatever Obama turns out to be, we are going to need a lot more sane, grounded people in politics.

music:  Brother Martin, “Green Party Figure”


8 06 2008

This month’s truth in strange places award goes to Lamar Alexander. Here’s what he wrote:

Dear Fellow Tennessean:
All of us know that Tennessee families are being hit hard by sky-high gasoline and diesel prices.
That’s why I fought to prevent a 53-cent gas tax hike that had been included in climate change legislation being debated in the U.S. Senate.  It is why I support legislation to explore now for more American oil and natural gas in a way that preserves the environment for future generations.  And it is why I proposed a new Manhattan Project that will put us on a path towards clean energy independence.
Yet day after day, gasoline prices get higher and higher without Congress taking any serious action.
So I am asking for your help.  I’d like to share your stories about the impact high gas prices are having on your lives, so my colleagues in the Senate can better understand how real people in Tennessee are coping with these escalating costs. Tennessee families cannot ignore rising gasoline prices, and your stories could help convince Washington lawmakers to stop ignoring this crisis.
If you’d be willing to share your story, please take a few minutes to send me an e-mail at with a paragraph or two about how your family is affected by gas prices.  Please include your name, address, and a phone number where my office can reach you if I have any questions.  I’ll share some of these stories on the floor of the U.S. Senate.
This year alone, the average American family will spend more than $200 a month on gasoline.  That’s about $50 more each month than last year, and for all the driving we do in Tennessee, everyone is feeling the pinch.
Congress should not be sitting on the sidelines while Tennesseans are paying the price at the pump, and I hope together we can spur some real action on this issue.
Thanks for your help.
Lamar Alexander
United States Senator
Now where, you might ask, is the truth in this hunk of spin?
The truth is, he truly asked for his constituents’ feedback. As far as I can tell, his riff about a 53-cent gas tax hike was total  baloney, and in any case cutting taxes that will fund research on alternatives to gasoline so we can afford more gasoline is about at the same level as selling the aluminum off the sides of your trailer so you can buy more crack, but he asked for feedback.  And I gave him some.  Here’s my reply:
you probably won’t get many letters like this one, but…

i think it’s really lame to cut gas taxes and push nuclear power…worse than lame, it’s “not in touch with reality”–which is how a lot of people in this country have been and still are, wanting gas prices to go down.  There are a lot of spoiled crybabies in this country who are starting to get what they paid for at this point in time.  it ain’t pretty and i wish it could be gentler, but this is how it is.

we have had some of the cheapest gas outside OPEC for a long time because we have not taxed it heavily as other countries did, that used the tax on gas to build public  transportation infrastructure (railroads) and pay for universal health care

now gas is getting as expensive as it should have been all along, and because we were indulgent when we should have been prudent, we are stuck with no public transportation (bye-bye, airlines!), no health care, a transportation system that we can no longer afford and will never be able to afford again, and a lot of very obsolete infrastructure–highways, airports, unwalkable suburbs, centralized shopping malls and schools, the list goes on…

the money that should have gone to improve this country was squandered in a stupid war in iraq that has made a few very rich people very richer and vastly impoverished the rest of us

and you want to act like you’re “our friend” for trying to  take a lousy fifty cents off the gas tax when we wouldn’t be in this mess if you had showed an inch of spine or an ounce of integrity earlier on

lame-ar, indeed.  i pity you, for all your wealth and privilege.

thanks for asking–i wouldn’t a told you if you hadn’t asked

martin holsinger
nashville, tennessee

Usually, when I write my Senators and Congressman, I am very polite.  I am, after all, asking them to do something.  But in this case, the roles were reversed, and the gloves could come off.  Not totally off, because I would have said “May God have mercy on your soul,” but I thought that  might scare the poor fascist, because that’s what they say to people before they execute them, sometimes, anyway, and those sicko paranoids in the US government might think I was threatening them.  I wish to state unequivocally that I mean no harm to Lamar Alexander or any of the other delusional types running the country.  I hope they soon realize the folly of their ways and live long, productive lives making up for the wrong they have done. Meanwhile, the Repugs have killed the Lieberman Warner climate bill–a mixed curse, considering how half-assed it was, but in the long run–hell, even in the short run–the longer we do nothing, the harder it will be to do anything.
So thanks again, Lamar, for asking me what I think.  It was a real pleasure to tell you.  Ask again any time.


8 03 2008

Like another prophet from the eastern Mediterranian, Ralph Nader has arisen. Unlike Jesus, Nader probably wishes he didn’t have to. At his age he would probably rather be mentoring somebody young, energetic, and charismatic, and not be subjecting himself to the slings and arrows of outrageous liberals. But, with his favorite Democrat, John Edwards, out of the race, the Clintons having shown him the cold shoulder since 1996, and Barak Obama choosing to watch TV rather than find time to meet with him, what else could an unreasonable man of principle do? It’s not just Ford Pintos that are “unsafe at any speed,” it’s the American electoral process.

You know, it really burns me up that Barak Obama takes time to watch “The Wire,” a TV show about the drug war, but won’t make time to meet Ralph Nader. That’s your mind on television, Barak, and frankly I think it displays remarkably poor judgement–not that Hillary’s is any better.

Both remaining Democratic Party candidates are from la-la land, dedicated to perpetuating the American Dream–which is called “The American Dream” because you have to be asleep to believe it. Neither Barak nor Hillary is speaking to the real issues–the unrestrained imperialism that has made America the pariah of the world, the unquestioned lifestyle that takes enough food to feed a person for a year and turns it into one tank of so-called “biofuel” for an SUV, the collapsed economy that is diminishing possibilities for reform faster than you can say “economic stimulus,” the criminal administration that, judged by the standards that were set by a previous US government at Nuremburg in 1946, should be sent to the gallows by the dozens.

Now, I need to point out here that I don’t think the death penalty is appropriate for anyone. I have spent enough time in jail to know that a lifetime behind bars is a far crueller punishment that the release of death. And by the way, I got that from less than a week in the slammer. But, I digress….

Ralph may or may not run as the Green Party candidate this time. Not everyone in the GP was impressed by our fling with him in 2000, and I can understand why. The simplest way to put it is that he is used to being in charge, and the GP likes to run by consensus. He also has a much higher profile than anybody else the Greens could run, which annoys some Greens and appeals to others.

My own opinion about third-party presidential runs is that they are an expensive exercise in futility unless the party in question is already dominant in several states and has representatives and senators at the national level, but that they are also necessary for the integrity of the third parties involved. So, from my view, the Greens ought to run Ralph Nader while we can. At 74, we’re not gonna have him to kick around much longer. Sorry, Cynthia McKinney–you’re black, you’re female, you’re outspoken, but you got time to wait.

At the state level, former Green Party US Senate candidate Chris Lugo, who has spent two months as the only person seeking the Democratic nomination to run against slick, popular fascist Lamar Alexander this year, has been written out of the Dims’ script.  Mike Padgett, a Clinton/Democratic Leadership Council hack, and Bob Tuke, an Obammoid, are staging a Tweedledee/Tweedledumber battle for the right to (probably) lose to Alexander, who has been endorsed by numerous so-called Democrats. Gov. Bredesen has even gone so far as to discourage people from running against Lamar. Ain’t democracy wonderful?

Lugo has been frozen out of candidate forums and media exposure, and even told to “go to Hell” by some DP members. That’s what you get in this country when your slogan is “Vote for Peace,” apparently. Chris is still considering his options. I think he should do his best to stay in the Democratic race, but that’s an expensive row to hoe and I’m in no position to help him. Padgett and Tuke have hired bigtime PR firms and are in the process of raising millions, which you can bet ain’t coming in $25 chunks from Joe Voter. It’s about the money, folks, not about who’s right. But you knew that.

music: Aretha Franklin, “Respect”

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