Monday, November 13, 2006

Making Terrorists out of Mole Hills

The U.S. House will soon vote on a bill that would define acts of peaceful protest as terrorism. Already passed by the Senate, the Animal Enterprise Terrorism Act, S. 1926 and H.R. 4239 (AETA) categorizes activists as terrorists if they engage in First Amendment-protected activities like demonstrations, leafleting, undercover investigations and boycotts targeted at any business or institution that uses or sells animals or animal products. Have we lost our right to protest?

If AETA was in place during the 1950s and ‘60s, civil rights activists who engaged in lunch counter sit-ins at restaurants that serve animal products might have faced 10-year prison terms. It also would include any kind of whistleblower looking to flag illegal or questionable practices of the company.

According to the ACLU:
“Lawful and peaceful protests that, for example, urge a consumer boycott of a company that does not use humane procedures, could be the target of this provision because they ‘disrupt’ the company’s business. This overbroad provision might also apply to a whistleblower whose intentions are to stop harmful or illegal activities by the animal enterprise. The bill will effectively chill and deter Americans from exercising their First Amendment rights to advocate for reforms in the treatment of animals.”

The House is expected to vote on this bill soon after returning from recess possibly this week. The electorate’s call for sweeping change in Congress last week gives us new cause to encourage Members to vote down this bill that is a direct hit to our First Amendment rights. Please contact your Representative and the House Judiciary Committee today and ask them to oppose the AETA.

While this bill speaks primarily to animal rights activists and their abilities to challenge animal rights abuses in the corporate sector, it also is a new tactic in how corporate America chooses to deal with active opposition to their policies, or lack there of. AETA can be applied to a breadth of situations and activities that could very well limit the ability of any activist in America to challenge or call to question a corporation's actions around animal rights, human rights and the environment.

Saturday, November 04, 2006

Perle and Adelman: We Shouldn't Have Invaded Iraq

Richard Perle, long known as the Prince of Darkness among politcal and anti-war circles, admitted to Vanity Fair yesterday that if he had to decide all over again he would not support a military invasion of Iraq and would instead urge the President and the Joint Chiefs to pursue "other means."

Perle is also one of the architects of the current neo-con policy and a major player in advising the Pentagon, White House and Defense Department. Perle is thus one of the most prominent neo-con policy advisors to publicly admit that the invasion of 2003 was, in hindsight, a bad idea. Here's an interesting quote from the interview:

"I think if I had been delphic, and had seen where we are today, and people had said, 'Should we go into Iraq?,' I think now I probably would have said, 'No, let's consider other strategies for dealing with the thing that concerns us most, which is Saddam supplying weapons of mass destruction to terrorists.' … I don't say that because I no longer believe that Saddam had the capability to produce weapons of mass destruction, or that he was not in contact with terrorists. I believe those two premises were both correct.
What seems strange here is that Perle, a major sculptor of foreign policy under this administration and a key consultant leading up to and during the war in Iraq, moves away from the claim that Saddam ever had WMDs and instead acknowledges that Saddam "had the capability to produce" WMDs. That in itself is a dramatic shift from the pre-war affirmation every administration official exhorted that Saddam had WMDs and was selling them to terrorists (see Colin Powell's U.N. sales job).

The rest of the article also quotes other administration and policy officials.

"I always believed as a speechwriter that if you could persuade the president to commit himself to certain words, he would feel himself committed to the ideas that underlay those words. And the big shock to me has been that although the president said the words, he just did not absorb the ideas. And that is the root of, maybe, everything."

Yikes. Now the speechwriters are instigating major foreign policy decisions? Is ANYONE captaining this ship?

The best part? They're all throwing Bush under the bus. The loyalty among neo-conservatives is about as thin as the facade of power.

Thursday, November 02, 2006

How Much is Pollution Worth?

As someone who has now spent two years in the environmental movement in one of the most liberal cities in America, I've been amazed at how much further "ahead" people are out here in terms of conceptualizing a different world that on the eco-front is far and away greener than anything you may read in the standard ink around the country.

Then I'm reminded of how "out there" we may seem to be when I read something like this.

Carbon offsetting is becoming the new fad in circles from the Sierra Club to bands like Pearl Jam and Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young. Many corporations are scrambling to buy up carbon offsets so they can proclaim their "greenness" to consumers and thus feel better about their products and bottom line.

In essence, this is another way that people (and corporations) can duck responsibility. Buying up carbon credits is a good thing because it absorbs CO2 from the atmosphere but really its a temporary pass for emitters to pay a small price for their pollution. If a corporation wants to buy up some carbon credits in order to keep belching out 500 tons of CO2 into the atmosphere over the next five years, you can bet it will cost less to plant a bunch of trees in some third world country or put up 10 windmills in Montana than it would to pay the price through cutting their emissions to respectable levels. After all, that means cutting production. It presents a great marketing opportunity for the companies and firms, selling themselves as "green leaders" to their consumers and clients, when really they're just buying the right to pollute. Not only is it a corporate feel-good action but a consumer one as well. By the way, when those trees in Tanzania are cut down, all that carbon is released back into the atmosphere.

During medieval Europe the Catholic church offered up a similar opportunity to offset one's sins with purchased indulgences effectively saying society could purchase forgiveness if they could fork over enough money. Carbon offsets feel all to parallel in this. What happens when everyone wants to just offset their CO2 and let someone else do the dirty work? The point is not everyone can simply fork over money to pollute because in the end, the biggest polluters in our world are also the wealthiest and as long as they can pay, our air and water will only continue to get worse. It feels like a group of people agreeing that they have to empty the latrines in order to have a place to go to the bathroom but no one is signing up to do the dirty work. Right now we have a few "janitors" in the mix -- carbon offsetting programs and organizations, but all too many polluters willing to pay whatever they can not change their processes and strategies. Here's the list of carbon offsetting programs.

I don't think carbon offsetting is a solution. It might be a bridge (to where I have no idea) that helps usher in understanding of climate change and CO2. It shirks responsibility, presents the idea of a free lunch, and further pushes global warming and climate change off into the horizon away from our daily routines and business habits, that, God forbid we might have to change. My one fear is, do we really want to make a market out of our climate? What happens if that market takes a dive? Thats a Black Tuesday I don't want to be around for.

The erosion of the commons in this society is all to prevalent. Privatizing water and air is already happening. Taking ownership of the very basic elements of this earth shouldn't be surprising but it should germinate indignation. Real solutions to cleaning up the earth will revolve around changing paradigms and cultural habits, not looking for a free lunch or short cut.