Archive for November 2010

Why Solar Income Is Key to Fiscal Responsibility

With all the talk in Washington about being fiscally conservative, it’s time to remember that true fiscal responsibility begins with solar income. Everything we do depends on energy — markets, communication, industry, agriculture — all of it. Aside from nuclear power, the only energy we get is from the sun. This is our solar income — enough readily available energy to power the planet many times over.
But despite the recent attention on reducing deficits in our national budget, nobody is mentioning the huge deficit in our solar budget. We are virtually ignoring our massive solar income, and burning up our solar savings instead. This is deeply flawed economics.
Every year, the sun bombards earth with far more energy than we could ever want. According to the November 2009 cover story in Scientific American, global energy use is less than 15 Terawatts, while the amount of solar energy we get every year is a whopping 6,500 Terawatts. Most of this falls on remote or inaccessible locations, but nearly 10% of it is in suitable locations, “readily available for generating renewable power.” In other words, 580 Terawatts of energy — 35 times more than the planet needs! — is falling on the ground as sunlight each year. We literally just have to pick it up.
But instead of harvesting our enormous solar income, we’re burning through our dwindling solar savings.
Politicians and petroleum companies like to talk about “oil producing countries,” but humans don’t actually produce petroleum. Or coal, or natural gas. These fossil fuel “reserves” represent the accumulated solar savings of ancient plants harvesting solar energy over eons. Now we’re extracting and refining these reserves, draining our savings as fast as we can.
Clearly, tearing up your paychecks while burning through your savings is not fiscally conservative — in fact it’s a recipe for economic disaster. But this is exactly what we’re doing. We are literally burning up our solar savings in a way that threatens our safety, security, and climate, while letting our solar income go to waste.
Because our entire economic system depends on energy, no attempt to fix the economy will succeed without putting our solar budget in order. Which means that optimizing our use of renewable energy is fundamentally the most fiscally conservative investment we can make. The Chinese understand this, which is why they’re leading the world in solar energy development, while the US falls behind, dithering over tax cuts to millionaires.
But with a fresh crop of fiscal conservatives headed to Washington, it’s an ideal time to face our fundamental economic realities. There are three ways we can put our country back to work; invest in a smart, clean, safe, secure future; and reduce the deficit in our solar energy budget. We can do this by finding common ground on Efficiency, Clean Energy Manufacturing, and Sustainable Infrastructure.
1st — Increasing Efficiency You don’t have to believe in climate change to understand that we can create jobs in communities across America by retrofitting homes and businesses to save money on energy bills. The GSA is moving to LEED Gold for all new Federal buildings; and the Army recently improved their high-performance green building standards, which the Army Corp of Engineers estimates will generate energy savings of 45% or more. If even the Army understands that energy efficiency is a sound, fiscally conservative investment — we should be able to convince a few Republicans in Congress as well.
2nd — Expanding Clean Energy Manufacturing Lets bring back manufacturing jobs by building cleaner vehicles, electric cars, mass transit, wind turbines and solar power. All of these can be made right here in America, and all of them will create jobs and boost the economy. As Van Jones pointed out in his recent keynote at West Coast Green, tons of steel and thousands of parts go into making each wind-turbine. We can put Detroit back to work, as well as hundreds of suppliers across the country by turning the rust belt back into a world-class manufacturing center concentrated on clean energy. Every study done on the subject agrees that many more jobs are created by expanding clean energy manufacturing and deployment than by subsidizing fossil fuel investment.
3rd — Investing in Sustainable Infrastructure Every year the American Society of Civil Engineers grades our infrastructure, and every year we get D’s and F’s on the basic systems that handle our water, energy and transportation. Aging water lines leak enormous amounts of water, while outdated stormwater and sewer systems cause polluted water to flood our streets and streams. Nearly 2/3 of our power is lost in transmission from the coal plant to the outlet, so building a smarter grid would save billions in energy costs. Investing in smarter trains, faster buses, better roads and bike lanes will improve our economy, security, health and environment.
Each of the last six presidents announced in office that we can’t keep borrowing money to spend hundreds of billions of dollars on foreign energy each year. Harvesting solar income is the only way to boost our economy in the short term, while reducing deficits in the long term. And any honest debate about fiscal responsibility needs to take this into account.

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Not Another Hormone Scare

If you were alarmed by the recent New York Times article, “Breast Cancer Seen as Riskier with Hormone,” you’re not alone. The day it came out, my computer crashed with hundreds of emails from worried women wanting clarification, validation, and the straight scoop, all summed up in one question: “What does this mean?”
It means a few things. It means we have some additional data from an old study that mostly confirms our knowledge that hormones can increase the risk of occurrence and the severity of breast cancer. But it also means that we need to take our morning news with a dose of perspective. The alarmist media we associate with politics these days seems to be spreading to medicine. And as in politics, this report is not what you’d call fair and balanced. Now that I’ve had a few days to read and discuss the findings with other experts in the field, I am certainly less alarmed than the average reader of the Times.
Here’s the straight story. The Women’s Health Initiative (WHI) is the most rigorous study into the impact of hormone therapy on the cardiovascular health of post menopausal women. The latest followup of WHI Secondary Outcomes was just published in the Journal of the American Medical Association. And, I might add, released to the media several days before it reached practicing physicians.
As with the initial findings, this followup report confirms a slight — and I do mean slight — increase in the incidence of breast cancer in women on combined continuous estrogen plus progestin therapy (PremPro), as compared to women who were given no hormone therapy at all (the placebo group). The absolute numbers: 385 cases of breast cancer in the hormone treatment group versus 293 cases in the control group, out of a total of 16,608 women.
The original study did not report separately on breast cancer deaths. In this new WHI data, there were 25 deaths related to breast cancer in the hormone treated group and 12 deaths from breast cancer in the placebo group, from the start of the study (November 15, 1993) through this most recent review (August 14, 2009).
So we’re talking 2.6 deaths on hormone treatment versus 1.3 deaths on no treatment, per 10,000 women per year. That’s really only one more woman who developed breast cancer. Per 10,000 — ten thousand — women.
Not exactly a headline grabber, is it? Many critics of the WHI still argue that the interpretation of the latest observational data — now 17 years out from the start — is plagued by an important flaw: at the start of the study, the median age of the participants was 63, more than a decade past the average age of menopause. Older women were chosen because, the reasoning went, they wouldn’t have menopausal symptoms and as a result would be less likely to know if they were on the hormonal medications or the placebo.
The median age of these women now is well over 70. Increasing age is known to be one of the most significant risk factors in the development of breast cancer. So in terms of gauging the risks of hormone therapy, findings for older women — already at risk for breast cancer based on age alone — has been extrapolated to the treatment of much younger women.
Even so, we need to give the WHI study its due. Over the years, it has clearly shown that postmenopausal hormone therapy has risks and rewards. From this data, we’ve learned that hormone therapy shouldn’t be used to prevent coronary artery disease or decrease heart attacks and strokes. And it’s clear that no woman should use it as a specious attempt to avoid aging, to keep a youthful complexion, or from an inappropriate fear that menopause will ruin her life.
On the other hand, there are times when hormone therapy can be appropriate. Women with severe symptoms of menopausal syndrome are few, but for them, it’s hard to look at antidepressants and sleeping pills as the only recourse. I do feel that women who are not functioning and who find that they are “themselves again” with hormone therapy deserve the option of short-term therapy without constant anxiety from overblown headlines.
Bottom line: Women who have significant menopausal symptoms should evaluate the risks and benefits of hormonal treatment with their health care providers. If they choose to use systemic hormone therapy, they should use the lowest dose for the shortest period of time consistent with their needs. In the meantime, maybe what we need is a health advisory for media headlines. The media need news that will alarm their readers, and they need to be the first with the scoop on the bad news of the moment. They are not as concerned with balance as they should be, nor are they concerned with the anxiety and fear that their lead sentences will produce in their readers.
Originally posted on Women’s Voices for Change.

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Bucs vs Ravens Recap Back to the Drawing Board

You know, there’s only so many times you can say the same thing without feeling like a broken record.
Case in point: this Buc season. Any of this sound familiar?
These young Bucs sure have made a lot of progress since last season!
Who’d have thought the Bucs would have 7 wins with a quarter of football left to go?
The Bucs play well against the bad teams, but until they beat a team with a winning record, they just cannot be considered a contender this year.
So I figured I’d try a little something new this week, just for kicks. Here are some highlights (and lowlights) from the Bucs’ 17-10 loss to the Ravens, in pictorial form:
Josh Freeman struggled against the Ravens. He completed 17 of 37 passes for 162 yards but had accuracy issues throughout the game. Freeman has become known for pulling out the heroic wins, but he has yet to do so against a strong opponent. (But, heck, I’ll take a season with a handful of heroic wins at the expense of weaker teams over a season with 13 losses any day.)
Rookie RB LaGarrette “Hollywood” Blount didn’t have the chance to hurdle any Ravens. Blount had only 13 carries in the game, despite the fact that Freeman was having an off day. Because Blount was averaging 4.2 yards per carry, and in the wake of an extremely successful ground attack in San Francisco, offensive coordinator Greg Olsen’s decision to keep passing deep made little sense.
Rookie Gerald McCoy registered 2 sacks against Joe Flacco. He earned his first career sack in Week 11.
Rookie Safety Cody Grimm was injured about halfway through the second quarter, and if there was any doubt as to his value before the injury, that disappeared as the Ravens scored a passing touchdown on each of their next two possessions before the end of the half. However, the Bucs held the Ravens scoreless in the second half. Grimm was later placed on IR with a broken foot.
After the game, cornerback Aqib Talib allegedly confronted a ref about a questionable pass interference call against Buc Myron Lewis that put the Ravens in position to score the winning touchdown. According to the Tampa reporters who saw the confrontation, Talib reportedly used some off-color language to describe the call, to which the ref then allegedly responded, “You play like a #$&@.” At which point, Talib had to be physically restrained by his teammates. Um… fines all-around, please? And perhaps some more anger-management for Talib?
Cross-published at Chicks in the Huddle.

Fort Sumter First on the Frontlines Again

Almost 150 years ago, Confederate troops in South Carolina fired the first shots of the Civil War at Fort Sumter, leading to the bloodiest period in American history. Today Fort Sumter National Monument is taking the first shot at ushering in a new era of energy independence through collaboration between the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), the U.S. Department of Defense (DOD), the Department of Interior (DOI), the National Park Service, South Carolina Research Authority, and the Center for Hydrogen Research. Their collaborative efforts are designed to take the island off the electric utility grid, and make it completely self-sufficient.
Initial feasibility studies and cost estimates will be the team’s first step. Although funding is not complete at this point, the plan is for the island to be installed with a hydrogen-fuel cell backup power system and solar energy generation.
Behind the project is Energy SmartParks, a partnership formed by the DOE, DOI and the National Park Service, whose objective is to showcase sustainable energy practices in national parks to “inspire a green energy future for America.”
All in all, the Fort Sumter development makes a nice story in terms of experimentation with green and sustainable technologies. However, the message of this story goes much deeper. In terms of sustainable energy practices, we’re a nation at a crossroads, with serious decisions that need to be made now. Whether or not man made greenhouse gas exists and how it is impacting the environment is irrelevant to this discussion. The safety of our country is paramount and goes hand in hand with the issue of energy independence. Time and time again, we hear in the media that many of the countries from which we import oil from are simply not our friends and that many of them fund groups that want to hurt us and destroy our way of life.
Fort Sumter symbolizes a time when the United States literally came apart at the seams, and so many perished as a result. It now has the opportunity to become a symbol of aligned interests and a secure future.
Jonathan A. Schein is CEO, ScheinMedia, publisher of

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Prostate Cancer Does Not Discriminate

I devote my life to prostate cancer awareness and education. We have a long way to go to reach the heights scaled by our sisters promoting breast cancer awareness.
So much attention is being paid to the effects of the health care bill, which was one of the causes many officials were driven from office in the election earlier this month.
In remarks to the Middlesex, Connecticut Chamber of Commerce this week, retiring Senator Christopher Dodd stood by his vote for passage.
“I know the health care debate was troublesome. And obviously there are a lot of disagreements yet about whether or not this is going to work as well as we’d all like it to.”
“My hope is that people work on fixing this and making it work better. I know there’s a lot of talk about repealing this entirely. If you’re going to repeal it, you have to replace it with something. None of us wants to go back where 30 or 35 percent of our gross domestic product is being consumed with health care cost. That can’t persist and expect this nation to get back on its feet economically again.”
“It’s not just a health care issue, it’s an economic issue that we have to confront. And while this bill is far from perfect, and I understand that, it’s a great beginning that ought to allow us to get our arms around this issue and to provide as a great democracy and a great nation that no citizen of our country, no person, no family ever ought to have to suffer because they lack the resource and the ability to get decent health care. As Americans, we ought to be able to embrace that idea and come together around it.”
Two hours before Senator Dodd held a 2 p.m. press conference the summer before last, I received phone calls and emails tipping me to its subject: He was announcing he had prostate cancer but that, like myself, it was caught in its earliest stages. Others in the Senate chamber with that experience include former Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry of Massachusetts, and Republicans Richard Shelby of Alabama and Saxby Chambliss of Georgia.
Prostate cancer does not discriminate, it reaches across the political aisle. Senator Dodd is familiar with the work of my charity, Ed Randall’s Fans for the Cure, dedicated to spreading the twin gospels of prostate cancer awareness and education. He disclosed that great research work is being done in the field of early detection in, of all places, Cuba, home of the 1959 Chevy.
But he was surprised to learn that a man is 33 percent more likely to be diagnosed with prostate cancer than a woman is breast cancer. One in six Caucasian men will be diagnosed with the disease, one in four if he is African American, where the incidence of prostate cancer is two to three times higher than in the white community, inexplicably and tragically.
But here’s the good news this author shares with the soon to be senator from Connecticut. There is a 96 to 97 percent cure rate if the disease is detected early.
After five terms in the Senate preceded by four terms in the House beginning in 1974, Senator Chris Dodd leaves the political stage, grateful to share the rest of his life with his wife, Jackie, and two young daughters, Grace and Christina, thanks to early detection.

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WikiLeaks Israels Security Concerns Often Clash with US Interests

Cables Reveal Tug-of-War between Israel’s Quest for Military Dominance & U.S. Efforts to Militarize the Region
By Josh Ruebner*
In an explosive WikiLeaks revelation, Maj. Gen. Amos Gilad, the head of the Political Military Bureau of Israel’s Ministry of Defense, while discussing Israeli requests for U.S. military aid, “acknowledged the sometimes difficult position the U.S. finds itself in given its global interests, and conceded that Israel’s security focus is so narrow that its QME [Qualitative Military Edge] concerns often clash with broader American security interests in the region,” according to the State Department.
Gilad’s “typically frank” remarks lend credence to the testimony of Gen. David Petraeus, then CENTCOM Commander, before the Senate Armed Service Committee in March. Petraeus articulated several reasons why U.S. and Israeli interests did not necessarily coincide. The Arab-Israeli conflict, according to Petraeus, “present[s] distinct challenges to our ability to advance our interests,” and “foments anti-American sentiment, due to a perception of U.S. favoritism for Israel.” Petraeus went on to describe how Israel’s ongoing conflicts spurred recruitment efforts for al-Qaeda and increased Iranian influence in the region.
What appears obvious to Petraeus and is reluctantly admitted to by Gilad is lost on Israel’s most vociferous backers on Capitol Hill, such as incoming Majority Leader Rep. Eric Cantor, who declared after conducting private diplomacy with Israeli Prime Minister Benyamin Netanyahu and undermining the Obama Administration’s efforts to restart Israeli-Palestinian negotiations that “the Republican majority understands the special relationship between Israel and the United States, and that the security of each nation is reliant upon the other.” In Cantor’s view, daylight between the strategic interests of the United States and Israel is inconceivable because they are symbiotic.
Cantor would do well to read some of the 19 cables released so far by WikiLeaks from the U.S. Embassy in Tel Aviv, which shed important light on behind-the-scene tensions between Israel’s quest for complete military dominance and U.S. attempts to militarize the Middle East, as evidenced by Gilad’s admission. These documents display an incomplete, yet consistent, pattern of the United States saturating its allies with weapons while deflecting Israeli pressure not to do so.
Much of the disagreement, sanitized in diplomatic parlance, stems from different interpretations of what constitutes Israel’s qualitative military edge (QME). This technical assessment, whose provisions were snuck into the 2008 Naval Vessel Transfer Act, sponsored by Rep. Howard Berman, requires the President to certify that any sale of weapons or military services to Middle East countries “will not adversely affect Israel’s qualitative military edge over military threats to Israel.” The law also mandates the President to submit to Congress secret reports that include an “empirical and qualitative assessment on an ongoing basis of the extent to which Israel possesses a qualitative military edge over military threats to Israel.”
In conversations with U.S. officials, Israel stakes out an unequivocal position: any U.S. weapons sale, even to the most friendly of regimes, is potentially devastating to its security. The State Department reports that Israeli officials “attempted to make the argument that moderate Arab countries could in the future become adversaries–and that this should be taken into account in the QME process.” Israel raises specific concerns about the potential sale of F15-SA fighter planes to Saudi Arabia, the transfer of Cessna Caravan planes and Raven unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) to Lebanon, and C-7 AMRAAM missiles to Jordan.
The always candid Gilad went a step further, stating the QME was nothing more than a “codename” for “potential threats against Israel.” The State Department summarizes his thinking: “Israel currently enjoys peace with regimes in Egypt, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates — but the future is uncertain, and each of these regimes faces the potential for change, he argued. U.S. weapons – ‘the best in the world’– level the playing field by reducing the need for training — and could ultimately aid a future enemy of Israel, Gilad said.”
While staking out this maximalist position, Israeli officials, however, are resigned to massive U.S. weapons sales in the region. The State Department notes that “Israel understands U.S. policy intentions to arm moderate Arab states in the region to counter the Iranian threat, and prefers such sales originate from the United States instead of other countries like Russia or China.” Israel’s Assistant Chief of Defense, Maj. Gen. Benny Gantz “seemed to acknowledge that Israel does not expect that all QME decisions will break in its favor, but that Israel only expects a fair and equitable process that incorporates ‘intimate dialogue.'” And Israel’s Mossad Chief Yair Dagan “clarified that he would not oppose U.S. security assistance to America’s Arab partners. He expressed concern, nevertheless, about the current policies of those partners — especially with regards to Syria and Iran. Dagan added that if those countries must choose between buying defensive systems from the U.S. or France, then he would prefer they buy systems from the U.S., as this would bring them closer to the U.S.”
Israel’s stance is a pragmatic one, in the realization that U.S. arms sales to the region will take place even over its objections. Discussing with Dagan the recently signed Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) for $30 billion in U.S. military aid to Israel, then Undersecretary of State Nicholas Burns affirmed in 2007 that the “MOU serves as a concrete reminder that the U.S. stands by its long-term security commitments to its friends, and is ready to help them with their needs.”
However, Burns also “noted that the Middle East is now at the heart of American interests. Because Egypt also plays a vital role in the region, the U.S. would also renew its security assistance commitment to that country. U.S. relations with the Gulf states were longstanding, and America would stay true to those friendships, as well.” In other words, massive amounts of U.S. military aid to Israel in no way conflict with massive U.S. arms sales to the region in general, as witnessed by the Obama Administration’s record-breaking $60 billion sale of fighter planes and attack helicopters to Saudi Arabia, announced just last month.
The sad reality is that this process deliberately fuels an unnecessary and never-ending arms escalation in the Middle East, making President Obama’s goal of achieving Israeli-Palestinian peace during his first term in office that much more remote. WikiLeaks has done a great service by exposing the inner workings of how U.S. diplomacy is drowning the region in weapons. As President Jimmy Carter once said, “We cannot be both the world’s leading champion of peace and the world’s leading supplier of the weapons of war.”
* Josh Ruebner is the National Advocacy Director of the US Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation, a national coalition of more than 325 organizations working to change U.S. policy toward Israel/Palestine to support human rights, international law, and equality. He is a former Analyst in Middle East Affairs at Congressional Research Service (CRS).

The Clean Economist The Utility of Utilities

When we are beginning a journey towards a clean economic future, the choices for those first steps will have echoing resonance for years to come. In past generations, we made assumptions about our economy and our society that fit with the spirit of those times. Our challenge now is that this 20th century spirit is haunting our present, and thus threatening our future. The past spirit was one of conquest and manifest destiny followed by a grand ambition to build a “modern” infrastructure through our electricity systems and our interstate highways. The spirit was one of growth as the momentum needed to maintain our prosperity, and the power that we used to fuel this manifestation of our ideals was reliant on very large scale operating systems to ensure that all of our citizens had access to energy and electricity. This momentum was blind, and we used our creativity to accelerate the conversion of fossilized sunshine to consumables and the movement of people and products, generating electrons in abundance to ensure access to energy. Fast forward to the 21st century, and we still are using a fire hose to water a flower.
We are only 13% energy efficient in this country, which means we are blasting energy towards our needs in such a way that 87% streams right by us. Obviously, we need energy to create the systems that ensure our quality of life. But in order to create an infrastructure for the 21st century, we cannot be hindered by the ways in which we thought in the 20th century. Last century, regulation was geared towards access, affordability and reliability, with no thought to the source of the power in question. The only strategy for access was to create as many electrons as quickly as we could. Energy was a commodity, and the electricity we used as a society was largely invisible. Right now, we rely on an electricity infrastructure that is made up of entities that call themselves utilities and whose mission space is firmly rooted in the concept that the greatest goal for these activities is access, affordability and reliability. These bodies of people and technology build a system that serves us electrons we use to power our local economies. The overall infrastructure is comprised of power generating plants that distribute that power through massive transmission and distribution lines that are monitored through sub-stations and that are regulated broadly by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission and more regionally by public utility commissions and other regulations if the power company is privately owned.
Of course, the whole lumbering behemoth is much more complex than I’ve described it. But the fundamental basics are accurate. The way that system was built to power us in the 20th century is reflected in the architecture of the technology and of the regulatory requirements for the participants. We create an overabundance of electrons because we are asking the wrong questions in our dialogue between electron creators and electron consumers. Like our obesity problem, we are creating an overproduction of “carbs,” where we are feeding our needs like someone who is not paying any attention to the nutrition content of what we are eating, not to mention the number of calories we are ingesting. To be competitive in a global economy, we need to be smarter about our energy choices here at home.
In order for our economy to get back in shape, the first thing we should think about is cutting calories: let’s tackle the energy efficiency problem. But there needs to be a strategic basket of multiple reform measures based on the qualities of those that are starting this diet. The very basic premise in these conversations is that in order for a utility to have any utility in a competitive economy, it needs to fundamentally change from a McDonald’s franchise to a Weight Watchers corporation. On a recent broadcast, a manufacturing CEO was talking with Stephen Colbert about how her product can’t compete with one made overseas and she lamented, “Our energy costs for production represent 26 cents per unit when they can sell the whole unit for 23 cents…”
(Graphic source: Tom Eckman presentation BPA Utility Summit March 17, 2009)
So let’s imagine what our global economic competitiveness would be if after our diet we were able to leanly offer production at a fraction of the costs we bear right now. In other words, the energy programs that go into place to make us more efficient may make our rates go up to pay for these new opportunities, but once in place our utility bills decrease because we’re using fewer electrons. What if our utilities were in the business of providing the services we require to manage our energy in the most efficient way possible and when necessary, provide us with “healthy” energy choices (choices that reflect the health of our long term success, see this previous post for a discussion on the harmful nature of excess fossilized sunshine)?
Instead of slopping electron gruel from a trough that is brimming over, let’s start reading the label about where our electrons are coming from and how many we are using. This “energy intelligence” has been observed to be a very necessary part of a realistic transition from fossilized sunshine to a clean energy infrastructure. Where utilities have already shown their utility in this part of our path forward takes place in the role it plays in the ratepayer’s home or business. Thor Hinckley, who manages the renewable power programs at Portland General Electric, is justifiably proud of how he feels their work has raised what he calls the “energy literacy” of his customers, injecting some knowledge into an American population that have relatively little to no idea where or why power comes to them in its current system. “PGE has started a dialogue about where energy comes from. We can tell the story of how much comes from coal (a surprising 23% in a state where there is so much hydropower) and we give our customers the option of 100% renewable. When we have this conversation, the minute where the customer checks in with themselves they have a couple of different reactions: (1) Now they have new information (so it’s not all hydropower); (2) the climate issue and concerns are told with the context of where energy practice is driving some of the negative factors associated with the climate issue and (3) they have the choice to choose a clean energy option.”
When it comes to the nexus between energy consumption and energy choices, it is fair to say that a utility has almost “perfect reach” into this demographic as the arbiter of electrons themselves. That reach starts me thinking about the new business models that could be introduced; imagine the GMAC model where in this case, maybe the new mandate means that energy service companies could perhaps get into the business of offering consumer financial products to help finance retrofits. It is the choice this arbiter makes to engage in this conversation that fleshes out who is closer to the Weight Watchers model, and who is still peddling the dollar menu.
Commodity perspectives on energy prevail in what has been called the “mega-utility” model, where unlike the regional approach that PGE and other utilities have, the scaled-up utility has issues with identifying itself as a regional service; instead, the model functions by keeping us in the dark about our energy nutrition. Now, if you are McDonald’s and you want to sell Big Macs, of course you don’t broadcast your calories and triglycerides (am I asking for a lawsuit from McDonald’s and Duke Energy in one breath?) To be completely fair, if you are a conglomerate utility functioning in service areas that traverse multiple state lines, and whose regulatory agency only focuses on affordability, access and reliability, you are in a somewhat constrained position. Flipping the equation, it is much easier to some extent to have a municipal utility where the citizens collectively own the service and the regulatory body is represented by the city council. At least within that arena one can create a Weight Watchers plan to implement as they move away from the McDonald’s model. That said, just because a utility is local does not mean that it necessarily is enhancing the energy literacy of its service area. Rural co-ops, where the utility is a cooperative run usually by a very insular group of decision-makers, represent a truly sharp and double edged sword. On the one hand, you only have to convince this small group; on the other, there is usually absolutely no way to use any sort of leverage with these guys other than persuasion. Since even the most risk taking utilities have an enhanced immune system to change, the co-ops represent a fairly significant challenge.
Bob Gough, Secretary of the Intertribal Council on Utility Policy, recognizes that co-ops, “are trapped economically and politically.” He goes on, “As long as energy was cheap, we didn’t have to recognize that energy touches every part of the economy.” And another fundamental disconnect between where we are now in the 21st century and what we’ve built upon, “It’s a frustrating state of affairs when twenty year long term contracts are put in place to ensure stability and reliability, and the participants therefore cannot capture the value of the accelerated rate of the evolution of ideas and technologies.” It also should be noted that as those technologies have evolved, innovations in financing the upfront costs have blossomed alongside ( see this article for a previous perspective on what we mean by “expensive energy.”) Kitty Wang of the Rocky Mountain Institute shared her thoughts with me, “We are really looking at a vision of the future where we’ll see ways to build out a low carbon, centralized path for power generation with utility scale clean energy power plants, while we’ll also see incentives for distributed generation where smaller facilities will be located closer to where the electrons are needed.”
Julia Hamm, president and CEO of the Solar Electric Power Association (which in turn represents the intersection between the solar industry and the utility industry), has told me her organization believes that utilities have to be 100% integrated into the process of creating a clean energy infrastructure. “A lot of the answer has to point back to changes in the regulatory context where utilities do business,” she says. “In the case of solar, I really believe those utilities that are not as far along on the learning curve have to be given the right rules which remove the disincentive and add incentives.” Two powerful policy mechanisms are decoupling for the carrot side of the conversation and renewable portfolio standards for the stick persuasion. Indeed, where the carrots and sticks are in place, a clean energy infrastructure seems to make more business sense. ICE Energy has an innovation that addresses the drain that air conditioning puts on the grid within a utility’s service area, in a way that allows the existing utility infrastructure to function more efficiently thereby mitigating the need to expand production capacity. They have gotten significant traction in California, where public utilities are working within a state economy that has made significant advances towards providing a “real price” of energy within their communities and thus can make the decision to engage a clean energy solution more readily. California is attractive because they have a large demand for energy from air conditioning, they have an economy that has a more realistic price for energy in a globally carbon constrained environment, and they have a consuming public that is more energy literate than those in other parts of our country. ICE Energy has a harder time engaging a large investor owned utility (IOU) servicing a territory that has not realistically priced energy, which is really too bad when we realize that the entire South East uses a great deal of air conditioning, with a backwards looking view on what a price for energy should be (no real carrots or sticks in quite a few states below the Mason Dixon line).
(Graphic source: Navigant Consulting)
A big issue in terms of the haunting spirit of the 20th century is that our whole electric grid was designed for centralized, controlled power plants running on a continually available feedstock, not for intermittent renewable distributed widely across service territories, and certainly not to be able to help the end user understand where the power was coming from. So if Julia is right about the need for 100% buy-in by utilities, we will have to create the right regulatory environment in which they do business. Which means the regulators, the consumers, and the utilities themselves will have to be fully engaged in the challenge.
I have to say I am an optimist, but that future seems ambitious even to me. I think it is going to be more realistic to put in place replicable models of changing the conversation, whether that is a more robust campaign to help our citizens become energy literate, combined with a federal decoupling policy for all domestic utilities, combined with an accelerated national energy efficiency portfolio standard, and some way to un-grandfather long term contracts so that our infrastructure is not weighed down by the 20th century. If the global landscape and the competing interests there are the ultimate “sport” of the alignment of resources and opportunity to maximize the success of the citizenries within those borders, we don’t want to be weighed down as the lumbering competitor; we want to be lean and fierce. Ultimately, the utility of a utility is realized when it focuses first and foremost on delivering negawattage while transitioning to clean megawattage in the most cost effective way possible. Hold the cheese, give me the treadmill.

First Nighter David Campbell From Down Under Goes Way Up and Over

On a return to New York City and Feinstein’s at Loews Regency after a long stay in his native Australia, David Campbell opened a sizzling, dazzling, razzmatazzling act with Peter Allen’s “When I Get My Name in Lights.” How cunning of him to toot a rousing ditty by the original Boy From Oz as a signal that the next boite-shaking Boy From Oz is back and again ready to do Peter Allen duty stateside.
The 5’7″ or 5’8″ bundle of dynamite in a shiny three-piece suit went even further in presenting his credentials. With only two interruptions to establish his pop cred — the Rascals’s “How Can I Be Sure?” and the Wayne Newton-identified “Danke Shoen”–he put together a program dictated by “On Broadway,” his new CD. He certainly wants the disc and his live recreation of it to be seen as an audition for the leading-man role in just about any musical ever written or about to be written. Back home, he’s already played many of the classic characters and can surely do so here.
The shrewd entertainer followed his starting gambit with “Oh, What a Beautiful Morning,” the Richard Rodgers-Oscar Hammerstein II Oklahoma kick-off tune that in 1943 instantly signaled a new dawn for the musical. Before he called it quits with the poignant “Some Other Time” by Leonard Bernstein, Adolph Green and Betty Comden and from On the Town, he demonstrated his believability as virile Sky Masterson in Guys and Dolls with Frank Loesser’s “Luck, Be a Lady,” as ultra-virile Sid Sorokin with “Hey There” from the Jerry Ross-Richard Alder Pajama Game, as feckless Bobby in the Stephen Sondheim Company with “Being Alive,” as cocky legal-eagle Billy Flynn in the John Kander-Fred Ebb Chicago and as long-suffering Jean Valjean with “Bring Him Home” from the Claude-Michel Schonberg-Alain Boublil-Herbert Kreutzmer Les Miserables.
The lad even mustered contagious pizzazz for a Marc Shaiman-Scott Wittman item called “Goodbye” from the Great White Way-bound Catch Me If You Can. On the other hand, he sang nothing from Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark, although he apparently has already seen it and didn’t stop himself from making a few naughty comments about the only-just-previewing Julie Taymore extravaganza.
But naughtiness is part of Campbell’s make-up. His shameless auditioning at the lowered-price (manageable $25 cover) Feinstein’s was couched — to his great credit — in a presentation during which he also showed unflagging cabaret mettle. Start to finish, he behaves as if he’d been born to the stage.
He sorta was. He mentioned his Australia celebrity rock-singing dad (not by name: Jimmy Barnes) and even pointed out he’s only one of his sire’s illegitimate off-spring and, as a result, was raised by his mother’s show-tune-loving mom. You could say there’s nothing he doesn’t feel comfortable confiding from a podium. Campbell also recalled working with 80th-birthday-boy Stephen Sondheim. His only long-running Manhattan stage appearance was in the great man’s Saturday Night, although, curiously, he included nothing from that precocious score.
Anyway, you gotta love a guy who can give a warm treatment to the Rodgers-Lorenz Hart “My Funny Valentine” and later spice up the already spicy “Begin the Beguine,” for which Cole Porter broke all song-writing molds in the 1935 Jubilee. Campbell breaks a few more in a drums-and-percussion-only arrangement so ear-popping the only proper response is awe. Rex Benincasa did the supporting work and was also tasty throughout, along with pianist-musical director Christopher Denny, bassist Jered Egan and Kevin Kuhn on guitar and banjo.
When David Campbell first worked local boulevards in the late ’90s and early aughts, he was a sensation, a personality in the audience-wowing tradition of Al Jolson. He’s back now, and anyone interested in what a singer can do energizing a crowd has to hope he sticks around this time. In other words, catch him if you can.
Incidentally, Campbell is at Feinstein’s in an unusual late-show booking. On the first two of his five nights, he was preceded by Ashlee Brown, who gained whatever notoriety she has as Mary Poppins in the New York Mary Poppins. Interestingly, she smiled all the way through the blockbuster Disney production, whereas author P. L. Travers’s nanny hardly ever smiled, she was that stern with her charges. Yet, Brown does seem to possess a vestigial Mary P. quality blended into her many elements for small-room success — trained voice, appealing personality, great looks, great legs shooting out from a great short-skirt dress and ending in today’s sine qua non Christian Louboutin shoes.
That quality, though, is something not necessarily beneficial for Feinstein’s or similar venues: restraint. Though she mostly sang show songs with charm, sweetness and, when appropriate, tartness, she never entirely let go. It may be that, a relative novice in these surroundings, she’s not certain which way to proceed — nor does it look was if she has a director guiding her — and so is only now feeling her way towards who she wants to be in these situations. She deserves to figure it out.

Women Men Family and Work How Much Do You Know PHOTO

We’re all aware that the gender balance has shifted over the past half-century, both in the workplace and in family life. But how much has really changed? Some of the answers may surprise you.
1. In 1950 women made up 30 percent of the workforce. What percentage do they make up today?
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a) 35 percent b) 45 percent c) 50 percent
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The structure of the American family has changed, and it is not changing back. But the structure of the workplace can change. Families desperately need flexible alternatives to rigid workplaces where they are expected to work full-time, full-year, with little or no time for family.
Fortunately, research has consistently shown that flexible workplaces are good for business, too. As President Obama said at the White House Forum on Workplace Flexibility this spring, “Workplace flexibility isn’t just a women’s issue. It’s an issue that affects the well-being of our families and the success of our businesses. It affects the strength of our economy.”

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US high school hostagetaker dies of wounds

US high school hostagetaker dies of wounds
  • The 15-year-old boy who shot himself after taking 23 students and a teacher hostage at his school in Wisconsin has died of his wounds.
    Marinette Police Chief Jeff Skorik said Samuel Hengel died on Tuesday morning at a hospital in Green Bay.
    Hengel shot himself with a handgun as police stormed a classroom at Marinette High School on Monday night, after a stand-off lasting several hours.
    Chief Skorik said police were still trying to ascertain his motives.
    “As far as what caused this, it seems to be a mystery,” he said. “We have not been able to identify anything that precipitated this incident.”
    He said the incident at Marinette High School began at about 1330 (1930 GMT) on Monday, sometime after which the first shots were fired.
    One of the hostages said Hengel left the classroom while a film was being shown and came back with a duffel bag, which police later said contained two semi-automatic handguns and ammunition.
    He then reportedly shot at the film projector and a wall, before sitting down at the front of the class.
    “He didn't say anything,” Austin Biehl, 15, told reporters. “We were just scared and shocked he was doing this. My legs were shaking.”
    The authorities were first notified of the incident by the high school's principal at 1548, after he was told of the situation by a student whom Hengel had allowed to leave.
    After a stand-off of four hours – during which the teacher, Valerie Burd, communicated with the hostage negotiation team and Hengel's classmates tried to keep him calm by chatting with him about hunting, fishing and movies – five students were released because they needed to go to the toilet.
    Chief Skorik said that at 2003, officers outside the classroom heard three shots and “breached the door”. At the front of the room was Hengel, who then shot himself in the head, he added. The remaining hostages were evacuated.
    Hengel was transported to the nearby Bay Area Medical Center, and later to St Vincent Hospital in Green Bay, where he died.
    Family friends of the Hengel family said he was “the most respectful kid you would ever meet” and that his actions were completely shocking.
    “I don't think he intended to hurt anyone,” Austin Biehl said. “If he wanted to, he probably would have done it.”
    Classes at Marinette High School will resume on Wednesday.


  • Top 10 Holiday Gifts for the Unemployed PHOTOS

    We bring you the Top 10 Holiday Gifts for the Unemployed. Now go out and get your unemployed friends and family something special!
    Restaurant Gift Certificate
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    LA Holiday Gift Guide
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    Sold: Corona Del Mar Home With Mall
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    One of the first things to go from the budget is restaurant spending. A gift certificate for a restaurant (preferably a favorite) is a great way to let the unemployed enjoy a night out, guilt-free (at least when it comes to the bill).
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    Whats New About the AfPak Region in WikiLeaks

    Whistles are blowing again, causing storms in the teacups. It has happened before but this time it is a global leak, involving dozens of countries. These leaks can stir a number of public reactions but those in the know were already aware of these happenings. There has been a storm of refutations, condemnations, and explanations but it all looks like a damage control/face-saving exercise.
    One also fails to understand how come the source of these hundreds of thousands of documents is but a 23-year old disgraced Private First Class? It gives credence to the myth that a junior-rank soldier can hijack the confidential database of the United States in its entirety without raising any red flags. People are seeing more than what meets the eye in this episode.
    A significant part of the spilled beans are related to the AfPak region, with some new revelations. Let’s decipher them, piece by piece, while focusing on their background.
    Pakistan’s Nuclear Program
    One of the leaked documents talk about United States attempts to take control of nuclear fuel from a Pakistani reactor. There is talk about the efforts of former US Ambassador Anne W. Patterson to coax Pakistanis to allow that inspection and the latter’s refusal. This information will cement the perceptions of a sizable number of Pakistanis who think that the US is after Pakistan’s nuclear arsenal. Pakistan has accepted that there indeed was a pressure from the US to allow this exercise but they were quick to snub that request.
    This memo can trigger an earthquake in the fragile Pakistani diplomacy where the government risks public wrath if it accepts any such proposals in future.
    Saudi King’s Dislike of Pakistani President
    In another document, King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia expresses his distrust of Pakistan’s President Zardari saying, “When the head is rotten, it affects the whole body.” A significant number of Pakistanis, who are growing wary of the ineffective government that is swarmed with charges of corruption, will like this comment. The president’s office was quick to reject the report as baseless and going as far as saying that Zardari considers King Abdullah as his “elder brother.”
    But this royal utterance represents a deep mistrust of those who are currently in power. Saudi Arabia is the largest donor of Pakistan and has also played a significant, behind-the-veils role in Pakistani politics. It has grown distant in recent years, especially after the inauguration of the democratic government. The current government appears to be more Iran-centric to Saudis and this obviously does not sit well with them. This is also apparent from the reduction in Saudi aid to Pakistan though they later opened their coffers for the flood victims.
    $52 Million Dollar Man and Ahmed Wali Karzai
    An interesting revelation has been made about the former Afghan Vice President Ahmed Zia Massoud, who was reportedly carrying $52 million in cash to the United Arab Emirates. The memo says that “he was ultimately allowed to keep without revealing the money’s origin or destination”. This revelation alone is enough to seriously undermine US claims of promoting transparency in Afghanistan.
    Another cable discusses a meeting with Ahmed Wali Karzai, where they sought his help in bringing calm in the Kandahar region. The younger Karzai is a renowned drug dealer and has alleged ties with the CIA. This epiphany will create serious doubts about American strategy in Afghanistan, which has already come under fire in recent months.
    Rickshaw Reconnaissance
    Perhaps the most interesting snippet of information is related to a rickshaw driver of Lahore. This driver roams around the American consulate, keeping an eye on the comings and goings at the consulate instead of picking fares. Perhaps the Americans don’t know that poor rickshaw drivers have been performing this duty for ages, and not just in Pakistan.
    There will be plenty of diplomatic war of words in the coming days over these leaks. The revelations, however, have accomplished what they were intended to do. They have muddied public perceptions about the US and its love-hate relationship with its allies, who are also playing double games. It all boils down to a simple fact: global diplomacy is an utterly nasty game where no one is an angel.

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    4 Ways to Skip the Stress with Streamlined Holiday Savings Strategies

    Stressed out over the high cost of holiday shopping? Operating at warp speed with work, family and other seasonal obligations? For many of us, coupon clipping just isn’t in the cards. For those searching for a more streamlined savings strategy, here are four ways to shave some scones off the final dollar amount of your holiday shopping bill. No coupons required.
    Automated Credit Card Discounts: Certain credit card customers receive automated discounts and rebates with popular retailers every single time they use their card. Card holders at TD Bank, for example, get online and in-store price breaks from such entities as Banana Republic, Budget Rental Car, JC Penney, 1-800-FLOWERS and American Eagle Outfitters. That’s good news for parents on the prowl for gifts that will pass muster for brand-conscious teenagers. Lists of retailers for these types of programs change periodically, so be sure to check with your card company to stay up to date on what’s being offered.
    Membership Discounts: Many organizations offer discounts to their paid members. You just have to remember to check their online listings to keep up to date on what savings solutions your group is being offered. This list of discounts for the National Education Association for example, lists money-saving deals on such things as national book chain purchases and name-brand shoes. Members of the National Association of Realtors receive discounts on holiday rental cars from such companies as Avis, Budget and Hertz. So if you belong to an organization of significant size, spend some time perusing their list of online member benefits. You might be surprised at what you find there.
    Gift Card Balance Tracking: Traditionally, unused balances on holiday gift cards can add up to big bucks that are just lost. It happens to the best of us. Wallets bulging with everything from credit and debit cards to loyalty credit card rewards have little organizational infrastructure left to organize the overwhelming variety of gift cards that can come into our possession at this time of year. However, a new app is coming out just in time for the holidays. SWAGG, a free iPhone app due out December 8th, provides tracking capabilities for all outstanding gift card balances and options for combining them or transferring them to one main retailer to get the full bang of your gift-giving buck. The app will also work on your Droid device. And if you’d rather just get rid of your gift cards and recoup some of their value, sites like will buy them from you.
    Online Shopping Portals: Some credit card companies offer discounts and additional rewards when customers shop through that company’s online shopping portal. For example, Discover offers an online shopping experience with partners such as Sears, Bass Pro, Ann Taylor Loft, Crate & Barrel, Footlocker and the Apple Store. Chase, Bank of America, and many other loyalty programs offer similar discounts, and NerdWallet allows you to search these bonus malls by store name. The discount finder compares dozens of stores at once for maximum savings.
    Clipping coupons and comparing prices are certainly worth the effort. However, for those who are short on time as well as cash, it’s nice to have a few savings strategies in your repertoire that don’t require a huge investment of your valuable time.

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    The Biggest Divorce Dont of All

    Are you sitting on the, “Should-I-stay-or-should-I-go” fence, endlessly weighing the pros and cons about your marriage? You’re not alone. But before you take the plunge to start checking the “D” box, consider the most important “divorce don’t” of all…
    Don’t do it… don’t get divorced!
    Now, before you decide that I’m a religious fanatic or that my politics are to the right of Karl Rove’s, let me tell you this…
    I’m simply someone who has seen the fallout of divorce up close and personal. And I’m here to tell you, divorce isn’t for sissies. Even under the best of circumstances, divorce creates new and unintended problems, particularly when children are involved. If you’re a parent fantasizing of riding yourself of your spouse once and for all and dreaming of starting anew, remember this simple fact, “When children are involved, there is no such thing as divorce.”
    If you’re still open to the idea that your marriage can (and I dare say, should) survive, consider what I’ve learned over the past three decades.
    First, the facts:
    * People who remain married are healthier — both physically and emotionally
    * They live longer
    * They are better off financially
    * They have more satisfying and frequent sex than their single counterparts
    What you may not have considered is that unless there is physical or extreme emotional abuse, kids also benefit emotionally and physically from growing up with both parents.
    Like it or not, your kids don’t much care if your marriage is boring or unromantic, they just want you both at home.
    You have one go-around & deserve to be happy
    Before you say that I’m a proponent of “till death do us part”, even if it means a life of misery, hear this: you have one shot at this life and you deserve to be happy. What you may not have considered is that you can be happy in this marriage. With everything that we now know about what’s necessary to sustain a healthy marriage, there is no reason why anyone wanting a better relationship can’t have one.
    Having said this, if you’ve been fighting a lot, or are overwhelmed with feelings of contempt or, even worse, apathy, you probably believe your marriage is beyond repair. That’s because you have grown hopeless. And it’s hopelessness that ultimately ends marriages, not the differences between you. Hopelessness is the real cancer in marriage.
    Consider this: No one is born knowing how to be a partner in marriage. No one.
    The way we behave in our relationships has everything to do with our upbringing and our own parents’ relationships. Unfortunately, many of us didn’t have great role models. And even if we did, our spouse may not have been quite as lucky. Then what?
    Good marriages require good relationship skills. Happily, even the most seemingly relationally-challenged people can learn concrete skills that can fundamentally change the quality of marriage. So, before you throw in the towel, do yourself and your loved ones a favor, shore up on your relationship skills and make sure that you’re not throwing away a good thing simply out of a lack of education.
    There are two ways to do this: education & therapy
    Marriage education courses are different that traditional therapy. Classes aren’t group therapy. You don’t have to air your dirty laundry publicly. You take a class, absorb the information, practice skills in privacy with your spouse and then go home to put to the new tools to use. Even therapy-phobic spouses love these hands-on courses.
    And then there’s marriage therapy. But be warned, not all marriage therapy is created equal. Some so-called marriage therapists do more harm than good by declaring marriages dead on arrival as early as the first session! Be an informed consumer and know what you’re looking for when you seek professional help.
    Here are four pointers to start with:
    * No therapist can tell when a marriage is over. If a therapist declares your marriage dead, find a different therapist.
    * “Tell me how you feel about that?” — a common therapists’ mantra- prompts lively discussions, but rarely resolves problems. Good therapists teach communication and problem-solving skills.
    * Talking about the past makes you an expert about why you’re having problems, not what to do to improve things. If you want a better future, make sure your therapist is goal-oriented with an emphasis on the future.
    * Seek help even if your spouse won’t go. Good therapists can help you trigger positive change in your marriage single-handedly.
    Bottom line, if your marriage is on the rocks it’s a wakeup call. Before you make the final break, be sure that you leave no stone unturned. The worst feeling in the world is the nagging sense that you could have done more.
    In my three decades of work with couples I have seen hundreds of thousands of couples fall in love again, many of which reconnected at the eleventh hour. It’s never too late to create a happy marriage; all you have to do is decide to explore the idea of staying married instead of throwing in the towel. After reading this you may think I’m a psychotic optimist, I say, “That’s ok, it’s a communicable disease.”
    To learn more about Michele and her Divorce Busting practice, visit her on the web at or follow her on Facebook.

    WikiLeaks Getting Under Qaddafis Skin

    One of the more interesting revelations in the WikiLeaks diplomatic disclosures was Libyan dictator Muammar Qaddafi’s extreme consternation at being prevented from pitching his tent in New York and Englewood, NJ, at the opening of the United Nations General Assembly in September, 2009. Here is how the New York Times summarized it:
    To quickly recount the story, Qaddafi customarily pitches a Bedouin tent on his diplomatic travels where he receives VIP visitors and guests. As the leaked cables reveal, because Qaddafi is afraid of staying in any building where he is not on the ground floor, he decided on taking up residence at the Libyan-owned compound in Englewood, New Jersey, which also has about five acres in which to pitch his tent. A massive, multi-million dollar renovation of the derelict property was undertaken to ready it for the dictator.
    That property, as fortune would have it, happens to be immediately adjacent to my home, separated only by a mesh fence. When I saw the massive renovation and the timing of it just a few weeks prior to Qaddafi’s arrival, I concluded that such massive expenditure could only mean that Qaddafi, having just been turned down by the city of New York from pitching his tent in Central Park, was coming to Englewood. Together with our mayor at the time, my friend Michael Wildes, we organized massive public resistance to Qaddafi’s planned arrival, culminating in a public demonstration of hundreds of Englewood residents on my front lawn with Governor Jon Corzine, Senator Frank Lautenberg, and Congressman Steve Rothman in attendance. International press saturation of Englewood residents’ resistance to Qaddafi’s arrival led the autocrat to change his plans and stay at the Libyan UN mission in New York City instead.
    The story is well known. But we have now discovered just how much it irked Qaddafi to be kicked to the curb by a small New Jersey town. The man is a tyrant and used to getting his way. With enough oil to bribe governments like Britain and Scotland into allowing the Lockerbie bomber to be released from jail after only eight years and after having murdered 270 people, no doubt he thought he people would turn a blind eye to his history of savage murder and welcome him with open arms. He learned, however, that decent American folk have a long memory when it comes to killers who fund international terrorism, not to mention an intense dislike for autocratic rulers who for 40 years have brutalized their own citizens into submission.
    And what makes the new WikiLeaks revelation so relevant? Because we now know how badly monsters like Qaddafi want to be accepted and how angry they get when legitimacy is denied them.
    Our world has a sad history of turning a blind eye to evil. This is especially true when the evil party has a commodity the rest of the world values, with oil being the top of the list. The WikiLeaks disclosures similarly reveal the deference American diplomats continue to accord the Saudis in general and King Abdullah in particular. The king is quoted as telling the Americans in secret that it ought to stop Iran from building a nuclear weapon and “cut off the head of the snake” before it’s too late. It makes for interesting reading when you consider that this is another tyrant whose family has stolen the wealth of the Saudi people, brutally oppresses women, and funds Islamist extremists all over the world. Yet he is treated like a revered international figure simply because he has a commodity that the rest of us need.
    As one reads through the endless revelations of other Arab leaders secretly begging America to do something about Iran, one wonders where Arab pride has gone. These fiercely proud people are so into sustaining the myth of Islamic unity that they will only say in the utmost secrecy what they really think of the dangerous Iranian regime. And rather than do anything about it themselves, like supplicants they beg America to fight their battles for them. It’s a sad commentary on the noble history of the Islamic world that tyrannical rulers who hide behind American military muscle now control the lives of most of our Arab brothers and sisters in the Middle East.
    So why do the rest of us tolerate these tyrants? One reason. They have oil. And we’ll compromise our values and our decency and protect their power just so we can continue to quench our insatiable thirst for the black gold.
    But one small group of American citizens decided that we did not want a killer in our midst. We weren’t ready to sell our souls for what Qaddafi had to offer.
    At the height of the battle against Qaddafi, close friends of mine came to me with two arguments. The first was that I ought to be really careful. Qaddafi was an extremely dangerous man. You might end up dead in a ditch somewhere, they told me, and you have nine kids to think about. The second argument was that I was making a terrible mistake. Qaddafi is rated by many as the richest man in the world. Rather than opposing him, go and welcome him. Aside from having a very powerful contact, he might be the key to Middle East peace.
    My response was — Come on, we Americans living in fear of some tin-pot dictator like Qaddafi? And on our own soil? Never. The second was that I can be as materialistic and ego-driven as the next guy. But to sell my soul to the devil? Give me a break.
    Not all embraced that philosophy. A few months after the Qaddafi battle press stories appeared about a New Jersey filmmaker who accepted a multi-million dollar investment of blood money from Qaddafi’s son to make movies. That the businessman was Jewish just added to our shame.
    Then there is the City of Englewood itself, which continues to allows Qaddafi’s former Foreign Minister and current Ambassador to the UN, Abdel Rahman Shalgham, to live in our city completely tax-free. Congressman Rothman, who worked hard to oppose Qaddafi, later, through the press, puzzlingly told me and the other Libyan neighbors that we all ought to live together in peace.
    As a Rabbi I am well aware of the Biblical injunction to love your neighbor. But in this instance decent people everywhere would no doubt agree that a completely different emotion is probably more appropriate.

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    The Blessing of Enough: Rejecting Material Greed, Embracing Spiritual Hunger
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    DADT A Man and His Private Parts

    This is an exchange I had a few days ago with a good friend (pseudonym “Jones” ) about my post last week about DADT (DADT and the Tyranny of the Minority):
    Jones: Having spent four years in the Navy, I do believe there were gay sailors on board the aircraft carrier I was on because of the number of sailors assigned. However, not really knowing, I was not uncomfortable taking communal showers. This is a case where what you don’t know won’t hurt you. Therefore, I am against letting gay persons openly serve — unless showering can be done in a more private way. I have nothing against gay people. I don’t happen to have any gay friends but I would not hesitate to welcome a gay person as a friend, just as long as I don’t have to shower with him.
    Stone: Why would you object to showering with him? What do you think would happen?
    Jones: I would feel my private parts are there for him to view. When dressed, I have no objection because those parts, which are part of his sexual preference, are hidden from view. As I like to look at women, and women look at men, just to assess their beauty, the feeling would change if there were no clothes involved. I had this experience when in Rome when I was in the service. They had communal showers with individual stalls in the hotel, but your clothes were on a hook outside the shower where everyone could see each other. And yes, I had those urges but did not act on them, even though I was not married at the time. I think that gay men have the same feelings when they see a man. And, with clothes removed, this would only enhance their feelings and that would make me very uncomfortable if I knew the person next to me was gay. Am I a prude? I don’t think so, but I know my own feelings and what I believe are the feelings of other men and women. I think it’s just part of human nature.
    Stone: Undoubtedly that’s true — you would worry that gays could see your privates. But think about what you’ve said. Because you would worry about gays seeing your privates, you’re prepared to discriminate against them and deny them the opportunity to serve their country, even though they’ve done nothing wrong.
    Moreover, when you go into the military you commit to leaving your loved ones for an extended period of time, you commit to training brutally hard and living in communal barracks and learning how to kill other people, you commit to being in combat if necessary, in which you might have to live in horrid conditions, kill and main other human beings (some perhaps innocent of any wrongdoing), and risk being maimed or killed yourself. But you don’t want a gay man to see you privates? This makes sense to you?
    And beyond that, what do you think happens today in high school locker rooms, college dorms, and athletic clubs? In all of these places, and many others besides, straight men have their private parts seen by gay men. I have never once heard of anyone making a fuss over this, even today when many gays are “out” and others know they are gay. I have never heard of anyone quitting the football team or moving out of the dorms or giving up his membership in an athletic club because he knows a gay man has seen his privates.
    The plain and simple fact is that, when all is said and done, this is a non-issue that people, without reflection, have been conditioned to think is a big deal. If you found yourself naked someday in a locker room or a doctor’s office, would you really give a damn for more than a moment or two if a gay man saw your privates?

    This Blogger’s Books from
    War and Liberty: An American Dilemma: 1790 to the Present
    by Geoffrey R. Stone
    Perilous Times: Free Speech in Wartime: From the Sedition Act of 1798 to the War on Terrorism
    by Geoffrey R. Stone

    Mom What Are You Doing Caught Online Dating

    It was a quiet Friday evening. My sixteen year old son was upstairs studying. My eleven year old was downstairs with friends watching TV. And I? The white wine was to my right, the Ugg slippers warmed my feet, and the faded flannel nightgown enveloped me like an old friend. I flipped on the computer…once again awash in reserved hope.
    Up they came! The endless rows of my potential lovers staring at me as they leaned on cars, held adorable children, partied in tuxes, worked the barbecue, and flaunted pecs all designed to communicate their wallet size, love of kids, ability to clean up nicely, be a family man and drive me wild between the sheets.
    Sucked in by the seemingly endless possibilities I began scrolling through the thumbnail photos and summaries allowing them to assert their usual slightly hypnotic effect upon me. Click. Long sunset walks on a beach. Click. An elegant evening at the opera. Click. Loves true fine dining….
    “WHAT ARE YOU DOING?” came a voice from behind me. My older son was standing maybe 6 inches away staring wide-eyed at the faces on the screen.
    I turned back to my computer and thought quick and hard. What to say?
    “I’m looking for a photographer,” leapt into my mind. But for what? His Bar Mitzvah was years ago.
    For a split second, “I’m looking for an old college friend ,” seemed workable. But I could just see my son leaning in closer and saying, “And his name is Here4You or Singing And A Brain?”
    The idea of floating, “I need a handyman” seemed especially promising because the fact is I did, and would have been happy to find a guy who was useful around the house.
    But my son is sixteen and knew I dated. Maybe, I thought, he could handle the truth. But could I?
    “Do you know what online dating is?” I asked tentatively.
    “Kind of,” he replied.
    “It’s when lots of single adults with common interests go online to a particular site and fill out a form describing the kind of person they are looking for and then each person gets a list of possible dates that fit their list. It’s hard for busy parents to meet people any other way.” (This is a well-edited version of my stuttering delivery.)
    “You mean you go out with a stranger?” My too intelligent child said.
    “Yes and no,” I explained. “We only meet in a public place, I take my own car, and drive myself home. ‘ I don’t actually go on dates with them until I’m sure they’re good people. And only adults can do this,” I added . “Not kids.”
    “OH, like I’d want to do that?” he responded with horror.
    “No I wouldn’t expect you would,” I said. “Besides you can’t. But as you know I’d like to meet someone.”
    At this point my son began backing out of the office. Apparently my sharing was creeping out of the “need to know” and into the “overload” column.
    “See ya.” He said.
    I smiled. “I love you.”
    He went back to his room. I went back to my site.
    He probably thought I was nuts. Or worse, pathetic.
    But that next weekend when he was out with a friend and I got dressed up in my best black slacks and sweater and sashayed into the restaurant to meet my date I felt sane and strong.
    There is no shame in online dating and if your kid catches you just tell him what it is. (if he’s old enough).
    It won’t traumatize him. At worse it will only nauseate him.
    A younger child is different. What’s the cutoff point? It depends on the child. I’d say if he or she is old enough to date it’s safe if just a bit embarrassing to disclose. Just make sure he gets this is an adult thing…especially if he’s one of those kids given to high risk choices. For young ones keep it vague. “Just looking up some people,” you might say. If he/she says “What for?” you might answer, “it’s interesting to read about them.” Then click off the computer and offer him an ice cream cone.
    Online dating is not a topic for dinnertime conversation. But it is life and if you are caught, and you make something up your child might suspect you’re fibbing. That’s no way to model the kind of response you want when the tables are turned and you suspect he’s up to something. How can you insist “Tell me the truth,” if you claim a screen filled with photos of men holding, drinks or babies or stethoscopes with bizarre names such as “Lean Not Mean” is the best way to locate an exterminator?

    This Blogger’s Books from
    Difficult Questions Kids Ask and Are Afraid to Ask About Divorce
    by Meg F. Schneider, Joan Zuckerberg
    Sex and the Single Parent
    by Meg Schneider, Martine Myer

    Follow Meg F. Schneider, MA, LCSW on Twitter:

    Dickie Does Crack The Fighter

    Lowell, Massachusetts, with its ethnic enclaves and brick mills is the perfect breeding ground for the great American story: Jack Kerouac, the French-Canadian author of the iconic novel of the 1950’s On the Road, famously came from there. And so did Dickie Ekland, an Irish fighter who knocked out Sugar Ray Leonard in 1978, or so his legend goes. In “The Fighter,” David O. Russell’s riveting new movie, we learn that Eklund -played by the handsome Christian Bale turned gaunt, his cheeks hollowed out, his teeth bad– was a crack head. Thinking a film within the film documents his comeback in the ring, Eklund has a rude awakening. That film is a cautionary tale about drug abuse, and the larger narrative of “The Fighter” becomes an epic of the resilience of family, of redemption, complete with a platinum dyed Greek chorus of sisters, and the rise of Dickie’s younger brother, boxer Micky Ward (Mark Wahlberg). Their mother Alice doubles as manager: for Melissa Leo in a teased blond beehive rumored to be her very own, this may be her Oscar winning role.
    At a luncheon at The Four Seasons this week, Melissa Leo showed me how the layers of her red hare growing out with some ends looking dipped in platinum. An actor who inhabits the soul of her characters, Leo, perhaps most memorable as a tough mother in “Frozen River,” said she used to dance on stilts, a skill captured by Henry Jaglom in his movie “Love, Always.” Actors Sylvia Miles, Tina Louise, and Bob Dishy lauded her performance and that of Mark Wahlberg who grew up in Dorchester, Boston, not far from Lowell, and remembers Micky Ward. Insisting on performing his own fights, Wahlberg said the part was difficult because he had to keep training to be in shape for the movie’s on again off schedule. Director David O. Russell who made the quirky “I (Heart) Huckabees” shot the film with many close-ups to keep the intimacy, and retain the small town feel of Lowell. With his signature hat and cigar Bert Sugar, boxing historian, and Lou di Bella, a boxing promoter sat at a nearby table as Russell, Leo, and Wahlberg greeted guests. Was it my imagination, or could I see the contours of Wahlberg’s biceps against the fabric of his suit?
    This post also appears on Gossip Central.

    Green News Report November 30 2010 Audio

    TWITTER: @GreenNewsReport.
    The ‘GNR’ is also now available on your cell phone via Stitcher Radio’s mobile app!.
    IN TODAY’S RADIO REPORT: After failure in Copenhagen, the next climate summit begins in Cancun, Mexico; Bye-bye Bluefin Tuna (Sorry, Charlie!)… PLUS: The Earth, now in 3D … All that and more in today’s Green News Report!
    Got comments, tips, love letters, hate mail? Drop us a line at [email protected] or right here at the comments link below. All GNRs are always archived at
    IN ‘GREEN NEWS EXTRA’ (see links below): Greenpeace Sues Chemical and PR Firms for “Unlawful” Spying; Study Warns GMO Salmon pose serious risks to society; For EPA regulations, benefits consistently exceed costs; Accusations of Plagiarism Mount Over GOP’s 2006 Climate Skeptic “Wegman Report”; Pittsburgh Bans Natural Gas Drilling; States Diverting Money From Climate Initiative … PLUS: 8 Electric-Car Myths Busted ….
    ‘Green News Report’ is heard on many fine radio stations around the country. For additional info on stories we covered today, plus today’s ‘Green News Extra’, please click right here…

    Follow Brad Friedman and Desi Doyen on Twitter:

    Gettin Hip to Caribbean Music

    You’ve booked a vacation in the Caribbean, and you just can’t wait to flake out on the powdery beaches, splash around in the blue-green waters and dance the night away to the catchy beat of reggae music. Chances are you’ll actually do all this — but unless you’re going to Jamaica, you might be shaking your booty to another kind of West Indian music.
    “Most tourists think reggae is the only music we have,” says Caribbean tour operator Ames Godwin. “The fact is, just about all of our islands have their own music… the different beats are usually very peppy, but many are a long way from reggae.”
    Unless you’ve been living on another planet, you’ve likely heard the reggae tunes of Jamaican superstar Bob Marley. The infectious rhythm of reggae combined with the passion of his lyrics — he called on his fans to stand up for their rights and to live righteously — propelled Marley’s discs to the top of the worldwide charts again and again until his death in 1981 at age 36.
    You’ll also hear messages like that in the West Indies’ old-time calypso music, although usually more subtle and often buried in a little humor.
    Today’s musical theme is, having fun. For instance, on Martinique, Guadeloupe and the other French-speaking islands you can follow the wiggling bodies to zouk concerts. Known for its brassy, loping rhythm and distinctive back-beat, zouk literally means party.
    Equally or even more brassy is soca (a blend of soul and calypso) from Trinidad. Put heavy helpings of percussion on top of the brass, and you get songs like the chart-topping “Hot, Hot, Hot.” Meanwhile, you’ll still hear Trinidadian “panners” beating away on steel drums first fashioned out of 55-gallon oil drums in the 1930s.
    Another old-timer that’s still around is merengue from the Dominican Republic. Played either slow or fast, but usually fast, merengue arguably ties with zouk and the hard-driving beat of Haitian compas tunes for the Caribbean’s most sensual music.
    Nowadays you’ll hear fusions of just about everything on the islands. Like zouk mixed with reggae and soca. Or a Bahamian carnival-like junkanoo served up with compas and merengue. Or a smrgsbord of a banjo-backed funji from Tortola, some lively salsa from Puerto Rico or Cuba and just a hint of a minuet-ish quelbe from St. Croix.
    Need more spices? Add a dash of spouge from Barbados, tumba from Curacao, scratch from St. Thomas and earlier forms of reggae called ska and rocksteady .
    Still another kind of Jamaican music — one that’s hardly ever mixed — is called nyabinghi (nye-ah-bing-ee). Played by dreadlocked members of the Rastafarian religion at secluded retreats in the Jamaican mountains, nyabinghi songs are chanted out for hours on end against the slow thumping of African drums. Listen close, and you’ll hear Rasta-ized versions of “Roll, Jordan Roll,” “Rivers of Babylon” and other hymns brought to the islands years ago by Pentecostal missionaries.
    One nyabinghi CD titled Wingless Angels also has an Irish fiddle and a guitar on it, the latter played by the disc’s executive producer, Keith Richards. Yes, the Keith Richards.
    How do you dance to West Indian music? Any way you like. Visitors to the islands are welcome to get out on the floor and do everything from country and western line dancing to old-fashioned swing steps. But if you’d really like to get with it, take a few minutes to learn the simple one-two step of the Dominican Republic’s merengue. It’ll work for most Caribbean beats.
    Where to find Caribbean CDs: A long list of websites offering music from various islands can be found at Click “Music” in the information categories on the left side of the page.
    Image credits: Photo of Trinidadian steel drummers courtesy of Jim Stephens; photo of “Disturbing Joan” fusion band on St. Lucia courtesy of St. Lucia Tourist Board; photo of two nyabinghi drummers by Bob Schulman.

    Canada farmer Latimer granted parole in euthanasia case

    Canada farmer Latimer granted parole in euthanasia case

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    Canada farmer Latimer granted parole in euthanasia case
    A Canadian farmer who was sentenced to life in prison for the 1993 murder of his disabled daughter has been granted full parole, his lawyer has said.
    The decision to lift all restrictions on Robert Latimer by 6 December was made last week by the National Parole Board, according to defence lawyer Jason Gratl.
    Latimer poisoned his 12-year-old daughter, Tracy, with carbon monoxide.
    He said he had wanted to relieve her suffering from cerebral palsy.
    The decision to grant Latimer full parole came after the National Parole Board had consulted with the wheat farmer's psychologist, Mr Gratl said.
    The 1993 murder sparked a national debate on euthanasia.
    The 57-year-old from Canada's Saskatchewan province said he had killed his daughter at his home to relieve her severe pain from complications related to cerebral palsy.
    Tracy Latimer's spine was bent out of shape, and she could not speak or communicate outwardly.
    Latimer killed her by pumping exhaust fumes into the cab of his truck where he had placed her.
    He was convicted in 1994 and was released from prison in 2008, at which time he was ordered to spend five nights per week at a halfway house in Victoria, in the province of British Columbia.



    I really hate this kind of stuff.
    Both the Yankees and perennial fan-favorite Derek Jeter seem to be bordering on the unreasonable as they dicker over a new contract. The front office claims that it’s just business, that Jeter isn’t getting any younger, that he shouldn’t be unduly rewarded for past performance, and that their offer is fair. The Jeter camp believes he is being disrespected (see Latrell Sprewell, who turned down a three-year $21 million extension from the Minnesota Timberwolves in 2004) and should get what he’s seeking, both in terms of years and salary.
    Casey Close, Jeter’s agent, compared his client with another Yankee icon, Babe Ruth. But doesn’t he remember how the team treated the Bambino when he outlived his usefulness? (The Boston Braves, with whom the Sultan of swat finished his career, were even worse, but he didn’t have the same history with them as with the Bronx Bombers.)
    Harvey Araton considered the situation in his recent New York Times column, associating Jeter more to the quiet Lou Gehrig than the bombastic Babe.
    Personally, I think everyone is wrong. Except me, of course.
    As good a player is, and as much as he’s contributed to the Yankees’ canon, Jeter could never have the overall impact of a Ruth, who came along at a time when the sport was in dire straits in the wake of the 1919 Black Sox scandal. He helped restore baseball to its place as the national pastime and his larger-than-life persona was the prefect representation of a post-WWI America and his home runs revolutionized the game. Dozens of books and papers have been written about him (increasing in candor over the years; Ruth was no choirboy). During World War II, Japanese soldiers thought there was no greater insult to American fighting men than to curse the name of the Babe.
    Does anyone really think Jeter has the same relevance or historical impact?
    “Pride goeth before the fall.” Both sides should compromise: Jeter should come down in his demands and be more realistic about his ability to play into his 40s, but at the same time, the Yankees shouldn’t adopt a “What have you done for me lately?” philosophy.

    The Voting Dead Political Zombie Cannibals

    Warning: Political Violence. Reader Discretion Advised. Some Scenes May Be Too Intense for Young Children and Reactionaries.
    My name is Rick. I’m a small-town sheriff. I live in Cynthiana, Kentucky. Or rather lived.
    I woke up alone in a hospital. The staff had fled. My wife Lori and son Carl were missing. And worst of all, the streets were overrun with mindless, flesh-eating Tea Baggers.
    It’s impossible to reason with the Tea Baggers. They just lurch from rally to rally muttering about “lower taxes” and “brains.” And don’t get ’em started on Obama. They think he’s a socialist, fascist, Muslim Jihadist, Christian liberationist born in Kenya.
    The Tea Baggers have no compunctions about guns: they brandish them at their rallies and threaten “Second Amendment solutions” if they don’t get their way.
    The last thing I remember was Obama’s inauguration. I recall how full of hope I felt, how ready for change. At last we had an intelligent, articulate President who would lead us out of the morass the Bush administration had dragged us into. Then some meth-head shot me. I’ve been in a coma for the last two years. What the hell happened?
    I made my way home. There was no sign of Lori and Carl, but there was a big “Foreclosure” sign on the front lawn. What happened to the mortgage crises? Why hadn’t it be solved?
    I found a few pitiable Democratic survivors hiding in a boarded-up house. They filled me in: “It was the virus. It burned out the brain cells of normal citizens and elevated their T cell counts, turning them into Tea Baggers.”
    “But where did the virus come from?” I said.
    “Nobody knows for sure,” they said. “Some people say the Koch brothers cooked it up in a political laboratory. Some people thinks it’s FreedomWorks. There seems to be a racial class component — it seems to affect primarily white, middleclass voters who feel threatened by the country’s shifting demographics.”
    I told them I was going to look for Lori and Carl — and maybe America along the way.
    “Be careful,” they said. “They may seem like just a couple of harmless political kooks, going back to the gold standard, doing away with the Fed, that sort of thing. But they’re dangerous in a mob. On midterm election eve, the electoral map ran red with Republican victories.”
    I couldn’t get gasoline for my squad car, so I saddled up a horse instead. Apparently there had been some sort of oil disaster in the Gulf Coast. I doused myself with Earl Grey so I could move about the Tea Baggers freely. They navigate primarily by sense of smell, their retinas having been permantly damaged by too much exposure to Fox TV.
    I came across a Democratic representative named Nancy outside Knoxville. Her gavel arm was gnawed off all the way to the shoulder, leaving only a bloody stump — and possibility a minority position. “I delivered the votes on health care! Why am I being scapegoated?” she wailed.
    “Maybe the Democrats need a clean break with the past,” I said. “Maybe you’re too polarizing a figure. Maybe you’re just too whiny and scary looking.” I couldn’t stand to see her suffer, so I shot her in the head and sent her back to San Francisco.
    I came across a half-eaten Republican operative named Karl near Chattanooga. His gonads had been chewed off like a plate of Rocky Mountain oysters at an Ozarks picnic. “They’re mutating!” he gasped. “We can’t control them anymore. They’ve started consuming Republicans! There’s even talking about nominating one of their own for President, guaranteeing Obama’s re-election! Oh, the horror! The horror! Beware the Grizzly Mama!”
    “Grizzly Mama? What the hell is a Grizzly Mama? Is it anything like Grizzly Adams? Speak to me!” But it was too late. He had gone to that circle of hell reserved for political fixers. I put bullet in his head to make sure he stayed down.
    I finally caught up with Lori and Carl in a refugee center outside of Atlanta. My joy at being reunited with my family was tempered by the presence of John.
    I never liked John. Maybe it was his permanent orange tan. Maybe it was his country club manner. Maybe it was that he seemed to be doing Lori.
    “You’ve got to understand,” John said. “It’s a whole new world since the election. Lori, representing middle America, needed comforting. And what’s more comforting then extending the Bush tax cuts — not to mention a little offshore drilling, if you know what I mean?”
    I thanked him for the information, then shot him in the head. It turned out he was a Republican establishment politician, not a genuine Tea Bagger. But you can’t be too careful.
    It was all too much for me. I decided to take refuge in a brick-and-mortar bookstore — another endangered species. I thought here I would find intellectual refuge from the mindlessness around me. But even here there was no escape from the numbing vacuity of recent political discourse. I saw a copy of Decision Points prominently displayed.
    I know I’ve missed a lot, but does anybody besides me remember 2000-2008 — the stolen election, the unjustified invasion of Iraq, the bungled response to Katrina, the global financial crisis, “mission accomplished,” “heckuva job, Brownie,” “bin Laden determined to strike on US soil,” etc., etc., ad nauseam…? And, strangely enough, there were no Tea Baggers, no viral infection, no mindless cannibalism of the political process.
    Sometimes I think I’m the one who’s dead, and wandering eternally in a limbo of deliberately suppressed memories. Or at least until the next election cycle.

    Follow Robert Brenner on Twitter: Brenner

    Behavior change causes changes in beliefs not vice versa

    Reprinted with permission from </a
    There's always been an obsession among climate hawks with polls that measure public acceptance of climate change science. This drives them absolutely batty.
    An enormous amount of attention has focused on this metric — polls, surveys, studies, punditry, and endless elite hand-wringing. The often unstated assumption hiding behind the discussion is that getting people to say they believe in climate change is the top priority for everyone who wants progress on this issue. That's Step 1. If only we could get to Step 2!
    Why should getting people to acknowledge the problem be the first step? Well, intuitively it seems like belief is a precondition to action. People won't do anything until they believe, right? When I asked Al Gore in 2006 why his movie was so light on solutions, he stated the view thusly:
    The right wing had a field day misinterpreting that awkward "over-representation of factual presentations" phrase, but his point is clear enough. You gotta make people believe in the problem before they'll be motivated to act on solutions. Belief is a "predicate" of action.
    Problem is, Gore is wrong. Hearing about the problem does not lead to action. As a number of studies and surveys have shown before and since, presenting people with the climate crisis in all its scope and urgency can just as easily shut them down or scare them away as motivate them to behave differently. (See Matt Nisbet for more on this.) Fear alone does not motivate action.
    I worry, though, that people have learned the wrong lessons from Gore's mistake. Some have concluded that the solution is to stop being scary and instead be cool, calm, and reasonable. "Persuade, Don't Scare, to Create a Climate Change Believer," goes the Reuters headline. The key is still to present information, just not in a way that's so, you know, inconvenient.
    Another is to say that we should stop talking about climate change at all. It's so unpleasant and … partisan. [When you hear that word, you have to imagine the entire Beltway center-left cognoscenti crinkling their noses like someone farted in the elevator.] Instead we should focus on clean energy and national security and green jobs other bipar… no, post-partisan solutions. That way we can all just get along.
    Both those responses play to the left's seemingly adamantine determination to blame everything on itself, hold itself to standards of discourse alien to its opponents, and generally bring butter knives to gun fights. But both are wrongheaded. A smarter response comes in two parts:
    First, remember that people do not know themselves. That is to say, their self-reports on what influences them, what motivates them, how they make decisions, what they will do in the future — they are not reliable. People often have no idea why they do the things they do, or what would induce them to change what they do. They are very frequently wrong about such things, as about a million psych experiments have shown. Just as we are often mysteries to one another, we are often mysteries to ourselves.
    If poll answers aren't reliable reports about the inner states of respondents, what are they? This is the second part: It's better to see poll and survey results as social evidence. A poll is itself a kind of record of social behaviors. Answering a poll question is an act, not a revelation.
    Say the question is, "Do you believe that climate change is being caused by human activity?" and someone answers, "No, climate change is part of a natural cycle." For the vast bulk of respondents, that shouldn't be read as, "Here's what I've concluded based on reasoning through the evidence." Rather, it's, "This is what people like me say." Or perhaps, "The person I see myself as is the kind of person who would say this." He is performing an act of self-reinforcement, which is essentially a social act, even if he's alone in the room.
    In this light, the perpetual quest to increase the numbers on those polls is not a matter of trying to change people's internal states, it's a matter of trying to change their poll-answering behavior. That turns out to be a very, very different way of approaching the problem. When we think about changing internal states, we think about education and persuasion — i.e., we think about putting more information into the internal process, to make it come out correctly. But when we think about changing behavior, we remember that information alone is inert. This is a robust finding consistent over 40 years of social science: information alone does not motivate behavior.
    What does motivate behavior change? Well, here it gets a little sticky. As I noted last week, there's no sweeping, 40,000-foot "message" that will do it. Changing a behavior requires understanding, in a fine-grained way, the barriers and benefits. It requires changing people's circumstances in smart ways and carefully measuring the results. If you want to know how to change behavior, don't read a bunch of polls about the messages that make people say positive things to pollsters; read a report like this one from ACEEE, which looks at which behavioral programs around energy efficiency have worked, i.e., demonstrated tangible, consistent results.
    Remember, answering a poll is a way of asserting identity. Beliefs tend to be reverse engineered, as it were: People tend to construct an identity around what they (and their tribe) do. That suggests that they will only construct a different identity when they start doing different things.
    So imagine the same guy who rejected human-caused climate change in the poll. Imagine that bike riding were made convenient and useful enough that he started doing it. Imagine that his neighbors started getting solar panels, to the point that he felt pressured to do it, and he became a power producer. Imagine he's in the military and his platoon started insulating their tents and carrying solar water purifiers.
    Next thing you know, he's a guy who uses solar power and rides a bike. His behavior has changed, so he's telling a different story about himself. That new story, that new identity — the guy who rides a bike and uses solar power — is much more likely to incorporate climate change concern than the previous one.
    In other words, Gore may have had it exactly backwards. Belief doesn't come first; action comes first. Changing people's behavior — in small, incremental, but additive ways — is the best way to open their minds to the science. It all comes down to change on the ground. Climate hawks need to get smart about driving behavior change wherever they can. Those behavior changes will pull changes in consciousness in their wake.
    Reprinted with permission from </a

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