Sunday, April 30, 2006

Radical Greens Influence Mainstream

From the "we were right all along department"


New research shows how radical activists have triggered innovations that are helping move the UK in a more sustainable direction. Long seen as the bane of rational economic progress, these devotees to a greener lifestyle turn out to have been a key source of ideas that have seeded new industries in areas such as food, housing and energy. Rather than dismissing activists as hopelessly idealistic, mainstream business and policy should recognise how they create a diversity of options for sustainability, and improve their own capacities to learn from them.
The study, carried out at the University of Sussex. . ., clearly shows the value of "green niche" initiatives in influencing mainstream activities. The study examined three radical niches; wind energy, organic food and eco-housing. In each case, the activists' original ideas went far beyond what actually became mainstream. Yet the role of the niche ideas in providing solutions for 'newly' perceived problems within the mainstream should not be under-estimated.

The report's author, Dr Adrian Smith, said: 'Activists often struggle to keep projects going and fail to produce the radical transformations they originally envisaged. This lack of breakthrough inclines them (and others) to under-estimate the effect of their ideas. But we found that although their influence is more subtle and beyond their control, it is still hugely significant in many cases'.

  • In the case of wind power, activists kept the idea of wind power alive during its wilderness years in the 1970s and 1980s when it was ignored or actively opposed by those involved in mainstream power provision. The idealists envisaged small-scale off-grid autonomous systems that were community owned. The mainstream appropriation of wind power has resulted in large wind farms connected both to the grid and to the commercial market.

  • In food production, niche thinking demanded sustainable local food economies based around organic farming. These ideas were transformed into an organic food industry, when mainstream farmers, food processors, and large retailers perceived the potential commercial advantage of going green, but not to the extent envisaged by activists in the organic movement.

  • Niche ideas in housing around environmentally friendly, reclaimable materials, autonomous buildings and self-build in small communities, have also had an influence. Here policy and regulatory pressures have directed mainstream builders towards green building ideas pioneered by activists. . . .

  • Thursday, April 27, 2006

    On Gullible Americans

    America's Blinders
    By Howard Zinn
    The Progressive


    Now that most Americans no longer believe in the war, now that they no longer trust Bush and his Administration, now that the evidence of deception has become overwhelming (so overwhelming that even the major media, always late, have begun to register indignation), we might ask: How come so many people were so easily fooled?
    . . . .
    Our culture demands, in its very language, that we accept a commonality of interest binding all of us to one another. We mustn't talk about classes. Only Marxists do that, although James Madison, "Father of the Constitution," said, thirty years before Marx was born that there was an inevitable conflict in society between those who had property and those who did not.

    Our present leaders are not so candid. They bombard us with phrases like "national interest," "national security," and "national defense" as if all of these concepts applied equally to all of us, colored or white, rich or poor, as if General Motors and Halliburton have the same interests as the rest of us, as if George Bush has the same interest as the young man or woman he sends to war.

    Surely, in the history of lies told to the population, this is the biggest lie. In the history of secrets, withheld from the American people, this is the biggest secret: that there are classes with different interests in this country. To ignore that - not to know that the history of our country is a history of slaveowner against slave, landlord against tenant, corporation against worker, rich against poor - is to render us helpless before all the lesser lies told to us by people in power.

    If we as citizens start out with an understanding that these people up there - the President, the Congress, the Supreme Court, all those institutions pretending to be "checks and balances" - do not have our interests at heart, we are on a course towards the truth. Not to know that is to make us helpless before determined liars.

    The deeply ingrained belief - no, not from birth but from the educational system and from our culture in general - that the United States is an especially virtuous nation makes us especially vulnerable to government deception. It starts early, in the first grade, when we are compelled to "pledge allegiance" (before we even know what that means), forced to proclaim that we are a nation with "liberty and justice for all."

    {whole essay at link above}

    Wednesday, April 26, 2006

    Designing Green Cities

    Link above takes you to an intro for "The Next Green Revolution" issue of Wired, where the emphasis is on "present-day solutions to present-day problems" that must engage the cooperation of engineers, designers, architects, entrepreneurs, consumers, business, education, media . . . the whole ball of wax.

    Saturday, April 22, 2006

    Three More

    "If the linguistic behavior blocks conceptual development, if it militates against abstraction and mediation, if it surrenders to the immediate facts, it repels recognition of the factors behind the facts, and thus repels recognition of the facts, and of their historical content. In and for the society, this organization of functional discourse is of vital importance; it serves as a vehicle of coordination and subordination. The unified, functional language is an irreconcilably anti-critical and anti-dialectical language. In it, operational and behavioral rationality absorbs the transcendent, negative, oppositional elements of Reason."

    --Marcuse One-dimensional Man: Studies in the ideology of advanced industrial society.


    "History does not merely touch on language, but takes place in it."

    "The only philosophy which can be responsibly practised in face of despair is the attempt to contemplate all things as they would present themselves from the standpoint of redemption."

    --Adorno Minima moralia: Reflections from A Damaged Life


    Popular assumptions, due to what they conceal, work for the dominant organization of life. One such assumption is the notion that language is not dialectical, thereby implying that all use of dialectics should be rejected. But in fact nothing is more clearly subject to dialectics than language, since it is a living reality. Thus, every critique of the old world has been made in the language of that world, yet directed against it and therefore automatically in a different language. Every revolutionary theory has had to invent its own terms, to destroy the dominant sense of other terms and establish new meanings in the “world of meanings” corresponding to the new embryonic reality needing to be liberated from the dominant trash heap. The same reasons that prevent our adversaries (the masters of the Dictionary) from definitively fixing language, today enable us to assert alternative positions that negate existing meanings. But we already know that these same reasons also prevent us from proclaiming any definitive certitudes. A definition is always open, never definitive. Ours have a historical value, they are applicable during a specific period, linked to a specific historical practice. . . .

    The decline of radical thought considerably increases the power of words, the words of power. Power creates nothing, it coopts. Words forged by revolutionary criticism are like partisans’ weapons: abandoned on the battlefield, they fall into the hands of the counterrevolution and like prisoners of war are subjected to forced labor. Our most direct enemies are the proponents and established functionaries of false critique. The divorce between theory and practice provides the central basis for cooption, for the petrification of revolutionary theory into ideology, which transforms real practical demands (for whose realization the premonitory signs are already appearing in the present society) into systems of ideas, into demands of reason. The ideologues of every variety, the watchdogs of the reigning spectacle, carry out this task, emptying the content from most corrosive concepts and putting them back into circulation in the service of maintaining alienation: dadaism in reverse. They become advertising slogans (see the recent Club Med prospectus). Concepts of radical critique suffer the same fate as the proletariat: they are deprived of their history, cut off from their roots. They become grist for power’s thinking machines.

    Our project of liberating words is historically comparable to the Encyclopédiste enterprise. The Enlightenment’s language of “tearing apart” (to continue the Hegelian image) lacked the conscious historical dimension; it was a real critique of the decrepit feudal world, but it had no idea of what would emerge from it (none of the Encyclopédistes were republicans). It was, rather, an expression of the bourgeois thinkers’ own internal tearing apart. Our language aims first of all at a practice that tears the world apart, beginning with tearing apart the veils that cloak it. Whereas the Encyclopédistes sought a quantitative enumeration, the enthusiastic description of a world of objects in which the bourgeoisie and the commodity were already victorious, our dictionary will express the qualitative, the possible but still absent victory, the repressed of modern history (the proletariat) and the return of the repressed. We propose the real liberation of language because we propose to put it into a practice free of all constraints. We reject any authority, linguistic or otherwise: only real life allows a meaning and only praxis verifies it. Debates over the reality or unreality of the meaning of a word, isolated from practice, are purely academic. We place our dictionary in that libertarian region which is still beyond the reach of power, but which is its only possible global successor.

    --Mustapha Khayati "Captive Words: Preface to a Situationist Dictionary"

    Thursday, April 20, 2006

    At the Stillpoint of Emergency

    Two Theses on History
    By Walter Benjamin

    VIII [The real state of emergency]
    The tradition of the oppressed teaches us that the “emergency situation” in which we live is actually the rule. We must attain to a concept of history which corresponds to this. For then it will become clear that the task before us is the introduction of a real state of emergency, thereby improving our position in the struggle against fascism. The reason that fascism stands a chance is that its opponents, in the name of progress, treat it as a historical norm. The surprise that the things we are experiencing in the [21st] century are “still” possible is by no means philosophical. This is not the beginning of knowledge, unless it is the knowledge that the conception of history [historicism] on which it rests is useless.

    XVII [Historical Materialism vs. Bourgeois Historicism]
    Historicism inevitably culminates in Universal History. Nowhere else does the materialist writing of history distance itself from historicism more clearly in methods. Universal historicism has no theoretical framework. Its method is merely additive: it marshals a mass of facts, in order to fill up a homogenous and empty time. In contrast, historical materialism for its part is based on a constructive principle. Thinking involves not only the stream of thoughts but also their still-point [Stillstellung]. Where thinking suddenly halts in a constellation
    overflowing with tensions, there it yields the same kind of shock by which it crystallizes itself into a monad [or microcosm]. Historical materialism approaches any historical object only when beholding it as such a monad. In this unit, it recognizes the sign of a messianic still-point of history, or put differently, a revolutionary chance in the struggle for the suppressed past. We perceive this in order to explode a specific epoch out of the homogenous course of history, a specific life out of its epoch, or a specific work out of its oeuvre. The result of the method is this: that the life-work is preserved and transcended within the work, just as the epoch is within the lifework, and the entire course of history is within the epoch. . . .

    Hikmet on Living

    This earth will grow cold, a star among stars
    and one of the smallest,
    a gilded mote on blue velvet --

    I mean this, our great earth.

    This earth will grow cold one day.
    not like a block of ice
    or a dead cloud even

    but like an empty walnut it will roll along
    in pitch-black space.

    You must grieve for this right now
    -- you have to feel this sorrow now --

    for the world must be loved this much
    if you're going to say "I lived"...
    ~~~ ~~~ ~~~
    From "On Living" by Nâzým Hikmet, written in prison February 1948,
    translated by Randy Blasing and Mutlu Konuk

    Wednesday, April 19, 2006

    Neil Young Album Impeaches Bush

    Alicia's blog, Last Left Turn Before Hooterville reports that she was invited to sing in a stellar choir on a new album by Neil Young, a good ole fashioned protest album that calls for the impeachment of Bush II. Her blog was picked up by the mass media where the story became News. This news was then treated as hateful treason by the usual Rightwing nutjobs.

    Here's an excerpt:

    On Wednesday, I was at work when I got a call for a Neil Young session the next day. Needless to say, I was excited about it - Neil Young is one of my musical heroes. When my husband and I got to Capitol, we found 98 other singers, a collection of L.A.'s finest. All I knew was that we were singing on a new Neil Young record, but when the lyrics we were supposed to sing flashed on the giant screen, a roar went up from the choir. I'm not going to give the whole thing away, but the first line of one of the songs was "Let's impeach the President for lyin'!" Turns out the whole thing is a classic beautiful protest record. The session was like being at a 12-hour peace rally. Every time new lyrics would come up on the screen, there were cheers, tears and applause. . . .

    Neil said it should be out in 6 to 8 weeks. I hope all of you get a chance to hear it.
    ~~~ ~~~ ~~~
    Alicia's blog is linked above.

    Tuesday, April 18, 2006

    Theocons and Theocrats

    In the May 1st issue of The Nation, the author of a book on American Theocracy explains why it is a genuine problem for democracy today.

    Here's how the essay begins:
    ~~~ ~~~ ~~~
    Is theocracy in the United States (1) a legitimate fear, as some liberals argue; (2) a joke, given the nation's rising secular population and moral laxity; (3) a worrisome bias of major GOP constituencies and pressure groups; or (4) all of the above? The last, I would argue.

    The characteristics are not inconsistent. No large nation -- no leading world power -- could ever resemble theocracies like John Calvin's Geneva, Puritan Massachusetts or early Mormon Utah. These were all small polities produced by unusual migrations of true believers.

    As a great power, a large heterogeneous nation like the United States goes about as far in a theocratic direction as it can when it meets the unfortunate criteria on display in George W. Bush's Washington: an elected leader who believes himself in some way to be speaking for God; a ruling party that represents religious true believers and seeks to mobilize the nation's churches; the conviction of many rank-and-file Republicans that government should be guided by religion and religious leaders; and White House implementation of domestic and international political agendas that seem to be driven by religious motivations and biblical worldviews.

    As several chapters in American Theocracy make clear, this kind of religious excess has been a problem -- indeed, a repeating Achilles' heel -- of leading powers from late-stage Rome (historian Gibbon thus explained Roman decline and fall) to the militant Catholicism of Habsburg Spain and most recently the evangelical and moral imperialist Britain that saw 1914 as something of an Armageddon against the German Kaiser's Antichrist and wound up in 1917-18 crusading in the Middle East to liberate Jerusalem. But although this facet of historical decline constitutes a major caution regarding the future of the United States, this essay will concentrate on the domestic political aspects-the theocratic tendencies in the GOP and the notable "religification" of American politics across a spectrum from life and death to science and medicine to climate change and biblical creationism. . . .
    ~~~ ~~~ ~~~

    {continues at link above}

    Wednesday, April 12, 2006

    On Sheehan's Tomb

    A Markerless Grave in Vacaville
    By Cindy Sheehan

    I am so tired of the Rovian, heartless, and ignorant smear machine attacking me and my family at every turn of my back.

    The latest abomination in their scrutiny of my life is the fact that Casey has no "tombstone." As if it were anybody's business but Casey's family. I am sure every last person who has a problem with this has buried a child and they know what we are going through.
    . . . .

    I will tell the world why Casey has no marker yet. In the first place, does anyone who is attacking me know how Casey was brought home from Iraq? We picked him up in the United loading dock in a cardboard box and he was off-loaded into a hearse without one honor guard. We had to wait for about a half hour on a curb near the United freight area for his one escort, who rode from Dover Air Force Base in a seat, while Casey was treated as an over-sized piece of luggage. Has anybody held her other sobbing children who are sitting on a curb in San Francisco, waiting for the remains of their big brother to be carried over to the dock by a forklift?

    Our so-called, illegitimate president has never attended a funeral, nor can families see the pictures of their loved ones as they are hauled like freight with flags on them from an immoral war zone. WE don't see them because Mama Bush doesn't want to "bother her pretty mind" with the images. America doesn't want to be bothered, either. We had a Casualty Officer who abandoned us when our mortuary refused to pay the cemetery and told us that the "government sent the money to the mortuary, so now it is your problem. You may have to sue the mortuary." Our government discards and dishonors its own.

    My Casey wasn't always a soldier. He was a son and brother whose murder has left an aching hole in our lives worse than an amputation. Sooner or later, amputations heal and quit throbbing; this hole never will, or can, heal.

    For the first year after Casey was killed, I didn't want to believe it. I didn't want to place a TOMBstone on my son's grave. I didn't want one more marble proof that my son was dead. I couldn't even call where he was buried a "cemetery," I had to call it "Casey's Park." I placed fresh flowers in the cup every week and journaled there almost on a daily basis, and often laid on it and fell asleep and dreamed of my needlessly killed son. Have any of these people who claim that I am pissing on my son's grave even visited him? Have they visited the grave of any soldier needlessly or senselessly killed in George's war of choice for oil and profit? Have they sobbed uncontrollably for my first born who shouldn't even need a gravestone? No, all they want to do is attack a mother who wants to prevent other people from having to bury their own child. They want to perpetuate a war that has already killed many thousands of our fellow human beings for absolutely nothing.

    Casey's shell is buried in Vacaville, California, not his spirit. He lives with me and he is constantly with me as I travel the world so other families, Iraqi or American, do not have to bury their children. Casey lives in the hearts of everyone who wants peace and works for peace. He will never truly die.

    There are many people whom the Bush regime has killed, either directly or indirectly, by their murderous policies: there are people buried under rubble of Iraq and who were buried under the rubble of the World Trade Towers, and if their families were lucky they could find small parts to bury, before their remains were carted away in the enormous trucks and barges; there are people still unaccounted-for in the swamps of New Orleans and in refrigerated trucks in Mississippi that will never even have graves, let alone gravestones. The Bush regime is good for business, all right; especially the funeral business.

    I know these people are searching for proof that I am a horrible person, and it must be evidence that I didn't love Casey if he doesn't have a marker. I know that they can't support a criminal regime that is slipping into fascism, so they have to attack a mom for the "crime" of being broken-hearted and trying to save lives.

    What they don't know is that they can't stop me from trying to save lives. No matter what they cook up next.

    It is too important. No more needless gravestones. No more wasted lives.

    American Intelligence as Oxymoron

    Polls found that while only 36 percent of Americans worry a great deal about global warming, 90 percent were prepared to fight its effects by caulking. Many scientists said that it was too late to stop climate change and that the earth was "past the point of no return." "We are looking for the devil," said a geochemist, "and we have found ourselves."
    --from Harper's Weekly

    Monday, April 10, 2006

    Best Countries in the World, 2005.

    Most and Least Livable Countries: UN Human Development Index, 2005

    The Human Development Index (HDI), published annually by the UN, ranks nations according to their citizens' quality of life rather than strictly by a nation's traditional economic figures. The criteria for calculating rankings include life expectancy, educational attainment, and adjusted real income. The 2005 index is based on 2003 figures.
    “Most Livable” Countries, 2005
    1. Norway 11. Japan
    2. Iceland 12. Netherlands
    3. Australia 13. Finland
    4. Luxembourg 14. Denmark
    5. Canada 15. United Kingdom
    6. Sweden 16. France
    7. Switzerland 17. Austria
    8. Ireland 18. Italy
    9. Belgium 19. New Zealand
    10. United States 20. Germany

    Upshot: Ireland & Iceland are more advanced than the US now.
    In related news, El Salvador (!?!) has been offered as a model for where the USA is heading under the Christian regime in power. See: Pro-Life Nation.

    Saturday, April 08, 2006

    Chicken Soup For The Chicken Hawk

    From the warmongers-r-us department, a roll call of key Chicken Hawks and the promotions they now enjoy, over at

    The Architects of War: Where Are They Now?
    Three years after the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq, the signs of the Bush administration’s mismanagement are glaring:

    * No nuclear weapons
    * No WMD
    * No collaborative relationship with al Qaeda
    * International terrorism on the rise
    * Botched reconstruction
    * Anarchic civil war
    * No independent Iraqi army
    * No Iraqi government
    * $300 billion spent and counting
    * More than 2,300 U.S. troops dead
    * An estimated 100,000 Iraqi civilians dead, as of October 2004

    President Bush has not fired any of the architects of the Iraq War. In fact, a review of the key planners of the conflict reveals that they have been rewarded – not blamed – for their incompetence.

    Check out the full report HERE.
    See also a very informative list of other promoted Chicken Hawks at Chicken Soup For The Chicken Hawk

    Wednesday, April 05, 2006

    Pacific Ocean Unwell

    Research fresh off a boat that docked Thursday in Alaska reveals some frightening changes taking place in the Pacific Ocean.

    As humans are pumping out more carbon dioxide that is helping to warm the planet, the ocean has been doing yeoman's work to lessen the effects - but it's taking a toll.

    Over time, the changes could have an impact that ripples through the food chain, from microscopic plants that can't grow right to salmon and whales unable to find enough to eat.

    The Pacific is getting warmer and more acidic, while the amount of oxygen and the building blocks for coral and some kinds of plankton are decreasing, according to initial results from scientists with National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's Pacific Marine Environmental Laboratory, the University of Washington and elsewhere. . . .

    {article continues at link above}