Your Tax Dollars At Work

Raw Story made a great catch this morning, drawing attention to an Earth Day website put up by Richard Pombo's House Committee on Resources. The site is a disgusting attempt to smear the environmental movement and whitewash the impact of industrial pollution on the planet, essentially claiming that environmental problems don't really exist.

The House Committee on Resources invites you to celebrate the achievements made in protecting the environment over the past several decades. Environmental trendlines continue in the right direction, with cleaner air and fresh water for all Americans. But too often, environmental headlines seem to predict impending apocalypse.

Good news doesn't sell as well as bad news, and the "sky is falling" sensationalism of environmental activists lead people to falsely believe that our environment is getting worse when it's actually getting better....

Unfortunately, the positive trendlines don't fill the pockets of America's environmental activist industry. Scare tactics and sensational rhetoric have enabled the top 30 organizations to generate billions in annual revenue, according to public documents. But how much of this money is spent on real, hands-on, "muddy boots" conservation work for the environment? Almost none. Instead, it is spent on lobbyists and lawyers, partisan politics, direct mail, and more and more sensational fundraising campaigns.

This is, to put it as nicely as possible, propaganda. And this propaganda -- in the form of a professionally designed website hosted on government servers -- is patently unethical, if not downright illegal. I'm not a lawyer, but it would seem to me that this site, with its nakedly partisan attacks on activists, violates the propaganda ban set by the Congress. The Bush administration has already been rebuked for its use of propaganda by the nonpartisan Government Accountability Office. Is the Republican Congress next?

Setting aside the legality and ethics of the site, its attacks on scientists and environmentalists are laughable. The "myths" the site claims to dispel are straw man arguments. Last time I checked, "[e]conomic growth harms the environment" was not one of the chief claims being put forward by the environmental movement. Rather, it seems to me that the exact opposite claim has been repeatedly made by mainstream environmentalists, that development of new, more environmentally responsible technologies can help to grow the economy. That's exactly the case being made by the Apollo Alliance, for example.

The Apollo Alliance provides a message of optimism and hope, framed around rejuvenating our nation's economy by creating the next generation of American industrial jobs and treating clean energy as an economic and security mandate to rebuild America. America needs to hope again, to dream again, to think big, and to be called to the best of our potential by tapping the optimism and can-do spirit that is embedded in our nation's history.

This website, full of slander and smear, is just the latest example of Republican rule in disarray. Their policies have run headlong into a wall of scientific facts, so their response is to create a website backed with the imprimatur of the United States Government to muddy the waters and confuse the debate. It's the final flailings of a weak Republican majority desperately trying to stay in power. It's as pathetic as it is disgusting.

'An Inconvenient Truth'

'An Inconvenient Truth' is one of the scariest horror movies I've ever seen. Technically, it's not a horror film really, it's a documentary. And that's precisely what makes it so horrifying. I was lucky enough to get a chance to catch an advance screening of the new global warming documentary last night in Manhattan and, while I tend to shy away from offers like this from PR flacks (really, what's the point of me getting a free advance copy of 'The Aristocrats' on DVD?), seeing 'An Inconvenient Truth' seemed relevant enough.

Oddly, it was just last week that I watched the trailer for the film online. I was riveted. Part political documentary, part college science class, part disaster movie, I was actually shaken. And this was just the trailer!  I was so moved that I actually set about doing something that I'd been putting off for months. Here in New Jersey, we have a program called NJ Clean Power Choice. It's really simple. For a nominal additional charge tacked on to the existing rate, energy consumers get to choose between four different suppliers of alternative energy. Three of these will purchase all of the energy you consume with a portfolio of more environmentally responsible choices, like wind, solar, hydroelectric, and even landfill gas. One of them will replace 15% of your power consumption with local wind power from the coastal Jersey-Atlantic Wind Farm. Personally, I saw the trailer for the documentary, remembered that I'd been putting off enrolling in the Clean Power Choice program since last fall, went to the website and signed up to have 100% of our electricity provided by alternative sources.

Obviously, like most readers of this site, it makes sense that I'd be stirred to action by a film that diligently lays out the case for immediate action on global warming. But having seen the documentary, I'm confident that the people moved to act won't just be already environmentally aware progressives like myself. Rather than being preachy or browbeating, the film couches its message in a documentary that's really as much about Gore as it is global warming. There's a great deal of biographical footage in the film -- Al Gore's college years, Al Gore in the House, Al Gore in the Senate, Al Gore as Vice President, Al Gore on his family's farm, Al Gore's childhood home in Washington, Al Gore with his children, Al Gore during the 2000 election nightmare -- which helps ground the story. Thankfully, it never seems gratuitous or self-serving. Rather, it's all offered as explanation for why he cares so much about the issue and background on how hard he's worked to get it into the public eye.

There's definitely a sense of one man screaming at a wall. Gore is shown sitting in the back seat of cars, in airplanes, in hotel rooms, and in vacant conference rooms, diligently working on his Mac laptop, building and refining his presentation on global warming. And of course, he's shown giving the presentation, really the backbone of the film. It's a presentation full of shocking and heartbreaking statistics about the reality of the problem. But there's also a good deal of humor in the mix, as well. We've all seen that Al Gore, when he's comfortable, can be a pretty funny guy. Talking about the environment, he's at the top of his game. (A short Matt Groening cartoon, a key part of the presentation, certainly doesn't hurt.)

And take heart in the fact that it's not all just doom and gloom. The film ends with the promise that there are answers to this seemingly intractable crisis. All we need is the will to change. Gore offers up as an example of the possibility of halting global warming the fact that the growth of the hole in the ozone layer, another problem once seen as unsolvable, has been reversed through human innovation and action.

I'm not going to get into every statistic in the film. It loses something when laundry-listed on a website like this. The documentary really is the best conveyor of the information, so I'm strongly urging everyone to see it for yourself when it's released publicly next month. This film is an important wake-up call.

BILL WINTER, CO-06: How can the netroots help a progressive candidate?

I am cross posting this from Daily Kos--I hope I am doing this correctly.  BGW

    Conventional political wisdom suggest that a political candidate should be cautious and play things close to the vest. Well, as a guy who spent 10 years with the Navy and Marine Corps, caution is not my most obvious attribute. You may have heard that Marines tend to charge in where even angels fear to tread, and that's certainly true about me. Were it not so I wouldn't even be running for Congress in Colorado against Tom Tancredo.

    And so, my diary today is an open challenge to the netroots, and my question is this: What value do you offer to a progressive candidate like me?

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Bush and His Billionaires Caused It. Let Them Pay ©

All the talk of Catastrophe Funds seems silly to me; the reasoning is apt.  I think there are better sources for these subsidies than the government. In my mind, our efforts are misplaced.  

It is true; we as a nation and as a world have seen an increase in the number and intensity of cataclysmic storms. Tornados, droughts, hurricanes and other recent disasters have caused great calamity.  We are mired in misfortune. However, we are working to pay for what we caused.  We are closing the barn door behind us; our prides and joys are all long gone.  We now, belatedly, prepare for what was our own ignorance.  We elected George W. Bush, twice.

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Clean Power: Lead or Get Out of the Way

I've long been irked by the moves taken by supposedly progressive lawmakers to block the installation of wind turbines for aesthetic reasons. It really does not get any more hypocritical than people claiming to want to fight global warming fighting even harder against wind power that might obstruct the scenic views of their constituents. It's perfectly reasonable for an elected representative of the people to stand up for the wishes of the people. However, the potential benefits of sustainable energy far outweigh the personal interests of a relatively small group of constituents.

It should be obvious to many readers that I am referring pretty specifically to Senator Ted Kennedy. As far back as 2003, Kennedy has publicly opposed a plan to install wind turbines off of Cape Cod in Nantucket Sound. The plan's opponents, like legendary journalist Walter Cronkite, talk a lot about making "natural treasures" like Nantucket Sound "off limits to industrialization." But personally, I think it's pretty crass to call a project like this "industrialization." After all, wind power is more about reversing the impact of twentieth century industrialization than furthering it.

The Wall Street Journal's Washington Wire blog has the details on a move by Kennedy to scuttle the plans for this proposed wind farm.

Sen. Ted Kennedy and other rich land owners on Cape Cod continue their attacks on a proposed wind turbine power plant on Nantucket Sound. Aides to Sen. Ted Stevens (R., Alaska), chairman of the Senate Commerce Committee, say Kennedy suggested an amendment, now tucked in the Coast Guard's annual authorization bill, that gives Gov. Mitt Romney, a Republican foe of the project, a veto even though it would be located on a federally owned part of the Sound. Two Democrats on the panel, Senators Maria Cantwell and Frank R. Lautenberg, objected. A third Democrat, Sen. Jeff Bingaman, has issued a statement complaining that the move makes a "mockery" of efforts by Congress to increase clean domestic energy supplies.

I'd like to say that we should take this story with a grain of salt as it comes from aides to a Republican Senator. After all, when news of the Romney veto came to light, it was Stevens and fellow Alaska Republican Don Young who took the heat. But unfortunately, given Kennedy's opposition to this plan, it seems to me that news of his involvement is most likely accurate. After all, why should Stevens take a hit for Kennedy?

The right loves this story. And love it they should. It's a clear cut case of liberal hypocrisy. Here's a leading member of the party that claims to be pro-environment trying to shut down an environmentally responsible project because it would take away from his scenic views. It's classic NIMBYism. John Stossel couldn't make up a better narrative if he tried.

There have been some attempts by Cape Cod environmentalists to downplay the potential benefits from the project. Senator Kennedy's nephew, Robert Kennedy Jr, has been one of the project's most outspoken critics. Initially, that gave me some pause as to the true environmental responsibility of the project. But at best, it seems that his judgement is likely clouded on this particular subject. Here's how the Natural Resources Defense Council characterizes the project:

As the first offshore wind energy undertaking in the nation, Cape Wind would set a precedent for similar facilities that could improve air quality, public health and global warming emissions. The Cape Wind project would provide 420 megawatts of electricity from 130 emissions-free turbines. That is enough to supply 75 percent of power needed on Cape Cod, Nantucket and Martha's Vineyard.

By using clean energy instead of fossil fuel electricity generation, the Cape Wind project will eliminate approximately 360 tons of particulate matter, 2,400 tons of sulfur oxides, 800 tons of nitrogen oxides, and 1,000,000 tons of carbon dioxide for every year of operation. That will reduce respiratory problems and other pollution-related health effects, as well as reducing the carbon pollution that causes global warming.

I have a great deal of respect for Senator Kennedy. But on this issue, he needs to either lead or get out of the way. This isn't about the views from Cape Cod. This is about the future of our planet.

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