Thursday, August 10, 2006

Al Gore and John Woolman

There's a nice little brouhaha over the following oped piece published in USATODAY yesterday, which I paste in here (my comments after the story):

Gore isn't quite as green as he's led the world to believe
Updated 8/10/2006 10:44 AM ET
By Peter Schweizer
Al Gore has spoken: The world must embrace a "carbon-neutral lifestyle." To do otherwise, he says, will result in a cataclysmic catastrophe. "Humanity is sitting on a ticking time bomb," warns the website for his film, An Inconvenient Truth. "We have just 10 years to avert a major catastrophe that could send our entire planet into a tailspin."

Graciously, Gore tells consumers how to change their lives to curb their carbon-gobbling ways: Switch to compact fluorescent light bulbs, use a clothesline, drive a hybrid, use renewable energy, dramatically cut back on consumption. Better still, responsible global citizens can follow Gore's example, because, as he readily points out in his speeches, he lives a "carbon-neutral lifestyle." But if Al Gore is the world's role model for ecology, the planet is doomed.

For someone who says the sky is falling, he does very little. He says he recycles and drives a hybrid. And he claims he uses renewable energy credits to offset the pollution he produces when using a private jet to promote his film. (In reality, Paramount Classics, the film's distributor, pays this.)

Public records reveal that as Gore lectures Americans on excessive consumption, he and his wife Tipper live in two properties: a 10,000-square-foot, 20-room, eight-bathroom home in Nashville, and a 4,000-square-foot home in Arlington, Va. (He also has a third home in Carthage, Tenn.) For someone rallying the planet to pursue a path of extreme personal sacrifice, Gore requires little from himself.

Then there is the troubling matter of his energy use. In the Washington, D.C., area, utility companies offer wind energy as an alternative to traditional energy. In Nashville, similar programs exist. Utility customers must simply pay a few extra pennies per kilowatt hour, and they can continue living their carbon-neutral lifestyles knowing that they are supporting wind energy. Plenty of businesses and institutions have signed up. Even the Bush administration is using green energy for some federal office buildings, as are thousands of area residents.

But according to public records, there is no evidence that Gore has signed up to use green energy in either of his large residences. When contacted Wednesday, Gore's office confirmed as much but said the Gores were looking into making the switch at both homes. Talk about inconvenient truths.

Gore is not alone. Democratic National Committee Chairman Howard Dean has said, "Global warming is happening, and it threatens our very existence." The DNC website applauds the fact that Gore has "tried to move people to act." Yet, astoundingly, Gore's persuasive powers have failed to convince his own party: The DNC has not signed up to pay an additional two pennies a kilowatt hour to go green. For that matter, neither has the Republican National Committee.

Maybe our very existence isn't threatened.

Gore has held these apocalyptic views about the environment for some time. So why, then, didn't Gore dump his family's large stock holdings in Occidental (Oxy) Petroleum? As executor of his family's trust, over the years Gore has controlled hundreds of thousands of dollars in Oxy stock. Oxy has been mired in controversy over oil drilling in ecologically sensitive areas.

Living carbon-neutral apparently doesn't mean living oil-stock free. Nor does it necessarily mean giving up a mining royalty either.

Humanity might be "sitting on a ticking time bomb," but Gore's home in Carthage is sitting on a zinc mine. Gore receives $20,000 a year in royalties from Pasminco Zinc, which operates a zinc concession on his property. Tennessee has cited the company for adding large quantities of barium, iron and zinc to the nearby Caney Fork River.

The issue here is not simply Gore's hypocrisy; it's a question of credibility. If he genuinely believes the apocalyptic vision he has put forth and calls for radical changes in the way other people live, why hasn't he made any radical change in his life? Giving up the zinc mine or one of his homes is not asking much, given that he wants the rest of us to radically change our lives.

Peter Schweizer is a research fellow at the Hoover Institution and author of Do As I Say (Not As I Do): Profiles in Liberal Hypocrisy.

First, I note that Schweizer is a fellow at the Hoover Institute: a conservative think tank. Second, I'm sympathetic to Gore's argument and message, so I'm more inclined to give him the doubt.

I think what Schweizer has pointed out illustrates the difficulty there is in living an American lifestyle that doesn't contribute to pollution and global warming. Because I am sympathetic to Gore, I don't shoot the messanger just becuase not all of his words are backed by actions.

I contrast Al Gore with the Quaker John Woolman, mostly known for his Journal. Woolman was instrumental in convincing the Quakers to give up their slaves. One way he did this was by altering his own lifestyle: he owned no slaves, quit his tailor business (he was afraid he was going to make too much $$), and he wore no dyed clothes; for dye often came from the West Indies; a place which used African slaves to create the dyes. Once Woolman figured out where he was part of the problem he was trying to tackle, he took action. I like Woolman a lot. He is an inspiration to me to remember that one person, acting from conviction, can make a difference.

Here's one of his most relevant quotations:

"May we look upon our treasures, the furniture of our houses, and our garments, and try whether the seeds of war have nourishment in these our posessions."

Wednesday, June 07, 2006

Which Wolf do you Feed?

From graduation musings by Rabbi Marc Gellman:

An elder Cherokee chief took his grandchildren into the forest and sat them down and said to them, “A fight is going on inside me. This is a terrible fight and it is a fight between two wolves. One wolf is the wolf of fear, anger, arrogance and greed. The other wolf is the wolf of courage, kindness, humility and love.”

The children were very quiet and listening to their grandfather with both their ears. He then said to them, “This same fight between the two wolves that is going on inside of me is going on inside of you, and inside every person.”

They thought about it for a minute and then one child asked the chief, “Grandfather, which wolf will win the fight?” He said quietly, “The one you feed.”

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

The new Masculinity?

Looking at his empty plate after consuming a pizza, Mr. Singer [director of the upcoming Superman movie] had a further thought about the nature of masculinity, super or otherwise. "If there's any virtue in it, it has a vulnerable side," he said. "Because without vulnerability one can tend to lack compassion. And without compassion one can tend to lack humanity. And these are some things a man should strive to have."

Monday, June 05, 2006

Leaves of Grass

from the preface to Walt Whitman's Leaves of Grass:

This is what you shall do: Love the earth and sun and the animals, despise riches,
give alms to everyone who asks, stand up for the stupid and crazy,
devote your income and labor to others, hate tyrants, argue not
concerning God, have patience and indulgence toward the people and your
very flesh shall be a great poem.

Happy belated Earth Day, Jeff St.

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

My maternal grandmother

Hattie Daugherty, 85, Falmouth

Hattie M. Daugherty, 85, of Falmouth, Ky., passed away on Tuesday, February 28, at River Valley Nursing Home in Butler, Ky. She was a long-time member of Turner Ridge Baptist Church and more recently Falmouth Baptist Church. Born on April 15, 1920, she was the daughter of the late James O. and Belva (Lovelace) Sorrell. Her husband, Charles C. Daugherty, passed away in 1999. She was preceded in death by her sister, Mabel Easton, and six brothers, Calvin, Duane, Larry, Winston, Floyd, and Lloyd Sorrell. She worked many years for Hyde Park Clothing in Newport, Ky., and Dr. Scholl's Shoes, in Falmouth, Ky. Hattie and her husband Charles were long-time farmers in Pendleton County. Hattie was a great people person who was highly regarded throughout the community. She was very devoted to her family, friends, and church. She loved God's creation and enjoyed working in her yard.

She is survived by two daughters, Linda (Merwyn) Borders, Seymour, Tn., and Ada (J. W.) Wright, Falmouth, Ky., four grandchildren, Kevin Borders, Angie Wright, Paula Jacoby, and Brooke Cervantes, four great grandchildren, Tiffany Tipton, Ahnna Jacoby, Abigail Jacoby, and Ellie Borders, two grandsons-in-law, Jamie Cervantes and Randy Jacoby, one granddaughter-in-law, Susan Borders, and one sister, Ada Moore, Falmouth, Ky.

A service of celebration was held on Saturday, March 4, 2006, at Peoples Funeral Home in Falmouth, with pastor Don Mays and Merwyn Borders officiating. Pallbearers were Terry Sowder, Barry Sorrell, Kent Sorrell, Larry Bishop, Jamie Cervantes, Randy Jacoby, and Kevin Borders.

Interment took place in the Riverside Cemetery, Falmouth.

Memorials can be sent to Falmouth Baptist Church's Missions Fund.

Monday, February 13, 2006

What has happened to America's Jesus?

Opinion: What has happened to America's Jesus? from USA

By Rob Borsellino Mon Feb 13, 7:12 AM ET

I remember when Jesus Christ was about religion. That goes back to when he was caring and compassionate all the time, not just during the political campaign season.

He used to bring people together and give them hope. He wouldn't have his people get in your face and tell you to fight gay rights or you'll burn in hell. That's not what he was about. That's not the Jesus who made folks such as Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson rich and famous. He was a different guy from the 21st-century American Jesus Christ.

When I recently visited Sicily, Italy, the old Jesus was all over the place. His statue was on the counter at the restaurant and the coffee house. His image was on the wall at the clothing store and in the hotel lobby. And there was a huge painting of him on the side of an apartment building.

Sometimes he was with his mom and dad, and sometimes he was sitting with his pals - the apostles. Mostly he was hanging from the cross. Whatever he was up to, it was all about religion.

It was interesting because I didn't go to Sicily looking for a religious experience. I went looking for what's left of my family. My grandfather and his brother came to the United States in 1904 and left behind their parents and two sisters. The sisters had kids, grandkids, great grandkids.

I never met any of those people, and I knew nothing about Sicily except the obvious - pizza and the Mafia. My wife thought it was time to connect. She made some calls and let the family know we were coming.

We landed in Palermo, got our bags and were met by my cousin Peppino Rizzuti, who was holding a handwritten sign with my name on it.

He was there with three other cousins. They hooked us up with more family and spent the next seven days driving us all over the island and stuffing us with mozzarella, prosciutto, olives and about 50 kinds of pasta.

My cousin Maria made the sign of the cross before she ate. My cousin Antonio's car had a figurine of a saint on the dashboard. My cousin Gian Marco had a beautiful cross hanging from his neck.

But nobody was going on about God, Jesus and religion. It didn't come up. I saw all that and was reminded that you can be a decent person - a good son, husband and father - and still oppose the war in
Iraq. You can be a caring, thoughtful member of your community and still question whether Justice
Samuel Alito should have been confirmed. Jesus won't get mad at you.

Several times during the week, I thought about telling my family what's happened to Jesus in the United States - how he's been kidnapped by politicians and preachers who decide what he does and doesn't think. They speak for him, and it doesn't always make sense.

They say Jesus is "pro life," but he doesn't seem to have a problem with the death penalty. And he thinks stem cell research - something that would save lives - is no different from murdering babies. They say he's the embodiment of kindness, love, decency and compassion. But he hates gays, lesbians and Muslims. And he's not too crazy about Buddhists, Hindus and the rest. Jews? He can put up with them if he has to.

The Rev. Fred Phelps of the Westboro Baptist Church in Topeka claims to speak for Jesus and goes around the country talking about how "
AIDS cures fags." Pat Robertson says it would be a good idea if the United States killed the president of Venezuela. It would be a lot cheaper than starting another war.

All week I went over that stuff in my head and decided not to mention any of it to the family.

It would make America look ridiculous.

Rob Borsellino is a columnist for The Des Moines Register and author of So I'm talkin' to this guy ...

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

Our Deepest Fear?

Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequte,
Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure.
It is our light, not our darkness that frightens us.
We ask ourselves,
Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented and fabulous?
Actually, who are you not to be?
Your playing small does not serve the world.
There is nothing enlightening about shrinking so that other people
won't feel insecure around you.
We were born to manifest the glory that is within us.
It is not in some of us; it is in everyone.
And as we let our own light shine,
we consciously give other people permission to do the same.
As we are liberated from our own fear;
our presence automatically liberates others.

(NOTE: I've just learned that this has been incorrectly attributed to
Mandela's inagural address).
This is really from Marianne Williamson's A Return to Love: Reflections on the Princples of a Course in Miracles

Many thanks to Jennifer for the correction!

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

It's Meme time!

Four jobs I’ve had:

1. Florist
2. Dishwasher
3. Graduate Research Assistant
4. Assistant Social Work Research Professor

Four movies I can watch over and over:

1. Star Trek: The Wrath of Kahn
2. Much Ado About Nothing
3. Truly, Madly, Deeply
4. Roxanne

Four places I have lived:

1. Bethel, Vermont
2. Yuma, Arizona
3. Montreal, Canada
4. Louisville, KY

Four places I’ve vacationed:

1. Falmouth, KY
2. Jeckyll Island, GA
3. Edinburgh, Scotland
4. Dublin, Ireland

Four of my favorite dishes:

1. Chicken and Rice
2. Scallop Chowder
3. The Big Kahuna Pizza (Canadian bacon, pineapple, madarin oranges)
4. Eggs sunny-side up and sausage

Four sites I visit daily:

1. Boing Boing
2. Daily Kos
3. Ain't it Cool News
4. Dooce

Four places I would rather be right now:

1. In bed with a good book
2. Jeckyll Island, GA
3. On the treadmill
4. With friends camping in the woods

JFK's The Purpose of Poetry

I read something interesting in the current edition (Jan/Feb, 2006) of the Atlantic Magazine written in 1964 by President Kennedy about the purpose of poetry. Excerpts:

The men who create power make an indispensible contribution to the nation's greatness, but the men who question power make a contribution just as indispensible, especially when that questioning is disinterested, for they determine whether we use power or power uses us...

When power corrupts, poetry cleanses, for art establishes the basic human truths which must serve as the touchstones of our judgement.

In free society art is not a weapon, and it does not belong to the sphere of polemics and ideology.

I look forward to a great future for America--a future in which our country will match its military strength with our moral strength, its wealth with our wisdom, its power with our purpose.

And I look forward to an America which commands respect throughout the world, not only for its strength, but for its civilization as well.

And I look forward to a world which will be safe, not only for democracy and diversity, but also for personal distinction.

So, all that poetry you had to read in high school has a purpose after all!

Saturday, January 28, 2006

Slow reading start to New Year

January is nearly over, and I have yet finish a book of fiction. I am far behind past years already. I am working my through a thought-provoking baloney sandwhich, though. What is a baloney sandwhich, in the context of books, you may ask?

Well, I'm glad you did ask. It's a phrase coined by my father-in-law to describe books that you just read for distraction, or for fun. I've also hear them called "mind candy," and "books without any socially redeeming qualities."

I'm currently reading Alternate Generals, a book of alternate history where different generals appear in different time periods. The short stories in this edited collection are, for the most part, well written, and thought provoking.

One of my favs is "Billy Mitchel's Overt Act," where the U.S. bombs a Japanese carrier force on the way to attack Pearl Harbor. Because the US struck first, and because there was no major loss of US life (sunk battleships, etc.), the US reluctantly declares war on Japan, (the public is never fully behind the war) and the war ends 2 years later when the US and Japan sign a peace treaty. The good news is that no nuclear bomb is dropped on Japan by the US, but the implication is that the US and Japan will fight again.

I've thought a lot about this, because I think a key reason we went fully into WWII was because of the tragedy of Pearl Harbor, and our national outrage and sense of loss.

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Tom Delay a la Dr. Seuss

From The Witlist:

Tom DeLay Denies All Charges (As Told by Dr. Suess)

That Abramoff!
That Abramoff!
I do not like that Abramoff!

"Would you like to play some golf?"

I do not want to play some golf.
I do not want to, Abramoff.

"We could fly you there for free.
Off to Scotland, by the sea."

I do not want to fly for free.
I don't like Scotland by the sea.
I do not want to play some golf.
I do not want to, Abramoff.

"Would you, could you, take this bribe?
Could you, would you, for the tribe?"

I would not, could not, take this bribe.
I could not, would not, for the tribe.

"If we strong armed corporations
Into giving you donations?
They'd be funnelled to your PAC.
Would you then cut us some slack?"

I would not, could not, cut you slack.
I do not care about my PAC.
I do not want to play some golf.
I do not want to, Abramoff.

"A plane! A plane! A plane! A plane!
Would you, could you, for a plane?"

I could not, would not, for a plane.
Not for a bribe, not for the tribe.
Not for donations from corporations.
Not for my PAC, not for some slack.
Not from any schmoe named Jack.

"Would you help us buy some ships
Perfect for quick gambling trips?
Talk to people in the know
For a little quid pro quo?
Oh come now, don't be a snob.
Let us give your wife a job."

I will not help you buy some ships.
I do not wish for gambling trips.
My wife does not need a job
Even if she is a snob.
We do not like bribes, can't you see?
Why won't you just let me be?

"You do not like bribes, so you say.
Try them, try them, and you may.
Try them and you may, I say."

Jack. If you will let me be
I will try them, then you'll see.

Say.... I do like playing golf!
I like it, I do, Abramoff!
I do like Scotland by the sea.
It's such a thrilling place to be!
And I will take this bribe.
And I will help the tribe.
And I will take donations
From big corporations.
And I will help you buy some ships.
And I will take quick gambling trips.
Say, I'll give anyone the shaft
As long as it involves some graft!

I do so like playing golf!
Thank you! Thank you,

Thursday, January 12, 2006

Green is the new red, white and blue.

The New Red, White and Blue
New York Times

By Thomas L. Friedman

As we enter 2006, we find ourselves in trouble, at home and abroad. We are in trouble because we are led by defeatists - wimps, actually.

What's so disturbing about President Bush and Dick Cheney is that they talk tough about the necessity of invading Iraq, torturing terror suspects and engaging in domestic spying - all to defend our way of life and promote democracy around the globe.

But when it comes to what is actually the most important issue in U.S. foreign and domestic policy today - making ourselves energy efficient and independent, and environmentally green - they ridicule it as something only liberals, tree-huggers and sissies believe is possible or necessary.

Sorry, but being green, focusing the nation on greater energy efficiency and conservation, is not some girlie-man issue. It is actually the most tough-minded, geostrategic, pro-growth and patriotic thing we can do. Living green is not for sissies. Sticking with oil, and basically saying that a country that can double the speed of microchips every 18 months is somehow incapable of innovating its way to energy independence - that is for sissies, defeatists and people who are ready to see American values eroded at home and abroad.

Living green is not just a "personal virtue," as Mr. Cheney says. It's a national security imperative.

The biggest threat to America and its values today is not communism, authoritarianism or Islamism. It's petrolism. Petrolism is my term for the corrupting, antidemocratic governing practices - in oil states from Russia to Nigeria and Iran - that result from a long run of $60-a-barrel oil. Petrolism is the politics of using oil income to buy off one's citizens with subsidies and government jobs, using oil and gas exports to intimidate or buy off one's enemies, and using oil profits to build up one's internal security forces and army to keep oneself ensconced in power, without any transparency or checks and balances.

When a nation's leaders can practice petrolism, they never have to tap their people's energy and creativity; they simply have to tap an oil well. And therefore politics in a petrolist state is not about building a society or an educational system that maximizes its people's ability to innovate, export and compete. It is simply about who controls the oil tap.

In petrolist states like Russia, Iran, Venezuela and Sudan, people get rich by being in government and sucking the treasury dry - so they never want to cede power. In non-petrolist states, like Taiwan, Singapore and Korea, people get rich by staying outside government and building real businesses.

Our energy gluttony fosters and strengthens various kinds of petrolist regimes. It emboldens authoritarian petrolism in Russia, Venezuela, Nigeria, Sudan and Central Asia. It empowers Islamist petrolism in Sudan, Iran and Saudi Arabia. It even helps sustain communism in Castro's Cuba, which survives today in part thanks to cheap oil from Venezuela. Most of these petrolist regimes would have collapsed long ago, having proved utterly incapable of delivering a modern future for their people, but they have been saved by our energy excesses.

No matter what happens in Iraq, we cannot dry up the swamps of authoritarianism and violent Islamism in the Middle East without also drying up our consumption of oil - thereby bringing down the price of crude. A democratization policy in the Middle East without a different energy policy at home is a waste of time, money and, most important, the lives of our young people.

That's because there is a huge difference in what these bad regimes can do with $20-a-barrel oil compared with the current $60-a-barrel oil. It is no accident that the reform era in Russia under Boris Yeltsin, and in Iran under Mohammad Khatami, coincided with low oil prices. When prices soared again, petrolist authoritarians in both societies reasserted themselves.

We need a president and a Congress with the guts not just to invade Iraq, but to also impose a gasoline tax and inspire conservation at home. That takes a real energy policy with long-term incentives for renewable energy - wind, solar, biofuels - rather than the welfare-for-oil-companies-and-special-interests that masqueraded last year as an energy bill.

Enough of this Bush-Cheney nonsense that conservation, energy efficiency and environmentalism are some hobby we can't afford. I can't think of anything more cowardly or un-American. Real patriots, real advocates of spreading democracy around the world, live green.

Green is the new red, white and blue.