The Vauban neighborhood in Freiburg, Germany, is being developed as a model sustainable district on the site of a former military base. Many of the houses produce more energy than they use. Other buildings are heated by a neighborhood-scale combined heat and power station burning wood chips. (Photo by Jayson Antonoff)Saw this at another blog, click the title above to check out While the Earth Burns. Food for thought as we near the transition to a post-oil lifestyle and economy.
By Isabelle de Pommereau, Common Dreams
Welcome to Germany's best-known environmentally friendly neighborhood and a successful experiment in green urban living. The Vauban development - 2,000 new homes on a former military base 10 minutes by bike from the heart of Freiburg - has put into practice many ideas that were once dismissed as eco-fantasy but which are now moving to the center of public policy.
With gas prices well above $6 per gallon across much of the continent, Vauban is striking a chord in Western Europe as communities encourage people to be less car-dependent. Just this week, Paris unveiled a new electric tram in a bid to reduce urban pollution and traffic congestion.
"Vauban is clearly an offer for families with kids to live without cars," says Jan Scheurer, an Australian researcher who has studied the Vauban model extensively. "It was meant to counter urban sprawl - an offer for families not to move out to the suburbs and give them the same, if better quality of life. And it is very successful."
There are numerous incentives for Vauban's 4,700 residents to live car-free: Carpoolers get free yearly tramway passes, while parking spots - available only in a garage at the neighborhood's edge - go for €17,500 (US$23,000). Forty percent of residents have bought spaces, many just for the benefit of their visiting guests.
As a result, the car-ownership rate in Vauban is only 150 per 1,000 inhabitants, compared with 430 per 1,000 inhabitants in Freiburg proper.
In contrast, the US average is 640 household vehicles per 1,000 residents. But some cities - such as Davis, Calif., where 17 percent of residents commute by bike - have pioneered a car-free lifestyle that is similar to Vauban's model.
Vauban, which is located in the southwestern part of the country, owes its existence, at least in part, to Freiburg - a university town, like Davis - that has a reputation as Germany's ecological capital.
In the 1970s, the city became the cradle of Germany's powerful antinuclear movement after local activists killed plans for a nuclear power station nearby. The battle brought energy-policy issues closer to the people and increased involvement in local politics. With a quarter of its people voting for the Green Party, Freiburg became a political counterweight in the conservative state of Baden-Württemberg.
At about the same time, Freiburg, a city of 216,000 people, revolutionized travel behavior. It made its medieval center more pedestrian-friendly, laid down a lattice of bike paths, and introduced a flat rate for tramways and buses.
Environmental research also became a backbone of the region's economy, which boasts Germany's largest solar-research center and an international center for renewable energy. Services such as installing solar panels and purifying wastewater account for 3 percent of jobs in the region, according to city figures.
Across Europe, similar projects are popping up. Copenhagen, for instance, maintains a fleet of bikes for public use that is financed through advertising on bicycle frames.
But what makes Vauban unique, say experts, is that "it's as much a grass-roots initiative as it is pursued by the city council," says Mr. Scheurer. "It brings together the community, the government, and the private sector at every state of the game."
As more cities follow Vauban's example, some see its approach taking off. "Before you had pilot projects. Now it's like a movement," says Mr. Heck. "The idea of saving energy for our landscape is getting into the basic planning procedure of German cities."
Friday, December 22, 2006
Thursday, December 21, 2006
Via HispanicTips: Video from Cactus, Texas.
Both will feature the occasional clueless person (in the interest of being "fair and balanced"), but will at least give you some idea of what went down.
Wednesday, December 20, 2006
In North American Secessionists Confront the Empire: Divided We Stand, United We Fall Dave Jansson looks at the contemporary and fairly diverse secessionist movement scene, its promise and pitfalls.
In The Age of Mammals, Rebecca Solnit offers a look into the crystal ball at one possible scenario for the dawn of the second quarter of this century as a means of assessing the current dark days and some of the interesting trends that have largely fallen under the radar. Indigenous movements, community farm co-ops, etc., may have seemed little more than a nuissance for those plotting the "New American Century" but could easily in retrospect have been the fabric needed to fashion a more sustainable means of human existence.
I think it's reasonably safe to say that Texas Gov. Rick "Teflon Hair" Perry would have a much different reaction. "Terrorize Hispanics on a mass scale? No problem. Whereabouts of detainees still unknown? Out of sight out of mind."
Iowa Governor Tom Vilsack is complaining to President Bush about the handling of the raids.
DES MOINES, Iowa Governor Tom Vilsack is complaining to President Bush In a letter, Vilsack says as many as 90 people were taken into custody from the Swift and Co. meatpacking plant in Marshalltown, Iowa. The whereabouts of some of them are still unknown. read more From - ktre.com
Tuesday, December 19, 2006
If this measure is implemented it could have very grave consequences for the American economy. As early as September 2005 Aljazeera published an article on its website that Iran was about to begin pricing its oil in euros. According this article just about everyone would benefit, except the United States. For at least fifty years about 70 % of all currency reserves were in American dollars. This made the dollar the strongest currency on earth. Central banks need to have important reserves in dollars because up until now oil, the most important commodity of the world, is mostly priced in dollars. Since the irresponsible policies of the current American administration have allowed America's national debt to rise to crippling heights, its ailing economy became mostly dependent upon the high demand for its currency. Or, to put it simply, the dollar may no longer be exchangeable for gold but it can be exchanged for oil. Since the demand for oil increases steadily and the price of oil also increases, the dollar is a safe bet. Until now, that is.I've noted before the possibility of a war with Iran. Definitely at stake is the status of the US dollar as the reserve currency, as was the case with Iraq under Hussein at the turn of the century. Of course there are some problems with starting yet another war while the one in Iraq continues to fester. Getting a "coalition of the willing" could be a lot trickier this time around, as the author notes, and Iran is no slouch militarily unlike the case with Iraq. A nearly broken US military would find taking on Iran to be a gargantuan undertaking - one that would lead to even more spilled blood than has already been experienced. Iran could also more effectively cut off oil supplies which, given the sheer amount of dependence we have on oil to fuel whatever's left of our industries as well as shipping and agriculture, could easily precipitate a collapse of the US as we currently know it.
The adoption of the euro for oil transactions will provide the European currency with a reserve status that will benefit the Europeans at the expense of the Americans. On September 2, 2005 the Global Politician quoted an expert stating "One of the Federal Reserve’s nightmares may begin to unfold when it appears that international buyers will have a choice of buying a barrel of oil for $60 on the NYMEX (New York Mercantile Exchange) and IPE (London’s International Petroleum Exchange) or purchase a barrel of oil for €45 to €50 via an alternative Iranian bourse." In this scenario an already-existent global trend of shifting foreign currency reserves from dollars to euros would accelerate, thus strengthening the euro and weakening the dollar on the international market. Imports would start to cost America so much more that its economy would not be able to cope anymore and the stock market bubble would burst.
But is it likely to happen? Well, it has happened before it seems. In 2000 Saddam Houssein demanded euros for Iraq's oil. At first he wasn't taken all to seriously but when it became clear that he meant business, political pressure was exerted to change his mind. Other oil producing countries began to voice their intent to accept payments in euros or yen. So, when Bush and his cabal of neocons invaded Iraq, why exactly were they doing this? Because of Saddam's long defunct pipe-dream of weapons of mass destruction? Was it about spreading democracy? Indignation about an inhuman regime? Or was it about defending the American dollar and sending a clear message to other countries that a superpower would not tolerate its super-currency flouted. Some have argued that Bush started the war to seize Iraq's oilfields. But why would he want to? Strangely enough: as long as the dollar is backed by oil, America can print as many dollars as it wants and... buy oil with them. Defending the dollar as the unique oil-currency is infinitely more important than seizing the oil itself. And look what happened: barely two months after the United States invaded Iraq, the Oil for Food Program was terminated and the Iraqi euro accounts were switched back to dollars. Global dollar supremacy was once again restored. That was the real mission that was accomplished.
That is also the reason neocons aren't too worried about the way the war in Iraq is going. As far as they are concerned it may drag on for another twenty years and cost tens of thousands of American lives as long as the supremacy of the dollar is maintained. For the neocons and their conspiracy for a New American Century this is the basis of all that they are trying to accomplish. This is what Krassimir Petrov in the Energy Bulletin has to say about it: "A nation-state taxes its own citizens, while an empire taxes other nation-states. The history of empires, from Greek and Roman, to Ottoman and British, teaches that the economic foundation of every single empire is the taxation of other nations. (...) Historically, imperial taxation has always been direct: the subject state handed over the economic goods directly to the empire. For the first time in history, in the twentieth century, America was able to tax the world indirectly, through inflation. It did not enforce the direct payment of taxes like all of its predecessor empires did, but distributed instead its own fiat currency, the U.S. Dollar, to other nations in exchange for goods with the intended consequence of inflating and devaluing those dollars and paying back later each dollar with less economic goods—the difference capturing the U.S. imperial tax."
The immediate question is whether the neocons will attempt to intervene in Iran in an effort to prevent the formation of a crude oil pricing mechanism in euros.
For a bit of background, see my earlier post on the raid in nearby Cactus, TX. One thing that'll jump out is the discrepancy between the official spin and what average folks actually saw going down. Now let's see what Roberto Lovato, writing for TomPaine.com has to say:
Last week’s controversial immigration raids at Swift & Company meatpacking plants in six states, which federal officials have characterized as the largest sweep of its kind in U.S. history, should send waves of fear among citizens and non-citizens alike. The very high profile arrest and detention of almost 1,300 workers marks a major move to further erode all of our rights.
Merely viewing “Operation Wagon Train” as another in the lengthening line of dehumanizing and brutal attacks on immigrant and labor rights—as most analysts do—falls short. That’s because in the so-called War on Terror immigration and immigrants have become the justification of choice in the ongoing erosion of labor, privacy and other rights under the Bush administration.
We see for instance, that those rounded up have been disappeared:
For example, a statement about the status of the Swift workers by John Bowen, the attorney representing the workers on behalf of the United Food and Commercial Workers Local 7, was indistinguishable from those of attorneys representing detainees in Guantanamo or in secret CIA facilities. “We don't know where they are and we don't know what's happening," he said. "We don't know if they are being pressured to do something or not. We can't provide them or their families with information until we know where they are."
The official spin is that the raid had to do with "identity theft", and immigrant status was only secondary:
One of the distinguishing characteristics of the recent raid is the effort by Department of Homeland Security head Michael Chertoff and Immigration and Citizenship Enforcement chief Julie Myers to frame it as a crackdown on “identity theft.”
When I called to find out more about the raids, ICE public affairs officer Richard Rocha was anxious to talk about how the need to protect “victims of identity theft” prompted the Swift & Company raid. The investigation “began as an identity theft investigation and we only later learned about the illegal workers at the plants,” he said.
Sounds nice, but, something just ain't adding up, as Lovato goes on to note:
“OK, sure. You discovered that there were undocumented workers after the fact,” I thought. Having covered privacy and electronic surveillance issues a few years ago, I asked Rocha what sorts of traditional identity theft practices ICE found. Rocha only cited the case of a man who was stopped because his driver’s license had violations which he was later found not to have committed.
“Are there any instances of credit card scams?” I asked. “Not that I know of” he responded. “Bank fraud?” I asked. “I have no specifics” he answered. “Terrorism links?” I asked. “We have not been told of any links to terrorism regarding the identity theft cases tied to Swift employees,” he said.
So much for the official spin. The identity theft angle falls apart at the seams. Furthermore, let's get a look at how the language of militarism is used:
At a press conference, Myers used the increasingly militarized language of immigration policy to describe the Swift & Company raid:
This investigation has uncovered a disturbing front in the war against illegal immigration. We believe that the genuine identities of possibly hundreds of U.S. citizens are being stolen or hijacked by criminal organizations and sold to illegal aliens in order to gain unlawful employment in this country. Combating this burgeoning problem is one of ICE’s highest priorities.
So this is "war" apparently in the minds of the Feds. Add to that check out the exaggeration used:
“Hundreds of U.S. citizens” refers to alleged and potential cases. Of the nearly 1,300 grabbed and detained without legal recourse (including U.S citizens) only 65 were charged “identity theft” and ICE representative Rocha could only provide one concrete case after repeated requests for other examples besides the drivers license case he cited. Victims of identity theft are people who generally have some personal identity document—Social Security number, credit card number, bank account—stolen or lost and then used for fraud, deception or economic gain.
But there is an agenda that should concern civil libertarians:
Chertoff also used the discussion of the Swift raid to highlight the guest worker program and a national ID card, a high Bush administration priority. The best way to deal with the issues raised in the raid, Chertoff said, “would be a program that would allow businesses that need foreign workers—because they can't otherwise satisfy their labor needs—to be able to get those workers in a regulated program that gives us visibility into who is coming in, has a secure form of identification and makes sure that the federal government is able to collect and promptly allocate all the necessary taxes.”This is what Bu$hCo wants: a national ID card. Big Brother wants to watch us all. Not only was the raid designed to strike terror in the Hispanic community (a very sizable community in the "high plains" region which includes the Texas & Oklahoma panhandles and southwestern Kansas), but to strike sufficient terror more broadly in order to get us all to clamor for "protection" we don't need at the expense of our rights.
Speaking of rights, my friend Manuel has some pertinent information about resources for immigrant families:
Courtesy of the American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA)As the saying goes, knowledge is power. Whatever you do, don't believe the government's hype.
**Toll-free number for families members of workers detained in Swift raids: 1-866-341-3858
Resources for Immigrants Detained or Fearing Further Raids:
Know Your Rights brochure, available in English, Spanish, Arabic, Urdu, Hindi, Punjabi, Farsi, and Somali, from the ACLU
People who seek and hold power over others aren’t influenced for the good by public discourse. They mine it for leverage, seek ways to direct it towards things supportive of their programs and mine it for trendy, effective rationales. Public discourse is a vehicle for their psychological warfare. The first step is always getting people to consider something patently ridiculous as worthy of serious attention. Social Security, for example, is now under attack by Charles Rangel [D-NY] and Robert Rubin, the Clinton administration Secretary of the Treasury. They know their arguments are bogus. They want them to be taken seriously, and discussed seriously, so that elements of them appear in the received wisdom columns in the newspapers. Eventually, enough people will accept that there must be something wrong. Why would people be talking about it so much if there weren’t?
One might well ask how anyone could know that such things are psychological warfare, beyond a shadow of a doubt. It’s because the designers of the campaign explicitly say so. They’re proud of it, they think it’s good and a good thing to be doing. When someone says he’s going to do something and then verifiably takes steps to do it, you’re not going to get much better proof. People like that aren’t going to be swayed by debunking. At best, they’ll be forced to change their perception management tactics. They’ll be swayed when 20 or 30 percent of the labor force refuses to show up for work. They’ll be swayed when they lose privileged access to crony networks. The “lesser evilism” votes harvested by cretins like Rangel aren’t persuasive. Every counter-argument, no matter how well explicated, becomes a waste of effort if the last step of it is affirming the shreds of legitimacy he’s gained through formalized, circumscribed democracy.
Let's just say that I've been advocating an independent stance among lefties for a while, rather than simply affiliating with the Democrats for lack of a better option. Simply voting will not persuade the Congresscritters, as their main concern is raking in the all-mighty dollars ponied up by lobbyists of varying stripes. The psy-ops waged during the 2006 midterms were impressive. To listen to the Dem politicians and their various allies on the Sunday morning talkshow circuit, they were running against the war that Bu$hCo started (and that, gasp, many Dems meekly enabled). But after the elections were a done deal, and the fates of the myriad candidates were sealed, leaders of the Democrats got to sowing their oats as a majority party by (you guessed it) cutting and running from the anti-war rhetoric. Hence, we'll likely see next year continued funding for the Bu$hCo debacles in Iraq & Afghanistan, and approval for a "surge" of troops for the Iraq debacle (we'll be told by Sen. Reid no doubt that this will be "temporary"). Similarly, all the anti-Bu$hCo rhetoric was pretty damned impressive to the extent that it provided hope to those expecting investigations leading to impeachment. Not so fast, sez in-coming Speaker Pelosi. The 2008 elections are just around the corner, see, and there are "other priorities." Besides, what's the worst damage old Junior Caligula could do anyways? Of course if one must ask that question, one hasn't paid much attention. Don't even get me started on Social Security - we'd already been through the whole "crisis" lunacy before. Not too surprisingly, a bit of fresh donations from the right lobbyists will convince the likes of Rangel that there is a "crisis", if only one affecting profit margins and CEO salaries. Can't have that, now can we.In the meantime, expect plenty of fiddling while the 'hood burns to the ground.
Monday, December 18, 2006
Noticed this blog while looking at the traffic over at Blue Oklahoma. As an aside, make sure to check out Blue Oklahoma too - there's usually some fresh content every couple days, hopefully more content as time goes along.
General Augusto Pinochet, who escaped earthly justice on December 10, was detained in London in 1999 awaiting a ruling by a British court on whether he would be extradited to Spain on a Spanish judge's warrant to face charges of crimes against humanity committed during his rule in Chile from 1973 to 1990. "I tell you how I feel," he told a London journalist at the time. "I would like to be remembered as a man who served his country, who served Chile throughout his entire life on this earth. And what he did was always done thinking about the welfare of Chile."From William Blum's latest edition of his Anti-Empire Report.
P.W. Botha, former president of South Africa died November 1. He was a man who had vigorously defended the apartheid system, which led to the jailing of tens of thousands of people. He never repented or apologized for his actions, and resisted attempts to make him appear before the South African Truth and Reconciliation Commission. At one point he declared: "I am not going to repent. I am not going to ask for forgiveness. What I did, I did for my country."
As Pol Pot lay on his death bed in 1997, he was interviewed by a journalist, who later wrote: "Asked whether he wants to apologize for the suffering he caused, he looks genuinely confused, has the interpreter repeat the question, and answers ‘No'. ... ‘I want you to know that everything I did, I did for my country'."
"In these three decades I have been actuated solely by love and loyalty to my people in all my thoughts, acts, and life." Adolf Hitler, "Last Will and Testament", written in his bunker in his final hours, April 29, 1945.
Fast Forward now to 2036 ... George W. Bush lies dying, Fox News Channel is in the room recording his last words ... "I know that people think the whole thing ... that thing in Iraq ... was a bad thing, and they hold it against me ... I appreciate their view ... I can understand how they feel ... But y'know, I did it for America, and the American people, and their freedom ... The more you love freedom, the more likely it is you'll be attacked ... Saddam was a real threat ... I still think he had weapons of mass destruction ... and someday we'll find 'em ... someday we'll say mission accomplished! ... that will really be a turning point! ... So I'm prepared to meet my maker and whatever he has in mind for me ... in fact I say Bring it on!"
William Shirer, in his monumental work "The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich", comments that Hitler's Last Will and Testament "confirm that the man who had ruled over Germany with an iron hand for more than twelve years, and over most of Europe for four, had learned nothing from his experience."
Shirer tells us of another happening concerning Hitler's bunker, on April 12. When news of the death of President Franklin Roosevelt reached Nazi Propaganda Minister Joseph Goebbels, he phoned Hitler in the bunker. "My Fuehrer," Goebbels said. "I congratulate you! Roosevelt is dead! ... It is the turning point."
Sunday, December 17, 2006
Quick quiz: One of the bloggers listed in this weekend's carnival is a satirist. Can you guess which one? Clearly Delay can't. (Nudge nudge. Wink wink.)
It's up to the Dems now. Will they have the spine and the wherewithal to put an end to it...without passing more laws that increase the executive's power to order spying on more of us without adequate judicial oversight?My short answer: Don't count on it.
Rosemarie “RMJ” Jackowski—America’s Peace Grandma—is facing a retrial on charges stemming from her arrest at a March 2003 anti-war rally in Vermont. To get up to speed on this important story, here’s my October 2005 interview with RMJ. To bring yourself completely up to date, check out this article about the impending retrial.Check it out.
The movie was very well done and I recommend you see it. Watching the movie I got chill bumps more than once when listening to the Hitler supporters. The arguments were very similar to those used in defense of Bush. They claimed anyone who spoke out was a "traitor", "aiding the enemy", and "dishonoring the troops." We must make sure our society does not reach the end of the path it is headed down right now - a path similar to that which Germany went down. It's important for us to keep speaking out and never be silenced by those who lead our country. Power is in numbers, which is why we must let it be known that the majority does not support an unjust war.More info about the film can be found here.
Sophie Scholl's last words were "Die Sonne scheint noch," meaning "The Sun still shines." We will not be silenced and our society can not afford for us to back down.
Cabaret Voltaire: An extensive website covering not only the pioneering industrial band itself, but it members' various solo and side projects.
Throbbing Gristle: An extensive website covering another 1970s industrial band. Fascinating music and equally fascinating personalities behind the music.
Industrial Records: A short-lived label that was the original home to Throbbing Gristle's recorded output.
Clock DVA: late 1970s & 1980s industrial group.
23 Skidoo: another late 1970s & 1980s industrial group that briefly re-formed at the turn of the 21st century.
I was a bit young for the first wave of industrial but was definitely of age when the second wave of industrial (usually referred to as industrial dance) was at its peak, and combos such as Skinny Puppy, Psychic TV, Frontline Assembly, and Cabaret Voltaire were recording and performing much of their groundbreaking work. I never really got into the industrial metal vibe (although there are a couple Ministry albums I really dug), and really prefer the first wave of industrial (cats like Throbbing Gristle and Cabaret Voltaire were at their most experimental in the 1970s, producing music that had the abrasiveness of punk filtered through electronics, minimalism, and all sorts of other dangers). The early stuff in particular focused on making music of found objects and sounds, and on the possibilities of non-musicians as musical performers. The soundscapes are bleak, dark, forbidding assaults on the senses. Even the later more dance-oriented industrial recordings maintain an atmosphere of inescapable and claustrophobic alienation, anomie, with the funk grooves stripped down to their most starkly mechanical as humanly possible. It was definitely music of the times that has managed to transcend the 1970s - the reactionary repressiveness of a Tory-dominated England has much in common with the reactionary repressiveness of our current US government.
Just to whet the appetite, here's a bit from Methodology: 74/78 Attic Tapes -
I remember the 70s as a time of austerity, a crackdown after the so-called liberal times of the 60s. Racism, repressive policing, hijackings, Baader Meinhof, The Angry Brigade, Operation Julie, cheap sulphate, boredom, industrial unrest, but a feeling that something was on the boil within an alienated and disaffected "youth culture."My emphasis added.
I suppose we took our cue (and also our name) from the Dada movement and maybe in retrospect from the situationist movement. The bottom line is, it was never just about music, but about confrontation, challenging peoples conceptions on everything from sound and image to reality itself. Trying to be a thorn in the side of authority. From run of the mill war obsessed jobsworths, constables, in fact anybody who wore a badge, to politicians. All considered fair game for baiting and satirization. In some ways though it was just an innocent reflection of the times, not different from the Beach Boys singing about surfing and the good times in California. But there was no surf to ride in Sheffield, just postwar desolation, unemployment and ugly urban landscapes.