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Last week, Bill McKibbon and the people over at 350.org went on a road trip from Unity College in Maine down to the White House in DC, with the goal of bringing one of the Carter solar panels to the Obama Administration for them to put up on the White House.  Sadly, the White House turned down their offer.

During Jimmy Carter’s presidency, he put up solar panels on the roof of the White House — making the White House a symbol of what could be the new clean energy future of the United States.  When Ronald Reagan took over the presidency in 1980, those solar panels came down. Unity College managed to secure both of them and have been using them on their university buildings.  When 350.org’s campaign to Put Solar on the White House started gaining momentum, Unity College offered to give one of the panels to the current White House, saving them the work of finding a new solar panel, and bringing some history back to the White House.

Even with the gift of a solar panel, and hundreds of thousands of supporters, the White declined to put the panel up on the White House, saying that they would continue to deliberate on the idea of putting up solar panels. As one member of 350.org put it “We tossed them a big, fat soft ball to hit out of the park and they just watched it float on by.”

This truly was a missed opportunity for the Obama Administration.  After Obama’s thrilling run and promises of hope and change, his administration has come to be stuck in the mud.  Grassroots organizers who thought that things would get easier with a progressive in office have been disappointed by the administration immobility.  This would have been a chance for the White House to be a leader in the clean energy movement, and to be representative of what hundreds of thousands of young people in the country want: a better, sustainable future.

Make sure your voice continues to be heard by following 350.org’s new campaign 10/10/10 and join a work party to do something for the environment that day.  Just because the White House said no now, doesn’t mean they always will.

It seems that given all of the fire and brimstone that Republicans love to shout will be raining down upon us for our shameless “tax and spend” policies of recent years, you would think that they themselves, to remain consistent with their statements, would be hawks when it comes to federal spending. And indeed they are, when it comes to spending on providing adequate health care of America’s citizens and various other social welfare services. However, there seems to be a rather large exception for when it comes to military spending, particularly when it comes to nuclear weapons, and especially when the spending can directly affect how much money comes into a particular state.

Take Senator Bob Corker (R-TN) as an example, who sits on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, which is tasked with the responsibility of voting the New START out of committee so it can be put to a vote before the full Senate for its ratification. Recently, he has stated that he feels the federal funds for the upkeep of the nuclear weapons complex, of which the Obama administration has already allocated $80 billion for (which is already an unprecedented increase), is somehow $10 billion short of what is needed. There is much debate in Washington about where he actually is getting that figure from, and most accounts say that he is pointing to inaccurate and outdated figures, but that’s not what the larger issue is here. What is at play here is Sen. Corker’s willingness to delay the ratification of New START, thus tampering with our nation’s national security efforts, all because he wants some more funding for the Uranium Processing Facility planned for the Y-12 National Security Complex in Oak Ridge, Tennessee.

Do you know what they call this type of frivolous and unnecessary spending? You should, and so should Sen. Corker because he and his party have used the term constantly to derail various other spending projects, especially by Democrats. It’s called “pork.” However, don’t count on Sen. Corker using that term when talking about acquiring more money for this facility in his home state. Why would he anyway? Hypocrisy and irresponsibility seem to be a suit that’s tailor-made for him.

Ever since my original post on the controversy surrounding the construction of a supposed “mosque” (I will explain the quotations later in this piece), I have had several conversations with friends and relatives, both in favor of and against the project. I want to take advantage of this space to respond to some of the criticisms I have heard as well as reiterate some of the points I made in my original post as I feel they are important to emphasize.

First is my response to the critique I seem to continually come across from people opposed to the “mosque” who say that my opposition to their opposition is somehow infringing upon their right to be against it. My guess is that this is rooted in opponents dissatisfaction with being called either “ignorant,” “racist,” or both. Neither in my original post, nor in my subsequent writings and conversations have I ever advocated the denial of FIrst Amendment rights to anyone opposing the project. Instead, all I have done is exercised my own First Amendment right to call out what I see as blatant ignorance and bigotry.

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Given the title of this post, you may be understandably asking yourself, “what’s New START?” Well, let me explain. New START is the New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START) between the United States and Russia to reduce the numbers of strategic nuclear weapons that each of us have in our nuclear arsenals down to 1,550 each, a reduction of about a third of the current stockpiles. The reason the treaty is preceded by the word “New” is because there was a previous START, which was negotiated and ratified back when President George H. W. Bush was in office in 1991. That treaty expired on December 5th, 2009. Therefore, we have not had a treaty in place to replace the first START in almost a year. New START attempts to fill this gap.

I provide all of this background to you for several reasons. One, because I feel it is critically important to simply be aware of current events, especially with regard to nuclear weapons. However, more importantly, it is crucial you understand the issues surrounding arms control and nonproliferation if you are to work towards the goal of the elimination of all nuclear weapons, of which ratifying New START is an integral step.  Now you may be asking yourself, but why do I want to work towards the elimination of nuclear weapons? Don’t they assure that another country who also has nuclear weapons won’t launch an attack against us because they know we would do the same to them? Again, allow me to explain briefly.

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I was recently forwarded this article by Peggy Noonan about how youth has outlived its usefulness in American politics.   I was absolutely stunned by her allegations that we are in need of wise old men to guide our futures.  I want to respond to her points thoroughly, so please forgive me if this is long.

First, Ms. Noonan asserts that there is something missing in Washington and that ‘we’ (whom she is including in this we is unconfirmed. Though I suspect it is older, upperclass, white persons…) want something else — and that something is wise old men in advisory positions.  She says:

“They miss old and august. They miss wise and weathered. They miss the presence of bruised and battered veterans of life who’ve absorbed its facts and lived to tell the tale. This is a nation—a world—badly in need of adult supervision”

That presence, she goes on to say, is a father figure, one not unlike the character of Atticus Finch in Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird. In these opening statements, Ms. Noonan has rejected feminism and all that feminism has done for her. Why is the ‘father figure’ the necessary metaphor? Does Ms. Noonan imagine this council of wise old men as being protectors, as someone to whisper comforting statements that reassert how much better the US is than other nations, how the US should continue unflinching down its path of racism, xenophobia, sexism etc? What about wise old women? Did they not also live through these experiences that Ms. Noonan claims are so useful in guiding politics today?  Or is her implication that their wisdom is restricted to the home, housework and raising children?  Lest she forget that she is a woman who has her job because women stood up and resisted the saturation of old white men in power.

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On March 24th, President Obama sent his request to Congress for a supplemental spending bill to support relief and reconstruction efforts in Haiti. Millions of people in Haiti could use that aid to feed their children and begin rebuilding their lives, but Congress still has not passed this crucial bill.

Contact your members of Congress today to tell them to pass the aid bill now!

With more than 230,000 people killed, 300,000 people injured, and at least 1.7 million forced from their homes by the earthquake, Haiti will require ongoing support throughout 2010 to address emergency needs in health, nutrition, shelter, sanitation, rural livelihood and food. The rainy season has already started and hurricane season will soon start in June; this desperate situation will only be exacerbated in the coming months.

The need could not be more urgent or the cause more important, but Congress is still just sitting on the bill! So, we need your help to push them forward.

Please click here to write to your representative and senators today.

This is a response to both Erick Ford’s post and Ethan Frey’s post on Offshore drilling.  You can read both of their excellent posts here and here.

The issue of offshore drilling is one of peace and security for the United States, but it is more than security between nations.  Offshore drilling can affect the security of our own nation – some of the places they are proposing to drill are along fault lines or may be along fault lines not yet discovered. The lifted ban allows drilling to occur off the coast of Alaska where courts had previously halted drilling until environmental assessments could be done.

This is not a new tactic.  President Nixon tried the same approach back in the 1970s during the oil crisis where oil jumped to $43 a barrel.  Offshore drilling was not the best answer then and it is not the best answer now.  Offshore drilling is not the answer to decreasing our dependence on foreign oil – finding alternative energy sources is. However, the American ideal of materials = success (although this ideal is slowly changing thanks to a new generation of globally-minded people!!) is difficult to change.  I am unsure whether the United States can effectively adapt to an alternative energy source because it would be a change in how we live. I spend a lot of time in classes and at lectures listening to people talk about decreasing our dependency on oil, but have yet to hear an effective answer other than to have people drive less.   I have not heard an approach that I think would work other than changing lifestyles.

There is a lot of discussion about our dependence on foreign oil as a major problem area and obstacle for the United States to overcome.  However, I think the problem is discussed in the wrong framework: it is not our dependence on foreign oil that is the problem but our insistence on not utilizing the research already down and funding further research on biofuels and other sources of alternative energies.

President Obama has run and been elected on a platform of change, and I think he is working toward change.  However, his decision to lift the ban on offshore drilling is largely seen as a concession to Republicans who are holding up a stalled climate change bill.  How approval for offshore drilling doesn’t counteract a comprehensive climate change action is a mystery to me, but that’s politics.  At its heart, this issue in an environmental one – and environmental issues have traditionally been rejected as a non-priority by policymakers, which is why it can be used as a trade-off – one negative environmental act in exchange for one positive one.  Maybe this is the environmentalist in me, but I think that the more we recognize the importance of our environment and the dangers of a continued reliance on not only foreign oil, but oil in general, the more likely it will be that environmental issues will not be used as pawns in the games of politics.

When Prime Minister Gordon Brown announced this week the date for the UK general election, the US press hardly batted an eyelid. While the US election was followed closely by many people in Britain and indeed the rest of the world, the UK election—scheduled for May 6—is unlikely to invoke the same reaction globally. Nevertheless, this election is one that may matter for Americans more than they care to imagine.

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Months after the initial furor, the outrage over the early release of the man convicted of bombing Pan Am Flight 103 emerged again this week. Abdelbaset al-Megrahi was allowed home to Libya during the summer by the Scottish government on compassionate grounds because the cancer-stricken convict had only three months to live. On November 20, that three-month period passed with Megrahi still alive, leading many of the 270 victims’ relatives, mostly Americans, to question the authenticity of the medical advice the Scots used when releasing the prisoner. Closer inspection of the decision would appear to legitimize the families’ anger.

The medical advice that the Scottish government consulted in order to make their controversial decision was provided by three doctors: two British and one Libyan. All three men were paid by the Libyan government and one of the British doctors has since commented that the three-month period was actually suggested by the Libyan government. Independent doctors had earlier calculated that Megrahi had more than a year to live, leaving him ineligible for release on compassionate grounds. To put their decision into perspective,  prisoner release on compassionate grounds has been used only seven times by the Scottish National Party since taking office in May 2007, with Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill responsible for all the decisions. Megrahi has already survived longer since his release than any of the other criminals, only one of whom was a convicted murderer.

Releasing Megrahi provoked anger on both sides of the Atlantic, with President Obama calling the move a “mistake”. While many Scots echoed the president’s sentiments, some saw irony in the U.S.’s pontification over prisoner treatment. MacAskill has long claimed that he was motivated purely by medical advice, yet commentators speculate that the move formed part of a trade deal between Libya and the UK. The reality is probably less complex and conspiratorial.

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Cool article from Reuters…  Go consumer power!  How many of y’all are buying organic, free-range turkey this year?

By Basil Katz

NEW YORK (Reuters) – Despite the worst U.S. recession in decades, sales of organic and sustainable products have continued to grow, experts say, with shoppers willing to spend a few more dollars in a bid to become more green.

U.S. supermarket sales of environmentally sustainable or “ethical” products — from energy-efficient light bulbs to organic produce — will rise about 8.7 percent in 2009 to nearly $38 billion, according to a recent study by Packaged Facts, a market research provider.

President Barack Obama‘s commitment to tackle climate change, a string of scandals over tainted food and effective marketing of sustainable products have helped convince more Americans, whose environmental credentials lag behind Europeans, to buy green.

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