Saturday, January 31, 2009

Senate Stimulus Bill needs a nudge from constituents

Dear Friends and Readers,

In a previous email I informed some of you that the Senate economic stimulus bill appropriates $50 billion to new nuclear power plants. Since then I have learned that Senator Kit Bond is in fact a member of the Appropriations Committee, and also that this will not be introduced to the full Senate until sometime this coming week.

Therefore, I urge you, if you have not already done so to write and/or call him to let him know that the use of nuclear power is a defunct and expensive idea which few people support anymore. You should have time to do this for the next week, but the sooner the better.

Below is my version of a letter with links to further info.


Dear Senator Bond:

The news that the Senate Appropriations Committee has added fifty billion dollars ($50,000,000,000) to it's proposed stimulus package for the building of new nuclear power plants shocked and disappointed me. Perhaps the Committee is not adequately informed about nuclear power. It would take years to get around to doing this even if it were a good idea.

The facts are that even the study done by Congress itself shows that nuclear power is extremely expensive. Given the additional dangers of accidents it only presents us with further environmental and security dilemmas for our own and future generations.

The nuclear industry will, of course, tell a different story. Here in Missouri we are concerned with keeping the "no construction work in progress" (No-CWIP) provision in Missouri law so that Ameren UE does not imagine that it can add another power plant by charging its customers for an advance loan. This would be on top of a recent rate increase. The idea that the Federal Government would subsidize new nuclear plants is essentially the same thing, leaving a burden of debt that can perhaps never be repaid, dragging us down further. You are surely aware that the problem of storing spent nuclear waste remains unsolved. The only permanent storage solution proposed is Yucca Mountain, a venture too dangerous for towns and cities on the route there and for the tribal nations living near the mountain.

Even the newest thinking that existing nuclear waste can possibly be reused is simply conceptual at this point. How much more would it add to cost? In all my reading on the subject the only sources that support more building of nuclear power plants are ones from inside the nuclear industry. And other writers suggest that even the most conservative estimates of total costs could be less that the ultimate reality.

So-called "clean coal" is in essentially the same position-- there really is no such thing yet as "clean coal" and we will need to replace the coal power plants we already have with passive and renewable power sources. In the House Recovery Bill that was just passed 2.4 billion dollars are appropriated to carbon capture technology. From what I have read this is an iffy proposition. Comparing our own to European efforts to reduce carbon based air pollution, which contributes to climate change, we would be better off changing to the available passive sources, e.g. wind and solar. Some success has been achieved with hydro devices as well which are minimally intrusive to the environment.

The realized use of corn as a biofuel has demonstrated that it is also more expensive and polluting than was first predicted. At least it does not leave radioactive waste behind, but farmers who want to plant fields of biofuel are now looking into switch grass and other more efficient plant sources. This is an emerging science, not one that is established with well tested outcomes. Renewable fuels are an improvement over mining which further decimates the environment.

What we need right now are community based manageable alternatives that provide long term and acceptable solutions. This description usually refers to solar and wind power, which are already emerging in Missouri. But additionally using different building specifications including tighter insulation and more efficient use of square footage, with built-in passive energy capture and biologic additions such as roof gardening will be an already proven route to decreasing domestic energy consumption. Also we must retrofit buildings in our existing urban areas, as recommended by Van Jones and some social justice organizations. If such projects were subsidized by the stimulus plan now in Congress they could probably be in place relatively quickly, with ready labor in neighborhoods that were underemployed before the current depressed economy. Retrofitting rental properties that are Section 8 eligible is covered in the House Bill, and I support this proposal.

It is also essential that we increase green spaces and local gardens, something that has already been initiated in urban Missouri as well. Providing support for these sorts of efforts, helping neighbors to help their neighbors by planting vegetable and permaculture gardens, makes infinitely more sense, since it is based on readily initiated and time worn actions. These ideas could be implemented by nonprofit efforts or by local small businesses that would also spring up quickly if loans were available. They would add longer term jobs to the already conceptualized infrastructure repair projects.

One more area of concern is mass and distance transit. Both Kansas City and St. Louis could use funds to complete planned light rail projects. Also backing up passenger and freight rail would make far better sense economically and ecologically than new development of highways. To me it would be worthwhile to add a public information campaign that would promote rail over private automobile for distance travel.

Please discuss these ideas carefully with your fellow Senators of either party. We must address the economic crisis that is continuing, but certainly we have choices about how to do that. Wasting the money, even if it is only freshly printed paper, would be foolish. Most of the ideas I have presented will create jobs as well as reduce our dependence on foreign oil. Nuclear power and coal of any sort belong to the previous century.

Thank you for your attention to these issues, and for your work on the Senate Appropriations Committee. Undoubtedly it is difficult to stay up to date on every issue without a great deal of information input.



Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Dream State of Mind

We are driving down a brown country road,

no town in sight, just low earthy mountains,

when we are stopped by the soldiers waiting for us

as though we are expected.

Everyone jumps out-- except me

because I'm not able. Yes, i'm vulnerable.

The officer looks in on me.

All the guns in the world can neither protect

nor threaten me. All that can is my state of mind,

the one thing I pack with me wherever I go, even to this dream.

We cannot mine for love the way we do for diamonds.

We cannot drill for forgiveness in the desert of our souls.

The sins of our forebears since industry revolted

are moving in with us like unwelcome relatives.

What is this monster we have called commerce,

power, or yoke? Aren't garage sales more fun and wondrous?

We have so much stuff here it threatens to choke us.

At least I know I do, but none of it's worthless.

Unless, that is, we add it to landfills, or flush it down drains.

Or continue buying more plastic water bottles

We need to be realistic, together, as we

wage our war against borders, barriers, walls,

tall buildings hemming persons in and others out.

Turn it around one plot of ground after another.

Plant gardens on our roofs, in our neighborhoods,

in our minds and spirits, our expectations, inspirations, artistry and work.

West Coast forests are slowly turning brown & dying--

why is a mystery. What are we doing in Afghanistan?

No one can lead us anywhere, forward or back,

to the right, to the left, up or down, without our consent.

We can never know precisely what will grow well

until it comes up. But we do have some clues.

The question now is where will the rain fall?

How many of us can these rains save from earth on hell?

Or relegate them there? Not just you and me, them over there too.

We have to pull in, downplay the spaces in between,

live a little more snugly, simply, interchangeably,

keeping reason, knowledge and skill among our riches.

Each of us is stronger than all the others in some way.

When we share our unique gifts, well, in unity is strength.

While we do nothing to face the conclusion

others remain in their fateful collusion.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Tell Pres. Obama to intervene in Gaza

Several links to letters and a petition that you could participate in. We are all counting on Obama to change the direction, but he does have a lot of advisers who come from a neo-lib tradition who still need some convincing. Let them hear from you one way or another. At least give our new President some signatures he can present to Congress, the State Dept., etc. The first one leads you (after you sign) to a graphic that can be printed as a poster or pasted onto your blog or website. The pasting took some patience but was well worth it to me.

Thanks for your help.
Our ability to reach unity in diversity will be the beauty and test of our civilization.  
Mohandas Gandhi

Saturday, January 17, 2009

No advance billing for Nuclear Power

I went to this page at Ameren to post the following message, also copying it to my Missouri legislators.

Absolutely no advance billing for any source of power should be allowed, least of all nuclear.

Solar, wind & recycling trash, plus sensible mass transit, make better sense.

Citizens will revolt against change in the law that protects them from fraud.

The Construction Work in Progress provision in Missouri State Law must be preserved.

Another look at current reality

But in order to bring about the necessary change more massive and quick change needs to occur on a global scale according to Susan George. Let's not just hope but insist to our new leadership this must be our main focus of "the new economy."

While we celebrate the arrival of a new First Family into the White House, and live in the exhilaration of this historic moment we also must remember that we have arrived at crucial times that will require us to work within and without the "system" to accomplish the necessary changes.

Most of the people who understand the essential nature of the upcoming challenges have been lining up for years to get their hands on the levers of change. Now that change has been promised us we have to continue to insist with loud voices that environment comes ahead of capitalism, politics, divisive competition and military exploitation in a world which will allow us to survive into another century.

BTW, in case you missed it, last evening's NOW on PBS included a segment on the Stirling engine as being promoted by a company in California. The controversy, though, is about how to insure that the power lines are in fact delivering the renewable energy as claimed. Huge corporations have earned legitimate distrust. Will they become known as robber barons or will they ever learn that this affects their lives and health as much as anyone else's?

Friday, January 16, 2009

Some sustainable energy solutions in Missouri

This article is promising a revolution of sorts. They have made kits for local start ups to manufacture solar panels. Do any of you have some business expertise? This could provide jobs as well as help the transition, although Taiwan is across the globe somewhere.

Another person who has been active in establishing some work on renewables in St. Louis is the Rev. Larry Rice, most known for his homeless shelter downtown. He has TV spots on his channel, 24? about solar panels, as well as wind turbines that are small enough to put on a roof.
Do any of you St. Louisans know any more about this? Could a renter install a wind turbine? How much power would it provide, for what cost, etc.?

We also have a wind farm in NW MO., only one I have heard about so far.

Actually what I find the most exciting is the relatively new project being worked on at SIUE (Southern Illinois University--Edwardsville) across the river from here. I think they may also have a connection with Washington University. The Green Roofs concept has been used widely in Europe from what I have read. It not only provides great insulation, especially for all these old flat roof buildings like I am currently living in, it also increases green space with benefits to the air, etc. Done properly, established rooftop gardens require very little maintenance since the plants are ones that live well on existing rainfall and tolerate a wide range of temperatures.

Anyone want to talk my landlord into installing one? ;-> Then I would not have to move. They are still a relatively expensive investment at this point, but perhaps eventually they will be helped along by government grants or something.

To me it seems obvious that we will have to take ahold of moving forward to such methods ourselves on local levels in order to reduce our dependence on foreign resources as well as the least desirable fossil fuels that continue to pollute and increase global warming. This will require a lot of political cooperation, but I do think that people are more ready now than ever. Ultimately it is one of the most helpful ways to work for world peace.
It is great to know that a lot of ecological approaches have been initiated in Missouri, and enthusiasm is building toward actual solutions instead of the same old denial arguments.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Sustainability bubbles up from the grassroots.

(Dear yahoo group:)
My personal blog, which is due for another post 8-|, received a comment from a HopeDance webmaster that I needed to update their link. So, while there, I looked at the Transistion Town Initiative, which led me eventually to the Transistion MO page where you had posted this yahoo group. I decided to start with the yahoo group since I am already a member of several other y-groups.

Some of these ideas are ones that I have been mulling over during the past year. My blog, which I started in June, has been focused mostly on actions related to politics and peace. However, in truth, I would like to refocus it more concretely on environmental concerns, and the now emerging new reversal of the old slogan to "Think locally, act globally."

Prior to starting the blog I spent about three years as webmaster for Missourians for Honest Elections.Then the webserver was attacked by some mysterious vector or hacker and all my work for the previous six months was lost. That was when I decided to change my focus to a broader scope. This article expresses a point of view that I agree with in terms of the voting reform movement. Continued oversight is needed, but without civic participation casting our vote is worth less than we think.

The small community I live in is Maplewood, MO., an inner suburb in St. Louis County with a diverse working class population. We have a large number of reasonably priced apartments besides some more upscale residential neighborhoods, and the area has experienced an economic boom during the past few years. So we have a busy business area that extends across into The City. Since the economic slump the thought of a local community exchange has crossed my mind. I first heard about the concept regarding some town in the North East, maybe in Vermont. In that case the currency was based on work hours, e.g., one hour of gardening in exchange for an hour of cooking. Or fifteen minutes with a doctor for fifteen minutes of car repair. Some people that I have had conversations with in the coffee shop on the corner have said we might have to resort to bartering at some point, so I think it is a good idea for individuals to polish the skills they have and learn some of the older arts which we have largely left behind.

My own little place is on the third (top) floor across the street from a one block square park through which the Gateway Arch and the city skyline can be seen from the west, beautiful at sunrise and moonrise. (It is more usually photographed from the Illinois side of the river.)

Much of the news around the world is tragic with events outside my control, although I believe we must let our legislators and leaders know our points of view. To my thinking the emerging climate crisis is the cause of much of the conflict, poverty and migration, which is based on corporate greed for resources without regard for humanity. Still I see signs of new realizations, such as the Portugal town where solar power has been installed as a source of income.

We do have people around here who are interested in the slow food movement, with the local taproom/microbrewery/restaurant, Schlafly's, being their meeting place. No, I haven't yet been to one of their meetings, but it is something I hope to do eventually.

Also, in the City of St. Louis, we have a number of community gardens, more than I even realized until I started to look online. The idea of starting up a community garden (besides the one that Schlafly's grows) appeals to me, although I have some personal limitations that would require help from more able-bodied friends. These are just thoughts that are in no way yet actualized.

Meanwhile I need to focus on whether I can continue to live in this small apartment by convincing my landlord it needs serious modifications-- or if I will be able to move to one that is more conducive to my health. Besides the stair climbing to do laundry, the roof has virtually no insulation so it is cold in here in the winter and hot in the summer. Since I do not have a car I spend more time close to home than the average person. But there are buses and the MetoLink train within walking distance.

Over a decade ago I lived at a small communal living space out in the country near the St. Francois River. We did have a community garden there which was quite wonderful. It fed us as well as guests who came there for weekends. We recycled all our vegetarian garbage into the compost pile. This sort of work, I believe, is extremely useful to the planet as well as local communities in the most urban of spaces because gardening is something of a mystical experience besides contributing to decrease in use of fuel for shipping, agribusiness, etc.

Currently my gardening is limited to house plants and "cat grass," although I do have a back fire escape where I can keep a few containers during the warm months.

So, for the time being my presence on this group may be as something of a lurker, since I need to attend to personal needs before initiating a lot of other changes in my life.

Thanks for setting up this group as well posting on the Transition MO page. We are living in exciting times when change does indeed seem possible-- indeed, essential to survival. Let's not just hope but work in each our own ways to actualize the responses to climate changes which will definitely require both individual and group efforts.

Friday, January 2, 2009

Free Gaza Movement Actions

Could you do me a favor and pass this Fox 2 News interview of Hedy Epstein around to your Jewish friends please? Pertzborn asks how the Jewish community reacts to her, and I believe more of our local Jewish people would support her views than she realizes.

Contact info & other stuff about her can be found on her website.

Fox 2 News video.
Some of the articles I have read from the UK & other places suggest that this current conflict was initiated by Israel, not the other way around. There are also vigils being held around town by IOW.

Here also is a petition offered by Ramsey Clark. And thank you to all who can help.

Urgent Appeal for Israel to Immediately Cease Its Murderous Bombing, Siege and Threatened Invasion of Palestinian Gaza!

To: President George W. Bush, President-Elect Barack Obama, Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice, Secretary of State Designate Hillary Clinton, Vice President Richard Cheney, Vice President-elect Joe Biden, Congressional leaders, U.N. Secretary General Ban, U.N. General Assembly President d'Escoto-Brockmann, members of the U.N. Security Council, U.N. member states, the President, Prime Minister, Cabinet and Opposition leader of Israel, and Major media representatives:

For 60 years, Israel has persecuted the Palestinian people with impunity in defiance of United Nations General Assembly and United Nations Security Council Resolutions, orders of the International Court of Justice, International Law and fundamental human rights.

Throughout the years, Israel has proclaimed itself the victim as it grew richer, more powerful and more violent, while
The International Action Center is mobilizing for demonstrations across the U.S. to stop the attack on Gaza, and we are networking with activists across the globe who are taking to the streets against U.S./Israeli war crimes. To view a roundup of the growing number of international actions, see:

Please consider making an emergency donation at
to help with the costs of organizing and mobilizing.

Palestinians were abused, impoverished, divided and demeaned.

A consistent tactic of Israel through all the years has been to divide Palestinians against their most effective organizations. Through most of the recent years Israel has attacked Fatah. Now it is Hamas that Israel attacks. But there is only one Palestinian people and there can be only one Palestinian State. This has been the guiding principle of the PLO. Israel's policy has always been to destroy the possibility of a Palestinian State. Its criminal assault on Hamas is in truth Israel's continuing assault on the possibility of a Palestinian State: divide and conquer.

Now in the waning days of the disastrous Bush Administration, the government of Israel with its Prime Minister under criminal indictment, is testing whether world opinion will permit it to escalate its isolation and impoverishment of Palestine and selective and systematic assassination of Palestinian leadership in Gaza to a genocidal, indiscriminate assault and invasion of Palestinian Gaza, knowing full well its acts will inflame passions throughout the Middle East and Arab and Muslim worlds risking conflict of disastrous magnitude in Lebanon, Syria, Iran, Afghanistan, and elsewhere, even between India and Pakistan.

Beyond crushing Gaza's capacity to resist and imposing its final solution on Palestinians, Israel is seeking confrontation that will lead to war with the U.S., the European Union, and NATO fighting for Israel against Iran, Syria, Lebanon, Pakistan and Afghanistan to impair their ability to prevent expansion of Israel's domination of the region while the "only one President at a time" the U.S. has, George W. Bush, will support Israel, finding all fault with Gaza.

In these dangerous and difficult days and hours the undersigned call upon the United Nations, the United States, the European Union, NATO members, and European countries independently, the governments of Asia, foremost China, India, Indonesia and Pakistan, the nations of Africa, and the Americas to demand an immediate ceasefire throughout Israel and Palestine and the assurance of peace. All borders to Gaza, Israel, Egypt and the Mediterranean Sea, must be opened for humanitarian relief and a complete arms and trade embargo on Israel until it fully complies with all the requirements of permanent peace.

We call upon all the people, the ultimate power in every nation when organized and energized, to take to the streets where they live and demand that their governments do all in their power to cause Israel to stop its war of aggression against Palestine and for all parties to pursue peace and for Israel, the U.S. and other nations who have provided material support for Israel's aggression to be held accountable for the deaths, injuries and damage Israel has inflicted.

We call upon governments and humanitarian agencies to provide all needed emergency relief to Palestine - medical care, food, humanitarian supplies, shelter; and on all the media that truly seeks peace, justice and respect for the equal dignity of every child, woman and man on earth to headline the demand that Israel stop its aggression immediately. All parties must engage in continuous negotiation with all Palestinians until a one state solution is agreed or the state of Palestine as mandated not later than October 1948 in UN General Assembly Resolution 181 (1947) is created, fully implemented, and Palestine thrives.


Initiated and signed by
Ramsey Clark, winner, 2008 U.N.Human Rights Award and Founder, International Action Center

Add your signature to this letter now - go to