Moving Mountains

October 31st, 2008

I am a member of the Environmental Law Society here at law school, and tomorrow I will be visiting Kayford mountain in West Virginia. The purpose of my visit is to witness a process called mountaintop removal. The process is exactly the way it sounds. The top 600 feet or so of a mountain is removed to reveal seams of coal that can be harvested for a quick shot of energy in the ever-competitive market of power. When the average person thinks about coal mining, a general picture of dark tunnels and headlamped miners with pickaxes is their Hollywood manifestation. However, mining today has become a business for which there seems to be an insatiable demand and the mining companies are trying to get to the coal as fast and as cheap as possible. So, after blasting off the top of a mountain, there is the problem of “overburden” or loose rock laying on the surface of the coal seam and must be put someplace. So the companies push it into valleys and “hollers” blocking streams and rivers that form there and polluting the water. Needless to say, this virtually destroys the entire mountain and all the life that once lived upon it, leaving only a baren stump. Our hoast for the trip is Lary Gibson, a man who has refused to seell his part of a mountaintop that has been in his family since the 1700’s. From what was a great mountain, only his small plot exists around a destroyed mountain. This is the ultra-short version of the mess the coal indusry has done with this great country. For more info, look up Michael Shnayerson. If you REALLY want to know more, look up his book Coal River ISBN:0374125147. The reason I mention it, is to pay a small tribute to Larry Gibson a true spirit of noncompliance. This is a poor man. He does not have any kind of real wealth except for his land and its seam of coal beneath it worth 150 million to the coal company. I saw a video of this guy on youtube and he says to someone “one day you will find something worth fighting for, and you will sacrifice for it.” I say, right on! I shall be honored to be in the presence of this simple man tomorrow, and I can only hope to one day express the fortitude he does everyday.

Thought Training

September 3rd, 2008

Hello there! Wow, lots of dust in here. Well it’s been a while…again. But, like an old friend, this site is here for me to randomly and haphazardly regurgitate what comes to my mind at any particular moment. I’m in law school. Unlike the hell many make it out to be, it’s been quite a nice change from my monotonous job and everyday life. I’m a student again. Something about working at some passionless routine that makes me go nuts. Now that I’m back in school though, things are different. I’m exposed to new horizons and exploring new terrain in my mind. It’s kind of like finding treasures in your attic. They were always there, but in the right light, they take on a whole new meaning. You know? No? That’s OK, no biggie. To be frank, I have only been here a few weeks and there’s still lots to do and learn. But I’m excited about it all. Well, off again to bed. In the morning, Ill put more rules and laws to break apart in my head. - knockemdown

Political Candidacy

January 9th, 2008

OK so I’m really writing this as a feeble attempt to be constructive outside of my regular job. Nevertheless my topic is an issue I was thinking about on my way in to the daily grind. It’s a question really. What can we really expect from any political candidate? Forget that they’re mostly derived from an elite minority of the American social demographic. What I am saying is that any candidate that has a chance of winning is doomed from the start at making real change for the larger part of American life.

First of all, they all have to operate in a political environment that refuses to be altered without all those parties involved making some headway toward their own agenda, and if they’re towing the line of a major party….you get the point. Its a symptom of a government that has built upon a system of reciprocity between two major parties. And, if some candidate (assuming they get elected) decides to go it alone, they will find opposition at every turn. Just look at Jimmy Carter. The man tried to push agendas that are still pertinent today (foreign policy in the middle east, environmental conservation, energy policy reform) but without giving way to his political counterparts, he was almost completely ineffective…just another single term president. Many people say that Bill Clinton had such success because he was a moderate more than a liberal. I think this is true. His ability to compromise served him well. But, on the other hand, compromise often erodes the integrity of an agenda or political plan and this was also evident during the Clinton years. And so I think anyone who campaigns on the platform of drastic change (i.e. Barack Obama, Ron Paul) is setting themselves up for failure despite their good intentions.  But then it occurs to me that they of all people should know what I am talking about. So are they under the impression that they can do what other Presidents have failed to accomplish? Or, are they just lying to us again? It is more sensible to believe the latter (in my own opinion of course). Ralph Nader at least was able to admit that if he was elected he would be unable to do much change to the current political system because it’s been fortified over such a long period of time. The candidate I would vote for would have one or two things (important things) that they would change. The rest would be as it has been. That way, there would be something to judge their efficiency by, and any other positive change that came about during their presidency would simply be an added bonus. However, the American public could really hold that candidate to those promises instead of getting the age-old “I need more time in office” routine. I’m just saying…Knockemdown

Global Climate Change, Economy, and Politics

July 15th, 2007

It’s Sunday at about 11:22 am, and already the temperature has reached 90 degrees. Thank goodness for my electric air conditioner at home and the one in my carbon gas emitting car. Otherwise, I’d be sweating and that’s uncomfortable. The problem is, global climate change is happening. Furthermore, scientists almost unanimously agree that it’s a result of the gigatonage of greenhouse gas we emit due to fossil fuel consumption. Unwilling to acknowledge that this danger is a result of natural resource consumption however, corporations (and thus politicians) continue to maneuver around the issue, never addressing it with any real intention of correcting, or adjusting to, the crisis of global warming. Instead, Congress and the social elite submit petty versions of Europe’s cap-and-trade system to stem the rising demand for energy policy reform. So my question is: What is it going to take for U.S. leaders and lawmakers to initiate a major change in energy usage and production? Another Catastrophe perhaps?

It makes me sick to think of how the Corporate-controlled media convinced America into believing that Bush won the election before it was even over and assured us that Iraq possessed weapons of mass destruction without producing any evidence to anyone. Yet, global climate change is so apparent that you can see it with your own eyes but still our government and the media continue to downplay the issue. It seems that government leaders are more concerned about  producing cheap products than they are about the source of all life as we know it. How fucked is that reasoning? Not to mention selfish. But, when it comes to the environment, most Americans are not adverse to paying more for renewable energy in an effort to reduce carbon emissions. So why aren’t we moving more rapidly toward greenhouse gas reduction? The answer, as usual, is profit.

Corporate America makes a killing on finite resource consumption, especially given our dependence fossil fuel energy. As any econ. 101 class will teach you, the key to capitalist profit making is scarcity. Therefore, renewable energy is not in the best interest of the richest and most influential corporations. These corporations also control the private, advertising-based media that now dominates American journalism. They filter out what they consider to be damaging to their advertisers and corporate sponsors, effectively dictating what is “newsworthy”. Additionally, these corporations are the primary funding agencies for major political party campaigns. Their reach is so extensive and integrated into our society, that I fear only a cataclysm could produce enough support to produce any major reform. Even Hurricane Katrina’s destruction of the Gulf, increased temperatures in arctic regions and erratic weather conditions have been marginalized as “typical weather events” despite what scientists say about their increased frequency.

So here I am sitting at my computer trying to think up ways to deal with this problem and I must admit, my mind wants to abate toward a more pleasant subject. Growing up around the Florida Everglades, I have always admired the power of environmental advocates like Marjory Stoneman Douglas and their ability to curb development in the name of ecological preservation. However, given America’s dependence on fossil fuel, I don’t see the environment as a contending factor in the face of famine and energy shortages as we continue to deplete natural resources. As always, I urge anyone reading this to post a comment about what they think needs to transpire in order to avoid the bleak future that seems to be presenting itself. One thing is for certain though, it will take a global effort and global contiousness to change this course of events 50 years in the making. - knockemdown

28-Mile Virtual I Spy

June 25th, 2007

Please gleam over this article about our latest defense system against the evil space invaders before reading on…… Gosh, I’m sooo happy that we finally crafted a solution to catching all those illegal immigrants crossing our boarders. Never mind that they used “multi billions” of dollars to protect a mere 28 miles. Come on, we need the immigrants. Everyone knows that. Who’s gonna do all the shitty work nobody else wants to do? Ok, so they take a large portion of the unskilled labor work. But who cares? Can’t we be a little more resourceful in dealing with this problem? I don’t see why we should continue to support cheap labor abroad, if we aren’t able to accept it here at home. There’s got to be a better alternative to high tech phallic symbols of American insecurity. Don’t get me wrong though, I’ve had a few before writing this. I just think that if they are going to build spy towers in the name of national security, they should have a little style. How about giant middle fingers with speakers that blare “fuck you, get away!” in the corresponding language?- knockemdown

Bush Urges Vietnamese President to respect Human Rights, as long as it remains profitable.

June 24th, 2007

I have always perceived free trade as an ambiguous concept that can act as a catalyst for either global economic cooperation or global domination. However, given that the most of the world operates in a capitalist framework, the outcome can easily be predicted. Those who have the capital to leverage are well positioned to rule, and those who have nothing but their labor to sell will be enslaved under the constant demand for more excess capital. NAFTA, CAFTA, and various other trade agreements have already demonstrated the effects of this exploitative practice. What’s more is that America would expect nothing but the same as the last two, and accepts it.

The recent visit by Vietnamese President Nguyen Minh Triet yesterday, was reported as a positive step toward international relations and human rights. Now at first, I thought that perhaps this was just another lame attempt by the Bush administration to divert negative attention from the Iraq war toward another desperate situation where America lacked a part. But once I read that the purpose of the visit was really to begin talks on a free trade agreement, the visit made perfect sense.

I don’t know why I continue to be surprised at the nerve exemplified by our president, after all, he’s been one-upping himself almost every year. This time it’s a complete contradiction though. The headline of the story highlights a push for human rights in Vietnam, but the whole underlying purpose of the meeting was to orchestrate another breeding ground for human rights violations. I suppose it’s a nice gesture, kinda like that of a mobster hugging or kissing his victim before sticking a knife in his back.

Iraq reconfusion

April 29th, 2007

In a recent blog I wrote about the unwillingness by the United States to finish what they started in Iraq. And so I have argued for a complete withdraw. I think that we are doomed to fail in Iraq, much like we were in Vietnam, because we were lied to about the war’s justification. But, we decided to believe and perpetuate that lie once the truth was revealed to us. One of the primary differences between the wars we win and those we loose is our conviction in our motives for fighting, and our determination to achieve victory. How do we define success and victory in a war where we don’t know what we are fighting for. Who, exactly, are we fighting? Terrorists? Who are the terrorists? Define them, otherwise we are fighting ghosts, no? Well, the war effort continues despite its lack of defined purpose. Today I ran across an article with compelling evidence that the U.S. is  doing someting other than nationbuilding.

Here is a news article about the rebuilding effort in Iraq. Now, in most situations, we would have beaten the enemy before starting reconstruction. But given how confusing and frustrating it must be to fight in a war without knowing it’s purpose, I’m not surprised at the backwards operation. The article highlights a recent inspection of reconstruction projects that have been deemed a success for at least six months. What the inspectors found was machinery that was broken or misused, poor construction and maintenance, and looted facilities. One of the reasons for this situation was well cited by Rick Barton, co-director of the post-conflict reconstruction project at the Center for Strategic and International Studies. Mr. Barton noted that failures like this are common with reconstruction projects because locals are not part of the planning process. To me, its just another example of how the Iraq war looks more like colonialism than a mission to neutralize or civilize a country. In fact, Mr. Barton makes that exact correlation.

My point here is, if we went into this war saying that we are going to colonize Iraq so we can retain our lifestyle of massive resource consumption, we would be winning this war. For quite a while, corporations have used the American military as their arm of power while pandering to a noble cause for the people, and Iraq is the epitome of such utilization. In fact, I’m not sure the United States even wants the cooperation of Iraqis. Here is an article that shows a promising reconstruction development in Ramadi Anbar Province. There, the Iraqis are joining police forces, car bombs and sniper fire have dropped considerably, and people are working with the U.S. military against Al Qaeda. Yet the U.S. military and the Bush administration quickly suspect that it could all be a ploy to infiltrate American forces, and so they keep willing Iraqis from participating too closely with the development of their country. The situation shows a distrust in the people the U.S. purports to help. And why not? Would you trust someone you were trying to rob? I don’t think people are duped anymore, they know this war is all about oil and strategic positioning to gain control over that region of the world. Of course, we don’t say that, we can’t plan for that and perpetuate the lie at the same time, so we are doomed to fail in our efforts. - knockemdown

New York Airport Shutdown

April 5th, 2007

You may have heard by now, but up until 45 minutes ago, New York’s JFK airport was completely shut down. I only know because I knew someone that was in the security line before entering the terminal. According to my source, a man or woman ran passed the security checkpoint, and into a crowd where they blended in and seemed to have escaped capture. They shut down one of the most busiest airports in the nation to capture this guy. And, they called back all the planes that took off during the minutes after the security breach. Everyone in the airport was detained, and every piece of luggage searched. Finally, they caught the culprit (or whomever they thought was the culprit) and service resumed. However, for almost five hours, no one came in or out of JFK. So why am I telling you all this? Because there was no news coverage of the event.

I just saw a news report on the growing conditions of strawberries. Surely they could make time to mention a National security breach. But, no such report has appeared on any network TV station. So what’s the deal? Are they trying to keep people calm and comfortable about air travel? According to my reporter, TSA and the airline had no idea what to do with the situation. They became flustered when someone actually had the balls to test their strength, and now they had no idea what to do. The fact that they breached the tough and through facade of TSA security, and even shut down the airport, is a major embarrassment. Frankly, I find it downright scarey that someone was easily lost after simply running through the gauntlet of prying hands and a sub-machine gun carrying Homeland Security officer. What’s more scarey however, is that nobody reported the incident. It just goes to show that you can’t trust corporate-owned media to report the truly news-worthy stories. Some will say that reporting such a story at the time of the incident would incite a riot. I say, take responsibility for your shitty security, TSA. I’m surprised the culprit wasn’t streaking - knockemdown

It’s St. Patrick’s Day!

March 17th, 2007

Well I would just like to wish all those who read this blog a happy St. Patrick’s day. Like most American holidays, St. Patrick’s day originated as a religious holy day. It marked the end of Lent, lifting the prohibition on eating meat. It was traditionally celebrated by eating bacon and cabbage (not corned beef) in Ireland, and this day was typically an alcohol-free event. In fact, many of the provinces closed its pubs in observation of the saint that brought Christianity to the shamrock nation. Nevertheless, Americans have come to recognize the day as another reason to inebriate themselves, paint the town and rivers green, and claim the small percentage of Irish heritage they know nothing about. There’s even the mythology of the pot o’ gold at the end of the rainbow. Not unlike the “American Dream” the story entails a delusional search for treasure at the end of a rainbow, only to be fooled out of it by a tiny little leprechaun. Well, if for no better reason, St. Patrick’s day serves as a day of nationalistic pride for those people maintaining their Irish roots in America. So to all those with a little Irish in em’, bless your little Irish heart…..and every other Irish part. - knockemdown

The Iranian/Russion fusion

March 13th, 2007

Today’s press release by Russia regarding its cooperative effort with Iran to develop nuclear capabilities raises some interesting questions about Iran’s motives. For the last couple of years, Iran has insisted that it is trying to develop nuclear technologies for peaceful applications rather than a military arsenal. In many respects, I have commended their efforts to find a viable source of energy besides fossil fuel. It has been reported, despite it being its largest export, that oil production is slowing in Iran due to the exploitation of the natural resource. So their desire to achieve a nuclear program for energy is justified. In order to accomplish their goal, they teamed up with Russia, a known expert in nuclear science, and began a successful program with the Bushehr Plant in Tehran. Only, the Iranian government has refused to comply with the demands of the IAEA, and now Russia says that Iran has not fulfilled its end of the bargain. Iran has failed to pay for the Russian-built Plant, and so the two countries are at a standstill on the issue. Russia says that it will not deliver the fuel needed to run the plant until Iran coughs up the cash. Meanwhile, Russia continues to urge Iran to comply with the IAEA, and convince them that their plans are peaceful.

Iran’s move in disregarding the IAEA and the financial obligations with Russia shows me that they may have bad intentions after all. A country in such a dire situation, like Iran, wouldn’t ignore such obligations if they didn’t have an alternate motive. The middle eastern region of the world is in enough turmoil without a nation like Iran possessing nuclear weapons. In a way, Im glad they were delinquent on their commitment with Russia. If they fulfilled their end of the agreement, Im not sure where Russia would stand on IAEA compliance. The fact that the Iranians are dead beats however, slants the Russian factor in our favor. - knockemdown