Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Get Active - Internet Activism

I received some internet activism emails today from which I am posting excerpts. The first two excerpts are from Greenpeace:

Green my Apple, Steve
Here at Greenpeace, we love our Macs. And that's why we want them to be free of toxic chemicals that create poison e-waste. We've seen the kids in Asia who wade through mountains of discarded gadgets to recover bits of metal they can sell. In the process, they breathe dioxins from burning PVC plastic and are surrounded by lead and mercury pollution. That's not what Apple is all about. And we know just the people to make Apple change its ways: its customers. Love your Mac? Wish it came in green?

Let Apple know how much you want them to be green.
I am a long time Mac user so of course I responded by sending an email to Apple.

Here's another:
Hi, my name is Sini Harkki and I would like you to help me in Finland. I'm a student and in my spare time I work to save forests in Finland and around the world. I've been working with Greenpeace helping an undercover investigation team expose wood that's been illegally logged in Russia and imported into Finland.

We are trying to make the Finnish Government take responsibility for this problem, but they've been avoiding the issue. When we told our Government about this illegal logging scandal they said that they shouldn't get involved! Wood from Russia is made into many things, like paper, cardboard for packaging, plywood and furniture - and you might even be buying it.

You can help by sending a letter to Mr Mauri Pekkarinen, Finland's Minister of Trade and Industry, asking for laws to stop illegal timber being imported and sold in Europe.
I responded to this plea as well.

I also received a forward from a friend regarding voting machines:
Dear Friend,

Paperless electronic voting machines will be used once again
this fall, and already during the primaries they failed. In
Maryland crowds of legal voters were turned away from the polls
when the machines couldn't be started.

There's a simple safeguard -- have enough paper ballots on hand
so the election can go forward even if the machines let us down
again. Obvious, right? Senators Boxer (D-CA) and Dodd (D-CT)
have introduced a last-minute bill which would provide money to
any state that is willing to print up the paper ballots. It's
cheap, it's easy, and there's no reason not to do it. But time
is short.

Join with me and TrueMajority to tell your Senator to support
the emergency paper ballot bill.
It seems like a no brainer that if people show up to vote that they should be allowed to vote.

Part of my personal environmental plan is internet activism. If you are not currently active I encourage you to become active. Never before has it been so easy for the middle class of America to take part in influencing national and world politics.

Friday, September 22, 2006

Philanthropy, SRI, Venezuela, Making a Difference

I applaud billionare Richard Branson's recent promise to donate $3 billion of profits from his travel industries towards solving the global warming issue. I also applaud Bill Clinton's Global Initiative and the involvement of Bill Gates.

It's about time some power brokers stepped up in a public and financial way and started trying to right the wrongs that their companies have helped to perpetrate.

Even the Bush administration has promised $3 billion toward alternative energy research. Of course this seems like a paltry sum for an administration that is spending $85 billion a year on the war in Iraq.

For those of us who are not billionaires, but are striving for financial security, here is an article on Socially Responsible Investing:


I have also been hearing a lot about Hugo Chavez, the president of Venezuela. Apparently Venezuela is sitting on the greatest remaining oil reserves in the world.

After calling Bush "Satan" in front of the United Nations Chavez has pledged to double the amount of low cost heating oil that Venezuela will provide to the people of America who are less fortunate financially.

Oil moneys are also being used to finance free health care to the people of Venezuela who are less fortunate financially. The cost of gas in Venezuela is currently $0.20 per gallon.

Now I don't agree with low gas prices, but at least Chavez is trying to do something helpful with the oil profits as opposed to building palaces and mansions. (Don't get me wrong, I haven't done much research so he could be building palaces as well as helping people who are destitute.)

I am not a communist (although maybe I should be), but I do wish that our government were comprised of philanthropists instead of war profiteers.

I also think it is interesting that communism and democracy are not mutually exclusive ideals as we have been taught to believe.

Chavez's political adversaries have accused him of pandering in order to win the upcoming election. In that regards, helping people out just might work.


I have a friend that visited recently and he fell back on the old argument that I am not making a difference with my avocation; that the fifteen people I am reaching makes my pursuit meaningless.

This is a variation on the defeatist arguments I have mentioned in previous posts.

The closer a person is to me the stronger the affect my lifestyle has upon them. They in turn influence the people to whom they are close. "And they tell two friends... and so on."

I have also contributed to and provided pro bono work to some charities over the last couple of years. In this way I am contributing a little to a lot of people.

The actual impact I am having is not quantifiable. It's chaos theory in action. I am just a little butterfly beating my wings. I am just a drop of water in the wave of progressive change.

And in the end whether or not my actions truly make a difference does not relieve me of my obligation to live my life in an ethical and morally upright manner. I believe in an all encompassing morality. I am a humanist and the ultimate extension of humanitarianism is environmentalism.

Peace out.

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Democracy is Fragile

Democracy is a fragile ideal. My heart goes out to the people of Thailand in this trying time. Apparently one must be diligent and hold ones government to task. I received the following from
Dear MoveOn member,

This week, the Senate is planning to quietly hold a vote that would pardon President Bush for breaking the law by illegally wiretapping innocent Americans without warrants. According to Senator Leahy, the bill would "...immunize officials who have violated federal law by authorizing such illegal activities."1

President Bush broke the law, and courts are starting to agree. Judiciary Committee Chairman Arlen Specter once said the program was illegal "on its face." But he has now caved to pressure from Vice President Cheney, and introduced legislation that marks a new low: the bill justifies everything the president did. Worse, it makes it legal to wiretap Americans, in secret, without warrants or oversight, whenever the administration wants to.2

So far, Democrats and some Republicans are holding strong against the bill, and there are good chances to stop it if enough of us speak up. Can you sign the petition opposing the Republican move to pardon President Bush for breaking the law?

Many legal experts agree that the president's program to wiretap Americans who have nothing to do with terrorism violates the law. President Bush already has the authority to wiretap suspected terrorists—and we support that. In fact, his administration can tap anyone it likes as long as it gets an OK from a court a few days later.

Congress should be trying to hold him accountable—that's their job. Instead, some Republicans are trying to let President Bush off the hook completely. In fact, the legislation would give the president even more unchecked power.

Here are some quick facts about the Cheney-Specter bill:
• It allows President Bush—and every president after him—to wiretap Americans indefinitely, in secret, without a warrant and without any oversight. 3
• It effectively pardons the president for any illegal behavior by forcing Congress to concede that he has the inherent authority to conduct the program4—something federal courts, numerous legal experts and many leading Republicans disagree with. 5
• It completely guts FISA (Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act) which has protected the privacy of Americans against illegal wiretaps for close to 30 years.6
• It prevents any legal challenges from taking place in the public court system. Instead, it moves all cases to a secret court, where only Bush administration officials can argue it. 7
• It would help "immunize" any officials who broke the law in this program from being held accountable in the future. 8
Since the program was exposed in December of last year, we've learned that President Bush personally blocked a Justice Department investigation of the program, Vice President Cheney also personally intervened to stop telecom companies from testifying to Congress about it, and a federal court recently ruled the program unconstitutional.9 In an effort to protect himself from further consequences, the president is pressuring Congress to let him off the hook.

This is an important issue and it will help remind Americans, in an election year, what Republicans are all about—accumulating power for themselves, and trampling the system of checks and balances designed to stop that. Can you sign the petition today?

It's the Senate's job to act as a check on the president's power. If they can't do it, they shouldn't be in Washington.

Thanks for all you do,

–Nita, Eli, Jennifer, Wes and the Political Action Team
Monday, September 18th, 2006


1. "Today's Republican circus trick: Legislating in the Dark," Senator Leahy, provided by the Bill of Rights Defense Committee, September 13, 2006

"NSA Whitewash Passes Judiciary Committee on Party-Line Vote," People for the American Way, September 13, 2006

2. "NSA Whitewash Passes Judiciary Committee on Party-Line Vote," People for the American Way, September 13, 2006

3. "Top 5 things Sen. Specter won't tell you about the Cheney-Specter bill," ACLU

4. ACLU Letter to the Senate Regarding Strong Opposition to the Substitute Version of S. 2453, the "National Security Surveillance Act of 2006" May 16, 2006

**Note: The bill has changed slightly from when this letter was written, however the sections accepting the president's claim of inherent authority remains

5."Judge Rules Against Wiretaps," Washington Post, August 18, 2005

"On NSA Spying: A Letter to Congress," New York Review of Books, February 9, 2006

McCain: Bush Does Not Have "The Legal Authority To Engage In These Warrantless Wiretaps," ThinkProgress, January 22, 2006

6. "Top 5 things Sen. Specter won't tell you about the Cheney-Specter bill," ACLU

7. "NSA Bill Performs a Patriot Act," Wire News, September 13, 2006,71778-1.html?tw=wn_story_page_next1

8. "Today's Republican circus trick: Legislating in the Dark," Senator Leahy, provided by the Bill of Rights Defense Committee, September 13, 2006

9. ACLU Slams Senate Judiciary Committee Approval of NSA Spying Bills, ACLU, September 13, 2006
Of course I signed the petition because I don't believe that any person should be above the law and in fact those in power should perhaps be held to a higher standard as they set the precedent for ethical behavior.

I fear that the grand experiment called Democracy has already failed in this country. The corporate lawyers may have done us in last century, but that does not relieve me of my responsibility to try and help restore the fundamentals of the ideal.