Monday, January 11, 2010

Renewable energy: key to future long-term economic stability

By Abel Ashes 8/4/09

Perhaps the most overlooked aspect of the current recession is the role that oil prices played in bringing about the economic crisis. Often forgotten in all of the talk of credit default swaps and real estate bubbles is the fact that shortly before the economy began to go into a steep decline the nation was facing nearly $150 dollar per barrel oil and nearly $5 per gallon gasoline.

Neither the oil issue nor the real estate issue worked in isolation to cause the current recession, but rather exacerbated one another making the economic meltdown inevitable. With so much of new home ownership concentrated in areas of suburban sprawl where gas guzzling SUVs were the norm and the prevailing culture encouraged the use of homes “as ATMs” the effects of gasoline prices on households alone had potential to send the economy into a tailspin. However, when one considers the effects of high oil prices on industry we can clearly see that recession may have happened whether or not the real estate bubble had burst. In fact the high oil prices may have been the prick that finally burst the bubble.

Just as an entire neighborhood suffers the after effects of the foreclosures of neighbors in declining home values, so to does the entire nation suffer the after effects of high oil prices due to cost increases being passed on to the consumer as well as the potential of lay-offs and business closings due to out of control business expenses. These expenses can manifest themselves as cost increases in mining, logging, manufacturing, farming, packaging, and transportation of goods. In fact many of the employment sectors to suffer first were those heavily dependant upon low oil prices to sustain profitability; such as trucking, airlines, non-organic farming, and construction.

Concurrent with the recession triggering oil price increases of July 2008 was the arrival of a record setting world crude oil production level of 74.8 million barrels per day. In other words, while oil prices may have risen due to a variety of factors, the most essential was obvious; oil demand was feared to be approaching a level in excess of available supply.

Just as elements of the real estate market were aware of the potentially devastating bubble they helped to create, individuals and institutions involved in world oil markets were playing dangerous games designed to maximize profits in the short-term at the expense of long-term stability. The real estate sector was devastated by a perfect storm of greedy speculators, deceptive appraisers, manipulative home loan officers and self-delusional home owners. The industries and individuals most reliant upon low oil prices were dealt a heavy blow by a combination of petroleum geology, excess consumption, geopolitics, and oil price speculation. The most important factors in this stew will prove to be petrol-geology and excessive consumption. In fact it can be stated that geology and consumption are the factors driving petrol-politics and petrol-speculation.

As the economy fell deeper and deeper into a recession, production slowed, trucking slowed, shipping slowed, air travel slowed, and people drove less. The price of oil dropped due to less oil being purchased. This substantial drop in oil prices will prove to be one of the most important factors leading to economic recovery, a sobering thought considering that economic recovery will likely mean a return to high oil prices.

The only hope of getting off of the oil price rollercoaster in the short-term is if individuals, industry, and government recognize that conservation of energy must increase, while consumption and growth driven economics decreases. Absent that sort of miraculous transformation of the American mindset our next best short-term hope is that strong regulation of financial markets will be instituted to, if not eliminate, then severely rein-in the type of irresponsible speculation that leads to boom and bust economic cycles. If the rest of the economy is built on a strong foundation of realistic expectations we will be better situated to absorb the shock of future oil price spikes while sustaining less damage to the economy.

Our greatest hope for economic stability in the long-term is that the issue of future energy supply decreases combined with the equaling frightening prospect of economic and ecological destruction due to global climate change will break through the fog of ignorance and denial and lead to a massive, rapid, and sustained global push for clean, sustainable energy that develops the most cutting edge renewable energy technologies beyond the “alternative” stage and into the mainstream of energy consumption where they belong.

My recently published letter to The LEO (magazine) regarding Obama's decision to send more troops to Afghanistan

January 6, 2010

Letters to the Editor: Obama Has It Right

I have to disagree with both Stephen George and Jim Welp in their assessments of the president’s decision to send more troops to Afghanistan. Obama repeatedly campaigned on the issue of reducing troop levels in Iraq to increase troop levels in Afghanistan. He campaigned on capturing or killing bin Laden. He mentioned it in nearly every speech I heard him give.

There are many national security issues I think Obama has gotten wrong. He should have joined our NATO partners in supporting a ban on landmines. He should support criminal charges against members of the Bush administration. He should be supporting the pro-democracy movement in Iran. He should make a commitment to never issue an air strike that might put civilians in jeopardy no matter how high profile the target. And he should support re-opening investigations into 9/11.

But on the issue of troop levels in Afghanistan, I think he has it right.

The United States, USSR, Saudi Arabia, Pakistan and other nations are responsible for Afghanistan becoming a failed state. The United States funded an insurgency in order to “knowingly increase the chances” that the USSR would invade. The United States and USSR left Afghanistan in the “stone age.” The Afghanis didn’t do that to themselves. With no government and hence no law and order, a band of illiterate, far-right wing religious nuts were able to take over in 1996 and create the most brutal government of our age.

In Afghanistan, we are faced with roughly two choices. We could pull out immediately, which would be devastating to both international security and to the human rights of the Afghanis (who deserve the same rights that we do). Or we can increase troops to the levels that our military commanders say is necessary to stabilize the country and to capture or kill the leadership of al-Qaida and the Taliban, so we can leave things in better shape for both ourselves and the Afghanis.

Abel Ashes, Highlands

A letter I wrote to Judge Thomas F. Eagleton regarding Leonard Peltier in 2006

Thomas F. Eagleton United States Court House 111 South 10th Street St. Louis, MO 63102 Phone (314) 244-2600 FAX (314) 244-2605

To those honorable parties presiding over the Appeals Hearing of Mr. Leonard Peltier,

It has come to my attention that come February 13th, 2006 you will be presiding over a hearing regarding the case of Mr. Leonard Peltier. As an informed and concerned citizen I sincerely request that you thoroughly and honestly review this case and toward this end I hereby submit the following information for your consideration.

While the basis for the current motion is purely jurisdictional, you may also wish to review the overwhelming evidence of Mr. Peltier’s innocence as well as his vast humanitarian achievements in order to fully grasp the enormous miscarriage of justice that is Mr. Peltier’s thirty years of imprisonment.

Leonard Peltier is a citizen of the Anishinabe and Dakota/Lakota Nations and the crimes for which he has been wrongfully convicted took place within the sovereign nation of Lakota. I do not need to point out that due to the sovereignty of the Lakota Nation, aside from the Indian Crimes Act, there is no legal or constitutional jurisdiction in existance under which Mr. Pletier can have been tried. Consequently, it is purely a matter of upholding the law that Mr. Peltier’s conviction be overturned.

Not only did the alleged crimes take place outside of “the special maritime [or] territorial jurisdiction of the United States”, but evidence clearly demonstrates that Mr. Peltier was not only wrongfully convicted, but intentionally and malisciously framed for crimes which he did not commit.

As late as November, 2003, the United States Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals acknowledged that much of the government’s behavior at the Pine Ridge Reservation and in its prosecution of Mr. Peltier is to be condemned. In Peltier’s original trial in has been shown that the FBI, the prosecution, and the court violated U.S., tribal, and international law:

1. By using a false affidavit from an incompetent witness to obtain Mr. Peltier’s extradition from Canada.
2. By the withholding of critical evidence including tens of thousands of FBI documents on Mr. Peltier’s case.
3. By fabricating evidence, including the ballistics evidence that was used to convict Mr. Peltier.
4. By intimidating witnesses, even going so far as to threaten the lives of the children of one mentally handicapped key witness who neither knew Mr. Peltier nor was present at the scene of the crimes for which he was convicted.
5. By hand picking the trial judge.
6. By prejudicing the jury against the American Indian Movement, in general, and Mr. Peltier in particular.
7. By banning key witnesses from testifying about FBI misconduct on the Pine Ridge Reservation, a sovereign nation for which the FBI has no legal jurisdiction.
8. By ruling important evidence, such as conflicting ballistics reports inadmissible.
9. By failing to produce a single witness who could identify Peltier as the shooter.
10. By concealing compelling evidence against several other suspects.
11. By lying about the nature of the investigation the FBI agents in question were alleged to be engaged in at the time of the shootings.
12. By selecting an all white jury of non-Lakotas in a non-Lakota court, thus violating Mr. Peltier’s right to trial by a jury of his own peers.

If you research these matters you will find that these facts are indisputable. I am far from alone in my belief in Mr. Peltier’s innocence and my request that he be set free. Among those convinced of Peltier’s innocence you will find such notables as:

1. Amnesty International, which has long called for Leonard Peltier’s immediate release on the grounds that Peltier does not have adequate recourse to justice and was not given a fair trail.
2. European Parliament, which in 1999 approved a resolution calling for Mr. Peltier’s release.
3. Queen Elizabeth of England, who has declared her belief in Peltier’s innocence.
4. The Reverend Desmond Tutu, who has demanded the release of Peltier, whom he considers to be a political prisoner akin to Nelson Mandela.

I humbly request that you carefully review the nexus of U.S. and Lakota constitutional law regarding the matter of tribal sovereignty and consider the ample evidence of Leonard Peltier’s innocence in making your ruling. If Mr. Peltier’s conviction can be overturned on sovereign nation grounds, then perhaps he can be granted a new trial in which all of the evidence can be presented, thus proving to the world Peltier’s innocence. You have an innocent man’s life in your hands and the power to correct a gross miscarriage of justice. Please do the right thing.

Abel Ashes