Month: September 2017

In Maria’s Wake, Could Puerto Rico Go Totally Green?

by

Originally published by The Progressive on September 28, 2017

Moca_Pueblo_Puerto_Rico_USE THIS

 

The ecological and humanitarian destruction of Puerto Rico has left the world aghast. But there is a hopeful green-powered opportunity in this disaster that could vastly improve the island’s future while offering the world a critical showcase for a sane energy future.

By all accounts Hurricane Maria has leveled much of the island, and literally left it in the dark. Puerto Rico’s electrical grid has been extensively damaged, with no prospects for a return to conventionally generated and distributed power for months to come.

In response Donald Trump has scolded the island for it’s massive debt, and waited a full week after the storm hit to lift a shipping restriction requiring all incoming goods to be carried on US-flagged ships. (That restriction is largely responsible for the island’s economic problems in the first place.)

The Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority is a state-owned operation that hosts a number of solar and wind farms, as well as a network of hydroelectric dams. But the bulk of its energy supply has come from heavy industrial oil, diesel and gas burners. It also burns coal imported from Colombia at a plant in Guyama.

The fossil burners themselves apparently were left mostly undamaged by Maria. But the delivery system, a traditional network of above-ground poles and wires, has essentially been obliterated. Power authority officials say it could take at least 4-6 months to rebuild that network.

And of course, there is no guaranteeing such a pole-and-wire set-up would not then be obliterated by the next storm.

Among the most serious casualties have been the island’s hospitals. According to reports, 58 of Puerto Rico’s 69 medical facilities have been blacked out. At least two people died when intensive care units went dark.


But therein lies the opportunity. With solar panels and battery backups, every one of those hospitals could be energy self-sufficient. Throughout the U.S. such technology is now being applied at medical facilities, data processing and storage facilities, and other critical units.

According to Mark Sommer, a California-based energy expert, Puerto Rico could safeguard such critical facilities and far more quickly restore its power by letting go of the old paradigm of central-generated and distributed electricity, and moving instead to a decentralized network of green-based micro-grids.

In terms of cost, immediacy, immunity from the next hurricane and long-term sustainability, this is a tragic but unique opportunity.

Micro-grids are community-based networks that power smaller geographic and consumer areas than the big central grids like the one that served Puerto Rico. Mostly they are based on decentralized generation, including networks of roof-top solar panels. As Sommer puts it: “renewably powered microgrids are a relatively simple and already mature technology that can be deployed in months rather than years and once the initial investment is recovered deliver dramatically lower energy bills.”

Because Puerto Rico is mountainous and hosts many small, remote villages, the island’s best hope for a manageable energy future is with decentralized power production in self-sustaining neighborhoods. Built around small-scale wind and solar arrays, with battery backups protected from inevitable floods and hurricanes, Puerto Rico could protect its electricity supply from the next natural disaster while building up a healthy, low-cost energy economy.

The island is also a good source of sugar cane and other fast-growing tropical vegetation, making a strong case for bio-mass sources like ethanol. Much of Brazil’s automobile fleet runs at least partly on fuel produced by fermenting bagasse, a by-product of the country’s huge sugar cane crop.

With local financing and ownership, the prospects for a sun-drenched eco-system like Puerto Rico’s to go to renewable-based micro-grids are overwhelming. In terms of cost, immediacy, immunity from the next hurricane and long-term sustainability, this is a tragic but unique opportunity.

There is little precedent for an entire geographic entity to lose 100% of its grid. We can expect a deaf ear on this from a Trump Administration dominated by the fossil fuel and nuclear power industries.

But to rebuild Puerto Rico’s electric grid in a traditional centralized fashion would only prolong Maria’s agony while leaving the island deathly vulnerable to the next big wind storm.

Puerto Rico’s best hope for a safe, prosperous, sustainable energy future is to take control of its power supply with a mix of renewable generation, protected backup storage, and a decentralized, local-based network of community-owned microgrids.

““““““““

Follow Harvey Wasserman on Twitter: @Solartopia

We Need a New National Anthem

by Harvey Wasserman

Originally published by The Progressive on September 25, 2017

jimi for harvey

 

The magnificent and historic protests of our nation’s athletes during The Star-Spangled Banner at their sports games are not merely appropriate—they’re long overdue.

The protests rightly focus on the travesties perpetrated against our citizens of color. That highly-paid professional athletes would risk their careers to take this stand is a powerful tribute to the devastating impact racial injustice is having on our society, and to their courage as individuals. The National Football League owners’ blacklisting of the superbly talented Colin Kaepernick is hard evidence of what such an exercise of free speech can cost in today’s America.

DKavPKdUQAAIMHN

But there’s also another dimension here. The fact is that our national anthem is a terrible song, with racist and militaristic overtones. It needs to be replaced, maybe by a single more appropriate anthem…or maybe by many.

The lyrics to The Star-Spangled Banner were written by Francis Scott Key, a slaveowner. He was celebrating the failure of the British to conquer Baltimore in the War of 1812. The Brits had just burned our nation’s capital, partly in response to our burning their Canadian headquarters at York, now Toronto.

The song as it’s sung in public is not explicitly racist. But as Jason Johnson describes in his piece “Star-Spangled Bigotry,” buried in the unsung lyrics was a nasty put-down of freed slaves fighting for the English. A brigade of black soldiers had just humiliated Key and he was not happy about it. The words were set To Anacreon in Heaven, an awkward tune appropriate for inebriation, which is how it was usually sung.

The Navy adopted the song as a military hymn in 1889. Then Woodrow Wilson adopted it in 1916, via executive order, amidst his campaign to stir martial fervor for U.S. entry into World War I. A strong majority of Americans bitterly opposed the war, but Wilson forced it through with an ugly propaganda campaign against Germans as a race.

It took Congress fifteen years—until 1931—to officially make The Star-Spangled Banner the U.S. national anthem.

And it’s always been an ode to war. Nobody made that clearer than Jimi Hendrix. When he played it at Woodstock, 1969, he inserted a devastating version of Taps. Right-wingers piously branded him “unpatriotic,” but Jimi had served in the 101st Airborne.

Today’s professional sports events—especially the NFL—are tainted with militaristic overtones. Air Force flyovers and armed soldiers in formation are everywhere. Those “bombs bursting in air” have been imposed on what should be peaceful pastimes. Those “patriots” who say politics should not be part of sports should first remove the military presence from our stadiums.

In an era so thoroughly plagued by martial madness, we need a new anthem, one that celebrates peace, social justice and diverse expression. Candidates include Woody Guthrie’s This Land is Your Land, sung by radical farmers and workers throughout the 1930s. Other possible songs range from Oh Freedom, America the Beautiful and Amazing Grace to Buffy Sainte Marie’s My Country ‘Tis of Thy People You’re Dying and Johnny Cash’s As Long as the Grass Shall Grow.

Or maybe it’s time we moved beyond a single national song altogether. In an age and nation so thoroughly defined by diversity, we should be celebrating a multitude of verses.

“““““`

Follow Harvey Wasserman on Twitter: @Solartopia

IT’S A LOUSY “ANTHEM” ANYWAY

by Harvey Wasserman

DKavPKdUQAAIMHN

The immensely powerful, deeply moving and historic protests of our nation’s athletes against the absurd rantings of our Great Dictator make one thing abundantly clear: the diversity of this nation is not going away.

 

But The Star Spangled Banner should. It’s a lousy song with a racist message.  We need a new anthem—-or to acknowledge many of them.

 

Likewise the dotard illegitimately occupying the White House. We can do better.

 

So let’s combine the campaigns.

 

Words to the Star Spangled Banner were written by Francis Scott Key, a slaveowner. He commemorated the failure of the British to conquer Baltimore in the War of 1812, an utterly useless conflict. The Brits had just burned our nation’s capital, partly in response to our burning their Canadian headquarters at York, now Toronto.

 

As Jason Johnson has shown in his “Star Spangled Bigotry”, buried in the lyrics was a clear racist put-down of freed slaves fighting for the English. They were set to a drinking tune, To Anacreon in Heaven.

 

The Navy adopted the song in 1889, then Woodrow Wilson in 1916. Wilson was stirring up fervor for US entry into World War I, which the majority of Americans strongly opposed. He used that war as cover to crush the Socialist Party, which had millions of supporters. He jailed our greatest labor leader, Indiana’s Eugene V. Debs, for daring to speak against a war that killed at least 10,000,000 people and accomplished nothing.

 

Congress turned down the song a number of times before it was officially adopted in 1931, in the midst of the Depression.

 

The iconic version came from Jimi Hendrix at Woodstock, 1969. He did it with no lyrics. But in the midst of the useless, worthless war in Vietnam, he inserted a version of Taps.

 

Right-wingers freaked out and branded him “unpatriotic.”   Unlike most of them, Jimi had actually served in the military.

 

Now it’s played at July 4th celebrations everywhere. I use it to start all my college history classes. Nobody stands.

 

According to political scientist Bob Fitrakis, in the 1930s American farmers and workers celebrated our country with Woody Guthrie’s This Land is Your Land.

 

There are other candidates…and some heated opinions. The great activist Sheila Parks says:

 

“I am hoping you will listen, again perhaps, to these songs and see what they have to say about white people and Native American Peoples

 

Buffy Sainte Marie :  “My country ‘Tis Of Thy People You’re Dying”

 

Johnny Cash: From Bitter Tears – “As Long As the Grass Shall Grow”

 

Maybe someone should write a new one.

 

Or celebrate our diversity by adopting different songs for different events and different teams. Sweet Caroline seems to work for the Red Sox. We Shall Overcome would do well for many public rallies. Hey Hey, Goodbye will serve beautifully at upcoming impeachment hearings.

 

This athletes’ rebellion fits the massive wave of grassroots social democracy that rocked our country just a year ago. Hopefully it will help propel its revival.

 

John Nichols shows in his Horsemen of the Trumpocalypse that Trump’s antics are a clown’s distraction while his corrupt cronies loot our public treasure, financial, ecological, spiritual.

 

His fascistic rantings echo Wilson’s brutal, unConstitutional assault on the farm-labor movements for social democracy a century ago, when he first pitched this anthem, and then stuck us with a catastrophic intervention that killed more than 110,000 Americans and devastated Europe.

 

Those racist lyrics are rooted in contempt for social justice, an inability to handle human diversity, an embrace of for-profit militarism.

 

The Star Spangled Banner is awful, both as a song and for what it celebrates.   Let’s get rid of it, along with that Bum in the White House.

 

———————-

Harvey Wasserman’s History of the United States is at  www.solartopia.org.

 

 

How to Reform the Corrupted U.S. Electoral System

by Harvey Wasserman

Originally published at Truthdig on September 22, 2017

President Donald Trump, Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., Jared Kushner and Ivanka Trump visit a fourth-grade classroom at Saint Andrew’s Catholic School in Orlando, Fla.,in March. (Shealah Craighead / White House)

Election theft is now the core reality of American politics.
It has poisoned every corner of the United States government, put the world at the brink of atomic and climate catastrophe and robbed every generation of its inherent right to a sane and prosperous future.
We are under the thumb of a vicious corporatocracy in a nation that desperately desires social democracy. A fascist government—in a nation that, at heart, hates fascism—rules us.
We are being robbed of universal health care, decent public education, renewable energy, environmental protection, accountable policing, basic human rights, nuclear disarmament and much, much more because unelected billionaire corporatists control our government instead of dedicated, accountable public servants.
The Jim Crow stripping of our voter rolls has denied millions their most basic right.
The electronic flipping of our voting machines has thrust into power a horrific horde of the most cynical, unqualified and outright destructive rulers our nation has ever seen.
Donald Trump is in the White House despite losing the 2016 popular vote by nearly 3 million votes and losing the exit polls in Florida, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Michigan and Wisconsin. George W. Bush buried us in the cancerous destruction of Iraq and the rest of the Middle East despite losing the popular vote by 500,000, because, as reported by Greg Palast and Bev Harris, his brother stripped and flipped the vote count in Florida 2000. As reported at freepress.org, Bush2 got a second term through the electronic theft of Ohio’s electoral votes in 2004.
All of this happened without a meaningful word from Al Gore, John Kerry or Hillary Clinton. They’ve made their disagreements with Donald Trump known. But with a corrupted electoral system, there’s no chance of changing the balance of governmental power, and all such rantings are, as William Shakespeare put it, “sound and fury, signifying nothing.”
Today, our Supreme Court, Congress, state and local governments are packed with reactionary corporatists who owe their power to manipulated elections. Through the Obama years, more than 1,000 federal, state and local offices changed hands in elections rife with fraud. In 2014 and 2016, six U.S. Senate seats went to Republicans who lost in the exit polls. Our entire electoral system is riddled with deceit. What has been done to our government is a mirror image of what our military and intelligence operatives have done to developing nations too many times to count.
A mere year ago, a self-proclaimed socialist, the New Deal Democrat Bernie Sanders, helped ignite the biggest movement for social democracy in modern American history. Deeply rooted in the millennial generation, this grass-roots uprising promised an ecologically sustainable future built on tolerance, justice, equality and peace. It offered the prospect of a decent, survivable future. It also challenged the corporate party elite and the Clintons’ Democratic Leadership Council.
And, as shown by its internal emails, the Democratic National Committee also conspired to deny Sanders the nomination. It ignored and abused the massive social uprising that comprises our nation’s last, best, hope for a progressive, sustainable future.
Despite that, Sanders then supported the Clinton candidacy. She rightfully won the presidency. Then she walked away, and, among other things, prevented a Green Party recount in Michigan and elsewhere.
And now we have Donald Trump in the White House.
To this day, Clinton has done nothing about the fact that the election was stolen. But she’s gone out of her way to trash Sanders and further alienate the movement he helped ignite. Without the youthful energy of that uprising, the Democratic Party has no meaning and the nation has no future. But we also need fair, accountable elections.
Despite being the rightful winners of the 2000, 2004 and 2016 elections, the corporate Democrats continue to say nothing about the utter debasement of our electoral system. Because of the top-to-bottom manipulation of that system, we have a government completely controlled by corrupt corporatists.
Predictably, an entire federal juggernaut is now aimed at prolonging this tyranny. Kris Kobach, vice-chair of President Trump’s electoral-integrity commission, as reported by Palast, masterminded the Crosscheck computer program used to rob countless Americans—mostly black and Hispanic—of their votes in 2016, thus putting Donald Trump in the White House. One commission member is J. Kenneth Blackwell, the former Ohio secretary of state, who electronically flipped Ohio 2004 to George W. Bush.
Trump has now appointed Republican attorney Cameron Quinn, a high-profile enemy of voting rights, to head the civil rights division at Homeland Security. It’s an obvious escalation of the nationwide assault on the voting rights of citizens of color, the young, the elderly and the non-millionaire majority.
Trump, the GOP and the Gore-Kerry-Clinton Democrats know full well that given fair elections, the American people would throw this pack of ravenous corporate beasts entirely out of power. To get an electoral system that actually works for the public good, here’s what we needed:

 

● Universal automatic voter registration, with registration rolls that can be easily monitored, so individual citizens can confirm their status as they come to the polls.
● A four-day weekend for voting, with ample polling stations providing convenient access for all.
● Universal hand-counted paper ballots that are kept in translucent, video-monitored containers that do not move.
● An end to gerrymandering.
● Abolition of the Electoral College.
● A ban on the corporate purchase of our campaigns.
In the long run, the only thing that can save this planet from utter destruction is the will of the people, legitimately empowered. Donald Trump’s uniquely crazed genocidal/suicidal corporatocracy is the most obvious indicator it is being denied, and the consequences are lethal.
If we want any kind of future on this planet, an electoral system that works is the only answer. Win it, or die.

““““““““““““““““““““““““““““““““““““““““““““““““““““““““““““““““`

Harvey Wasserman is the host of “California Solartopia,” a radio show that is broadcast at KPFK-Pacifica 90.7 FM in Los Angeles on Fridays at 6:30 p.m. His weekly “Green Power & Wellness Show” is podcast from prn.fm. “Solartopia! Our Green-Powered Earth” is at www.solartopia.org, as is “The Strip & Flip Disaster of America’s Stolen Elections: Five Jim Crows & Electronic Election Theft, co-written with Bob Fitrakis.

Nuclear Plants Plus Hurricanes: Disasters Waiting to Happen

by Harvey Wasserman

Originally published at Progressive.org on September 21, 2017

Lucie GoodSt. Lucie Nuclear Power Plant at Port St. Lucie, Florida

Although the mainstream media said next to nothing about it, independent experts have made it clear that Hurricanes Harvey and Irma threatened six U.S. nuclear plants with major destruction, and therefore all of us with apocalyptic disaster. It is a danger that remains for the inevitable hurricanes, earthquakes, tsunamis and other natural disasters yet to come.
During Harvey and Irma, six holdovers from a dying reactor industry—two on the Gulf Coast at South Texas, two at Key Largo and two more north of Miami at Port St. Lucie—were under severe threat of catastrophic failure. All of them rely on off-site power systems that were extremely vulnerable throughout the storms. At St. Lucie Unit One, an NRC official reported a salt buildup on electrical equipment requiring a power downgrade in the midst of the storm.
Loss of backup electricity was at the core of the 2011 catastrophe at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant in Japan when the tsunami there and ensuing flood shorted out critical systems. The reactor cores could not be cooled. Three melted. Their cores have yet to be found. Water pouring over them flooded into the Pacific, carrying away unprecedented quantities of cesium and other radioactive isotopes. In 2015, scientists detected radioactive contamination from Fukushima along the coast near British Columbia and California.
Four of six Fukushima Daichi reactors suffered hydrogen explosions, releasing radioactive fallout far in excess of what came down after Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Extreme danger still surrounds Fukushima’s highly radioactive fuel pools, which are in varied stages of ruin.
“In addition to reactors, which at least are within containment structures, high-level radioactive waste storage pools are not within containment, and are also mega-catastrophes waiting to happen, as in the event of a natural disaster like a hurricane,” says Kevin Kamps of the activist group Beyond Nuclear.

In 1992 Hurricane Andrew paralyzed fire protection systems at Florida’s Turkey Point and so severely damaged a 350-foot-high tower it had to be demolished. The eye of that storm went directly over the reactor, sweeping away support buildings valued at $100 million or more.
There’s no reason to rule out a future storm negating fire protection systems, flinging airborne debris into critical support buildings, killing off-site backup power, and more.
As during Andrew, the owners of the nuclear plants under assault from Harvey and Irma had an interest in dragging their feet on timely shut-downs. Because they are not liable for downwind damage done in a major disaster, the utilities can profit by keeping the reactors operating as long as they can, despite the obvious public danger.
Viable evacuation plans are a legal requirement for continued reactor operation. But such planning has been a major bone of contention, prompting prolonged court battles at Seabrook, New Hampshire, and playing a critical role in the shutdown of the Shoreham reactor on Long Island. After a 1986 earthquake damaged the Perry reactor in Ohio, then-Governor Richard Celeste sued to delay issuance of the plant’s operating license. A state commission later concluded evacuation during a disaster there was not possible. After Andrew, nuclear opponents like Greenpeace questioned the right of the plant to continue operating in light of what could occur during a hurricane.
Throughout the world, some 430 reactors are in various stages of vulnerability to natural disaster, including ninety-nine in the United States. Numerous nuclear plants have already been damaged by earthquakes, storms, tsunamis, and floods. The complete blackout of any serious discussion of what Harvey and Irma threatened to do to these six Texas and Florida reactors is cause for deep concern.

“““““““““““““““““`

Harvey Wasserman’s California Solartopia show airs at KPFK 90.7 fm  Los Angeles; his Green Power & Wellness Show is podcast at prn.fm. He is the author of Solartopia! Our Green-Powered Earth and co-author of Killing Our Own: The Disaster of America’s Experience with Atomic Radiation.

© 2017 Solartopia.org

Theme by Anders NorenUp ↑