Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Twin Cities in a transit pickle

While my suburban and exurban counterparts may be unaware, the practicality of their habitation is highly threatened by the rising price of oil. Never in the history of the Twin Cities has this happened. In fact, our history is very short indeed. Minnesota is just 150 years old, and began very simply.

"Transit and the Twins" was published by the Twin City Rapid Transit Company in 1958. They went bankrupt, were bought out by the state, and are now known as MetroTransit. After reading, it becomes apparent that both Minneapolis and Saint Paul were developed using solely hydrocarbons. The primary energy source being coal. Transit using streetcars became the preferred method, and was a for-profit venture.

In the early 20th Century, oil was cheap and America was the world's biggest producer and refiner. Cars became sought after and roads were subsidized heavily to promote their usage. Transit companies paid the taxes to build the roads we now drive on, and were not subsidized until governments bought them out. Those that became public assets soonest, tended to benefit the most - as is the case in New York City.

But during the growth of both Minneapolis and Saint Paul, as soon as a streetcar line was built - so was nearby development. Both cities were beneficiaries of was is now known as transit-oriented development. Often the planners of streetcar lines would succumb to corruption by investing in the lands near where they were to be built.

But either way, we had a much more urban atmosphere concentrated in a clear manner. There were cities and there was the rural country. One could get to most places using transit, as jobs, home, and shopping were highly concentrated. Just looking at the 1950 census map, one can easily see where the true cities are compared to now.

The best analogy of what has happened is the Big Bang. As a city, we have spread out as energy was cheap and abundant. When oil surpasses $100 a barrel, the suburban inertia will persist. It will even as its inhabitants go through the economic turmoil once thought impossible.

But the collapse will be more painful to America and capitalism than that of Communism. A unipolar juggernaut will not exist. Resource wars may become commonplace and brutal.

Initially I do see large cities like Minneapolis reacting sooner to higher oil prices - with higher crime and violence. But this is a city much more capable of withstanding long-term changes than say Maple Grove. Cities are like animals. They need to evolve or face extinction. Any part of the Twin Cities surviving the Long Emergency, will be the most economically and therefore energy efficient.

I highly recommend one find and read this very informative book! At least it gives one interesting facts of the Twins creation. I had no idea that Saint Paul once had more millionaires per capita than any other city on Earth! ( this largely due to the plundering of rainforest lumber in what is now Washington state ) I also enjoyed the competitive history of Minneapolis vs. Saint Paul and the annexation of Saint Anthony. After all, I do benefit from all the amazing parks in both cities!

And a solution to our mess? Many and multiple. I believe in more transit options and renewable energy such as wind for starters. But with a sprawled population, we need all those who can to start taking the bus and trains to work, shopping, etc. You can't support solutions solely on paper ( or carbon offsets). You have to live them and find what best works.

Saturday, October 27, 2007

Target's Lackluster Response

It seems that Target cares more about selling lead-coated toys from China than organic foods from the Midwest. Their response to my questions over their Archer Farms brand makes one cringe at their pathetic attempt. They don't even bother to check the context of their reply! ( what is that DVD about and why are they talking about Horizon Organics?)

The primary concern now is that Aurora has a giant farm in Gill,Colorado ( Weld County) that bothers its neighbors in many ways. The county commissioners want the farm to shrink down its number of cows from 3000 to a more manageable number. Aurora says it will bankrupt them and cost millions. But do factory farms really help the environment and local economies?

The bottom line: we need more corporate accountability. And those who support Organic should ensure that its standards match their values.

My original letter to them is here: http://textclips.blogspot.com/2007/09/target-sells-non-organic-at-organic.html

This is their response:

TARGET ( insert bullseye logo here )

October 26, 2007

Dear Kevin Chavis:

-Thank you for contacting Target® Corporation regarding your experience with returning your son's DVD. Robert Ulrich, Chairman and CEO, Gregg Steinhafel, President, and Troy Risch, Executive Vice President have received copies of your letter and have asked me to respond on their behalf. Please accept my apologies for any frustration and inconvenience you experienced.

Target works to provide guests with quality merchandise at affordable prices. By utilizing an extensive qualification and review process, Target ensures all required organic certifications are valid and up to date. Additionally, Target remains confident that the Archer Farms organic milk we provide guests adheres to the national organic program (NOP) regulations.

Based on the U.S. Department of Agriculture's (USDA) dismissal of complaints, Target will continue to utilize Aurora Organic Dairy as an organic dairy provider. For additional information regarding the USDA's dismissal, visit www.ams.usda.gov/NOP/TodaysNews.htm

Thank you again for bringing your concerns to our attention. I'll make sure to share your comments with our Buying, and Quality teams for review.



Target Executive Offices
PO Box 9350, MS 1A-X, Minneapolis, MN 55440-9350

Monday, October 22, 2007

The Lies of Joyce Meyer

Joyce Meyer Ministries attempts to portray itself as a humanitarian and Godly organization. Yet its magazine from April 2007 contains blatant lies, misrepresentation, and subtle ignorance. It contains more political discussion than one would assume from a so-called nonpartisan religious group.

The primary concern of mine is the obvious American Exceptionalism. Somehow America is great because we are Christian, and other countries need to be converted. The example in Joyce's April 07 issue is Thailand, Burma ( they call it Myanmar), and Laos. They call it "The Golden Triangle."

They claim that it is a region "known for its abject poverty and drug addiction." Personally, I do not think of nations solely for by their negatives but also by its many positives. If I only looked at America through this negative view, I would hate my country for its malicious treatment of others for greed. But I think America has many positive traits that can overcome these negative elements.

But Joyce conveniently ignores current statistics such as:

1) The global drug trade does not center on this region. Nor do its users represent a vast portion of its nation. According to the BBC:

Fewer people take illicit drugs than smoke tobacco or drink alcohol, but the numbers are growing, and the figure is currently estimated at between 3% and 4% of the world population. Most widely used is cannabis, but synthetic stimulants are booming in popularity - especially among urban youth. Meanwhile, in some countries, heroin is finding a new market among the fashionable and wealthy.

Many Americans smoke pot, at least 34% have tried - a lot higher than in the countries stated. Afghanistan produces 90% of the world's heroin and is trafficked primarily through the former Yugoslavia to Europe.

The poverty of this region is falling. If Joyce wanted to focus on nations not improving, she might want to focus on the Christian nation of Ethiopia. The current regime in Ethiopia is American friendly; Meles Zenawi is nonetheless a tyrant. Christians in America have decided to support a tyrant rather than assist the people in Ethiopia to improve their lives.

The photo on the left shows where poverty is increasing and decreasing as of 2004. Notice that the nations Joyce is targeting are not increasing in poverty, yet their Christian numbers are not rising dramatically.

3) The attack on Buddhism. Now Joyce notices that Christianity is having a hard time in growing here. Christianity denies many tenets of Buddhism such as reincarnation, karma, and the fact the people are not primarily evil. Buddhists see humanity as essentially good, but ignorant.

The fact is that Joyce Meyers is just another James Dobson. Her magazine is against stores such as Victoria's Secret, because it promotes sex. Homosexuals, because they should be "cured." And the American preoccupation with "sensuality." While Buddhism has perspectives on theses, none are essentially evil. It is how we live our lives that can keep us in this ignorance. Simple adherence to rules without knowing why we follow them seems more foolish than questioning them. You won't read this in her magazine, because questioning her interpretation of the Bible is deemed a sin by her and her legion of followers.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Making a difference through Coffee

I already buy Peace Coffee, Cafe Fair, and Equal Exchange coffees frequently. But I recently found Yuban coffee at Rainbow. Instead of being Certified Organic, Fair Trade, and shade grown - it is Rainforest Alliance Certified. What does that mean?

According to their site it means: Rainforest Alliance Certification is a comprehensive process that promotes and guarantees improvements in agriculture, forestry and travel. Their independent seal of approval ensures that goods and services were produced in compliance with strict guidelines protecting the environment, wildlife, workers and local communities. To receive the Rainforest Alliance Certification, farms are inspected yearly and the certificate is only issued if the specifications are met and continuous improved is demonstrated. By following Rainforest Alliance guidelines, coffee producers can improve worker conditions, provide training, reduce waste, reduce costs, implement better farm planning and monitoring, and use the resources nature has provided without damaging them for the future. These things make a farm more stable and generally more prosperous for years to come.

On the Rainforest alliance website they state:

Kraft Foods, Inc.

As one of the world’s leading food and beverage companies, Kraft, with brands such as Maxwell House, Yuban, Kenco, Jacobs, Gevalia and Jacques Vabre, is passionate about coffee. In 2003, Kraft and the Rainforest Alliance launched a partnership to move Rainforest Alliance Certified sustainable coffee to mainstream markets. To date, Kraft has purchased more than 50 million pounds of coffee from Rainforest Alliance Certified farms and has successfully launched six coffee products in Europe and the US that feature the Rainforest Alliance seal. Kraft’s commitment to Rainforest Alliance certification has had an impressive impact on coffee producing regions, where thousands of farms have adopted the sustainable agriculture standard, resulting in better worker housing, healthcare, education and the protection of forests, wildlife and rivers. Farmers have invested the premiums Kraft pays for its Rainforest Alliance coffee in an array of improvements ranging from a school in El Salvador that the Ciudad Barrios Coffee Cooperative built for a nearby community to reforestation by farmers in the severely deforested Convencion Valley of southeast Peru, where shade coffee farms provide the only refuge for many threatened animal species.

I am going to buy these products, not just because I tried them and still enjoy their taste. But I want to reward these large corporations for actions that move our society forward. This is a fine example of how capitalism can work if consumers are constantly vigilant about change. I want to see Yuban 100% Rainforest Alliance Certified in the decade! They have done so in European nations, but the US market is much larger. We need more consumers to switch to the sustainable alternatives forged by both small competitors and mainstream brands like Yuban!

Saturday, October 06, 2007

Greens and Libertarian candidates for President?

Now I know this is controversial - but there are opportunities for those who support the Green and Libertarian Parties to change the major ones. This is apart from running against them - but within. Both candidates are almost like mirror images of Libertarian and Green tendencies.

Ron Paul raised over $5M in the 3rd Quarter - putting him in 4th place after Guiliani, McCain, and Romney. Paul is the chair of the Republican Liberty Caucus in the House of Representatives, and a former presidential candidate for the Libertarian Party. He has never voted for a tax increase but adamantly opposes pointless war and the National Debt.

Dennis Kucinich also is in 4th place among Democratic support, after Clinton,Obama, and Edwards. Kucinich was previously chair of the Progressive Caucus in the House of Representatives. He supports Single-Payer Universal Health Care and having our troops represent the United Nations in Iraq instead of solely American interests.

I think that BOTH of these candidates deserve to be President only because they would radically change the direction we are currently moving towards. While they may have radical ideas on some issues, it is the Corporatocracy we must truly confront.

The Corporatocracy feel that Americans cannot truly change their objectives. These two campaigns are proving them wrong. Both have started grassroots campaigns that have been lit up in the past few months. While neither is in the top 3, they have surpassed what the MSM ( mainstream media) claimed their potential was. They denounced both immediately as "long-shots." They cannot say that any longer.

If anyone truly wants change in American politics, but don't want to support a third party - these are your candidates. Donate to them now. There is no point in being afraid to talk about them openly. After having mentioned both of them to members of their respective parties, it became apparent that their name recognition was beyond what the media would like to tell us.

Below are a list of their important issues. One can read more about them at their sites.

Ron Paul
American Independence
Border Security & Immigration
Debt & Taxes
Health Freedom
Life & Liberty
Privacy & Personal Liberty
Property Rights
Social Security
The Second Amendment
War & Foreign Policy

Dennis Kucinich
Strength Through Peace
A Healthy Nation
Survival of the Middle Class
Securing Constitutional Democracy
A Sustainable Future
End to Poverty
Saving Capitalism