Columbus Alive

The Sierra Club at Your Door

Knock knock. Who's there? Larry Fahn, president for the board of directors for the Sierra Club. Larry Fahn, president of the board of directors for the Sierra Club who? Larry Fahn, president of the board of directors for the Sierra Club who wants you to vote for John Kerry in November.

OK, so that's not very funny. But then, Fahn's not exactly joking either. The Sierra Club has been increasingly involved with presidential campaigns since the '80s, and this time they're more engaged then ever before, participating in "retail politics" like phone banking and knocking on doors, Fahn says.

He visited Columbus last Saturday to deliver a speech at Goodale Park and join volunteers going door-to-door in the Short North/Victorian Village area to let voters know that George W. Bush is anything but a conservative (compassionate or otherwise) when it comes to the environment, while Kerry received a 92-percent lifetime rating from the League of Conservation Voters.

I spoke with Fahn on the phone about the Sierra Club's view of the race.

 

OK, so say you just knocked on my door. What's your pitch?


We're just making sure people are registered to vote, then we're telling them about the various environmental policies impacting their communities, making sure they know, for example, that Ohio has seen a 10-percent increase in emissions at a time when we have the technology to reduce emissions.

And we're going to be talking to them about energy. You have a situation where we could triple the gas mileage of all our cars and trucks if we wanted. We have the technology to do that. But the Bush administration's chief of staff [Andrew Card] is the former [CEO of] the American Automobile Manufacturers Association, and that administration has been fighting every effort to improve fuel efficiency. Instead they're trying to open up public lands, fragile areas like the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, to oil drilling, instead of conserving by using technology to build more hybrid vehicles.

 

Why has the Sierra Club become so involved in this election?


Primarily because we have an administration in Washington that is the most environmentally destructive since our country was founded. There's no question. Every president going all the way back to Teddy Roosevelt has helped protect the environment by setting aside public lands, parks, wilderness areas, national landmarks, antiquities. Every single president, Republican and Democrat.

And this president has not only not protected any new public lands, but he has removed from protection hundreds of thousands of acres of public lands, like the Rocky Mountain Front in Colorado, Wyoming, Montana and New Mexico, and just all over the country, with loosening of drilling restrictions and increasing public forestry timber cutting on public lands and so forth. The contrast between that record and the record of Senator Kerry is just so dramatic – it's more dramatic than any election in history.

 

What's been this administration's worst move on the environment in the past four years?


Oh, there are so many. It's hard to choose – the rollback of the road-less policy, which will be increasing the building of roads into national forests, and then increasing timber harvesting and calling it the "Healthy Forest" initiative and making it sound like they're doing it in order to protect communities from fire.

The air rollback is probably the other worst one. They rolled back a whole host of new rules that would clean up the air. And they call it a "Clear Skies Initiative." They use nice-sounding words to mask the fact that it's very, very environmentally destructive.

 

I've heard it said that administrations are most dangerous in their second terms, when they don't have to worry about re-election.


Oh, absolutely, if they've done all this in the first term...

 

Do you think there's any chance that maybe Bush will win in November and say, "OK, the last election's behind me now so I don't have to answer to lobbyists anymore. Now I can start doing the right thing and protecting the environment?”


Frankly, I think the lobbyists that have been controlling him are his friends. He and his vice president both came out of the oil industry, and that's their mindset, explore and exploit. They say, "Let's explore for oil in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. Let's explore for more oil and gas in the Rocky Mountain Front. In our coastline areas. In the Otero Mesa of New Mexico. Let's explore or exploit everywhere we can."

We're trying to say, "No, let's explore tripling the gas mileage of our cars and trucks so we don't need to drill in these areas. Let's explore using more wind energy and solar energy." We could do so much on energy if we exploited solar and wind energies, which are renewable, and they've done nothing, nothing on that.

And Kerry's record is very much in favor of alternative energy and he's always been talking about using technology to increase efficiency, increase conservation and reduce our dependence on Saudi oil.

 

I know a lot of people who want Bush out but question whether Kerry's really that different from him. When it comes to the environment, if you take Bush off the table as someone to compare him to, do you think Kerry still looks good?


Oh, he was the best of all the Democrats. He has an outstanding record on energy, on pollution, on environmental justice, regulatory reform, a whole host of issues.

 

The environment is consistently cited as a major concern among voters, but politicians don't seem to talk about it as much as other issues. Why is there this sort of disconnect?


Well, it depends on where you're from. I think we're hearing about it more and more. Obviously the war, and the war on terrorism and 9/11 and all of that is much more dramatic. The environment is more of a long-term, esoteric concept that people care about, but it's not immediate, generally. These emission levels get worse over many years until it's too late and your kids are getting asthma.

But we've heard Kerry talk about it; we've heard John Edwards talk about it. They're talking about many of these issues like global warming, about hybrid technologies. They're talking about reducing our dependence on foreign oil by conservation and renewable energy.

And there's also, of course, the big issue of trade, and how this Bush administration has been pushing a so-called "free trade" agenda which is exporting jobs overseas and reducing environmental standards both here and around the world.

 

John Kerry also supports free trade.


Well yes, but he's calling for all trade agreements to include very tough labor and environmental standards that the Bush administration has walked away from.

 

With the foreign policy issues you mentioned dominating people's attention, it seems like it's been harder for advocacy groups to grab the public's or media's attention. What have you been doing to break through?


No doubt about it, after 9/11 we were off everyone's radar screen for close to two years. But we started using the analogy that if you care for America, you need to care for America. And that is, go to a public place, go to a national park, go to a stream, do something with your family. Bush called for going shopping, if you remember.

The great conservationists – many of them were Republicans in the early days, like Teddy Roosevelt, who saved more land than anyone else. We would like to see the word "conserve" be back in the Republicans' conservative message.

That's why I'm also going to the Republican [National] Convention. We are non-partisan. We have endorsed some Republicans. We love the Republicans who embrace environmental ethics and environmental protection as a policy. There are fewer of them all the time, which is kind of a sad commentary.

Corporate Crime for Morons

We can’t all be astronomically wealthy. But we can all enjoy when the rich and powerful are facing financial ruin, public humiliation and, best of all, jail time. So it’s no surprise that the CEOgate story has gotten so big, temporarily eclipsing our neverending battle against terror and our self-righteous indignation over the Pledge of Allegiance.

It probably doesn’t help that both the President and Vice President are closely linked to big business and believe in their entitlement to secrecy so adamantly they refuse to turn over any documents anyone asks to see (like Bush’s SEC investigation files). Even Martha Stewart is being sautéed in insider-trading allegations, and if you can’t trust Martha Stewart, who can you trust? (Does this soufflé recipe really call for four eggs, or is Stewart just trying to help her friends in the poultry industry?)

Now what began with Enron last fall as simply the biggest corporate bankruptcy in U.S. history has spiraled into a steady stream of scandals, scaring the crap out of investors, spooking the already shaky economy and forcing the government to leap into regulatory mode. With elections a mere four months away, you can bet even the timid Democrats will keep the story alive, since it casts such a poor light on our MBA President and his big business-beholden party.

But as sexy as the corporate corruption scandal has become, why should you care about the shady (or straight-up illegal) accounting practices of a bunch of fat cats? Because even if you’re not a shareholder in Enron, WorldCom, Xerox or Martha Stewart Omnimedia—or even if you’re not a shareholder in any corporation—we all have an interest in the health of the economy. A bad American economy, it stands to reason, is bad for Americans.

Maybe even more important, if these CEOs are criminals, they deserve to be treated like criminals. Don’t let all the big business jargon or lawyerly explanations confuse you: Stealing billions from Wall Street investors is no different than stealing 50 bucks from a Main Street convenience store—in fact, it’s probably worse. If thieving corporate officers don’t do serious jail time, that’ll be an even bigger crime.

So, before your eyes begin to glaze over, let’s get right to the most important questions.

What the hell is going on around here?

It turns out corporate America is just as bad as your disgruntled bleeding-heart hippie uncle always said it was. Insider trading, questionable connections between “independent” auditing and high-priced advising, overstated revenues and creative bookkeeping are costing some shareholders their shirts while lining the pockets of the guys in charge of these companies. This has prompted investors to pull out of the stock market and hurt the economy. After all, who wants to hand over their savings to a bunch of suspected criminals? Investment is always accompanied by a certain amount of risk, but you shouldn’t have to take the additional risk that maybe the company you’re investing in is lying to you.

OK, but corporations have always been sketchy, haven’t they? I mean, if you wear Gap khakis and Nike sneakers, drink Starbucks coffee and eat McDonalds hamburgers, it’s like kicking a small business owner and third-world child in the face while pissing on the environment and making a financial contribution to the Devil himself. Big corporations have always been unspeakably evil—why is their bookkeeping such a big deal?

Whoa there, my rabidly consumer-conscious friend. While there may be some truth in what you say, we’re not talking about business practices that are merely morally or ethically questionable. In many cases we’re talking about businessmen purposely misstating their numbers to make their companies—and thus shares in them—appear more valuable than they actually are.

So they’re lying. That’s not cool, but it’s not like it’s illegal, is it?

Actually, it is. The various laws that apply to the security industry, complicated as they are, are based on a pretty simple concept, as the SEC lays out on its website: All investors, from a multibillion-dollar corporation’s vice president with stock options to your grandmother hoping to supplement her Social Security check with a low-risk mutual fund, should have equal access to basic facts about their investments. Therefore, the SEC requires public companies to disclose “meaningful financial and other information to the public.” The Wall Street economy wouldn’t work if people didn’t know what they were investing in.

Oh, so the scam comes in when they…

Deliberately overstate earnings to make a company’s stock seem more valuable than it really is, right. President Bush has characterized the current crop of scandals as unfortunate examples of a “few bad apples” in the business world, but it could be more like a rotten orchard. Some theorize that if you’re competing against a company that’s overstating, there’s a strong temptation to do so yourself. In the most heinous examples, this type of misstatement coupled with insider trading can lead to those in the know encouraging others to hold or increase their stocks to keep values high, then cash out and make a bundle before the company goes to hell and prices plummet.

The bastards! But wait, I don’t have any stock. What’s it to me?

Well, there’s the general disillusionment about corporate America. You’re going to think twice before letting a CEO of a major company hold your wallet for you in the future, aren’t you? But more important, just because you’re not a shareholder doesn’t mean you’re not a stakeholder.

Douglas Cole, a professor at Ohio State University’s Moritz College of Law, helps put it in perspective. “When you invest money in a new company, the company takes it and it and does things with it,” Cole said. “It builds plants, so there’s the hiring of contractors to build the plant. And of course once the plant is built, they need people to work in the plant, and managers to manage it, and there may be, depending on the business, some type of distribution network involved.”

So less investment leads to less development, which can lead to less new jobs, or fewer old jobs staying around. And keep in mind, more people in America own stock right now than at any point in the past.

Oh. I guess it’s a small world after all, isn’t it?

Sure is. And it’s not just American investors who are losing confidence in the system. If Wall Street can’t be trusted, the rest of the world may be just as hesitant to invest their money here as we are. That means billions of foreign dollars potentially going into some other country’s economy.

“It is vital to our economic recovery that we address investor confidence,” Cole explained. “America has to be a place people feel safe investing capital, and remember the U.S. financial market is just a part of the world’s financial market. Foreign investors can take their money and put it in Argentina or Australia or England. There are all kinds of places capital can go.”

The media won’t shut up about this stuff. Is it politically motivated?

It is, for better or worse. Remember, it’s an election year, and short of a pair of genetic material-soaked blue dresses showing up, Bush and Cheney’s big business scandals are about as juicy as Democrats could ask for. Elected politicians in both parties want to look like they’re doing something to address their constituents’ concerns. Hence Congress’ plans to regulate the securities industry and President Bush’s big speech on Wall Street last Tuesday.

Among the President’s proposals are the creation of “a financial crimes SWAT team,” doubling the maximum prison term for certain types of fraud to 10 years and a prohibition on executives borrowing money from their own publicly owned companies. One point everybody agrees on is that the SEC must be given more money; the only argument is how much more they’ll be given (currently, the proposed figures are $100 and $300 million).

When the Army Owns the Weather

Humans have long sought to control the weather. Early people learned how to make fire and modify their micro-environments; rain dances and other rituals to alleviate droughts are part of our folklore. So news that the government is engaged in secret experiments to control the weather should come as no surprise -- especially after a long history of "cloud seeding," "atom splitting" and cloning revelations.

In fact, a vast majority of people would be shocked to learn that this orphan of the cold war is still in practice. As the U.S. and former Soviet Union spent trillions of dollars on their militaries, their commitment to mutually assured destruction led to extensive experimentation with the use of weather as a weapon. In 1977, the Saturday Review cited a CIA report hinting that the U.S. government already had the power to massively manipulate the weather for war purposes.

As the Soviet Union disintegrated, a 1993 Isvestia article suggested the U.S. might want to partner with the Russians in peddling their top-secret technology to the world. Oleg Klugin, a high-ranking KGB officer, bragged of his involvement in geophysical weapons research to a London newspaper. The grid patterns of jet chemtrails now spotted throughout the Western world are likely the application of these technologies to new military and civilian uses.

The military is not attempting to hide its long-term goals. "Weather is a Force Multiplier: Owning the Weather in 2025" is a white paper that can be found on a Pentagon-sponsored website. The paper’s abstract reads: "In 2025, U.S. aerospace forces can ‘own the weather’ by capitalizing on emerging technologies and focusing development of those technologies towards fighting applications. Such a capability offers the war fighters tools to shape the battle space in ways never before possible… In the U.S., weather modification will likely become a part of national security policy with both domestic and international applications."

Wired magazine wrote about the paper and extensively quoted physicist Bernard Eastlund in its January 2000 article "Activate Cloud Shield! Zap a Twister!" The article detailed the military’s plan for "made-to-order thunderstorms" and "lightning strikes on demand."

Eastlund managed programs for Controlled Thermal Nuclear Research for the U.S. Atomic Energy Commission from 1966 to 1974; he was a key researcher in the 1980s’ Strategic Space Initiative (aka Star Wars). Since 1996, Eastlund served as CEO and president of Eastlund Scientific Enterprises Corporation. The company boasts on its website that it specializes in "weather modification" and "tornado modification" among other high-tech services.

Eastlund considers the High Frequency Active Auroral Research Program (HAARP) in Alaska a smaller version of what he envisions for weather modification. In response to Michael Theroux of Borderland Sciences -- who asked Eastlund whether the HAARP station could affect the weather -- Eastlund replied: "Significant experiments could be performed… The HAARP antenna as is it now configured modulates the auroral electrojet to induce ELF waves and thus could have an effect on the zonal winds."

At the Space 2000 Conference and Exposition on Engineering, Construction, Operations and Business in Space, sponsored by the American Society of Civil Engineers, Eastlund outlined his plan for zapping tornados with an electromagnetic radiation beam from the proposed Thunderstorm Solar Powered Satellite he’s developing with the help of the European Space Agency and Jenkins Enterprises.

U.S. patent number 6315213, filed on November 13, is described as a method of modifying weather and should concern the public. A scientist from Wright Patterson Air Force Base acknowledges that planes are spraying barium salt, polymer fibers, aluminum oxide and other chemicals in the atmosphere to both modify the weather and for military communications purposes. The patent abstract specifically states: "The polymer is dispersed into the cloud and the wind of the storm agitates the mixture causing the polymer to absorb the rain. This reaction forms a gelatinous substance which precipitate to the surface below. Thus, diminishing the cloud’s ability to rain."

Answering the age-old question, Who’ll stop the rain?: Apparently our government and a few of their closest friends in the military industrial-complex. The emergence of Edward Teller promoting this startling technology is more than scary. (Teller was the father of the H-Bomb and grand promoter of Readi Kilowatt, our perky little radiation friend from the ’50s; one of his bright ideas from the ’50s was to create harbors by nuking our own coastline.) The April 24 New York Times reported that Teller "has promoted the idea of manipulating the Earth’s atmosphere to counteract global warming." The computer simulations on the use of aluminum oxide to counter global warming come from the Lawrence Livermore Weapons Laboratory, where Teller serves as director emeritus.

There should be little doubt that this would be a priority for the government -- or for for-profit military contractors. While 2001 was the second-hottest year on record (1998 holds the record as the hottest year), the nine hottest years on record have occurred since 1990. But why would the government conduct anti-global warming experiments in secret?

Investigative reporter William Thomas holds that there’s a link between the recent increase in asthma, allergies and upper respiratory ailments and the chemtrail spraying. Sound crazy? Remember, it sounded absurd when reports first came out that the government had conducted radioactivity experiments on U.S. citizens and released radiation from nuclear plants to test the effect on civilian populations. It sounded bizarre when news first filtered out that the government was engaged in the MK-Ultra mind-control experiments using LSD. The CIA and Defense Intelligence Agency admit they were responsible for many of the UFO sightings in the 1950s in order the explain away experimental military technology.

From public documents to mainstream news accounts, the record is filled with reports of weather-modifying technology left over from the Cold War. Now we have a right to know what, if anything, the government plans to do with it.

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