Opening Philosophy on Filmmaking

It has been a few years since finishing Considering Democracy. After the screening tour, for various reasons, it has taken a few years to recover from the process. The path that I’ve taken has been one that has allowed me to meet some fabulous creative people, along with the chance to see incredibly movingdocumentaries. I’m always struck by the irony of experiencing powerful stories on the screen in the theater, yet as I look around, I often find myself wishing that more people could experience such a story.

As the process of filmmaking has become more democratized with the advent of digital filmmaking, likewise, the internet’s functionality and reach has also been growing in rapid leaps and bounds.  I’m fascinated by and have gravitated toward Open Source web development platforms and communities. WordPress and Drupal are CMS communities that rely on a the work of developers that voluntarily give resources within the development of plugins and modules and as well as within its core. Because their source code is open, anybody can make modifications and contribute to its development.  While I feel that filmmaking and storytelling is a vital and important part in contributing toward our humanity, I have been wanting to make the leap into creating web-based frameworks that harness individual stories.  I’ve been watching interactive media online and have been watching different filmmakers trying to make the transition to the online world with some heartache and frustration.

The internet is an amplifier of information.  Information can quickly spread over social networks and articles and individual tweets and posts retweeted and posted to become viral.  Indeed, revolutions have been spurred by social media.

Yet filmmakers are often caught between the desire to tell stories and the desire to protect the story that has so often painstakingly created.  With the recent swell of creators of media fighting for money that can be gained from selling it, the filmmaker is in a dilemma.  On one hand, it is almost flattering to have others upload and spread one’s creative work.  On the other hand, it hurts to see your work that took years to create, be so easily and willingly copied and given to others.  (One does want to eat, have a place to live, and we do this within a capitalist society – which I’m fine with, but it does create some dichotomies.)  I’ve seen this happen over and over.  With a film, there is the marketing desire to create demand, yet protect it to go through the usual channels of distribution.  Typically, it has been film festivals, theaters, then to digital viewing like Netflix or iMovie.  Yet very often on the web, many of the technologies that we benefit from every day are iterations of open source code that many people have contributed toward, and very often without any pay.

I recently went to Mountain Film Festival in Telluride.  Besides being in a beautiful area, being exposed to truly inspirational stories and people,  I was also struck by how passionate individuals  telling a story.  Some, while passionate, are seemingly shouting into the wilderness.  A person wrote a book where she interviewed people to see how they have been affected by fracking.  She had left her books, signed, in a pile on a table that had other informational material associated with the festival.  I asked if it was okay to take them, as it was a book – something that obviously took a lot of time and work to compile, and the volunteer relayed that it was okay, and that she left them there on the table for people to take.  I was struck by a thought that has been echoing within my mind – that there are now more efficient ways of getting these important stories out to audiences.

Part of this is that I’ve shifted in my thinking and have moved toward openness for the sake of getting information out to a greater public.  Today I changed the copyright on the bottom of a web-based magazine Green Passive Solar from my copyright to one that utilizes the Creative Commons designation.  And I will do the same to Considering Democracy.  I do want to willfully designate creative works that have information that is important and has value to others.

I’ve been thinking of remaking Considering Democracy and updating the stats, but if I were to do so, I would do it in a way that was web-based.  I recently showed Considering Democracy to students.  One student said that if he had a copy of it, one of his friends would translate it into Spanish.  It made me think that it would be more efficient if it were online – then it would be shared and made into any translation – by anyone who wanted to make one.

That’s part of the thinking behind making Considering Democracy under the Creative Commons.  I do want to put more work into it and it will be on its way and will happen soon in the not too distant future.  In the meantime, if you want a copy of the DVD, I’ll send you one.

 

Support Documentary Filmmakers Against Chevron

The makers of the documentary CRUDE, The Real Price of Oil, 2009, have recently been issued a subpoena instigated by Chevron to obtain their more than 600 hours of footage from the filmmakers.  The film depicts a complex, legal battle with all its participants over Chevron’s (recently merged with Texaco) actions in Ecuador.  The film has screened to audiences at Sundance, has won numerous awards, and has taken a stand in getting information out to the greater public.  We need to support other filmmakers and investigative journalism, as it seems that filmmakers and other individuals are the ones pursuing truth, while the American media largely has been sacrificing truth and the pursuit of investigative journalism in exchange for profit.

The official trailer from the film

 

FROM MIKE BONFIGLIO:

A few weeks ago, Joe Berlinger and I, as well as the “Crude” production companies, were served with subpoenas by Chevron, demanding that we hand over our 600 hours of outtakes, speculating that somewhere in our dailies they would find material that would help them in their lawsuit in Ecuador. We opposed the subpoena, and on May 6th, a judge ruled against us. We are appealing the decision, and many in the documentary community as well as other journalists have rallied to support us. The IDA issued an open letter which has been signed by an extraordinary number of heavy-hitters of the doc world, from Michael Moore to Bill Moyers, Alex Gibney to Morgan Spurlock:
http://www.documentary.org/content/crude-filmmaker-gets-support-open-letter-film-community

http://artsbeat.blogs.nytimes.com/2010/05/12/oscar-winners-back-filmmaker-in-dispute-with-chevron/

Support filmmakers, artists, their property, 1st Amendment rights and People, against giant corporations trying to work the legal system. Can we please get back to the notion of We the People?

Media Coverage of American Healthcare

As I read articles on healthcare in the United States, I’m amazed at the lack of comprehensive media coverage on the topic. There is a lot of discussion about American health care, yet it is all very similar in its surprisingly (if you have been outside of the United States) blatant consistency in how views on healthcare are presented. I’ll give an example.

I love reading the paper on Sunday morning and on one day as I was browsing around through the different sections, I saw a write up on healthcare in other countries around the world. (SpryLiving.com, February 2010, p. 18, insert in the Denver Post.) The amazing omission of information was that many of the other countries all have a type of healthcare that gives universal coverage to all citizens, and in a lot of cases, this extends to all people. This is an amazingly simple and humane concept. If a person is hurt, he or she should be helped. When Americans travel to other countries and get hurt in a first world country like Germany or Australia, they get taken into a hospital and receive care. Simple. Nice. When they go to pay, they are often amazed that either they pay a small co-pay amount, or they don’t pay anything at all.

All the developed industrial countries do have a universal coverage for their society. Yes. This is a type of socialism because it benefits everyone. In the United States, and in any society, there will be elements of socialism as a tax is collected, then redistributed to benefit society, hence the label of socialism. In the United States, we have schools (thank goodness) that benefit society. I personally, think that it is a very good idea to be literate, read, and have a common language of communication. Likewise, we, in the United States, like other developed countries have roads and an interstate transportation system (thank goodness) that allows all people to drive on the roads, regardless of the state that they are from. The United States, however, is vastly different when it comes to healthcare. While the American people voted for change in 2008, has it occurred?

One would think that this topic of health care and how the media covers it would be a very important and worthy topic to discuss because it affects everyone. It is a major topic. Health care is also an important topic in the light that our statistics, the difference between the U.S. and other developed countries are widening, while the American health care statistics slide toward being more in line with third world countries. Is corporate profit really that important to dominate over the societal or common good for all Americans?

Corporate Campaign Finance Regulations Overruled by U.S. Supreme Court

Yesterday, on January 21, 2010, the U.S. Supreme Court passed a landmark decision in Citizens United v. the Federal Election Commission that will drastically impact American politics, the upcoming 2010 midterm campaign season and the resulting U.S. legislation. It also dramatically erodes the idea that the U.S. Constitution was created for The People, individual People under the law. Instead, these ‘artificial people’ like Citizens United, or any other nonprofit organization (that are simply or intricately well funded by corporations) or any other organization, like a union (usually not so well funded) as a result of this ruling, now have more rights than any living, breathing, real person. These well-funded ‘artificial people’ like Citizens United, a corporately funded nonprofit organization, now have the right to use as much money as possible in order to influence the outcome of elections, and ultimately, U.S. legislation.

The recent Supreme Court decision effectively bastardizes U.S. elections and the resulting legislation. The Supreme Court ruled 5 against 4 (these types of rulings are always close) that the restrictions on the amount of funds spent by these organizations (perceived as artificial people) infringes on their first amendment right of free speech. Their collective decision has been built upon the history of previous Supreme Court decisions. The idea that money could be perceived as free speech was based on a previous 1978 ruling (5-4 National Bank of Boston v. Bellotti 1977/1978) that decided that corporate money could be perceived as free speech thus could not be limited as free speech should not be limited. Yet common sense tells a thinking person that a corporation or organization is simply not a living, breathing person that the U.S. Constitution was created to protect. After all, it begins, “We, the People…

Here’s what Supreme Court Justice Stevens had to say:

The conceit that corporations must be treated identically to natural persons in the political sphere is not only inaccurate but also inadequate to justify the Court’s disposition of this case.

In the context of election to public office, the distinction between corporate and human speakers is significant. Although they make enormous contributions to our society, corporations are not actually members of it. They cannot vote or run for office. Because they may be managed and controlled by nonresidents, their interests may conflict in fundamental respects with the interests of eligible voters. The financial resources, legal structure, and instrumental orientation of corporations raise legitimate concerns about their role in the electoral process. Our lawmakers have a compelling constitutional basis, if not also a democratic duty, to take measures designed to guard against the potentially deleterious effects of corporate spending in local and national races.

There are also sharp and strong undercurrents in this ruling that directly challenge the balance of power within the three branches of U.S. government. The balance of power in question is between the Judicial and Legislative branches. The Federal Elections Commission was created by Congress (Legislative branch) in order to limit the amount of corporate – based funds in elections, in an attempt to keep elections between rich or well funded candidates and poorly funded candidates more fair and equal. The recent ruling directly confronts the Legislative branch’s right to create legislation that limits the sometimes corrupting elements of cold, hard, seductive cash within the legislative (law creating) process.

It’s also important to understand sly corporate tactics. They will give themselves a name such as “Citizens United” or “Americans for Better Healthcare”, “Americans United for Good”, or something like “Citizens United For Good”, etc. in the attempt to further disguise themselves as actual citizens. Remember that they are not citizens. They are corporately funded ‘artificial people’, their goal being to further their neo-conservative agenda through the promotion of their media and propaganda. Check out the Citizens United website.

To better understand the development of this argument, we must go deeper into history. The idea that a corporation could be an ‘artificial citizen’ was decided in the post Civil War ruling, Santa Clara County v. Southern Pacific Railroad Company, 118 U.S. 394 (1886). This was the first Supreme Court decision that decided that corporations could be perceived as artificial people with rights under the 14th amendment. (This is really a fascinating argument that I studied when doing the research for the documentary Considering Democracy. Here are other links to Supreme Court documents.

Arriving back in the present, we’ve seen the massive influx of funds in recent political campaigns in the presence the vast amounts of negative campaign advertisements and other types of media. Think of the sly effectiveness of the Swift Boat campaign against John Kerry, a decorated Vietnam war veteran and his resulting swift political demise. Compare that against the odd reality of the armed service record of his opponent, George Bush Junior, who had more dubious lack of a military record, supplemented instead with a drunk driving record, as Kerry was risking his life in the military service abroad. It was an amazing and effective tactic that overrode rationality of the U.S. public. As a result of the recent Supreme Court ruling, the twisting of truth will be taken to new heights during the 2010 campaign season, with the Republicans (traditionally more lavishly well-funded by corporations) chomping at the bit to reclaim some legislative seats.

The need to prohibit corporate funds in the election process is incredibly important to uphold democracy and to defend the rights of the real People. In another egregious corporate funded campaign that led to stupid, or even ridiculous legislation, lies in the evidence in the wake of Enron, the failed gas-energy financial assets trading company. We look back to the actions of the massive injections of funds and donations to campaign finance and see the resulting legislation that helped to create the accumulation of vast profit – that never actually existed in the first place, created by the legislation that should have never been legislated, yet allowed the looting to occur. Had Enron, a corporation, not contributed lots and lots of money to the political system – to both Republican and Democrat, the deregulation likely would not have been passed. The recent Supreme Court ruling effectively allows legislation to be bought – and this can be in the direct opposition to the will of real People. The infusion of vast amounts of money will negatively impact the political consciousness and its resulting legislation. This type of non-person, a nonprofit group, this corporate type of campaign finance, along with continual lobbying throughout the year, is a malicious danger to democracy and to the Republic.

The idea that a restriction on spending money similarly restricts the first amendment rights of free speech, when examined, is a fallacy in interpretation. It is important to realize that the rulings in the area of ‘corporate personhood’ have been highly contested and highly controversial, and very close. They have all been 5-4 rulings.

The American People are growing tired and weary of the negativity and overburdening persistence of lies in the fabric of our political conversation. Individuals within both major parties, both Democrat and Republican are growing tired of corporate and special interest manipulation that ultimately creates policy that continues to distance the United States from all the other developed countries and the countries that espouse democracy. Has change occurred one year into a new administration? The majority of the People voted for change in the last election. It is something that many People have not forgotten and is something to think about. Considering Democracy.

(download 8 pg pdf – Citizens United v. the Federal Election Commission, source Justia)

Reflections on Indy Filmmaking and the State of the U.S.

First of all, thank you for following and reading this. None of this could be possible without the audience. The process of making a film and then learning about distribution was an exciting, yet humbling experience. I’m really thankful for the process and how it has gone. Last fall at this time, I was finishing up a nationwide tour by driving 5 to 12 hours almost each day, traveling from screening to screening. It was a really exhausting process, but one that also allowed me an experience that reflected the general mood of the U.S. I was able to interact with audiences across the U.S. and heard what they were thinking and feeling. I wish that I had been able to tape footage of the Q&A from these screenings. It was really interesting. Across the country, people expressed similar questions, frustrations, as well as things that they take pride in. (Yes, it is important to remember the positive things, along with the things and concepts that people can have more critical thoughts on.)

There was definitely more optimism as the elections approached, yet there was a consistent mistrust of corporate power. It was very interesting that people from all different sections of the economy attended and commented on the film. People who had worked abroad both in the media and governmental organizations such as U.S. Aid also attended and commented on the shift that has taken place from the 1960’s to the current time. Interestingly, the 1960’s while often looked upon as being a time of various types of ‘liberation’ (for example, women’s liberation, sex, drugs and rock n’roll) politically, the 1960s were the opposite, as other developed countries created policy for their People; in the sense of healthcare of the whole population, social security for the whole population, while in the U.S., the population became segmented and compartmentalized as the various types of insurance companies lined up to capitalize on the American people. Thus, the United States has emerged as having very, very different social policy from the rest of the developed first-world nations. All the while, the U.S. continuing to lead the world in various types of technology – such as the development of the internet. (Although now the U.S. is starting to lag behind, but seriously, MS and the mac operating systems are the two most widely used in the world. Yet the world community within open source developments and applications are running closely behind, bring linux with it.) This leads us to the topic of internet and independent filmmaking.

The internet has helped tremendously within the process of independent distribution of films. It is sometimes bewildering because a person – the independent, actually can do it, but has to quickly learn to wear many different hats. After shooting the film, I sharp tuned my editing skills with the guidance of editors that were kind enough to share their expertise. It is a humbling process, but it had to be done. I then learned about marketing and distribution. Because I had quit my job to finish the film, in looking at the model of entering film festivals for a small documentary, it seemed that it would be more efficient to organize my own screenings. As opposed to traveling to various festivals, and and having to spend a lot of money in travel, hotel, food, when funds were really scarce, I decided to create a screening tour and screenings geographically a day apart. I then started cold calling theaters and other venues to line up screenings one after another. (It may seem like it was easy as you read this, but it definitely was not. Along with calling organizers sometimes up to 15 times, then finding the local media, then calling the arts editor for the newspaper and/or radio show, get them to accept a press kit with the film, then to try to get them to watch it, all the while still trying to get the organizer to lock in a screening… It was work.) Make no mistake, I really like film festivals, and have had great experiences at some of them because they allow a convergence of filmmakers, audience and art to take place. Film festivals, however, vary in how much they integrate the community, so some festivals will have packed screenings, while others will have a few people. They are usually over a few days, and could be scattered across the country, so it’s really expensive for filmmakers to travel to a film festival in NY, then one in California a couple of weeks later. Most films that are screening through film festivals have a website, but they can be a lot more than just an internet billboard for a film.

The internet helped because it was nice reference to tell people to check out if they wanted more information. Often people went to the site as I talked to them on the phone. The website also has various materials and downloads like screening guides for people who wanted to have screening parties. It also is a way for people to buy the film. Having a website also allows people to find my contact information and oddly enough, I have even received handwritten letters from people who had seen the film. Last week a library contacted me to see if it was okay to screen the film. (It’s really nice when people are respectful of copyright. And yes, it okay to screen it.) I created a facebook group as I was touring. It’s small, but it also helps to get the word out. (I’ve tried to update the site, but my personal site consistently says that the account is temporarily unavailable. Hmmmm.) I’m thankful for the internet, and to the many people who also helped to get the word out. It’s also somewhat odd that in pushing the film, more people find out about the film, and this gives it greater desireability. One film festival that rejected the film, called a year later to see if they could distribute it online. It’s odd, but true.

The process of distribution has already changed, and is continuing to shift. I recently talked to Aaron, of the popular online series: Chad Vader, Day Shift Manager. They have over 30 million views online. I felt really sort of traditional next to them. They have an interesting approach in that they sell merchandising and have created a huge audience online. (They also shoot in 16mm and live in and work with students from a college.) Their short films are really entertaining. Check them out.

I think the next documentary project I’d like to do will be online based – because of the interactive element that the internet is heading into. I would love to be able to integrate for audience participation and intereaction in a place where others can see and hear what the audience is thinking. Sure, there could be a DVD if there is still demand for it, but I think the bulk of the project could be online, involving a storyline, and a conglomeration of our photos and videos, as well as user generated content, that as a whole will contribute to the story. I’d also like to integrate a wiki to share information, as well as be an archive for future generations. With current hindsight, I realize this my website of Considering Democracy is static, the blog being the only interactive element. That may change later. Who knows?

Thanks for reading.

Doctors Want Single Payer Healthcare

Doctors, the good people who fix us when we’re hurt, want a single payer type system. It really makes a lot of sense, because doctors take a Hippocratic oath to do their best to help people. Yet the current system of U.S. healthcare does not allow this. They are taking a road tour across the U.S. and will be in Washington D.C. later this week.

They are articulate, smart, and they want to do their job, yet the current U.S. healthcare (rapid-insane-profit-before-people) system does not allow it. I’ve talked to doctors who have expressed outrage at the current system as one doctor said that he was bored as he didn’t have any patients and went into the waiting room and was astounded that it was filled with people, some of whom needed urgent care. So he spent the next 5 hours in the waiting room treating patients. He said that while it was rewarding – since people were really happy to get treated, he understood that the front desk operated as a gateway – by checking insurance and also slowed down the process (sometimes stoped) of getting health care to people that needed it.

From their website https://madashelldoctorstour.com

Mad as Hell

You CAN handle the Truth

“There’s no nice way to say it. The financial cost of health care is killing our citizens, hobbling our economy, crushing small business, and threatening the solvency of our government. In the meantime, the Health Care Industry is spending almost two million dollars a day lobbying Congress and manipulating public opinion to accept “reform” legislation that leaves a vicious, for-profit system intact. The “public option” is a trap. We need real reform that finds immediate savings, controls costs, and accomplishes the moral imperative of true Universal Access. A Single Payer plan is the only real path to a Health Care System that is socially, ethically and fiscally responsible. And yet, our elected officials refuse to even discuss the possibility of a Single Payer plan!

If that doesn’t make you mad, we recommend checking your pulse.”

Call your congress person, blog, talk to people, write the editor and stay healthy!

About

This is a blog that comes from the process of making the film – Considering Democracy. I previously traveled around the world asking people what they thought of the United States. After returning, I began the editing process and realized that I needed to understand why the United States was different from the other developed countries that have a representative democracies.

The United States has a powerful multinational-corporate-based aspect within its political and lawmaking process. This power has has stemmed from the notion that corporations have “personhood rights”. These ‘rights’ have been expanded and accelerated throughout the 1980′s and 1990′s so that certain large corporations control more of the media and more aspects of our social and economic lives as individuals and within our communities than ever before in American history. At the same time, the almost ubiquitous corporate aspect has intertwined and lodged itself withing the U.S. government, causing national and foreign policy to shift dramatically toward profit-based goals over the rights of people and communities both within the United States and abroad. Because the United States has also undergone media concentration and conglomeration, there is less debate, less education about issues and more emotionally driven people that simply yell or try to intimidate ideas from being exchanged. It is currently possible for corporate interests to disguise themselves as nonprofits groups entitled something similar to “Americans United for Private Healthcare” or “Hands Off My Healthcare” to muddy the debate while emotionally dividing the American People.

This blog seeks to bring in different aspects of debate that are often ignored by the mainstream media. It hopes to widen the scope of discussion in the United States. It does take a stand. It believes that while corporations and businesses are necessary for societies to function, corporations should not have “personhood rights”. They should not be able to send money, through any channel, to create or influence laws designed for People, especially after the People have voted representatives into office. It believes that the nation and state exists within the bounds of democracy to protect the People that make up its citizenry. Just things to think about.

Single Payer and Rep. Anthony Weiner (D-NYC)

Here is an interesting clip about Single Payer healthcare. A single payer system would be great! It would be really nice to join the other developed industrial democracies. Go Rep. Anthony Weiner! Thank you for taking a stand. You rock! (The federal government and local governments do a really good job at providing police services, 911 services, roads – they’re great. Medicare does a really good job at insuring the other folks. We should have a public plan to cover all Americans.)

We need a public plan in the United States. I would contribute to it, instead of my private health insurance. Private health insurance is really doing a lot of damage to the United States by putting illogical, selfish, dangerous, overly emotional aspects into the national dialog. It would leave the United States very vulnerable if we do not have a public healthcare system that does not cover everyone.

Great U.S. Social Services that benefit All the People – and Profiteering Private Health Insurance

The United States is currently the only first world, developed country that doesn’t have a health insurance policy for all its citizens. This actually goes against much of its existing policy and against the spirit of democracy. The United States does have other efficient social services that benefit all of its members. The existing social services have helped to build America’s economic status, because it is in healthy, safe, societies that commerce can thrive. One of these services is the the well developed road system. All people are able to use the roads to get around the community. Exceptions to this are toll roads and paid parking. Roads are a type of social infrastructure that have stimulated commerce and contributed toward the United States’ overall economic wealth.

Fire Departments are an example of a services that benefits all citizens - indeed, all people in society. It is a socialized service.

The United States also has a fairly sophisticated, efficient and appreciated local police departments. These departments tend to benefit all society, and indeed, most department squad cars have it written on them, “To Protect and Serve”. In addition, fire departments in the United States are also among the world’s best. They continue to have the best equipment and continue to operate for the general betterment of society. American citizens do not need a private insurance policy to receive police or fire department services. All citizens are also able to utilize a national 911 call number that efficiently dispatched the appropriate emergency service. These socialized services benefit all members of society and are amoung the world’s best in regard to efficiency.

The nice efficiency in United States starts to falter when the healthcare system and its statistics are looked at. Indeed, statistics for the United States in healthcare are in rapid decline, heading toward third world levels. A major contributor to this phenomena is the private health insurance policy. It is rumored that health insurance companies would like to offer police and fire insurance if they are victorious in keeping the archaic, inefficient, yet highly profitable private health insurance policies in place within the United States. What direction will America go in?

U.S. Social Services benefit all while U.S. Private Health Insurance only benefit some. (Private health insurance also have ridiculously high profit margins, only benefit some in society, and sets up a system for catastrophic destruction. They are fighting hard and are utilizing fear and other trickery to fool the U.S. population into keeping the system as it currently is.)

The United States should have a public or national plan of health insurance. Something to think about. This debate will be continued…

Healthcare for Americans, please

Wouldn’t it be cool if Americans had the choice to have a low cost health insurance option that would allow all people to be covered – just like all the other developed countries? Let’s hope that this administration will care for its People, as opposed to catering to insurance corporations. Start making your videos and embed and send them to others, including our dear Representatives. Talk to People! The insurance companies sure do have a lot of power. Let’s work on getting the Peoples’ voices heard.

While President Obama was elected on the mantra of “Change”, will it happen?  There was that super-secret meeting with Washington DC with our Representatives and members from the Healthcare Insurance Corporate sector.  A national, universal healthcare – type of coverage would increase America’s security and safeguard the lives of all Americans – instead of just the poor or older people currently covered.  Isn’t it weird that the people who contribute the most into Medicare – working people (taken out of paychecks) don’t get coverage, and instead (may) pay into a private coverage plan that may or may not cover services that are needed.  Take a look at what the good doctor has to say.

Clean ‘Green’ Energy and Grant Links

I recently went to a conference on energy and was pleasantly surprised to hear that there are various initiatives to build and retrofit buildings to be more ‘green’ or clean.  Some of the links have information on various grants or stimulus funds that are also  available.  Some are better than others but are worth checking out…

http://grants.gov

http://www.colorado.gov/energy/

http://www.coloradocarbonfund.org/developers.html

http://energycap.com/

http://www.energystar.gov/

http://colorado.gov/recovery

 

Code Orange in Colorado’s Mountains: Orange Snow, Dying Trees and Repercussions

This spring in Colorado, we experienced strong winds that tinted the evening sky with dark shades of orange. People commented on the strange hazy light that these wind storms brought. The winds were colored with orange sand from Utah, covering everything that it hit. I went for a hike on one of these days and returned home with gritty sand in my hair, eyebrows and even on my teeth. The sand carried by strong winds also reached the once pristine high country.

While driving through one of the states more pristine areas, it was shocking to see orange snow.

While the view is still striking, and while we are fortunate to have over 300+ sunny days in Colorado, there are repercussions to the strong winds that have created other changes in our living surroundings. As the sun hits the darker particles in the snow, it increases the temperature within the snow, causing it to melt more quickly than usual, increasing the spring water run off. This may also create a drier summer and have an impact on fires associated with a drier environment. (The pictures above were taken on May 21, 2009.)

The orange snow was created by huge dust storms that brought sand and dirt from Utah.

Many changes have occurred in a relatively short amount of time. It doesn’t stop with the weird orange snow. Within the last 7 years, trees in the mid to northern part of the state have started dying. At first it wasn’t so bad, it was barely noticeable, then all of a sudden, it seemed as if whole mountainsides of once green pines started turning brown overnight.   This is caused by the Mountain Pine Beetle.  It is a native species, but it no longer gets cold enough in the winter time to kill off some of the beetles.  These pictures were taken today (May 28, 2009) around the Winter Park area in Grand County. (They recently had new spring snow.)

This picture was taken in 2009. Since then, more trees have perished creating a landscape that is predominantly brown and grey.

I listened to people in Grand County talk about how the dead trees have impacted their lives. A living pine can absorb up to 20 gallons of water per day. A dead tree, however, doesn’t absorb anything. The spring run off (melting snow) has increased exponentially and caused flooding in basements of houses. Apparently this has never happened before. It has also washed out forest roads creating the need to gate and close certain national forest access roads (much to the dismay of recent Memorial Day campers.)

Within the last 10 years, 'beetlekill' has swept through to kill approximately 90 percent of the pine trees in the Winter Park area.

The phenomenon of the dying trees is happening throughout Colorado, hitting mainly the Lodgepole Pines, and seems to be gradually heading south. If you drive along I-70, you’ll see the same thing around Summit County and Vail. If you stop to talk to locals, you’ll hear them referring to this as “beetle kill”.

I’m of the opinion that we should talk about these issues that are facing us. I believe that it is patriotic to rationally discuss and try to work toward solutions. While investigative journalism by the U.S. major corporate ‘news’ conglomerates no longer occurs, I think that citizens can and have started talking to one another. Conservative talk radio is essentially of a corporate – neoliberal stance, and is trying to use emotion to keep true discussions from occurring. I think that if people see what is happening and begin thinking and feeling, as opposed to being manipulated and led by their raw emotions, then more people will realize that our surroundings are changing. We need to see these changes and react appropriately. Global warming is happening and we need to act.

Closing Banks; Truth, Consequences and Solutions

So far, 33 banks have closed in the United States this year in 2009. In Colorado, the New Frontier Bank closed on Friday, May 8th. This happened in the agricultural community of Greeley, and has left many farmers without access to the needed loans to plant and continue to care for their investment already sown in the ground.

Interestingly, while the American public is paying for corporate bailouts, the same American public often has no idea which banks are going to be closed and how it will affect them. Link to New Frontier Bank‘s website In times when securing any type of loan for the average person is increasingly difficult, the closing of the bank has left unsuspecting farmers only 30 days to find another loan. What are the possible consequences of this?

The farmer may not be able to secure a loan and may loose the farm. If that happens, less food will be grown and less and agricultural goods will make it to the market. This could then drive up the price of goods available on the market if there is less supply. This will affect consumers because they will then have a more difficult time buying the more expensive goods for their household. To further complicate things, if there is more property available on the market, it could further depress the real estate market. Who has the capital to buy right now and where will the family go?

As our wealth collected in our taxes goes toward bailing out large financial corporate institutions, our People are left by the wayside. Usually, in nations that have a form of representative democracy, policy is created to safeguard society and people’s rights. In the United States, it seems that the largest corporate institutions have the strongest and are able to exert their rights, often over the will of the People.

We need to examine the underlying philosophies that have helped to create this situation. This can be difficult though, as we currently have fewer media voices that are examining the situation. Media corporations have gotten larger, have simultaneously increased their control and reach of information on mainstream media forms, and have simultaneously been shutting down the investigative sections of newspapers and broadcast TV because they are not as commercially profitable. Instead, artificial blame, fear, mistrust and other non-news are being broadcast. In response, only people of similar political views seem to talk to each other. But, there is something that we can do, in a way that will allow the regular person to get his or her point of view across.

 

U.S. Healthcare and the Swine Flu / H1N1

Epidemics inflict horrible, damaging and lasting effects on all aspects of society. In times like these, we need to think about the government’s role in society. Here’s the BBC link looking at the origins of the Swine flu http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/americas/8021947.stm
You’ll have to watch a commercial before, but the report is good.

In the interconnected world that we live in, it’s interesting how the U.S. corporate media machine remains true to its (insurance company and advertising revenue) corporate bias. Could the same be said for our policy makers and legislators?

Governments around the world are looking at how the swine flu could potentially inflict large casualties within its respective population and are moving swiftly to contain the danger and safeguard the population. There is a major difference between the U.S. and other countries. In almost all the developed countries, all citizens are covered with some type of either health insurance or healthcare. The U.S. remains one of the only first world, developed, industrial democracies that continues to deny its population healthcare. This type of policy allows insurance companies to continue to profit off the population and this type of policy can be devastating to the security and health of the United States.

The once prosperous world leader has continued its decline in healthcare, at the same time that costs have continued to rise at a much faster rate than the other developed countries. Even developing countries that have recently joined the top 30 per capita GDP nations, like Brunei and United Arab Emirates, have some type of universal healthcare to safeguard their citizens.

As I read in the morning paper that recent travelers to Mexico have been quarantined and monitored in other developed countries like Spain, I wonder if Americans realize that it is likely that citizens in other developed, first world democracies have their healthcare costs covered. People in these other countries still have the choice to supplement their health insurance with private company coverage, but their policy makers have realized the importance of keeping the country and population secure by insuring that all people are worthy of healthcare. (Oddly enough, in the United States, only older people and poor people, who may or may not be citizens, get healthcare. Guess which corporate lobby ‘helped’ this policy come to being.)

As our news pundits continue to ignore the importance of universal healthcare, and instead convince their viewers that they should continue to pay for high prices, and that they shouldn’t have to cover healthcare for others, remember that we shop in the same stores, walk down similar sidewalks and perhaps sit next to the uninsured in crowded theaters.

What would an epidemic do to the general population of the United States and how would it fare compared to other countries that have universal healthcare? The U.S. already does have a basic infrastructure that can deploy medicine and vaccines across the country. The federal health department has already declared a state of emergency and shipped flu medicine from its federal stockpile to the states. Which is more important: health insurance corporate profit or the health of the population?

Something to consider.

P.S. Also keep in mind that because of recent media conglomeration in the last 15 years, we have less diversity and choice within the realm of broadcast TV and radio stations. Because of this conglomeration, corporate monopolies and their ‘subsidiaries’ have grown (too large to fail?) so that in some cases, radio stations may be owned by a corporation that also sells health insurance.