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Leading climate change critic to speak at UVM

BURLINGTON — Global warming is a natural phenomenon, has little to do with human activity, and there is little we can do to stop it.

That’s the sobering message a leading climate change skeptic will bring to Vermont this week.

Atmospheric physicist S. Fred Singer, who founded the Science and Environmental Policy Project in 1990 and is a professor emeritus of environmental sciences at the University of Virginia, is scheduled to speak Wednesday at the University of Vermont.

Singer promises to provide a different interpretation to the data being collected about the Earth’s temperature; one that shows the Earth is warming, but it has been for hundreds of years and is in the midst of natural cycle, not the result of human-created carbon dioxide emissions.

Climate change in Vermont has been a hot topic in Montpelier this session, as has the state’s energy future. Democratic leaders and the state’s Republican governor have all been trying to score political, and environmental, points in an effort to reduce the state’s “carbon footprint.”

The issue is one that resonates with many Vermonters as well. In September, Vermont hosted the largest ever rally on climate change — a three-day walk from Ripton to Burlington drew more than 1,000 people in Burlington’s Battery Park for a final rally.

Earlier this session, Vermont’s legislative leaders convened regular hearings with top scientists from around the country in the field of climate change and sustainable energy. However, many felt that disparate, or minority, viewpoints on the topic were ignored or marginalized.

It’s with this backdrop that Singer comes to town, and just weeks before UVM hosts its annual Aiken lecture series, named after George Aiken, a former governor and U.S. senator and noted environmentalist. This year’s Aiken lecture topic? Why climate change of course.

To be clear, Singer does believe the world is warming. However, he doesn’t believe human-created CO2 is the leading cause of the warming (or has had a measurable effect at all on global temperatures), or that climate change is a bad thing. Most importantly, says Singer, climate change is part of a natural cycle and there is nothing we can do to stop it. So, why try when some measures could reduce energy production and put entire economies in jeopardy.

And it’s clear that Singer is not alone in his thinking. His most recent book, Unstoppable Global Warming — Every 1500 Years is on the New York Times bestseller list.

“I will show that the global warming models that have been developed don’t agree with the data, and science should always be based on observation,” Singer told the Guardian in a five-minute telephone interview. “I don’t do my own measurements, but these are all contained in official government reports that observe some of the very things that the models say shouldn’t be happening.”

In a recent article in Le Monde, Singer laid out his arguments: “First, the climate is always changing — either warming or cooling – on time scales ranging from decades to millions of years. Nearly 20 ice ages have come and gone in the past two million years, controlled by predictable changes in Earth’s orbit and tilt of its axis,” Singer wrote. “Our present interglacial warm period is 12,000 years old and may soon end. Geological evidence has also uncovered a 1,500-year climate cycle, likely caused by the sun — and also unstoppable. On top of all this, we have irregular, unpredictable short-term fluctuations. Since 1979, weather satellites have shown a slight warming trend that is well within historical experience. How can we tell whether this recent warming is due to human influences, such as the rise in atmospheric greenhouse gases, or whether it is simply another natural fluctuation?

“It’s no use asking the thermometers; they cannot talk. The melting of glaciers and ice sheets, the rise in sea level, severe storms, floods, droughts — all of these are interesting, to be sure, but really irrelevant to our question. They may well be connected to a warmer climate — or maybe not — but they cannot tell us what causes the warming,” he added.

While Singer often pokes holes in the predominant theories, his have come under heavy scrutiny and criticism from climate change scientists, who call his work misleading, inaccurate, and designed only to serve the interests of those who have funded his efforts — a roster that includes multinational oil, and coal companies who stand to benefit from a status quo position, the critics claim.

Despite the name calling from his critics, Singer refuses to posit why thousands of scientists don’t subscribe to his theory.

“I’ll leave that for you and others to decide,” said Singer, who has appeared in the documentary The Great Global Warming Swindle. “I don’t want to speculate on their motivation.”

In Vermont, where concern has been raised about the impact of climate change on maple sugaring and the ski industry, Singer said it’s simply pointless to try and fight it. Rather than lament the loss, people need to seize the opportunity of what may be coming and adapt.

“It’s pointless, because if it’s natural there is nothing you can do about it,” he said. “And, many economists believe that global warming is actually good for the economy, not bad, and will increase productivity.”

Singer adds that with China and India bringing new coal-fired power plants online every day, that anything the United States does to reduce its carbon footprint will have little, if any, impact on global CO2 output. That is despite the fact that the United States is recognized as the world’s leader in C02 output even if it doesn’t have the largest population.

Singer’s response is simple. “That’s because we are wealthy and have a high standard of living. If we were to reduce half of our footprint, we would have to either reduce our standard of living to that of a Third World country, or get rid of half of the population,” he said.

House Natural Resources and Energy Committee Chairman Robert Dostis, D-Waterbury, said simply throwing up one’s hands is not a responsible option.

“We need to take responsibility for what we’ve done and take action — that’s what we are charged with, and thinking like this does a disservice to taking responsibility for what we’ve done,” said Dostis, who said most climate change models show warming trends correlating with the increased burning of fossil fuels, and in many cases presenting an accelerated trend over previous warming cycles.

Dostis said he did not anticipate attending Singer’s talk, citing his legislative workload.

Singer is coming to Vermont at the invitation of Lake Champlain International (LCI) and its Great Spirits Series, named in honor of Albert Einstein.

LCI officials believe that recent legislative discussions on climate change were one-sided, offering little, if any, minority or divergent opinions.

“We feel the subject, given its seriousness and complexity, deserves continued discussion — certainly beyond one legislative session. We were convinced of this when certain legislators based their decision not to hear from professionals such as Dr. Singer based on their own bias, a bias, in some instances communicated via pejoratives. Education for the individual, we believe, should never end. It is ongoing process of discovery. As for private industry, I would expect them to pursue what is in their best, corporate interests,” said James Ehlers, of LCI, in an e-mail interview with the Guardian.

Ehlers said lawmakers, along with members of Gov. Jim Douglas’ Climate Change Commission were invited to hear Singer speak. He’s not sure how many may attend.

He hopes that Singer’s appearance is the first in a series of speakers aimed at bringing other viewpoints, and possible solutions, to the table for discussion.

“Our concern is that we are attempting to solve problems using the same manner of thinking that itself is responsible for the problems of today. For example, “saving energy” is not physically possible. Energy is neither created nor destroyed. How does one save it then, with a particular light bulb no less? This is perhaps old thinking. We are focused on the impossible rather the possible, such as environmentally-friendly and emission-free nuclear power and the development of hydrogen as two examples,” said Ehlers. “We have a vested interest, at our organization, in a healthy watershed. Continued damming of our rivers so that we may continue to enjoy the benefits of inexpensive power, as has been mentioned, is not in the long-term best interest of our region, in our opinion. Nor is the establishment of large-scale wind or solar farms for the large habitat footprints they affect. How can we achieve our need for a stable and inexpensive power supply to continue to enjoy the benefits of our modern society and at the same time do so in an intelligent and responsible manner?”

Event information

Singer will speak at 7 p.m., Wednesday at the Ira Allen Chapel at UVM. For more information, call 879-3466 or email info@lakechamplaininternational.org. Parking is available is at Fletcher Allen Health Care and at the Waterman building.

Singer’s biography

S. Fred Singer, now president of the Science & Environmental Policy Project, a non-profit policy research group he founded in 1990, is also distinguished research professor at George Mason University and professor emeritus of environmental sciences at the University of Virginia. His previous government and academic positions include chief scientist, U.S. Department of Transportation (1987- 89); deputy assistant administrator for policy, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (1970-71); deputy assistant secretary for water quality and research, U.S. Department of the Interior (1967- 70); founding Dean of the School of Environmental and Planetary Sciences, University of Miami (1964-67); first director of the National Weather Satellite Service (1962-64); and director of the Center for Atmospheric and Space Physics, University of Maryland (1953-62).

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Back to the future: Peak-oil scenario fuels “go local” campaign

By Kathryn Casa | Vermont Guardian

BRATTLEBORO — Good news! The world is fast approaching the end of its oil supplies. Their depletion will lead to a Malthusian catastrophe as oil-driven economies crash, petroleum-linked world food supplies shrink, transportation costs skyrocket, and industrialized urbanization reverses itself, sending people fleeing their SUV-dependent suburbs for a rural lifestyle.

It takes a real optimist to see opportunity in such a dire scenario. But, a handful of Windham County activists see the end of oil dependence as the beginning of a better way of life.

“I believe that there are tremendous opportunities embedded in this whole issue/crisis of peak oil,” said Brattleboro ecological engineer Tad Montgomery.

Click here for the full text of this story in our subscriber’s area.

Vermont lawmakers to call for Bush impeachment

BURLINGTON — A Progressive lawmaker today will introduce a formal resolution in the state Legislature calling on Congress to draft articles of impeachment against Pres. George W. Bush.

Rep. Dave Zuckerman, P-Burlington, claims support from at least a dozen lawmakers, including Democrats, Progressives and one independent, and expects to have more co-signers before handing the resolution into the House clerk later today.

The following legislators have signed onto the resolution as of early Tuesday: Rep. George Cross, D-Winooski; Rep. Winston Dowland, P-Holland; Rep. Michael Fisher, D-Lincoln; Rep. Steve Green, D-Berlin; Rep. Sandy Haas, P-Rochester; Rep. Jason Lorber, D-Burlington; Rep. Jim McCullough, D-Williston; Rep. Chris Pearson, P-Burlington; Rep. Kathy Pellett, D-Chester; Rep. Daryl Pillsbury, I-Brattleboro; Rep. Dexter Randall, P-North Troy; Rep. Ann Seibert, D-Norwich.

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Secessionists or racists?

Concerns raised over Vermont links to neo-Confederates

Pictured above: Thomas Naylor of Charlotte, a co-founder of the Second Vermont Republic

Editor’s Note: This version has been corrected to clarify that the Free State Movement has not faced charges of racism or xenophobia. An earlier version left an incorrect impression.

If you’ve heard about the idea of Vermont secession then you probably heard it from the Second Vermont Republic (SVR).

The organization is led by a small group of individuals committed to returning Vermont to its original status as an independent republic like it was from 1777 to 1791. In other words, they hope to secede from the United States.

Secessionists

While SVR is by no means a large political movement, it seems to be gaining momentum and garnering publicity. They’ve been spotlighted in the Los Angeles Times, Philadelphia Inquirer, Christian Science Monitor, Montreal Gazette, and many others. The Vermont Commons, a sister publication, was a Utne Reader finalist for “Best New Title, 2005.” In 2006, the Center for Rural Studies at the University of Vermont even conducted a poll that found that 8 per cent of all eligible voters in Vermont support the idea of secession.

However, while the idea is gaining mainstream attention, perhaps as a quaint oddity, some Vermonters, led by a group of bloggers, are calling into question the integrity of some members on SVR’s advisory board and their connection to racist groups in the South.

Recently, John Odum of Montpelier, who launched the popular Vermont political blog, Green Mountain Daily, received an e-mail from an anonymous blogger called Thomas Rowley, the name of one of the original Green Mountain Boys who fought for Vermont’s independence. Rowley’s blog, vermontsecession.blogspot.com, has been tracking the workings of SVR and according to Odum, the real Rowley has a long history of monitoring hate groups. He/she asked Odum if anyone has ever investigated SVR and Vermont Commons based on what the individual claimed were ties to neo-confederate organizations such as the League of the South (LOS).

Rowley’s probe began after SVR co-chairman Rob Williams of Waitsfield was a guest on Vermont Public Radio’s Switchboard and presented a revisionist account of Pres. Abraham Lincoln.

Many secessionists believe Lincoln was not interested in freeing slaves in the South but was bent on imperialist powers.

Rowley told Odum the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) — an organization known for tracking hate groups — said this belief of Lincoln is “part and parcel” of the neo-Confederate movement, which the SPLC says “includes a number of organizations that generally share goals such as preserving Confederate monuments, honoring the Confederate battle flag, and/or lauding what is judged to be ‘Southern’ culture,” according to its website.

And, SPLC staff say any connection to the League of the South should raise alarms.

“No matter what the league says, it has been opposed to inter-racial marriage. It’s intellectuals — in official league writings — have defended segregation as a policy to protect the integrity of both black and white people and their leader has called for a hierarchical society in which different classes will have different legal rights. In other words, they are calling for a feudal society modeled very much on a theocracy,” said Mark Potok, director of the SPLC’s Intelligence Project. “This is a group that has harbored large numbers of racists of all kinds and in our view it’s obviously a white supremacist group.”

SVR co-founder Thomas Naylor of Charlotte claims his organization has no direct link to LOS, and more importantly SVR is in no way racist.

They “charge that because the SVR’s website has a link to the LOS that therefore we must in bed with them, failing to take into consideration that through our sister organization the Middlebury Institute we have links to all 35 of the secessionists groups and we’re in bed with none of them, in particular the LOS. We have no relation with the LOS and all of the secessionist groups ideologically are all over the place,” said Naylor in a recent radio interview with Steve West, on WKVT-AM in Brattleboro.

And, according to a recent statement released by the Middlebury Institute, a think-tank dedicated to the study of secessionism, the League of the South’s directors have renounced its racist past — on June 21, 2005.

“The problem is Abraham Lincoln did such a number on the American people 150 years ago that most Vermonters when they think of secession, they think of slavery and racism and if you’re a Southern secessionist by definition you have to be racist,” said Naylor. “Writing off the LOS because it’s a Southern secessionist group is based on a position of total ignorance. The only common ground between us and the LOS is unconditional antagonism and hostility toward the American empire.” best proxy sites 2018

News | The Spaceman cometh: Bill Lee talks baseball

He’s one of the game’s most colorful personalities; a rare diamond in the rough among the cookie-cutter characters that seem to make up today’s Major League Baseball.

Bill “Spaceman” Lee is a southpaw pitcher drafted by the Boston Red Sox in 1968. Known for once pitching in his famous astronaut suit, Lee played nine seasons for the Sox and four with the Montreal Expos. He has a lifetime record 119 wins, 90 loses, a 3.62 earned run average and was a member of the 1973 American League All-Star team. But the one statistic that is “ hardwired in my cerebrum” he said is the 12 times he beat the New York Yankees when pitching for the Sox.

Like most Sox fans, there is no love lost between Lee, the New York Yankees, owner George Steinbrenner, and especially with former Sox manager and Yankees’ third base coach Don Zimmer. Zimmer had no tolerance for Lee’s antics and would often bench him, the most memorable of which was during a critical four-game series in 1978 known as “The Boston Massacre.” The Yankees outslugged the Sox 42-9 in the series.

Most of all, Lee loves the game and considers himself a baseball purist. He despises the designated hitter rule, games played on artificial turf, and polyester uniforms, and started a company that sells wooden baseball bats made from yellow birch.

He is the author of three best-selling books — The Wrong Stuff with Richard Lally, The Little Red (Sox) Book with Jim Prime, and Have Glove Will Travel, also with Lally.

Lee lives in Craftsbury and has called Vermont home for 25 years. Today, he still plays baseball in tournaments around the country, including the Vermont Men’s Senior League, and teaches an annual class at Middlebury College about the Negro Baseball League.
With the 2007 baseball season underway, the Vermont Guardian caught up with Spaceman to talk about the Red Sox, their new pitcher Daisuke “Dice-K” Matsuzaka, rising baseball ticket prices, and much more.

Bill Lee talks baseball

VG: So the Red Sox home opener is April 10 against the Seattle Mariners. How do they compare with the 2004 Red Sox that won the coveted World Series? And, do you also think “Dice-K” is the real deal?
Lee: Oh, he’s the real deal from what I’ve seen so far. I mean I’ve only seen him throw three games, but all three of them have been gems. He’s got good command and it forces Curt Schilling to be a better pitcher than he was the other night and if Josh Beckett can stay away from the home run ball and get his act together, you’ve got three great starters right there and if you get Jon Lester back, strong and healthy, that’s four, and then you can throw Tim Wakefield in who can throw a lot of innings, and save your bullpen. There’s no reason why they shouldn’t have a great year.

VG: And how do the rest of the players stack up?
Lee: Well, [the other pitchers] Julian Tavarez is starting right now and he threw well at the end of last season and Joel Pinero I thought threw well. His arm looks healthy and gosh darn with the closer they’ve got [in Jonathan Papelbon], he’s unbelievable. So, I’m pretty impressed. I just think they’re going to need one more hitter in that line-up somewhere. I don’t know about shortstop Julio Lugo or their lead-off guy Coco Crisp. Third baseman Mike Lowell should come on and have a pretty good season near the end, but catcher Jason Varitek is your big question mark. I worry about him. He just doesn’t seem to have any bullets in his gun when he’s at the plate.

VG: You’re a baseball purist. A concern is that with ticket prices going up will the average Vermonter be able to attend Major League Baseball games? Can anything be done?
Lee: Well, the New York and Boston common man can’t go to the ballpark anymore either. It’s a day of the past I think. It costs way too much money and it’s supply and demand and a very elitist thing. I mean [look at the opening series with the Texas Rangers]. There were more Red Sox fans then there were Rangers fans. If you go to spring training games, it’s more Red Sox fans selling out all these games. Something about landing the Mayflower on the east coast, everybody seems to have a claim to New England and thereby a lot of Red Sox fans. I think we’re even blowing out New York fans now for some reason.

VG: Do you think Steinbrenner shelling out cash for all these big name ballplayers has anything to do with driving ticket prices up?
Lee: Oh, for sure. You buy your own TV network and now you’re a conglomerate; you own everything and it’s just tough. You can’t get to the games. If people are waiting in line for season’s tickets for people to die, it’s almost like the [Green Bay] Packers. These two teams seem to be that way forever.

VG: I know you live in the Northeast Kingdom but what brought you there and what made you want to stay?
Lee: Oh, I came down from Montreal. I didn’t come up. Most people think you come up to the Northeast Kingdom. I came down into the United States because of the Red Sox fantasy camp. John and Stuart Savage ran it and they were from Vermont, that’s what brought me to Vermont the first time and one of the fantasy campers owned a farm up there and his barn collapsed and forced him to sell part of his property and I bought the 14 acres on top of the ridge and built a house up there and it’s been there ever since. It’s just the neatest little community in the world, Craftsbury.

VG: Now I understand every year Middlebury College invites you to co-teach a class about the Negro Leagues. Do you still do it?
Lee: Yep, still do. It’s Karl Lindholm’s. He brings me in and teaches a course on old-time baseball, the economics of baseball, and the race relations of baseball. I was the player rep and John Milner [of the Mets] said I was only white guy allowed on the back of the bus, so it’s kind of very apropos and he’ll bring me in on May 10 on the final day of class, have a little seminar and discuss the relationship of the past, present, and future of the game. It’s just kind of a little perk for the students. That’s why I think Middlebury is the greatest school on the face of the Earth.

VG: Now in terms of your baseball trips to Cuba, what are some of your favorite memories?
Lee: You could be driving the bus down and park it on the side of the road and have a pick-up game with the locals anytime after four o’clock. Everybody gets out of work and they go out and go out and play baseball on any little field. You can get a game anywhere in Cuba just by stopping the bus and that’s something you can’t do in the United States.

VG: You’ve written three books on baseball so far. Any more on the way?
Lee: Yeah, I have a new one coming out this month called Baseball Eccentrics: The Most Entertaining, Outrageous, and Unforgettable Characters in the Game that’s being published by Triumph Books and should be out any day now and they’re going have me tour it around.

Bill Lee-isms

Bill “Spaceman” Lee is remembered for his often funny and irreverent quotes. Here are some of his classics:

“I think about the cosmic snowball theory. A few million years from now the sun will burn out and lose its gravitational pull. The Earth will turn into a giant snowball and be hurled through space. When that happens it won’t matter if I get this guy out.”

“I would change policy, bring back natural grass and nickel beer. Baseball is the belly button of our society. Straighten out baseball, and you straighten out the rest of the world.”

“There’s nothing in the world like the fatalism of the Red Sox fans, which has been bred into them for generations by that little green ballpark, and the wall, and by a team that keeps trying to win by hitting everything out of sight and just out-bombarding everyone else in the league. All this makes Boston fans a little crazy and I’m sorry for them.”

“You take a team with twenty-five assholes and I’ll show you a pennant. I’ll show you the New York Yankees.”

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Just like magic Cartoon

The Center for Cartoon Studies publishes its first graphic novel: Houdini the Handcuff King

Since its inception in the fall of 2005, The Center for Cartoon Studies (CCS) in White River Junction, a two-year cartooning school and studio concentrating on the creating and marketing of comics and graphic novels, has grown by leaps and bounds under the direction of co-founders James Sturm and Michelle Ollie.

In a short period of time, CCS has cultivated an impressive advisory board that is a relative “who’s who” of cartoonists and publishers: Steve Bissette, co-creator of Saga of the Swamp Thing; Denis Kitchen, president, Kitchen Sink Press; Eric Reynolds of Fantagraphics; and industry giants William Horberg of Wonderland Films, Diana Schutz of Dark Horse Comics, and Will Eisner, the creator of sequential art.

Earlier this month, CCS introduced its first book in a series of graphic novels for young readers, titled Houdini the Handcuff King.

Created by cartoonists Jason Lutes and Nick Bertozzi (from Seattle and New York respectively), the premise of the book is to present a snapshot moment in the life of Harry Houdini and focus on only one specific incident in an effort to enhance the intrigue that surrounded the talents and accomplishments of a man who, at his peak, was arguably the most famous person in the world.

“I was paid to learn at the knee of one of my favorite cartoonists,” Bertozzi said. “In fact, I show his thumbnails to my students as the Gold Standard for clear cartooning. Working with him was a little intimidating at first.”

cartoon magic

In traditional graphic-novel style, the large panels and bold illustrations reveal Houdini as he prepares and then executes one of his most famous stunts, a death-defying leap off Boston’s Harvard Bridge while handcuffed.

The bold artwork effectively transcends the various emotions; a nervous excitement from the gathering crowd, detailed facial expressions, suspenseful anticipation, and even a hint of anti-Semitism, when it is revealed through the comments of a policeman that Houdini was of Jewish decent.

An introduction into the life of Houdini as well as a collection of panel discussions are also included in this 96-page, hardbound edition, giving the reader a clearer picture of the magician’s personal life including his wife Bess and right-hand man Beatty, and the frenzy surrounding the crowds and newspaper reporters who followed him.

CCS also recently announced a creative partnership with Sunrise Greeting Cards, which will showcase the work of several CCS cartoonists beginning in 2008.

“It is great to be able to give our students the opportunity to earn income while at the same time being introduced to an industry that can help support them while they continue to work on their comics and graphic novel projects,” Ollie said.

The school will host its first commencement ceremony on May 19, with an estimated 20 students participating.

The institution’s first commencement speaker will be cartoonist-icon Patrick McDonnell, the creator of the daily comic strip Mutts. McDowell’s comic strip appears in some 700 newspapers around the world. Peanuts creator Charles Schulz once declared Mutts one of the greatest comic strips all time.

In an increasingly visual and graphic U.S. culture, the art of cartooning and the age of graphic novels is seeing a resurgence through the explosion of imported comics and a global fascination with cartoon animation.

As the only college-level training program of its kind in the United States, CCS hopes to ride the cusp of this ever-growing animation wave of success.  click here to login for more information