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Save the Trees, Save the Planet

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Posted on Jun 23, 2010
Flickr / Wagner T. Cassimiro "Aranha" (CC-BY)

By Joe Conason

DAR ES SALAAM, Tanzania—What would the wealthy nations of the West (and their rising rivals in the East) do if they actually wanted to prevent catastrophic warming? Here in Africa, the obvious answer is that they would find the ways and means to discourage deforestation—the ruinous practice of clear-cutting for timber, charcoal and arable land that accounts for at least 20 percent of the atmospheric carbon burden. Save the trees, and you might just save the planet.

In theory, this ought to be a simple enough task to accomplish, with sufficient motivation and money. But in practice, the incentives created by Western policy are so perverse, according to Tanzania President Jakaya Kikwete, that they reward clear-cutting not once but twice over. So he told Bill Clinton, who is visiting Africa this week to oversee the Clinton Foundation’s work on health care and renewable energy.

As Kikwete explained the problem, it has become possible to open forests to loggers for profit and then receive carbon-credit subsidies as a reward for replanting the raped forest. Stupid is too kind a word for this.

The Tanzanian leader expressed frustration, too, with the imperial style that persists in Western efforts to preserve forestland. The agencies that certify projects for carbon credit are overwhelmingly foreign, with personnel parachuted in to perform inspections. While it is essential to verify every carbon credit, the parachute inspection is not, as they say, a sustainable model.

More than a third of Tanzania’s land is still protected forest in national parks and reserves, unlike neighboring Kenya, for example, where deforestation is proceeding rapidly. Its president is plainly proud of his nation’s greenness and trying to preserve that legacy.

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But the economic pressures on the leaders and people of poor countries are enormous—almost unimaginable. The need for food and fuel, let alone cash, is immediate; the threat of climate change is not.

A glimmering hint of a solution can be found in a rural village called Kitere, hundreds of miles south of the capital. There, a local health clinic assisted by the foundation—a clinic that is really a rudimentary hospital, serving thousands of people—is improving its services with solar electrification. Using photovoltaic panels, batteries and AC conversion equipment made in the United States, the clinic now produces enough of its own clean energy to operate lights (instead of dirty kerosene lamps), refrigeration for medicines and a laptop computer. Much of the clinic’s operation is still outdated by American standards, but its electrification has greatly increased its capacity to treat illness and save lives.

Across Tanzania, with Clinton’s help and advice, more than 50 clinics have installed solar arrays at very low cost. These small beacons of progress point toward a much larger and more comprehensive renewable development program—a wise bargain, not an act of charity. Our capital and technology, deeply discounted, in exchange for their forestland. The world’s poor countries proposed roughly the same idea at the Copenhagen climate summit last December, only to be rebuffed by the wealthy because of the cost.

Yet that is the deal that must be done someday soon to avoid climate disaster. For a fraction of the world’s military spending, it could be a Green New Deal that creates new industries, advances new technologies and revives our economy—much like the spending on World War II boosted America into prosperity. It is a proposition that we can no longer afford to refuse.

Joe Conason writes for The New York Observer.

© 2010 Creators.com


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By Tobysgirl, June 29, 2010 at 3:26 pm Link to this comment

gerard, I see what you’re getting at, but I suspect we shall simply make the planet uninhabitable for ourselves and many other species. This gives my mind great relief, because then evolution shall await the dissolution of our poisons and rise yet again with another fantastic blossoming of life. Hopefully, no apes with big brains that get up to no good.

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By gerard, June 28, 2010 at 12:56 pm Link to this comment

Tobysgirl:  By gerard, June 28 at 2:12 pm # (I put this up on another site, but you might want to see it)

Intuition tells me that we are seeing the early death throes of modern war as an effective foreign policy.  Symptoms:  Lack of ability to “win” in spite of superior numbers and equipment; widespread anxiety plus a sullen, chaotic silence on the part of civilians world-wide.  Increasing secrecy at all levels and an increase in the use of indirect cointel black operations where deceit is more important than confrontation. Increasing tolerance of torture and cruelty plus tendency to identify conquest with radical religious beliefs.  Increasing criticism of civilian control over military operations, and desire for military control over civilian government; increasing fear of failure and doubt among farflung troops, and a sense of not knowing what’s going on. Among civilians, a widespread fear of the future. Among the fighting forces increasomg PTSD-like symptoms and suicide. 
  All this points toward the advent of the end of war—particularly high-tech war == and a period of profound shift in human psychology—what seems like a house-of-cards effect with noone—leadership or otherwise—having a clear sense of what is ahead. 
  The centers of power—economic, military, civil, theoretical—(being themselves reactionary by nature) seem at a loss and without any strategy beyond a blind insistence on taking the wrong roads out.
  Overall, the times may be the most hopeful we have seen for centuries, but they will require intelligence, courage and foresight from every living soul who can summon the courage to stand up.

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By gerard, June 28, 2010 at 10:30 am Link to this comment

Tobysgirl:
  Intuition tells me that we are seeing the early death throes of modern war as an effective foreign policy.  Symptoms:  Lack of ability to “win” in spite of superior numbers and equipment; widespread anxiety plus a sullen, chaotic silence on the part of civilians world-wide.  Increasing secrecy at all levels and an increase in the use of indirect cointel black operations where deceit is more important than confrontation. Increasing tolerance of torture and cruelty plus tendency to identify conquest with radical religious beliefs.  Increasing criticism of civilian control over military operations, and desire for military control over civilian government; increasing fear of failure and doubt among farflung troops, and a sense of not knowing what’s going on. Among civilians, a widespread fear of the future. Among the fighting forces increasomg PTSD-like symptoms and suicide. 
  All this points toward the advent of the end of war—particularly high-tech war == and a period of profound shift in human psychology—what seems like a house-of-cards effect with noone—leadership or otherwise—having a clear sense of what is ahead. 
  The centers of power—economic, military, civil, theoretical—(being themselves reactionary by nature) seem at a loss and without any strategy beyond a blind insistence on taking the wrong roads out.
  Overall, the times may be the most hopeful we have seen for centuries, but they will require intelligence, courage and foresight from every living soul who can summon the courage to stand up.

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By Tobysgirl, June 28, 2010 at 8:30 am Link to this comment

Gerard, I like your positive vision, but I don’t have any faith in humankind’s response to the oligarchs. (It is not only necessary to capitalism to grab up everyone’s resources, it is also necessary to destroy huge quantities of goods, which war handily accomplishes.) Maybe it’s just that I live in a dead zone as far as political awareness goes, but everyone I meet seems to be an idiot. They spout whatever crap they heard on TV or yakking with their friends; they seem incapable of defending the positions they say they believe in, let alone taking in information to form their own ideas.

This last election was deeply depressing, watching my liberal and so-called radical friends rushing to vote for Obama. They’re not idiots, but they’re not very bright. Yes, there are all sorts of good things going on around me—organic farms, green energy, real environmentalism, etc—but they seem to be quite disparate, and how can our little efforts compete with the massiveness of the world corporations and their whores, our leaders?

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By gerard, June 25, 2010 at 4:09 pm Link to this comment

Eventually wars stop.  Why?  Because people are exhausted, everything is destroyed, and there’s nothing to do but make a kind of peace in order to survive ... and rebuild for the next one.

Each war gets worse, more destructive, less tolerable.People begin to cast about for ways to prevent them before they start.  That’s where we are now.  Get out of Afghanistan and try to figure out how to stay out of “the next one” before it starts.

Point 1.  Stop accepting the idea of war as “inevitable” (based on history). or useful as a way of teaching other people how to live.  Admit it doesn’t work and won’t work the next time.
Point 2.  Think of. and work on, other ways, of which there are several that involve education, generosity, understanding, maturing, getting together.
Point 3.  We have education—all the means we need. We have at times known generosity and its rewards.  We sometimes understand some people somewhere.  Maturing is a normal life process.  We are getting together whether we want to or not, and huge problems are pushing us closer together every minute.
Point 4. What causes most wars and who loses from wars.?  Trying to steal or exploit other people’s resources instead of treating them justly and paying a fair price is a primary cause.  Thinking you are better than others is another. It’s chrystal clear by now that capitalism is too exploitive, too unfair, too powerful, too greedy for human beings to leave unchecked and that warring countries are no better than those they war against.

So ... ? Control capitalism before it kills us all.
And squelch “American exceptionalism” before it gets a day older.  We are only “exceptional” in our ability and tendency to make war. This is our problem,  not somebody else’s.  Look in the national mirror and admit our responsibilities, our guilt, our potentials.  Choose.  It’s now or never—almost.

We know what to do.  It’s a question of finding ways to do it without starting another war among ourselves—or somewhere else, in a last-ditch effort to take our national mind off of the present reality.

And one more thing:  Remember we’re all in this together—not this faction against that faction, this party against that party.  Talk it out. Make communities.  Mend fences.  Use the tools of democracy we talk about. Demand that people deserve to govern themselves. And proceed in ways that prove they know what they are doing.

The spirit is willing, but the ..................?

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By Old Man Turtle, June 25, 2010 at 1:34 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

So what’s all that hard about this?  Money is the superficially driving motive for everything being done that we’d all be better off if it was left undone.  On the other hand, there seems never to be enough (or even any) of the toxic, corrosive, and habit-forming stuff for anything that really needs being done; like global reforestation, for just one huge example.

What does that tell you about this civilization (and those who own and operate it) which runs entirely on this dead-end principle, and so is ruthlessly killing the Earth in the “process”?  If the captive peoples haven’t figured this out by now, the chances they ever will in time are already slim to none, and vanishing at-least as fast as the forests.

So by all means lets pick nits about dysfunctional celebrities like the Clintons, and beg some “funding” for more just-for-show-anyway “programs”.  Does this article and the ensuing discussion here strike anyone else as completely insane?

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By gerard, June 25, 2010 at 11:46 am Link to this comment

Redhorse, thanks for your cogent statement:

“After our last two major elections, it was the job of the MSM to destroy our sense of national unity and (remember the poster) hope. Their job is to instill fear, create hopelessness and let the American people know that no change will be allowed. That’s how corporate fascist propaganda works.”

Hint, hint:  That’s why TD editorialists and commenters need not—probably should not—write so much and so often about what’s wrong without making suggestions on how to change for the better.  Millions of people already feel hopeless enough: They lost their house, their job, their pension, their health, their education, their self-esteem,  their confidence.  More is too much. Why bother?  Give me a drink, a smoke, a joint.  I’m outta here! 

On the other hand there are those ivory-tower elitists, those radical atheistic leftie socialists, talkin’ down to ya, wanting to destroy the system and glad to tell us what we should do.  Tea, anybody?

The devil and the deep blue sea again, as usual.(At least it used to be deep blue.)

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By REDHORSE, June 25, 2010 at 11:17 am Link to this comment

I agree. It is heartbreaking that our free press has been sanitized by its’ corporate overlords. Attempts to silence and destroy trusted American journalists have increased. D.Rather, B.Moyers, H.Thomas gleefully attacked, and in some instances cast out, by gutless fascist propagandist within the professional press itself. Notice that the powerhouse impact of the McChrystal reporting in Rolling Stone was framed by some in the MSM as “that hippie magazine”.

      The cheap and ugly truth is, the MSM have become coolers and shills for the political special interest grifters who have crippled and robbed our great nation. It is their job to destroy and silence progressive thought. The deeper tragedy is the horror soaked lie they try to sell that this @#it storm is normal. I know, its always been that way. Perhaps the thought of an uncensored press is only one of our silly American “ideals”. But, it seems, there was a time when more journalist were allowed to at least aspire to that “ideal”.

      After our last two major elections, it was the job of the MSM to destroy our sense of national unity and (remember the poster) hope. Their job is to instill fear, create hopelessness and let the American people know that no change will be allowed. That’s how corporate fascist propaganda works. But, I think GERARD voiced something important. They can no longer contain the meltdown. I’d like to add, with all due respect, the Gulf and other financial political disasters have created a unifying common American reality.

        Remember, you can always recognize a propagandist by his/her smell and that famous Cheney/Bushite sneer. Lets stand united. Don’t quit. Elections are coming fast.Get loud. Get down. And VOTE!! VOTE!! VOTE!!

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By Night-Gaunt, June 25, 2010 at 10:15 am Link to this comment

Drought in Africa is a sign of GCC so it is happening now just they need to see that. I am glad for the president of Tanzania and hope he can keep his country green. In places where the forests are gone or nearly so the dryness increases and the water vapor stays in the air and produces hard and fast thunderstorms that are gully washers. It is real and it is happening now. Not tomorrow for our grand kids but right now. And it is only getting worse.

Save the trees, reduce carbon dioxide too. For today and tomorrow.

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By Peetawonkus, June 25, 2010 at 8:35 am Link to this comment

To tropicgirl—
I agree. All those naysayers who tell us to stop swallowing arsenic and giving ourselves hot lead enemas are just socialist Jesus haters. When are we going to realize that the Free Market, which is held up by incredible sums of tax payer $, is our only salvation and path to God? Let us pay, er, pray.

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By Tobysgirl, June 25, 2010 at 5:48 am Link to this comment

Excellent comments, felicity. The Middle East was largely forested at one time. Trees attract water, as anyone who lives in the Adirondacks knows, and deforestation leads to desertification.

And by the way, the temperate rainforests of the northwestern North American continent are as rich in diversity as tropical rainforests. Their richness lies in the biodiversity in the soil, whereas tropical rainforests grow in very poor soil. Last I knew, we were cutting down OUR rainforests to make diapers.

I don’t know where tropicgirl lives, but we can all hope she is soon hit by a tornado, a wildfire, a hurricane, hail the size of baseballs, or some other whim of Mother Nature!

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By huemeister, June 25, 2010 at 12:20 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

I like to read the comments to these articles to get a sense of where We the People stand.  And it’s not encouraging. 

I would like to voice my optimism for humanity, a reawakening of consiousness and responsibility, and a sense of community, etc., but I just don’t see it happening.  The average human is too pre-occupied with his or her own self-interest to get a sense of the bigger picture, and over saturated with media to have an inkling, and so we as a species are likely doomed.

In the words of Douglas Adams, “so long and thanks for all the fish,” or “stick a fork in ‘em, turn ‘em over, they’re done.”

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By gerard, June 24, 2010 at 7:54 pm Link to this comment

It really doesn’t matter much whether you call it “global warming” or “global pollution.”  The results are the same.

Perhaps “fighting” against it is not the most effective way to deal, since more than half the world is pretty much fed up with fights—on terror, on drugs, on overpopulation, on Afghans, Palestinians and other people whom it is easy to villify such as immigrants, minorities and (in some cultures, women); on “porn”, on abortion.  Fight, fight, fight. Maybe “resist” would be a better word so we can free ourselves from eternal warring against mankind and Nature and Evil and the universe—or “the government” (villain of choice of the TPers). 

How about just stop using gas guzzling cars, trucks, house trailers, Nascars, autos, stop continuing to make electricity out of coal and/or oil?  Stop wasting heat and light? Stop abusing women and starving children.  Stop eating greasy fast food. Refuse to buy plastics? Pool resources, share rides, get a bicycle?  And the hardest ones—turn off your computer, reform the government and campaign financinc..  Prevent war, starvation, injustice. Make peace. Make a difference. 

Don’t fight.  Think. Help.  Act. Sing. Laugh. Take a load off.

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By ofersince72, June 24, 2010 at 6:56 pm Link to this comment

You just can’t deny a 420ppm C02.

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By PatrickHenry, June 24, 2010 at 6:53 pm Link to this comment

Since when has global pollution been rephrased as global warming?

Pollution is just plain bad and we need to collectively stop it world wide as it affects all of us and will affect our grand-children’s lives.  We need to spend the trillions fighting a war on pollution rther than the war on terror.

Real global warming is the counter to global cooling, both cycles which are dependent on sun spots, lunar distances, volcanic and tectonic activity as well as the occasional astroid or comet.

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By LostHills, June 24, 2010 at 6:21 pm Link to this comment

Ah, a global warming denier surfaces.
They’re an endangered species at this point - but not endangered enough…...

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By gerard, June 24, 2010 at 4:28 pm Link to this comment

The bought-and-sold media would like to control the news, but:

Crisis follows crisis—airplanes crashed into buildings, wars, starvation, blockades, floods, world climate change, extinction of entire species, economic meltdown, water scarcities, epidemics, brutal occupations, huge oil spills,extinction of entire species, physical anomalies due to poisons in streams and rivers, mine “accidents”, universal corporate and government irresponsibility, degradation of spirit, decline of education and decay of schools, hospitals, roads, nuclear proliferation and on and on. 
  Media controllers are outflanked by events so huge and so threatening that they push their way through the envelope meant to hide facts from ordinary people. 
  Thus, the disasters == horrible as they are—are working for us as well as against us, trying to tell us (over the heads of all would-be managers) that we the people can and must and will do whatever we can to save ourselves and our children.

Neither the corporations nor the government are in control, which is the bottom line.  Nobody is in control except Mother Nature, and she is speaking loud and clear.  And we are hearing her—by the millions, more aware today than they were yesterday.
A time will come, is coming ... and we need to be thinking about, planning how we are going to get together and take the kind of nonviolent, nondestructive, nonthreatening actions, here, there and everywhere, that will turn the situation around toward economic justice, compassion and peace. Toward rational behavior.  Toward self-government.  Toward life on earth. 
  Hello, out there!  Are you with me?  Do you see what I see?  Even disaster is working in the people’s favor, informing them of the truth beyond advertising, propaganda and fear.

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By REDHORSE, June 24, 2010 at 2:05 pm Link to this comment

An eco-friendly press vacation to the protected forests and parklands of exotic Tanzania. A tout for that big hearted humanitarian politico Slick Willie. A call for a Solar Industry. Hope for new jobs and financial prosperity. Those pesky carbon credit subsidies. The rich giving the poor a thumbs down at Copenhagen. An urging that we all wake up and see the light before it’s too late.

      It is too late. As we sit, because of GCC and the Bark Beetle, the protected forests and parklands of the American West are burning down. (Lets save THOSE trees.) In early June for a week running tempertures here broke every recorded record. Some days were over 110 degrees. Speaking of disaster, lets not forget those eco friendly flower children at BP. They’re on the job right now. (Don’t you dare pass up that fun filled Gulf vacation.)

        Forty years ago we HAD a thriving fledgling Solar Industry.It built houses, created jobs and encouraged grassroots technological innovation. It was supported by tax credits and promoted by our very own man of vision, President James Carter. Then “there you go again Mr. President” Ronnie Raygun and his thug Republicans (think Cheney) ripped the Solar Panels out of the White House, killed the tax credits and destroyed the industry. That was the rich giving poor US, a thumbs down on the future. It is now our past. Do you see Rahm and the “gold sacks” boys stepping up with any real solution? They are visionless trolls.

        As for Slick Wille, lets not forget the impact of NAFTA and his decimation of the Hatian economy. (I know, he did leave us w/a financial surplus.) His legal minions who helped write NAFTA were such eco-humanitarians they just couldn’t wait to go into business for themselves, denationalize the natural resorces of undeveloped countries and make it illegal for the poor to collect rain water. Do the twisted megalomaniacal little corporate rats think they own the clouds?

        Well, be warned. The psychopaths pay good money to the K-Street bagmen to get the laws on the books. Get in the way and you WILL get hurt!

        The nefarious machinations and legal frauds cooked into the carbon credit subsidies tell us all we need to know about the vested interests of the rich and their intent to allow any positive ecological economic change or realignment of the world economy to save humanity from a nightmare future of failed natural resources, exploded population and GCC driven disater.

        Ms. Goodmans article this week celebrates the people of Detroit and the meeting of ten to twenty thousand individuals attempting an on going Social Forum. That’s as good as we’ve got right now. Where was President O, Rahm and the rest of the press? I suspect, that beyond the value of their entertainment level for COPS the socially dispossessed aren’t news worthy.

          Keep writing Mr. Conason. Your finger is on the pulse, but louder please!! It’s hard to hear you.

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By gerard, June 24, 2010 at 12:56 pm Link to this comment

MISLEADING STATEMENT!—” For a fraction of the world’s military spending, it could be a Green New Deal that creates new industries, advances new technologies and revives our economy—much LIKE THE SPENDING ON WORLD WAR IIl boosted America into prosperity.”
  Put that way, it sounds like:  because spending on war boosts the economy and advances technology, therefore we can and should have wars.  What boosts the economy is spending tax money not on killing people and tearing up their country, but on furthering production of non-war services, infrastructure and commodities, paying living wages, cooperating for fair business practices, obeying reasonable laws, and making the world a better place for the children of the world.  (Improving nutrition, maternal and health care worldwide. advocating birth control, severelly controllilng greenhouse gases, and getting to know, understand and accept other people beyond your own culture and nation, to name a few major improvements.)

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By balkas, June 24, 2010 at 10:16 am Link to this comment

The root cause for ills that people cause, is? It is the division of people into masters and slaves-serfs.
And which clerico-noble class of people had done ca 10 k yrs ago.
That`s all we have to do is throw the yoke and become fully human, instead as now being fully halfhuman. The only way out! tnx

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By felicity, June 24, 2010 at 8:47 am Link to this comment

There is actually scientific evidence that trees can affect climate.  The greatest European etc. plague recorded when the death of millions resulted in land lying fallow (less food grown, less people to grow it) which resulted in the land reverting to forest which increased the oxygen in the air which in turn caused what scientists call a mini ice age certainly supports a legitimate argument that trees, or lack of them, affect climate.

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By tropicgirl, June 24, 2010 at 8:21 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Joe - there is no global warming, didn’t you get the latest reporting that the
entire world already knows?

And Lost Hills… you don’t need capitalism to destroy a planet. Socialism by
corrupt people can do a fine job as well…

This is a tax scheme for the big banks. Hell, they are going after the freaking
Amish for farming for gods sake for raising clean cattle that poops!

This is another socialist scheme to take tax dollars and dole out to their
worldwide operatives and countries that “play ball”.

This government is way too corrupt to implement anything decent and helpful.
If they were, they would clean up their pollution first.

This global warming has been proven to be a scam so many times its pathetic.
This is simply shill reporting for the globalists, Brezinsky, big banks and the
Kissinger warmongers. Same story, different scam.

Would you please stop with the fake globalist schemes that we all know are
discredited? What is this blog, the last stop for fake progressive losers?

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By LostHills, June 24, 2010 at 7:01 am Link to this comment

It’s time to look capitalism in the face and to see what a monster it has become.
Before it makes the planet uninhabitable and kills every one of us….

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By grumpynyker, June 24, 2010 at 6:57 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

For Earth’s survival, KEEP BILL CLINTON ASS AWAY FROM
ANY DEVELOPING COUNTRY!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!  This $100M
corporate whore and his Secretary of State wife (until
the bitch thinks Barry is vulnerable enough to
challenge in 2012) are making their cheddar from being
the face of rapacious corporations now looting Haiti,
countries in Asia, Central and South America and parts
of Europe.

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