Flotsam & Jetsam
Greening the Oscars: The Battle of the Swag-Bags, The Green Business Awards, It's CITGO from the Git-go!, State Stabs Salamander in the Back, Roomba Robots Ready to Rumble, US to World: "Help Save our Democracy"
May 3, 2006

Greening the Oscars: The Battle of the Swag-Bags
When it comes to flogging products, there are two events that sit at the summit of Advertising's Mount Olympus -- the Superbowl and the Academy Awards. But unlike the Superbowl, the Oscarfest offers more than high-priced commercial slots for big-ticket advertisers. The Oscars also offers VIP Swag Bags. (Note: the Sunset Boulevard cognoscenti pronounce the word, "Schwag.")

In recent years, these celebrity goodie-bags have become more than just the Academy's way of saying "thanks": they are now a thriving side-industry. Companies donate goods in hopes that sales will spike when a star is photographed using of their products. As a result, the value of donated goods tucked into the Swag Bags handed out at this year's 78th Academy Awards reportedly topped $100,000 per bag.

The freebies included Motorola PEBL cellphones, Vonage Vtech Broadband phone systems, Apple iPods (with video), Blackburrys, Cannon PowerShot digital cameras, Compact photo printers, and Firefly cellphones for the kids.
But, lest this free-wheeling display of conspicuous hyper-consumption leaves you feeling woozy, take heart. For the fourth year in a row, self-indulgence was tempered with sustainability thanks to the appearance of Green Swag Bags.
Boxes of ecoSWAGG (Sustainability, Wellness and Green Gifts) are part of Global Green USA's "Red Carpet, Green Cars" campaign.

While every Hollywood luminary gets an official Swag Bag just for showing up, the ecoSWAGG bags only go to conscientious celebs who show up driving high-mileage Lexus hybrids and nonpolluting electric vehicles -- folks like Leonardo DeCaprio, Salma Hayek, Edward Norton, George Clooney, Cameron Diaz, Ed Begley Jr., Charlize Theron, Kirsten Dunst, and Angelina Jolie.

This year, each EcoSWAGG bag contained nearly $5,000 worth of Green goodies. Here's a brief list of what the Green A-list took home at the end of the day: Ecco Bella chocolates, lipstick and lotion; Biota Spring Water in biodegradable bottles; Edun organic cotton T-shirts; Frog's Leap organic cabernet wine; Solar Style cellphone chargers; Looomstate organic denim; Toyota solar iPod chargers; Universal Communications solar chargers; 100% wind-powered Fat Tire Ale from New Belgium brewers; Napapijri Geographic fleece outerwear; a copy of Cities in the Wilderness from Island Press; a copy of the eco-fashion magazine, Shift; and gift tickets to The Villages, an eco-resort in Loreto Bay, Mexico.

Global Green USA is the local affiliate of Green Cross International, the global environmental action organization founded by former Russian Prime Minister Mikhail Gorbachev. For more information on Global Green's campaigns (including its "Pledge of American Energy Independence") visit g

The Green Business Awards
The day before St. Patrick's Day, The-Edge dashed through a downpour in Berkeley to the shelter of Clif Bar's Fifth Street auditorium. It was time to take in the annual Green Business Awards. (It was also an opportunity to pocket some free Clif Bars and scarf some tasty snacks provided by Zatar's, a classy Certified Green Restaurant).
Alameda County is now home to more than 200 Green Businesses, including the16 most recently inducted into the burgeoning eco-biz Hall of Fame. More than 600 Bay Area firms are now Certified Green and one of those companies honored at the Clif Bar event was Grateful Body, a Berkeley natural cosmetics firm profiled by The Dock in 2005.

The event, sponsored by the Alameda County Green Business Program and the Sustainable Buisness Alliance, was hosted by Clif Bar -- another remarkably Green operation. Mayor Tom Bates kicked off the proceedings by noting that Berkeley "has doubled goal of the Kyoto Protocol -- greenhouse emissions are down 14%." Berkeley did this by introducing a City Car Share fleet that eliminated 15 city cars and saved $150,000. Berkeley also provides City employees with free bus passes and BART discounts. Bates says the goal is to radically reduce greenhouse emissions in all14 cities of Alameda County "to show the nation that it can be done." Agreement on a countrywide plan is expected in May.

Hats off to our newest, Greenest companies: In Berkeley: The Berkeley Chamber of Commerce; Grateful Body; Studio Rasa; Vital Vittles Premium Natural Foods. In Oakland: Dave Karoly Printing; Hudson Bay Café; Plywood and Lumber Sales/Earthsource Forest Products. In Emeryville: The Emeryville Chamber of Commerce; Alternative Mortgage Sources. In Fremont: My Thai Restaurant; Blue Star Electronics, Inc. In Livermore: City of Livermore Fleet Services. In San Leandro: Copper Harbor Company. In Hayward: FolgerGraphics. In Livermore: Mellow Monk Green Teas. In Dublin: 1-800 DryClean.

A few quick profiles: The Berkeley and Emeryville Chambers of Commerce green-tuned their office efficiency and used their collective influence to encourage members to seek green certification. Emeryville has quadrupled the number of certified green businesses in the last year. Berkeley's, Vital Vittles uses 95 percent organically grown ingredients, offers a "no packaging" option, recycles "just about everything" and donates unsold baked goods to local charities. Earthsource Forest Products offers builders sustainably grown and Forest Service Council certified wood products.

For more information and a directory of Green Businesses, contact Pamela Evans at (510) 567-6770 or visit greenbiz.ca.gov

It's CITGO from the Git-go!
In ever-increasing numbers, Bay Area progressives are following a politically correct migration route to the nearest CITGO gas station. What's prompting folks to go out of there way to tank up their hybrids, motorbikes and scooters at this little-known franchise? In a word: Hugo. CITGO is the national oil company of Venezuela, hone of the feisty populist leader, Hugo Chavez, one of the few democratically elected leftists in history to survive a US-backed coup d'etat. Chavez was propelled back into power by a popular uprising of millions of Venezuelans who believe in promise of the "Bolivarian Revolution" to return power to the people.

Chavez has made history by spending his petrol-profits on social needs -- free universal healthcare, schools, hospitals and increased pay for doctors, teachers and workers. No stranger to tilting-at-windmills, Chavez recently handed out a million free copies of Cervantes' Don Quixote to his fellow citizens.

Sharing oil-wealth with the poor instead of the rich sets a dangerous example. Perhaps that's why Condoleezza Rice (who had an oil tanker named after her when she served on Chevron's board of directors) has called Chavez the "greatest danger in Latin America." Rice's comments notwithstanding, Chavez remains wildly popular across Latin America, both for his social programs and for standing up to Dubya, the man Chavez has dubbed "Mr. Danger."

Chavez has also become a folk hero in the US as well. When FEMA flunked its first heavy-weather test, it was Chavez (not Chevron) who came to the rescue with hurricane relief and cheap heating oil for poor US residents. Chavez once joked that he would not visit the US "until the American people are free," but last year he attended the UN General Assembly meeting in New York. Instead of holding up in a posh downtown hotel, Hugo headed to Harlem where local reports said he was "greeted like a rock star."

In 1986, "People Power" toppled Philippine Dictator Ferdinand Marcos. In 2005, People Power restored Hugo Chavez to the presidential palace. Today, Left-minded individuals, are "pumping the revolution" by gassing up at the Bay Area's three CITGO stations. They can be found in SF (U&I Auto Safety Center, 205 Franklin), Oakland (7-11, 4193 Piedmont Ave.) and Richmond (7-11, 2500 MacDonald Ave.).

© Gary Nafís / CaliforniaHerps.com
State Stabs Salamander in the Back
Scientists were delighted last May when an article in the journal Herpetologica revealed that California was home to a previously unknown species of amphibian -- the petite and perky Scott Bar salamander, a creature with the smallest range of any salamander.
Upon hearing the glad news, the California Department of Forestry (CDF) made haste to amend at least four timber harvest plans to allow logging in the wee salamander's habitat.

“Rather than heralding the discovery of a new species in California, the California Department of Forestry (CDF) is rushing to wipe out the rare critters’ habitat,” said Joseph Vaile, campaign director of Klamath-Siskiyou Wildlands Center (KS Wild). “In approving logging plans, the state agencies left the public in the dark, violating public trust and ignoring their responsibilities to protect California’s natural heritage for future generations.” Noah Greenwald, conservation biologist with the Center for Biological Diversity (CBD) was also aghast that the state agencies would place the newly discovered salamander "on the road to extinction by approving logging of its habitat.”

Ironically, because it is status as a biological newbie, the Scotts Bar salamander has not yet qualified for protection under California’s Endangered Species Act. Last June, conservationists petitioned the US Fish and Wildlife Service to list both the Scotts Bar and Siskiyou Mountains Salamanders under the federal Endangered Species Act. An initial decision on this petition is expected by May.

Meanwhile, State Fish and Game bureaucrats are moving to kick the Siskiyou Mountains salamander off the state ESA list, a move that has been sharply criticized by scientists. “The newly discovered Scott Bar salamander needs immediate protection from logging under both the state and federal Endangered Species Acts,” insists CBD's Greenwald. “Instead, the California Departments of Forestry and Fish and Game are doing everything in their power to ensure timber companies are allowed to log this unique species’ habitat.”

The CBD, KS Wild, and the Environmental Protection Information Center (EPIC) have sued the state agencies for approving logging within the salamander's fragile habitat. The lawsuit is intended to extend additional protections to the Scott Bar salamander by giving the public a voice in critical management decisions and holding the agencies accountable for their actions. For the latest Salamander Status Report, contact EPIC: POB 147 Eureka CA 95502, (707) 476-8340; wildcalifornia.org

Roomba Robots Ready to Rumble
For anyone who grew up reading Issac Asimov's "I Robot" (or threw up watching the movie version), it’s been a bit unsettling watching the new TV ads featuring the Roomba, a robotic floor-cleaner that whirs across kitchen linoleum like an oversized hocky puck. Even more unsettling is the sight of average Joes and Janes in the commercial gushing: "I love robots!" Naturally, the company that makes these high-tech floor mops has shamelessly expropriated the name IRobot.

The backlash has already begun. The Geek Underground has found a way to hack into the Roomba's command interface and re-jigger the system to pursue intriguing new goals. Like combat.

As a consequence, Roomba Battles are quickly becoming the biggest subterranean urban vice since cockfights. To the horror of iRobot's stockholders, the nerdy little floor-sweepers are being equipped with bristling coats of scissors, hammers, hooks and knives and sent out to battle other up-armored Roombas. The objective: To mop up the floor with your opponent. The robot warriors are controlled by owners who Bluetooth every thrust, feint and spin via the keyboards of their laptops.

Skeptical? Don't take The Dock's word for it. You can go online and see for yourself at http://flikr.com/photos/ginatrapani/110142831

US to World: "Help Save our Democracy"
In the name of "installing democracy" (as if democracy were the equivalent of a home appliance), Washington recently spent $2 million in tax money in a failed attempt to determine the elections in Iraq. Washington has made such a habit of interfering in foreign elections that it even has an entity soley devoted to this ignoble cause. It's called the National Endowment for Democracy and critics have accused the NED of stooping to sabotage and death squads to push elections in Washington's direction.

A few months ago, Bertell Ollman, a professor of politics at NYU, jokingly suggested that what was needed was an International Endowment for Democracy that would allow foreigners to contribute funds to try and restore democracy inside the US. To Ollman's surprise, the idea took off and he now finds himself heading a new nonprofit whose board of directors include historian Howard Zinn, author Gore Vidal, Former US Attorney General Ramsey Clark, National Lawyers' Guild President Michael Rattner and Isaac Deutcher Prizewinner Ellen Meiksins Wood. Instead of using money to subvert democracies abroad, the IED is asking freedom-loving folk around the world to "help build a real democracy in the country that needs it most -- the USA."

"This may be a first: Americans asking people from other countries for help,"
the IED's supporters note. But it makes sense, since the "democracy deficit" currently afflicting the US poses "a greater threat to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness of people all across the globe than the actions of any other regime." There are many groups in the US working to defend democracy against the growing official lawlessness that condones torture, lies, illegal detention and warrantless spying but their clout is clipped by the lack of effective media access. MoveOn.org managed to mobilize 15 million Americans through the Internet and the IED hopes to apply this model worldwide. No one at IED is paid and all donations will be channeled to nonprofit democracy organizations. IED's official statement declares "we will not give money to any political party or accept money from any organization involved in violent forms of political activity or from any foreign government."

The IED has one other request of America's neighbors abroad: "We call on the international community to monitor elections in the US."

A full menu of articles, arguments, quotations, blogs, cartoons and videos is available in IED's online Democracy Library at: www.iefd.org

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