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Talk Nation Radio: Highway Boondoggles Bypass Budget Crunch

Randy "Salz" Salzman is a transportation writer and researcher and the author of Fatal Attraction: Curbing Our Love Affair With the Automobile Before it Kills Us.  He discusses how highway construction boondoggles that are bad for health, heritage, the environment, and even the flow of traffic, have survived in these times of cramped public budgets.  In particular, Salzman looks at the example of a proposed highway in Charlottesville, Va., opposed by the public but rolling ahead toward unsafe, destructive, and ridiculously expensive construction.

Total run time: 29:00

Host: David Swanson.
Producer: David Swanson.
Music by Duke Ellington.

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Past Talk Nation Radio shows are all available free and complete at
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The Downwinders: Fracking Ourselves to Death in Pennsylvania

By Ellen Cantarow, TomDispatch

More than 70 years ago, a chemical attack was launched against Washington State and Nevada. It poisoned people, animals, everything that grew, breathed air, and drank water. The Marshall Islands were also struck. This formerly pristine Pacific atoll was branded “the most contaminated place in the world.” As their cancers developed, the victims of atomic testing and nuclear weapons development got a name: downwinders. What marked their tragedy was the darkness in which they were kept about what was being done to them. Proof of harm fell to them, not to the U.S. government agencies responsible.

Fukushima's Catastrophic Aftermath Continues

 

Fukushima's Catastrophic Aftermath Continues

 

by Stephen Lendman

 

In her book titled "No Immediate Danger: Prognosis for a Radioactive Earth," nuclear power/environmental health expert Rosalie Bertell (1929 - 2012) said:

 

The Only Public Comment Kerry Needs to Deny Keystone XL

noxl3Creative Commons

Any project that increases greenhouse gasses above expectations at this moment in history, particularly a substantial increase, must be determined an imminent danger to the national interest if the people living in the nation are an interest in this determination.

The United States Department of State called for public comments on construction of the Keystone XL pipeline.  The deadline is April 22, 2013 -- Earth Day.  Since Keystone is an international project, Secretary of State John Kerry has authority to decide on starting or ending the proposed conduit for toxic oil from the Alberta, Canada tar sands, across the United States, to the Houston area for refining.  From there, the oil goes straight to China.

Tar sands oil produces 17% more carbon dioxide per barrel than the average barrel of oil.  With China's intense demand for fuel, the volume of carbon dioxide pumped into the atmosphere will increase at a dangerous rate even beyond the current hazardous rate of pollution. 

Public Comment follows the break

Vieques Vive La Lucha Continua 10 years after the bombing stopped

By Helen Jaccard and David Swanson, http://warisacrime.org/vieques

Ten years ago May 1, the people of Vieques, Puerto Rico and their supporters from around the world defeated the most powerful military machine ever, through mass civil disobedience and without firing a single shot.   On May 1, 2003 the bombing stopped and the bases were officially closed.  People from all over the world supported the struggle on Vieques, and the activists and residents have an incredible victory to celebrate.

There were decades of resistance, civil disobedience and arrests.  But those hoping and laying the groundwork for greater resistance were given an opportunity on April 19, 1999, when a U.S. Marines pilot missed his target and killed civilian security guard David Sanes Rodriguez.  That spark lit a fire of nonviolent resistance that brought together Viequenses, Puerto Ricans, and supporters from the United States and around the world.  A campaign of non-violent civil resistance that began in 1999 lasted four years, including a year-long occupation of the bombing range, and saw over 1,500 people arrested.  The Navy was forced to close the bombing range on May 1, 2003.  Peace loving people had won most of the first of their demands for the island: demilitarization.

A huge commemoration is planned in Vieques for the anniversary from May 1 – 4, 2013.

Beautiful Vieques island is only 21 miles across and 5 miles wide, and 7 miles from the main island of Puerto Rico.  It is home to about 9,300 people, as well as endangered turtle species, rare Caribbean plants and animals, bio-luminescent bays, and miles of what look like unspoiled beaches.

But crabs with three claws, grossly deformed fish laden with heavy metals, once-beautiful coral reefs, and beaches and seas that have been decimated by military activity tell a story of environmental disaster with huge health impacts on people, plants, and animals.

An incredible three-quarters of the island was appropriated in the 1940s and used by the U.S. Navy for bombing practice, war games, and dumping or burning old munitions.  This was a terrible attack on an island municipality, one the United States was not at war with. 

Now, Vieques Island, a paradise in trouble, is one of the largest superfund sites in the United States, together with its little sister island of Culebra, which took the brunt of the bombing until 1973, when the Culebra bombing range closed (also due to protests) and the bombing practice was transferred to Vieques.

In 2003, the Navy did not return the land to the people, but transferred its Vieques land to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, which operates beaches that were never used for military activities. 

Viequenses fear that keeping the U.S. Government in control of their lands could result in future re-militarization of the island.  Residents aren't happy that their land has not been returned to them and that they are fined for staying on their land past sunset or collecting crabs -- a mainstay of their historic diet.  There are also two military occupations of lands -- a ROTHR radar system and a communications area, and the people want these closed as well.  You can add your name to Viequenses' demand for peace here.

For over 2,000 years people known as Taino inhabited Vieques, which they called Bieque.  The Taino found and left behind them a paradise of fertile soil, fresh water, and trees.  In 1493, the conquistadors arrived.  In 1524, the Spanish killed every remaining resident.  Vieques was then left uninhabited by humanity for 300 years, interrupted by a few British, French, and Spanish attempts to set up forts or destroy each other's efforts.

From 1823 into the 1900s, Vieques was used by the Spanish and French to grow sugar.  English-speaking people of African origin, from nearby islands, were kept in slavery or the nearest thing to it, and forced to grow the sugar cane.  They revolted in 1864 and 1874, and in the 1915 Sugar Strike.  The United States took Puerto Rico from the Spanish in 1898 and made residents U.S. citizens in 1917.  The depression of the 1930s, together with two hurricanes in 1932, brought on harder times than ever.

In 1939 the United States bought 26,000 of the 30,000 acres of land on Vieques from big sugar plantation owners.  Living on that land were 10,000 to 12,000 workers who also raised crops to feed themselves.  The U.S. Navy gave families $30 and one day's notice before bulldozing houses.  Most people were left without means of subsistence, but many stubbornly refused to leave the island.

Carlos Prieta Ventura, a 51-year-old Viequense fisherman, says his father was 8-years-old in 1941 when the Navy told his family their house would be bulldozed whether or not they accepted the $30.  Ventura says he has always resisted the Navy's efforts to force people off the island.

From 1941 to 2003, the U.S. military flew planes from aircraft carriers based on the main island of Puerto Rico dropping bombs over Vieques.  Bombs "rained down," and you could feel the ground shake within the base, as one U.S. veteran told CNN.  Bombs fell at all hours, all day, all week, all year, amounting to approximately a trillion tons of ordnance, much of which (some 100,000 items) lies unexploded on land and in the sea.  Vieques was systematically poisoned by heavy metals, napalm, Agent Orange, depleted uranium, and who knows what all else that the Navy has not announced publicly -- having falsely denied using depleted uranium before finally admitting to it, and having dumped barrels of unknown toxic substances into the clear blue Caribbean.

The arsenic, lead, mercury, cadmium, and aluminum in the bombs are also found in hair samples of 80% of the people living on Vieques, who suffer at far higher rates than on the main island (and possibly anywhere else on earth) from cancer (30% higher than Puerto Rico), cirrhosis of the liver, kidney failure, hypertension (381%), diabetes (41%), birth defects, stillbirths, and miscarriages.

The impact of the U.S. occupation that began in 1941 was felt far more swiftly than cancer.  According to Ventura, some 15,000 troops were routinely set loose on Vieques looking for booze and women.  Women were dragged out of their homes and gang raped.  A boy was killed by gang rape.  Ventura says people had only a machete and a hole in the wall by the door where they could try to stab the Marines who would come to take women.  A dozen people were killed over the years directly by the U.S. weapons testing.  And the Navy banned fishermen from various areas, advising them to try food stamps instead.  Fishermen attempted civil resistance actions, and many were arrested during the 1970s, 80s, and 90s.

Lydia Ortiz, a Viequense who grew up in the small town of Esperanza, recalls the bombing:  "A lot of houses had their roofs falling in and everything as a result of the vibrations from the bombs for many years.  It was pretty nerve wracking because you never knew what was going to crash down in your house.  We lived quite close to where the bombing was happening.  When I was a child they were dropping bombs near me.  In the school, you could hear the bombing.  You couldn't even hear the teacher because of the noise.  People were afraid to go anywhere near the base or the beach so it was very difficult for many years.  It seems like just yesterday or only 5 or 6 years ago that the bombing stopped, even though it is really almost 10 years ago."

A celebration of the 10-year anniversary is indeed in order.  We must remember victories as they have remarkable power to motivate others around the world.

But the Navy's presence and the environmental disaster it created continue to afflict Vieques today.  The U.S. government has not cleaned up the poisons and bombs and continues to use practices that further endanger the people.  There is no bomb explosion chamber on the island.  The United States has disposed of what unexploded bombs it has disposed of by blowing them up, further spreading the contaminants that are killing the people of the island.

There is also no hospital on the island, few ferries to the island, few and overpriced airplanes, a handful of taxis and public vans, and very limited tourist facilities.  There is no college or university, and very few jobs of any kind.  Business licenses are issued in San Juan and require bribes.  Viequenses' families are ravaged by cancer, but also by illiteracy, unemployment, violent crime, and teen pregnancy.  All of the water -- like all electricity -- comes in a pipe from the main island.  Two of the residents said that the one resort on Vieques sometimes uses all the water.  Seven thousand Viequenses sued the U.S. government over their health problems, but the U.S. Supreme court refused to hear the case.

With very little land available for farming, Vieques, like all of Puerto Rico, imports almost all of its food.  Some people have become so desperate that they gather old munitions to sell for a little money to someone who will melt the metal for aluminum cans.  But heavy metals and depleted uranium endanger the metal gatherers and whoever later drinks from the cans.

Presidential candidate Obama wrote to the Governor of Puerto Rico in 2008: "We will closely monitor the health of the people of Vieques and promote appropriate remedies to health conditions caused by military activities conducted by the U.S. Navy on Vieques."  But that promise remains unfulfilled.

Robert Rabin Siegal of the Committee for the Rescue and Development of Vieques writes in a letter to President Barack Obama,

"Although I cannot claim the Navy and military toxics caused my cancer, you don't have to be a quantum physicist to understand how decades of exposure to heavy metals in the food chain, air, water and land, combined with the socio-economic pressures from the loss of two thirds of the island’s lands, would clearly contribute to high cancer rates.  The Navy dropped radioactive uranium projectiles here, we believe, in large quantities, in preparation for military actions in the Balkans and the Middle East.  The list of dangerous chemical components from munitions dropped on Vieques is extensive, as is the number of illnesses they cause.

"Mr. President: you received the Nobel Peace Prize; we demand peace for Vieques.  An island and people used to protect U.S. interests since WWII, forced to sacrifice its land, economic prosperity, tranquility and health, deserves at least the hope of peace for this and future generations."

". . . A handful of powerful US based corporations have pocketed most of the more than 200 million dollars spent on clean-up over the past decade.  We urge you to order technology transference to promote the creation of Puerto Rican and Viequense companies to carry out the clean-up of Vieques, thereby transforming that process into part of the economic reconstruction of the island as well as assuring community confidence in this crucial element in the healing of Vieques."

People anywhere in the world can take one minute to sign a petition to the Pentagon, Congress, and the White House in support of justice, at long last, for Vieques:

"I join the people of Vieques in demanding:

"Health Care -- Provide a modern hospital with cancer treatment facilities, early screening and timely treatment for all diseases.  Create a research facility to determine the relationship between military toxins and health.  Provide just compensation to people suffering poor health as a result of the Navy's activities.

"Cleanup -- Fund a complete, rapid cleanup of the land and surrounding waters, still littered by thousands of bombs, grenades, napalm, Agent Orange, depleted uranium and other explosives left by the Navy.  Cease the ongoing open detonation of unexploded ordnance.  Guarantee community participation in the cleanup; train Viequenses as managers, administrators, and scientists, and foster Viequense companies to do the work.

"Sustainable Development -- Support the Master Plan for Sustainable Development of Vieques which promotes agriculture, fishing, eco-tourism, small guest houses, housing, collective transportation, archaeology, and historic and environmental research, among other things.

"Demilitarization and Return of the Land -- Close the remaining military installations still occupying 200 acres of Vieques.  Return to the people of Vieques all land still under the control of the U.S. Navy and the federal government."

For extensive documentation, see the attachments below and others at this link.

Helen Jaccard is Chair of the Veterans For Peace -- Environmental Cost of War and Militarism Working Group.  She spent October, 2012 in Vieques doing research about the environmental and health effects of the military activities.  Her previous article about Sardinia, Italy can be found at http://www.warisacrime.org/sardinia .

David Swanson's books include "War Is A Lie." He blogs at http://davidswanson.org and http://warisacrime.org and works for http://rootsaction.org. He hosts Talk Nation Radio.

Video: Jim Hansen Speaks on Climate Change Following Performance of Play Based on His Life and Work

Following a reading of Karen Malpede's new play Extreme Whether, James Hansen discussed what we're doing to the earth:

 

Not Too Big to Resist: Too Big to Jail

 

By Dan DeWalt


Corporate America just received the confirmation that they've been waiting for.

 

Don't Frack My Mother

True, He’s the First Black President But Obama’s the Worst President Ever

 

By Ron Ridenour


Yes, I mean it: the worst ever!


We’ve had James Monroe and his doctrine of supremacy over Latin America. We’ve had Theodore Roosevelt and his invasion of Cuba; Nixon, Reagan, Bush-Bush and their mass murder, and all the war crimes and genocide committed by most presidents. Yes, but we never had a black man sit on the white throne of imperialism committing war crimes.


Techno-Utopia

By Bruce Gagnon

TECHNO-UTOPIANISM SEMINAR REPORT

I have just returned from San Francisco where I attended a private seminar called Techno-Utopianism: Killing the World with about 30 leading environmentalists, scientists, economists, writers, and activists.  I was asked to represent the Global Network and report on the latest space technology issues including drones, global strike systems, surveillance, and the like.  It was quite an honor to be invited to attend this event and I learned a great deal from those assembled.

 
The event was led by Jerry Mander (Int’l Forum on Globalization), Andrew Kimbrell (Int’l Center for Technology Assessment), Randy Hayes (Foundation Earth), Stephanie Mills (Post Carbon Institute), and Doug Tompkins (Foundation for Deep Ecology).
 
The three-day event began with Mander outlining the vision of the meeting, which was to report on current anti-technology struggles, discuss root causes and begin to define next steps.  Mander said that the techno-machine had not only transformed our planet in negative ways but had also dominated the consciousness of human kind.  He labeled our current situation a “techno-dictatorship” which calls itself progress.  The Internet, he suggested, creates the illusion of resistance to the machine.
 
Physicist and ecologist Vandana Shiva stated, “Technology is really about appropriating resources”.  In India the chemical industry subsidy is as big as what is spent on the military.  Forty percent of greenhouse gases come from industrial agriculture.  Public relations have replaced science.  “No village is safe under globalization’s resource war”, Shiva said.  “The state comes under corporate control and then becomes a militarized state.”
 
Randy Hayes reported that our present “Brush fire fights are not connected enough to systemic change.”  Our social movement’s critique of mega-technology is weak.
 
Andrew Kimbrell (who represented the Florida Coalition for Peace & Justice in federal court in 1989-1990 when we sued NASA opposing the Galileo and Ulysses plutonium rocket launches) told the assembled, “Nano-technology is the next industrial revolution.  When you make molecules smaller their properties change.  Worker safety becomes a big issue.”  Nano particles are already getting into our rivers and into the brains of fish.  Carbon nano-tubes are stronger than steel and some are talking about using them to make elevators into space.  The Pentagon is heavily funding nano-tech research and development.  Kimbrell called Nano-tech and GMO’s the “Hail Mary technologies.”
 
Gar Smith (editor emeritus of Earth Island Journal) spoke about nuclear power with particular emphasis on the impacts of the Fukushima disaster in Japan.  Nearly half of children in the area now have thyroid cysts.  Forty tons of water per day are being used to keep the radioactive rods cooled and the water will eventually end up in the ocean.  Smith reported, “One fish found in the ocean off Fukushima had 2,500 times the radiation levels over ‘safe’ limits.”  The radioactive wastewater will reach the US west coast in five years and will “be the end of the west coast fishing industry.”
 
Mander, who authored the best selling book Four Arguments for the Elimination of Television, reminded us that “We are living inside media and media is living inside of us.  We are receiving 30,000 commercial images per year and once in the brain they are there forever.”  Our minds essentially become colonized by corporate branding.
 
Eileen Crist (Associate Professor in Dept. of Science & Technology at Virginia Tech) warned us that our movements have not developed a “compelling alternative [to capitalist destruction of the planet] for her students.”  “The pieces are all there but not put together in a compelling vision,” she said.  She reported that the “new environmentalism”, heavily funded and influenced by the corporate technologists, “is warmed over nature conservation” where “human aspirations are primary”.  We must “name these environmental groups as corporate serving groups. The corporate agenda wants to break the emerging alliance between the ecological and social justice movements,” Crist said.  There is a “battle [underway] for the branding and soul of the environmental movement.”
 
Filmmaker and former monk Godfrey Reggio told the assembled, “We are all cyborgs, and we have become the environment we live in.  We are aliens…. I want the courage to be hopeless about this present situation so I can be hopeful about the future.”
 
Chet Bowers (author and professor of Environmental Studies at University of Oregon) told us “When we are born into a language community our imagination is restricted by the silence of our elders.”  During that silence “our alternative vocabularies get excluded” thus widespread thinking and debate about our way out of the techo-mess gets limited to more corporate techno solutions.
 
Lisi Krall (Professor of Economics at the State University of New York, Cortland) suggested, “Difficult economic conversations have fallen out of favor.  Technology is our last refuge before we face what we don’t want to face.”  We must “deal with techno-industrial culture and talk about reducing consumption.  The world made by hand takes a vibrant healthy eco-system.”  The current and coming economic “depression brings clarity,” she said.  “We can’t be afraid to use the word planning…. how do we reallocate labor and resources?”
 
In our hand-held device world of  “communication” we’ve become strangers from one another and increasingly violent.  Charlene Spretnak (professor emerita in philosophy and religion) well illustrated this point by sharing, “Studies show that talking to people leads to better mental and physical function…. Children who witness violence see a shortening of life…. the part of kids’ brains where empathy is found is shrinking from playing violent video games…. Nature helps increase empathy.”
 
In one of my own interventions during the seminar I suggested that the “business model” has also colonized our “progressive movement’s” method of organizing.  We are in a state of competition with one another in our isolated quest for funds, members, media coverage, and personal recognition.  Our “resistance has itself become a corporatized monoculture,” I suggested.  We will find no real solution and positive alternative vision and direction without first learning to work in unity and diversity by connecting the dots between our single-focused-issue organizing. This must be done locally, regionally, nationally, and internationally.
 
Jerry Mander urged us “not to be afraid to get rid of something that is destroying us and the natural world.”  Vandana Shiva insisted we must “talk about the new slavery” to corporate technology.  One participant suggested that we have been a “nation of hustlers” that has become “a nation of thugs who use technology for global domination.”
 
Research scientist Michael Huesemann told the seminar participants “techno-fixes are ineffective.”  Dealing with traffic congestion by building more roads and making electric cars won’t work.  We’ve got to get rid of the cars.  “Technology increases the separation from the environment,” he said.
 
Mander, who has a new book out called The Capitalism Papers: Fatal Flaws of an Obsolete System, reminded us “In order to save capitalism, government had to intervene and rescue it by regulating it.”  Part of a new economic vision he suggested would include some of these ideas/principles: Cooperatives (now 9% of the US economy); Small-scale efforts (when they fail they don’t bring the whole system or environment down with them); Nature come first; Hybrid economics.
 
The fatal flaws of capitalism “can’t be fixed” Mander insisted.  The present system relies on ecologically devastating “economic growth”, is inequitable, has a propensity to militarism and war, occupies democracy and our consciousness, and does not make people happy.  Global capital is the problem.
 
“We’ve got to name the system if you want to change it,” Mander concluded.  Capitalism means endless “expansion” and by now we know that means death.
 
Wes Jackson (Land Institute in Kansas) handed out small bags of Kernza whole grain flour to all the seminar participants.  Kernza is a perennial grain with deep roots being developed by his institute.  He reminded us “nature’s eco-systems are the only true economies.”  We must “Bring the wild to the farm,” he said. 
 
Mander and others at the seminar are working toward a major Teach-In in 2014, which will likely be held in New York City.  We must all increase our ability and resolve to make these vital connections between rampant capitalism, ecological destruction, and endless war. 
 
Technology impacts each and every one of our movements and the corporate oligarchy fears our collective response.  Let’s step up our critical analysis of capitalism and articulation of a nature-based economics.   

Climate Pledge

Climate_February_17th_Green_Party_march.jpg

They were the largest climate protests in U.S. history, with over 50,000 marching in Washington D.C. and tens of thousands more taking part in protests across the country. Yesterday, Jill Stein joined a large Green Party contingent from across the country, sending a clear message at the protests that ending climate change requires political change and systems change.

To drive that message home, Jill Stein has launched the Climate Voter Power Pledge, a pledge to not to vote for any candidate who supports a climate-killing "All of the Above" approach to energy production. Got that, White House?

Please sign the Climate Voter Power Pledge and tell everyone you know about it. Marching and rallying is one way to show power. But the power of the vote, and of denying the vote, is another way we can redirect our politics and our economy away from the climate cliff. 

Read, sign, and share the Climate Voter Power Pledge by clicking here: http://www.jillstein.org/climate

Thank you.

Citizens Tell Obama to Stop Pipeline and Get Serious about Environment

By Michael Collins

(Washington, DC 1/17)  The nation's capital hosted over 40,000 citizens assembled to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.  The crowd urged President Obama to bring to reality his lofty words on climate change in the inaugural address just days ago.  By stopping the construction of the Keystone XL pipeline, the president would deal a blow to the rogue energy companies who, by their actions, are ready to sacrifice everything to transport oil from Alberta, Canada's tar sands, across the United States, for refinement in Houston, Texas and shipment to China.

The broader concern of the gathered citizens and march sponsors, 350.org, and the Sierra Club, represents the existential issue of our time.  We need to get very real, very soon on the manifest threat to the earth's climate posed by fossil fuels and the threat to the human species embodied by insane ventures like the Canadian tar sands project.  The verdict of science is clear.  As leading climate scientist James E. Hansen said, the full exploitation of tar sands oil and use by China, or any nation, is "game over for the climate."

Pseudo-Protests and Serious Climate Crisis

"You elected this president. You reelected this president. . . . Stop being chumps!" --Van Jones

Going in, I was of mixed views regarding Sunday's rally in Washington, D.C., to save the earth's climate from the tar sands pipeline.  I still am.

Why on a Sunday when there's no government around to protest, shut down, or interfere with? 

And why all the pro-Obama rhetoric?  Robert Kennedy, Jr., was among the celebrities getting arrested at the White House in the days leading up, and his comment to the media was typical.  Obama won't allow the tar sands pipeline, he said, because Obama has "a strong moral core" and doesn't do really evil things.

As a belief, that's of course delusional.  This is the same president who sorts through a list of men, women, and children to have executed every other Tuesday, and who jokes about it.  This is the guy who's derailed international climate protection efforts for years.  This is the guy who refused the demand to oppose the tar sands pipeline before last year's election.  If he had been compelled to take a stand as a candidate there would be no need for this effort to bring him around as a lame duck.

As a tactic, rather than a belief, the approach of the organizers of Sunday's rally is at least worth questioning.  For one thing, people are going to hear such comments and take them for beliefs.  People are going to believe that the president would never do anything really evil.  In which case, why bother to turn out and rally in protest of what he's doing?  Or if we do turn out, why communicate any serious threat of inconvenience to the president?  On the contrary, why not make the protest into a campaign rally for the president through which we try, post-election, to alter the platform on which the actual candidate campaigned?

The advantage to the expect-the-best-and-the-facts-be-damned approach is clear.  Lots of people like it.  You can't have a mass rally without lots of people.  The organizers of this event are not primarily to blame for how the U.S. public thinks and behaves.  But, then again, if you're trying to maximize your crowd at all costs, hadn't you better really truly maximize it?  Sunday's rally probably suffered from being held on a bitterly cold day, but I suspect that most people who planned to come did come; and I've seen more people on the Mall in the summer for no reason at all, and many times more people on the Mall in the winter for an inauguration (which, in terms of policy based activism, is also nothing at all). 

What if the celebrities generating the news with arrests at the White House were to speak the truth?  What if they committed to nonviolently interfering with the operations of a government destroying the climate?  What if they committed to opposing the Democratic and Republican parties as long as this is their agenda?  What if they said honestly and accurately that the personality of a president matters less than the pressures applied to him, that this president can do good or evil, and that it is our job to compel him to do good?

Sunday's rally, MC'd by former anti-Republican-war activist Lennox Yearwood, looked like an Obama rally.  The posters and banners displayed a modified Obama campaign logo, modified to read "Forward on Climate."  One of the speakers on the stage, Van Jones, declared, "I had the honor of working for this president."  He addressed his remarks to the president and appealed to his morality and supposed good works: "President Obama, all the good that you have done . . . will be wiped out" if you allow the tar sands pipeline.

The pretense in these speeches, including one by Senator Sheldon Whitehouse, was consistently that Obama has not already approved part of the pipeline, that he is guilty of inaction, that the government is failing to act, that what's needed is action -- as if our government were not actively promoting the use of, and using vast quantities of fossil fuels, not to mention fighting wars to control the stuff.

Van Jones ended his remarks by addressing himself to "the next generation."  And this is what he had to say: "Stop being chumps! You elected this president. You reelected this president.  You gave him the chance to make history. He needs to give you the chance to have a future. Stop being chumps!  Stop being chumps and fight for your future, thank you very much."

Reading these words, one would imagine that the obvious meaning they carry is "Stop electing people like this who work for parties like this and serve financial interests like these."  What could be a more obvious interpretation?  You elected this guy twice.  He's a lame duck now.  You've lost your leverage.  Stop being such chumps! 

Nothing could be further, I think, from what Van Jones meant or what that crowd on Sunday believed he meant.  This was a speaker who had, just moments before, expressed his pride in having worked in Obama's White House.  The fact that this crowd of Obama-branded "activists" had elected him twice was not mentioned in relation to their chumpiness but as grounds for establishing their right to insist that he not destroy the planet's atmosphere.  They would be chumps if they didn't hold more rallies like this one.

Wait, you might ask, doesn't everyone have the right to insist that powerful governments not destroy the earth's atmosphere? 

Well, maybe, but in Van Jones' thinking, those who committed to voting for Obama twice, no matter what he did, and who have committed to voting for another Democrat no matter what he or she will do, deserve particular attention when they make demands.  Paradoxically, those who can be counted on regardless, who demand nothing and therefore offer nothing, should be the ones who especially get to make demands and have them heard and honored. 

Needless to say, it doesn't actually work that way.

Our celebrity emperors attract a great deal of personal affection or hatred, so when I suggest an alternative to packaging a rally for the climate as a belated campaign event, it may be heard as a suggestion to burn Obama in effigy.  What if there were a third option, namely that of simply demanding the protection of our climate? 

We might lose some of those who enjoyed burning Bush in effigy and some of those who enjoy depicting themselves as friends of the Obama family.  But would we really lose that many?  If the celebrities and organizers took such an honest policy-based approach, if the organizations put in the same money and hired the same busses, etc., how much smaller would Sunday's unimpressive rally have really been?

(And couldn't such a crowd be enlarged enough to more than compensate for any loss, by the simple tactic of promising ahead of time to keep the speeches to a half-hour total and to begin the march on time?  I'd pay money to go to that rally.)

The problem, of course, is that the celebrities and organizers themselves tend to think like Obama campaign workers.  It's not an act.  It's not a tactic aimed at maximizing turnout.  And it's not their fault that they, and so many others, think that way. 

But imagine a realistic, policy-based approach that began to build an independent movement around principled demands.  It would have the potential to grow.  It would have the potential to threaten massive non-cooperation with evil.  It would have the energy of Occupy.  It would have the potential to make a glorious declaration out of what now appears to be self-mockery when oversmall crowds of hungover campaign workers shout "This is what democracy looks like!" as they plod along a permitted parade route.

No.  It really isn't.

Protesting for the Planet - Sun. 2/17 Washington D.C.

by Debra Sweet                 Tuesday night we heard from Barack Obama that climate change demands immediate action, but the solution appears to also be the problem:

"The good news is, we can make meaningful progress on this issue while driving strong economic growth.  I urge this Congress to pursue a bipartisan, market-based solution to climate change, like the one John McCain and Joe Lieberman worked on together a few years ago."

Bruce Cumings on “Operational Control” of the South Korean Military

Bruce pictureMost Americans are unaware of the role the U.S. Military has played in Korea since World War II. But, ever since then, the U.S. Military has had “operational control” of the Korean army that continues to this day.

Bruce Cumings, a historian and leading expert on Korea and East Asian American relations explains how and why the U.S. controls a standing army of 650,000. He will also explain why the recent change in U.S. policy of allowing S. Korea to extend the range of its ballistic missiles to reach all of N. Korea, and the sale of drones to S. Korea is causing a rise in tensions between the two Koreas.

At a time when N. Korea is defying the international community and the U.S. for launching rockets and detonating a third nuclear test, the danger of the U.S. being dragged into another conflict with the North because of “operational control” has increased exponentially.

One interesting insight that Bruce offered was that Obama’s “pivot to Asia” isn’t really a pivot to Asia, as it is a pivot out of Afghanistan and the Middle East because the U.S. presence in the Pacific has not changed since the end of WWII. He says, all Obama has done is “”shift”" more resources to places in the South Pacific and East Asia.

Enjoy this informative 10 minute excerpt from the two hour interview with Bruce Cumings.

The Foodopoly: Too Big to Eat


We've come to understand that the banks are too big to fail, too big to take to trial, too big not to let them write our public policy, too big not to reward them for ruining our economy.

Why have we come to understand that? 

We've been told it by a mega media cartel that has itself been deemed too big to fail, too big not to subsidize with our airwaves, too big not to reward with political ads buying back our airwaves in little bits and pieces.

Speaking of which, the buying of elections is moving rapidly in the direction of monopoly ownership itself.

What Obama Said -- and What He Meant -- About Climate Change, War and Civil Liberties

By Norman Solomon

The words in President Obama’s “State of the Union” speech were often lofty, spinning through the air with the greatest of ease and emitting dog whistles as they flew.

Let’s decode the president’s smooth oratory in the realms of climate change, war and civil liberties.

“For the sake of our children and our future, we must do more to combat climate change.”

We’ve done so little to combat climate change -- we must do more.

“I urge this Congress to get together, pursue a bipartisan, market-based solution to climate change…”

Climate change is an issue that can be very good for Wall Street. Folks who got the hang of “derivatives” and “credit default swaps” can learn how to handle “cap and trade.” The corporate environmental groups are on board, and maybe we can offer enough goodies to big corporations to make it worth their while to bring enough of Congress along.

Okay -- Don't Believe Me!

 

I was having a hard time falling asleep

When I heard a loud noise coming from the kitchen.

Probably the cat after a mouse

Knocked something off the counter.

I made my way downstairs

Glad to have an excuse to get vertical.

Veterans For Peace Asks Peabody To Stop War on Mother Earth

At 11 am, Friday, Jan. 25, members of Veterans For Peace (VFP), headquartered in St. Louis, and other organizations will gather in Kiener Plaza, across from the headquarters of Peabody Energy Corp. to demand that the company:

  1. Stop all forms of strip mining, including mountaintop removal, a practice it claims to have ended, but which continues with spinoff coal companies like Patriot.

  2. Stop polluting the watershed and air and stop coal extraction in favor of renewable energy sources.  

  3. Return millions in tax breaks to the city of St. Louis. In 2010, Peabody Coal, the largest coal-mining company in the world, received a $61 million tax break from the St. Louis Development Corporation, including $2 million from the St. Louis public schools.  

Veterans for Peace joins with MORE (Missourians Organizing for Reform and Empowerment), RAMPS (Radical Action for Mountain People's Survival) and Black Mesa Indigenous Support (BMIS) in making these demands.

They are presenting these demands because of concerns such as:

  • Peabody Western Coal Co., a subsidiary of Peabody Energy Corp., has strip-mined Black Mesa, which overlaps Navajo and Hopi lands in the Four Corners area of the Southwest, since 1968. Each year more than one billion gallons of groundwater is removed from the Black Mesa aquifer to make the toxic coal slurry needed to move the coal through a long-distance pipeline.
  • Every day in West Virginia 3 million pounds of high explosives are detonated to remove mountaintops that cover coal seams. Over the course of a year that adds up to 27 times the power of the atomic bomb dropped on Hiroshima. Mountains, valleys, streams and the lives of people and wildlife are forever changed and in many cases, destroyed. Peabody, which claims to have stopped MTR, has non-the-less done incalculable damage, while other coal companies like Arch Coal and Patriot Coal (a spin off of Peabody) both  headquartered in St. Louis, still use the process.
  • According to a report by Physicians for Social Responsibility and backed by other groups, pollution from burning coal kills tens of thousands of people each year due to asthma, chronic pulmonary obstruction, emphysema, heart attack, stroke and cancer. http://www.psr.org/assets/pdfs/psr-coal-fullreport.pdf
  • The National Academy of Sciences concluded that coal-fired plants and overall damages from coal cost U. S. taxpayers  an estimated $62 billion in environmental and health outlays in 2005  http://dels.nas.edu/Report/Hidden-Costs-Energy-Unpriced-Consequences/12794?bname=best


VFP national board member Tarak Kauff explained, “There's a battle going on between huge fossil fuel corporations like Peabody Energy Corp. and a growing public interest grassroots movement. In the end this conflict may matter more than those in Viet Nam, Iraq or Afghanistan because the outcome may determine whether life as we know it will continue on this planet. Members of VFP, many who have experienced directly the horrors of war, realize that the war on Mother Earth is potentially the most dangerous war of all. We are more than veterans of war, we are veterans for peace. Real peace is more than just the absence of war. Peace means justice, in this case environmental justice. Raping, polluting and destroying the environment is not justice.”
 
Paul Appell, a combat veteran of the Vietnam War, farmer and VFP member, added, "After working the land full time for nearly half a century, I know that one reaps what one sows. In Vietnam I learned that when one sows violence, one reaps blood. As one who has daily witnessed strip-mining here in Knox County, Illinois, for 50-plus years and farmed strip-mined ground for 35, I have experienced the war on Mother Nature. As I stand in solidarity with my fellow citizens protesting Peabody Energy Corporation’s coal removal methods, it is with intimate, firsthand knowledge that violence begets more violence."

The Sierra Club Begins to Get Serious

The Sierra Club has decided to promote nonviolent civil disobedience for the first time.  Before a climate habitable for humans collapsed was probably the right moment, I'd say.  Now might be a time to support and encourage the Sierra Club.  And now might be a time to nudge it further.  The top destroyer of the environment right now is the U.S. military, and the Sierra Club has never wanted to challenge it, but almost began to indirectly when it recently objected to the U.S./South Korean construction of a naval base on Jeju Island.  The Sierra Club is defending its decision to nonviolently resist evil on the grounds that doing so is "patriotic," as if patriotism is a force alligned with preservation of the earth.  More progress is needed.

Growth is the Enemy of Humankind

 

By Dave Lindorff


What is wrong with America?

            

Big question.


Simple answer.

Guatemalans Resist Invasion of North American Mines

By Helen Jaccard and Gerry Condon

In November we traveled to Guatemala to study Spanish and learn about the lives of the indigenous Maya people.  Guatemala is an amazingly beautiful country, with countless mountains and valleys, and 22 volcanoes, the most in Central America. The people are very friendly and good humored. Traditional Mayan culture, mostly observed in the colorful dress of the Mayan women, lives side by side with modernity. Picture a traditionally dressed indigenous peasant woman tending her cattle and sheep on a hillside pasture. Now watch her pull a cell phone out of her skirt to call her children.

US Intelligence Analysts: American Power is in Terminal Decline

 

By Dave Lindorff

 

The US is on the way out as a hegemonic power. 


That is the primary conclusion of a new report out of the National Intelligence Council -- a government organization that produces mid-term and long-range thinking for the US intelligence community.


Following the Freeway Blogger

http://freewayblogger.blogspot.com

 I just bought two hundred posters of the earth from space and will be putting them up on west coast freeways for the next few months. Remember all those flags that went up after September 11th? This is like that, except instead of putting signs up after the tragedy, I'll be putting them up before.
 These are the three things that worry me most:
1) The amount of carbon we're putting in the atmosphere.
2) The amount of carbon dioxide and methane seeping out of a now melting permafrost, and
3) The fact that an ice-free Arctic will start absorbing all the heat from the sunlight it used to reflect.

Occupy Sandy: The Movie

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