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Thoughts on non-violence and the needs of our nation

By: applepie Tuesday June 7, 2011 3:09 pm

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Fukushima, drone-warfare, massive denial on the implication of climate-change, out-of-control cops, vampire capitalist austerity cuts, mortgage rip-offs, corporate decimation of everything, the silencing and prosecution of free-speech activities, war on protestors, an ineffective controlled president and corrupt Congress and Senate. Yikes!!! It seems that the polarization of humanity, and of our American nation in particular, is hurtling towards an unseemly and depressing violence. I mean, the rage I feel just reading, watching, and listening to the Net headlines leads to snarkiness at best and an inner thoughtcrime of unrestrained violence at worst. These violent thoughts are an end in themselves, and perhaps they are even justified in a way by the constant assault on reason taking place in today’s world. But I am not ready to give it all up to a righteous and violent God. Neither am I willing to just fall back into manipulation and greed to get my last gap of fun before the citadel tumbles down. And the singularity does not seem to be happening. It’s been co-opted into another sales event by Apple, Android, Google, or Microsoft.

Lessons of the past seem wanting. The balm of forgetfulness of the 60s radicals or the steady gritty organizing of the 20s and 30s cadres stand like ghosts at the doorway of memory, and fade fast as phosphemes. They seem to me obsolete in our present day maelstrom of instant information, right-wing mythomania, and paranoid nativism.

A friend of mine, active in the mountain-top coal removal movement in Appalachia, wrote a Facebook piece on Memorial Day that reminded me of the real power within our grasp:

Gandhi believed that evicting the British from India would require an army of soldiers, but soldiers that would risk life and limb without ever responding in anger. This approached was used by the American Civil Rights movement as well, and it is the way forward now, as leaders like Bill McKibben and Tim DeChristopher have urged. I want to say on this Memorial Day that now is the time for all good citizens to rise in a non violent army that will confront the coal, oil, gas and nuclear industries and shut them down. That would be the right way to honor all the soldiers and civilians who have died in all of our wars.

Seeing the news today of the police arrests, possibly illegal, in Madison, brought Roselle’s Facebook article back into focus. I know that my buttons are being pushed by the events of our empires collapse, and so many others must feel that way too, maybe much more than myself who has avoided entanglements with the bright shiny objects of post-industrial capitalism.

One positive is that there are burgeoning environmental, civil, and human rights movements sparking across America these days like wildfires after lightning storms. Some of them are stirring from an Obama-induced slumber, some are brand new and filled with youth, some are ecologic and immediate and timeless. I wonder if we have the integrity to shape and define these movements in a widely non-violent way? The clash between rage and non-violence is being pushed though. It’s a challenge for all of us, just as the rage I feel at the wanton destruction happening all around challenges my own perseverance towards building sustainability locally. At times, I feel like giving up and retreating into the wilds. Or worse..in fact, I always preferred Bhagat Singh over Gandhi, but that was a different time and martyrdom always seemed an empty gesture to me.

Our planetary resources are becoming more compromised, expensive, and controlled by an elite militarized caste, and this is frightening because we know how selfish and ruthless these people can be. If we encounter situations where the forces of anger attempt to swamp our democratic sense of reason what choice are we to make? Politically, as we attempt to build a new movement in American culture, one that must be greater than the operating two-party system, it will become increasingly important to remember that peaceful non-violence is the only way to achieve collective survival. The army of non-violent activists needs to grow and grow fast.

 

Normal push and pull or clampdown escalation?

By: applepie Sunday May 29, 2011 5:24 pm

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Memorial Day is here and all the conflicting emotions of of war for profit and American idealism. Yes, American reality, and that obscured dream that seems so battered and bruised by vagaries and lies, economics, and even the ecology. Two media events in the past two days have flared up brightly on our solemn and summer beginning holiday weekend, and hopefully will shine not too briefly, to underscore the conflicts brewing in our culture. Constitutional imperative and an out-of-control unaccountable security state seem to be, like two giant nauticals in wham bam competition, colliding. The first appeared yesterday in the NYTimes as an example of constitutional imperative. Scott Crow, a vegan anarchist who makes quilts for the local elementary school, and protests against megacorporations has been subjected to an extensive and expensive multi-year FBI investigation seemingly right out of a Stanislaw Lem novel. After filing an FOIA request Scott found out that the absurd borders the repressive, that he had been surveilled repeatedly, had his email tracked and his trash combed through, and even subjected to video camera monitoring, by the FBI. His crime: dressing up like a tiger and trying to serve arrest warrants for ExxonMobil CEOs for climate crimes in a Greenpeace action in 2003 (Disclosure: I was part of this demonstration too, but I didn’t get a tiger constume, I was chained to the front gate) in Irving, Texas.

So what, hasn’t the FBI a mandate to keep an eye on these so-called agitiators:

But the Oklahoma City bombing in 1995 demonstrated the lethal danger of domestic terrorism, and after the Sept. 11 attacks, the F.B.I. vowed never again to overlook terrorists hiding in plain sight. The Qaeda sleeper cells many Americans feared, though, turned out to be rare or nonexistent.

The result, said Michael German, a former F.B.I. agent now at the American Civil Liberties Union, has been a zeal to investigate political activists who pose no realistic threat of terrorism.

“You have a bunch of guys and women all over the country sent out to find terrorism. Fortunately, there isn’t a lot of terrorism in many communities,” Mr. German said. “So they end up pursuing people who are critical of the government.”

Complaints from the A.C.L.U. prompted the Justice Department’s inspector general to assess the F.B.I.’s forays into domestic surveillance. The resulting report last September absolved the bureau of investigating dissenters based purely on their expression of political views. But the inspector general also found skimpy justification for some investigations, uncertainty about whether any federal crime was even plausible in others and a mislabeling of nonviolent civil disobedience as “terrorism.”

The problem here, as ACLU complaints point out, is the tendency of the FBI to label non-violent Americans who openly act on the Bill of Rights guarantees potential terrorists. The keyword here in non-violent. Unlike the Klan or Operation Rescue, or various religious splinter groups, free-speech activists of the left are non-violent. If there are exceptions then those exceptions are not truly free-speech advocates and activists, and more likely agent provocateurs. This harassment, as idiotic as it is, has also happened to other environmentalists, animal rights activists, Muslim-Americans, and brown-skinned people in general. What line have these people crossed to subject them to serious security state scrutiny?

The second event was in Washington DC on Saturday when Park Police went completely overboard in attacking Medea Benjamin and other CodePink activists for dancing at the Jefferson Monument. That’s right dancing, cheek-to-cheek, and freestyle. The footage of this is very troubling. Again, what line did Medea and the other dancers cross for them to be arrested and manhandled by the police? Is dancing really a demonstration that requires heavy-handed police response and arrest? Even when the Park Police were asked what laws were being challenged the police responded with “You’ll find out.”

So what is all this? More people have been arrested for free-speech activities under Obama then Bush. Is this normal push-and-pull between peace activists or vegan quiltmaking anarchists and the cops? Or, is it a glaring indication that the security state is becoming more hardened in their approaches to free-speech activists, and to anything that they decide is dangerous? Dancing? What has this Patriot Act, and all the other laws secret grand juries and courts, and Homeland Security done to our nation? Is this government still representative, or has it become something else?

“Help me Big Oil polluters!” Canada fears being labeled a dirty oil producer

By: applepie Wednesday May 25, 2011 4:05 pm

An interesting re-branding is being attempted, clearly showing how the merged identities of the corporation and the state can create a new colossus which has little regard for truth or reason. The ‘state’, or nation, here is Canada, and the corporations are many, although Royal Dutch Shell is in the lead due to its great amount of leases in the Alberta Tar Sands.

As The Dominion reports, it all started in 2009, when the original branding of Alberta Tar Sands oil failed:

The “pan-European oil sands advocacy strategy” was launched in December 2009 around the time of the United Nations climate negotiations in Copenhagen. Hundreds of civil society groups there gave Canada a “Fossil of the Year” award for being “the absolute worst country at the talks,” fingering a powerful tar sands industry as the driving force behind Canada’s hardline stance against ambitious greenhouse gas reduction targets.

The extraction of Alberta’s vast deposits of bitumen, which hold the second largest supply of oil after Saudi Arabia, has been widely criticized as the world’s most environmentally destructive and carbon-intensive industrial project.

One of the main targets of the strategy has been a EU energy law—the Fuel Quality Directive—that would slap a dirty label on tar sands oil as a way of promoting cleaner transportation fuel in Europe.

Europe does not import tar sands oil from Canada, but Canadian policymakers are worried a measure categorizing tar sands oil as an undesirable fuel could spread to other continents. With the Albertan fossil fuel industry—and supportive provincial and federal governments—increasingly looking to Asian markets to sell their crude such precedents would spell trouble.

With ExxonMobil’s recent massive ad campaign designed to reassure the American consumer and V8 car driver, Canada is taking up the slack on the international front to defend the tar sands from untoward perceptions.

Led by the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFAIT), alongside Natural Resources and Environment Canada, the Albertan government, and involving eight foreign missions, a European “Oil Sands Team” has gone on the offensive against threats to the tar sands: they have monitored green groups, responded to “significant negative media coverage,”

Canada already has the maple leaf brand, and the beauty of the Canadian Rockies, and the envied intelligence and rationality of her citizens. The state wants to retain that, even with the ecological crushing of a huge portion of Alberta and fouling of one of the largest watersheds in North America. The idea of pipelines crisscrossing Canada and heading South across the tornado regions of midwestern USA, or of deadly tailing ponds floating dead waterfowl, and the potential for dozens of nuclear plants to be used to extract the oil from the sand, and erasure of First Nation people is not something Canada wants to be known for.

It all comes down to the market however, and if Shell and ExxonMobil, Suncor and PetroChina, can convince consumers that Tar Sands oil is sustainable and monitored by Canadian green, then the other green of petrodollars will keep flowing too. The Canadian people, and the natural environment, have little say here…same as in the USA.

 

Does North America need a nuclear sacrifice zone?

By: applepie Tuesday May 24, 2011 2:14 pm

Many nations in the world including Japan, Germany, and Switzerland are slowing down, or even abandoning nuclear power. The Obama administration has refused to contemplate this and has quietly been pushing for resumption of nuclear energy plant construction.

But what do we do with the waste? Aside from spreading depleted uranium around the globe on our most recent battlegrounds and praying for a breakthrough in nuclear waste transmutation, there are few choices. Currently nuclear waste is stored on-site in cooling pools at nuclear plants. Yucca Mountain has been shut down, rightfully so because of water movement and earthquake potentials, Savannah River in South Carolina is pretty much filled to the brim with nuclear waste, the WIPP salt caverns near Carlsbad, NM is just for military waste, and we can’t just keep driving the rest around on the interstates and highways in some perpetual nuclear kaleidoscope.

Well, there is always Hanford Reservation, near Richland, Washington along the banks of the Columbia River. In 2004, the Department of Energy, with little public input, put forth a draft EIR declaring Hanford to be the nations new nuclear dump site. This made sense to the DOE because of low population, low moisture rates, and perhaps the proximity to the Alberta Tar Sands, which may become a massive nuclear complex due to the vast energy need to for the Tar Sands.

The nuclear power cycle in America like a dirty circular vortex, and it’s center may very well become Hanford. The latest EIR from DOE proposes storage of what is called Greater Than Class C (GTCC) nuclear wastes, including contaminated clothing and supplies, activated metals, medical waste, and ‘other’ sources. The ‘other’ waste stream is of major concern because it will include a particularly dangerous radionuclide called Technitium-99. Tc-999 has a very long half-life, about 212,000 years and bioaccumulates in plants and water flora. There is already radioactive contamination of strontium 90 in the Columbia, and a radioactive plume moving at Hanford towards the Columbia River from plutonium processing plants of the Cold War years. The Colombia River watershed is home to millions of people, aquatic creatures, birds, and mammals. Should we let it become a sacrifice zone for our energy use today, leaving the waste for future generations to puzzles over and die from?

Last week in a Portland, Oregon hotel conference room we had over 190 people telling the DOE that this not a viable option. Destroying one of America’s greatest watersheds is just stupid. We do not want thousands of truckloads of nuclear waste driving by our homes, playgrounds, and schools. We need to start shutting down our nuclear power producers, strengthen alternative non-polluting sources, reduce energy use, and think just a bit about the people and biota who will be here when we are not.

The DOE has stated that they have not made a decision yet on turning Hanford into a nuclear sacrifice zone. You can make comments about this issue until June 27th by writing directly to the DOE at this site. Information on mailing in your comments is also listed there.

ExxonMobil has a new ad campaign and a new tar sand playground

By: applepie Wednesday May 11, 2011 2:00 pm

Watching Sunday sports is usually something I find pleasure in. No talking heads, no politics really.  All of it was blown apart last weekend, however, when an ExxonMobil advertisement flowed heavenly onto my TV screen. It is a spinoff on the old ExMo ad for Liquified Natural Gas banned in 2008 by the Advertising Standards Agency. Same white backdrop, same reassuring multicultural reportage from nice looking people, friendly intelligent reassuring fellow humans. The music was a bit more new-agey in the new ad if I can remember correctly. Well, never let it be said, that our American oil companies do not understand progress, even if it means repeating and repackaging the past.  With first-quarter profits near $11 billion for 2011, one would think they could do better.

Instead of sinking money into creative marketing though ExxonMobil is moving heavily into the Alberta Canada Tar Sands Oil extraction business. ExMo has been up there for years, owning a huge 772 km pipeline, and now it seems they are expanding their PR campaign to teach Americans about the issue through their advertising clout, with these new ads. While building on the Tar Sands extraction, they sold the pipeline to another Texas company, Plains All-America Pipeline, in 2008 … and then something broke.

A few weeks back, on Friday, April 29 the Rainbow pipeline , now owned by Plains Midstream, in Alberta, Canada was discovered to be leaking from faulty welding. As of this time, the total amount on the ground is reported to be 4.5 million gallons. This is a huge oil spill from a 44 year old pipeline that goes from Northern Alberta through the Tar Sands extraction zone to Edmonton, Alberta.

The oil spill caused nausea in schoolchildren and schools were closed due the fumes. The damage to the larger ecosystem and wetlands is unknown.  Plains Midstream has denied that the pipeline contains oil from the Tar Sands Extraction Zone in the Central North/East area of Alberta. Now, those Tar Sands are being vastly expanded to feed our oil-supply needs.  Pipelines are being planned to crisscross the North American continent to bring this dirty oil from the Tar Sands to the lower 48 (see page 3 of this SEC filing.) Here in Oregon, the oil barons will be shipping huge South Korean made machinery up the Columbia River, to then be driven on huge specially built roads through Montana into Alberta.

And ExxonMobil is running the show. You will see the ads on TV. Chances are, that will be all the info that the corporate media presents on the Tar Sands extraction issue. Try to see through the white facade of those ExMo ads though, into the darkness spreading out from Alberta.

 

Current Job Offering

By: applepie Monday April 4, 2011 11:11 pm

The job market is really tough today. You can send out dozens of resumes and app letters without even getting the courtesy of a rejection email. Just yesterday a friend and I were having beers at the local microbrew and he said to me, “Dude, we’re getting huge amounts of applications for any job offered.” He works at a hospital.

When you’re new to town though you might take any job offered…especially when you’re no spring chicken.

I heard through the wire that TEPCO was offering $2500 to $5000 a day for ‘jumpers’.

These ‘jumpers’ were hired to run into the Fukushima plant and work quickly at some needed task until their radiation sensor showed the maximum dose, and then run off quickly to safety. Well, I had no girl at the time, no kids, no prospects for kids and the cards were months behind with that interest pushing them up every day. I needed some money fast.

(from Reuters Africa) Translation: jumpers wanted.

In fact TEPCO and its contractors are already trying to recruit jumpers, according to reports in the Japanese press.

“My company offered me 200,000 yen ($2,500) per day,” one subcontractor in Iwaki city about 40 km south of the crippled plant told the Weekly Post magazine.

“Ordinarily I’d consider that a dream job, but my wife was in tears and stopped me, so I declined,” said the unidentified worker who is in his 30s.

“The working time would be less than an hour, so in fact it was 200,000 yen an hour, but the risk was too big.”

Ryuta Fujita, a 27-year-old worker also from Iwaki said he was offered twice that amount as hazardous duty pay to venture into Fukushima Daiichi’s Reactor 2.

But Fujita, who evacuated his 3-year-old son and 26-year-old wife to a shelter in a sports arena just outside Tokyo, said the 400,000 yen a day wasn’t worth it.

“I hear that guys older than 50 are being hired at high pay,” Fujita told the Tokyo Shimbun newspaper. “But I’m still young, and radiation scares me. I don’t want to work in a nuclear plant again.

It could be quick 10 grand, and a lot safer than driving a truck out of Kandahar, which I was also contemplating. I looked out at the rain pouring down outside my apartment window. Hell, that rain could be radioactive, not like they would tell us if it were. And I would be helping people, helping them to get control of the second worst nuclear disaster in history. The reasons started to pile up on one another like the meat on a pastrami sandwich from a true deli.

I took an advance on my 401k and hopped a jet to Narita, Everyone on the plane was nervous. I thought that this was how it must have been back in the early days of flight, when people actually carried their own parachutes on board. A suit-and-tie sitting next to me in Seat 11D flagged down the flight steward as soon as we leveled off. “I’ll take a gin and tonic please, and keep ‘em coming.” he said.

I thought the steward was going to report him to the flight marshall from the look she gave him but then she softened a bit, her red hair filling out into the flow of the overhead aisle lights, and said “It’s seven dollars please.”

He groaned and looked at me, “They raised the prices again.”

I just nodded and smiled. The rest of the long flight was a blur of snoring and my neighbors drunken humming and chortling of college sports anthems. I tried to ignore him. Twelve hours later, I was happy to reach the ground, even if it was radiated.

Narita is usually a very orderly place, but the despair was palpable. There were long lines and not enough attendants at customs. The workers looked tense, their blue uniforms looked rumpled. This was not a normal Japan.

I was tired, jet-lagged, but knew I had to get Tokyo and the TEPCO employment office soon. I had no idea what was going on at Fukushima, had they gotten control yet? Was this just a fools errand? I also had no idea then what I was getting into, only that this might be my best final chance to settle my credit card debt. And that was good enough for me.

Some workers have said they feel they are being pressured to take the high-risk jobs at the plant.

“It’s dangerous work there, I’m sure, but if I refuse, I don’t think I would keep my job,” one 41-year-old contractor, who was asked by his employer to return to his job of scanning work areas to see if they are safe, told the Tokyo Shimbun. He said he will go back to work there this month.

So will another contractor in his 40s who is worried about putting food on the table.

“The reactors may be stopped, but I still have expenses,” he told the Weekly Post. “I have to support my family. And more than anything, if I refuse to go back I’m genuinely afraid I won’t get work again.

Hope this is a union job…