|Progressive Calendar 06.21.10||<– Date –> <– Thread –>|
|From: David Shove (shove001tc.umn.edu)|
|Date: Mon, 21 Jun 2010 15:28:57 -0700 (PDT)|
P R O G R E S S I V E C A L E N D A R 06.21.10 1. Peace walk 6.21 6pm RiverFalls WI 2. Ellison/immigration 6.21 6pm 3. Docs/no borders f 6.21 4. Green ideas & ham 6.22 8am 5. Erlinder's arrival 6.22 12:39pm 6. Honduras/CTV 6.22 5pm 7. Gitmo poems 6.22 6:30pm 8. Ralph Nader - Festering corruption in DC 9. Ronnie Cummins - Why we need labels on GM foods 10. Jacqueline Homan - Capitalism's evil legacy 11. Naomi Klein - Gulf oil spill: A hole in the wWorld --------1 of 11-------- From: Nancy Holden <d.n.holden [at] comcast.net> Subject: Peace walk 6.21 6pm RiverFalls WI River Falls Peace and Justice Walkers. We meet every Monday from 6-7 pm on the UWRF campus at Cascade Ave. and 2nd Street, immediately across from "Journey" House. We walk through the downtown of River Falls. Contact: d.n.holden [at] comcast.net. Douglas H Holden 1004 Morgan Road River Falls, Wisconsin 54022 --------2 of 11-------- From: Jason Stone <jason.stone [at] yahoo.com> Subject: Ellison/immigration 6.21 6pm Ellison Immigration Reform Forum - June 21 Congressman Keith Ellison Invites you to join him as he presents Comprehensive Immigration Reform: Reuniting Families and Building Communities Together Monday, June 21st, 2010 6:00 P.M. - 8:00 P.M. Project for Pride in Living 1035 East Franklin Avenue Minneapolis, MN 55404 --------3 of 11-------- From: Lydia Howell <lydiahowell [at] visi.com> Subject: Docs/no borders f 6.21 LIVING IN EMERGENCY:Stories of Doctors Without Borders Bosnia. Rwanda. Kosovo. Sierra Leone. Pakistan. Just a few of the world's humanitarian and political crises in the past years. Whether the result of war or nature, these disasters devastate populations and cripple health systems. Despite the immense dangers and difficulties of the work, one organization, Doctors Without Borders, has continuously intervened at these frontlines of overwhelming human need. Set in war-torn Congo and post-conflict Liberia, /Living in Emergency/ interweaves the stories of four volunteers with Doctors Without Borders as they struggle to provide emergency medical care under the most extreme conditions. Two volunteers are new recruits: a 26 year-old Australian doctor stranded in a remote bush clinic and an American surgeon struggling to cope under the load of emergency cases in a shattered capital city. Two others are experienced field hands: a dynamic Head of Mission, valiantly trying to keep morale high and tensions under control, and an exhausted veteran, who has seen too much horror and wants out. Amidst the chaos, each volunteer must confront the severe challenges of the work, the tough choices, and the limits of their own idealism LAGOON cinema on Lagoon 1 block ast of Hennepin, uptown MInneapolis Mon 6/21 - Thu 6/24: 2:505:007:4010:00 --------4 of 11-------- From: Do It Green! Minnesota <Do_It_Green_Minnesota [at] mail.vresp.com> Subject: Green ideas & ham 6.22 8am Green Ideas and Ham Forums Green Ideas and Ham forums are a new opportunity for you to get together with others in your community and talk about environmental problems and solutions. The breakfast forums from 8-9am will be held at the Red Stag Supper Club in Minneapolis on the second to last Tuesday of each month. The first forum is on Tuesday, June 22 and will be discussing a new law that will make it easier for homeowners and businesses across Minnesota to make energy-efficiency and renewable-energy improvements to their properties: Property-Assessed Clean Energy (PACE). We'll be hosting Green Ideas & Ham the second to last Tuesday of each month. Click here for more details; Green Ideas and Ham Breakfast Forums http://cts.vresp.com/c/?twincitiesgreenguide/be36fcf6a4/8acadfd1b4/115b1d0831/id4=ES%20 --------5 of 11-------- From: Ted Dooley Law Office <teddooley [at] winternet.com> Subject: Erlinder's arrival 6.29 12:39pm Begin forwarded message: Gena Berglund Finally, we have confirmed that Peter Erlinder will be arriving in Minnesota on Tuesday, June 22 on Delta Flight No. 5728, scheduled to arrive at 12:39 p.m. You are invited to meet him at the airport. We are also arranging a formal press conference for Wednesday in Saint Paul and will have a press advisory available soon. Gena Berglund 651-208-7964 gena [at] bergberg.net --------6 of 11-------- From: Eric Angell <eric-angell [at] riseup.net> Subject: Honduras/CTV 6.22 5pm St. Paul Neighborhood Network (SPNN) viewers: "Our World In Depth" cablecasts on SPNN Channel 15 on Tuesdays at 5pm, midnight and Wednesday mornings at 10am, after DemocracyNow! Households with basic cable may watch. Tues, 6/22 @ 5pm & midnight + Wed, 6/23, 10am "Honduras After the Coup: the Resistance Continues" June 28 is the 1st anniversary of the 2009 Honduran coup d'état which ousted elected President Manuel Zelaya and led to Pepe Lobo rising to power in Honduras. The coup seems to be a fait accompli, and Honduras is off the radar of many news watchers. Yet, average Hondurans still desire a return to democracy. We talk with Minnesota Hands Off Honduras Coalition organizers about the history of the original "banana republic", the context of the coup, and what people are doing locally to act in solidarity with the pro-democracy movement in Honduras. --------7 of 11-------- From: Women Against Military Madness <wamm [at] mtn.org> Subject: Gitmo poems 6.22 6:30pm Pax Conversational Salon: "Poems of Guantanamo" Tuesday, June 22, 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. Mad Hatter's Tea House, 943 West Seventh, St. Paul. Join others at a reading of poetry written by some of the detainees at Guantanamo in the published book Poems From Guantanamo, the Detainees Speak. Endorsed by: WAMM. FFI: Call 651-227-3228. --------8 of 11-------- Standing with the Corporations in Washington Festering Corruption By RALPH NADER June 21, 2010 CounterPunch The festering corporate government in Washington, DC, is a theater of the absurd. Some of the acts of this tragedy follow: 1. Start with the often hapless Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), the agency that administers Medicare. Medicare pays $1,593 per injection of Lucentis for wet age-related macular degeneration as well as $42 per dose for Avastin, a drug that has a similar molecular structure, used by ophthalmologists. Both drugs are made by Genentech. Lucentis is FDA approved for the vision problem and the other, Avastin, is approved to treat cancer. Doctors can also use Avastin for vision treatment. A study by three officials of CMS and Dr. Philip Rosenfeld, a retina specialist at the University of Miami, reported that for Medicare patients 60% of eye injections were Avastin, while 40% used Lucentis. Note this: Medicare paid $537 million for Lucentis in 2008 and only $20 million for Avastin! 2. Saving about half a billion a year by using Avastin is small potatoes to another CMS shortcoming. For fiscal year 2009, CMS paid $65 billion in erroneous payments.to deceased doctors, fraudsters, delinquent or imprisoned contractors and other suspended or debarred firms. Organized fraud of Medicare is becoming more systemic. So President Obama wants CMS to use a new fraud-detection program. Professor Malcolm Sparrow of Harvard University, the nation's leading expert on health care billing fraud told them how to do this many years ago, but they were not listening. The President wants to reduce throughout the government "payments in benefits, contracts, grants and loans to ineligible people or organizations," according to the Washington Post. Better trillions of dollars late over the decades, then never! 3. Five oil company executives, including from BP, admitted at a Congressional hearing this week that they did not have contingency plans worked out for catastrophic failures. What is, by comparison, the worst case scenario for offshore windfarms or solar/thermal conservation, or passive solar architecture? Energy Secretary Stephen Chu still does not note such a criteria to differentiate between energy supply priorities. 4. President Obama now, belatedly, recognizes that the notorious oil industry patsy, the Minerals Management Service (MMS) in the Department of Interior, was a washout non-regulator of offshore drilling inherited from the Bush and Clinton Administrations. Well he also better take a hard look at the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA), the Office of Pipeline Safety (OPS) and the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC), which are variously pleased with being captured by the very industries they are supposed to regulate. Too many agencies, in essence, allow the companies to "self-regulate" - an oxymoron. Each of these agencies may wake up some day to witness a catastrophic hazardous materials disaster or meltdown that they should have prevented with stronger standards, inspection and law enforcement. Heed this caution, Mr. President! 5. Another $50 billion request by the White House just whisked through Congress for the brutal, spreading, futile war in Afghanistan - the historic graveyard of empires. Republicans loved to vote for this raid on the taxpayers. But this week, a united Republican cabal, joined by Senators Joseph Lieberman (D-CT) and Ben Nelson (D-NE), blocked a $120 billion package (the threat of filibuster again) to extend unemployment benefits, preserve Medicare payments, extend tax credits for corporate research, raise taxes on oil companies, other big companies and investment partnerships. The bill also includes $24 billion to aid state governments in preventing thousands of state layoffs, including teachers. The point here is not arbitrarily to decry Republican questioning of this domestic bill. It is to show how an overall ignorant, rubberstamping Congress is not heeding the lessons from Vietnam and Iraq - the immense casualties, the destruction and poisoning of these countries by detonations, and laying waste to the environment, and the imperialist policies that also harmed our country in so many tangible and intangible ways. 6. At the House of Representatives. hearing this week Congressman Joe Barton (R-TX) apologized to BP's CEO, Tony Hayward, saying the White House's demand that BP set aside $20 billion for its huge toxic contamination to the Gulf coast and its people was "a shakedown". He added, for good supplicant measure, that he doesn't "want to live in a country" that treats a private corporation this way. He later apologized for his apology, at the behest of Republican House leaders. The Barton outburst illustrates why it should be easy for the Democratic Party to landslide the Republicans in the 2010 Congressional elections. Probably the most craven version of the Republican Party ever, this team takes huge slurries of corporate money while blocking any safeguards for workers, consumers, small taxpayers, and the environment. They even defeated investor rights for shareholders, who own these companies, but whose bosses pay themselves obscenely to control them. The Democrats have their hand out to the same commercial interests. But if they want to win, they'd better formulate the language of standing with the people over big business by November. And, if the Democrats don't want November to mark their curtain call, their language of standing with the people needs to be followed by action. Ralph Nader is the author of Only the Super-Rich Can Save Us!, a novel. --------9 of 11-------- Why We Need Labels on GM Foods Generation Monsanto By RONIIE CUMMINS June 21, 2010 CounterPunch Gen-M, the first Monsanto Generation of humans force-fed genetically modified foods hasn't reached reproductive age yet (they were born in the late 1990s). But, if a critical mass of animal feeding studies are any indication, the millennial generation, reared on Food Inc.'s unlabeled "Frankenfoods" can look forward to a long-term epidemic of cancer, food allergies, learning disabilities, sterility, and birth defects. Corn (85% of U.S. production is GM), soy (91% GM), cotton (88% GM), canola (85% GM) and sugar beets (95% GM) are all genetically engineered by Monsanto to withstand massive doses of the company's glyphosate herbicide RoundUp, or else to exude their own pesticide, Bacillus Thuriengensis (Bt). RoundUp, the favorite weedkiller poison of non-organic farmers and gardeners, causes brain, intestinal and heart defects in fetuses. And scientists warn that RoundUp, the most extensively used herbicide in the history of agriculture, "may have dire consequences for agriculture such as rendering soils infertile, crops non-productive, and plants less nutritious." In addition, hundreds of thousands of US dairy cows are injected with genetically engineered Bovine Growth Hormone (developed by Monsanto) in spite of studies linking BGH with cancer, and longstanding bans on the drug in the EU, Japan, Canada, and other industrialized nations. With genetically modified foods and crops threatening public health and the environment, not to mention the next generation's reproductive capacity, why isn't there a massive consumer outcry to restrain Monsanto's biotech bullying and ban genetically engineered foods and agriculture? The answer is disturbingly simple. Collusion between Monsanto and elected public officials (including the current Obama Administration) has obscured the fact that almost all non-organic foods in the US contain GMOs. Despite poll after poll indicating that 85-95% of US consumers want mandatory labels on foods containing GMOs, Congress has heretofore listened to Monsanto and corporate agribusiness, rather than their own constituents. In the European Union, Japan, or South Korea, where GM foods must be labeled, there are no GM foods on grocery story shelves (and little or none served in restaurants), since most consumers would not buy them and a significant number would complain if they saw GMO labels on products. Consequently there are very few GM crops being cultivated in the EU (mainly a small amount of corn in Spain for animal feed). Most Americans simply do not understand that 80% of non-organic supermarket processed foods (basically every product containing soy, corn, canola, cottonseed oil, or sugar beet derivatives) are contaminated with GMOs. While nearly everyone in North America has eaten genetically modified foods, only 26% believe that they have. People don't think they're eating genetically modified foods because they have no way of knowing whether they are or not. Genetically modified foods aren't labeled. If we're going to save this generation from reproductive dysfunction and save our farmland from the ravages of RoundUp, we need to stop Monsanto. The first step is to protect consumers' right to know whether their food is genetically modified. We need genetically modified food labeled now! Ronnie Cummins is director of the Organic Consumers Alliance. He can be reached at: ronnie [at] organicconsumers.org. --------10 of 11-------- Capitalism's Legacy, the Auschwitz of Palestine, and the Attack on the Free Gaza Flotilla by Jacqueline S. Homan / June 19th, 2010 Dissident Voice Israel's government claims its military was defending Israel against "terrorists" aboard the Freedom Flotilla that was bound for Gaza with humanitarian aid for Palestinian refugees in Gaza. The coalition of international human rights volunteers had no guns. The IDF was heavily armed. Israel controls all entry points to Palestinian territory in Gaza - which is not part of Israel - essentially blocking access to Palestine. Journalists, doctors, students, and humanitarian aid volunteers have all been denied access to Gaza. The Palestinians who struggle to subsist there are locked in. They cannot leave except through points of entry and exit controlled by Israel - including by sea. They languish in destitution. Their homes and infrastructure destroyed by IDF bulldozers, tanks, and heavy artillery, Palestinians have no means of building their own viable society. They are denied the means to provide for themselves the most basic of human needs. One and a half million people are living there in the largest open-air concentration camp in the world. Israel deploys well-heeled, well-armed military forces against a trapped and defenseless civilian population in Palestine, deliberately keeping Palestinians from being able to build and sustain viable life. Israel controls everything that enters or exits Palestine by air, land, and sea. Not just the ingress and egress of people; but medical equipment, food, building supplies, textiles, children's toys, and school supplies. It's not about defense against "terrorism", or about Israel's "right to exist". It's about a vicious form of capitalism known as colonialism. All of humanity can be divided into three groups - A, B, and C. Group A is made up of those who live primarily off of stock dividends, interest payments on their bond investments, royalties on their land and mineral rights, inherited money, and rents for their real estate. In other words, Group A derives its livelihood from passive or unearned income generated from the capital it owns and the exploitation of the labor of Group B. Groups B and C comprise the remaining 99% of humanity. Group B lives primarily off of wages, salaries, tips, commissions, fees or pensions. Group C are those remaining billions of people across the world who don't even get that - they live hand-to-mouth on whatever crumbs they can scrounge. Group A obtains wealth by imperialist or colonialist measures by deracination, driving the people off of the land either by genocide, incarceration, or other means of expulsion, and de-skilling and disenfranchising the remainder by forcing them to work for subsistence wages out of lack of options. Group A can also be called the "Owning Class" since they own most of the world's resources and means of production. Group A also owns a lot of the government or the state. Group A has very politically active elements that make careers out of protecting the interests of Group A. Those politically active members of Group A become presidents, parliamentarians, prime ministers, Congressmen, Secretary of the Interior, Secretary of the US Department of Defense, CIA directors, Joint Chiefs of Staff, FBI directors, military intelligence, etc., whose function is to keep the world safe for the Fortune 500 companies - the people in Group A -so that they can extract the value from the natural resources and exploit the surplus value from the labor of Group B, and squash any populist uprising. In order to deracinate Palestine - including Gaza, the West Bank, and Arab communities within Israel itself - Israeli military operations have damaged infrastructure and the Israeli government crafted a list of forbidden goods that cannot be delivered by humanitarian organizations to the Palestinians which have absolutely nothing to do with Israel's right to defend itself against terrorism. Instead, it has everything to do with ethnic cleansing and genocide with land expropriation as the motive. This was the same motive behind the Doctrine of Discovery and the deracination of America with the ethnic cleansing of First Nations people - Native Americans, like the Palestinians, were criminalized and branded as "terrorists" or "savages". And it was the same motive behind the imperialist expansion of the Roman Empire into Gaul and Great Britain beginning in 52 BC when white Celtic, Brythonic, and Teutonic tribes of those lands were branded as "terrorists" and "savages". Imperialist governments of the West have long defended Israel's right to exist. Since its artificial creation by European and American heads of state in 1948, Israel has only allowed its indigenous Arab peoples - the Palestinians - the right to barely subsist. Power and privilege are a dangerous narcotic; more potent and addictive than any opiate. Violence used to protect privilege destroys those who bear the brunt of its force, and it consumes those who use it to become masters of the universe. Israel uses sophisticated aircraft and navy vessels to bomb densely crowded refugee camps, schools, apartment blocks, mosques, and slums. To attack a population that has no air force, no air defense, no navy, no army, and no artillery units, no mechanized army or command to control . and calling this "war" - is class genocide. For its victims, capitalism is cruelty; not freedom. Israel speaks to Palestinians in the language of intimidation, contempt, and death. Those who orchestrate such aggression do not understand the insatiable rage born of long-standing policies of humiliation, violence, and human rights violations. A mother whose child dies because of a lack of vaccines or proper medical care does not forget. A child that witnesses his sick or injured grandmother dying while being detained at an Israeli check point does not forget. Pregnant women denied access to hospitals who suffer permanently maiming injuries from difficult labors and births; and who are stripped of their dignity by being forced to give birth in front of a hostile audience of gawking, lewd, racist soldiers that harass them in their most vulnerable state - peering between their legs while pointing a loaded gun at them - do not forget. Parents who carry their child's broken body to a bombed out hospital do not forget. These crimes against humanity are engraved forever upon their memory. They sear the psyche and become like a virus in those who survive. Is it any wonder that 71% of Palestinian children interviewed in Gaza recently said that they wanted to be a suicide bomber? The collective refusal of our government, our media, and our scholars to speak out in defense of the rule of law and fundamental human rights exposes our shambolic espousal of "freedom" and "democracy". The blind acceptance of Israel's pogroms against Palestinians cloaked under the pretense of Israel's "right to exist" contradicts reason as the images of the victims of Israeli policy seep out from behind the sealed ghetto of Gaza before the world's eyes. It is a betrayal of the memory of all those killed in other genocides in other times and in other lands. The lesson of the Holocaust was not that Jews are eternal victims. The lesson of the Holocaust is that when you have the capacity to stop genocide and fail to do so - regardless of who carries it out and who is targeted - you are culpable. And certain US government leaders, lawmakers, and multinational corporations are very culpable. The F-16 fighter jets, the Apache helicopters, and the 250 lb smart GPU-39 bombs are all part of the multi-billion dollar annual military aid package that the US gives Israel. Dispossessed and disenfranchised children trapped win the world's largest open-air gulag are being killed right now with US-made weapons. The American public's indifference to this suffering and injustice should come as no surprise as capitalism's architecture of aggression led us to go along with the program of killing even more women and children on a grander scale in Iraq and Afghanistan - so much so that Afghan women and girls who were atrociously oppressed under the Taliban are now fleeing in terror of their "liberators" - into the arms of Taliban mujahedeen. >From December 27, 2008 to January 18, 2009, Israel launched a brutal attack on 1.5 million Palestinians in Gaza. On March 9, 2010, a group gathered near the Waldorf Astoria hotel in New York and began reading from the Goldstone report; the UN fact-finding mission on the Gaza conflict. Afterwards, hundreds of human rights activists and concerned citizens formed a single file procession to carry the evidence revealed in the report to the Waldorf Astoria where a gala was organized by the Friends of the IDF to honor Lt. Gen. Gabi Ashkenazi, the Israeli commander-in-chief of the military forces during Operation Cast Lead - the Israeli massacre of Palestinians in Gaza. Over 1,400 Palestinians were killed by Operation Cast Lead alone. This operation entailed the IDF's use of depleted uranium weapons against the civilian population of Gaza, resulting in loss of sight and limb amputations. Cluster bombs and depleted uranium usage is prohibited under the Geneva Convention and international law. Yet, the very ones responsible for these crimes against humanity were honored at a $1000/plate dinner at the Waldorf Astoria - raising $20 million for the IDF through a US tax-exempt organization, "Friends of the IDF". We are judged by the company we keep. We should beware of what sort of "friends" we choose. One of the authors of the Goldstone report, Colonel Desmond Travers, was interviewed by Rory McCarthy of the UK Guardian. Travers said that the IDF attacks were "intentional and precise and carried out for the purpose of denying sustenance to the civilian population. Gaza is the only gulag in the Western hemisphere; maintained by democracies, closed off from food, water, and air". Although both sides of the conflict are culpable, the degree of Israel's culpability was far greater because of the extreme power differential. Travers said IDF tactics included "hostage-taking, felling of homes, destruction of the judicial police infrastructure, destruction of hospitals and medical infrastructure, destruction of the agricultural, water, and sewage infrastructure". Israel claimed this massacre was an "error". The orchestrated mechanized maiming and killing of civilians; the deliberate targeting of schools, hospitals, homes, and mosques is not something that happens by accident. Israel claimed that mosques and schools were frequently used to store caches of weapons. But the UN mission found no such evidence of that. Travers says those claims are part and parcel of a negative propaganda campaign that stereotypes Palestinians (and Arabs in general) and such prejudicial unfounded claims would never withstand criticism by the world community if leveled against any other group. During the height of the troubles in Northern Ireland, if a British public figure or military official had said, "Catholic churches were warehouses for Semtex" there would have been an international outcry, especially in the Catholic world over such a slur. - Colonel Desmond Travers But the Catholic world enjoys something that Palestinians do not: enormous wealth and centuries of unearned privilege. The Vatican is the world's oldest imperialist multinational corporation. Privilege insulates its beneficiaries from the consequences it poses to others. Privilege is the central ingredient in imbalanced and unequal relationships. Capitalism and all of its varying forms - imperialism, fascism, feudalism, and colonialism - require imbalanced and unequal relationships in order to thrive. Capitalism is an architecture of aggression built upon the exploitation, disenfranchisement, coercion, intimidation, and dehumanization of others. When you can see that a group is female, disabled, old, or a different race, that makes it easier to target and oppress them. Thus, capitalism's "winners" get what they've got unfairly and protect their gains by breaking the backs of their victims - namely, those who dare to defy capitalism's injustices of discrimination and the social damage inflicted by expropriation and the crushing of capitalism's victims on a playing field that is anything but level. If capitalism's "losers" get restive, they are swiftly reminded of "their place". They're harshly pressed back in line and their backs crushed - their hopes, dreams, and aspirations for a chance in life bulldozed and run over - like 23-year-old Rachel Corrie, the unarmed peace activist deliberately hewn down by an IDF-driven Caterpillar D9 armored bulldozer on March 16, 2003 in Gaza. The cold-blooded murder of a 23 year old American college student was no more of an accident than colonialism - or any other form of capitalism - is. To believe otherwise is to believe there is capitalism without capitalists, imperialism without imperialists, fascism without fascists, and colonialism without colonists. You don't have colonialism without colonists, capitalism without capitalists, or imperialism without imperialists. These things don't just happen by accident. The economic law of supply and demand does not operate in a vacuum. These "free markets" are manipulated and controlled by the rich who necessarily create and maintain a system of unearned privilege that deliberately exploits and oppresses the non-privileged. "Free market" capitalism and all of its variations are social constructs. Left to their own devices, they devour themselves after consuming their hosts. Only the rule of law and a strong enough collective backbone of can prevent the social destruction and collateral damage left in capitalism's wake. And international justice needs a spine of our collective human solidarity that is too strong to be crushed by tyranny, bribery, divisiveness and intimidation and to oppose death squads, slave labor, torture, artificially created poverty, armored bulldozers and all of the ideologies that promote discrimination and the dehumanization of others. Jacqueline S. Homan is the author of Nothing You Can Possess, Classism For Dimwits, and Eyes of a Monster. --------11 of 11-------- Gulf Oil Spill: A Hole in the World by Naomi Klein Sunday, June 20, 2010 Guardian/UK Common Dreams The Deepwater Horizon disaster is not just an industrial accident - it is a violent wound inflicted on the Earth itself. In this special report from the Gulf coast, a leading author and activist shows how it lays bare the hubris at the heart of capitalism by Naomi Klein Everyone gathered for the town hall meeting had been repeatedly instructed to show civility to the gentlemen from BP and the federal government. These fine folks had made time in their busy schedules to come to a high school gymnasium on a Tuesday night in Plaquemines Parish, Louisiana, one of many coastal communities where brown poison was slithering through the marshes, part of what has come to be described as the largest environmental disaster in US history. "Speak to others the way you would want to be spoken to," the chair of the meeting pleaded one last time before opening the floor for questions. And for a while the crowd, mostly made up of fishing families, showed remarkable restraint. They listened patiently to Larry Thomas, a genial BP public relations flack, as he told them that he was committed to "doing better" to process their claims for lost revenue - then passed all the details off to a markedly less friendly subcontractor. They heard out the suit from the Environmental Protection Agency as he informed them that, contrary to what they have read about the lack of testing and the product being banned in Britain, the chemical dispersant being sprayed on the oil in massive quantities was really perfectly safe. But patience started running out by the third time Ed Stanton, a coast guard captain, took to the podium to reassure them that "the coast guard intends to make sure that BP cleans it up". "Put it in writing!" someone shouted out. By now the air conditioning had shut itself off and the coolers of Budweiser were running low. A shrimper named Matt O'Brien approached the mic. "We don't need to hear this anymore," he declared, hands on hips. It didn't matter what assurances they were offered because, he explained, "we just don't trust you guys!" And with that, such a loud cheer rose up from the floor you'd have thought the Oilers (the unfortunately named school football team) had scored a touchdown. The showdown was cathartic, if nothing else. For weeks residents had been subjected to a barrage of pep talks and extravagant promises coming from Washington, Houston and London. Every time they turned on their TVs, there was the BP boss, Tony Hayward, offering his solemn word that he would "make it right". Or else it was President Barack Obama expressing his absolute confidence that his administration would "leave the Gulf coast in better shape than it was before", that he was "making sure" it "comes back even stronger than it was before this crisis". It all sounded great. But for people whose livelihoods put them in intimate contact with the delicate chemistry of the wetlands, it also sounded completely ridiculous, painfully so. Once the oil coats the base of the marsh grass, as it had already done just a few miles from here, no miracle machine or chemical concoction could safely get it out. You can skim oil off the surface of open water, and you can rake it off a sandy beach, but an oiled marsh just sits there, slowly dying. The larvae of countless species for which the marsh is a spawning ground - shrimp, crab, oysters and fin fish - will be poisoned. It was already happening. Earlier that day, I travelled through nearby marshes in a shallow water boat. Fish were jumping in waters encircled by white boom, the strips of thick cotton and mesh BP is using to soak up the oil. The circle of fouled material seemed to be tightening around the fish like a noose. Nearby, a red-winged blackbird perched atop a 2 metre (7ft) blade of oil-contaminated marsh grass. Death was creeping up the cane; the small bird may as well have been standing on a lit stick of dynamite. And then there is the grass itself, or the Roseau cane, as the tall sharp blades are called. If oil seeps deeply enough into the marsh, it will not only kill the grass above ground but also the roots. Those roots are what hold the marsh together, keeping bright green land from collapsing into the Mississippi River delta and the Gulf of Mexico. So not only do places like Plaquemines Parish stand to lose their fisheries, but also much of the physical barrier that lessens the intensity of fierce storms like hurricane Katrina. Which could mean losing everything. How long will it take for an ecosystem this ravaged to be "restored and made whole" as Obama's interior secretary has pledged to do? It's not at all clear that such a thing is remotely possible, at least not in a time frame we can easily wrap our heads around. The Alaskan fisheries have yet to fully recover from the 1989 Exxon Valdez spill and some species of fish never returned. Government scientists now estimate that as much as a Valdez-worth of oil may be entering the Gulf coastal waters every four days. An even worse prognosis emerges from the 1991 Gulf war spill, when an estimated 11m barrels of oil were dumped into the Persian Gulf - the largest spill ever. That oil entered the marshland and stayed there, burrowing deeper and deeper thanks to holes dug by crabs. It's not a perfect comparison, since so little clean-up was done, but according to a study conducted 12 years after the disaster, nearly 90% of the impacted muddy salt marshes and mangroves were still profoundly damaged. We do know this. Far from being "made whole," the Gulf coast, more than likely, will be diminished. Its rich waters and crowded skies will be less alive than they are today. The physical space many communities occupy on the map will also shrink, thanks to erosion. And the coast's legendary culture will contract and wither. The fishing families up and down the coast do not just gather food, after all. They hold up an intricate network that includes family tradition, cuisine, music, art and endangered languages - much like the roots of grass holding up the land in the marsh. Without fishing, these unique cultures lose their root system, the very ground on which they stand. (BP, for its part, is well aware of the limits of recovery. The company's Gulf of Mexico regional oil spill response plan specifically instructs officials not to make "promises that property, ecology, or anything else will be restored to normal". Which is no doubt why its officials consistently favour folksy terms like "make it right".) If Katrina pulled back the curtain on the reality of racism in America, the BP disaster pulls back the curtain on something far more hidden: how little control even the most ingenious among us have over the awesome, intricately interconnected natural forces with which we so casually meddle. BP cannot plug the hole in the Earth that it made. Obama cannot order fish species to survive, or brown pelicans not to go extinct (no matter whose ass he kicks). No amount of money - not BP's recently pledged $20bn (13.5bn), not $100bn - can replace a culture that has lost its roots. And while our politicians and corporate leaders have yet to come to terms with these humbling truths, the people whose air, water and livelihoods have been contaminated are losing their illusions fast. "Everything is dying," a woman said as the town hall meeting was finally coming to a close. "How can you honestly tell us that our Gulf is resilient and will bounce back? Because not one of you up here has a hint as to what is going to happen to our Gulf. You sit up here with a straight face and act like you know when you don't know." This Gulf coast crisis is about many things - corruption, deregulation, the addiction to fossil fuels. But underneath it all, it's about this: our culture's excruciatingly dangerous claim to have such complete understanding and command over nature that we can radically manipulate and re-engineer it with minimal risk to the natural systems that sustain us. But as the BP disaster has revealed, nature is always more unpredictable than the most sophisticated mathematical and geological models imagine. During Thursday's congressional testimony, Hayward said: "The best minds and the deepest expertise are being brought to bear" on the crisis, and that, "with the possible exception of the space programme in the 1960s, it is difficult to imagine the gathering of a larger, more technically proficient team in one place in peacetime." And yet, in the face of what the geologist Jill Schneiderman has described as "Pandora's well", they are like the men at the front of that gymnasium: they act like they know, but they don't know. BP's mission statement In the arc of human history, the notion that nature is a machine for us to re-engineer at will is a relatively recent conceit. In her ground-breaking 1980 book The Death of Nature, the environmental historian Carolyn Merchant reminded readers that up until the 1600s, the Earth was alive, usually taking the form of a mother. Europeans - like indigenous people the world over - believed the planet to be a living organism, full of life-giving powers but also wrathful tempers. There were, for this reason, strong taboos against actions that would deform and desecrate "the mother", including mining. The metaphor changed with the unlocking of some (but by no means all) of nature's mysteries during the scientific revolution of the 1600s. With nature now cast as a machine, devoid of mystery or divinity, its component parts could be dammed, extracted and remade with impunity. Nature still sometimes appeared as a woman, but one easily dominated and subdued. Sir Francis Bacon best encapsulated the new ethos when he wrote in the 1623 De dignitate et augmentis scientiarum that nature is to be "put in constraint, moulded, and made as it were new by art and the hand of man". Those words may as well have been BP's corporate mission statement. Boldly inhabiting what the company called "the energy frontier", it dabbled in synthesising methane-producing microbes and announced that "a new area of investigation" would be geoengineering. And of course it bragged that, at its Tiber prospect in the Gulf of Mexico, it now had "the deepest well ever drilled by the oil and gas industry" - as deep under the ocean floor as jets fly overhead. Imagining and preparing for what would happen if these experiments in altering the building blocks of life and geology went wrong occupied precious little space in the corporate imagination. As we have all discovered, after the Deepwater Horizon rig exploded on 20 April, the company had no systems in place to effectively respond to this scenario. Explaining why it did not have even the ultimately unsuccessful containment dome waiting to be activated on shore, a BP spokesman, Steve Rinehart, said: "I don't think anybody foresaw the circumstance that we're faced with now." Apparently, it "seemed inconceivable" that the blowout preventer would ever fail - so why prepare? This refusal to contemplate failure clearly came straight from the top. A year ago, Hayward told a group of graduate students at Stanford University that he has a plaque on his desk that reads: "If you knew you could not fail, what would you try?" Far from being a benign inspirational slogan, this was actually an accurate description of how BP and its competitors behaved in the real world. In recent hearings on Capitol Hill, congressman Ed Markey of Massachusetts grilled representatives from the top oil and gas companies on the revealing ways in which they had allocated resources. Over three years, they had spent "$39bn to explore for new oil and gas. Yet, the average investment in research and development for safety, accident prevention and spill response was a paltry $20m a year." These priorities go a long way towards explaining why the initial exploration plan that BP submitted to the federal government for the ill-fated Deepwater Horizon well reads like a Greek tragedy about human hubris. The phrase "little risk" appears five times. Even if there is a spill, BP confidently predicts that, thanks to "proven equipment and technology", adverse affects will be minimal. Presenting nature as a predictable and agreeable junior partner (or perhaps subcontractor), the report cheerfully explains that should a spill occur, "Currents and microbial degradation would remove the oil from the water column or dilute the constituents to background levels". The effects on fish, meanwhile, "would likely be sublethal" because of "the capability of adult fish and shellfish to avoid a spill [and] to metabolise hydrocarbons". (In BP's telling, rather than a dire threat, a spill emerges as an all-you-can-eat buffet for aquatic life.) Best of all, should a major spill occur, there is, apparently, "little risk of contact or impact to the coastline" because of the company's projected speedy response (!) and "due to the distance [of the rig] to shore" - about 48 miles (77km). This is the most astonishing claim of all. In a gulf that often sees winds of more than 70km an hour, not to mention hurricanes, BP had so little respect for the ocean's capacity to ebb and flow, surge and heave, that it did not think oil could make a paltry 77km trip. (Last week, a shard of the exploded Deepwater Horizon showed up on a beach in Florida, 306km away.) None of this sloppiness would have been possible, however, had BP not been making its predictions to a political class eager to believe that nature had indeed been mastered. Some, like Republican Lisa Murkowski, were more eager than others. The Alaskan senator was so awe-struck by the industry's four-dimensional seismic imaging that she proclaimed deep-sea drilling to have reached the very height of controlled artificiality. "It's better than Disneyland in terms of how you can take technologies and go after a resource that is thousands of years old and do so in an environmentally sound way," she told the Senate energy committee just seven months ago. Drilling without thinking has of course been Republican party policy since May 2008. With gas prices soaring to unprecedented heights, that's when the conservative leader Newt Gingrich unveiled the slogan "Drill Here, Drill Now, Pay Less" - with an emphasis on the now. The wildly popular campaign was a cry against caution, against study, against measured action. In Gingrich's telling, drilling at home wherever the oil and gas might be - locked in Rocky Mountain shale, in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, and deep offshore - was a surefire way to lower the price at the pump, create jobs, and kick Arab ass all at once. In the face of this triple win, caring about the environment was for sissies: as senator Mitch McConnell put it, "in Alabama and Mississippi and Louisiana and Texas, they think oil rigs are pretty". By the time the infamous "Drill Baby Drill" Republican national convention rolled around, the party base was in such a frenzy for US-made fossil fuels, they would have bored under the convention floor if someone had brought a big enough drill. Obama, eventually, gave in, as he invariably does. With cosmic bad timing, just three weeks before the Deepwater Horizon blew up, the president announced he would open up previously protected parts of the country to offshore drilling. The practice was not as risky as he had thought, he explained. "Oil rigs today generally don't cause spills. They are technologically very advanced." That wasn't enough for Sarah Palin, however, who sneered at the Obama administration's plans to conduct more studies before drilling in some areas. "My goodness, folks, these areas have been studied to death," she told the Southern Republican leadership conference in New Orleans, now just 11 days before the blowout. "Let's drill, baby, drill, not stall, baby, stall!" And there was much rejoicing. In his congressional testimony, Hayward said: "We and the entire industry will learn from this terrible event." And one might well imagine that a catastrophe of this magnitude would indeed instil BP executives and the "Drill Now" crowd with a new sense of humility. There are, however, no signs that this is the case. The response to the disaster - at the corporate and governmental levels - has been rife with the precise brand of arrogance and overly sunny predictions that created the disaster in the first place. The ocean is big, she can take it, we heard from Hayward in the early days. While spokesman John Curry insisted that hungry microbes would consume whatever oil was in the water system, because "nature has a way of helping the situation". But nature has not been playing along. The deep-sea gusher has bust out of all BP's top hats, containment domes, and junk shots. The ocean's winds and currents have made a mockery of the lightweight booms BP has laid out to absorb the oil. "We told them," said Byron Encalade, the president of the Louisiana Oysters Association. "The oil's gonna go over the booms or underneath the bottom." Indeed it did. The marine biologist Rick Steiner, who has been following the clean up closely, estimates that "70% or 80% of the booms are doing absolutely nothing at all". And then there are the controversial chemical dispersants: more than 1.3m gallons dumped with the company's trademark "what could go wrong?" attitude. As the angry residents at the Plaquemines Parish town hall rightly point out, few tests had been conducted, and there is scant research about what this unprecedented amount of dispersed oil will do to marine life. Nor is there a way to clean up the toxic mixture of oil and chemicals below the surface. Yes, fast multiplying microbes do devour underwater oil - but in the process they also absorb the water's oxygen, creating a whole new threat to marine life. BP had even dared to imagine that it could prevent unflattering images of oil-covered beaches and birds from escaping the disaster zone. When I was on the water with a TV crew, for instance, we were approached by another boat whose captain asked, ""Y'all work for BP?" When we said no, the response - in the open ocean - was "You can't be here then". But of course these heavy-handed tactics, like all the others, have failed. There is simply too much oil in too many places. "You cannot tell God's air where to flow and go, and you can't tell water where to flow and go," I was told by Debra Ramirez. It was a lesson she had learned from living in Mossville, Louisiana, surrounded by 14 emission-spewing petrochemical plants, and watching illness spread from neighbour to neighbour. Human limitation has been the one constant of this catastrophe. After two months, we still have no idea how much oil is flowing, nor when it will stop. The company's claim that it will complete relief wells by the end of August - repeated by Obama in his Oval Office address - is seen by many scientists as a bluff. The procedure is risky and could fail, and there is a real possibility that the oil could continue to leak for years. The flow of denial shows no sign of abating either. Louisiana politicians indignantly oppose Obama's temporary freeze on deepwater drilling, accusing him of killing the one big industry left standing now that fishing and tourism are in crisis. Palin mused on Facebook that "no human endeavour is ever without risk", while Texas Republican congressman John Culberson described the disaster as a "statistical anomaly". By far the most sociopathic reaction, however, comes from veteran Washington commentator Llewellyn King: rather than turning away from big engineering risks, we should pause in "wonder that we can build machines so remarkable that they can lift the lid off the underworld". Make the bleeding stop Thankfully, many are taking a very different lesson from the disaster, standing not in wonder at humanity's power to reshape nature, but at our powerlessness to cope with the fierce natural forces we unleash. There is something else too. It is the feeling that the hole at the bottom of the ocean is more than an engineering accident or a broken machine. It is a violent wound in a living organism; that it is part of us. And thanks to BP's live camera feed, we can all watch the Earth's guts gush forth, in real time, 24 hours a day. John Wathen, a conservationist with the Waterkeeper Alliance, was one of the few independent observers to fly over the spill in the early days of the disaster. After filming the thick red streaks of oil that the coast guard politely refers to as "rainbow sheen", he observed what many had felt: "The Gulf seems to be bleeding." This imagery comes up again and again in conversations and interviews. Monique Harden, an environmental rights lawyer in New Orleans, refuses to call the disaster an "oil spill" and instead says, "we are haemorrhaging". Others speak of the need to "make the bleeding stop". And I was personally struck, flying over the stretch of ocean where the Deepwater Horizon sank with the US Coast Guard, that the swirling shapes the oil made in the ocean waves looked remarkably like cave drawings: a feathery lung gasping for air, eyes staring upwards, a prehistoric bird. Messages from the deep. And this is surely the strangest twist in the Gulf coast saga: it seems to be waking us up to the reality that the Earth never was a machine. After 400 years of being declared dead, and in the middle of so much death, the Earth is coming alive. The experience of following the oil's progress through the ecosystem is a kind of crash course in deep ecology. Every day we learn more about how what seems to be a terrible problem in one isolated part of the world actually radiates out in ways most of us could never have imagined. One day we learn that the oil could reach Cuba - then Europe. Next we hear that fishermen all the way up the Atlantic in Prince Edward Island, Canada, are worried because the Bluefin tuna they catch off their shores are born thousands of miles away in those oil-stained Gulf waters. And we learn, too, that for birds, the Gulf coast wetlands are the equivalent of a busy airport hub - everyone seems to have a stopover: 110 species of migratory songbirds and 75% of all migratory US waterfowl. It's one thing to be told by an incomprehensible chaos theorist that a butterfly flapping its wings in Brazil can set off a tornado in Texas. It's another to watch chaos theory unfold before your eyes. Carolyn Merchant puts the lesson like this: "The problem as BP has tragically and belatedly discovered is that nature as an active force cannot be so confined." Predictable outcomes are unusual within ecological systems, while "unpredictable, chaotic events [are] usual". And just in case we still didn't get it, a few days ago, a bolt of lightning struck a BP ship like an exclamation mark, forcing it to suspend its containment efforts. And don't even mention what a hurricane would do to BP's toxic soup. There is, it must be stressed, something uniquely twisted about this particular path to enlightenment. They say that Americans learn where foreign countries are by bombing them. Now it seems we are all learning about nature's circulatory systems by poisoning them. In the late 90s, an isolated indigenous group in Colombia captured world headlines with an almost Avatar-esque conflict. From their remote home in the Andean cloud forests, the U'wa let it be known that if Occidental Petroleum carried out plans to drill for oil on their territory, they would commit mass ritual suicide by jumping off a cliff. Their elders explained that oil is part of ruiria, "the blood of Mother Earth". They believe that all life, including their own, flows from ruiria, so pulling out the oil would bring on their destruction. (Oxy eventually withdrew from the region, saying there wasn't as much oil as it had previously thought.) Virtually all indigenous cultures have myths about gods and spirits living in the natural world - in rocks, mountains, glaciers, forests - as did European culture before the scientific revolution. Katja Neves, an anthropologist at Concordia University, points out that the practice serves a practical purpose. Calling the Earth "sacred" is another way of expressing humility in the face of forces we do not fully comprehend. When something is sacred, it demands that we proceed with caution. Even awe. If we are absorbing this lesson at long last, the implications could be profound. Public support for increased offshore drilling is dropping precipitously, down 22% from the peak of the "Drill Now" frenzy. The issue is not dead, however. It is only a matter of time before the Obama administration announces that, thanks to ingenious new technology and tough new regulations, it is now perfectly safe to drill in the deep sea, even in the Arctic, where an under-ice clean up would be infinitely more complex than the one underway in the Gulf. But perhaps this time we won't be so easily reassured, so quick to gamble with the few remaining protected havens. Same goes for geoengineering. As climate change negotiations wear on, we should be ready to hear more from Dr Steven Koonin, Obama's undersecretary of energy for science. He is one of the leading proponents of the idea that climate change can be combated with techno tricks like releasing sulphate and aluminium particles into the atmosphere - and of course it's all perfectly safe, just like Disneyland! He also happens to be BP's former chief scientist, the man who just 15 months ago was still overseeing the technology behind BP's supposedly safe charge into deepwater drilling. Maybe this time we will opt not to let the good doctor experiment with the physics and chemistry of the Earth, and choose instead to reduce our consumption and shift to renewable energies that have the virtue that, when they fail, they fail small. As US comedian Bill Maher put it, "You know what happens when windmills collapse into the sea? A splash." The most positive possible outcome of this disaster would be not only an acceleration of renewable energy sources like wind, but a full embrace of the precautionary principle in science. The mirror opposite of Hayward's "If you knew you could not fail" credo, the precautionary principle holds that "when an activity raises threats of harm to the environment or human health" we tread carefully, as if failure were possible, even likely. Perhaps we can even get Hayward a new desk plaque to contemplate as he signs compensation cheques. "You act like you know, but you don't know." Naomi Klein visited the Gulf coast with a film-crew from Fault Lines, a documentary programme hosted by Avi Lewis on al-Jazeera English Television. She was a consultant on the film. 2010 Guardian/UK Naomi Klein is an award-winning journalist and syndicated columnist and the author of the international and New York Times bestseller The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism, now out in paperback. Her earlier books include the international best-seller, No Logo: Taking Aim at the Brand Bullies (which has just been re-published in a special 10th Anniversary Edition); and the collection Fences and Windows: Dispatches from the Front Lines of the Globalization Debate (2002). To read all her latest writing visit www.naomiklein.org --------------------------------------------------------------------------- - David Shove shove001 [at] tc.umn.edu rhymes with clove Progressive Calendar over 2225 subscribers as of 12.19.02 please send all messages in plain text no attachments vote third party for president for congress for governor now and forever Socialism YES Capitalism NO To GO DIRECTLY to an item, eg --------8 of x-------- do a find on --8 Research almost any topic raised here at: CounterPunch http://counterpunch.org Dissident Voice http://dissidentvoice.org Common Dreams http://commondreams.org Once you're there, do a search on your topic, eg obama drones
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