Progressive Calendar 06.21.10
From: David Shove (
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

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From: Nancy Holden <d.n.holden [at]>
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] Douglas H Holden 1004 Morgan Road River Falls,
Wisconsin 54022

--------2 of 11--------

From: Jason Stone <jason.stone [at]>
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]>
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

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From: Do It Green! Minnesota <Do_It_Green_Minnesota [at]>
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

--------5 of 11--------

From: Ted Dooley Law Office <teddooley [at]>
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]

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From: Eric Angell <eric-angell [at]>
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]>
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.

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Standing with the Corporations in Washington
Festering Corruption
June 21, 2010

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 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

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

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
June 21, 2010

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

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]

--------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

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

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

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

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

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
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

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

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

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


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