Sunday, January 21, 2018

2018 – Year of the Uterus

Originally this newsletter edition was to have addressed the matter of plastics: their role in contributing to planetary pollution, and their relationship as petroleum-derived products to the fossil fuel industry. Having reached a dangerous futility threshold, I wrote these words in my journal:

The subject this morning is Disaffection: Why does the prospect of writing           about climate collapse and dying seas, advocating for smaller human      footprints leave me feeling exhausted? Is there a choice here? And my answer: Yes! Grab the mornings! Get out there! Do stuff. Collapse if you must, but in the afternoon.

So I went to the Oakland Women’s March, not really convinced that I would, not at 9 AM (I don’t like crowds), not at 10 AM (There won’t be any buses running. That walk to Lake Merritt could be over a mile. And how will I get back?) with a promise to myself: “Go only if you enjoy every minute.” Evidently I must have decided to go. By 10:30 I had printed out 50 two-sided flyers.

sign by Bev Voloshin
Muni sees to it buses run infrequently—especially when a demonstration is called.  I missed the bus heading north. That left the south-going option, which let me off downtown with over a mile to walk, joining up with increasing numbers of folks heading in the same direction, one of them carrying a DEPORT ICE sign. We zigzagged a couple of blocks and as we rounded the 12th Street corner, I  gasped:  You couldn’t see the sidewalks, you couldn’t see the lakeside greensward for the solid mass of people. And rounding another corner, I could see the crowd was so vast, it had spilled over into lakeside park two blocks away. I hadn’t seen such crowds since the U.S. invasion of Iraq.

The best way to enjoy the density of such a crowd is to plow right in and, as the march heads out, move in the opposite direction. You get to distribute your 50 flyers with people falling all over themselves to get a copy. You get to high five the best signs, groove with the hottest bands, and boogey with the coolest dancers. It’s a beautiful, stunningly sunny winter day, clear skies, and full of thousands of very well disposed and joyful people who despite their anger and frustration show no hate and astonishingly little negativity.

This is the Day of the Uterus: in a sea of pink, thousands of folks, including bearded men, sport pussy hats. Helpful people point out that you are headed in the wrong direction. So you tell them that like a sperm, you like travelling upstream. From your vantage point you happen upon all your friends, and because the march is advancing at a turtle’s pace, you get to hug them, and admire the political astuteness of their home-made signs:


Have you ever seen a Fallopian Tube flip someone the bird? Picture a flowery garland-surrounded uterus, one Fallopian Tube raised giving hate the finger.
Oakland finest lounged about uselessly, proudly displaying one example of their battle-grade weaponry, but otherwise incapable of providing information about any available transportation—a serious concern for this footsore octogenarian—but they give me their estimate of the crowd. My 100,000 contests their 70,000. It took a full hour and a half for it to funnel itself into a narrowing six-lane thoroughfare on its way downtown to Oscar Grant Plaza, its final destination.

Next week: plastics. Or What a Government Shutdown Means to You. Or…

Check out Women’s March Youth Empower.

Sunday, January 14, 2018

California Goes Nuclear Free!

Once one of its earliest and largest promoters, California has decided to get out of the nuclear power business. On January 11th, 2018, The California Public Utilities Commission voted unanimously to shut down Pacific Gas & Electric Company's (PG&E) Diablo Canyon reactors at the end of its current license permits or sooner, if appropriate information comes forward to do so.

With the passing of the nuclear tea pot industry, there isn't a better example of the hopeful saying “as goes California, so goes the nation!” From Fremont to Reagan, its Hollywood promotional claim that the rest of the country will eventually follow in California's lead is on display. After 60 years of opposition to nuclear development, California has put a stopper on the nuclear genie.  The state has become a world leader in renewable energy, already producing 39% of its electricity from it - over twice as much energy as nuclear ever produced. Legislative attempts to go 100% renewable failed this past fall, but there can be no doubt that that campaign will only grow stronger, with over 100,000 solar jobs in the state, far more than nuclear's few thousand ever produced.

Claiming that nuclear energy would become too cheap to meter, General Electric and PG&E became one of the country's earliest nuclear power promoters, constructing the Vallecitos nuclear facility southeast of Oakland. Plans for more installations across the state were soon to follow.
In 1958, following PG&E's announcement of plans to build a large nuclear complex at Bodega Bay just 1,000 meters from the epicenter of the 1906 earthquake that decimated San Francisco, Northern Californians launched what would eventually become a global movement against nuclear power.  A few years later, with its plans to build the world's largest nuke at Malibu, Southern California Edison would kick off Hollywood's opposition, leading to movie stars like Bob Hope coming out in opposition. Both projects were eventually stopped after years of opposition.

With California's penchant for gigantic systems (including the world’s largest water projects, its freeways, agribusiness, urban sprawl, banks and military contractors) leave it to PG&E, the largest privately owned electric utility company in the United States at the time to claim that it would build over 60 units in its service territory alone - part of Nixon's call for 1,000 reactors nationwide by the year 2000.    

The construction of Diablo Canyon would become the most controversial nuclear facility of its time, taking over 20 years to complete and coming in ten times over budget, able to open only with the legal legerdemain of Nixon's Saturday night massacre Judge Robert Bork’s his lame decision the day before the Chernobyl meltdown. 

With all of its drawn-out drama, PG&E's strategy to bribe the Sierra Club into supporting  Diablo Canyon led to the formation of Friends of the Earth, which split off from the Sierra Club.  Later, with his book Soft Energy PathsAmory Lovins would join Friends of the Earth (FOE) and play a prominent role in launching the global renewable energy campaign. 

In the mid 1970's, as part of Californians for Nuclear Safeguards', June 1976 statewide Proposition 15 ballot measure calling for the end of nuclear power in the state, three General Electric nuclear engineers would quit.  The ballot measure failed but the large statewide campaign with thousands of volunteers so terrified the industry that it agreed to new regulations banning any further development until a solution to spent fuel could be found.   It would be this initiative that would signal the death knell for nuclear in California.  PG&E would take the rule it helped produce to the U.S. Supreme Court in 1983 only to be rebuffed.  Industry supporters considered another attack on the law in 2006, an attack that eventually collapsed.  

A year after the vote, the Abalone Alliance (AA) was formed with the objective of using direct action to stop Diablo Canyon, while the Mothers for Peace took on the legal campaign to close it.  Based on Whyl Germany's 1975 direct action model, the Abalone Alliance was formed in 1977 and quickly spread across the state, eventually including dozens of local groups, large and small.  With the addition of Alliance for Survival, based in San Diego and Los Angeles, estimates placed total membership at nearly 100,000.  The group adopted a radical new model developed by the Quakers of consensus as its decision making process.

Following two years of blockades at the gates of Diablo Canyon, where hundreds of activists trained in Non-violent tactics were arrested, the group's San Francisco chapter, People Against Nuclear Power was actively planning a rally at the Civic Center when unit 1 of the Three Mile Island nuclear facility in Pennsylvania melted down on March 28th,  1979.  The Alliance's timing resulted in over 25,000 attendees at the April 7th event, followed by another rally with 50,000 attendees in San Luis Obispo two months later, when Governor Jerry Brown came out against Diablo.  

After a strategic decision to schedule its next blockade when PG&E planned to open the facility, the alliance, joined by Greenpeace, mounted the nation's largest direct action campaign starting on September 11, 1981.  Nearly 2,000 arrests were made during the ten- day-long blockade at Diablo.  On the last day of the blockade, a newly hired 25-year-old engineer happened to notice that the facilities’ seismic supports had been installed in a mirror-image reversal, following a similar situation at San Onofre, forcing PG&E to be rebuild Diablo for a 3rd time.  (The second rebuild followed the 1972 discovery of the Hosgri Fault, a warning sign that many believed had been covered up by the utility following its failure to build the Bodega Bay facility north of San Francisco in 1958.) This would not end PG&E's seismic nightmare; eventually many new faults even closer to the facility would be discovered. 

1981 Blockade

In the meantime, Santa Cruz activists successfully stopped PG&E's plans to build another large facility less than 20 miles from what would have been the epicenter of the 1989 Loma Prieta Earthquake ($6 billion in damages) that shattered Santa Cruz and parts of San Francisco.  

PG&E was eventually forced to shell out an additional $5.8 billion dollars for construction costs (and even more in financing) with much of the cost coming, thanks to President Reagan, from a secret EPA loan. Then Judge Bork saved Diablo Canyon who refused to look at the NRC’s leaked transcripts in a decision rendered a day before the catastrophe at Chernobyl happened.

Brown's administration promised to limit ratepayers costs to $2.2 billion, but with Republicans taking control of the state in 1984, a new experiment in rate making allowed PG&E to rake in cash. That ruling led to the 1994 electric rebellion, followed in 2001 by Governor (Pistol) Pete's deregulation fiasco that included a $28 billion give away, with PG&E's portion disappearing when the company went bankrupt.

The TMI disaster that preceded Chernobyl led to a nationwide movement that, given its goal of stopping the use of nuclear power and replacing it with renewable energy sources, has been intentionally ignored by most of the mainstream media. In a matter of years, political opposition combined with nuclear energy's failed economic promises, put a stop to the industry's expansive agenda.

The failure of the U.S. nuclear power program ranks as the largest managerial disaster in business history.  The utility industry has already invested $125 billion, with an additional $140 billion to come before the decade is out – and only the blind, or the biased, can now think that that money has been well spent.

Forbes Magazine, February 1986

From the start, in 1974, when as a result of its plumbing system’s first test, over 10,000 abalone were killed, the facilities environmental hazards became evident. In 1998 the company was caught lying about the massive offshore impacts of dumping 2.2 billion gallons of hot toxic water into the Pacific Ocean daily, but the resulting fine, which would have been the largest ever, magically disappeared through the efforts of the outgoing Clinton administration.  Similar impacts were also found at San Onofre. Eventually the state ordered all coastal thermal facilities to replace their Once-Through Cooling systems that, for Diablo, would have cost the company upwards of $7 billion to install. 

Following George W. Bush's nuclear 2.0 campaign in 2005 with the goal of reboosting nuclear power, the industry started pushing to extend nuclear licenses for old reactors like Diablo and building new ones.  But once again, the industry's claims turned out to be false and within years the new push faltered.  Both Diablo and San Onofre applied to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission for license extensions but when Fukushima happened, both companies were forcedd to delay those plans. San Onofre, which was just completing the replacement of its steam generators, suffered leaks in one of the new units, ultimately leading to closure of the two units in June 2013.

As a result of the seismic hazards revealed by the Fukushima disaster, PGE hoped with a battery of sonic seismic testing, to verify that Diablo Canyon was safe after all. But dramatic opposition to the hazards of sonic testing put an end to that. The final trip wire for PGE came when they realized that their lease of state lands required new hearings.

Just days before the state hearing on June 21st, 2016 the company announced that it had reached an agreement with a number of groups including Friends of the Earth to close the facility in 2024.   After nearly two years of controversial hearings, the California Public Utilities Commission signed off on Diablo's closure.

During the 2016 hearings, PG&E acknowledged that over half of Diablo's power was no longer needed, nor was it critical to maintain it for any base-load purposes.  A handful of pro-nuclear activists attempted to make any number of claims, even attempting to do blockades of groups that were supporting its closure.  But the decision to allow the facilities to continue until 2024 was most definitely not agreed to by groups like Mothers for Peace, Women's Energy Matters and The World Business Academy of Santa Barbara, demanding that it close sooner.  Put on the record during the hearings, those contentions and their documentation were acknowledged and could still come into play.  But, there will never be another nuclear facility allowed again in California.  

This piece is dedicated to those activists who gave their hearts and energy to one of the longest, most difficult struggles imaginable. 

Please note that a number of links giving much more background on Diablo are to Mark Evanoff's unpublished 1983 manuscript on the state's anti-nuclear history.


Roger Herried - Abalone Alliance archivist

This week’s generous bouquet of roses amidst the thorns

Courts in California and Pennsylvania temporarily block rollback of reproductive rights.

More than 100 U.S. House and Senate candidates pledge to move off fossil fuels use.

Sunday, January 7, 2018


An extraordinary story in a decaying world, one without hope, in a landscape stripped of growth. A landscape that became a desert—like 33% of the planet now. But there is a lesson here: this dearest Mother Earth is no place for quitters. When he started, the landscape must have appeared as hopeless as the ones we inhabit today. For thirty-seven years he slugged on, quand meme. Meet Jadav Payeng.

Forest Man  - 16:34

Small Acts Make a Difference. 1.19 minutes.

 Like seeds, there are no instant people. Read about Jadav’s gestation: 

Read about Jadav’s Society. A Man Who Planted the Jungle:  38:05

Please consider making a New Year’s gift to one of the seven organizations reforesting the world as recommended by Dr. James Borrell:

Trees for the Future –
International Tree Foundation –
Tree Aid –
Plant A Billion –
Global Trees Campaign –
Trees for Change –
And if you want to hit a really worthwhile grass roots project…
Tetik’asa Mampody Savoka” (Madagascar) –

Other Roses This Week

While the U.S. wallows in matters of harassment, Iceland becomes first country to legislate equal pay for women and men.

Becerra winds case against trump administration depriving women of full access to the health care they need.

Sunday, December 24, 2017

A Time of Darkness, a Time of Light

Nabatean City of Petra in Jordan: Al Kazneh

Yuletide, Solstice, a time of darkness and a time of light, a time  of the year thoughtful people make resolutions not to eat so much candy. Maybe because my recent writerly project turns on introspection, or maybe because I temporarily lost my mind, I was just about to pop for my last hurrah: a trip to Jordan where the most exquisite desert in the world, Wadi Rum, offers the kind of landscape where centuries ago prophets went on vision quests, and came back with such artifacts as manna and the ten commandments.

And then I couldn’t. I couldn’t because just before I pushed the ADD TO CART button, this article appeared on my computer screen:  

How to Help My Daughter Face Climate Change With an Open Heart by Chris Moore Backman, (appearing originally in Yes! Magazine) which, with its author’s very kind permission, I republish here:

When the wildfires were still raging in California, my 12-year-old daughter and I rode Amtrak north from Oakland to Sacramento. Nearing Berkeley, we caught our first glimpse of the gray-brown wall of smoke issuing in from Sonoma, Napa, Lake, Mendocino, Butte, and Solano counties. After riding 10 or so miles further on, the illusion of the wall suddenly dissipated, and we found ourselves speeding along in a fog of fine ash, our train blanketed in its opaque haze.

Gazing into the smoke, my daughter seated beside me, I considered the stark difference our awareness of global warming created between my childhood and hers. And I felt a deep anxiety stir in my belly.

“At first, we didn’t know what we were doing. It was reasonable for us to start burning fossil fuels.”

What happens to a child’s psyche, I asked myself, as she gradually absorbs the knowledge that our planet is warming at a terrifying rate and to an unimaginably dangerous degree, then quietly observes the adults in her life, particularly those most responsible for caring for and protecting her, doing the very things that are causing the emergency? What happens as she observes the mundane spectrum of everyday life in the United States amid climate chaos: as dad pulls the car up to the pump, as mom comes home from the airport after a business trip, as the family sits down to another meat and factory farm-based dinner, iPhones at the ready and the thermostat cranked to 70?

I turned my gaze from the smoke and looked again at the book in my lap, Being the Change: Live Well and Spark a Climate Revolution, by climate scientist Peter Kalmus. The page I had been reading would eventually lead to here: “Few people respond to facts… While intellect certainly plays a role, it’s a rather small one. Our dire ecological crisis calls us to go deeper.”

River of Sand: Wadi Rum (wadi means river)

In his famous meditation on children, Kahlil Gibran likens parents to the bows of the divine archer, from which children, like arrows, are sent forth into the mystery of their own souls and futures. The beloved bow, Gibran attests, sends the arrow swift and far, by bending to the archer’s strength, while at the same time remaining stable. Such flexible stability is what I long to achieve as a parent—a certain rootedness and strength of purpose, mediated by gentleness. It’s what I believe I need if I’m going to accompany my daughter as she learns to face the coming storms—and fires—with her eyes and heart open.

So it is that I’m gravitating toward the solace and instruction of other dads these days, the more humble and down-to-earth the better. Kalmus, father of two young sons, is one such dad.
“At first, we didn’t know what we were doing. It was reasonable for us to start burning fossil fuels,” Kalmus says early on in Being the Change. “However, now we do know what we’re doing.”
When it comes to social change, how we live our lives is of paramount importance.

It’s an exquisitely sane point of departure for the author’s first book, which reads as an openhearted letter to anyone deeply concerned about global warming and at all cognizant of how quickly the climate change clock is ticking. Being the Change details Kalmus’ process of bringing his daily life into alignment with his conscience—a process that carries some very welcome side effects: namely, a carbon footprint weighing in at one-tenth the U.S. average, greater happiness, and deepened connections with loved ones and life itself.

As a climate expert utterly in the know about humanity’s devastating impact on the health of the biosphere (see Chapter 3), and with as clear a picture as can be had about where our civilization’s carbon addiction is leading (see Chapter 4), Kalmus eventually proves no match for the cognitive dissonance he experiences because of his own outsized carbon footprint. His chosen response is refreshingly straightforward: “If fossil fuels cause global warming, and I don’t want global warming,” he writes, “then I should reduce my fossil fuel use.”

Although there’s zero evidence that Gandhi ever wrote or uttered the most popular phrase attributed to him—“Be the change you wish to see in the world”—the sentiment is distinctly Gandhian. Finding congruence between our deepest convictions and our outward behavior, according to this adage, is the true measure of our genuine happiness, and of our contribution to the world. It’s an old and simple idea: When it comes to social change, how we live our lives is of paramount importance. In India, Gandhi captured the heart of a massive social movement with his own rendering of this basic philosophy. “Nobility of soul,” he summarized in a letter to his cousin, “consists in realizing that you are yourself India. In your emancipation is the emancipation of India. All else is make believe.”

Burning fossil fuel causes harm.

What makes Being the Change important is not Kalmus’ restatement of this age-old tenet, but his plainspoken description of putting it into concrete practice. He offers thorough, humbly stated guidance on establishing new daily practices which, step by step, can break a person free from the carbon-heavy status quo. What’s more, through his inspiring and often funny anecdotes about his homespun experiments aimed at paring down—things like bicycling , growing food, meditating, embracing a vegetarian diet, and renouncing air travel—Kalmus illustrates that overcoming our addiction to fossil fuels isn’t a path of puritanical self-mortification. Rather, low-energy living (low-energy being Kalmus’ corrective for green, because of its insidious consumerist implications) can be a deeply satisfying adventure, calling for equal parts creativity and fun.

Boiled down, the path Kalmus advocates is based on two simple and, if we’re open to them, life-changing premises.

High scarps: Wadi Rum (no vehicular transportation)
The first is that burning fossil fuel causes harm. According to Kalmus, this harm will last for around 100,000 years—10 million years if we count reduced biodiversity (and why shouldn’t we?). The reason he has taken what to many people looks like radical steps to avoid burning fossil fuel is that he doesn't like causing harm. This connection is obvious intellectually, but most people, and society, have not taken this in deeply enough to change their actions to any significant degree. Kalmus, the dad, however, feels this connection in his gut. “Burning fossil fuels should be unacceptable socially,” he says, “the way physical assault is unacceptable. The harm it does is less immediate, but just as real.” Who could argue that future generations—likely our own children and grandchildren—as they suffer the consequences of our negligence, will see this as plainly as we see the immorality of chattel slavery today.

The second basic premise of Being the Change is that burning less fossil fuel makes for a happier life. Despite every message to the contrary trumpeted by our consumption-driven society, this appears to be the normal experience of those following similar paths, not the exception.

On these two premises rests a path of radical personal transformation with deep implications for the collective. “Using less energy at the global scale would reduce our greenhouse gas emissions, and serve as a bridge to a future without fossil fuels,” Kalmus says. “Using less energy in our individual lives,” he further (and to my mind most importantly) asserts, “would equip us with the mindset, skills, and the systems we’ll need in this post-fossil-fuel world.”

Returning my gaze to the smoke, it occurred to me: As soon as the wildfires ran their deadly course, clean up, then construction, would immediately follow. The set would be quickly and efficiently reconstructed according to the same basic blueprint used before. And the reconstruction would undoubtedly be touted as evidence of inspiring community-resiliency, and probably of a certain American spirit, rugged and purportedly unique to us.

What if our children saw us respond to this crisis with maturity, sanity, and integrity?

It occurred to me also, holding Being the Change in my hands on that smoke-immersed train with my beloved child beside me, that Peter Kalmus has provided us with a different blueprint, and he’s shown through his own experimentation that we have the capacity to choose it, and to use it. On the cusp of climate catastrophe, we are neither choiceless nor powerless.

The gloaming in the desert: Wadi Rum
At bottom, I read Being the Change as the testament of a father trying to do right by his kids—a testament that leaves me with a much different set of questions about the psychic wellness of our children: In the face of the climate emergency, what would it do to their psyches to see us, their parents and other adult caregivers, pouring our hearts into the work of personal and societal transformation, on behalf of people we will never meet? On behalf of all other living beings, the rivers and trees and soil? What if our children saw us respond to this crisis with maturity, sanity, and integrity? With the flexible stability of Gibran’s bow? What would it do to them, for them, if we came into resonance with our own souls?

(Chris Moore-Backman and his daughter recently attended the hearing at the Ninth Circuit where children are suing the U.S. government for its irresponsibility on climate action.)

I shared Moore-Backman’s article with my son, a research physicist. This is what he replied: “For the last three or four years, I’ve been thinking that the increased craziness of youngsters, certainly influenced by the increasing craziness of adults, must also be due to the demonstrated lack of care adults show for their children’s and future generations, evidenced by their lack of care for the environment and inability to mitigate climate change.” Perhaps I had my son and everyone’s sons and daughters in mind  when I decided at the time of the Fukushima catastrophe to ditch my car and proceed on foot. I do not yet use a cane; on bad balance days, I resort to hiking poles.

1. Take the train. (Make sure the tracks are clear.) Don’t fly (burning jet fuel is highly carbon intensive.)

2. Take public transportation. (Or walk.) Don’t drive. If you must drive, car pool, stock pile errands.

3. Take taxis when you’re in a hurry. Slow down. Ditch your car.

4. Turn off the lights when not in use.

5. Reduce your garbage output to compost, and no more than 1 cubic foot per week. Avoid bulky packaging.

6. Buy organic. Patronize farmer’s markets.

7. Walk lightly. Leave a small footprint on the Earth.

8. Add to this list.

The Very Best Roses of the Week:

Sunday, December 17, 2017

II. Promises to Protect

The fate of life on our planet is everybody’s stake.  But at the very forefront of resistance, the indigenous struggle worldwide has captured the flag and spearheaded an international movement which effectively sends out the message that both capitalism and national boundaries (and nationalism itself) can no longer supply the frameworks for solving problems of such global magnitude.
400 indigenous people & supporters march 200 miles to Quito

Last week the big news in the pipelines saga revealed that the courts are finally allowing five valve turners the legal standing that will allow them to pursue a necessity defense.  That’s really big news.

This week, when all measures are failing, Earth First set up a tree sit to block the route of the Valley Lateral Pipeline. Activists are gearing up to pack the courtroom to resist TransCanada’s proposed Potomac Pipeline originating in Pennsylvania and passing through Maryland to connect the a gas distribution line in West Virginia. The State of Virginia Water Control Board delayed certification of Dominion Energy’s Atlantic Coast Pipeline’s permit.

The Center for Constitutional Rights has several pipelines and their builders in its legal sights: Energy Transfer Partners and /Energy Transfer Equity who are suing Earth First on a charge for racketeering, and Bayou Bridge LLC’s proposed Louisiana Pipeline, where they are opposing the state licensure of private security company Black Swan, the same outfit that terrorized the resisters in North Dakota. In California, Attorney General Xavier Becerra filed an amicus brief arguing that Oakland Bulk & Oversized Terminal’s suit to operate a coal terminal in Port of Oakland is without merit. And the Center for Biological Diversity filed notice to sue the administration for permitting oil companies to dump fracking and drilling waste, fouling the Gulf of Mexico, and imperiling sea life. After years of pressure from environmental activists, World Bank agreed to curb its Funding of fossil fuels and stop funding oil and gas exploration after 2019. And on  the alternative energy front, U.S. energy storage surged 46% led by a Texas big wind project.

Black Snake Chronicles: Resisting Wasichu Economics 


This week, resisting Wasichu economics, the system that destroys Mother Earth, The Puyallup Tribe along with other climate activists have been protesting the Port of Tacoma natural  gas facility, arguing that the project will

Activists protesting the Tacoma LNG terminal
impact tribal rights to fish in treaty waters. Protecting the indigenous lands and culture of the Ecuadorian Amazon’s indigenous communities, a Brazilian court revoked the license of a proposed massive open-pit gold mine which would have impacted the Xingu River basin. as thousands of indigenous leaders and followers completed a 200-mile march to Quito. And this week the Standing Rock movement celebrated its first anniversary. Both Standing Rock and Cheyenne River Sioux have fled court documents urging a federal judge to reject the recent arguments of federal officials and the pipeline developer that seek to ignore the tribe’s proposals. And the same day the Nebraska Public service Commission approved TransCanada’s permit to allow Keystone to operate through part of the state, two hundred indigenous people met for the Gathering to Protect the Sacred, reaffirming the international agreement among indigenous nations to protect the planet from tar sands projects, whether located in the U.S. or Canada. where 90% of the Canadian dollar value is based on tar sands. Not only are the tar sands being stopped by citizen opposition, the surge of natural gas, and of alternatives are jeopardizing the marginal value of tar sands, and because Alberta is land locked country, there’s no economic way of getting that oil to market without risking repeated oil spills down the line “as if the pipeline were passing a kidney stone,” to quote one journalist.  Just a few moths ago four pipelines designed to bring the tar sands out of Alberta were on the drawing boards, but two months ago, the longest one was scrapped by TransCanada because of declining barrel prices and the resulting drop in tar sands extraction.

Divestment is climbing, electric cars are coming on line, and Keystone XL is facing the disinterest of the very oil producers and refiners the pipelines were supposed to serve. Without customers, pipelines go broke. Enbridge Line 3 (the 915,000 barrels-a-day pipeline) is ripe for a tribal suit.

Lakota organizer Judith LeBlanc states, “The traditional indigenous practice is that you must respond to adversity with courage, humility, compassion and love of community as we always have….Native peoples have a legal, moral, spiritual, and inherent right be caretakers of the planet.”

The Dakota Sioux and their allies world over remain committed to Mni Wiconi—Water is Life.

Roses Amidst This Week’s Thorns

Amazon Watch announces Toronto-based Belo Sun Mining license to drill revoke by  a federal court upholding Brazilian indigenous rights.

Honduran resistance continues with Zelaya and Nasralla calling for peaceful and permanent general strike.

Doug Jones won a Democrat Senate seat in Alabama 49 to 51 (see Common Dreams, 12.16.17)

Sunday, December 3, 2017

What’s To Be Done?

The good news this week reported that doctors all over the country cancelled their appointments to travel to D.C. in a concerted effort to warn Senators they’re sentencing patients to death. Among those Senators is maverick vocalist McCain (“Bomb, Bomb Iran”) himself currently battling brain cancer while fully supporting the Senate version of the tax coup.

New Yorkers Greet Trumpissimo with shouts of 'lock 'im up!'
To quote Elizabeth Warren: "I wish I could tell you all of the awful things that
are in [the bill], but I am still reading [it] myself. The Republicans released [it]
only a couple of hours before the votes started last night. There were no
hearings. There was no debate. In fact, they were literally sending around edits in hand-written chicken scratch minutes before we had a vote." In fact, Democrats offered a resolution to delay the vote so legislators would have a chance to read it; all 52 Republicans voted against it.   

Writing about the provisions of the Awful Terrible Tax Coup, particularly since  its provisions have carefully been kept under wraps by the complicity of congress and some media, and the cycle of Republican tax cuts followed by Democrats restoring cuts goes unreported. These topics are better addressed by others (notably Went2theBridge) who do lots better than I can. But reflecting on the meaning of this event in today’s politico-global context is something that calls me to action.

The headline of an article in today’s Common Dreams reads: New Study Shows How Taxing the Rich Saves Lives, While [Trumpissimos’s] Plan Kills. The thought immediately arises: Can the Master Plan be about thinning the herd?  Far from seeming to offer a contradiction, can the plan be deliberately designed?

How else to explain the apparent indifference by over 600 people who happen to occupy chambers in very close proximity to one another, in a very localized region of a major city, many of them millionaires, if not billionaires, to the emiseration of millions of their fellow (and sister) citizens, many of whom, as addicted television potatoes, may have voted them into office??  What kind of moral pathology is it that holds them in its grip?  

Some of the legislation’s more Mediaeval grotesqueries include:

  • Adding 1.2 trillion to the national debt for which we will be in hock for the rest of our lifetimes.
  • Taxing students on their student loan income where in other industrialized countries, college education is free.
  • Reducing the benefits to the Children’s Health Insurance Program.
  • Repealing the ironically titled Obamacare (compulsory subscription to overpriced medical HMOs.
  • Conferring legal status to the fetus as persons.
  • Raising taxes for people facing high medical expenses. Discouraging adoption of children, including the 100,000 children now in U.S.  foster care. 
  • Increasing disability expenses for small businesses. 
  • Eliminating the tax credit that boosts investment in poor communities. 
  • Abolishing the separation between church and state. 
  • Cancelling the tax credit available to struggling immigrant families with citizen children. 
  • Providing for drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (in a sop to Murkowsky). 
  • Eliminating state and local tax deduction.Offsetting massive giveaways for the rich and corporate special interests with cuts to medicare, medicaid and education under the guise of job creation.

Now comes the final coup de grace: “reconciliation” with the House version of the bill. Last time around 13 Republicans crossed the aisle.  Some of the differences between the two bills include:
  • Thirteen million Americans will lose their healthcare in the Senate bill.
  • Health insurance premiums will increase by 10% for millions more.
  • The estate tax is repealed in the House bill.
  • Wealthy businesses (including Trumpissimo’s) get huger tax breaks in the House.

What is to be done?

It seems obvious to me that if indeed we oppose the moral pathology which reigns in Washington, it is not enough to hand wring and fulminate. We have the choice to recognize fecklessness in august places as an opportunity to live in the country of the heart.

What is the cost of travel to this country? It’s free.  It’s rewards are such that any gesture of extending help to another human being now becomes a political act, an act of defiance in which—provided the circuit is completed—is to be found the source of immense personal satisfaction and joy.

What I mean by completing the circuit requires three simple steps: extending the offer of assistance to those in need in a no-strings-attached form. Acceptance of the offer by the person in need. And acceptance of the offer on that person’s terms—not the giver’s.

Recently I noticed an announcement on a social media site by a parent looking for a mentor for her ten-year-old child.  It occurred to me: I can apply for a grandchild! In magnitude, it is a small and humble act. It does not turn the valve off on a pipeline and subject me to arrest and felonious charges; it does not reduce the trillions of budget dollars allocated to the development of “usable” nuclear weapons; it does not stop the daily geo-engineered spraying of our skies with coal ash, but it does create a counter-narrative of a world in which enough people care to truly make a difference.

The doctors who travelled this week to Washington were writing their small chapter of that narrative.

Sign Move-On’s petition stopping congress from going after Medicare and Social Security to pay for their hit on the national debt.

Organize a general strike. Nationwide.