It has been a busy two weeks since our last newsletter. Last week we were at the Localize This! Action Camp of the Backbone Campaign.
Can White Americans See White Privilege, Evolution of Black Lives Matter
We ended the Localize This Action Camp with a protest in Seattle. The protest, more of an art installation, was held in the same downtown park where Bernie Sanders was interrupted the week before. The protest, Racism: the Elephant in the Living Room (photo above), was put on by primarily white activists from across the country. We urged white Americans to recognize that white privilege exists. The reaction to the Sanders protest brought out what some called a veneer of white liberalism in Seattle and denial of white privilege and racism from some on the left. The protest sought to engage people in a conversation about privilege and what can be done to end racism. (Contact us if you are interested in holding one in your area)
BLM has now protested Bernie Sanders, Martin O’Malley and Jeb Bush and attempted to protest Hillary Clinton. Heckling has a long history and some feel that when oppression is the status quo there is a moral duty to disrupt. The interruptions of O’Malley and Sanders has resulted in both putting forward detailed plans to confront racism and police violence, in fact Bernie Sanders is responding to BLM in an effective way that is better than some of his followers. Even if politicians say they agree with you, it makes sense to protest them in order to spur them to take action.
The attempted protest with Clinton resulted in a videotaped 15 minute conversation. Glen Ford, the executive editor of Black Agenda Report, took the BLM activists to task for not making clear demands of Clinton. BLM is developing clear demands as we can see with local groups around the country and the just announced national agenda built on local experiences. We see signs that BLM might be going into a new stage where it will be building national consensus around their goals.
BLM has had significant victories in the one year since Michael Brown was killed in Ferguson. The movement has had success in changing policy; increasing prosecutions of police and is rapidly changing public opinion. Dr. Cornel West has spoken admiringly of the “fire” of the new movement and how they are consistent with what he sees in black history and describes as “black prophetic fire . . . the hypersensitivity to the suffering of others that generates a righteous indignation that results in the willingness to live and die for freedom.”
Political prisoner Mumia Abu-Jamal notes how the word “Ferguson” has “become a watchword for resistance, like Watts, like Newark, Harlem and Los Angeles. He describes what Ferguson means:
“For the youth – excluded from the American economy by inferior, substandard education; targeted by the malevolence of the fake drug war and mass incarceration; stopped and frisked for Walking While Black – were given front-row seats to the national security state at Ferguson after a friend was murdered by police in their streets.
“Ferguson is a wake-up call. A call to build social, radical, revolutionary movements for change.”
The Obvious Shows Itself on the Environment and Climate
As we write this President Obama has declared a state of emergency in Washington because of raging fires and it has just been reported that last month was the hottest on record.
Chris Hedges describes the wrath of nature, the dramatic planetary environmental impacts that too many do not see:
“Greenhouse gas concentrations, including carbon dioxide, methane and nitrous oxide, continue to rise. Last year was the hottest since we began scientifically tracking weather, and 2015 is expected to top 2014. Glaciers and ice sheets are melting at an accelerated rate, causing the oceans to rise. Even if we stop all carbon emissions today, some scientists say, sea levels will rise by 10 feet by 2065 and as much as 70 feet over the next couple of centuries. Major coastal cities such as Miami and New York will be underwater. Droughts plague huge swaths of the planet. Wildfires, fueled by parched forests, have been burning out of control in Southern California, Canada and Alaska. Monster cyclones and hurricanes, fed by warming air currents, are proliferating, ripping apart whole cities. Massive species extinction is underway.”
This week the Global Footprint Network reported that humans have exhausted a year’s supply of natural resources in less than eight months. That means for the remaining months of the year we are borrowing from future generations.
This week a study found that the global food supply is at risk due to severe weather. And, another study this week found six million people are drinking uranium contaminated water, not a surprise to us as we have a campaign to Clean-up the Uranium Mines. Despite all of this people struggle to convince others of the environmental catastrophe and climate change. How do we convince people of the obvious?
While governments continue to go in the same direction that created this mess, many have awakened and are doing what they can to turn away from the mistaken path humans are on. The moral case for climate justice has been made by Pope Francis in his Encyclical (used by protesters) and this week leaders of Islam issued a Declaration on Climate Change, as the world moves toward a major meeting in Paris.
Among the many protests in the last two weeks were more than a thousand people shutting down the biggest coal mine in Germany. After a massive EPA spill of toxics into a river the Navajo Nation declared a state of emergency as the spill moved toward the Grand Canyon. The Utah Tar Sands Resistance and Peaceful Uprising used tripods to protest tar sands excavation in Utah. At the same time it was revealed that in the battle to stop tar sands in Canada from coming through the US KXL pipeline the judges who ruled in favor of TransCanada had investments in the corporation.
The Unist’ot’en First Nations are protesting Chevron pipelines in British Columbia. FANG is continuing its efforts to stop the Spectra Algonquin Pipeline, this week locking themselves to their gate. Earthworks is using a FLIR Gasfinder camera to expose otherwise invisible air pollution from fracking and drilling operations. The city of Spokane sued Monsanto for polluting rivers with PCB’s. A 75 year old man celebrated his birthday by blocking entrance to Spectra facilities by attaching himself to two concrete bins decorated as birthday cakes. GMO free urged a boycott of Kellogg’s products as many organized to stop the DARK Act which prevent labeling of GMO foods. We’ve joined with March Against Monsanto and Organic Consumers Association to stop the DARK Act which would prevent labeling of GMO foods. A series of protests in the Northwestern US has put up a wall against oil trains, pipelines, arctic drilling and they are winning important battles.
Protests are escalating, becoming more constant as we know are having an impact. One upcoming escalation will be a hunger strike at FERC, the federal so-called regulatory agency that is responsible for oil and gas infrastructure. The hunger strike will coincide with the visit of Pope Francis to the United States.
It is not only protest. There is also a wind energy boom. According to the Wind Technologies Market Report wind is being installed at a rapid rate, its costs are plummeting, its technologies are advancing, and it is creating a growing number of jobs to boot. Reports also indicate solar is rapidly expanding. The United States just went through a record-high production oil and gas boom but it has been sustained by companies taking on high levels of debt, including $120 billion in high-risk, high-yield bonds. JPMorgan’s estimates of the default rate for these junk bonds are nearly 4 percent this year and will be a whopping 20 percent next year, if crude prices remain around $65 a barrel. As we write this report oil is now below $40 a barrel and the numbers of oil and gas rigs are dropping.
Here’s another question that has an obvious answer that some close their eyes to: Should Food Irrigated With Fracked Water Be Labeled? Obviously, “yes” and so should GMO’s. But, this will not happen without citizen mobilization because it is against the profit-interests of some major corporations.
The Corporate Trade Agreements Get More Secret, Why Do They Hide?
It seems pretty obvious that when massive transnational corporations ally with government to secretly negotiate trade agreements that these agreements are not going to be good for the people, small businesses or the planet. In fact, these falsely labeled “free” trade agreements have destroyed the US economy resulting in a massive transfer of wealth demonstrated by 30 years of trade deficits, resulting in lost jobs, indeed lost industries. Benjamin Clement explains why the US keeps pushing corporate trade:
“Given all this insurmountable evidence to the contrary, why is it that free-traders continue to sell out the country at the expense of national security and our future generations? The answer is that every person, corporation, and politician tends to do what is in their own short-term best interest, be it pure profit or reelection.”
And, this is also why the trade agreements are being kept secret. We’ve reported on the secrecy in the United States, but it is also true in other countries. The European Commission announced “a new rule that means politicians can only view the text in a secure ‘reading room’ in Brussels.” The rule reminds us of the basement in the Capitol where elected officials must go to read the text, even then much of it is blacked out and only summarized.
This action is in response to increased leaks of the texts. At the same time the power structure clamps down and tightens secrecy, Wikileaks is offering rewards for the release of corporate trade texts. They are offering a €100,000 ($118.000) reward for the text of the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership. Julian Assange said, “The secrecy of the TTIP casts a shadow on the future of European democracy.” We go further, corporate trade is a threat to democracy everywhere not just because of its secrecy but because of the contents of the agreements undermining governments and courts and making corporations more powerful than government.
These trade agreements are a form of neocolonialism where western corporations dominate poor, developing countries. They allow corporations to take their natural resources at low cost and produce slave labor jobs while driving wealth to the oligarchs and transnational corporations. Not only do corporate rigged trade agreements enslave developing nations to western corporations, but they also add to racial unrest in the United States. Isaiah Poole describes how the hundreds of thousands of lost jobs leave city governments with budget deficits. In places like Ferguson the city used the court system and fines on the poor who get arrested to fill their budget needs.
The trade agreements are also being used as a tool to foment military conflict with China. Finian Cunningham describes how trade is a carrot being used to get Vietnam to do its bidding against China. The US Asian Pivot depends on countries in Asia working with the US military in conducting joint war exercises, buying US military equipment and standing up to China in regional conflicts. The TPP is the economic arm encircling China and a tool to entice Asian countries to join the US – China conflict.
People in almost all the countries where the US is pushing corporate rigged trade are standing up. This week in New Zealand the US consulate warned Americans to stay away from TPP protests because they could “become confrontational.” The protests were large by New Zealand standards – 21 cities saw tens of thousands of protesters urging the government to “walk away from the TPPA.” These protests in Europe and Asia have made it hard to reach final agreement because politicians fear voters will throw them out of office and therefore it limits their ability to give in to corporate and US demands.
Our Dissent Forces the Obvious to Become Evident and Acted On
The reality of our times and of our history is that truth needs a messenger. Truths, especially difficult ones to face, do not become known on their own. Telling the hard-to-face truths is where movements begin; spreading that truth creates a national consensus for change and is the source for mobilizations that force essential transformations.
In his final speech, Julian Bond the great civil rights leader who died this week spoke about Vietnam at the Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial in Washington, DC. He talked about the lies on which Vietnam was built and the truth about the real sources of war. He described how protest was a critical ingredient in ending the war. He said “We practiced dissent then. We must practice dissent now.” Bond closed with a poem that Dr. King had used to close his speech on Vietnam:
“Once to every man and nation comes the moment to decide,
In the strife of Truth with Falsehood, for the good or evil side;
Some great cause, God’s new Messiah, offering each the bloom or blight, And the choice goes by forever ’twixt that darkness and the light.
“Though the cause of Evil prosper, yet ’tis Truth alone is strong,
Though her portion be the scaffold, and upon the throne be Wrong,
Yet the scaffold sways the future, and, behind the dim unknown,
Standeth God within the shadow, keeping watch above his own!”