Volume 26, Number 4
Our War Criminals
Edward S. Herman
Bulldozers and More Talks
Catholic Abuse Scandal
Save Our Planet
Skills Gap Myth
The African Union
Compiled by Joel Chaffee
NOTE: Z Magazine subscribers and sustainers have access to all Z Magazine articles here and in the archive. The latest Z Magazine articles available to everyone are listed in the Free Articles box at the top of the table of contents, and are starred in the list below. Questions? e-mail Z Magazine Online.
Historic Rally Pushes Climate Change
There is no doorbell at the front gates of the White House—at least not for the public anyway—but the estimated 30,000 to 50,000 people who stood before 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue on Sunday, February 17 made perhaps the largest human buzzer in the history of the U.S. climate movement.
Despite a strategy of ignoring climate change during his first term, President Barack Obama claims he’s ready to make it a top priority. In his State of the Union address on February 12, he said: “For the sake of our children and our future, we must do more to combat climate change.”
But the president has so far failed to back up his words with any meaningful action and there’s good reason to doubt his sincerity. Moments after noting that “the 12 hottest years on record have all come in the last 15,” Obama boasted that his “administration will keep cutting red tape and speeding up new oil and gas permits.”
The president’s dueling words were spoken to opposing constituencies. On the one hand, there’s the American people, the majority of whom believe it’s time for action on climate change. On the other, there’s the fossil fuel lobby, which certainly isn’t as big as half the U.S. population, but makes up for it in spending power.
Indeed, the president wasn’t at home when demonstrators came calling. He was in Florida, golfing with Houston Astros owner Jim Crane, who has interests in fracking and natural gas pipelines, and who even invested in the Deepwater Horizon drilling platform that dumped oil into the Gulf of Mexico in the spring and summer of 2010.
Between the two sides rests the Keystone XL pipeline, which would carry nearly a million barrels of raw bitumen crude oil from the deforested tar sands region in Alberta to refineries in the Gulf of Mexico. The multinational oil industry and Wall Street banks that fund them have a lot riding on this pipeline and they want to see it bring tar sands oil to the global market. The problem with that, however, is there might not be much of a globe left, once the tar sands crude makes it to the market.
“The science is crystal clear,” said James Hansen, head of the NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies. “We have to stabilize atmospheric composition if we want to have a stable climate.” This requires that we reduce and eventually halt the flaring of fossil fuels. The Keystone XL would do just the opposite.
If the total crude from Alberta’s tar sands were burned, the amount of carbon dioxide in the Earth’s atmosphere would increase from its current 390 parts per million to 600 ppm, sending our planet over a climate cliff. Sea levels would continue to rise and extreme weather events like Superstorm Sandy would grow more severe.
“We have thousands of cities on coastlines around the world,” said Hansen, outlining what’s at stake. “We have governments that are coal-fired and well-oiled. If we allow fossil fuel use to continue business as usual, we guarantee that over the coming decades we will begin to see large changes in sea level and we will lose all of those cities.” The Keystone XL pipeline, Hansen added, “wills young people a future of economic devastation.”
With that threat hinging on whether Obama allows the Keystone XL to be completed, activists have been working for nearly two years toward a different future. After a similar mass demonstration in Washington in fall 2011, Obama denied Trans-Canada’s initial permit application, kicking the pipeline down the road into his second term.
“He doesn’t have to go through Congress,” said Belinda Rodriguez, an organizer with the environmental group 350.org, which put out the initial call for the mass mobilization. “He doesn’t have to slog through forming some complicated cap and trade legislation. All he has to do is reject the permit.”
Rodriguez, a recent New York University graduate, helped organize a divestment campaign on campus that is pressuring the academic institution to remove its investments from the fossil fuel industry. While some, including the Nation Institute’s Christian Parenti, have argued that divestment will do little to hurt the bottom line of fossil fuel companies, it has helped mobilize young climate activists. Hundreds of divestment campaigns have sprung up on campuses across the country.
In a prelude to the big demonstration, James Hansen and nearly 50 others engaged in a sit-in at the White House on February 13. Among those arrested was Sierra Club Executive Director Michael Brune, marking the first time a leader of the organization had taken part in civil disobedience since it was founded by John Muir 120 years ago. Natural Resources Defense Council lawyer Robert F. Kennedy Jr. and actress Daryl Hannah were also led away in handcuffs, lending their celebrity to the cause.
But far from the click of cameras, dust has yet to settle on another arena in the battle against the Keystone XL. In Texas, activists with the Tar Sands Blockade have been locking down to equipment, occupying trees in the pipeline’s path and otherwise stalling construction since August. For their efforts, they’ve been sued by Trans- Canada, brutalized by the company’s security personnel in collusion with local law enforcement, and endured long stays in jail thanks to overzealous prosecution of their nonviolent acts of civil disobedience.
They’ve also uncovered damning evidence that the Keystone XL will be seeping oil all along its planned route. In December 2012, three activists barricading themselves inside a mile-long segment of the pipe, spotted light pouring through a welded segment. Once the trio was forcibly removed, the pipeline went into the ground.
While it was just one section of the XL, which will be making its way across America’s wildlife habitats, playgrounds, and backyards if completed, who knows how many segments contain leaks?
“Tar Sands Blockade has proof positive that the welds are false,” hollered Ramsey Sprague, an organizer with the group, while disrupting a talk by a TransCanada quality control manager last month at Marriot Hotel in Woodlands, Texas.
While lone activists yelling within the confines of suburban hotel convention centers can be easily ignored, the tens of thousands of people raising their voices surely shook the walls of the highest office in the land. Demonstrators, however, remained divided over whether they were there to support Obama by showing that they’ll have his back if he rejects the XL Pipeline—or to demand that he do so.
At a rally near the Washington Monument before the march to the White House, Obama’s fired green jobs adviser Van Jones reminded the crowd that he had had “the honor” of serving the president. He went on to say that Obama shouldn’t inject America with a “dirty needle from Canada,” since that would undermine the credibility of the executive office. The Sierra Club’s Michael Brune, who has previously said he believes Obama has a “strong moral core,” made similar appeals as Jones.
Billionaire hedge fund manager Tom Steyer also spoke at the rally. Steyer told the Washington Post recently that when it comes to climate change, “I feel like the guy in the movie who goes into the diner and says, ‘There are zombies in the woods and they’re eating our children’.”
But as often happens in horror movies, those who you think are your friends turn out to be brain-eaters. Filings with the Securities and Exchange Commission show Steyer’s Farallon Capital Management holds stock in NRG Energy, operators of several coal plants and one nuclear facility, as well as Ram Energy Resources and Sandridge Energy, both oil and natural gas firms.
“Having a representative of the 1 percent just because he happens to be against this particular investment is extremely short-sighted and naïve,” said author and environmental activist Chris Williams. “This is a struggle for justice against the ruling class, and they’re completely the wrong choice for an ally—just like Obama.”
Williams helped organize an EcoSocialist contingent at the February 17 demonstration. Chants of “One, two, three, four/climate change is class war” rose from the contingent, offering a sharp contrast to the innocuous politics of many of the moderate green groups they marched beside. As Williams said: “Obama has repeatedly boasted about how much pipeline has been laid on his watch and how his administration has gone the extra mile to cut red tape and facilitate offshore, deep-shore and any-shore drilling—all while opening up more federal lands and the Arctic in order to wring every last drop of oil and gas from the North American continent.
Williams added that Obama’s drone strikes and kill lists further cast dispersions on the “moral core” of the president. Speaking with Williams the night before the rally in the packed hall of a church in Washington’s Mount Pleasant neighborhood, former Green Party presidential candidate Jill Stein agreed. “Why should we have Obama’s back when he keeps stabbing us in ours?”
Just as the climate is reaching a tipping point, so too is the climate movement. “If the president rejects the pipeline,” said Williams, “It will encourage all of us to ask the question, ‘what next?’” If Obama approves the XL, it could serve to highlight the fact that this struggle is larger than any one individual. “This is about a system that depends on the production of fossil fuels for energy, and profit and endless growth as the engine of progress within capitalism.”
Peter Rugh is a writer and activist based in Brooklyn, NY. Earlier versions of this article appeared at WagingNonviolence.org .
Z Magazine Archive
AnnouncementsLABOR - May 1 is May Day. Workers of the world will celebrate the 124th anniversary of International Worker’s Day. Born out of a call for an 8-hour workday in the United States, this day is an opportunity for all workers to show their solidarity with one another, as well as to renew the call for labor rights.
FARM CONFERENCE - The Farm Conference on Community and Sustainability will be held May 24-26 in Summertown, TN, in partnership with the Fellowship of Intentional Communities. Tour green homes, see sustainable food production, learn about solar installations, alternative education, midwifery, and more.
Contact: Douglas@thefarmcommunity.com; http://www.thefarmcommunity.com/.
PALESTINE - The Conference of the Palestinian Shatat in North American will be held June 3-5 in Vancouver. The conference will examine the future of the Palestinian liberation movement.
Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org; http://www.palestinianconference.org/.
LABOR - The Pacific Northwest Labor History Association’s 45th annual conference will be held May 3-5, in Portland, OR. This year’s theme is Labor Under Attack: Learning from the Past and Preparing for the Future. A call for presentations, workshops and papers is currently underway.
Contact: PNLHA, 27920 68th Ave. East, Graham, WA 98338; 206-406-2604; PNLHA1@aol.com; http://www3.telus.net.
MARIJUANA - On the first Saturday of May marijuana legalization activists will hold informational and educational events, rallies and marches in over 300 cities around the world.
ECONOMICS - The Union For Radical Political Economics will hold its 39th annual conference May 9-11 in New York City.
RECLAIM THE DREAM - The 2013 Poor People’s Campaign & March from Baltimore to Washington D.C. will be May 11. Communities, schools and unions interested in participating are encouraged to contact the Baltimore People’s Assembly.
Contact: 410-500-2168; 410-218-4835; BaltimorePeoplesAssembly@gmail.com; Southern Christian Leadership Conference of Baltimore and the Baltimore Peoples Power Assembly, 2011 N. Charles St., Baltimore, MD 21218.
MOTHER’S DAY - The 17th Annual Mother’s Day Walk For Peace will be May 12th, in Dorchester, MA. The walk began in 1996 for families who had lost children to violence. The day has become a way for thousands of people to financially support the work of the Louis Brown Peace Institute.
Contact: http://www.ldbpeaceinstitute.org/; http://mothersdaywalk4peace.org/.
NATO 5 - An International Week of Solidarity with the NATO 5 has been called for May 16-21. Supports call on supporters to raise awareness of the NATO 5 and support funds for the defendants on the one-year anniversary of their preemptive arrests.
Contact: email@example.com; https://nato5support.wordpress.com.
MOUNTAINTOP - The 2013 Mountain Justice Summer Activist Training Camp will be held May 19-27 in Damascus, VA. It will be a week of workshops, field trips to view Mountain Top Removal coal mines, direct actions, and service project.
FEMINIST SCI-FI - The feminist science fiction convention WisCon 37 is scheduled for May 24-27 in Madison, WI.
Contact: WisCon, ? SF3, PO Box 1624, Madison, WI 53701; firstname.lastname@example.org; http://www.wiscon.info/.
ANARCHY FEST - A month-long Festival of Anarchy is scheduled for May in Montreal. The festival includes The Montreal Anarchist Bookfair (May 19-20).
Contact: http://www.anarchistbookfair.ca/; http://www.radicalmontreal.com/.
LABOR - The International Labor Rights Forum will present: Down the Supply Chain, Driving Corporate Accountability, on May 22 in Washington, DC. The Labor Rights Awards Ceremony and Reception will honor pioneers in supply chain worker organizing, working solidarity and international labor rights policy.
MULTICULTURE - The 26th annual National Conference on Race & Ethnicity in American Higher Education (NCORE) will take place May 28-June 1, in New Orleans.
Contact: SWCHRS, 3200 Marshall Avenue, Suite 290, Norman, OK 73072; 405-325-3694; email@example.com; www.ncore.ou.edu.
MEDIA - The 2013 Alliance for Community Media Annual Conference will be held May 29-31, in San Francisco, CA. Participants will include educators, community leaders, media professionals, journalists, nonprofit leaders, policymakers and students.
RADIO - The 38th Annual Community Radio Conference is schedule for May 29-June 1, in San Francisco, CA, with discussions and workshops.
Contact: 1101 Pennsylvania Ave. NW, Suite 600, Washington, DC 20004; 202-756-2268; firstname.lastname@example.org; http://www.nfcb.org/.
BRADLEY MANNING - On June 1, a rally will be held at Fort Meade in support of Bradley Manning.
BIKES - Bikes Not Bombs is holding its 24th annual Bike-A-Thon and Green Roots Festival in Boston, MA on June 3, with several bike rides scheduled, music, exhibitors and more.
Contact: Bikes Not Bombs, 284 Amory St., Jamaica Plain, MA 02130; 617-522-0222; email@example.com; www.bikesnotbombs.org.
LEFT FORUM - The 2013 Left Forum will be held June 7-9, at Pace University in New York City.
Contact: 365 Fifth Avenue, CUNY Graduated Center, ? Sociology Dept., New York, NY 10016; http://www.leftforum.org/.
VEGAN FEST - Mad City Vegan Fest will be held in Madison, WI, June 8. The annual event features food, speakers, and exhibitors.
Contact: 122 State Street, Suite 405 B, Madison, WI 53701; firstname.lastname@example.org; http://veganfest.org/.
ADC CONFERENCE - The American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee (ADC) holds its annual conference June 13-16, in Washington, DC, with panel discussions and workshops on civil rights, media and other topics.
Contact: 1990 M Street, Suite 610, Washington, DC, 20036; 202-244-2990; email@example.com http://convention.adc.org/.
CUBA/SOCIALISM - A Cuban-North American Dialog on Socialist Renewal and Global Capitalist Crisis will be held in Havana, Cuba, June 16-30. There will be a 5 day Seminar at University of Havana, plus visits to a cooperative, urban garden, community development project, social research centers, and educational & medical institutions.
Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org; http://www.globaljusticecenter.org/.
NETROOTS - The 8th Annual Netroots Nation conference will take place June 20-23 in San Jose, CA. The event features panels, trainings, networking, screenings, and keynotes.
Contact: 164 Robles Way, #276, Vallejo, CA 94591; email@example.com; http://www.netrootsnation.org/.
MEDIA - The 15th annual Allied Media Conference will be held June 20-23, in Detroit.
Contact: 4126 Third Street, Detroit, MI 48201; http://alliedmedia.org/.
GRASSROOTS - The United We Stand Festival will be hosted by Free & Equal, June 22 in Little Rock, Arkansas. The festival aims to reform the electoral process throughout the U.S.
SOCIALISM - The Socialism 2013 Conference is scheduled for June 27-30 in Chicago, featuring talks and panel discussions.
Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org; http://www.socialismconference.org.
LITERACY - The National Association for Media Literacy Education (NAMLE) will hold its conference July 12-13 in Los Angeles under the heading, Intersections: Teaching and Learning Across Media.
Contact: 10 Laurel Hill Drive, Cherry Hill, NJ 08003; http://namle.net/conference/.
IWW - The North American Work People’s College will take place July 12-16 at Mesaba Co-op Park in northern Minnesota. The event will bring together Wobblies from branches across the continent to learn new skills and build One Big Union.
PEACESTOCK - On July 13th, the 11th Annual Peacestock: A Gathering for Peace, will take place at Windbeam Farm in Hager City, WI. The event is a mixture of music, speakers and community for peace. Sponsored by Veterans for Peace.
Contact: Bill Habedank, 1913 Grandview Ave., Red Wing, MN 55066; 651-388-7733; email@example.com; http://www.peacestockvfp.org.
CHILDREN’S DEFENSE - July 15-19, join clergy, seminarians, Christian educators, young adult leaders and other faith-based advocates for children at CDF Haley Farm in Clinton, Tennessee, for five days of spiritual renewal, networking, movement building workshops, and continuing education about the urgent needs of children at the 19th annual Proctor Institute for Child Advocacy Ministry.
Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org; http://www.childrensdefense.org.
ACTIVIST CAMP - Youth Empowered Action (YEA) Camp will have sessions in July and August in Ben Lomond, CA; Portland, OR; Charlton, MA. YEA Camp is designed for activists 12-17 years old who want to make a difference in the world.
Contact: email@example.com; http://yeacamp.org/.
LA RAZA - The annual National Council of La Raza (NCLR) Conference is scheduled for July 18-19 in New Orleans, with workshops, presentations and panel discussions.
Contact: NCLR Headquarters Office, Raul Yzaguirre Building, 1126 16th Street, NW, Washington, DC 20036; 202-785-1670; www.nclr.org.
LABOR - The Eastern Conference For Workplace Democracy: Growing Our Cooperatives, Growing Our Communities, will be held at Drexel University in Philadelphia, PA, July 26-28.
Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org; http://east.usworker.coop/.
WOMEN/LYNNE STEWART- Radical Women is asking for support letters and cards to be sent to Lynne Stewart. Stewart is a civil rights attorney and political prisoner who is currently in jail. She has breast cancer and authorities have denied her request for transfer from her Texas prison to the New York City hospital where she received medical attention during a prior bout of breast cancer. Send messages and cards to: Lynne Stewart 53504-054, Federal Medical Center Carswell, P.O. Box 27137, Fort Worth, TX 76127.
Contact: 747 Polk Street, San Francisco, CA 94109; 415-864-1278; RadicalWomenUS@gmail.com; http://lynnestewart.org/; http://www.radicalwomen.org/.
HAITI/WOMEN - Haiti’s government is considering a legal reform measure that would prohibit and punish all sexual assault, including marital rape. MADRE and the International Campaign to Stop Rape & Gender Violence in Conflict are launching a petition to raise international support for this push to address violence against women in Haiti.
Contact: 121 West 27th Street, #301, New York, NY 10001; 212-627-0444; email@example.com; http://www.madre.org.
SYRIA/MIDDLE EAST - The Middle East Children’s Alliance (MECA) is currently seeking funds to assist more than 200,000 refugees fleeing violence in Syria.
FOLK FESTIVAL - The Falcon Ridge Folk Festival will be held August 2-4, in the Berkshires, NY.
Contact: http://www.falconridgefolk.com/; firstname.lastname@example.org.
WAR RESISTERS - The War Resisters League will hold its 90th anniversary conference, Revolutionary Nonviolence: Building Bridges Across Generations and Communities, August 1-4, at Georgetown University. The event will focus on the U.S.’ long history of antimilitarism.
Contact: 339 Lafayette Street, New York, NY 10012; 212-228-0450; email@example.com; http://www.warresisters.org.
POPULAR ECONOMICS - The Center for Popular Economics is holding its 2013 Summer Institute August 4-9 at Hampshire College in Amherst, MA. No background in economics is needed for this intensive training. This year’s theme is, The Care Economy: Building a Just Economy with a Heart.
Contact: Center for Popular Economics, PO Box 785 Amherst, MA 01004; 413-545-0743; firstname.lastname@example.org; www.populareconomics.org.
VETERANS - Veterans for Peace is holding the 28th annual convention August 6-11 in Madison, WI. This year’s theme is, Power To The Peaceful.
DEMOCRACY - The Democracy Convention will take place August 7-11 in Madison, WI. The convention brings together nine conferences including topics such as media, education, defense, race, environment and others.
MEN - The 38th National Conference on Men & Masculinity: Forging Justice: Creating Safe, Equal and Accountable Communities, presented in partnership with HAVEN, will be held in Detroit, MI, August 8-10.
Contact: email@example.com; http://www.nomas.org/.
OCCUPY - An Occupy National Gathering will be held in Kalamazoo, MI, August 21-25.
Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org; http://occupynationalgathering.net/.
COMMUNITIES - The Communities Conference is a networking and learning opportunity for co-operative or communal lifestyles, with workshops, events and entertainment; scheduled for August 30-September 2 at the Twin Oaks Community in Louisa, Virginia.
LABOR DAY - The 29th annual Bread and Roses Festival, a celebration of the ethnic diversity and labor history of Lawrence, MA, will be held September 2, in honor of the 1912 Bread and Roses Strike. There will be music, dance, poetry, drama, ethnic food, historical demonstrations, walking & trolley tours.
Contact: PO Box 1137, Lawrence, MA 01842; 978-794-1655; http://www.breadandrosesheritage.org/.
OCCUPY WALL STREET - September 17 is the two-year anniversary of the Occupy Wall Street movement. Events are planned in New York City and worldwide.
TEACHERS - The 13th Annual Conference, “Teaching for Social Justice: The Politics of Pedagogy,” will be held October 12 in San Francisco, CA. The free event features workshops, resources, and free childcare.
Contact: 415-676-7844; email@example.com; http://www.t4sj.org/.
HAITI - International Action, which brings clean water and chlorinators to Haiti, seeks office space capable of housing up to six people and their office equipment.
Contact: Zach Bremer, Zbrehmer@haitiwater.org; 202-488-0735; http://www.haitiwater.org/.
MEDIA - The Union for Democratic Communications and Project Censored are sponsoring a joint conference on media democracy, media activism and social justice to be held November 1-3 at the University of San Francisco. Proposals for presentations, workshops and panels from activists and critical scholars are invited.