The Keystone XL Pipeline — A project IG-Farben would be proud of

You’ve heard of the Keystone tar-sands pipeline by now. You may not have heard that the Reactionary Right in the U.S. Senate is attempting to revive it yet again, after their last gambit failed.

We must not let this happen.

The Keystone XL Pipeline is planetary arson and intergenerational crime on an unprecedented scale.(PDF)

The arguments in its favor are all specious. At best, they are ignorant. At worst, they are dishonest and immoral.

Let me just address one of these arguments: jobs. Proponents of the pipeline say it will create jobs for Americans. And surely it will. Construction jobs that will disappear once the pipeline has been built. The permanent jobs created by this project will be in Canada. More importantly, since the pipeline itself is immoral, all jobs associated it will be morally tainted. The Holocaust created jobs too, remember. There were good jobs for chemical engineers and plant managers at IG Farben, where Zyklon-B gas was manufactured for shipment to Auschwitz and other well-engineered murder factories and crematoria.

If you find this rhetoric over-the-top, I respectfully suggest that you read up on the climate-change impact of this one project and ponder its implications. And then consider the risks of permanent damage to the Ogallala aquifer.

Please sign this petition now, and then pick up the phone and call your Senators. It won’t take long, and stopping Keystone is at least as important as stopping SOPA, PIPA and ACTA.


Micro-Atrios Post to Say I’m Still Here and just you wait, because shit is fucked up & bullshit.

As I’ve mentioned earlier once or twice, one of my favorite bloggers is Atrios of Eschacton (you can google him up as easily as I can put in the links). He blogs about politics and economics, mostly, with some cultural analysis and commentary on urban planning and transportation from time to time. I like that many of his post are what I call dog-bark yelps; one of his typical blog titles (followed by a link to some distressing news about the state of our nation (USA) is “Shit is fucked up and bullshit.”

I have a lot I want to blog about. So much that I get in my own way and trip over myself and end up posting nothing for distressingly long hiati (hiatuses). I have bunch of things half0-written & queued up, but I think my next post will be about some of the remarkably subtle and insightful things my friend Geraldine Brooks said the other night in an informal talk about the American Civil War in general, and her novel March in particular. I’ve been reading and thinking a lot about the Civil War lately, and about how it was the result of 76 years of putting off until tomorrow dealing with the fact that slavery was incompatible with the ideals on which the country was founded.

In 2012, the whole world is, it seems to me, in a situation akin to that of the nation of the United States of America was in 1858 or so. There is a great reckoning to come. Where slavery was the great obvious problem to be resolved in the Civil War, the issues now before us are pan-human economic justice and survival of the planet Earth as a habitable place for all of us. The probability of a happy resolution of both of these issues will be apparent by how the SOPA/PIPA abomination fares in the U.S. Congress, and whether the XL pipeline is built. These will be crucial indicators –which is not to say determinants–of where we are and whither we are tending.  In the USA it became tragically apparent that the solution of the problem of slavery (and with it the preservation of the Union) could not be solved without war, war and death on a scale barely conceivable at the time and still hard to comprehend today, 150 years later. But something vastly worse awaits us if we keep putting off until tomorrow the problems that now confront us.

Shit is still so fucked up and bullshit. Damnit, Atrios, you are so right on the money.  Anyway, this is a place-holder diary entry to say happy 2012, and may we all be happy and prosper until the Mayan calendar ends and methane plumes erupt from beneath the arctic seas and the permafost melts to a depth of 20 metres and earth becomes Venus.  I’ll try to post more soon. I expect my tone will become increasingly abolitionist and strident as time passes, but let’s hope that it all works out.   Leave  a comment! Let’s get 2012 of to a nice, friendly, low energy start!




Virginia Foster Durr and the Salvation of Alabama

A review of Freedom Writer: Virginia Foster Durr, Letters from the Civil Rights Years , edited by Patricia Sullivan.

Virginia Durr (1903-1999), a stalwart of the civil rights movement who preferred to keep out of the spotlight for personal, pragmatic and political reasons, was a hero on the grand scale, as was her husband Clifford Durr (1899 – 1975).

Having both been born and raised in Montgomery, Alabama, into reasonably prominent families, the Durrs moved as newlyweds to Washington DC, where Clifford, a lawyer, worked in the FDR administration during the heady days of the New Deal. Virginia, in addition to giving birth to and raising five children, one of whom died in infancy, became active in progressive politics. The Durr family lived near the capital city for nearly twenty years, and then, for reasons that reflect well on both of them[1], they returned to Montgomery, where, at great personal cost, over the next twenty five years they became two of the most prominent white activists for the rights of African Americans. The more one learns about this remarkable couple, the more their courage and unshakable decency leave one awestruck.

Through all those years in Montgomery, as Virginia became sucked up in the vortex of the epochal changes in social relations in the South, she wrote letters. Some of her letters were to famous people she knew quite well (Eleanor Roosevelt, Lyndon Johnson, Hugo Black, Jessica Mitford); others were to people you’ve probably never heard of. Her letters were by turns hysterically funny, profound, amazingly politically astute, eloquent, angry, or philosophical, but they were always passionate and always written in as distinctive a literary voice as you’re likely to encounter anywhere. They are marvels of English expository writing.

Freedom Writer, published in 2003, includes about 100 of such letters, presented in chronological order, grouped into four sections corresponding to periods in the civil rights movement. Patricia Sullivan (whose book Lift Every Voice, a history of the NAACP I reviewed here) edited the book. She provides a 26 page biographical introduction and introductions (of four or five pages each) to each of the four sections, in which she explains the wider context of the time. Sullivan also provides the occasional footnote to identify people or events referred to in the letters, and dozens of short introductions to particular letters that help the reader understand the context that the letter’s recipient would have. There is a short epilogue.

Virginia Durr was a remarkable and historically important woman, and Freedom Writer is a magnificent book. I cannot recommend it highly enough. You should buy a copy and read it right now.
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Flag Day Meditation — the American flag and the anti-American (“Confederate Battle”) flag

Here in the USA, Flag Day, a little-observed holiday, has just drawn to a close.

I woke up yesterday & discovered it was Flag Day, which I took to be a little nudge from the universe to go on the record with some thoughts about not only our American flag, but also about the obscene so-called “Battle Flag of the Confederacy”, which I do below. I say Flag Day was a nudge from the universe because I had written a longish/rant essay on this topic two days ago in response to a note from a friend of mine with whom I had been having an email discussion about the horrible Confederacy and its shitable flag. His most recent note was so preposterous that I waited a few months before figuring out how to answer. A few nights ago I finally wrote a reply.  But didn’t send it, fearing it was too incendiary and I was too tired to have any judgment about it. In the morning, out of cowardice, I deleted it. Now I kinda wish I hadn’t. Oh well.

I’m not a flag fetishist. It doesn’t really bother me to see pictures of people with real or imagined beefs against the United States of America burning our flag. Which doesn’t mean that I’m a flag abuser myself; I’m not. I used to have a flag that I displayed on the 4th of July and Memorial Day. But it wore out, so I disposed of it (“properly”) and haven’t replaced it. In other words I’m not much of a flag-waver. I don’t get all weepy at the sight of “Old Glory”.

Nevertheless I acknowledge that the American flag has deep meaning even to non-fetishists like me. Among other things, the flag is the emblem and most serious symbol of respect for those who have given their lives in the service of all of us. A prettily folded flag presumably doesn’t mean a lot to those who are dead. But it certainly often means a lot to their survivors, who are certainly due our consideration. Wherefore I don’t like to see a tattered flag left out in the weather or tied to a car antenna; I don’t like to see a flag touch the ground. I always fold the flag the traditional tri-corner way I was taught in the Boy Scouts, and I handle it respectfully.

A few days ago I was at a party and the paper napkins there had the American flag printed on them, which took me aback. That image didn’t stop me from wiping my nose with one of the napkins, but I thought it was kind of tacky. I thought it was disrespectful, basically, and I wouldn’t purchase napkins like that for use at my house. What I’m saying is that I’m old-fashioned, despite being a pinko commie Massachusetts liberal.

Similarly I think it’s tacky to make American flags into t-shirts or bathing suits or laundry bags or Harley-Davidson paraphernalia. I think it’s tacky to superimpose images — for example, a picture of an American Bald Eagle –over the picture of a flag. I once met a guy, a proud Iranian-American auto mechanic, In Cambridge, Massachusetts, who had in his office an American flag onto which he had stitched a verse from the Koran in green thread. “No Muslim would ever deface that now,” he said proudly. To him, it was a sign of utmost respect to marry the Koran and the American flag. I appreciated his sentiment, but, not being Muslim and not being able to read the verse, I just thought it made the flag look cheesy. (It would be equally tacky to put a bible verse or any other kind of printed statement.) But these are matters of taste, not things I get myself all lathered up about. If somebody were to wipe his ass with the flag I would think it pathetic and boorish, but I don’t think I would experience any violent impulses.

Which brings us to the Confederate flag, or as I prefer to call it, the flag of the disloyal states, the anti-American flag, the Jim Crow flag, the flag of all the worst that is within us Americans.

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How the NAACP Saved America

Cover of the book "Lift Every Voice: The NAACP and the Making of the Civil Rights Movement"

Read this book

Patricia Sullivan’s history of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) is a book every American should read. My review below the fold.

I was born in 1952. I grew up on a small farm in New Jersey. My parents and three brothers and three sisters and I resided on the second floor of a small farmhouse; my paternal grandfather, an immigrant from Finland, and grandmother, an immigrant from Ireland, lived on the first floor.

One night in 1964 I was watching television with my grandfather, and as I recall — the details are a bit foggy — we stayed up until way past midnight, watching the debate and vote on the floor of the Senate about the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

My grandfather’s invitation, in his heavy Finnish accent, went something like this. “You stay up and watch this, Yonny. Now we gonna see if the United States is full of beans or not.” When the bill passed, he said something like, “Well, OK. I guess not full of beans.”

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Last day to get your comments to the FCC about Net Neutrality

OK, get off your duff & file your comment with the FCC. Here’s why and how.

My comment:

The Internet is a fundamental engine of our democracy. It’s the equivalent in our day of what “the press” was in the earliest days of our republic. Yielding control of the Internet to large corporations is a betrayal of the bedrock values upon which our nation was founded and still rests.

In the words of MIT professor Daniel Weitzner, in testimony given before the FCC at Harvard, “What’s at stake is everyone’s ability to communicate with everyone else.”

In effect, the FCC must decide whether the Internet is to be optimized as a vital tool for promoting and protecting citizen engagement with each other and with their government, or as a tool for maximizing shareholder value of large corporations. It’s a simple fact that you cannot optimize for both. If the FCC optimizes for democracy and “everyone’s ability to communicate with everyone else”, there will still be ample room for lots of people and lots of corporations to make money.

But if the FCC decides to void the principles of Net Neutrality in the interests of corporations, our democracy will be decisively and perhaps irremediably harmed.

The FCC must now act decisively in the public interest by enacting strong rules that keep the Internet free from blocking, censorship and discrimination.

Don’t give in to pressure from AT&T, Comcast, Verizon and their lobbyists. Stand with us in support of a strong Net Neutrality rule.

Do it now. It will take two minutes. It’s important. Do it. (Weitzner citation from this brilliant eye-witness report ).

Net Neutrality as “Public Option”? and “Fourth Amendment”?

According to Internet rumors and frantic emails that I get from places like Save The Internet, the Obama administration is about to pull a “FISA” option, in which a once staunchly supported progressive/democratic/public good position is abandoned in the name of “pragmatism” (or, as I prefer to call it, “corporatism & permanent-security-state-ism”). Wetmachine friend Matthew Saroff has more. Not sure if all hope is lost or time to storm the barricades or have a beer and be happy. Hoping for some guidance from Mr. Feld on this one.

Minor edits for clarity. See comments for more.

Net Neutrality Nearer? Maybe

Some promising noises out of the FCC and Congress lately–even from President Obama– about preserving Net Neutrality. However, the Telco & other retrograde forces out there have lots of money, lobbyists, and influence. Free Press’s “Save the Internet” campaign has some good things going on, including an astonishing $100,000 matching contribution fundraiser sponsored by an anonymous donor. Chip in what you can. And contact your congresspeople today.