Category Archives: Activism

Saving the Planet One Child at a Time: Children, School Strikes and Global Climate Action

Children’s crusades do not necessarily end well.  During the years of armed missions to the Holy Land, when Jerusalem meant something to the sacredly inclined in Europe, children were encouraged to take to the rough and dangerous road as it wound its way towards Palestine.  In 1212, a boy of 12 is said to have begun preaching at Saint-Denis in France.  God had supposedly taken some time to communicate a pressing wish: Christian children were to head to the Holy Land and liberate it from the Infidel.  How they would do so was not clear.

They subsequently starved, suffered deprivation, were killed and enslaved on route to their destination.  The modern student movement against climate change stresses another Jerusalem, that there will be nothing to salvage if nothing is done now.  We are all, in short, for the chop if climate change is not arrested.  As an Oakland high-schooler by the name of Bruke told Wired, “My GPA isn’t going to matter if I’m dead.”  And much else besides.

To such movements can also be added other acts of striking in peaceful protest. Tens of thousands of US students did so in 2018 swathed in the grief and despair of gun shootings, the most immediate being the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooting.  The National School Walkout of March 14 and the March for Our Lives ten days later had a biting clarity of purpose: students and staff were entitled to feel secure in the teaching and learning environment.  The movement was characterised by much eloquence wreathed in anger and tears, not least of all Emma Gonzalez, who chided those political representatives “who sit in their gilded House and Senate seats funded by the NRA telling us nothing could have been ever done to prevent this”.

Criticism of such movements emphasises helplessness and delusion; they are children and so are vulnerable, idiotic and irrelevant.  They are to be taught and have nothing to teach the adult world.  Leave it to the big boys and girls to stuff up matters.  The critics, often estranged from the very political processes they have been complicit in corrupting, see embryos in need of a constructive voice, expressed constructively without inconvenience, not coherent agents keen to affect change.  There is, as Kari Marie Norgaard observed in 2012, a lag between the accumulating evidence of doom on the one hand, and the absence of public urgency, even interest, in response.  “Although not inherently unproblematic,” surmised Norgaard, “local efforts may provide a key for breaking through climate avoidance from the ground up.”

The global climate change strike movement by children, blown and swept along by the efforts of Swedish student Greta Thunberg, has suggested the possible short-circuiting of this dilemma: to combat the global by being stridently engaged in the local.  (Such statements can become feeble mantras but do operate to galvanise interest.)

For Thunberg, the issue of change is unavoidable.  In her COP24 Climate Change Conference speech in December, the plucky youth did not believe that begging world leaders “to care for our future” would make much of a difference.  “They have ignored us in the past and they will ignore us again.”  What mattered was letting “them know that change is coming whether they like it or not.”

Protests were registered on March 15 across 2,052 venues in 123 countries.  There were 50 in Australia; and protests in every state in the United States.  Often forgotten in these movements is the role played by children themselves in the organisational side of things, often clear, fathomable and inherently coherent.  In the United States were such figures as 12-year-old Haven Coleman of Denver, Colorado, Alexandria Villasenor of New York City, and 16-year-old Israr Hirsi of Minnesota.

Squirrel scholars suggest that these actions represented a “transformation” at play.  Associate lecturer Blanche Verlie claimed that her research revealed how “young people’s sense of self, identity, and existence is being fundamentally altered by climate change.”  It can be tempting to read too much into matters, to see flowers grow in fields initially thought barren.  But there is little doubting climate change as a catalyst of active and noisy encouragement amongst youth, one akin to the anti-war movements of the Vietnam War period.

There has been much finger wagging against the children from, for instance, politicians who just cannot understand how a striking student could ever get employment.  How dare they take time off learning in a classroom while taking to the classroom of the streets?  The spokesman for UK Prime Minister Theresa May, for instance, argued that such protests increased “teachers’ workloads” and wasted lesson time.  Labour’s Jeremy Corbyn, in contrast, signalled his preference for the marchers and strikers: “Climate change is the greatest threat that we all face but it is the school kids of today whose futures are most on the line.”

In Australia, New South Wales Education Minister Rob Stokes preferred to brandish the rod of punitive action: both students and teachers would be punished for participating in the March 15 rally.  By all means, find your “voice”, suggested the threatening minister, but avoid doing so during school hours.  For such scolding types, climate change and injustice have strict timetables and schedules, to be dealt with in good, extra-curricular time.

Australian Resources Minister Matt Canavan’s views on the youth climate action movement are childishly simple and representative, suggesting that Thunberg is correct in her harsh assessment.  Recorded in November last year, the minister sees education as an instrumental affair.  “The best thing you’ll learn about going to a protest is how to join the dole queue.  Because that’s what your future life will look like […] not actually taking charge of your life and getting a real job.”  Forget the environment’s durability; drill it, excavate it, mine it, drain it and burn it to a cinder.  Australia, and the world, do not need environmentally conscious citizens, merely automata consuming and feeding the commodity markets.  For the likes of Canavan, it is too late.  For the children, the battle to change the beastly status quo is urgent, pressing and inevitable.

Venezuela: US Imperialism Is Based On Lies And Threats


We are completing what became more than a week-long peace delegation to Venezuela organized by the US Peace Council and the Committee for International Solidarity in Venezuela (COSI). The trip was complicated by American Airlines cancelling all flights in and out of the country, leaving us scrambling for ways to get there and get home. We also arrived in the midst of the attack on Venezuela’s electrical system, which caused further complications.

Our delegation met with community groups, political parties and members of the government, including a private meeting with President Maduro. One theme that became obvious during the visit is that the United States’ imperialism is fundamentally weak. It relies on lies and bullying threats to get its way. So far, Venezuelans are resisting everything the US and its allies are throwing at it, but they remain vigilant and concerned about an escalation of attacks.

Rallying with the women oil workers outside the presidential palace on March 15, 2019 in Caracas.

Venezuela Unites in Response To US Attack on Electrical Grid

The attack on Venezuela’s electrical grid began on March 7 and continued for several days. The outage made life difficult for Venezuelans. Without electricity, water pumps could not bring water to people’s homes, refrigerators weren’t working and the subway couldn’t run.

People lined up to fill buckets with water. Lights were on, but not everywhere. When we talked to residents, we learned how they came to their neighbor’s aid, sharing food and water. Despite years of economic difficulties caused by US and allied countries’ sanctions, there were no reports of looting or unrest in Caracas. Venezuelans remained calm and steady while confronting the challenges of the blackout. School and work were cancelled until March 14, but some people were out anyway and a few shops were open.

Maduro explained that the attack on the electrical grid came from the United States. There is evidence it emanated from Houston, the home of the company that provided infrastructure for the grid, and Chicago. There were also attacks on power lines and substations inside Venezuela. When a section was repaired, it would be attacked again.

Maduro told us the plan had been for the attack on the electrical grid to cause chaos and confusion in order to provide an excuse for US intervention. The plan failed. Venezuelans realized this was part of the US-led coup campaign, and rather than becoming divided, they united.

Russia confirmed the Venezuela account and said it was supported by other evidence. The Grayzone reported on a 2010 memo about regime change in Venezuela, which included discussion of an attack on the electrical grid to cause a blackout and chaos. The US tried to sabotage the Iranian electrical grid and has used electricity attacks in previous coups, so this is part of the US coup playbook.

During our stay, CNN also reported that the drone assassination attempt against President Maduro last August was organized in Colombia and that the US was in close contact with the assassination plotters. It was also confirmed by the NY Times that it was the opposition who burned USAID trucks on February 23 at the border, the day of the humanitarian aid defeat. This corroborates the report by the Grayzone Project the day it occurred.

The democratically-elected government of President Maduro worked to end the electricity crisis, provide people with water and food and made sure buses were running. The self-appointed coup’s Juan Gaido worked with the United States, which caused the blackout and their hardships. Gauido is being investigated for his involvement in the electrical attack. He is allied with countries waging an economic war that is causing financial distress, and he is calling for foreign military intervention, a traitorous action.

The attack mobilized more people in the US and around the world to oppose the US coup calling for ‘Hands Off Venezuela,’ an end to the sanctions and an end to threats of war. Another mass march in support of Venezuela is scheduled in Washington, DC on March 30.

We attended an ongoing rally outside the presidential palace to defend it. On Saturday, there was a mass protest of tens of thousands of people celebrating the country coming together to confront the attack on their electrical grid. People were dancing, singing and chanting their support for President Maduro. While there were several opposition protests announced, when a member of our delegation went to cover them, they were not to be found.

Pro-Bolivarian Process rally on Saturday, March 16, 2019 in Caracas.

The US Embassy is Forced to Close

On Tuesday, the US Embassy in Venezuela was forced to close because it was being used as a center for organizing the ongoing US intervention. President Maduro told us how the US openly tried to bribe and threaten officials in his government and in the military and how they threatened his wife and family. The US told the opposition to boycott the last election and told candidates not to run against him. They knew they would lose an election to Maduro, so the plan had always been to falsely claim the election was illegitimate.

Maduro wants to have a dialogue with the US but the embassy had to close because not only was it undermining his government but it provided justification for the US to intervene on behalf of its diplomatic staff. Venezuela plans to have dialogue with the US through its UN representative.

When the embassy personnel left, we received word we were “on our own.” The State Department issued a statement describing civil unrest in Caracas saying that Americans could be arrested at any time for no reason. They warned people it was too dangerous to come to Venezuela. This was echoed by the Airline Pilots Association, who told their pilots not to fly to Venezuela because of the dangers.

The morning of these declarations, we went for a walk in Caracas to look for unrest. Families were out with their children, people were shopping and eating pizza, and ice cream. Caracas is as active and safe as any big city in the United States. Members of our delegation described in this video the calm in Caracas and how the US was falsely claiming civil unrest to manufacture an excuse for US intervention. The people of Venezuela are prepared for more struggle, building a self-sufficient resistance economy and they will fight to preserve their independence.

When we talked to Venezuelans, one thing they commonly told us was ‘thank you for coming to Venezuela, now you can tell people in the United States the truth about our country when your politicians and media lie about us.’ The Venezuelan people want a good relationship with the people of the United States. President Maduro told us of his love for the United States and how he had driven through Chinatown, Little Italy, and Harlem in New York, visited many cities in the US, was offered a contract to play for the Los Angeles Dodgers, and loves basketball and Jimi Hendrix.

Maduro has offered to meet with President Trump to discuss and resolve their differences. His Foreign Secretary met with John Bolton — a fruitless meeting, but an attempt by Venezuela for dialogue. Venezuela wants a positive relationship with the United States but it will not give up its sovereignty, independence, or pride, and is prepared to fight a US coup.

Hands Of Venezuela March in Washington, DC on March 16, 2019 (by Ted Majdosz)

Guaido Is the Butt of Jokes In Venezuela, Not Legitimate Under the Constitution

We were invited to be in the audience of the most widely-watched television show in Venezuela. It is a remarkable political education-entertainment show hosted by the president of the National Constituent Assembly, Diosdado Cabello. The show, Con el Mazo Dando (loosely translated as “Hitting with a Club”), is a weekly five-hour show that combines politics with music and comedy. During the show, he covered 80 different news stories including a chronology of the electrical attack.

Cabello uses biting satire. Guaido was the punch line of many jokes and his alliance with the hated Trump administration was highlighted. Gauido does not have the respect of the people of Venezuela. He is becoming of little use to the US coup and will possibly be discarded in the near future.

While Guaido has overtly committed multiple crimes, the Maduro administration seems to have made a conscious decision to not arrest him as his actions are weakening him and exposing the coup’s connection to US and western imperialism.

One thing that was highlighted to us in Venezuela was that the self-appointment of Guaido violates the Venezuelan Constitution. The language of the Venezuelan Constitution is plain regarding when the president of the National Assembly can become president and none of those conditions have been met. The coup relies on Article 233 of the Constitution, which allows the president of the National Assembly to become president only if the president-elect

become[s] permanently unavailable to serve by reason of any of the following events: death; resignation; removal from office by decision of the Supreme Tribunal of Justice [equivalent of impeachment]; permanent physical or mental disability certified by a medical board designated by the Supreme Tribunal of Justice with the approval of the National Assembly; abandonment of his position, duly declared by the National Assembly; and recall by popular vote.

None of these conditions exist. And, if they did exist, the vice president would take power until there is an election. Not only is Guaido a self-appointed president, but he is illegally self-appointed. In a press briefing, Elliot Abrams admitted that Guaido is not “able to exercise the powers of the office because Maduro still is there.”

The State Department has been pressuring the media to call Guaido the “interim president” and not to call him “self-appointed” or “opposition leader” despite the fact that he has no presidential powers and no legitimacy under Venezuelan law. Any media that succumbs to this pressure is participating in a dangerous farce that is part of a US-led coup.

This contrasts with the legitimacy of President Maduro. This week, international election observers wrote the European Union telling them they were “unanimous in concluding that the elections were conducted fairly, that the election conditions were not biased.” They described EU claims as “fabrications of the most disgraceful kind.” We described in detail the legitimacy of the elections and other essential facts activists need to know about this US coup.

Singing and dancing as people arrive for “Con El Mazo Dando” (by Margaret Flowers)

Solidarity With Venezuela Is Essential

The people of Venezuela have shown their solidarity in standing together against the US and oligarch coup attempt. It is essential for those who believe in peace, justice and anti-imperialism to do the same.

We agree with Vijay Prashad, solidarity is a process, not a slogan. We plan to build on the relationships we developed with the US Peace Council, World Peace Council and COSI among others. We will provide a list of items that COSI needs for their ongoing organizing in Venezuela, but so far they told us they need computers, printers and paper. They also need donations (a little goes a long way). They don’t have a website yet. If you can donate, contact us at gro.ecnatsiserralupopnull@ofni and we’ll find a way to get it to them.

The first steps in building solidarity include demanding the end to all interference: ending US imperialism and preventing military intervention and war. It also means an end to the economic war, sanctions, blocking of finances and the embargo. On a near daily basis, it requires us to correct the record and confront the lies on which US imperialism is based. We will continue to post stories on Venezuela regularly and we urge you to re-post them to social media, email networks, and websites.

We can defeat the regime change narrative by getting out the truth. Join the national webinar on Venezuela on March 26 at 7:00 pm Eastern. Register here. And join the national webinar on NATO and Latin America on March 28 at 8:00 pm Eastern. Register here. We will have more reports from our meetings in Venezuela posted on Popular Resistance.

Join the March 30 Mobilization Against the US Coup in Venezuela and the No to NATO protests in Washington, DC.

It is evident the US coup is weak. They have a weak leader in Guaido. They depend on lies because the truth undermines their every turn. They cannot participate in elections because they have very little democratic support. This contrasts with the strength of Maduro, who has the support of the people. The popular movement is positioned to stop the Venezuela coup and prevent a military attack. Our solidarity efforts in the US may prevent them from having to suffer more.

Paralysed by Fear and Selfishness

In just over a week’s time, on March 15th, primary and secondary school students around the world concerned about climate change and the refusal of most politicians and business leaders to take it seriously, will be holding a series of School Strikes and other activities centred around climate change and the environment.

A Swedish student, Greta Thunberg, is credited with initiating the movement, which aims to give students around the world a voice in their future, even if they are too young to vote.

The movement is run by students and for students, and while parents, grandparents and other adults are encouraged to actively support their children and other students, it is the children who speak at the proposed rallies and work out their activities, not the adults.

While this may have some obvious drawbacks, it also has many advantages, not the least of which is that young students get to learn about politics, personal assertiveness and responsibility, and why their world operates in the way that it does.

At the very least, perhaps a few of these students might become the voices of sanity for tomorrow.

As a sixty-four year old grandparent, for many years I have been ashamed and appalled at the blatant stupidity, self-interest and destructive greed that so many in my generation have demonstrated in their attitudes towards the economy and the environment.

Through luck and hard work I am fortunate to own a small house, but unlike so many others of my age, I don’t also possess a string of rental properties, a holiday house, a whopping great caravan, a shiny new car, a generous superannuation policy, a share portfolio, or a swollen bank account.

When analysed objectively, nearly all of these assets have been acquired at someone else’s expense, if only at the expense of future generations who find themselves locked out of the housing market with mounting debts and uncertain employment prospects.

But even these economic problems pale into insignificance when the destructive impact of my generation’s greedy lifestyle is starting to manifest through rapidly accelerating climate change.

If it continues unchecked, I believe that massive climate change will result in the collapse of society as we currently know it within another three generations – approximately seventy-five years or less.

The children and school students of today should, at the very least, be absolutely outraged that in their lifetime, our greed and lack of concern for their future is very likely to condemn them to a living nightmare of climate chaos, food and water shortages, widespread infrastructure collapse and possible warfare.

In many parts of the world today – outside our currently comfortable Western societies – starvation, violence and anarchy are already the norm.

And yet our ignorance and complacence is such that the overwhelming majority of people in privileged countries like mine think that it simply couldn’t happen here: that kind of thing is a problem for ‘them over there’.

How naive, how stupid, and how arrogant.

Having three grandchildren of my own, and seeing schoolstrike4climate.com at the very least as an opportunity to encourage them to think about climate change, politics and their future, I took it upon myself to publicise the rally by talking to friends and visiting local schools in my area.

The general response was remarkable, and deeply depressing.

Despite most schools routinely expressing their ‘support for the environment’, overall knowledge about the SchoolStrike was severely limited, and most principals of government schools back-pedalled rapidly when asked if they would publicise the event to their students or – even more radical – show support for the event as a school.

Fear of harming their career prospects, retirement benefits or government school funding was clearly paramount in their minds.

It was quite clear that they much preferred safe, ineffective ways of expressing their ‘concern’ for the environment by getting their students to plant vegetable gardens and paint murals of flowers and trees  – without discussing exactly why those vegetables and flowers and trees are under threat.

Imagine my disappointment then, when I was informed by my own family that they would not agree to my eldest granddaughter attending a school strike rally on the steps of our city’s Parliament House because they thought that the prospect of her missing four hours of schooling would be damaging for her education..

Much better, they said, for her to complete her education and work within the system to achieve action on climate change – thereby neatly regurgitating the destructive myths that our politicians are so keen to propagate.

How very sad to see the futures of our own children and grandchildren being squandered by those who should be supporting them.

How sad to see how deep the roots of fear and ignorance are within ourselves, stopping us from making the world a better place for the adults of the future.

How sad to see how corrupted and deluded we have become by the seductive evils of capitalism and the desperate urge to inflate our own egos.

And how depressing to realise that a person of my age is regarded as ‘radical’ by even members of my own family.

Go for it kids, and never, never give up.

The adults are too greedy and too gutless to do it for you – and you have absolutely nothing to lose except your future.

Paralysed by Fear and Selfishness

In just over a week’s time, on March 15th, primary and secondary school students around the world concerned about climate change and the refusal of most politicians and business leaders to take it seriously, will be holding a series of School Strikes and other activities centred around climate change and the environment.

A Swedish student, Greta Thunberg, is credited with initiating the movement, which aims to give students around the world a voice in their future, even if they are too young to vote.

The movement is run by students and for students, and while parents, grandparents and other adults are encouraged to actively support their children and other students, it is the children who speak at the proposed rallies and work out their activities, not the adults.

While this may have some obvious drawbacks, it also has many advantages, not the least of which is that young students get to learn about politics, personal assertiveness and responsibility, and why their world operates in the way that it does.

At the very least, perhaps a few of these students might become the voices of sanity for tomorrow.

As a sixty-four year old grandparent, for many years I have been ashamed and appalled at the blatant stupidity, self-interest and destructive greed that so many in my generation have demonstrated in their attitudes towards the economy and the environment.

Through luck and hard work I am fortunate to own a small house, but unlike so many others of my age, I don’t also possess a string of rental properties, a holiday house, a whopping great caravan, a shiny new car, a generous superannuation policy, a share portfolio, or a swollen bank account.

When analysed objectively, nearly all of these assets have been acquired at someone else’s expense, if only at the expense of future generations who find themselves locked out of the housing market with mounting debts and uncertain employment prospects.

But even these economic problems pale into insignificance when the destructive impact of my generation’s greedy lifestyle is starting to manifest through rapidly accelerating climate change.

If it continues unchecked, I believe that massive climate change will result in the collapse of society as we currently know it within another three generations – approximately seventy-five years or less.

The children and school students of today should, at the very least, be absolutely outraged that in their lifetime, our greed and lack of concern for their future is very likely to condemn them to a living nightmare of climate chaos, food and water shortages, widespread infrastructure collapse and possible warfare.

In many parts of the world today – outside our currently comfortable Western societies – starvation, violence and anarchy are already the norm.

And yet our ignorance and complacence is such that the overwhelming majority of people in privileged countries like mine think that it simply couldn’t happen here: that kind of thing is a problem for ‘them over there’.

How naive, how stupid, and how arrogant.

Having three grandchildren of my own, and seeing schoolstrike4climate.com at the very least as an opportunity to encourage them to think about climate change, politics and their future, I took it upon myself to publicise the rally by talking to friends and visiting local schools in my area.

The general response was remarkable, and deeply depressing.

Despite most schools routinely expressing their ‘support for the environment’, overall knowledge about the SchoolStrike was severely limited, and most principals of government schools back-pedalled rapidly when asked if they would publicise the event to their students or – even more radical – show support for the event as a school.

Fear of harming their career prospects, retirement benefits or government school funding was clearly paramount in their minds.

It was quite clear that they much preferred safe, ineffective ways of expressing their ‘concern’ for the environment by getting their students to plant vegetable gardens and paint murals of flowers and trees  – without discussing exactly why those vegetables and flowers and trees are under threat.

Imagine my disappointment then, when I was informed by my own family that they would not agree to my eldest granddaughter attending a school strike rally on the steps of our city’s Parliament House because they thought that the prospect of her missing four hours of schooling would be damaging for her education..

Much better, they said, for her to complete her education and work within the system to achieve action on climate change – thereby neatly regurgitating the destructive myths that our politicians are so keen to propagate.

How very sad to see the futures of our own children and grandchildren being squandered by those who should be supporting them.

How sad to see how deep the roots of fear and ignorance are within ourselves, stopping us from making the world a better place for the adults of the future.

How sad to see how corrupted and deluded we have become by the seductive evils of capitalism and the desperate urge to inflate our own egos.

And how depressing to realise that a person of my age is regarded as ‘radical’ by even members of my own family.

Go for it kids, and never, never give up.

The adults are too greedy and too gutless to do it for you – and you have absolutely nothing to lose except your future.

The Prisoner Says No to Big Brother

Whenever I visit Julian Assange, we meet in a room he knows too well. There is a bare table and pictures of Ecuador on the walls. There is a bookcase where the books never change. The curtains are always drawn and there is no natural light. The air is still and fetid.

This is Room 101.

Before I enter Room 101, I must surrender my passport and phone. My pockets and possessions are examined. The food I bring is inspected.

The man who guards Room 101 sits in what looks like an old-fashioned telephone box. He watches a screen, watching Julian. There are others unseen, agents of the state, watching and listening.

Cameras are everywhere in Room 101. To avoid them, Julian manoeuvres us both into a corner, side by side, flat up against the wall. This is how we catch up: whispering and writing to each other on a notepad, which he shields from the cameras. Sometimes we laugh.

I have my designated time slot. When that expires, the door in Room 101 bursts open and the guard says, “Time is up!” On New Year’s Eve, I was allowed an extra 30 minutes and the man in the phone box wished me a happy new year, but not Julian.

Of course, Room 101 is the room in George Orwell’s prophetic novel, 1984, where the thought police watched and tormented their prisoners, and worse, until people surrendered their humanity and principles and obeyed Big Brother.

Julian Assange will never obey Big Brother. His resilience and courage are astonishing, even though his physical health struggles to keep up.

Julian is a distinguished Australian, who has changed the way many people think about duplicitous governments. For this, he is a political refugee subjected to what the United Nations calls “arbitrary detention”.

The UN says he has the right of free passage to freedom, but this is denied. He has the right to medical treatment without fear of arrest, but this is denied. He has the right to compensation, but this is denied.

As founder and editor of WikiLeaks, his crime has been to make sense of dark times. WikiLeaks has an impeccable record of accuracy and authenticity which no newspaper, no TV channel, no radio station, no BBC, no New York Times, no Washington Post, no Guardian can equal. Indeed, it shames them.

That explains why he is being punished.

For example:

Last week, the International Court of Justice ruled that the British Government had no legal powers over the Chagos Islanders, who in the 1960s and 70s, were expelled in secret from their homeland on Diego Garcia in the Indian Ocean and sent into exile and poverty. Countless children died, many of them, from sadness. It was an epic crime few knew about.

For almost 50 years, the British have denied the islanders’ the right to return to their homeland, which they had given to the Americans for a major military base.

In 2009, the British Foreign Office concocted a “marine reserve” around the Chagos archipelago.

This touching concern for the environment was exposed as a fraud when WikiLeaks published a secret cable from the British Government reassuring the Americans that “the former inhabitants would find it difficult, if not impossible, to pursue their claim for resettlement on the islands if the entire Chagos Archipelago were a marine reserve.”

The truth of the conspiracy clearly influenced the momentous decision of the International Court of Justice.

WikiLeaks has also revealed how the United States spies on its allies; how the CIA can watch you through your iPhone; how Presidential candidate Hillary Clinton took vast sums of money from Wall Street for secret speeches that reassured the bankers that if she was elected, she would be their friend.

In 2016, WikiLeaks revealed a direct connection between Clinton and organised jihadism in the Middle East: terrorists, in other words. One email disclosed that when Clinton was US Secretary of State, she knew that Saudi Arabia and Qatar were funding Islamic State, yet she accepted huge donations for her foundation from both governments.

She then approved the world’s biggest ever arms sale to her Saudi benefactors: arms that are currently being used against the stricken people of Yemen.

That explains why he is being punished.

WikiLeaks has also published more than 800,000 secret files from Russia, including the Kremlin, telling us more about the machinations of power in that country than the specious hysterics of the Russiagate pantomime in Washington.

This is real journalism — journalism of a kind now considered exotic: the antithesis of Vichy journalism, which speaks for the enemy of the people and takes its sobriquet from the Vichy government that occupied France on behalf of the Nazis.

Vichy journalism is censorship by omission, such as the untold scandal of the collusion between Australian governments and the United States to deny Julian Assange his rights as an Australian citizen and to silence him.

In 2010, Prime Minister Julia Gillard went as far as ordering the Australian Federal Police to investigate and hopefully prosecute Assange and WikiLeaks — until she was informed by the AFP that no crime had been committed.

Last weekend, the Sydney Morning Herald published a lavish supplement promoting a celebration of “Me Too” at the Sydney Opera House on 10 March. Among the leading participants is the recently retired Minister of Foreign Affairs, Julie Bishop.

Bishop has been on show in the local media lately, lauded as a loss to politics: an “icon”, someone called her, to be admired.

The elevation to celebrity feminism of one so politically primitive as Bishop tells us how much so-called identity politics have subverted an essential, objective truth: that what matters, above all, is not your gender but the class you serve.

Before she entered politics, Julie Bishop was a lawyer who served the notorious asbestos miner James Hardie which fought claims by men and their families dying horribly with black lung disease.

Lawyer Peter Gordon recalls Bishop “rhetorically asking the court why workers should be entitled to jump court queues just because they were dying.”

Bishop says she “acted on instructions… professionally and ethically”.

Perhaps she was merely “acting on instructions” when she flew to London and Washington last year with her ministerial chief of staff, who had indicated that the Australian Foreign Minister would raise Julian’s case and hopefully begin the diplomatic process of bringing him home.

Julian’s father had written a moving letter to the then Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull, asking the government to intervene diplomatically to free his son. He told Turnbull that he was worried Julian might not leave the embassy alive.

Julie Bishop had every opportunity in the UK and the US to present a diplomatic solution that would bring Julian home. But this required the courage of one proud to represent a sovereign, independent state, not a vassal.

Instead, she made no attempt to contradict the British Foreign Secretary, Jeremy Hunt, when he said outrageously that Julian “faced serious charges”. What charges? There were no charges.

Australia’s Foreign Minister abandoned her duty to speak up for an Australian citizen, prosecuted with nothing, charged with nothing, guilty of nothing.

Will those feminists who fawn over this false icon at the Opera House next Sunday be reminded of her role in colluding with foreign forces to punish an Australian journalist, one whose work has revealed that rapacious militarism has smashed the lives of millions of ordinary women in many countries: in Iraq alone, the US-led invasion of that country, in which Australia participated, left 700,000 widows.

So what can be done? An Australian government that was prepared to act in response to a public campaign to rescue the refugee football player, Hakeem al-Araibi, from torture and persecution in Bahrain, is capable of bringing Julian Assange home.

Yet the refusal by the Department of Foreign Affairs in Canberra to honour the United Nations’ declaration that Julian is the victim of “arbitrary detention” and has a fundamental right to his freedom, is a shameful breach of the spirit of international law. Why has the Australian government made no serious attempt to free Assange? Why did Julie Bishop bow to the wishes of two foreign powers? Why is this democracy traduced by its servile relationships, and integrated with lawless foreign power?

The persecution of Julian Assange is the conquest of us all: of our independence, our self respect, our intellect, our compassion, our politics, our culture.

So stop scrolling. Organise. Occupy. Insist. Persist. Make a noise. Take direct action. Be brave and stay brave. Defy the thought police.

War is not peace, freedom is not slavery, ignorance is not strength. If Julian can stand up to Big Brother, so can you: so can all of us.

The Climate Fiasco is Solved through Socialism

Oh, Oregon is holding hearings on HB 2020, a baby step around putting feet to fire of those so-called polluters. I will list it below. I have been asked to attend a skyped hearing, one that tells me to go for no more than 3 minutes.

This is Kabuki Theater. The bill is about green as the new black. It’s always about Democrats and 350.org looking to capitalism to solve a problem — an entire set of problems — created by capitalism.

Instead of socialism — working for the environment, for the people, for communities and for a healthy truth-telling of how bad the climate disruption and changes are and will be — we have the Green New Deal/Plan that leaves out the 52 percent of the USA’s national budget — war, military, and all the tens of thousands of companies and corporations that make money off of prisons, surveillance, armaments, bombs, DARPA-inspired killing.

Forget the fact that the US military is the largest polluter in the USA, in the world. We are using valuable resources, funding, minds to perpetuate a dying project of star wars, Mother of All Bombs, perpetual war. So, what do I say, then, or do, when friends want me to go to a hearing and speak talking points? I have a letter below I tweaked to tell the truth to my two reps — David Gomberg, Democrat, District 10; and Arnie Roblan, Democrat, 5th District.

It’s milquetoast, still. Decorum and being respectful override being truthful and impassioned.

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Dear Representatives:

I’m writing to urge you to make the Clean Energy Jobs bill a priority in the upcoming year. And that’s just a start. I’ve been an educator and journalist for more than 40 years, 80 combined years. I am 62, and have worked in public schools, community colleges, four-year land grant colleges, private universities and myriad of alternative and non-traditional learning places.

I have spent my time learning about the built environment many ways (master’s in urban planning) and sustainability tied to community participation (master’s in Communications/ English).

The bottom line is we need to do more than what HB 2020 asks for. This is only the tip of the iceberg, to use a prophetic way of telling you that we need more than a Marshall Plan to mitigate the negative effects of global warming. The scientists I communicate with and study are way ahead of any panel impaneled by the US government or corporations to look into global climate change.

We are in dire straits, tied to crop failures, record temperatures, desertification of ecosystems, lowering of oxygen in our atmosphere, species collapse, and a shift in the water cycle, to name just a few. We need to move quickly to an eco-socialist mindset.

If you can’t see HB 2020 as a small first step, yes, necessary, then your own myopia certainly would speak to an uninitiated mind. Hold all major polluters accountable with a price on greenhouse gases. Don’t allow for exemptions for any polluting industries.

Everyone under the cap! Make sure we’re reinvesting in Oregon to make our people resilient, to have food security, to plan sensibly, and to make sure our citizens are prepared for some tough times ahead. This is not a time to believe green is the new black (economically speaking).

The idea of green-washing vital human-ecosystems-cultural safety nets for the price of predatory capitalism as we have it in Oregon and in the USA, is worse than doing nothing at all. We need steady-state economic thinking, and to act and work locally and connect globally.

From better transit in cities to modern irrigation on farms, from renewable energy for homes to managing wildfire risk, the Clean Energy Jobs bill will benefit all communities in Oregon. I ask you to champion bold climate action with Clean Energy Jobs.

I’ll stay in touch about the progress of the bill. I ask you to get informed as quickly as possible to understand the full impacts of global climate catastrophe, over-harvesting of resources, and the impacts of business as usual in a no holds barred attitude that puts economy over equity and environment. Environment and equity far outpaces any economic boondoggles and schemes the industrialists and capitalists have devised for their immediate profit theft.

Sincerely, Paul Haeder

Crazy, I sent in such a mellow letter. I didn’t want to upset the political apple cart, by telling these representatives what they should be doing to grow Oregon: stop infinite growth, or any growth, and do steady state economics and the economics of the poor, as in the proposals of the barefoot economist, Manfred Max-Neef. Our entire system is flawed with town-halls and Skyped hearings. We need ecosocialism now, and a billion trees planted now. A plant-based diet NOW. All transportation predicated on true 200-mile diets and consumption patterns NOW. Durable goods manufactured locally NOW.

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My fellow writer, John Steppling, has a good piece out today over at Dissident Voice. Please read it. “Scurrying Fascist Cockroaches”.

Already, I am having arguments about Bernie. Those who support him will not allow for any criticism. Then, I have to defend Sanders when dyed in the wool culture wars Democrats ply one of their top ten (will it be 23 total vying for the nomination in one form or another?) as the real choice/champ/darling-to-beat-Pence/Trump and attack Bernie for being unrealistic, a spoiler, a socialist!

Bernie or the rest of the shills are not for socialism. Period. They are for war, no taxes, endless confusion and chaos, which are the by-products of vulture-predatory-zombie Capitalism.

Now, Ocasio Cortez is floating something she calls the Green New Deal (which, in another form, was already promoted by Green Party candidate Jill Stein) and which is a nakedly pro capitalist bit of three card Monte that will provide a boost to the nuclear power industry and line various corporate pockets. It’s capitalism.

Omar and Ocasio Cortez also signed the odious Code Pink letter condemning US involvement in coups while at the same time slandering and fabricating stories about Maduro. The logic of the letter was that US proxy forces and covert activities had a counter productive effect and only helped to shore up the credibility of the Maduro government.

In other words, fascism is OK, is just fine, only please do it in ways that will not bruise my delicate sensitivities.

— John Steppling

Only socialism can tackle what is happening in the world now, not just tied to climate change, but also tied to the global economic inequities and the murder and plunder and sexism, ageism, racism, ableism which Capitalism not only creates, but breeds incessantly.

Think hard who cares about animals, the aged, the young, the land, air, water, soil, the whales, the bees, ending prisons, developing safety nets for we the people.

Think hard who cares about First Nations and Civil Society and peasant movements and self-determination for people of the land. It’s not going to be the elephant at the end of the feast; i.e., Republicans.

The right-wing does not care about any of these groups or concerns. Right wingers do not care about us, the 80 percent, or the Romney 41 Percent, or the 99 Percent when looking at billionaires running for the Democratic presidential nomination — Bloomberg and Starbucks Howdy Doody Schultz.

The right-wingers do not care about teachers, about public institutions, about science (real science, not bought and sold science for the industries of Capitalism, the polluters, financiers, lords of war, and the infinite consumption/retailers’ products of obsolescence, planned lack of durability, etc.)

And, well, the democrats, too, from Clinton to Pelosi, and all the usual suspects this election cycle — all war mongers, genuflecting to Israel and $$$ — they think of us as super predators, super naive, super Utopian.

Steppling:

To fix or at least manage, to some degree, the worst environmental problems will actually require drastic socialist programs. Not fascism as Noam Chomsky** suggests…or as Bernie Sanders or AOC or any of the rest of these capitalist sock puppets … but socialist.

And nothing, NOTHING of any good is ever going come out of the Democratic Party. And nothing of any significance can happen via the US electoral theater. The amount of energy wasted in endless debate about the virtues or ‘electability’ (sic) of Elizabeth Warren vs Bernie Sanders or Kamala Harris vs Tulsi Gabbard etc is breathtaking. Imagine that time spent on something useful.

Like, oh, how to prevent more war and carnage. And how to create a sustainable form of human development.

Socialism, in its most radical form, is about substantive equality, community solidarity, and ecological sustainability; it is aimed at the unification—not simply division—of labor. —  “The Indispensable Radical Left”

Here, a great quote from Steppling citing John Bellemy Foster, Monthly Review, February 2019

Once sustainable human development, rooted not in exchange values, but in use values and genuine human needs, comes to define historical advance, the future, which now seems closed, will open up in a myriad ways, allowing for entirely new, more qualitative, and collective forms of development. This can be seen in the kinds of needed practical measures that could be taken up, but which are completely excluded under the present mode of production. It is not physical impossibility, or lack of economic surplus, most of which is currently squandered, that stands in the way of the democratic control of investment, or the satisfaction of basic needs—clean air and water, food, clothing, housing, education, health care, transportation, and useful work—for all. It is not the shortage of technological know-how or of material means that prevents the necessary ecological conversion to more sustainable forms of energy.103 It is not some inherent division of humanity that obstructs the construction of a New International of workers and peoples directed against capitalism, imperialism, and war. All of this is within our reach, but requires pursuing a logic that runs counter to that of capitalism. —

And again, proof about just how broken the logic of our lefty intellectual, N. Chomsky. Note**

Suppose it was discovered tomorrow that the greenhouse effects has been way underestimated, and that the catastrophic effects are actually going to set in 10 years from now, and not 100 years from now or something. Well, given the state of the popular movements we have today, we’d probably have a fascist takeover-with everybody agreeing to it, because that would be the only method for survival that anyone could think of. I’d even agree to it, because there’s just no other alternatives right now.

— Noam Chomsky, Understanding Power, 2002

The counterpoint to any of these baby steps, to speak power to money at these capitalism-will-forever-rule-and-dictate-our-futures believers on all sides of the duopoly aisle, is real rebellion. Rebelling in a time of student loans that murder future, militarized police, informants, pigs ruling all media, and cult of celebrity sounds daunting, but do we have any other choice? Extinction Rebellion!

From Rolling Stone:

Drawing inspiration from the civil rights movement, Occupy Wall Street, and HIV/AIDS protest group ACT UP, Extinction Rebellion makes clear demands, among them that the government must “tell the truth about the climate” and “enact legally binding policy measures to reduce carbon emissions to net zero by 2025.”

But it also aims to acknowledge and draw on the intense emotions that come with the environmental calamity that’s upon us. “Even while resolving to limit the damage, we can mourn,” is how Gail Bradbrook, one the organization’s founders in England, puts it.

“Our intention is to provoke an uprising on a scale that’s never been seen before in the U.S., a national coordinated economic and government disruption that will be maintained until the government is forced to negotiate with us.”

Utilizing strictly nonviolent tactics and operating within a largely decentralized structure, the Extinction Rebellion has three ambitious demands: to push governments to communicate the truth of the ecological crisis to the public, to reduce carbon emissions to net zero by 2025 and to allow the formation of a democratic “citizens assembly” to oversee the massive changes this would necessitate.

The New York City chapter of XR also includes a demand for climate justice, or “a just transition that prioritizes the most vulnerable people and indigenous sovereignty.”

Or, do we really confront all systems and break away from all structures of power, including government, government controlled by the elites, government in the hands of despotic thinkers, corporations riding roughshod over all our lives? Cory Morningstar:

How would you describe the general impact of liberal foundations on the evolution of research within universities and on intellectuals more generally?

Cory: It is my belief that the impact has been debilitating beyond measure. Worse, it is not only underestimated by society, but I would go so far as to say that the co-optation of growth and intellect is not even recognized by society. We like to believe that Euro-Americans are the brilliant ones (after all, we’ve been battling Nature for eons and winning): yet collectively we (the supposedly educated) are destroying our own habitat at an ever-accelerating speed.

Those chosen for positions of power, which accelerate our demise via the industrialized capitalist system, are cherry-picked from the Ivy League. Corporate control (via direct funding and foundation funding) has resulted in a cohesive silence on almost everything that flies in the face of common sense. Creativity has been grossly stifled.

Critical thinking has been framed as confrontational while submission and obedience are deemed admirable. I covered this topic more extensively in part 3 of my investigative report on methane hydrates (The Real Weapons of Mass Destruction: Methane, Propaganda & the Architects of Genocide) under the subsection Universities as Bedfellows| Moral Nihilism.

[Excerpt: “Corporate funding effectively silences dissent and buys legitimacy where none is deserved. The corporate influence and domination, like a virus, crushes imagination, strangles creativity and kills individual thought. Education pursued for the collective good is dead. Transcendent values — dead. The nurturing of individual conscience — dead. Ethical and social equity issues are framed and accepted as passé. Political silence reigns. Moral independence within educational institutes is being effectively decimated. It is of little surprise that empathy has declined by 40% in college students since 2000.”]

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Flotsam Central Oregon

Simple communitarian spirit, tied to serendipitous moment listening to this artist a month ago talking about climate change, tide-pools and new earth emerging. His name is Bill Kucha, 74, originally from Cleveland. He was trained as a classic artist in Boston, BU, and he married at 18, had a child, and ended up on his walkabout single again. He ended up in Portland years later, new wife, Dorothy, two children, a grandchild, and more than 47 years later, Sitka roots and multi-variant artwork with creator, artist, struggling with the weight of climate like a storm over humanity, over all of nature and over his personal connection to mother earth.

He talks a lot about this new time of chaos, the opportunities for change, pushing the old — fossil fuel “economy,” dreaded Capitalism — into the dustbin of history with the energy of new minds, new ideas, new sense of identity. Where ego desiccates and a new giving gift society rises from the ashes of the Phoenix that once carried the tools of greed and war for the elite. Here, a piece I wrote about his talk along with a conservation biologist’s posted on several places on the Internet — Tidepools.

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[Paul K. Haeder, photographer]

I was invited by Bill and his wife Dorothy to their home overlooking the Pacific, South of Depoe Bay, near Newport. Their home in 1972 was once a broken-down old drafty ramshackle of a beach house, and then 47 years of TLC and a dramatic setting down of roots — spiritual, creative, and holistic. Bill has worked the land, the side of the hill sloping toward the Pacific, moving rocks and pilings and earth to make an amazingly healing place, terraced, gardens, swales for graywater and rainwater for consumption. The transformation of a man who has gained friends galore but who has worked in solitary brushing on paints and chipping into basalt and welding metal to stone, Bill has been intersecting with youth and old, playing his guitar and composing songs. He helped found 350.org Central Oregon Coast.

The talk we had Sunday February 17 was anchored in transference, a new or very old expansion of the universe talk about evolutionary principles tied to the noosphere, the creative connectivity of humanity in this time of crisis. I’ll be writing about Bill and Paul’s Lightness of Being Adventure, but yesterday, Dorothy opened up, first a teacher in Portland and then a social worker. Her parents fleeing Austria under the saber of Hitler. Her father has been featured in Portland historical news for his own migration to this new land.

Gentile and Jew, Bill and Dorothy live in balance, as the artist Bill is tied to his mistress: the land he has sculpted nail by nail, stone by stone, shadow by shadow. Their own relationship and lives in Mexico, the lightness of being now calm in a state of upheaval, great lessons passed forward to their family and friends. He is unsettled by the crisis in climate and politics and humanity.

We talked about story, about narratives, and then, bam, we headed in our separate vehicles to Newport to be with Kim Stafford, Oregon Poet Laureate, who talked with around 50 people crammed into the Newport library. Kim talked about story, too, and my interpretation of that two hours will be written about in another blog here soon. For now, read about his father and me here, at Cirque Journal: A Poet, the Pacific Flyway, and a Sonora Flash Flood here! Kim was kind enough to pair up some of his poems with my non-fiction piece a few years ago in the Cirque issue, which if you open up and read my piece from the hyperlink above, you’ll see it is largely about my own poetic rites of passage tied to his father, William Stafford, and my own life moving from point to point in my as of yet revealed journey back to some imagined place in my literary soul. Three poems, Kim Stafford, Cirque Journal. This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is imgp1325.jpg

[Paul K. Haeder, photographer]

Much of what Kim said in his Newport, Oregon, talk I have been practicing all my life — writing, thinking, inventing my perceptions of life, and the daily practice of writing, photographing, teaching, giving, struggling. I look to words as lamentation and personal narrative. The poem below is my spiritual word journey, after Bill and Dorothy shared their lives and home, and ruminating from that point where I listened to and talked with Kim among all these Central Oregon Coast writers and writer-wanna-be’s. I sent the poem to Bill and Dorothy. I also sent it to Kim, now on a busy schedule as Oregon’s poet of record, a two-year stint where he has to meet with people throughout Oregon; Kim still has his gig as professor at Lewis and Clark University.

I am now intersecting with much of my own scattershot history, unfolding narratives, collapsing beliefs, a new revised personal relationship, and I am about to be married, yet we’re looking for some solace in Mexico, maybe, but now, living and breathing in Otis, Oregon, near Cascade Head, the shape of life molded into the refracted light dancing in my cones and rods. I am teaching now, and working on a couple of book manuscripts. I am beach combing and photographing and just pushing out some terrible times as a social services professional in the Portland arena for more than a decade. Read at your own peril below!

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[Paul K. Haeder, photographer]

Insanity of Social Work as Human Control

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[Paul K. Haeder, photographer]

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[Bill Kucha art]

Rodea Point, Broken Circle, A Nautilus Shaped from Basalt and Pig Iron

By Paul Haeder

words like slow trowel
wet alabaster, cupped hands
incantations of synesthesia
as loud as basalt
prodded by lichen
he comes to me with law of time
universal expansion, he feels
cosmogenesis transmuted
drawn into climate crisis
his sensuality cuts, chips, digs
stone, earth to loam, stone to bricks
patterns shaped into lamentations

the weight of geological time
expands, he expresses yin yang
Chinese character “crisis”
a point where things happen
or change
artist from Cleveland flays
canvas with acrylics
the ebb like spiritual
floe, trapped in vortex
this synchronicity, the calcifying
old world new world noosphere
emancipation for him

transmogrifying nature, he paints
biological fractals, polygons of betrayal
conjures up seeds as ghosts-
dances, perennials perma
culture as long as soil
finds impregnation, Gaia
increasing complexities
he culls crisis in triptych
weight of Egyptian prophecies
curses, earth flagellated for a new
creative evolution
he covets hope

he watches river burst
flammable memories, Cuyahoga
dreams, Cleveland boy
“jawbone” for Seneca
“crooked river” for Mohawk
white man’s trash heap
emblematic of a million
trails of tears, eviscerated river,
time
space entropy land of holy
benedictions as interlopers
condemn new rivers to oil slicks
dams slough off unholy
metals, fossil hunters’ distillates

now slower in his gait
overlook of Pacific more
than germination, gestation
new age ancient he holds
paint brush hammer trowel
welding stick
old hands pushing yanking flogging
weight of 4 billion years
earth lifts to 74-year-old touch,
he flavors temporary home
in poppy lilac cruciferae
abundance
bounty shared by wife
friends
air soil water soul

she comes from Diaspora
Austrian Aryans finding
Hebrew enemies
her parents fled in 1939
warnings of Crystal Night
broken glass Kristallnach
weight of futures
death camps

she parts words between teacher
social worker, life flowing from
Mexico, weight to his fanciful
ruminations Jew with Gentile
family prayer Shema Yisrael
inscribed on grave of a Jewish
infant in Halbturn 3rd century
Roman slavers tossed Jews
into all corners of empire
Austria, land remembered
now she finds father
recriminating her to
not marry artist
you’ll be working for his art
not a dime he’ll make

migration from Cleveland-Portland
New York-Depoe Bay
islands in the stream
couple’s migratory passage
monogamous galvanizing
I his poet one step away
into pure light of chaos
she asks me if pain
of bearing witness
of finding center in political
turmoil takes joy from
living . . . the smile on my face

a million light years back
my future written when
I was nine, earlier
vision quest long walkabout
dreamtime more than
weight of ions breathed in
the soiling people
are minor actors
this artist comes to me
fielding a new love
old passions

he calls me brother
we part for another beach town
as we hold another poet’s words
speak to all his relations
we share the amen
as laureate reshuffles our
game, moments trapped
between cerebral connectivity
and laws of co-evolution
harmonic convergences
sharing food, opening spaces
we stay as one
momentarily, Pacific high tide
receding for another passing:

“I want to thank all my relations
for this chance to be on Earth
in her time of flourishing; to thank
the First People of this place,
to honor their sovereignty in long
and continuing relation, still teaching us
how we might be here together; to thank
my mother and father, moon and sun,
for setting me forth before their own
passing on; to thank my grandmother
who listened to me so eloquently I learned
to listen to my own heart and mind, to find
stories and songs there; to thank my family
and friends, and all citizens and travelers
who study and work for deeper kinship
in this place, with one another, and with
all creatures, one Earth, visible, palpable,
fragile, intricate, resonant, in need of our
better stories. I want to thank you
who have gathered to receive what I have
carried here—in hope that something
I have may meet something you need,
so all our relations may be strengthened
for this life we live together.

Amen.”

– Kim Stafford, “All My Relations

 

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Bill Kucha artwork

The Movement And The 2020 Elections

The political system in the United States is a plutocracy, one that works for the benefit of the wealthy, not the people. Although we face growing crises on multiple fronts – economic insecurity, a violent and racist state, environmental devastation, never-ending wars and more – neither of the Wall Street-funded political parties will take action to respond. Instead, they are helping the rich get richer.

The wealth divide has gotten so severe that three people have more wealth than the bottom 50% of people in the country. Without the support of the rich, it is nearly impossible to compete in elections. In 2016, more than $6.5 billion was spent on the federal elections, a record that will surely be broken in 2020. More than half that money came from less than 400 people, from fewer than 150 families.

People are aware of this corruption and are leaving the two Wall Street parties. According to the census, 21.4% of people do not register to vote, and in 2018, less than a majority of registered voters voted. According to Pew Research, independents (40% of voters) outnumber Democrats (30%) and Republicans (24%). The largest category of registered voters is non-voters. Yet, the media primarily covers those who run within the two parties, or billionaire independent candidates who do not represent the views of most people.

This raises a question for social movements: What can be done to advance our agenda over the next two years when attention will be devoted mostly to two parties and the presidential race?

Progressives Failed to Make the Democratic Party a Left-Progressive Party

People in the United States are trapped in an electoral system of two parties. Some progressives have tried — once again — to remake the Democratic Party into a people’s party.

We interviewed Nick Brana, a former top political organizer for the Sanders presidential campaign, on the Popular Resistance podcast, which will be aired Monday, about his analysis of the Democratic Party. Brana describes the efforts of progressives to push the party to the left over the past three years and how they were stopped at every turn. They tried to:

  • Change the Democratic Party Platform: The platform is nonbinding and meaningless but even so, the Party scrapped the platform passed by the delegates the following year and replaced it with a more conservative one called the “Better Deal.”
  • Replace the Democratic National Committee (DNC) Chair. They discovered the chair is picked by the DNC, which is made up of corporate lobbyists, consultants, and superdelegates, who picked Hillary Clinton’s candidate Tom Perez, over Rep. Keith Ellison, former co-chair of the Progressive Caucus.
  • Replace the DNC membership with grassroots activists. Instead, at the DNC’s  2017 fall meeting, the Party purged progressives from the DNC, making it more corporate and elitist.
  • Fix the Presidential primary process after it was disclosed that the DNC weighted the scale in favor of Hillary Clinton over Bernie Sanders. The Democrats rigged the Rules Commission to accomplish the opposite; i.e., kept closed primaries to shut out progressive independent voters, kept joint fundraising agreements between the DNC and presidential campaigns, slashed the number of states that hold caucuses, which favor progressive candidates, and refused to eliminate superdelegates, moving them to the second ballot at the convention but reserving the right to force a second ballot if they choose.

Further cementing their power, Democrats added a “loyalty oath” which allows the DNC chair to unilaterally deny candidates access to the ballot if he deems the candidate has been insufficiently “faithful” to the Party during their life. And the DNC did nothing to remove corporate and billionaire money from the primary or the Party, ensuring Wall Street can continue purchasing its politicians.

The results of the 2018 election show the Blue Wave was really a Corporate Wave. Brana describes how only two progressives out of 435 members of Congress unseated House Democrats in all of 2018: Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Ayanna Pressley. When Pelosi was challenged as leader of the House Democrats, she was challenged from a right-wing Blue Dog Democrat, not a progressive Democrat, with many “progressives” including AOC and Rep. Jayapal speaking up for Pelosi’s progressive credentials.

In contrast to the failure of progressives, the militarists had a banner 2018 election. The 11 former intelligence officials and veterans were the largest groups of victorious Democratic challengers in Republican districts. Throughout the 2018 election cycle, Democratic Party leaders worked against progressive candidates, for instance pushing them to oppose Medicare for all.

This is an old story that each generation learns for itself: the Democratic Party cannot be remade into a people’s party. It has been a big business party from its founding as a slaveholders party in the early 1800s, when slaves were the most valuable “property” in the country, to its Wall Street funding today. Lance Selfa, in “The Democrats: A Critical History,” shows how the Democratic Party has consistently betrayed the needs of ordinary people while pursuing an agenda favorable to Wall Street and US imperialism. He shows how political movements from the union and workers movements to the civil rights movement to the antiwar movement, among others, have been betrayed and undermined by the Democratic Party.

Social Movements Must Be Independent of the Corporate Parties

The lesson is mass movements need to build their own party. The movement should not be distracted by the media and bi-partisan politicos who urge us to vote against what is necessary for the people and planet. At this time of crisis, we cannot settle for false non-solutions.

Howie Hawkins, one of the founders of the Green Party and the first candidate to campaign on a Green New Deal, describes, in From The Bottom Up: The Case For An Independent Left Party, how Trumpism is weakening as its rhetoric of economic populism has turned into extreme reactionary Republicanism for the millionaires and billionaires. He explains that Democrats are not the answer either, as “they won’t replace austerity capitalism and militaristic imperialism to which the Democratic Party is committed.”

The result, writes Hawkins, is we must commit ourselves “to build an independent, membership-based working-class party.” Even the New Deal-type reforms of Bernie Sanders “do not end the oppression, alienation, and disempowerment of working people” and do not stop “capitalism’s competitive drive for mindless growth that is devouring the environment and roasting the planet.”

Hawkins urges an ecosocialist party that creates economic democracy; i.e., social ownership of the means of production for democratic planning and allocation of economic surpluses as well as confronting the climate crisis. He explains socialism is a “movement of the working class acting for itself, independently, for its own freedom.”

He urges membership-based parties building from the local level that are independent of the two corporate-funded parties.  Local branches would educate people on issues to support a mass movement for transformational change. Hawkins is a long-time anti-racism activist. He became politically active as a teenager when he saw the mistreatment of the Mississippi Freedom Democrats, who elected sharecropper Fannie Lou Hamer as their co-chair. He believes a left party must confront racial and ethnic tensions that have divided the working class throughout its history.

Hawkins points out the reasons why the time is ripe for this. Two-thirds of people are from the working class compared to one-third in 1900. The middle class (e.g. teachers, nurses, doctors, lawyers, technicians) holds progressive positions on policy issues creating super-majority support for critical issues on our agenda. The working and middle classes are better educated than ever. Over the last forty years, their living standards have declined, especially the younger cohort that is starting life in debt like no other generation. Finally, the environmental crisis is upon us and can no longer be ignored creating a decisive need for radical remaking of the economy.

Critical Issues To Educate And Mobilize Around

Popular Resistance identified a 16 point People’s Agenda for economic, racial and environmental justice as well as peace.  Three issues on which we should focus our organizing over the next few years include:

National Improved Medicare For All: The transformation of healthcare in the US from an insurance-based market system to a national public health system is an urgent need with over 100,000 deaths annually that would not occur if we had a system like the UK or France, two-thirds of bankruptcies (more than 500,000 per year) are due to medical illness even though most of those who were bankrupted had insurance, 29 million people do not have health insurance and 87 million people are underinsured.

While many Democrats are supporting expanded and improved Medicare for all, including presidential candidates, the movement needs to push them to truly mean it and not to support fake solutions that use our language; e.g., Medicare for some (public options, Medicare buy-ins and reducing the age of Medicare). Winning Medicare for all will not only improve the health of everyone, it will be a great economic equalizer for the poor, elderly and communities of color. This is an issue we can win if we continue to educate and organize around it.

Join our Health Over Profit for Everyone campaign.

Enacting a Green New Deal. The Green New deal has been advocated for since 2006, first by Global Greens, then by Green Party candidates at the state level and then by Jill Stein in her two presidential runs. The issue is now part of the political agenda thanks to Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. She and Senator Ed Markey led the introduction of a framework for a Green New Deal, which is supported by more than 50 Democrats including many presidential candidates.

Their resolution is a framework that the movement needs to educate and organize to make into real legislation to urgently confront the climate crisis, which has been mishandled by successive US presidents. The movement must unite for a real Green New Deal.

The Green New Deal has the potential to not only confront the climate crisis by shifting to a carbon-free/nuclear-free energy economy but to also shift to a new economy that is fairer and provides economic security. Remaking energy so it serves the people, including socializing energy systems; e.g., public utilities, could also provide living wage jobs and strengthen worker’s rights. It will require the remaking of housing, which could include social housing for millions of people, a shift from agribusiness to regenerative agriculture and remaking finance to include public banks to pay for a Green New Deal. The Democratic leadership is already seeking to kill the Green New Deal, so the movement has its work cut out for it.

Stopping Wars and Ending US Empire: US empire is in decline but is still causing great destruction and chaos around the world. US militarism is expensive. The empire economy does not serve people, causing destabilization, death and mass migration abroad as well as austerity measures at home. Over the next decade, the movement has an opportunity to define how we end empire in the least destructive way possible.

As US dominance wanes, the US is escalating conflicts with other great powers. The US needs to end 15 years of failed wars in the Middle East and 18 years in Afghanistan. In Latin America, US continues to be regime change against governments that seek to represent the interests of their people especially in Venezuela where the threat of militarism is escalating, but also in Nicaragua, Bolivia, and Cuba. The migrant issue being used by Trump to build a wall along the US-Mexican border is created by US policies in Central America. And, the US needs to stop the militarization of Africa and its neocolonial occupation by Africom.

Take action: Participate in the Feb. 23, 2019, international day of action against the US intervention in Venezuela and the “Hands-Off” national protest in Washington, DC on March 16, 2019.

There will also be actions around April 4, when NATO holds its 70th-anniversary meeting in Washington, DC, on the same day as the anniversary of Martin Luther King, Jr.’s death and his Beyond Vietnam speech.

Join the Spring Actions against NATO in Washington, DC.

While the US lives in a mirage democracy with manipulated elections, there is a lot of work we can do to build a mass movement that changes the direction of the country. This includes building independent political parties to represent that movement in elections.

Inspired and Inspiring, Young People will Change the World

We are living amongst the largest generation of young people in history; young people who are better educated, better informed and more widely connected than ever before. Around 42% of the world’s population is under 25 years of age, 25% are under 15 – that’s 1.8 billion. The largest group is in South-East Asia and Sub-Saharan Africa, where the median age is only 19, compared to 38 in America, and an ageing 45 in Germany, Italy and other parts of Europe.

This huge army of young people is cause for great optimism; they are more politically and socially engaged and certainly more environmentally aware than previous generations, are less conditioned by ideologies, and despite the widespread notion that anyone under 35 is self-obsessed and uncaring, in many cases they are the ones leading the global charge for change. They abhor dishonesty, don’t trust politicians and rightly believe that unity and tolerance of others are essential to right relationships and social harmony.

Many feel frustrated at the state of the world they have been born into, are angry with inept politicians and unaccountable international institutions, and enraged at the environmental vandalism that is taking place throughout the world. Anger and disillusionment has led to committed engagement among large numbers of young people throughout the world; they swell the ranks of the global protest movement forming the vanguard at demonstrations for action on climate change, demanding social justice and freedom, rational changes in US gun law and an end to austerity and economic injustice.

They formed the driving force behind what were arguably the two most significant social/political movements in recent years: the Arab Spring and the Occupy Movement, and whereas in the past young people have been less engaged than older generations in voting and party activism, this too is changing – in Britain, for example, the Labour party, with an overall membership of 504,000 – the largest in Europe, has over 100,000 members under 25, and they are extremely active.

As well as demonstrating, working on environmental campaigns and human rights issues the impulse to contribute to the local community is strong, and many act upon it: a survey made by the Royal Society of Arts in Britain found that a staggering “84 percent of young people want to help others,” and that “68 percent of young people have participated in volunteering or other forms of social action.” These statistics reflect the high level of social responsibility that exists in countries throughout the world amongst this generation. The study also revealed that whilst there is a strong desire to bring about large scale change, working locally to support someone in need – befriending, or helping an elderly person with their shopping, for example – is recognized to be of enormous value.

It is a generation brought up with social media and, according to The Millennial Impact Project, they use it alongside traditional forms of participation.  Millennial’s “interest in the greater good is driving their cause engagement today, and their activism (or whatever you want to call it) is increasing.”

Inspired and Inspiring

Appalled by the level of inaction and the scale of the crisis, large numbers of young people have committed themselves to the environmental cause. One of the most inspirational forms of climate change activism is the Schools Strike for the Climate initiated by 15-year-old Greta Thunberg. Following a record-breaking summer, in August 2018 Greta began a solo protest for climate change outside the Swedish parliament in Stockholm. Every Friday since, instead of going to school she sits outside her country’s parliament: she has vowed to “continue to do so until [world] leaders come into line with the Paris agreement [on climate change].”

Apathy is often disguised by arguments of individual inadequacy in the face of the scale of the problems confronting humanity. Well, a loud answer to such feeble excuses is Greta Thunberg’s one-girl protest; following her example hundreds of thousands of school children around the world have staged their own School Strike for the Climate. Although all teaching bodies should support the actions, some don’t, and whilst disappointing, their view is largely irrelevant; what matters is that teachers, along with politicians, big business and the general public pays attention to what these young people are saying: keep fossil fuels in the ground, invest in renewables, live environmentally conscientious lives; it is our future you are destroying, act now before it’s too late.

The man-made environmental crisis is the result of a certain way of life, an approach to living that places enormous value on material wealth, on image, pleasure and success. It is, we are told, a ‘dog eat dog’ world in which only the ‘strong’ survive. This fear inducing view has polluted life, fueling social division and widespread mental health conditions, particularly amongst under 25 year olds. In November 2017 the World Youth Parliament met in Beijing to discuss, ‘Interpersonal Relationships: Keys for a new Civilization’.

In their conference report they call for the creation of a kinder, friendlier society. They extol forgiveness, which they describe as the “most sublime and integral form of love” and make clear their view that the current “competitive culture (which places our goals against the goals of others) and the wrong use of technology” is detrimental to human well being. And they should know: as a result of the ‘competitive culture’ and the pressure to ‘achieve’ – in education, in a career and socially – unprecedented numbers of young people are suffering from anxiety and stress, panic attacks and depression, leading some to self-harm and suicide.

Despite being conditioned into competition by an outdated education system, which is designed to train compliant workers, not free-thinking creative individuals, young people instinctively recognize that cooperation, not competition is an integral part of human nature, and that working collectively for the common good is the best way of dealing with the many challenges facing humanity. It is, in fact, the only way we will overcome the various crises confronting us; unity is the way forward and young people know this.

The future belongs to the 3 billion or so under 25 year olds of the world, many of whom are inspired and inspiring. If we are to collectively overcome the challenges facing humanity we need to listen to what young people have to say, to draw on their energy and dynamism; they are in tune with the times, are overflowing with creativity and are a powerful voice for change.

A Positive Vision For What The Green New Deal Could Be

We interviewed Dahr Jamail about his new book, “The End of Ice,” for our podcast, Clearing the FOG, this week. It will be available Monday. Jamail describes the grim reality of human-caused climate distortion. The bottom line is: It is here. It is accelerating. We need to take swift action to attempt to mitigate it and adapt to it as best we can.

The Green New Deal was introduced this week by Congresswoman Ocasio-Cortez and Senator Markey. It is best described by Jason Grumet, head of a conservative Washington, DC think tank, as “a mirror that allows anyone to see their own interest.” It is a resolution that Members of Congress can support because it doesn’t challenge their corporate donors while it gives the illusion of addressing the climate crisis.

The Green New Deal has received mixed responses from the climate justice movement. Some see it as a positive because the idea was introduced in Congress, while others raise serious concerns that its contents leave too much wiggle room for things to stay the same. What becomes of the Green New Deal is up to us to determine.

This photograph taken on December 4, 2009 shows a glacier in the Everest region some 140 km (87 miles) northeast of Kathmandu. The Himalayan glaciers provide water for more than a billion people in Asia, but experts say they are melting at an alarming rate, threatening to bring drought to large swathes of the continent within decades. (Photo/Prakash Mathema/AFP/Getty Images)

The Climate Crisis is Here

Dahr Jamail stated that while the amount of climate devastation he described in his book is severe, new reports since his book show the climate crisis continues to worsen. In January, scientists reported that Thwaites Glacier in Antarctica has a giant hole under it, two-thirds the size of Manhattan, and is melting faster than they thought. It alone could raise sea level globally by two feet.

Another new study finds that ice in the Himalayan Mountains is melting faster than the global average and could practically disappear in this century. They write that if we continue with the same level of carbon emissions, global temperatures will rise by 4.2º to 6.5ºCelsius by the end of the century, far higher than the goal of keeping global warming below 1.5ºC and far more disastrous.

It’s not as if our lawmakers are unaware of the crisis. US intelligence analysts cited the climate crisis as a significant threat to global stability in their recent Worldwide Threat Assessment because of loss of resources like water and resultant migration. They also alerted Congress members that some US military bases are at risk because of rising seas and storms.

The most recent United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report, which is considered a conservative document, calls for immediate action to attempt to keep the increase in temperature below 1.5ºC to give the best chance of human adaptation. The current levels of fires, storms, drought and more are the result of a 1ºC temperature rise, and they will worsen exponentially as the temperature goes up. The IPCC states, “limiting global warming to 1.5°C would require ‘rapid and far-reaching’ transitions in land, energy, industry, buildings, transport, and cities.”

Climate activists visited 50 congressional offices December 10 demanding support for a Green New Deal. (Rachael Warriner)

The Door is Open for a Green New Deal

The Green New Deal, which could create such a transition, is an idea that has finally broken through into the mainstream public dialogue. Congresswoman Ocasio-Cortez has been working on it since she won her seat last November. She started with the idea of having a Green New Deal committee, but House Speaker Nancy Pelosi rejected that and created a Select Committee on the Climate Crisis headed by Congresswoman Kathy Castor instead. The committee has little power. It can neither subpoena witnesses to testify in hearings nor draft legislation.

In his analysis of the blue wave, which he calls a “corporate wave,” Nick Brana of Movement for a People’s Party describes the committee as “a public relations stunt for the fossil fuel industry.” He says, “It is worse than nothing to have a committee that pretends to be doing something while ensuring that nothing gets done to address climate change and other urgent environmental crises.”

This week, Congresswoman Ocasio-Cortez and Senator Ed Markey introduced “H. Res. 109 – Recognizing the duty of the Federal Government to create a Green New Deal.” It is a resolution, not a bill, that provides a framework for the Democrat’s Green New Deal. It is remarkably vague. It does not even contain keywords such as “oil,” “gas,” “coal,” “nuclear,” or “fossil fuels.”

Several groups have criticized the resolution. The Indigenous Environmental Network listed a number of concerns, from the use of terms that would permit market mechanisms for managing carbon, which would allow fossil fuel companies to keep extracting oil and gas, to not specifying what is meant by clean and renewable energy to failing to recognize the sovereignty of Indigenous Nations, and more. Food and Water Watch cited significant omissions in the resolution, writing that it needs to “halt the expansion of fossil fuels immediately, ensure that the transition to 100% renewable energy happens by 2035 at the latest, [and] exclude dirty energy sources like nuclear power…”

Whitney Webb explains that the Green New Deal leaves a lot for corporations to like and views it as an effort timed to benefit the Democrats in the 2020 elections, rather than a serious attempt to address the climate crisis. She compares it to the Green Party’s version of the Green New Deal, which calls for an immediate halt to investment in fossil fuels, 100% renewable energy by 2030, defined as wind, solar, tidal and geothermal, the creation of a Renewable Energy Administration tasked with supporting the development of cooperatively-owned energy and reducing the military by 50% to help finance the transition.

Community-owned solar panels (From the Institute for Local Self Reliance)

A Vision for a Green New Deal

Even if it is primarily an election season ploy for Democrats, to the millions of people who worry about the climate crisis and are pushing for solutions, the Green New Deal is an opportunity to define the transformations we need. That’s how Kali Akuno of Cooperation Jackson views it. He calls on “the Left to intervene” to make sure the Green New Deal doesn’t support the “market-based capitalist extractive system.” Akuno states that an ideal Green New Deal would prioritize reparations through financial compensation and decolonization.

Susan Scherarth and Sean Sweeney write that market mechanisms must be replaced with the concept of energy democracy, “public and social ownership of energy, to serve both social and ecological needs…” They view energy as a public good and a human right, not a commodity. Other writers argue that the Green New Deal must include a new agency that supports the development of energy cooperatives, much like the Green Party’s Renewable Energy Administration proposal. The Backbone Campaign takes that even farther with Solutionary Rail, a plan to create electric rail that moves people, freight and locally-produced renewable energy around the country. We interviewed Bill Moyer and Steve Chrismer about it on Clearing the FOG in 2016.

Current industrial farming techniques contribute significantly to greenhouse gas emissions. Elizabeth Henderson writes that sustainable agriculture must be part of the Green New Deal and outlines what that looks like. It includes support for agricultural cooperatives and family farms, unions for farm workers, regenerative farming and a just transition to end factory farms and the use of toxic chemicals.

Financing the Green New Deal is another opportunity to have an impact on transforming the economy. Ellen Brown describes how using a network of public banks to finance the transition to the new energy economy would not only avoid using tax dollars but would also generate a return to the government. We have long argued that instead of the profits from the transition going to Wall Street, they could be used to finance a universal basic income, which would reduce or eliminate poverty.

These are just some of the ideas that could be used to fill in the gaps of the Green New Deal and ensure it is both transformational in a way that ends wealth inequality and effectively addresses the climate crisis. Adam Simpson interviewed Johanna Bozuwa of the Democracy Collaborative, Anthony Torres of the Sierra Club and Evan Weber of the Sunrise Movement about their ideas for creating a new economy through the Green New Deal. We need to keep the public debate going on these issues to generate a common vision of what the Green New Deal could be.

From SeeWhatGrows.org.

What Next?

There are many ways that we can make a transformative Green New Deal a reality even with a Congress that is bought by the polluting industries who profit by destroying the planet and hope to profit from attempting to fix it. The Sunrise Movement, a youth-led movement focused on the Green New Deal, is organizing people to impact Congress with their current week of action. They led protests in Congress over the past few months.

To win, there will have to be a movement outside of Congress that builds a national consensus for what the Green New Deal must be. If you are a member of an activist or community group of any kind, you can generate discussion and action about it.

On top of that, we need to continue the current work to shut down new fossil fuel and nuclear infrastructure, create democratized renewable energy programs and push for policies at the local level that put in place the changes we need to transportation, housing, food and farming, and the economy. There is something for everyone to do in their community.

Through all of this, we need to prioritize the voices and wisdom of those who are the most impacted by our current dirty energy and unfair economy and respect the sovereignty of Indigenous Nations to control what happens on their land.

The Green New Deal as a concept has arrived. Where it goes from here is up to us.