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When the State Pushes Back

An interview with Kai Huschke, CELDF / Read the Dirt

An interview with Kai Huschke, CELDF / Read the Dirt

Editor’s Note: We speak with Kai Huschke, the NW and Hawai’i Organizer for the Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund—working to pass Community Bills of Rights that elevate local law and rights above corporate rights. Local initiatives he advised have recently received state-level push-backs. The backlash in Washington State, for example, overturned over 100 years of Washington State legal precedent.

Simon Davis-Cohen: Over a hundred years of Washington State legal precedent has recently been overturned in response to local citizen initiatives you have played an advising role on. Never before had laws in Washington been subject to judicial review before they became law. Using this new tactic, opponents of Bellingham’s, and more recently Spokane’s, Community Bill of Rights have successfully blocked initiatives from appearing on local ballots. Why aren’t you surprised?

Kai Huschke: It is in these kinds of moments you see the system for what it is in full force, that it has been designed to protect commerce and property interests over rights. In the Bellingham and Spokane cases, the courts said that it is more important to defend corporate interests’ speculative claims of damages rather than uphold the right of the people to vote.

That sounds shocking, and it should be to folks, but why it’s not surprising is that the structure has been built to respond to peoples’ attempts to gain more say over what happens in their community. In Bellingham it was BNSF railroad saying you can’t say no to coal trains because it goes against the Commerce Clause of the US Constitution. In Spokane it was the local Chamber of Commerce, Homebuilders Association, and developers arguing to the judge that you can’t expand rights to residents to decide what happens development-wise in their neighborhoods, institute greater protections for the Spokane River, or expand basic rights for workers, because the local government doesn’t have that authority.

It’s not surprising because the people supporting the Community Bill of Rights in Spokane have always understood that the right to self-government is a complete fantasy. That without taking down the structure we have today – programmed to ignore the rights of people and nature – we should expect more of these kinds of decisions that smash direct democracy.

SDC: In Oregon a similar backlash is taking place—against local efforts to ban genetically modified crops. Oregon’s Governor and State Legislature have taken steps (Senate Bill 863) to remove from localities all governing power over genetically modified crops. How does this illuminate the power structure that already exists in Oregon and other states?

KH: The Oregon Legislature just recently completed the dirty work on behalf of some of the largest corporate agricultural companies in the world by adopting a new law that chokes off any local control over seed for farming. This action shines a big fat light on the fact that a functioning, healthy right to self-government in Oregon communities does not exist. It is the same game that has played out in many other ways in Oregon’s ongoing history and is the way that things play out all over the country.

The corporate interests use the structure of government to drive in preemptive law that functions to crush any semblance of democracy at the community level. The system is very clear that it is about protecting—no matter the costs to people, communities, and the environment—decision making staying in the hands of a few over the best interest of the majority. The few are mainly large corporations that have been expanding this system of preemption as well as guarding against attacks from the people for the last 150 years.

SDC: Both tactics to prevent local bills of rights from being passed argue that certain issues are not within localities’ jurisdiction to govern. What are these issues and why do you think they are within local jurisdiction?

KH: There are a number of things at play around the question of authority. The two clearest elements are state preemption and Dillon’s Rule. State preemption says that some body at the state or possibly the local level (as defined by the state) has all power over certain issues. This means when residents want the right to decide how major development will proceed in their neighborhoods they are denied that right because another entity preempts them. The same scenario can be applied when talking about environmental protections or worker rights. The people and even local government are not allowed to exercise their right to expand rights protections against what the state has claimed it has the authority to regulate.

With Dillon’s Rule it is about the local government only being able to address issues that the state says it can. All power of the local government comes from the state. Powers can be given and powers can be taken away. Spokane, Bellingham, or whatever city you live in, your local government is basically a child to the parent that is the state. The child only can do what the parent allows.

Preemption and Dillon’s Rule fly directly in the face of what the Washington State Constitution says in Article 1, Section 1: “All political power is inherent in the people, and governments derive their just powers from the consent of the governed, and are established to protect and maintain individual rights.”

The question has always been about (once you realize that what we’ve been told or taught about democracy, self-government, and protecting nature is false) what we are willing to do to change the structure in order to actually elevate and protect the rights of people, neighborhoods, workers, and nature over corporate pursuits.

SDC: In what ways are communities in Washington and Oregon alone? In what ways are they a part of something larger?

KH: Pennsylvania, New Mexico, New Hampshire, Washington, and Oregon have launched statewide community rights networks aimed at supporting local efforts to secure the right to self-government. These five states are also looking at making state constitutional change that would further recognize self-governmental power, eliminate corporate rights, and protect nature’s rights. Ohio will launch the next community rights network, with states like Colorado, Hawai’i, Maine, and Iowa considering doing the same.

Individually at the community level and collectively at the state and federal level, it is understood that we have a structural governmental problem that has to be corrected. Without doing so, the local level assaults by corporations and state governments will continue to escalate. The 160 communities who have passed new law that recognize community rights not corporate rights are the blue prints for what local government should look like as well as what state and federal constitutional change could look like.

In addition the Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund has drafted both state and constitutional changes for a variety of states so a very real and very needed discussion can happen around shifting our energy away from issue fights within a rigged system and start to seriously build towards the structural change necessary to incorporate all the issues. More information can be found in the “State Law Center” section of the CELDF website. http://celdf.org/community-rights-state-law-center

SDC: Why is the right of local self-governance important for American grassroots movements?

KH: It is the essence of what American grassroots movements have been about. It was practiced all across the country at various times in our history. It was the major driving force behind the Revolutionaries, encapsulated in the Declaration of Independence and later attempted to be put into practice through the Articles of Confederation.

Rightfully so, the idea of self-governance is fronted as to what it means to be American. The community rights efforts of today are the grassroots to institute true self-government. They are built on the foundation of communities being empowered to elevate civil, political, economic, and environmental rights as they see fit.

Local self-government is the bedrock element. Partnered closely to it is the reality that corporate “rights” must be abolished and that nature’s rights must be recognized. This system change only happens if it comes from the bottom up, is built by the people, and the people move unapologetically forward to make this a reality.

The system we have today is not ours. It is not the legitimate system of the people. It is an unjust system. It is time that the people put in place a legitimate system of governance that protects the rights of people, communities, and nature first and foremost. That only happens when we actually start practicing local self-governance.

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Originally posted by ReadtheDirt.org here.

Feel of Poppies

Words by A. Person; Music, edits and talking by Jordan B.

The way you felt about Game of Thrones, when that whole family was slaughtered – oh, no! – that’s how I feel most days. That’s how anyone feels when they turn away from the screen with such regularity (and long enough) to witness the most intricate, mass-scale human drama in the history of the Earth.

We stand at the end of an epoch, at the end of a civilization, at the end of an empire – at the start of something else. Nobody knows what will happen in the next season but people have got some inklings.

We’re moving into a new geological era – the sixth mass extinction spasm. Every civilization – man, beast, plant, rock, mineral, oil – is under silent siege. Everywhere you look, billions and billions of stories and we’re missing all of them while we stare at something that is not happening – that’s essentially a lie. It’s all in your minds.

What is happening is the planet is awash with slaves, and all of them are heroes just waiting to happen, if only we’d give it some of our attention. People told me that I carry the weight of the world on my shoulders. Indeed, that’s why I beg a hand in carrying it – spread the load around. But it’s not – people aren’t watching. They’re staring into bright lights like rabbits before impact and it freaks me out.

Because I am not watching Game of Thrones, I’m watching history rot itself and it’s the most thrilling, exhilarating, troubling, terrifying, evocative meta-story that’s ever been written. And it’s happening right here, right now, in real time.

The stories, the characters, the lives.

You think what happens on TV is bad, you should see what my granddad had to do with knives. You should see how your iPhone comes together – now there’s some stories. We’re wearing stories – slave stories. Every day new episodes. And if you did see it, you’d feel it every day. You might feel like I do.

We’re not so different, we’re just tuned into different stations.

I feel a bit alone when everyone’s tuned into Game of Thrones. I feel like everyone’s missing out, not only on watching the greatest drama on Earth unfold, but to participate in it, to script it ourselves.

While we watch the screen, the directors prime the scene – and it’s a very interesting scene. And we think the plot is so complex, not really up to us to figure out. But actually, it’s just all the background noise getting in the way of some very simple things. Slaves, profits. Cunning as foxes in a henhouse. Sweet deal.

There’s a ruse going on – it’s part of what makes the plot so exciting, fascinating, creepy. And the ruse is not so elaborate – it’s simple. Flash a light in their faces while you round them up for labor. Keep them distracted while you steal the land right out from underneath them. Justify the acquisition in a foreign dialect. Take by stealth and not by siege. Capture the people intact and have them do your work. Sabotage those who resist – kill them if you have to.

It’s in the killing where things get really interesting. A whole lot of killing going on. Lots of stories. The feelings.

If I’m the only one I know tuning into this show, is it really happening? I tell you where its up to and you look at me as if I’m crazy, like, “Where do I get all of this stuff from? These ideas, these opinions, these projections?”

What really freaks me out – and a lot of you do this – is when you look me in the eye and say, “It’s not happening.” The conspiracies, the theft, the propaganda wars, the homicides, the homicides, the homicides, the homicides. The lies. A colossal inter-species genocide – a holocaust. “Not happening.”

Tin-foil hat conspiratard, feminazi, luddite, greeny, hippie, feral, extremist, terrorist. Sheesh, man, I’m just watching the show. Game of Thrones is not actually happening.

Poppies, poppies will make them sleepy. Stare into the lights, my pretties.

See also Jordan B’s video adaptation of Derrick Jensen’s “Forget Shorter Showers”

They Call It Liquid Genocide

uneditedmedia.com

uneditedmedia.com

A story about perspective on childhood:

A friend I’ve known for over a decade, whose indigenous to the lands I now call home, saw this high school kid fall off his bicycle. The kid fell backwards, and his helmet slipped towards his nose. My friend, whose recent birthday inched him towards forty, said he watched the EMT’s lift this teenager into an ambulance and hoped he was ok. Later we learned the kid died, and this big brown man’s voice quivered, “Oh no,” He tipped against the wall and started sobbing. He wept at this complete strangers death. I watched unsure of how to react and just told him I was there for him. A few hours later he walked up and hugged me, said, “I’m sorry. Where I’m from, so many young people die.”

I recently visited the Pine Ridge Reservation to witness and stand on the side of the Lakota people who’d invited us. They invited us as allies and take part in an ongoing struggle against Whiteclay, NE. Before getting into the flesh of that struggle, there are things I need to share, things think we must be look at, and try to understand before reaching the actions. See, there are facts, little factoids you learn about place when you’re there. Sometimes about death and addiction. Statistics, and they mean nothing. It’s hard to grasp a % of a thing, when you’re not in the thing. You’re not the one living it.

Pine Ridge Reservation statistics:

  • Lakota people have the lowest life expectancy in America.
  • Life expectancy for men 48, 52 for women. Lowest reported 45 years of length life. USA= 77.5 years of average lifespan.
  • Teenage suicide rate is 150% higher than the U.S. average for teens.
  • The infant mortality rate is the highest on this continent. 300% higher than the U.S. national average
  • Alcoholism affects 8 out of 10 families.
  • The death rate from alcohol-related problems on the Reservation is 300% higher than the remaining US population.

We heard these numbers as we crossed onto the Pine Ridge reservation. These death and alcohol statistics became more comprehendible as we listened to uncountable stories of known and recently dead: Cousins and siblings– relative upon relative, from car accidents, and acts of drunk random violence. Liver cirrhosis. Died from alcohol. I listened while on Pine Ridge, and everyone had stories, and lists of their known dead. The pizza hut worker who hated Whiteclay, whose brother died of cirrhosis, of alcoholism. A 35 year old women, who lived the streets of Whiteclay, who’d slur at me that she knew it was bad. That Whiteclay had to go, that her father died there. But we ran into her after she’d made the 2 mile trek to Whiteclay, NE from the Pine Ridge Reservation. My trip to the reservation wasn’t only to learn about the history of Whiteclay, NE, but also to listen to stories from the people who struggle against Whiteclay, and called the Pine Ridge reservation home.

We arrived to the Lakota’s homelands by crossing an imaginary border out of Nebraska, into what I’d learn wasn’t the Pine Ridge Reservation to the Lakota who invited us, but was really POW camp 344.

This name referencing the tribal identification number assigned them by the federal government. We were told that each reservation, and thus tribe was assigned a numeric sequence to attach them to the lands their people were now isolated too. While the story of POW camp 344 is far too large for this small article, let it be known that I heard stories of warriors that once fought the United States government, and won victories. The Lakota warriors even decimated one of United States armies in the field. Warriors vs Soldiers.

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Beautiful Justice: No Heart Unbroken

By Ben Barker / Deep Green Resistance Wisconsin

By Ben Barker / Deep Green Resistance Wisconsin

I wish this was just a nightmare. My friend is gone and I want her back. She was killed several weeks ago—violently, sadistically, suddenly—and for several weeks I’ve been crying. My head keeps shaking. I whisper to myself: “No. No. No.” Over and over. More than anything else right now, I want this to not be real. But it is the victim herself who would have been the first to remind me: men’s violence against women, the cruelty of this culture, is all too real.

The pain of the world has come home. What words could do it justice? I dredged some up to speak at her funeral, but even then this tragedy felt like a bad dream. It still does.

Just one night before her death, we were making dinner plans for the coming week. Just a few days before that, we were on the phone expressing how much we’ve missed one another. “I’m listening to Regina Spektor and thinking of you,” I said. “Aw, thank you for thinking of me,” she said. “I’d love to see you soon.”

After one unfathomable instance, after one piece of the most horrible of news, our plans are shattered, our relationship gone, my heart broken.

Jessie and I met because we both wanted to change the world; because we both believed that, in the words of a feminist writer we mutually admired, “there are certain kinds of pain that people should not have to endure.”

With her easy smile, a lot of laughter, and a propensity to start so many deeply profound conversations in one sitting, Jessie was a gust of wonder, passion, and beauty. She asked the big questions and, as best she could, tried to live out the answers every day. Her wish was only for others to try, too.

The personal and political were inseparable for Jessie. She was at once a musician, an activist, a daughter, and a friend. She was so much more than any one title could describe. And every aspect of who she was depended on the other; their coming together is what made her life as rich as it was, what made her as dynamic a person as she was, what moved her to change her corner of the world, as she did.

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Walking the Walk

By Arij Riahi and Tim McSorley / The Dominion

By Arij Riahi and Tim McSorley / The Dominion

FORT MCMURRAY, AB—In the heart of Canada’s oil country, the booming town of Fort McMurray—casually dubbed Fort McMoney—is slowly becoming one of Alberta’s largest cities. From 2006 to 2012, the city grew by 53 per cent, going from a population of 47,705 to 72,994—far exceeding the growth of Alberta as a whole. This doesn’t count the “non-permanent residents” who are simply in town to work; including them, the population balloons to 112,215.

Nearby, however, Indigenous nations are struggling for cultural survival. The tar sands project continues to expand its destructive footprint on the traditional territories of the Beaver Lake Cree Nation, Fort McMurray First Nation and Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation, among others. For them, opposition to the industrial project is not an environmental concern or a left-leaning pet project. It is a matter of human survival.

“I never did look at myself as a campaigner or an organizer, or an activist or an environmentalist. None of those things,” said Crystal Lameman, a member of the Beaver Lake Cree Nation who now works as the Alberta Climate and Energy Campaigner for the Sierra Club of Canada Prairie Chapter. “And I can say I still don’t look at myself that way. You know, it’s just doing what I need to for the sacrifices that our ancestors endured to ensure that we have that ability to utilize the land, to sustain ourselves.”

Lameman, a mother of two in her mid-30s, has been working since 2012 to raise awareness among members of her community, located in the heart of northern Alberta’s tar sands territory, about the necessity—and possibilities—of fighting back against the tar sands.

These thoughts are echoed a further 300 kilometres north, by Chief Allan Adam of the Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation (ACFN). Located on the shores of Lake Athabasca, fed by the Athabasca River and downstream from the majority of the tar sands development, the ACFN has also been fighting against the impact of industrial pollutants on its land.

For the past four years, the ACFN and the Keepers of the Athabasca (a group of Indigenous and non-Indigenous people fighting for the protection of the massive Athabasca watershed, which feeds into the Athabasca River) have organized the Healing Walk. It was started as a way to bridge the divide between activists and residents of the area—many of whom work for the tar sands—who are concerned but are not interested (or able) to engage in traditional protests. This year, on July 5, hundreds from across Canada, including dozens from the tar sands area, gathered to walk through the tar sands and witness its impacts.

“I am labeled by government officials and the industry that I am an eco-activist. I am not an eco-activist. I am a user of the land,” said Chief Adam at the Healing Walk. “Environmentalists like to see the beauty of the landscape. I was brought up in the bush. I utilize and survive off the land. You may go in the bush and look at the scenery…I go in the bush and harvest the meat, and harvest the fish and whatever else I have to to feed my family. That is the difference between you and I.”

peer-reviewed study released in 2010 by the Firelight Group Research Cooperative, which works with First Nations on community-based research projects, found that tar sands development has already severely limited access to First Nations’ traditional territory.

That link to the land is essential for Indigenous communities, said Lionel Lepine, a father of two who also lives in Fort Chipewyan. “One day, we’re going to be so damn rich [off the tar sands] that there will be nothing to buy. We’re going to be dead,” he said during a discussion at the Healing Walk. “And my poor great-great-grandchildren are going to suffer the consequences.”

Losing access to the land doesn’t only mean losing the the possibility of a subsistence way of life—including the ability to hunt or fish—but in some cases it means not even being sure what kind of development, or destruction, is taking place.

In late June, the Alberta government reported that an oil spill had taken place at the Primrose tar sands operation of Canadian Natural Resource Limited. The operations are located in the Cold Lake Air Weapons Range (CLAWR) in Cold Lake, Alberta, in Beaver Lake Cree Nation territory.

Lameman went to the site after getting news of the spill, but was initially rebuffed. Officials at CLAWR later changed their position and promised Lameman she could enter the area if the oil company agreed to let her in. Her calls to the company were not returned, she said. It took pressure from journalists and an eventual leak from an anonymous government scientist for the full extent of the spill to be revealed publicly in the Toronto Star in mid-July, including that 4,500 barrels of bitumen had so far been cleaned up from four different sites.

“To me, the response I got is a slap in the face of what it means to be in direct violation of our inherent constitutionally protected treaty rights,” she said. “It was really, really hard to actually feel that and experience that, and it’s not something I ever want to have to experience again, but I’m sure I will.”

Many Indigenous communities across the country are subject to such a disproportionate quantity of pollution that they have become infamous toxic hotspots. In Fort Chipewyan, cases of rare untreatable cancers have been documented since the early 2000s. But people living in the communities have been feeling the impacts long before any studies were commissioned.

“Given what’s going on over there—all the pollution—we call our town ground zero, because ultimately we feel the impacts of tar sands development first and foremost, and our people are dying,” Lepine said during the Healing Walk. “You know, I come from a town which only contains 1,200 people. And the cancer rate there is sky high in the last 10 years, beyond belief. The elders knew about this 40 years ago. When industry first came in, the impacts on our lands became pretty obvious, and as industry came in people started to die.”

For years, First Nations people, scientists, doctors and environmentalists have raised the alarm about the health impacts of the tar sands. It was only this past winter, however, that an investigation into the health concerns of First Nations communities living downstream, such as the Athabasca Chipewyan, was finally announced. The study will be led by the University of Calgary, with federal and provincial funding. The investigation follows a 2009 report, by Alberta Health Services, that showed higher rates of cancer in the community than is found in the rest of the Alberta population.

Since January, two separate reports have found Alberta’s lakes and groundwater are being polluted more than previously realized. The first, from Queen’s University and Environment Canada, showed high levels of carcinogens created by the tar sands extraction process in lakes up to 90 kilometres from tar sands extraction sites. The second, produced by 19 scientists from both the federal and provincial governments, confirmed ongoing seepage from tailings ponds into groundwater.

Tar sands impacts aren’t just felt in northern Alberta, but at every stage of the refining process, including in the southernmost reaches of the country. In Sarnia, Ontario, over 60 petrochemical facilities are concentrated in a 25-kilometre radius. At least three of these refineries, including Suncor and Imperial Oil who are active in Fort McMurray, process tar sands bitumen. The area is known as Canada’s Chemical Valley. It is also the home of the Aamjiwnaang First Nation.

“Growing up in this community, I experienced a lot of health issues, including asthma attacks, skin issues,” said Vanessa Gray, a youth organizer and member of the Aamjiwnaang First Nation who also spoke at the Healing Walk. “There’s a lot of cancer in my family where I grew up, [we were] going to a lot of funerals…it happened all the time.”

Gray’s concerns are well documented. In 2011, the World Health Organization described Sarnia’s air quality as the worst in Canada. Studies have also found alarmingly high rates of cancer, respiratory illnesses and reproductive disorders in the area, as cited in a 2007 report from Ecojustice.

For many Indigenous communities, the fight against the tar sands is a fight for their quality of life. “We’re all human beings first and foremost. We all drink water. So this involves everyone,” stressed Crystal Lameman. “This isn’t about race, colour or creed, this is about our lives.”

Ultimately, it is about the future. “I’m so worried about my kids,” said Lepine. “You know from the words of our elders, they’re our future, let’s support them. Let’s keep them alive, Let’s keep our kids alive. Let’s fight these guys. Let’s fight them harder, let’s take the gloves off.”

Arij Riahi is a legally-trained writer based in Montreal. Arij is at www.twitter.com/arijactually. Tim McSorley is an editor with the Media Co-op and freelance journalist living in Montreal.

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Originally posted by The Dominion here.

 

Cities Will Kill Us All!

By Deena Shanker / Salon

By Deena Shanker / Salon

In case you hadn’t heard, cities these days are all the rage. While once upon a time the rich fled urban centers and their accompanying crowding, pollution and grime, according to Leigh Gallagher’s upcoming account in “The End of the Suburbs,” “cities are experiencing a renaissance.” According to Henry Grabar, a city is a “harbor of tolerance and assimilation, a hub of scientific innovation and economy growth, a tourist attraction, a center for the arts, a ticket to upward mobility, a key to saving the environment.”  With urban agriculture on the rise, we can even grow our own food.  Thanks to technology, city dwellers can give away their leftovers or get laid with nothing more than a digital photo and a swipe of a finger.

But there’s one little problem that the powers that be conveniently ignore when talking up the benefits of a metropolitan life.  Cities are going to be the worst place to ride out the end of the world.  Whatever the underlying cause of our doom, urban centers, with their dense populations, high crime and corruption rates, lack of natural resources, and proximity to water, are going to fall first.

As any good prepper – or conspiracy theorist – knows, there are a number of potential triggers to the end of the world as we know it.  Considering human history, not to mention the current state of the world, the possibility of a World War III doesn’t sound so outlandish. Climate change models are getting increasingly pessimistic – and panicked – trying ever harder to warn us that the end is nigh.  But my money is on contagious disease, though I don’t rule out zombies, an alien attack or some good old-fashioned Bible-style fire and brimstone.  Ultimately, though, it doesn’t matter what causes the apocalypse. What matters is whether you survive it.  And if you’re in a city, chances are, you won’t.

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Our Democracy?

By Robert Jensen / Dissident Voice

By Robert Jensen / Dissident Voice

An edited version of a presentation on the panel “Our Democracy in Crisis: The Rise of the Total Surveillance State and the War on a Free Press” organized by Chicago Area Peace Action at North Park University, Chicago, Thursday, August 29, 2013.

The issue-packed title of this event—“Our Democracy in Crisis: The Rise of the Total Surveillance State and the War on a Free Press”—offers a panelist a number of potential targets. Given the expertise of other panelists on the specifics of surveillance and journalism, I want to focus on what may seem like the least controversial part of the title, “Our Democracy,” to which I would add a question mark.

Our democracy? Really? Is the U.S. system a democracy, and if so, does it belong to us? This leads to uncomfortable questions: What do we mean by democracy, and who do we mean by us? My thesis tonight is that there is little consensus on these matters, and that left/progressive organizing requires blunt assessments of rather grim contemporary realities.

From grade school on, we are taught that the United States is a constitutional republic founded on democratic principles, and that over time the scope of this democracy has expanded. People once excluded from full citizenship have been included; even a formerly enslaved people have been fully enfranchised, albeit far too slowly.

There is much about the standard story that is true, but it leaves out one crucial element: No matter who votes in elections, powerful unelected forces—the captains of industry and finance—set the parameters of political action. Voting matters, but it matters far less than most people believe, or want to believe. This raises the impolite question of whether democracy and capitalism are compatible. Is political equality possible amid widening economic inequality? Can power be distributed when wealth is concentrated?

These questions remain unspeakable in mainstream political circles, even though the economic inequality continues to widen and the distorting effects of concentrated wealth are more evident than ever. The limited successes of the Occupy movement nudged this into view, but this impolite question must be central in our conversations, raised without sectarian rhetoric and with a clearer analysis of the foundational nature of the problem.

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Civilization is a pragmatic vampire

By Jonah Mix / DGR Bellingham

By Jonah Mix / DGR Bellingham

Henry Ford is a shining example of two great American traditions: Amoral, hardheaded industrialism and unapologetic racial hatred. He hated Jews; his pamphlet The International Jew was singularly responsible for the anti-Semitism of Hitler Youth Leader and mass murderer Baldur von Schirach, while the Holocaust’s chief architect, Heinrich Himmler, praised Ford as a “great man” and “one of our most valuable, important, [and] clever fighters.” He hated the disabled; along with John Kellog, Andrew Carnegie, Woodrow Wilson, and dozens of other illustrious Americans, Ford openly advocated for the obligatory sterilization and involuntary imprisonment of the mentally ill and retarded, as well as unwed mothers and criminals with brown skin. I’ll let the reader guess how he felt about immigrants, homosexuals, and people of color; let’s just remember that Hitler proudly proclaimed in 1938, “I shall do my best to put [Ford’s] theories into practice in Germany.” This might be a good time to mention that I’ve now written two essays that mention Henry Ford – the first was in seventh grade, when I picked his name off a sheet of potential subjects in my history class. It was labeled “American Heroes.”

Henry Ford hated a lot of people – Jews, women, the poor, immigrants – but that didn’t stop him from utilizing them as easy fodder in his factories. He often paid black teenagers half wages to work on steel presses, partly because it was easier to unleash crooked cops on them if they tried to form a union. Unwed mothers who escaped sterilization and imprisonment often performed menial labor, both on the factory floor as cleaners and outside as unofficially corporate-sponsored sex workers. Men who had lost limbs, either in the war or in Ford’s own steel presses, occasionally worked for slave wages. Ford’s corporate website refers to this history as one of “diversity and inclusion.” When Henry Ford died, he was worth 188 billion dollars.

Where did Henry Ford’s hate end and his business sense start? Derrick Jensen once said that hatred, if felt long enough, just feels like economics. Wherever the line between the two falls, one thing is certain: a vicious practicality underlies both. The famously industrious anti-Semite undoubtedly hated people of color, and his hatred almost certainly allowed him to rationalize to himself and others their continued exploitation – but mangled hands and broken limbs also objectively cost less when they were brown instead of white. Ford had a deep personal hatred of labor organizers, but simple pragmatism was all that one would need to call for the savage beating of unarmed men and women, as he proudly did at the Battle of the Overpass in 1937. Sustained brutality and intimidation was the best way to keep his factories running smoothly. These choices were as much business moves as his later decision to move away from ethanol and towards gasoline. Gasoline goes into an engine because that’s the best way to make an engine run. Young black bodies get destroyed by steel presses because that’s the best way to get steel made. Indigenous people die of cancer when toxic waste is dumped into their rivers and forests because that’s the best way to get rid of toxic waste. The planet is ripped apart and hollowed out because that’s the best way to get at what’s inside.

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Water: A Source of Life, Connection and Hope

By Elizabeth  Peredo Beltrán / Octubre Azul Bolivia

By Elizabeth Peredo Beltrán / Octubre Azul Bolivia

Many thanks to the Biotope of Healing at Tamera Community and the Water Symposium 2013. Their experience of restoring water landscapes is reminiscent of Mikhail Kravcik’s statement: “The most important right in the world is the residential rights of a drop of water “…to return again to the cycle of life.

Water is the source of life; we are water beings who all belong to the water cycle. We are part of it. We all originate in a “big drop” growing inside a woman’s body, thanks to love, and that is something that moves me so deeply in my personal life. Humans are part of the water cycle, and through water we can connect with this fact in our daily lives, with the small details of life and through water we relate to the very complex problems of water on the Planet. This also connects us at a level that opens up the possibility to conceive of a utopia. Water has the power to drive our feelings and our thoughts to the sky, to give thanks for life.

I became conscious of this vital importance of water in 2000. Just after the Water War in Cochabamba, when the people’s courage reminded us a very simple concept based on the most basic common sense: WATER IS LIFE. At that time we had forgotten it, as consequence of a long economic adjustment program in the 1990’s that the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund had imposed in our region in conjunction with complicit national neoliberal governments. Such a simple phrase mobilized thousands of people, almost forcing the Bolivian president to resign, forcing out the powerful U.S. multinational Bechtel and, for a while, the people recovered control over their water systems.

As an activist and a researcher, I soon noticed that women were key actors in this huge mobilization, particularly women belonging to the rural irrigators trade unions. In Bolivia there are still about 4,500 irrigation systems that manage water independent of the government or the state. They are traditional water organizations in rural communities who manage water for agricultural activities and they are very systematically organized.

Women play a very important role in those organizations, not only as authorities of the water systems, but also providing their organizations a vision of the details in the daily task of providing water for agriculture; they are responsible for care.

Urban women also; the poorest, vendors in the popular markets, neighbors that know how to provide water to their families, sometimes taking many hours to collect water. They too took an active part in the struggles in the streets. They organized so quickly providing solidarity in the form of pots of food to feed the water activists. In just a couple of days they organized this solidary system much to the concern of the elites that were waiting watching in fear looking out from their windows and hoping for a favorable end of the conflict.

The people won and, since then, we became connected to the World. Water, once again, connected us to other people… this time all over the Planet. The indigenous wisdom and knowledge gave us the key words to defend water and spread this vision worldwide.

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Extreme weather, more extreme greenhouse gas emissions beckon urgent activism

By Patrick Bond / LINKS

By Patrick Bond / LINKS

The northern hemisphere summer has just peaked and though the torrid heat is now ebbing, it is evident the climate crisis is far more severe than most scientists had anticipated. The latest report of the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change – a notoriously conservative research agency – will be debated in Stockholm next month, but no one can deny its projections: “widespread melting of land ice, extreme heat waves, difficulty growing food and massive changes in plant and animal life, probably including a wave of extinctions.”

Even worse is coming, for a giant Arctic Ocean “belch” of 50 billion tonnes of methane is inexorably escaping from seabed permafrost, according to scientists writing in the journal Nature. North Pole ice is now, at maximum summer heat, only 40 per cent as thick as it was just 40 years ago, a crisis only partially represented in the vivid image of a temporary “lake” that submerged the pole area last month.

The damage that will unfold after the burp, according to leading researchers from Cambridge and Erasmus Universities, could cost $60 trillion, about a year’s world economic output. Global warming will speed up by 15-35 years as a result.

With these revelations, it is impossible to mask the self-destructive greed of fossil-fuel firms and their carbon-addicted customers. The ruling crew in the United States, Russia and Canada will enthusiastically let oil companies exploit the soon-to-be ice-free Arctic summers with intensified drilling, joined by unprecedented bunker-fuel-burning in the newly opening shipping lanes.

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