Wednesday, June 26, 2013
The Court's ruling is, no doubt, a historic victory for LGBT couples--married or otherwise. It could, perhaps, also lead to California becoming the latest state to adopt same-sex marriage. Let's hope it happens.
That being said, it is worth recalling DOMA's origins.
Both The Defense of Marriage Act and the equally discriminatory, "Don't Ask, Don't Tell," which barred gay military personnel from serving openly, were signed into law by President Bill Clinton. Clinton has, to his credit, come to publicly regret his signing of the former bill, calling it "a mistake." This change of heart is, certainly, a laudable indication of the former president's personal growth as a human being, though it frankly does nothing to alter or undo the emotional and psychological damage done to the gay and lesbian couples personally affected by the law. (Clinton's epiphanic about-face on gay marriage is almost as disingenuous as that of former Sen. Olympia Snowe, who expressed her support for gay marriage back in April--three months after leaving office.)
The truth is, the Democratic Party has long been hostile to gay rights. Sure, the Dems are not as openly homophobic as Republicans--theirs is a more subtle form of prejudice. But it's still prejudice.
Recall, for instance, President Obama's initial attempts to block the repeal of "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" back in September 2010. The president argued, at the time, that Congress, not the courts, should determine DADT's fate. But, if Obama truly opposed the policy, as he claimed to, why should he have cared how exactly it was repealed?
And yes, Obama ultimately came out in support of gay marriage last year. But he did so only after his perpetually unfiltered vice president essentially forced his hand. (And how convenient, too, that he finally did so during an election year.)
Indeed, with friends like Democrats...
As gay rights advocate, Andy Thayer notes, "One would never know from Gay Inc's pronouncements that the two biggest legislative attacks on gay rights of the last century [DADT and DOMA] were undertaken and vigorously defended by Democrats" ("Bradley Manning and the Appalling Silence of Gay Inc.," Counterpunch, 2/22/2013).
Like the environmental movement, the anti-war movement and what is left of the labor movement, the LGBT movement remains tied at the hip of a Democratic Party which regularly displays a commitment to them that can be best described as inconsistent. As I wrote about a few posts back, this is the same reason the LGBT community refuses to rally behind Bradley Manning or other gay truth-tellers.
As Thayer writes, "Just as much of the anti-war movement was 'anti-war' only when a Republican president was leading the wars, much of the gay movement is pro-gay only when it's non-Democrats who are anti-gay."
If the LGBT movement is serious about advancing gay rights (and not merely marriage--an inherently bourgeoisie institution), it needs to shed its ties with the Democrats. The Green Party has supported gay rights long before Lady Gaga made it popular to do so. The Democrats, meanwhile, only officially added gay rights to their party platform last year.
So by all means celebrate today's victory. But if we are to ensure we don't get any more DOMAs, DADTs or any other acronymic, discriminatory laws, it is essential LGBT citizens sever their abusive relationship with the Democrats.
Tuesday, June 25, 2013
"Of all the preposterous assumptions of humanity over humanity, nothing exceeds most of the criticisms made on the habits of the poor by the well-housed, well-warmed and well-fed."
- Herman Melville
The city of Portland is waging a war. It is not an openly declared, armed battle. Rather, it is being quietly waged, unbeknownst to the average resident. But it is a battle, nonetheless. It is a war against the poor.
From Congress Square Park, to the homeless, to panhandlers, Portland city officials are sending a subtle, but painfully clear message to the city's disenfranchised: Go away.
It is a message largely held by the Portland business community, including the Portland Chamber of Commerce, most of the city councilors and Portland-hating Gov. Paul LePage. During Maine's Republican Convention last year, LePage articulated his feelings toward Maine's welfare recipients quite openly, blasting them to "Get off the couch and get yourself a job!"
Conservative blogger, Tom McLaughlin, echoed LePage's sentiments in a recent post ("Shunning Independence," 06/12/2013). Using his two young granddaughters as a prime example of his definition of "independent Americans," McLaughlin then blasts the rest of the country's citizens for their alleged "dependence" and "addiction" to government "handouts." (McLaughlin's grandchildren, for the record, are 2 and 3-years-old, respectively. So, yes--he is essentially comparing his toddler-aged grandchildren to the majority of "lazy" American adults.)
"It's increasingly evident that Americans today can be divided into two categories: those who want to take care of themselves, and those who expect government to do it for them--those proud to be independent like my granddaughters are becoming, and those who not only fear liberty, but crave dependency."
Ah, if only life truly were as neatly monochromatic and easily compartmentalized as conservatives view it. Wouldn't it be so much simpler? I am curious to know if McLaughlin--a retired school teacher--is currently accepting his retirement benefits and/or Social Security. Just curious...
Unfortunately, I fear McLaughlin's blame-the-victim worldview is far more pervasive than I would like to believe.
In discussions about Portland's homeless vagrants, it is not uncommon to hear the claim that these individuals "choose" to live on the streets (sort of like how conservative doctrine still insists homosexuals "choose" to be gay)--an absurd notion, devoid of any intellectual reasoning.
Those on the libertarian-right argue it is the responsibility of homeless individuals to provide for their own economic well-being. Yet, many of those who make this argument have no problem with the exorbitant taxbreaks, subsidies, bailouts and other forms of corporate welfare, which far exceed that of individual welfare. As I wrote earlier this year, corporations--not single mothers on foodstamps--are society's real welfare queens.
The latest front in the war on the poor is panhandling.
Next month, the Portland City Council will vote on a measure to prohibit panhandlers from standing in median strips. Advocates of the ordinance--including Police Chief Michael Sauschuck and Councilor Ed "Mr. Prohibition" Suslovic--claim the roadside panhandlers are a safety risk to motorists. But, according to ABC News affiliate, WMTW-8, lawmakers cannot cite any actual increase in traffic accidents due to panhandling.
Furthermore, the logic is completely disingenuous. If city officials are truly concerned about panhandlers' safety, why not address the problem (i.e. poverty) head on, rather than further criminalizing the poor? As it is, banning panhandlers from median strips will not make them go away. Panhandlers will simply congregate around denser, pedestrian-friendly areas if they cannot stand in busy roadways. Others will simply resort to theft.
For the poor and disenfranchised--many of whom cannot work due to mental or physical disability-- panhandling is their only source of economic sustenance. Last month, The Portland Press Herald highlighted the plight of two regular panhandlers in the city ("Panhandling a Growing Concern in Portland," 5/25/2013). One of them, Alison Prior, is only slightly younger than me, and, according to the story by staff reporter, Randy Billings, has a college degree. She uses her meager donations to buy deodorant.
It is important to understand this anti-panhandling legislation is not coming from Republican Councilor Cheryl Leeman. (Leeman is the sole Republican on the Council.) The measure is widely supported by the council's supposedly liberal members, including Nick Mavodones, Jill Duson and Mayor Michael Brennan. As author Sinclair Lewis illustrated in his satirical novels, Babbitt and Main Street, it is not just conservatives who hate the poor. Middle and upper-class liberals, fearful of losing their own coveted economic status, will often lash out at them as well. When it comes to the politics of class warfare, the traditional Left-Right ideological divisions do not apply.
While many are tempted to dismiss panhandlers as petty swindlers engaging in scams (and no doubt some of them likely are), there is no denying their prevalence has increased nationwide since the Great Recession. Many of these individuals lost their jobs, their homes or both when Wall Street crashed the economy. Some lost their homes due to mounting medical expenses--the leading cause of home foreclosure. The U.S. remains the only industrialized nation in the world that does not provide its citizens with universal, single-payer health care. (Contrary to what you may have read in USA Today, "Obamacare" is not universal health insurance.)
Other homeless people, meanwhile, suffer from alcoholism or substance abuse. Gov. LePage's unrelenting budget cuts have left cities like Portland unable to provide the health services these people desperately need. Homeless shelters like the Preble Street Resource Center are often filled to capacity. As of January, the number of homeless people in Maine has increased 8 percent or 1,175 people.
The homeless, the poor, the disenfranchised and the disabled are society's unseen, silent victims. Like Ralph Ellison's unnamed African American narrator of Invisible Man, poor Americans are invisible "simply because society [refuses] to see" them.
"When they approach me," the narrator explains, "they see only my surroundings, themselves or figments of their imagination--indeed, everything and anything except me."
This is no way for a moral society to treat its people. It is, in fact, a sign of the "spiritual death" of our nation Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. warned of nearly 50 years ago. And as long as the wealthy elite--be them conservatives like Tom McLaughlin or liberals like Mavodones--continue to condescendingly blame these victims of fraud, Wall Street greed and corporate crime for their own suffering, the poor will remain invisible.
If you like this essay consider making a donation to Guerrilla Press via the "Donate" button on the right-hand side of the screen. The Internet is wonderful for many things, but ensuring journalists are paid for their work is, alas, not one of them. Any amount is greatly appreciated.
Monday, June 17, 2013
Think you have "nothing to hide"? Think again.
Despite the barrage of news coverage since the recent revelation of a widespread government surveillance program, as well as the outrage of political pundits on both the left and the right, most Americans responded to the wiretapping allegations with a collective shrug. In fact, if recent polls are any indication, most Americans are not merely ambivalent about being spied on by the government--many actually support it.
A Pew Research Center/Washington Post poll finds over half of Americans (56 percent), consider the NSA's "Prism" program, "an acceptable way for the government to investigate terrorism." Likewise, 62 percent consider "investigating terrorist threats" more imperative than upholding personal privacy, according to the Pew poll.
These findings come on the heels of a similar survey conducted shortly after last month's Boston Marathon bombing that found 78 percent of Americans support the increased use of surveillance cameras in public spaces.
While the fact that Americans, post-9/11, are all too eager to swap civil liberties for security (or, at least, the pretense of security) is not, in of itself, terribly surprising or even revelatory, this New Normal attitude is, nonetheless, worrisome. Americans' default response to government wiretapping is something like this: "If you aren't doing anything wrong, you have nothing to hide." (This statement is usually accompanied by a reminder that there are "people in the world who hate us and want to do us harm.") I find this oft-repeated sentiment particularly frustrating--not to mention altogether shortsighted.
The "I-have-nothing-to-hide" retort has become so common it now "pervades discussions about privacy" according to Daniel J. Solove in a 2011 article for The Chronicle of Higher Education ("Why Privacy Matters Even if You Have 'Nothing to Hide'," 05/15/2011). As Solove explains, "In its most compelling form, it is an argument that the privacy interest is generally minimal, thus making the contest with security concerns a foreordained victory for security."
In other words, claiming you have "nothing to hide," (so bring on the magnifying-glass!), is similar to the all too common accusation that critics of Israel are "Anti-Semitic." Both default retorts promptly shut down any substantive conversation on the issue.
(Solove, in his article, then offers some potential rebuttals to the "nothing to hide" claim. My personal favorite is, "...So why do you have curtains in your house?" Here's one of my own: "Nothing to hide? Then let me look at your Internet browsing history.")
Obviously whether or not one has anything to hide is not really the point. Kafka's ill-fated protagonist "K" from The Trial thought he had "nothing to hide"--that he was an otherwise law-abiding citizen. That does not stop the police from showing up, without warning, to his house and arresting him without telling him why. Indeed, the nature of K's crime or the charges against him are never revealed.
The truth is, no matter how Americans may respond to the Prism program, we all appreciate a certain degree of privacy, anonymity and seclusion. Even Americans who shrug at the government's intrusion into their phone calls often will paradoxically express concern for lack of privacy in an entirely different setting.
A recent conversation I had with a family friend is a perfect illustration of this sort of inconsistent thinking. She fed me the "nothing to hide/people want to kill us" line about the surveillance program, yet later in the conversation, informed me she never conducts online transactions because she considers the practice "unsafe." Why she believes her personal information is any safer in the hands of government officials than Internet thieves is unclear. She also does not use Facebook due to similiar privacy concerns. Again, she offers no explanation for her disconnect in logic.
The cultural erosion of privacy does not mean we, as citizens, get to pick and choose where, when and in which sorts of settings we may retain some level of privacy. Once we willingly abdicate our privacy in one civic arena, it is only a matter of time before we lose it from all others as well. It is a domino effect. As Benjamin Franklin observed, "Those who would give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety, deserve neither liberty nor safety."
Furthermore, it is only within the realm of privacy, when we can securely indulge in our private thoughts, opinions, and creative tendencies, that we are truly free to be individuals. Artists, dissidents, rebels and philosophers all know the value of privacy. They understand how difficult it is to maintain a sense of individuality when one is constantly being watched. This is especially true at work and school--institutions where we are under constant surveillance and supervision. These institutions, whether by accident or design, generally do not encourage creative or radical ideas, beliefs or actions. Quite the reverse: They snuff them out.
This is precisely why the totalitarian Party depicted in George Orwell's 1984 utilizes mass surveillance, ubiquitous telescreens and the Thought Police to keep its citizens constantly monitored and in line. It is why Winston Smith must seek out an unlit corner of his room, out of the view of the telescreen, in order to write in his journal--a criminal act in Orwell's dystopia. When Winston is captured and tortured in the ironically named Ministry of Love--"The place where there is no darkness"--O' Brien tells him, "We shall crush you down to the point from which there is no coming back."
Things will happen to you from which you could not recover, if you lived a thousand years. Never again will you be capable of ordinary human feeling. Everything will be dead inside you. Never again will you be capable of love, or friendship, or joy of living, or laughter, or curiosity, or courage, or integrity. You will be hollow. We shall squeeze you empty, and then we shall fill you with ourselves.In the end, it is not merely Winston's body that is shattered during his brutal treatment--it is his identity; his very sense of self. Without a sense of identity any sort of rebellion, dissent, or creativity is impossible. And that capacity to resist is precisely what we all risk losing if we passively allow the surveillance state to continue.
You may believe you have nothing to hide. But you have everything to lose.
If you like this essay, consider making a donation to Guerrilla Press via the "Donate" button on the right-hand side of the screen. This is truth-telling citizen-journalism you won't find on NPR.
Monday, June 10, 2013
Pfc. Bradley Manning's trial began in Fort Meade, MD last week. But, outside of Democracy Now! and the progressive blogosphere, citizens are unlikely to hear or read anything about it. The little coverage the corporate media has granted Manning's trial has been far too brief to offer audiences any substantive understanding of his "crime."
Here's how CBS Evening News' Scott Pelley addressed the first day of the alleged WikiLeaks source's court-martial trial (6/03/13):
"U.S. Army Private Bradley Manning went on trial today in a military court for leaking hundreds of thousands of classified documents to the website WikiLeaks. Manning has admitted that he did it and pleaded guilty to some charges, but the military is trying him on more serious charges, which include aiding the enemy. He could face life in prison."
That three sentence summary was the entire report. As FAIR's (Fairness and Accuracy In Reporting) Peter Hart pointed out, the report was "shorter than Pelley's interview with former Bush Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, and about the same length as a report on a solar-powered plane" ("Bradley Manning on TV Network News," FAIR Blog, 06/04/2013). Other networks have presented similarly skimpy coverage--if they offer any at all.
And yet the response from liberals over Manning's plight has been a collective shrug. The 25-year-old Manning, who valiantly stood up to the U.S. Imperial Project, could spend the rest of his life in prison for his act of defiance and progressives do not seem to really care. How can this be...?
First, let's review what we know.
Manning has been held for three years now without trial in conditions that many legal experts have called torture. The military-trial that began last week appears, by all accounts, to resemble a closed-door, Kangaroo Court-style tribunal rather than any sort of a fair, unbiased hearing where Manning is presumed innocent until proven guilty. The prosecution is arguing Manning's leaking of thousands of troves of classified military cables (the largest leak in U.S. history) directly aided "the enemy," or al-Qaeda.
There is, to be clear, not one shred of evidence Manning's leak harmed or endangered anybody. As Norman Solomon points out in a recent Op-Ed ("Bradley Manning is Guilty of 'Aiding the Enemy'--if the Enemy is Democracy," Common Dreams, 6/05/2013):
"...the Pentagon has admitted that none [no soldiers] died as a result of Manning's leaks in 2010. But many of his fellow soldiers lost their limbs or their lives in U.S. warfare made possible by the kind of lies that the U.S. government is now prosecuting Bradley Manning for exposing."Yet where is the groundswell of support to free Manning? Among liberals it is virtually absent. In fact, many progressives have been downright hostile toward Manning, as well as Julian Assange.
Alyssa Rosenberg of the liberal Center for American Progress, in a particularly juvenile blog post that comprises all of two paragraphs, dismisses Manning as someone with "pretty serious emotional problems," who "turned out not to be a particularly effective whistleblower" ("Bradley Manning and the Drama of Instant Messaging," 01/02/2012). She then adds there "will almost certainly be a live-action movie about WikiLeaks and Manning's relationship with the organization..."
Seriously, how old is Rosenberg? Fifteen? The aforementioned CBS News report had more substance than this drivel--and it was shorter.
It is no accident that Rosenberg makes no reference to the content of the military cables, not to mention the monstrous atrocities they depict U.S. military personnel engaging in. This is part of the pattern to discredit Manning: Shoot the messenger; ignore the message. Or as Chris Hedges explains in a recent piece for Truthdig, when it comes to Assange and Bradley Manning, "The personal sin is excoriated" ("'We Steal Secrets': State Agitprop," 06/02/2013).
The vast structural sin Assange and Manning fought is ignored. The primacy of personal piety over justice is the inversion of morality. It is the sickness of our age. David Petraeus is hounded out of the CIA not because he oversaw death squads that killed thousands of innocents in Iraq or because the CIA tortures detainees, but because he had an extramarital affair. The power elite can draw up kill lists, torture people, wage endless war and carry out massive fiscal fraud on Wall Street as long as they don't get caught sleeping with their administrative assistants. Assange can lay bare the crimes they commit, but his act of truth-telling is canceled out by alleged sexual misconduct.This is the case in nearly every news article one reads about Manning. Reporters inevitably focus on Manning's alleged sexual frustration. (Manning is gay, a fact that has been widely used by his detractors to discredit him.) It is the equivalent of making a statement--as my conservative aunt frequently does--like, "I don't like Michael Moore because he is fat." Moore is indeed overweight, but what this physical characteristic has to do with the content of his films is difficult to ascertain. But it makes for a convenient method of easily dismissing an individual whom one disagrees with ideologically without actually engaging in any sort of philosophical counterargument.
The LGBT community has, likewise, abandoned Bradley Manning. One would think Manning's plight would offer the LGBT community an ideal cause to rally behind. Instead, the various gay-rights advocacy organizations remain exclusively, almost at times obsessively, focused on same-sex marriage. (Gay marriage is no doubt a worthy civil rights imperative and one that I, for the record, wholeheartedly support. I have in recent years however, become increasingly concerned marriage--an inherently conservative institution, mind you--has become the be-all-end-all raison d'etre for the entire gay-rights movement.)
Gay rights advocate, Andy Thayer, agrees. In an essay for Counterpunch.org ("Bradley Manning and the Appalling Silence of Gay, Inc.," Feb. 22-24, 2013), Thayer blames the various LGBT NGOs' ties to the Democratic Party for their inaction on Manning. "It's political cowardice," Thayer writes of "Gay Inc's" passive acceptance of Manning's plight. "A failure to take on 'difficult' political subjects, particularly when doing so might bite the (Democratic Party) hands that feed them."
At the end of the day, Gay Inc. sees its source of jobs in Democratic administrations, its executive directorships with six-figure salaries, its charity balls and other celebrity-driven hoopla as more important than gay rights. And when individual LGBTs like Bradley Manning through their own courage expose the human rights fakery of Democratic politicians, they can twist in the wind.I contacted Equality Maine's Portland office for comment on this article, but the group did not get back to me. Their silence, and the silence of the rest of the LGBT progressive community, speaks volumes.
Yet, I think what really accounts for this betrayal is, at the end of the day, Manning and WikiLeaks are both too radical for contemporary, mainstream liberals. Manning did not merely expose war crimes--he exposed President Obama's war crimes. And the "anti-war" liberal community--which so desperately wants to believe, against all evidence to the contrary, that Obama is some sort of champion of peace--is unwilling to challenge those war crimes. Indeed, given that close to 80 percent of liberals support the use of predator drones and 53-67 percent of democrats prefer to keep Guantanamo Bay Prison open, it seems many liberals support the president's policies.
As Salon writer, Charles Davis pointed out in a piece from last year ("The Liberal Betrayal of Bradley Manning," 04/10/2012), what Manning did was "fundamentally radical, not reformist."
He didn't settle for working within a system specifically designed to thwart the exposure of wrongdoing, through a chain of command that callously ignores concern for non-American life. Having access to evidence of grotesque crimes no one around him seemed to care about, he engaged in direct action, exposing them for the benefit of the world and those paying for them, the U.S. taxpayer.As a result, Manning and Assange are left abandoned as sacrificial lambs, while the real criminals--the Wall Street speculators, the weapons manufacturers, the perverted military industrial complex, and the warmongering politicians--walk around free and unassailable.
While marching with the Portland Greens in today's Gay Pride Parade, I was approached by a member of Equality Maine, asking for a donation. I informed her I would gladly make a contribution if and when Equality Maine takes a public stand or releases some sort of official statement that it supports Pfc. Bradley Manning. The woman looked at me blankly for several seconds before asking (I kid you not), "Who's that?" After my all-too-brief summary of Manning as "the WikiLeaks source," she informed me EQ Maine was only focusing on "local" issues at the moment and, seeing she was not going to get any donation from me, walked away.
While it certainly makes sense for a group called Equality Maine to primarily focus its attention on Maine-based issues, the concept of proximity has not stopped LGBT advocacy groups in California, Virginia and other states from voicing their support for Manning. So you will excuse me if I consider this excuse a cop-out. Three years ago, EQ Maine sponsored and promoted Lady Gaga's visit to Portland wherein she spoke out in favor of repealing "Don't Ask, Don't Tell." Gaga, to my knowledge, has no connections to the state of Maine. How could the group overlook the "local" angle with her, but not with Manning?
To be clear, I harbor no personal vendetta against Equality Maine (although they seem to have one against the Greens...). In fact, I think the group does vital gay advocacy work in Maine, including helping the state adopt gay marriage last fall. That is why I find their silence (not to mention, ignorance) on Manning so appalling. I also can guarantee if it were a President McCain or Romney conducting this persecution of Manning and other whistleblowers, EQ Maine would most certainly know about it.
As I indicated in this article, I contacted EQ Maine for comment and they did not respond to me. I called their Portland office, and whoever answered the phone seemed just as ignorant of Bradley Manning as the volunteer I encountered today. He suggested I contact EQ ME's press director, Ian Grady, which I did via email. He has, to date, not replied.
Monday, June 3, 2013
While walking down Congress Street a few days ago, I was solicited by a Greenpeace volunteer. They were in Portland signing up new members and seeking donations. I chatted with the young woman for a few minutes, but declined to make a donation as, quite frankly, I have been rather short of funds lately. (Now might be a good time to point out the new “Donate” button under my bio on the right-hand side of the screen…)
But, truth be told, I likely would not have contributed anything even if I had the money to do so. The thing is... I kind of hate Greenpeace—and the Sierra Club, and the National Resource Defense Council (NRDC), and Environment Maine along with most of the other prominent environmental groups.
Obviously, I wholeheartedly support these groups’ mission of environmental protection. But, like so many “progressive” nonprofits (MoveOn, The Center for American Progress, 350.org, Equality Maine, to name a few), most of the major environmental organizations have become little more than front-groups for the Democratic Party.
Additionally, some of the primary funders of these organizations call their commitment to green energy solutions into question. The “Big Enviros,” like corporate grant-dependent, NPR (“This edition of Living on Earth is brought to you by a generous grant from the Chevron Corporation!”), have essentially allowed themselves to be co-opted by Big Business and the fossil fuel industries.
(Before going further, a bit of clarification is in order. Greenpeace and the Green Party are two entirely separate and highly disparate organizations. I point this out because people constantly confuse the two.)
For starters, all of the major environmental orgs endorsed Barack Obama for re-election last fall. In fact, many of them did so as early as April 2012.
Contrary to N.Y. Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s claims, Obama is hardly the environmental champion the media often make him out to be. Indeed, Obama’s environmental record has been abysmal. He has taken no action on climate change. The only feasible climate change legislation Congress seems capable of passing is a dreaded, watered-down cap-and-trade bill which essentially lets the “free-market” decide how much CO2 corporations are permitted to pump into the atmosphere.
Obama continues to tout an “all of the above” energy approach which, as of this year’s State of the Union Address, still includes something called “clean coal.” Such a thing does not exist. And while environmentalists may have won a temporary victory in managing to stall the authorization of the Keystone XL Pipeline, Counterpunch’s Jeffrey St. Clair says the pipeline’s construction is “already a fait accompli” (“The Silent Death of the American Left,” 5/24-26/2013).
And need I remind readers that shortly after the Fukushima Daiichi reactor meltdown in Japan, the president called for more nuclear power plants here in the U.S.?
I think simple partisanship is what this is really about. Back in January, Green Party presidential nominee Jill Stein was prohibited from speaking during a massive--allegedly “non-partisan”-- anti-tar sands rally in Portland. Rep. Chellie Pingree and Mayor Michael Brennan—both Democrats—spoke at length, however. (Pingree, incidentally, flew in on a helicopter, gave her scripted speech, then was promptly spirited away. Stein, on the other hand, actually took part in the march and received no such VIP treatment. Kinda demonstrates which party is really serious about climate change and which is just looking to score political points.)
Simply put, it is completely hypocritical for the Big Enviros to claim they care about global warming, fracking, tar sands, renewable energy and the like, and then vote for a corporate, Wall Street-funded Democrat who spent his first year in office pushing for an obscenely destructive pipeline to transport some of the dirtiest, most corrosive unrefined oil on the planet across half the country.
Then there is the curious issue of who is funding these environmental groups.
Turns out the Sierra Club has, up until recently, received an estimated $25 million from the natural gas industry. The news broke last year that from 2007-2010 Sierra Club executive director, Michael Brune, clandestinely accepted the money from Chesapeake Energy, a major supporter of hydraulic fracturing or “fracking.”
The revelation led to a number of progressives publicly withdrawing their support of the organization, most notably author and environmental activist, Sandra Steingraber. In an open letter published in Orion Magazine (“Breaking Up with the Sierra Club,” 03/26/2012), Steingraber informed the Sierra Club, “I’m through with you.” She announced she was relinquishing her title of “the new Rachel Carson,” bestowed on her by Sierra, and erased the Club’s jacket-endorsement that had adorned her 1997 book, Living Downstream.
Steingraber defended her disassociation with the group as such:
The Sierra Club had taken money, gobs of it, from an industry that we in the grassroots have been in the fight of our lives to oppose. The largest, most venerable environmental organization in the United States secretly aligned with the very company that seeks to occupy our land, turn it inside out, blow it apart, fill it with poison. All for the goal of extracting a powerful heat-trapping gas, methane, that plays a significant role in climate change.
She added, “It was as if, on the eve of D-Day, the anti-Fascist partisans had discovered that Churchill was actually in cahoots with the Axis forces.”
Harsh words, to be certain.
Again, I support the Enviros’ overall goals of environmental advocacy. Unfortunately, the myopic, partisan viewpoints of their managing boards as well as their members have rendered them virtually impotent. Why bother getting arrested with Bill McKibben and friends outside the White House lawn, when you are ultimately going to support its occupant come Election Day—regardless of any action he does or does not take? At what point do these “designer protests” as St. Clair calls them, become little more than empty publicity stunts?
When it comes to global warming, we can no longer afford to waste time on such symbolic measures. The environmental movement needs to get real serious, real fast. Anyone who doubts me need only scan the front-page headline of a recent issue of The Nation: “It’s Not Warming,” it says underneath a picture of earth, “It’s Dying.”
Last November, Jill Stein and Rocky Anderson were the only candidates running on any serious environmental platform. Any self-described environmentalist who could not bring himself to vote for either of them may as well just pack it up and prepare for the environmental Apocalypse.
So, please stop asking me for money, Greenpeace and Friends. What little I have will go exclusively to the Green Party where it can actually do some good.