In this time of heightened suspicion and increasing questions surrounding mass government surveillance, Lannan Center for Poetics and Social Practice is pleased to announce our “Matters of Urgency” event for spring 2014: “Beyond Orwell: Surveillance, Secrets, and Whistleblowers in the Security State,” an evening of talks and discussion by prominent whistle-blowers of our time and the journalists who brought their disclosures to light. “Beyond Orwell” will feature an address by Daniel Ellsberg, who famously released The Pentagon Papers to the New York Times in 1971, helping to bring about an end to the Vietnam War. Journalist Glenn Greenwald will join us by video, and other guests will include Thomas Drake (former NSA Executive), Ray McGovern (former National Intelligence Estimates Chair), Jesselyn Radack (former Ethics Advisor to the US Department of Justice and Edward Snowden’s attorney), and Coleen Rowley (former FBI agent). Moderated by author and film producer (of the recently acclaimed documentary Dirty Wars) Anthony Arnove.
A federal appeals court ordered the U.S. Department of Justice to turn over key portions of a memorandum justifying the government’s targeted killing of people linked to terrorism, including Americans. In a case pitting executive power against the public’s right to know what its government does, the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals reversed a lower court ruling preserving the secrecy of the legal rationale for the killings, such as the death of U.S. citizen Anwar al-Awlaki in a 2011 drone strike in Yemen. Ruling for the New York Times, a unanimous three-judge panel said the government waived its right to secrecy by making repeated public statements justifying targeted killings. These included a Justice Department “white paper,” as well as speeches or statements by officials like Attorney General Eric Holder and former Obama administration counterterrorism adviser John Brennan, endorsing the practice.
First, let me say what I don’t mean by “militancy.” I’m not using this word as a euphemism for violence. The whole theme of violence and nonviolence gets too much attention and distracts us from more basic and pressing questions. Instead, I define militancy as grievance-motivated collective action that is both adversarial and confrontational. Militancy is adversarial in the sense that, instead of seeking to find common ground with its targets, it identifies them as adversaries to be defeated or to be forced into retreat. For example, the companies that profit from the tar sands, and the politicians that serve these business interests, are not potential partners for a meeting of the minds. If they are to be stopped, it will have to be through determined struggle; relentless, escalating, and with a broadening base of participation. We have to identify these targets as adversaries, and work to build an alliance of people and organizations willing to fight them and defeat them. Militancy is confrontational in the sense that it actively encourages conflict, rather than seeking to resolve or limit the animosity and disorder that conflict generates. In Martin Luther King’s words, militancy seeks “to create a crisis” and “to foster tension.” Defeating a determined and hostile adversary — someone like Prime Minister Stephen Harper, for example — requires a willingness to defy the authority of that adversary, and to disrupt the functioning of the systems of power from which that adversary draws strength.
The trolls have been out blasting BuzzFlash at Truthout for calling the fossil fuel industry “eco-terrorists” for careening the earth into a human-made death spiral, but it’s true. Those who can’t smell the carbon dioxide ravaging the earth for hedonistic profit – enabled by federal and many state and local governments – will find out that just because you can’t smell global warming does not mean that it is not brewing a cauldron of devastation just over the horizon. Since 9/11 few Americans have been killed by terrorists, but we have built a multi-billion dollar “anti-terrorist” intelligence, military, surveillance and incarceration state to deal with a threat that pales in comparison to global warming. Toss in the lurking big bang of devastation to life on earth – the grand finale of global warming – and the 1% are living the last days of Pompeii in at least five different ways that are killing many of the rest of us.
The Alameda County Sheriff’s Department, California Highway Patrol and Livermore Police Department assisted in the arrests. According to lab officials, the west gate was closed for two hours. The annual Good Friday protest is organized by the Ecumenical Peace Institute of Berkeley and the Livermore Conversion Project in Oakland. It has been held for about the past 30 years. “The message of today’s event is that we’ve got to stop devoting our valuable resources, our energy, our money, and our intelligence in the service of killing people, and turn it toward creating things that give life,” said Ecumenical Peace Institute program coordinator Carolyn Scarr, who was among those arrested. At the gathering, keynote speaker Kathy Kelly, co-coordinator of Voices for Creative Nonviolence, talked about the impacts of military intervention in Iraq and Afghanistan.
The manager of the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant has admitted to embarrassment that repeated efforts have failed to bring under control the problem of radioactive water, eight months after Prime Minister Shinzo Abe told the world the matter had been resolved. Tokyo Electric Power Co., the plant’s operator, has been fighting a daily battle against contaminated water since Fukushima No. 1 was wrecked by the March 2011 earthquake and tsunami. Abe’s government pledged half a billion dollars last year to tackle the issue, but progress has been limited. “It’s embarrassing to admit, but there are certain parts of the site where we don’t have full control,” Akira Ono told reporters touring the plant last week. He was referring to the latest blunder at the plant: channeling contaminated water into the wrong building. Ono also acknowledged that many difficulties may have been rooted in Tepco’s focus on speed since the 2011 disaster.
The approach of the 40th anniversary of Earth Day on April 22 provides us an opportunity to reflect on the “long, strange trip” shared by the environmental movement and the labor movement over four decades here on Spaceship Earth. A billion people participate in Earth Day events, making it the largest secular civic event in the world. But when it was founded in 1970, according to Earth Day’s first national coordinator Denis Hayes, “Without the UAW, the first Earth Day would have likely flopped!” Less than a week after he first announced the idea for Earth Day, Senator Gaylord Nelson presented his proposal to the Industrial Union Department of the AFL-CIO. Walter Ruther, President of the UAW, enthusiastically donated $2000 to help kick the effort off – to be followed by much more. Hayes recalls: “The UAW was by far the largest contributor to the first Earth Day, and its support went beyond the merely financial. It printed and mailed all our materials at its expense — even those critical of pollution-belching cars.
A White House official told Yahoo that President Obama is prepared to use his pardon power to grant clemency to “hundreds, perhaps thousands” of people who have been jailed for nonviolent drug crimes. The White House’s new moves would follow in the footsteps of a January announcement that the Obama administration would taking the unprecedented step of encouraging defense lawyers to suggest inmates whom the president might let out of prison early, as part of its effort to curtail severe penalties in low-level drug cases. In December, President Obama commuted the sentences of eight federal inmates convicted of non-violent drug offenses involving crack cocaine. Mr. Obama said the eight men and women had been sentenced under an “unfair system,” including the 100-to-1 sentencing disparity between crack and powder cocaine offenses that was reduced to 18:1 by the Fair Sentencing Act of 2010.
From 2006 to 2008, Duran took out 68 commercial and personal loans from 39 banks in Spain. He farmed the money out to social activists, funding speaking tours against capitalism and TV cameras for a media network. “I saw that on one side, these social movements were building alternatives but that they lacked resources and communication capacities,” he said. “Meanwhile, our reliance on perpetual growth was creating a system that created money out of nothing.” They call him the Robin Hood of the banks, a man who took out dozens of loans worth almost half a million euros with no intention of ever paying them back. Instead, Enric Duran farmed the money out to projects that created and promoted alternatives to capitalism. After 14 months in hiding, Duran is unapologetic even though his activities could land him in jail. “I’m proud of this action,” he said in an interview by Skype from an undisclosed location. The money, he said, had created opportunities. “It generated a movement that allowed us to push forward with the construction of alternatives. And it allowed us to build a powerful network that groups together these initiatives.”
Coal ash, infamous for its recent splash into the Dan River, also lies along Charlotte’s outerbelt. It’s next to a Huntersville car dealership and under a Lowe’s store in Mooresville. The ash was used to level ground and fill gullies. Duke Energy once sold it for 50 cents to $1 a ton, disposing of waste – and a liability – it would otherwise have had to store in ponds or landfills. At least 1.8 million cubic yards of dry ash are buried in nearly two dozen places around Charlotte, not counting power plants. That’s enough to cover 1,100 acres a foot deep in ash. An unknown amount of wet ash, removed from ponds and regulated separately, was also used as fill material. The state can’t locate records before 2011 that would show where or how large those sites are. State standards are so minimal that even property owners, much less their neighbors, might not know what’s underfoot. And while ash has a known ability to contaminate groundwater, fill sites are rarely tested.
BP’s oil continues to take its toll on other areas of the Louisiana marsh, where people living in low-lying coastal communities are having to contemplate moving, hence abandoning their culture and way of life, due to the erosion of oiled marsh coupled with rising seas from climate change. Despite all of this ongoing evidence of BP’s deleterious impact on the Gulf of Mexico region, President Obama’s Environmental Protection Agency has decided to allow the oil giant back into Gulf waters to search for more oil leases. The impact of the BP disaster is not going away: Crude oil persists in the environment for, in some cases, decades. A full 25 years after the Exxon Valdez disaster in Alaska, the ongoing presence of relatively fresh oil in Prince William Sound continues to surprise scientists. Migratory and reproductive cycles of regional wildlife continue to be severely affected, and at least one species of sea turtles in the area is now nearing extinction, according to a recent report by the National Wildlife Federation (NWF). Migratory patterns of turtles, as well as other species, were impacted by the massive amount of oil injected into the region.
Set-up of the campsite by the Cowboy Indian Alliance for a week-long protest against the Keystone XL pipeline began on the National Mall in Washington, DC today. “Reject and Protect” officially begins tomorrow with an opening ceremony at the Capitol Reflecting Pool at 11am. So far seven tipis standing 20 feet tall have been assembled with one in progress and more to go up tomorrow. Several will be painted with ceremonial tribal designs as the week progresses. Ranchers, farmers and members of native communities along the pipeline route formed the Cowboy Indian Alliance to stand against energy company TransCanada’s efforts to acquire land under eminent domain. Cyril Scott, President and Tribal Leader of the Rosebud Sioux Tribe, watched over the camp while other tribal leaders and elders met nearby. “We are here to stop the Keystone XL and protect our people and water,” he said.
Ten years ago, on April 21, 2004, several hundred of us from around the world waited with great anticipation outside the gates of Israel’s Ashkelon Prison, holding up signs saying “Thank you, Mordechai Vanunu: Peace Hero, Nuclear Whistle-blower”. After many years of campaigning for his freedom, the day had finally arrived: Mordechai Vanunu would walk out of the prison where he had spent each day of his 18 year sentence (12 of those years in solitary confinement) for blowing the whistle on Israel’s then secret nuclear arsenal. We were there to welcome him to freedom. Our excitement had been somewhat dimmed a couple of days earlier, when Israel announced a list of oppressive and unjust restrictions on the soon-to-be-released whistle-blower. These restrictions continue to this day, having been renewed each April: Mordechai Vanunu remains under restrictions which require him to report and gain approval for any change in residence, to avoid diplomatic missions, to not speak to foreign nationals and which prevent him from leaving Israel, a thing Mordechai has wished to do ever since his release from prison.
Just in time for Seven Days of Action: Global Climate Convergence, CLDC launched a new way for people everywhere to access the essential information needed to assert their rights! The well-known Know Your Rights for Activists training by Lauren Regan offers basic legal information for activists what to expect from law enforcement. As with all of our trainings, this video is not intended as legal advice and does not form an attorney-client relationship. We also published a Know Your Rights for Immigrant Communities training video, in both English and Spanish. The purpose of this training is to build solidarity with immigrant communities at risk for police and government harassment, and to prevent the deportation and destruction of families and communities.
The first time I met Pete Seeger was at a People’s Music Network summer gathering about 10 years ago. I was a bright-eyed radical teenager who had just stolen all of my dad’s Phil Ochs CDs and was ready for revolution, but I was new to the folk scene and was probably the youngest person at the gathering by about 30 years. In terms of looks, I didn’t know Pete Seeger from Frank Sinatra.