Archive | January, 2013

1,500 march against tar sands in Portland, Maine (are you in this video?)

27 Jan

About 1,500 people defied the bitter cold on January 26, 2013 to protest the transport of dangerous tar sands via pipeline from Montreal to Portland, Maine.  Here’s a video from the march.  Can you find yourself among these defiant souls in this video or in this photo album?  If you weren’t there, don’t feel guilty.  The fight against this project has just begun.  Join us next time; this is a winnable battle and the next round probably won’t be so cold.


I know what’s in my bag!

25 Jan
Look at all the good people we had in (and, as shown here, outside) the UNregular Radio studio on January 24, 2013.  It's John Ford, Nelson Terry, Matthew Krawitz, Frank Capone, Garret Kirkland, Patrick Doherty, Tamarleigh Grenfell and Rene Perez.

Look at all the good people we had in (and, as shown here, outside) the UNregular Radio studio on January 24, 2013. It’s John Ford, Nelson Terry, Matthew Krawitz, Frank Capone, Garret Kirkland, Patrick Doherty, Tamarleigh Grenfell and Rene Perez.

Last night’s episode of “Banned in Boston” was a really good one. First we talked about Aaron Swartz and his unjust prosecution by Carmen Ortiz. Then we explored the dark implications of the TSA (Transportation Security Administration) conducting recent random bag searches on the MBTA. This is one of my favorite episodes so far and I hope you like it too. The direct link is here.

Cognitive Dissonance, Hillary Clinton, and empire

23 Jan

Hillary Clinton said something today that made my head spin:

“The United States is the most extraordinary force for peace and progress the world has ever known”

“Cognitive dissonance” is a term that’s been losing its meaning due to misuse as a popular stand-in term for illogical activity in general. But what it refers to, per the original coinage, is the unpleasant experience of having a core belief challenged by contrary evidence. The frequent result is that people ignore the contrary evidence (even if overwhelming), invalidate that evidence through mental gymnastics, or otherwise make excuses that allow them to keep their core belief and feel good about it.

The core belief that Hillary Clinton articulates in the quote above is refuted by such a mountain of evidence that it’s hard to believe an educated, neutral observer wouldn’t consider this a classic case of cognitive dissonance and its result.

The Empire is the most extraordinary force for peace and progress the galaxy has ever known. ~ Darth Vader

Everyone in the United States, with few exceptions, has been bombarded with nationalistic propaganda since before they could walk.  Some of this propaganda arises “organically” from people who naturally want to believe that the big, sexy, powerful nation to which they feel attached is good.  More of it is the product of a multi-billion dollar propaganda machine that does its job much better than I do mine.  I’ve spent hundreds of hours trying to convince people, mostly Democrats, that cheerful support of leaders like Obama and Clinton is, in effect, support of what they do.  Does that seem like it would be difficult? It’s almost impossible.

The reason it’s almost impossible, I think, is because it would mean abandoning the core belief “the US is mostly good, except when Republicans are in charge.”  In order to hold a core belief like this, people will say grass is blue, the sky is green and the moon is made of cheese.  They will say anything rather than the truth.

I don’t know how to work around this.  I wish I did.  I’ve been studying methods of debate and persuasion but it hasn’t helped. I often feel ineffective and frustrated.  I’d do anything to stop these wars.

But frankly, I have no idea what to do.  I’m wondering if I should just shut up and enjoy the perks of this evil empire I’ve been born into rather than continue to struggle and accomplish nothing.  Comments?

Transcript: Cornel West on Barack Obama and Martin Luther King Jr.’s Bible

21 Jan

Today is the US federal holiday called “Martin Luther King, Jr.  Day.”  Also today, Barack Obama was sworn in for a second term as President of the United States using a Bible that Martin Luther King, Jr. once owned.  Cornell West has a problem with this particular Bible being used in this particular way, and he said so in an expressive monologue last Thursday.

The forum was “Vision for a New America: A Future without Poverty,” a symposium in Washington, DC hosted by Tavis Smiley.   Newt Gingrich and Marcia Fudge were among the other panelists, but Cornell West definitely made the comments that have attracted the most attention.  Presented below is both the video that has become so popular and my transcript of West’s words.

What do you think of what Cornell West had to say?  Was it a moving speech?  Was it over-inflated rhetoric?  Was it both?  Please share your comments below.

Transcript of Cornel West’s January 17, 2013 statements regarding the use of Martin Luther King Jr.’s Bible during the inauguration of Barack Obama:

Now, when I got the news that my dear brother Barack Obama, President Obama, was going to put his precious hand on Martin Luther King, Jr.’s Bible, I got upset.  And I got upset because you don’t play with Martin Luther King, Jr. and you don’t play with his people.  And by his people, what I mean is people of good conscience, fundamentally committed to peace, and truth and justice.  And especially the black tradition that produced it.

All the blood, sweat and tears that went into producing a Martin Luther King, Jr. generated a brother of such high decency and dignity that you don’t use his prophetic fire as just a moment in a presidential pageantry, without understanding the challenge that he presents to all of those in power no matter what color they are.  No matter what color they are!

So, the righteous indignation of a Martin Luther King, Jr. becomes a moment in political calculation and that makes my blood boil. Why? Because Martin Luther King, Jr., he died knowing the three crimes against humanity he was wrestling with. Jim Crow – traumatizing, terrorizing, stigmatizing black people, lynching, insultful – not just segregation the way the press wants to talk about.

Second, carpet bombing in Vietnam, killing innocent people especially innocent children.  Those are war crimes Martin Luther King, Jr. was willing to die for.  And thirdly, was poverty of all colors.  He said it’s a crime against humanity for the richest nation in the history of the world to have so many of its precious children of all colors living in poverty, and especially on the chocolate side of the nation, in Indian reservations, in brown barrios, in yellow slices, and black ghettos, then.  We call them hoods now, but ghettos then.

So I said to myself, “ok nothing wrong with putting your hand on the Bible.” Even though the bible talks about justice and Jesus is talking bout “the least of these.”  But when you put in Martin’s bible?  I said, “this is personal for me. This is the tradition I came out of. This is the tradition that is connected to my grandmothers prayers, and my grandfathers sermons, and my mothers tears, and my fathers smile, and it’s over against all of those in power who refuse to follow decent policies.”

So I say to myself, “Brother Martin Luther King, Jr., what would you say about the new Jim Crow? What would you say about the prison industrial complex? What would you say about the invisibility of so many of our prisoners? So many of our incarcerated, especially when 62% of them are there for soft drugs, but not one executive of a Wall Street bank gone to jail?  Not one!”  Martin doesn’t like that. Not one wiretapper. Not one torturer under the Bush administration, at all.

Then, what you say about the drones bring dropped on our precious brothers and sisters in Pakistan and Somalia and Yemen? Those are war crimes, just like war crimes in Vietnam. Martin Luther King, Jr., what would you say? “My voice hollers out,” and don’t tame it with your hand on his bible.  Allow his prophetic voice to be heard.  Martin, what would you say about the poverty in America now, beginning with the children, then the elderly, then our working folk, and all colors not just here, around the world.  Don’t hide and conceal his challenge. Don’t tame his prophetic fire.

So, that as much as I’m glad that Barack Obama won – I think that brother Mitt Romney would have been a catastrophe, and I understand my brother Newt told the truth about fat vampire capitalism but that’s true for the system as a whole not just Mitt Romney in that regard – but when Barack Obama attempts to use that rich tradition of Frederick Douglas and Ida B. Wells-Barnett?  Use the tradition of A. Phillip Randolph?  Use the tradition of Rabbi Joshua Heschel?  Use the tradition of Tom Hayden and so many others struggling to produce that voice that pushed Martin in the direction that it did?  I get upset.

People say, “Oh brother West, there’s Smiley and West, hating Obama.”  No, no.  We just loving the tradition that produced Martin Luther King, Jr. and were not going to allow it to be in any way sanitized, deodorized and sterilized,  we want the subversive power to be heard.  That’s what made me think, when you said he was gonna put in his hand on that bible. And I’m praying or him.  I’m praying for him. As is Newt – both of us Christians, you Catholic, I’m Holy Ghost funkygut gutbucket Baptist – but we’re praying for him. Putting pressure on. 

Want to read more on this subject? 

Check out “MLK’s Vehement Condemnations of US Militarism” by Glenn Greenwald.

Inauguration Day 2013

21 Jan

I won’t watch this inauguration

I won’t watch you crown the conqueror

I won’t get drunk on flags and trumpets

I won’t put that American dick in my mouth

I don’t want your wool scarfs and trenchcoats

I don’t want your Carters and Clintons and Kerrys

I don’t want the Georges or Joe Biden

I don’t want Sasha and Malia in pretty dresses

Because I don’t believe in killing for capitalism

So I won’t watch you crown the conqueror

And I won’t get high on speeches and smiles

And I won’t go along with it, even for a day

Even for warm January day

Cooler than those ahead

Massachusetts marijuana laws still allow prosecution for small amounts

19 Jan
Yep, even this lil nugget of "Bubba Kush" could land you in jail.

Yep, even this lil nugget of “Bubba Kush” could land you in jail.

From a legal standpoint, the Commonwealth of Massachusetts isn’t the most dangerous place to light up a joint.  Through voter decision, marijuana was decriminalized in 2009. More recently, the people of Massachusetts voted in favor of medical marijuana at the general election last November.  It is still possible, however, to be arrested and given up to two years in jail for a tiny amount of pot.

Here’s how.  “Possession with intent to distribute” carries up to two years jail time and a fine of up to $5,000.  The amount doesn’t matter.

And in February 2012, the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Council ruled that “possession with intent to distribute” applies even if there is no sale has been made and only small, decriminalized amounts of marijuana are involved.  The case before them involved Shawn M. Keefner, arrested 2010 smoking a joint on a porch in Great Barrington.  Cops allegedly found him carrying three gram bags and some suspicious messages on his phone.

Maybe Keefner was a small time weed dealer, maybe he wasn’t.  But the laws are currently in place so that even cutting a dime bag for your bestie can land you in jail.  Caveat venditor.  Carrying weed in more than one container probably invites trouble too.  But hey, if they want to arrest you bad enough, they’ll find a reason whether you’re breaking any laws or not.  Be careful, but don’t get paranoid.

Rita Sebastian and Ned Paschene on “Idle No More”

18 Jan
Nelson Terry, Rita Sebastian, Sage Radachowshy and John Murphy in the studio.

Nelson Terry, Rita Sebastian, Sage Radachowshy and John Murphy in the studio.

Rita Sebastian never fails to impress me with her rare combination of bravery, compassion and tenacity.  She was in the Banned in Boston studio last night as we talked to Ned Paschene, a Cree activist involved with the Idle No More protests erupting across Canada.  A direct link to the episode is here.

Rita has a tendency to get where the action is.  Last week, Rita headed up to Ottawa in answer to an invite from Ned Paschene.  On Friday, January 11, she joined a call for women to prevent Chief Matthew Coon Come of Quebec and others from attending a meeting with Stephen Harper since certain people were excluded. Here’s video of that.

Here’s a clip I shot of Rita last night outside UNregular Radio.  In this second clip, Rita talks about Idle No More, Chief Theresa Spence, and what happened outside Stephen Harper’s meeting.

Too hot for your iPhone? Blame climate change.

9 Jan
Too hot for your iPhone? Blame climate change.

Too hot for your iPhone? Blame climate change.

Winter here in North America coincides with summer in Australia, and it’s a hot one.  It’s so hot, in fact, that the Aussis were faced with a dilemma.  An eminent heat wave had them predicting it’s going to hit 122ºF (50ºC) and above.  As far as the color maps that meteorologists use to show local temperatures, this sort of heat is literally off the scale.

What’s Australia’s official response? Well, if you guessed that they’ve made emergency revisions to energy policies, you’re dead wrong.  Since they’re expecting heat levels that are off the scale, they’ve calmly implemented a change to deal with this crisis: They’ve changed the scale.

Now when places in Australia get beyond red hot and charcoal black there’s a blazing purple and a burning pink that will show up on weather maps instead.  But hey, maps shmaps, right?  Since these ultra-extreme temperatures are expected in Australia’s dry interior, some people might not be concerned.

Yet in Sydney, the most populous city in Australia, temperatures reached 108ºF (42ºC) this Monday.  As noted by Wired, the folks at Apple say that’s too hot to safely use an iPhone, and it’s almost enough to damage such an instrument when not in use. The iPad and iPod devices are affected by these temperatures too, and we can assume Apple products aren’t the only gadgets we have to worry about.  As founder Bill McKibben quipped via Twitter, “OMG, Aust. currently too hot to use an Ipad, Iphone. Finally a reason to act!”

Even more visible effects of this searing “dome of heat” down under are many.  Players at the 2013 Australian Open in Melbourne, for example, have been suffering heat stroke.  Between matches, the players are been seeking out air conditioned tents and ice baths so so their brains and bodies don’t shut down.  Tennis pros have that luxury, but most other people who perform strenuous outdoor activity for a living (construction workers and agricultural workers, for example) do not.

Extreme temperatures are a factor in huge big wildfires across Australia that show prominently in the Earth at Night maps made by NASA.  Wildfires are part of the natural order of things in Australia, but these rampant conflagrations are something else.  Tens of thousands of cattle and sheep have been killed in the fires, and almost a hundred people are missing after a blaze in Tasmania destroyed their homes last week. According to New York Times:

“Four months of record-breaking temperatures stretching back to September 2012 have produced what the government says are ‘catastrophic’ fire conditions along the eastern and southeastern coasts of the country, where the majority of Australians live…The intensity of the bushfires and the unrelenting heat prompted some climate scientists to decry what they see as public indifference to man-made climate change, which is widely seen as leading to more frequent extreme weather.”

David Jones, manager of climate monitoring prediction at Australia’s Bureau of Meteorology, remarked that “one might say this is the largest heat event in the country’s recorded history.”  He also noted, “this event is turning out to be hotter, more spatially expansive and the duration is quite remarkable…and that suggests climate change.”

Climate change is, of course, a global phenomenon and it’s foolish to think the effects of it won’t be increasingly visible in North America as well.  Sandy, the superstorm that destroyed lives not only islands in the Caribbean but also on New York’s Long Island, was likely an effect of it.  The same thing can be said of droughts that diminished food production in parts of the United States this year.

The National Climatic Data Center has officially deemed 2012 as the warmest year on record in the continuous United States.  55.3ºF (12.94ºC), the average temperature for the year just ended,  is 3.2ºF above the 20th century average and one full degree Fahrenheit above the average for 1998, previous holder of the record.  Wildfires burned 9.2 million acres of the United States in 2012.  What do you think the next decade years will be like?  How about the next century?

If these dramatic changes in Earth’s climate were being caused by a heat ray pointed at our planet by evil aliens from outer space, I think we’d agree that dealing with the issue of climate change must be the top priority of the human species.

But scientific consensus agrees that “climate is changing and that these changes are in large part caused by human activities.”  It’s happening because of our reliance on fossil fuel combustion, our manufacturing processes, our agricultural methods and our deforestation efforts.  In short, cataclysmic climate change is caused by things that make rich people richer, and rich people control the world.

“Super Glue” action against TransCanada leads to 8 arrests in Massachusetts

8 Jan
January 7, 2012 action against TransCanada in Westborough, MA; photo via Students for a Just and Stable Future

January 7, 2012 action against TransCanada in Westborough, MA; photo via Students for a Just and Stable Future

Eight young adults were arrested yesterday after they glued their hands together with cyanoacrylate adhesive during a sit-in protest at TransCanada offices in Westborough, a Central Massachusetts town about 28 miles (45.47 km) west of Boston.

This direct action against TransCanada was one of six this same day across the US.  Protests also took place at TransCanada offices in Milwaukee, WI and in two locations in Houston, TX.  In Maine, activists targeted TD Bank, an important financier for Keystone XL, while people in Detroit, MI went after Chase bank, another major source of money for the project.  The protests are part of a nationwide week of action against the tar sands pipeline that is snaking its way across North America.

The people arrested at the Massachusetts sit-in range in age from 20 to 22 and are students or graduates of local universities including Brandeis, Boston University, Harvard, Tufts, and University of New Hampshire.  Their names are Emily Edgerly, Devyn Powell, Lisa Purdy, Shea Riester, Ben Thompson, Benjamin Trolio, Dorian Williams and Alli Welton.  They’ve posted bios about themselves online.

While members of the group have said they acted independently, all are affiliated with 350 Massachusetts and some have connections with Students for a Just and Stable Future (SJSF), an organization described on their website as “a student network fighting to ensure a just and stable future for our generation and the generations to come that are threatened by runaway global warming.”

They entered the building at 2 pm.  A post from Chris Faraone describes how they “marched up to the energy behemoth’s third floor office, sat in a circular formation with their backs touching, and began to click-in. By 2:10, crew members were fully chained and glued to one another, with fast-drying adhesive dripping from their hands and their bike locks.”  A contradictory report from someone involved with the action says they did not apply glue to their locks although that was their original plan.

They were inside until a few minutes after 5 pm, having successfully locked down the office until close of business.  By 6 pm, the protestors were at the police station, some of them still attached by chains.

Later, a comment on Facebook from 350 Massachusetts assured, “Students are now in jail being processed. Their chains and superglue have been removed.” Another post later in the night reported, “Students released!”  The Boston Globe reported that they each paid $40 bail and that nail polish remover intended to dissolve the glue wasn’t really needed.

Marla Marcum, an activist involved behind the scenes, told me that the protestors were charged with trespassing and disorderly conduct and that the Boston Globe report of “disturbing the peace” is incorrect.  Marcum said that the police thanked them all for being so positive and cheerful when released and added, “They were the nicest group of police I ever experienced. We told them we would be coming back…one said with a big smile on his face, ‘You’ve got to do what you’ve got to do.'”

The protestors will face arraignment in Westborough District Court at 8:30 am tomorrow and have  issued a statement that begins:

Today we stand together as representatives of a desperate generation who have been forced into this position by the reckless and immoral behavior of fossil fuel corporations such as TransCanada. Our political leaders have failed countless times to stand up to the tyranny of fossil fuel giants and take the necessary steps to solve the climate crisis. Their failures have disrupted and destroyed millions of lives.

The eight arrestees show their release papers in this image posted on the 350 Massachusetts page on Facebook

The eight arrestees show their release papers in this image posted on the 350 Massachusetts page on Facebook

This text regarding the January 7 action will be updated as more facts are available.  I’m expecting some phonecalls, and tonight starting 6 pm at First Church Cambridge (11 Garden Street, Harvard Square) there’s a gathering that includes a 350 Massachusetts meeting and preparations for the big protests taking place later this month in conjunction with Tar Sands Free Northeast.  It looks like some of the arrestees will be there, and I’ll try to have some of them on Banned in Boston this Thursday to say more about what happened and why.

In the meanwhile, please donate to the fund that helps make attention-getting actions like this possible.

Murtaza Nek of Occupy Boston arrested

5 Jan

Murtaza NekMurtaza Nek, an MIT grad who many will remember from Occupy Boston, was arrested yesterday afternoon in East Texas as part of the ongoing Tar Sand Blockade.

Nek was apparently arrested for refusing to cross the street when told to do so by the police. There’s video of this at the link below.  According to social justice advocate Dorian Williams:

 “Many of you may know Murtaza Nek as he has been an active participant of 350 Massachusetts and Students for a Just and Stable Future. Recently he took a trip down to Texas to contribute to the Tar Sands Blockade’s fight against the construction of the southern leg of Keystone XL Pipeline. As of 11:50 am on January 3rd, Murtaza was arrested in Texas while trying to provide direct support to his friends partaking in a particularly vulnerable tree sit for the Tar Sands Blockade…For those of who have not had a chance to meet Murtaza, he has been an amazingly strong and dedicated ally in this movement. Having accomplished Climate Summer this past year, where he biked from town-to-town across Massachusetts supporting climate action and discussion, Murtaza brought back his organizing and bike power here. Every week, Murtaza would bike from Worcester to Cambridge and back to participate in SJSF and 350MA meetings, helping organize and participate in actions targeting fossil fuels like tar sands and natural gas. Now he needs our commitment and support in return.”

Nek, who address is listed as Vienna, VA in his arrest record, is charged with interfering with public duties. His bail has been set at $1,500 and supporters are being asked to donate what they can towards the appropriate legal fund. More information (as well as video) about the aerial tree blockade and the brave people involved with it can be found here.