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Guest Commentary

Guest Commentary (4752)


Many Canadians have been anxiously following the unfolding Gulf of Mexico oil spill disaster and are experiencing a deep sense of unease as they scan the daily media reports. Such foreboding is clearly understandable as one can't help thinking this might be a nightmarish peek into one possible future for British Columbia as federal and provincial politicians here in Canada lay the groundwork to transform our Pacific coast into an "energy corridor." They dream of seismic testing, offshore drilling, pipelines from the tar sands, and oil tankers plying our rocky coast; this is what passes as visionary in the age of government of the corporations, by the corporations and for the corporations.

Carl Pope, former chairman of the Sierra Club in the United States, has dubbed the British Petroleum catastrophe "America's Chernobyl." U.S. Interior Secretary Ken Salazar, not exactly known as being a fervent environmentalist by any stretch of the imagination, describes the potential outlook for the Gulf Coast oil spill as "a very grave scenario."

In the wake of the Gulf of Mexico disaster, Canadian federal opposition parties are calling for emergency hearings before the Commons Natural Resources Committee to discuss the need for more stringent safeguards against oil spills in Canada's Arctic. But the public needs to be properly and clearly informed as to the risks and tradeoffs with regard to proposed oil development and transport for the BC coast as well; Raincoast Conservation Foundation's recently released report, "What's at Stake -- The cost of oil on British Columbia's priceless coast," is designed to do just that; we encourage you to go to the Raincoast website and download the report.


I know -- we’re not supposed to “look back but ahead.” That’s become a virtual bi-partisan slogan. 
Republicans don’t want to look back because, "back there" is all the stuff that got their party run out of power. And Democrats don’t want to look back because they fear it would only make already unpleasant Republicans angry, and making Republicans angry is apparently something Democrats fear more than anything else. 

As a result the GW Bush administration has been granted a defacto immunity bath for an 8-year wave of crime, misdeeds and policy disasters. And this blind-eye to the past persists even as we continue suffering the results of those policies, deeds and crimes.


After three decades, it took a pair of right-wing movement activists masquerading as a pimp and prostitute, equipped with a hidden camera and a phony storyline, and access to Andrew Breitbart’s well-traveled websites to finally take down ACORN. With that success under their belts, the right has moved on to other targets: In April, the Examiner, a conservative news operation owned by a Hollywood mogul who also happens to be one of the richest men in America, launched a frontal attack on the Berkeley-based Greenlining Institute.

In partnership with CalWatchDog.com, a news service sponsored by the Pacific Research Institute (PRI), a conservative think tank that claims to be non-partisan, the tabloid newspaper manufactured a “scandal” in a splashy 6-part series. While the attack on Greenlining has the veneer of balanced journalism, it betrays itself through a series of provocative, but unsubstantiated, charges and the use of inflammatory rhetoric. In fact, the Examiner series includes no factual evidence of malfeasance by the Greenlining Institute. The series also pivots around another longtime movement goal -- the repeal of the Carter Administration’s Community Reinvestment Act (CRA) of 1978.

The attack on The Greenlining Institute could result in a conservative version of what United Farm Workers Union president Cesar Chavez used to call the “double whammy” when referring to the powerful combination of the strike and the boycott. In this case, the “double whammy” would be the take down of another progressive organization working for economic justice and the repeal of the CRA.

Thursday, 13 May 2010 02:29

Dark Green


This is what happens sometimes when you play God:

“Birds dropped from the air. The sky rained mud. And, as men from the rig struggled to save themselves from the aftermath of (the) explosion . . . the Gulf of Mexico itself caught on fire.”

The Washington Post, covering a federal inquiry into the Deepwater Horizon oil spill, summarized the scene, described by witnesses on a nearby supply ship, as “almost Biblical” -- which is sort of a comic-book expression these days, but conjures up a moment of superstitious awe that, God knows, seems appropriate. This is love of nature stood on its head: nature as (wow!) spectacle. What a symbol for the profound alienation of our times.


May has seen an upsurge in local organizations exercising their human rights to housing.  Most people recognize that international human rights guarantee all humans a right to housing.  With the millions of homeless living in our communities and the millions of empty, foreclosed houses all across our communities, groups have decided to put them together.

Organizations across the US are engaging in “housing liberation” and “housing defense” to exercise their human rights to housing.   Here are a few examples.

Wednesday, 12 May 2010 04:30

Talking the Amazon with Cameron


Recently, I got an invitation to attend an interesting panel dealing with indigenous issues on Earth Day.  The talk, held at the Paley Center for Media in midtown Manhattan, would host a number of Native Americans but also James Cameron, creator of the blockbuster movie Avatar as well as other hits such as Terminator and Titantic.  What, you might ask, was a Hollywood director doing at such an event?

If you’ve seen Cameron’s movie you know that it deals with a fictional tribe of humanoid creatures called the Na’vi who inhabit the rainforest world of Pandora.  In the film, the Na’vi must fight to preserve the forest from a mineral corporation backed up by the U.S. military.  Avatar, a true technological feat, brought the Pandora rainforest to movie-going audiences in 3-D.  Though Avatar doesn’t attempt to teach anything to the audience per se, it does convey a sense of moral outrage.

To his credit, Cameron has sought to address not only fictional struggles in the virtual world but also the real-life plight of indigenous peoples fighting to preserve their ancestral lands from hydropower development.  Recently, the Hollywood director toured the Brazilian rainforest in association with Amazon Watch, a Washington, D.C.-based NGO which is performing valuable environmental work in South America.


As you read this, the life of our bodies, nation and planet is being blown out a corporate hole in the Gulf of Mexico and into a BP Dead Zone of no return.

The apocalyptic gusher of oily poison pouring into the waters that give us life can only be viewed -- FELT -- by each and every one of us as an ongoing death by a thousand cuts with no end in sight.

Yet our government -- allegedly the embodiment of our collective will to survive -- has done NOTHING of significance to fight this mass murder. Not one meaningful thing.

As it did while New Orleans drowned downstream from a willfully neglected levee system, our most potentially effective counter-force dithers on the other side of the world, in the wrong Gulf.

Tuesday, 11 May 2010 02:37

The Great Divide


Several weeks ago, Paul Krugman, in an article entitled “Senator Bunning’s Universe,” said that “Democrats and Republicans live in different universes, both intellectually and morally.” I wholeheartedly agree with him. This statement, on the face of it, should shape how we view our future as a nation.

In this article, Krugman states that Republicans are unable to feel the pain of those that are suffering economically. It has been my opinion, from the time of the Bush/Cheney campaign in 2000, that the combinations of greed and racism have been intertwined by the Republicans into a political view that have received the veneer of mainstream acceptance. This magic combo has provided Republicans the ideological cover for all the pain that they have inflicted on the middle/working class. That the majority of the recipients of this economic pain are white people is of no consequence for these Republicans. They have been able to create a mantra of themselves as protectors of white peoples' interests in defense against the inordinate attacks to their livelihood by systemic demands coming from entitlement programs directed to keep lazy minorities happy. They also call their posture fighting encroaching socialism in their attempt to eliminate any possible empathy. They rationalize their anti-worker stand, which, again, affects mostly white people, by posing to be concerned with negative behavior from those they claim are amongst the unemployed and lack incentive to find jobs -- the welfare queen syndrome. Republican Party leaders no longer seem to be inclined to take racism seriously, unless they can twist it around as “reverse racism.”


They’ve tried fire and robots and domes and booms and drones and boxes and rosary beads and even panty hose stuffed with human hair but so far nothing has slowed the Deepwater Horizon oil spill from creeping towards our Southern Coast like a drunken lobbyist staggering towards a free seafood buffet. And almost as ugly. This maritime miasma promises to be the most monumental attack of sludge to hit American shores since Ann Coulter’s most recent book.

Hard to say what frightens Gulf Coast residents more; the toxic slick bearing down on their shore or the Administration’s guarantee that our government is poised and ready to swoop in with federal assistance. It worked so well after Katrina. The kind of news that prompts residents to wake screaming- bathed in sweat- from nightmares of FEMA loading trucks full of mutant hair sausages never to be delivered. And ice. But never let it be said that Congress doesn’t know how to exploit a crisis. They’ve leaped into action and appointed a panel.


          "It is our own ethics, our buying power, our involvement, our votes,
our holding great powers accountable, that is the only possible key to
redressing the present dysfunctional imbalances—imbalances between
impersonal corporate power and the well-being of shrimpers and shrimp
in the one interconnected ocean; imbalances between our getting and
our spending, imbalances between the human and the living system
without which the human cannot survive."

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