Message to the Grass Roots

“The land shall not be sold forever: for the land is mine; for you are strangers and sojourners with me.”
— Leviticus 25:23 (“Handbook of the Priests”)

Even before his 2004 book “Crimes Against Nature: How George W. Bush and His Corporate Pals Plundering the Country and Hijacking Our Democracy” was published, the “mainstream” corporate media had begun blacklisting Robert Kennedy, Jr. This was not limited to the shows on Fox News; it included CNN, MSNBC, ABC, CNN, and CBS. Thus, in the age of pipelines for gas and oil fracking, the general public has not had the opportunity to view input from the nation’s top environmental attorney.

Thank goodness for the internet. For those interested in Robert’s insights on the Standing Rock Sioux’s struggle against the DAPL, they can go to “You Tube,” to see segments such as his recent appearance on Thom Hartmann’s show. Let’s consider some of the important points that Robert has made on Thom’s show, and others, since his recent visit to Standing Rock.

First, while it is good to contact the White House et al to express opposition to the DAPL, it is better to identify the appropriate federal law that President Obama can enforce to do so. Corporations are mandated by federal law to conduct an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) for projects that changes in federal lands. The EIS would then be open to the public to read and respond to. It would have to identify things ranging from sensitive cultural sites that could be damaged; the archaeological record within the project area; the potential for creating domestic employment; in the case of a pipeline, who will be buying the gas/oil; and the identities of those benefiting financially from the proposed project.

Energy Transfers, the group behind the DAPL, has already violated this federal law, by substituting the short form Nation-Wide Project 12 for its EIS. The NWP 12 exemption for an EIS is for projects that involve less than one acre of property, and pose no risks to the environment. The DAPL is 1,700 miles long. Hence, Energy Transfer opted to pretend that it was simply a series of less-than-an-acre projects that pose no risk to the environment.

Thus far, obviously, those in the federal government who are tasked with protecting the public interest by enforcing the law have not been doing their jobs. The truth is that President Obama could demand that Energy Transfer conduct the EIS according to federal law; more, when Donald Trump takes office — and Trump has $2 million invested in the DAPL — he could not legally rescind the lawful requirement for an EIS.

The benefits to having the EIS are, quite simply, that it would put an end to the DAPL. First, when the public could see what the project actually entails, there would be an even larger call to halt it immediately. Again, it will not create many jobs for Americans. It is 100% sure that the pipeline will have “accidents;” these accidents will involve crude oil — which, until recently, could not be transferred in this manner due to the environmental hazards it poses; it is to provide “energy” exclusively to China (not a single gallon to our country); only a small handful of billionaires will reap the financial benefits; and US citizens will pay the costs for all of the damage it causes.

Second, the EIS will provide the evidence that the Standing Rock Sioux will require for an attorney — say, Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. — to win in federal court, right up to and including at the US Supreme Court. It is actually not a complicated case: the laws are clear. Indeed, the Sioux and the 300 other Native American tribes supporting their effort are aware of this key to victory.

Robert notes that the Native Americans are profoundly aware that their struggle is not only for their benefit: they are serving as Water Protectors for all Americans, and all of the people around the globe. They need our help, and we need their’s.

The energy corporations and their lap dogs in Washington (and the corporate media) are relying on scaring the public with cries of “national security!” Yet, as Robert points out, the Pentagon and NSA have released the results of a joint study that identifies damage to the environment/ climate change as the single most pressing national security risk that confronts us.

In spite of this, in response to citizens attempting to exercise their Amendment 1 rights — to protect the safety of water that 18 million Americans “downstream” from the pipeline rely upon, and literally the largest agricultural region on the earth — the state government has unleashed militarized police to attack them. The police, and corporate mercenaries, are assaulting peaceful, law-abiding citizens, to protect the investments of a few billionaires.

We need to apply maximum pressure on President Obama to do the right thing. After all, it is the law.

Legalize Clean Water

“Knowing ignorance is strength; ignoring knowledge is sickness.”
— Laozi

Recently, I re-posted an article on Facebook that friend Will Pitt had shared. It concerns a bill that a republican congressman has proposed to define public protesting as “terrorism.” I was not surprised when some people I know (and several I do not know) commented that this was a necessary, even good, idea. They based their thinking upon the news reports of violent protests in several cities in America.

I am reminded of something that Rubin “Hurricane” Carter used to tell me: that minds with very little to compare, find very little to understand. And I do not mean that as an insult against those who believe that the proposed federal law is a necessary and good idea ….for no rational person could make the case that violence is necessary or good. Or to excuse rioting, looting, assault, or arson, as justifiable forms of free speech or public assembly.

Yet, quite literally, each and every state in our nation has laws against rioting, looting, assault, arson, and other acts associated with public violence. There has never been a single case where a defendant has successfully avoided conviction for arson by way of Amendment 1. No defense attorney would seek to exonerate his client for looting or assault by noting it was protected by the right to riot. That simply does not happen.

In order to mistake the congressman’s intentions for valid requires the synergism of ignorance and discomfort with the acts of violence associated with “protests.” That discomfort with the violence is, in and of itself, a positive thing. Take away the ignorance, and civilized people are on the same page. Understanding who this congressman is — who he fronts for, and what his true intentions are — in no way reduces the ability to agree upon the correct way to address the problems of violent lawlessness.

Let’s take a brief look at some modern examples of government officials attempting to thwart groups and/or individuals from exercising their Amendment 1 rights, for history provides us with valuable lessons. In the 1960s, Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr., helped to change the fabric of our society with nonviolent protests. Perhaps most famously in Birmingham, King led marches and organized boycotts; these resulted in “economic damage” to targeted businesses. Various corporate-government attempts were made to stop King’s marches and boycotts. Eventually, the corporate-government forces secured a federal court injunction, that denied King et al the right to march. The King effort continued.

As a result, King was charged with violating a court order in the case Walker v. City of Birmingham, 388 U.S. 307 (1967). In the years between when it started in April of 1963, to it being decided by the US Supreme Court in June of 1967, King would continue to lead non-violent protests. This included the August ‘63 March on Washington, where he delivered his historic “I Have a Dream” speech. It may seem hard to believe today, a half-century later, but at the time, many elected representatives considered that event “threatening.”

In late 1967, King began planning another protest in DC, which he called the “Poor People’s Campaign.” The plan was rooted in an earlier “poor people’s campaign” that took place in 1894, led by Jacob Coxey. While Coxey was jailed when he reached Washington, DC, in 1968, Senator Robert Byrd proposed that the federal government incarcerate King pre-emotively, to prevent him from exercising his Amendment 1 rights.

In the summer of 1968, protests outside the democratic national convention became violent. A federal investigation that followed concluded that the violence was the result of a “police riot,” and not caused by the protesters. However, others in the government decided to prosecute eight civil rights and anti-war leaders; this case was originally known as the Chicago Eight, and later as the Chicago Seven. All of the convictions that resulted were quickly overturned in federal court. Looking back today, it is clear that the intent of the prosecution was to harass and intimidate citizens.

In recent times, energy corporations have attempted to harass and intimidate citizens who oppose fracking and pipelines. The best example of this is friend Vera Scroggins in Pennsylvania. Vera is a wise and peaceful lady, and thus has been the target of the gas companies’ harassment and attempted intimidation. Their harassment has created financial hardship, but Vera has yet to be intimidated.

The congressman that introduced the latest proposed legislation is a lap dog for the energy corporations. His bill is aimed primarily at pro-environment citizens, specifically those who are standing with the Standing Rock Sioux, in opposition to the DAPL pipeline. But he is not the only poodle cuddling up on the energy industry’s lap. Nor are the republicans alone in their dependency on the industry’s dollars. The democratic party’s “leadership” is just as bad.

The people at Standing Rock — the Sioux Water Protectors and their supporters — are engaged in a 100% non-violent protest. Literally all of the growing violence there is being committed by the police and the mercenaries hired by the energy corporation. Yet, the opposition to the DAPL, and the grass roots support for the Sioux, continues to grow. This is why the congressman has proposed a bill to identify them as “terrorists.”

Lamh Foisneach Abu!

“Gentleness is the greatest strength.”
— Tadodaho Leon Shenandoah

Last week, I voted on Tuesday, and exercised my Amendment 1 rights on Thursday. I believe that the two are intertwined. The Thursday events was a rally in Oneonta, NY, in support of the Standing Rock Sioux. Like voting, voicing one’s opinion on this type of conflict is both a right and responsibility.

The Trump vs. Clinton contest was an all-time low in this nation’s history. It played out like a Jerry Springer Show, with too many members of the audience participating in an ugly, divisive brawl. This strikes me as particularly offensive, after the positive energy of the Bernie Sanders campaign.

Still, I’ve been encouraged by the numerous peaceful protests across the country since the election. That does not equal agreement with every position that the protesters are taking. I definitely disagree with those who are engaging in violence. It is unethical, and is not a tactic that can lead to positive change.

The corporate media will almost always “report” the violence against people and property, much more so than report on peaceful protests. And in a sense, maybe they should. Yet that would mean reporting on the struggle between the non-violent Sioux and their thousands of supporters at Standing Rock, and the gross violence being committed by the DAPL, police, politicians, and other mercenaries hired by the “energy” industry.

A few years back, Faith Keeper Oren Lyons, of the Onondaga Nation, was speaking to an audience of corporate leaders. In an exchange with one gentleman, a top executive, Oren asked him why he wouldn’t make the decisions he knew were “right” on an environmental issue? The gentleman said because if he did, he’d be fired. His willingness to make the wrong decision was a necessary part of his job.

Oren asked if he was a father and grandfather? The gentleman said he was. Oren asked when he would make choices based upon being a father and grandfather, rather than executive? The room became silent. Ethical and moral questions are outside of the business model that these executives subscribed to.

Another gentleman attempted to break the uncomfortable silence by asking Oren, “Now, you are an Indian. What do you know about prophecy?” All of us who know Oren know there was a heck of a lot he could have said. He thought for a moment, then said slowly, “There’s one thing that I can predict for sure. You guys will meet again in a year, and nothing will have changed, because you refuse to answer the moral questions.”

Oren pointed out that among the 100 top “economic units” (their term) in the world, 49 were nations, and 51 were corporations. Hence, most political-economic-social decisions were made by corporations. Most politicians merely front for corporations, rather than advocating for the good of human beings and other living things. They refuse to answer that ethical-moral question.

Fast-forward a few years, and consider the conflict at Standing Rock, in relation to the 2016 elections. During the post-convention general election contest, Bernie Sanders visited Standing Rock, and called this the most important issue our country faces. Three of the presidential candidates favored the pipeline: Donald Trump, Hillary Clinton, and Gary Johnson; one opposed it: Jill Stein. She also visited Standing Rock. Yet, other than shallow coverage when President Obama temporarily halted the most contested section of the pipeline, the corporate media has largely ignored it.

John Lennon said that “a conspiracy of silence speaks louder than words” (Walls and Bridges). Despite the media blackout, the conflict at Standing Rock has caught the public’s attention — largely as a result of the internet, especially Facebook. Responses have been similar to when southern police attacked the non-violent Civil Rights movement. People around the world have seen film of mercenaries unleashing vicious attack dogs on men, women, and children, and of police in military gear assaulting nonviolent Water Protectors.

The presidential election divided Americans. Those divisions even flipped: FBI director James Comey was a hero, then an enemy, of Clinton supporters, and an enemy, then hero, to the Trump supporters. That would be a giggle in some circumstances. But there is nothing funny about the hostility that grew between communities, and even within families. That does not bode well for society.

What I find interesting is that among my family, friends, and associates, while some voted for Clinton, some for Stein, and some for Trump — none that I know of voted for Johnson — all of them support the Standing Rock Sioux. No matter what their particular political beliefs, they all have values that include understanding the difference between the Sioux’s position, and that of the energy corporations. They are willing to make a statement on an ethical/ moral issue, that neither corporate executives or politicians tend to address.

We need more people to answer those questions that the executives and politicians ignore. While many of us are calling Washington, and more, there are many people of good will who haven’t. I am hoping that they will take that step, and call the White House to express opposition to the DAPL. Once people take that step, which exercises their Amendment 1 rights, they will feel good about supporting the Standing Rock Sioux. And we will go forward from there.

The Cold Within

THE COLD WITHIN
— James Patrick Kinney

Six humans trapped by happenstance
In dark and bitter cold
Each one possessed a stick of wood,
Or so the story’s told.

Their dying fire in need of logs,
The first woman held hers back.
For on the faces around the fire,
She noticed one was black.

The next man looking cross the way,
Saw one not of his church,
And couldn’t bring himself to give
The fire his stick of birch.

The third one sat in tattered clothes,
He gave his coat a hitch.
Why should his log be put to use,
To warm the idle rich?

The rich man just sat back and thought
Of the wealth he had in store.
And how to keep what he had earned
From the lazy, shiftless poor.

The black man’s face bespoke revenge
As the fire passed from sight,
For all he saw in his stick of wood
Was a chance to spite the white.

The last man of this forlorn group
Did naught except for gain
Giving only to those who gave
Was how he played the game.

The logs held tight in death’s still hands
Was proof of human sin.
They didn’t die from the cold without,
They died from —THE COLD WITHIN

This was Rubin “Hurricane” Carter’s favorite poem. He made a point of reciting it in the speeches he made after spending twenty years in prison for a crime that he did not commit. He said that it addressed the root of the problems facing the United States. As I listen to the wide range of responses from people to the results of Tuesday’s election, it seems apparent that it holds true today. Yet, as Rubin knew, it does not have to define our society.