Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Baltimore Activist Alert - September 30 - October 1, 2014

23] "Getting to a Good Iranian Nuclear Deal" – Sept. 30
24] Briefing call with Archbishop Elias Chacour – Sept. 30
25] Philadelphia Peace Vigil – Sept. 30
26] No JHU Drone Research – Sept. 30
27] RESPECT DC meeting – Sept. 30
28] Nuclear Weapons Abolition 101 – Sept. 30
29] “Thomas Sankara: The Upright Man” – Sept. 30
30] Support Ian Schlakman for Congress – Oct. 1, 2 & 5
31] Protest Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu – Oct. 1
32] Nuclear Stability in South Asia – Oct. 1
23] – On Tues., Sept. 30 from 10 to 11:30 AM, David Albright, Institute for Science and International Security, and Olli Heinonen, Harvard University, will examine "Getting to a Good Iranian Nuclear Deal" at the James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies, 1400 K St. NW, Suite 1250, WDC. RSVP to Daniel Schnuby at schnur@isis-online.org.

24] – On Tues., Sept. 30 from 4 PM (Eastern Time) to 5 PM, join CMEP for a briefing call with Archbishop Elias Chacour. Prophetic and practical, grounded and regal, Israeli and Palestinian, Abuna (Father) Chacour's vision and work for peace and authentic reconciliation resonates with all people who want to see and be a part of communities that want to move forward together for a better future for all.

A three-time Nobel Peace Prize nominee, Elias Chacour recently retired after serving since 2006 as the Archbishop of the Melkite Catholic Church for Akko, Haifa, Nazareth, and all Galilee. He was born to a Palestinian Christian family in the village of Biram in Upper Galilee in 1939. In 1965, Father Chacour was ordained and appointed as priest of St. George Melkite Catholic Church in Ibillin, a small Arab village in the Galilee region, near Nazareth, where Christians and Muslims have lived together peacefully for hundreds of years. The Dial-in Number is 1-646-307-1300, and the Participant Access Code is 693031.
25] – Each Tuesday from 4:30 - 5:30 PM, the Catholic Peace Fellowship-Philadelphia for peace in Afghanistan and Iraq gathers at the Suburban Station, 16th St. & JFK Blvd., at the entrance to Tracks 3 and 4 on the mezzanine. The next vigil is Sept. 30. Call 215-426-0364.
26] – Vigil to say "No Drone Research at JHU" each Tuesday at 33rd & North Charles Sts. Join this ongoing vigil on Sept. 30, but note today demonstrators will be there from 5 to 6 PM. Call Max at 410-366-1637.
27] – On Tues., Sept. 30 at 6:30 PM at 623 Florida Ave. NW, WDC, come to a meeting with Respect DC, which is helping to lead the Living Wages, Healthy Communities campaign to force Wal-Mart to respect D.C. workers and communities. The campaign is working to educate the community about Wal-Mart’s record of worker exploitation and negative impact on communities and to demand that no Wal-Mart store open in DC without an enforceable Community Benefits Agreement that ensures workers and communities benefit. Discuss Black Friday events and get updates on events at the two D.C. Wal-Mart Locations. RSVP at http://afl.salsalabs.com/o/4023/c/188/p/salsa/event/common/public/?event_KEY=12879. Email organizer@respectdc.org.
28] – Physicians for Social Responsibility is hosting Dr. Ira Helfand's webinar, Nuclear Weapons Abolition 101, on Tues., Sept. 30 at 8 PM. Register at https://attendee.gotowebinar.com/register/7074777143369505794. Call PSR at 202.667.4260.
29] – On Tues., Sept. 30 from 7 to 9 PM at Bloombars, 3222 11th St. NW, WDC, see “Thomas Sankara: The Upright Man” (2006, 52 min.) by Robin Shuffield, which examines the story of African leader Thomas Sankara, who initiated revolutionary changes in Burkina Faso. It is in French with English subtitles. See http://tinyurl.com/sankara-trailer.

Sankara came to power in Burkina Faso in 1983, and immediately launched the most ambitious program for social and economic change ever attempted on the African continent. He preached self reliance, called for the scrapping of Africa’s debt to international banks and promoted local food and textile production. Sankara and his programs of African economic self-reliance, have come to represent a proud and defiant alternative to the neo-colonial and neo-liberal policies imposed on Africa by the West, both then and today. Afterwards enjoy a Q&A hosted by Mwiza Munthali, host of the radio show "Africa Now." The suggested donation is $10. Visit https://www.facebook.com/events/135842303276945/?source=1%20.

30] – Support Ian Schlakman for Congress. Go to http://www.ian42.com/calendar. On Wed., Oct. 1 at 11 AM, Ian will be on the Marc Steiner Show! See http://www.ian42.com/ian_on_marc_steiner_show.

On Thurs., Oct. 2 at 6:30 PM, Ian will debate the pro-NSA, pro-war Rep. Dutch Ruppersberger & Republican David Banach. The event is sponsored by League of Women Voters, and will take place at the George Howard Building, Banneker Room,
3430 Courthouse Drive, Ellicott City 21043. RSVP for the debate at http://www.ian42.com/big_debate_ian_vs_rep_dutch.

On Sat., Oct. 4 at 10:30 AM, take a hike around Robert E. Lee Park. At noon enjoy a potluck picnic. RSVP at

31] – Get over to the White House, 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. NW, WDC, on Wed., Oct. 1 at noon. President Obama will be hosting war criminal Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Since the latest massacre in Gaza which left over 2,000 Palestinians dead, Netanyahu has orchestrated dozens of violations of the truce between Israel and Gaza. At the United Nations, Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas charged that Israel had committed “a series of absolute war crimes carried out before the eyes and ears of the entire world.”

CodePink will be outside the White House reading out loud all of Israel's truce violations and making it known that war criminals aren’t welcome in D.C.! Go to https://www.facebook.com/events/1554156401470247/?ref=6&ref_notif_type=plan_user_invited.

32] – On Wed., Oct. 1 at noon there will be a panel discussion about Nuclear Stability in South Asia, sponsored by the Center on American and Global Security at Indiana University-Bloomington. The panel will speak at the James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies (CNS), 1400 K St. NW, Suite 1250, WDC 20005. Email rdash@indiana.edu.

To be continued.

Donations can be sent to the Baltimore Nonviolence Center, 325 E. 25th St., Baltimore, MD 21218. Ph: 410-366-1637; Email: mobuszewski [at] verizon.net. Go to http://baltimorenonviolencecenter.blogspot.com/.

"The master class has always declared the wars; the subject class has always fought the battles. The master class has had all to gain and nothing to lose, while the subject class has had nothing to gain and everything to lose--especially their lives." Eugene Victor Debs

Monday, September 29, 2014

Baltimore Activist Alert September 28 – September 30, 2014

"I speak as an American to the leaders of my own nation. The great initiative in this war is ours. The initiative to stop it must be ours." - Martin Luther King Jr.

Friends, this list and other email documents which I send out are done under the auspices of the Baltimore Nonviolence Center. Go to www.baltimorenonviolencecenter.blogspot.com. If you appreciate this information and would like to make a donation, send contributions to BNC, 325 East 25th Street, Baltimore, MD 21218. Max Obuszewski can be reached at 410-366-1637 or mobuszewski [at] verizon.net.

Tune into the Maryland Progressive Blog at http://mdprogblog.org.

1] Books, buttons & stickers
2] Web site for info on federal legislation
3] Join Nonviolent Resistance lists
4] Buy coffee through HoCoFoLa
5] Food drive – through Nov. 8
6] Music and Peace – Sept. 28
7] Peace and Pancakes – Sept. 28
8] Silent vigil for Gaza – Sept. 28
9] Max, at the Baltimore Book Festival, needs a parking space – Sept. 28
10] Save Energy at Home – Sept. 28
11] Screening of PAYCHECK TO PAYCHECK – Sept. 28
12] Spiritual Roots of Protest – Sept. 28
13] Green Forum – Sept. 28
14] Grassroots Jerusalem – Sept. 28
15] Pentagon Vigil – Sept. 29
16] Marc Steiner on WEAA – Sept. 29 – Oct. 3
17] What’s up in Tunisia? – Sept. 29
18] Unite in solidarity with the Child Migrants – Sept. 29
19] Seminar “Ensuring a World Fit for Children?” – Sept. 29
20] Pledge/FOC meeting – Sept. 29
21] "Getting to a Good Iranian Nuclear Deal" – Sept. 30
22] Providing language help – Sept. 30
1] – Buttons, bumperstickers and books are available. “God Bless the Whole World, No Exceptions” stickers are in stock. Donate your books to Max. Call him at 410-366-1637.
2] – To obtain information how your federal legislators voted on particular bills, go to http://thomas.loc.gov/. Congressional toll-free numbers are 888-818-6641, 888-355-3588 or 800-426-8073. The White House Comment Email is accessible at http://www.whitehouse.gov/contact/.
3] – THE ORGANIZING LIST will be the primary decision-making mechanism of the National Campaign of Nonviolent Resistance [NCNR]. It will be augmented by conference calls and possibly in-person meetings as needed. It will consist of 1 or 2 representatives from each local, regional, or national organization (not coalitions) that wishes to actively work to carry out the NCNR campaign of facilitating and organizing nonviolent resistance to the war in Iraq. To join the ORGANIZING List, please send your name, group affiliation, city and email address to mobuszewski at Verizon dot net. Different local chapters of a national organization are encouraged to subscribe.
THE NOTICES LIST will include only notices of NCNR actions and related information and is open to any interested person to subscribe. It will be moderated to maintain focus & will include periodic notices about getting involved in NCNR national organizing. To join the NOTICES List, send an email message to mobuszewski at Verizon dot net.
4] – You can help safeguard human rights and fragile ecosystems through your purchase of HOCOFOLA Café Quetzal. Bags of ground coffee or whole beans can be ordered by mailing in an order form. Also note organic cocoa and sugar are for sale. For more details and to download the order form, go to http://friendsoflatinamerica.typepad.com/hocofola/2010/02/hocofola-cafe-quetzal-order-form-2010.html. The coffee comes in one-pound bags.
Fill out the form and mail it with a check made out to HOCOFOLA on or before the second week of the month. Be sure you indicate ground or beans for each type of coffee ordered. Send it to Francine Sheppard at 5639B, Harpers Farm Rd., Columbia 21044. The coffee will arrive some time the following week and you will be notified where to pick it up. Contact Francine at 410-992-7679 or FrancineMSW@aol.com.
5] – The Men and Families Center, 2222 Jefferson St., Baltimore, continues its food drive through Sat., Nov. 8. The organization is collecting canned and unperishable goods so that food pantries in the center are stocked for the holidays! Call Quandra or Rodney at 410-614-5353 or email menandfamiliescenter.org.
6] - Usually, the Baltimore Ethical Society, 306 W. Franklin St., Suite 102, Baltimore 21201-4661, meets on Sundays, and generally there is a speaker and discussion from 10:30 AM to noon. On Sun., Sept. 28, the platform address is “Music and Peace” by Hugh Taft-Morales, leader, Baltimore Ethical Society. Growing up in the sixties, Hugh Taft-Morales experienced the peace movement as intimately wrapped up with music. Singing seemed a great way to give peace a chance. While martial compositions have also been used for centuries to drive our troops into harm’s way, music can offer aesthetically transcendent and communal experiences useful in building a culture of peace. Felix Adler, the founder of Ethical Culture, appreciated the power of music in creating a “deeper psychology” and “richer experience” some humanist value. Come explore humanistic harmony and the challenge of being a peace activist. Call 410-581-2322 or email ask@bmorethical.org.
Then at 2 PM, join in the launch of Sunday Assembly Baltimore! What happens at a Sunday Assembly? A Sunday Assembly service consists of songs (pop songs mainly) sung by the congregation, a reading (usually a poet), an interesting talk (that fits into live better, help often or wonder more), a moment of reflection and an address, which sums up the day and hopefully gives a take home message. Afterwards, have tea and cake and mingle. Read more at http://sundayassembly.com.
7] - Join the Kadampa Meditation Center for Peace and Pancakes on Sundays at 10:30 AM at KMC Maryland, 2937 North Charles St. All are invited to participate in guided meditation and chant praying for world peace. There will be a talk based on Buddhist thought followed by brunch. Call 410- 243-3837. Brunch is $5.
8] – Attend a silent vigil for Gaza on Sun., Sept. 28 at Park Heights Ave. and Slade Ave., Baltimore. Show your opposition to Israel’s violence in Gaza, and call for an end to the occupation. Stand at the intersection on the grass from 11 AM to 1 PM. RSVP to rjochs@comcast.net. Bring signs. Here are suggestions: stop occupation, justice for Palestine, stop massacre or stop US arms & aid to Israel.

9] - The Baltimore Book Festival will run from noon to 6 PM on Sun., Sept. 28, in the Inner Harbor area. Max’s booth is P49 in Rash Field--Chesapeake Physicians for Social Responsibility. Parking is very expensive or impossible in the area. If you have any suggestions to alleviate the situation, contact Max at 410-366-1637 or mobuszewski at Verizon dot net. Visit http://baltimorebookfestival.org.

10] - On Sun., Sept. 28 at 11:30 AM, there will be a Save Energy at Home with a workshop at Our Lady Queen of Peace, 2700 S. 19th St, Arlington and another at 7 PM at the Unitarian Universalist Church, 4444 Arlington Blvd., Arlington. There is a 6 PM potluck.

Based on the same principle as buying in bulk, the group will go through the process of purchasing home solar systems together. Guided by the Community Power Network, which has successfully organized several such co-ops previously, the group will select a single contractor to install systems on all of the homes. Each participant will own their system and will sign their own contract with the chosen installer, but everyone will get the group discount.

By going solar as a group, participants will save up to 30% off the cost of a solar electricity system, and will have the support of the co-op throughout the process instead of having to go it alone. These buying groups are being sponsored by Interfaith Power & Light and are open to any Baltimore-area or Northern Virginia homeowner. Email BaltimoreInterfaith@communitypowernetwork.com for Baltimore or novainterfaith@communitypowernetwork.com for Northern Virginia.

11] – On Sun., Sept. 28 at 2 PM - the NoVA Chapter of the Virginia Interfaith Center for Public Policy is hosting a film screening of the HBO documentary PAYCHECK TO PAYCHECK. It is being co-sponsored and held at the Unitarian Universalist Church of Arlington, located at the intersection of Route 50 and N. George Mason Dr. The program features the film and a discussion of advocacy opportunities in VA on issues related to poverty.

12] – On Sun., Sept. 28 at 3 PM, participate in Pursuing the Spiritual Roots of Protest: A Historic Model for Discerning Responses to Uncertain Times, with Gordon Oyer, at Project HOME, 1515 Fairmount Ave., Philadelphia, PA, 19130. Fifty years ago this November, several committed Christian peacemakers gathered for a retreat to discern meaningful nonviolent responses to a time of war and social crises. The retreat, hosted by Thomas Merton, included Dan and Phil Berrigan, John Howard Yoder, A.J. Muste, and Jim Forest. The retreat's story and its themes have been captured in a recently published book, “Pursuing the Spiritual Roots of Protest: Merton, Berrigan, Yoder, and Muste at the Gethsemani Abbey Peacemakers Retreat.” Oyer, the book’s author, will lead a discussion on how that fifty-year-old conversation can continue to inform us in our struggles for spiritually-grounded responses to the challenges of our own times: war, violence, economic inequity, and environmental devastation. Several groups are co-sponsoring the talk, including the Brandywine Peace Community. Call 215-842-1790.

13] – The BALTIMORE GREEN FORUM, a monthly environmental education and discussion forum, will occur on Sun., Sept. 28. Alan Hastings will present "Carbon Is Not the Problem." An event will take place from 4 to 5:30 PM followed by announcements & an optional discussion group from 5:30 to 6:30 PM. The forum will be at the Maryland Presbyterian Church, 1105 Providence Road, Towson 21286. See http://www.mpchurch.org/About.htm. "Make no mistake, carbon is a problem, a big problem, and it is one which we absolutely must solve. But it is not the problem, and unless we solve the problem, we will not be able to solve carbon. Fortunately, understanding what the problem is not only strongly suggests that we can solve the problem, but gives us some good insights into how to solve it."

Hastings has had two careers so far. The first, as a computer engineer began in the 1970s with the design and marketing of an early desktop computer, embedded computers for use in industrial process control, cryptography and medical systems. His second career (and by far the better) was as a full time parent, which left plenty of time for computers, Linux, music and pipe organs. At a time when some people are choosing to retire, he is embarking on a third career trying to make a difference on climate change and economic justice.

The Forum seeks to educate and stimulate dialogue about what humans can do to make modern civilization more sustainable, including adjusting to finite resource limits and preserving biodiversity and a healthy environment. This is done through 8 monthly meetings a year. The topics are far ranging. They vary from local to planetary and from philosophical to scientific to very practical. The Meeting Format: There is a speaker and Q&A from 4-5:15 pm. Then there are brief announcements by representatives of other organizations that also seek sustainability and environmental protection. We thereby promote collaboration among these organizations. Next, there is an optional roundtable discussion until 6:30 PM. Finally, there is often a small gathering at a nearby restaurant.

BGF is open to the public and is free of charge, but donations to Maryland Presbyterian Church are collected during the meeting to thank the church for their generous gift of the space to us. Call Sam Hopkins at 410 554 0006 or email baltimoregreenforum@gmail.com. Visit http://www.baltimoregreen forum.org.

14] - On Sun., Sept. 28 from 6 to 8 PM, 1025 5th St. NW, WDC, Micha Kurz, on a tour of the U.S. from Israel, will provide a fresh perspective on the systematic disempowerment and dispossession of Palestinians in Jerusalem and the rapid encroachment of Israeli settlement building. He will discuss how his organization, Grassroots Jerusalem, is responding to the escalating crisis and what it is doing to prevent the disappearance of Palestinian Jerusalemites and their culture. He is a co-founder and co-director of Grassroots Jerusalem, and previously co-founded the Israeli group, Breaking the Silence, and has worked with numerous Israeli human rights and political activist organizations, including the Israeli Committee Against Home Demolitions and Ta'avush. Email jvpdcmetro@gmail.com.

15] -- There is a weekly Pentagon Peace Vigil from 7 to 8 AM on Mondays, since 1987, outside the Pentagon Metro stop. The next vigil is Mon., Sept. 29, and it is sponsored by the Dorothy Day Catholic Worker. Email artlaffin@hotmail.com or call 202-882-9649. The vigil will be outside the Pentagon's south Metro entrance and in the designated "protest zone" behind bicycle fences across from the entrance to the Metro. By Metro, take Yellow Line and get out at the "Pentagon" stop. Do not go to the Pentagon City stop! Go up south escalators and turn left and walk across to protest area. By car from D.C. area, take 395 South and get off at Exit 8A-Pentagon South Parking. Take slight right onto S. Rotary Rd. at end of ramp and right on S. Fern St. Then take left onto Army Navy Dr. You can "pay to park" on Army Navy Dr., and there is meter parking one block on right on Eads St. Payment for both of these spots begin at 8 AM. No cameras are allowed on Pentagon grounds. Restrooms are located inside Marriott Residence Inn on corner of S. Fern and Army Navy Dr.

16] – The Marc Steiner Show airs Monday through Friday from 10 AM to noon on WEAA 88.9 FM, The Voice of the Community, or online at www.weaa.org. The call-in number is 410-319-8888, and comments can also be sent by email to steinershow@gmail.com. All shows are also available as podcasts at www.steinershow.org.

17] – On Mon., Sept. 29 at 10 AM at the U.S. Institute of Peace, 2301 Constitution Ave. NW, WDC, met Sheikh Rachid Ghannouchi, the president of Nahdha party, the leading political party in Tunisia, and a leading Islamic thinker. Since the early 1980s, He has been an advocate of the compatibility between Islam and the principles of pluralism, freedom, modernity and democratic governance. His views and writings are influential in Tunisia, and across the Arab and Muslim worlds. While Arab spring countries are threatened by violence and crises that may destabilize the entire region and that is forcing more military intervention by a reluctant Obama administration, Tunisia is steadily moving along on the path toward democracy at a critical point in its transition. Earlier this year Tunisia ratified a constitution widely hailed as the most progressive in the Arab world. Political parties are preparing for a new round of legislative and presidential elections in October and November that may usher in a new era in the history of Tunisia. Go to http://www.usip.org/events/mena-region-in-crisis-islam-democracy-and-extremism?utm_source=Rached+Ghannouchi+Lectures+in+Washington+DC%2C+New+York+CIty%2C+and+New+Haven%2C+CT&utm_campaign=Rached+Ghannouchi+Lectures+in+Washington+DC%2C+New+York+CIty%2C+and+New+Haven%2C+CT&utm_medium=email.

18] – Unite in solidarity with the Child Migrants on Mon., Sept. 29 from 6:30 to 7:30 PM at St. Johns Church near the White House, 16th and H Sts. In so doing groups will engage and are in the process of making a Unity Quilt with many events that cater to raise awareness for this ongoing issue. The project is based on Latino Heritage Month quilting activity, which is based on the AIDS Quilt project & Raza murals in support of child migrants at the U.S.-Mexico border & in the area. Donate a used clean white T-shirts to make squares, or drop off 12” x 12” decorated T-shirt squares at boxes @JMZ 2211 or MICA.

The Quilt will be displayed on campus & at a public vigil at St. John’s Church / White House, H and 16th Sts. NW, WDC. Visit https://www.facebook.com/events/1543713389194819/?ref=6&ref_notif_type=plan_user_invited.

19] – There is a seminar “Ensuring a World Fit for Children?” Dr. James Riker will try to answer the question at 1104 South Campus Commons, Calvert Hall, Building 1, UMD College Park, on Mon., Sept. 29 from 7 to 9 PM. Attend a seminar that looks at the new proposed Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) for the world community to act on by 2030 and what can citizens do to take action! See http://www.beyondtheclassroom.umd.edu/locationbtc.html.

20] – The Pledge of Resistance-Baltimore usually meets on Mondays at 7:30 PM, and the meetings take place at Max’s residence. The next meeting will be on Mon., Sept. 29. The proposed agenda will include anti-drone activities, including the trial of the NSA Three and getting a drone resolution passed in Baltimore’s City Council, Afghanistan, Iran, Iraq, Syria and Ukraine, the Climate Chaos march in NYC, the Sept. 23 action at the White House, and the Oct. 4 visit to the NSAs. Call 410-366-1637 or email mobuszewski at verizon.net for directions.

21] – On Tues., Sept. 30 from 10 to 11:30 AM, David Albright, Institute for Science and International Security, and Olli Heinonen, Harvard University, will examine "Getting to a Good Iranian Nuclear Deal" at the James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies, 1400 K St. NW, Suite 1250, WDC. RSVP to schnur@isis-online.org.

22] – You may remember the unfortunate incident last summer where language barriers led to a disappointing exchange between Mayor Gray and an Ethiopian shop keeper who is Limited English Proficient. In response to the incident, a Working Group was formed that has successfully advocated over the past year with different offices of D.C. Government to create a Walk Through Protocol for use by elected officials. On Tues., Sept. 30 at noon, there is a press conference at MLOV, 3166 Mount Pleasant St. NW, 2nd Floor, to announce the creation of this new protocol and to talk about how it will help strengthen Language Access in DC. See http://www.mlovdc.org/.

To be continued.

Donations can be sent to the Baltimore Nonviolence Center, 325 E. 25th St., Baltimore, MD 21218. Ph: 410-366-1637; Email: mobuszewski [at] verizon.net. Go to http://baltimorenonviolencecenter.blogspot.com/.

"The master class has always declared the wars; the subject class has always fought the battles. The master class has had all to gain and nothing to lose, while the subject class has had nothing to gain and everything to lose--especially their lives." Eugene Victor Debs

Our Life or Death Task: Move Several Billion Tons of Excess CO2 Back Underground

Published on Alternet (http://www.alternet.org)

Organic Consumers Association [1] / By Ronnie Cummins [2]

Our Life or Death Task: Move Several Billion Tons of Excess CO2 Back Underground
September 25, 2014 |

If humanity wishes to preserve a planet similar to that on which civilization developed and to which life on Earth is adapted, paleoclimate evidence and ongoing climate change suggest that CO2 will need to be reduced from its current levels [398 ppm.] to at most 350 ppm…”— Dr. James Hansen [3]

Reversing Global Warming. Since Dr. James Hansen, a leading climatologist, warned in 2008 that we need to reduce the amount of CO2 in the Earth’s atmosphere to 350 parts-per-million (ppm) in order to preserve life on Earth, little has been done to get us there.

It’s getting late. If we’re going to preserve a livable Earth, we the global grassroots, must do more than mitigate global warming.

We must reverse it.


Hint number one:not by politely asking out-of-control corporations and politicians to please stop destroying the planet.

Hint number two: notby pinning our hopes for survival and climate stability on hi-tech, unproven and dangerous, “solutions” such as genetic engineering, geoengineering, or carbon capture and sequestration for coal plants.

Hint number three: notby naively believing that soon (or soon enough) ordinary consumers all over the planet will spontaneously abandon their cars, air travel, air conditioning, central heating, and fossil fuel-based diets and lifestyles just in time to prevent atmospheric concentrations of greenhouse gases from moving past the tipping point of 450 ppm or more of CO2 to the catastrophic point of no return.

We can reverse climate change by sequestering several hundred billion tons of excess CO2using the “tools” we already have at hand: regenerative, organic farming, ranching and land use. And we can make this world-changing transition by mobilizing a vast green corps of farmers, ranchers, gardeners, consumers, climate activists and conservationists to begin the monumental task of moving the Carbon Behemoth safely back underground.

As thousands of farmers, ranchers, and researchers worldwide are demonstrating, by reducing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions of CO2, methane, nitrous oxide and black soot, and qualitatively ramping up plant photosynthesis (i.e. the capacity of plants, trees, and grasses to move CO2 from the atmosphere through their roots into the soil) on billions of acres of farm land, range land, and forest, we can sequester [4] enough CO2 [4] to restabilize the climate.

Moving the Carbon Underground. We’re talking about mobilizing the global grassroots, not as passive observers, but as active participants, producers and conscious consumers, implementing and promoting on a mass scale, tried and true, low-tech, beneficial practices that naturally sequester enormous amounts of atmospheric carbon in the soil.

These traditional, regenerative practices include no till organic farming, planned rotational grazing (carbon ranching), [5] composting of organic wastes, the use of cover crops, planting trees, and preserving and restoring forests, wetlands, riparian zones, grasslands, peat bogs, and biodiversity.

As Courtney White, author of the recent book, Grass, Soil, Hope, puts it:

… if land that is bare, degraded, tilled, or monocropped can be restored to a healthy condition, with properly functioning carbon, water, mineral, and nutrient cycles, and covered year-round with a diversity of green plants with deep roots, then the added amount of atmospheric CO2 that can be stored in the soil is potentially high.
Globally... soils contain about three times the amount of carbon that's stored in vegetation and twice the amount stored in the atmosphere. Since two-thirds of the earth's land mass is grassland, additional CO2 storage in the soil via better management practices, even on a small scale, could have a huge impact.

The noted food writer, Michael Pollan, in his [6]introduction [6] to White’s book, explains the basic concepts of plant photosynthesis and the benefits of regenerative agriculture:

Consider what happens when the sun shines on a grass plant rooted in the earth. Using that light as a catalyst, the plant takes atmospheric CO2, splits off and releases the oxygen, and synthesizes liquid carbon–sugars, basically. Some of these sugars go to feed and build the aerial portions of the plant we can see, but a large percentage of this liquid carbon—somewhere between 20 and 40 percent—travels underground, leaking out of the roots and into the soil. The roots are feeding these sugars to the soil microbes—the bacteria and fungi that inhabit the rhizosphere—in exchange for which those microbes provide various services to the plant: defense, trace minerals, access to nutrients the roots can’t reach on their own. That liquid carbon has now entered the microbial ecosystem, becoming the bodies of bacteria and fungi that will in turn be eaten by other microbes in the soil food web. Now, what had been atmospheric carbon (a problem) has become soil carbon, a solution—and not just to a single problem, but to a great many problems.

Besides taking large amounts of carbon out of the air—tons of it per acre when grasslands are properly managed, according to White—that process at the same time adds to the land’s fertility and its capacity to hold water. Which means more and better food for us...

This process of returning atmospheric carbon to the soil works even better when ruminants are added to the mix. Every time a calf or lamb shears a blade of grass, that plant, seeking to rebalance its “root-shoot ratio,” sheds some of its roots. These are then eaten by the worms, nematodes, and microbes—digested by the soil, in effect, and so added to its bank of carbon. This is how soil is created: from the bottom up [6].”

Wake Up Before It’s Too Late. If you are unfamiliar with the enormous impact of industrial food and farming and non-sustainable forest practices on global warming (chemical and energy-intensive, GMO, industrial food and farming practices generate 35 percent of global greenhouse gas pollution, while deforestation, often agriculture-driven, generates another 20 percent) and the concept of natural carbon sequestration through regenerative land use, please take a look at the comprehensive 2013 scientific study [7] called “Wake Up Before It’s Too Late,” published by the United Nations Commission on Trade and Development (UNCTAD).

And if you need a strong dose of good news, to counteract the typical gloom and doom message around the climate crisis, please read the 2014 Rodale Institute study [4] on regenerative organic practices. See also The Carbon Underground [8] site.

Given that hundreds of billions of tons of carbon originally sequestered in agricultural soils are now blanketing the atmosphere and cooking the planet, our life-or-death task is to move this massive “legacy load” of CO2 (now 50 ppm of CO2, likely to be 100 ppm in 20 years, past the danger zone) back underground, as soon as possible. This Great Sequestration will buy us the time we need to reduce fossil fuel use by 80-90 percent or more and reverse global warming.

Taking Down Factory Farms and Industrial Agriculture. Of course moving several hundred gigatons of CO2 back underground and reversing global warming will not be easy. Getting back to 350 ppm of CO2 in the atmosphere will require nothing less than a global food and farming revolution: shutting down factory farms, boycotting genetically engineered foods, including factory-farmed meat and animal products, and putting billions of intensively confined farm animals back on the land, grazing, where they belong.

Restabilizing the climate means putting an end to gigantic GMO soybean and palm oil plantations and industrial timber operations. It means preserving tropical forests, and planting and nurturing hundreds of billions of native trees in deforested urban and rural areas.

Reversing global warming means putting an end to the energy-intensive, chemical-intensive, genetically engineered industrial food and farming system that is not only destroying public health, torturing animals, polluting the water, overgrazing pastures and rangelands, driving family farmers off the land, and destroying biodiversity, as well as pumping billions of tons of CO2, methane, nitrous oxide, and black soot into the air.
Reversing climate change also means stopping industrial agriculture from continuing to dump billions of pounds of chemical fertilizers and pesticides on the already heavily tilled, compacted, and eroded land—practices that destroy [9] the Earth’s natural ability to sequester vast amounts of carbon. These unsustainable farming, ranching, and land use practices, according to a leading world expert, Dr. Rattan Lal, have already caused the release of 25-70 percent (hundreds of billions of tons) of all the carbon originally sequestered in agricultural soils.

As a consequence of this decarbonization and destruction of the Earth’s topsoils, almost a quarter of all arable land on the planet is fallow. But as Dr. David Johnson of New Mexico State University has recently shown in a scientific study for Sandia Labs, by implementing regenerative organic practices, “The rates of biomass production we are currently observing in this system have the capability to capture enough CO2 (50 tons of CO2/acre) to offset all anthropogenic CO2 emissions on less than 11 percent of world cropland. Over twice this amount of land is fallow at any time worldwide.”(The Soil Will Save Us, Kristin Ohlsen p. 233)

As the well respected author Kristin Ohlson commented to Dr. Johnson in a telephone conversation about this staggering assertion: “Aren’t you afraid to say this? Aren’t you afraid that saying that will let the oil and gas companies off the hook? As well as people burning down forests and all the rest of us with big carbon footprints? Aren’t you afraid?"

Ohlson continued: “I thought I could feel a wary shrug over the phone.”

Dr. Johnson then replied: “I don’t see anything on the horizon that touches the effectiveness of this approach…

We’re not going to reduce our carbon dioxide emissions anytime soon, because we depend too much on oil and gas, and the rest of the world wants our lifestyle. The whole idea is to get something that works right now, the world over, to make a significant impact on reducing atmospheric carbon dioxide.” (The Soil Will Save Us, pp. 233-34.)

If industrial agriculture and GMOs are marginalized through mandatory labeling, marketplace pressure and public policy change, if fossil fuel consumption in all sectors is steadily reduced, and regenerative organic practices are put into action globally, with a focus on the 22 percent of the planet’s soils which are degraded and currently fallow, we will be able to sequester 100 percent [4] of current, annual (35 gigatons) carbon dioxide emissions.

Small Farmers Can Cool the Planet. The world's two and a half billion small and indigenous farmers and rural villagers currently manage to produce 70 percent of the world's food on 25 percent of the world's land. These so-called "subsistence farmers," who have always struggled to survive, now find that climate change, the steady expansion of GMOs and industrial agriculture, and so-called “Free Trade” agreements, are making their farming and survival much more difficult. But these same small farmers, ranchers, pastoralists and forest dwellers, because they have, in most cases, retained traditional knowledge and practices, including seed saving and animal grazing, are open to adopting even more powerful regenerative organic practices. And of course these regenerative, climate-friendly, low-tech land-management techniques will also increase yields, reduce rural poverty, conserve water, improve soil health, and prevent erosion. Study after study has shown [10] that small agro-ecological farms significantly out-produce industrial farms—while sequestering carbon.

The solution to climate change, desertification and world hunger is literally in the hands of the world's two-and-a-half billion family farmers—but only if those farmers are supported by conscious consumers and activists, driving public policy, marketplace, and land-use reform on a global scale. This won’t happen unless we focus on economic justice and land-use reform. Investments and public funds, local to international, must be shifted from greenhouse gas-polluting factory farms and chemical-drenched genetically engineered crops to regenerative organic farming techniques that benefit small-scale and sustainable farmers, as well as consumers.
Land grabs and “free trade” agreements orchestrated by industrialized nations and multinational corporations must be stopped.

The Point of No Return. The U.S. and global climate movement desperately needs a more sophisticated (and international) strategy beyond just pressuring politicians, corporations, banksters, and the White House into shutting down coal plants, fracking and the tar sands pipeline.

What we need is a holistic Zero Emissions/Maximum Sequestration strategy that can galvanize a grassroots army of hundreds of millions of small farmers and conscious consumers, not only in the U.S., but globally.
Although millions of misinformed and/or befuddled Americans remain in denial, a critical mass of the body politic is beginning to understand that global warming and climate chaos pose a serious threat to human survival. What they are lacking, however, is a coherent and empowering understanding of what is actually causing global warming, as well as a practical roadmap of how we—individually, collectively and globally—move away from the dangerous precipice where we find ourselves.

The only remaining significant disagreement among informed climate researchers centers on how long we can survive the still-rising 400 ppm of CO2 in the atmosphere (485 ppm if we include other GHGs such as methane, nitrous oxide, CFCs and black soot). Current consensus seems to be 15-25 years before we reach a “point of no return” whereby climate change morphs into irreversible climate catastrophe.

Faulty Solutions. Flawed Strategy.The U.S.-based climate action movement, led by 350.org, has done an excellent job of protesting against the coal, oil and gas industries. This high-profile movement has also popularized the notion that fossil fuel consumption must be drastically slashed (by 80-90 percent) and replaced by renewable forms of energy, and that individuals and institutions must divest from the fossil fuel industry, making sure that 75 percent of fossil fuels reserves are left in the ground.

But strategic components of 350.org’s roadmap for change are seriously flawed.

First of all, 350.org’s reliance on over-simplified official statistics (the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change--IGCC) on what is causing excess GHG emissions in the atmosphere (i.e. utilities, industry, transportation, and housing) fails to take into account the fact that our industrial food and farming system (production, transportation, processing, waste, and land use), including its impact on deforestation and the soil’s ability to naturally sequester CO2, are the leading cause [11] of greenhouse gas emissions.

Our climate dysfunctionality is in large part a function of how we farm and eat. Yet the most prominent voices in the climate movement continue to downplay, or ignore entirely, this fact.

Even the most optimistic climate activists admit that atmospheric concentrations of CO2 will likely reach 450 ppm in the next several decades before leveling off. Unfortunately the climate movement up until now has offered no real strategy for how we can get from 450 ppm or more to the safe level of 350 ppm.

Even if the U.S., China, India, Brazil, Indonesia, the EU, and other nations stop all emissions sometime in the next 20 years, we will still have dangerous levels (450 ppm or more of CO2 and other greenhouse gases) in the atmosphere—levels that will gradually melt the polar icecaps, burn up the Amazon, spawn disastrous storms, floods, and droughts, and destroy agricultural productivity.

This is not just a basic error in analysis and a failure of imagination. It’s a “doom-and-gloom” formula that leaves us with little or no hope.

We, the members of the regenerative organics movement, invite you to educate yourself about the good news [12] of regenerative organics and natural carbon sequestration. Please join and help us unite the climate movement, the organic movement, the animal rights, family farmer, and conservation movements into a mighty force for transformation and regeneration.

The hour is late. But we still have time to turn things around by stopping the Carbon Criminals and Earth Destroyers and moving as quickly as possible toward a regenerative farming, ranching, and land use system capable of reversing global warming.

Source URL: http://www.alternet.org/reverse-global-warming-we-may-want-rethink-agriculture-first

[1] http://www.organicconsumers.org/
[2] http://www.alternet.org/authors/ronnie-cummins
[3] http://350.org/about/science/
[4] http://rodaleinstitute.org/regenerative-organic-agriculture-and-climate-change/
[5] http://www.organicconsumers.org/articles/article_22092.cfm
[6] http://www.organicconsumers.org/articles/article_30431.cfm
[7] http://unctad.org/en/pages/PublicationWebflyer.aspx?publicationid=666
[8] http://thecarbonunderground.org
[9] http://grist.org/article/2010-02-23-new-research-synthetic-nitrogen-destroys-soil-carbon-undermines/
[10] http://www.organicconsumers.org/articles/article_15328.cfm
[11] http://www.organicconsumers.org/articles/article_20200.cfm
[12] http://www.organicconsumers.org/environment.cfm
[13] mailto:corrections@alternet.org?Subject=Typo on Our Life or Death Task: Move Several Billion Tons of Excess CO2 Back Underground

Donations can be sent to the Baltimore Nonviolence Center, 325 E. 25th St., Baltimore, MD 21218. Ph: 410-366-1637; Email: mobuszewski [at] verizon.net. Go to http://baltimorenonviolencecenter.blogspot.com/

"The master class has always declared the wars; the subject class has always fought the battles. The master class has had all to gain and nothing to lose, while the subject class has had nothing to gain and everything to lose--especially their lives." Eugene Victor Debs

Pro-Palestine Protesters Again Thwart Israeli Cargo Ship in Oakland


Demonstrators approach the Port of Oakland in an attempt to prevent an Israeli ship from docking last month. (photo: Jason Benttinen/Justin Benttinen/Guardian UK)

Pro-Palestine Protesters Again Thwart Israeli Cargo Ship in Oakland

By Ed Pilkington, Guardian UK
29 September 14

New picketing effort at Port of Oakland prevents Israeli-owned cargo ship from unloading after similar incident last month

Protesters demonstrating against the recent Israeli military operation in Gaza have launched a fresh picket at the Port of Oakland in California, preventing an Israeli-owned container ship from unloading its cargo.
A picket of about 200 pro-Palestinian demonstrators campaigning under the title “Block the Boat” assembled on Saturday alongside the Zim Shanghai, a massive, 300-meter commercial vessel. No cargo was unloaded after members of the International Longshore and Warehouse Union refused to work on the ship, citing safety fears due to the crowd of protesters and police.

One of the protest organizers, Steve Zeltzer, said: “I think it was a big victory today for those who are opposed to the policies of Israel in Gaza.”

The successful action to frustrate the unloading of the Zim Shanghai follows similar protests last month in ports along the coast of California and in Florida. The Zim Shanghai’s sister ship, the Zim Piraeus, was blockaded for four days and prevented from unloading at the same port in Oakland. In the end, the vessel had to make its way to Los Angeles with its cargo still on board.

Further protests were staged in Seattle, Tacoma and Long Beach ports in California, and Tampa in Florida.
The frustrated shipments all belonged to the Zim Integrated Shipping Services, Israel’s largest cargo-shipping business and one of the biggest in the world. According to the company’s website, it has an annual turnover of almost $4bn and delivers to 180 ports around the world.

The picketers said they were protesting against Israel’s 50-day military intervention in Gaza this summer, which is said to have caused almost $8bn in damages and killed more than 2,000 Palestinians. The Israeli government said the action was necessary to destroy tunnels built by Hamas for launching attacks inside Israel; 70 Israelis died during the conflict.

A report posted on Pro-Israel Bay Bloggers accused the protesters of intimidating the dockers and said the action would harm the economy of Oakland.

“Who will pay the ultimate cost of this cheap symbolic ‘victory’?” the post asked. “The port will suffer for this. And the thousands of people who rely on the port for their livelihood will suffer. Ultimately, Oakland will suffer.”

According to marine trackers, by Sunday afternoon the Zim Shanghai had left Oakland with its cargo still on board and, like the Zim Piraeus last month, was making its way to Los Angeles.

© 2014 Reader Supported News

Donations can be sent to the Baltimore Nonviolence Center, 325 E. 25th St., Baltimore, MD 21218. Ph: 410-366-1637; Email: mobuszewski [at] verizon.net. Go to http://baltimorenonviolencecenter.blogspot.com/

"The master class has always declared the wars; the subject class has always fought the battles. The master class has had all to gain and nothing to lose, while the subject class has had nothing to gain and everything to lose--especially their lives." Eugene Victor Debs

Slavery and the Making of American Capitalism

Published on Portside (https://portside.org)
Slavery and the Making of American Capitalism


Charles R. Larson

Friday, September 26, 2014

During the 1930s, the WPA sent out workers to interview men and women who had been slaves before the Emancipation Proclamation. It was 72 years after slavery had been abolished and the interviewees were old but their memories were still vivid. When probed by an interviewee, Lorenzo Ivy responded, “Truly, son, the half has never been told.” After the Civil War, black life during slavery was sanitized, deodorized and, above all, reported by Caucasians—not by the people who had toiled under the murderous system. To a certain extent, that one-sided view has persisted. Historians of the South—largely while men—continued the subterfuge. And even recent attempts to set the record straight have followed in the steps of their predecessors: a chapter on families, one on women, etc., looking at groups instead of individuals.

Hence, the need for Edward E. Baptist’s monumental examination of slavery [1], presented in an entirely new way, extensively through the voices of the slaves themselves. Baptist has not simply read the WPA interviews but, apparently, every other account of what happened, particularly the many slave narratives published before and after the end of slavery. And, then—what is most original here—he has organized his own account by using parts of the body; for slavery was, above all, an affront to the basic dignity of the corporal body. These are the chapter titles: “Feet,” “Heads,” “Right Hand,” “Left
Hand,” “Tongues,” “Breath,” “Seed,” “Blood,” “Backs,” and “Arms”—largely parts of the body. The Introduction (“The Heart”) and the Afterword (“The Corpse”) complete the picture.

The first chapter (“Feet”) begins,

“Not long after they heard the first clink of iron, the boys and girls in the cornfield would have been able to smell the grownups’ bodies, perhaps even before they saw the double line coming around the bend. Hurrying in locked step, the thirty-old men came down the dirt road like a giant machine. Each hauled twenty pounds of iron, chains that draped from neck to neck and wrist-to-wrist, binding them all together. Ragged strips flapped stiffly from their clothes like dead-air pennants. On the men’s heads, hair stood out in growing dreads or lay in dust-caked mats. As they moved, some looked down like catatonics. Others stared at something a thousand yards ahead. And now, behind the clanking men, followed a marching crowd of women loosely roped, the same vacancy in their expressions, endurance standing out in the rigid strings of muscle that had replaced their calves in the weeks since they left Maryland. Behind them all swayed a white man on a gray walking horse.”

The men (often with a thousand pounds of iron connecting them) were part of a coffle, enslaved migrants walking seven or eight hundred miles, chattel property, being moved from the north to the south because the profits when they were sold to their new owners were one hundred percent. The slave trade in Africa no longer mattered because slaves in the more northern states (Virginia, especially, but also Maryland) were reproducing so quickly that they created an entire new source of labor. Baptist gives the year as 1805, and states that eventually a million slaves were herded this way to the South. Tobacco farming in the North was less profitable than cotton farming in the South. “The coffle chained the early American republic together.” Slaves walked and walked for five or six weeks, performing their ablutions as they moved. There wasn’t an iota of dignity for the men. Baptist refers to the entire procedure as a “pattern of political compromise” between the North and the South and notes that eight of the first twelve Presidents of the United States were slave owners.

The movement of such huge numbers of slaves to the part of the country that could more productively use them was a “forced migration” grounded on “forced separations, violence, and new kinds of labor.” Equally disturbing—and this is the thesis of Baptist’s magnificent book—“all northern whites had benefited from the deepened exploitation of enslaved people.” Thus, there are no chapters on the African slave trade or the Middle Passage here, but a focus instead on what might be called the second stage of slavery in America. The movement to the deep South would continue for years because of increased productivity of the slaves themselves. In the North, one hand usually sufficed for their work (the dominant hand) but cotton picking required the complicated dexterity of both hands working together.

Moreover, as the country expanded, Southerners made certain that many of the new states further west became slave states where cotton production could continue. So Louisiana, Alabama, Mississippi and Georgia were soon augmented by Texas, Arkansas, and eventually Oklahoma, New Mexico and Arizona, Union territories permitting slavery. It was a nasty balance but it permitted the growth of cotton plantations across the country as well as the steadily increasing cotton industry throughout the entire world (“massive profits from textile manufacturing”—not just in the United States.) Cotton became the “global economy’s most important raw material.”

The plantation owners developed something known as the “pushing system,” forcing the cotton pickers to increase productivity. There were quotas and severe punishments for those who failed, and if a slave had a day when he (or she) picked more than any other day, that became his (or her) new daily quota. Torture for failed quotas was endemic. All white people in the country benefitted, even though some northerners insisted they were no part of it.

Baptist is not afraid to refer to the entire system as “stealing.” “If you want to rule a person, steal the person. Steal him from his people and steal him from his own right hand, from everything he has grown up knowing. Take her to a place where you can steal everything else from her: her future, her creativity, her womb.” In such a system there can be no good slave owners, only bad ones. “Stealing can never be an orderly system undergirded by property rights, cushioned by family-like relationships. There is no balance between contradictory elements. There is only chaos and violence.”

Fortunately, by the 1820s, there were increasing pronouncements from white Americans that slavery had to end. And there were increasing narratives published by slaves who had escaped that showed their limited number of readers just how appalling the entire system was. As I said earlier, Baptist relies on these accounts extensively, plus the isolated reports of a number of attempted revolts such as Nat Turner’s. Christianity was also added to the fray, both as a justification of slavery, by some, and hope for many slaves who had been converted.

In spite of the enormous profits from cotton, it was not an uninterrupted trajectory of economic stability. Banks often lent out more money than they should have, using slaves as collateral. There was often economic turmoil. By the late 1830s, “In response to these clear incentives, enslavers created still more ways to leverage slaves into still more leverage. They mortgaged the same collateral from multiple lenders. They used slaves bought with long-term mortgages to bluff lenders into granting unsecured commercial loans. Above all, they kept buying more slaves on credit. Even if they ran into problems, they figured they would still win, because they could sell their assets. For the slave prices were still rising.”

Inevitably there were panics, collapses, including one that began in Texas, in 1837. Then things bounced back again. Half of the country’s economic activity was related to slavery. By 1850, there were three million slaves in the country. There were years of bitter arguments in Congress about the viability of the entire system. The Compromise of 1850 (another further balancing of slave areas with non-slave areas) simply continued the precarious holding pattern. There were major compromises over runaway slaves, the famous Lincoln/Douglas Debates, John Brown’s execution—dark days for the country. Then in 1860, Lincoln won the election and southern states began to secede. Baptist remarks, “The South did not believe that the North would fight.”

Most of the rest of the story is familiar, as grim as what happened before the end of the Civil War. Black soldiers had pushed the balance. “Their service in battle had saved the nation,” though not necessarily to the benefit they had anticipated. It wasn’t long before the South began imposing major restrictions on black people, the insidious “Jim Crow” laws. Other than a brief period immediately after the war, almost all black people were “shut out of the political system.” Baptist observes, “Slavery and its expansion had built enduring patterns of poverty and exploitation. This legacy was certainly crystal clear in [the] early twentieth-century South. African-American households had virtually no wealth, for instance, while a substantial portion of the wealth held by white households, even after emancipation, could be traced to revenue generated by enslaved labor and financing leveraged out of their bodies before 1861.”

When you consider the long-term effects of slavery, reaching into our world today, it is possible to say that the lives of African-Americans are substantially better than they have ever been before, but when you examine the actual economics impacting black people’s lives, you see a much different picture. Numerous articles in the press during the past few years provide a bleak picture of black people’s living situations. The gap among races widened during the recent economic recession.

According to an article in The New York Times in August of this year, “The net worth of the average black household in the United States is $6,314, compared with $110,500 for the average white household, according to 2011 census data. The gap has worsened in the last decade, and the United States now has a greater wealth gap by race than South Africa did during apartheid.” That’s as damning an indictment of the long-term results of slavery in America as possible and something to consider when reflecting on the half-assed analyses of the recent riots in Ferguson, Missouri.

Edward E. Baptist’s brilliant book, The Half Has Never Been Told, soars because of the author’s decision to root his analysis in the human dimension. The book transcends anything that has previously been written about slavery. Dozens of individual slaves are named in the study and their lives successfully worked into the lengthy narration of the legacy of slavery in our country. In short, Baptist has humanized the lives of American slaves, liberated them from one of the most inhumane systems mankind ever devised. The entire country needs to do the same.
Edward E. Baptist: The Half Has Never Been Told: Slavery and the Making of American Capitalism [1]

Basic Books, 498 pp., $35.00

Charles R. Larson is Emeritus Professor of Literature at American University in Washington, D.C. Email: clarson@american.edu [2].
Source URL: https://portside.org/2014-09-29/slavery-and-making-american-capitalism

[1] http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN046500296X/counterpunchmaga
[2] mailto:clarson@american.edu

Donations can be sent to the Baltimore Nonviolence Center, 325 E. 25th St., Baltimore, MD 21218. Ph: 410-366-1637; Email: mobuszewski [at] verizon.net. Go to http://baltimorenonviolencecenter.blogspot.com/

"The master class has always declared the wars; the subject class has always fought the battles. The master class has had all to gain and nothing to lose, while the subject class has had nothing to gain and everything to lose--especially their lives." Eugene Victor Debs

Documents Show How the CIA and US Press Destroyed Gary Webb


Reporter Gary Webb wrote the 'Dark Alliance' series linking Contra drug running to the proliferation of crack cocaine in Los Angeles. (photo: School of Authentic Journalism)

Documents Show How the CIA and US Press Destroyed Gary Webb

By Ryan Devereaux, The Intercept
25 September 14

E ighteen years after it was published, “Dark Alliance,” the San Jose Mercury News’s bombshell investigation into links between the cocaine trade, Nicaragua’s Contra rebels, and African American neighborhoods in California, remains one of the most explosive and controversial exposés in American journalism.

The 20,000-word series enraged black communities, prompted Congressional hearings, and became one of the first major national security stories in history to blow up online. It also sparked an aggressive backlash from the nation’s most powerful media outlets, which devoted considerable resources to discredit author Gary Webb’s reporting. Their efforts succeeded, costing Webb his career. On December 10, 2004, the journalist was found dead in his apartment, having ended his eight-year downfall with two .38-caliber bullets to the head.

These days, Webb is being cast in a more sympathetic light. He’s portrayed heroically in a major motion picture set to premiere nationwide next month. And documents newly released by the CIA provide fresh context to the “Dark Alliance” saga — information that paints an ugly portrait of the mainstream media at the time.

On September 18, the agency released a trove of documents spanning three decades of secret government operations. Culled from the agency’s in-house journal, Studies in Intelligence, the materials include a previously unreleased six-page article titled “Managing a Nightmare: CIA Public Affairs and the Drug Conspiracy Story.” Looking back on the weeks immediately following the publication of “Dark Alliance,” the document offers a unique window into the CIA’s internal reaction to what it called “a genuine public relations crisis” while revealing just how little the agency ultimately had to do to swiftly extinguish the public outcry. Thanks in part to what author Nicholas Dujmovic, a CIA Directorate of Intelligence staffer at the time of publication, describes as “a ground base of already productive relations with journalists,” the CIA’s Public Affairs officers watched with relief as the largest newspapers in the country rescued the agency from disaster, and, in the process, destroyed the reputation of an aggressive, award-winning reporter.

(Dujmovic’s name was redacted in the released version of the CIA document, but was included in a footnote in a 2010 article in the Journal of Intelligence. Dujmovic confirmed his authorship to The Intercept.)

Webb’s troubles began in August 1996, when his employer, the San Jose Mercury News, published a groundbreaking, three-part investigation he had worked on for more than a year. Carrying the full title “Dark Alliance: The Story Behind the Crack Explosion,” Webb’s series reported that in addition to waging a proxy war for the U.S. government against Nicaragua’s revolutionary Sandinista government in the 1980s, elements of the CIA-backed Contra rebels were also involved in trafficking cocaine to the U.S. in order to fund their counter-revolutionary campaign. The secret flow of drugs and money, Webb reported, had a direct link to the subsequent explosion of crack cocaine abuse that had devastated California’s most vulnerable African American neighborhoods.
Derided by some as conspiracy theory and heralded by others as investigative reporting at its finest, Webb’s series spread through extensive talk radio coverage and global availability via the internet, which at the time was still a novel way to promote national news.

Though “Dark Alliance” would eventually morph into a personal crisis for Webb, it was initially a PR disaster for the CIA. In “Managing a Nightmare,” Dujmovic minced no words in describing the potentially devastating effect of the series on the agency’s image:

The charges could hardly be worse. A widely read newspaper series leads many Americans to believe CIA is guilty of at least complicity, if not conspiracy, in the outbreak of crack cocaine in America’s cities. In more extreme versions of the story circulating on talk radio and the internet, the Agency was the instrument of a consistent strategy by the US Government to destroy the black community and keep black Americans from advancing. Denunciations of CIA–reminiscent of the 1970s–abound. Investigations are demanded and initiated. The Congress gets involved.

Dujmovic acknowledged that Webb “did not state outright that CIA ran the drug trade or even knew about it.” In fact, the agency’s central complaint, according to the document, was over the graphics that accompanied the series, which suggested a link between the CIA and the crack scare, and Webb’s description of the Contras as “the CIA’s army” (despite the fact that the Contras were quite literally an armed, militant group not-so-secretly supported by the U.S., at war with the government of Nicaragua).

Dujmovic complained that Webb’s series “appeared with no warning,” remarking that, for all his journalistic credentials, “he apparently could not come up with a widely available and well-known telephone number for CIA Public Affairs.” This was probably because Webb “was uninterested in anything the Agency might have to say that would diminish the impact of his series,” he wrote. (Webb later said that he did contact the CIA but that the agency would not return his calls; efforts to obtain CIA comment were not mentioned in the “Dark Alliance” series).

Dujmovic also pointed out that much of what was reported in “Dark Alliance” was not new. Indeed, in 1985, more than a decade before the series was published, Associated Press journalists Robert Parry and Brian Barger found that Contra groups had “engaged in cocaine trafficking, in part to help finance their war against Nicaragua.” In a move that foreshadowed Webb’s experience, the Reagan White House launched “a concerted behind-the-scenes campaign to besmirch the professionalism of Parry and Barger and to discredit all reporting on the contras and drugs,” according to a 1997 articleby Peter Kornbluh for the Columbia Journalism Review. “Whether the campaign was the cause or not, coverage was minimal.”

Neverthess, a special senate subcommittee, chaired by then-senator John Kerry, investigated the AP’s findings and, in 1989, released a 1,166-page report on covert U.S. operations throughout Latin America and the Caribbean. It found “considerable evidence” that the Contras were linked to running drugs and guns — and that the U.S. government knew about it.

From the subcommittee report:

On the basis of this evidence, it is clear that individuals who provided support for the Contras were involved in drug trafficking, the supply network of the Contras was used by drug trafficking organizations, and elements of the Contras themselves knowingly received financial and material assistance from drug traffickers. In each case, one or another agency of the U.S. government had information regarding the involvement either while it was occurring, or immediately thereafter.

The chief of the CIA’s Central America Task Force was also quoted as saying, “With respect to (drug trafficking) by the Resistance Forces…it is not a couple of people. It is a lot of people.”

Despite such damning assessments, the subcommittee report received scant attention from the country’s major newspapers. Seven years later, Webb would be the one to pick up the story. His articles distinguished themselves from the AP’s reporting in part by connecting an issue that seemed distant to many U.S. readers — drug trafficking in Central America — to a deeply-felt domestic story, the impact of crack cocaine in California’s urban, African American communities.

“Dark Alliance” focused on the lives of three men involved in shipping cocaine to the U.S.: Ricky “Freeway” Ross, a legendary L.A. drug dealer; Oscar Danilo Blandón Reyes, considered by the U.S. government to be Nicaragua’s biggest cocaine dealer living in the United States; and Meneses Cantarero, a powerful Nicaraguan player who had allegedly recruited Blandón to sell drugs in support of the counter-revolution. The series examined the relationship between the men, their impact on the drug market in California and elsewhere, and the disproportionate sentencing of African Americans under crack cocaine laws.

And while its content was not all new, the series marked the beginning of something that was: an in-depth investigation published outside the traditional mainstream media outlets and successfully promoted on the internet. More than a decade before Wikileaks and Edward Snowden, Webb showcased the power and reach of online journalism. Key documents were hosted on the San Jose Mercury News website, with hyperlinks, wiretap recordings and follow-up stories. The series was widely discussed on African American talk radio stations; on some days attracting more than one million readers to the newspaper’s website. As Webb later remarked, “you don’t have be The New York Times or The Washington Post to bust a national story anymore.”
But newspapers like the Times and the Post seemed to spend far more time trying to poke holes in the series than in following up on the underreported scandal at its heart, the involvement of U.S.-backed proxy forces in international drug trafficking. The Los Angeles Times was especially aggressive. Scooped in its own backyard, the California paper assigned no fewer than 17 reporters to pick apart Webb’s reporting. While employees denied an outright effort to attack the Mercury News, one of the 17 referred to it as the “get Gary Webb team.” Another said at the time, “We’re going to take away that guy’s Pulitzer,” according to Kornbluh’s CJR piece. Within two months of the publication of “Dark Alliance,” the L.A. Times devoted more words to dismantling its competitor’s breakout hit than comprised the series itself.

The CIA watched these developments closely, collaborating where it could with outlets who wanted to challenge Webb’s reporting. Media inquiries had started almost immediately following the publication of “Dark Alliance,” and Dujmovic in “Managing a Nightmare” cites the CIA’s success in discouraging “one major news affiliate” from covering the story. He also boasts that the agency effectively departed from its own longstanding policies in order to discredit the series. “For example, in order to help a journalist working on a story that would undermine the Mercury News allegations, Public Affairs was able to deny any affiliation of a particular individual — which is a rare exception to the general policy that CIA does not comment on any individual’s alleged CIA ties.”

The document chronicles the shift in public opinion as it moved in favor of the CIA, a trend that began about a month and a half after the series was published. “That third week in September was a turning point in media coverage of this story,”

Dujmovic wrote, citing “[r]espected columnists, including prominent blacks,” along with the New York Daily News, the Baltimore Sun, The Weekly Standard and the Washington Post. The agency supplied the press, “as well as former Agency officials, who were themselves representing the Agency in interviews with the media,” with “these more balanced stories,” Dujmovic wrote. The Washington Post proved particularly useful. “Because of the Post‘s national reputation, its articles especially were picked up by other papers, helping to create what the Associated Press called a ‘firestorm of reaction’ against the San Jose Mercury News.” Over the month that followed, critical media coverage of the series (“balanced reporting”) far outnumbered supportive stories, a trend the CIA credited to the Post, The New York Times, “and especially the Los Angeles Times.” Webb’s editors began to distance themselves from their reporter.

By the end of October, two months after “Dark Alliance” was published, “the tone of the entire CIA-drug story had changed,” Dujmovic was pleased to report. “Most press coverage included, as a routine matter, the now-widespread criticism of the Mercury News allegations.”

“This success has to be in relative terms,” Dujmovic wrote, summing up the episode. “In the world of public relations, as in war, avoiding a rout in the face of hostile multitudes can be considered a success.”

There’s no question that “Dark Alliance” included flaws, which the CIA was able to exploit.

In his CJR piece, Kornbluh said the series was “problematically sourced” and criticized it for “repeatedly promised evidence that, on close reading, it did not deliver.” It failed to definitively connect the story’s key players to the CIA, he noted, and there were inconsistencies in Webb’s timeline of events.

But Kornbluh also uncovered problems with the retaliatory reports described as “balanced” by the CIA. In the case of the L.A. Times, he wrote, the paper “stumbled into some of the same problems of hyperbole, selectivity, and credibility that it was attempting to expose” while ignoring declassified evidence (also neglected by the New York Times and the Washington Post) that lent credibility to Webb’s thesis. “Clearly, there was room to advance the contra/drug/CIA story rather than simply denounce it,” Kornbluh wrote.

The Mercury News was partially responsible “for the sometimes distorted public furor the stories generated,” Kornbluh said, but also achieved “something that neither the Los Angeles Times, The Washington Post, nor The New York Times had been willing or able to do — revisit a significant story that had been inexplicably abandoned by the mainstream press, report a new dimension to it, and thus put it back on the national agenda where it belongs.”

In October, the story of Gary Webb will reach a national moviegoing audience, likely reviving old questions about his reporting and the outrage it ignited. Director Michael Cuesta’s film, Kill the Messenger, stars Jeremy Renner as the hard-charging investigative reporter and borrows its title from a 2006 biography written by award-winning investigative journalist Nick Schou, who worked as a consultant on the script.

Discussing the newly disclosed “Managing a Nightmare” document, Schou says it squares with what he found while doing his own reporting. Rather than some dastardly, covert plot to destroy (or, as some went so far as to suggest, murder) Webb, Schou posits that the journalist was ultimately undone by the petty jealousies of the modern media world. The CIA “didn’t really need to lift a finger to try to ruin Gary Webb’s credibility,” Schou told The Intercept. “They just sat there and watched these journalists go after Gary like a bunch of piranhas.”

“They must have been delighted over at Langley, the way this all unfolded,” Schou added.

At least one journalist who helped lead the campaign to discredit Webb, feels remorse for what he did. As Schou reported for L.A. Weekly, in a 2013 radio interview L.A.

Times reporter Jesse Katz recalled the episode, saying, “As an L.A. Times reporter, we saw this series in the San Jose Mercury News and kind of wonder[ed] how legit it was and kind of put it under a microscope. And we did it in a way that most of us who were involved in it, I think, would look back on that and say it was overkill. We had this huge team of people at the L.A. Times and kind of piled on to one lone muckraker up in Northern California.”

Schou, too, readily concedes there were problems with Webb’s reporting, but maintains that the most important components of his investigation stood up to scrutiny, only to be buried under the attacks from the nation’s biggest papers.

“I think it’s fair to take a look at the story objectively and say that it could have been better edited, it could have been packaged better, it would have been less inflammatory. And sure, maybe Gary could have, like, actually put in the story somewhere ‘I called the CIA X-amount of times and they didn’t respond.’ That wasn’t in there,” he said. “But these are all kind of minor things compared to the bigger picture, which is that he documented for the first time in the history of U.S. media how CIA complicity with Central American drug traffickers had actually impacted the sale of drugs north of the border in a very detailed, accurate story. And that’s, I think, the take-away here.”

As for Webb’s tragic death, Schou is certain it was a direct consequence of the smear campaign against him.

“As much as it’s true that he suffered from a clinical depression for years and years — and even before ‘Dark Alliance’ to a certain extent — it’s impossible to view what happened to him without understanding the death of his career as a result of this story,” he explained. “It was really the central defining event of his career and of his life.”

“Once you take away a journalist’s credibility, that’s all they have,” Schou says. “He was never able to recover from that.”
In “Managing a Nightmare,” Dujmovic attributed the initial outcry over the “Dark Alliance” series to “societal shortcomings” that are not present in the spy agency.

“As a personal post-script, I would submit that ultimately the CIA-drug story says a lot more about American society on the eve of the millennium that [sic] it does about either the CIA or the media,” he wrote. “We live in somewhat coarse and emotional times–when large numbers of Americans do not adhere to the same standards of logic, evidence, or even civil discourse as those practiced by members of the CIA community.”
Webb obviously saw things differently. He reflected on his fall from grace in the 2002 book, Into the Buzzsaw. Prior to “Dark Alliance,” Webb said, “I was winning awards, getting raises, lecturing college classes, appearing on TV shows, and judging journalism contests.”

“And then I wrote some stories that made me realize how sadly misplaced my bliss had been. The reason I’d enjoyed such smooth sailing for so long hadn’t been, as I’d assumed, because I was careful and diligent and good at my job,” Webb wrote. “The truth was that, in all those years, I hadn’t written anything important enough to suppress.”

© 2014 Reader Supported News

Donations can be sent to the Baltimore Nonviolence Center, 325 E. 25th St., Baltimore, MD 21218. Ph: 410-366-1637; Email: mobuszewski [at] verizon.net. Go to http://baltimorenonviolencecenter.blogspot.com/

"The master class has always declared the wars; the subject class has always fought the battles. The master class has had all to gain and nothing to lose, while the subject class has had nothing to gain and everything to lose--especially their lives." Eugene Victor Debs

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Living Death: The Real Costs of Fracking


Living Death: The Real Costs of Fracking

Thursday, 25 September 2014 00:00By Ellen Cantarow, Truthout | Book Review

(Image: Beacon Press)

The Real Cost of Fracking by Michelle Bamberger and Robert Oswald paves the way for the high-volume hydraulic fracturing industry to be put on trial for its role in endangering the health of American families, animals, food and water systems.

In 1997, my husband and I got three Siamese kittens. Two were a brother-sister pair born into the same litter. The third was a kitten so tiny that she fit easily into the palm of my hand and, when she reached our house, into the cut-glass fruit bowl where, for half a day, she retreated in bereavement. It turned out that she should have stayed with her mother longer; she wasn't quite weaned. So I became her mother: part of the time I carried her around with me in a sack as if she were a baby. I'll admit that the cats have been like children in our family - especially Zoe, as bold, cheerful and fearless as she was small, with huge foxlike ears, large sapphire eyes, a slender muzzle and subtle, tan stripes. For the rest of her life, Zoe was with me when she wasn't sleeping - following me around the house, perched on the back of my chair while I wrote, lying next to me when I slept. On December 27, 2013, she died of kidney failure. The other two cats, now 17, live on.

It is hard to imagine how I would feel if a corporation invaded my neighborhood, drilled for gas, spread fracking waste on our driveway, and contaminated the water our animals and we drink. To think of Zoe or either of the other two being poisoned by the drilling chemicals, and by the heavy metals, radium and fracking fluid chemicals that spew up in millions of gallons after the drilling, is terrible. But this is exactly what has happened to companion animals and livestock owned by rural residents of Pennsylvania, site of the nation's most frenzied and protracted high-volume hydraulic fracturing. (By now you probably know what "fracking" of the high-volume variety means: "high-volume" involves millions of gallons of water laced with chemicals and sand, which are propelled down drill bores to blast methane up and out of shale. The flowback I've just described follows the actual drilling.)

Sarah and Josie are neighbors in countryside south of Pittsburgh, a quiet rural landscape undergoing massive industrialization by the fracking industry. Josie's dream was to raise purebred boxers and bulldogs, her life revolving around the animals. Sarah lived in a farmhouse more than a century old, together with her two children. A neighbor leased several acres of his farmland to a fracking company and Josie, who already knew about the links between fracking and water contamination, began keeping precise records charting the drilling and completion of wells and also the completion of a wastewater impoundment. It was after the impoundment was completed in spring 2010 that Josie lost her well water and her spring water dropped to a trickle. With her husband she began hauling water from a nearby creek for the family needs - they couldn't manage physically to haul water for their horses.

"A young dog less than two years old, progressed from healthy to incapacitated in a few days, with lab work indicating the possibility of cancer, but also liver and kidney toxicity."

The first animal to die wasn't a horse, but a young, beloved boxer named Mr. Higgins. A veterinarian diagnosed kidney failure. One of Mr. Higgins' lymph nodes was enlarged; a New York State veterinarian named Michelle Bamberger, who was interviewing Pennsylvania residents for a book she was writing with Cornell University molecular medicine professor Robert Oswald, advised a needle biopsy to rule out lymphoma (common in this breed, she notes in the book that has finally appeared, The Real Cost of Fracking: How America's Shale Gas Boom Is Threatening Our Families, Pets And Food, published by Beacon Press in August).

The needle biopsy was never done - even though Josie brought Mr. Higgins to a specialty clinic, she "declined further diagnostics and opted for euthanasia," not being able to bear watching him suffer any longer. "A young dog," observes Bamberger, "less than two years old, progressed from healthy to incapacitated in a few days, with lab work indicating the possibility of cancer, but also liver and kidney toxicity." Josie told Bamberger that two days before Mr. Higgins became ill, a truck had spread wastewater on her road (a common industry practice), and Mr. Higgins lapped up a puddle near the driveway. "Josie will never know for sure," says Bamberger, "but very likely Mr. Higgins drank a cocktail of heavy metals and radioactive and organic compounds that tasted salty and made him want to consume more."

Next in the death march was a horse named Amy, pronounced healthy by a veterinarian several months after Mr. Higgins died, but who, a few weeks after that, stopped eating, lost weight and appeared to lose her balance and coordination. A vet came to treat Amy for what he assumed was a neurological disease (equine protozoal myeloencephalitis) and took blood for testing. Two days later Amy's back legs became so weak she couldn't stand. She sank in her stall and began convulsing. Again distraught, Josie had Amy euthanized. The blood results indicated liver failure due to toxicity - the vet suspected poisoning from heavy metals (these are present in fracking wastewater) - but the illness was never diagnosed. Josie couldn't afford the necropsy and further testing that might have concluded the diagnosis. Moreover, representatives of the drilling company came soon after the euthanasia and offered a "neighborly thing": carting Amy's body off to be incinerated.
"There were times . . . in the morning - the air would feel dewy. You could just feel the chemicals on you."

Both Sarah and Josie experienced the entry of fracking crews in their area as an invasion that started with "dust . . . dirt, and . . . noise caused by . . . constant drilling traffic." Earlier, the view from Sarah's farmhouse had been gorgeous, with vistas across the valley to the next ridge of hills, and a feeling of seclusion and privacy. But a large well pad (a "pad" is the area where wells are located) was built with seven wellheads and attendant tanks (one of the signal characteristics of high-volume fracking is multiple wellheads occupying a single pad). From these issued poisons (my word rather than the euphemism "contaminants") that thickened the atmosphere, finally driving Sarah, a single mother and a nurse, to take her children and leave. "There were times . . . in the morning - the air would feel dewy. You could just feel the chemicals on you," she told Bamberger. "It was so thick. It's almost like a bug that is caught in a fogger . . . I felt like I couldn't breathe - I would get so short of breath."

The animals were sentinels for Sarah's symptoms. Besides shortness of breath, she lost her sense of smell. After abandoning the house, whenever she returned, she'd get a metallic taste in her mouth and a recurrence of headaches. She still feels guilty that she waited to leave this house, one that commanded her love and loyalty because her great-grandfather had lived in it. With what the authors describe as "a mother's guilt" Sarah said, "We didn't even know [the impoundment] was up there until we figured out what was going on. We just thought it was a well pad." Both women are left to live with uncertainty about the consequences of living where they have: cancers, for instance, take many years to develop, and by the time they do, it is even harder to establish causes.

The book's frontispiece has the simple legend, "For the animals," and the way animals and children become sentinels for adults living amidst fracking infrastructures. Children's metabolic rates are higher than adults'; their immune systems, immature. But animals suffer greater exposures than children do. "While children are sentinels," write the authors, "for many reasons, animals are even more so. When families leave for work and school, their animals are often left at home either in the house, barn, or yard, increasing exposure times. Whereas children can be given bottled water to drink, few people can afford to buy bottled water for a horse."
High-volume hydraulic fracturing is a virtually unregulated industry.

In October 2011, air testing was done on Sarah's and Josie's properties by a nonprofit organization that provides the service for low-income families affected by industrial drilling. The tests detected chemicals that, according to Bamberger, "[read] like an environmentalist's worst nightmare: BTEX (benzene, toluene, ethylbenzene, m-xylene, p-xylene, and o-xylene); carbon tetrachloride; chloromethane; methylene chloride; tetrachloroethylene; trichlorofluromethane; I, I, 2-trichloro-I, 2, 2-trifluoroethane; and I,2,4-trimethylbenzene." These chemicals, the authors observe, impact the neurological and respiratory systems and can be toxic to blood cells.

High-volume hydraulic fracturing is a virtually unregulated industry; we might as well be back in the early 20th century when Sinclair Lewis wrote his scarifying exposures of the meat industry. In 2005, fracking was brought back into that palmy era of elite and corporate privilege by Vice-President Richard Cheney, who crafted the Energy Act of that year; it exempted fracking from all US environmental laws. There followed linguistic sleights of hand that transform horribly toxic waste containing heavy metals, radioactive matter and chemicals from fracking fluid, into innocuous "brine" or "residual waste" (you see these legends on the side of trucks passing by you as you drive on Pennsylvania highways). Many of the chemicals used in fracking are deemed "proprietary" - that is, corporations don't disclose them, compounding problems of testing and diagnosis when animals and people get sick.

That the industry was already underway meant it was ignoring what's known as "the precautionary principle," under which any action suspected of causing harm must be proved not to cause harm by the agency committing it.

The authors began thinking about writing about fracking in 2009, as they read about it in local papers and learned that their neighbors in New York State had leased land to gas companies. They heard "stories we found hard to believe: healthy cattle dying within one hour after exposure to hydraulic fracturing fluid; cows failing to reproduce and herds with high rates of stillborn and stunted calves after exposure to drilling wastewater; dogs failing to reproduce after drinking contaminated water; dogs and horses developing unexplained rashes and having difficulty breathing after living in intensively drilled areas." In 2012 they published an article, "Impacts of gas drilling on human and animal health," that became known for the same scientific assiduousness as the book that would follow. They had already begun interviewing dozens of people in Pennsylvania, and finally decided on the five families whose stories are related in The Real Cost of Fracking (all names are pseudonymous; the stories are true).

That the industry was already underway meant it was ignoring what's known as "the precautionary principle," under which any action suspected of causing harm must be proved not to cause harm by the agency committing it.

That principle, write the authors, "would suggest that this industry has the obligation to prove that its actions do not cause public harm. The fossil fuel industry . . . seems to have taken a page from the tobacco industry playbook. That is, if a link between drilling operations and public health cannot be proven definitively, then the link is rejected, effectively putting the burden of proof on the victim." (9) So Bamberger and Oswald set about "document[ing] exposures and subsequent health problems by detailed reports - just as would be done for a new disease - in both animals and their owners."

In Butler County, Pennsylvania, a region in the state peppered with wells and fracking infrastructure, Claire Wasserman, who had leukemia but was in remission, had a resurgence of the disease after gas operations arrived in her community. In August 2011, she noticed a metallic taste in her water and a black stain on her dishes. Tests by the drilling company and the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (PADEP) showed no "obvious contamination" and so Claire and her husband Jason, a retired water-well driller, continued drinking their well water. Claire's white blood cells spiked, her leukemia returned, the family then stopped using their well water for drinking and the leukemia went back into remission.

"When he was holding it like that, blood started coming out of his eyes. I said, 'Close your eyes, close your eyes!' and it started coming out of his ears. I thought, 'This is it . . . '"

But Jason began suffering from massive nosebleeds. "[H]e was standing in the bathroom, and he said, 'Oh my God, Claire, come here.' Blood was just pouring out of his nose. I said, 'Hold it up here, hold it up here!'" She tilted her head back and pinched her nostrils to illustrate to Bamberger. "When he was holding it like that, blood started coming out of his eyes. I said, 'Close your eyes, close your eyes!' and it started coming out of his ears. I thought, 'This is it . . . '" (161) The bleeding happened during the flaring of a gas well (gas impurities are burned off in this process). Chemicals released by flaring include the BTEX compounds described above. Among the blood cells destroyed by BTEX chemicals are platelets, whose numbers fall under BTEX impact; platelets are important in clotting and when their numbers fall, explains Bamberger, bleeding is more likely.

The Real Cost of Fracking weaves facts like these through the stories of the families. Documentation is meticulous and continuous throughout the book. (For example, the footnote to the facts about blood-cell destruction acknowledges an article from the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry; effects on platelets are based on "Platelet Function," an article from the Platelet Research Laboratory. Sources range from medical and scientific ones to Supreme Court and other legal decisions, articles on the industry, the US Department of Agriculture, and many more. There are nearly 20 pages of footnotes and a 14-page index.) The book is arrestingly written; its accounts are really stories, not a mere concatenation of scientific observation with description of incidents. One wants to read The Real Cost of Fracking after one begins.

In high-volume fracking there's a practice called "land farming" or "land treatment" or "land spreading" - disposing of drilling waste or drilling wastewater from fracking by spreading it on farmland.

The book's first section is about families and their pets. The second is about farmers and food-producing animals, with particular attention to "the potential introduction of toxicants into the food supply directly from crops or exposed animals (from meat, milk, eggs, or cheese) or indirectly through rendering, where animals' flesh and bones are turned into products used to feed other animals or, in some cases, humans (through the production of lard from animal fat)." A final section explores issues surrounding high-volume fracking and environmental justice.

Reading the section on farmers and food production reminded me of trips my mother and I used to make to the Reading Terminal Supermarket in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, just after World War II. The market, a vast expanse of tiled floors and stalls at the end of the Reading Railroad line, offered the wares of family farmers from rural Pennsylvania. At that time "organic" wasn't part of American culinary vocabulary. As for "natural gas," it was just "gas," the blue flame on our stove. In rural Pennsylvania, gas came out of wells described by older Pennsylvanians and New Yorkers as "just little pipes in the ground." But now everything is changed because of the industrialization of formerly pristine farmland.

"The only honest answer to the question of whether our food and water are safe from this process is that we really don't know."

One factoid from the book: in high-volume fracking there's a practice called "land farming" or "land treatment" or "land spreading" - disposing of drilling waste or drilling wastewater from fracking by spreading it on farmland. "Land farming" involves not just one, but multiple applications of the waste on farmland. "Land treatment" or "land spreading" involves "only" one. As I explained above, "waste" and "wastewater" is a euphemism for a toxic mix of fracking chemicals, heavy metals, radium and more. Then there are the fracking infrastructures that stand where food grows and livestock live. "We have seen condensate tanks venting volatile organics in a corn field," write the authors, "a wastewater impoundment adjacent to a field of squash, cows grazing near drilling rigs, and deer walking across drilling pads. The only honest answer to the question of whether our food and water are safe from this process is that we really don't know." (101)

The book has a cumulative effect, each group of stories building on the preceding groups, until one understands not only a great deal more about the illnesses this industry produces in animals and people, but the extent of contempt by the industry and "environmental" agencies for the victims. The authors write that "the most consistent finding from case to case, and one that most people discussed at length was the irresponsible behavior of the drilling companies and the state environmental regulatory agencies in handling problems occurring after the onset of oil or gas drilling." (13) (In cases where companies have agreed to settle with their victims, the latter have usually been forced by the companies to sign non-disclosure agreements, a fact noted in the book.)

Destroying life with full consciousness of doing so is, in my opinion, evil - a word Bamberger and Oswald never use, but which may come to mind as you read this massive indictment of an industry so vast that it has penetrated every part of American life (think: the fuel in your car and stove, as well as the food on your table).

In 2008 James Hansen, former head of the NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies, who testified to Congress in 1988 about climate change and first aroused broad awareness about it, called for putting fossil-fuel corporation CEOs on trial for "high crimes against humanity and nature." It was Hansen who first compared the disinformation spread by fossil-fuel corporations to tobacco companies' cover-ups of the link between tobacco smoking and cancer. No industry deserves to be put on trial more than the high-volume hydraulic fracking colossus. This exceptional book paves the way to doing that. It would be nice to think that through it word might spread, and Americans might protest, even more than they do now, an industry that richly deserves to be banned.

Copyright, Truthout.

Ellen Cantarow reported on Israel and the West Bank from 1979 to 2009 for the Village Voice, Mother Jones, Inquiry, and Grand Street, among other publications. For the past four years she has been writing about the toll the oil and gas industries are taking on the environment. She views corporate penetrations of American land for fracking as colonization that is turning the US into a petro-state with impacts similar to those in, among other Third World countries, Nigeria.

Donations can be sent to the Baltimore Nonviolence Center, 325 E. 25th St., Baltimore, MD 21218. Ph: 410-366-1637; Email: mobuszewski [at] verizon.net. Go to http://baltimorenonviolencecenter.blogspot.com/

"The master class has always declared the wars; the subject class has always fought the battles. The master class has had all to gain and nothing to lose, while the subject class has had nothing to gain and everything to lose--especially their lives." Eugene Victor Debs