April 28, 2008

A Time to Break Silence

As I have walked among the desperate, rejected and angry young men I have told them that Molotov cocktails and rifles would not solve their problems. I have tried to offer them my deepest compassion while maintaining my conviction that social change comes most meaningfully through nonviolent action. But they asked -- and rightly so -- what about Vietnam? They asked if our own nation wasn't using massive doses of violence to solve its problems, to bring about the changes it wanted. Their questions hit home, and I knew that I could never again raise my voice against the violence of the oppressed in the ghettos without having first spoken clearly to the greatest purveyor of violence in the world today -- my own government. ...

Now, it should be incandescently clear that no one who has any concern for the integrity and life of America today can ignore the present war. If America's soul becomes totally poisoned, part of the autopsy must read Vietnam. It can never be saved so long as it destroys the deepest hopes of men the world over. So it is that those of us who are yet determined that America will be are led down the path of protest and dissent, working for the health of our land. ...

We are called to speak for the weak, for the voiceless, for victims of our nation and for those it calls enemy, for no document from human hands can make these humans any less our brothers. ...

Strange Liberators

The only change came from America as we increased our troop commitments in support of governments which were singularly corrupt, inept and without popular support. All the while the people read our leaflets and received regular promises of peace and democracy -- and land reform. Now they languish under our bombs and consider us -- not their fellow Vietnamese --the real enemy. They move sadly and apathetically as we herd them off the land of their fathers into concentration camps where minimal social needs are rarely met. They know they must move or be destroyed by our bombs. So they go -- primarily women and children and the aged.

They watch as we poison their water, as we kill a million acres of their crops. They must weep as the bulldozers roar through their areas preparing to destroy the precious trees. They wander into the hospitals, with at least twenty casualties from American firepower for one "Vietcong"-inflicted injury. So far we may have killed a million of them -- mostly children. They wander into the towns and see thousands of the children, homeless, without clothes, running in packs on the streets like animals. They see the children, degraded by our soldiers as they beg for food. They see the children selling their sisters to our soldiers, soliciting for their mothers.

What do the peasants think as we ally ourselves with the landlords and as we refuse to put any action into our many words concerning land reform? What do they think as we test our latest weapons on them, just as the Germans tested out new medicine and new tortures in the concentration camps of Europe? Where are the roots of the independent Vietnam we claim to be building? Is it among these voiceless ones?

We have destroyed their two most cherished institutions: the family and the village. We have destroyed their land and their crops. We have cooperated in the crushing of the nation's only non-Communist revolutionary political force -- the unified Buddhist church. We have supported the enemies of the peasants of Saigon. We have corrupted their women and children and killed their men. What liberators?

Now there is little left to build on -- save bitterness. Soon the only solid physical foundations remaining will be found at our military bases and in the concrete of the concentration camps we call fortified hamlets. The peasants may well wonder if we plan to build our new Vietnam on such grounds as these? Could we blame them for such thoughts? We must speak for them and raise the questions they cannot raise. These too are our brothers. ...

When we ask why they do not leap to negotiate, these things must be remembered. ...

We are adding cynicism to the process of death, for they must know after a short period there that none of the things we claim to be fighting for are really involved. Before long they must know that their government has sent them into a struggle among Vietnamese, and the more sophisticated surely realize that we are on the side of the wealthy and the secure while we create hell for the poor. ...

This Madness Must Cease

The world now demands a maturity of America that we may not be able to achieve. It demands that we admit that we have been wrong from the beginning of our adventure in Vietnam, that we have been detrimental to the life of the Vietnamese people. The situation is one in which we must be ready to turn sharply from our present ways. ...

Protesting The War

The war in Vietnam is but a symptom of a far deeper malady within the American spirit, and if we ignore this sobering reality we will find ourselves organizing clergy- and laymen-concerned committees for the next generation. They will be concerned about Guatemala and Peru. They will be concerned about Thailand and Cambodia. They will be concerned about Mozambique and South Africa. We will be marching for these and a dozen other names and attending rallies without end unless there is a significant and profound change in American life and policy. ...

During the past ten years we have seen emerge a pattern of suppression which now has justified the presence of U.S. military "advisors" in Venezuela. This need to maintain social stability for our investments accounts for the counter-revolutionary action of American forces in Guatemala. It tells why American helicopters are being used against guerrillas in Colombia and why American napalm and green beret forces have already been active against rebels in Peru. It is with such activity in mind that the words of the late John F. Kennedy come back to haunt us. Five years ago he said, "Those who make peaceful revolution impossible will make violent revolution inevitable."

Increasingly, by choice or by accident, this is the role our nation has taken -- the role of those who make peaceful revolution impossible by refusing to give up the privileges and the pleasures that come from the immense profits of overseas investment.

I am convinced that if we are to get on the right side of the world revolution, we as a nation must undergo a radical revolution of values. We must rapidly begin the shift from a "thing-oriented" society to a "person-oriented" society. When machines and computers, profit motives and property rights are considered more important than people, the giant triplets of racism, materialism, and militarism are incapable of being conquered. ...

A true revolution of values will soon cause us to question the fairness and justice of many of our past and present policies. n the one hand we are called to play the good Samaritan on life's roadside; but that will be only an initial act. One day we must come to see that the whole Jericho road must be transformed so that men and women will not be constantly beaten and robbed as they make their journey on life's highway. True compassion is more than flinging a coin to a beggar; it is not haphazard and superficial. It comes to see that an edifice which produces beggars needs restructuring. A true revolution of values will soon look uneasily on the glaring contrast of poverty and wealth. With righteous indignation, it will look across the seas and see individual capitalists of the West investing huge sums of money in Asia, Africa and South America, only to take the profits out with no concern for the social betterment of the countries, and say: "This is not just." It will look at our alliance with the landed gentry of Latin America and say: "This is not just." The Western arrogance of feeling that it has everything to teach others and nothing to learn from them is not just. A true revolution of values will lay hands on the world order and say of war: "This way of settling differences is not just." This business of burning human beings with napalm, of filling our nation's homes with orphans and widows, of injecting poisonous drugs of hate into veins of people normally humane, of sending men home from dark and bloody battlefields physically handicapped and psychologically deranged, cannot be reconciled with wisdom, justice and love. A nation that continues year after year to spend more money on military defense than on programs of social uplift is approaching spiritual death. ...

The People Are Important

These are revolutionary times. All over the globe men are revolting against old systems of exploitation and oppression and out of the wombs of a frail world new systems of justice and equality are being born. The shirtless and barefoot people of the land are rising up as never before. "The people who sat in darkness have seen a great light." We in the West must support these revolutions. It is a sad fact that, because of comfort, complacency, a morbid fear of communism, and our proneness to adjust to injustice, the Western nations that initiated so much of the revolutionary spirit of the modern world have now become the arch anti-revolutionaries. This has driven many to feel that only Marxism has the revolutionary spirit. Therefore, communism is a judgement against our failure to make democracy real and follow through on the revolutions we initiated. ...

--Martin Luther King, April 4, 1967, Riverside Church, New York

human rights

April 26, 2008

A call to humility and acknowledgement of reality

Where governments lie, God does not lie. Where governments change, God does not change. And I'm through now. But let me leave you with one more thing. Governments fail. The government in this text comprised of Caesar, Cornelius, Pontius Pilate - the Roman government failed. The British government used to rule from East to West. The British government had a Union Jack. She colonized Kenya, Ghana, Nigeria, Jamaica, Barbados, Trinidad and Hong Kong. Her navies ruled the seven seas all the way down to the tip of Argentina in the Falklands, but the British government failed. The Russian government failed. The Japanese government failed. The German government failed. And the United States of America government, when it came to treating her citizens of Indian descent fairly, she failed. She put them on reservations. When it came to treating her citizens of Japanese descent fairly, she failed. She put them in internment prison camps. When it came to treating citizens of African descent fairly, America failed. She put them in chains. The government put them on slave quarters, put them on auction blocks, put them in cotton fields, put them in inferior schools, put them in substandard housing, put them in scientific experiments, put them in the lowest paying jobs, put them outside the equal protection of the law, kept them out of their racist bastions of higher education and locked them into position of hopelessness and helplessness. The government gives them the drugs, builds bigger prisons, passes a three-strikes law, and then wants us to sing God bless America? No, no, no. Not God bless America; God damn America! That's in the Bible, for killing innocent people. God damn America for treating her citizens as less than human. God damn America as long as she keeps trying to act like she is God and she is supreme!

--Jeremiah Wright

human rights

When America's chickens came home to roost

The people of faith have moved from the hatred of armed enemies, these soldiers who captured the king, those soldiers who slaughtered his son and put his eyes out, the soldiers who sacked the city, burned the towns, burned the temples, burned the towers, and moved from the hatred for armed enemies to the hatred of unarmed innocents, the babies, the babies. "Blessed are they who dash your baby's brains against a rock." And that my beloved is a dangerous place to be. Yet, that is where the people of faith are in 551 BC and that is where far too many people of faith are in 2001 AD. We have moved from the hatred of armed enemies to the hatred of unarmed innocents. We want revenge. We want paybacks and we don't care who gets hurt in the process.

I heard Ambassador Peck on an interview yesterday. Did anybody else see him or hear him? He was on Fox news. This is a white man and he was upsetting the Fox news commentators to no end. He pointed out - an Ambassador! - he pointed out that what Malcolm X said when he got silenced by Elijah Mohammad was in fact true. America's chickens are coming home to roost! We took this country by terror away from the Sioux, the Apache, the Arawak, the Comanche, the Arapaho, the Navajo. Terrorism! We took Africans from their country to build our way of ease and kept them enslaved and living in fear. Terrorism! We bombed Grenada and killed innocent civilians, babies, non-military personnel. We bombed the black civilian community of Panama with stealth bombers and killed unarmed teenagers and toddlers, pregnant mothers and hard-working fathers. We bombed Gadafi's home and killed his child. "Blessed are they who bash your children's heads against a rock!" We bombed Iraq. We killed unarmed civilians trying to make a living. We bombed a plant in Sudan to pay back for the attack on our embassy. Killed hundreds of hard-working people; mothers and fathers who left home to go work that day, not knowing that they would never get back home. We bombed Hiroshima! We bombed Nagasaki, and we nuked far more than the thousands in New York and the Pentagon. And we never batted an eye! Kids playing in the playground, mothers picking up children after school, civilians - not soldiers - people just trying to make it day by day. We have supported state terrorism against the Palestinians and Black South Africans, and now we are indignant? Because the stuff we have done overseas has now been brought back into our own front yards! America's chickens are coming home to roost! Violence begets violence. Hatred begets hatred and terrorism begets terrorism. A White Ambassador said that, y'all, not a Black Militant. Not a Reverend who preaches about racism. An Ambassador whose eyes are wide open, and who's trying to get us to wake up and move away from this dangerous precipice upon which we are now poised ...

--Jeremiah Wright, Sept. 16, 2001

[One week before the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, the U.S. walked out of the World Conference on Racism in Durban, South Africa, to prevent discussion of Israel's treatment of its Palestinian population.]

human rights

Jeremiah Wright on Bill Moyers Journal

By the rivers of Babylon,
There we sat down, yea, we wept,
When we remembered Zion.
Upon the willows in the midst thereof
We hanged up our harps.
For there they that led us captive asked of us words of song,
And our tormentors asked of us mirth:
'Sing us one of the songs of Zion.'

How shall we sing the Lord's song
In a foreign land?
If I forget thee, O Jerusalem,
Let my right hand forget her cunning.
Let my tongue cleave to the roof of my mouth,
If I remember thee not;
If I set not Jerusalem
Above my chiefest joy.

Remember, O Lord, against the children of Edom
The day of Jerusalem;
Who said: 'Rase it, rase it,
Even to the foundation thereof.'
O daughter of Babylon, that art to be destroyed;
Happy shall he be, that repayeth thee
As thou hast served us.
Happy shall he be, that taketh and dasheth thy little ones
Against the rock.

--Psalm 137

[Hint: Righteous, anger, bitterness, and desire for vengeance too easily justifies the killing of innocents and blinds us to our own sins.]

human rights

Economies of Meat

Re “Million-Dollar Meat” (New York Times editorial, April 23):

To the Editor:

In vitro meat might not appeal to everyone, but I am guessing that the day PETA awards its prize money will be a happy day for the billions of land animals bound for slaughter.

We can treasure the cultural and historical bond between animals and domesticated animals only by ignoring the emotional bond. Children naturally love animals, but the many “uses we have found for them” lead us to teach our children to save their compassion for companion animals exclusively.

We encourage kids to gently pet baby lambs, cows, chickens and pigs, but we deny them this loving connection when we serve animals for dinner by surreptitiously calling them chops, hamburger, nuggets and bacon.

There is no happy ending for even the most humanely raised animal. And there is no good reason to breed, confine and kill animals for food unless we believe that economic benefit justifies killing. More and more people do not. We call ourselves vegetarians.

Patti Breitman
Fairfax, Calif., April 23, 2008

You suggest that the raising of animals for food should be done “in ways that are both ethical and environmentally sound.” This is asking for the impossible.

More than nine billion chickens are slaughtered each year in the United States. When you treat animals as objects on an assembly line, it is not possible to provide for their basic needs.

You argue that we must treasure a “cultural and historical bond” between us and those we eat. But that bond is based on exploitation and abuse.

If domesticated animals “exist only because of the uses we have found for them,” let me ask you: Would you have recommended 150 years ago that we preserve and treasure the bond between whites and their black slaves — and develop a more humane slave trade?

Vadim Liberman
New York, April 23, 2008

human rights, animal rights, vegetarianism

April 25, 2008

First Draft of Maya Angelou's Open Letter Supporting Hillary Clinton

Dear Friend:

I am writing to tell you about my friend, Hillary Clinton, and why I am standing with her in her campaign for the presidency in 2012 after she ruins Senator Obama and the Democratic party this year. I know the kind of president Hillary Clinton will be because I know dozens of the personalities she has assumed over the years.

I am inspired by her insincerity and her dishonesty. She is a reliable and trustworthy opportunist. She is someone I not only fear but one for whom I have profound worry regarding stability.

Hillary does not waver in standing up for her prerogative. She has always been a passionate protector of her husband's sexual appetites. As a child, she was taught that all Iraq's children are politically expedient, and as a mother, she understood that her child wasn't safe unless all Iranians were obliterated. As I wrote about Hillary recently in a praise song: "She is the slayer of every hope and every man who longs for fair play, botcher of health care, champion of NAFTA and Wal-Mart."

It may be easy to view Hillary Clinton through the narrow lens of those who would ask her to explain her lies. Hillary sees us as we are, black and brown and white and yellow and pink and relishes our differences knowing that fundamentally we are all exploitable. She is able to look through complexion and see hollow wedge issues.

She has endured great scrutiny, and still is barely scrutinized. Hillary Clinton will not give up on you, unless you are a caucus-goer or black. She is a long-distance runner even though she previously agreed that the race should be a sprint. I am honored to say I am with her until her loss is so obvious that it would be an act of transcendent madness for even Carville to claim otherwise.

I am supporting Hillary Clinton because I know that she will make the most positive difference in the lives of corporate donors and she will help our country continue to be what it currently is. Whether you are her supporter, leaning towards her, undecided, or supporting someone else, I believe Hillary Clinton will never forget anyone who didn't fall in line - and she will make you pay. It is no small thing that along the way we will repeat history together.

Vote for Hillary Clinton and show your support at www.hillaryclinton.com. I know she will make use of her power.

[Satire from 236.com; but not far from reality: see Angelou's video endorsement from last year and her more recent "poem" and comments ("You may write me down in history / With your bitter, twisted lies, / You may tread me in the very dirt / But still, like dust, I'll rise."). While we're on the subject, don't miss the old "Stale" parody, "I, Poem".]

April 22, 2008

The really inconvenient truth

From BBC News, April 22:

Opening a UN forum on the global impact of climate change on indigenous peoples, [Evo] Morales said that capitalism should be scrapped if the planet is to be saved from the effects of climate change.

"If we want to save our planet earth, we have a duty to put an end to the capitalist system," he said.

Bolivia's president said unbridled industrial development was responsible for the pillaging of natural resources.

environment, environmentalism, human rights, animal rights

April 20, 2008

Best comment on ABC's disgraceful "debate"

"Such defacing of American values is to be expected, I guess, from a network whose debate moderators refuse to wear flag pins."

--Frank Rich, New York Times, Apr. 20

April 14, 2008

The Fog of War Memory

From "What Have We Learned, If Anything?" by Tony Judt, New York Review of Books, May 1, 2008:

We are slipping down a slope. The sophistic distinctions we draw today in our war on terror -- between the rule of law and “exceptional” circumstances, between citizens (who have rights and legal protections) and noncitizens to whom anything can be done, between normal people and “terrorists,” between “us” and “them” -- are not new. The twentieth century saw them all invoked. They are the selfsame distinctions that licensed the worst horrors of the recent past: internment camps, deportation, torture, and murder -- those very crimes that prompt us to murmur “never again.” So what exactly is it that we think we have learned from the past? Of what possible use is our self-righteous cult of memory and memorials if the United States can build its very own internment camp and torture people there?

Far from escaping the twentieth century, we need, I think, to go back and look a bit more carefully. We need to learn again -- or perhaps for the first time -- how war brutalizes and degrades winners and losers alike and what happens to us when, having heedlessly waged war for no good reason, we are encouraged to inflate and demonize our enemies in order to justify that war’s indefinite continuance. And perhaps, in this protracted electoral season, we could put a question to our aspirant leaders: Daddy (or, as it might be, Mommy), what did you do to prevent the war?

April 4, 2008

Enron's revenge

Senator Patrick Leahy wrote:
... I am firmly committed to reducing our nation's dependency on foreign oil and curbing greenhouse gas emission. That is why I have long supported tax incentives for the solar industry and wind power ...

Have you seen any evidence that industrial-scale wind measurably reduces, or even slows the growth of, greenhouse gas emissions? Since the wind doesn't always blow when you need it, and then blows variably, wind turbines can't replace other more reliable sources. And those other sources are forced to run less efficiently, i.e., with more, not less, emissions.

Furthermore, it is boilerplate pablum to mention foreign oil. Less than 3% of our electricity comes from burning oil, and most of that is the sludge left over from refining gasoline.

With such little benefit, and accumulating adverse impacts, industrial wind is a harmful boondoggle: Enron's revenge.

wind power, wind energy, environment, environmentalism, human rights, Vermont

April 2, 2008

Cost, space, safety risk, threats to flora and fauna, noise, aesthetic intrusion, shadow flicker: problems with wind energy

Ton van de Wekken, of KEMA Nederland, an energy systems consultancy, writes in the April 1 Renewable Energy World (excerpts):

The costs of onshore wind ranges from €55–100/MWh, depending on the wind resource. For most locations, though, wind energy is not cost-effective and incentives are a prerequisite to make a wind farm profitable.

Inevitably, offshore wind farms are more expensive to develop than onshore farms – requiring about double the initial investment and double the operational costs – due to the extra costs of construction, transport to site and interconnection.

Initiation and feasibility

... Wind farms require large sites. Depending on the rotor diameter the required mutual separation is 300–500 metres with a similar separation distance from dwellings and commercial buildings to limit noise nuisance and provide a safety zone. Even for a medium-sized wind farm, say 5 × 2 MW machines, a substantial land area is required.

Planning requirements of local authorities

The wind farm site has to meet planning and regulatory requirements. In most countries wind turbines may not rotate above roads, railway tracks and waterways, and a minimum clearance from public infrastructure must be observed such as facilities for transport, storage or processing of hazardous goods, and residential, commercial or public buildings.

In northern countries and countries with a continental climate, specific attention has to be paid to the possibility of icing. Ice developed on rotating rotor blades can be thrown long distances, potentially causing injury and damage and planning authorities and regulatory bodies may require an additional risk analysis if the site is subject to icing.

There may also be a zoning plan that prohibits wind turbines or limits the maximum height of structures. Under such circumstances, the relevant authorities should be approached to investigate the possibility of obtaining permission at the earliest possible stage.

In most European countries wind turbines must also be certified according to the relevant national or international safety standards. Manufacturers have to demonstrate conformance by the production of a valid type-certificate.

For any proposed wind farm the following should be considered:
  • Check municipal zoning plan on competing activities and maximum building height
  • Mutual distance between wind turbines 400 metres
  • There are to be no buildings and as few obstacles as possible within 300–500 metres
  • Authorities or concerned parties may request a risk analysis if other activities are to take place within 400–500 metres of the wind turbines.
Planning procedures and environmental issues

The wind farm must comply with all relevant environmental regulations. This may require a number of studies of, for example, the effects on birds, animals and plant life during the construction and use phases. Key parameters include noise, visual impact and safety, and most planning authorities also demand safety and risk assessment studies.

Wind turbines produce noise, mostly caused by the rotor blades and drive train, and the noise impact of wind turbines on the environment is one of the major planning issues. The distance to nearby residential buildings has to be sufficient to ensure that the noise level at the house front is below the statutory limit. The visual impact of a wind farm is also an important planning consideration. Wind farms require open, often elevated, sites and are consequently highly visible from a distance. Many of the potentially most productive sites are in areas of great natural beauty where planning regulation can be very restrictive. Shadow flickering on dwellings and offices due to the periodic – about once per second – passage of the rotating blades across the sun can be very annoying for the occupants, although it is not regulated by law.

wind power, wind energy, wind turbines, wind farms, environment, environmentalism, human rights