Friday, August 28, 2015

Blue Angels War Planes Bullying South Korean #Gangjeong Villagers On #Jeju Island

Ever wonder where the Navy's Blue Angels jets go when they are not polluting the skies over North America for your "entertainment?"

This week they were in South Korea intimidating the villagers of Gangjeong who have kept up a spirited defense of their coral reefs, their fisheries and their way of life from creeping (and creepy) militarism. The South Korean Navy and the Samsung Corporation built a deep water port for destroyer ships the U.S. can use to threaten China. Now that it's nearing completion, here comes the U.S. Navy to bully the resistance fighters with low flyovers and ear splitting sounds effects. Fun eh?

In the words of eyewitness Bruce Gagnon, on August 26:
"a formation of Navy Blue Angel war planes came screaming over the village.  For the next 15 or so minutes they went back and forth directly over Gangjeong doing various stunts.  One of the stunts brought the planes very low in an ear splitting maneuver."
The Navy had already officially expressed its eagerness to get on with using other people's land for its evil purposes. On August 5 South Korean news site Yonhap reported:
"The U.S. Navy 7th Fleet really likes to send ships to port visit here in South Korea," Rear Adm. Lisa Franchetti said in a group interview following a change of command ceremony. "I think any ports that we have the opportunity to visit will be a great opportunity for our navy to do work together (with the South Korean Navy)."

Low flying jets are hardly the only form of intimidation. Many, many arrests and fines over the years have harassed those who opposed construction of the port. And the village collectively is about to be fined the equivalent of $20 million for obstructing and successfully delaying construction. You can call the South Korean Embassy in Washington DC and demand that they leave Gangjeong village on Jeju Island alone: (202) 939-5654. 

Meanwhile, back in the U.S. the Blue Angels are following a regular schedule of showing off their might two or three times a week to adoring audiences who have been trained to disconnect from what war planes are designed to do i.e. intimidate and kill people, mostly civilians.

From the Blue Angels website FAQs:
What are the major differences between the fleet model and the Blue Angel F/A-18? 
The Blue Angel F/A-18s have the nose cannon removed, a smoke-oil tank installed and a spring installed on the stick which applies pressure for better formation and inverted flying. Otherwise, the aircraft that the squadron flies are the same as those in the fleet. 
Each Blue Angel aircraft is capable of being returned to combat duty aboard an aircraft carrier within 72 hours.
Mainers will have an opportunity to join a protest organized by Veterans for Peace of the Blue Angels in Brunswick over Labor Day weekend. Join in if you think greenhouse gas emissions, noise pollution, bullying and "simulated bombing" are nothing to cheer about.

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Do As We Say, Not As We Do #IranDeal

Graphic: Anthony Freda. Used with permission.

Organizer Jackie Cabasso wrote a letter to the editor recently providing context for the Iran nuclear deal that senators are bloviating against in the run up to voting on it in September:

Thanks to California Sens. Dianne Feinstein and Barbara Boxer and Oakland Rep. Barbara Lee for declaring their support for the Iran nuclear deal.

Congress should support the deal, which imposes the most stringent monitoring and verification provisions on Iran's nuclear program than on any other country's program. In fact, these provisions should be applied to every nation on Earth, including the United States, Russia, the U.K., France and China, the nuclear-armed permanent members of the U.N. Security Council who overcame their considerable differences to negotiate the deal with Iran.

When Iran joined the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty in 1970, it promised to forswear nuclear weapons in exchange for its "inalienable right" to develop nuclear energy for peaceful purposes "without discrimination." When the P-5 ratified the NPT, they undertook a legal obligation "to pursue negotiations in good faith" on cessation of the nuclear arms race "at an early date" and nuclear disarmament. It's long past time for them to make good on their side of the bargain.

Jacqueline Cabasso 
Executive Director, Western States Legal Foundation

The environmental impact of even nuclear weapons that are not deployed is a global matter. It doesn't matter whether Israel, Pakistan or U.N. Security Council hypocrites build and store the bombs -- the planet is in peril.

What if the $52 billion referenced above for U.S. nuclear weapons research were spent instead on developing alternative energy sources? Resourcing that could render it unnecessary for the U.S. to occupy and destabilize the oil and gas-rich countries of the Middle East?

This wouldn't significantly impact the Pentagon budget, that most sacred cow of our times. Because much of nuclear weapons research and development is hidden in another budget line, that of the Dept. of Energy.

In fact, much of militarization in our time is hidden from public view -- an effective strategy for rendering opposition feeble and muted. Tom Englehardt described in a recent essay on the absence of effective opposition to endless wars abroad "the rise of the warrior corporation and the privatization of war." 

Ignoring this grave threat to the viability of life on the planet is a dead end -- for everybody.

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Hottest Year Ever For The U.S., But #PentagonClimateCrime Rolls On

At what point will climate change be threatening enough for taxpayers in the U.S. to wake up to the billowing clouds of exhaust emanating from the Pentagon war machine?

July was the hottest month ever recorded in the continental U.S., even hotter than July, 1936 -- you remember, the Dust Bowl -- when temps at least cooled down a bit at night. And July, 2015 broke some other records as well according to Deborah Zaborenko reporting for Reuters:

It was also the warmest January-to-July period since modern record-keeping began in 1895, and the warmest 12-month period, eclipsing the last record set just a month ago, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) said. This is the fourth time in as many months that U.S. temperatures broke the hottest-12-months record. [emphasis mine]  
Along with record heat, drought covered nearly 63 percent of the 48 contiguous states, according to NOAA's Drought Monitor...
At what point will people in the U.S. realize that disruptions to food production and water supplies are much more of a security threat than the actions of small bands of extremists in oil-rich regions?
Ok, it's not real, it's the Onion. A satirical site that often accurately predicts future bad news.

Sunday, August 9, 2015

Is It Finally Safe To Object To Skowhegan's Offensive Mascot? #mepolitics

I am pleased to have permission to share this guest post by Stephanie Victoria Mitchell, a Penobscot woman who spoke at a recent rally to retire the Skowhegan High School mascot. I took this photo of her speaking, and I followed up with her to find out more.

Ms. Mitchell's thesis that it is now safe to speak out about objections to the mascot is ironic. Organizer Maulian Smith actually received threats in response to organizing the rally. And an online comment on an article about the rally called to "torch the Indian" referring to a landmark wooden sculpture by artist Bernard Langlais in Skowhegan. Police are currently investigating that apparent threat by a mascot supporter using the screenname Aviator2. 
My name is Stephanie Victoria Shay Mitchell. 
I am the daughter of Charles Rudolph Shay and Debra Doak, the granddaughter of Lawrence Shay and Madeline Tomer, and the great granddaughter of Leo Shay and Florence Nicolar. I am Penobscot.

I have heard about a lot of people saying things like “Why now?” “Why is this offensive now and it wasn’t before?” ”Why didn’t your people say anything 20 years ago? 50 years ago?” I’d like to try to answer that question. 
Most people are aware of the situation with the tribal representatives who walked out on the State over the summer. [My note: Here's a link to the New York Times reporting on that.] 
My great grandfather, Leo Shay, held that seat for two terms during his lifetime: first in 1915 when he was 26 years old, and then again in 1939 when he was 40 years old.  He died before I was born, so some of my information comes from the oral traditions of our people. Some of it I researched and read during my summer internship with the Penobscot Cultural and Historic Preservation Department nearly a decade ago, and some of it I’ve researched recently in order to present accurate facts and dates here today.

By 1939, when Leo was seven years older than I am today, he realized that tribal representatives were paid only a fraction of what his Caucasian State counterparts were paid. He also realized that tribal representatives did not receive travel expense reimbursements, while the Caucasian State representatives did. And he knew something should be done about this. 
At this point, you have to understand that we’ve always been allowed to speak since our ancestors first tried negotiating with yours. Our representatives were never allowed to vote, but we could speak our minds, have our voices heard, and make requests. Well, almost always. When Leo asked for equal pay and travel reimbursement through Mr. McGlauflin of Portland and the presentation of L.D. 188 and L.D. 879, the State took away our speaking voice, literally. Tribal representatives were no longer allowed to speak during the Legislative Session. Our representatives were only allowed to sit and listen. And that’s only if they could afford to pay their own way there.

Soon after, Leo started receiving threats. He had reason to believe his children could be in danger, his wife might be harmed. I was still a child when my grandparents and parents were discussing this. So, of course, I was sheltered from the most gruesome details, even with all my masterful eavesdropping.

Leo never went back to the legislature. And it wasn’t until 1975, seven years before I was born, that the speaking rights of our tribal representatives were restored, and equal pay and travel reimbursement granted. As far as I know, no one followed through on any threat. But it was there. And my grandparents remembered that. My parents remembered that. I remember that.

So, you ask “Why now?”  Well, it’s safe now. We can ask that you not continue with this horribly offensive, hurtful, harmful and racist mascot, and you’re probably not going to gun us down for it. No one is going to set a cross on fire in my front yard, and my children are safe. You are a different people than your ancestors were. I recognize that. And I thank you for that. But please, it’s important that you continue to make different choices than what your ancestors did. 
Thank you. 
Penobscot Legislative Representatives, list
Brief History of Indian Legislative Representatives
LEGISLATIVE RECORD-HOUSE, MARCH 2, 1939, page 8 of 10 

The 1939 legislative record shows that a representative from Skowhegan killed the bill by moving to postpone considering it, indefinitely.

My own grandfather, Brooks Elliott Savage, also served in the Maine Legislature. As a member of the Caucasian Nation, he did receive equitable pay and travel expenses for doing so. I wonder how he voted in 1941 when the legislature made an historically wrong decision to remove even the speaking rights of its native representatives? I would like to think that he was among the 25 legislators who voted against silencing tribal representatives.  I will be looking into this.

In a related note, when Penobscot and Passamaquoddy representatives withdrew from the Maine Legislature in May, some legislators supported their decision. Here's a facebook post by a Penobscot historian responding to news coverage of the walkout by WABI-TV:
By standing up to racism, we as allies can send the signal that bias-related threats and bullying will not be tolerated. 

By remaining silent when offensive comments and stereotypes are used, we send the signal that it is still not very safe to speak out.

Friday, August 7, 2015

Peace Dividend Would Be An Enormous Carbon Footprint Dividend #PentagonClimateCrime

Source for graphics: World Beyond War "War threatens our environment"
Data source: The Green Zone: The Environmental Costs of War by Barry Sanders
Repeatedly in my lifetime there has been talk of a peace dividend. Generally this presumed dividend was described in terms of money saved from whichever armed conflict was ending or "cold war" was winding down. After WWII, after Vietnam, after the Berlin Wall came down the world was going to suddenly have lots of resources to rebuild infrastructure and invest in things people actually needed. Public transportation, universal healthcare, free education through college -- all of these and more would be possible when the peace dividend paid off.

But peace dividends were short-lived when they materialized at all. There always seemed to be, and still seems to be, a new enemy on the horizon. Nazi Germany and imperial Japan vanquished? Fear the Soviet Russians! U.S.S.R. defunct? Fear the Taliban! Taliban in retreat? Look out for al-Qaeda! Al-Qaeda in tatters? Beware ISIS/ISIL/Daesh or whatever you prefer to call the armed militants in Iraq and Syria.

What would a real peace dividend look like from the point of view of environmental health and well-being? Here are some possibilities:

The peace dividend that life on our planet desperately needs can be measured best not in dollars but in carbon emissions.

38,700,000 metric tons of CO2 produced by the Pentagon
burning fuel equivalent to 90,000,000 barrels of oil (in 2013).
Image: Anthony Freda. Used with permission.

Thursday, August 6, 2015

Bombing Over There Allows U.S. To Ignore The Effects On Our Shared Planet #Hiroshima

Source: JF Ptak Science Books, archival newspaper for sale

A major reason that people in the U.S. tolerate decades of bombing civilians at their expense is that, in their minds, the explosions, pollution and death happen "over there."

Take the immense environmental crime that occurred 70 years ago today, the nuclear annihilation of Hiroshima, Japan.

That the Japanese were on the point of surrender is now a documented historical fact. Their own war machine was crushed and their civilian will or even ability to continue fighting had been much reduced by starvation and the fire bombing of other locations.

But the U.S. was looking down the road at its frenemy the U.S.S.R., and a show of strength in the form of a weapon more destructive and deadly than anything yet conceived was ordered.
A show of scientific prowess in weaponry is why Nagasaki was bombed with a different type of nuclear bomb just two days after Hiroshima. When the surrender of imperial Japan was really, really imminent. 

Of course Japan was a rapacious force that had sneak attacked the U.S. military at Pearl Harbor (except the attack wasn't actually a surprise). Its military had raped, murdered and burned a path through East Asia and the South Pacific for decades. The U.S. could count on public opinion to tolerate if not support any hell that rained down on Japanese heads.

In 1945 it was easier to believe that the planet we live on actually had zones that were remote from one another, and that what happened in one hemisphere did not affect the climate and overall health of people all over the world. 

Source: "20 Countries the U.S. Has Bombed Since WWII" by Jennifer Markert, 10/18/14
You would think that now, in 2015, we could no longer engage in that particular illusion. Yet the effect on climate change of our frequent bombing of other countries is treated as if it didn't exist. 

Blogger Robert Scribbler on the climate effects of wildfires that have increased in the 21st century:
Lofting large amounts of brown carbon into the Jet Stream level of the atmosphere is an amplifying feedback to human-caused warming. One occurring in addition to the added rate of carbon release generated by these wildfires as well as to a transient negative feedback coming from generating thick, low level clouds, that block out sunlight.  
High level clouds alone aid in the heating of the Earth — allowing visible sunlight to penetrate while trapping long rave radiation rebounding from the Earth’s surface. Painting these clouds dark through brown carbon smoke particulate emission into the upper atmosphere provides an added heat kick by further lowering cloud albedo and by re-radiating an overall greater portion of the transient heat. As a final insult, the brown carbon aloft eventually precipitates down to the surface. When such precipitation lands on ice sheets and northern hemisphere snow cover, it darkens the snow and enhances melt. A kind of ominous global warming fallout.
The macabre silver lining for climate change in the nuclear weapons era ushered in by Hiroshima? Even a "limited, regional" nuclear bombing would decelerate global warming rapidly. Per a 2013 study by the International Red Cross:
Recent environmental research using previously unavailable climate modeling techniques indicates that even a limited regional nuclear war could cause global climate cooling that would cut food production for many years and put one billion people at risk of starvation worldwide. 
This research also estimates that a large-scale nuclear war would create ice-age conditions likely to eliminate most of the human race. 

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Why Discuss #ClimateChange With No Mention Of #PentagonClimateCrime? Follow The $$$$$

Source: The Guardian "Hundreds of civilians killed in US-led air strikes on Isis targets" by Alice Ross 
 A US-led air strike in October in Kobani, Syria, during fighting between Syrian Kurds and Islamic State.
Photograph: Gokhan Sahin/Getty Image
When counting up the immense carbon footprint of the Pentagon, we would do well to remember its many wealthy contractors. You know, the corporations that make weapons and sell them at great profit to combat the enemy du jour.

Their profit motive, and the corporate control of information media in the U.S., ensure that the Pentagon is conspicuously absent from any discussion of what's causing climate change.

Even without counting the CO2 spew of its contractors, the Pentagon's role is immense. From World Beyond War:

Remember President Obama's big speech about the carbon footprint of commercial jet travel? Well, he wasn't talking about the Pentagon's use of jet fuel. Remember that the Democratic Party gets plenty of campaign contributions from war profiteers



Let's see, what does the DOD accomplish in a day vs. the country of Sweden?

Graphic: Anthony Freda. Used with permission.

The Pentagon terrorizes children by bombing their homes, schools, and hospitals. So far more than 100 children are believed to have been killed by air strikes aimed at ISIS/ISIL in Iraq and Syria. 

Sweden educates them.

Higher education in Sweden is financed largely by tax revenue. Earlier, this applied to all students regardless of nationality. However, in the autumn of 2011 tuition fees were introduced for students from outside the EU/EEA area...To enable students who cannot pay tuition fees to study in Sweden, the Government has allocated resources for two scholarship programmes.
Maybe one of the international students so-educated will discover how to quantify the Pentagon's carbon footprint. The number may be top secret, but that doesn't stop it from fueling the climate change we're all living with.

Monday, August 3, 2015

#CleanPowerPlan Ignoring Pentagon's Massive Energy Use Is #ActOnClimate Smokescreen

Source: Stop the War Coalition "Global warring: how war and climate change are wired to the same engine"
by Neil Faulkner
President Obama making a big announcement today intended to carve out a spot for his legacy as climate change warrior. You can see the content rendered here as an infographic on the White House website. You will look in vain to see the Pentagon and its energy gobbling NSA data centers acknowledged as part of the problem.

Propaganda works most effectively by framing our discussions, excluding what must not be noticed or mentioned. This strategy has the effect of enlisting everybody -- not just corporate media and infographic designers -- to enforce the dominant paradigm. Today everyone will be talking, tweeting, blogging and commenting on the President's allegedly bold intention to #ActOnClimate with a #CleanPowerPlan.
NSA Data Center in Bluffdale, Utah Source:
But how could this be possible without addressing the branch of government that uses more than 80% of the energy consumed by the federal government? Ok, ignore fuel consumption if you want to embrace the President's focus on power plants. How much power does the NSA use at its super facility for data storage in the Utah desert? How about its similar facility in Maryland? (We'll leave their massive use of increasingly scarce water supplies out of the discussion for the moment.) One researcher found these facilities will be 7 times larger than the Pentagon.

Last Saturday in the Planet Earth tent of a local Peace Fair, I offered people information on how much carbon pollution will be emitted when the Navy's Blue Angels air show comes to town over Labor Day weekend. Another peace fair worker who was collecting names for future participation in an environmental fair shied away from a list of contacts to protest the show as if I had offered her a rattlesnake. "I don't go in for that sort of thing," she said, and then fled before I could find out more about what she meant by "that sort of thing." I'm left to assume she meant, criticize anything the Pentagon does in this age of creeping militarization.

Another man at the fair welcomed my signature on letters to Maine's congressional delegates pleading with them not to pull federal funding for SNAP and other feeding programs that benefit hungry children. He did not welcome my pointing out that there always seem to be enough funds for the Pentagon budget, which burned napalm for "entertainment" last time the Blue Angels came to our area. He told me he had been a Navy aviator so he could not oppose this polluting waste of resources. Because, no need to connect any dots. 

Heck, even the President doesn't connect the dots. Join him in chanting: USA! USA! USA! when it's convenient to get more weapons contracts out of Congress. Then, adopt a pious green smile while ignoring the climate changing pollution that those contracts belch into the planet's atmosphere 24/7. Or maybe cancel your air travel to a vacation or to visit family. Because the President really cares about that source of pollution, too.

The President and family disembarking from one of their many, many flights on military aircraft.

Sunday, August 2, 2015

Addicted To Militarism Means Addicted To Climate Change #PentagonClimateCrime

It would be extremely challenging to quantify the Pentagon's lifetime carbon footprint. But it is a number worth reckoning.

We are approaching the 70th anniversary of the shameful bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki with the planet's first nuclear weapons. Of course radioactive pollution is the kind of harm to the environment and living beings that we think of in connection with these events.  But I also wonder, how much did those bombs and all the others dropped since then contribute to climate change? 

The Pentagon does not want you to know.
Nagasaki, Japan   August 8, 1945 
Ukawa village, Japan
Meanwhile, friends are in Japan right now supporting local residents who object to having U.S. military bases ruin their coastline and livelihood. Ukawa village has mounted a spirited resistance to having a missile "defense" site aimed at China located on their land. 

Besides CO2 emissions, the Pentagon also blankets the planet in noise pollution.  As reported by Bruce Gagnon:
A historic Buddhist temple was our first stop which is now virtually surrounded by the military base barbed wire fences.  We were told that the public now largely avoids the once popular temple because of the extreme noise coming from the generators providing power to the radar. 
CO2 price tag for all the generators used by the Pentagon? Probably part of the overall carbon emitted from burning 90,000,000 barrels worth of petroleum fuel each year i.e. approximately 38,700,000 metric tons in 2013.

Warmer oceans and other waterways are bad for many species. This week brought news that Sockeye Salmon are dying in droves as they try to spawn in water that is the wrong temperature. About half have died this season, and wildlife experts predict as many as 80% will ultimately perish.

Tomorrow I'll blog about the many, many ways that my fellow Americans rationalize their inability to reckon the Pentagon's impact on catastrophic climate change.