Saturday, July 03, 2010


The fireworks could have been about something a little different...

The following is taken from the Black Commentator. - Frederick Douglass 4th of July Speech

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Frederick Douglass gave this speech on July 5, 1852 at an event commemorating the signing of the Declaration of Independence, held at Corinthian Hall in Rochester, New York.
Fellow Citizens, I am not wanting in respect for the fathers of this republic. The signers of the Declaration of Independence were brave men. They were great men, too great enough to give frame to a great age. It does not often happen to a nation to raise, at one time, such a number of truly great men. The point from which I am compelled to view them is not, certainly, the most favorable; and yet I cannot contemplate their great deeds with less than admiration. They were statesmen, patriots and heroes, and for the good they did, and the principles they contended for, I will unite with you to honor their memory....
...Fellow-citizens, pardon me, allow me to ask, why am I called upon to speak here to-day? What have I, or those I represent, to do with your national independence? Are the great principles of political freedom and of natural justice, embodied in that Declaration of Independence, extended to us? and am I, therefore, called upon to bring our humble offering to the national altar, and to confess the benefits and express devout gratitude for the blessings resulting from your independence to us?
Would to God, both for your sakes and ours, that an affirmative answer could be truthfully returned to these questions! Then would my task be light, and my burden easy and delightful. For who is there so cold, that a nation's sympathy could not warm him? Who so obdurate and dead to the claims of gratitude, that would not thankfully acknowledge such priceless benefits? Who so stolid and selfish, that would not give his voice to swell the hallelujahs of a nation's jubilee, when the chains of servitude had been torn from his limbs? I am not that man. In a case like that, the dumb might eloquently speak, and the "lame man leap as an hart."
But such is not the state of the case. I say it with a sad sense of the disparity between us. I am not included within the pale of glorious anniversary! Your high independence only reveals the immeasurable distance between us. The blessings in which you, this day, rejoice, are not enjoyed in common. The rich inheritance of justice, liberty, prosperity and independence, bequeathed by your fathers, is shared by you, not by me. The sunlight that brought light and healing to you, has brought stripes and death to me. This Fourth July is yours, not mine. You may rejoice, I must mourn. To drag a man in fetters into the grand illuminated temple of liberty, and call upon him to join you in joyous anthems, were inhuman mockery and sacrilegious irony. Do you mean, citizens, to mock me, by asking me to speak to-day? If so, there is a parallel to your conduct. And let me warn you that it is dangerous to copy the example of a nation whose crimes, towering up to heaven, were thrown down by the breath of the Almighty, burying that nation in irrevocable ruin! I can to-day take up the plaintive lament of a peeled and woe-smitten people!
"By the rivers of Babylon, there we sat down. Yea! we wept when we remembered Zion. We hanged our harps upon the willows in the midst thereof. For there, they that carried us away captive, required of us a song; and they who wasted us required of us mirth, saying, Sing us one of the songs of Zion. How can we sing the Lord's song in a strange land? If I forget thee, 0 Jerusalem, let my right hand forget her cunning. If I do not remember thee, let my tongue cleave to the roof of my mouth."
Fellow-citizens, above your national, tumultuous joy, I hear the mournful wail of millions! whose chains, heavy and grievous yesterday, are, to-day, rendered more intolerable by the jubilee shouts that reach them. If I do forget, if I do not faithfully remember those bleeding children of sorrow this day, "may my right hand forget her cunning, and may my tongue cleave to the roof of my mouth!" To forget them, to pass lightly over their wrongs, and to chime in with the popular theme, would be treason most scandalous and shocking, and would make me a reproach before God and the world. My subject, then, fellow-citizens, is American slavery. I shall see this day and its popular characteristics from the slave's point of view. Standing there identified with the American bondman, making his wrongs mine, I do not hesitate to declare, with all my soul, that the character and conduct of this nation never looked blacker to me than on this 4th of July! Whether we turn to the declarations of the past, or to the professions of the present, the conduct of the nation seems equally hideous and revolting. false to the past, false to the present, and solemnly binds herself to be false to the future. Standing with God and the crushed and bleeding slave on this occasion, I will, in the name of humanity which is outraged, in the name of liberty which is fettered, in the name of the constitution and the Bible which are disregarded and trampled upon, dare to call in question and to denounce, with all the emphasis I can command, everything that serves to perpetuate slavery Ñ the great sin and shame of America! "I will not equivocate; I will not excuse"; I will use the severest language I can command; and yet not one word shall escape me that any man, whose judgment is not blinded by prejudice, or who is not at heart a slaveholder, shall not confess to be right and just.
But I fancy I hear some one of my audience say, "It is just in this circumstance that you and your brother abolitionists fail to make a favorable impression on the public mind. Would you argue more, an denounce less; would you persuade more, and rebuke less; your cause would be much more likely to succeed." But, I submit, where all is plain there is nothing to be argued. What point in the anti-slavery creed would you have me argue? On what branch of the subject do the people of this country need light? Must I undertake to prove that the slave is a man? That point is conceded already. Nobody doubts it. The slaveholders themselves acknowledge it in the enactment of laws for their government. They acknowledge it when they punish disobedience on the part of the slave. There are seventy-two crimes in the State of Virginia which, if committed by a black man (no matter how ignorant he be), subject him to the punishment of death; while only two of the same crimes will subject a white man to the like punishment. What is this but the acknowledgment that the slave is a moral, intellectual, and responsible being? The manhood of the slave is conceded. It is admitted in the fact that Southern statute books are covered with enactments forbidding, under severe fines and penalties, the teaching of the slave to read or to write. When you can point to any such laws in reference to the beasts of the field, then I may consent to argue the manhood of the slave. When the dogs in your streets, when the fowls of the air, when the cattle on your hills, when the fish of the sea, and the reptiles that crawl, shall be unable to distinguish the slave from a brute, then will I argue with you that the slave is a man!
For the present, it is enough to affirm the equal manhood of the Negro race. Is it not astonishing that, while we are ploughing, planting, and reaping, using all kinds of mechanical tools, erecting houses, constructing bridges, building ships, working in metals of brass, iron, copper, silver and gold; that, while we are reading, writing and ciphering, acting as clerks, merchants and secretaries, having among us lawyers, doctors, ministers, poets, authors, editors, orators and teachers; that, while we are engaged in all manner of enterprises common to other men, digging gold in California, capturing the whale in the Pacific, feeding sheep and cattle on the hill-side, living, moving, acting, thinking, planning, living in families as husbands, wives and children, and, above all, confessing and worshipping the Christian's God, and looking hopefully for life and immortality beyond the grave, we are called upon to prove that we are men!
Would you have me argue that man is entitled to liberty? that he is the rightful owner of his own body? You have already declared it. Must I argue the wrongfulness of slavery? Is that a question for Republicans? Is it to be settled by the rules of logic and argumentation, as a matter beset with great difficulty, involving a doubtful application of the principle of justice, hard to be understood? How should I look to-day, in the presence of Amercans, dividing, and subdividing a discourse, to show that men have a natural right to freedom? speaking of it relatively and positively, negatively and affirmatively. To do so, would be to make myself ridiculous, and to offer an insult to your understanding. There is not a man beneath the canopy of heaven that does not know that slavery is wrong for him.
What, am I to argue that it is wrong to make men brutes, to rob them of their liberty, to work them without wages, to keep them ignorant of their relations to their fellow men, to beat them with sticks, to flay their flesh with the lash, to load their limbs with irons, to hunt them with dogs, to sell them at auction, to sunder their families, to knock out their teeth, to burn their flesh, to starve them into obedience and submission to their mastcrs? Must I argue that a system thus marked with blood, and stained with pollution, is wrong? No! I will not. I have better employment for my time and strength than such arguments would imply.
What, then, remains to be argued? Is it that slavery is not divine; that God did not establish it; that our doctors of divinity are mistaken? There is blasphemy in the thought. That which is inhuman, cannot be divine! Who can reason on such a proposition? They that can, may; I cannot. The time for such argument is passed.
At a time like this, scorching irony, not convincing argument, is needed. O! had I the ability, and could reach the nation's ear, I would, to-day, pour out a fiery stream of biting ridicule, blasting reproach, withering sarcasm, and stern rebuke. For it is not light that is needed, but fire; it is not the gentle shower, but thunder. We need the storm, the whirlwind, and the earthquake. The feeling of the nation must be quickened; the conscience of the nation must be roused; the propriety of the nation must be startled; the hypocrisy of the nation must be exposed; and its crimes against God and man must be proclaimed and denounced.
What, to the American slave, is your 4th of July? I answer; a day that reveals to him, more than all other days in the year, the gross injustice and cruelty to which he is the constant victim. To him, your celebration is a sham; your boasted liberty, an unholy license; your national greatness, swelling vanity; your sounds of rejoicing are empty and heartless; your denunciation of tyrants, brass fronted impudence; your shouts of liberty and equality, hollow mockery; your prayers and hymns, your sermons and thanksgivings, with all your religious parade and solemnity, are, to Him, mere bombast, fraud, deception, impiety, and hypocrisy -- a thin veil to cover up crimes which would disgrace a nation of savages.There is not a nation on the earth guilty of practices more shocking and bloody than are the people of the United States, at this very hour.
Go where you may, search where you will, roam through all the monarchies and despotisms of the Old World, travel through South America, search out every abuse, and when you have found the last, lay your facts by the side of the everyday practices of this nation, and you will say with me, that, for revolting barbarity and shameless hypocrisy, America reigns without a rival....

...Allow me to say, in conclusion, notwithstanding the dark picture I have this day presented, of the state of the nation, I do not despair of this country. There are forces in operation which must inevitably work the downfall of slavery. "The arm of the Lord is not shortened," and the doom of slavery is certain. I, therefore, leave off where I began, with hope. While drawing encouragement from "the Declaration of Independence," the great principles it contains, and the genius of American Institutions, my spirit is also cheered by the obvious tendencies of the age. Nations do not now stand in the same relation to each other that they did ages ago. No nation can now shut itself up from the surrounding world and trot round in the same old path of its fathers without interference. The time was when such could be done. Long established customs of hurtful character could formerly fence themselves in, and do their evil work with social impunity. Knowledge was then confined and enjoyed by the privileged few, and the multitude walked on in mental darkness. But a change has now come over the affairs of mankind. Walled cities and empires have become unfashionable. The arm of commerce has borne away the gates of the strong city. Intelligence is penetrating the darkest corners of the globe. It makes its pathway over and under the sea, as well as on the earth. Wind, steam, and lightning are its chartered agents. Oceans no longer divide, but link nations together. From Boston to London is now a holiday excursion. Space is comparatively annihilated. -- Thoughts expressed on one side of the Atlantic are distinctly heard on the other.
The far off and almost fabulous Pacific rolls in grandeur at our feet. The Celestial Empire, the mystery of ages, is being solved. The fiat of the Almighty, "Let there be Light," has not yet spent its force. No abuse, no outrage whether in taste, sport or avarice, can now hide itself from the all-pervading light. The iron shoe, and crippled foot of China must be seen in contrast with nature. Africa must rise and put on her yet unwoven garment. 'Ethiopia, shall, stretch. out her hand unto Ood." In the fervent aspirations of William Lloyd Garrison, I say, and let every heart join in saying it:
God speed the year of jubilee
The wide world o'er!
When from their galling chains set free,
Th' oppress'd shall vilely bend the knee,
And wear the yoke of tyranny
Like brutes no more.
That year will come, and freedom's reign,
To man his plundered rights again
God speed the day when human blood
Shall cease to flow!
In every clime be understood,
The claims of human brotherhood,
And each return for evil, good,
Not blow for blow;
That day will come all feuds to end,
And change into a faithful friend
Each foe.
God speed the hour, the glorious hour,
When none on earth
Shall exercise a lordly power,
Nor in a tyrant's presence cower;
But to all manhood's stature tower,
By equal birth!
That hour will come, to each, to all,
And from his Prison-house, to thrall
Go forth.
Until that year, day, hour, arrive,
With head, and heart, and hand I'll strive,
To break the rod, and rend the gyve,
The spoiler of his prey deprive --
So witness Heaven!
And never from my chosen post,
Whate'er the peril or the cost,
Be driven.

Friday, July 02, 2010


Always looking for a way to get someone somewhere ticked off at me, I've decided to bring up Ayaan Hirsi Ali. Hirsi Ali is a Somali feminist who is a leading campaigner against the treatment of women by Islamic fundamentalists. As such, she is often cited with approval by conservatives.

According to Hirsi Ali, "Musl
im women–constricted by Islam–cannot be feminists, live independently, enjoy their sexuality or escape the mental shackles that bind their intellect."

Personally, I don't find anything wrong with opposing honor killings, issues of female circumcision, or just not allowing women to ride on a motorcycle. I will never buy the argument about not being able to condemn something because it is a part of someone's culture or religion.

Some things are just wrong. Oppression of women is one of those things.

What I do have a problem is her close association with the likes of the American Enterprise Institute, or her calls for Muslim women to become Christians. You don't have to hang with bad guys who like you, and you sure as hell don't have to become a Christian to not be an oppressed woman. Many Muslim women who oppose the strictures of Islam which are oppressive find other ways to fight it, the same for many Jewish women, Christian women, etc. etc.

I raise this now becasue I just ran across an article on Hirsi Ali in the latest edition of the Jewish Forward (on line). The article citing Hirsi Ali's criticism of feminist for not tackling the issues of women's oppression in Islam (which, isn't true at alll). She cites Germane Greer as an example who she says, "...believes the genital mutilation of girls needs to be considered in context. Trying to stop it, she has written, would be “an attack on cultural identity.”

Well, if Germane Greer believes such I thing, I too, take issue. However, that hardly is the position of all progressive feminists, at least, not the ones I know. I need only mention the Revolutionary Association of the Women of Afghanistan or all those women who long ago were the lone voices opposing the Taliban's brutal oppression of women. I need only mention the women in Saudi Arabia who have struck back at the patriarchal religious system that oppresses them, and the feminists around the world who support them.

At the end of the Forward article, the question is asked "...What’s it to be: cultural relativism/multicultural tolerance or a purist, non-hypocritical brand of feminism? It’s clear which one the powerful Hirsi Ali advocates, but how do the rest of us square our desire to fight for women’s equality with a niggling fear that we should only be criticizing our own?"

The problem is that isn't the question Hirsi Ali seems to be answering.

The following is from Illume.

Reform or Renounce? Ayaan Hirsi Ali and Muslim Women

Ayaan Hirsi Ali, the Somali-born former Dutch parliamentarian and fellow at the American Enterprise Institute is clear about one thing: There is no hope for Muslim women who do not renounce their faith. 

According to Hirsi Ali,Muslim women–constricted by Islam–cannot be feminists, live independently, enjoy their sexuality or escape the mental shackles that bind their intellect.She elucidates on this theme in her latest book, Nomad: From Islam to America, through letters written to family members with whom she has been estranged, owing to her own renunciation and public criticism of Islam. In recent years, Hirsi Ali has been a huge success with the European right. An immigrant espousing anti-immigrant sentiments, willing and vocal in her criticism of the Muslim minority in the Netherlands, Hirsi Ali was quickly adopted as a political asset by Dutch conservative parties who could use her public disavowal of religious and cultural identity as a legitimate attack on multiculturalism. All this ended abruptly when she was divested of her Dutch citizenship after it was proven that she lied on her asylum application.

So now, Ali is in America and finds herself in a political conundrum. She is a feminist (asannounced by the title of a recent piece run by The New York Times Magazine) but she is at a conservative collective, The American Enterprise Institute, which rarely, if ever, supports feminist concerns. The result resonates with the kind of opportunism seen too often at political think tanks. Hirsi Ali no longer simply suggests that Muslim women renounce their faith completely, but rather that they should look to Christianity instead of Islam for a religious identity.This is because Christianity, unlike Islam, has a “reform” branch that would allow them to ask questions.Unlike earlier writings, in which Hirsi Ali seemed to renounce all faith as a stricture on women’s self-realization, the political environs of the American Enterprise Institute seem to have softened her stance toward at least one faith.

But while she may be in the U.S. (and now a favorite of certain U.S. conservatives), Hirsi Ali remains distant and seemingly uninterested in the efforts of Muslim-American women to redefine their faith. Her book, while poignantly capturing the weight of structural inequalities crippling Muslim women from Somalia to Pakistan, refuses to take seriously the efforts of Western Muslim women who are refusing to let mullahs define Islam. One example of this is the “Pray In movement” launched last year through which groups of Muslim American women have insisted on praying front and center in mosques in non-violent protest against gender segregation. Similarly, this past Friday, June 11th, a Muslim Canadian woman named Raheel Raza led a mixed congregation of men and women at Oxford University in England, going against the stricture that says only men can lead communal prayers. In another reform effort, Laleh Bakhtiar, a scholar at the University of Chicago, has translated the Quran and challenged earlier translations of verses that supposedly allowed for men to “discipline” their wives. The work of all these women, and scores of others in Muslim countries, show the transformation of religious tradition instead of the handing off the task of defining faith to mullahs and religious clerics.

Hirsi Ali’s personal story is undoubtedly compelling. What is surprising is her refusal to recognize the subjective dimensions of spiritual belief and appreciate a concept of freedom that allows women to define their own paths to empowerment, even if they are different from her own.In remaining wedded to the binary that sees only renunciation of Islam as a true choice, Hirsi Ali fails to ask the more crucial questions posed by her own biography. What can be done to save lives of women destroyed by patriarchal interpretations of Islam while reform is still a work in progress?Can these women, in Somalia and Pakistan, Egypt and Libya find hope for the future in the possibility of change even as their present is sacrificed to its slow pace? It is these question, rather than trite prescriptions that argue for superiority of one faith over another, that deserve the attention of feminists around the world.

Previously published on MS Magazine.

Thursday, July 01, 2010


I got this from the facebook page of Ajagbe Adewole who always comes up with good stuff. Anyway, its a brief analysis of the second United States Social Forum which recently concluded in Detroit's Cobo Hall (for those who remember isn't that where the All Peoples' Congress met way back when-but that's another story).

The following is from Fire on the Mountain.

Posted by Jimmy Higgins

I had to feel for the guys working at the shoeshine concession in Cobo Hall, Detroit’s mammoth convention center, the venue where the second United States Social Forum took place last week. They do okay at the normal run of events booked there--trade shows, union conventions, orthodondists’ gatherings, etc.---but when I asked one guy how many pairs of Lloyd & Haig wingtips he was polishing, he laughed, shrugged and said, “Some you win, some you lose.”

Me, I’m inclined to say the USSF, for all the sneakers and sandals present, was a win overall, but I’m waiting for summations from smarter people and more collective processes to say anything definitive. Instead here are a few initial thoughts on the sucker...

1. The USSF, a national offshoot of the World Social Forum, is probably the best reflection, however distorted, of where the motion for social justice and revolutionary change is at in this country today. There were upward of 9,000 registrants, and a significant number who skated registering entirely. The crowd skewed young, notably younger than the first Social Forum in Atlanta in 2007, and featured a genuinely heartening mix of nationalities.

Organizationally, the great majority who came from outside of Detroit itself were associated with groups from the social movements--tenants, immigrants, environmentalists, education activists, small farmers, etc.

Hundreds were part of what is sometimes called the Party Left--members and sympathizers of organized socialist groups. Throw in the anarchists and you’re into the four figures.

A couple of old friends remarked to me that the labor movement wasn’t there. That’s wrong. True, the showing from the trade union movement was disappointing, though hardly non-existent, but new workers organizations based among the urban and rural poor and especially among immigrants were well represented--Florida alone had good size contingents from the Miami Workers Center and the Coalition of Immokalee Workers. This might be an example of the distortion I mentioned, but it is also a look at where the action in the working class currently is and at the likely future of the class struggle in the US.

2. The thing that dismayed me most was the scant attention paid to the deadly occupations of Iraq and Afghanistan being waged by our government, in our name, with our tax dollars. Eric See of Peace Action West pointed out to me within minutes of my arrival that only a dozen of the over 1000 workshops were devoted to understanding and ending the wars. The People’s Movement Assembly (an organizational form to try and concentrate ideas and develop positions at the USSF) about the wars that I attended never had more than 80 people in the room during its 4 1/2 hours. At least 80% were over 50 (or had lived insanely dissolute lives). Despite some thoughtful speakers and a couple of, erm, energetic shall we say, panelists, it was depressing and hard to stay awake in.

This too is a reflection of where the movement is at, and not at all a criticism of Social Forum organizers. Almost anybody who wanted to organize a USSF workshop was approved and the small number of workshops simply confirms the enfeebled and disoriented state of the anti-war movement as a whole.

Michael Zweig of US Labor Against the War mentioned that one striking feature of the workshops he spoke at or attended on the topic was the very low level of participation from young folks. Why, he wondered, were the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan not on the radar of the bright and dynamic young activists who thronged Cobo Hall?

Veterans For Peace made a point I wish had been taken more seriously by USSF participants. Several members dropped a huge banner from one of Detroit’s many, many abandoned multi story buildings; it read “How Is The War Economy Working For You?” This should serve as a blunt reminder that no matter what we are trying to win or even defend, the money for it is not going to be there if we continue to permit hundreds of billions of dollars to be dumped into these unjust and unjustifiable wars.

3. What is the future of the US Social Forum? For the majority of the attendees, this was the first time at the USSF and an exciting, even life-changing, event. But there was also a sizable contingent who had been at the first one, in Atlanta three years ago. This, it seemed to me, changed the vibe somewhat. Most of the organized groups who came, came to advance their own agenda, whether they were revolutionary socialists or housing activists or an artists' collective. That was true in Atlanta as well, but then nobody had much of an idea of what things would be like, and proceeded more tentatively. This time even the group I belong to, the Freedom Road Socialist Organization, pretty generally regarded as an outfit that works and plays well with others, had a meeting the first morning. We went over what each of us would do to advance the effort to bring into being what we are tentatively calling a socialist front in this country--in some ways an organized, ongoing version of the USSF. (Of course, we also made sure folks signed up to help with the logistics of the Social Forum itself. I did ten hours on security.)

In a funny way, the USSF is organized along the lines of Adam Smith’s “invisible hand” view of the capitalist economy. Each group pursuing its own immediate interests contributes to building the strongest movement for the greatest number. As a Marxist rather than a neo-liberal, I find that some shortcomings in this conception jumped out at me, for instance, every time I was braced by an outfit which passionately believes that only their “rare and precious” genius of a chairman can save humanity, and therefore that their sole responsibility is to convert the uninitiated to this understanding.

This conception also tends to render meaningless the process of having a hundred or so People’s Movement Assemblies (or, frankly, a handful of people within them) generate statements which are to be debated and voted on by whatever portion of USSF attendees can bear to sit through the grueling closing sessions designed for the purpose. And then what?

An enormous amount of work and resources went into bringing the Detroit USSF into being, like Atlanta before it, and this is work for which the payoff is not immediately obvious, so let me highlight a few of the things we can be sure will result from Detroit.

One is simple crossfertilization, which flourished whenever folks weren’t too singleminded in pumping their own projects. To cite a striking example, hundreds of folks attended workshops on urban gardening or took the USSF-arranged tours of Detroit’s extensive networks of such gardens, and went home with a head full of ideas and a whole new way of thinking about city living.

One of the greatest benefits will probably unfold in the coming months, advances in communication and organization in various sectors, outside of the USSF framework. For instance, face to face contact among organizers and activists in Atlanta in 2007 gave rise to the National Domestic Workers Alliance, a major initiative among some of the most exploited workers in the US. Atlanta also introduced many US farm activists in the US to La Via Campesina, the international coalition which is a mainstay of the World Social Forum and “coordinates peasant organizations of small and middle-scale producers, agricultural workers, rural women, and indigenous communities from Asia, Africa, America, and Europe"

Finally and, I would argue, most importantly, the Social Forum gave thousands of us a real taste, if only for a few days, of how much might be possible if we in the US can build a revolutionary socialist organization of tens of thousands based in mass movements, in communities of color, among immigrants, in the working class majority in this country.


I can't explain why I'm posting this exactly, I just found the story of the Dutch, of all people, sending submarines off the coast of Africa to monitor pirates, well, different.

The subs are of the Walrus class. When last heard from Walrus subs were discussed in regards to some supposed plot by Hugo Chaves to seize Aru
ba, Curacao Bonaire (which are all Dutch controlled). It was speculated that the Dutch submarine force of four Walrus-class diesel-electric submarines could, in theory, try to interdict Venezuelan oil exports.

Well, the war for Greater Venezuela never materialized, so I guess the Dutch need something to do with their fleet of subs.

In point of fact, military sources report The Royal Netherlands Navy, with its small force of extremely quiet diesel submarines, has made the U.S. Navy eat the proverbial slice of humble pie on more than one occasion during naval maneuvers.

So pirates beware.

The following is from Strategy Page.

Submarines Outsmart Pirates

When theNetherlands recently announced that it was sending one of its Walrus class submarines for the anti-piracy patrol off Somalia, many people found this puzzling. But the Dutch subs have a well deserved reputation for their ability to secretly collect information at sea using subs. Most recently it has done this off Iraq, Bosnia and in theCaribbean. The special ingredient here is stealth. Entering service in the early 1990s, the Walrus subs can spend 46 days, moving at 16 kilometers an hour, at periscope depth (with only a small air intake/exhaust snorkel above the surface). A submarine can watch portions of the Somali coast, without the pirates knowing they are being observed. This makes it easier to detect new tactics by the pirates, and counter these moves more quickly.

The Walrus class are large (2,400 ton), diesel electric boats, with a crew of 52. Submerged, they can move at up to 37 kilometers an hour (compared to 24 kilometers on the surface.) They are armed with four 533mm (21 inch) torpedo tubes and twenty torpedoes. On the surface, the crew can deploy several machine-guns. But the Walrus boats are mainly equipped to find stuff. They have a surface search radar (range of nine kilometers), and a powerful sonar (both internal, and towed.) The passive sonar can detect surface ship engines farther than nine kilometers away.

Holland is not the only nation to use their subs like this. Other nations have used their subs to catch fish poaching ships, which tend to sneak in and illegally deploy their nets, while avoiding surface patrol ships. Subs, with their highly sensitive sonar, can detect the engines of poacher ships, and even the characteristic noise of commercial fishing gear being deployed (especially trawlers, that scrape the bottom of the seas they are fishing)


 Many folks in two states known as hotbeds of leftwing protest, Idaho and Montana, are pissed that huge trucks going back and forth to the proposed tar sands earth destruction in Canada will be passing through their neighborhoods.

The loads are expected to be 16 to 24 feet wide and weigh from 263,300 to 580,000 pounds...
or more. Hell, one load that is coming up from the port of Houston and began its passage through Montana on Wednesday is 20 feet wide, slightly more than 20 feet tall and 290 feet long. It has 90 tires on 24 axles and weighs 917,000 pounds -- so heavy that two trucks are attached to the rear to help push it along. These trucks currently are hauling the gargantuan equipment needed to process oil sands at a project in Saskatchewan.

By the way, as Nick Geir wrote at New West, "Extracting hydrocarbons from crude oil and coal has always been a dirty business, but tar sands processing releases three to four times the greenhouse gases that conventional drilling does. Alberta’s tar sands, whose 175 billion barrel reserve is second only to Saudi Arabia, requires 220 gallons of fresh water to produce one barrel of oil. The slurry is cooked using natural gas, consuming in one day what it takes to heat 3 million homes. "


Protest shows how big oversized loads will be

Yes, Missoula's Robert E. Lee is 62 years old.
"Soon to be 63," he noted early Wednesday evening.
No, the writer/poet who was named after a certain Confederate general wasn't out of place in a crowd of some 80 demonstrators along Reserve Street at rush hour. All were trying to draw attention to the pending onslaught of oversized shipments rolling through Idaho and Montana destined for oil projects east and north.
Established novelists and musicians, retired professors and librarians, politicians and a stray archaeologist were among those on hand to wave signs and block Missoula's busiest street for 30 seconds at a time at the crosswalk by C.S. Porter Middle School.
"I'd say the average age is not anywhere near college age," Lee said. "We're up there."
"Where's the tear gas?" joked Cherie Garcelon of Arlee, a veteran of Vietnam War protests.
Reserve Street is the proposed corridor for the super-sized loads of oil equipment bound from Idaho's Port of Lewiston to, in the near future, the ConocoPhillips refinery in Billings and, starting in the fall, northeastern Alberta - where Imperial Oil/ExxonMobil is gearing up to begin production in the tar/oil sands near Kearl Lake.
The demonstrators' beefs ran the gamut from the exploitation of Montana roads, to the eco-unfriendly nature of the Canadian fields, to a sense of betrayal by state officials.
"You know, our governors don't know how to be on the take properly," moaned Darrel Armstrong, the archaeologist. "They settle for crumbs."
Thousands of cars, trucks and SUVs - and at least one oversized load - streamed by during the 75-minute event.
Morgen Hartford of Lolo, who at 28 was one of the younger protesters present, saw middle fingers, downturned thumbs and revving, threatening engines at the stoplight. But there were far more honks and other signs of support, he added.
Armstrong spent his time making sure the "walk" button at the crosswalk was punched regularly as traffic backed up for blocks on both sides of the light. Others toting a 24-foot-long sign signifying the width of many of the big rigs hurried into the middle of the street at each red light.
Local musician Carla Green orchestrated the stretching of ropes 210 feet long along the curb. That represented the length of many of the tractor-trailer rigs. Balloons were present, but no one came up with a good way to demonstrate the concept of loads nearly 30 feet high. Some pointed out that the signal lights stopping traffic were lower than that, and will have to be fitted with swinging arms to let the loads through.
The transport projects weren't sprung on the public until recently, Green said. "We don't have time to do anything but grassroots."
This was the second demonstration against the big rig project in Missoula. The first, in early June, drew some 60 people to the Missoula office of the Montana Department of Transportation.
Zack Porter, organizer and publicist for No Shipments Missoula, manned a bullhorn and led anti-Big Rig and anti-Tar Sands chants throughout the evening.
The timing of this was critical, he said. The first two of four ConocoPhillips shipments to Billings are set to leave Lewiston, perhaps as early as next week. But work was still ongoing Wednesday on a bridge east of Lewiston that will have to bear the loads, which will take four nighttime moves along the Clearwater and Lochsa rivers just to get to Montana at Lolo Pass on U.S. Highway 12.
Neither the Idaho nor the Montana transportation departments have issued permits for either the ConocoPhillips or Imperial Oil shipments.
Dwane Kailey of MDT said his department won't give a go-ahead until Idaho does, since the Gem State must handle them first. Imperial Oil is still assessing and addressing the more than 7,000 public comments it received in an environmental assessment required by the Montana Department of Transportation. None of those have been forwarded to his department for review, Kailey said.
The ConocoPhillips loads of giant coke drums didn't require an environmental assessment, since there are only four of them. What they do need is to satisfy a checklist of 14 points of impacts. Imperial Oil had the same checklist, and they led to the decision by MDT to call for the environmental assessment.
"With Conoco, it's a lot more drawn out because of the number of yesses that they checked on the checklist," Kailey said. "The biggest issue is the impact to traffic - we require a traffic control plan - and utility impact."
One of the latter issues is the impact to Missoula Electric Cooperative customers who face loss of power when the oil drums come down Highway 12 along Lolo Creek.
"We require they reach out to their customers, identify what impacts this shutdown will have on them, and then identify what if any mitigation is required and/or appropriate," Kailey said. "We're in the process of resolving that."
There are also some detours onto local streets in Helena, Lewistown and Billings that have to be checked out and approved by local officials.
Meanwhile, Missoula-area activists vow to do what they can to halt the shipments in advance.
"We're not delusional in the sense that this is a big enough challenge to block these trucks coming through Montana," Porter said. "We know there are other routes already in use, and in fact that's one of the arguments that all of us have been making. We know they'll just go another way.
"Really our focus is local. We're certainly opposed to tar sands development, but first and foremost we don't want these trucks coming through our neck of the woods."
Reporter Kim Briggeman can be reached at 523-5266 or at

Wednesday, June 30, 2010


Mountain top removal...jeez, the name itself gives me the creeps.

Recently the EPA issued new guidelines which were supposed to be oh so strict (as if there could ever be an okay removal of a mountain top to get coal). However, the strict rules are anything but.

Just last week, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agen
cy gave the Army Corps of Engineers a green light for the Pine Creek mine permit, a mountaintop removal (MTR) mining site in Logan County, W.Va. This is the first permit decision the EPA has issued under the new mountaintop mining guidelines.

“This is a devastating first decision under guidelines that had offered so much hope for Appalachian residents who thought the EPA was standing up for their health and water quality in the face of a horrific mining practice,” said Amanda Starbuck of the Rainforest Action Network. “The grand words being spoken by Administrator Jackson in Washington are simply not being reflected in the EPA’s actions on-the-ground. This continues the inconsistent and contradictory decisions that have plagued the EPA’s process on mountaintop removal coal mining all along.”

The blog "It's Getting Hot in Here" reports, "The Pine Creek Surface Mine permit will allow Coal-Mac, a subsidiary of coal giant Arch Coal, to mine through more than 2 miles of streams that are already suffering dangerous levels of pollution from surface mining (see editors note for more details). Extensive mountaintop removal mining and the subsequent environmental and water quality damage have already ravaged Logan County W.Va., which is the location of the infamous Spruce mine."

As is always the case, so it is in this situation. The people of Appalachia will have to stop mountain top removal.

Appalachia Rising, which will take place on September, 27 2010 in Washington, DC, is a national response to the destruction and poisoning of communities through mountaintop removal coal mining. It follows a long history of social action for a just and sustainable Appalachia, coming directly out of the work of organizations in coalfield states and networks like Mountain Justice.

The following is from Appalachia Rising.

Appalachia Rising Flier

Press Inquiries

June 20th, 2010
All media inquiries should be sent to Bo Webb
Set up interviews via email.
Previous Press Releases and Media


Press Conference to be Held on June 15

June 20th, 2010
Thousands to March in DC Calling for the Abolition of Mountaintop Removal
Press Conference June 15 in Charleston, WV Announces Mass Mobilization Appalachia Rising
WHEN: June 15, 10:00 AM
WHERE: WV State Capitol Back Steps Near Fountain, Charleston, WV
West Virginia
Bo Webb – 304-237-2688 or 304-854-7104
Chuck Nelson – 304-923-5854 or 304-934-0399
Maria Gunnoe – 304-989-9581 or 304-245-8481
Jessie Dodson – 571-274-1115

Martin Mudd – 859-963-5574
Julia Peckinpaugh – 502-417-5753

Washington DC
Kate Rooth – 704-516-0092
WHAT: On June 15 at the capital in Charleston, WV, coalfield residents and allies from across Appalachia will announce Appalachia Rising a mass mobilization set for September 27 in Washington DC. They are calling for thousands to join them in demanding the Obama Administration abolish surface mining and invest in sustainable economic diversification in Appalachia. Groups aim to mobilize thousands from across the country for a dignified day of action in DC to increase public pressure on elected officials and regulators to ban surface mining.
Speakers at the press conference will include:
Vernon Haltom, Coal River Mountain Watch
Bo Webb, Naoma, WV, Veteran
Chuck Nelson, Ohio Valley Environmental Coalition, retired UMWA coal miner
Maria Gunnoe, Ohio Valley Environmental Coalition, Goldman Environmental Prize Winner
Gordon Simmons, West Virginia Labor History Association
Lorelei Scarbro, Coal River Wind Project
Mickey McCoy, Inez, KY
Laura Steepleton, Climate Ground Zero
Andrew Munn, Mountain Justice
Amber Whittington, Colcord, WV Student Environmental Action Coalition
Reverend Edington, Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Charleston
Larry Gibson, Kayford Mountain, Mountain Keepers
WHY: The movement to abolish surface mining, in particular mountaintop removal coal mining, has grown tremendously in the last year with hundreds of thousands of advocacy emails, dozens of nonviolent protests resulting in hundreds of arrests, and growing national media attention from the New York Times to the Colbert Report. Recently, the EPA passed strict new guidelines for coal operators practicing mountaintop removal, and even Senator Byrd has recognized national opposition to the practice and voiced concerns about its impact on communities. Despite this progress, mountaintop removal continues to damage and displace coalfield communities throughout southern and central Appalachia
Many see 2010 as the defining moment in the effort to abolish mountaintop removal. With upcoming hearings for the Clean Water Protection Act and the Appalachian Restoration Act as well as midterm elections, coalfield residents and their allies are mobilizing a national call to stop surface mining once and for all.
Every day, across Appalachia, MTR coal companies are literally blowing the tops off the mountains: clear-cutting forests, wiping out natural habitats, poisoning rivers and drinking water, and eliminating entire ecosystems. Not only are these mountains lost forever, but the heritage and the health of families across the region are being sacrificed for a mere 7 percent of the nation’s coal.
Coal companies use MTR mining methods because it allows for almost complete recovery of coal seams while significantly reducing the number of workers required. Appalachia has a wealth of clean energy resources that can be developed to provide new jobs and tax revenues, including wind, solar, low-impact hydro and sustainable biomass. This development can especially support rural areas, which are the hardest hit by the declining economy.
Appalachia Rising is calling for the abolition of surface mining, a just transition for coalfield communities, and renewed investment in a prosperous and just economy in Appalachia.

Bo Webb:
“It is very obvious that a Massey Energy controlled legislature here in WV is not going to protect our state nor our citizens from mountaintop removal plundering for profit. We have worked long and hard to raise America’s awareness of this injustice, this insane crime that continues to eliminate our mountains, our communities, and our people. Now it is time for Congress to hear the voices of the victims of mountaintop removal!”
Lorelei Scarbro:
The time has come when we all must ask what is the price of a ton of coal. If you use coal fired electricity, then you should know. If you ask the mountain community resident in Appalachia who lives with the atrocities of mountaintop removal coal extraction, I am sure the price will be higher than if you ask a coal executive. All that we have is being sacrificed for thirst for electricity, including the people we love.
Vernon Haltom:
“Mountaintop removal threatens real human lives, communities, and local economies in Appalachia, but our state regulators and politicians have turned their back on us. The federal government has only taken half measures and tentative steps. We are going to Washington, DC, to demand justice for the people and to let them know that we are not merely expendable populations.”
Mountain Party
Appalachia is rising to defend our communities that are being systematically decimated, rising to oust those who divide us by turning brother against brother and sister against sister while they fleece us of our labor and of our birthright to a better family life and to a better community life where we can live without fear of the mountains being pushed down upon us, while the creeks and rivers, filled with what were once majestic mountains, flow with the poisons of reckless de-construction of the earth.
The Mountain Party of West Virginia challenges the leaders of the Democratic Party and of the Republican Party to join us in serving the people of West Virginia, rather than playing their historical roles of absolutely enabling the enslavement of the people and the theft and destruction of the environmental life support system the people must depend on to sustain them. The Mountain Party of West Virginia challenges the other two political parties to stop serving the economic and environmental rapists who hide behind the veil of corrupt politics- driven by dirty money and dirty elections- and to help bring forth a new kind of politics in the new Appalachia that is rising around us.

Vision Statement

June 20th, 2010
Appalachia Rising:
Mobilize to End Mountaintop Removal!
September 25 – 27, 2010, Washington DC
Appalachia Rising is a mass mobilization in Washington DC on September 27, 2010 calling for the abolition of mountaintop removal and surface mining. It is a culmination of the national movement against surface mining and a foundation upon which to build a pan-Appalachian movement for prosperity and justice. Coalfield citizens and organizers envision a vibrant mobilization of thousands – coalfield residents, students & youth, Christians & people of all faiths, families, celebrities, underground miners, activists, artists, and all who yearn for justice – to converge on Washington DC for a day of non-violent action and dignified civil disobedience targeting the politicians and agencies who could abolish surface mining with the stroke of a pen.
Appalachia Rising declares that we are not a national sacrifice zone. We will not stand idly by as we see our past and future blasted to rubble, our communities and mountains eliminated, and our neighbors poisoned as coal executives and their shareholders grow rich. Appalachians are not, and never will be, collateral damage. We are proud of our coal mining fathers, hard-working neighbors, and Appalachian past, present and future!
Appalachia is endowed with abundant resources too long plundered by outside interests. We call for the abolition of surface mining, a just transition for coalfield communities, and renewed investment in a prosperous and just economy in Appalachia.
We invite all who share our vision to join with us on September 27, 2010 in our nation’s capitol for an end to mountaintop removal, surface mining, and a renewed vision of Appalachia.
Bo Webb, Naoma, Coal River Valley, WV
Judy Bonds, Rock Creek, Coal River Valley, WV
Junior Walk, Whitesville, Coal River Valley, WV
Andrew Munn, Rock Creek, Coal River Valley, WV
Danny Chiotos, Charleston, WV
Jessie Dodson, Richmond, VA
Vernon Haltom, Princeton, WV
Chuck Nelson, Sylvester, WV
Lorelei Scarbro, Rock Creek, WV
Joe Gorman, Morgantown, WV