or Don't make promises that you can't keep.
Up, Down, Appendices, Postscript.
'Music to read by' is up-front today: Dionne Warwick with Alfie. A-and just in case you didn't pick up on the title, here's I'm Henery VIII, I am by Herman's Hermits, and of course, Tim Hardin Don't make promises. Here, I made up a playlist for y'all.
You may think it strange to re-post the invitation at my third go-round on the thing - and so it is - I simply did not forsee that it would be necessary.
As soon as I saw the 'it’s serious stuff' in the first line I knew it was McKibben, the folksy oh-so-earnest Methodist Sunday-school teacher - and there was a momentary wonderment that this was not coming out under his 350.org banner - but I thought, "Good, maybe he is finally smartening up then." I have issues with McKibben (you can find them elsewhere in this blog), but ok, James Hansen is on the list, with whom I may quibble, but whose integrity I have seen unequivocally demonstrated (and more than that - if he can go with prostate cancer, then I can damm well go with gout). So I went ahead and considered the thing on what I thought were its merits.
And I did see this (about second-last) paragraph:
"This won’t be a one-shot day of action. We plan for it to continue for several weeks, till the administration understands we won’t go away. Not all of us can actually get arrested — half the signatories to this letter live in Canada, and might well find our entry into the U.S. barred. But we will be making plans for sympathy demonstrations outside Canadian consulates in the U.S., and U.S. consulates in Canada — the decision-makers need to know they’re being watched."And I noted the potential ambiguity of the Canadian signers. But it seemed a reasonable expectation that the United States border authorities, knowing what they were up to, would not let them in; and a reasonable contingency to make fall-back plans for 'sympathy' demonstrations.
Indeed, I began to frame a lie for my own border crossing - 'Well it's like this, officer, I'm just an old retired guy with time on his hands coming to Washington to see the sights.'
I didn't think McKibben would stoop so low as to intentionally use weasel & stoat language to suck in support. Then I received his bragging-on-numbers-again E-mail of July 10:
"The response to the call to action against the tarsands has been incredible. Over 1,000 people have joined in, likely making this the largest direct action against climate change in America's history."And I thought ... 1,000 (!?) How many did it take to levitate the Pentagon in 1967? I had to go back and check ... on the order of 50,000, 70,000, more like those numbers, 600+ arrested. And there are those weasel words again - 'incredible' 'likely' ... If 1,000 is 'incredible', WFW (what fucking word) will he use if it should get to be 20,000? 50,000? 100,000?
And the same day, in the Huffington Post, it's "hundreds and hundreds" ... (?) ... So, which is it Bill? No, it doesn't matter per se but it does bear on credibility: These Christian creeps! You just can't trust 'em!
And there was also an E-mail exchange with a woman I thought of as a friend, which came down to the same issue that the Canadian headliners are pretending to be concerned about:
"I am worried about never being able to go to or through the United States again, which would mean never being able to participate even in actions where no arrest is likely, important meetings, etc. At all points, my concern is both to maximize my effectiveness now and to maximize my long-term ability to maintain effectiveness."When I said I thought that sounded self-important and self-serving she stopped answering my E-mails.
It's a phoney issue: You can go there and not get arrested. I went off and consulted with a lawyer. Beyond the standard xenophobic nonsense about unpredictable & paranoid American cops he had nothing more to to offer than that: Yes, you can go there and not get arrested - somewhat less than entirely helpful, but true as far as it goes.
For many years we had in our family a senior lawyer with 'one of the biggest law firms' who would give sage & substantive advice from the inside to the elect, sometimes - but he's dead now and there is no one in the next generation to fill his boots ...
Then I began to find the media reports that the k-k-Canadians were not really going. I don't know why I didn't find them sooner - I was looking. And I couldn't believe it. Say wha? ... what could it mean? Better ... check it out ...
Queries directly to the 'Tar Sands Action' E-mail went unanswered, repeatedly, of course. So using the tools available to me I sent messages to David Suzuki via the David Suzuki Foundation, to Maude Barlow via the Council of Canadians, & to Naomi Klein via her dot org. These tools were never intended as communication channels, they are obfuscation dampers - what they say is, "Keep your distance." I had one response, from a spokeswoman, some 'intern' or other named Léane de Laigue, at the David Suzuki Foundation:
"Thank you for your email.And a bit later from the man himself (not direct, relayed by a flunkey, but ok):
Bill McKibben asked Dr Suzuki to sign onto the campaign, but did not ask him to attend – Dr Suzuki had a prior commitment from August 20 – September 3rd.
Thanks again for your email."
"I regret your anger and disappointment. The National Post spun my signature as hypocritical because I wasn't going to be there. I didn't realize that was the presumption when one signed such a document. I was pleased when Bill McKibben asked me to sign his document. He knew full well that I wouldn't be there as it never occurred to me.So, David Suzuki says he doesn't see what's wrong with it (though I don't believe him for a minute) ... and McKibben is the scumbag spin-doctor in the piece, not the National Post (bad as they are, here's what they wrote) ... all good.
I am preparing for our own civil disobedience in my own country when we confront the Enbridge pipeline pushing the same tar sands oil. I was there prepared to go to jail over Clayoquot and Haida Gwaii and if I was free to be in Washington, I wouldn't have hesitated to go.
So I'm sorry to lose a supporter but really, if I can use my name to support a cause, I don't see what's wrong with that."
George Poitras never had any intention of going either - he was just expressing support - as he told me in a telephone conversation I had with him on Tuesday 11-07-12. Here, call him yourself: 780-264-1269.
The Canadians are washing their hands, all good.
I went looking for Noam Chomsky's comment about judas-priest public intellectuals who lead the herd to the corall and then stop at the gate - couldn't find it here or here or here or here (that's more than three hours of watching videos!) ... I know I saw it somewhere ... sort of recently (?) ... Doh!
Things are seriously unravelling ...
One day a long time ago she sang this for me, and though I guess I should have known better, I answered with this:
"Knowing that you lied straight faced while I cried, still I'd look to find a reason to believe."The microcosm is a perfectly tiny reflection of the macrocosm then eh? For the planetary polity it is lies about what prosperity means, for Tim it was heroin, for me it's two packs a day, for Bill McKibben it looks like it's himself in the mirror, same shit different pages. Moths to the flame.
If the lying twisted son of a bitch had stuck to the truth it would have been a slam dunk. Now I don't believe a word he says. Don't trust him. This is the third proof: first was 350.org in 2009 during Copenhagen, second was 350.org's 10/10/10 last year, and this is the third. Fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice, shame on me. Fool me three times, well ...
Comin' up to a full moon shinin' into my window here last night though, from the south. You can't trust the moon either - as Juliet says, "O, swear not by the moon, the inconstant moon ... ," but inconstant as she may be, the moon does not spin lies around herself, not even apparent lies, and she is so beautiful - infiel mas sim bonita.
Esteja bem caro leitor.
Two issues then:
We are so fucked!
One: There was never any support among the Canadian signers for civil disobedience, there was not even commitment to show up on the scene. McKibben spun this into an equivocal and misleading sentence: "Not all of us can actually get arrested — half the signatories to this letter live in Canada, and might well find our entry into the U.S. barred."
Anyone who thinks he can build a movement for action with such a foundation - a tissue of lies spun out of half-truths - has been watching too much Fellini.
Two: The Canadian signers do not see anything wrong in their unwillingness to risk their livelihoods - indeed, it is a general attitude. What they are saying in effect is that they are too important to have their lecture circuits into the U.S. impaired. One could ask how effective these lecture circuits have been to date.
No active movement can be built on this foundation either. If you cannot build upon the sand, much less can you build upon the milquetoast.
He that we last as Thurn and Taxis knew
Now recks no lord but the stiletto's Thorn,
And Tacit lies the gold once-knotted horn.
No hallowed skein of stars can ward, I trow,
Who's once been set his tryst with Trystero.
A verse from Thomas Pynchon's The Crying of Lot 49, 1966, which I would set up to be compared & contrasted with Maritain's "l'armée des étoiles jetées dans le ciel."
1. Invitation to Keystone XL Tar Sands Action, Bill McKibben, June 23 (?) 2011.
2. E-mail: When will you be in DC?, Bill McKibben, July 10 2011.
3. Bring Your Obama Buttons: Momentum Builds for White House Tar Sands Action, Bill McKibben, July 10 2011.
4. Famous activists to battle Keystone pipeline, Sheldon Alberts, June 24 2011.
Invitation to Keystone XL Tar Sands Action, Bill McKibben, July 23 (?) 2011.
This will be a slightly longer letter than common for the internet age—it’s serious stuff.
The short version is we want you to consider doing something hard: coming to Washington in the hottest and stickiest weeks of the summer and engaging in civil disobedience that will quite possibly get you arrested.
The full version goes like this:
As you know, the planet is steadily warming: 2010 was the warmest year on record, and we’ve seen the resulting chaos in almost every corner of the earth.
And as you also know, our democracy is increasingly controlled by special interests interested only in their short-term profit.
These two trends collide this summer in Washington, where the State Department and the White House have to decide whether to grant a certificate of ‘national interest’ to some of the biggest fossil fuel players on earth. These corporations want to build the so-called ‘Keystone XL Pipeline’ from Canada’s tar sands to Texas refineries.
To call this project a horror is serious understatement. The tar sands have wrecked huge parts of Alberta, disrupting ways of life in indigenous communities—First Nations communities in Canada, and tribes along the pipeline route in the U.S. have demanded the destruction cease. The pipeline crosses crucial areas like the Oglalla Aquifer where a spill would be disastrous—and though the pipeline companies insist they are using ‘state of the art’ technologies that should leak only once every 7 years, the precursor pipeline and its pumping stations have leaked a dozen times in the past year. These local impacts alone would be cause enough to block such a plan. But the Keystone Pipeline would also be a fifteen hundred mile fuse to the biggest carbon bomb on the continent, a way to make it easier and faster to trigger the final overheating of our planet, the one place to which we are all indigenous.
How much carbon lies in the recoverable tar sands of Alberta? A recent calculation from some of our foremost scientists puts the figure at about 200 parts per million. Even with the new pipeline they won’t be able to burn that much overnight—but each development like this makes it easier to get more oil out. As the climatologist Jim Hansen (one of the signatories to this letter) explained, if we have any chance of getting back to a stable climate “the principal requirement is that coal emissions must be phased out by 2030 and unconventional fossil fuels, such as tar sands, must be left in the ground.” In other words, he added, “if the tar sands are thrown into the mix it is essentially game over.” The Keystone pipeline is an essential part of the game. “Unless we get increased market access, like with Keystone XL, we’re going to be stuck,” said Ralph Glass, an economist and vice-president at AJM Petroleum Consultants in Calgary, told a Canadian newspaper last week.
Given all that, you’d suspect that there’s no way the Obama administration would ever permit this pipeline. But in the last few months the administration has signed pieces of paper opening much of Alaska to oil drilling, and permitting coal-mining on federal land in Wyoming that will produce as much CO2 as 300 powerplants operating at full bore.
And Secretary of State Clinton has already said she’s ‘inclined’ to recommend the pipeline go forward. Partly it’s because of the political commotion over high gas prices, though more tar sands oil would do nothing to change that picture. But it’s also because of intense pressure from industry. The US Chamber of Commerce—a bigger funder of political campaigns than the RNC and DNC combined—has demanded that the administration “move quickly to approve the Keystone XL pipeline,” which is not so surprising—they’ve also told the U.S. EPA that if the planet warms that will be okay because humans can ‘adapt their physiology’ to cope. The Koch Brothers, needless to say, are also backing the plan, and may reap huge profits from it.
So we’re pretty sure that without serious pressure the Keystone Pipeline will get its permit from Washington. A wonderful coalition of environmental groups has built a strong campaign across the continent—from Cree and Dene indigenous leaders to Nebraska farmers, they’ve spoken out strongly against the destruction of their land. We need to join them, and to say even if our own homes won’t be crossed by this pipeline, our joint home—the earth—will be wrecked by the carbon that pours down it.
And we need to say something else, too: it’s time to stop letting corporate power make the most important decisions our planet faces. We don’t have the money to compete with those corporations, but we do have our bodies, and beginning in mid August many of us will use them. We will, each day, march on the White House, risking arrest with our trespass. We will do it in dignified fashion, demonstrating that in this case we are the conservatives, and that our foes—who would change the composition of the atmosphere are dangerous radicals. Come dressed as if for a business meeting—this is, in fact, serious business.
And another sartorial tip—if you wore an Obama button during the 2008 campaign, why not wear it again? We very much still want to believe in the promise of that young Senator who told us that with his election the ‘rise of the oceans would begin to slow and the planet start to heal.’ We don’t understand what combination of bureaucratic obstinacy and insider dealing has derailed those efforts, but we remember his request that his supporters continue on after the election to pressure his government for change. We’ll do what we can.
And one more thing: we don’t just want college kids to be the participants in this fight. They’ve led the way so far on climate change—10,000 came to DC for the Powershift gathering earlier this spring. They’ve marched this month in West Virginia to protest mountaintop removal; a young man named Tim DeChristopher faces sentencing this summer in Utah for his creative protest.
Now it’s time for people who’ve spent their lives pouring carbon into the atmosphere to step up too, just as many of us did in earlier battles for civil rights or for peace. Most of us signing this letter are veterans of this work, and we think it’s past time for elders to behave like elders. One thing we don’t want is a smash up: if you can’t control your passions, this action is not for you.
This won’t be a one-shot day of action. We plan for it to continue for several weeks, till the administration understands we won’t go away. Not all of us can actually get arrested—half the signatories to this letter live in Canada, and might well find our entry into the U.S. barred. But we will be making plans for sympathy demonstrations outside Canadian consulates in the U.S., and U.S. consulates in Canada—the decision-makers need to know they’re being watched.
Twenty years of patiently explaining the climate crisis to our leaders hasn’t worked. Maybe moral witness will help. You have to start somewhere, and we choose here and now.
If you think you might want to be a part of this action, we need you to sign up here.
As plans solidify in the next few weeks we’ll be in touch with you to arrange nonviolence training; our colleagues at a variety of environmental and democracy campaigns will be coordinating the actual arrangements.
We know we’re asking a lot. You should think long and hard on it, and pray if you’re the praying type. But to us, it’s as much privilege as burden to get to join this fight in the most serious possible way. We hope you’ll join us.
Maude Barlow – Chair, Council of Canadians
Wendell Berry – Author and Farmer
Tom Goldtooth – Director, Indigenous Environmental Network
Danny Glover – Actor
James Hansen – Climate Scientist
Wes Jackson – Agronomist, President of the Land Insitute
Naomi Klein – Author and Journalist
Bill McKibben – Writer and Environmentalist
George Poitras – Mikisew Cree Indigenous First Nation
Gus Speth – Environmental Lawyer and Activist
David Suzuki – Scientist, Environmentalist and Broadcaster
Joseph B. Uehlein – Labor organizer and environmentalist
P.S. Please pass this letter on to anyone else you think might be interested. We realize that what we’re asking isn’t easy, and we’re very grateful that you’re willing even to consider it. See you in Washington!
E-mail: When will you be in DC?, Bill McKibben, July 10 2011.
First of all, thank you so much for your willingness to take part in this remarkable event.
The response to the call to action against the tarsands has been incredible. Over 1,000 people have joined in, likely making this the largest direct action against climate change in America's history.
To make sure the organizers can accommodate everyone, we need some crucial information about when you're planning to arrive in Washington.
We're organizing daily demonstrations from August 20th to September 3rd, and you should plan to be in D.C. for three days: one for travel and orientation, one for training and the action, and one for any potential legal issues that arise. It's entirely up to you when you take part in the action. Can you fill out a quick form to let us know when you'll be in town?
Click here to let us know when you'll be in DC.
Even if you've already given us a heads up about when you're arriving, filling out this form will help keep better track of when everyone is scheduled to arrive. If you’re not sure about your plans yet, just give us a range of dates that you’re available.
Thanks again for being a part of this historic event - we'll be in touch soon about what's next.
Bring Your Obama Buttons: Momentum Builds for White House Tar Sands Action, Bill McKibben, July 10 2011.
I know that there been some bitterness in the blogosphere in recent weeks between those who are mad at President Obama, and those who are mad at those who are mad at President Obama.
I want to tell you about an upcoming action -- it looks set to turn into the biggest civil disobedience protest in the history of the North American climate movement. It will take place at the White House from August 20-Sept. 3, and we need your help spreading the word. But I want to explain the reasoning behind it in some detail, because for me it helps illustrate how some of the debate about Obama is unproductive.
First, the issue: the Canadians are proposing to build a huge new pipeline from their tar sands in Alberta down to the Gulf of Mexico. It's disastrous for native lands in the far north (check out this video from the wonderful Cree activist Melina Laboucan) and it will doubtless cause horrible spills much like last week's disaster on the Yellowstone River.
But there's a bigger problem here too. Those Alberta tar sands are the biggest carbon bomb on the continent -- indeed, on the whole planet, only Saudi Arabia's oil deposits are bigger. Some of you have followed the work fo 350.org, and know that above 350 parts per million co2 in the atmosphere you can't have, in the words of NASA climatologist James Hansen, "a planet similar to the one on which civilization evolved and to which life on earth is adapted." We're already at 390 ppm, which is why last year, according to Weather Underground's Jeff Masters, we had the most extreme weather the planet has seen at least since the great volcanic eruption of 1816. But the tar sands of Alberta will make it impossibly worse: if you could burn all that oil at once, you'd add 200 parts per million co2 to the atmosphere, and send the planet's temperature skyrocketing upwards. Any serious exploitation of the tar sands, says Hansen, means it's "essentially game over" for the climate. So, high stakes. And don't think that the Canadians will automatically find some other route to send their oil out to, say, China. Native tribes are doing a great job of blocking a proposed pipe to the Pacific; Alberta's energy minister said recently that he stays up nights worrying that without Keystone his province will be 'landlocked in bitumen.' Without the pipeline, said the business pages of Canada's biggest paper, Alberta oil faces a 'choke point.'
Happily, President Obama can stop the pipeline, and even in a dysfunctional D.C. no one can stop him. Before the so-called Keystone XL pipeline can be built, he has to issue a certificate saying it is "in the national interest." The House can't make him do anything, nor the Senate. For once, it's entirely up to the president. That's why we're headed to the White House for two weeks towards the end of August, and why we'll be (a la the fight against Don't Ask Don't Tell) trespassing along the outside of the executive mansion. It will be extremely civil civil disobedience -- we're asking everyone to be 'businesslike in dress and demeanor,' in an effort to show who the radicals in this fight are. (Hint -- they're the people vying to fundamentally alter the composition of the atmosphere).
I suppose you could argue that this is anti-Obama, since it shows we don't 100 percent trust him to do the right thing. And I suppose we don't -- earlier this year, for instance, he opened an enormous swath of federal land in Wyoming to coal-mining. It was the equivalent of turning on 300 new coal-fired power plants.
On the other hand, none of the people who issued the call are anti-Obama ideologues. It came from people like me (and I was an early member of Environmentalists for Obama), the great Kentucky farmer and essayist Wendell Berry, the agronomist Wes Jackson, the indigenous leader Tom Goldtooth, and north of the border people like Naomi Klein, David Suzuki, and Maude Barlow, leader of the Council of Canadians. We asked people who had Obama buttons in their closets to bring them and wear them -- many of us still remember the shivers that ran down our spines when he said, on the eve of his nomination, that with his election "the rise of the oceans would begin to slow and the planet begin to heal."
In fact, instead of focusing constantly on Obama's flaws and virtues, I'm enough of a Methodist Sunday School teacher to want to focus on mine and ours. We haven't, perhaps, kept up the pressure we should have to see the change we need. I think that Lisa Jackson, the great administrator of the EPA, was on to something earlier this month when she told a Colorado newspaper that one reason Obama's environmental record was not what it might have been was because "they're not marching on Washington the way they did on Earth Day in the '70s." I think Dan Pfeiffer was on to something when he told Netroots Nation: "We WANT you to push us -- we absolutely do. The president is someone who comes from a tradition of grassroots organizing, community organizing. A lot of the pushing that you guys are doing on a national level, he did on a local level in Chicago, and he understands that."
So here's the good news. There are already hundreds and hundreds of people signed up to risk arrest over those two weeks. Hopefully it will resemble the remarkable protests Transafrica organized in the 1980s outside the South African embassy. Hopefully we will give the president plenty of support for the idea that climate change is not in the national interest and that the Keystone pipeline is unthinkable.
If you want to sign up to be part of it, here's the place to go. We shouldn't just leave this to the college kids -- it's also the job for those of us who have been pouring carbon into the atmosphere for years. And we shouldn't, I think, get so caught up in electioneering 15 months before an election that we forget our duties to other kinds of political work. We need to keep that carbon in the ground and out of the atmosphere. I hope I'll get to see you in D.C. in August.
This piece originally appeared as Standing (Maybe Illegally) in Middle Ground and Hoping You'll Join Us on DailyKos.
Famous activists to battle Keystone pipeline, Sheldon Alberts, June 24 2011.
WASHINGTON . A group of prominent North American environmentalists and progressives -including Danny Glover and David Suzuki -are urging opponents of TransCanada Corp.'s Keystone XL pipeline to get arrested this summer in protests at the White House against the project.
But Mr. Suzuki and other Canadians involved in the planned acts of civil disobedience have indicated they won't risk being among those who might end up in handcuffs for fear they might lose the ability to travel to the United States.
In an open letter released Thursday, 11 high-profile Canadian and U.S. activists said they will organize daily demonstrations at the White House this August aimed at persuading President Barack Obama to deny Calgary-based TransCanada's permit application to construct the 2,700kilometre, US$7-billion pipeline.
"We don't have the money to compete with those corporations [backing Keystone XL], but we do have our bodies, and beginning in mid-August many of us will use them," the letter writers say. "This won't be a one-shot day of action. We plan for it to continue for sev-eral weeks, till the administration understands we won't go away." The protests, they tell supporters, will "quite possibly get you arrested."
The signatories to the letter include Mr. Glover, the actor and a long-time supporter of liberal causes, environmentalist authors Bill McKibben and Wendell Berry, Mr. Suzuki, Canadian writer Naomi Klein and Maude Barlow, chair of the Council of Canadians.
The group has planned the acts of civil disobedience starting in August -during "the hottest and stickiest weeks" of the Washington summer -because that is when the U.S. State Department is likely to begin final deliberations over whether Keystone XL is in the U.S. national interest. The department has promised a ruling by year's end.
The State Department has jurisdiction to decide on Keystone XL, which would carry up to 900,000 barrels of oilsands crude per day from northern Alberta to Port Arthur, Tex., because the pipeline crosses an international boundary.