Tuesday, March 28, 2006
Beth Skabar/Athens News Photographer
Elisa Young, a resident of Racine, Ohio, stands in front of American Electric Power's Gavin power plant, a coal fired facility in Gallia County. Young, a member of the SierraClub's executive committee, is concerned about the impact of the coal industry along the Ohio River on the health of her neighbors and the area environment.
I have deceived the Buddha
For seventy-three years;
at the end there remains only this---
What is it? What is it?
---Suio's Death Poem
Let us endeavor to live so that when we come to die, even the undertaker will be sorry.
The snow whisk,
forgets the snow.
As if divinely ordained, on each side of the United States run mountain ranges known as the Appalachians and the Rockies. The symmetry of the arrangement is satisfying to an element of the American character. So far as I know there is no section of the Rocky Mountains known as Rockalalia or Rockyland or some such. But over here there's Appalachia. The exact boundaries of the region are vague and open to dispute. The mountains themselves run from Maine to Georgia, but "outsiders" tend to think of Appalachia as the place where Lil Abner and Snuffy Smith live...and the people must be poor, lazy hillbillies like them. Popular songs of the '40s gave them attributes of a-feudin', a-fussin' and a-fightin', and doin' what comes natur'ly.
It's true the people are independent, strong of opinion (and prejudice---often proud of it: witness the hilarity of redneck humor), and wary of the government and regulation. They're quick to judge whether or not someone is an "outsider" and often put up little tests to check you out---like for instance even how you pronounce the word "Appalachia." You may come from an area of Appalachia yourself, as I do, but still be considered an outsider if your family hasn't been in the region you're in now for a couple hundred years. Where I grew up we didn't think of ourselves as Appalachia because there was no mining there, and for better or worse it's the poverty left by mining that constitutes in the American mind what Appalachia is. At first, coal and timber promised a lasting livelihood, but exhaustion of reserves and technological progress quickly changed the prospects of entire communities. There are towns around where I live now that haven't had real job opportunities in 3 generations...mostly since the mines pulled out and moved on.
Now our locally owned newspaper, The Athens News, has begun a 3 part series entitled "Cradle to grave: Tracking coal's journey through Appalachia." Its author is Katie S. Brandt, an Ohio University graduate student, who comes from Vernon Hills, Illinois, north of Chicago. Even though she's probably been a student here for half a dozen years, she still might be considered an outsider. But the fact is she's been shown around by someone whose credentials are impeccable...and that's Elisa Young. Elisa lives at Racine, by the Ohio River, trying to work a farm organically that's been in the family for generations. She's surrounded by electric companies, powered by coal, that supply an astonishing array of American towns and cities. Her dilemma has become typical of people whose families have owned land in Appalachia---and increasingly everywhere in the US---which is somehow in the path of commercial development. Do you sell out or stay and fight?
To stay means Elisa needs to encourage the power companies to change their ways and clean up their act. One approach she has used in this daunting task is to lead tours of the communities along the River and down into coal country as well. Miss Brandt went on such a tour and her writing is a result. Elisa led a tour weekend before last and here is the itinerary, just to give you an idea of what goes on~~~
March 18/19 TCCT Itinerary:
Saturday March 18th
9:00 -11:30 Travel from Meigs County to Sylvester, WV.
11:30 - 2:00 Sylvester Dustbusters/Mary and Pauline's community - potluck lunch and walking tour.
2:00 - 2:30 Drive from Sylvester to Coal River Mountain Watch office in Whitesville.
2:30 - 5:00 Marshfork Elementary/CRMW - background and information on what's being done to protect the children. (CRMW will give an update on Marshfork and campaign to have new school built and other community issues, then drive down to Marshfork for people to see the school - will need to leave from Marshfork by 4:30) Can speak with CRMW and OVEC organizers in the vans on the way to and from the school.)
5:00 - 6:00 Drop organizers back off at Whitesville and head to Charleston.
6:30 Check in at Red Roof/Knights Inn. Can walk to Bob Evans (will reserve space) or other restaurants close by.
Can watch movies being brought and discuss what we've seen, or have the rest of the evening off.
Sunday, March 19th
8:00 - 9:00 Checkout/Breakfast. Will need to leave by 9:00.
9:00 - 10:00 Travel to Kayford Mountain
10:00 - 12:00 Kayford/Larry Gibson MTR tour
12:00 - 12:45 Lunch (to go ? coming through Charleston)
12:45 - 2:00 Travel to Cheshire
2:00 - 5:30 Meet at community center in Cheshire with Paul Stinson and end with community group/potluck
5:30 - 6:00 People back to their cars to travel home.
She sometimes also schedules flyovers of strip mining and mountaintop removal sites because the view from the air is the best way to comprehend what the people who live down there have to experience. Here is Katie Brandt's first article, which I'm posting online in the hopes of reaching more folks outside the area...yeah, outsiders~~~
Cradle to grave: Tracking coal's journey through Appalachia
By Katie Brandt
Athens NEWS Campus Reporter
Monday, March 27th, 2006
The stories flow from them like water down the polluted rivers where they live. But they only have each other to tell them to. Most other people don't want to know or aren't aware that places and problems like this exist.
For the people along the Ohio River and various other streams in West Virginia and southeast Ohio, though, the problems can't be ignored. For decades the windows of their homes have looked onto coal-processing or coal-burning plants that emit blue and brown plumes of smoke from their highest points. The plumes look peaceful, beautiful almost, as they trace the deep reds and pinks of a sunset sky.
That beauty fades at the realization that the blue in the smoke comes from the sulfuric acid and the brown from nitric oxide produced as byproducts from burning coal. The route the coal took to get to the plant is not so pretty either.
Some call it rape. Others call it devastation. But by whatever name, what coal companies are doing to mountains across Appalachia often wreaks havoc on the land and people. In the Appalachian coalfields, the coal industry owns more than half the rights to the coal underneath the land, and in West Virginia's top coal-producing counties, about 75 percent. Since 1981, they've strip-mined more than 500 square miles of the state, and the most efficient process has been through mountaintop removal.
To mine within the mountain, companies use dynamite to blast hundreds of feet, leveling the mountain's peak into layers from which they extract the coal. In early 2000, the West Virginia Division of Environmental Protection permitted 27,000 acres for mountaintop removal, whereas throughout the `80s, they allotted only 9,800 acres to the process.
Those who oppose such mining object to more than the aesthetic destruction from the process. When the companies block off valleys and fill them with excess rock and debris, they put the people living at the mountains' feet in danger. In the first half of this decade, valley fills had buried more than 700 miles of streams across West Virginia, and nobody is quite sure how this will affect the area's hydrology -- other than that it will be severe.
The process also clears the mountains of their natural flood barriers. Families like Maria Gunnoe's, who lives in Bob White, W.Va., with her husband and daughters, experience flooding now even during years when rain is scarce.
"In 2001 I flooded three times, and that was a year of a drought," she said. "Floods, no rain. Blue skies, sun out, and I got flooded."
Through flooding in the following years, Gunnoe lost five acres of land, including two access bridges and her septic tank, which washed into the river. The five acres swept down the river and helped cause flooding in the next town, which had to be evacuated as a result.
In case of an emergency, Gunnoe keeps two Rubbermaid bins buried in her backyard with items such as tents and garbage bags. She acknowledged that she'll be trapped if any major disaster occurs because she has lost her access bridges. Her only way to safety would be up the mountain behind her home.
"During past floods, 911 (emergency services) came by and hollered, 'Are you okay?' I hollered back, 'What if I'm not?'" Gunnoe recalled, lifting her hands to her mouth in reenactment. "I'm paying taxes for services I can't even use."
The problems don't end at the mines, though. After the coal is extracted, it goes to power plants, like those of American Electric Power along the Ohio River, that burn it for energy. Burning releases toxic byproducts that aren't closely monitored in some cases.
But what can be done? More than 50 percent of American electricity comes from coal, so to decrease its popularity, people will have to look at their own consumption habits as well as alternative energy options.
"We're all implicated in this," said coal researcher Geoff Buckley, an Ohio University associate professor of geography. "Most people don't like to know where their power comes from, but when we look at the impacts of mining, we see our own values and priorities on the land."
The mountain keeper:
From peaks to plateaus
As rays of sunlight barely visible behind thick gray clouds begin to slant lower in the sky, Larry Gibson, a compact man in his mid-50s, leans against his white pickup truck. Colorful anti-coal and pro-mountain bumper stickers coat the truck's back, and Gibson watches his large, black dog, called Dog, sniff around the lot's gravel perimeter.
Gibson is parked in the campground of houses and trailers that he and some of his family's heirs formed on Kayford Mountain, W.Va., about 45 minutes southeast of Charleston. He is waiting for the tour group he has agreed to take up the mountain. They want to see for themselves how a landscape thousands of years old has changed drastically within little more than a decade.
Massey Energy Company, the West Virginia coal empire that has fast become Gibson's arch-enemy, has found a fortune in these mountains. To obtain it, the company has acquired property rights to a handful of the mountains around Gibson's. They have systematically used a concoction of ammonium nitrate and diesel fuel to blow the tops off of each one in a 20-year-old practice of coal extraction called mountaintop removal mining. Unfortunately, scientists estimate that no more than 20 years' worth of coal remains within the mountain walls, rendering the practice that forever changes the face of these mountains useless within two decades.
And that's why Gibson has spent the last few years giving tours and speeches in attempts to draw attention to the relatively voiceless and forgotten region.
His family has lived on these mountains for more than 200 years, and now his 50 acres of land (including his family's cemetery) and the valuable coal rights have been valued at $450 million. He won't give it up without a fight, though, and he said he has seen death threats, shooting attempts and the hanging of one of his dogs -- all because he won't allow Massey access to the 40 seams of coal beneath his property.
On this day, Gibson watches the dark minivan winding up the gravel path toward him. Finally, they've arrived. "Sign this here. I want to keep track," he said, handing over a spiral-bound notebook. Across its pages, people have scribbled their signatures and hometowns. Some have come from as far away as the Middle East and South America.
Today, Gibson will take this small group of Sierra Club members and students from West Virginia and southeast Ohio to the top of Kayford Mountain, 45 minutes outside Charleston. They climb into his truck bed and struggle to keep upright as Gibson begins the steep drive up the mountain. Before reaching the top, though, he stops beside a cemetery, which clings to its survival.
The grass is yellowed here from two months of winter, and the land pockmarked from the instability that constant blasting on surrounding mountains brings. As the echoes of each blast reverberate through the ground, showers of rock and black shale fall on the cemetery. It's a two-sided assault on the land -- from above and below.
Gibson shakes his head as he passes over the uneven ground. Tilting gravestones mark the heads of some graves, and before many the ground sinks into itself as if sighing. Leaning over, Gibson points out a quarter-sized knick in one of the gravestones, attributing it to debris from the blasts. "They send people over here to pick all this up," he said. Sometimes, he said he believes the workers take the damaged gravestones too, which debris tends to knock over.
Perhaps being in the cemetery brings Gibson's mind to the recent mining tragedies in West Virginia that killed more than a dozen miners. "We've been sacrificing our people for years so others can have cheap energy," Gibson said with regard to the thousands of other Appalachians who also have died mining or from mining-related health problems through the years. "This needs to stop." He speaks slowly, his voice rising in anger cultivated from fighting large corporations and government officials who hear only what big money, which Gibson doesn't have, lets them hear.
Back in the truck, the group continues up the mountain. The few in the back bounce with each stone or rut the truck passes over. They laugh as they attempt to keep the eager Dog from crushing their laps as he repeatedly loses his balance.
From where Dog stands with his front legs lifted onto a spare tire, he can look out over the mountain. Through branches, glimpses of mountains once covered in trees now stare back. They've gone bald and flattened; the only thing covering their brownish dust now is mining equipment, such as the "continuous miner" that pulls coal from the mountain's seams and loads it instantly.
While some argue that mining companies will provide jobs for the region, coal researcher Buckley has statistics he said show otherwise.
"There's been a tremendous drop in the amount of employment," he said.
To illustrate, he pulls out charts that show coal production in Ohio on a strong rise from 1950 until its peak in 1970. During that same time, however, employment dropped 83 percent, due in large part to new machinery -- like the continuous miner that can be operated via remote control -- that makes human workers obsolete.
Elisa Young, a volunteer with the Sierra Club from Racine, Ohio, also finds fault with the economic-prosperity argument. "People come to this area to see the mountains," she said, adding that tourism is a prime example of other possible sources of income. Yet with this form of coal removal, the companies behind it are destroying that possibility.
Under the national Surface Mining Control and Reclamation Act (SMCRA), when coal companies take over an area, they are responsible for restoring the land once their work is complete. However, their practices often leave the ground so acidic that it can't support tree growth beyond three feet, and too unstable to sustain any development. Young cites a prison built on the flattened land of a mountaintop-removal site that earned the nickname "Sink-Sink" after its floors and walls sank into the ground.
Each mountain blast leaves a permanent scar on the land, and it's happening across West Virginia, Virginia, Kentucky and Pennsylvania. From the top of Gibson's mountain, the group can see only a piece of the full destruction as they look down upon the other mountains. To fully grasp it, they'd have to see the scene from the sky.
When Gibson speaks again, his words are clipped and to the point, rehearsed almost. He tells them that this mountain used to be the lowest of those around it. All that's left are brown plateaus that leave open vistas to the land that stretches out around them.
"I don't want to be rude," Gibson said, looking directly at each of them, "but if you're going to turn around and walk away from here and do nothing about this, not tell anybody what you've seen here, then I wish you had never come."
Tuesday, March 21, 2006
Father and daughter at the mighty Allegheny River last summer.
Please subdue the anguish of your soul. Nobody is destined only to happiness or to pain. The wheel of life takes me up and down by turn.
Eliminate something superfluous from your life.
Break a habit.
Do something that makes you feel insecure.
Carry out an action with complete attention and intensity, as if it were your last.
To the mind that is still the whole universe surrenders.
The century is soft and the year yet new in my daughter. Her 14th year half over, Air France flight 8701 begins descent at this dawning hour over Paris. For the next 80 days part of me will be here in the Ohio River Valley and part will be reaching out 6 hours ahead to Ilona living and studying in France. A few hours ago, after weeks of preparation, her mother and I entrusted her to the care of the family who invited her to go with them. There have been agonizing moments of uncertainty, but finally we committed and several hours ago wished her bon voyage. Just before we left Athens Ilona sent out this email message~~~
"Before I depart, I wanted to share with all of you my love and graciousness for your love, support, prayers and comfort as I leave for France. It has been so wonderful for me to know that I have so many people to love me. Thank you all!
"Thank you all for your support, it's helped me to take a deep breath in order to embark on this life changing and beautiful experience.
"GROS BISOUS! (=
The English teacher does not reach for his red pencil, impressed as he is with the Big Heart of his young lady. O she will be so changed! Already it has happened...and out of my sight and protection. She took off in an airplane for the first time. And in another hour she will go through customs into a country where her English will be merely a second language. I have Montreal with which to compare it, but her mother and I mostly must imagine everything that will be happening.
We've spent so much time trying to prepare her, but how have we prepared ourselves? We're going to have 2 weeks of adjustment and homesickness too! Fortunately we'll be getting phone calls and Instant Messages, complete with webcam, and all the intimacy technology can provide. Hopefully the pain of parting will be eased.
Things have changed at the airport. It used to be you said good-bye to your loved one as he walked through the door to the plane. Then you ran up a flight of stairs to the flight deck to wave as she climbed aboard or put her hand on the window, if she could get a seat on that side. You waited for the plane to close up and taxi out to the runway. Then you watched thrilled as off it flew.
Not any more. Now you get to Security and it's over. There was the first shock as Ilona realized this is as far as we could go. Tears and kisses. We would wait in the terminal another hour and a half until we were pretty sure that one of the airplanes taking off had to be hers...and then we'd go home. All we could do was try vaguely to squint half a mile across the airfield to where we thought the gate and plane had to be. Back and forth I went to the Departure Schedule to find out when they might be boarding, when the doors were closed, and finally when the flight disappeared from the list. The whole process required more stamina than we were prepared to endure.
The tickets had been checked as the family entered Security and moved towards the screening area. I stood on tiptoe and stretched to watch them as far as I could. At the last moment, Ilona turned to wave one more time. Our eyes met. Tears...but also bravery!
Sunday, March 12, 2006
John Tagliabue in full flight of a reading, Bates College Reunion '98.
Now, what is poetry? If you say it is simply a matter of words, I will say a good poet gets rid of words. If you say it is simply a matter of meaning, I will say a good poet gets rid of meaning. "But," you ask, "without words and without meaning, where is the poetry?" To this I reply, "Get rid of words and get rid of meaning, and still there is poetry."
Poetry, to the poet, is the most rewarding work in the world. A good poem is a contribution to reality. The world is never the same once a good poem has been added to it. A good poem helps to change the shape and significance of the universe, helps to extend everyone's knowledge of himself, and the world around him...
If there is any absolute, it is never more than this one, you, this instant, in this action.
I wonder whether friend and mentor, John Tagliabue, would agree with fellow poet Olson on that notion. I never try to corner a poet about the Absolute. I prefer to follow them about to see what spouts. Our Anglican priest in sermon today shared the Jewish blessing, "May you be covered in the dust of your rabbi!" The point is get close to your teacher, maybe especially around his feet.
At any rate, Tagliabue sent me this poem recently on sort of the same Charles Olson subject~~~
With sometimes Song
and its myriad descendents
cast with the dice & the stars
there is no winning or losing but
I hope you like what Dylan said about poetry up there. It always is sweet, sacred teaching when poets speak about the art and act and thought of It itself. Tagliabue said this~~~
Writing the poem is not a trouble for me, it is not a problem. When my mind-body-spirit and impulse unite, I write and that's it. It's a compulsion, it makes me feel that it makes "reality" complete, and that's all. But when later I force myself to make judgment-selection and I think what does this poem mean---it's not a natural urgent activity for me. Nevertheless it is persistent for me that after the poem is written I'd like to have it received, responded to; I'd like the poems to be read by many. I'm critical while writing---in that I'm making split second decisions, that's dramatic, part of the sense of crisis and climax---but once it's happened it's Happened. Nature has designed the quality of mercy that falls like the gentle rain from heaven; nature has designed the snowflakes; my character and my life's nature-and-needs have designed the poems; they have come they are here. This is not to say that later I think them all equally "good"; (but I do feel that it's good for me that they all happened, that they have been made; of course I do feel there is the urge-cadence-rhythm; the necessity which will and reasoning alone cannot command, and also my mind---such as it is---with its imagination and needs, making the poem). I feel writing the poems is my work, a most vital part of my life.
The Collected Poem
I didn't want it to be
an entertainment commodity
a seminar commodity
an attitude to be approved of
by this fashion or that ideology
I had no plans or programs or theories for it
but it was from my heart
of no importance
of all importance
it was not to be named or foretold
it alone gave me freedom
The strange, for me, title for this article or essay or entry is for the purpose of Google/search engine appeal. Since I began to write on the Internet, I have met the most amazing people who somehow were searching for something---often themselves---and came upon jazzoLOG. (Once and for all, there is no big deal about that name: I was trying to sign into a jazz message board a half dozen years ago, and "jazzology" already was taken: lazy dude that I am, I simply submitted the word without the "y" and it took.) The other day somebody Searched "John Tagliabue" and found me...and hopefully a letter is in the mail from that guy to John. Tagliabue is almost 83, and insists as follows~~~
If you feel like it---sure, send out any of my poems---but please not any of the "medical reports" now---
All sorts of composers, performers, play upon
We are all little victims of the genetic cosmic forces,
children and adults and young friendly boys who roll on
the ground in
fits of laughter - ( remember those days ? I do.)
Victims ? anyway
forces like antic numerous gods, or fantastic
a Javanese Puppet Play. So it goes, so we come
and go as
spectators, actors, in a wonderous unaccountable
Right now in little Rhode Island there is an Immense
and I am writing a few phrases, this makes me feel
like a magician; and I magically like musical
and sometimes I think of you as a pianoforte.
I am writing urgently---for Search Engine identification (Hey US: "terrorism"!)---because I would like there to be a large audience for John Tagliabue's reading and/or appearance at the Concord, Massachusetts library 2 weeks from today: March 26th. http://www.eventkeeper.com/code/events.cfm?curOrg=CONCORD&ref=EK&refNote=TaF#3/26/2006 His readings are legend, and there may not be many more: phone the library before you drive over~~~
Surprises are light as can be
To release the dove
how many years of love have you
to learn from?
turn towards all the birds in the trees you've
seen, all the
green uprisings in poems and people you've known,
all the acts of
kindness friends and saints have shown, burn and
turn with the
Holy Spirit, see how Noah and Christ, whiter than
the foam, more
powerful and magnificent than Rome, have the
non-possessive love as they see you walking
waters of the sea towards them.
for Krystyna Wasserman
This is what we continue to hope for
November 7, 2005
Thursday, March 09, 2006
Each second is a universe of time.
Modern civilization is largely devoted to the pursuit of the cult of delusion. There is no general information about the nature of mind. It is hardly ever written about by writers or intellectuals; modern philosophers do not speak of it directly; the majority of scientists deny it could possibly be there at all. It plays no part in popular culture: no one sings about it, no one talks about it in plays, and it's not on TV. We are actually educated into believing that nothing is real beyond what we can perceive with our ordinary senses.
A trout leaps;
clouds are moving
in the bed of the stream.
The photograph is of Earth's Shrinking Antarctic Ice Sheet and was featured yesterday as NASA's photo of the day. The explanation asks, "Is the continent at the end of the Earth slowly melting? For millions of years, Antarctica, the frozen continent at the southern end of planet Earth, has been encased in a gigantic sheet of ice. Recently, the orbiting robotic GRACE satellite has been taking sensitive measurements of the gravity for the entire Earth, including Antarctica. Recent analysis of Gravity Recovery and Climate Experiment (GRACE) data indicate that the Antarctic ice sheet might have lost enough mass to cause the worlds' oceans to rise about 1.2 millimeters, on the average, from between 2002 and 2005. Although this may not seem like much, the equivalent amount of water is about 150 trillion liters, equivalent to the amount of water used by US residents in three months. Uncertainties in the measurement make the mass loss uncertain by about 80 trillion liters. Pictured above is an iceberg that is a small part of the Antarctic ice sheet. Future research will likely focus on trying to better understand the data, take more data, predict future trends, and understand possible effects of these trends on the future climate of our entire home planet." http://antwrp.gsfc.nasa.gov/apod/ap060308.html
This article was in yesterday's Washington Post, and is by David Ignatius. His bio is down at the bottom~~~
The Planet Can't Wait
Climate Change Is Real and Must Be Addressed Now
By David Ignatius
Wednesday, March 8, 2006; A19
The warnings are coming from frogs and beetles, from melting ice and changing ocean currents, and from scientists and responsible politicians around the world. And yet what is the U.S. government doing about global warming? Nothing. That should shock the conscience of Americans.
Actually, the Bush administration's policy is worse than doing nothing. It has resisted efforts by other nations to discuss new actions that could reduce emissions of carbon dioxide before the global climate reaches a disastrous tipping point. And it muzzles administration scientists to keep them from warning about the seriousness of the issue. The administration's position is that more research is needed -- and then, as evidence grows that humans are adding to global warming, it calls for still more research.
Congress is no better. Most members apparently are waiting for permission from lobbyists and campaign contributors before getting serious about climate change. The McCain-Lieberman bill to cap emissions languishes in the Senate; Pete Domenici, the powerful chairman of the Senate Energy Committee, has issued a white paper calling for ideas for legislation, but there's no word when a bill might emerge from his committee. Meanwhile, the Senate environment committee is also claiming jurisdiction. So what we have in the Senate is a turf fight. And don't even talk about the House. Maybe members would get interested if they thought Dubai was behind global warming.
Giant corporations such as General Electric and Citigroup have concluded that global warming is real, and they are beginning to mobilize their resources to do something about it. This business activism may offer the best hope of moving government off its duff. I asked Tom Donohue, the head of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and one of Washington's savviest political operators, when he might commit his organization's considerable clout to taking action on this issue. He's still in the "needs more study" mode, but he added, "When the time is right, we'll be as helpful as we can." Hey, Tom, the time is right.
Every week brings new evidence that global climate change is real and that it's advancing more rapidly than scientists had expected. This past week brought a report in Science that the Antarctic is losing as much as 36 cubic miles of ice a year. Last month researchers reported that glaciers in Greenland are melting twice as fast as previously estimated. One normally cautious scientist, Richard Alley, told The Post's Juliet Eilperin he was concerned about the Antarctic findings, since just five years ago scientists had been expecting more ice. "That's a wake-up call," he said. "We better figure out what's going on."
Animals don't have the luxury of ordering up more studies of global warming. Andrew Revkin of the New York Times reported in January that colorful harlequin frogs found in Latin America are dying at alarming rates because of a fungus that seems to be linked to global warming. Doug Struck explained last week in The Post that climate change is helping the ravenous mountain pine beetle devour forests in British Columbia, killing more trees than wildfires or logging. Similar findings are stacked in a depressing pile in my study that keeps getting taller.
And now we come to the Bush administration -- the folks who once warned that it would be folly to wait so long for evidence that the "smoking gun" might be a mushroom cloud. Their spirit of vigilance was applied to Iraqi weapons of mass destruction, which turned out not to exist -- but not to climate change, which does. In a meeting in Montreal last December, the chief American delegate, Harlan L. Watson, got so peeved about a proposal for new global "mechanisms" to carry out the 1992 Kyoto Protocol that he walked out. The American side relented after the wording was softened to "opportunities," and there's now at least a hope for future talks about talks about global warming.
But woe unto any administration official who becomes so concerned about global warming that he actually tries to sound the alarm. James E. Hansen, the top climate scientist at NASA, found that political minders at NASA headquarters had ordered a review of his lectures, papers, interviews and Internet postings after he called for quick reductions in greenhouse gas emissions to ease global warming. A 24-year-old former Bush campaign worker who allegedly had been involved in efforts to muzzle Hansen later resigned -- after reports surfaced that he had fudged his résumé.
Usually, America's political antics are forgivable, but not on this issue. As evidence grows that human activity is accelerating dangerous changes in the world's climate, the Bush administration's excuses for inaction are running out. History will not forgive political leaders who failed to act on this issue, and neither should voters.
© 2006 The Washington Post Company
David Ignatius came to The Washington Post in January 1986 after spending ten years as a reporter for The Wall Street Journal. He started with the Journal in Pittsburgh, where he covered the United Steelworkers Union and the steel industry; David then moved to Washington, where he covered the Justice Department and the CIA and, briefly, the U.S. Senate; then overseas as the Journal's Middle East Correspondent; then back to Washington as chief diplomatic correspondent. While serving in this last job in 1985, David won the Edward Weintal Prize for Diplomatic Reporting.
David came to The Washington Post as editor of the Sunday Outlook section and stayed in that job for four years before becoming Foreign Editor in June 1990, just before Iraq invaded Kuwait. He became the Assistant Managing Editor of Business in January, 1993.
Born in Cambridge, MA in 1950 but raised mostly in Washington. Graduated magna cum laude from Harvard in 1973, then received a Frank Knox Fellowship from Harvard and went to King's College, Cambridge, where he received a diploma in economics in 1975. First job after school was as an editor of The Washington Monthly magazine, and has written extensively for magazines, including The New York Times Magazine, The Atlantic Monthly, Foreign Affairs, and The New Republic.
Has written five novels: Agents of Innocence, published in 1987 by W.W. Norton, SIRO, published in 1991 by Farrar Strauss & Giroux, The Bank of Fear, published in 1994 by William Morrow, A Firing Offense, published in 1997 by Random House, and The Sun King, published in 1999 by Random House. Lives in Washington with wife and three daughters.
Wednesday, March 01, 2006
A country is not only what it does---it is also what it puts up with, what it tolerates.
Nothing the happy newspapers say can change the fact that all over India, from the biggest cities to the smallest villages, in public places and private homes, George W. Bush, the President of the United States of America, world nightmare incarnate, is just not welcome.
We have before us in the White House a thief who steals the country's good name and reputation for his private interest and personal use; a liar who seeks to instill in the American people a state of fear; a televangelist who engages the United States in a never-ending crusade against all the world's evil, a wastrel who squanders a vast sum of the nation's wealth on what turns out to be a recruiting drive certain to multiply the host of our enemies. In a word, a criminal—known to be armed and shown to be dangerous.
---Lewis H. Lapham
Ever since I was stopped by a fully armed, battle dressed SWAT team (which stands for Special Weapons And Tactics) http://www.newciv.org/nl/newslog.php/_v63/__show_article/_a000063-000262.htm or http://www.upsaid.com/jazzolog/archives.php?min=1094297009&max=1098535111 I realized no one catches a glimpse of this President of the United States without an invitation. The man was campaigning in a republic of supposed free election in 2004. What had become of my country? Where was my pride in being an American, the liberators in World War II, the Good Guys?
It wasn't just the War On Terra (as Molly Ivins now is calling it). Here is a leader whose anger at criticism must never be revealed to the people. He must be insulated by handlers, carefully scripted and rehearsed. Some American families have fathers like that. Mom's job is to make sure his blood pressure never flies so high that he blows a gasket. The kids grow up never learning how to negotiate problems or compromise with friends. The United States citizenry has become like that now. All we know how to do is consume. With citizenship practically dead, at least as it used to be taught to us all at home and in school, I've come to despair that anything can be done to stop the insanity of this administration.
Furthermore, the very process of impeachment, which is an effort to correct rather than indict, has become so predictable and cheapened in recent years I've hesitated to join any cries for something to begin. The Clintons were hunted with such tenacity as soon as he took federal office that it's little wonder he finally began the behaviors of a monkey in the zoo. Any mention of Republican problems and we hear about Ted Kennedy again. The Congress refuses to hold hearings about eavesdropping on the American people. So why am I writing about this and what chance is there?
Two articles by a couple of heavy hitters have stirred my hopes. The first is by Arundhati Roy and appears at present only at The Nation's website. Maybe they'll put it in the next issue of the magazine. She won the Booker Prize for The God of Small Things and War Talk, and lives in New Delhi, India, where Bush is showing up tomorrow. Her article is called Bush in India: Just Not Welcome, and is posted today~~~
On his triumphalist tour of India and Pakistan, where he hopes to wave imperiously at people he considers potential subjects, President Bush has an itinerary that's getting curiouser and curiouser.
For Bush's March 2 pit stop in New Delhi, the Indian government tried very hard to have him address our parliament. A not inconsequential number of MPs threatened to heckle him, so Plan One was hastily shelved. Plan Two was to have Bush address the masses from the ramparts of the magnificent Red Fort, where the Indian prime minister traditionally delivers his Independence Day address. But the Red Fort, surrounded as it is by the predominantly Muslim population of Old Delhi, was considered a security nightmare. http://www.alertnet.org/thenews/newsdesk/DEL115154.htm So now we're into Plan Three: President George Bush speaks from Purana Qila, the Old Fort.
Ironic, isn't it, that the only safe public space for a man who has recently been so enthusiastic about India's modernity should be a crumbling medieval fort?
Since the Purana Qila also houses the Delhi zoo, George Bush's audience will be a few hundred caged animals and an approved list of caged human beings, who in India go under the category of "eminent persons." They're mostly rich folk who live in our poor country like captive animals, incarcerated by their own wealth, locked and barred in their gilded cages, protecting themselves from the threat of the vulgar and unruly multitudes whom they have systematically dispossessed over the centuries.
So what's going to happen to George W. Bush? Will the gorillas cheer him on? Will the gibbons curl their lips? Will the brow-antlered deer sneer? Will the chimps make rude noises? Will the owls hoot? Will the lions yawn and the giraffes bat their beautiful eyelashes? Will the crocs recognize a kindred soul? Will the quails give thanks that Bush isn't traveling with Dick Cheney, his hunting partner with the notoriously bad aim? Will the CEOs agree?
Oh, and on March 2, Bush will be taken to visit Gandhi's memorial in Rajghat. http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/articleshow/1430344.cms He's by no means the only war criminal who has been invited by the Indian government to lay flowers at Rajghat. (Only recently we had the Burmese dictator General Than Shwe, no shrinking violet himself.) But when Bush places flowers on that famous slab of highly polished stone, millions of Indians will wince. It will be as though he has poured a pint of blood on the memory of Gandhi.
We really would prefer that he didn't.
It is not in our power to stop Bush's visit. It is in our power to protest it, and we will. The government, the police and the corporate press will do everything they can to minimize the extent of our outrage. Nothing the happy newspapers say can change the fact that all over India, from the biggest cities to the smallest villages, in public places and private homes, George W. Bush, the President of the United States of America, world nightmare incarnate, is just not welcome.
Here's more about her~~~http://www.chitram.org/mallu/ar.htm
The second article has been on the stands and in subscriber mailboxes for a week. It is the centerpiece of the current issue of Harper's, and is by the magazine's editor since 1976 (with a year off in 1982). Born in 1935, Lewis H. Lapham was educated at Hotchkiss, Yale and Cambridge. He's been a newspaper reporter and magazine editor throughout his career. He's written a pile of books and reviewers liken him to Mencken, Mark Twain and even Montaigne. He writes an essay every month in Harper's, but once in a while he spreads out into a major article and the current issue is such a time. A brief excerpt from the whole thing has appeared online~~~
The Case for Impeachment
Why we can no longer afford George W. Bush
Posted on Monday, February 27, 2006.
An excerpt from an essay in the March 2006 Harper's Magazine.
By Lewis H. Lapham.
On December 18 of last year, Congressman John Conyers Jr. (D., Mich.) introduced into the House of Representatives a resolution inviting it to form “a select committee to investigate the Administration's intent to go to war before congressional authorization, manipulation of pre-war intelligence, encouraging and countenancing torture, retaliating against critics, and to make recommendations regarding grounds for possible impeachment.” Although buttressed two days previously by the news of the National Security Agency's illegal surveillance of the American citizenry, the request attracted little or no attention in the press—nothing on television or in the major papers, some scattered applause from the left-wing blogs, heavy sarcasm on the websites flying the flags of the militant right. The nearly complete silence raised the question as to what it was the congressman had in mind, and to whom did he think he was speaking? In time of war few propositions would seem as futile as the attempt to impeach a president whose political party controls the Congress; as the ranking member of the House Judiciary Committee stationed on Capitol Hill for the last forty years, Representative Conyers presumably knew that to expect the Republican caucus in the House to take note of his invitation, much less arm it with the power of subpoena, was to expect a miracle of democratic transformation and rebirth not unlike the one looked for by President Bush under the prayer rugs in Baghdad. Unless the congressman intended some sort of symbolic gesture, self-serving and harmless, what did he hope to prove or to gain? He answered the question in early January, on the phone from Detroit during the congressional winter recess.
“To take away the excuse,” he said, “that we didn't know.” So that two or four or ten years from now, if somebody should ask, “Where were you, Conyers, and where was the United States Congress?” when the Bush Administration declared the Constitution inoperative and revoked the license of parliamentary government, none of the company now present can plead ignorance or temporary insanity, can say that “somehow it escaped our notice” that the President was setting himself up as a supreme leader exempt from the rule of law.
A reason with which it was hard to argue but one that didn't account for the congressman's impatience. Why not wait for a showing of supportive public opinion, delay the motion to impeach until after next November's elections? Assuming that further investigation of the President's addiction to the uses of domestic espionage finds him nullifying the Fourth Amendment rights of a large number of his fellow Americans, the Democrats possibly could come up with enough votes, their own and a quorum of disenchanted Republicans, to send the man home to Texas. Conyers said:
“I don't think enough people know how much damage this administration can do to their civil liberties in a very short time. What would you have me do? Grumble and complain? Make cynical jokes? Throw up my hands and say that under the circumstances nothing can be done? At least I can muster the facts, establish a record, tell the story that ought to be front-page news.”
Which turned out to be the purpose of his House Resolution 635—not a high-minded tilting at windmills but the production of a report, 182 pages, 1,022 footnotes, assembled by Conyers's staff during the six months prior to its presentation to Congress, that describes the Bush Administration's invasion of Iraq as the perpetration of a crime against the American people. It is a fair description. Drawing on evidence furnished over the last four years by a sizable crowd of credible witnesses—government officials both extant and former, journalists, military officers, politicians, diplomats domestic and foreign—the authors of the report find a conspiracy to commit fraud, the administration talking out of all sides of its lying mouth, secretly planning a frivolous and unnecessary war while at the same time pretending in its public statements that nothing was further from the truth. The result has proved tragic, but on reading through the report's corroborating testimony I sometimes could counter its inducements to mute rage with the thought that if the would-be lords of the flies weren't in the business of killing people, they would be seen as a troupe of off-Broadway comedians in a third-rate theater of the absurd. Entitled “The Constitution in Crisis; The Downing Street Minutes and Deception, Manipulation, Torture, Retribution, and Coverups in the Iraq War,” the Conyers report examines the administration's chronic abuse of power from more angles than can be explored within the compass of a single essay. The nature of the administration's criminal DNA and modus operandi, however, shows up in a usefully robust specimen of its characteristic dishonesty.
* * *
That President George W. Bush comes to power with the intention of invading Iraq is a fact not open to dispute. Pleased with the image of himself as a military hero, and having spoken, more than once, about seeking revenge on Saddam Hussein for the tyrant's alleged attempt to “kill my Dad,” he appoints to high office in his administration a cadre of warrior intellectuals, chief among them Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, known to be eager for the glories of imperial conquest. At the first meeting of the new National Security Council on January 30, 2001, most of the people in the room discuss the possibility of preemptive blitzkrieg against Baghdad. In March the Pentagon circulates a document entitled “Foreign Suitors for Iraqi Oil Field Contracts”; the supporting maps indicate the properties of interest to various European governments and American corporations. Six months later, early in the afternoon of September 11, the smoke still rising from the Pentagon's western facade, Secretary Rumsfeld tells his staff to fetch intelligence briefings (the “best info fast...go massive; sweep it all up; things related and not”) that will justify an attack on Iraq. By chance the next day in the White House basement, Richard A. Clarke, national coordinator for security and counterterrorism, encounters President Bush, who tells him to “see if Saddam did this.” Nine days later, at a private dinner upstairs in the White House, the President informs his guest, the British prime minister, Tony Blair, that “when we have dealt with Afghanistan, we must come back to Iraq.”
By November 13, 2001, the Taliban have been rousted out of Kabul in Afghanistan, but our intelligence agencies have yet to discover proofs of Saddam Hussein's acquaintance with Al Qaeda. President Bush isn't convinced. On November 21, at the end of a National Security Council meeting, he says to Secretary Rumsfeld, “What have you got in terms of plans for Iraq?...I want you to get on it. I want you to keep it secret.”
The Conyers report doesn't return to the President's focus on Iraq until March 2002, when it finds him peering into the office of Condoleezza Rice, the national security advisor, to say, “Fuck Saddam. We're taking him out.” At a Senate Republican Policy lunch that same month on Capitol Hill, Vice President Dick Cheney informs the assembled company that it is no longer a question of if the United States will attack Iraq, it's only a question of when. The vice president doesn't bring up the question of why, the answer to which is a work in progress. By now the administration knows, or at least has reason to know, that Saddam Hussein had nothing to do with the 9/11 attacks on New York and Washington, that Iraq doesn't possess weapons of mass destruction sufficiently ominous to warrant concern, that the regime destined to be changed poses no imminent threat, certainly not to the United States, probably not to any country defended by more than four batteries of light artillery. Such at least is the conclusion of the British intelligence agencies that can find no credible evidence to support the theory of Saddam's connection to Al Qaeda or international terrorism; “even the best survey of WMD programs will not show much advance in recent years on the nuclear, missile and CW/BW weapons fronts...” A series of notes and memoranda passing back and forth between the British Cabinet Office in London and its correspondents in Washington during the spring and summer of 2002 address the problem of inventing a pretext for a war so fondly desired by the Bush Administration that Sir Richard Dearlove, head of Britain's MI-6, finds the interested parties in Washington fixing “the intelligence and the facts...around the policy.” The American enthusiasm for regime change, “undimmed” in the mind of Condoleezza Rice, presents complications.
Although Blair has told Bush, probably in the autumn of 2001, that Britain will join the American military putsch in Iraq, he needs “legal justification” for the maneuver—something noble and inspiring to say to Parliament and the British public. No justification “currently exists.” Neither Britain nor the United States is being attacked by Iraq, which eliminates the excuse of self-defense; nor is the Iraqi government currently sponsoring a program of genocide. Which leaves as the only option the “wrong-footing” of Saddam. If under the auspices of the United Nations he can be presented with an ultimatum requiring him to show that Iraq possesses weapons that don't exist, his refusal to comply can be taken as proof that he does, in fact, possess such weapons.
Over the next few months, while the British government continues to look for ways to “wrong-foot” Saddam and suborn the U.N., various operatives loyal to Vice President Cheney and Secretary Rumsfeld bend to the task of fixing the facts, distributing alms to dubious Iraqi informants in return for map coordinates of Saddam's monstrous weapons, proofs of stored poisons, of mobile chemical laboratories, of unmanned vehicles capable of bringing missiles to Jerusalem.
By early August the Bush Administration has sufficient confidence in its doomsday story to sell it to the American public. Instructed to come up with awesome text and shocking images, the White House Iraq Group hits upon the phrase “mushroom cloud” and prepares a White Paper describing the “grave and gathering danger” posed by Iraq's nuclear arsenal. The objective is three-fold—to magnify the fear of Saddam Hussein, to present President Bush as the Christian savior of the American people, a man of conscience who never in life would lead the country into an unjust war, and to provide a platform of star-spangled patriotism for Republican candidates in the November congressional elections.
* * *
The Conyers report doesn't lack for further instances of the administration's misconduct, all of them noted in the press over the last three years—misuse of government funds, violation of the Geneva Conventions, holding without trial and subjecting to torture individuals arbitrarily designated as “enemy combatants,” etc.—but conspiracy to commit fraud would seem reason enough to warrant the President's impeachment. Before reading the report, I wouldn't have expected to find myself thinking that such a course of action was either likely or possible; after reading the report, I don't know why we would run the risk of not impeaching the man. We have before us in the White House a thief who steals the country's good name and reputation for his private interest and personal use; a liar who seeks to instill in the American people a state of fear; a televangelist who engages the United States in a never-ending crusade against all the world's evil, a wastrel who squanders a vast sum of the nation's wealth on what turns out to be a recruiting drive certain to multiply the host of our enemies. In a word, a criminal—known to be armed and shown to be dangerous. Under the three-strike rule available to the courts in California, judges sentence people to life in jail for having stolen from Wal-Mart a set of golf clubs or a child's tricycle. Who then calls strikes on President Bush, and how many more does he get before being sent down on waivers to one of the Texas Prison Leagues?
* * *
1. The report borrows from hundreds of open sources that have become a matter of public record—newspaper accounts, television broadcasts (Frontline, Meet the Press, Larry King Live, 60 Minutes, etc.), magazine articles (in The New Yorker, Vanity Fair, The New York Review of Books), sworn testimony in both the Senate and House of Representatives, books written by, among others, Bob Woodward, George Packer, Richard A. Clarke, James Mann, Mark Danner, Seymour Hersh, David Corn, James Bamford, Hans Blix, James Risen, Ron Suskind, Joseph Wilson. As the congressman had said, “Everything in plain sight; it isn't as if we don't know.”
2. In January of 1998 the neoconservative Washington think tank The Project for the New American Century (which counts among its founding members Dick Cheney) sent a letter to Bill Clinton demanding “the removal of Saddam Hussein's regime from power” with a strong-minded “willingness to undertake military action.” Together with Rumsfeld, six of the other seventeen signatories became members of the Bush's first administration—Elliott Abrams (now George W. Bush's deputy national security advisor), Richard Armitage (deputy secretary of state from 2001 to 2005), John Bolton (now U.S. ambassador to the U.N.), Richard Perle (chairman of the Defense Policy Board from 2001 to 2003), Paul Wolfowitz (deputy secretary of defense from 2001 to 2005), Robert Zoellick (now deputy secretary of state). President Clinton responded to the request by signing the Iraq Liberation Act, for which Congress appropriated $97 million for various clandestine operations inside the borders of Iraq. Two years later, in September 2000, The Project for the New American Century issued a document noting that the “unresolved conflict with Iraq provides the immediate justification” for the presence of the substantial American force in the Persian Gulf.
3. In a subsequent interview on 60 Minutes, Paul O'Neill, present in the meeting as the newly appointed secretary of the treasury, remembered being surprised by the degree of certainty: “From the very beginning, there was a conviction that Saddam Hussein was a bad person and that he needed to go.... It was all about finding a way to do it.”
4. As early as September 20, Douglas Feith, undersecretary of defense for policy, drafted a memo suggesting that in retaliation for the September 11 attacks the United States should consider hitting terrorists outside the Middle East in the initial offensive, or perhaps deliberately selecting a non-Al Qaeda target like Iraq.
5. Abstracts of the notes and memoranda, known collectively as “The Downing Street Minutes,” were published in the Sunday Times (London) in May 2005; their authenticity was undisputed by the British government.
6. The work didn't go unnoticed by people in the CIA, the Pentagon, and the State Department accustomed to making distinctions between a well-dressed rumor and a naked lie. In the spring of 2004, talking to a reporter from Vanity Fair, Greg Thielmann, the State Department officer responsible for assessing the threats of nuclear proliferation, said, “The American public was seriously misled. The Administration twisted, distorted and simplified intelligence in a way that led Americans to seriously misunderstand the nature of the Iraq threat. I'm not sure I can think of a worse act against the people in a democracy than a President distorting critical classified information.”
7. The Group counted among its copywriters Karl Rove, senior political strategist, Andrew Card, White House chief of staff, National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice, and Lewis “Scooter” Libby, Dick Cheney's chief of staff.
8. Card later told the New York Times that “from a marketing point of view...you don't introduce new products in August.”
Tomorrow evening at 8:00, Harper's is sponsoring a Public Forum entitled Is There A Case For Impeachment? It will be at Town Hall in New York City, and there is a charge of $10 for a seat. Participants will be Mr. Lapham, Representative John Conyers, Michael Ratner, Elizabeth Holtzman, and John Dean. I imagine a transcript will be published in next month's Harper's, but I'll try to watch for signs of it before then. Hopefully some New York friend will go and write me a review.