Ten Years Ago in Ireland Trying to Stop War in Iraq

(Thinking now of the chaos unfolding in Iraq, and of our deepening entanglement with the mess for which we are so responsible. Came across this in my files. Much of it still seems current as to the roots of the problem in what Kevin Phillips called the “American Dynasty.” Still hoping to see my people rise up against perpetual war. – Stephen)

Report from Ireland:
MFSO Helps Irish Peace Movement Build for March 20, 2004
J. Stephen Cleghorn, Ph.D.

At the invitation of the Irish Anti-War Movement I recently had the privilege of traveling through both the Republic of Ireland and the “north of Ireland” (part of the United Kingdom for now, but not forever according to my hosts) to meet with peace groups preparing for the worldwide demonstrations on March 20, 2004 – the anniversary of the attack on Iraq. They asked Military Families Speak Out to send a representative to speak for an American peace movement about which they seldom hear in their media and to address the issue of American troops and war materiel passing through their Shannon Airport.

Beginning with a press conference on March 15 that was covered by both the Irish Times, the Republic’s equivalent of the New York Times, and the national RTE television network, I began a trip that took me to venues in Dublin, Dundalk, Drogheda, Waterford, Cork and Galway in the Republic, as well as Belfast and Derry in the north of Ireland. Turnout at meetings ranged from about 15 in Drogheda to over 150 in both Dublin and Galway. Radio interviews were done at almost every stop and it is quite likely that, thanks to the great organization of the peace activists, my message to the Irish people was heard by well over half the population.

 
On the first night we visited a small pub in Dundalk where the February 15 anniversary of worldwide demonstrations was being celebrated as part of a “global village” for peace. The people gathered there were sharing poetry and song and candles – not to mention some Guinness stout – in that paradigmatic way that speaks of the best and truest nature of the human heart.

Another great feature of the trip, which I shall never forget, was sitting at a table in Derry with the legendary civil rights activist Eamon McCann, and then later on in Galway sharing a stage with Denis Halliday , the former UN administrator of the Oil for Food program who resigned his post to protest how UN sanctions were killing thousands of Iraqi civilians. I could only be thankful to have met these two stalwarts for peace in their nation and our world. Who could have known a little over a year ago when I agreed to be a parent plaintiff in the MFSO lawsuit (Doe v. Bush) against George W. Bush (to force a Congressional declaration of war and, hopefully, stop the war through a serious reconsideration of the casus belli) that my life would soon cross paths with such peace heroes?

Wherever I traveled in Ireland I was happy to tell my audiences about a broad-based peace movement in America, one which I have witnessed personally in several demonstrations numbering in the tens of thousands. And I was happy to tell them that this peace movement has been supported and amplified by the growth of progressive groups on the Internet like UnitedforPeace.org, MoveOn.org, Truthout.org, CommonDreams.org, TrueMajority.org, WorkingforChange.com and many others. We even talked about the upcoming presidential election that my hosts, as much as any progressives I know in America, are fervently hoping will be the end of George W. Bush and the extreme right wing ideologues that have our government in their grip. We then went deeper and talked soberly of whether a change in Administration will be a fundamental change in how America behaves in the world, a topic I will have more to say about below.

As for Shannon Airport, I quickly realized I had more to learn about the issue than I had to tell the Irish. I arrived in Ireland woefully uninformed about the degree to which the Bush Administration’s thirst for war has enveloped the Republic of Ireland, supposedly a neutral country, in war- and occupation-making. This was not unlike my visit to Japan for MFSO last September in which I learned how the power of the United Sates was corrupting Article 9 of the “peace constitution” of the Japanese people, and that Japan was thus being faced with sending its Self Defense Forces overseas (to Iraq) for the first time since World War II. For a person reasonably familiar with the realities of American power, I had much to learn in both Ireland and Japan about the extent to which the push to war on Iraq was steamrolling other friendly countries into the so-called “coalition of the willing.”

From my new Irish friends I learned that over 125,000 American troops passed through Shannon in the past year along with their weapons and U.S. warplanes. Not surprisingly, the government of Taoiseach (Prime Minister) Bertie Ahearn at first denied the use of Shannon for these purposes but had to admit the truth when peace activists like the Pitstop Ploughshares went to Shannon on February 3, 2003 and acted to disarm an American warplane. Twelve days later on February 15, during the largest global expression of anti-war feeling in world history, over 100,000 Irish citizens demonstrated in Dublin against the war. That was an astounding turnout in a country of 3.2 million people, proportionally equivalent to 8.7 million Americans turning out for a single demonstration.
The turnout stunned the Ahearn government, but it has shown that it is not without resources or will to respond. Since the Dublin peace march the Ahearn government has followed suit with George Bush in clamping down on the civil liberties of its citizens in order to suppress anti-war activists. The government no longer allows the posting of placards in public areas to announce public assemblies (they used to be okay if they were removed within three days after the event). More insidiously, it has banned peace activists from entering County Clare where Shannon Airport is located, including one person whose home is in County Clare.

It was a terrific trip for me but also a sobering one. As I traveled I read the new book by Kevin Phillips entitled American Dynasty, which is mainly about the rise and consolidation of the “military-intelligence-industrial complex” over the past 100 years. That “complex” has become a scourge upon our nation and the world, driving us into numerous wars that principally served the business interests of its powerful members, although the American people’s complacency in accepting the spoils of these wars does not go without mention. Phillips carefully unpacks the complicated history that has left us facing precisely the deep peril that President Dwight D. Eisenhower warned against as he left office in 1961 in what has come to be called his “Cross of Iron” speech. While the book shows how the Bush and Walker families (as in “George Herbert Walker Bush,” the U.S. President from 1989 to 1993) have for over four generations been at the center and the apex of this complex, the deeper lesson of the book is that America as a democracy has been deeply wounded by these sinister powers-that-be, and that these powers persist whether or not we have a Republican or a Democratic Administration. This sadly is also what I was learning from my Irish friends. We had long and deep discussions about the human and ecological ravages of a misdirected globalization led by the United Sates and the multinational corporations that provide the mother’s milk of our politics.

So this is what we talked about in Ireland. I said to them, “The best friend that you can have in the world is the one who tells you what you do not want to hear – so please be a friend to America and stand up firm and strong against this Iraq war and occupation.” I said, “America is precisely the wrong broker for bringing peace and stability to Iraq, and so we need your help to get our troops home now.”
They agreed with me, but then they said back to me, “It is about more than standing up against this or that war that is sponsored by America; it is about joining with an international grassroots opposition to war and the exploitation of the earth that could lead to the demise of our species within this century.” So it has become for them and me a matter of acting to give our grandchildren a chance to have grandchildren of their own.

It has become a matter of standing up to the religious fundamentalists in our nation at the base of the George W. Bush Republican Party who are inclined to look forward to the end of the world, not to work against it. It has become a matter of learning about new movements such as the World Social Forum that brings together grass roots peace and justice activists not only to oppose the worst aspects of globalization but also to discover a way to a sustainable future. At the last World Social Forum they endorsed a worldwide demonstration against war and occupation on March 20, and the Irish peace activists are working hard to hold up their end of that, but they know it goes deeper and further than bringing people into the streets on March 20.

So at the end my trip to Ireland for MFSO was a life-changing experience for me. My conversations with Irish peace activists, layered over by the Phillips book, have led me to a new dedication of effort and time and treasure to saving the planet for future generations. It has become nothing less than that for me.

Shortly after arriving home I heard the very good news that my stepson John had been sent home from Iraq and is out of there for good. Soon he will return to the states and finish out a 20-year military career. The immediate danger for him is over. Yet as much as I rejoice in that news, I cannot help but know after my trip to Ireland that the danger to him and his children still exists. It is not a danger from this particular war, but it is the proclivity to war, one could even say the imperative of war at the heart of our culture, and it is the ruinous exploitation of the earth for profit that threatens the future of his family and the human family. This is where I must next carry the struggle. With the grassroots of this earth, may we prevail in that struggle.

Recently, I had the occasion to go on retreat with my church where at some point we were all asked to provide an image of how we see ourselves. I could not think of anything other than a simple prayer, a few words for the future. Now, after being a part of that lovely evening in Dundalk, Ireland when those present shared song and poetry to encourage one another in their peacemaking, I have become bold enough to share this short reflection with my MFSO family and other friends who may read it.

Let me be a light of peace in this world.
Let me find a way to kindle opposition to war
without taking on the aspects of war.
Call me to a way of peace that calls us back to You.
May I be a light on the path
that lies before my grandchildren.
May they see through me a future of goodness
wherein their lives become a light for generations to come.
Be the Being and the All of all my being.
This I pray in Jesus’ name.

Or in the name of Allah, or in the name of YHWH, or the Buddha, or even just in the name of our poor, fractured and failing humanity. However it is said, however conceived at the heart of our Common Creation, from my journey in Ireland I bring this message of encouragement to light a new way. Blessings to all, and may all the troops come home soon!

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With Eamon McCann in Derry, the north of Ireland.

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Relaxing in a Belfast pub after a day of working for peace.

References:

Irish Anti-War Movement, http://irishantiwar.org/index.adp; thanks go especially to my host Kieran Allen.
Eamon McCann, see http://www.irishnews.com/civilrights/civil11.html
Denis Halliday, see http://www.salon.com/people/feature/2002/03/20/halliday/
The Pitstop Ploughshares, see http://www.geocities.com/pwdyson/pitstop.html
National Catholic Reporter carried a good article of the World Social Forum, http://ncronline.org/NCR_Online/archives2/2004a/022704/022704a.php

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Remarks to Society of Environmental Journalists

Society of Environmental Journalists
June 22, 2014
Carnegie Mellon University

Remarks for opening panel
J. Stephen Cleghorn, PhD
Paradise Gardens and Farm

I come to you an organic farmer, my face still red from some difficult hay-making this past week, and a PhD in Sociology from a former career. The PhD accounts for the scientific perspective from which I have researched this fracking issue, reading the industry’s case for it, reading the extensive case against it.

I started in 2009 with an open mind as to the possibility that this drilling could be done responsibly and might even do some good. I have now reached the firm conclusion, based on reams of scientific studies and the good reporting people in this room have done, that it cannot be done responsibly given major gaps in knowledge about current impacts and long-term risks of irreparable harm to groundwater sources.

The facts that support a stop to this kind of drilling, the hundreds of medical studies piling up, the documented cases of water and air pollution everywhere this industry exists, are being effectively suppressed by the PR juggernaut of the powerful gas industry, backed up by political operatives in my state like my Senator Joseph Scarnati who do the industry’s bidding.

Beyond the political chicanery in which this issue is embedded, I’ve been studying “anthropogenic climate disruption” and come to understand how precious little time we have to change our ways of energy production and consumption. ExxonMobil rosily predicts we will have a gusher of fracked oil and gas to power our lives through year 2040. Only problem is, that will yield a 4 degree Centigrade increase in our planet’s temperature, and then all bets are off as to who or what survives among species living now, including us.

To echo a famous pro-gas campaign: “Think about it.” How crazy is it to be projecting 40 years of fossil fuel development when we only have two decades, scientists tell us, to get off fossil fuels and onto renewable energy sources?

Think about it! There are 7,000+ drilled wells in PA alone, and those are just the beginning of a planned 150,000, because the gas industry is planning, across populated areas and forests, an industrial overlay of 5-acre well pads, compressor stations, midstream facilities, eight (8) or more wells drilled per square mile, thousands of new miles of gathering and trunk pipelines, hundreds of thousands of tons of toxic pollutants wafting through our air and settling on our farms and in our lungs, millions of gallons of waste (flowback from the toxic shale) generated that has to be disposed of somewhere (they are making that up as they go along), leaving behind in the shale more than a ton of chemicals per acre, many of those secret, proprietary chemicals that they are not required to disclose, leaving behind those 150,000 well bores, half of which will have their steel and concrete crack and deteriorate within 30 years according to their own studies, creating open passageways for methane gas and radon (the number two cause of lung cancer) and who knows what else from the shale to get into the cracks and crevices below us and find its way to where we live on the surface, to invade our groundwater aquifers before we realize it, causing thousands of people to drink, before they know what hit them, water that shortens their life, and the lives of their animals, and all of this happening across one-half the land mass of Pennsylvania, the big companies taking their profits and abandoning the scene as soon as the gas stops flowing (on most wells less than 5 years), leaving behind the worst of the problems to be cleaned up at the cost of the public treasury.

The gas industry likes to say that we who oppose fracking are emotional people, trying to scare people, ignoring science. Every part of that long sentence you just heard has credible science behind it. As filmmaker Josh Fox has said, “It is the science that frightens us.”

So, yes, I am here as a tiny organic farmer worried about his goats with fracking bearing down on my farm. That’s true; I am worried about my goats. But I’m worried about a lot more than that in speaking with you today.

There is a major human rights story unfolding before us, an environmental justice story about people who cannot flee the gas fields and must accept the consequences, about pristine forests being ruined, about a gas industry that has the audacity to place an industrial grid across half the populated landmass of PA.

The boosters of fracked gas rush ahead with no scientific consensus, no proof that what they are putting down the well bores will not come back up from a mile down. They trust their models, but really they are just tossing the dice.

Talk about health impacts! You know what makes me sick right now? Stories like the one we read this past week where two retired PA Department of Health workers revealed that they were ordered to suppress complaints of health problems, given cheat sheet of buzzwords – “like fracking, gas, soil contamination” – and instructed by higher-ups not to talk with people who used those words. It makes me sick that we have no official health registry in this state to track health problems where fracking is happening. My Senator Joe Scarnati and others killed it, said $2 Million was too expensive, said not to worry, that the Department of Health would be collecting those data. Now we learn that PA DOH is deep-sixing that data. That excellent State Impact article also stated: “The Department of Health confirmed that all complaints related to natural gas drilling are sent to the Bureau of Epidemiology where they are logged in a database.” Someone out there among you listening to me now needs to figure out how to get that database into the public record before it is destroyed.

This is a human rights issue. Future generations born into a world that is not sustainable because of climate change, isn’t that the greatest of health impact imaginable?

This is not just about drilling coming to my farm, not a NIMBY story. The entire world is our common back yard. One of tomorrow’s sessions is entitled The ABCs of Hydraulic Fracturing. I’ll tell you what those are: Fracking is an Aggressive Belligerent Cachexia (a wasting disease) afflicting the body politic. Whether it is community rights, our rights of clean water and clean air, our politics corrupted by fracking money, or our right to pass on a sustainable planet to future generations – with fracking we are seeing the same result we see when cancer acts to destroy the human body.

American poet Wallace Stevens once wrote, “After the final ‘no’ there comes a ‘yes’/And on that ‘yes’ the future world depends.” The fossil fuel industry plans 40 more years of “No” to the life, health and well-being of future generations by saying “No” to making the change to renewables.

I want to be part of the generation that says “Yes” to life for innumerable generations out.

A little over 40 years ago the people of Pennsylvania said a resounding “Yes” in 61 words of the Pennsylvania constitution: “The people have a right to clean air, pure water, and to the preservation of the natural, scenic, historic and esthetic values of the environment. Pennsylvania’s public natural resources are the common property of all the people, including generations yet to come. As trustee of these resources, the Commonwealth shall conserve and maintain them for the benefit of all the people.”

Of late our Department of Environmental Protection, under the past two Administrations – Democrat and Republican – and more than likely the next one, too – have been saying a resounding “No” to those 61 words by “We the People.” It is a crying shame that DEP works in a building named after Rachel Carson. Were she alive today, she’d be on a ladder chiseling her name off of there.

Thank you for having me. God bless and Godspeed in your endeavors. And God knows you’ll need all the speed you can muster to get in front of this industry, to tell the truth, the whole truth so that it can be stopped before it’s too late.

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For Army Sgt. Sherwood Baker, lest we forget

“On the Wings of a Lie”
- for Army Sgt. Sherwood Baker

I am saddened today by the new Iraq crisis. Sad to witness the spectacle of thousands of Iraqi refugees on the move again. And mass murders taking place. It sickens my heart.

Sickening, too, are all the “neoconservatives” like Dick Cheney coming out of the woodwork with other neocons to beat the drum for more war. At least this time the public seems to be rejecting their advice.

In light of all that, I feel compelled to post today a speech I gave at the National Press Club on March 6, 2003, a week before the neoconservatives’ war started. I have refreshed some of the links (so that readers today can access them) to articles I had been reading back then from the Atlanta Journal-Constitution and Truthout and other sources. Jay Bookman in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution had nailed down the true reasons for the war well before it began, even while the New York Times was buying into “aluminum tubes” that could be fashioned into weapons of mass destruction (WMD). If you have not read Bookman’s article before, written in 2002, I highly recommend you link to it and read.

History is essential.

We knew before the war started that it was being launched for ideological reasons and with a big lie about weapons of mass destruction at its heart. We knew what Secretary Colin Powell says he did not know (or chose not to reveal, some say) that fateful day he made the case for war at the United Nations. We knew before that UN presentation that information he was using about WMD came from an Iraqi defector who wanted war and whose “information” was completely fabricated and discredited. People all over the world knew that, but still our Secretary of State said he did not know that at the time, and he said what he said to convince the American people that war was necessary.

Today I think of a friend I came to know in Military Families Speak Out. Her name is Celeste Zappala, whose 30-year old son Sherwood Baker was killed in Iraq on April 24, 2004 while searching for those nonexistent WMD as part of the Iraq Survey Group. Not too long afterwards President Bush was telling jokes at the Correspondents Dinner in D.C. about not being able to find WMDs in the Oval Office. (President Bush’s jokes about WMD begin at the 5:05 mark of this video – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GvliUuXjbL4) Imagine how Celeste felt that the whole issue of WMDs that had killed her son had become a laughing matter in such a short time, and that all those Washington dignitaries were laughing out loud as they finished their desserts.

So I dedicate the re-posting of this article in the memory of Sherwood Baker, and in deep grieving for 4,485 other American soldiers who lost their lives in Iraq.

On the Wings of a Lie
National Press Club
March 6, 2003

I am also very troubled by the way Bush officials have tried to justify this war on the grounds that Saddam is allied with Osama bin Laden or will be soon. There is simply no proof of that, and very time I hear them repeat it I think of the Gulf of Tonkin resolution. You don’t take the country to war on the wings of a lie.  — Thomas Friedman, New York Times, 2/19/03

Of course the people don’t want war. But after all, it’s the leaders of the country who determine the policy, and it’s always a simple matter to drag the people along whether it’s a democracy, a fascist dictatorship, or a parliament, or a communist dictatorship. Voice or no voice, the people can always be brought to the bidding of the leaders. That is easy. All you have to do is tell them they are being attacked, and denounce the pacifists for lack of patriotism, and exposing the country to greater danger. — Herman Goering at the Nuremberg trials

And everywhere the good prepare for perpetual war
And let their weapons shape the plan
The way the hammer shapes the hand
– from Casino Nation by Jackson Browne

I stand here today as a member of Military Families Speak Out. We are mothers and fathers, sons and daughters and other relatives of military men and women on active duty who will be in harm’s way if the United States launches an illegal and immoral first strike war against the people of Iraq.

I have two points to make today. The first has to do with feelings about my stepson. The second has to do with the true roots of this proposed war with Iraq.

My stepson is in the U.S. Army and will be a participant if this war is launched. I am of course concerned about his safety. While he will be assigned command and control duties in Kuwait in support of ground combat troops, away from front lines, he still may find himself under attack with biological or chemical weapons, and may be carrying one of those defective suits we have been talking about today.

But even more than that, deeper than that, I am concerned about the defective mission upon which President Bush is sending him. (i) His dedication to country is being abused by a President hell-bent on an unjustified, unnecessary and – it is fair to say – a triumphalistic religious war being waged by a fundamentalist Commander in Chief who seems to believe he is on God’s own mission to save the world from the evil doers and heathen.(ii)

So I am concerned that this patriotic young man willing to sacrifice for his country, along with many other honorable soldiers, will see his military career squandered and corrupted.

I am also concerned because I know — from the evidence of history, from the past Gulf War and the slaughter of 400-1,500 women and children at the Amariyah bomb shelter in Baghdad – that if we go to war in Iraq, the loss of innocent civilian lives will be high and horrific, and that our government will never tell us the whole truth about that. They are basing this war on a big lie that Iraq threatens us now, and they will surely lie as to its consequences for the innocent.

However, the soldiers in the area will know what they have done. They will see it with their own eyes, or they will see it in the eyes of their fellow soldiers.

So I pray every day. I pray for my son’s safety, for his family, his wife and three children. I pray for the safety of Iraqi children and their families. I pray that this war can be averted. I cry out to God to grant all these prayers, because I fear that my son, if this war goes forward, may carry in his heart for the rest of his natural life the burden of innocent lives he helped to destroy. And he has such a good heart.

That’s my first point. Secondly I want to say there is something I fear for more than the dangers our soldiers face from a government throwing them into a war with faulty equipment.

My deepest fear is for America, as we have known it, as it has been handed down to us and protected and defended by people like my father and many millions who fought a true threat of tyranny in World War II. I fear for America and its hard-won democracy, its precious freedoms, because our government has been seized by far right zealots who wish to impose upon the rest of the world what they call a “benevolent global hegemony.” They won’t call it “empire” because that’s not good PR. (iii)  They are zealots who are willing to run roughshod over American freedoms to get their way. They are willing to push aside the Constitution and the Bill of Rights if necessary to achieve their agenda. They are right now cooking up Patriot Act II – which as an executive order, not even a law, could strip any one of us of our citizenship and send us into a “disappeared” status as terrorist sympathizers if the Attorney General decides to call us such. (iv)

When they were out of power these people pushed their ideas though a think tank called the Project for the New American Century. The white papers of that think tank have formed the basis of our current national security policy that calls for a worldwide “constabulary” role for the American military. It was within the Project for the New American Century that the doctrine of pre-emptive war was first hatched.

Who are they? They are Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld, Paul Wolfowitz, Richard Perle, and Jeb Bush, among others – and of course George W. Bush, although he is not the leading intellectual light of this group by any means. To these we can add a bevy of Iran-Contra principals who participated in illegal acts and human rights abuses in Central America: Admiral Poindexter, who sits in the Pentagon still working to launch fully a Total Information Awareness Program to watch over us all (v); Elliott Abrams, also of the New American Century group, whose professional contempt for and assault upon human rights has earned him a position inside President Bush’s inner circle ; and even our ambassador to the UN, John Negroponte (vii). These are people willing to destroy the UN to get their way. They are willing to destroy historic alliances, bribe and coerce small nations, and do whatever else is needed to achieve a war in Iraq that will set the terms for their New American Century.

I’ll tell you this. It outrages and saddens me that my son and many others are being called to duty to carry out the agenda of these right wing zealots, and I will not stand by silently and let that happen. It outrages me that as they are thrown into harms way they are being told to duct tape the cracks in their suits. It saddens me that fear has gripped our land to the point we are asked to duct tape ourselves into our homes and cower there.

I share the view of an Italian peace activist who said on February 15 “You fight terrorism by creating more justice in the world.” For me that starts with fighting this unjust war, and the fight will not end until we have removed from power the people who are ruining my beloved America.

i.  See “13 Myths About the Case for War with Iraq http://www.alternet.org/story/15305/thirteen_myths_about_the_case_for_war_in_iraq  which provides multiple links to credible sources that question whether the case has been made that Iraq/Hussein and al-Qaeda are connected.
ii, See “Of God, and Man, in the Oval Office” http://www.informationclearinghouse.info/article1793.htm by a bishop of President Bush’s Presbyterian denomination
iii. On these points see the excellent analysis by Jay Bookman of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, who has traced the roots of war in Iraq back to The Project for the New American Century: “The President’s Real Goal In Iraq” http://www.informationclearinghouse.info/article2319.htm and “An Empire By Any Other Name” http://site.www.umb.edu/faculty/salzman_g/Strate/Discus/2002-10-10Bookman.htm And “Of Gods and Mortals and Empire” by William Rivers Pitt at https://groups.yahoo.com/neo/groups/NatNews/conversations/topics/27951
iv. See “Ashcroft Out of Control” by Nat Hentoff http://villagevoice.com/issues/0310/hentoff.php;
or see “In the Time of Disappeared People Patriot II means Permanent National Emergency” http://www.blackcommentator.com/31/31_commentary_2.html; see also the brief on Patriot Act II at the EPIC website http://www.epic.org/privacy/terrorism/patriot2.html
v. See http://civilliberty.about.com/library/weekly/aa011603a.htm; while Congress has acted to curb TIA, there remains a means for President Bush to fund it, and to my knowledge Poindexter is still at work on TIA>
vi. See “The Return of Elliott Abrams” at http://www.tompaine.com/feature.cfm/ID/6895
vii. See “Iran-Contra Men Return to Power” at http://www.theguardian.com/world/2001/aug/20/usa.duncancampbell

 

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Public testimony on EPA’s proposed new rule regards carbon pollution

This is my revised testimony to the EPA’s proposed new rule to limit carbon pollution, sent via the League of Women Voters’ (LWV) appeal to write in support of the rule. While the newly announced plan to cut carbon emissions is good in principle, it is weak in execution (for example, takes too long) and ignores the impact of methane emissions from fracking for shale gas, not to mention the carbon bomb of tar sands extraction that has not yet been ruled out, and so I revised the LWV public testimony as follows, in bold:
+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Dear Administrator McCarthy:

Good luck with this new rule, but until the President and EPA stop supporting the pumping of massive amounts of methane into the atmosphere with your support for shale gas drilling, I cannot really believe you are serious about halting global warming.

I do strongly support the EPA’s effort to limit industrial carbon pollution from all power plants, but only because I support even timid attempts at saving the planet for succeeding generations.

The new proposed standard to limit greenhouse gases from existing power plants is an important step in the fight against climate change.

Power plants contribute 40% of the carbon pollution in the United States making them the largest contributor of carbon emissions and the chief cause of climate change. This new clean air standard will protect public health, fight climate change, and create jobs through innovation in cleaner, safer energy technology. At the same time methane emissions from fracking put a more potent greenhouse gas into the atmosphere and undercut completely the gains being made to reduce carbon emissions.

It’s our moral obligation to put people before polluters. Unfortunately the President is not doing that with the shale and oil and tar sands industries. It is good to address the primary cause of climate change by stopping the unlimited dumping of carbon pollution into our air by power plants, but it is not enough by itself. Reducing the amount of carbon pollution from power plants is a life-saving measure that will protect our children, our nation and the world from the devastating effects of climate change. Now I need to see him halt the massive fugitive emissions of methane from fracking operations.

I stand by the President and EPA in support of this regulation. However, I have not yet concluded that the President has a plan for an affordable, reliable, and sustainable energy system. Sad to say, but true: we live a very far distance from President Obama’s campaign promises to stand up against Big Oil.

Sincerely,

J. Stephen Cleghorn
Paradise Gardens and Farm
2771 Paradise Road
Reynoldsville, PA 15851

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Write In Green Party’s Paul Glover for Governor on May 20th

Want a Complete Moratorium on Fracking? Then Write in Paul Glover for Governor on May 20th

People who have followed my blog know that I wrote in support of John Hanger as the Democratic Party candidate to run against Tom Corbett for Governor. I caught some heat for that, but also had expressions of support, but that is over with and the question is what to do now. After the blitz of Tom Wolf’s TV advertising (and his concurrent meteoric rise in the polls) it became obvious to Hanger that he had no chance, so he backed away from running.

So it may surprise some to read here that I think it now makes sense for the anti-fracking voters of Pennsylvania to write in Green Party candidate Paul Glover’s name on the May 20th primary ballot. It is completely legal and his name is easy to spell. But of course that is not why I am recommending this action for serious discussion amongst us.

“What!?” I hear some saying. “How can Cleghorn go from Hanger to Glover?”

The common thread for me is this: fracking has to be stopped. It cannot be made safe.

I wrote previously that I was pushing Hanger to take that position, which he did not, but then again no other Democratic Party candidate has called for a complete moratorium either. I supported Hanger because he had the toughest, most specific plan to slow down – at least slow down – the gas industry, plus I liked his other progressive positions. No other candidate has yet matched the specifics that Hanger put out there about regulating the drilling. No other one (correct me if I am wrong) has offered as Hanger did to establish an office inside the Governor’s office to handle citizen complaints about fracking. No other candidate has been as specific about his or her renewable energy goals for Pennsylvania.

Paul Glover has been quite specific about what he believes and what he will attempt to do were he to be Governor.  http://www.paulglover.org/governor.issues.html  – even though I would like to see more numbers put to his renewable energy goals, too. I do like his positions, very much so, and I relate to his worldview that small and community-based solutions are best. But is that enough to say we anti-fracking folks should write him in on May 20th?

Here is why I think that makes sense.  Our anti-fracking, pro-clean-and-sustainable-energy, halt-and-reverse-climate-change movement must assert itself in this election. It is time. We need to show the political muscle to make a difference as to who best represents us in Pennsylvania’s highest office for achieving our goals.

Do we?

If we do, then how do we show it at the primary in anticipation of pressuring whichever Democratic Party candidate emerges as the nominee to pay attention to our position?

To me it seems a write-in of Paul Glover at the primary is a way of making tangible the voting power we have. We use that power to go after the Democratic Party nominee in the general election, letting that candidate know that our votes are contingent on that candidate declaring, at a minimum, a halt on all new permits for fracking. What do we have to lose?

The best argument for not doing the write-in is that we do not have the political strength to defeat fracking and we would do better not to advertise that fact.

Another argument is that Paul Glover wants our votes in the primary and the general election and might be offended to be used as a means to an end of moving a Democratic Party candidate toward our objectives. But Glover and I corresponded about that and he is fine with being “used” in that way. His goal is to move the political agenda toward a green economy and he knows that is a long battle with skirmishes along the way.

Of course the usual argument against a third party is that we would be wasting our vote.  We should be focused on selecting the best candidate to defeat Tom Corbett, and one who comes as close as possible to our anti-fracking, pro-renewables position as we can get.

Here is my thinking on that. First, any one of the Democratic Party candidates should be able to defeat Tom Corbett, if all the polls I read about his negatives are correct. It is the Democratic Party’s election to lose at this point. Secondly, I expect that anti-fracking voters are likely to spread their votes over all the Democratic Party primary candidates, and thus the primary will tell us little about our voting strength as a movement if we cannot actually coalesce behind a particular candidate and deliver money, time and votes to that candidate. We have not shown an inclination to coalesce as a movement behind any one candidate. So what do we do when we go into the voting booth to let Democratic Party candidates know we are here as a movement?

I have not been convinced by any of the remaining candidates that one of them is to be preferred over the others in terms of our issue of shutting down fracking and going full-bore on implementing renewable energy. They all look upon fracking as a cash cow for state revenue. Kathleen McGinty is altogether too cozy with the industry, although her credentials on renewable energy development are pretty solid. There is no daylight between Allyson Schwartz and President Obama in their zeal for natural gas production, and she seems to be focused on other priorities besides energy and the environment, which is not helpful in the era of global climate change. Tom Wolf says pretty clearly that he believes that “the Marcellus Shale must be a key component of any plan for Pennsylvania’s future,” and it really bothers me that the man with the most money is leading in the polls. Rob McCord is not as gung-ho in his support of natural gas development, but he does support it, albeit while wanting to place a 10% severance tax on it. There is a rumor that he is on our side for a moratorium, but that same hearsay tells us that he cannot come out for a moratorium because the gas industry would target and crush him, which is probably true enough.

If I were forced to choose at the primary between these four, I would go for McCord because he seems to know Harrisburg and I think he would be the most likely to get the respect of the gas industry and least likely to be bullied or co-opted by them.  But I do not feel compelled to make that decision now because I want McCord and all the rest to know that our anti-fracking movement has some voting power that we can show by writing in Glover on May 20.

Does Paul Glover have a chance to win a race against Corbett for Governor? No, to put it plainly.  Would I cast a vote for Glover in the general election? No. But after all, if we want to lodge a protest vote against the Democratic Party’s candidates who all support fracking, what better time to do that than in the upcoming primary?

Can we even coalesce as a movement behind that? Or would we rather not show (because we fear what it would show) how many votes we have in favor of a complete moratorium and eventual ban on fracking?

I hope at least that we have a conversation about this. If we just keep doing what we are doing now, I guess I will accept that.  There is great value to work that people are doing to pressure all candidates (bird-dogging, etc.) and to knock back onerous gas industry legislation in Harrisburg and Washington. We are having some success at those efforts. But since the day I first spoke up for Hanger my overriding concern has been for our movement to be vocal and transparent about building a political arm to get what we want.

Are we there yet? Is a primary election a vehicle for showing our hand?

Comments and discussion are welcome.

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An Open Letter to BarackObama.com

Here is my open letter to Jon Carson, who sends out fundraising emails from Organizing for America, the President Barack Obama grassroots fundraising machine listed online at BarackObama.com.  OFA wrote begging for more money to push the Affordable Care Act. That’s fine. I signed up for ACA. I’ve even donated to help make it happen. I’ve even donated to help Democratic Party candidates win. But I’m sick of these appeals, especially when OFA makes this ask as though their current campaign to save the push the Affordable Care Act is a defining moment for America.

“In 20 years, when we’re looking back at this defining moment for health care reform, what will you say you did?” – OFA asks.

My response to OFA:

Dear Mr. Carson:

In 20 years I’ll say I resisted President Obama on his misguided “all of the above” energy policy, got arrested trying to stop the Keystone XL pipeline, and spoke out against the President’s ignorant support for fracking. Whether this health care works out or not is not the main thing. ACD (Anthropogenic Climate Disruption) is the main challenge of our times and this presidency, not ACA (the Affordable Care Act). Yes, I have taken advantage of the ACA, but only as I continue to mourn the lack of leadership that caused the failure of the public option, which is what we were promised in the Obama platform during the original campaign; just like he promised that we would be “the generation that finally frees America from the tyranny of oil” yet allows fracking for oil and gas all across this country and more than likely will approve the Keystone XL pipeline to carry the dirtiest oil on the planet.

By end of this September I’ll be on the public option of Medicare, a gift from a more gifted Democratic president of old.  When we have a clean energy path to the future and “Medicare for All,” then we’ll really be able to get excited about our political leadership.

Sincerely,

Stephen Cleghorn

Reynoldsville, PA

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Why I Sent the John Hanger Campaign $100 Today

With the Democratic primary just three months away, the differences between the Democratic Party candidates for Governor are beginning to emerge. The forums are helping to delineate the priorities and specifics of each. While I believe that there are some good choices in the field, and that any of the Democrats (with the exception of Max Myers[1] and Jo Ellen Litz[2]) will be much better for Pennsylvania, for its people, for its environment, and for the Earth’s climate, than another four years of Governor Corbett, I still support John Hanger for Governor. Other progressive agenda items very much matter to me, too, as I have written before, especially single payer healthcare that Hanger supports, but with this post I go back to the related environmental issues of global warming, energy policy and fracking for shale gas. We live in a deteriorating climate and we are causing the rapid extinction of species, perhaps someday our own. So while I squarely support the progressive agenda across a host of issues, I put the sustainability of our planet for life as the top issue for this election cycle and many more yet to come.

Here is the big deal, even more so than me supporting John Hanger. The governor we have for the next four years will come from either the Democratic Party or the Republican Party, so I continue to urge that people get involved and vote Democratic. I cannot be persuaded at this time to enhance the chances of a Corbett victory by voting for the Green Party, much as my own views are in sync with that party’s positions.

Now back to Hanger. I have not heard a compelling argument from anyone in the anti-fracking movement as to why John Hanger cannot make a good governor even though he clearly does not support a general moratorium on shale gas drilling.

I watch as my email and Facebook accounts fill up every day with petitions to protect state parks and forests against fracking, and petitions to outlaw open-aired, plastic-lined and leaky impoundments for fracking waste.  Hanger supports both of these positions. If we get him as governor, we get those policies implemented, or at least a champion in the governor’s office who will resist a Republican legislature that wants to give the forests to the frackers and remove protections for the creatures that live within the forests. Not only that, Hanger was there and largely responsible when the moratorium for state forests was enacted. We also get a governor with a comprehensive set of proposals to regulate much more seriously the shale gas industry, something which the other candidates say they will do without providing as many of the specifics as Hanger has done on his website.

Here is another thing to recommend Hanger. Much of the data we use in the anti-fracking movement that concerns environmental violations and determinations of water contamination by shale gas drilling come out of a system that Hanger put in place at DEP.  He built up the capacity of DEP to inspect well operations and he wants to build it up even more.

Much of the renewable energy capacity we have in Pennsylvania traces back to Hanger’s efforts. Hanger presided over the writing of Pennsylvania’s Climate Action Plan which he is serious about taking off the shelf and making it happen. He is firmly on record as to significant achievable goals for renewable energy.

In addition, Hanger is seeking most of his financing in small contributions from what he calls a “peoples’ campaign.” Some will scoff at that, but it strikes me as much better than Tom Wolf bankrolling all those slick commercials we are seeing these days. So I am sending him another $100 today. I do that not because I “hope” to see him do good things (as I acted on “hope” when I sent contributions to President Obama who promised to stand up to Big Oil), but because I know he has the skills and experience to accomplish good things on energy and environmental issues and his campaign platform is based on specifics, not hopeful rhetoric.

Hanger has said he will not take campaign contributions from gas companies or energy-industry PACs.  He supports public financing and a $5 million limit on spending for the primary portion of the election season. Who else in the Democratic Party field has been as clear on this issue? He will accept limited contributions from personal friends in the energy industry, of which he has made many over his public career.  It is hard to fault him for that.

If John Hanger cannot promise to work for a general moratorium, then at least he is taking steps that could build the case against shale gas drilling to the point that the public will demand a moratorium. One way he will do that is by establishing an ombudsman’s office to receive and investigate citizen complaints about gas drilling. To remind my readers as to what an ombudsman is, here is the definition:  “An official appointed to investigate individuals’ complaints against maladministration, especially that of public authorities.” The ombudsman can take on the DEP leadership and by extension the Governor. Citizens harmed by drilling would have an advocate inside government who could not be ignored.

Have any of the other candidates suggested that they will create a new office for citizen complaints to be received and taken seriously? Correct me if I am wrong, but I have not seen that from anyone else.

Thus today I send the Hanger for Governor Campaign another $100 to go along with the “money-where-my-mouth is” $250 that I sent a while back. That pretty much taps me out on my fixed income for this primary season. If John Hanger succeeds in getting the rank and file of progressive Democrats really involved, he can take it from here without me. Meantime I will wake up every day trying to get the general moratorium on fracking that we need.


[1] My objection to Max Myers is that he is not forthcoming about where he stands on the progressive social issues of women’s rights, reproductive choice, and marriage equality. He does support a moratorium on fracking, but too much in social progress may have to be given up to get to that one objective; his background suggests a man who has a religious agenda for his politics, and we don’t need that.

[2] My objection to Jo Ellen Litz is that she is simply not qualified to be governor and not knowledgeable about core progressive issues, as evidenced in her forum performances; she seems a nice lady, a true civic activist, and a person I might like to know, but not a person to take on the office of Governor.

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