Resist the Iraq War

As the war in Iraq drags into its fifth year, popular dissatisfaction has solidified even while the US political system has shown itself incapable of finding a way out. Recent direct action at the port of Tacoma, Washington aimed at physically blocking the war by blockading the loading of arms onto ships headed to Iraq provides a hopeful alternative to the republicrat paralysis while the bodies pile higher.

It is increasingly absurd to call US involvement in Iraq a “war.” What started as an unprovoked war of aggression — justified based on lies about non-existent weapons of mass destruction and ties to the 9-11 attacks, and really designed to steal Iraqi oil — has devolved into a clumsy occupation in the middle of a complex civil war. It’s a civil war with confusing, shifting fronts — and it is totally unclear what the US regime hopes to accomplish or which “side” US forces are trying to assist. The US fights for the Shiite controlled government, yet against the Shiite death squad controlled by it and the Shiite militias and political parties that make it up. Simultaneously, US forces try to prevent total ethnic cleansing of Sunnis, yet wage a brutal war against a popular Sunni insurgency. The US condemns Iran while aiding Iraqi forces allied with Iran. The contradictions go on and on.

In the end, the US has managed to unite Iraqis around one key conclusion — that the US has utterly destroyed their country through unforgivable incompetence and arrogance and that US forces should get the hell out. As Slingshot goes to press, a hundred thousand Iraqis were in the streets on the anniversary of the fall of Baghdad demanding “US Out!” Iraqi public opinion polls file support for the occupation in the low single digits. So much for being met with flowers. Bush’s reaction is to escalate and add troops.

Four years after the invasion and billions of dollars later, water, electricity, medical care and employment possibilities are grossly worse than they were under Saddam’s regime, even while he was under crippling economic sanctions. The most basic freedom in life — freedom to go outside without being killed — does not exist in Iraq. The US can no longer contend that its forces are “rebuilding” Iraq.

The best way to understand the war at this point is that Bush continues to fight with an eye towards his political “legacy” and not with any real hope that the war can somehow be “won.” Halliburton corporation — VP Cheney’s well connected previous employer — recently declared its job “finished” in Iraq and left the country. When Halliburton leaves, you know that Bush and his cronies have concluded that Iraq is lost.

Bush is now intent on running out the clock — keeping US troops in Iraq until the end of his presidency so that right-wing historians can later conclude that someone other than Bush lost the war. Twenty years from now, you’ll hear the Rush Limbaugh of the future blame the loss of Iraq on the media, on Democrats, on the peace movement — hell, on Jane Fonda! They’ll reason that Bush couldn’t have lost it, because he kept fighting, and troops only withdrew in disgrace after he left office. “It was someone later who pulled the plug . . . .”

The Bush regime cares more about its legacy than millions of Iraqis or tens of thousands of US solders who it has needlessly sacrificed — killed or permanently disabled with traumatic brain injuries, amputations, post traumatic stress disorder, or worse.

The mainstream US political system is broken. While the overwhelming majority of the public has reached the obvious conclusion — that the war is unwinnable and not worth fighting in the first place — this resounding public sentiment is not reflected in the formal institutions of government. The Democrats are too scared of being blamed for losing the war to take any real action to cut the funding. Instead, they debate, delay and set 2008 time-tables — playing right into Bush’s hands — permitting him to delay until he is out of office.

The only hope comes from those not in the halls of power — regular people like folks near Tacoma, Washington. In May, 2006, the Army’s attempt to load armored vehicles onto ships bound for Iraq in Olympia, Washington were met with a prolonged blockade and 40 arrests.

In March, the Army decided to avoid a repeat in Olympia and instead load 1,000 vehicles, including 300 armored Stryker vehicles from the 4th Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division based at Fort Lewis, at the port of Tacoma, a few miles north of Olympia. The army denied their decision had anything to do with the Olympia protests. (“The executive officer of the 833rd Transportation Battalion . . . declined to comment on why the equipment moved through Tacoma instead of Olympia, saying it was classified” according to the Olympian.) The effectiveness of last May’s tactics in Olympia are undeniable.

Tacoma mobilized overnight, organizing a round-the-clock protest at the port that resulted in three arrests. Demonstrators included members of the Tacoma Students for a Democratic Society, recently revived after a 35 year hiatus.

This is by no means the only direct action underway against the war. At least 140 people have been arrested in numerous actions around the country aimed at putting pressure on individual members of Congress. In San Francisco, activists have camped on the street outside House speaker Nancy Pelosi’s house demanding to talk to her about the war — she refused saying “my home is my home.” Huh? Around the country, there have been protests or office occupations against John McCain, Hillary Rodham Clinton, Rahm Emanuel, Marcy Kaptur, David Obey, Richard Durbin and Barbara Mikulski.

You can’t wait for politicians to end a war when they and their wealthy contributors are making money hand over fist off the killed and it is other people’s sons and daughters who are dying. Five years into the war, silence is complicity with the slaughter — only physically confronting the war machine and preventing it from operating can end this war. Bush is escalating the war — it is up to us to escalate the resistance.

Beware the biofuel hype – more tech alone won't build a sustainable world

Humans are at a crucial turning point. Will we choose to live sustainably on this planet or will we pursue the false dream that Americans can continue to drive SUVs if we just apply new technologies? The possibility of “green” technology is seductive. Increasingly, the propaganda machine is pushing biofuels — ethanol and biodiesel — as a magic way to allow everyone to keep driving their Hummers. Yet on deeper examination, if biofuels continue to be developed to the scale necessary to replace even part of the fossil fuels currently used every year, biofuels could end up being far more destructive to the planet than fossil fuels have already been.

Our extremely wasteful lifestyle is based on stored energy from generations of ancient plants which have decayed into coal and oil deposits. If we switch our society’s fuel source over to the living plants of the present, our planet will be rapidly stripped of its ability to support diverse life.

Miguel Altieri observes that “Dedicating all present U.S. corn and soybean production to biofuels would meet only 12 percent of our gasoline demand and 6 percent of diesel demand.” According to a European Union sponsored study, meeting the EU’s target of replacing 5.75% of fossil fuels with biofuels would consume 14-27% of EU agricultural land. This means that to meet the developed world’s voracious appetite for fuel, biofuels will largely be grown in the third world and exported so rich people can drive.

In a world where rich people’s fuel needs compete with poor people’s food needs, starvation caused by fuel-greed is a huge danger. Already, the expanding cropland planted to yellow corn for ethanol has reduced the supply of white corn for tortillas in Mexico, sending prices up 400 percent. This led to food riots in Mexico and peasant leaders at the recent World Social Forum in Nairobi to demand, “No full tanks when there are still empty bellies!” The average fill up of a 25 gallon SUV tank with ethanol will require the same amount of grain as it takes to feed a person for a year. For the US to continue its current rate of consumption, it would take the yearly equivalent of the grain needed to feed 6 billion people, or the entire 1999 world population! (And that’s just for the USA.) Billions of people could starve if we merely switch to biofuels and refuse to change our lifestyle.

Biofuels will also not lesson the total carbon dioxide released into the earth’s environment associated with fuel use. The same amount of CO2 is released by the burning of biofuels as petroleum diesel. The argument that the CO2 taken out of the atmosphere by the growing of biofuel crops will make this carbon “neutral,” ignores the fact that greater amounts of CO2 were removed by the rain forests and peat bogs destroyed by the crop production. According to Biofuel Watch in the UK, “A report by the Dutch consultancy Delft Hydraulics shows that every tonne of palm oil results in 33 tonnes of carbon dioxide emissions, or 19 times as much as petroleum produces. I need to say that again. Bio-diesel from palm oil causes 10 times as much climate change as ordinary diesel.”

The rapid transformation of Indonesia, Borneo, and Malaysia’s rain forests into palm plantations, to provide fuel for first world nations to continue driving our SUV’s, has other great costs. The destruction of this habitat will mean the world’s loss of many beautiful and unique life forms. It could likely mean the extinction of the Orangutan, Sumatran Tigers and Rhinos, Gibbons, Tapirs and Proboscis Monkeys. As the demand for oil crops pushes agriculture into virgin habitat, other natural areas in the world are threatened as well. Rare scrub land habitats and rain-forests in Brazil and Colombia and natural lands in Asia and Africa will survive or fall based on the decisions of first worlders. The effects could also be devastating for the natives peoples around the world who live on and preserve these precious habitats.

The glorified hailing of biofuel crops saving the environment is cynical and dangerous. As giant petroleum companies and Republican leaders get excited about it, our red flags should go up. The proposed deal between British Petroleum and the University of California, at the cost of academic independence, is a frightening turning point. It would divert precious academic resources away from conservation and into a nightmare of genetically engineered crops, human and animal suffering and a public university being used to make profits for a corporation. It replaces the goal of public benefit with private profit.

According to Miguel A. Altieri and Eric Holt-Gimenez, “The only way to stop global warming is to promote small-scale organic agriculture and decrease the use of all fuels, which requires major reductions in consumption patterns and development of massive public transportation systems, areas that the University of California should be actively researching and that BP and the other biofuel partners will never invest one penny towards.”

Hoping that growing our energy needs can solve our problems completely ignores the immense environmental and social toll that industrial agriculture has already had upon the world and the U.S. The “Green Revolution” and the exporting of industrial agriculture to third world nations has turned out to be disastrous. Loss of topsoil, contamination of water and soil and human bodies, loss of successful local crop varieties and destruction of local economies have been the legacy of this “gift.” The initial increases in production quickly faded and the countries were left in debt and committed to agriculture requiring large petroleum using machinery and massive inputs of chemical fertilizers and pesticides.

The same happened in this country with the loss of family farms and large swaths of land being destroyed by petroleum intensive farming. “We’ve already destroyed the prairie, and the topsoil in the Midwest is going, going gone” noted Tad Patzek, UCB professor of Civil and Environmental Engineering. Add to this the dangerously unpredictable consequences of new genetically engineered crops, and one could argue that modern agriculture is the most destructive environmental force on earth.

Industrial Agriculture uses large-scale monocultures and high levels of chemical nitrogen fertilizer, largely responsible for the dead zone in the Gulf of Mexico. Herbicides and pesticides end up in ground and surface water and contain toxic endocrine disrupters. It takes three to four gallons of precious fresh water to create a gallon of ethanol, threatening already strained water supplies. In addition, the creation and use of genetically engineered corn, specially designed for fuel production would surely contaminate corn grown for food. It has been shown clearly, in the brief time GMO corn has been grown, that it cannot be contained.

There are many changes people can make that really will help the world. We must stop relying on personal vehicles and only drive when a car is full of riders. Divert money from roads, parking, and medical expenses from air pollution into public transit systems. Create local economies where jobs, food sources and community are all localized, minimizing commutes and goods transport. Create community and rooftop gardens. Tear up half of the unused streets and plant fruit orchards. Simplify our life styles. Consume less. Travel locally by foot or bike. Vacation in your own home or neighborhood. Find joy in free time and community rather than things.

The solution is not a technological fix. We should know that from living in the age of cancer from the chemical revolution. Think beyond the destructive norms of the TV lifestyle. STOP DRIVING! It is the single most effective way you can personally change the world. The writing is on the wall. You are responsible for suffering every time you choose to get in your car instead of taking the bus or walking or biking.

And once we have quit cars, if we can, our lives will actually beco
me more peaceful, healthful and enjoyable.

For more info check

Walking into connection

I’ve been going on a lot of walks lately, ranging anywhere from half an hour to an entire day, with other people and alone, along city streets and on footpaths through wooded hills. They are as unscheduled as possible and without a specific purpose or goal but rather an attempt to step back from the pressing demands of my day to day life in order to slow down and reconnect to myself and the world.

The Tyranny Of Time And Poverty Of Space

The dominant world view encourages us to see our lives as date books to be filled as efficiently as possible. Since the invention of the mechanical clock, ever busier schedules and ever faster technology have dictated the pace of human civilization. Sped up to an unnatural velocity, people are constantly rushing to or worrying about the next three dozen things they have to do. The result of this is that many are not present in their lives as they are living them. Most people either do not, or feel that they cannot, make time in their lives to experience the world more slowly. This is not just the result of privileged people choosing a fast paced lifestyle; in a world where most people are a paycheck or two away from losing the life that they are accustomed to and dependent on, being able to navigate rapid systems of information and transportation is an issue of survival.

Correspondingly, the way that we interact with space is limited by the constraints of modern life. As people rush through the world, public space is often only considered for its utility, how efficiently it allows people to meet goals that they do not choose; distance is an obstacle to be overcome by ever-quickening modes of transportation and telecommunication. The rich potential of common space becomes impoverished by freeways, parking lots and commercial uses. Movement, sound, light and color are extraneous unless they are being used to promote consumption. Those who are wealthy enough can buy and decorate private spaces to satisfy their aesthetic needs, but for many this ability is severely limited by economic reality. Similarly the enjoyment of being where you are is relegated to brief moments called vacation that are not equally accessible to all and even those who can afford them often find they are not fulfilling. All of this leads to a sense of isolation from self and environment that is endemic to the civilized world.

This disconnectedness is as prevalent among radicals and activists as it is among the population at large. An awareness of how deeply the world is broken and how much suffering is happening everyday often compels people to take on more and more for the Cause, to martyr themselves for the sake of an ideal. People often become so overextended that they burn out when they realize revolution is not imminent; disconnected from themselves and those around them, they are no longer a part of the world they are trying to save. Is it any wonder that when people attempt to break out of the isolation inherent in late stage capitalism, they often end up recreating systems that are just as isolating?

I find that I am able to feel the most useful when I am connected to myself and engaged in activities that are tied to my life and well-being. Any real sense of liberation can only emerge from people who are struggling to have healthy relationships with themselves and each other, valuing beauty and freedom because they want it in their lives right now, not as abstractions on a sacrificial alter but as real and present forces connected intimately to their own well-being. It is in this context that I so value the opportunity walking gives me to stay connected to myself and the world around me.

Moving Outside Of Time

One of the effects of meandering is the way that it seems to slow down time. Going for a walk, without worrying about an explicit timetable or destination offers me an opportunity to step outside of time in a certain sense. This kind of walking, by definition, happens at a comfortable pace, giving me time to take in all of the things that I am seeing. Allowing my body and mind to fall into the rhythm of a gentle walk is soothing and restorative. I find that it invites thoughts to wander in and out of my head and connect to each other in ways that are impossible when I am frantically trying to think. It is also physically invigorating; we are given these amazing bodies and hardly ever use them. Even an activity as simple as walking allows me to take joy in feeling connected to my body.

Walking also gives me a new perspective on distance, with things simultaneously seeming both closer and farther away. Closer in the sense that they are within walking distance, and farther because getting there is filled with stimuli that is lost when I use a faster mode of transportation. Learning to pay attention to these details, feeling the way that the world is teeming with life and interacting with it is powerful. It is amazing how a butterfly, or dust floating through rays of sunlight, or the earthy smell of decaying trees or even blades of grass bursting through pavement can ground and calm me when I am able to focus on them.

In order to travel this way I try to get places as slowly as possible, using planes and cars as infrequently as I can, opting instead for trains, bikes and my feet. This is not always possible, but when I prioritize planning my life in a way that minimizes the continuous hectic rush that isolates people from each other and their own experiences with the world, I find more opportunities than I would have thought.

Re-Imagining Space

Often the only time that people slow down and pay attention to the world around them is when they are traveling or exploring a new place they have never been before. What I am talking about here is not that exactly but making that sense of awe, presence, and exploration part of the day-to-day experience of life.

The situationists were a group of artists and thinkers in post-war Paris during the years leading up to the student revolts of 1968. They sought to break through the spectacle of commodity culture in order to create situations where revolutionary transformation was possible. One of the practices advocated by the situationists was the dérive [day-reeve]. The dérive was essentially a meandering walk involving several people over the course of a day or two. Participants would roam through the city and attempt to map out (either literally or figuratively) and re-value space based on the way they interacted emotionally with it. This process of psycho-geography was an attempt to change the way that people interacted with the world.

The dérive is compelling because it offers a model for re-imagining the space that we exist in. This can allow us to free ourselves, for a timeless moment, from the definitions assigned by the cold mechanistic utility of the system and allow us to more fully emotionally engage with the world. This process will look completely different for each person or group of persons but contains at its core an overt element of play; it is very much like the unselfconscious way that children interact with the world. For me shopping malls have become (remained) poisonous life sucking places, dumpsters have been re-envisioned as hidden treasure chests, pedestrian walkways between streets as portals between different dimensions of reality and skyscraper-lined avenues as echoing canyons to explore. Each of these appraisals are no less true than the more conventional descriptions, it is only the perspective that has changed, and it is that change in perspective that helps to nurture and sustain the emotionally vivid life that is beaten out of people so consistently.

So whether it is a solitary walk through the fields and rolling hills or a social and imaginative dérive in the heart of an urban center, walking can offer opportunities to escape the bleakness of modern time and space, to connect with and echo the rhythm of the world. I refer to walking specifically because that is wh
at I have been doing, but much of this can apply to any activity that encourages one to slow down and notice themselves and the world around them. This is not to suggest that taking a walk and feeling good about ourselves as we gaze at our navels is a solution to the problems of the world but to point out that taking steps to heal ourselves and remain connected to each other and the world is crucial if anything else we do is going to matter.

Slingshot intro – issue #94

Slingshot is an independent, radical, newspaper published in Berkeley since 1988.

Sometimes travelers who’ve seen our Organizer and paper all over the place visit our collective expecting to find some kind of huge, well organized, experienced group and they’re rather surprised to find out how tiny and rag-tag we are — a cluttered office, antique equipment and sometimes only three or four people at meetings keeping things going.

The gap between what people think about our project and the reality causes a problem for us — people treat us like we’re an institution that magically provides “services” and they’re passive consumers. In this model, the consumers may wonder why we’re not providing more quality service, never stopping to think that perhaps behind the Slingshot Wizard of Oz are a few volunteers barely keeping up with the orders.

For example, a number of folks have written us recently saying our cover art on recent projects wasn’t so good. Our response: PLEASE create a cover and send it to us! The only way we get covers is if someone draws ’em — we have no consistent artists in our collective nor a pool of artists. Since we don’t pay anyone (including ourselves), it is hard for us to find everything from art to articles.

And yet we keep publishing! To make this issue, people came out of the woodwork from everywhere at the last minute to work hard and make the issue a reality. It was as if a secret “underground collective in hiding” briefly surfaced. Doing this project is one of the funnest and most inspiring moments in our lives — there’s a huge sense of community and shared creativity up in our tiny loft.

Recently local paper Faultlines questioned whether it is worth it to still be doing a print publication in the internet era. They noted grimly the number of publications that went under recently and admitted the long gap between issues nearly put them on that list. One thing that drained and helped destroy morale for their project was trying to raise the funds needed to regularly publish. We are by no means immune from similar dilemmas.

As soon as we finish this issue, we’re going to scramble to make the 2008 Organizer so we can pay for the paper. Please send us your suggestions for dates, radical contact listings, DIY features for the back, or anything else you want to see in the Organizer. The deadline is July 31. It should be out around October 1.

Slingshot is always looking for new writers, artists, editors, photographers, translators, distributors & independent thinkers to make this paper. If you send something written, please be open to being edited.

Editorial decisions are made by the Slingshot collective, but not all the articles reflect the opinions of all collective members. We welcome debate and constructive criticism.

Thanks to all who made this: Astrogirl, Aunt B’s Catering, Eggplant, Glenn, Hefty Lefty, Hunter, kathryn, Molly, PB, Rachel & Terri.

Slingshot New Volunteer Meeting

Volunteers interested in getting involved with Slingshot can come to the new volunteer meeting on Sunday, August 19 at 4 p.m. at the Long Haul in Berkeley (see below).

Article Deadline and Next Issue Date

Submit your articles for issue 95 by September 15, 2007 at 3 p.m.

Volume 1, Number 94, Circulation 16,000

Printed April 19, 2007

Slingshot Newspaper

Sponsored by Long Haul

3124 Shattuck Ave. Berkeley, CA 94705

Phone: (510) 540-0751 •

Circulation Information

Slingshot is free in the Bay Area and is available at Long Haul and Bound Together Books (SF), plus lots of other places. Subscriptions to Slingshot are free to prisoners, low income and anyone in the USA who has a Slingshot organizer, or cost $1 per issue. International is $2.50 per issue. Back issues are available for the cost of postage. National free distribution program: Outside of the Bay Area, we’ll mail a stack of free copies of Slingshot to distributors, infoshops, bookstores and random friendly individuals for FREE in the US if they give ’em out for free.

Circulation Information

Slingshot is free in the Bay Area and is available at Long Haul and Bound Together Books (SF), plus lots of other places. Contact us or come by if you want to distribute Slingshot for free in the Bay Area.

Subscriptions to Slingshot are free to prisoners, low income and anyone in the USA who has a Slingshot organizer, or cost $1 per issue. International is $2.50 per issue. Back issues are available for the cost of postage. National free distribution program: Outside of the Bay Area, we’ll mail a stack of free copies of Slingshot to distributors, infoshops, bookstores and random friendly individuals for FREE in the US if they give ’em out for free.

Back issue Project

We’ll send you a random assortment of back issues for the cost of postage: send us $2 for 2 lbs or $3 for 3 lbs. Free if you’re an infoshop or library. Or drop by our office. Send cash or check to Slingshot to: Slingshot 3124 Shattuck Ave. Berkeley, CA 94705.

Letters to Slingshot


I was just reading the “Urban Harvesting” story in issue 93 and decided to share some information.

Your article referenced wanting to learn how to can produce, so I thought I’d share a great resource with you- the Ball Blue Book of Preserving. It’s printed by Ball, the can manufacturer, and is absolutely marvelous. I think it cost $7. Most of the recipes are vegan, and are very easy to follow. These recipes are great because Ball has figured out the ratios of acids necessary to help preserve foods, so you end up with very few fermented cans. The recipes include salsas, jams, pickles, canned fruit- everything you could imagine. The cans (glass jars) can be purchased for less than a dollar each, and can be reused forever. The only thing you need to continue to purchase is the lids, which cost less than 10 cents.

The canning process is relatively easy, and you only need a pressure canner for low acid foods. For things like jam and tomato sauce you can can in a normal cooking pot. The book outlines everything, and is focused towards the low budget DIYer– maybe initially directed at an audience other than punk kids– but the ideas remain the same, and if you ever need to learn how to can squirrel– this is your resource– ha-ha.

Another great resource for food to can is your local farmers’ market. This past summer I was without a garden, so I purchased tomatoes from the market- I bought around 40 pounds, and they charged me something like $1.50 a pound for local, organic heirloom tomatoes. I cooked these down into sauce, and canned around 20 or so jars of tomato sauce- no buying shitty store bought sauce all winter! This would work even better if the tomatoes came from your own garden, as they would be free. What a great way to insure the quality of your food, and remove the necessity of relying on exploitation of factory workers to help you eat through the winter.


This is a response to “Put That Bottle Down” by Magnolia in issue 92.

The reason to filter your tap water, even in areas that do a good job of providing supposedly good water, is that the water agencies add chemicals to the water. There is virtually nothing you can do about fluoride, because it takes a special filter to get rid of it, and because filtering it would also filter minerals which, if not present, would cause the water to leach them out of your body. Fluoride is a waste product of the aluminum industry, which convinced the government to add it to water so they could sell it instead of paying to have it hauled to toxic waste dumps. It is inconclusive whether fluoride helps with tooth decay (, but fluoride can cause osteoporosis and other medical problems. It should be avoided if possible, but the only way to do so is to buy spring water, which means consuming those environmentally destructive plastic bottles, which also are not healthy to drink from. Such is the dilemma of an environmentalist who wants to avoid ingesting chemicals!

However, in order to prevent cholera, East Bay MUD and San Francisco add chloramine to their water. Chloramine is a combination of chlorine and ammonia, but is much longer lasting than chlorine and does not smell anywhere near as much. For those who do not wish to ingest any more chemicals than we can reasonably avoid, filters that take the chloramine out of the water — they don’t all do, you have to check — are a good option. Depending on how much water you use, filters generally last one year, so you don’t have to consume a bunch of plastic bottles, just one replacement filter yearly.

There are many misconceptions about drinking water and bottled water, due both to the lies in advertising and to people’s priorities in what they wish to avoid or don’t care about avoiding. I just hope this clears some of those up.



i noticed that in this year’s planner (2007) you commemorated march 24, 1918 as the date that Canadian women won the right to vote. This is only partially accurate, and i thought it was important to clarify. 1918 applied only to non-indigenous women, and even then, only on a federal level, not provincially. Non-indigenous women still could not vote in the eastern provinces/territories (the Maritimes) and northern provinces/territories until 1922, and non-indigenous women in Quebec could not vote until 1940. First Nations women finally won the right to vote in the 1960s. i am not sure of any exact days, but i could find out for y’all if you’re interested.

Anyway, thanks for all your work, and for the planner. Its great. Have a lovely day.


MR Montreal QC

Native activists resist erasure – sacred sites under attack

Often known for their oral tradition, the Native people of the United States will have many stories to tell of this time, particularly pertaining to their struggles in care taking of the planet. The years of counter revolution these past ten years have pitted a people who live in accordance to the planet, against the forces of unchecked authority eager to obtain complete control of the earth’s resources via corporations and/or government.

A most vivid example can be seen in the recent fight in Arizona to preserve and protect the San Francisco peaks. Native people had a victory March 12th in the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals that reaffirmed the integrity of the peaks as a space sacred to tribes such as the Navajo and the Hopi. They hold the land as a cornerstone for origin myths and a place for renewal and reconnection to the inside worlds. As of now the Forestry Department, who was helping push for development on the peaks, hasn’t decided to appeal, leaving a moment’s respite.

The impetus of the development is itself a result of climate change and how it hampers the insanity of consumer culture. The ski seasons have been growing shorter and shorter compelling the Snow Bowl on Humphrey’s peak to scheme ways to ensure a longer tourist season. The proposal included spreading recycled water from nearby Phoenix, providing the daunting image of shit water being used to build children’s snowmen. The Forestry Department basically proceeded to help the ski resort despite the contradictions that arise from their noting that “the tribes believe that the water, soil, plants and animals from the peaks have spiritual and medicinal properties.” That’s not to imply that skiers don’t derive an at-oneness from doing their thing, but it begs the question, at what price, or rather at whose expense?

The most recent fight coming down the pipe line out west is with the idea to build a Geothermal power plant on Medicine Lake in Northeastern California. This bright idea is being pushed by the Calpine Energy Corporation who already lost their proposal in the 9th circuit court back in Nov. of 2006. They are seeking an appeal but the people opposed to it held a protest April 6th 2007 in front of the Department of Justice. Around 150 people showed up delivering the message for the DOJ to respect the 9th Circuit ruling, and are asking that they do not file the appeal. If there is a retrial and the natives lose, they will have to take their case to the supreme court.

On the surface Geothermal may seem to be a practical solution to an American populace soon to be hung up on energy crisis and climate change. Often touted as a Green Energy for it’s neutral carbon emissions, this tag line may be soon magnified in the American imagination and thus legitimize pushing it through. But simple entreaties such as curbing energy use or enforcing corporate accountability has a tendency to get buried under during times of heated public debate.

The Geothermal plant is being sold to the public as a “Green” energy source, without any of the contentiousness being revealed. They include the surrounding area being clear-cut to build toxic slump ponds, roads, pipelines, cooling towers and the tallest building in Northeastern California. The building would be fully lit and generating noise around the clock. This will disturb the present natural harmony as well as create a blemish in what native people consider to be a citadel. The Geothermal plant would have to drill 9,000 ft. into the earth extracting hot water or steam from the earth’s crust. The run-off from this process could taint the near by water supply with a variety of toxins. Most notable among them is arsenic, mercury, and hydrogen sulfide. The water supply of Medicine Lake connects to the Pitt River which flows into the Sacramento River, which then flows into the Bay of San Francisco. The hard question not being posed could be; do we have lights and computers running on while not being used, or do we have drinkable water?

Both court victories are promising but stand on unstable ground. When the 9th circuit ruled against Calpine’s proposal the Bureau of Land Management, who was helping push forward the plan, stated to the Pitt River Tribes that they would not appeal the decision. Then without notice to those tribes they filed an appeal. Native people have learned to not believe what they are told by the federal government and saw little out of character from such a maneuver. But the fact that the Forestry Department is a stake holder in both the San Francisco Peaks and Medicine Lake should caution us that the plans will not be easily put to bed. Another factor is that the laws today have little regard for the protection for Native American sacred spaces.

While considering the treatment of the first nation people one encounters the most naked discrimination. People like Native Hawaiians were forbidden to even teach their language as late as the 1970’s. The right to practice ancient ceremonies such as sweat lodges were not allowed in prisons until about ten years ago. And around that time debate raged about Native people’s right to use peyote during ceremonies, linking it to the paranoia of the drug war. All of these examples are practices a people have known for thousands of years on this continent and to continue to erase them is to continue in the practice of erasing a people. So it goes when questions of Native people’s sovereignty and acknowledgment of sacred spaces are raised the response is more than slow. Probably because the property centric culture of America can identify with protecting a church or a Starbucks, but can’t see the value of the land as it was before those entities existed.

Americans can greatly benefit from having a belief system that values nature and get off its addiction of profit for profit’s sake. While Native people are hardly asking you to give up technology and live a primitive lifestyle, you could benefit in not being so goddamn wasteful.

As the fight truly comes home and we are faced with compliance with the state sanctioned consumer rat mazes that are in effect open air prisons, or with the totality of life on earth and their various rhythms. The government may not take seriously the petitions of Native People alone, but it will be hard to avoid the demands of a broad range of the populace, in solidarity giving voice issue by issue. Unfettered development locally has threaten the Oak Grove in Berkeley and the Shell Mounds in Emeryville and Vallejo. The potential is here that we too can share in the story to the next seven generations in how we moved decisively and effectively in not spoiling our relation with the earth during this time of transition.

Homes Not Jails Tries Again

Saturday the 7th of April was a good day for the San Francisco community housing rights movement and a bad day for the squat they came together to defend on 23rd and Treat Street in San Francisco’s Mission District. Homes Not Jails, the SF Tenants Union and other groups got together to defend a squat that was evicted in 2003 through the now notorious Ellis Act. The Ellis Act has been used to evict untold numbers of longtime residents to make way for the real estate boom that came with the dot-com wave of silly money, a fragile bubble economy and a wave of speculation seemingly bent on destroying community in its wake before ultimately collapsing. Long time residents of SF like myself have been pushed out by skyrocketing rent and a wave of relatively conservative, ethnically homogenous, technically adept people have changed the social landscape of San Francisco in their wake.

The action began when a number of squatters, including a homeless youth, an activist clergywoman, a member of the housing advocacy group the SF Tenants’ Union, and squatter group “Homes Not Jails” member Ted Gullickson broke into 2065 23rd street and spent the night in the building.

The following day, about 150 people gathered for song, dance and speeches outside the 24th street commuter rail station. The protest sang and chanted its way to the building where the squatters unfurled banners from the second story window demanding the repeal of the Ellis Act and a stop to the eviction of seniors.

“We’re demanding that the city use its legal powers to take over this building, to return the evicted tenants, and to make the units available for affordable housing,” said Gullickson at the rally. “This building has been vacant for about four years at this point. If landlords are going to take our buildings and leave them empty, we’ll just take them back.”

The Ellis Act goes back to 1986 and supposedly exists in order to allow a landowner to go out of the rental housing business. It takes a lot of power away from tenants, where rent control is in effect, and gives the owner a pretext for evicting tenants, who are barred from using defenses like “retaliation” (eviction of a tenant who demands repairs, for example) to protest the eviction. The intent of the law, according to the SF Rent Board User’s Guide is “to allow owners an absolute right to exit the landlord business while holding on to their property.”

Homes Not Jails was founded in 1992, according to their website, “to advocate for the use of vacant and abandoned housing for people who are homeless. With people literally dying on the sidewalks in front of vacant buildings, housing advocates, homeless advocates, and people who were homeless came together to find ways to utilize vacant buildings.” The SF chapter was very active in the 90’s seemingly squatting a property every week, and getting evicted about as often, but they persevered and some people even got to hold on to their buildings. HNJ also operates in Boston and Washington, DC. One of the main challenges that squatters face is being taken seriously by police and being afforded due process.

Many of the same laws that make squatting a viable and even attractive option for activists, new arrivals, young people, immigrants, bohemians and drug addicts in cities like Philadelphia, London, Barcelona and Helsinki also exist in California Law. Essentially, since every tenant is theoretically eligible to a legal eviction procedure, squatters can enter a vacant building illegally, and establish tenancy by living there, receiving mail, renovating the house and paying bills. The onus is then on the property owner to provide a legal framework for eviction. Some owners even allow squatters to remain in return for payment of property taxes or a promise to leave when the building is renovated at a later date. Responsible squatters can be a boon for homeowners, since a vacant house accumulates standing water, rot, mold and is subject to damage from pipes freezing and debris accumulation, especially on the roof, all of which are expensive for the owner and can lead to irreparable damage to the building. The city governments of Helsinki and Trondhiem in northern Europe even recognize that squatters have helped to preserve the architectural history of these cities by preserving buildings that the city government could not afford to preserve by itself.

But San Francisco is not Helsinki, and if the American law is notorious for enshrining private property as holy, dot-com era San Francisco is even harder on people who fall on the wrong side of the class divide. “This wouldn’t be an eviction,” Officer Flagherty told me while overseeing the April 7th eviction. “They don’t have any legal right to be there. There’s a difference between an eviction and people taking over an unoccupied building. That would be trespass.” And trespass, unlike tenancy, IS something that police are legally empowered to resolve on the spot.

The tradition of cops and landowners making judicial decisions leads to heartbreak and homelessness for others as well. Illegal immigrants, legal immigrants with limited knowledge of English, the elderly and the mentally handicapped are all routinely denied their rights as tenants because police are ignorant of the law or simply wish to BE the arbiters of the law. The previous occupants of 2065 23rd Street were elderly longtime SF residents.

Claire, one of the squatters of 2065 23rd street wants to see the passage of Senate Bill SB 464, which she says will make it a lot harder for landlords to evict in order to raise rents. The bill would require an owner to possess a property for at least five years before evoking the Ellis Act, making it harder for business people to buy, evict, renovate and re-rent properties at will.

The last tree standing – coalition support keeps memorial oak grove alive

In an ongoing demonstration of integrity, the Memorial Oak Woodland tree-sit, on the University of California (UC) Berkeley campus, continues amongst 42 threatened mature trees (38 of which are native Coast Live Oaks.) The aim is to preserve the grove’s intricate eco-system from being developed into a “Student Athlete High Performance Center.” Also acting with ongoing diligence is the University of California’s Police Department.

The sit began on December 2nd, when a couple of environmental activists occupied the trees in response to UC plans to develop a 155,000 square foot gymnasium, incurring over $250 million dollars in economic costs. This drive to sacrifice the natural world for financial growth is clearly not an isolated incident, but rather is the result of a worsening psychosis, a series of symptoms indicating impaired contact with the reality that the eco-systems they are all too eager to wipe out are in fact intrinsic to the same broader eco-system human life depends on.

Fortunately, the Berkeley tree-sit has grown to 7-10 sitters, a dedicated group of on-sight ground supporters, and local community members providing hot meals, supplies, frequent visits and much love. Despite the Alameda Superior Court’s ruling on January 29th barring UC from moving forward until lawsuits against the plans can be heard, the university’s private police department continues to follow through with orders to shake down those involved. There have been several raids on the protesters involving the destruction and confiscation of property and a growing number of threats, citations and arrests.

Some of the latest arrests have been made under questionable circumstances. Tree-sitter “Tinkerbell” was arrested around 2am on April 6th on trespassing and illegal lodging charges. The young woman was reportedly grabbed while hanging onto the limb of one of the smaller oak trees. Witnesses have said that she was handled roughly by the officers who caused her pants to be pulled down in the process and who held her face down in the dirt while sitting on top of her. Later that morning, Zachery Running Wolf was arrested under alleged warrants for unresolved bicycle tickets. Friends of the political activist suspect the police are targeting Wolf for his political actions and influence. Meanwhile, UC detectives are building up information on those involved with the sit. The activists have grown accustomed to frequent visits from officials. Night and day, those on site can expect to be photographed and questioned. While some choose to not respond, others have been engaging in an ongoing discourse with the authorities, possibly in hopes to find a common ground or at least a common decency. Still, the pressure is building.

At this time there are four lawsuits against the project; three of them have been consolidated into one suit. The City of Berkeley suit is founded mainly on the Alquist-Priolo Earthquake Fault Zoning Act and the California Environmental Quality Act. The grove and stadium exist on top of the Hayward Fault and the plans to build a sports facility on this site have been widely criticized as dangerous and unwise. The California Oak Foundation also filed a motion against the destruction of the grove. With widespread development and a fungal epidemic known as Sudden Oak Death Syndrome, which has killed thousands of oaks since 1995, the site is an important genetic resource and the last remaining grove of Coast Live Oaks in the Berkeley lowlands. A Berkeley law prohibits cutting of Live Oaks with a diameter of greater than 12 inches. The University has no intentions of adhering to Berkeley City law.

There is no denying the direct link between fewer living trees and the rise of global warming. Very simply, fewer trees, no matter how good our football players, means we are that much closer to our own extinction. This, though, does not seem to be convincing evidence for a conglomerate as insatiable as the University of California.

When asking officer Michael Wycoff his thoughts on who would win the dispute, the university or the trees, ground supporters did not know whether to laugh or to cry. “I don’t know. All I know is that these trees aren’t paying my bills.” This is true. While UC Berkeley operates at the rate of ten billion dollars per year, its corporate funds are a steadily increasing part of university research budgets. This institution has a long history of managing nuclear weapons programs and has plans to refurbish the nations nuclear stockpiles. A $500 million dollar deal with BP could turn Strawberry Canyon into a testing facility for genetically modified organisms, and of course, UC would like to replace one of the few remaining green spaces into what some claim will be a hub for the ever growing steroid industry. That all may very well pay young officer Mike’s bills, but there’s nothing in those plans that can actually nourish him or any of us and allow us to experience life. Food, air, water, harmony – these are provided not by any said industry, but rather by planet Earth. Of course, in the end, the trees are going to win. More immediately however, the lives of these trees are currently dependent on the direct protection of the sitters. If the court ruling (a date not yet set but expected for the end of May) lands in favor of the University, the difficulties of continuing the action will heighten. For this it is important that the support be made even stronger through steady community nourishment. If you are in the area, please visit the grove located on Piedmont Ave near Bancroft Ave and the International House. The crew is always welcoming of new company, warm meals and nonperishable food, blankets, instruments, climbing gear, supplies and enthusiasm. If you are elsewhere on the planet, remember that this is a worldwide epidemic. In examining these circumstances, can it be said that human destruction begins with a tendency towards objectifying our planet? When the trees and rivers, the earth and sky become expendable at the prospect of cash and football, we see something has deeply affected the relationship between civilization and much of reality. If we are to get better, to truly regain awareness, and act in harmony, must we not do it with loving intent, exploration, and courage?

BP 'n UK Berkeley – a sweet deal that screws the rest of us

In a startling revelation this spring, the University of California announced a $500 million dollar deal with BP (British Petroleum). The agreement would partner industry and academia to solve the problem of global warming. The plan involves building a large research complex in Berkeley’s sensitive Strawberry Creek Canyon, behind the barbed wire of the Berkeley Lawrence Lab. There they will pursue research on genetically engineered (now politely called “synthetic biology”) crop plants to try to coax an energy surplus out of them that will provide for America’s fuel needs.

This deal would convert California’s public educational institution into a research arm of a large, immoral, profit-seeking mega-corporation. Much of the research on campus lands would be classified, and BP would co-own the intellectual property rights. The direction of public research would be dramatically turned away from studies of conservation, public transit, changing public habits and government responsibilities, and against precautionary research about the dangers of genetically engineered plants and industrial agriculture on the environment.

If the public cannot rely on our University to tackle crucial issues with scientific objectivity, we will have lost our means to do so. Just Say No. And say it fast, because BP has a lot of funds to slick their way into turning our future into quick profits and certain environmental devastation.

Converge! a call from the RNC welcoming committee

Every four years, in two very lucky cities, big money gets thrown around while look-alikes from opposite ends of a closed circle step up to their podiums and spout nonsense. Republican National Convention — RNC. Democratic National Convention — DNC. Whatever. The point is that once the conventions are over, once November has come and gone, once the inauguration is only an unpleasant memory, people across this stolen land find themselves in pretty much the same place as before: a bad one.

From September 1st through 4th, 2008, the Republican National Convention will be held in St. Paul, MN. The RNC Welcoming Committee has invited folks from all over the country to show up and make something happen — to pull this moment out of its rut and start something new.

In preparation for the 2008 actions, the RNC Welcoming Committee is inviting radicals from all over the country to come and get to know Minneapolis/St. Paul and help hone your convergence-planning skills during the first week of Sept., 2007. “Over the next five months, we encourage people to start dialogue about the RNC in their own communities — what do you want to see happen in 2008? How do you think we can get there? What resources do you have to contribute? What will you need?” according to a communiqué from the Welcoming Committee. The 2007 weekend will feature Critical Mass on Friday, August 31, and three days of tours, workshops, skillshares, street medic training, games, strategizing sessions and L(A)bor Day activities.

In 2008, the Welcoming Committee is calling for “decentralized actions: both coordinated and independent.” For more info, contact the RNC Welcoming Committee: