Showing posts from 2014

The year in content: cartoons

Once upon a time, I worked in the music biz, where December meant "end of year" lists. People who listened to hundreds of albums that year would write up their top 10s, while I would scan it for the stuff I'd missed. I seem to share a lot of content online these days, so here's my first end-of-year list. 
Warning: some of the comics may be NSFW, depending on where you work, the risk of getting caught, and whether you care if you do.

Ooof, starting out with a political cartoon. Don't worry, there will be drawings of a dude pooping later on! Below is just the first image from a strip that details what the Trans Pacific Partnership agreement is, why it's super scary, and what can be done about it. It's a rather complicated issue, so I really appreciated the robots and other silly things that the artist included in order to keep me interested. The way that economics is (traditionally)…

Incinerators 101

The MD Department of Environment has released a "Zero Waste" plan that includes waste-to-energy incineration as an essential part of the state's waste management portfolio. Zero waste was developed in European countries as an alternative to / transition away from incineration. "Zero Waste" refers to an explicit commitment to reduce landfill AND incinerator use to zero. Study after study shows that incinerators reduce recycling rates, and we already know that incinerators are costly (in terms of public finance and public health), dirty, inefficient, and more ghg-intensive per megawatt than coal.  

I've copied below a point-by-point summary that I wrote about a year ago on incinerators, public policy, controversy, and energy democracy.
There’s a strong tendency to take a serious and complicated socio-technological problem (and waste management is a classic example of this), condense it into a generalized statement and to look to technology and infrastructure fo…

On O'Malley's new poultry regulations

So much discussion of this just comes across to me as blaming it on ignorant farmers who hate the environment, rather than looking at them as strictly controlled franchise operators who get very little money but all the liability. This is a systemic issue of bosses passing on operational costs to workers, the environment, and local residents.

O'Malley refuses to tax the industry itself and threatened to veto the Poultry Fair Share Act, which would make the industry pay its own stormwater fee (it currently doesn't). The endorsement for the Iowa caucus. If big poultry wasn't secretly on board with all this, it wouldn't be happening. Because making it all about farmers vs. the environment sows division and mistrust. The liability for poultry waste was passed on to farmers on purpose, because the industry leaders knew that holding individual farmers accountable for this wake makes environmentalism on the Eastern Shore a class issue, with white collar families, wealthy reti…

A distinction between white privilege and willful ignorance

In the last couple of weeks, white friends of mine keep sharing expressions of their shock at the no longer avoidable reality of systemic state [police] violence. The buzzphrase response to this feeling of shock on social media seems to be "wow, that must be my privilege".

It's not your privilege. It's willful ignorance, facilitated by privilege.

We just saw the 15th anniversary of the WTO protests in Seattle, when police put an entire city under siege. Norm Stamper, the former Seattle police chief who has been doing penance for his actions ever since, has repeatedly expressed his frustration and dismay that in spite of the "lessons learned" from 1999, the militariziation of police forces across the so-called United States* continues. I think that a lot of what Stamper says is crocodile tears, and his vision of what community policing should look like is hugely problematic, but he does raise a fair point - why  have we - not just the police, but Americans i…

White Privilege and Nonviolence, Or: How I Learned to Stop Riot Shaming and Hate the Police

London, December 9, 2010. I am looking into the eyes of an officer as she holds a truncheon in prime position over my skull, watching her hesitate, debate with herself, and ultimately decide to not strike me as I slip past the police line through an alcove in the wall, holding hands with two female friends, and escape.
What made her decide not to hit me? Was it my gender, my whiteness, my equally white, cisgender, and female-presenting friends? Was it doubt? Gender conditioning that encourages women to be “soft” and conciliatory? Some of her male colleagues on the line didn’t refrain from beating others who begged to be let out. Elsewhere at the same protest, Alfie Meadows, a young white man, was truncheoned by a cop, resulting in a severe brain injury that very nearly killed him. Many of my friends were also beaten.
Riot cops are scary as hell, and I’ve seen them do awful things to peaceful crowds. Riot cops aren’t there to stop a riot – they’re there to stop protesters of any kind…

Don't [just] vote, ORGANIZE!

I hope everyone holds their noses and pretends to vom when they take the "I VOTED" selfies this time around, now that the adrenaline from the Mizeur campaign has dissipated and the progressive movement it was supposed to herald has done very little to influence state politics since.
When the wrong people get elected/the wrong policies get implemented, it isn't because not enough people voted. It's because not enough people organized to build the counterpower that would allow citizens (not corporations or developers) to direct policymaking. We still buy into the myth of the "good" politician - the idea that when the right person comes along, you just vote and everything changes - or wait until the next messiah comes. But good politicians are shaped by the people who know how to play their pressure points, not inherent goodness. 
Here's a meme from CCAN that I just got in my inbox as I was writing this. It's ridiculous, because all this cosying up to…

The NPA, net metering, and trickle down eco-nomics

Image: Single Mothers Self Defence at a protest organized by Fuel Poverty Action UK in 2013

This is a really brief response to Brentin Mock's piece on Grist about a recent resolution by the National Policy Alliance, an organization of black politicians, on solar energy.

Here's the controversial text from the NPA's resolution:

"WHEREAS, net metering policies allow customers with rooftop solar or other DG systems to unfairly profit from exporting excess energy back to the grid while penalizing customers with basic energy needs who cannot afford rooftop solar or other DG systems; and WHEREAS, African American households experience disproportionate levels of poverty, exceeding the national average, and have lower household income than their non-African American counterparts; and WHEREAS, a lack of electric power affordability disproportionately impacts economically disadvantaged sectors and threatens the long term financial stability of our country; …" Mock, a black …

enough already

TW: (sexual) assault
In the last couple of weeks, I’ve heard some things about assault within the radical communities I have been a part of over the last few years. Watching from the sidelines makes it difficult to make the right choices about how to react to these situations, and the cliquish nature of rad friendship groups doesn’t help, either. This brief piece is not meant to be an act of finger pointing at anybody or any group in particular, because from past experience I know that the cases I’ve come across recently are far too common in radical circles.

I write this as someone who doesn’t know a lot about what’s happened, but in all cases, I’ve noticed a real lack of effective accountability structures, coupled with the expectation that organizations/collectives/cliques are capable of handling these challenges on their own when they clearly aren't.

Having good politics and radical vision doesn’t remove you and yours from the very systems of violence and repression that perme…

Scotland Decides

A lot of American friends have been asking me what's up with the referendum, especially now that the media is bombarded with predictions of economic Armageddon in the event of the yes vote.
As a graduate of a Scottish university (a result of privilege and circumstance rather than merit, I would say), I have a deep and profound appreciation for the nation and its people. And so while I am not Scottish, I am definitely of Scotland, and it is on these grounds that I write now.
My friend Adam Ramsay, co-editor of OpenDemocracy, posted a brief entry in his Independence Blog this morning that captures a lot of the sentiment behind the youth “Yes” vote that is eclipsed in most media coverage of the referendum. I’ve posted it in full below (the bold text is my own emphasis).
“When the Better Together campaign talks about uncertainty, it's important to remember this. For a huge chunk of the population, including a significant portion of young people, our whole lives are uncer…

The ALS Ice Bucket Challenge is a distraction, not a solution

A medical researcher friend of mine made a really good point about the Ice Bucket Challenge yesterday, that the largest source of ALS research funding in the world comes through the NIH, which has lost 25% of its funding due to combination of overzealous federal budget cuts and inflation.
Why is it that our government is arguing that we can no longer afford this, while simultaneously increasing its expenditure on sending weapons to Israel, on drone warfare, and on building a massive surveillance apparatus that watches the activities of pretty much everyone on the internet?
The $23 million (to date) raised through this challenge is literally a drop in the bucket. As part of my job, I review small business expenditures for NIH research grants to a university. The average grant that I review is around $5-8 million dollars. That’s just for one academic study covering about five years of research. We've got a smaller number of subcontracting plans to review this year because the gov…

The War on Jews vs. The War On Coal

I have about ten minutes to write this, so it’s going to be unpolished. But these things need to be said and I want them to be written now, while my memory is still fresh. 
Yesterday, I attended a rally in Baltimore that had been organized in solidarity with the people of Gaza. We weren’t alone: buses of “pro-Israel” supporters had come in from the county to protest us. Apart from a few nasty words, there weren’t any altercations that I know of other than people shouting at one another.

I’m no stranger to counter-protesters. Having been a part of the movement to stop mountaintop removal coal mining in Appalachia, I’ve noticed a lot of similarities in the narratives I’ve encountered in both issues that I wish to share with you. I will add the caveat that I'm an outsider to both Appalachia and Israel/Palestine, and this should be worth less consideration than the words of the movement leaders that I have stood in solidarity with.
Rhetoric over figures and facts
Dirty tree huggers w…

Observations on the #NoGasExports rally on Sunday and subsequent arrests outside of FERC on Monday morning

I don’t expect everybody in the climate movement to agree with what I have to say, nor do I want them to. Some of what I write and say about the climate movement in the Chesapeake bioregion is deliberately provocative in order to encourage people to think more critically about what we are doing in order to effect change , and about whose interests we are fighting for. A desire for justice isn’t enough: effective strategy is essential, and a multifaceted and inclusive movement is essential to effective strategy. Every social movement needs a few party poopers.

I don’t expect or want the climate movement to be only composed of people who think like myself. A spectrum of diverse interests, backgrounds, and strategies is essential for a successful movement. I may disagree with the way that some large organizations approach issues that I care about, but so long as they don’t attempt to overpower other voices with their own in the event of a disagreement (criticism from friends is totally OK…

Displacement and Resistance: The World Cup's Everlasting Legacy of Violence

[image: Reuters]
As another World Cup tournament nears its climax, I’m wondering already what the legacy of these games will be. I’m not talking about the legacy of a bunch of sweaty, oversexed men kicking a ball around. What I’m concerned about is the human rights legacy: the long term repercussions of hosting the Olympics on Brazil, the predicted “death count” (another term for murder) of up to 4,000 workers in Qatar (1,200 so far), and whether this time, this tournament, with all the images we’ve seen of protests and violence, soccer fans will do something to end the shock doctrine shitshow that has accompanied it for decades.
I don’t write too often, but I’m putting this together because I feel that a history lesson is in order. All the focus on Sep Blatter’s corrupt leadership that I’ve seen in the media (including John Oliver’s oft-linked diatribe on HBO) makes it seem like if we get rid of the man, everything will be OK. But it’s more complicated than that: both the World Cup an…