Category Archives: Winter 2010 (2/2/10)

Pouring Gasoline on a Fire – Obama’s Afghanistan escalation & the war on terrorism scam

This spring and summer should (or could) bring a rising tide of protests against Obama’s escalation of the US war in Afghanistan. Sending more US troops won’t make anyone safer, won’t help the Afghan people, and will needlessly risk the lives of US troops and Afghan civilians. The handful of Al-Qaeda militants, who were the original justification for the war, haven’t been in Afghanistan for years. The escalation is a continued waste of money, just welfare for defense contractors and corrupt Afghan officials and gangsters. Bombing villages to prop up a corrupt US-supported regime (which rigged the last election) is just pouring gasoline on a fire — its fueling more fighting and a society-wide resort to violence. Looked at from an Afghan perspective, what would you do if a foreign power invaded your country, tried to impose a particular segment of local thugs on your village, and flew drones over your fields night and day? The Afghan war is the greatest recruiting tool for suicide bombers and religious fanatics who offer an alternative to US hegemony, no matter how repressive and terrifying it may be.

Why is Obama continuing, and now expanding, the failed Bush war policy? There are many reasons, but a key is that Obama’s US government serves the same basic interests as Bush’s — maintaining US dominance. His understanding of “terrorism” and use of this concept to centralize power are essentially the same as under Bush.

The US invaded Afghanistan — one of the poorest and most remote countries in the world — in 2001 after the September 11 attacks as part of Bush’s “war on terrorism”. The war on terrorism was a rhetorical and political trick. Terrorism is a tactic, not an ideology or cohesive movement, so the “war” was by definition endless and against anyone who might oppose US interests. Its real intent had more to do with justifying increases in US power at home and abroad than with “protecting” anyone.

Because the war on Afghanistan was a component of the war on terrorism power grab, the main point of the war had nothing much to do with Afghanistan, and very much to do with placing the US into a war mentality, and keeping it there. There was never much interest in how one might “win” the war. Certainly no serious person thought that Afghanistan would eventually become a modern liberal democracy with Starbucks and Wholefoods markets in stripmalls outside Kabul.

Given the US role in funding guerrilla war against the Soviets in the 1980s by arming Afghan insurgents (including Osama bin Laden back in the day) it was pretty predictable that an Afghan insurgency would develop to resist a US puppet state. Afghans fought three Anglo-Afghan wars against the British (1839-42, 1878-80, 1919) which demonstrated their hostility to outside rule.

There are a number of parallels between past Afghan insurgencies and the current resistance to the US attempt to impose

liberal reforms (that have some popularity in urban areas) on very conservative rural areas. One of the key policies of the Soviet-backed Afghan government in the 1970s and 80s was an attempt to improve conditions for women and secularize the country. Rural conservatives took up arms to defend their conservative religious beliefs and maintain traditional repressive gender relations.

So what is Obama’s plan? Despite his claim that he intends to start a troop pullback in 18 months after a “surge” stabilizes the situation, he didn’t commit to withdraw all US troops at any point in the future. There’s no reason to think US action can stabilize the situation, especially since the presence of foreign troops itself stirs up resistance. Fighting there has tribal roots as well as cultural ones. Without significant pressure from within the US to abandon the failed Afghan war, the US is likely to maintain troops there indefinitely.

Protesting the Afghan war goes hand-in-hand with exposing the war on terrorism. The media and mainstream society are obsessed with terrorism because it offends their sense of control and order. Look at the extreme panic in the wake of the underwear bomber. After the cold war ended, it appeared that the US global industrial order had achieved total political, military, economic and ideological hegemony. It wasn’t just that the US was the only military superpower left standing. US assumptions and values about what constitutes a good life were the sole controlling ideology. Under this ideology, the only human goal is earning money and buying consumer products — TVs, cars, high-speed internet service, etc.

While terrorist attacks shatter the mainstream ideas of stability and total control thereby giving the system a wonderful excuse to increase state power, it’s important to keep some perspective on the situation and realize that terrorist attacks are not the greatest threat to world safety.

Consider that the number of people actually killed by terrorists on September 11 and since then around the world — while tragic for the innocent people murdered — is actually quite tiny when you compare it to how many people have died just in the USA from non-political shootings or acts of violence. Or what about compared to the number of people killed in all the military actions supposedly designed to control the terrorist threat?

And what about the dangers to human health and happiness from the regular functioning of the industrial/economic system? No one is in a frenzy because of the tens of thousands of people killed annually by automobiles. Or the hundreds of thousands of people who die from smoking — does anyone fight a war on tobacco companies because their executives are terrorists? What about industrial pollution, which kills and sickens millions of people? No, the chemical industry isn’t “terrorist” because those deaths and injuries are just a necessary cost of doing business. The society lives in fear of terrorists getting access to chemical weapons, but wait a minute — big corporations have access to chemical weapons and they are actually using them and people are dying all the time!

The “regular” functions of the industrial machine are considered acceptable and reasonable costs of doing business even though they cause much greater harm than terrorism. These activities are controlled by those in power and trying to decrease these harms hurts their power and wealth. Terrorism, meanwhile, is not under their control, and it drives the people in power crazy, while giving them a huge and continuing excuse to have more police, bigger armies, better surveillance, and more checkpoints and searches.

The war on terror and the war in Afghanistan are not being fought for regular people either in the developed countries or in Afghanistan — they’re both being waged by elites and for elites to increase their power, but we’re the ones getting killed. Its time we cut through the hype about terrorism — the idea that peasants in rural Afghanistan are the biggest threat to someone in suburban Illinois — and take on our real enemies: the corporations, the military warlords and the media talking heads who fool us into mis-understanding what’s really going on. Let’s demand US troops out of Afghanistan and struggle for a world where people control our own destiny.

Chevron: our climate is not your business

People can assume control of what our future will look like. Will the collective “we” let it become a grim and joyless feudalism where the corporations control all aspects of the natural world? Or will it be a community-based syndicate of autonomous work collectives who collaborate to create and equally distribute necessities to all members of society in an open and democratic manner? As we engage locally, our relationships deepen and our emotional needs are increasingly met through community-based living. Desire for iPods and movies fade away as we laugh, sing, tell jokes and plant flowers for entertainment instead. Localizing food production is reducing our transportation demands, and improving the air quality to give our lungs a rest. Through mutual aid we can strengthen relationships with neighboring communities and support each other through diversity of organization, learning how to produce our own necessities for survival and to trade equitably with others for the remainder. We are on the verge of a bioregional renaissance in which national government becomes irrelevant as each community decides how to provide for themselves based on features unique to their geographical and cultural landscape. The time is now to gather together, turn the tides against corporations, and save human lives and the natural world.

The Mobilization for Climate Justice (MCJ) is a North American-based network of organizations and activists who have joined together to build a movement that emphasizes non-violent direct action and public education to promote effective and just solutions to the climate crisis. The coalition that is Mobilization for Climate Justice initiated a number of protests around the country related to corporate control over false solutions on climate change. In that way it is an action centered coalition for passionate people to organize their own affinity groups within the whole. Incorporating activists and community members from a highly varied number of environmental and social justice groups, representing a variety of issues, tactics, and interests, we have united through our commitment to seeking meaningful solutions to the crisis of climate change.

Direct actions under the umbrella name of Mobilization for Climate Justice took place all over the country on November 30, 2009. Groups in each city chose their own tactics and focus. The corresponding actions coincided with the ten year anniversary of the Seattle protests of the World Trade Organization and with the opening talks of Copenhagen.

In New York, protestors met at Bank of America to expose the company’s practice of mountaintop removal and oil and gas prospecting, and then marched to the

Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), a top environmental interest group affected by several corporate sponsors. In Chicago, people disrupted business in the financial district for a number of hours through locking down in the street, as well as marched to the Chicago Climate Exchange, the largest and first carbon trading institution in North America, to demand a better solution than carbon trading. Protestors gathered outside of Senator John Kerry’s office in Boston with images of a dying Earth which lead to a die out on the streets where no arrests were made; they also sent an open letter to his office to demand real solutions and real changes to the system.

In the Bay Area in August, hundreds marched on Chevron’s Richmond refinery to demand clean air for local residents, and in December a blockade of Chevron corporate headquarters shut down car traffic and drew attention to Chevron’s role in lobbying against climate change legislation.

Leading up to the direct actions at Chevron there was a West Coast Climate Convergence with educational workshops, group discussions of tactics and strategies, and trainings explaining the history and methods of nonviolent direct action. Participants learned about forming a perimeter around a building, how to engage the police respectfully and firmly, how to lock arms with comrades to form a strong chain, and about general body language in strong resistance. There were legal teams available for each direct action that prepared to communicate with and advocate for arrestees.

Actions can take the form of die-ins, rallies, candlelight vigils, speakouts, poetry slams, bicycle rides, human blockades, and more. Get in touch with an action group near you and join a worldwide movement demanding climate justice now. If there is no group in your area, call together a group of friends, select a company or practice that’s near where you are whose irresponsible behavior is driving the earth mad, and plan an event designed to dramatize their behavior. Props like signs, banners, costumes, and musical instruments all transform, stimulate, and excite the creative faculties of those involved as well as onlookers. Smaller actions are easy to accomplish with one or two people, such as deploying a banner or leafleting at gas stations. Engaging people interpersonally is how we spread the educational materials necessary to garner widespread support. Any action, large or small, is a part of the movement as a whole to raise our voices together for those who are not being heard.

Climate change versus climate justice

The term Climate “Change” implies a naturally occurring process of shifting weather patterns, which is unavoidable and has clearly begun. Climate Justice recognizes that racial and economic prejudice and corporate control are core causes of climate disruption. Corporations have been interfering in scientific discoveries regarding climate change through blackmailing interest groups and attending global discussions, while indigenous peoples are significantly underrepresented by a ratio of 1:4 at the table of international climate negotiations. Thus, any dialogue or movement intending to reverse the increasingly chaotic effects of Earth’s shifting weather patterns must also address the needs of those least responsible for and most affected by climate change.

The shift in the world’s climate is largely brought about by the burning of fossil fuels like petroleum and coal, products that injure and destroy human lives every step of the way from discovery, development, extraction, and consumption. It is for this reason that people must bring the struggle to end ‘climate chaos’ directly to the door of the companies most responsible. It is crucial for concerned folks to coordinate uprisings and stand in solidarity against the world’s biggest polluters if global warming is to be stopped, which includes acting urgently in our local communities to bring about real demands to this crisis.

As people intertwined in the empire, we can look to the injustices and hardships those closest to pollution face as a foreshadowing for our own livelihoods if we choose to allow capitalism’s war on the planet to continue. Strong voices together rebel at the heart of the empire in solidarity with communities around the world and locally that are resisting the imperialism which imperils all life on the planet.

Examining behind Chevron’s closed doors will illustrate why corporate accountability is crucial in the struggle for climate justice. Chevron was the target of MCJ Bay Area protests, but there are many, many more criminal corporations to unveil.

Richmond

“Here in Richmond, we see the links between human rights and corporate accountability issues in our city as the same struggle as those that are demanding a right to their livelihood in Nigeria. Oil companies need to take responsibility wherever oil is produced and refined,” said a community activist as the Richmond City Council passed a resolution calling for oil companies to disclose payments to foreign governments for oil, gas and mineral rights. Groups such as the West County Toxics Coalition and Communities for a Better Environment have been struggling against industrial pollution caused by Chevron’s Richmond refinery, the state’s single largest climate polluter according to the California Air Resources Board. In 2008 alone it emitted 4.8 million tons of greenhouse gases, which is only the tip of the iceberg if Chevron’s plans to expand the refinery continue. These groups have been battling the company over its controversial expansion plans, holding community hearings and fighting in court, a huge but not insurmountable fight that has already been litigated for over two years and shows no signs of ending soon. A related project is the plan to expand the production of crude oil from Alberta tar sands, which would devastate indigenous land and increase carbon emissions even further. At the recent actions, protesters read and sent open letters to Chevron, to demand a cap on crude oil to prevent the refining of this heavier, dirtier oil.

Nigeria

Chevron worked with and provided funding for the corrupt Nigerian government for years, paying for Nigerian troops to do their dirty work for them. The past 50 years of extraction has produced over $700 billion in revenues shared between the brutal Nigerian regime, Chevron, Exxon Mobil, and Shell. Meanwhile villagers in the Nigerian delta witnessed their fisheries poisoned, drinking water polluted, and an inaccessibility to education and health care. More gas is flared in Nigeria than anywhere else in the world, and principally contributes to pollution-caused sickness in residents. The main response by Delta residents was holding nonviolent demonstrations where they sing songs and read detailed litanies of complaints to the companies that are destroying their livelihoods. Frustrated with the lack of response from Chevron and disgusted by military attacks from ground and sky, which have displaced and killed many of the Delta’s 20 million residents, an armed insurgency has begun to attack and shut down oil production in the area, which resulted in international recognition of the crisis facing the Nigerian Delta. Chevron’s production has plummeted 2/3 in the face of attacks to its oil pipelines, and all eyes are on Chevron’s response. Concerned parties must fight the corporation’s continued presence and encourage infrastructural investment in communities affected by Chevron’s oil operations. Support and solidarity from the global community may be a major determining factor for the fate of this embattled region of the world, and so MCJ West is proud to work with Nigerian peace activists to broaden awareness of the issue.

“Chevron, our climate is not your business!”

In the unresulting aftermath of the deceptive Copenhagen talks, it becomes undoubtedly urgent to tell these corporations ourselves to get their hands off climate change legislation!! In advocating for an end to all oil and natural gas development projects (current and future), which are altering global weather systems at an unprecedented rate, MCJ also vigorously reject false solutions. False solutions include industry-controlled carbon trading and the conversion of agricultural lands to biofuel production. Chevron spent almost $2 million to lobby against a California bill, which would reduce emissions to 1990 levels by 2020; and Chevron spent $12 million to lobby the federal government in 2009, which directly contributed to undermining the ability of nations at Copenhagen to walk away with a fair, equitable, binding agreement to set real carbon emissions reductions.

There will be no wind, solar, “clean coal”, hydro, or biofuel that will magically allow civilization to continue unabated–these are distractions which detract from the real issue that modern-day energy consumption is unsustainable and the first world must develop new–or ancient–relationships with the land and each other in order to create a society that values and rewards compassion, respect, and cooperation. Profiteering corporations are the people who propose these greed driven false solutions. A fundamental change in the system is needed, despite the government’s dismissal of the voice of the global poor and those most affected by the ruling classes’ pollution.

At the end of the Age of Petroleum, the facts are indisputable that reliance on fossil fuels must stop. It is not a question of if, but when and how our society decides to transition to a low-impact lifestyle, or face the perils and consequences of those who have engendered their own cultural annihilation through the overexploitation of resources.

Act Now

This is a turning point in history where the human race has the opportunity to stand up as an entity and demand the planet back. The shift from an agrarian economy to an industrialized, oil-based economy has made an enormous impact on the biodiversity of our lands, but that does not mean it is too late to protect the habitat we have remaining and encourage it to flourish once more. It is the time to disrupt business as usual for corporations that destroy the Earth and human lives through mining and polluting the world over. Together, concerned peoples must have strength in their convictions because the health of our land is our greatest wealth, as clean water, air, and food for all are universal entitlements, so we the people will have to push back the corporations who wish to dominate every aspect of earthly existence. Through building action-oriented coalitions of diverse people who are united in commitment to meaningful change, we can throw a wrench in the gears of capital and dismantle the systems, which oppress and enslave life, one action after another. The time is now to make the vision in our hearts the future we have in our hands. The earth is on our side, and we only have the whole world to lose.

Virtual friendships & false intimacy

Is there a way to articulate at once the beauty, anxiety, pride and profound sadness of living without falling into an intense self reflection that does not communicate? Expression, authentic expression, with the power to find resonances with other minds, other bodies, is a continuous struggle against banality, against the nihilism that rushes in when we find it impossible to express ourselves in a way that will be understood.

Online social networks like facebook appear to offer us vast opportunities to express ourselves and they do change the way that people interact. They give us more options for how to package and deliver information about ourselves and reshape the way we think about privacy; making our interests and social connections more transparent and enabling people to reveal pieces of themselves in online profiles that might otherwise be known only by intimate friends.

The consequences of this are not neutral. When the world is conceived of as a global marketplace, every interaction can seem to be about buying and selling. People are encouraged to blur the distinction between self expression and creating a marketable image. The forms of expression supported by social networking technology are one recent example of this, but all of our communication is potentially affected by this posturing. When every post you make might be read by your mother, boss, or potential customer, what someone is willing to say can become highly artificial.

This artificiality is always boring, but it is most troubling when it replaces active connections.

Our ability to find out a great deal about each other has increased exponentially but our ability to be changed and moved as we engage in the process of getting to know someone else remains the same. There is a surge of excitement when we connect with someone. It may be someone we have not heard from in years or have been meaning to

get to know better, someone we share an interest with or who we think is cute. Friendship blossoms awkwardly over time and is renewed through continued engagement.

On social networking sites this excitement and possibility often withers once our initial curiosity is satisfied. Personal information and status updates are imparted without direct, intentional interaction and connection can atrophy into mutual voyeurism. We watch the online persona of the other person shift, thumb through carefully selected pictures of their life, and notice changes in status now and then. Each of these things replacing what might otherwise have been an actual conversation.

Transparency regarding practices and intentions among people engaged in a project together is not the same thing as the transparency of internet profiles. Part of getting to know someone is learning to decipher the emotional truths encoded in their behavior, a process which takes time. Reading someone else’s profile obscures this and encourages us to feel like an intimate friend without engaging in the intimate work of building friendship.

The way we communicate with people we already know is also affected. When you can catch up with someone by reading about them, you do not need to reach out to them as often to find out how they are doing. People come to expect that things which have been blogged about or entered in a profile do not need to be explained or articulated to friends on an individual basis. People can come out as queer, communicate changes in relationship status, express their political views and talk about their favorite books or bands without speaking directly to anyone.

This lack of contact is compounded by the constraints of the format itself.

Any time we are compelled to describe ourselves succinctly, complex dynamics are necessarily shorthanded, kept below the maximum characters allowed in any given field. The danger of this shorthand is in the way it encourages us to think and talk about ourselves from a removed place; to present an image to the world that does not acknowledge the expansiveness of our lived emotional experience; that flattens it into a story that everyone already knows.

As social networking technology expands into our lives, this flattening becomes more prevalent and it is harder and harder to create moments of dynamism where we can relate to people as something other than a collection of identities; as entities who are teeming with a multitude of desires and experiences rather than as categories of people who have been defined completely by a grand historical narrative about who we are, where we come from and what we like.

We are each a bundle of intentions, insecurities, experiences, and relations. It is important to remember that as much as these elements are shaped by larger dynamics of power and culture, they are also warm, living, embodied things with permeable boundaries and the more we see them as precise definitions – as cold, absolute and objective divisions – the less we are able to understand nuance and complexity in ourselves and each other.

The psychological impact of these sites is also shaped by a culture of celebrity.

In thinking about the way that celebrity operates on the smallest scale – as ‘large personalities’ within our social circles – I am inclined to think about the social distance implied. The lives of people who we choose to regard in this way seem both removed from and more vivid than our own subjective lives. To engage with someone as if they were a celebrity is to engage from a safe distance with someone whose life is at once deemed more important and less real than our own.

In a sense, social networking technology has the power to turn us all into celebrities in this way: to project manicured images into the world that can attract friends, fans, and followers with their own momentum; that can build reputations and social connections which are not based on any real world interaction.

I am troubled by all of these things even as I find myself doing some of them. I am seduced by the way that my own life seems more glamorous when I look at it from farther away, I find myself checking my profile regularly, hoping to be comforted by its careful arrangement of words and pictures, even though I already know how frustrated or satisfied, painful or joyful my life really is at any given moment.

I don’t mean to exaggerate the extent to which these emotional responses to online social networks are inevitable. These platforms can be useful and do allow people to find each other who never would have otherwise. There are ways to adjust privacy settings and create personal rules of engagement that minimize the extent to which one represents or seeks out false intimacy. Like any new technology, the social effect of it depends on the customs we develop around it, and on the realms of our lives in which we allow it to operate.

I can’t help feeling, however, that these sites are a tempting substitute for society in a world where so many people are alienated from themselves and each other. They are filled with diversions for people who are aching for a sense of connection and engagement and often inhibit as much interaction as they make possible.

It is difficult to remain critical for very long of things that become ubiquitous. Technological abilities developed and promoted in the context of capitalism are customized and can easily feel like benign and inevitable extensions of our psyche into the world. Maintaining a critical awareness of the things that shape our lives and constrict the ways in which we are able to grow is important; however we end up picking our battles.

Introduction – Slingshot #102

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

It is easy to look at all the problems in the world and get confused about what are just symptoms and what are the root causes of the many struggles currently underway. It is crucially important to know which is which, because when communities organize to address a problem but we’re only attacking the symptom without dealing with the underlying social systems creating the symptoms, we’re bound to fail.

So for example while particular corporations build particular factories that pollute particular neighborhoods, it is futile to tackle this problem one factory or one company at a time. The underlying problem is an economic and political system that concentrates power — the idea of distant, faceless people owning shares in corporations in the first place. And even more deeply, a system of competition and private ownership that sucks meaning out of the world by reducing our lives and the natural world to an endless pursuit of economic growth, efficiency, and profit.

All around us, we’re facing the dramatic fallout from the recent economic recession. Recessions are unavoidable parts of the capitalist economy — they aren’t a problem with the system, they are the system. But rather than undermining support for the system itself, people are reacting to the recession by chasing symptoms. Under all of this emotion, it can be hard to see the more basic reality. The capitalist system is killing the planet. Our lives are more and more controlled by economic, technological and political systems that can seem inevitable and natural, but aren’t.

The situation, however, is far from hopeless. Frustration is building on a mass level — not just in a punk ghetto but everywhere. Crisis on this scale can produce massive and rapid shifts in priorities. Crucial to this process is figuring out the real target for our collective energies, and avoiding wasting it on distractions.

• • •

Meanwhile, while we were working on this issue, we got news of an adverse court ruling against a long-term squatted house where many of us live. This is the raw, ugly face of what ownership, money and power really mean. While people have been using this house for years — in part as cost-free housing for travelers, musicians and artists allowing people to work on projects like Slingshot rather than being tied down to a job — to the system it is just a piece of real estate that is only meaningful to the extent it earns profit for someone. Our lives are much more meaningful, real and full of pleasure than the system’s bank balances or the absurd laws it uses to guard them.

We’ll laugh in the face of its grim police if necessary because we’ll always be free while the system of private property and means to a pointless end will always be doomed.

• • •

Slingshot is always looking for new writers, artists, editors, photographers, translators, distributors, etc. to make this paper. If you send something written, please be open to editing.

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

Thanks to the people who made this: Aaron, Alex, Apple, Bird, Booker T & the MGs, Brendan, Dee, Eggplant, Gregg, Heather, Jason, Joseph, Julia, Kathryn, Kermit, Kerry, Leona, Lesley, Lew, Owen, PB, Rena, Sandy, Shannon, Shirley Dean (RIP), Stephanie, Tree, Will.

Slingshot New Volunteer Meeting

Volunteers interested in getting involved with Slingshot can come to the new volunteer meeting on Sunday, March 21, 2010 at 4 p.m. at the Long Haul in Berkeley (see below.)

Article Deadline & Next Issue Date

Submit your articles for issue 103 by April 17, 2010 at 3 p.m.

Volume 1, Number 102, Circulation 19,000

Printed January 29, 2010

Slingshot Newspaper

Sponsored by Long Haul

3124 Shattuck Avenue, Berkeley, CA 94705

Phone (510) 540-0751

slingshot@tao.ca • slingshot.tao.ca

Circulation Information

Subscriptions to Slingshot are free to prisoners, low income and anyone in the USA with a Slingshot Organizer, or $1 per issue or back issue. International $3 per issue. Outside the Bay Area we’ll mail you a free stack of copies if you give them out for free.

Slingshot Back Issues

We’ll send you a random assortment of back issues of Slingshot and other publications for the cost of postage: Send $3 for 2 lbs. or $5 for 5 lbs. Free if you’re an infoshop or library. Or drop by our office with cash or check to Slingshot 3124 Shattuck Ave. Berkeley, CA 94705.

Seeking nominations for 2010 Wingnut Awarad

Slingshot will award its sixth annual Award for Lifetime Achievement — the Golden Wingnut — at its 22th birthday party on Friday, March 12 at 3124 Shattuck in Berkeley (8 pm). Slingshot created the Lifetime Achievement Award to recognize direct action radicals who have dedicated their lives to the struggle for alternatives to the current absurd system. Wingnut is the term some of us use to refer to folks who blend radicalism and a highly individual personal style — more than just another boring radical. Golden Wingnuts mix determination, inspiration and flair. The winner has their biography featured in our next issue, and will receive a wingnut trophy and super-hero outfit.

We’re looking for nominations. To be eligible, an individual has to be currently alive and must have at least 25 years of “service”. Please send your nominations by 5 p.m. on March 1 along with why a particular person should be awarded the Golden Wingnut for 2010 to 3124 Shattuck Ave. Berkeley, CA 94705 or slingshot@tao.ca.

Letters to Slingshot: Booklist boo boo

Hi there,

I just picked up a copy of the organizer for 2010 and was all smiles until I came across your booklist…

Jeffery Archer [sic] – The Prodigal Daughter

Really? Doesn’t anyone know this guy is kinda like the UK version of Rush Limbaugh?

Please read the wiki page on this sleaze:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jeffrey_Archer

If you don’t want to read the whole thing, just go for the controversies section – it’s large enough. Do you start with the missing funds from Red Cross or his part in the 2004 Equatorial Guinea coup d’état attempt?

He was arrested for perverting the course of justice. He was also a key figure in the Conservative government of the Thatcher era – which in itself isn’t damning (totally, is it?). He also has his fingers in so many media pies in the UK – ones that we collectively detest and work against.

He needs no more money – don’t suggest people buy his books PLEASE!!!!

Thanks for reading my rant :)

Keep up the otherwise truly amazing work – we are collectively better for it!

Dan

Oops! Thanks for the info, Dan. Our bad.

Still Blooming, Still available – Slingshot’s first book

Slingshot published its first book in 2009 to celebrate the 40th anniversary of People’s Park in Berkeley. People’s Park Still Blooming is a 200-page, full color coffee table book edited by activist and park gardener Terri Compost. It was particularly appropriate for us to publish the book since Slingshot traces its roots to the struggles surrounding the Park — grassroots street level radicals vs. The Man.

The book uses hundreds of photographs as well as interviews, news clippings and book excerpts to tell the story of People’s Park past, present and future. Since a diverse coalition of activists seized a vacant lot to build the Park in 1969, the Park has been a model for do-it-yourself direct action. In the years since 1969, generations of activists have fought to permit the users of the Park to decide how it should be developed, operated and maintained — embodying the principal of user development — in the face of constant police repression. Amidst all the riots and protests, the park still blooms as a community garden and native plant repository in a dense urban area; as a liberated zone for concerts and political rallies; and as one of t

he few places open to all people — rich and poor, homeless and housed — in an increasingly consumer-dominated Berkeley. Daily free food provided by Food Not Bombs and others draws a constantly shifting band of punks, travelers, elders, artists and marginalized people to the Park.

The book is neither a dry historical text nor mere picture book — its conception and actualization are intimately tied to a living struggle with implications far wider than just Berkeley or just a park. The struggle for the Park is the same as the global struggle for freedom, cooperation and ecological balance over hierarchy, corporations and a throw-away world.

We still have copies of the book available and we’re looking for help getting it out to the world — particularly beyond Berkeley and California, where its mostly been passed around so far. It retails for $24.95 — a lot of money but it’s worth it. Please help us clear out all these boxes of books! Check our website for mailorder or bookstores that carry it. Let us know if:

• You know of a library or bookstore that might want a copy;

• You can publish a book review.

http://slingshot.tao.ca

Coming soon – 2011 organizer – get set, draw!

Thanks to everyone who bought a 2010 Slingshot Organizer — their sales pay to print this paper and for other radical media projects. If you still want one, we still have a few in stock — check our website for a list of places that distribute them. If you want to order more than 40 copies (wholesale) you can order directly from us.

We’ve appreciated hearing from everyone who has written us to let us know about various errors, and also with many kinds words. We’re already thinking about the 2011 Organizer. If you have ideas about things that we should include, contact us now. We’re in search of radical historical dates, radical contact listings, feature ideas / articles, doodles and graphics for the calendar, etc. In particular, we are seeking cover artwork — every year it is a huge, often last minute, struggle to find cover art. If you think you could draw better cover art that we have, you may be right — stop talking and start drawing! (Please note that sending us a link to your web page that features a whole bunch of images is not all that helpful. If you want to send us art, that means you should pick a particular image and say “Here, how about this this.”)

A common comment we hear is, “Why didn’t you print a particular date in this year’s Organizer — does that mean you don’t care about [fill in the blank].” Over the years we’ve accumulated a huge list of historical dates for each day – about 10-20 per day. We thus don’t have room to print each date each year. To keep each year’s edition fresh, we like to print different dates (and informational features) each year so the organizer isn’t precisely the same year after year. The individual artists who design the calendar pages get to decide which 3-4 dates (out of 10-20) to pick, so their decicions don’t necessarily reflect all of our opinions in the collective about what is important. If we missed a date in a particular edition, it is nothing personal to your or anyone else — chances are we printed it the previous year or we’ll print it next year. Feel free to let us know about dates you don’t think we have.

We’ll start work on the 2011 organizer in June, with most of the work happening the first two weeks in August. The deadline for radical historical dates is June 1. We’re going to edit and improve the historical dates all month. The dealine for art for the inside of the calendar is July 1. The deadline for cover art, features, radical contact listings and all other submissions is August 1.

If you are in the bay area during the first two weeks in August and want to work on the organizer — even if you have no publication experience — join us for the fun! Contact us — many hands make light work and we like to incorporate new energy into the project. We’ll have the organizer back from the binder on October 1, 2010.

May 1, 2010 – Marks anti-nuclear action

“Think Outside the Bomb” (TOTB) represents a network of individuals from across the country who have come together because of the threat of nuclear weapons. We are part of a network of people who wish to create a new world. We want to live in a world without nuclear weapons and nuclear power. Individuals in our network know that nuclear power and nuclear weapons are inextricably linked, and we strive to build a world where clean and sustainable energy power our daily lives. We wish to live harmoniously with life around us and present real solutions to the urgent problems of both climate change and nuclear proliferation. TOTB will work to create the infrastructure and relations that can continue to sustain life and guide us into the future.

2010 is the year when the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) will be reviewed to decide whether or not five countries can have nuclear weapons or no countries can have nuclear weapons. This will be in New York on May 1st so stay aware of local events in your area or try to make it out to the large action in New York.

2010 is also the year following the awarding of the Nobel Peace Prize to Barack Obama, the president of a nation with nearly 10,000 nuclear weapons, because of his stated ambitions for a nuclear free world. The only other country with as many nuclear weapons is Russia, which has about 14,000; every other country with nuclear weapons has hundreds of weapons, not thousands. With this many weapons, the United States cannot move towards a nuclear free world while simultaneously making new nuclear weapons.

2010 is the year TOTB will work together to achieve these goals. We will come together in New York for the NPT. Organizers will also come together in New Mexico with a training in February and a huge convergence in August and work to prevent new, and end current, nuclear weapon production at Los Alamos Nuclear Laboratory (LANL), where most of the national nuclear weapons research is done. Building a new plutonium pit production facility or “modernizing” nuclear weapons means building new nuclear weapons, not disarming. We will come together in solidarity and for the liberation of all peoples in local struggles across the nation. TOTB will work together, walking side by side with indigenous peoples and community groups in New Mexico to achieve this goal. Our network wishes to promote a culture of transformation and new beginnings and we will live our lives by example. We believe that love overcomes fear, and we must work to achieve a world free of nuclear weapons in our lifetimes.

To all past participants and young people who want to be nuclear disarmament organizers for 2010, join TOTB for a “Training for Trainers” February 18-21, 2010, near Los Alamos, NM. In past years, TOTB has thrived as a network that builds community and knowledge, attempting bigger and better things every year. Now, 2010 is our tipping point — between new plutonium pit facilities, new permitting requests for uranium mining and nuclear power plants, the Non-Proliferation Treaty Review, and President Obama’s call for disarmament, this country is faced with a watershed moment on nuclear weapons and power. Over the next year TOTB will have a concrete action plan with a vision that looks toward real nuclear abolition within our lifetimes. We are prepared to mobilize with the hundreds of young people who have come to our conferences and who represent organizations in dozens of communities around the country, to become major players in this crucial moment in the disarmament movement. We need you with us to do this. As organizers, we need to train together to develop new skills, deepen our understanding of the issues, strengthen our community, and extend our network like wildflowers.

Follow us on the web at: thinkoutsidethebomb.org/, totb.wordpress.com/

US Troops play ‘heroes’ after natural disaster in Haiti – the real disaster is Global inequality

While it’s easy to think of the recent earthquake in Haiti as just another natural disaster, it’s the poverty and injustice that have plagued Haiti for generations that have turned a natural earthquake into a human catastrophe. A 7.0 earthquake is a huge earthquake, but when one strikes a rich country like Japan, only a few people are killed because buildings are earthquake resistant and emergency infrastructure is in place to deal with emergencies. On the other hand, Haiti was already an economic disaster before the earthquake, with the worst poverty in the Western Hemisphere.

Haiti’s poverty is not an accident — it is the result of the global economic system which removes wealth and resources from the global south for the benefit of rich countries. This system is enforced with military power, which is why it is so ironic to see US troops helping earthquake victims portrayed as heroes. Sure it’s nice when US troops arrive to pass out water and pick up the wounded, but wouldn’t it be nice if the US military didn’t help destroy societies in the first place and leave them so vulnerable to natural disasters?

The US military has a long history in Haiti. In 1915, at the request of US banks which had taken over the Haitian banking system in 1910-11, US Marines invaded, beginning an occupation that would last until 1934. After dissolving the legislature, US officials wrote a new constitution, adopted in a flawed vote in 1919, which abolished a long-standing prohibition on foreign ownership of land. (Supposedly, future-president FDR personally wrote the constitution while acting as under-secretary of the Navy.)

US forces used an 1864 law that required peasants to perform free labor on roads in lieu of paying road tax to force thousands of people to build hundreds of miles of roads under the corvée system. The roads helped US troops move around and opened up the countryside to economic development. Haitian peasants saw the forced labor system as a return to slavery at the hands of white US solders.

When Haitians rebelled against US rule in 1919, US marines put down the uprising, killing up to 15,000 Haitians according to Haitian historians. (The US Navy admitted that 3,250 were killed.) Even after US Marines left in 1934, the US retained control over Haiti’s external finances until 1947.

Haitian society was in shambles before, during and after the US occupation, economically plundered by transnational corporations as well as local elites. Military coups were followed by military dictatorships, some supported by US authorities and others shunned, but the common thread has been a US focus on profits and control, while neglecting self-determination, justice and economic development for the common population.

Haiti is a victim of failed international development schemes that leave developing countries deep in debt to build mega-projects that don’t address basic human needs. In the 1930s, the World Bank financed the Peligre Dam, completed in 1956. It was built by Brown and Root of Texas, the now infamous defense contractors. The fertile agricultural Artibonite River valley was flooded, leaving its residents refugees in their own country. Meanwhile, the dam silted up more rapidly than expected due to massive Haitian deforestation, leaving it a useless breeding ground for malaria. In the end, the project just enriched a US company in the name of the Haitians it impoverished.

To the credit of the Haitian people, when the Canadian International Development Agency and the Inter-American Development Bank tried to build two more dams in the 1980s, ten thousand people stood up against the plan and against their own notoriously repressive government, and succeeded in putting enough pressure on the banks to halt the projects.

If you look at a satellite picture of the island of Hispaniola, it is easy to pick out the border between Haiti and the Dominican Republic, because Haiti was so massively deforested by European colonists. This deforestation has made every recent natural disaster much worse on the Haiti side of the island, because without trees the land washes away, burying roads and homes, and drinking water reservoirs are impossible to keep clean.

The overwhelming human tragedy of Haiti after the earthquake tears at our hearts. But in our response, we need to do more than just help the victims. We need to attack the underlying social, political and economic conditions that transformed a natural earthquake into a human disaster. We demand no more Haitis — people in the US and the developed world shouldn’t be living high on the hog while a majority of the world’s population barely has the resources to eat, much less prepare for natural disasters.

Many people want to donate money to help with disaster relief. The following groups are based in Haiti, run by Haitians, were active there before the earthquake, and will remain after the TV cameras have left. Helping Haitians help themselves is better than funding huge US based corporate-style charities.

• Aristide Foundation – medical facility run by Haitian doctors, students and Cuban doctors www.haitiaction.net

• Partners In Health (Zanmi Lasante) – one of the largest health care delivery services in Haiti staffed and managed by Haitians with a full training program for Haitians to become doctors and other health professionals: www.pih.org

• Institute For Justice And Democracy In Haiti – distributes objective and accurate information on human rights conditions in Haiti and pursues legal cases with local human rights groups www.ijdh.org

• Working Together For Haiti (Konbit Pou Ayiti) – focuses on Haitian solutions to environmental, social and economic problems by providing training and funding to community-based projects. www.konpay.org