November 1, 2009

More than two dozen citizens gathered in front of the IU Auditorium on Oct. 27 to "Walk to Support Palestine." The walk was organized by the American Association for Palestinian Equal Rights Foundation.

After mingling and discussing the events that led them to participate, citizens walked behind a banner that read "Freedom and Equality for Palestine" through campus to the Sample Gates and down Kirkwood to the Square. There was no shouting, no slogans.

Marcher Kadhim Shaaban said it is a moral imperative for every citizen to support civil rights for everyone, especially for the sufferings of the Palestinians. "It is also essential for the United States interests in the Middle East and Islamic World that we work hard to aid the Palestinians who are suffering and give them an independent state," he added. "This is an issue that has both moral and strategic importance."

August 15, 2009

It was a hot August day in Detroit. I was standing on a street corner downtown, looking at the front page of The Detroit News in a news rack. I remember a streetcar rattling by on the tracks as I read the headline: A single American bomb had destroyed a Japanese city. My first thought was that I knew exactly what that bomb was. It was the U-235 bomb we had discussed in school and written papers about the previous fall.

I thought: "We got it first. And we used it. On a city."

I had a sense of dread, a feeling that something very ominous for humanity had just happened. A feeling, new to me as an American, at 14, that my country might have made a terrible mistake. I was glad when the war ended nine days later, but it didn't make me think that my first reaction on Aug. 6 was wrong.

Unlike nearly everyone else outside the Manhattan Project, my first awareness of the challenges of the nuclear era had occurred -- and my attitudes toward the advent of nuclear weaponry had formed -- some nine months earlier than those headlines, and in a crucially different context.

It was in a ninth-grade social studies class in the fall of 1944. I was 13, a boarding student on full scholarship at Cranbrook, a private school in Bloomfield Hills, Mich. Our teacher, Bradley Patterson, was discussing a concept that was familiar then in sociology, William F. Ogburn's notion of "cultural lag."

May 17, 2009

For a guy who hasn‘t been in Indiana a year-and-a-half yet, Jesse Kharbanda has a firm grasp on how environmental politics play in the state. A few weeks before the remnants of his Hoosier Environmental Council’s (HEC) priorities lay ravaged on the floor of the Indiana General Assembly yet again, he detailed the strategies and processes that would deny Hoosiers their environmental right to clean, healthy air.

“Change obviously happens very, very slowly here,” HEC’s executive director since December 2007 said in measured words. “And part of that is the way our General Assembly is structured.”

Under Indiana’s legislative procedures, one senator could, and on April 29 did, kill HEC’s No. 1 priority on energy policy, for reasons that Kharbanda detailed 44 days earlier: “People want to insert coal and nuclear into the definition of renewable energy in a renewable electricity standard.”

Read Part 2 of The Bloomington Alternative’s conversation with Hoosier Environmental Council Executive Director Jesse Kharbanda "The uphill struggle against King Coal" in the upcoming May 31 edition.

May 3, 2009

Standing on a table and shouting at public meetings is a felony in Indiana and amounts to “Racketeering” if the offender is a member of an organized citizens group, according to arrest warrants issued April 17 in Pike County for two anti-NAFTA Highway protesters.

In the documents, Pike County Prosecutor Darrin McDonald and a state police officer allege that direct actions by members of the Roadblock EarthFirst! group between June 2007 and August 2008 are felonies under the Indiana Corrupt Business Influence Act, punishable by up to eight years in state prison. The law is Indiana’s version of the federal Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act, a.k.a. RICO.

Two activists -- Hugh F. Farrell and Gina A. “Tiga” Wertz -- were arrested on April 24 and charged with four misdemeanors and felony racketeering for anti-Interstate 69 actions in Petersburg, Oakland City, Evansville and Bloomington. Farrell was released April 28 on bond. Wertz remained in jail as of May 1.

May 3, 2009

News Release
Hoosier Environmental Council

The Hoosier Environmental Council (HEC) weighed in on the efforts to improve Indiana's environment -- and economy -- during the 2009 session of the Indiana General Assembly.

Throughout this year's legislative session, HEC advocated for the passage of the Green Jobs Development Act, as well as improving the quality of life in communities with industrial-scale hog and dairy operations (CAFOs) and increasing options for public transit in communities throughout the state.

Two major elements of the Green Jobs Development Act, a Renewable Electricity Standard (RES) and net metering, failed to make it out of the General Assembly late on April 29, in spite of both proposals overwhelmingly passing out of both chambers just weeks before. Senate Bill 420 would have established a statewide RES ensuring that Indiana would receive at least 15 percent of its energy from renewable or energy-efficient resources by 2025, and Senate Bill 300 would have opened up, in an unprecedented way, the electricity sector to customer self-generation of renewable energy.

March 22, 2009

March 19 marked the sixth anniversary of the U.S. invasion of Iraq. It has been six long years of war, sectarian violence, terrorist attacks and military occupation for the people of Iraq, following more than 12 years of debilitating economic sanctions and U.S. bombing raids.

Over the past six years, more than 5 million Iraqis have fled or been forced from their homes and livelihoods because of war, violent sectarianism and military occupation. Over 1 million Iraqis have died since March 2003. Hundreds of thousands are now in need of medical attention and humanitarian aid.

March 8, 2009

Tree-hugging is not a bad word.

That was the message speakers conveyed between films at the Wild and Scenic Environmental Film Festival on Tour on Feb. 26. The event, which was hosted by the Indiana Forest Alliance (IFA) at the Buskirk-Chumley Theater, featured nine films highlighting various environmental issues around the world.

Films varied from Sand Dancer, the profile of an artist in New Zealand who creates intricate designs in the sand, to Fighting Goliath: Texas Coal Wars, the story of a coalition of Texans fighting the creation of 11 coal-powered energy plants in their state.

The importance of activism was a heavy theme throughout the night. “I guarantee trouble will find you no matter where you live, so become an activist before it finds you,” Andy Mahler, the festival’s host, told the audience.

March 8, 2009

On March 20, a few days after the sixth anniversary of the U.S. invasion of Iraq, 55 intrepid Bloomingtonians will board a bus bound for Washington, D.C, for a peace march on the Pentagon. Thirteen hundred organizations and individuals have endorsed the march, the first national one against the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan since President Barack Obama was elected.

The demonstration's rallying cries are, “From Iraq to Afghanistan to Palestine, Occupation is a Crime” and “We Need Jobs and Education, Not Wars and Occupation.” The demonstrators will urge an end to the war threats and economic sanctions against Iran and will protest the illegal U.S. program of detention and torture.

"It's important to let the new administration and Congress know that the public is still very much aware of and opposed to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan,” Mike Ferner, president of Veterans for Peace, said in an e-mail. “We do not like what we're hearing about slowly pulling out of Iraq while leaving 50,000 troops there permanently, and we don't believe that Afghanistan is somehow the 'right' war that we should be waging seriously.”

February 22, 2009

On Feb. 3, six citizens committed to nonviolent civil disobedience were arrested for trespassing on West Virginia's Coal River Mountain mountaintop removal site after they chained themselves to a bulldozer and an excavator. The same afternoon, eight more were arrested at a second protest in Pettus, W.Va.

Blasting off the tops of mountains is one way the coal industry obtains coal. It's a ruinous practice. According to Tara Lohan, writing on AlterNet, mountain top removal mining in Appalachia uses 3 million pounds of explosives a day to blow up the tops of mountains, dumping the debris into waterways and valleys and leaving behind mounds of toxic waste.

Instead of mountaintop removal, Coal River Mountain's residents and their supporters advocate a wind farm on the site as a safe alternative for clean energy and long-term jobs.

The Coal River Mountain arrests illustrate a new type of environmental movement that is building around coal. In this movement, civil disobedience is coming back as a tool for fighting climate change, specifically focused on the coal industry and its mining and burning of coal to produce electricity.

November 30, 2008

Red State Rebels is a collection of essays about a broad cross-section of activists, malcontents and nonconformists living in what coastal liberals too often write off as “flyover country.”

As editors Jeffrey St. Clair and Joshua Frank write in their introduction, “This book offers just a few snapshots of the grassroots resistance taking place in the forgotten heartland of America. These are tales of rebellion and courage. Out here activism isn’t for the faint of heart. Be thankful someone is willing to do the dirty work.”

This resistance should inspire readers to think about how to take important stands right now, wherever they are.

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