'/> Uncommon Hours: June 2010
Blogging on culture, politics, and the environment since 2008.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

'Hands Across the Sand': Kansas City

Opponents of offshore drilling line the International Bridge
in Kansas City as part of Hands Across the Sand.

On Saturday, June 26th, activists, environmentalists, and people who’d never attended a public protest rally of any kind formed symbolic human chains at 750 locations worldwide to demonstrate their opposition to offshore drilling for oil and their support for clean energy policies.

Hands Across the Sand began in Florida as a statewide effort to oppose lifting the ban on drilling in Florida waters months before the Deepwater Horizon sank in the Gulf of Mexico .

In Kansas City, about sixty people participated in Hands Across the Sand, lining Ward Parkway and later marching across the International Bridge in a show of solidarity with opponents of offshore drilling.

I asked a number of participants two questions: Why are you here today? And do you have any message for Judge Martin L.C. Feldman of the United States District Court in New Orleans, who lifted the moratorium on deepwater drilling in the Gulf of Mexico.

Here are some responses:

“The point of being out here today is to say that we have to change the way we live. We have to stop using so much oil if we’re going to stop future gushers. The only solution to a disaster like this is phasing out oil and getting on to clean energy as quickly as we can.”

"We fool ourselves if think judges are above politics and above self interest. I think [Judge Feldman] was acting on his own self interest, however subconsciously, with this ruling. The government should have the power to put a moratorium on this deep water drilling because they’re proving every day that they don’t know how to stop a gusher this deep.”
―John Kurmann, 350KC

“That’s a good question: Why is Kansas out protesting offshore oil drilling since we don’t have any shores in Kansas? We’re standing here in solidarity with those on the coast who are protesting, and we want them to stand up with us when we talk about clean energy in Kansas, and together we’ll all have a safe green energy and economy.”
―Steve Baru, Chair of the Sierra Club’s Kanza Group
“Because I realize that there’s power in numbers and because we want to relay a message to people who may not think about this even though it’s in the news every day, and just make a statement, a peaceful statement.”

―Robbie Meyer, first-time protester
“I’m here because the nation needs to understand the seriousness of this problem and needs to act for stronger and better regulations for this kind of drilling, if it’s going to continue at all.”
―Elaine Giessel, marine biologist and Sierra Club member

“It’s gone too far. If we don’t stop it now we’re doomed.”
―Barbara Wallin

“I’m here because I’m concerned about what’s happening in the Gulf and about the environment in general and America’s lack of action to help resolve global climate change.”
―Susan Pavlakis, Sierra Club member

Emily Hatcher, Eric Page, Felicia Drury, and Mike Drury

"I'm here because we need to quit our dependence on oil and move to greener and cleaner energies. There’s no reason we should be dependent on oil in this day and age and we just need to stop.”
―Felicia Drury
“We can’t keep going like we are now and keep this planet as it is.”
―Mike Drury

“Stop offshore drilling! We have many cleaner energy options that we’re choosing not to use. We’re putting profit over our environment, and that needs to end.”
―Emily Hatcher

“Accountability. We’re killing the earth and the future. It’s the most important issue we face.”
―Brent Almasi

“The thing is that we are responsible. It’s not just BP. It’s us. When you use a plastic bag, when you go to the store and buy something plastic made in China, you are just as responsible for what’s happened in the Gulf as BP, and we have to take responsibility, and to do that, we’ve got to stop consuming crap.”
―Vicki Walker

“Clean energy now! Right now!” ―Lori Wohlschlaeger
“I’m here because it’s obvious that we need to get off oil and other fossil fuels. We should have done that decades ago, and now we’ve got a big accident that just shows the true cost of using oil. Gasoline should cost ten dollars a gallon, but we subsidize it so heavily.”

“I think President Obama was correct in trying to get a ban on deepwater drilling because obviously this accident shows that they don’t know what they’re doing. This thing is almost as dangerous as a nuclear plant and yet it’s regulated much more weakly.”
―Craig Volland, Sierra Club member
“We have solutions. There are really good solutions to get us off oil. If we all work together we can get it done and move to a clean energy society.”

“[Judge Feldman and supporters of offshore drilling] have to understand that they don’t realize the damage this has done to us, and not just to the people in Louisiana but to people all across the country. The people of the United States get it, and we can’t allow them to continue this very damaging process. It’s going to destroy our environment forever. The ecosystems and the ocean are all connected, and we have to tell that judge, ‘No, sit down, shut up!’ We can solve the problem if can stop people like him from allowing the damage to continue.”
―Joe Spease, Sierra Club member
“I’m a labor person. I’m for strong unions and better wages, but I’m also for good jobs, clean jobs good green jobs.”

―Molly Madden, labor organizer

“We need to finally take steps to get away from gas and oil.”
―Diane Ranum

"What she said!" ―Rick Ranum

Bob Sommer
Uncommon Hours

Friday, June 25, 2010

Sea Shepherd Capt. Paul Watson: '...what is the alternative? To do nothing, to be another docile, submissive, unquestioning slave to a paradigm of blind greed?'

An Amusing Shade of Blue
Commentary by Captain Paul Watson

It seems my reputation as an international eco-desperado has been notched up this week with my name posted by Japan on the Interpol “Blue List.”

It’s surprisingly exciting. I feel so Jason Bourne!

It’s kind of amusing really. Japan is becoming increasingly more desperate to stop our interventions against their illegal whaling activities. Earlier this week, they held a special session at the International Whaling Commission (IWC) to illustrate and condemn the actions of the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society. The presentation was complete with edited video images and glossy color pictures with circles and arrows on each one, explaining every “eco-terroristic” detail in numerous languages, of my merry band of eco-nauts against the poor, little, misunderstood, and pathetically whining rants of the whale killers.

Hell, you can’t buy this kind of recognition.

Worldwide gathering against offshore drilling: 'Hands across the Sand'



WHO: Thousands of citizens from every state in the U.S., Puerto Rico and D.C., and 20 countries
WHAT: Citizens will gather on beaches and inland communities and join hands to recognize the tragedy in the Gulf and call for clean energy, no more offshore drilling
WHEN: Saturday, June 26
WHERE: 700 events nationwide and worldwide. NOTE: A complete list of events, all of which begin at 11 a.m. local time this Saturday, can be found here: http://www.handsacrossthesand.org/.

A list of key events the media may wish to cover follows at the end of this advisory.

VISUALS: Citizens will gather with signs and props and will join hands along scenic stretches of beach and inland cities and communities

Background: Hands Across the Sand was founded by Florida restaurant owner and surfer Dave Rauschkolb. The Sierra Club has organized hundreds of Hands Across the Sand events as part of its Beyond Oil campaign, aimed at ending America's oil dependence over the next 20 years. http://action.sierraclub.org/Hands

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Sierra Club to join Obama Administration in appealing Gulf offshore drilling decision

On June 7, 2010, Hornbeck Offshore Services, a company that provides vessel support to offshore oil and gas drilling in the Gulf of Mexico, filed a lawsuit challenging the Obama administration's moratorium on deepwater drilling.

Bollinger Shipyard Companies, Bee Mar Deepwater Vessels Companies and Chouest Shore Side, Vessel, and Shipyard Companies joined the lawsuit against the Obama administration.
The Sierra Club, along with other groups, including the Florida Wildlife Federation, intervened on behalf of the government. The groups are represented by Earthjustice.

The Sierra Club will join the Obama administration in appealing the judge's decision.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Don't call it a ‘spill’

Don't call it a ‘spill’
By Bob Sommer
Uncommon Hours

The media likes to call the catastrophe in the Gulf a spill. A Google search on oil spill brings up 681,000,000 results in 0.19 seconds! Famously, BP’s link appears before all of them with the promising subtitle, “GulfOfMexicoResponse.” No doubt they’re on it.

A couple of entries down from BP, Wikipedia offers a definition for oil spill: “… a release of a liquid petroleum hydrocarbon into the environment due to human activity … a form of pollution.”

Yes, but is it a spill?

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Protesters Arrested at Nuke-Parts Plant in Kansas City

Protesters Arrested at Nuke-Parts Plant in Kansas City
By Jane Stoever and Ann Suellentrop

The National Nuclear Security Administration's Kansas City Plant, managed by Honeywell to help make nuclear weapons, became the scene of civil disobedience for the first time June 18. Four people were arrested when they blocked the employees' entrance to the plant, while about 35 supporters blocked the plant's front driveway.

Crosses were planted along the highway and chalk bodies colored the sidewalks. A huge sheet-turned-banner told the story of death and destruction related to the plant. More than a dozen vehicles from NNSA, the Department of Homeland Security, and the Kansas City Police came to the scene, and a police helicopter hovered overhead.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

David Bates: The Katrina Paintings

David Bates: The Katrina Paintings
Kemper Museum of Contemporary Art
(showing through August 22, 2010)

Bob Sommer
Uncommon Hours

The Storm Triptych (panel 1), 2006-2007

If a distinction exists between art and social and political commentary, it vanishes in the current exhibit at the Kemper Museum, David Bates: The Katrina Paintings.

Like most Americans, Bates watched and was moved by the catastrophe on the Gulf Coast five years ago as it unfolded on TV. He began sketching as he watched. His early drawings – some on plain, lined writing paper – became the seeds of the extensive series of paintings he created over the next three years, and which can now be viewed at the Kemper.

Dozens upon dozens of faces confront viewers – filled with sorrow, loss, tragedy, and above all a sense of betrayal. Many cover their faces with hands that are worn and calloused from lifetimes of work.

The paintings are large, imposing. In the gallery you find yourself surrounded by people who have been victimized not only by nature’s force, but by the country’s failure to respond with timely assistance – and for some, a failure even to empathize with the victims. Most of the paintings depict African-Americans. The multitude of faces crowded into The Storm Triptych remind us also of how eager some were to blame the victims, how in fact, the events even became an excuse to terrorize them.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Pax tecum, Kris!

Kris Cheatum
(1937 - 2010)

Lynn and Kris Cheatum at an antiwar rally in 2008.
(Photo by Bob Sommer)

If you’ve driven past Mill Creek Park in Kansas City on almost any Sunday afternoon since the Iraq War began, you’ve probably seen Kris Cheatum.

She was the petite, grandmotherly woman out along 47th Street protesting the war.

I met Kris and her husband Lynn in 2008, when I did an article for The Kansas City Star on the local peace movement. Her energy, enthusiasm, and good cheer were not only infectious but amazing. She was 71 at the time and had come out on that blustery afternoon to join the other activists, even though she was still recovering from a recent leg injury!

Kris passed away on Sunday, June 6th, at Research Medical Center.

Her activism began with the civil rights movement during the 1960s, when she marched for fair housing in Kansas City, sometimes carrying her infant son to rallies and protest events. She advocated for social justice throughout her life. She was a board member of PeaceWorks Kansas City and edited the newsletter that reliably appears in my mailbox every month.

Kansas City lost one of its great citizens this week, and the country lost one of its most energetic and inspirational peace activists.

Click here for Kris's obituary in The Kansas City Star.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Paint it black

I came across this passage recently in Italo Calvino’s compelling (and prescient) 1983 novel, Mr. Palomar:

“In greasy, multicolored glints the skin of oil spreads out, rippling on the water; a material consistency can be doubted in the glint of the sun, but not in this trace of the physical presence of man, who scatters excess fuel in his wake, detritus of combustion, residues that cannot be assimilated, mixing and multiplying the life and death around him.”

Just seemed to resonate, for some reason.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Robert Reich: The President Must Take Charge

'When Everything Seems Out of Control, the President Must Take Charge'
By Robert Reich
Originally posted at robertreich.org

As voters head to the polls today for primaries in 12 states, their anger is showing.

A Washington Post/ABC News poll released today shows that fewer than three in 10 voters say they will support their representative in the House in the mid-term election four months from now. That’s a lower percentage than in 1994 — when Republicans recaptured the House and Senate.

Their anger is rooted in the continuing awfulness of the economy. Fed Chair Ben Bernanke said today the economy appeared to have enough momentum to avoid a double-dip recession. That’s hardly reassuring to 15 million jobless Americans. Nor to all those with jobs who are earning less than they did three years ago because they’re temps or part-timers or have had to settle for lower wages.

Monday, June 7, 2010

Worse Than Vietnam?

Rep. Alan Grayson: 'The Longest War'

The Longest War
By Rep. Alan Grayson (FL-8)

Posted at Huffington Post: June 6, 2010 10:28 AM

Today, the war in Afghanistan becomes America's longest war. Longer than the war in Vietnam. Longer than the Korean War.

It took America two years to end World War I, and bring peace to the world. World War II was a little harder; that took us 3½ years to finish off.

The war in Afghanistan is over eight years old. And we're sending in more troops. We're not getting out. We getting deeper in.

Sunday, June 6, 2010

But does Obama have an inner TR?

In his column today, Frank Rich says the BP oil spill could be for the Obama presidency what Standard Oil was for Teddy Roosevelt's and kick off a new Progressive Era of trustbusting.

"This all adds up to a Teddy Roosevelt pivot-point for Obama," Rich writes, "who shares many of that president’s moral and intellectual convictions. But Obama can’t embrace his inner T.R. as long as he’s too in thrall to the supposed wisdom of the nation’s meritocracy, too willing to settle for incremental pragmatism as a goal, and too inhibited by the fine points of Washington policy debates to embrace bold words and bold action. If he is to wield the big stick of reform against BP and the other powerful interests that have ripped us off, he will have to tell the big story with no holds barred."

The question, however, is whether Obama really has an inner TR to channel. There's been no evidence in his presidency of a true progressive spirit. Just the opposite. He escalated the failed war in Afghanistan and then used the Nobel Peace Prize speech (of all things!) to rationalize that escalation, which perhaps revealed more about his convictions than a controlled and clearly staged hissy-fit about BP's new ad campaign. His announcement at West Point that more troops were going to Afghanistan might have been delivered by W himself.

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Raw Video: Dozens of Heavily Oiled Birds Off La.

Have you noticed this?

BP has purchased search terms to make sure you find your way to their website, where they can control the message. When you punch in "oil spill" at Google or Yahoo, BP's home page is highlighted at the top of the page.

Apparently share value is the only value, in case anyone still doubted that.

Read more here.

As BP Disaster Spreads, Sierra Club Launches 'Beyond Oil' Campaign

June 4, 2010
Contact: Kristina Johnson
(415) 977-5619

Venice, La.- Today, the Sierra Club launched a new campaign urging President Obama to respond the BP oil disaster in the Gulf with a bold plan to end America's dependence on oil in the next twenty years. The Sierra Club's "Beyond Oil" campaign will include rallies and events around the nation, paid ads, a new website, a short documentary and videos. The organization will be mobilizing its 1.3 million members and supporters, and conducting robust outreach to concerned Americans everywhere.

Sierra Club's Executive Director Michael Brune was in the Gulf this week touring the disaster site for the second time. After seeing oiled birds and struggling dolphins, Brune issued a call to action for all Americans who feel helpless in the face of the disaster and want to make sure it never happens again.

You can watch a video of Brune in the Gulf here: http://www.beyondoil.org/

Friday, June 4, 2010

To whom was Tony Hayward really playing?

BP CEO Tony Hayward kept it short at his Thursday press conference, promising to “restore the shoreline to its original state.”

“We will be here for a very long time,” he added. “We realize this is just the beginning.”

But he wasn’t in front of the cameras for a very long time. He took just a few questions, and then he was gone.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Hey, CNBC, how're we doing?

Ever wonder how smart the talking heads on CNBC are?

Here are a couple of random headlines I saved from earlier this year, just to see how they’d do:

Feb 24, 2010:

'Market to Rise 10%—Buy Techs & Banks: Stock Picker'

David Katz, chief investment officer of Matrix Asset Advisors, said, “We think the year ends about 10 to 12 percent higher on the year, probably 13 to 15 percent higher from here.”

March 1, 2010:

' 'Powerful' 17% S&P Growth in 2010: Equity Strategist Phil Dow'

Phil Dow, director of equity strategy at RBC Wealth Management, called for the S&P 500 to reach 1300 by year’s end, "roughly 17 percent [growth] for the year."

Well, to make his target, Dow’s prediction will have to earn 19% from today’s level, and he now has just seven months to get there.

As to Katz, all of the market’s rollicking gains since his Feb. 24 prediction are gone and the S&P is sitting below its level on that date.

Note the eye-catching headlines, too. CNBC gets the credit for them.

Chart courtesy of StockCharts.com

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Did Bob Herbert visit Uncommon Hours?

I’d like to flatter myself that Bob Herbert checked out my Memorial Day post before he wrote his column for today’s NYT:

"The first thing we can do," wrote Herbert, "is conserve more. That’s the low-hanging fruit in any clean-energy strategy."