Empire-lover Mikulski is on the loose!

I made this image, but please spread it. I'd love that.

I just received this form letter in which Defense-industry-friendly Barbara Mikulski says that she’d approve of a ‘limited’ war in Syria and acts all empire-friendly, basically speaking pro-empire neoconservative rhetoric uses by Obama, and I thought I’d share it (important parts are bolded):

Dear Mr. Hermann:

Thank you for contacting me to share your thoughts about U.S.
involvement in Syria. It is good to hear from you.

I have heard from many Marylanders like you on this issue, and I assure
you that your thoughts and concerns continue to inform me. As a member
of the Senate Intelligence Committee, I have reviewed extensive evidence
and concluded that the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad is
responsible for the use of chemical weapons against its own people on
August 21, 2013. That is why I offered my support for the authorization
of targeted, limited military action against the Bashar regime should it
be necessary. This is not a mandate for the use of force, and no formal
vote has occurred in the Senate.

The use of these weapons flies in the face of international law and
places our troops and allies in harm’s way. The United Nations recently
released a report that, while stopping short of assigning blame, makes
it clear that chemical weapons were used and calls the act a “war
crime.” It is an act that should have consequences, or I believe it will
happen again, perhaps against U.S. troops in the region.

The threat of force against the Assad regime has created a diplomatic
opportunity to work with other nations to force Syrian to give up its
chemical weapons stockpiles. The United States-along with its
allies-should pursue these diplomatic opportunities to find a solution
to this humanitarian crisis.

Again, thanks for contacting me. If I can be of any assistance, please
don’t hesitate to contact me.

Sincerely,
Barbara A. Mikulski
United States Senator

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A radical goes to PowerShift

Connecting with activists. Supporting alternative energy. Deriding of the fossil fuel lobby. A huge march. That is what PowerShift, from October 18th to October 21st, purports to be. I went to this environmental conference of the youth in the halls of a convention center in the heart of Pittsburgh, to find out if they were right.

The opening plenary surprised and shocked me in what was said. The uniformity was extraordinary. No speaker directly challenged Obama, and if they mentioned him it was with an almost weak tone. Still, the young indigenous activist Ta’kaiya Blaney spoke about the destruction of her tribe’s tradition by pollution from big oil companies and the corrupted nature of the Harper government in Canada. Reverend Dirley said that this is “our moment” but only offered reformism as a solution. Filmmaker and activist Josh Fox told the participants that we should push Obama to stop fracking while forgetting to note that Obama has increased fracking in his presidency tremendously. Two college students pitched a MoveOn contest to participants, another sign of co-option from a Democratic Party angle  going on. Only one speaker mentioned capitalism, and that was Yudith Nieto. She said that such

subjects and others we shy away from or talk about rarely should be challenged. The final speaker that night was Philip Agnew, the Executive Director of the Dream Defenders, who talked about his rising consciousness, and that everyone has a divine spark to begin personal realization. At the same time, there were three videos projected into the minds of the participants: one by the US Steelworkers which promoted the corrupted Blue-Green Alliance, another which criticized palm oil production destroying homes of orangutan but didn’t mention the other effects on animals and people in Indonesia, and a final one promoting something called reel-power 2.

From here, it is important to discuss the panels and sessions as well. The first I attended was about how the climate crisis and capitalism were interconnected. Despite the criticism from fellow PowerShifters from my school that no solutions were presented, the different dimensions of capitalism were described and solutions were offered. These included: a two-part alternative vision that involved self-reliance and  education to counter the propaganda; a decentralized community model with worker cooperatives and a just transition; looking at what countries have started successfully “stepping down capitalism;” and a cooperative model. Most importantly, the panelists said we needed to globalize resistance and have communities choose the right of tactics for them. The next panel I went to was on the school-to-prison pipeline. Panelists talked about how schools are becoming like prisons, restrictive measures imposed on students; and the deeper intersectionality with other issues. This panelists said there are solutions such as countering the zero tolerance policies, and getting community support in certain fights. The last place I went to a movie called Blood on the Mountain, about mountaintop removal. The movie has a liberal edge to it, but it still made good points about the horrible situation in southern West Virginia.

The next day, I only went to two sessions each which had a deeper importance. One was about the influence and power the Koch Brothers have on the educational sphere, climate denial, etc… through their money machine. A researcher from IFG said that they calculated that $100 billion will be gained by the Kochs if the pipeline is built. While this is important, the funding and interest of Warren Buffet against the pipeline was not mentioned. Then, there was a session about campus voting. While less people went to this session, there was a good discussion about impediments put up to stop students from voting even though the panelists were clearly liberals. Someone even floated the idea of universal voter registration from when you are born until when you die, which seemed like an interesting idea. Finally there was a state breakout for Maryland, where my group talked about a liquefied natural gas (LNG) plant proposed in Cove Point in Southern Maryland, and how to stop it.

As my time at the conference came to close there was a final plenary, all focused on Keystone XL. I already knew this was a bad sign, as I had written on White Rose Reader why people should think beyond Keystone XL. Like the one I went to on Friday it was easy to see who founded this conference:

350.org, NRDC, the Sierra Club, the Rainforest Action Network (RAN), Environment America, MoveOn.org, Greenpeace, the Rockefeller Brothers Fund, the Keneda Fund, the Chorus Foundation, the Overbrook Foundation, and the Sherman Foundation, Student PIRGs, Sierra Student Coalition, and the Chesapeake Climate Action Network (CCAN). This funding was what I feared when I signed up for the conference back in August, and it utterly disgusted me.

The first speaker was the president of the Energy Action Coalition, Mara Cowley. While she said that there should be a focus on environmental justice, that there should be a focus on environmental justice, and that 100% “clean energy” is doable, she still implied that she was (among others) fulfilling Obama’s words at the last PowerShift. More importantly, she said that that stopping the Keystone XL pipeline is only one fight. Then, there were a line of speakers with pro-Obama rhetoric including Bill McKibben, Ismael Bucknen, Rev. Lennox Yearwood, Mike Brune, and more. This is deeply distressing because Obama has increased domestic oil & gas drilling exponentially to achieve “energy independence,” as he boasts about in his speeches about energy. Specifically, Mike Brune and Ishmael Bucknen said that we need to “support the President.” No one in general took an anti-Obama stand but a member of the Crew Nation, Crystal Lameman said that governments should not play “environmental roulette” and that industry and government do not have the truth. Even Kendell Mackey who showed the ridiculously idiotic time capsules said that Keystone XL pipeline was not the only fight and that direct action is important. Interestingly, Bill McKibben said the same about the Keystone fight, even going as far to acknowledge the southern half of the pipeline was already being built but not saying that Obama approved this pipeline. At one point, McKibben said that the movement is “more than a collection of Washington-based organizations” and later said (I’ll paraphrase): our movement is not based around big groups and charismatic individuals. This is ironic because McKibben himself is a charismatic individual.

Around this time, all hell began to break loose. One person yelled correctly that the pipeline was already partially approved, which was barely (if at all) acknowledged by McKibben. The, Rev. Yearwood, who was kinda the MC for the rest of the speakers, starting chanting and one group wasn’t so sure. I wasn’t sure either. They were shaking their heads. When Ishmael Bucknen began speaking, a ‘mic check’ began as people stood on their chairs. As I later learned after reading the twitter feed of the Tar Sands Blockade, this was because a Lakota working for the Energy Action Coalition was not paid the money to come to PowerShift. (1) Activists connected this to colonialism, racism, and capitalism, and likely the fact that Nieto, an indigenous activist was cut off “accidentally” during the Friday plenary. Despite the seemingly strange timing,(2) Bucknen deserved to be interrupted because afterwards he just spewed a bunch of pro-Obama rhetoric, why Obama is the greatest, etc… The activists were hauled out in what what seemed to a controlled area for speech. Most importantly, I learned how liberal my group of fellow activists are, with some saying the protesters should shut up, and are being rude. This is clearly a continuation of what happened during a SEAC meeting when I was shortchanged in time for my subject. (3) Thinking back, I am reminded of that great song by Melvina Reynolds titled ‘It Isn’t Nice,’ speaking to how certain actions may be rude or ‘not nice’ but they need to be done. Rev. Yearwood, when he later spoke, said he “appreciated” the protesters making a point but then moved on, speaking on other issues like a possible segregated movement. Then, there was a looking-like-a-privileged-white-guy Mike Brune, the President of the Sierra Club. The speech he made sounded like it could have come right out of Obama’s mouth because the rhetoric was so similar. Later that night, one of my friends would tell me that due to the privilege of the Sierra Club and their twisted version of the environment means they should be abolished with anyone rushing over to join Rising Tide North America instead. Finally, Yearwood asked participants to hug each other and declared that “Powershift is a lifestyle.”

I recently talked with my dad who told me that people like Al Gore and Bill McKibben are almost celebrites in the environmental movement, which activists that participated in the mic-check made fun of by acting like they were bowing, and that big organizations have a lot of power in their hierarchies. I told him that there seemed to be a disconnect from the big organizations running/backing the conference and the participants which was shown in part by the mic-check. Despite this tension, I enjoyed PowerShift, I just hope that it would be less expensive for registration, as it seemed that everyone that came there has some level of privilege, which seems deeply problematic.

Notes:

(1) http://interestingblogger.wordpress.com/2013/10/27/background-of-the-powershift-mic-check/

(2) https://twitter.com/burkelyh/status/392075300894302208

(3) http://readersupportednews.org/pm-section/78-78/19745-how-my-schools-radical-environmental-group-screwed-me-over

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The Corporatist Bay Foundation?

CBF_deception

One of the biggest lobbies for the Chesapeake Bay, and a huge environmental non-profit in Maryland has great appeal. This article investigates that non-profit, called the Chesapeake Bay Foundation (CBF) that says they are “saving the bay through education,
advocacy, litigation, and restoration” in great detail.

There is one easy place to start with the CBF. My one and only article on Indypendent Reader specifically about why the Red & Purple Lines, which are supported by the political elite, the ‘light rail lobby’ and the business community, are bad for Marylanders, proposing a moderate solution, notes that the CBF backs the Purple Line. To quote the article, the Purple Line,

“the Purple Line which goes through Montgomery and Prince George’s Counties…the Light Rail Lobby says that the Purple Line will encourage economic development in Washington Metropolitan area, promote job creation, cut time for transit riders, encourage thousands to ride transit, reduce pollution, promote a cleaner environment, reduce traffic congestion…[but in reality] the construction of the Purple Line will…increas[e]…air pollution in the Beltway’s inner loop, water pollution into the Chesapeake Bay, and noise pollution for nearby residents…eighty percent of those that are expected to ride the new Purple Line will come from existing mass transit, taxpayers will pay added costs for construction of the light rail and it will unsafe as a 50 MPH train is whizzing past educational environments…”

The support for the business-friendly and horrid Purple Line is only the beginning. Consider the “diverse and unique” companies that support “much of the good work [of]…CBF…support…CBF’s Bay-saving work…[and] are committed to clean water and our communities” in the eyes of the CBF. Here’s a picture I made about the companies that CBF partners with which include:

  1. Bank of America which has a ‘coal policy’ saying they “recognize that at the present time, fossil fuels, and coal in particular, will continue to supply a significant amount of the energy needed to power our society…Bank of America plays a significant role as a leading financial services company in promoting the responsible use of coal…[while supporting] advanced technologies such as carbon capture and storage…While we acknowledge that surface mining is economically efficient and creates jobs, it can be conducted in a way that minimizes environmental impacts in certain geographies.” This is part of the reason the Rainforest Action Network calls them the ‘Bank of Coal’ as it has higher investment in coal energy than UBS, Morgan Stanley, Citigroup and PNC. This is also noted on an article on Bloomberg News. Wanna learn more? Look up ‘bank of america and coal energy’ on Startpage. Yeah. They care about clean water and communities? That’s a joke.
  2. BB&T‘s page about Capital Markets, says that the bank’s ‘Energy Team’ supposedly has has “specific expertise to effectively navigate the commodity price volatility, technological transformations and evolving corporate strategies of the oil and gas industry…[providing] significant credit capacity through direct and syndicated lending to the upstream and midstream energy sectors in the lower 48 states…[and] is well positioned to provide a broad range of financial solutions to independent oil and gas companies and gathering and processing companies.” Also see this page on how they assist other dirty energy sectors. It also seems they care about global coal prices as well. So much for ‘caring’ about clean water or communities.
  3. Capital One seems to be all nice, to some, but is not. A short article seeming like a press release on Bloomberg News notes that Capital One is “a lender that gets more than half its revenue from credit cards, hired two bankers with experience advising firms in the oil and gas industries as it expands its securities business [including] former Barclays Plc (BARC) banker Russ Johnson and Bob Mertensotto, who worked for JPMorgan Chase & Co. (JPM) will fill newly created positions…Johnson and Mertensotto will be in charge of Capital One’s energy-banking office in Houston and report to Jim McBride, head of the energy-banking group within capital markets.” Then there is this revealing page on a Capital One website: “for more than 30 years, Capital One has served the energy industry with experienced oil and gas lenders, on-staff petroleum engineers, marine lenders, and corporate finance and Treasury Management specialists. We understand the unique financial needs of these industries and offer the products and services critical for success. We maintain banking relationships with more than 90 exploration and production, midstream, and other energy companies…With more than $3.5 billion in energy-banking loan commitments, our Energy Banking team is invested in the future of energy…Energy is your business. We’ve got the energy and commitment it takes to help your business succeed.” Clearly, these people don’t care about communities, and definitely don’t care about clean water.
  4. Choice Hotels International. Ashwin Patel “is the founder and president of Southwest Hospitality Management…[which has] ownership interests in hotels that are affiliated with a variety of national chains, such as…Choice Hotels International” & is a Managing Member of Patel Oil, an indirect connection. Evans Broohm was a sales agent for Choice Hotels & now according to his LinkedIn he is working as an oil & gas consultant. Sadly I could find any connection to this or this. On second looking into this it does seem that Choice Hotels is catering to workers in North Dakota & Montana as part of the supposed “boom” in oil production. After all, they are supposedly increasing their workforce in the state.
  5. Comcast. Hey, lets not forget that the fourth-largest producer of coal in Pennsylvania is using Comcast services intensively. Additionally, Comcast owns part of MSNBC as well which shows pro-oil propaganda as part of the capitalist crap they peddle on that network which is why some call Comcast the 21st century version of Standard Oil. The best example of Comcast working on behalf of big oil is the time that the company pulled an ad critical of ExxonMobil (this is also noted here as well).
  6. CSX had an even more direct connection to dirty energy. One CSX page said thatCSX is in the best position to serve the major East Coast refineries and terminals…Our team also helps schedule your crude oil trains in advance, reducing concern over delays at destination…CSX’s recently announced capacity expansion will support crude oil growth to the Northeast…CSX offers various crude by rail solutions to meet your needs in the dynamic marketplace.” Additionally let us not forget that trains are hauling more oil across the US, among other factors. 
  7. Google has some connections to dirty energy as well. One page notes that Google Earth is being used by the energy industry. There is also some sources saying iCloud depends on dirty energy as well which is connected to the fact that its data center is one of the most dirtest as noted by Mother Jones.

The environmental degradation of these companies among their other corporate partners  is among the many reasons it should be called the Corporatist Bay Foundation. But, there is  something deeper. Here’s what their page on advocacy says in part.

“We work at local, state, and federal levels for effective laws and regulations that will reduce pollution, restore vital natural systems like oyster reefs, forests, and wetlands, and encourage smart growth in our communities. CBF acts as a watchdog to elevate good practices for healing our waterways, while being vigilant in opposing projects or proposals that would degrade water quality. Our scientists submit comments to governing bodies regarding fisheries management, wetlands mitigation, stormwater issues, construction and development projects and more…We also helped to convince lawmakers to pass legislation that reduces nitrogen pollution from lawn fertilizers and ensures water quality is protected when nutrient credit trading is used as an efficient way to pay for water-quality improvements…CBF teamed up with Surry County residents to help defeat (at least for now) the largest coal-fired power plant ever proposed for Virginia…We worked to convince the Maryland General Assembly to approve a doubling of the state’s “flush fee” funding to pay for sewage treatment plant upgrades, as well as landmark stormwater fee legislation, and a law that discourages subdivisions with septic tanks in rural areas. We partnered with activists in Charles County to defeat a sprawl-inducing highway that would have polluted Mattawoman Creek, a fragile fish-breeding ground…CBF was one of four environmental groups appointed to the Governor’s Marcellus Shale Commission, an advisory panel that made recommendations on how to better control pollution from the Marcellus Shale drilling boom.”

While this sounds great, it sounds very moderate and conservative in their views. They seem to just accept dirty energy as a permanent state of mind, which is something that should be a concern to everyone. While they don’t sit on the business-friendly Marcellus Shale Safe Drilling Initiative Advisory Commission, part of the Maryland Department of the Environment, they do sit on that awful Marcellus Shale Commission created by Pennsylvania Governor Corbett. In a report titled Fracking and the Revolving Door in Pennsylvania, the Public Accountability Initiative wrote that:

“The pro-gas industry bias in the Commission’s findings and recommendations is unsurprising given the panel’s makeup. Thirteen of the Commission’s 29 members have direct ties to the gas industry, including some that were not disclosed by the commonwealth and one who was on the panel representing environmental interests…The Marcellus Shale Advisory Commission had its precedent in the Energy & Environment Committee…Of the 29 people on Corbett’s Energy & Environment Committee, 16 have ties, either by direct employment or through the companies they work for, to the energy industry.”

It seems awfully strange that the CBF would sit on such a commission, does it not? First consider the 12 issues the CBF says they are concerned about:

  1. Agriculture (how it factors into pollution)
  2. Air pollution
  3. Chemical contamination
  4. Climate change itself
  5. Cost of clean water
  6. Dead zones in the bay
  7. Why fisheries are vital
  8. Habitat loss
  9. Land use
  10. Natural gas drilling
  11. Polluted runoff
  12. Sewage & septic systems

While these are valid concerns, but consider their full position on natural gas drilling which is a bit disconcerting [parts are bolded for emphasis]:

CBF has not taken a position against natural gas development, nor have we called for a permanent ban on gas development in the region. Instead, we have embraced the precautionary principle. Our over-arching goal is to ensure that future energy development in the Chesapeake Bay region takes place in as safe and environmentally responsible a manner as possible. We have joined others in calling for a federal study of cumulative impacts of Marcellus shale development in the region and active participation in state policy initiatives (particularly in Pennsylvania).

This position is similar to that held by Gang Green or Big Green(s), which filmmaker Josh Fox said would mean the organizations are favoring the companies themselves:

Despite this similarity with the Gang Green (which I’ve written about in detail), this policy has not been criticized in any serious way, even though it’s position means it is standing against the people. They also strongly support this proposal called the Chesapeake Clean Water Blueprint which comprises “the pollution targets and the states’ plans comprise a Clean Water Blueprint for the Chesapeake and its rivers and streams” and supposedly ensures that “everyone shares in the responsibility for cleaning up our waterways…sets two-year, incremental pollution-reduction goals—known as milestones—to keep progress on track; and…imposes consequences for failure, ensuring states and localities will meet their responsibilities.” They treat it as the final solution, and rightly criticize agribusiness as well. But, this blueprint is not even something that the CBF came up with, but rather it is an EPA plan, and is not seemingly one comprehensive document. The only place that gives some inkling about the specifics is noted here. Maybe its a good plan, make up your mind about it. I can say it was threatened by vested interests and a federal court said the EPA still had the authority to impose limits. Let us also not forget that two people currently within the ranks of the Gang Green organization EDF used to work for the CBF as noted here and here. The same is the case with the Wilderness Society as noted here.

From here, I looked through the sites of Gang Green and the Baltimore Sun with the search term “chesapeake bay foundation” and found some interesting results:

  • The CBF was one of the signatories, along with Gang Green outlets WWF, Defenders of Wildlife, Natural Resources Defense Council, National Audubon Society, and a number of other green groups, of a 218 page document titled ‘Green Budget: Fiscal Year 2011‘ which supported the stimulus bill (Recovery Act), Obama’s “strong leadership,” certain Department of Energy programs, regulatory measures put forward by the EPA, supporting ‘balanced’ development on public lands but not outright standing against oil & gas drilling, saying that US should continue the imaginary “path to national energy independence” a.k.a. exploiting natural resources like crazy in the US, while specifically going through a number of different departments to outline the funding they say is needed. By the end, it just seemed like they were taking Obama’s position and not deviating much from it other than not overtly saying for more drilling (in fact they are saying it should be limited).
  • The CBF was a signatory of a letter to the Senate which stated that “On behalf of our organizations and the millions of individuals from across the country we represent,
    we urge you to work with your colleagues to ensure the Senate passes comprehensive climate and energy legislation that reduces greenhouse gas emissions and dedicates 5% of the total allowance value for natural resources adaptation in order to safeguard fish and wildlife, and the natural resources on which we all rely…As the Senate develops comprehensive climate and energy legislation, your leadership is needed to get the whole job done this year. Please ensure climate legislation both reduces the greenhouse gas emissions triggering climate change and safeguards natural resources, wildlife and our own communities threaten ed by the changes already set in motion. Specifically, any Senate bill should: establish a national policy framework to begin addressing the

    impacts of climate change on our natural resources; provide increased scientific capacity, coordination and information sharing; and dedicate 5% of the total allowance value to federal, state and tribal agencies to implement identified actions needed to conserve natural resources in a warming world.” What was this comprehensive climate change legislation? Well, similar wording popped up on another site calling for a ‘cap and trade’ proposal. The White House website, noted that “Passing comprehensive energy and climate legislation is a top priority for the Administration and significant progress has been made. In June, The U.S. House of Representatives passed the American Clean Energy and Security Act.” What was this law? It was a cap-and-trade (or cap and giveaway proposal), as Annie Leonard explains [here’s the annotated transcipt]:

  • The CBF was one of many groups which signed a letter calling for “funding for habitat conservation and associated green infrastructure within the economic recovery package” (a.k.a. the bailout bill) which would create supposedly “over 160,000 jobs”
  • “The Environmental Defense Fund, The Nature Conservancy, the Chesapeake Bay Foundation and other regional and national conservation organizations have advocated for taking science-based blue crab management to the next level in three ways: developing annual catch limits based on population abundance, allocating that catch among the jurisdictions that regulate commercial crabbing in the bay region, and stringently and comprehensively monitoring all harvesting”- a Baltimore Sun article describing how the CBF isn’t against destructive crab fishing
  • This quote from a Baltimore Sun article is a bit disconcerting: “The Senate’s green score slipped from 63 percent in 2012 to 55 percent this year. The House’s overall score also dipped – though not as much – to 64 percent from 69 percent the year before. One reason for the slippage was the Assembly’s approval of an “agricultural certainty” bill, which gives Maryland farmers who qualify a 10-year reprieve from any new pollution regulations.  Though the Chesapeake Bay Foundation supported the law’s passage, it was opposed by 23 other environmental groups.”
  • “Representatives of several regional and national organizations today called on Baltimore’s county, city, and state officials to modify the draft 2020 Baltimore Regional Transportation Plan. They charged the 20-year $16.4 billion plan will exacerbate traffic congestion and sprawl, harming the Chesapeake Bay, public health, and existing communities…according to the Environmental Defense Fund (EDF), Citizens Planning and Housing Association (CPHA), and the Chesapeake Bay Foundation (CBF).” as noted on the EDF’s website
  • The CBF, the EDF and a number of other organizations and others joined with the Pennsylvania’s Secretary of Agriculture, for a manure program
  • “The Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) today joined with local chambers of commerce, civic groups, Maryland Senator Ida Ruben, and Delegate Paul Carlson to urge passage of the Maryland Commuter Choice Tax Credit Bill that would provide a state income tax credit for employers who help pay employee transit costs,” a bill which was endorsed by the big business groups and the CBF among others as noted here which was similar to another law mentioned in 2000 when Maryland expanded commuter benefits making the Light Rail Lobby happy.
  • The mysterious Chesapeake Carbon Fund is in a partnership with the Chesapeake Bay Foundation according to the Baltimore Sun
  • Shockingly, the head of the CBF agreed with most of what Pipkin wrote [here’s the original piece] criticizing the CBF itself, writing “…perhaps Senator Pipkin would be willing to use your significant influence to arrange a meeting between the two of us and Pennsylvania’s Gov. Tom Corbett…Finally, we hope and trust that Senator Pipkin realizes that Maryland must continue to use good science to further address locally generated pollution from all sources to improve water quality for our citizens who want to enjoy the many rivers and streams which are currently impaired….Senator Pipkin, let’s work together, not try to pick polarizing fights that only serve to slow bay restoration progress.” As a reminder, Pipkin received all sorts of financing from the business community as noted by Influence Explorer
  • The Sierra Club and the CBF seem to have extensive dealings with each other which could be a problem. Also, the CBF has an environmental center named after the rich guy Philip Merrill, who according to wikipedia, “was president and CEO of Capital-Gazette Communications, Inc…[and] served as counselor to the Undersecretary of Defense for Policy from 1981 to 1983; as a member of the Defense Policy Board from 1983 to 1990 and again from 2001 to 2003; and as Assistant Secretary General for Defence Support at NATO Headquarters in Brussels from 1990 to 1992 under President George H. W. Bush. He was appointed to chairman of the Export-Import Bank of the United States by George W. Bush, serving from 2002 to 2005.”
  • The CBF is listed as a ‘supporter’ of the WWF. This is deeply troubling considering the problems with WWF-US itself.
  • This Baltimore Sun article is enlightening: “Environmental groups are appealing a federal judge’s ruling that the owners of the Sparrows Point steel mill need only do a limited search for offshore pollution from the plant. The Chesapeake Bay Foundation and its legal partners, including the Baltimore Harbor Waterkeeper, have filed notice with the U.S. District Court in Baltimore of their intention to appeal a decision by Judge J. Frederick Motz accepting a plan by the steel plant’s current owner, RG Steel, to test for contamination no more than 50 feet into the Patapsco River and Bear Creek.
    Though federal and state regulators endorsed that plan, the Annapolis-based environmental group contends a more comprehensive investigation is needed. Recent tests found bottom-dwelling aquatic creatures died when exposed to sediment pulled from the creek 1,000 feet offshore, the foundation said.”
  • The CBF supports ‘pollution trading’ to help reduce pollution in the Bay (a ‘cap and trade’ system), to which a Baltimore Sun article notes that “others are skeptical about privatizing what has to date been an almost completely publicly funded and directed cleanup effort.”

With all of these positions, would you say that you support the CBF? I certainly don’t… Anyway, I looked at one final area. The Board of Trustees, specifically the officers. The chair of the board is a lawyer who is a”nationally recognized expert in the land conservation field, he also provides advice to landowners and government agencies in connection with complex conservation real estate transactions.” Another person is a retired Vice Chairman of the Bank of New York, while the others are supposedly activists or otherwise involved in the organization. The President and CEO of the CBF also, according to the website’s bio, “is also Vice Chairman of Johns Hopkins Medicine (Hospital and Medical School), a Board Member of the Baltimore Community Foundation, a Director of the Central Maryland Transportation Alliance, and an Honorary Board Member of the Garden Club of America. He serves as a Director of the Brown Advisory & Trust Company, and The Greater Washington Board of Trade Green Committee.” This makes him immensely powerful. Still, I couldn’t find anything on the CBF website that says who gives money to them, but I found these charts on page 14 of their most recent annual report, which shows they are a rich organization in terms of money they are bringing in:

CBF_FINANCIALS

In the end, I repeat what I wrote at the bottom of a handout I gave out during a talk I gave last week: remember to support grassroots organizations like Earth First!, Rising Tide North America and Radical Action for Mountain Peoples Survival (RAMPS).  Always check to see if an organization has corporate backers and partnerships before supporting it.

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What the Light Rail Lobby doesn’t want you to know

Photo source: http://www.lightrailnow.org [LOL]

A small group of determined activists organized into three citizen advocacy groups and stood up to the power of the General Assembly and Baltimore County’s Rehabilitation and Redevelopment Commission. Criticizing the “Commission’s arbitrary condemnation rights…the pressures on small businesses to relocate, and…[coming] higher taxes,” they won and defeated the urban renewal plan for Towson, according to A Pictorial History of Towson. This was 49 year ago, and now a similarly powerful opposition is growing against the proposed light rail expansion in Maryland: the Red and Purple Lines. Thousands of people use the light rail every day, a system which dates back to the governorship of William Donald Schaefer in the 1980s. This article will discuss the power of the light rail lobby and its influence on the political elite while also discussing why the proposal is bad for Marylanders and should not be accepted.

John Porcari, Light Rail Lobby and the Political Elite

In the minds of some Marylanders, big businesses are supporting the light rail expansion because it is an endeavor that has social and environmental merit. To find the real motivations of the business interests, it is important to go back to August 2002 when the final report of the Baltimore Region Rail System Advisory Committee was issued with the help of numerous big consultants.[1] The committee’s 23 members — which included developers Struever Bros. Eccles & Rouse and James Wilson’s Rouse, the Downtown Partnership of Baltimore, the Greater Baltimore Committee (GBC) and others[2] — were appointed by then-Secretary of the Maryland Department of Transportation John D. Porcari. They wrote that the light rail expansion would “bring jobs…new opportunities…represents a major investment in…the economic growth of our region” over the next forty years and “should become a starting point in the planning, design and construction of private developments.” Additionally, the Porcari Committee members recommended that big business, along with the state, local and federal government, give money to help construct a multi-billion dollar rail system within 10-12 years.

The layout of the proposed system is revealing. The Red Line would go to the central business district of the city, the Green Line to shopping malls, the Yellow Line to BWI, the Blue Line to the suburbs, the Purple Line through the city. and the Orange Line to Camden Yards. These routes are no surprise given that a major aim of the light rail is to serve major population and employment centers and congested areas, while facilitating mass consumerism, tourism and consumption of entertainment. This is reinforced by a map of the Baltimore metropolitan area, on one of the pages of the report, showing that the proposed light rail expansion mostly connects with major employers and big shopping centers. One quote by a Baltimore real estate tycoon, whose company sits on the committee’s board, notes the broader implications for the business community, saying this plan will create “neighborhood and business growth in Baltimore.” Near the end of the report, the Porcari Committee recommends that business interests “establish an advocacy group that will continue to monitor and promote implementation of this plan.”

As time passed since 2002, money constraints changed the game. In 2011, the Baltimore Regional Transportation Board (BRTB) put out a draft plan that scraps much of the light rail expansion proposed by the Porcari Committee, removing the Yellow, Orange, Green and Blue lines from consideration. As a result there are only two lines that seem to be debated: the Red Line which goes through the city and Baltimore County and the Purple Line which goes through Montgomery and Prince George’s Counties. There are a number of other groups that support the Purple Line [3] and the Red Line as noted in Mayor Sheila Dixon’s community compact.[4] But, there are six groups that make up the Light Rail Lobby that are most important:

  • the Central Maryland Transportation Alliance (CMTA) sponsored by big banks[5] and comprised of numerous business partners and county authorities,[6]
  • Purple Line Now!/Action Committee of Transit (ACT),
  • Get Maryland Moving!,
  • the Purple Rail Alliance which is supported and led by developers, law groups and high-powered politicians,[7]
  • GBC, and
  • Red Line Now! PAC.

For some background, Purple Line Now! has the same address as ACT, meaning that both are the same exact organization,[8] even though ACT has a Purple Line propagandist at its head masquerating as a “transit advocate.”[9] Purple Line Now! itself is represented by groups including citizen groups, numerous chambers of commerce, state and local officials and others.[8] Get Maryland Moving! is officially a group trying to find ways to fund transportation projects and a bunch of “transit advocates.” In reality it is a group “spearheaded” by the Coalition for Smarter Growth (CSE) that wholeheartedly supports light rail expansion[10] and is composed of disparate organizations ranging from business groups, citizen advocacy groups, to Young Democrats. Additionally, the CSE is funded by the privitization-friendly Rockefeller Foundation[11] while also receiving money from the Piedmont Environmental Council. This why it would make sense that they were working for the business community which they would easily deny, saying they just want MD to “get the transit investments it needs,” and that “funding decisions don’t happen in a vacuum.”[12] Then there is the Red Line Now! PAC some of whose board members have worked with the City government, or sat alongside big businesses on boards of citizen groups.[13]

There are a number of politicians who are on board with the proposed light rail lines as well. The first of these are Prince George’s County Executive Rushern Baker and Lt. Governor Anthony Brown, who both spoke at a meeting of the Purple Rail Alliance support it. Rushern Baker expanded on this in a 2011 press release where he was quoted as saying that the Purple Line would “stimulate economic growth and job creation in Prince George’s County.” Back in April, Brown went to Washington D.C. and met with current Deputy Secretary of the US Department of Transportation John Porcari who headed the committee to draft the original light rail expansion plan in 2002, to discuss how the Red Line and the Purple Line, both costing more than $2 billion dollars will be financed. At the time, Brown said that that “the state is considering all options when it comes to private financing…includ[ing] hiring companies to design, build, operate and maintain the transit lines,” exactly what the Porcari Committee recommended. His boss, Governor Martin O’Malley, who is benefiting the corporate sector due to his the massive amount of corporate contributions given to his campaign coffers, endorsed the “controversial” Red Line in 2009, the same year he also gave his blessing to the Purple Line, saying that it will create “a lasting legacy by providing more transportation capacity in a way that protects and preserves existing communities.” At the same time, the Baltimore County Department of Planning endorses the proposed Red Line, while the top official of the county, who has received campaign money from Comcast, Constellation Energy, Carefirst Bluecross Blueshield, Pollard Towing and others,[14] business-backed County Executive Kevin Kamenetz has been publicly silent on the light rail expansion, meaning he supports the project.

In fact, Kamenetz did not oppose City Council Resolution No. 25-09 (later it was approved) which asked the “Baltimore County Planning Board to prepare a Red Line Transit Corridor Plan in support of the Red Line Transit Project…[that will] serve as a guide for the integration of a transit project with any potential development of the Red Line corridor” while noting that the Red Line is a “major step in developing a successful regional transit system.” This is nothing new, as in December 2008, Jim Smith, then-County Executive of Baltimore County and Baltimore City Mayor Sheila Dixon endorsed the Red Line. Later, Mayor Dixon restated that she backed this proposal, and in 2009, she initiated the a proposal to get the community on board, the Red Line Community Compact. The compact advocates for all of the stakeholders to work together to make sure the proposal is completed, to support the creation of a “public-private entity…to raise funds and mobilize resources towards community revitalization…provide for fair compensation of property owners where right-of-way acquisition is needed,” and so on. Then there is Stephanie Rawlings-Blake, current mayor of Baltimore, who is not a neutral arbitrator on this issue as she favors developers over people like corporate welfare for powerful master developer Michael Beatty,[15] continued the policies of the Dixon Administration including fulfilling the dictates of the community compact and writing that the Red Line “has the potential to revitalize neighborhoods, protect the natural environment and boost economic empowerment. The position of the city’s elite, political and economic came together when Maryland’s Department of Transportation and the MTA in early June hosted an industry forum for the Baltimore Red Line, which was attended by Lieutenant Governor Anthony Brown and Rawlings-Blake and a number of the business interests. Other officials also endorse the light rail expansion plan.

The myth and reality of the light rail expansion

There is a gap between the reality of the light rail expansion and what the Light Rail Lobby is saying. After all, groups like ACT/Purple Line Now! consider opposition to Purple Line to be corrupted, saying that “the core energy and funding for these groups comes from ‘NIMBY’ …opposition” led by the supposedly “evil” agenda of the Columbia County Club. Additionally, GBC President and CEO Donald C. Fry said that “many area commuters are now seeking mass transit alternatives…the Red Line project faces two key challenges – funding and community acceptance.” In order to recognize the reality behind the two proposed light rail lines, it is important to compare what the Light Rail Lobby has said about the project with the reality.

To start out, the Light Rail Lobby says that the Purple Line will encourage economic development in Washington Metropolitan area, promote job creation, cut time for transit riders, encourage thousands to ride transit, reduce pollution, promote a cleaner environment, reduce traffic congestion, and much more.[16] The claim of job creation becomes questionable when the amount of jobs created by this proposed light rail are varied: the Purple Alliance says its 7,000, while the Hyattsville Patch says 7,000 jobs will be collectively created by the Red Line and the Purple Line and Purple Line Now!/ACT says it would create 3,500 construction jobs, along with “thousands” of others. Such variation is troubling, but that’s not all.

The Friends of the Crescent Trial points out that the construction of the Purple Line will involve “clear-cutting an existing 20-acre park inside the Beltway,” while increasing air pollution in the Beltway’s inner loop, water pollution into the Chesapeake Bay, and noise pollution for nearby residents. Additionally, eighty percent of those that are expected to ride the new Purple Line will come from existing mass transit, taxpayers will pay added costs for construction of the light rail and it will unsafe as a 50 MPH train is whizzing past educational environments. In 2008, residents in Silver Spring voiced similar concerns, as “opposition to the Purple Line grew as residents became concerned about potential effects on traffic, pedestrian safety and noise.”[17] In addition, for each stop of the new light rail there will be a lot of impervious/impermeable surfaces (parking lot, concrete waiting area for light rail, etc…) that have a number of negative effects including “pollution of surface water…flooding of surface water and erosion of stream banks…impermeable surfaces send rainwater into storm drains rather than allow it to percolate down to our aquifers, groundwater may be used faster than it is recharged…Formation of stagnate water puddles…[and the] heat island effect.”[18] This is the same view that resident Berel Gamerman expressed to the Gazette: “they are going to take our last grassy strip and turn it into asphalt. We hate it [the Purple Line]. It should go up Jones Bridge Road. But we don’t have any political clout.”[19] In that same article, another resident, Ella Kaszubski, realizing the light rail would run right next to the Capital Crescent Trail voiced her concern that she uses the trail every day, wants to “keep that access,” angrily saying: “There’s going to be train going through my backyard. It’s going to be a war zone.”

Even the Montgomery County Group of the Sierra Club, while endorsing the Purple Line, said that “bus rapid transit using existing roads between Jones Mill Road and the Medical Center metro station…would preserve the wooded Georgetown Branch right of way between Jones Mill Road and Bethesda,” alluding to the fact that the Purple Line would not do this.[20] A concerned resident Anne Spielberg, who isn’t associated with any particular opposition group, made the boldest, most powerful statement against the light rail: “I’m concerned about the level of traffic, about the level of congestion that it will cause. I’m concerned about the way it’s dividing [Seven Oaks-Evanswood] neighborhood. The Purple Line seems to be designed to increase development. It’s about helping developers. And we’ve actually seen statements to that effect from people who are building the Purple Line, instead of doing what makes sense for our neighborhood.”

Then, there’s the Red Line which cuts through the center of Baltimore City and into parts of Baltimore County. Advocates of this plan say that the Red Line will create thousands of jobs, is a simple investment in the city for decades to come, while creating a stronger economic future and better quality of life.[20] There are some problems with these claims: Get Maryland Moving says the Red Line will create “create or support a total of 10,000 jobs in the city”[21] while the GBC said that the same light rail expansion would make it “easier for Baltimore area residents to get to jobs, shopping, schools, medical facilities, entertainment and…generate 17,000 construction jobs.”[22] This 7,000 job difference is very troubling.

As a 2009 letter by the West-East Coalition Against Red Line Alternative 4-C argues: “we are absolutely opposed to…the…Red Line…[because of]…the destructive effect that a double-tracked railroad will have on our neighborhoods…heavily-travelled residential streets [will be] even more hazardous for our children and their families.” There is a deeper truth spoken by a member of the Right Rail Coalition named Ben Rosenberg: “the political leadership imposed the Red Line on the city. It’s a big, big plan [that] will absorb all of the city’s transit funds for the next decade.” Then there’s a former transportation planner for the Baltimore City Department of Planning, Gerald Neily writing in the Baltimore Brew: “the proposed Red Line fails because the three-mile-long tunnel from West Baltimore to Boston Street through downtown will consume so much money – $1.2 billion and rising – that it puts the whole project out of reach..The Red Line route…is far too slow for a regional system…As presently designed, the Red Line is an expensive, slow, low-capacity ‘money pit’ that is also facing citizen opposition in Canton and elsewhere.”

Finally, Nathaniel Payer, the Vice-President of the Transit Riders Action Council of Metropolitan Baltimore (TRAC) says point blank who benefits from the Red Line (Alternative 4C):

Governor Martin O’Malley’s choice of light rail Alternative 4C…is the culmination of a seven-year campaign to build a new transit line to suit business and development interests…Support for 4C has come largely from the Greater Baltimore Committee and their affiliate institutions, the city’s movers and shakers. That would be okay, if not for this fact: the Red Line is simply wrong as transit and a wrong decision for Baltimore…The Red Line will be slow…it would actually operate a bit slower than our famously sluggish existing Light Rail…Despite the rhetoric from the GBC and its president, Don Fry, 4C would not do much to connect and integrate Baltimore’s disjointed transit…If the MTA’s new, larger Red Line ridership projections are to be believed…the proposed east-west line could quickly max out…One of the promises made by Red Line boosters is that this kind of transit stimulates development. That’s actually not very likely, unfortunately, in this case.

An alternative transit plan

Alternatives to the Red Line and the Purple Line have been proposed. Starting with the Red Line, B’More Mobile, one of the signatories to Dixon’s Community Compact, supports the proposal but asks website readers: “why spend 2.5 billion dollars on the proposed 14.1 mile Red Line, with 19 stations, when it would make much more sense to plan for and put some money into other more flexible and affordable ways to transport the public?” This question is answered in numerous ways. Nathaniel Payer, the Vice-President of the Transit Riders Action Council of Metropolitan Baltimore (TRAC) wrote in the Baltimore Brew that there should be an initiation of an “expanded, supplementary Alternative Analysis to look at all reasonable options, including heavy rail and alternate alignments that would provide superior transit value, integrate into our neighborhoods, and have a competitive cost-effectiveness rating.”

The strongest alternative has been articulated by the Right Rail Coalition which wants streetcar network in Baltimore to add onto the Red Line: “the group is calling for a streetcar network, running on city roads, to replace the eastern leg of the Red Line – a plan that follows the streetcar-building programs underway in Washington, D.C., and other cities.” Gerald Neily added onto this, in his detailed analysis, saying that:

Baltimore can have a rail transit system that accommodates light-rail and streetcar vehicles on the same lines, if not always in the same places, to take advantage of the best of both…Streetcars are the solution. Not only are they far less expensive and more convenient than light rail, but because using surface streetcars for a portion of the Red Line corridor can enable the rest of the line to be built in a far more effective and integrated way – and at a far more reasonable price…By adopting an integrated approach, Baltimore could have the true rail transit system it has wanted for decades and would follow the innovative systems now being built in places like Los Angeles, Portland, San Francisco and neighboring Washington, D.C.

On twitter, Dave R gave me some background: “streetcars were excellent mass transport in Bmore for decades [but that] Henry Barnes got rid of them. Then he moved to NYC…[he] was Baltimore’ traffic commissioner in the late 1950s.”

The opposition to the Purple Line is not as strong, but there is still a number of alternatives. Grassroots neighborhood opposition to the proposal in 2008 had residents calling for the train to go underground, as the route on the street seemed too disruptive: “We believe in transit. … But the more we learned about the potential impacts on the neighborhood, we just couldn’t support the street-level route.” Four months ago, a recently-elected Councilman in the Town of Chevy Chase said that the Purple Line was “misguided and not thought through,” while questioning if it was less costly than creating a Bus Rapid Transit lanes between the cities of Silver Spring and Bethesda.[23]

A call to action

Those fighting this proposal have a steep curve to climb. In addition, as widely influential UK professor and social theorist David Harvey wrote in his famous essay, A View From Federal Hill:

Baltimore’s urban elite…have tried to create a profitable growth machine that has focused on tourism leisure, and conspicuous consumption as an antidote to falling profits and urban decline…The close public-private partnership forged between City Hall and dominant corporate power helped turn Baltimore into an entrepreneurial city that faired rather better in a highly competitive world than some of its rivals.

The Light Rail Lobby groups have lot of power, making it seem monumental to challenge these vested interests in a city with a black ruling elite. Already, it seems the light rail expansion serves the interests of wealthy capitalists as noted earlier. Providing alternatives to this plan does not mean one is against mass transit, but that the system that is implemented should be put in place dictated by the ideas of the populace, not the business community. Opponents of this lobby must co-opt their foes, by offering altered versions of the light rail expansion plan with ideas like a streetcar network, or tunnels underground, so those supporting it will come to the negotiating table. Overall, the best approach would be to push for a streetcar network that would replace part of the Red Line while pushing for the city government to issue an alternative analysis on “superior transit options” other than the light rail for the areas that the two rail lines will cover. In conclusion, we must ask ourselves David Harvey’s simple question to concerned citizens: how would you design the city?

NOTES:

[1]RK&K, Parsons Brinckerhoff owned by an English multinational infrastructure company, a full service planning firm named Whitman, Requardt and Associates; Kramer & Associates and Remline Corp which says the light rail transit plan is an example of “strategic marketing” on their website maybe because they are paid to promote the Red Line.

[2] UMBC; Johns Hopkins Hospital; then-mayor of Annapolis; League of Women Voters of Baltimore County; Vice Chairman of the Baltimore County Delegation to the Maryland House of Delegates; SEIU Local 1199E-DC; Baltimore City Office of Transportation; Transit Riders League of Metropolitan Baltimore; Harford County Department of Zoning; then-Republican Whip of the House of Delegates; Morgan State University; Maryland Department of Planning; Washington Village-Pigtown Neighborhood Planning Council; Howard County Public Transportation Board; Koinonia Baptist Church; former Delegate who is currently a lawyer; EarthTech Inc.; Nottingham Properties, and a member of the Maryland Senate’s Budget and Taxation Committee.

[3]Chesapeake Bay Foundation, four AFL-CIO affiliated unions, Casa De Maryland, the Chesapeake Climate Action

Network, Environment Maryland, Natural Resources Defense Council, two Sierra Club chapters, and many more.

[4] AFSCME, B’More Mobile, Baltimore Development Corporation (BDC), UNITE HERE, Citizens Planning & Housing Association (CPHA), the Waterfront Partnership and many more.

[5] http://cmtalliance.org/about-us/cmta/sponsors

[6] http://cmtalliance.org/about-us/cmta/partners

[7] http://purplerailalliance.org/about-purple-rail/members-board/ and http://purplerailalliance.org/about-purple-rail/supporters-partners/

[8] If you don’t believe me, go ahead and search “PO BOX 7074 SILVER SPRING MD 20907-7074.” On top of this, there is a letter from the IRS from 2008 telling Purple Line Now! that they are a tax exempt organization solidifying this connection.

[9] ACT’s leader, Tina Slater is on a task force, which is more specifically “a public/private partnership with 15 members appointed by the County Executive and chaired by Mark Winston, a lawyer in private practice with the firm of Glazer Winston Honigman Ellick, PLLC…comprised of civic leaders, transit advocates, environmental advocates, representatives of local chambers of commerce, business executives, real estate developers, transportation professionals, and representatives of federal, state, county, and municipal governmental agencies” and in the end put out a report “establishing a 160-mile…rapid transit system that creates a comprehensive transit network.”

[10] http://www.purplelinenow.com/our_board.html

[11] https://twitter.com/betterDCregion/status/370001465890598912 and http://www.smartergrowth.net/news-parent/news/group-introduces-new-coalition-to-push-transit-funding/

[12] https://twitter.com/burkelyh/status/370002523618152448

[13] http://www.red-line-now.com/board-of-directors/, http://web.archive.org/web/20120603062947/http://www.creativealliance.org/who-we-are/board-and-funders,

http://www.grantcorley.com/grantCorley_resume_online.pdf, and http://pattersonpark.com/general-info/partners-sponsors/

[14] https://beyondbarricade.wordpress.com/2013/01/03/the-first-investigation-kevin-kamenetz/, https://beyondbarricade.wordpress.com/2013/01/02/why-would-kamenetz-want-to-close-the-park/, and https://beyondbarricade.wordpress.com/2013/01/08/so-who-does-pollard-towing-give-to/

[15] https://beyondbarricade.wordpress.com/2013/08/18/a-beattyocracy-rushing-through-corporate-welfare-like-its-nobodys-business/

[16] http://purplerailalliance.org/about-purple-rail/, http://www.purplelinenow.com/what_we_want.html, http://www.purplelinenow.com/why_light_rail.html, http://www.getmarylandmoving.org/lets-build-them-purple-line/

[17] http://ww2.gazette.net/stories/071608/takonew200339_32363.shtml

[18] https://extension.udel.edu/factsheet/permeable-vs-impermeable-surfaces/

[19] http://www.gazette.net/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20130515/NEWS/130519332/0/gazette&&template=PrinterFriendlygaz

[20] http://maryland.sierraclub.org/Montgomery/pdf/feb_2009_newsletter.pdf

[20] http://www.cmtalliance.org/transportation-news-detail/id/114 and http://www.red-line-now.com/we-need-the-red-line/

[21] http://www.getmarylandmoving.org/lets-build-them-red-line/

[22] http://www.gbc.org/old-news/1091/

[23] http://www.gazette.net/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20130515/NEWS/130519332/0/gazette&&template=PrinterFriendlygaz

This article was originally posted on Indy Reader. Earlier versions of the article I uploaded to mediafire here and here.

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Baltimore protests a war in Syria

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It all started at 3:45 on a sweltering day. Throughout the morning, I had been researching for my article about Syria [which I’ve now finished] and in the time leading up to my departure from my parent’s house in the suburbs, I finished a double-sided sign. Unlike the march for Chelsea (then Bradley) Manning, a march against Monsanto in my community and the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington, I was alone. What I mean by this, is that when I came there, I came alone. Riding on the bus down to the stop was a bit nerve-racking as a little girl looked at my sign and I smiled, but was too nervous to say anything. Then, getting off the bus, I walked over a block, and there it was at the end of the block at Washington Monument as the above picture shows.

I was the only one who brought my own sign (at least it seemed that way at the beginning), as the rest of the signs seemed to be given out by the International Socialist Organization or ISO which is NOT associated with the ANSWER Coalition (an earlier version said they were which was incorrect). One YouTube video of the event says the following about the protest:

On late Friday afternoon, August 30th, peace and justice activists held an anti-war demonstration. Their message was clear and cogent: “No U.S. war with Syria!” The rally took place at Centre and North Charles Streets at the base of the Washington Monument, in the historic Mt. Vernon District. The activists insisted there was no clear evidence that Syria had perpetrated any “chemical attack” on its own people. They also cautioned against any rush to judgement in this controversial matter, especially in light of the 935 serial lies and deceptions, via the Bush-Cheney Gang, which led the U.S. into the disastrous and costly Iraq War…One of the fears expressed by an activist at the rally was that U.S. missile strikes will only trigger more misery for the Syrian people and for the over one million refugees, about half of them Christians, who have been residing there in order to escape the horrors of the Iraq War…Speaking on camera are activists Stephen Roblin, Charley Cooper and Sharon Black.”

I can say that this is very accurate. I was in fact interviewed by Hi-Span TV, but I haven’t found the video of myself being interviewed recently, in fact I was cut out of the final video (wow). However, there is a short video about this subject posted by TCHallMedia which does a better job at showing the diversity of people who were there. When staying around, holding my sign, I did meet two people: Leo who I had talked with on twitter and another person who had gone to Towson High School (and I had previously seen at Manning Protest) but this was the extent of the people I knew. I was hoping to see Mair, but I didn’t see her there. Maybe another time. Regardless, Leo gave me a book and I talked to his friend about Syria and issues involving intervention. Eventually, I met a number of people at the protest and it was a good time.

While standing there for hours at the corner protesting a Syrian war I talked to a number of people. It just made it much better there and more enjoyable. There was Bonnie Lane of Word on the Street who was very nice and is running for Mayor in 2016, possibly with the Green Party. Then there was a middle-aged woman I talked to [her name escapes me] and we talked about a number of issues including the invisible patriarchy prevalent in American society. But the best part of the whole time I was there (from about 5 PM to 8:30 PM) was the chalking. One of the protesters, whose name I will not reveal at this time, wrote in chalk on the marble embankments “Don’t Bomb Syria” or something like that. Later, after a number of the people were marching away, I stayed there with Leo and some others, and the police came. Apparently one person had called the police saying that chalking was a “destruction of property” on someone involved with the protest. After some bit of arguing with the police, saying that chalk on the marble was an addition, not a subtraction. While this was going on, I stayed there, and a group of two older white people (a couple, male & female) came up, criticized the chalking by saying that it was a destruction of property probably because they had a pro-war position. They also called all of us despicable and said one of us who was filming had “anger management problems.” In all, it was utterly hilarious, as by which time the protest had basically faded away. After this, as it was getting late, I said goodbye to my fellow protesters, and got onto the light rail. For the first time I had ridden it, they asked me for a ticket and I didn’t have it, meaning the fare officer said I needed to get off at the next stop. I didn’t do this, but I still got home safely as my parents drove me back in their car.

In order to get a fuller story, here are some of the pictures I took while at the protest. Enjoy!

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Joseph Thompson: Workingmen’s Party Candidate for Mayor

One result of the railroad strike in Baltimore was the formation of a Workingmen’s party that spoke to the interests of working people and waged a fall electoral campaign challenging local politicians and businessmen. Meeting on July 30 in Rechabite Hall only eight days after the strike was quelled, workers from around the city unanimously adopted a resolution that began with this accusation: “The authorities of the United States have arrayed themselves on the side of capital against labor.”

At a subsequent meeting on August 6 at the Maryland Institute, those present adopted an 11-point platform that included most of the labor demands of the late nineteenth century: the eight-hour day, improving livinh and working conditions, and the abolition of child labor. It concluded with the radical demand that all industrial enterprises “be placed under the control of the government as fast as practicable, and operated by free-cooperative trades unions for the good of the whole people.

Leading spokesman for the Workingmen’s party and its candidate for mayor was Joseph Thompson, popularly known as the “Blacksmith of Old Towb.” A native Baltimorean, son of Irish immigrants, he and two of his brothers had formed the firm of Thompson Brothers on Centre Street to carry on the work of their father, a wheelwright and blacksmith.

Thompson had already achieved some prominence as one of the principal speakers at a labor meeting held by B & O railroad employees at Hollis Hall during the July strike. He was also recognized throughout the city as “a prominent champion of the working people,” in the words of the Sun papers, particularly known for his opposition to prison contract labor.

Nominated as candidate for mayor by acclamation at the Workingmen’s party meeting at Raine’s Hall on September 6, Thompson opposed the powerful and corrupt Democratic machine. In the previous mayoral election of 1875, bossism and corruption had caused some Democrats to ally with the Republicans under a banner of reform. Their candidate, Henry Warfield, had run a strong but unsuccessful campaign against the Democratic candidate, Ferdinand C. Latrobe.

Warfield was again a candidate in 1877. Mayor Latrobe, however, had angered some of the party bosses, and this time around the party chose George P. Kane as their mayoral candidate. The choice was a shrewd one because Kane had played a leading role in an earlier reform movement in 1860. In addition, he had become well respected as a police marshal.

Thompson proved himself a formidable opponent to both candidates. He spoke frequently in almost every ward in the city to large and enthusiastic crowds. A speech given on September 14 at Hiawatha Hall is typical:

The principlee upon which the workingmen’s party is based…are enduring and vital. They are opposed to all class distinctions or class legislation. Whatsoever tends to make the rich man richer and the poor man poorer is wrong, and must be, if possible, blocked in its action. Land grants to corporations, subsidies and favoritism to railroad and steamship companies are not, except under extraordinary circumstances, conducive to the interests of the poorer classes, and it makes impossible to decide when they should be permitted qnd when nor. Therefore it is better to err on the side of safety, and allow none.”

Desperate to discredit the popular candidate, his opposition labeled Thompson and the Workingmen’s party communistic. Though disawowing communism, Thompson did believe, as he told an audience on October 15, in “law and property being respected, even to the extent of punishing the Mortons and Gilmans of society, where they defraud people of millions, as promptly and by the same mode as poor wretches who steal five dollars.”

Despite his tireless efforts and evident popularity, Thompson finished second to Kane in the October 25 election. Official results gave Kane 33,188 votes, Thompson 17,367, and Warfield a mere 536.

Workingmen’s party members and supporters around the city immediately cried fraud, claiming that Thompson’s votes had been wrongly counted for Kane. Thompson himself said that he could not understand the small botw he received in some wards, given the extraordinary size of the turnouts for his speeches. Many citizens at the time and later historians as well have called the vote fraudulent, but Thompson and his party lacked the funds to contest the results.

Although Thompson failed to bring the Workingmen’s party to power in Baltimore, his campaign had gained working people’s support for radical reforms and strengthened their class consciousness.

This selection is by Sylvia Gillett, and is from chapter 1 of The Baltimore Book which was published in 1991. For background on the labor unrest, read here. The last chapter of the book I also published as well: read it here.

Posted in aristocracy, Baltimore, banks, campaign, corporations, maryland, Politics, the people | Tagged , , , , , | 1 Comment

Business-friendly means favoring big corporations

Maryland legislation not in the interest of communities

An editorial by Burkely Hermann, Maryland Green Party (originally posted on Green Pages).

On April 9th 2013, The Daily Record, a conservative tabloid owned by The Dolan Company declared that “the 2013 legislative session is seen as business-friendly.” Since then, one of the primer newspapers in Maryland, the Trib­une-owned Baltimore Sun declared in an editorial on May 9th that one of Balti­more City’s premier business groups, the Greater Baltimore Committee, should “rally behind a proposal to adopt … calculating corporate income for tax purposes in exchange for a cut in the corporate tax rate.” The reason for this statement has its roots in what has happened in the recent legislative session in the Maryland General Assembly. For months now, I’ve been following these developments with great interest because they affect all Marylanders and show the power of what Jill Stein called the “dictatorship of the one percent” on the state level.

It is important to discuss the background of this assault by business interests, the big, powerful corporations that hold power over the politics of the state. Business-friendly bills in the General Assembly were sponsored by those I call the “dirty 18″ because they are connected to the American Legis­lative Exchange Council (ALEC). ALEC is a bill mill that gives state legislators so-called “model bills” that cater to their cause and benefit business interests in some way, including Stand Your Ground laws, ag-gag laws and many others. In Mary­land, the laws introduced or sponsored by ALEC members who were Republican legislators lowered corporate income taxes, gave businesses deductions for property tax, or created a tax holiday for corporations. While all of these bills failed, other bills sponsored by Democrats did pass, including a bill giving Lockheed Martin a tax-free zone encompassing its Montgomery County hotel, and bills keeping the biotechnology tax credit alive, “im­­proving” public-private partnerships, in­creasing textbook aid to private schools, and cutting $7 million to the mental health program. In ad­dition the gas tax, which was sold as putting funds toward transportation, partly directs such money to projects favored by business groups such as the “light rail.” The passage of these bills proves that there is a bipartisan policy in place to benefit business interests in Maryland and not necessarily the needs of the community.

Despite these efforts, as civil society groups applied pressure on legislators, there were some victories for the people of Maryland. There was approval of legislation to allow gay marriage, repeal of the death penalty, and a bill allowing driver’s licenses to be given to undocumented immigrants who have lived in the state for over two years. In addition there were bills passed in gun control banning different types of assault weapons, a clamping down on corporations who make multiple campaign contributions, and a wind energy bill. Even with these successes, the policies benefiting big corporations won out this legislative session.

What can be done? For one, don’t support the two establishment parties. The Dem­o­crats, led by Governor Martin O’Malley, hold the strength on the urban areas of Maryland such as Baltimore City. And the Republicans must not be looked to for solutions. They were responsible for legalizing gambling in 2007, which was supposed to be the big money maker to stop a budget shortfall. Now, since it was a constitutional amendment which cannot be changed without another referendum, it has become a tax on the poor that has led to huge profits for casino-operators and companies building the casinos.

The Maryland Green Party which does not accept contributions from PACs, corporations, or labor unions is a viable alternative to these two corporate parties by supporting candidates who, in their words, value “grassroots democracy, social and economic justice, ecological wisdom, and peace and non-violence.” In the end, Green Party members and others must begin to work with civil society groups across Mar­yland to build opposition to future business-friendly efforts during the next year and the 2014 legislative session.

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