Tuesday, September 06, 2016

Dakota Pipeline: What Could Go Wrong?

Corporate Mercenary Ashley Nicole Welch
Sets an Attack Dog on Protesters
As the mainstream media ignores Native Americans and environmental activists braving attack dogs, mace, and mercenaries to stop the Dakota Access oil pipeline from being dug under the Missouri River and then run underground from North Dakota to Illinois, I ask myself, "What could go wrong?" After all, the company's website makes the claim that up to 575,000 barrels of "light sweet crude oil" can be transported every day in a safe and environmentally friendly fashion. So what could go wrong? Living close to the Missouri River, I think it's an important question to ask.

Let's look at some recent news headlines about oil pipelines:

September 5, 2016 - 5,000 Gallons of Crude Oil Spilled from Pipeline in Louisiana

August 20, 2016 - Pipeline Explosion Kills 10 Campers in New Mexico

July 21, 2016 - Water Poisoned After 1570 Barrels of Oil Spill into North Saskatchewan River

June 23, 2016 - 30,000+ Gallons of Crude Oil Spilled from Pipeline in Ventura County, California

April 2, 2016 - 16,800 Gallons Spilled from Pipeline in South Dakota

Those are just a few recent stories. Here are a dozen or so more pipeline accidents that have occurred in 2016 in the United States.

Also in pipeline news today Exxon Mobil is appealing a ruling that would force them to take new safety measures, along with a $2.6 million fine, resulting from the pipeline disaster in 2013 that spilled 134,000 gallons of heavy crude into the Little Rock suburb or Mayflower, Arkansas.

Since the year 2000 there have been hundreds of pipeline accidents in the United States alone, spilling millions of barrels of oil and gas, contaminating land and water all over the country, explosions killing many and lingering health effects killing and ruining countless more lives.

Yes, there's much that can go wrong so I'm glad that there are brave people willing to stand up and fight against Donald Trump's Energy Aide in his quest to frack North Dakota to bits and pump a half-million gallons of crude oil every day under our Missouri River and through farms, towns, streams, and lands that are sacred to Native Americans.

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Why Black Lives Matter Matters

I learned that black lives don't matter to a lot of people on February 17, 2003. Early that morning there had been a stampede after mace had been sprayed at a crowded Chicago nightclub and 21 people were trampled to death or suffocated trying to flee the building. I found the images disturbing and horrifying and I spoke about it with several people that day. Three of these people, whom I'd known forever and liked very much, said pretty much the same thing:  "Who cares? Just a bunch of n-----s" or "Just a bunch of stupid n-----s."

I couldn't believe the lack of compassion following this terrible event. I was enraged by the worst display of overt racism I had ever experienced, and I'd already seen plenty. But that day I realized for an absolute certainty that to many people black lives simply don't matter.

I come from a fairly racist community. I come from a Sundown Town. In a Sundown Town, to this day you can hear old timers longing for the days when a big sign in in their town read, "N----R, DON'T LET THE SUN GO DOWN ON YOUR BACK." It was a warning that if you were a person of color who worked in or passed through that white community you would be subjected to violence if you weren't out by dark. I've heard people "brag" about that all my life.

Today the white people in this town and the places nearby are much more tolerant and much less racist than they were 50 years ago, of course.  More African Americans live in these towns, but you can still hear nostalgia for how it used to be spoken often. And oftentimes the "enlightened" white citizens will tell you they are NOT racist and immediately follow that statement up with an explanation of the "two types of black people. There are black people and then there are n-----s." They will often acknowledge that it's the same with white people, and sometimes generously offer that "white trash people can be just as bad as n-----s." I've heard this conversation in my life more times than I can count. And I've heard a dead African American referred to as "just a n----r" more times than I can count as well.

This is why Black Lives Matter matters to me. All lives matter to me very much. Blue lives matter to me very much. I deeply respect Law Enforcement Officers. How would you like to be the first person to show up at the scene of a gruesome, deadly car accident and have to do this on a regular basis? How would you like to be called to show up on a scene where a person was murdered or committed suicide? How would you like to knock on somebody's door and tell them that their child has just been killed? Oh, I respect law enforcement very much and appreciate them for awful things that they have to do. Oh yes, all lives matter to me.

But the Black Lives Matter movement matters to me, too. Because I know why it exists -- to make people aware that for too many people, millions of people, African American lives simply don't matter. THIS IS AN INDISPUTABLE FACT. And racism still lingers on in Sundown Towns, cities, and institutions all across America. And for decades our criminal justice system has incarcerated millions of (disproportionately black) Americans for non-violent substance abuse crimes, destroying families and futures, saddling young people with criminal records, creating more substance abuse and violent crime. And of course the way too often police shootings that are causing this issue to come to a head (could it be the result of this?).

On a recent visit to the grounds of Harvard University, I was happy to see all of the Black Lives Matter signs posted around the place, more than I'd seen on my whole New England excursion. I happily pointed this out to my traveling companion. Somebody close by spoke up to correct me. "All lives matter," they said in an annoyed tone. I was enjoying myself too much to argue the issue. I'm just glad it's finally an issue.

Monday, August 22, 2016

The Basketball Coach

I was living in Oregon in March of 1998 when I heard about the middle school shootings in Arkansas. I felt hit by a bolt of lightning  when I heard the word "Jonesboro." My uncle was the Superintendent of the Westside Consolidated School District where the massacre happened, and I knew that he was just weeks away from retirement. What a horrid way for an illustrious career to come to a close. Sure enough, Uncle Grover made the national news, as he and the grief-stricken community tried to make sense of an absolutely senseless tragedy. All of his wins as a basketball coach, all of his years in front of classrooms, the decades spent at the head of several Arkansas school districts... none of that mattered. A lifetime of achievement in Arkansas schools, and it all came down to an awful, horrific tragedy.

Whatever celebration had been planned for Uncle Grover's retirement had been put aside as the community mourned and tried to heal from the loss of four young students and a 32-year-old teacher who was a dear friend of my uncle. In later years, I don't remember a single conversation with Uncle Grover that didn't turn back to this tragedy. Before that, he was best known as the uncle who always had a new joke. I've got an Inbox folder that's more than a decade old filled with "Uncle Grover Jokes" that he started sending out by email once he grasped the potential of technology to share his love of humor. Jokes by email all the time from Uncle Grover, but in person the conversation always recalled the tragedy.

Two months after the Jonesboro killings, my Uncle Grover attended a luncheon in honor of his retirement and his service to Arkansas schools. But even this well deserved event had to be marred by further tragedy. It was at this luncheon that he and the other attendees found out that there had been ANOTHER school shooting, this time in Oregon, where I was. There would be no escaping the tragedy that marked the end of his career, and every school shooting that followed took him back to the worst time of his life, a time that would never leave him.

Recently, over the past several months, my uncle and his sister-in-law started writing a book about his life. About a country boy who went to high school for one reason and one reason only: to play basketball. The tedium of going to school every day, that was the price he had to pay if he wanted to do what he really loved, and that was to play basketball. The book about his life will be a story about a basketball player who went on to become a teacher and a coach, who would lead his Hickory Ridge High School basketball team to the state championship. I know that's what he wanted to be remembered for, and he is remembered by thousands and thousands of former students and colleagues for this and so much else.

The book is sure to be a good one. I can't wait until it is published. I can't wait to read it and find out all the things I didn't know about my Uncle Grover and will never get a chance to ask. Uncle Grover passed away last night, and all across the country and likely places around the world he is being remembered today, not for the shootings in Jonesboro, but for his leadership and sense of humor and his devotion to his first love, basketball. Rest in peace, Coach Cooper.

Tuesday, August 02, 2016

Right Wing Unhinged Part One: Loving Putin

If you want to see a group of U.S. citizens willing to sacrifice every shred of human decency to see their candidate get elected, look no further than the right wing of the Republican party. There is no depth to which they will not stoop, no moral value they will not cast aside to win back what they often racistly call "The Brown House."  Case in point -- a Facebook post from someone on my "Friends" list that I'm about to take the unprecedented step of "unfriending" for political reasons.

In case those comments are hard to read, I've enlarged the pertinent show of support

Hmmm... where have I seen a group of mindless lemmings cheering and saluting a strong-armed leader who vowed to annihilate an entire religion/race of human beings?

Of course, loving Vladimir Putin is not a new concept for right-wingers. Many were initially suspicious of Putin's merits as a leader and a human being, what with him being a "Rooskie" and all, until their own sainted and Supreme Court-anointed leader George W. Bush assured them that Putin was a "godly" man in the Republican sense:

Right-wingers in the U.S. love and trust leaders who lie and lead their nation into murderous wars, so long as that leader has an (R) beside his or her name. This is Donald Trump's Amerikkka. Enter at your own risk, while you can, if you dare, because this is the future that Right Wing Republicans envision:

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Pie Chart for Abusers

Pie charts are easy to understand. Even a small child can conceptualize the data presented in this infographic:

Here is another of the world's most accurate pie charts. Wrap your mind around these figures:

Yes, that's right. One hundred percent of the time, violence in the home is caused by abusers and nothing else. Some people may have trouble understanding that, and if you are one of those people I feel very sorry for you and your family. Some people have no idea that there are whole households and quite possibly whole neighborhoods where the years go by and not a single person ever raises a hand against a family member in anger. It's true! There are many homes in which people rarely, if ever, even shout at their loved ones in anger. Ideally, that would be the norm.

Some people actually use their religion to justify committing acts of violence against their family members and others who trust them, but if one is a Christian then Jesus Christ Himself sets a pretty high standard when it comes to temper tantrums and abusive behavior in the Book of Matthew, Chapter 5:

21 “You have heard that it was said to the people long ago, ‘You shall not murder, and anyone who murders will be subject to judgment.’ 22 But I tell you that anyone who is angry with a brother or sister will be subject to judgment..."

If you are being abused, I hope there is help for you. Here are some Google searches that might lead you to help in the area where you live:

Help for Battered Women
Help for Abused Children
Help for Battered Men - This is more common than many people realize. I know of a well-educated businessman who used to have to cover up and explain away bruises and other marks left as a result of his ex-wife hitting him with shoes and brushes and any object that could be thrown during her frequent temper fits.

If you are an abuser, please pardon the expression but, "Knock it off!" Quit hurting people! You have absolutely no one in the world to blame for your behavior other than yourself and possibly the person or people who taught you how to act that way. So stop the cycle of violence starting today. There may be help even for you

Help for Batterers

If any of this information applies to you, please find help. And if none of this applies to you, be very happy and please consider using your time and resources to help others who are trapped in these situations:

Help Victims of Domestic Violence