IMM @ Zero

By Mike Pasner

The City of Grass Valley has deemed the Idaho Maryland Mine’s proposal withdrawn!

Dave Watkinson (corporate president) writes, “Emgold’s goal has been to construct a project socially and environmentally responsible.”

Grass Valley City Council has sent this Canadian penny stock back to the start. After a failed Environmental Impact Report three years ago and three failed attempts now, the City has said enough.

The tile factory, planned to capture 16% of the nation’s tile needs, will never happen!

The job numbers are totally unrealistic!

Draining all the hundreds of miles of underground tunnels between Grass Valley and Nevada City, while not affecting our community’s water supply, is unrealistic!

Not being able to reach air quality standards is unrealistic!

Re-opening the Idaho Maryland mine inside the City of Grass Valley, accompanied by a huge tile factory, is a total ZERO!

Thank you City of Grass Valley,  for calling this foreign corporation’s plan unrealistic!

Dave Watkinson, your corporation isn’t “in the final stages of permitting,” as you have told your shareholders for years!

In fact you are again back to the start.

Your project is at ZERO, where it belongs.


Mike Pasner is a farmer in Penn Valley.

The Rain on Our Parade: A Letter to My Dismal Allies

By Rebecca Solnit

Dear Allies,

Forgive me if I briefly take my eyes off the prize to brush away some flies, but the buzzing has gone on for some time. I have a grand goal, and that is to counter the Republican right with its deep desire to annihilate everything I love and to move toward far more radical goals than the Democrats ever truly support. In the course of pursuing that, however, I’ve come up against the habits of my presumed allies again and again.

O rancid sector of the far left, please stop your grousing! Compared to you, Eeyore sounds like a Teletubby. If I gave you a pony, you would not only be furious that not everyone has a pony, but you would pick on the pony for not being radical enough until it wept big, sad, hot pony tears. Because what we’re talking about here is not an analysis, a strategy, or a cosmology, but an attitude, and one that is poisoning us. Not just me, but you, us, and our possibilities.

Leftists Explain Things to Me

The poison often emerges around electoral politics. Look, Obama does bad things and I deplore them, though not with a lot of fuss, since they’re hardly a surprise. He sometimes also does not-bad things, and I sometimes mention them in passing, and mentioning them does not negate the reality of the bad things.

The same has been true of other politicians: the recent governor of my state, Arnold Schwarzenegger, was in some respects quite good on climate change. Yet it was impossible for me to say so to a radical without receiving an earful about all the other ways in which Schwarzenegger was terrible, as if the speaker had a news scoop, as if he or she thought I had been living under a rock, as if the presence of bad things made the existence of good ones irrelevant. As a result, it was impossible to discuss what Schwarzenegger was doing on climate change (and unnecessary for my interlocutors to know about it, no less figure out how to use it).

So here I want to lay out an insanely obvious principle that apparently needs clarification. There are bad things and they are bad. There are good things and they are good, even though the bad things are bad. The mentioning of something good does not require the automatic assertion of a bad thing. The good thing might be an interesting avenue to pursue in itself if you want to get anywhere. In that context, the bad thing has all the safety of a dead end. And yes, much in the realm of electoral politics is hideous, but since it also shapes quite a bit of the world, if you want to be political or even informed you have to pay attention to it and maybe even work with it.

Instead, I constantly encounter a response that presumes the job at hand is to figure out what’s wrong, even when dealing with an actual victory, or a constructive development. Recently, I mentioned that California’s current attorney general, Kamala Harris, is anti-death penalty and also acting in good ways to defend people against foreclosure. A snarky Berkeley professor’s immediate response began, “Excuse me, she’s anti-death penalty, but let the record show that her office condoned the illegal purchase of lethal injection drugs.”

Apparently, we are not allowed to celebrate the fact that the attorney general for 12% of all Americans is pretty cool in a few key ways or figure out where that could take us. My respondent was attempting to crush my ebullience and wither the discussion, and what purpose exactly does that serve?

This kind of response often has an air of punishing or condemning those who are less radical, and it is exactly the opposite of movement- or alliance-building. Those who don’t simply exit the premises will be that much more cautious about opening their mouths. Except to bitch, the acceptable currency of the realm.

My friend Jaime Cortez, a magnificent person and writer, sent this my way: “At a dinner party recently, I expressed my pleasure that some parts of Obamacare passed, and starting 2014, the picture would be improved. I was regaled with reminders of the horrors of the drone program that Obama supports, and reminded how inadequate Obamacare was. I responded that it is not perfect, but it was an incremental improvement, and I was glad for it. But really, I felt dumb and flat-footed for being grateful.”

The Emperor Is Naked and Uninteresting  

Maybe it’s part of our country’s Puritan heritage, of demonstrating one’s own purity and superiority rather than focusing on fixing problems or being compassionate. Maybe it comes from people who grew up in the mainstream and felt like the kid who pointed out that the emperor had no clothes, that there were naked lies, hypocrisies, and corruptions in the system.

Believe me, a lot of us already know most of the dimples on the imperial derriere by now, and there are other things worth discussing. Often, it’s not the emperor that’s the important news anyway, but the peasants in their revolts and even their triumphs, while this mindset I’m trying to describe remains locked on the emperor, in fury and maybe in self-affirmation.

When you’re a hammer everything looks like a nail, but that’s not a good reason to continue to pound down anything in the vicinity. Consider what needs to be raised up as well.  Consider our powers, our victories, our possibilities; ask yourself just what you’re contributing, what kind of story you’re telling, and what kind you want to be telling.

Sitting around with the first occupiers of Zuccotti Park on the first anniversary of Occupy, I listened to one lovely young man talking about the rage his peers, particularly his gender, often have.  But, he added, fury is not a tactic or a strategy, though it might sometimes provide the necessary energy for getting things done.

There are so many ways to imagine this mindset — or maybe its many mindsets with many origins — in which so many are mired. Perhaps one version devolves from academic debate, which at its best is a constructive, collaborative building of an argument through testing and challenge, but at its worst represents the habitual tearing down of everything, and encourages a subculture of sourness that couldn’t be less productive.

BUY THE BOOK

Can you imagine how far the Civil Rights Movement would have gotten, had it been run entirely by complainers for whom nothing was ever good enough? To hell with integrating the Montgomery public transit system when the problem was so much larger!

Picture Gandhi’s salt marchers bitching all the way to the sea, or the Zapatistas, if Subcomandante Marcos was merely the master kvetcher of the Lacandon jungle, or an Aung San Suu Kyi who conducted herself like a caustic American pundit. Why did the Egyptian revolutionary who told me about being tortured repeatedly seem so much less bitter than many of those I run into here who have never suffered such harm?

There is idealism somewhere under this pile of bile, the pernicious idealism that wants the world to be perfect and is disgruntled that it isn’t — and that it never will be. That’s why the perfect is the enemy of the good. Because, really, people, part of how we are going to thrive in this imperfect moment is through élan, esprit du corps, fierce hope, and generous hearts.

We talk about prefigurative politics, the idea that you can embody your goal. This is often discussed as doing your political organizing through direct-democratic means, but not as being heroic in your spirit or generous in your gestures.

Left-Wing Vote Suppression

One manifestation of this indiscriminate biliousness is the statement that gets aired every four years: that in presidential elections we are asked to choose the lesser of two evils. Now, this is not an analysis or an insight; it is a cliché, and a very tired one, and it often comes in the same package as the insistence that there is no difference between the candidates. You can reframe it, however, by saying: we get a choice, and not choosing at all can be tantamount in its consequences to choosing the greater of two evils.

But having marriage rights or discrimination protection or access to health care is not the lesser of two evils. If I vote for a Democrat, I do so in the hopes that fewer people will suffer, not in the belief that that option will eliminate suffering or bring us to anywhere near my goals or represent my values perfectly. Yet people are willing to use this “evils” slogan to wrap up all the infinite complexity of the fate of the Earth and everything living on it and throw it away.

I don’t love electoral politics, particularly the national variety. I generally find such elections depressing and look for real hope to the people-powered movements around the globe and subtler social and imaginative shifts toward more compassion and more creativity. Still, every four years we are asked if we want to have our foot trod upon or sawed off at the ankle without anesthetic. The usual reply on the left is that there’s no difference between the two experiences and they prefer that Che Guevara give them a spa pedicure. Now, the Che pedicure is not actually one of the available options, though surely in heaven we will all have our toenails painted camo green by El Jefe.

Before that transpires, there’s something to be said for actually examining the differences.  In some cases not choosing the trod foot may bring us all closer to that unbearable amputation. Or maybe it’s that the people in question won’t be the ones to suffer, because their finances, health care, educational access, and so forth are not at stake.

An undocumented immigrant writes me, “The Democratic Party is not our friend: it is the only party we can negotiate with.” Or as a Nevada activist friend put it, “Oh my God, go be sanctimonious in California and don’t vote or whatever, but those bitching radicals are basically suppressing the vote in states where it matters.”

Presidential electoral politics is as riddled with corporate money and lobbyists as a long-dead dog with maggots, and deeply mired in the manure of the status quo — and everyone knows it. (So stop those news bulletins, please.) People who told me back in 2000 that there was no difference between Bush and Gore never got back to me afterward.

I didn’t like Gore, the ex-NAFTA-advocate and pro-WTO shill, but I knew that the differences did matter, especially to the most vulnerable among us, whether to people in Africa dying from the early impacts of climate change or to the shift since 2000 that has turned our nation from a place where more than two-thirds of women had abortion rights in their states to one where less than half of them have those rights. Liberals often concentrate on domestic policy, where education, health care, and economic justice matter more and where Democrats are sometimes decent, even lifesaving, while radicals are often obsessed with foreign policy to the exclusion of all else.

I’m with those who are horrified by Obama’s presidential drone wars, his dismal inaction on global climate treaties, and his administration’s soaring numbers of deportations of undocumented immigrants. That some of you find his actions so repugnant you may not vote for him, or that you find the whole electoral political system poisonous, I also understand.

At a demonstration in support of Bradley Manning this month, I was handed a postcard of a dead child with the caption “Tell this child the Democrats are the lesser of two evils.” It behooves us not to use the dead for our own devices, but that child did die thanks to an Obama Administration policy.  Others live because of the way that same administration has provided health insurance for millions of poor children or, for example, reinstated environmental regulations that save thousands of lives.

You could argue that to vote for Obama is to vote for the killing of children, or that to vote for him is to vote for the protection for other children or even killing fewer children. Virtually all U.S. presidents have called down death upon their fellow human beings. It is an immoral system.

You don’t have to participate in this system, but you do have to describe it and its complexities and contradictions accurately, and you do have to understand that when you choose not to participate, it better be for reasons more interesting than the cultivation of your own moral superiority, which is so often also the cultivation of recreational bitterness.

Bitterness poisons you and it poisons the people you feed it to, and with it you drive away a lot of people who don’t like poison. You don’t have to punish those who do choose to participate. Actually, you don’t have to punish anyone, period.

We Could Be Heroes

We are facing a radical right that has abandoned all interest in truth and fact. We face not only their specific policies, but a kind of cultural decay that comes from not valuing truth, not trying to understand the complexities and nuances of our situation, and not making empathy a force with which to act. To oppose them requires us to be different from them, and that begins with both empathy and intelligence, which are not as separate as we have often been told.

Being different means celebrating what you have in common with potential allies, not punishing them for often-minor differences. It means developing a more complex understanding of the matters under consideration than the cartoonish black and white that both left and the right tend to fall back on.

Dismissiveness is a way of disengaging from both the facts on the ground and the obligations those facts bring to bear on your life. As Michael Eric Dyson recentlyput it, “What is not good are ideals and rhetorics that don’t have the possibility of changing the condition that you analyze. Otherwise, you’re engaging in a form of rhetorical narcissism and ideological self-preoccupation that has no consequence on the material conditions of actually existing poor people.”

Nine years ago I began writing about hope, and I eventually began to refer to my project as “snatching the teddy bear of despair from the loving arms of the left.” All that complaining is a form of defeatism, a premature surrender, or an excuse for not really doing much. Despair is also a form of dismissiveness, a way of saying that you already know what will happen and nothing can be done, or that the differences don’t matter, or that nothing but the impossibly perfect is acceptable. If you’re privileged you can then go home and watch bad TV or reinforce your grumpiness with equally grumpy friends.

The desperate are often much more hopeful than that — the Coalition of Immokalee Workers, that amazingly effective immigrant farmworkers’ rights group, is hopeful because quitting for them would mean surrendering to modern-day slavery, dire poverty, hunger, or death, not cable-TV reruns. They’re hopeful and they’re powerful, and they went up against Taco Bell, McDonald’s, Safeway, Whole Foods, and Trader Joe’s, and they won.

The great human-rights activist Harvey Milk was hopeful, even though when he was assassinated gays and lesbians had almost no rights (but had just won two major victories in which he played a role). He famously said, “You have to give people hope.”

In terms of the rights since won by gays and lesbians, where we are now would undoubtedly amaze Milk, and we got there step by step, one pragmatic and imperfect victory at a time — with so many more yet to be won. To be hopeful means to be uncertain about the future, to be tender toward possibilities, to be dedicated to change all the way down to the bottom of your heart.

There are really only two questions for activists: What do you want to achieve?  And who do you want to be?  And those two questions are deeply entwined. Every minute of every hour of every day you are making the world, just as you are making yourself, and you might as well do it with generosity and kindness and style.

That is the small ongoing victory on which great victories can be built, and you do want victories, don’t you? Make sure you’re clear on the answer to that, and think about what they would look like.

Love,

Rebecca


As in 2004 and 2008, Rebecca Solnit and her blue-state henchwomen and men will probably invade northern Nevada on election week to swing with one of the most swinging states in the union. She is, however, much more excited about 350.org’s anti-oil-company campaign and the ten thousand faces of Occupy now changing the world. Also, she wrote some books.

Copyright 2012 Rebecca Solnit

Emgold: Spinning Gold

By Ralph Silberstein

One must wonder at the audacity of Emgold Mining Co. For almost four years, Canadian-based Emgold has been struggling to get funding in order to move forward with the Idaho-Maryland Mine project, but now the City of Grass Valley has canceled their project application. The project was started in 2005. Emgold’s response is that “they are in a holding pattern until the markets recover” and that mining funding has gotten difficult over the last 18 months.

Is a difficult market the real problem or is this more Emgold spin?

Over three years ago Emgold announced that they were seriously seeking financing, and then, having “settled a term sheet with Dunn Capital Partners” for $6 million, the deal was suddenly and abruptly terminated by Dunn for ethical reasons. ( See the stockwatch.com article “Emgold financier Dunn says ethics behind withdrawal”. ) The reality is that Emgold has been continuously seeking funding, has no regular revenue, and has to date generated a $50 million deficit using investor’s money.

Emgold Mining has a long history of painting an overly optimistic picture of their prospects. In their reports, seemingly to attract investors, they have repeatedly made inaccurate statements, such as: the project has “strong community support”, the project is “sustainable”, or “the company is in the advanced stages of permitting…”. However, none of these stand up to examination.

Claims of community support are disingenuous. They are based on a survey which in 2006 asked the question: “Provided that appropriate environmental safeguards are in place, [would you support] allowing the Idaho Maryland gold mine to reopen?” This was before the project had been reviewed, before people knew about the massive tile factory, the traffic, the significant air pollution, the threat to wells, and many other hazards. Currently, environmental safeguards are not in place and there is strong community opposition, so the claim has no basis in fact. And when Emgold refers to this survey in news releases, they conveniently fail to mention the first part of the question about environmental safeguards being in place.

Secondly, the notion that this mining project and ceramics factory would be “sustainable” is an absurdity. This project would consume massive amounts of energy, extract whatever gold ore is left from the previous mining operations, and then shut down. This belies the definition of sustainable.

And on the third point, they could hardly be said to be in the advanced stages of permitting. It’s been known since mid 2009 that they have to do a new Draft Environmental Impact Report (DEIR), which then must be recirculated and reviewed, commented on in public hearings,  and voted on by the Planning Commission. Next a Final EIR must be drafted, submitted to the City for more public hearings, and approved by the City Council. Then there is the requirement for LAFCO, Office of Mining Reclamation, and other agencies to approve the project. Following that, of course, actual construction documents would need to be drawn up and submitted for approval before getting a permit and starting work. How can this possibly be considered the advanced stages of permitting?

This type of spin has persisted. A more recent example came in the Sept 7, 2012 news release, in which David Watkinson, CEO of Emgold, stated “Estimated cost of the City and its consultants to complete the EIR process is approximately US$500,000.” Yet according to City documents, the base cost of the DEIR consultant plus initial deposits to the city for other required work exceeds $565,000, and that doesn’t  include additional studies that are needed. Add to that the $100,000-150,000/month Emgold would need during the 12-18 month process, and the estimated cost exceeds $2 million.

At this point the Idaho-Maryland Mine project is back to square one. Like any new project, they haven’t  started the permitting process until they submit their project application to the City. It is not surprising, given their financial desperation, that Emgold is downplaying this fact. In their news release, Emgold states: “Management does not expect the change in status of the current Permit Applications to have any impact on completion of the EIR or on the CEQA process for the Idaho-Maryland Project (the “Project”) other than timing.”

In this one case they actually may have got it right. Even when they had an application they were going nowhere, and that remains true now that the City canceled their project.


Ralph Silberstein, President of CLAIM-GV (Citizens Looking at the Impact of Mining), is a Grass Valley City resident, a software engineer, served 2 years on the Grass Valley Planning Commission, and is a former Building Contractor.

Low Information Voters Demand Answers (SNL Video)

Occupy Your Victories

Reprinted from Tomdispatch.com

Occupy Wall Street’s First Anniversary 

By Rebecca Solnit

Occupy is now a year old.  A year is an almost ridiculous measure of time for much of what matters: at one year old, Georgia O’Keeffe was not a great painter, and Bessie Smith wasn’t much of a singer. One year into the Civil Rights Movement, the Montgomery Bus Boycott was still in progress, catalyzed by the unknown secretary of the local NAACP chapter and a preacher from Atlanta — by, that is, Rosa Parks and Martin Luther King, Jr. Occupy, our bouncing baby, was born with such struggle and joy a year ago, and here we are, 12 long months later.

Occupy didn’t seem remarkable on September 17, 2011, and not a lot of people were looking at it when it was mostly young people heading for Manhattan’s Zuccotti Park. But its most remarkable aspect turned out to be its staying power: it didn’t declare victory or defeat and go home. It decided it was home and settled in for two catalytic months.

Tents and general assemblies and the acts, tools, and ideas of Occupy exploded across the nation and the western world from Alaska to New Zealand, and some parts of the eastern world — Occupy Hong Kong was going strong until last week. For a while, it was easy to see that this baby was something big, but then most, though not all, of the urban encampments were busted, and the movement became something subtler. But don’t let them tell you it went away.

The most startling question anyone asked me last year was, “What is Occupy’s 10-year plan?”

Who takes the long view? Americans have a tendency to think of activism like a slot machine, and if it doesn’t come up three jailed bankers or three clear victories fast, you’ve wasted your quarters. And yet hardly any activists ever define what victory would really look like, so who knows if we’ll ever get there?

Sometimes we do get three clear victories, but because it took a while or because no one was sure what victory consisted of, hardly anyone realizes a celebration is in order, or sometimes even notices. We get more victories than anyone imagines, but they are usually indirect, incomplete, slow to arrive, and situations where our influence can be assumed but not proven — and yet each of them is worth counting.

More Than a Handful of Victories

For the first anniversary of Occupy, large demonstrations have been planned in New York and San Francisco and a host of smaller actions around the country, but some of the people who came together under the Occupy banner have been working steadily in quiet ways all along, largely unnoticed. From Occupy Chattanooga to Occupy London, people are meeting weekly, sometimes just to have a forum, sometimes to plan foreclosure defenses, public demonstrations, or engage in other forms of organizing. On August 22nd, for instance, a foreclosure on Kim Mitchell’s house in a low-income part of San Francisco was prevented by a coalition made up of Occupy Bernal and Occupy Noe Valley (two San Francisco neighborhoods) along with ACCE, the group that succeeded the Republican-destroyed ACORN.

It was a little victory in itself — and another that such an economically and ethnically diverse group was working together so beautifully. Demonstrations and victories like it are happening regularly across the country, including in Minnesota, thanks to Occupy Homes. Earlier this month, Occupy Wall Street helped Manhattan restaurant workers defeat a lousy boss and a worker lock-out to unionize a restaurant in the Hot and Crusty chain. (While shut out, the employees occupied the sidewalk and ran the Worker Justice Café there.)

In Providence, Rhode Island, the Occupy encampment broke up late last January, but only on the condition that the city open a daytime shelter for homeless people. At Princeton University, big banks are no longer invited to recruit on campus, most likely thanks to Occupy Princeton.

There have been thousands of little victories like these and some big ones as well: the impact of the Move Your Money initiative, the growing revolt against student-loan-debt peonage, and more indirectly the passing of a California law protecting homeowners from the abuse of the foreclosure process (undoubtedly due in part to Occupy’s highlighting of the brutality and corruption of that process).

But don’t get bogged down in the tangible achievements, except as a foundation. The less tangible spirit of Occupy and the new associations it sparked are what matters for whatever comes next, for that 10-year-plan. Occupy was first of all a great meeting ground. People who live too much in the virtual world with its talent for segregation and isolation suddenly met each other face-to-face in public space. There, they found common ground in a passion for economic justice and real democracy and a recognition of the widespread suffering capitalism has created.

Bonds were formed across the usual divides of age and race and class, between the housed and the homeless as well as the employed and jobless, and some of those bonds still exist. There was tremendous emotion around it — the joy of finding you were not alone, the shame that was shed as the prisoners of debt stepped out of the shadows, the ferocity of solidarity when so many of us were attacked by the police, the dizzying hope that everything could be different, and the exhilaration in those moments when it already was.

People learned how direct democracy works; they tasted power; they found something in common with strangers; they lived in public.  All those things mattered and matter still. They are a great foundation for the future; they are a great way to live in the present.

Maybe Occupy was too successful a brand in that it sometimes disguised how much this movement was part of popular surges going on around the world: the Arab Spring (including the three successful revolutions, the ongoing Syrian civil war, uprisings in Yemen, and more); the student uprisings in Montreal, Mexico, and Chile that have continued to develop and broaden; the economic revolts in Spain, Greece, and Britain; the ongoing demonstrations and insurrections around Africa; even various acts of resistance in India, Japan, China, and Tibet, some large and powerful. Because, in case you hadn’t noticed, these days a lot of the world is in some form of rebellion, insurrection, or protest.

And the family resemblances matter.  If you add them all up, you see a similar fury at greed, political corruption, economic inequality, environmental devastation, and a dimming, shrinking future.

The Heroic Age

Nevertheless, the one-year anniversary is likely to produce a lot of mainstream media stories that will assure you Occupy was only a bunch of tents that came down last year, that it was naïve, and that’s that. Don’t buy it. Don’t be reasonable, don’t be realistic, and don’t be defeated.  A year is nothing and the mainstream media is oblivious to where power lies and how change works, but that doesn’t mean you need to be.

That same media will tell you 99 ways from Tuesday how powerless you are and how all power is made by men in suits who won or bought elections, but don’t buy that either. Instead, notice how terrified Vladimir Putin was of three young performers in bright-colored balaclavas, and how equally frightened Wall Street is of us. They remember something we tend to forget: together we are capable of being remarkably powerful. We can make history, and we have, and we will, but only when we keep our eyes on the prize, pitch a big tent, and don’t stop until we get there.

We live in the heroic age itself, the age of Aung San Suu Kyi in Burma, of the Zapatistas in Mexico, of the Civil Rights Movement’s key organizers, including John Lewis and Reverend Joseph Lowery, and of so many nameless heroines and heroes from Argentina to Iceland. Their praises are often sung, and the kinds of courage, integrity, generosity of spirit, and vision they exhibited all matter, but I want to talk about another virtue we don’t think about much: it’s the one we call patience when we like it or it appears to be gentle, and stubbornness when we don’t or it doesn’t.

After all, Suu Kyi was steadfast during many years of house arrest and intimidation after a military junta stole the 1990 election she had won and only this year did the situation shift a little. The goals of the stubborn often seem impossible at inception, as did some of the goals of the Civil Rights Movement, or for that matter the early nineteenth century abolitionist movement in the United States, which set out to eradicate the atrocity of slavery more than 30 years before victory — a lot faster than the contemporaneous women’s movement got basic rights like the vote. Change happens, but it can take decades; and it takes people who remain steadfast, patient (or stubborn) for those same decades, along with infusions of new energy.

I suspect the steadfastness of the heroes of the great movements of our time came not only from facts but from faith. They had faith that their cause was just, that this was the right way to live on Earth, that what they did mattered, and they had those things decades before the results were in. You had to be unrealistic about the odds to go up against the Burmese generals or the Apartheid regime in South Africa or Jim Crow or 5,000 years of patriarchy or centuries of homophobia, and the unrealistic among us drew on their faith and did just that, with tremendous consequences.

Realism is overrated, but the fact is that the Occupy movement has already had extraordinary results. We changed the national debate early on and brought into the open what was previously hiding in plain sight: both the violence of Wall Street and the yearning for community, justice, truth, power, and hope that possesses most of the rest of us. We found out something that mattered about who we are: we found out just how many of us are furious about the debt peonage settled onto millions of “underwater” homeowners, people destroyed by medical debts, and students shackled by subprime educations that no future salaries will ever dig them out of.

And here was Occupy’s other signal achievement: we articulated, clearly, loudly, incontrovertably, how appalling and destructive the current economic system is. To name something is a powerful action. To speak the truth changes reality, and this has everything to do with why electoral politics runs the spectrum from euphemism and parallel-universe formulations to astonishing lies and complete evasions. Wily Occupy brought a Trojan horse loaded with truth to the citadel of Wall Street. Even the bronze bull couldn’t face that down.

Meeting the Possibilities Down the Road

A 10-year plan would function like a map: we could see where we had been, where we are, and where we want to go. In San Francisco, participants in the one-year anniversary events will burn student loan and mortgage contracts to symbolically free the prisoners of debt. In New York, Occupy Wall Street itself is focusing on debtor’s assemblies and debt burnings for the one-year anniversary. This September 17th, practical goals will be announced, a Debt Resistors’ Operations Manual will debut — and who knows, in 10 years’ time some of those goals could even be fully realized.

This will require unwavering determination, even when there are no results.  It means not being sour about interim and incomplete victories, as well as actual defeats along the way. In 10 years, we could see some exciting things: the reversal of the harsh new bankruptcy laws, the transformation of educational financing, and maybe even a debt jubilee, along with major changes in banking and mortgage laws.

The victories, when they come, won’t be perfect.  They might not even look like victories or like anything we ever expected, and there will be lots of steps along the way that purists will deplore as “compromise.” Just as anything you make from a cake to a book never quite resembles the Platonic ideal in your head, victories may not look like their templates, but you should celebrate them, however imperfect they may be, as further steps along the road and never believe that the road ends or that you should stop walking.

Still, if you’re talking about results, I’m convinced that pressure from Occupy and the student activists around it was what put student debt in the Democratic platform and has made it a major talking point of the Obama campaign. I worry that if, 10 years from now, the landscape of educational finance has been transformed for the better, no one will remember why or how it happened, or who started it all, so no one will celebrate or feel how powerful we really can be.

It will be taken for granted the way, say, voting rights are for those of us so long disenfranchised. Most people will forget the world was ever different, just as most people will never know that more than 100 coal-fired plants were not built in this country thanks to climate and environmental activists and few note that the Keystone XL pipeline would have been finished by now, were it not for 350.org and the rest of the opposition. This is why stories matter, especially the stories of our power, our victories, and our history.

Looking Back with Gratitude, Looking Forward With Fierceness

Once there was a great antinuclear movement in this country, first focusing on thedangers and follies of “peaceful” nuclear power, then on the evil of nuclear weapons, and it won many forgotten victories. Ever notice that we haven’t actually built a reactor since the 1970s, partly because safety standards got so much higher?  Who now remembers the Great Basin MX missile installations that were never built, the nuclear waste dumps — at Sierra Blanca, Ward Valley, and Yucca Mountain, among other places — that never opened?

Who still even thinks about some of the arms-reduction treaties? And yet little of this would have happened if those antinuclear movements hadn’t existed.  So thank an activist, and thank specifically the visionaries who showed up early and the stubborn ones who stayed to work on the issue long after the millions involved in the early 1980s nuclear-freeze movement had given up and gone home. Some of them are still at work, and we’re all beneficiaries.

One of the first groups in the round of antinuclear activism that began in the 1970s was the Clamshell Alliance created in 1976 to oppose New Hampshire’s proposed Seabrook Nuclear Power Plant. One reactor was built and is still operating at Seabrook; one was cancelled due to opposition.  Building the first reactor cost five times the initial estimate and led its owner, Public Service of New Hampshire, to what was then the fourth largest bankruptcy in U.S. history when it was unable to make ratepayers pick up the bill. You can read that as a partial victory, but Clamshell did so much more.

Their spirit and their creative new approach inspired activists around the country and helped generate a movement. Sixty-six nuclear power plants were cancelled in the wake of Clamshell. Keep in mind as well that the Clamshell Alliance and many of the antinuclear groups that followed developed non-hierarchical, direct-democracy methods of organizing since used by activists and movements throughout the U.S. and beyond, including Occupy Wall Street, whose consensus-based general assemblies owed a lot to a bunch of hippies no one remembers.

Bill Moyers met with Clamshell Alliance members in 1978, when he thought they were beginning to be victorious in inspiring a national movement and they thought they were failing. What he said is still worth quoting:

“That Friday night, I expected to meet a spirited, upbeat group that was proud of its accomplishments. I was shocked when the Clamshell activists arrived with heads bowed, dispirited, and depressed, saying their efforts had been in vain. The Clamshell experience of discouragement and collapse is far from unusual. Within a few years after achieving the goals of ‘take-off,’ every major social movement of the past 20 years has undergone a significant collapse, in which activists believed that their movements had failed, the powerful institutions were too powerful, and their own efforts were futile. This has happened even when movements were actually progressing reasonably well along the normal path taken by past successful movements!”

With Occupy, remarkable things have already happened, and more remarkable systemic change could be ahead. Don’t forget that this was a movement that spread to thousands of cities, towns, and even rural outposts across the country and overseas, from Occupy Tucson to Occupy Bangor. Remember that many of the effects of what has already happened are incalculable, and more of what is being accomplished will only be clear further down the road.

Go out into the streets and celebrate the one-year anniversary and start dreaming and planning for 2021, when we could — if we are steadfast, if we are inclusive, if we keep our eyes on the prize, if we define that prize and recognize progress toward it and remember where we started — be celebrating something much bigger. It’s a long road to travel, but we can get there from here.


Rebecca Solnit was an antinuclear activist in the 1980s and 1990s, as her 1994 book Savage Dreams recounts. The author of A Paradise Built in Hell: The Extraordinary Communities That Arise in Disaster, she is currently speaking about disaster, civil society, and utopia in programs with the Free University of New York, the San Francisco Public Library’s One City One Book program, and Cal Humanities.

Copyright 2012 Rebecca Solnit

Humorous Speech Contest in Nevada City

I received this Nevada County Toastmasters press release today from our friend Sharon Delgado of Earth Justice Ministries:

Humorous Speech and Evaluation Contest
Friday, September 21

Nevada County Toastmasters Clubs will present a Humorous Speech and Evaluation Contest on Friday, September 21, at 6:30 p.m. in Nevada City. The public is invited to this free event, which will feature skilled speakers presenting humorous speeches. A mystery speaker from outside Nevada County will present a model speech, which our skilled local speakers will evaluate. Judges will rate the various speeches and the winners will go on to compete at the next levels. Contestants have been selected from the following local Area 64 Toastmasters clubs: Penn Valley, Mother Lode, Empire, and Early Risers.

The Speech Contest will take place at the Nevada County Superintendent of Schools Office at 112 Nevada City Highway in Nevada City. Come at 6 to enjoy snacks and socializing before the contest. For information about the free event call 265-5976.

Toastmasters is an organization that helps people develop public speaking and leadership skills. To find out more about Toastmasters clubs in Nevada County go to http://toastmastersnevadacounty.org/.

 

Emgold Announces It Will Miss Deadline for Deposit on DEIR

CEO David Watkinson of the Idaho-Maryland Mine Company today told Mathew Renda of The Union that it will miss the deadline of September 10th set by the City of Grass Valley for it to make its initial deposit on the DEIR (draft environmental impact report).

The following sentence in the Union online article suggests that IMM itself declared the DEIR insufficient, when in fact it was the city that declared it to be insufficient:

” Idaho-Maryland Mining Corp. declared the DEIR insufficient and requested additional items be addressed, but the turbulence in the national economy prevented the company from funding the continued environmental review. “

(Note: This error has been corrected in the print edition, and we understand that it will also be corrected in the online version).

IMM will now have to submit a new application and start over from the beginning if it wishes to move forward with its project at any time in the future.

If IMM does re-apply eventually, the city council should require a new scoping analysis and a new economic viability report (done, unlike the first economic viability report, by someone who has experience evaluating the mining business).

Here’s the press release from CLAIM (Citizen’s Looking at the Impact of Mining) this evening describing this latest development:

CLAIM Press Release
September 5, 2012

The Emgold Mining Co. has announced that it will not meet the deadline of Sept 10 for submitting the necessary funds to the City of Grass Valley, as reported in The Union on Tuesday, Sept 4. This means the City will cancel the permit application for their flagship project, Idaho-Maryland Mine. On March 13, 2012, after granting previous extensions, the City had set a final time limit of 180 days in which to make the deposit.

The deposit was for independent consultants to begin preparation of a revised Draft Environmental Impact Report (DEIR) on the proposed mine and ceramics factory. An estimated total of $3-4 million would be needed to finance and execute the DEIR, additional studies, another round of public hearings, and a Final Environmental Impact Report before obtaining a permit.

Emgold continues to have financial problems. The annual financial report for the 6 months  ending June 30, 2012 showed a loss of $492,314, or $0.01 per share, pushing the accumulated deficit to $50,675,463. Emgold has no sources of regular revenue. On June 30 they had only $4,178 of working capital. Even with the IMM project on hold, they still need $50,000 to $100,000 per month working capital to operate.

If a permit is eventually granted, the costs to de-water the old mine and build the mining and ceramics factory facilities would likely exceed $200 million.


Citizens Looking At Impacts of Mining (CLAIM-GV) is a Grass Valley non-profit whose mission is toprotect the community’s natural environment, public health and safety, and economic sustainability relative to mine re-openings and/or developments. CLAIM-GV’s many volunteers focus on gathering the relevant information, analyzing it, and making it available to the public

Who Increased The Debt?


Additional Resources

Gross National Debt as % GDP (zfacts.com)

Is This California’s Last Labor Day?

Reprinted from Alternet (August 30, 2012)

By Brigid O’Farrell

If conservatives have their way, there won’t be much of a labor voice by this time next year.

Photo by Tobias Higbie (http://www.flickr.com/photos/higbie/)

Attacks on hard-working people are nothing new in America. Sixty-five years ago, Eleanor Roosevelt, first lady and architect of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, wrote these words: “Labor Day this year is not a day for rejoicing for the labor groups, or for those who are interested in good labor conditions throughout the nation.” In 1947 she was worried about the Taft-Hartley Act, which was the first major legislation to weaken unions since the New Deal. The rights of the people who drive the economy and form the backbone of the country were under siege.

How true her words ring today.  And nowhere are they truer than in California.

While the attack on workers and their unions has been steady for decades, anti-union fervor escalated in the past two years since Scott Walker became governor of Wisconsin and the entire country watched him eliminate collective bargaining for public sector unions. His torch has been picked up in Ohio, Indiana and many other states. The Republican anti-union plans were on full display at the convention last week in Tampa, Florida.

Now it has come to California in our initiative process. Proposition 32, the “Billionaires Bill of Rights,” is on the ballot this November. Its purpose is to virtually eliminate the ability of labor unions to make contributions to political candidates and campaigns.

Prop 32 would ban money raised through voluntary deductions from a worker’s paycheck being used for political purposes.

This will mute workers’ voices in the political process. Unions will not be allowed to communicate with their own members on political issues, much less communicate with the general public on candidates and issues affecting their everyday lives: cuts to our schools, police and fire protection, patient health, workplace safety.

While dressed in the guise of “campaign finance reform,” the proposition will have virtually no impact on the campaign contributions of corporate executives, independently wealthy individuals, law firms or real estate trusts. Contributions to super PACs will be business as usual.

Members of the 1 percent do not use paycheck deductions to contribute to political candidates and campaigns. They use excessive profits, excessive interest on investments, excessive compensation. In Prop 32 we have a fine example of what Mrs. Roosevelt would call a “predatory and misleading campaign.” Opposition to this effort comes not only from labor but from groups like the California League of Women Voters, which says it is “unfair and unbalanced, restricting unions while not stopping corporate special interests.”

There is also a second shoe to drop. If Prop 32 passes this year, next year we can expect to see other anti-labor propositions like a “right-to-work” law further weakening private sector unions and an end to collective bargaining for teachers, firefighters, nurses, and police officers. The workers’ ability to fight back will be stopped by Prop 32.

In the 1930s the new CIO unions became key political  players during the Roosevelt administration. Eleanor and Franklin Roosevelt worked closely with the labor movement from local races in New York City to the presidential campaigns. Mrs. Roosevelt saw unions as fundamental to the democratic process. Shethrived on educating union members and rallying them to register people to vote, participate in conventions and campaigns, and get people to the polls on election day.

Photo by beckcowles
http://www.flickr.com/photos/beckcowles/

Union membership skyrocketed during the New Deal. By 1936, John L. Lewis, president of the mighty United Mine Workers Union, led the effort to establish Labor’s Non-Partisan League. They contributed half a million dollars, a staggering amount at the time, and most of it went to help FDR’s reelection campaign. In 1944 Sidney Hillman, president of the Amalgamated Clothing Workers Union, created the first political action committee, CIO-PAC, to support Roosevelt’s fourth term. Then, as now, they were outspent by the anti-union forces. Mrs. Roosevelt concluded in her column that while “labor today is stronger than it used to be, it is no stronger than organized capital.”

We first celebrated Labor Day in 1882 in New York City. Organized by the Central Labor Union, 10,000 workers took unpaid leave to march from City Hall to 92nd Street, demanding their rights for better pay, shorter hours and an end to children working in the mines and factories. In 1894 the first Monday in September became a national holiday to honor workers and their unions with parades and speeches, picnics and parties, and a day off of work. While the day now marks the end of summer and the beginning of school, Labor Day has also become the unofficial start of the political campaign season. It’s a fitting day to discuss Proposition 32.

Eleanor Roosevelt warned us that when fear and prejudice are running high, “We may wake up to find that in trying to remedy certain wrongs, we have shorn ourselves of certain very precious freedoms.” Shelley Kessler, executive secretary-treasurer for the San Mateo Labor Council, challenges us: “Let’s get out into our neighborhoods, mobilize friends and family, and defeat these attacks.”

Don’t let this be California’s last real Labor Day.


Brigid O’Farrell is an independent scholar affiliated with Mills College and the Eleanor Roosevelt Papers Project. Her most recent book is She Was One of Us: Eleanor Roosevelt and the American Worker (Cornell University Press).


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Brigid O’Farrell’s website

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