Blowout by Rachel Maddow

One of the most impressive parts of Rachel Maddow’s book Blowout is the end. No, not the index, but the twenty pages of “Notes on Sources.” I had often found myself thinking as I read the text, “How could she possibly know this level of detail?” but I know that Rachel Maddow and her staff are very dedicated to research and accuracy, so I didn’t doubt the veracity of the stories she was relating. I was pleased to see the “Notes on Sources” because she lists the books, papers, interviews, news stories, videos, magazines, etc. that she had used to find the facts, giving readers a chance to learn more and showing that she and her staff had, indeed, been diligent in their research.

The full title of the book is Blowout: Corrupted Democracy, Rogue State Russia, and the Richest, Most Destructive Industry on Earth. That industry is, of course, the oil and gas industry.

Because of my many years in the anti-fracking and climate justice movements, I was familiar with the broad outlines of much of the oil and gas industry story. I appreciated the abundance of details on topics such as Oklahoma, the depths to which it rises or falls on fossil fuel dollars, earthquakes and induced seismicity, and the rise of Oklahoma City, including its entance into the world of big-league sports. I knew that Russia used its fossil fuel exports as a cudgel and that Putin and his oligarchs ran roughshod over whomever stood in their way, but hadn’t realized all the factors involved, including the immensity of the impact of US sanctions that stopped Rex Tillerson’s ExxonMobil from assisting Russian Arctic drilling and spearheaded Russian interference in the 2016 US presidential election.

I was less familiar with the expressions of the “resource curse” in other parts of the world, such as Equatorial Guinea. These stories illustrate how the proceeds of the oil and gas industry flow to the already powerful leaders of government and industry and not to the general populations of the countries, who often remain mired in poverty and ecological devastation.

While I brought a considerable amount of personal background/geekery to my reading, the book is equally as enjoyable and informative for those who know little of the industry. Maddow’s writing is clear and compelling. Much of the book reads like literature, with compelling, recurring characters, rich details, and unexpected plot twists. That the stories are all true heightens their impact.

That we are continuing to deal with the repercussions of the events in this book makes reading it that much more important.
*****
Please join us for Linda’s Just Jot It January! Find out more here:  https://lindaghill.com/2020/01/06/daily-prompt-jusjojan-the-6th-2020/

Birthday and more

As I mentioned at the end of my last post, I celebrated my birthday at my Boiler House Poets reunion residency at MASS MoCA.

Actually, I started celebrating with my family before I left for North Adams with early birthday cards and gifts. ABC had chosen a card for me with a dinosaur (or maybe a dragon or alligator?) on it, so after I opened it, she, in her own cute way, took possession of it as a plaything. She and my daughters gave me a framed quilled floral piece from a local artists’ shop. My spouse B gave me a copy of Blowout by Rachel Maddow, which had just become available. It deals with the fossil fuel industry and its political ramifications, I’ve dealt with these issues frequently over these last years in the anti-fracking, climate action, and environmental justice movements and look forward to reading the book. Rachel Maddow does meticulous research, so I’m sure I will gain valuable insights.

I had planned to keep my birthday low-key this year, but was grateful for all the greetings on Facebook, text, in person, and by mail. I was especially grateful to have dinner with cousins that evening. They are the only family B and I have left living here and I always enjoy seeing them when I am back.

Saturday was a very busy day at MASS MoCA and with the Fall Foliage Festival in North Adams. The skies were very clear, which made the early morning very chilly, but I went to the farmer’s market as soon as it opened. I visited familiar vendors, buying maple syrup from B’s hometown and jams, relishes, and pickled beets from nearby Adams. I picked up an extra jar of cranberry-apple relish for E to take on her move to London. They plan to celebrate American Thanksgiving in November and cranberries, being a North American fruit, aren’t easy to come by in the UK – and who knows what the trade situation will be like in November?

I did a bit of writing in the very cold studio. Apparently, the building hasn’t swapped over to heating yet, but I called on my hearty New England roots to make it through! At noon, I visited the craft fair on Main Street, which had been blocked of from traffic. This year, there was also a dance party going on, but I don’t dance – except with ABC in my arms.

At our group lunch, we chose by random drawing the work we would each write about for this year’s Boiler House Poets’ project, Orange Country by ERRE. Marilyn McCabe, our recording and video guru, will put all of our poems together and I’ll post the link here at ToJCM when it becomes available. For a taste of Marilyn’s work, check out this amazing video chapbook. With eight poems to be included, each needs to be short, so I turned to tanka for my contribution. I find that only having 31 syllables to work with helps me distill my thoughts in what I hope will be a meaningful way. It also allows me to do multiple drafts in a relatively contained timeframe. I whittled away words from my original thoughts to create the tanka. The sixth draft will be the final one for the recording, I think.

As it happened, MoCA was having a day of special events to coincide with the city festival. I saw a performance piece by the artist MPA which took place in the midst of her art installation. There was an excellent talk by author Akiko Busch on the current exhibit of works by Rafa Esparza. These works are made of adobe, using water from the Hoosic River which runs through the museum complex and other local and natural materials, and much of Busch’s talk centered around our place in the world and our relationship to it, which is totally in my wheelhouse with my collection in progress. Later in the afternoon, I heard Jimena Canales, a science and technology historian, speak. Unfortunately, she only got through a fraction of her presentation, so we never really got to the intended conclusion on what makes us human and the relationship of humans to art. The bonus, though, was that a wonderful harpist played for us in that same gallery space immediately after. This hadn’t been on the schedule, so we would have missed it otherwise.

Because of all the special events, the poets had decided to do our workshopping after supper. I decided to strike out on my own to eat at Boston Seafoods. I still have trouble calling it that; it’s been around for a long time and I still think of it as what we grew up calling it, the Fish Market. I had fish and chips and then a mocha sundae! I had been upset that the place I used to get mochas had closed, so I was happy to see it on the menu. The mocha sauce is not a fluffy as what we used to get at Apothecary Hall when I was a kid – and they put whipped cream on it, which was not traditional – but it was still delicious and relieved my longing for a North Adams mocha. It occurs to me that people are likely to find this whole mocha business odd, but mocha sundaes were important here. There will probably be two mocha poems in my collection whenever I finish it…

We workshopped poems until after 11:00 PM. I’m hoping the other poets got more sleep than I did, although, with a bar that dates back to 1933 down on the first floor of our building on the Saturday of Fall Foliage Festival weekend, maybe not.

I’m sure we will power through our Sunday, though.

I wonder how many of us will attend the parade today?

sharing a meal with whom?

On the CBS Saturday morning news show, they always have a segment called “The Dish” in which a chef makes their signature dishes for the show’s hosts. There is an interview on their history, restaurants, and cuisine. At the end, they sign a plate and answer the final question, “If you could share this meal with anyone, past or present, who would it be?”

I am not a chef, but I’ve thought about whom I would choose as dining companions – Rachel Maddow and Stephen Colbert. I’ve watched them both on television for a long time. They are both smart and earnest and have a good sense of humor. Like me, they were raised in the Catholic church. I think that we would have a very interesting conversation.

Whom would you invite?
*****
Join us for Just Jot It January! Today’s pingback link is here:  https://lindaghill.com/2019/01/24/jusjojan-2019-daily-prompt-jan-24th/
More information and prompts here: https://lindaghill.com/2018/12/31/what-is-just-jot-it-january-2019-rules/

What this Sanders’ supporter wants

There is a lot of ink, pixels, and airtime being spent speculating on what Bernie Sanders wants to get from the Democratic party, now that, short of a catastrophe on Sec. Clinton’s part, it looks impossible for him to gain the nomination.

Rachel Maddow has been saying that he must want more than changes in the party platform and I agree.

Senator Sanders seldom uses the word platform; he uses the word agenda. The literal translation from Latin of agenda is “the things which ought to be done.”

Senator Sanders and his supporters don’t want talk or words on a platform that will get filed in a drawer and forgotten. We want action on several important fronts.

In no particular order, here are my thoughts, which may or may not align with Senator Sanders’ and other supporters’.  After all, this is Top of JC’s Mind, so it is my prerogative…

1.)  I want a public option added to the Affordable Care Act which is available in every state. This is especially important for people who are currently in states that did not expand Medicaid, leaving millions ineligible for Medicaid and for subsidies through the federal exchange. I share Senator Sanders’ viewpoint that a single-payer “Medicare for all”system would be best, but I think that a public option would be a step in that direction, as well as an acknowledgement that health care should be counted among our human rights. Another helpful move in the health arena is to allow all government programs to negotiate on drug pricing.

2.)  I want Citizens United overturned and big money out of politics. I think our campaigns should be publicly funded with only small donations from citizens allowed. Bernie has shown that a national campaign can be funded with small dollar donations – if you have the right message and authenticity.

3.)  I want all primaries and caucuses to be open. Voters should be able to decide on voting day which candidate they prefer, even if they are not registered to a party. Like Senator Sanders, I am a long-time independent. Because I live in New York , which is a closed state, I could not vote for him on primary day.

4.)  I want everyone in the Clinton campaign to stop this nonsense about Hillary Clinton not being part of the establishment. Seriously. You sound ridiculous every time you pretend that someone who has been immersed in partisan politics for decades is not part of the establishment.

5.)  I want the country to be more equitable economically. We need a living wage enacted.  We need programs to eliminate poverty, hunger, and homelessness.  We need family leave policies. We need recognition that unpaid work, such as caregiving and volunteering, is also valuable to society. We need a fairer tax system which is progressive and taxes capital gains, carried interest, etc. at the same rate as income. We need to eliminate the ceiling on earnings subject to Social Security tax. We need to tax stock trades, as Senator Sanders has proposed. We need companies to invest in their workforce and communities and in research again, instead of continually cutting workers and offshoring jobs and profits. We need to make sure that financial institutions and other businesses behave ethically and don’t crash the economy. I could go on, but I’m sure you have the picture…

6.)  I want urgency in the area of combatting climate change. We are already suffering the effects and they will surely intensify in coming years, but if we don’t act quickly, we are dooming billions of 22nd and 23rd century people. So, fossil fuel subsidies need to end immediately. A stiff carbon tax needs to be enacted. The funds raised from those two things can be used to cushion the financial impact on people and to ramp up renewable energy/storage and energy efficiency initiatives. All new unconventional fossil fuel extraction should end immediately, as well as all expansion of fossil fuel infrastructure. It’s like building a whaling ship as whale oil was rapidly being replaced as a lighting source.

7.)  I want comprehensive immigration reform with a path to citizenship.

8.)  I want to cut military spending – a lot. We have been building military hardware that the military doesn’t even want. We spend more on our military than the next ten top-spending countries combined. We need to spend our tax dollars on things that build up people and communities here and around the world, not on things that are designed to destroy.

9.)  I want to restore our infrastructure.  Our roads, bridges, public transportation, railways, water/sewer systems, airports, and energy grid are in a sorry state. While we are at it, we can also re-design these systems to address climate change and threats from stronger storms and more severe floods/droughts.

10.)  I want a progressive to be Clinton’s running mate. I don’t think that Senator Sanders is an appropriate choice, given that he is older than Sec. Clinton and can be a big help in the Senate going forward.  Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts would be a great choice, if she wants to run, although she is only slightly younger than Hillary.   Sen. Jeff Merkley of Oregon would be a good choice. He was the only progressive Senator with enough independence to endorse Bernie Sanders. Rep. Keith Ellison of Minnesota would be a ground-breaking choice. Not only would he be the first African-American vice-president, but he would also be the first Muslim-American to rise to such a high national office.

11.)  I want pay equity for women. (I can barely believe we still have to fight for this.) I want an end to discrimination on any grounds – gender identity, marital status, race/ethnicity, health status, age, religion or lack thereof, whatever.

12.)  I want the common good to be the yardstick by which we measure progress, not profits or GDP.

Probably wise to stop at a dozen…

As I discussed in a prior post, the Democrats need to remember that it is independents who decide elections in the United States. They need the ideas, energy, support, and votes of Sanders’ supporters, both independents and Democrats, to win in November.

And it is clear that the Democratic Party nominee must win the presidency. Our well-being and standing as a world leader depend on it.