Global Warming Cripples Panama Canal

When people in the United States talk about refugees from south of the border, they’re often framed as “economic refugees”. Much of the time, this is part of a broader effort to de-legitimize their claim to asylum, and it generally ignores why their home countries might be having economic troubles (the U.S. has often played an outsized role in devastating countries in South and Central America). It also ignores another problem primarily caused by outside forces – global warming.

See, the ways in which global warming is harming poor countries in the “global south” rarely actually make the news in the US, so far too few people are aware that one of the biggest things that Central American refugees are fleeing is drought. Just as parts of the US have now been in a state of semi-permanent drought for what feels like over a decade now, Central America has been far, far too dry, but instead of being part of the United States, these countries spent the last few decades being under attack by the United States. This is why, incidentally, the refugees are willing to try to cross a border where they know government agents are trying to kill them – the alternative is starvation, and the horrible choices made to avoid starvation. Advocates for climate action have been warning for ages that global warming would drive a refugee crisis, and it has been doing just that for years now.

That drought is also, now, having a consequence that I did not foresee, even though I should have.

The Panama Canal is running out of water:

Remember the chaos that ensued in 2021, when a cargo ship got stuck, blocking passage through the Suez Canal?

Now, a massive flotilla of ships is currently stuck in the world’s worst traffic jam at the Panama Canal — and the end of this new watery pile-up could be at least a few weeks away.

As the Wall Street Journal reports, the famous human-dug canal has more than 200 ships waiting to pass through it as its transit continues to be stymied thanks to the worst drought it’s experienced in a century.

The 50-mile-long canal, as the report notes, relies on rainwater to replenish it. When it doesn’t rain enough, the authorities that control the canal have to reduce traffic through it to conserve water, and those that are allowed through have to pay higher fees to do so.

Daily traffic is currently capped at 32 ships, which is down from the prior average of about 36 when there’s enough water for the canal — which uses more than 50 million gallons of water per day — to operate at full capacity.

I really should have seen this coming, because one of my favorite nonfiction books is The Tapir’s Morning Bath, which follows the strange adventures of the scientists on Barro Colorado Island, which was formed when a big section of land was flooded, as part of building the Canal. Writing this, I think I want to see if I can find out what research has been coming off of that island, because I’m willing to bet they’ve got things to say about climate change ecology. I guess I had two points in bringing up this book. The first is that you should all read it, and the second is to emphasize that the Panama Canal is not like the Suez Canal. The Suez is saltwater all the way through, and with the exception of one saltwater lake, it’s a straight canal dug by people.

Panama has some of that, of course, but a huge chunk of the “canal” is a sprawling, man-made lake:

The image shows a map of the Panama Canal. Points of interest are labeled from the Atlantic entrance in the northwest corner of the image (#1) to the Pacific entrance in the southeast corner of the image (#16). The points between list locks, to raise and lower the ships, straight canals, and the turns needed to navigate Gatun Lake. Barro Colorado Island is in the middle, with four marked turns for the ships to navigate around it. From the image, it's clear that the lake, which covers between one third and one half of the width of Panama's isthmus at that point, is part of the local watershed, and a big part of the region's ecosystem.

The image shows a map of the Panama Canal. Points of interest are labeled from the Atlantic entrance in the northwest corner of the image (#1) to the Pacific entrance in the southeast corner of the image (#16). The points between list locks, to raise and lower the ships, straight canals, and the turns needed to navigate Gatun Lake. Barro Colorado Island is in the middle, with four marked turns for the ships to navigate around it. From the image, it’s clear that the lake, which covers between one third and one half of the width of Panama’s isthmus at that point, is part of the local watershed, and a big part of the region’s ecosystem.

As the drought worsened last month, canal administrator Ricaurte Vásquez Morales said during a press event that traffic restrictions may remain in place until the end of the year and added that it will cost the canal an estimated $200 million in lost revenue.

Beyond the regulatory and financial concerns associated with this massive backup, Vásquez Morales suggested that the drought also illustrates one of the biggest existential threats facing the canal as well.

“We have to find other solutions to remain a relevant route for international trade,” he said during the July press summit. “If we don’t adapt, we are going to die.”

Hey, that’s what I’ve been saying! We have all the technology, resources, and knowledge to deal with the climate crisis, but if we don’t use it – if we don’t adapt to what’s happening – we are going to die.

Oil Train Project Hits Judicial Red Light

More good news from the courts!

It has become increasingly clear over the last few decades that even without climate change threatening to wipe out humanity, the fossil fuel industry is incapable of operating in a safe and responsible manner. They spill oil and gas everywhere, at almost every stage of production, and in a time when we’re facing both the climate crisis, and a water crisis (that’s made worse by the climate crisis), the oil company hobby of poisoning land and water is an increasingly unaffordable liability. When the question of oil transportation comes up, most of us probably think of pipelines, but for all their problems, the well-titled “bomb trains” are almost certainly worse. The disaster in East Palestine earlier this year is the biggest recent example of a bomb train in action, but most of the trains that earn the moniker do so by carrying oil.

As we all know, oil companies are dedicated to extracting and burning as much of the stuff as possible before doing so drives us all to extinction. To facilitate the process, there has been an attempt to build a new railway dedicated to moving oil drilled in Utah into the national rail network. See, there’s no money to build new railways for human use, but if it’s going to make billionaires richer at the cost of the planet? Well, money is no object. Fortunately, activists have been fighting this, and have just won a small, but important victory:

“The court’s rejection of this oil railway and its ensuing environmental damage is a victory for the climate, public health, and wild landscapes,” said WildEarth Guardians legal director Samantha Ruscavage-Barz. “The public shouldn’t have to shoulder the costs of the railway’s environmental degradation while the fossil fuel industry reaps unprecedented profits from dirty energy.”

Although the ruling does not necessarily permanently block the project—which would cut through tribal land and a national forest—Carly Ferro, executive director of the Utah Sierra Club, similarly called the decision “a win for communities across the West and is critical for ensuring a sustainable climate future.”

“From its onset, this project’s process has been reckless and egregious. But today, the people and the planet prevailed,” Ferro added. “We will continue to advocate for accountable processes to ensure a healthy environment where communities can live safely, and this win will help make that possible.”

The whole industry is reckless and dangerous, but given the absurd rate of derailments in the US, oil trains really seem like the epitome of irresponsibility. That means, of course, that they’re not going to stop trying to use them, but every obstacle we can place on the tracks is a win.

The [three-judge] panel found “numerous” violations of the National Environmental Policy Act “arising from the EIS, including the failures to: (1) quantify reasonably foreseeable upstream and downstream impacts on vegetation and special-status species of increased drilling in the Uinta Basin and increased oil train traffic along the Union Pacific Line, as well as the effects of oil refining on environmental justice communities the Gulf Coast; (2) take a hard look at wildfire risk as well as impacts on water resources downline; and (3) explain the lack of available information on local accident risk” in accordance with federal law, wrote Judge Robert Wilkins. “The EIS is further called into question since the BiOp failed to assess impacts on the Colorado River fishes downline.”

As the The Colorado Sunreported Friday:

The Surface Transportation Board argued it did not have jurisdiction to address or enforce mitigation of impacts outside the 88-mile rail corridor.

The appeals court ordered the Surface Transportation Board to redo its environmental review of the project. But the court did not agree with Eagle County and the environmental groups led by the Center for Biological Diversity that the Uinta Basin Railway could lead to the opening of the long-dormant Tennessee Pass Line between Dotsero and Cañon City.

The court also did not wholly agree that the transportation board failed to adequately consider the climate impacts of burning the new crude, which could increase pollution and account for 1% of the nation’s greenhouse gas emissions.

Still, the Center for Biological Diversity celebrated the decision, with senior campaigner Deeda Seed saying that “this is an enormous victory for our shared climate, the Colorado River, and the communities that rely on it for clean water, abundant fish, and recreation.”

“The Uinta Basin Railway is a dangerous, polluting boondoggle that threatens people, wildlife, and our hope for a livable planet,” Seed added. “The Biden administration needs to dismantle this climate bomb and throw it in the trash can where it belongs.”

U.S. Sen. Michael Bennet and Congressman Joe Neguse, both Colorado Democrats, also welcomed the ruling in a joint statement.

“This ruling is excellent news,” the pair said. “The approval process for the Uinta Basin Railway Project has been gravely insufficient, and did not properly account for the project’s full risks to Colorado’s communities, water, and environment. A new review must account for all harmful effects of this project on our state, including potential oil spills along the Colorado River and increased wildfire risk.”

“An oil train derailment in the headwaters of the Colorado River would be catastrophic—not only to Colorado, but the 40 million Americans who rely on it,” they added. “We’re grateful for the leadership of Eagle County and the many organizations and local officials around Colorado who made their voices heard.”

The institutions of government are, with very few exceptions, designed to privilege capitalists, which is why it is so slow, painful, and sometimes impossible to actually stop destructive corporate activity, or enact changes to law and policy that benefit people in general. As I said the other day, I’m not inclined to place much hope in courts or the government, but I do like seeing things that make me question that pessimism.

On an unrelated note, does anyone need a Bluesky invite?

Video: A History of Men Not Being OK in America

Masculinity honestly isn’t something I spend a whole lot of time thinking about. For all I’m an effete lefty who preaches about cooperation, I fit the traditionally masculine aesthetic pretty well. I like blacksmithing (though it’s hard to find a smithy), I’m above average (which isn’t saying much) when it comes to stuff like wilderness survival, I’m big and stronk, and I have a pretty masc presentation, as you can see:

The image shows me, being manly. You can tell how manly I am by the beard, the aggressive facial expression, and the edged weapon. You could argue that the mohawk/ponytail is also a pretty masculine look, but in this picture it just looks like I have a little tuft of hair on top of my head.

The image shows me, being manly. You can tell how manly I am by the beard, the aggressive facial expression, and the edged weapon. You could argue that the mohawk/ponytail is also a pretty masculine look, but in this picture it just looks like I have a little tuft of hair on top of my head.

I’ll give you all a moment to recover.

Anyway, my point is that I do actually like some aspects of masculinity, and they feel comfortable and right for who I am. When I think about it, which isn’t often, it’s a thing I like about myself. Unfortunately, there are some guys for whom masculinity is a constant source of insecurity and effort, and they’re constantly trying to prove their masculinity to each other. I think I might have shared a couple videos about the “manosphere” and manliness in the past, but it’s never really been something that seemed worth writing about I might change my mind on that in the future, but I’m afraid today is no exception.

That said, it is something worth thinking about, because for a sizable number of my fellow men, masculinity is apparently in crisis. I don’t care that much about the crisis itself, but it does matter to me that a lot of men are feeling insecure, scared, and lonely. It matters, because I’ve absolutely felt that way myself, and I absolutely will feel that way again. The fact that the world is a scary, unfair, and isolating place is a pretty big topic on this blog, even if it’s not the sole subject of many blog posts. You won’t be surprised to learn that I think that most of these problems facing men are problems that face everybody, because of the way society is organized, it’s just that some men feel they were promised more.

The reality is that the promises of patriarchy have always been lies for 99% of the population, just like the promises of capitalism, and most of the stuff that has so many men being insecure is actually a fairly recent invention, that seems to have been at least partly designed to make men view working for the profit of other men as an act of manliness. It is all, in my opinion, silly bullshit. Unfortunately, it’s also a force in our society that is making men be Not OK, so here’s Sam from We’re In Hell to talk about the (fairly silly) history of men not being OK in America:

Nowhere on Earth Is Safe: City of Yellowknife Evacuated

This year’s fire season has been rough on Canada, helping to make the point that with the entire planet warming, we can’t simply move everyone north, and expect the weather to move with us like a neat map of horticultural growth zones. For average temperatures, that’s a fine way to show things, but the reality is that we don’t really get to have average temperatures, or “normal conditions” anymore. With global air and water currents changing, we can see temperatures of over 100F/38C in the Arctic Circle, and that tends to come with fires. This year, for the first time, the entire city of Yellowknife, Northwest Territories, Canada, has been evacuated. This is the northern-most city in Canada, in a landscape covered with lakes, streams and ponds, but that seems to offer little protection. Fire season has always been a thing in Canada, but never like this. Over 20,000 residents have been given till this weekend to leave the city, ahead of an advancing fire that’s deemed likely to cut off the only road out.

More than 20,000 residents – the entire population – have been given until noon on Friday to leave their homes, as water bombers flew throughout the night and authorities warned that the fire could reach the city by the weekend.

Evacuation flights are also due to begin on Thursday afternoon, and will continue until the entire population has safely left the city, said the Yellowknife mayor, Rebecca Alty. She warned residents to bring water and food with them to the city’s airport as they could face long waits to get on a flight.

The out-of-control wildfire – which was least measured at 163,000 hectares wide (402,000 acres) – is currently 16km from Yellowknife, the capital of the vast and sparsely populated Northwest Territories. The city lies roughly 250 miles south of the Arctic Circle.

Canada is enduring its worst wildfire season, with more than 1,000 active fires burning across the country, including 236 in the Northwest Territories.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau was due to convene a meeting of the Incident Response Group, a group of ministers and senior officials and ministers which meets in moments of crisis.

The blaze near Yellowknife has also prompted the evacuation of several other nearby towns, including the Dene First Nation communities of N’dilo and Dettah.

“The reality is we’ve been fighting this fire for over a month. This fire has burned deep, this fire has burned hot, and it has found ways through multiple different sets of established [control] lines,” said the Northwest Territories fire information officer Mike Westwick.

As thick smoke blanketed the city, traffic backed up the main road leading towards the town of Fort Providence, where hundreds of people spent the night sleeping in their cars in the parking lot of a service station.

Linda Croft, the manager of the Big River service station, said that traffic had been heavy since Wednesday morning as people attempted to escape. “It’s lined up right back along the highway, no end in sight,” she said.

More than 2m hectares of the territory have been burned this season, and more than half of its population is now under evacuation order. Roads out of the region also pass through areas with active fires.

On the other side of Great Slave Lake, residents of the village of Hay River were told to leave Sunday.

Garth Carman, who drove out with his 16 cats, described witnessing scenes like “the apocalypse”, with bears and other wild animals burned alive on the roadside.

“A wall of flames just washed over the highway and trees just began exploding in the fire – poof, poof, poof – one after the other, coming towards us. It was hell driving through this,” he told CBC.

About 39km south of Hay River, the town of Enterprise has been 90% destroyed by fire.

Nowhere is safe.

Global warming is not a problem that can simply be avoided by stepping out of its way, because there is no “out of its way” on this planet. It’s a problem that must be directly confronted.

Evacuating people ahead of an advancing fire or storm is a very good thing, but I think it’s obvious that literally dodging disasters isn’t a sustainable response. We have to end fossil fuel use, and because corporate greed has delayed action for so long, we have to undertake that monumental task, while dodging disasters. This is not a good position to be in, regardless of political or economic system, but I think it’s made much, much worse by the fact that we are burdened by a parasitic capitalist class, which values its wealth and power over all life on this planet. I say “parasitic”, but really, they are parasitoids – feeding off all of us until there’s nothing left but withered corpses.

With luck, and the efforts of firefighters, these people will be able to return to smoke-damaged homes by winter. Fire season tapers off as the weather cools, and despite this year looking like yet another “hottest on record”, less sunlight still means the temperature drops, so we’ve got that going for us. The problem is that this doesn’t end until greenhouse gas levels are lower than they were a decade ago, and right now, they’re still climbing fast. We’re running short on time, and thanks to capitalism, we’re also needlessly short on resources to spend on mitigation or adaptation.

GPS Trackers and Stalking: Police Repression of Left-Wing Activists Continues

I think that by now, a lot of people are aware of some of the abuses that police have committed in the past. COINTELPRO is probably the most infamous example in the US, and in the UK, undercover cops formed relationships and even fathered children with left-wing activists, as part of spying on them. I suppose some people on the far right might defend this stuff, but nobody pretends it didn’t happen.

Unfortunately, I think some people believe that because these abuses were uncovered, and made headlines, and caused outrage, that cops don’t do that anymore, because now it’s not allowed, or because they won’t want to get caught again. I think it’s a reasonable, but misguided assumption that relies on the fact that for most of us, if we get caught doing something anywhere near that bad, we would suffer for it. The same isn’t generally true of police, or not to the same degree. Most of the time, the main concern is changing tactics so they don’t get caught again, and for that, they have a huge budget to spent on all kinds of surveillance toys, and the settlements they might have to pay for using them:

On Monday August 1st, Michigan activist Peatmoss found 2 GPS tracking devises attached with powerful magnets to the rear axle of their car, see pictures here. This happened after Peatmoss spent a week hanging out with friends at the Camp Gayling Week of Action against the Camp Grayling national guard base.

A lawyer calling the police on Peatmoss’s behalf relayed that the police confirmed the trackers were placed by law enforcement, though they refused to name the agency.

Three days before, on the evening of Friday July 28th, Peatmoss was arrested outside Lansing, MI after being followed by a large blue Ford pickup truck into a church parking lot to meet two other folks. The arrest stemmed from a warrant issued in another area of Michigan. During the arrest the police verbally stated that they believed the car had been present at a recent legal demonstration put on by Sunrise Ann Arbor on the sidewalk in front of Accident Fund headquarters, an insurer of the Cop City project. The cops stated they knew the car had driven by the home of Accident Fund CEO Lisa Corless, which was nearby at 3945 Turnberry Lane, Okemos, Michigan.

While in custody police attempted to coerce consent to a DNA sample by threatening Peatmoss with a longer detention. Peatmoss refused and was released without giving a sample. They also noticed their file had an “FBI number” highlighted underneath their SSN.

The second week of May, Peatmoss was followed for 45 minutes by a blacked out Ford sedan. The car began following them at their legal residence, the first time they had been home in several months. The car followed them onto the highway, off the highway, around in circles in a neighborhood, and then back onto the highway, only leaving when they were about to cross the Michigan-Ohio state border. They had given their legal name and address when putting money on many Atlanta Solidarity Fund defendants’ commissary accounts earlier this year.

This is police using their unaccountable power to harass and intimidate activists who oppose the continued increase in that power.

It’s important to understand that the abuses of government agents don’t stop happening just because they are uncovered. There need to be actual changes in the law that lawmakers have already demonstrated they don’t want to make, which means that it is on us to reshape the justice system, not just by voting in a system rigged to cater to the “elite”, but also by building collective power through workplace organizing, community organizing, and mutual aid, with which to carry out strikes and other disruptive actions. That’s the only way I can see to get revolutionary change, without a revolutionary war.

Government repression, particularly of left-wing political thought and action, never stopped. It is an ongoing problem, and one with which we will have to contend if we want to build a society that actually values justice and human rights. Police power is being used right now to quell movements for real action not just on the cops themselves, but on climate change, and economic injustice, and a whole host of other issues. For pretty much any change we’re hoping to make, if it improves life for people at the bottom, police stand in the way. They stand in the way because that is their job, and they will use every tool at their disposal to do it. That is why it is so important to organize, and to act together, because on our own, it’s easy for even a local police department to destroy us.

Peatmoss has an activist community supporting them, and helping to get the word out about what the cops are doing. That’s why the cops are deliberately targeting the community efforts to support activists who’ve been arrested – because community support works.

I want to close on this thought: it’s currently fairly easy for the police to target people like Peatmoss, because while they are not standing alone, they are a pretty small group. What I hope to see, and what the police fear to see, is that dynamic multiplied across the country. People willing to take direct action, and put their bodies on the line for a better world, supported by communities willing to defend them against repression. If that happened, then the changes we’re always told are so utopian might suddenly seem well within our reach.

If you value the work I do, please consider helping to pay for it over at Even small contributions like a couple dollars per month add up to make a big difference! If you can’t afford that, then I definitely don’t want your money, but I’d appreciate it if you shared this post with others, to help me increase my readership. Thanks for reading, and be sure to take care of yourselves in this scary world!

Montana Court Upholds Right to Clean and Healthful Environment.

Growing up, I was exposed to a great deal of U.S. patriotism, in the form of songs, fictionalized propaganda like Little House on the Prairie, and Fourth of July parades. After 9/11, it all became much more about the US armed forces (which is actually very appropriate, given US history), but what sticks with me is the focus on the landscape. The landscape was a revelation for the Europeans who created the United States, despite the fact that they murdered the people who had shaped and maintained that landscape, and set about trying to turn it into a version of the European terrain they’d left behind by clear-cutting, straightening rivers, building cities and monoculture farms, and wiping out species they viewed as bad. Still, much of the landscape remains beautiful, and a lot of American pride remains tied to that beauty. It’s not surprising, then, that the state constitution of Montana, home of Yellowstone National Park (along with Idaho and Wyoming) guarantees a right to a “clean and healthful environment”. The only problem is that, as with democracy, this noble principle is incompatible with capitalism, so oil companies have largely had their way.

Until now.

In Held v. State of Montana, District Court Judge Kathy Seeley ruled that rights of the plaintiffs—who range in age from 5 to 22— have been violated by the Montana Environmental Policy Act because the law has prevented the state from assessing the climate impacts of mining projects.

Fossil fuel emissions including Montana’s “have been proven to be a substantial factor” in heating the planet and causing pollution, Seeley said in the nation’s first ruling on a constitutional, youth-led lawsuit regarding the climate.

Because the Montana Constitution guarantees residents a “clean and healthful environment,” the state’s environmental policy law violates the document, said Seeley.

“This is HUGE,” said meteorologist Eric Holthaus.

It is huge. The cynical part of me says I’ll believe it when I see real change from it, but this is absolutely a win, not just because of changes to policy in Montana because of it, but because this lawsuit is far from alone, and this ruling sets a precedent that will be very helpful going forward:

As Common Dreams reported last month, lawsuits around the world have emerged as a key driver of climate action as a wide range of plaintiffs—from children in the U.S. to senior citizens in Switzerland—have argued that their human rights have been violated by the companies and lawmakers that have promoted fossil fuel production despite scientific evidence of the danger it poses.

Out of approximately 2,200 worldwide climate cases, about three-quarters have been filed in the United States, according to the United Nations Environment Program and the Sabin Center, and the number of legal challenges has more than doubled since 2017.

The outcome of the Montana case could “open up the floodgates for more climate lawsuits,” said Jamie Henn, director of Fossil Free Media.

I talk a lot about the ways in which our government and “justice” system are corrupt and illegitimate, but there is no questioning their power, and there are many within those institutions who take them seriously. I think it’ll be some time before we can actually see the material effects of this ruling, but it seems like this isn’t just going to go away.

This is also one reason why it’s better to have the corrupt, illegitimate system we know, than the corrupt, illegitimate system that the fascists running the GOP intend to create, if they manage to finish destroying the laws and institutions that protect what democracy we do have, and that protect the working classes from absolute rule by capitalists. Workplace and community organizing remain essential, but it’s a very good thing that people are fighting for change in the courts, as well. In my more cynical moments, I tend to view court cases and electoral campaigns as the things we have to do to demonstrate the need for action outside the official channels. It’s nice to have a reminder that it really is fighting this battle on all fronts, because there is victory to be found.

Court Rules Mississippi Felony Disenfranchisement Unconstitutional

I guess this weekend’s theme is “things I believed about the United States when I was young and naive”. Today’s edition is the idea that the US has ever been a democracy. There are a number of ways in which you could approach this issue, but today we’re talking about felon disenfranchisement. See, when slavery was “ended” by the 13th amendment, an exception was explicitly made for people who had been convicted of a crime. In the generations since, the Land of the Free has become one of the most incarcerated populations on the planet, private prisons are pushing to lock up more people, and people enslaved by the US law enforcement system generate 11 billion dollars in goods and services annually. There are many ways in which this system is enforced and maintained, but one of them is the practice of felony disenfranchisement. If you’ve got a bunch of enslaved people, and you want to keep that free labor force, the it’s important to make sure that the slaves don’t have a say in the laws that make them slaves. For most people, it’s probably not too hard of a sell to say that if you’re locked up, you shouldn’t have the right to vote. You’re being punished with a loss of freedom, so why not add voting in along with that? Now, I personally disagree with that, but what’s really sinister, is when a state, like Mississippi for example, makes the ban on voting a lifelong punishment.

You got convicted of robbing a store at 18? Congratulations, you are now cut out of having any voice in this “democracy”. It sure seems like this ought to be illegal, for all I think it’s entirely in keeping with the original spirit of the US constitution. Fortunately, we may be seeing some movement in the right direction on this; from August 4th:

A federal appeals court on Friday struck down Mississippi’s Jim Crow-era policy of permanently revoking voting rights from certain people with felony convictions, ruling that it is unconstitutional cruel and unusual punishment.

The 2-1 panel ruling is a surprise victory from the conservative fifth circuit court of appeals just over a month after the US supreme court refused to hear a challenge to the discriminatory law.

Before Friday’s ruling, Mississippi’s felony disenfranchisement law denied a higher percentage of its residents the right to vote than any other states in the United States. The policy blocked more than 10% of the adult population from voting if they had ever been convicted of one of 22 crimes, including murder, rape, bribery, theft and arson. The vast majority – more than 90% – of those people are no longer in prison.

The state’s policy also disproportionately affected Black voters, with nearly 16% of the Black voting age population prevented from casting a ballot because of a prior felony conviction.

In its ruling, the court found that the state’s policy serves no penological purpose.

“By severing former offenders from the body politic forever, [the state’s policy] ensures that they will never be fully rehabilitated, continues to punish them beyond the term their culpability requires, and serves no protective function to society,” the opinion said. “It is thus a cruel and unusual punishment.”

I believe that our criminal justice system is designed, among other things, to create and maintain a criminal underclass, and felon disenfranchisement, where it exists, plays a big role in that. It’s good to see this ruling, and I very much hope that it will be upheld. The so-called Justice System in the United States is a travesty, and prisons are basically giant torture factories by design. We have a lot of work to do to dismantle that, but this is a step in the right direction. I’ll leave you with a discussion on this from the folks at The Majority Report:

A Belated Post on the Bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki

There are a number of reasons why I’m fairly certain that I have ADHD, but one of them is that it is very easy for me to lose track of time, both over the course of a day, and from one week or month to the next. This is made worse by the fact that I’m currently entirely self-employed, and I don’t have money to go out and do things, so my days all look pretty similar. That that means is that I’m now posting a video that I had meant to post six days ago.

On August 6th, 1945, the United States dropped an atomic bomb the Japanese city of Hiroshima. Three days later, it did the same to the city of Nagasaki. The casualties are estimated at around two hundred thousand people, but it’s hard to know for sure, because of the scale of destruction. The vast majority of those killed were civilians.

The story I heard most, growing up, was that this was done avoid a costly and bloody land invasion, but as I’ve learned more, I’ve come to believe that while invasion plans may have existed, just as the Pentagon doubtless has “invasion plans” for most countries on the planet, but I don’t believe they had an intention to invade, because they didn’t need to. Even if surrender wasn’t on the table, Japan had no ability to fight in any meaningful way, and no ability at all to project power outside its shores. All the Allies had to do was maintain a blockade, and do conventional bombing runs. There was no reason to invade.

Further, the Allies were listening in on all of Japan’s communications, knew that they were trying to get the USSR to negotiate a surrender, with their biggest sticking point being the life and safety of Emperor Hirohito – a condition the Allies were entirely fine with, outside of propaganda concerns back home. No, the reason the bombs were dropped had very little to do with the people killed and injured by them. It was done primarily as a display of power, directed primarily at the Soviet Union, and I think that Shaun’s video, below, does an excellent job of laying out the case for that. It’s a long video, but well worth your time.

Climate Disasters, Mutual Aid, and Fighting Fascism With Solidarity

Once upon a time, when I was but a lad, I had the fairly naïve notion that New England, being The North, naturally wouldn’t have anything like members of the KKK. In high school, I and some other members of my school’s naturalist program spent a week in the Smokey Mountains. It was a fun and interesting trip, but what’s relevant for today is that when we emerged from the woods, and descended upon a diner that served breakfast all day, we found ourselves witness to some sort of hot-rod competition. If memory serves, we were in or near Dollywood, and there was a long line of souped-up cars slowly parading down one side of the road, and then showing off their speed down the other. In amongst it all, there were a couple pickup trucks, packed with big white dudes, and covered with confederate flags. This would have been around 2001 or 2002, and in the moment I was immediately reminded of the part of Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, in which Indy and his father go to Berlin to retrieve the grail diary; “We’re pilgrims in an unholy land.” At the time, I was a pretty devout Quaker, and I’d grown up learning about my religion’s role in the abolitionist movement and the Underground Railroad. Seeing those flags felt very uncomfortable.

Many years later, driving to the CSA near my old school, I saw a confederate flag in someone’s window in New Hampshire, which was also a surprise. I know better, now. Last I checked, the Klan had chapters in most states in the US, including every state in New England. That may have changed, but if it has, it’s only because there are other organizations furthering the same hate more effectively. Today’s example of that, from Tess Owen of Vice, is a group calling themselves the People’s Initiative of New England, or PINE. They’ve taken a leaf from the anarchist playbook, but rather than helping out to build community resilience and improve peoples’ lives, they’re doing it to build support, or at least sympathy, for the genocidal project of New England as a white ethnostate. I wish I was joking.

PINE describes itself as a “grassroots effort founded to advocate for and advance the interests of New Englanders,” which sounds innocuous enough—and that’s by design. But PINE is a new front for the neo-Nazi street gang NSC-131, which formed in 2019 and has chapters across New England. While NSC-131 brazenly touts Nazi symbols and throws up Hitler salutes during public appearances, PINE is intended as a softer, more socially acceptable mask. The goal of this is for NSC-131 to broaden their appeal, especially to those who agree with their messaging but may not want to publicly affiliate with an explicitly neo-Nazi organization.

In a recently released manifesto, first reported by Rolling Stone, PINE calls for New England to secede from the U.S. and establish a white ethnostate. And they think they can do that by drumming up local support, through “activism and community outreach.”

Hence: their flood relief efforts.

Extremists around the world typically seek to exploit moments of instability or chaos for their own gain, and that’s particularly true in the aftermath of natural disasters. 

Weak or muddled government responses to hurricanes, flooding or wildfires have previously created windows of opportunity for extremists to position themselves as reliable, trusted sources of aid—and show government agencies to be useless in a moment of crisis.

And, by ingratiating themselves in impacted communities, extremists are able to reach into a larger pool of prospective recruits.

This is a trend that experts say they expect to see more of in the coming years. As the effects of climate change grow more severe, communities that have been destabilized by natural disasters may increasingly find themselves leaning on wolves in sheeps clothing— extremists dressed up as good samaritans.

This is worrisome on two fronts. The first is the obvious – fascist groups recruiting and building support is a bad thing. The second is something that a lot of people have been worried about for a long time – the rise of ecofascism. While fascism in the United States is currently associated with a hatred of environmentalism, there’s plenty of room for the fascist version of environmentalism, which blames pollution and “filth” on minorities, and frames nature as a birthright stolen from their white audience. The more the climate destabilizes, and the more capitalism pushes people towards poverty, the more people will resonate with the idea that things used to be better, and maybe we really do need a strong authority to make the drastic changes we need, to reclaim what we once had.

What’s more, the message isn’t coming from some screaming bigot, it’s coming from a guy who you met because he gave your family a case of water, or helped clear a fallen tree out of your driveway. Like I said, anarchists – who are often considered extremists – often take a similar approach, but with the goal of making a better world for everyone, not just the tiny fragment of humanity that Nazis consider to be people.

As the Vice article says, this tactic isn’t unique to PINE/NSC-131 (“NSC” stands for National Socialist Club, in case you were wondering), and it’s something we should expect to see more of. Leaving aside the climate crisis for a moment, conservatives have a long record of running against government corruption and incompetence, and then using their power to increase both, while continuing to run against corruption and incompetence. One desired effect of this, is that the government is increasingly unable to help in times of need, which encourages people to vote for those who run against government corruption and incompetence. It’s a win-win situation, as long as you’re either indifferent to human suffering, or you actively enjoy it. It also means that people are open to new ideas, like not having governments or corporations, or – in the case of the Nazis, like seceding to form your own government, where this time you’re sure to get rid of all that corruption and incompetence!

It’s a con, like most fascist promises, but I think it has the advantage of feeling more familiar and safe than what anarchists tend to want. It’s easier for most people to imagine forming a new nation – we’re already familiar with what that looks like. A society without hierarchies, while a good idea (in my opinion), is something very different from the world anyone knows, and much harder to imagine, from within society as it exists.

So what can we do about this? Well, I suppose you could work to make sure that everyone knows who their local fascists are, but if those fascists are actively helping people, and you’re not, then all you’re really doing is telling people that they shouldn’t like the guys helping them when they need it. You could try to win elections and improve government response, but the deck is very much stacked against you on that, as it’s far easier to break societal infrastructure than it is to build it, and the capitalists don’t really want a government that works for the people.

Of course I don’t have anything that’s guaranteed to work, but to me it seems that your best bet, for individual action, is to provide aid without the side-helping of fascism. There may be fascists in your area, or there may not be, but in either case, helping out is probably the most effective thing you can do. Offer people a better vision for the future, but do it while attending to their needs in the present. Our best defense against fascism, and our best defense against climate change, is to build collective power through solidarity (not charity). Look for local mutual aid networks, or look into starting one yourself. There are times for fighting fascists directly, but none of that will matter, if we’re not also strengthening and uplifting our communities at the same time.