Denton County authorities investigating murder of transgender woman

From The Dallas Voice:

10 Sep 2013

The Denton County Sheriff’s Department is investigating the death of transgender woman Artegus Konyale Madden.

Madden, 34, who went by Konyale Madden on Facebook, was found dead in her home on Hayden Lane in Savannah Estates by friends on Sunday, Sept. 1, Sgt. Larry Kish told the Denton Record-Chronicle. Savannah is a small town east of Denton.

Officials thought Madden had been dead since Friday night or  Saturday morning and are investigating her death as a homicide.

Investigators said they initially believed the body to be a female, but did not elaborate on Madden’s identity.

Calls to Kish were not immediately returned.

Jermone Antonio Jones, a longtime friend of Madden’s, told the Denton Record-Chronicle that Madden identified as female growing up.

“As a child, he [Artegus] considered herself as a female and all through school,” Jones said. “He was the life of the party. If you had a party, you would want Artegus there.”

The two grew up together in Longview, where Madden attended high school.

The preliminary cause of death hasn’t been revealed by the Tarrant County Medical Examiner’s Office, which covers Denton County.

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The Media’s Coverage of Transgender People: I’m Never Surprised

From Huffington Post:


When a media outlet calls a trans woman a “man,” I’m not surprised. When a website asks trans children questions about “the surgery,” I’m not surprised. When a television network feels the need to include a trans person’s “real name” in reporting, I’m not surprised.

While none of this surprises me, it all disappoints me.

Earlier this week The Huffington Post syndicated a column by Chris Purdy of the Canadian Press. The article, “Wren Kauffman, Edmonton Transgender Boy, Shares Story At School,” was clearly written with the best intentions.

The story outlines Wren’s openness about the fact that he, at 11 years old, is transgender. I can’t imagine being as open about who I was at that age. Good for him.

I dove into the article, eager to read the story of this brave young man, but the first sentence stopped me in my tracks:

When 11-year-old Wren Kauffman goes back to school this week, he won’t be hiding the fact that he’s actually a girl.

No, no, no. Wren is not “actually a girl.” If anything, the article should have read that he’s a boy who was assigned “female” at birth. I continued reading, hoping that that was a one-time slip-up. By the time I’d reached the second sentence, I realized that this wouldn’t be the case:

Teachers, friends and other students at his Edmonton school know the truth — that he’s a girl on the outside, but feels like a boy on the inside. And that’s why, even at such a young age, he has chosen to live in the world as the opposite sex, and not keep it a secret.

Again, this is incorrect. He’s not a “girl on the outside.” Look at his picture. He looks just like any other 11-year-old boy. Also, he has not “chosen to live in the world as the opposite sex,” which sounds more like something someone in the Witness Protection Program would do, or something someone does on Halloween. What was described was a performance, not a reality.

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A.F.L.-C.I.O. Has Plan to Add Millions of Nonunion Members

From The New York Times:

Published: September 6, 2013

Richard L. Trumka, the president of the A.F.L.-C.I.O., has a bold plan to reverse organized labor’s long slide: let millions of nonunion workers — and perhaps environmental, immigrant and other advocacy groups — join the labor federation.

When the labor federation holds its convention in Los Angeles beginning on Sunday, he will ask its delegates for a green light to pursue these ambitious reforms. Needless to say, some within the labor movement view them as heretical.

Mr. Trumka says he believes that if unions are having a hard time increasing their ranks, they can at least restore their clout by building a broad coalition to advance a worker-friendly political and economic agenda. He has called for inviting millions of nonunion workers into the labor movement even if their own workplaces are not unionized. Not stopping there, he has proposed making progressive groups — like the NAACP; the Sierra Club; the National Council of La Raza, a Hispanic civil rights group; and MomsRising, an advocacy group for women’s and family issues — either formal partners or affiliates of the A.F.L.-C.I.O.

“The crisis for labor has deepened,” Mr. Trumka said in an interview. “It’s at a point where we really must do something differently. We really have to experiment.”

By crisis, he means myriad setbacks, including a steady loss of union membership, frequent defeats in organizing drives and unions being forced to accept multiyear wage freezes. Not only have labor leaders faced the embarrassing enactment of anti-union legislation in onetime labor strongholds like Wisconsin and Michigan, but they could not even win passage of legislation making it easier to unionize when President Obama was elected and the Democrats controlled the House and Senate.

In language far different from decades past — when labor often talked with ‘we’ll get it done ourselves’ bravado — Mr. Trumka said: “It’s pretty obvious to all of our progressive partners that none of us can do it alone. If we’re going to change the political and economic environment, it’s going to take us all working together.”

Gary N. Chaison, an industrial relations professor at Clark University, said: “Unions are thrashing around looking for answers. It just might prove successful from the very fact that there is great desperation to it. There’s a sense that this is make-or-break time for labor. Either major things are done, or it will be too late to resuscitate the labor movement.”

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How Resistance Will Change the South

From The Advocate:

The We Do Campaign is looking for a public official in the South who will issue a marriage license to a same-sex couple as an act of conscience.

BY Jasmine Beach-Ferrara
September 09 2013

Each day, LGBT people in the South face a set of moral choices. Will we be defined by the fundamental truths of our lives or by state laws that regard us as second-class citizens? Take me and my wife, Meghann. We are legally married and yet North Carolina, where we live, regards us as legal strangers. Through acts both mundane and intimate, we choose to resist these laws and the antigay animus they breed — from listing each other as spouses on every form we fill out to holding hands as we walk down the sidewalk. Sometimes this is effortless. Sometimes, when strangers’ eyes track us, it’s hard. In these moments, Meghann’s hand on my back bolsters me.

For me, it feels clear — and clearer each day — that resistance is the way forward, not just in our private lives but also in the public square. Laws cannot regulate our capacity to love any more than they can our ability to hope or dream. Laws that seek to do so are immoral because they degrade our humanity. They are unconstitutional because they violate our basic freedoms. And yet these laws remain on the books in every Southern state, causing harm each day.

Growing numbers of people across the South are finding the courage to stand up to such laws by taking public action. Since the We Do Campaign launched two years ago, I have stood with more than 80 LGBT couples as they have requested — and been denied — marriage licenses in their hometowns across the South, from small rural towns in Mississippi to cities like Charlotte, N.C. To watch LGBT people stand at the marriage license counter, many with their children at their side, is to witness courage firsthand. In the face of a legal system that denies our humanity and tells us we have no right to even approach this counter, these families are expressing powerful truths: We are human, we are equal, this is our home, and we have a fundamental right to marry.

As we continue to grow the We Do Campaign, we are now actively seeking a public official in the South who will stand up with us and issue a marriage license to a same-sex couple as an act of conscience. Marriage license offices in New Mexico and Pennsylvania have recently started doing this, and in years past it has happened in California and New York as well. In Pennsylvania, Montgomery County Register of Wills Bruce Hanes has said of his choice, “I firmly believe that I’m on the right side of history.”

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The 1 percent played Tea Party for suckers

From Salon:

When the super-rich feel threatened, they foment grass-roots uprising on their behalf. Here’s why it always works

Saturday, Sep 7, 2013

On Election Day, November 2, 2010, more than eight million Americans voted for congressional candidates who claimed to represent the Tea Party and its grassroots insurgency against the federal government. Most of the Tea Party candidates won. Their victory marked a sea change in American government. Even before the winners were sworn in, reporters began to refer to the 112th Congress as “the Tea Party Congress.” On the day of the swearing-in, the prominent Tea Party backer David Koch likened the electoral success of the Tea Party to the American Revolution. “It’s probably the best grassroots uprising since 1776 in my opinion,” he said.

The proposals of the new Congress had little in common with the revolutionary slogans of 1776, but many of them would be familiar to activists who had participated in the grassroots uprisings on behalf of the rich in the twentieth century.

On January 5, for example, House Republicans introduced a “balanced budget amendment” that was really a tax limitation amendment—modeled on the precedents that the National Taxpayers Union and the National Tax Limitation Committee had furnished in the 1970s. A flurry of other balanced budget amendment bills followed. On January 23, Senate Republicans, led by Orrin Hatch, introduced a tax limitation/balanced budget amendment bill of their own that was even more restrictive.

The next day, Representatives Steve King (R-IA) and Rob Woodall (R-GA) introduced a one-sentence proposal to repeal the Sixteenth Amendment. On March 15, 2011, Representative Ron Paul (R-TX) introduced the Liberty Amendment, precisely as Willis Stone drafted it in 1956.

And throughout the session, Republicans introduced bill after bill to cut top income tax rates and make estate tax repeal permanent. Many of these tax proposals were regressive enough that they might have made even an Andrew Mellon blush. But they would have warmed the heart of J. A. Arnold if he could have lived to see them. They could almost have been copied from the 1927 program of the American Taxpayers’ League.

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Allende vive: Latin America’s left and the reunion of socialism and democracy

From Rabble Ca

By Derrick O’Keefe
September 11, 2013

Last night, Barack Obama spoke in defence of his threats to launch U.S. air strikes against Syria. In justifying his push for an attack illegal under international law, the constitutional lawyer and Nobel Peace Prize winner appealed explicitly to American exceptionalism. Obama also prefaced his case for bombing Syria with a stunningly ahistorical assertion of American benevolence:

“My fellow Americans, for nearly seven decades the United States has been the anchor of global security. This has meant doing more than forging international agreements. It has meant enforcing them. The burdens of leadership are often heavy, but the world’s a better place because we have borne them.”

Imagine how this nonsense sounds to Chileans, who are today marking the 40th anniversary of the U.S.-backed coup in Chile against the democratically elected government led by Salvador Allende. More than 3,000 were killed in Chile; tens of thousands were jailed, tortured and exiled.

Chile bore the heavy burden of all those who have shown leadership in fighting for a better world. For over seven decades — was Obama’s metaphorical anchor of global security the atomic bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945? — any people combining too much democracy and some measure of national development or socialism that threatens U.S. interests has been met with blood and suffering imposed by that enforcer of global capitalism, the U.S. Empire.

I’ve learned a lot about Chile’s tragedy through my wife and her family. She was born in a refugee camp in Buenos Aires, and came to Canada as a baby after activists in this country agitated and successfully pressured the Liberal government of the day to admit Chileans fleeing the coup (for more on this history, read David Heap’s piece.) Both of her parents were social activists and part of the resistance. So I have some knowledge of the almost unimaginable human toll of the coup.

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Medea Benjamin of Code Pink Veterans for Peace annual convention

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How the Anti-War Movement Won the Hearts and Minds of the Public

From In These Times:

A decade of protests paved the way for Americans to say ‘no’ to Syrian strikes.

BY Bernardine Dohrn
September 11, 2013

Who knew there was a wide and deep anti-war consensus in the United States?!
Apparently not the president, who appears blindsided by the growing opposition to U.S. military attacks on Syria, nor the always hawkish Sens. McCain and Graham, who speak for the aging national security elite, nor the New York Times, which flacked for a violent strike on the first day of Obama’s war announcement but made an about-face the next day, running a devastating front-page photo of “rebel” forces executing their trussed, face-down young prisoners point-blank.
Indeed there is a freshly expansive, growing, tidal wave of sentiment that permanent war is neither in the interest of the American people nor the global community. It’s become evident to large sectors of the population that the long war of occupation in Afghanistan, now sputtering toward withdrawal of foreign troops, is a total disaster; the invasion and occupation of Iraq—based on fraudulent evidence—is a complete failure; the military rush to interfere in Libya will have blowback across Africa for decades; and U.S. military interventions and drone strikes in Pakistan, Yemen, Mali, Bahrain and Afghanistan continue to result in bitterness, widespread deaths, displacement, corruption and tyranny. People do not believe official promises that US military action will be either “surgical” or limited. They do believe that U.S. military attacks in Syria will surely lead to civilian deaths.
These are terrific victories for peace and social justice activists, and they are the fruit of years of work. Iraqi and Afghan veterans have agonizingly educated the American people about the harsh realities of war and return. The 50th anniversary of the March on Washington threw into sharp relief the linkages between war, poverty and injustice first identified by the Black Freedom Movement. As Dr. King put it, “The greatest purveyor of violence in the world today [is] my own government.” He continued, “I am convinced that if we are to get on the right side of the world revolution, we as a nation must undergo a radical revolution of values. We must rapidly begin to shift from a ‘thing-oriented’ society to a ‘person-oriented’ society. When machines and computers, profit motives and property rights are considered more important than people, the giant triplets of racism, materialism and militarism are incapable of being conquered.”
Nor could the sea change in public sentiment have come about without the tens of thousands of small demonstrations by peace and justice activists, the anti-war contributions of musicians, playwrights, filmmakers and comedians, and the imagination and persistence of CodePink. It is clear, too, that the large and determined opposition to the 2012 NATO summit in Chicago—although forced to demonstrate inside a massive police occupation of an emptied and barricaded city at an enormous cost to taxpayers—educated the public and served notice that global military meetings would not be welcome in urban North America. Official talk about NATO has been muted in the current run-up to war. And the recent revelations about domestic and global spying have aroused resistance and diminished U.S. and corporate credibility.
Resistance to military recruitment in high schools across the country has made a difference as well. And a number of progressive struggles—for immigrant rights, for quality public education, for living wage jobs, for ending reliance on fossil fuels, for racial justice, for ending the carceral state, for dignity and equal rights, and for healthy food and safe water—have raised consciousness about how the furnaces of permanent war abroad and the national security state at home are usurping resources for basic human needs. People are increasingly saying, “Enough!”
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The NSA’s next move: silencing university professors?

From  The Guardian UK:

A Johns Hopkins computer science professor blogs on the NSA and is asked to take it down. I fear for academic freedom, Tuesday 10 September 2013

This actually happened yesterday:

A professor in the computer science department at Johns Hopkins, a leading American university, had written a post on his blog, hosted on the university’s servers, focused on his area of expertise, which is cryptography. The post was highly critical of the government, specifically the National Security Agency, whose reckless behavior in attacking online security astonished him.

Professor Matthew Green wrote on 5 September:

I was totally unprepared for today’s bombshell revelations describing the NSA’s efforts to defeat encryption. Not only does the worst possible hypothetical I discussed appear to be true, but it’s true on a scale I couldn’t even imagine.

The post was widely circulated online because it is about the sense of betrayal within a community of technical people who had often collaborated with the government. (I linked to it myself.)

On Monday, he gets a note from the acting dean of the engineering school asking him to take the post down and stop using the NSA logo as clip art in his posts. The email also informs him that if he resists he will need a lawyer. The professor runs two versions of the same site: one hosted on the university’s servers, one on Google’s service. He tells the dean that he will take down the site mirrored on the university’s system but not the one on He also removes the NSA logo from the post. Then, he takes to Twitter.

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Ignoring Democracy in the Name of Security

From The Center for Democracy and Technology:

September 11, 2013

Last week’s revelation that the National Security Agency (NSA) is building vulnerabilities and backdoors into the Internet’s core infrastructure is beyond alarming. Ultimately, the NSA has made our country’s critical infrastructure less secure in the name of security, while showing blatant disregard for the democratic process. While the fact that the NSA decrypts encrypted data should not itself be cause for outrage by the American public – cracking codes is the core job of the NSA – its approach is what’s outrageous.

Back in the 1990s there was a very public debate over the best way to secure our country’s communications networks. The debate focused on an executive branch effort to promote a standard and then propose legislation mandating the use of the “clipper chip” – a standard cryptographic chip that would allow the U.S. Government to decrypt communications. This would have essentially required companies to allow access to their communications network by the government. The NSA argued that this access was essential to the security of the nation and they contended that technology was so advanced that only NSA could exploit the built-in access feature of the chip.

Digital rights advocates and academics rallied together to stop the clipper chip dead in its tracks. They showed that it would introduce greater vulnerabilities into the country’s communications network and that it would open the door to potential surveillance abuses against citizens. When balancing a secure network against the benefit to security of obtaining information through embedded weakness in the network, Congress decided that a more secure network would far better serve the security interests of the U.S., promote broad adoption of the Internet, and spur online commerce and innovation. This rationale has proven to be fundamentally sound.

This was a resounding defeat of the clipper chip in a highly democratic manner – helped along by advances in cryptography products. Most of us thought that the case was closed, however it appears as though the NSA decided it would go ahead with its plans to build backdoors into communications networks anyway. While it’s unclear how the NSA justified its undermining of secure technologies or whether its efforts were even fully legal, what is clear is that they made a unilateral decision to actively make secure technologies much less secure.

All this points to what has become an unworkable balancing act that the NSA tries to undertake – being the country’s code breaker, but also trying to serve as the country’s code creator. The agency is tasked with surveillance, but also with cyber security, which often don’t go hand-in-hand. In working closely with Internet companies, the NSA purports to help them provide more secure, better encrypted services, however it now appears that the NSA was also building backdoors into the solutions it offered, while holding back knowledge of critical vulnerabilities that it could later use for surveillance purposes. Would you feel comfortable going to the NSA for security support now?

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Chomsky: 9/11 Is the Basis for ‘Obama’s Massive Terrorist War’

From Alternet:

Chomsky weighs in on 9/11 anniversary, Syria’s “bloody partition” and why U.S. role ensures failure of mideast talks

By Amy Goodman
September 11, 2013

Noam Chomsky, the world-renowned political dissident, linguist and author, weighs in on today’s 12th anniversary of the September 11, 2001, attacks and how the civil war in Syria appears destined to permanently break the country apart. “[9/11] was very significant, a major terrorist act, thousands of people killed,” Chomsky says. “It’s the first time since the War of 1812 that U.S. territory had been attacked. The United States has had remarkable security, and therefore was, aside from the horrible atrocity, a very significant, historical event. And it changed attitudes and policies in the United States quite considerably.

And in reaction to this, the government was able to ram through laws that sharply constrained civil liberties. It was able to provide pretexts for the invasion of Afghanistan, invasion of Iraq — the destruction of Iraq, with consequences that spread through the region. And it’s the basis for Obama’s massive terrorist war, the drone war, the most extreme terrorist campaign that’s underway now, maybe most extreme in history, and the justification for it is the same: the second 9/11, 9/11/2001. So, yes, it’s had enormous effects on society, on attitudes, on policies. Many victims throughout the world can testify to that.” On Syria, Chomsky says the country “is plunging into suicide. If negotiations [don’t] work, Syria is moving towards a kind of very bloody partition.”

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The silent military coup that took over Washington

From The Guardian UK:

This time it’s Syria, last time it was Iraq. Obama chose to accept the entire Pentagon of the Bush era: its wars and war crimes

The Guardian, Tuesday 10 September 2013

On my wall is the Daily Express front page of September 5 1945 and the words: “I write this as a warning to the world.” So began Wilfred Burchett’s report from Hiroshima. It was the scoop of the century. For his lone, perilous journey that defied the US occupation authorities, Burchett was pilloried, not least by his embedded colleagues. He warned that an act of premeditated mass murder on an epic scale had launched a new era of terror.

Almost every day now, he is vindicated. The intrinsic criminality of the atomic bombing is borne out in the US National Archives and by the subsequent decades of militarism camouflaged as democracy. The Syria psychodrama exemplifies this. Yet again we are held hostage by the prospect of a terrorism whose nature and history even the most liberal critics still deny. The great unmentionable is that humanity’s most dangerous enemy resides across the Atlantic.

John Kerry’s farce and Barack Obama’s pirouettes are temporary. Russia’s peace deal over chemical weapons will, in time, be treated with the contempt that all militarists reserve for diplomacy. With al-Qaida now among its allies, and US-armed coupmasters secure in Cairo, the US intends to crush the last independent states in the Middle East: Syria first, then Iran. “This operation [in Syria],” said the former French foreign minister Roland Dumas in June, “goes way back. It was prepared, pre-conceived and planned.”

When the public is “psychologically scarred”, as the Channel 4 reporter Jonathan Rugman described the British people’s overwhelming hostility to an attack on Syria, suppressing the truth is made urgent. Whether or not Bashar al-Assad or the “rebels” used gas in the suburbs of Damascus, it is the US, not Syria, that is the world’s most prolific user of these terrible weapons.

In 1970 the Senate reported: “The US has dumped on Vietnam a quantity of toxic chemical (dioxin) amounting to six pounds per head of population.” This was Operation Hades, later renamed the friendlier Operation Ranch Hand – the source of what Vietnamese doctors call a “cycle of foetal catastrophe”. I have seen generations of children with their familiar, monstrous deformities. John Kerry, with his own blood-soaked war record, will remember them. I have seen them in Iraq too, where the US used depleted uranium and white phosphorus, as did the Israelis in Gaza. No Obama “red line” for them. No showdown psychodrama for them.

The sterile repetitive debate about whether “we” should “take action” against selected dictators (ie cheer on the US and its acolytes in yet another aerial killing spree) is part of our brainwashing. Richard Falk, professor emeritus of international law and UN special rapporteur on Palestine, describes it as “a self-righteous, one-way, legal/moral screen [with] positive images of western values and innocence portrayed as threatened, validating a campaign of unrestricted political violence”. This “is so widely accepted as to be virtually unchallengeable”.

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Woman uses local nuisance to rebuild town’s economy

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Sorry, skeptics: Arctic ice is still melting quickly this summer

From Grist:

By 11 Sep 2013

First the good news: Arctic ice melt has not been as extreme this summer as during last year’s historic collapse.

The bad news is that the melt has been more extreme this summer than the 20-year average — no surprises there, given the icy clime’s rapid decline.

The Arctic’s August 2013 ice coverage is shown in the image on the right. The black cross shows the North Pole and the magenta outline shows the average ice cover at the same time of year from 1981 to 2010.


“Sea ice continued its late-season summer decline through August at a near-average pace,” wrote the National Snow & Ice Data Center in an update on its website last week. “Open water was observed in the ice cover close to the North Pole, while in the Antarctic, sea ice has been at a record high the past few days.” From the Alaska Dispatch:

[Ted Scambos, a glaciologist with the ice center] said the Arctic this summer was 2 to 3 degrees cooler than average, and the extent of sea ice in August was a “big increase” for a year-to-year jump. The sea ice was about the size of four Alaskas, at 2.35 million square miles, a 45 percent increase from the same time last year.

But that’s about the same size of sea-ice coverage in August 2009, which turned out to be one of the lowest years on record, Scambos said.

It was nothing close to the years before 2002. In fact, the sea-ice extent in August remained nearly 400,000 square miles less than the average between 1981 and 2010, with an amount of ice the size of Colombia in South America missing.

Since no news of sea-ice decline can go announced without some measure of climate-denying absurdity, let’s see what the conga-line of climate-denying ninnies led by the U.K.’s Daily Mail have to say, hmm? Naturally they point to the Arctic-melt data to argue for magical global cooling despite the skyrocketing levels of heat-trapping carbon in the atmosphere. Let’s consider that claim as we ponder the following graph, shall we?

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#FearlessSummer: How the Battle to Stop Climate Change Got Ferocious

From Yes Magazine:

A series of actions that took place this summer helped to shift the climate movement’s center of gravity.

by Sep 10, 2013

In Richmond, Calif., over two hundred people sat down at a Chevron oil refinery and refused to leave. Outside Boston, Mass., they were handcuffed at the state’s largest coal plant. On Seneca Lake in New York, they paddled a flotilla of kayaks across the water to protest a natural gas storage facility. In Utah, and Texas, and West Virginia, and in other places across the country, they simply placed their bodies in front of the land they wanted to protect.

This has been a #FearlessSummer: three hot months of nonviolent resistance to the fossil fuel industry in all its incarnations, from coal plants in Appalachia to oil refineries in California and fracking wells in Pennsylvania. Born of a potent mix of hope and desperation, #FearlessSummer represents a larger shift in the climate movement’s tactics: away from big-name organizations and electoral politics and toward decentralized, high-stakes direct actions led by those most at risk.

Some of those most at risk live on reservations in the Northern Plains, where the proposed Keystone XL pipeline, they fear, will threaten not only their land and water supply, but that of the entire region. For them, #FearlessSummer has been a rigorous preparation for more overt action. In Montana on August 23, activists began the latest in a series of “Moccasins on the Ground” trainings in preparation for the pipeline’s construction. They have vowed, if necessary, to stand in its way. Debra White Plume, an Oglalla Lakota activist from the Pine Ridge reservation in South Dakota, has been leading these trainings across the region.

“They’re going to have to run over us, or destroy us, or put us in jail to have their pipeline,” she says.

Her sentiments are echoed in actions across the country, where organizers are turning to more creative and confrontational means of protest, including civil disobedience. The stakes are rising, it seems, along with temperatures—and years of unprecedented heat, drought, floods, and storms. 2012 was the hottest year on record in the United States; that summer, fires raged and corn withered on the stalks. And then there was Hurricane Sandy, which flooded subways and shredded boardwalks. As more people sweated and evacuated and watched the news in disbelief, they took notice: This is climate change. This demands action.

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Save the Planet, Starting on Your Own Block

From On The Commons:

Local efforts are the backbone of global green activism

by Jay Walljasper

After 40 years of what felt like progress in protecting our environment, the ecological crisis now seems to be worsening. Climate change, caused by greenhouse gas emissions, is heating up. The massive exploitation of the tar sands in Canada might be the tipping point, from which we can never return. Fracking for natural gas and oil threatens underground water supplies. The oceans are being massively overfished. Species extinction is accelerating.

The global commons faces massive threats no one could have dreamed on the first Earth Day back in 1970. What are we to do?

Obviously we need to address these mounting global crises—vocally and determinedly over the long term. But it’s also time to take a look around our own communities.

While we generally think of Greens rallying to save rainforests, coral reefs, deserts and other faraway tracts of wilderness, that’s just one aspect of saving the Earth. It’s also crucial to work together with neighbors on important projects in our own backyard. Activism at this level draws more people into fighting for the environment because they can see the consequences in their own lives—and they will then make connections to what’s happening elsewhere around the world. Plus, a few victories on the local level will give them momentum to dig in for long run on the international level.

That’s why we must enlarge our definition of the environment to include the places that we all call home—where we live and work and play. Indeed, this kind of environmentalism would ultimately preserve wild places as well as human communities since brightening life in their neighborhoods means that people will feel less urge to move on to new homes in sprawling subdivisions carved out of forest, marsh, desert or farmland, which can be reached only by pollution-spewing vehicles.

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