Volume 4 ~ Issue 3 ~ May 2008 www.theyetionline.com
The Darfur Crisis â€“ Why We Must Act Now (12)
The Problems with Petroleum (6)
Exploring Political Inaction (15)
Published with support from Campus Progress/Center for American Progress (online at CampusProgress.org)
This is my last issue as president of The Yeti. While it’s been a series of lessons in management and journalism, it’s also been a blast to work with some of the most spirited progressives on campus. I hope to remain a force in that community, while stepping aside and passing the torch to Virgina Kotzias. I wish the new staff the best of luck, and I know that The Yeti will continue to improve as time goes by. I had the enlightening experience of travelling to New Orleans over this past Spring Break. While its tourism board tries its hardest to project an image of recovery, those attempts were lost on my party. You see, we camped outside of town and had to drive through the Ninth Ward each day to and from the city. My observations about that irony are in this issue. As well, I felt that, with my last issue, I should address possibly the most important moral issue of today’s world: the continuing genocide in Darfur. With the help of Jenna Citron of Student Darfur Awareness Group, The Yeti hopes to bring attention to this outrageous ongoing situation. A letter is included for you to cut out and mail to your representative. Please take this opportunity to affect change. Always remember: we can change the world. We do not have the luxury of despair, but ought instead be spurred to action by our moral sentiments and our hope for the future. Incredible things have happened, and they will happen again. Ryan Jenkins, Editor
All Saints Café Café Shisha Canopy Road
Contributors Ben Adler Erica Belfiore Jenna Citron Alexis Diao Chris Herget Scott Keyes Amber Maselli Stephanie Mencimer Nastassia Patin Srinivas Rao Graham Webster
Krank It Up Momo’s Pizza Paperback Rack Quarter Moon Strozier Library V89 Radio Station
Advisor: Paul Rutkovsky
The front cover shows a group of displaced children in Kebkabiya, North Darfur (USAID).
Vinyl Fever Word Traffic About the Yeti Founded in April 2005 by a small group of students from FSU, The Yeti was created as a truly independent alternative to the corporately owned FSView. Fueled by a hatred for the official FSU newspaper’s constant dribble, our publication is for interested and active people by an everincreasing collective of the same. The Yeti allows you to become the media at Florida State.
Two Four Issues Issues
2 | The Yeti ~ Vol. 4 #3 ~ May, 2008
The Yeti Collective Ryan Jenkins, President Ginny Kotzias, Vice President William Hermann, Treasurer
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The back cover is a photograph of a pasteup by Shepard Fairey, infamous guerilla street artist. Printed with assistance from Campus Progress and the Student Government Association of Florida State University.
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local/CAMPUS 4 The Wonderful World of Tallahassee Ginny Kotzias
SU Welcomes New Human Rights F Center Alexis Diao
nation 3 Headlines 6 Gas Pains
8 The Politics of Climate Change Nastassia Patin
10 Whitewashing the Second Amendment Stephanie Mencimer
15 The Roots of Our Do-Nothing Congress Scott Keyes
16 Five Minutes with: Ralph Nader
Srinivas Rao, Ben Adler, Graham Webster
The Cause of Our Time Jenna Citron
Sixty five years ago the world watched as starved, sick and humiliated prisoners walked from the death camps of Poland, only to find out that twelve million more had perished under their own watch. Sixty-five years ago the world vowed “never again.”
culture 18 New Orleans and its Opposite Ryan Jenkins
Independents Sink, Majors Swim Erica Belfiore
literary 9 Talking to my father Chris Herget
Five McCain Advisers Resign Over Ties to Lobbyists Senator McCain’s national finance co-chair Tom Loeffler has resigned after it was revealed his lobbying firm has collected nearly $15 million from Saudi Arabia since 2002. Loeffler is the fifth high-ranking McCain adviser to resign in recent weeks due to his lobbying ties. On May 13, McCain’s energy adviser Eric Burgeson stepped down after it was revealed he is lobbyist on energy issues for Barbour Griffith & Rogers. The week before, two other McCain staffers resigned after acknowledging they had lobbied for the military junta in Burma. McCain’s campaign recently issued a new policy that requires all campaign personnel to either resign or sever ties with lobbying firms or outside political groups. But several prominent lobbyists retain key posts in McCain’s campaign. McCain’s campaign manager Rick Davis is on leave from the lobbying firm he has run for years. And McCain’s top political adviser Charles Black is the founder of the Washington lobbying firm Black & Associates. US Plans to Build 40-Acre Prison Site in Afghanistan The US military is planning to build a new 40-acre prison complex in Afghanistan near Kabul. The $60 million site will replace the makeshift prison at the Bagram military base, where the US is currently holding about 630 prisoners. Some of the prisoners at Bagram have been held for five years without charge. US Soldier in Iraq Uses Koran for Target Practice US commanders in Iraq have admitted a US soldier has been disciplined and removed from Iraq for using a copy of the Koran for target practice. Last week, Iraqi police found a desecrated copy of the Muslim holy book at a small shooting range near Baghdad. The book was riddled with fourteen bullet holes and had graffiti inside the cover. The military has not released the soldier’s name or detailed how he would be disciplined. US to Help Saudi Arabia Build Nuclear Program The price of oil remains at near record levels despite a promise by Saudi Arabia to pump an additional 300,000 barrels of crude oil a day. Saudi Arabia made the announcement on May 16 while President Bush was meeting with Saudi’s King Abdullah. In exchange, Bush has pledged US support for a Saudi nuclear power program. As part of the deal, Washington will help Saudi Arabia receive enriched uranium for its nuclear reactors. The Yeti ~ Vol. 4 #3 ~ May, 2008 | 3
The Wonderful World of Tallahassee by
ith the sweltering summer of Tallahassee in full swing, Florida’s blessed warm weather seems more like a curse. Since out-ofdoors activities might be limited while local temperatures soar into the high 90s, visiting one of Tallahassee’s art, history, or natural science museums is a must. Our little city is blessed with the charms of several independently owned and operated oases of culture and there is certainly something for every interest. LeMoyne Art Foundation 125 N Gadsen St. Hours: Tuesday – Saturday 10am-5pm, Sunday 1pm-5pm Admission: $1 Adults, kids free LeMoyne is a small gallery dedicated to 8-10 annual exhibits that feature everything from paintings and sculpture to jewelry and handicrafts. The converted house retains the feeling of afternoons spent in the company of good friends and the gift shop is an adorable haven for simple birthday or Christmas gifts. The well-crafted garden in the back is an inspiration to home gardeners, containing sculpture, winding pathways, and colorful flowers. Though a small museum, this is definitely a lovely way to spend an afternoon. Goodwood Museum and Gardens 1600 Miccosukee Rd Hours: Main house open Monday-Friday 10am-4pm, Saturday 10am-2pm Gardens open Monday – Friday 9am5pm, Saturday 10am-2pm Admission: Main house: $5 per person, Kids 3 & under free Gardens: free Originally built in the 1830s as a cotton and corn plantation, the Goodwood estate has undergone a number of changes over the past 170 years. Though used 4 | The Yeti ~ Vol. 4 #3 ~ May, 2008
consistently as a personal residence until the 1980s, the house and gardens have been restored to reflect the appearance of the property circa 1929. The sprawling gardens cover several acres of the property though the main house is not to be overlooked: all original collections and furnishings make the Goodwood house a shining example of southern elegance and style.
Museum of Florida History, and pleasantly surprised at all of the things that your teacher never told you. A 9-foot mastodon (rumor has it that many of these bones were pulled from the bottom of Wakulla Springs), treasures from a sunken Spanish galleon, artifacts from the Civil war, and numerous traveling exhibits make this a museum that you don’t want to miss.
Mary Brogan Museum of Art and Science 350 S. Duval St. Hours: Monday – Saturday 10am-5pm, Sunday 1pm-5pm Admission: $6 Adults, $3.50 kids/ seniors/students, 3&under free Though the Mary Brogan has earned a reputation as a kids’ science center, much more lies beyond the intimidatingly colorful first floor. Divided into circular floors of activity, the Mary Brogan exposes kids to the finer points of physics and chemistry while touting a world-class fine arts gallery on the top floor. Rotating exhibits of recent and modern artists (surrealists, impressionists) as well as old masters (Dali, Picasso) are beautifully displayed, worth every penny of the admission. Students and adults are encouraged to explore the lower levels of the museum, though one should be wary of the pitter-patter of little ones underfoot.
Tallahassee Automobile Museum 6800 Mahan Dr. Hours: Monday-Friday 9am-5pm, Saturday-Sunday 12pm-5pm Admission: $16 Adults, $10 Students, $7.5 kids, 3& under free With an impressive stock of cars ranging from 1860 to 2001, the Tallahassee Automobile Museum has a car for every taste. Antique cars, over 80 rare automobiles, a Batmobile, and the oldest known fully surviving car in the US are the pride and joy of this museum, not to mention miscellaneous bicycle memorabilia and local animal artifacts.
Museum of Florida History 500 S. Bronough St. Hours: Monday-Friday 9am-4:30pm, Saturday 10am-4:30pm, Sunday 12pm-4:30pm Admission: Free Most of us educated in the Florida Public School system spent half of fourth grade studying “Florida History.” Whatever tidbits of your childhood education may linger in the back of your head will be delighted to recognize some of the highlights of the
Tallahassee Museum of History and Natural Science 3945 Museum Drive Hours: Monday-Saturday 9am-5pm, Sunday 12:30-5pm Admission: $9 Adults, $8.50 Seniors/ Students, $6.00 kids, 3&under free If you’re looking for an all-day activity, the Museum of History and Natural Science is the place to be. With over 52 acres of a natural habitat zoo, nature trails, an aviary, reptile exhibits, and historic real estate, there is more than enough to keep a nature-lover occupied. If, however, artifacts and fine art are more to your liking, the Phipps Gallery houses rotating exhibitions and various lodges throughout the property house historical artifacts.
FSU Welcomes New Human Rights Center by
Florida State University Museum of Fine Arts Corner of Copeland and Call St Hours: Monday-Friday 10am-4pm Admission: Free Though not a particularly large museum, FSU has managed to pull together a fascinating array of art and arts for the enjoyment of students and public alike. The changing contemporary and traditional annual exhibits include South American, Asian, European, and local art in a vast array of media. The bronze and sculpture gardens are sure to draw glances and the stunning photography and glass works are some of the finest you will find in north Florida. Be sure that you come prepared, however: contemporary art is not for the weak of heart. Riley Museum Center of African American History and Culture 419 E. Jefferson St. Hours: Monday-Friday 10am-4pm Admission: Free As modern scholars strive for a more balanced view of American history, the experiences of the average man are coming into greater light. The Riley Museum is a testament to unsung history, charting the plight of the AfricanAmerican middle class during the late 19th and early 20th centuries. The area surrounding the Riley house was, during this time, referred to as “Smokey Hollow,” and housed a number of African-American families whose stake in the area became threatened by the 1950 expansion of Apalachee Pkwy. The Riley Museum is dedicated to the preservation of African American culture in Tallahassee and contains sermons, essays, antislavery memorabilia, war artifacts, art exhibits, and original furnishings and collections of the Riley family.
his Fall 2008 semester look out for a new organization on campus called the Human Rights Awareness Center. The HRAC’s main concern, according to executive director Daniel Swaisgood is the students. Swaisgood hopes the new organization will create awareness of pertinent human rights issues to students on campus and also provide information on protests and other events available for students to participate in. HRAC is not another on-campus group trying to save the world, instead they aim to provide a central voice advertising events held by various human rights groups on campus. So say for example, if the Center for Participant Education (CPE) is holding another protest with the Coalition of Immokalee Workers (CIW) at Burger King, then HRAC would help advertise the protest and raise awareness on the issue. Think of them as an umbrella covering the various human rights organizations on campus. Swaisgood said in an email, “One of the main goals of H.R.A.C. will be to gather all this information then disseminate it, thereby giving human rights a collective voice rather than a fragmented one.” HRAC also plans to provide a forum for students to express their opinions and raise awareness on human rights issues
by providing the opportunity for students to publish articles via newsletter and online website. Although neither of the two are “up and running” said Swaisgood in a phone interview. He explains the HRAC reached a slow point when in May when summer began because all of the existing members are out of town. Swaisgood assures that the group “plans on really kicking off” when Fall rolls around. Summertime, he adds, provides ample time to brainstorm for potential projects. Swaisgood stresses the HRAC as a student-run organization. Apart from providing a safe haven to formally express their opinions, the HRAC also presents the opportunity for students seriously interested in human rights to gain hone real-world skills. “This organization will ultimately be about the students. The newsletter, website, and any events that we potentially host or sponsor will be organized and overseen by the students. They can then take that experience into the professional world and utilize it to the advantage of human rights. Also, students who have a passion for human rights issues will be given the opportunity to voice their concerns in our monthly newsletter. In this way, members will get themselves published as well as raise awareness.”
Interested in joining the Human Rights Awareness Center and can’t wait until Fall? Contact Daniel Swaisgood at: email@example.com or search them on Facebook. Or, join now in six easy steps: 1. L ogin to BB with your campus ID 2. Access Secure Apps 3. A ccess Student Organizations (fifth link from the bottom on the right) 4. F ollow “Browse Student Organizations” 5. Look for us under “T” and you’ll see The Human Rights Awareness Center 6. L astly, Express Interest and we’ll add you a.s.a.p. The Yeti ~ Vol. 4 #3 ~ May, 2008 | 5
Gas prices have risen almost 75% in the past year alone, from around $70 a barrel to $120 and beyond. Though promises to free America from its dependence on foreign oil have been a staple of national politics for decades, that need is now punctuated by gas’s $4 per gallon price tag. So, what’s behind the rise and what can be done?
It’s certainly not on par with September 11th, or JFK being shot, but I’ll always remember where I was when I first saw a $4 gallon of gasoline. It was the BP on the corner of Magnolia and East Tennessee. Again, of course, those three little numbers – $4.03 – are certainly no catastrophe on a massive human scale, but it is a grim milestone for our economy and the citizens of this nation. Gas prices have risen higher than inflation in the later part of the 20th century. According to the Ludwig von Mises institute, a libertarian think tank that publishes prolifically online, gas should cost about $2.64 today, if it had kept pace with inflation. (For your information, gas was 30¢ per gallon in 1950, and $1.47 in January of 2001, when Bush took office.) Extra costs have been tacked onto the price since 1950, of course. Taxes have risen to just about 20% of the price of gas, when they were 1.5% in 1950. Additionally, as the middle classes in developing countries like China and India grow and enter the market place, demand for gas skyrockets. So does the price. Using a benchmark price, like $3.75 per gallon (which is admittedly low, even at the time of publication), we can take a look at where your money goes. About 60 cents on the gallon goes to taxes. 18 cents of that goes to the federal government, the rest goes to state and local governments. Besides taxes, 26 cents goes to refining the gas. 11 cents goes to distribution, which includes everything from salaries for truck drivers and barge captains to, ironically, the fuel it takes to transport more fuel to gas stations so that consumers can buy and burn the fuel being transported.
The Gas Tax Holiday In a flurry of typical Washingtonian ersatz concern, a proposal for a “gas tax holiday” has found purchase with a large portion of the electorate. (Exit polls in the West Virginia primary conducted by CNN showed that 63% of respondents thought it was a good idea to suspend the federal gas tax.) Most notably, Hillary Clinton and John McCain have proposed suspending the federal tax on gasoline. That means a break of 18¢ per gallon on the fuel consumers would buy. Note that this has nothing to do with the state and local taxes that make up the other two-thirds of the total taxes levied on gas. Here’s some rough math. According to the U.S. government Department of Energy, the average person drives about 11,400 miles per year in their car. If we take the summer to be three months of the year, from, say, June to August, we can take an even fourth of that distance to get 2,850 miles driven over the summer. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, the average gas mileage for an American car is about 25 miles per gallon. This means the average American – granting some leeway for this admittedly rough math – uses 114 gallons of gas over the summer. A gas tax rebate of 18¢ for every gallon means the average American will save $21. Meanwhile, it will cost the government a staggering $9 billion in lost tax revenue. That’s enough money to provide universal literacy or immunize every child the world seven times over.
Hillary Clinton, one of the proponents of the rebate, plans to simply redirect the expenses to the oil industry, but extracting billions of dollars from that industry will likely force them to turn right around and pass their newfound expenses onto the consumer. The gas tax holiday is a bad idea for another, much more economically concrete reason. An informational semilecture on MSNBC, complete with large graphs on an easel, reminded viewers that, on the basest level, there are two variables in play: supply and demand. What the gas tax holiday proposal does is to artificially deflate the price of gas. This will upset the equilibrium that is sustained by the retailers’ setting the price of gasoline at a point at which demand meets supply. Suspending a tax, and deflating the price of a good, creates problems because it will increase the demand for gas without increasing the supply. In such a situation, the retailers of gasoline can be expected to simply raise the price of gasoline themselves to reach the equilibrium price, where supply and demand will again meet. Ethanol the Wunderkind? Ethanol was once heralded as an energy wunderkind, making waves in the turbid political waters. But it has since been met by a grassroots backlash. The idea behind ethanol was that fuel additives could be refined from corn oil, reducing our need for traditional crude. In fact, the E-85 mixture is, as its name suggests, 85% ethanol and only 15% regular gasoline. Several models of cars that could run on this mixture
rolled off the assembly line before the consequences of championing ethanol were fully felt. Again, we return to supply and demand. Sudden and ravenous demand for corn sent its market price skyrocketing, quadrupling the price of corn on the world market in one year. The United Nations in 2007 called for a fiveyear moratorium on biofuel production from food crops like corn, arguing that the unnecessary demand inflates food prices to hazardous levels. (The UN reported that it takes 510 pounds of corn to produce one gas tank’s worth of ethanol – 13 gallons. That much corn could feed a child in the developing world for a year.) As well, some scientists believe that ethanol takes more energy to grow and produce than it yields, leading to a net loss. The pollutants released by ethanol are also more harmful to the environment and to humans than are those released by gasoline. The solution, which has become more clear in recent years, is that sustainable development and renewable energy must be pursued – energy such as biogas from bacterial colonies, hydroelectric power used responsibly, wind or solar power, now that tremendous advances in solar cells have been made. America and its politicians must realize that there is no quick fix, as ethanol was once thought by many to be. Instead, massive public and private investment, innovation, and careful forethought are the necessary precursors to progress in the face of the energy crisis.
A Piece of the Pie There was quite an uproar when Exxon Mobile announced its recordbreaking profits of $40.4 billion last year. In a recent campaign ad, Barack Obama contrasts the oil giant’s profits with the rising price of gas. But just how much difference would it make if Exxon had redistributed every penny it made last year equally between every gallon of gas it sold? The answer is about 63¢ per gallon. Here’s the math: Exxon produced 4.18 million barrels of oil per day in 2007, which means it sold over 64 billion gallons of fuel total. $40.4 billion divided over 64 billion gallons of oil comes out to 63¢ per gallon, or about 17% of the price of a $3.75 gallon of fuel.
The Yeti ~ Vol. 4 #3 ~ May, 2008 | 7
The Politics of Climate Change by
Nastassia Patin, stanford university
hen Al Gore shared the Nobel Peace Prize with the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), it made front-page news and TV headlines everywhere. Although awareness of climate change has spread to new levels in the past few years, keeping up-to-date on the policy developments can be a challenge. Let’s take a look at how climate science has recently influenced, or failed to influence, American and global policy. The release of the fourth IPCC report this year provided the most important basis for policy decisions. This report, a revised version of the Panel’s past and continuing climate research, was issued in four parts. Its important statements declare that “Warming of the climate system is unequivocal” and “Most of the observed increase in globally averaged temperatures since the mid20th century is very likely due to the observed increase in anthropogenic greenhouse gas concentrations.” The final part of the report, the selfdescriptive “Summary for Policy Makers,” was released in November. So far, this is nothing that hasn’t featured prominently in popular press coverage of climate change. But less well-known are the efforts of the US and China to tone down the language of the report. A lead author of the report, Patricia Romero Lankao, said in an interview with the Washington Post that the US delegation pushed to edit the following passage: “However, adaptation alone is not expected to cope with all the projected effects of climate change, and especially not over the long 8 | The Yeti ~ Vol. 4 #3 ~ May, 2008
run as most impacts increase in magnitude. Mitigation measures will therefore also be required.” The second sentence was stricken from the final version. Additionally, China objected to the wording of the following sentence: “Based on observed evidence, there is very high confidence that many natural systems, on all continents and in most oceans, are being affected by regional climate changes, particularly temperature increases.” According to Lankao, when China asked that the word “very” be removed, three scientific authors balked, and the deadlock was broken only by a compromise to delete any reference to confidence levels. It is extremely worrisome that individual governments can influence the wording of a scientifically produced paper of such momentous importance. The Bush Administration is well-known for its late and reluctant admission that climate change is a problem; its refusal to admit that mitigation will be an integral part of the solution severely hinders the chances for global collective action. Closely following the release of the Synthesis Report, the Indonesian island of Bali hosted a climate conference in December 2007. Delegates from nearly 190 countries produced a “framework” of recommendations for tackling climate change, with the goal of producing a binding agreement by 2009. President Bush was notably absent from the conference, although former Vice President Al Gore and prominent state leaders like New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg were among the attendees. This “shadow” delegation
took positions on climate policy that differed drastically from those of the official Bush representative, Paula J. Dobriansky. In a particularly heated moment, Dobriansky was nearly booed offstage after refusing to accept a commitment from industrialized nations to provide technological and financial aid to developing countries. Ultimately, the US delegation agreed to include the pledge, but it also succeeded in eliminating explicit language calling on industrialized countries to cut their emissions 25 to 40 percent from 1990 levels by 2020. According to the New York Times, a chairman of the White House Council on Environmental Affairs, James L. Connaughton, stated that such goals were “beyond reach.” Such statements are indicative of the attitude characteristic of the Bush administration, which continues to avoid obligatory commitments in any form. Although Bush continues to oppose international treaty obligations to cut greenhouse gas emissions, he seems to be increasingly in the minority, even among members of his own party. Governor Schwarzenegger received warm applause at an earlier UN summit for declaring, “One responsibility we all have is action. Action, action, action.” Any hope that the United States would take the lead in mitigating the effects of climate change under George W. Bush would seem to be dashed. Nevertheless, the growing awareness and concern over the increasingly noticeable effects of warming will undoubtedly affect the policies of the next administration. On the other side of the Atlantic,
the latest climate reports have spurred the European Union to follow Schwarzenegger’s call. As part of a plan unveiled on January 24, the EU would reduce greenhouse gas emissions one-fifth by 2020, imposing costs on major polluters and rapidly scaling up how much energy it draws renewable sources. The centerpiece of the program is a carbon cap-and-trade program for heavy industry, causing worry that costs of living and manufacturing will soar. On the other side, environmentalists say the EU plan does not go far enough. Regardless of the criticism, the EU has produced an ambitious, concrete, and realistic plan for reducing its greenhouse gas emissions, which is miles beyond the “voluntary” guidelines the US has instituted. Nevertheless, there is some hope
coming from the changing American political atmosphere. Much of the initiative on climate change policy is appearing at the state level. Last year, California enacted the first economy-wide limits on greenhouse gase; initial regulations are set to take effect in 2010. California and a dozen other states also are battling in court and with the Bush administration to cut vehicle emissions of greenhouse gases, after the Environmental Protection Agency rejected the initial efforts. Although it will take a unified national policy to truly effect major changes in American’s greenhouse gas emissions, the leadership shown by California and other states is an encouraging sign that the political wind is shifting. The only significant movement at the federal level to cut emissions is in the form of the Lieberman-Warner
Talking to my father Chris Herget Buckle up. Words unspoken, Now said. The space across The armrest Fills with language. Me, in the driver’s seat And him in the passenger seat Next to me. Bucket seats. A fine leather trim And interior cup holders. Spaces underneath The seats welcome The cassette tapes, In pleather cases
And metal zippers. He sits, quiet, Almost not there. I keep driving, My foot on the gas And my eyes on the Horizon. Quick glances toward him Make me feel safe, Make him feel safe. I talk, he doesn’t speak. He just sits there. I roll down the window, The slow hum of the old Window echoes In the spaces under the
seats. I dip into him, squeeze ashes Into my palm. Reach my hand out of the car And spread them on the road. Toward the horizon I drive Still talking to the man Who isn’t there. But who is still there, In my car, On the road, and in my mind.
Bill, introduced this past October. This bill requires cuts in greenhouse gases from electric utilities, transportation and manufacturing, accounting for about 75 percent of U.S emissions. It would cap emissions at the 2005 level starting in 2012 and gradually reduce them to 1990 levels - a 15 percent reduction - by 2020, using a cap-and-trade system. Over the long term, the measures require a 65 percent reduction from 1990 levels by 2050. On December 5, this bill passed from the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee to the full Senate. It is sure to encounter stiff resistance from Congressmen hostile to the idea of carbon regulation; however, it is encouraging to see that several prominent Republicans have signed on as co-sponsors of the bill, including Sens. Elizabeth Dole of North Carolina, Norm Coleman of Minnesota, and Susan Collins of Maine. Senator John Warner is himself one of the Senate’s most respected Republicans. Such signs of progress are hopeful, but perhaps the biggest source of hope for America’s future climate policy can be found in the words of Al Gore, speaking at the climate conference in Bali: “Over the next two years, the United States is going to be somewhere it is not right now,” said Gore, referring to the upcoming elections. Growing public awareness, largely thanks to the efforts of people like Gore, and progressive state action led by California are beginning to show the world that Americans are ready to commit to the fight against climate change.
The Yeti ~ Vol. 4 #3 ~ May, 2008 | 9
Whitewashing the Second Amendment by
Stephanie Mencimer, mother jones magazine
acial politics dominated the talk in Washington for several days after Barack Obama called on Americans to stop ignoring the country’s racist past and move forward. The message, apparently, didn’t reach the U.S. Supreme Court, where the justices were busy ignoring race during a hearing on the biggest case of the year. On the same day Obama gave his big speech, the court heard oral arguments in D.C. v. Heller, a case challenging the District of Columbia’s 30-year-old law banning handgun ownership. The case marks the first time the Supreme Court has reviewed the Second Amendment in 70 years, and its interpretation could have far-reaching implications for state gun laws. Heller is mostly about gun ownership, but it is also about race— not that you would know that based on the oral arguments. First, by way of background: The key issue in Heller is whether the Constitution guarantees an individual, as opposed to a collective, right to bear arms within the context of a wellorganized militia. The plaintiff, Dick Anthony Heller, is an armed security guard who, with the help of some rich libertarians, brought the lawsuit against the District, arguing that the city’s handgun ban illegally prevented him from keeping his work weapon at home. Last year, in a 2-to-1 decision, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit agreed and ruled that the city’s gun-control law was an unconstitutional infringement on an individual’s right to bear arms. Fearing a flood of new firearms into the city as a result, the District appealed to the Supreme Court. Dozens of interest groups, from the Pink Pistols to Jews for the
10 | The Yeti ~ Vol. 4 #3 ~ May, 2008
Preservation of Firearms Ownership, have filed amicus briefs, offering their take on the Second Amendment. But during oral arguments, Justice Anthony Kennedy and his conservative brethren seemed to fully embrace the gun lobby’s favorite romantic myth that the founders, inspired by the image of the musket in the hands of a minuteman, wrote the Second Amendment to give Americans the right to take up arms to fight government tyranny. But what the founders really had in mind, according to some constitutional-law scholars, was the musket in the hands of a slave owner. That is, these scholars believe the founders enshrined the right to bear arms in the Constitution in part to enforce tyranny, not fight it. At an American Constitution Society briefing on the Heller case, NAACP Legal Defense Fund president John Payton explained the ugly history behind the gun lobby’s favorite amendment. “That the Second Amendment was the last bulwark against the tyranny of the federal government is false,” he said. Instead, the “well-regulated militias”
cited in the Constitution almost certainly referred to state militias that were used to suppress slave insurrections. Payton explained that the founders added the Second Amendment in part to reassure southern states, such as Virginia, that the federal government wouldn’t use its new power to disarm state militias as a backdoor way of abolishing slavery. This is pretty well-documented history, thanks to the work of Roger Williams School of Law professor Carl T. Bogus. In a 1998 law-review article based on a close analysis of James Madison’s original writings, Bogus explained the South’s obsession with militias during the ratification fights over the Constitution. “The militia remained the principal means of protecting the social order and preserving white control over an enormous black population,” Bogus writes. “Anything that might weaken this system presented the gravest of threats.” He goes on to document how anti-Federalists Patrick Henry and George Mason used the fear of slave rebellions as a way of drumming up opposition to the Constitution and
Aristophanes Chris Herget the pond covered in lily’s and the flowers that bloomed when I wasn’t here to see the little ones hang by the rocks sharp edge as the moms and dads circle around they protect just as any
parent should do swim close to me by my side and don’t let me drown ripples on the surface calls forth the end the breaking which i leave for only soon will come
how Madison eventually deployed the promise of the Second Amendment to placate Virginians and win their support for ratification. None of this figured into the arguments at the Supreme Court. Instead, a majority of the justices, especially Kennedy, seemed to buy the story that the founders were inordinately concerned with the ability of early settlers to use guns to fend off wild animals and Indians, not rebellious slaves. (Slate’s Dahlia Lithwick counts pivotal swing-voter Kennedy making
while two of the original five plaintiffs in the Heller case are black women, not a whole lot of African Americans in the District appear to be out there clamoring to own more handguns for self-defense. In an interview, Bogus says that polls consistently show that African Americans support gun control in much higher numbers than white people do, and probably for good reason: They’re usually the ones looking at the wrong end of the barrel. As the NAACP points out in its brief on Heller, in D.C. in 2004, there were 137 gun-homicide victims. All but two of them were black. If the Supreme Court invalidates the city’s handgun ban, any ensuing uptick in gun violence is likely to have a disproportionate impact on African Americans, particularly young men. Of course, it won’t only be young black men who suffer should the court decide that D.C. residents need more handguns. In fact, someone ought to remind Justice Kennedy about what happens when the wrong people get guns—namely the average, law-abiding D.C. residents who would supposedly benefit from the new gun ownership rights. With all his concern with grizzly bears, Kennedy has clearly forgotten about Carl Rowan Sr. Back in 1988, the African American syndicated columnist shot an unarmed, 18-year-old white kid from Chevy Chase who’d gone for an unauthorized dip in Rowan’s swimming pool. Rowan, who shot the kid in the wrist as he tried to flee, claimed he’d feared for his
The militia remained the principal means of protecting the social order and preserving white control over an enormous black population. Anything that might weaken this system presented the gravest of threats. no fewer than four mentions of a mythical “remote settler,” who Kennedy suggested would have needed a gun to “defend himself and his family against hostile Indian tribes and outlaws, wolves and bears, and grizzlies.”) Just as the court largely ignored the racist past of the Second Amendment, its focus on self-defense also glossed over the more obvious racial implications of the decision it was reviewing. The plaintiff, Heller, is a white man who lives in a 60 percent black city whose democratically elected leaders long ago decided that handguns were doing more harm than good to its citizenry. Indeed,
life and was only defending himself. Nonetheless, the columnist was prosecuted for illegally possessing a handgun. The trial ended with a hung jury and Rowan escaped punishment (though the teenagers were sentenced to community service), but the incident fueled a tremendous amount of racial tension in the city that might have been avoided if Rowan had just, say, called the cops. Gun-wielding journalists who can’t shoot straight may not be the bulwark against tyranny libertarians had in mind. Yet they’re just one of the many scary scenarios the District faces should the court rely on language inspired by slavery and the libertarians’ whitewashed version of American history to restrict the ability of a majority black city to protect its citizens from gun violence. Stephanie Mencimer is a reporter in Mother Jones’ Washington, D.C., bureau and the author of Blocking the Courthouse Door: How the Republican Party and Its Corporate Allies Are Taking Away Your Right to Sue (Free Press, 2006). This article originally appeared on MotherJones.com and is reprinted with permission from Mother Jones. For more information on Mother Jones, or to subscribe, visit www.motherjones.com.
The Yeti ~ Vol. 4 #3 ~ May, 2008 | 11
Photo: Flickr user katmere
The Cause of Our Time by
Jenna Citron, president of student darfur awareness group (sdag)
lagued by civil war, years of drought, neglect and oppression by their own government, the crisis in Dafur is both complicated, and hostile. The most recent fighting began in 2003 as the Sudanese Liberation Army (SLA) and the Justice and Equality movement (JEM) began an uprising against the central government in Khartoum. In response, President Al-Bashir armed a militia called the Janjaweed (they are black African Muslims) to put down the uprising. Instead, the Janjaweed have looted, beaten, raped and murdered throughout Darfur (where the people are non Arab African Muslims). According to most advocacy groups, including savedarfur.org, they have murdered over 400,000, and displaced millions more. This issue is widely thought to be a religious holocaust; however, it is not religious. Both areas of Sudan (north and south) are mainly Muslim territories (as they have been for centuries) with smaller groups of Christians, and Animists. The ravaging has occurred consistently to non-Arab
Muslim villages, while Arab villages have been left alone. This conflict can be compared to the ethnic cleansing that occurred in the Yugoslav wars between Serbs, Croats, and Bosniaks, or Bosnian Muslims. Why Social Action Sixty five years ago the world watched as starved, sick and humiliated prisoners walked from the death camps of Poland, only to find out that twelve million more had perished under their own watch. Sixty-five years ago the world vowed “never again.” And yet, all the world has seen since then is
Contact Your Congressman Florida U.S. Representative: Allen Boyd 1650 Summit Lake Drive Suite 103 Tallahassee, FL 32317 (850) 561-3979
Dear Congressman, As many as 400,000 people have been killed in Darfur. Another 2.5 million have been driven from their homes and into danger. The threat of rape, torture, murder and malnutrition pursue the women and children of Darfur wherever they flee. World leaders must unite now to end the genocide and establish a lasting peace in Darfur.
again and again. It has been five years since the world really began to pay attention and begin to understand the situation in Darfur. We’ve seen movies, celebrity spokespersons, read books, and seen the news reports. There have been movements to persuade our governments to take political, military, and peacekeeping action. Beyond college campus awareness, and Washington demonstrations what have the powerful really done? Close to nothing. Not even our political candidates are talking about potential solutions to this lingering problem. But here is the bigger question: If
Florida U.S. Senators: Mel Martinez (R - FL) 356 Russell Senate Office Building Washington, DC 20510 (202) 224-3041 Bill Nelson (D - FL) 716 Hart Senate Office Building Washington DC 20510 (202) 224-5274
4. Work to ensure the Sudanese government’s full participation in a just and inclusive peace process, and to overcome any attempts to obstruct or delay the protection of civilians or the peace process; 5. Increase humanitarian aid and ensure access for its safe delivery. Thank you for your leadership on this urgent matter.
I therefore ask you to: 1. Make ending the crisis in Darfur one of your top priorities; 2. Push for the fastest possible deployment of the hybrid U.N.A.U. peacekeeping force authorized by the U.N. Security Council in July; 3. Pressure contributing nations to fully and immediately meet their pledges of troops, funding, equipment, and logistical support;
my government wonâ€™t do anything, what can I do? For one, there is always generous (or not so generous, college students are all somewhat poor as we all know) contributions to the hundreds of organizations out there who aid refugees. Second, write a letter to your senators and representatives, even write one to the President. Do not feel bashful; do not feel as if no one will ever read it- they will. And more importantly, if enough send those letters action is taken. For some interesting insight on who and how action has been taken by our politicians go to www.darfurscores.com and see if your representatives are representing you. If not tell them to- that is their job after all. Even take a look into your state representatives. They are doing more for this matter than you might think. In fact, just last year the Florida House of Representatives passed a Darfur Divestment Bill. The bill states that all companies though to have connections to the Sudanese Government or companies doing business with them but divest their assets or their state of Florida will divest theirs from each company. This is the action the United States took toward South African apartheid, and as we all know apartheid is in the past. Third, talk to your friends and family about it, they might not even know, or understand for that
Displaced women stand together in the Intifada transit camp in South Darfur. A disproportionate number of IDPs in the camps are women and children matter that this is genocide no different than the one we all read about in our elementary classes. Remind them that the spectacular Olympics we all used to look forward to each year is hosted this year by a government that continues to make matters worse for Darfur for their own benefit. Let them think about that when they turn on the Beijing Olympics. And last but not least, donâ€™t
think any move you make is too small of a move. No single person is expected to change the world; however, together I believe is it more than possible. That is why Florida State University has such organizations as the Student Darfur Awareness Group (SDAG) to give students the outlet they need to make a change. We believe weâ€™re going to do our part in making that so.
to End the Crisis in Darfur
The Roots of Our Do-Nothing Congress by
Scott Keyes, stanford university
e have a do-nothing Democratic Congress. Despite being a proud Democrat, I have no qualms about holding this opinion. We have failed to see meaningful legislation on a host of problems facing this nation including health care policy, the environment, troop levels in Iraq, and stem cell research. Without a doubt, the wave Democrats rode into power in 2006 has not produced the changes in national policy that were promised. Thus, with so much left unfulfilled, we unfortunately find ourselves in the midst of a do-nothing Democratic Congress. And the Republicans are to blame. The responsibility for a lack of progress in Congress does not lie with the Democrats, who have worked tirelessly to enact popular, common-sense legislation on the major problems facing America. Democrats cannot be faulted for their work-ethic; the current 110th Congress has held more votes, conducted more oversight hearings, and spent far more time in session than the previous Republicancontrolled Congress. Rather, Republican obstructionism has kept progress at bay. Nearly every major piece of legislation has been vetoed, filibustered, or been otherwise procedurally blocked. However, such legislation has not been hindered for a lack of national consensus. Despite Republicans’ claims, on nearly every issue of importance, the will of the American people is clear. Take health care. As one of the top three issues to the American public, a recent Gallup poll found 64% of Americans believe it is the responsibility of the federal government to provide health coverage to all Americans. Democrats have been trying since the mid-1990s to ensure
access to quality, affordable health care for every American, only to have such efforts blocked by the Republicans. We find the same story with the environment and global warming. A recent ABC News poll showed that 70% of Americans believe the federal government should do more to deal with global warming. When the Democrats proposed a bill to this effect in December 2007, Republicans garnered 40 votes in the Senate to block a vote on the matter. Republicans have even blocked progress on the defining issue of the 2006 elections: the war in Iraq. Democrats were given a clear mandate to provide a new direction in Iraq and begin to reduce troop levels. Indeed, a Los Angeles Times poll found that 63% believe we ought to withdraw United States troops within one year. This is almost precisely what the Democrats have proposed, and a bill to this effect was passed by Congress in March 2007, only to be vetoed by President Bush and sustained by Republicans in Congress. Bush has similarly stifled funding for stem cell research against the wishes of the American people. According to a Gallup poll, 64% of Americans believe Bush should not have vetoed a congressional bill (which he did twice) that would have allowed federal funding of embryonic stem cell research. Though this bill was passed with a fair number of Republicans joining the Democrats, it failed to become law because of President Bush’s veto and his Republican counterparts in Congress. Despite the media’s clamoring that the two parties have pushed themselves to the extremes of the American political spectrum while most Americans sit comfortably in the middle, it is clear that on issue after issue, the Democrats represent the national consensus while Republicans represent the ideological fringe. As OpenLeft’s Chris Bowers noted,
“The simple fact is that the majority of Democrats in Congress haven’t permanently blocked a popular solution to any major problem facing America in at least fifteen years.” The same cannot be said of the Republicans. They have consistently hindered progress on popular legislation, not only on health care, the environment, and stem cell research, but also reductions in subsidies for oil companies and giving soldiers who have fought in Iraq more time to rest and recuperate between deployments. What’s more, with one year left in the 110th Congress, Republican obstructionism has already reached an unprecedented level. In less than one year, Republicans have used the filibuster 62 times to block legislation from coming to a vote, breaking the previous two-year record set by the Republican minority in the 107th Congress of 61 filibusters. They are on pace for 134 filibusters by the end of the 110th Congress, approximately the same number of filibusters conducted in the entire 1980s. Whatever happened to the party of the “up-or-down vote”? The Democrats are not entirely without fault for some of the unfulfilled promises thus far in the 110th Congress, including not fighting harder for troop redeployment legislation. However, their culpability cannot even begin to be equated with that of the Republicans. On nearly every major piece of legislation, the Democratic Party, acting with a mandate from over 65% of the American public, has been blocked by the procedural tactics of the minority. Republicans are stopping Congress from making progress and then asking why they haven’t made any progress on anything. With all this in mind, the problem with the do-nothing Congress isn’t that Democrats are in control. It’s that there aren’t enough of them. The Yeti ~ Vol. 4 #3 ~ May, 2008 | 15
Five Minutes with: Ralph Nader by
Srinivas Rao, Ben Adler, and Graham Webster, campus progress
f any American of the past 50 years can be called a professional citizen, it’s the famous—and infamous—Ralph Nader. Since the 1960’s, Nader has led the charge against environmental degradation, consumer manipulation, and all the dangers of a country dominated by large corporations. Flanked by hundreds of Nader’s Raiders, Nader successfully lobbied for the consumer protections that Americans now take for granted— without his activism, we would most likely not have the Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s workplace protections, the EPA’s environmental reforms, the Freedom of Information Act, and much more. Being the man responsible for seat belts is an understandably hard act to follow—yet, sure enough, Ralph found a way to expand upon his legacy. “He made the cars we drive safer,” explains The Atlantic Monthly. “Thirty years later, he made George W. Bush the president.” Running on the Green Party ticket in 2000, Nader was supported by many prominent liberals, but scorned for potentially throwing the election to Bush by others. Sure enough, after Nader gained tens of thousands of votes in Florida—the deciding state that Bush carried by approximately five hundred votes—and exit polls demonstrated that Nader’s supporters would have been more likely to support Gore than Bush had Nader not been on the ballot, Nader came to be widely seen as a spoiler, even by many of his former supporters. 2004 saw another Nader candidacy followed with another, harsher, liberal backlash— and 2008 will most likely see a similar outcome if Nader chooses to 16 | The Yeti ~ Vol. 4 #3 ~ May, 2008
run again. For now, though, Nader is in the public eye again in a different role: movie star. Steven Skrovan and Henriette Mantel’s new documentary An Unreasonable Man takes a comprehensive look at Nader and questions whether he can really be blamed for the Bush presidency. Nader also continues his prolific career as an author with 2007’s The Seventeen Traditions, looking at the lessons his parents taught him and what young people everywhere could learn from them. Love him or hate him, no one denies that Ralph Nader has had a profound effect on the last half-century of American politics. He spoke with Campus Progress about his continuing fight against corporate globalization, his potential as a presidential candidate in 2008, and his opinion on what students can do to carry the torch of consumer activism. Campus Progress: What are the most important consumer advocacy issues today and what can young people do to advocate for consumer rights? Ralph Nader: You can define consumer advocacy in terms of the marketplace and public services— government services including police, fire, building codes, and a whole variety of social services. Today, students are really overwhelmed with their own personal problems—their own student loans, questions on whether they are going to get health insurance when they graduate, and whether their jobs are going to be outsourced, even if they are white collar jobs. So they have to develop a public philosophy and segregate
a certain amount of time for their citizen responsibilities. If they do that, then that is the allocation of time that moves into developing their citizen skills, which they don’t learn in school. Whether they are specific skills, like how to use the Freedom of Information Act, how to build a coalition, or they are personality skills like how not to be discouraged, how to be resilient, how to share the credit when you are involved in the struggle, locally and nationally with your friends and collaborators. So the first step students should take is to insist that they have a civics course in their curriculum. If they can’t get it in their curriculum, they should do it outside the classroom. They need to have these civic skills, and a good way to do it is through internships, fellowships, and working with local action groups. Substantively we have health insurance, universal health insurance the key issue. Losing control of people’s money through credit cards and all the kinds of financial controls, penalties, late payments, and all that is another big one. The third one is compulsory consumption of pollution and toxins, where you have no choice but to absorb these involuntarily. Fourth is to have enough to spend, which means dealing with poverty and the living wage in the country. The fifth would be some of the newer technologies that students are on the cutting edge of—genetic engineering and nanotechnology. How do you think the consumer activism movement can fit into international trade and international policies? Well, corporate globalization is really the fundamental issue
Ralph Nader has drawn the ire of many progressives who blame him for unwittingly sabotaging Al Gore’s 2000 presidential attempt. pertaining to what you are asking about, and what we’ve done is become a signatory nation, along with 140 others, to the WTO and, with Canada and Mexico, to NAFTA. And that is a bypass of our democratic process. It is a layering over of an autocratic, transnational system of government, which subordinates worker and environmental consumer standards and issues to the imperatives of commercial, international trade. And that, of course, is a reversal
of the way we have progressed in our country, where every time we move forward, whether by abolishing slavery, ending child labor, or environmental issues, we’ve said to corporations, “Your commercial priorities are going to be subordinated to adjusting to these higher standards of health, safety, and human rights.” The corporate globalization in these trade agreements reverses that, and subordinates human rights to commercial supremacy.
Everything follows from that; you get more advanced countries pulling down toward lower levels of third world countries by virtue of shipping whole industries to communist dictatorships or fascist dictatorships in the third world where costs are not determined by market factors, they are determined by dictatorships and oligarchs, labor costs for example. It is anything but free trade; you cannot
Continued on 22 The Yeti ~ Vol. 4 #3 ~ May, 2008 | 17
New Orleans and its Opposite A Travelogue from Spring Break by
f you travel to New Orleans by I-10 west, the way we did, you won’t see much. You will see a vast vista of marshland, brown sawgrass poking up through Mississippi muck for a few miles on end, with the downtown’s handful of jutting skyscrapers stark against the background. It’s a fitting foreboding, glass and concrete pitted against the fetid and murky outlying swamps. It is the first of many such ironies. New Orleans has begun to reinstate its claim to being a tourist Mecca, drawing college students – and a surprising number of older folks – to its infamous Bourbon Street, center of drunken excess, bead-throwing and corresponding exposures. (I was sadly witness to none of the latter.) In its Riverwalk mall, a series of banners advertising the city to tourists proudly professes their recovery, emblazoned with such slogans as “Soul is waterproof.” In all areas, so they say, New Orleans has gotten up, brushed itself off – or wrung itself out – and is eager for tourist dollars. A posh new visitor center, the Basin Street Station, has recently opened. (I could tell because one of its murals, a map of Louisiana in an archaic style, is signed 2006 by the artist.) One of its attractions is a sevenminute video about how jazz music has influenced the history and spirit of the city. (The city boasts hosting such greats as Louie Armstrong and Fats Domino.) The movie ends with Louie Armstrong singing, “Do you know what it means to miss New Orleans?” Indeed, the city is so infatuated with Armstrong that they christened a park in his honor in the early 90’s, a park with a grand arch entranceway, fountains, an auditorium, and a museum inside. 18 | The Yeti ~ Vol. 4 #3 ~ May, 2008
But nowadays, the park is closed. When we told our guide at the visitor center, she made a hesitant reference to sanitation issues. “The city doesn’t really have the funds [to keep the park clean.” The citizens have had to organize their own cleanup efforts. (I wondered, additionally, if her hesitance betrayed concerns about vagrancy, gangs, drunks, etc. This poor woman, whose job it is to attract and excite visitors to the city, had been tasked with an impossible chore in spinning the state of Armstrong Park.) So, then, the park remains closed to tourists and citizens alike, a an irony among many in the Crescent City.
n the gorgeous downtown area around Canal Street, trolleys run up and down the main drag, jazz musicians and tap dancers play for change, and the gulf breeze cools the skin.
Yet, truth be told, it may have been impossible to persuade my party that New Orleans had recovered to its previous luster. Camping to the southeast of the city in St. Bernard state park, we had to drive back and forth through the Ninth Ward every time we drove into the city proper. St. Bernard street has a lovely section of canopy, bordered on either side by dilapidated barns, rusted equipment and demolished storefronts. Strangely, new developments have sprouted in the ruinous remains of the town of St. Bernard. Perhaps some ambitious carpetbaggers are snatching up the recently devalued land. As a result, trailers and mansions stand adjacent. We passed one trailer that rested in the front lawn of a mansion. On the last day of our visit, we ventured into the Lower Ninth Ward, generally agreed to be the area
(Below) Life sprouts from a mausoleum in St. Louis Cemetery No 1. Such a contrast is exactly what I had come to expect from NOLA.
(Left) A spray-painted building grieves about a lost home. On the right side of the edge is a spray-painted X, denoting when the building was searched. (Right) The local government’s breathtakingly inane injunction for its people to simply “Think positive!” hardest hit by Katrina, the costliest natural disaster in US history. Despite the heralded claims of cleaning up, there is still much that needs to be done. Crumbling buildings abound, interspersed with empty lots, where something used to stand, no doubt, now overgrown with two and a half years of grass and weeds. Buildings are spraypainted with X’s, presumably denoting that they had been searched after Katrina, and with messages like “Gave more water 10/6[/05]” and “SPCA: 1 cat outside”. One building laments, “This was home”. Continuing our journey into the city center, we pass a sign that urges with heartfelt indifference, “Think positive, St. Bernard!” How Hooverian. Though the visitor center’s video billed New Orleans as a beacon of education, culture, and the arts, the St. Bernard Adult Education Center looks like it hasn’t been inhabited in years. The paint is peeling. A gigantic dead tree lies overturned in the lawn. The sign reads, “Classes begin August 2005,” the month Katrina hit.
here the Ninth Ward is scarce, acetic, and somber, the French Quarter is debauched, excessive, and intoxicated. Glaring neon advertises Larry Flynt nude shows and
all manner of strip joints. My personal favorite was the Unsexxx Club, featuring “World famous love acts.” At night, the doors opened onto the street and displayed a few dozen amateur photographs of every kind of sexual behavior just short of intercourse. Many places advertise “Beer to go.” (Is this the center of culture we have been led to believe it is?) We stopped into a corner market just across Canal Street, the west border of the French Quarter. The Vieux Carre, as the Cajuns call it, is one of the few localities in the United States that still allows open containers on the street. We each bought single beers at a good price without being carded. When we realized that glass containers were still outlawed, the cashier gave us plastic cups. When we realized our beers were not twistoffs, the cashier popped the caps for us. They really make it easy. And it shows. The French Quarter by night is a lecherous affair, host to hundreds or thousands of wandering inebriates, dancing, drinking, shouting. I wondered how many were locals, how many were drinking illegally, and how many would be puking into the street in the morning hours.
know y’all know this one. I know y’all get cable,” he says. He’s a black man with his upper row of teeth capped in gold. He’s wearing a neon green t-shirt, which makes him match the three other head men. We’re standing on a checkerboard mat in front of an audience of maybe 100, between Jackson Square and the Mississippi River. The green shirts are about to put on a breakdance show, but have stopped when they learned it was an audience member’s birthday. Christine is turning 24 today. So, now, all of the members in the audience who know the Soulja Boy have been brought down to the center to celebrate by dancing. It comes to light that we may have a false positive: one audience member asks our gold-toothed friend how to dance the Soulja Boy. “I don’t know,” is his reply. “My FEMA trailer doesn’t get cable.” This town has a curious sense of humor, as black as the voodoo priestesses that strolled the Quarter three hundred years ago. The tourist shops apparently make a killing selling shirts that satirize Katrina. “FEMA evacuation plan: Run, bitch run!”. “FEMA: Fix Everything My Ass”. “8.25.05 Never Forget”. “I drove my Chevy to the levee but the levee was gone”. Continued on next The Yeti ~ Vol. 4 #3 ~ May, 2008 | 19
The drinks at Copeland’s Cheesecake Bistro are all named after the hurricane. “Calm Before the Storm,” “Hurricane Warning,” and “Category 5” are among them. Is this trying to make light of the situation? Or maybe it’s all just for the tourists. One wonders how much is all just for the tourists. Maybe it’s a stubborn independence that has developed since the disaster. NOPD doesn’t stand for New Orleans Police Department, so the locals say. It stands for “Not our problem, dude.” Spray-paint on a neglected home’s front reads, “No FEMA help, keep our taxes”. Such sentiments are an odd contradiction to the nascent community spirit and recognition that we are all interdependent – things that are supposed to follow in the wake of an unspeakably destructive natural disaster. Meanwhile, the churches are flourishing, despite the poverty. That seems to always be the case. When people can’t turn to their fellow man, they turn to the Man upstairs.
ut all is not negative in New Orleans. When New Orleans is on, it’s on. At night, Bourbon Street pulses with the competing sounds of live rock and jazz, drunken karaoke, and general carousing. The Café du Monde, “The Original Coffee Stand,” still sells nothing but coffee and beignet – a fried pouch of dough embedded in a mountain of powdered sugar that is truly divine. And one can’t exist for long in NOLA without
(Above) In the Lower Ninth Ward, a prefabricated home sits next to an utterly demolished former home. absorbing a relaxed, Let-the-good-timesroll attitude through osmosis. New Orleans has a number of aboveground cemeteries that are infused with history. (Because of the soft earth, people had to be buried in mausoleums rather than under the ground.) The St. Louis Cemetery No. 1, which we visited, was overwhelming in its beauty and sublime grandeur. As a nod to the city’s French history, many of the tombstones are engraved with ici reposent, “here lies.” There were magnificent marble structures housing dozens of graves, adorned with religious statues and crosses, and there were much more rudimentary enclosures. Some tombs were nothing more than a pile of bricks with a carved headstone. There were World War I and II veterans. There was a veteran of the Civil War who had fought for the Confederacy. There was one grave that contained the lineage of a family, six generations, stretching back to 1845. Someone was buried in
New Orleans’ Canal Street district is a beehive of tourism and charming extravagance.
20 | The Yeti ~ Vol. 4 #3 ~ May, 2008
1760: before this country existed, this cemetery was here. That’s history. “Tradition in progress” is New Orlean’s slogan. (I learned it from a trash can in the French Quarter.) I’m not sure what it’s progressing towards, but one thing that New Orleans unquestionably retains is its rich tradition.
ew Orleans still carries the proud standard of their cultural heritage: their tradition, their history. It also attracts throngs of tourists, some seeking that history, some seeking a much baser goal. The juxtapositions that abound are mostly the products of an overactive and somewhat cynical mind. But all my mind has done is catalogue the facts of the matter into a particular framework. There is death and there is growth, there is dignified history and there is unprincipled imbibing. There is one thing and there is its opposite, as can be found in any time. Leaving New Orleans is much the same as arriving. You will see the same resurgence and the same desolation. The latter, despite what the tourism board would have you believe, is still very much a part of what the Crescent City is today. They have made strides, I’m sure. The levees have been fixed, though the damage from the waters may never be repaired fully. Houses have been demolished, though many still remain. And in a cemetery, a green blade sprouts from a whited sepulcher. Ici reposent irony.
Independents Sink, Majors Swim by
ajor labels have finally hit the iceberg. CEOs are scrambling for a seat on the lifeboat as they scrounge around for new business models that can keep them afloat. With onslaught of ad-supported music websites, social music networks, streaming internet players, and direct artist downloads, the industry is yet again undergoing evolution. This is not the first time corporate dinosaurs have blamed technological advancements for unwanted shifts in music consumerism. In 1978, record sales dropped because of cassette tapes, and in 1983, an upstart cable channel called MTV revolutionized the importance of artist appearance. International retaliation sprang up as musicians claimed, “Cassette taping [was] encouraging pirating and killing music,” and television coverage of bands was depreciating artist authenticity. Regardless, major labels jumped on the bandwagon, and huge corporations, like Sony, put more money towards the trend, selling their own cassette devices and making MTV the face of the music industry. To their resilience, Sony Music, along with Warner Music Group, EMI, and Universal, teamed up with CD distributors such as Caroline Distribution and other corporate giants like Ticketmaster and Best Buy to create an empire over new music marketing resources. Wouldn’t it be ideal to see a band use the internet and other resources available to them without a hierarchal ladder of corporate assholes? Radiohead may be the most talked about posterchildren for possibility, but then I ask how long they climbed up it before they took a leap of faith on their own. It’s a double sided debate when the musical
universe at our fingertips and it’s still hard to find a way to beat the corporations to the punch. Consequently each make their moves accordingly; Joe Slayer sits at home spending hours perfecting his myspace, as record labels scramble for digital alternatives and EMI’s CEO lays off artists reps for digital programmers. Indie record labels are concerned with their resources, artists are concerned with their accessibility, and big corporations are concerned with their six figure losses. So who is running the music business now? Major labels refuse to back down that easily as they look towards the big picture, in all sense of the phrase. Artist appearance, endorsements, paparazzi footage, gimmicks and outlandish performances are their staples of success. Artists like Lil Wayne and Fall Out Boy are guaranteed promos in Virgin Megastore as well as on the shelves of Mom and Pop record stores across the country, as most 14 year old rockers are guaranteed to recognize Patrick Stump’s photo on a cardboard cutout. But the importance is not so much on the CDs as it is the promo itself. The more they see his face, the quicker they conclude that he’s the second hottest thing to Paris Hilton. It is obvious that CD sales will no longer indicate their success, so fudging a couple scandals and attending more photo shoots than band practices is basically the idea. With so many bands spanning across the genre spectrum, it’s harder now more than ever for the average Joe Slayer to get his metal songs out in the music world against these tactics of media imaging. From a report by the Forrester Research report, digital sales will grow at an annual rate of 23 percent over the next five years, and downloaded music will bury CD sales in the year 2012. The
music industry is media-driven rather than music-driven, and the more the artist is plastered over the internet, the more likely they are to sell their music. Torrent sites and other ad-supported downloads make it difficult for artists to stand out when a million other bands just like them are at the convenience of online connection. Majors still have the right of entry to many of the new resources that makes them still on top. So then the plight of the music industry rests in its accessibility. The only force that can safeguard us from these monster labels is the consumer, artists, and other investors that have power of the necessary evils of consumerism. They’ve formulized their plan and despite losing big names like the Eagles, Radiohead, and Nine Inch Nails to independent distribution, the business is still grounded in networking and marketing. The only way to thwart the evolution into revolution is by completely cutting them off which is seemingly impossible. The easier it is for major labels to team up with mp3 providers and live concert promoters, the harder it will be to encourage unsigned artists to survive without them. Young musicians watch Live Nation cough up $120 million for a 10 year contract with Madonna, offering a one stop shop for concerts, records, merchandising, etc. and wonder how the hell they are going to make it on their own. So even though the corporations smashed hard and almost took a nosedive, they are patching themselves up nicely allowing for more monopolistic opportunities to take them into new directions.
The Yeti ~ Vol. 4 #3 ~ May, 2008 | 21
Ralph Nader continued from 17 have free trade with a dictatorship or oligarchy. What you’re seeing here is proposals to advance health and safety in our country are put in the legislature and then they get a message from the U.S. Trade Representative or the State Department saying, “This violates WTO.” “This labeling act for food violates WTO, this advanced auto safety violates WTO.” And these trade agreements have the force of federal law when we sign onto them. In your book, The Seventeen Traditions, you talk a lot about how the corporate culture is encroaching on the ability of families to just raise their children in they way they want. 24 hours a day, the commercial merchants are direct marketing to children as young as three years old, undermining parental authority. Parents are more and more absent because they are commuting and have two jobs for their children, so their children are sitting ducks. And the marketing divisions of these companies acknowledge that; they know more about these kids when they are alone and what their peer group does than their parents do. And what are they selling these kids? Violent programming, where violence is the solution to problems in life—even though the good guys win, it’s still violence. Second, junk food and junk drinks, predisposing them to obesity and diabetes. Military toys for boys at age 5, cosmetics for girls at age 7, overmedication from age 2. This is before they even reach 10 or 11, where the addictive industries move in—alcohol, drugs, tobacco, etc. So corporations increasingly, in terms of time, penetration, and arranging their products and services, are raising our children in this country. Given all the damage that has been done by the Bush administration, and, 22 | The Yeti ~ Vol. 4 #3 ~ May, 2008
concurrently, seeing Al Gore speak out against the Iraq war and global warming, do you regret running in 2000, and do you regret saying that there wasn’t a dimes worth of difference between the two? You shouldn’t even ask that question in that way, because what you’re saying is—unless you’ve asked Bush that question or other major parties—you’re implying that there is a second class citizenship that pertains to small party candidates. I know you don’t think that way, but you are inheriting— Well actually I do, because we have a winner-take-all election system, we don’t have parliamentary representation. And I wonder why, instead of running for president, you didn’t militate for instant run off voting or other changes that would make third parties more viable options. We have done that, but the Democrats have no interest in that at all. Before I did it, it was done by others in the national interest. But you know enough about American history that I don’t think you would have urged people who voted for the Liberty anti-slavery party to vote for the Whigs instead of the Democrats. Or the women’s suffrage party for the Republicans instead of the Democrats. Certainly I can see that you have the right to run, but would you concede that nonetheless it may have been wiser not to, and therefore, will you run in 2008? It’s always wise to follow your conscience. And second, and most importantly, you’re following prey to the gap after Election Day and then making your arithmetic. But the key is the dynamic before Election Day— how did I affect the Gore campaign? By pushing him to the left, he was making populist statements which raised his polls.
Not to mention that Gore did win the election; he believes it, I believe it, a lot of people believe it. It was stolen from him in a whole myriad of ways that were documented before, during, and after Election Day in Florida, from Tallahassee to the partisan 5-4 Supreme Court decision. You would think that most people would go after the thieves, try to get political reform, giving felons who have served their time the right to vote, counting the votes accurately so that Katherine Harris, Jeb Bush, and all the rest of them couldn’t have done it as they did it again in a slightly different way in Ohio. You don’t deny voters for third party candidates the right to vote for them by doing what the Democrats did, which was get us off the ballot through all kind of phony lawsuits and harassment in 2004 for which they will pay dearly in future years. So you are planning on running again. No, I didn’t say that. There are other ways to make them pay dearly. It’s too early to say. If you would like to elaborate on that or anything else you plan on working on in the near future, we would love to hear about it. Well we’re into starting a lot of new groups—the forest of democracy needs more trees. What we need now in the student area is much more formal and dynamic organizations. I’ve never in 40 years seen a desolate wasteland like on college campuses. Especially with the absence of a draft in the middle of this Iraq quagmire, there’s almost no activity to speak of—some of them will go the marches, but it’s nothing like it should be. If there was a draft, if you’re part of the risk, you’re more likely to be apart of the solution. But a professional army is one that elicits excessive awe, because millions of people have
never been in the army. If you’ve been in the army you’re not awed at the military. But now we’ve have more than three decades of a professional army, mostly of low income whites, blacks, and Hispanics, and it is very easy to manipulate public opinion in terms of getting us into war when you have that. Because then it becomes, “don’t support Bush, support the troops.” And Bush wraps the troops around himself. But getting back to the campus: the lack of civic motivation, the debts that the students come out with, the little toy called a computer which seems to fascinate college students excessively, and the overwhelming inundation of cell phone chatter and text messaging is replacing any opportunity for reflection, digestion, and reaction. Just imagine, your generation is spending minimally 50 hours a week looking at screens, computer screens, television screens, video game screens. What does that do to the brain, in a physiological sense? That is what we have to face up to. You’ve got to watch out that your diagnosis of an apathetic generation isn’t so brilliant that it doesn’t lead to prescription. You’ve seen that a lot, when people’s diagnosis are so on point that they almost seem to be satisfied with the diagnosis and they don’t move to the prescription. So the real question is: how go you get a million college students out of 16 million socially indignant enough to act? I stand up in front of students and one of the first questions I ask them is: what makes you angry? And you know what makes them angry? It isn’t massive world poverty, it isn’t the Iraq War, it isn’t corporate control of their lives and their government and their elections. You know what makes them angry? Gender slurs, racial slurs, ethnic slurs. Words, that’s
what makes them most angry on college campuses. Now they have to really rethink that; first of all, why are they most angry at words instead of deeds? Behind all of these slurs is a pattern of discrimination, depravation. And second, where is their horizon? They are supposed to be engaged in intellectual exploration for four years, not a trade school, not learning widgets, entries, accounting, balance sheets, and computer bytes. That is the challenge you have to have, to move to prescription in some way. Read Saul Alinsky’s book Rules for Radicals, it’s only the best book written in the 20th century on organizing people. So read it, get it off Amazon, and you’ll see his technique was to go to the perceived injustice of the people you want to organize. You don’t try to graft another injustice or try to persuade them, you go the perceived injustice and then you work out of that. So what are the perceived injustices of college students? Well, one of them is student loans, and that is a huge racket with Sallie Mae and that should be a raging issue on campus. Because Sallie Mae is corporate socialism personified— they make the profit, any loses are made up by Uncle Sam, and they are vastly overcharging. When you get out of school, you are risk averse to civic activity. That’s why in the 60’s, where there were very little loans after schools, they were much more risk-attentive and risk assuming.
he night sky was not black, but grey. Yet it still seemed darker than it had ever been before. I laid down on the frozen lake, not even giving a thought as to whether or not if was thick enough to withstand the baggage I brought upon it. The cold snow fell down on me, caught around the fur on my hood that was pulled tightly over my head. I closed my eyes, as the ice flakes fell gently on my cheeks, almost burning in the cold now. I clenched my fists, either out of sheer anger, or maybe the dense, frosty air. I tucked my hands into the pockets of my parka, and bent my knees up towards the sky. I didn’t move after that. I barely blinked, only occasionally to flutter free the flurries that had landed so slightly on my eyelashes. My eyes were dry as ever, the cold wind blowing across them. I couldn’t produce an ounce of moisture, not a tear would escape out the corner of my eye, and roll softly down my face. It could not be done. The thought of him in the back of my mind drove me senseless. After a while of laying on the ice, I had no thoughts at all. My mind was clear, I was not angry, nor sad, nor lonely. I was solitary and empty, a shell of a human being that used to have thoughts, empathy, and courage. I now lay frozen physically and mentally, on what used to be a lake full of life, that was now just a cold sheet of ice. The snow stopped after 2 or 3 hours, I don’t know how long I was there, to be honest. I finally sat up, looked around. I got to my feet, walked across the ice, and up to the field, the dead grass not even in sight, as the snow had covered it all. The vertical stones meant nothing to me anymore, I could not feel, or miss, or give any thought at all to what they stood for and above. I walked passed the gated site, around the corner, and walked down the sidewalk. Through the busy streets downtown, I didn’t see anyone, and no one saw me. Recklessly, I stepped down off the curb, on to the asphalt, and made my way across the street. The Yeti ~ Vol. 4 #3 ~ May, 2008 | 23
Volume 4 ~ Issue 3 ~ May 2008 www.theyetionline.com