The forthcoming book from creative activist and kayaktivist extraordinaire Bill Moyer and his Backbone Campaign colleagues should remake the United States and limit the oncoming onslaught of climate suffering. It's called Solutionary Rail: A People Powered Campaign to Electrify America's Railroads and Open Corridors to a Clean Energy Future.
Here's the idea. There is huge potential for solar and wind energy in vast open spaces of the United States. There is a need for pathways through which to transmit renewable-produced electricity to where it's needed in big cities and small towns. Meanwhile, under-used railroad lines crisscross the country. As coal and oil use drop, those lines will be even more under-used, unless we change something. Yet, trains are more efficient than trucks even now, and would be much more so if electrified. So, we should run electricity lines along newly-improved railroad lines, and use some of the electricity to cleanly power a lot more trains.
By electrifying rail, you make rail less expensive as well as cleaner. With improvements to tracks you also make it faster. More freight and passengers find their way to rail. More jobs are produced in renewable energy. People living near trains get a cleaner and quieter environment. Traffic is lessened on highways, reducing accidents, deaths, injuries, and wear and tear on the roads. Electric trains cost less, take less maintenance, and last longer. Regenerative braking can produce still more power.
This is a solution to air pollution, but its benefits just keep piling up. Electric rail is like the hemp of infrastructure. Faster, more efficient trains would take freight from trucks and planes, and people from planes and cars. Electric trains start and stop more quickly and can run more closely together than diesel trains. They run better on grades. They can run much faster than current U.S. trains on existing upgraded tracks. Restoring or adding double tracks provides three to four times the capacity of a single track.
Unless you're going all the way across the United States, for any shorter distance trip, a fast train from downtown to downtown is going to look mighty appealing when the alternative is a plane ride that involves: traveling to an exurban airport, being treated like a terrorism suspect, waiting hours, flying to an out-of-the-way city to wait additional hours switching planes, never being sure you'll be on time, buying much more expensive tickets, squeezing into a tiny seat with no chance to walk around, airplane food instead of a dining car, lousy internet, obnoxious announcements, and the knowledge that you're contributing mightily to the destruction of the earth's climate.
Solutionary Rail lays out a plan for a just transition to the wind- and solar-topia it envisions, taking into consideration the rights of workers, of those living near the train lines, etc. Also in need of careful study, I think, is the protection of the health of passengers maintaining vicinity to high-voltage power lines. But there are major health concerns created by delaying the move to solutionary rail, and there are ways in which the notion of a just transition might be expanded beyond the vision of this book.
Hundreds of times more U.S. residents are killed each year in traffic accidents involving heavy trucks than are killed by foreign terrorism. Yet the United States uses the threat of foreign terrorism to justify dumping roughly $1 trillion per year into preparations for the wars that generate the threats of terrorism. If electric rail were part of a transition away from treating war as our primary public project and toward treating environmental protection as such, the scope of the vision would be radically enlarged.
Moyer et alia propose starting with a single rail line as a model project to attract more funding. They worry that 500 miles could cost $1.25 billion. They note that an 800-mile high-speed rail project in California is estimated to cost $68 billion. They propose public-private partnerships and incremental advances. Yet they also note that, as with so many other projects on which Europe and Asia now lead the way, the United States was a leader in electric railroads over a century ago. What gave highways the advantage in the United States was primarily a massive public investment in free highways.
Describing 800 miles of high-speed rail in California as "one of the most expensive public works projects in U.S. history," as Solutionary Rail does, needs to be qualified. I would call it one of the most expensive public works projects that serves some useful purpose and is not dedicated to mass killing in U.S. history. The cost of that dinky little project is pocket change for the Pentagon. If you can run renewable electricity along 500 miles of electric train track for $1.25 billion, then for 10% of U.S. military spending (which has nearly doubled since 2001 during a "war on terrorism" that has increased terrorism) you could do 40,000 miles.
That would be a good start. Factor in the wars over oil we could forego. Factor in the reduced oil consumption by the military. Factor in the greater economic benefits of investing in clean energy versus military spending. The benefits just keep coming.
Solutionary Rail is a master plan. The railroad labor unions are already on board. The blurbs in the front of the book, and Bill McKibben's introduction claim both that it is a brand new idea and that everybody's been doing it in Europe for a long time. I think that's accurate. Most of the trains we enjoy riding in other countries are electric. The idea of having such things in the United States, and of using them as a way to harness unfathomable amounts of wind and sun power, is revolutionary.
When I ride the slow, expensive, internetless train up to the U.S. capital from Virginia, it runs on diesel. Then it sits in Union Station for a long time while they switch it over to electric before continuing north. Bringing electric south as well as north would be a very welcome development, in exchange for which I'd be willing to give up two or three or a couple of thousand military bases.
WHAT: Screening of Paying the Price for Peace: The Story of S. Brian Willson, and discussion with the director Bo Boudart and with peace activist David Swanson. See http://payingthepriceforpeace.com
WHEN: 7-11 p.m., Thursday, September 29
WHERE: Commonwealth Room, Newcomb Hall, University of Virginia, Charlottesville, Va.
HOST: Students for Peace and Justice in Palestine
COSPONSORS: World Beyond War, RootsAction.org, and the Peace and Social Concerns Committee of Charlottesville Friends Meeting. (More welcome!)
COST: No one turned away. Donation appreciated: $10, or $20 to leave with a copy of the DVD. Donations pay for Bo Boudart's travel. You can also donate at http://payingthepriceforpeace.com
Please sign up on Facebook if you want to come, and please share it to spread the word: https://www.facebook.com/events/1591911061110859
Please retweet this tweet: https://twitter.com/davidcnswanson/status/776406756939399168
In Memoriam: Dr. William H. Anderson, Jr.
Dr. William "Bill" Henry Anderson,]r., 68, of Charlottesville, Virginia died peacefully on August
29,2016. He was one of two children born to the late William H. Anderson, Sr. and Mary Atkins
An'derson on March 23, 1948 in Henrico, Virginia.
Bill accepted Christ at an early age at Gravel Hill Baptist Church where he received his early
religious education. He regularly attended his home church, which was established by his ancestors
after the civil war. In the early 1990s, Gravel Hill Baptist Church started a scholarship program
named in his honor. When he moved to Charlottesville, Virginia in 1981, he joined Trinity
Episcopal Church. There he served in several roles, including singing in the choir and serving on
Bill began school just four months after the Supreme Court declared that segregation was
"separate but not equal," and therefore unconstitutional. Even so, he began first grade at the
Gravel Hill Elementary School. He attended second through seventh grades at Henrico Central
Elementary School. He attended grades eight and nine at Virginia Randolph High School. He
was in the first group ofAfrican-American students to integrate Varina High School, where he
was a member of the Beta Club and the Quill and Scroll Honor Society. He graduated from
Varina High School in 1966. He graduated from Virginia Polytechnic and State University in 1970
with a bachelor's degree in Psychology with high honors and he was also a member of Phi Eta
Sigma Honor Society. He was awarded a full fellowship during his four years at the State
University of New York at Stony Brook. After completing his internship at the Bangor Mental
Health Institute and his dissertation on Self Control and Moral Development in Children, he was
awarded the Doctor of Philosophy in Psychology. He completed post-doctoral studies in
Pediatric Psychology and taught on the faculty of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
for seven years.
After the death of his father during a family vacation in Mexico City, Bill returned to his native
state and took a position as Assistant Professor in the Institute of Clinical Psychology at the
University of Virginia. He was eventually promoted to Associate Professor and Director of
Training in the UV A Counseling Center. After the Internship Program won accreditation from
the American Psychological Association, there was a merger of the Counseling Center and Student
Mental Health to form what is now called Student Health Counseling and Psychological Services.
During his time at UVA, Bill also became a Fellow in the Hereford Residential College and
received several awards for his contribution to the University community. He retired on July 24,
2014, after completing 33 years at UVA. There were several celebrations of his 40-year career as a
psychologist. He says that the most moving was held in The Gravel Hill Community Center, the
building where he attended first grade. More than 200 relatives and close friends attended this
Bill considered his career in psychology to be a sacred vocation. He sought to integrate his
professional work with his religious faith as he served people in need. He always prayed, "Help
me to know that You are here as I try to help this person. Keep me mindful that it is You I am
serving." In his attempt to integrate his life and faith, he was active in the movement for peace and
justice. He was a life member of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored
People. For many years he served on the National Executive Committee of Episcopal Peace
Fellowship, The National Council of the Fellowship of Reconciliation, and The Peace Commission
for the Episcopal Church. He was a founding member and president of the
Charlottesville Center for Peace and Justice. In 1997, he was awarded the Martin Luther King,Jr.
Award by the Charlottesville community.
Bill was fluent in French and Spanish. He traveled to more than 15 countries around the world on
peace and singing missions. These places included Nicaragua, Honduras, Dominican Republic, the
USSR, Hungary, Lithuania, Cuba, Libya, and South Africa where he stayed with Archbishop
Desmond Tutu for several days. Music was always an important part of his life. He sang tenor in
several church and professional choral groups (some singing in this service today). He has sung
evensong in several cathedrals in Britain. These included, Christ Church Cathedral in Oxford, Ely
Cathedral (near Cambridge), Durham Cathedral (near York), St. Mary's Cathedral, Edinburgh,
Scotland, and most recently, Christ Church Cathedral, Dublin, and the Cathedral Church of St.
Canice in Kilkenny.
In all of these experiences, Bill maintained a respect and reverence for his roots in Gravel
Hill. Gravel Hill was the source of his identity. At the end of his life, he was filled with praise and
thanksgiving. "God has been so good to me. How can I keep from singing?"
Dr. Anderson is survived by a devoted sister, Jacqueline A. Lawrence of Henrico, Va.; loving
niece, Jennifer D. Lawrence-Green (Christopher) of Fredericksburg, Va.; adored great-nephew,
Anderson William Green of Fredericksburg, Va.; aunts, Virginia A. Everett, Ida M. Washington,
Lena A. Jones, Agnes E. Crawley, Lennie A. Atkins all of Henrico, Virginia; uncle, James
Washington, Sr. of Henrico, Virginia; a host of godchildren, including Diana and Andrew
DeWindt Robson, Donnell Douglass, Edgar and Alexander Teel, Adriel, Shannon Kate, Grace,
and David Barrett-Johnson; cousins, Ruth Jones Goseph), Albert Hayes (Alice), the Rev. Barbara
Nelson Games), William Atkins, Jr. (Gail), Norma Harris, Lloyd Brown, Sr., Frederick Brown
Guin), Velma Everett, Marilyn Roots (Nathaniel), Robert Jones, Jr., Steven Atkins I,James
Washington,Jr. (Dawn), Andrea Henderson (Arnold V),Janis Johnson (Leonard), John Everett
III (Mon'e), Marvin Atkins (Lynette), and Barry Adkins,Jr., and a host of other relatives and
The total acceptability of militarism extends well beyond the neoconservatives, the racists, the Republicans, the liberal humanitarian warriors, the Democrats, and the masses of political "independents" who find any talk of dismantling the U.S. military scandalous. Fredric Jameson is an otherwise leftist intellectual who's put out a book, edited by Slavoj Zizek, in which he proposes universal conscription into the military for every U.S. resident. In subsequent chapters, other purportedly leftist intellectuals critique Jameson's proposal with hardly a hint of concern at such an expansion of a machine of mass murder. Jameson adds an Epilogue in which he mentions the problem not at all.
What Jameson wants is a vision of Utopia. His book is called An American Utopia: Dual Power and the Universal Army. He wants to nationalize banks and insurance companies, seize and presumably shut down fossil fuel operations, impose draconian taxes on large corporations, abolish inheritance, create a guaranteed basic income, abolish NATO, create popular control of the media, ban rightwing propaganda, create universal Wi-Fi, make college free, pay teachers well, make healthcare free, etc.
Sounds great! Where do I sign up?
Jameson's answer is: at the Army recruiting station. To which I reply: go get yourself a different subservient order-taker willing to participate in mass murder.
Ah, but Jameson says his military won't fight any wars. Except for the wars it fights. Or something.
Utopianism is seriously much needed. But this is pathetic desperation. This is a thousand times more desperate than Ralph Nader asking the billionaires to save us. This is Clinton voters. This is Trump voters.
And this is U.S. blindness to the merits of the rest of the world. Few other countries in any way approach the militarized environmental destruction and death generated by the United States. This country lags very far behind in sustainability, peace, education, health, security, and happiness. The first step toward Utopia need not be such a harebrained scheme as a total takeover by the military. The first step should be catching up with places like Scandinavia in the realm of economics, or Costa Rica in the realm of demilitarization -- or indeed realizing full compliance with Japan's Article Nine, as mentioned in Zizek's book. (For how Scandinavia got where it is, read Viking Economics by George Lakey. It had nothing to do with forcing kids, grandparents, and peace advocates into an out of control imperial military.)
In the United States, it is the liberals in Congress who want to impose selective service on women, and who celebrate every new demographic admitted into greater status in the military. The "progressive" vision is now of slightly or radically leftist economics, side by side with a heaping platter of militarized nationalism (to the tune of $1 trillion per year) -- with the very idea of internationalism banished from consideration. The reformist view of the ever expanding American Dream is of the gradual democratization of mass murder. Bombing victims across the world may soon be able to look forward to being bombed by the first female U.S. president. Jameson's proposal is a radical advance in this same direction.
I hesitate to call attention to Jameson's book because it is so bad and this trend so insidious. But, in fact, the bits of his essay and of those critiquing it that address universal conscription, despite its centrality to Jameson's project, are few and far between. They could be contained in a small brochure. The rest of the book is a rambling assortment of observations on everything from psychoanalysis to Marxism to whatever cultural abomination Zizek just stumbled across. Much of this other material is useful or entertaining, but it stands in contrast to the apparently dim-witted acceptance of the inevitability of militarism.
Jameson is adamant that we can reject the inevitability of capitalism, and of just about anything else we see fit. "Human nature" he points out, quite rightly, does not exist. And yet, the notion that the only place where a U.S. government could ever put any serious money is the military is silently accepted for many pages and then explicitly stated as fact: "[A] civilian population -- or its government -- is unlikely to spend the tax money warfare demands on purely abstract and theoretical peacetime research."
That sounds like a description of the current U.S. government, not all governments past and future. A civilian population is unlikely as hell to accept universal permanent conscription into a military. That, not investment in peaceful industries, would be unprecedented.
Jameson, you'll notice, relies on "warfare" to motivate the power of his idea of using the military for social and political change. That makes sense, as a military is, by definition, an institution used for waging war. And yet, Jameson imagines that his military won't wage wars -- sort of -- but will for some reason go on being funded anyway -- and with a dramatic increase.
A military, Jameson maintains, is a way to compel people to mix with each other and form a community across all the usual lines of division. It's also a way to compel people to do exactly what they are ordered to do at every hour of the day and night, from what to eat to when to defecate, and to condition them to commit atrocities on command without stopping to think. That's not incidental to what a military is. Jameson hardly addresses the question of why he wants a universal military rather than, say, a universal civilian conservation corps. He describes his proposal as "the conscription of the entire population into some glorified National Guard." Could the existing National Guard be more glorified than its advertisements now depict it? It's so misleadingly glorified already that Jameson mistakenly suggests that the Guard answers only to state governments, even as Washington has sent it off to foreign wars with virtually no resistance from the states.
The United States has troops in 175 nations. Would it dramatically add to them? Expand into the remaining holdouts? Bring all the troops home? Jameson doesn't say. The United States is bombing seven nations that we know of. Would that increase or decrease? Here's all that Jameson says:
And that's it. Because the military would have more troops, it would be "incapable" of fighting wars. Can you imagine presenting that idea to the Pentagon? I would expect a response of "Yeeeeeeaaaah, sure, that's exactly what it would take to shut us down. Just give us a couple hundred million more troops and all will be well. We'll just do a bit of global tidying up, first, but there'll be peace in no time. Guaranteed."
And the "pacifists" and people with consciences would be assigned to work on weaponry? And they'd accept that? Millions of them? And the weaponry would be needed for the wars that wouldn't be happening any more?
Jameson, like many a well-meaning peace activist, would like the military to do the sort of stuff you see in National Guard ads: disaster relief, humanitarian aid. But the military does that only when and only as far as it's useful to its campaign to violently dominate the Earth. And doing disaster relief does not require total abject subservience. Participants in that kind of work don't have to be conditioned to kill and face death. They can be treated with the sort of respect that helps make them participants in a democratic-socialist utopia, rather than the sort of contempt that helps lead them to committing suicide outside a VA hospital admissions office.
Jameson praises the idea of "an essentially defensive war" which he attributes to Jaurès, and the importance of "discipline" which he attributes to Trotsky. Jameson likes the military, and he stresses that in his utopia the "universal military" would be the end-state, not a transition period. In that end-state, the military would take over everything else from education to healthcare.
Jameson comes close to acknowledging that there might be some people who would object to this on the grounds that the military industrial complex generates mass murder. He says that he is up against two fears: fear of the military and fear of any utopia. He then addresses the latter, dragging in Freud, Trotsky, Kant, and others to help him. He doesn't spare one word for the former. He later claims that the real reason people are resistant to the idea of using the military is because within the military people are compelled to associate with those from other social classes. (Oh the horror!)
But, fifty-six pages in, Jameson "reminds" the reader of something he hadn't previously touched on: "It is worth reminding the reader that the universal army here proposed is no longer the professional army responsible for any number of bloody and reactionary coups d'etat in recent times, whose ruthlessness and authoritarian or dictatorial mentality cannot but inspire horror and whose still vivid memory will certainly astonish anyone at the prospect of entrusting a state or an entire society to its control." But why is the new military nothing like the old one? What makes it different? How, for that matter, is it controlled at all, as it takes over power from the civilian government? Is it imagined as a direct democracy?
Then why don't we just imagine a direct democracy without the military, and work to achieve it, which seems far more likely to be done in a civilian context?
In Jameson's militarized future, he mentions -- again, as if we should have already known it -- that "everyone is trained in the use of weapons and nobody is allowed to possess them except in limited and carefully specified situations." Such as in wars? Check out this passage from Zizek's "critique" of Jameson:
Did you catch that? Zizek claims this army will fight no wars. Then he wonders exactly how it will fight its wars. And while the U.S. military has troops and bombing campaigns underway in seven countries, and "special" forces fighting in dozens more, Zizek is worried that there might be a war someday.
And would that war be driven by weapons sales? By military provocation? By militarized culture? By hostile "diplomacy" grounded in imperialistic militarism? No, it couldn't possibly be. For one thing, none of the words involved are as fancy as "multicentric." Surely the problem -- albeit a minor and tangential one -- is that the multicentric nature of the world may start a war soon. Zizek goes on to state that, at a public event, Jameson has envisioned the means of creating his universal army in strictly Shock Doctrine terms, as an opportunistic response to a disaster or upheaval.
I agree with Jameson only on the premise with which he begins his hunt for a utopia, namely that the usual strategies are sterile or dead. But that's no reason to invent a guaranteed catastrophe and seek to impose it by the most antidemocratic means, especially when numerous other nations are already pointing the way toward a better world. The way to a progressive economic future in which the rich are taxed and the poor can prosper can only come through redirecting the unfathomable funds that are being dumped into war preparations. That Republicans and Democrats universally ignore that is no reason for Jameson to join them.
Charlottesville is a diverse, enlightened, and progressive college town in Virginia with its public spaces dominated by war memorials, in particular memorials to Confederate soldiers not from Charlottesville who represent a five-year moment in the centuries of this place's history, as viewed by one wealthy white male racist donor at another moment in the 1920s. As the Black Lives Matter movement took off nationally this year, many Charlottesville residents demanded that imposing monuments to Robert E. Lee and Stonewall Jackson be removed from their places of prominence.
The city of Charlottesville has set up a commission on race, memorials, and public spaces. I've attended portions of two meetings and am genuinely impressed by the open, civil, and democratic process underway to find solutions and possibly consensus. The process has already been educational for me and for other members of the public and of the commission. Some white residents have mentioned realizing for the first time that African Americans do not see their history in Charlottesville's public memorials.
I am not African American, but I certainly feel the same way. I'm disgusted by the monuments to those who participated in land theft and genocide against Native Americans, by the monument to the war on Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia that killed some six million people who go unmentioned on the monument, and by the Lee, Jackson, and generic Confederate soldier statues. The possibility of seeing people and movements and causes I actually care about memorialized in public space is exhilarating and not previously hoped for.
Missing from Charlottesville's public spaces now is pretty much the entire rest of its history. Needed are educational signs, memorials, and art works that tell a million missing stories. I don't think a year should go by in which the city does not introduce a new public creation downtown as well as one in a particular neighborhood. Great public art would improve the community and even perhaps its tourism. The ideas percolating in the commission's meetings are numerous and wonderful. Participants have produced lists of hundreds of ideas.
I'd love to see the story of Native American life here pre-Charlottesville recognized, and some mention somewhere perhaps of who Charlottesville's namesake Queen Charlotte was and what role her African ancestry may have played in her absence heretofore. I think there is a place for the stories of injustice: slavery, segregation, eugenics, war, and the misguided destruction of neighborhoods. But I think we also need the stories of struggle, the civil rights work, the women's rights movement, environmentalism, worker's rights, integration, education, arts, sports, and peace as a counterpoint to all the glorifying of war.
There are countless individuals to be remembered and taught about. A memorial to Julian Bond who taught for years at the University of Virginia is a popular idea that I support -- his work for both civil rights and peace should be recognized. And as long as we're going to have a tree named for Banastre Tarleton who led efforts in Parliament to keep the slave trade going, we should have Virginia's first monument to Olaudah Equiano who was probably once a slave in Virginia and whose work in England was critical to ending the slave trade and slavery in the British empire. I also think many public markings of past events need not focus on a single individual.
There is a contingent in Charlottesville for removing Confederate war monuments, and a contingent for keeping them. There appears to be consensus around adding at least a few of the many things that are missing. Personally I've been proposing and organizing support for a peace memorial and a memorial to Charlottesville's sister cities. The two could be combined in a peace pole bearing the words "May peace prevail on earth" on each side in the languages of each sister city, as well as English and other languages most spoken in Charlottesville. Charlottesville's city council has repeatedly taken stands for peace, but nothing in public space makes note of that.
I also think Charlottesville's public space could be improved if instead of its next purchase of dozens of U.S. flags it invests in a Charlottesville flag of a design that the public supports.
The public meetings of the commission thus far have taught me things about segregation in Charlottesville that I did not know. I hope this process can somehow be continued indefinitely. But a crucial question is what the commission will end up proposing to the city council next month, and what the city council will do with that proposal.
My recommendation is that the public nature of the brainstorming process be continued and expanded in the decision-making process, that the commission create a proposal with the idea that it will receive strong support in a public referendum, and that it in fact go to a public referendum.
Whether the city council or the public decides, however, a major question will be funding. If the question goes to the public, I think the public ought to be given the option of, say, creating 50 new memorials and opting out of one new highway interchange in order to cover the cost. The public ought not to be presented with a costly proposal and no say over the rest of a budget that I suspect in great measure lacks public support.
Of course if unwanted monuments are removed, one option would be to sell them to the highest bidder willing to remove them from public space and to display them in a private space accessible in some manner to the public. A museum of Confederate statues to which one can buy a ticket would be a far different public statement from Confederate statues dominating downtown parks.
It's tempting to look for private funding for new public creations, rather than foregoing an intersection or taxing the wealthiest residents, but such funding will inevitably corrupt the decision making process, and that's where the giant old racist soldiers on horses came from in the first place.
John Clem of Pax Christi will present petition to Blue Ribbon Commission on Race, Memorials, and Public Spaces tonight.
Want to share your thoughts with this commission? You can send an email to: RMSfeedback@charlottesville.org or call, 434-970-3101.
Now endorsed by RootsAction.org, WorldBeyondWar.org, Pax Christi Charlottesville, Amnesty International Charlottesville, and Charlottesville Center for Peace and Justice.
Now signed by 168 people. http://bit.ly/cvillepeacepole
Put a Peace Pole in Charlottesville!
This project is endorsed by RootsAction.org, WorldBeyondWar.org, Pax Christi Charlottesville, Amnesty International Charlottesville, and Charlottesville Center for Peace and Justice.
Please attend the next meeting of the Blue Ribbon Commission on Race, Memorials, and Public Spaces, August 11, 6-8 p.m., City Hall Basement Conference Room.
Write or phone the Blue Ribbon Commission directly with your own thoughts on why there should be a memorial to peace in Charlottesville.