Happy St. Patrick’s Day! From Hardy Drew and the Nancy Boys

Happy St. Patrick’s Day! In 2008, just before the historic U.S. elections, I was in Ireland. The Irish were crazy for “Barack O’Bama,” including the craze that developed around this song by Hardy Drew and the Nancy Boys. (To read more about that Irish drive through Obama’s ancestral home in County Offaly, go here.) So enjoy the original 2008 video of “There’s No One as Irish as Barack O’Bama.” There have been lots of variations since this one.

And here’s a little history on why everyone should be Irish on St. Patrick’s Day:

St. Patrick’s Day had occasionally been a forum for social protest prior to the famine, but strong emotions aroused by the effects of starvation and mass emigration, together with the crystallization of nationalist sentiment, engendered a situation where 17 March became a regular focus for claims about a separatist Irish identity. On St Patrick’s Day, 1846, two ships, the Thatis and the Borneo, harbored in Limerick, illegally hoisted the green flag of Ireland in ‘honor of the national festival.’ The flags were quickly removed on orders of the British war steamer, the Pinto, but not before ‘the feelings of the multittude’ watching and cheering the flag from the harbour wall, ‘were desperately excited.’ This demonstration, while illegal, was ultimately an unimportant affair but it did demonstrate how nationalist feelings could find a voice on 17 March.

During the 1850s, the expression of such sentiments become far more vocal, and, for the British authorities in Ireland, increasingly threatening. This related, largely, to the vexed issue of land ownership in Ireland. In the wake of the famine, the Tenant Right Movement emerged to champion the cause of the tenant and to campaign against high rents, insecure tenure of land and summary eviction. The movement held its key public meetings on St. Patrick’s Day: it was an occasion on which many people were granted a holiday by their employers in honor of the day’s religious significance, so were free to attend. On St Patrick’s Day in 1859 the Tenant Right Movement staged mass meetings in Donhill, County Tipperary and Castlecomber, County Kilkenny, which attracted crowds of some 30,000 and 20,000 people respectively.”– Mike Cronin and Daryl Adair (from The Wearing of the Green: A History of St. Patrick’s Day)

 

E. Ethelbert Miller: The Prisoner, The Pope, and the President

emillerNewsphotoD.C. treasure and literary activist Ethelbert Miller invites America inside prison to see what we are paying for. Keep your eye on the images of a pope and a president who go “inside.” Below is an excerpt from Miller’s short essay:

If one believes Babylon is falling there is then a tendency to stand around and do nothing.

We cannot wait for a celebrity prisoner like Martha Stewart to make us want to talk about prisons. We can’t place all our attention or focus on the “outdoors” and police brutality. Nor can we talk about unjust laws and the black nets that trap and scar the sufferers. Prison is hell and the Devil lives elsewhere.

Too many sufferers coming out prison are going to show the signs of mental illness. A caged human being can slowly grow fur on a daily basis.

In September when the Pope goes into a U.S. prison the cameras will follow. One wonders how the “indoor” black men who are Muslims will receive him. How will the media respond if the Pope decides to wash the feet of black men? Might this be a reversal of the Help?

Meanwhile, our Obama will visit a prison in Oklahoma. Look for him to be surrounded by a number of white inmates. I was hoping the Brother from the White House was going to a prison in Maryland to talk to people from Maryland and DC. I wanted him to sit down in the middle of a circle of black man and talk about fatherhood, work, and reflect on the blackness of the times.–E. Ethelbert Miller

Read Ethelbert Miller’s complete essay at E-Notes.

Video: Obama’s Selma Speech and the Poets

(30 minutes) President Obama delivers remarks from the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, Alabama, marking the 50th anniversary of the marches from Selma to Montgomery. Rumor has it that Obama wrote most of this speech himself. We glimpse the best of Obama and the best of the American story. (Read the transcript here.)

Who was Edmund Pettus? See here. Learn why this bridge in Selma is part of a long contest of wills in America.

The president quotes Langston Hughes, Emerson, and Walt Whitman, so I’ve included the sources for those quotes below:

“We build our temples for tomorrow, strong as we know how, and we stand on top of the mountain, free within ourselves.” From the 1926 essay “The Negro Artist and the Racial Mountain” by Langston Hughes

“Not gold but only men can make / A people great and strong;/ Men who for truth and honor’s sake / Stand fast and suffer long.” From the poem “A Nation’s Strength” by William Ralph Emerson (not Ralph Waldo Emerson)

“The health of the eye seems to demand a horizon. We are never tired, so long as we can see far enough.” From Nature by Ralph Waldo Emerson

“Do I contradict myself? / Very well then I contradict myself, / (I am large, I contain multitudes.)” From Song of Myself by Walt Whitman

Keystone XL: Everyday Without the KXL Is A Victory for Justice

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Update from Bill McKibben on latest Keystone announcement from President Obama:

Today’s Keystone XL news from DC is both important and murky. In brief, the Obama administration announced yet another delay in their decision about the pipeline, meaning it may be past the midterm elections before a final call is made.

Three things strike me:

  1. In pipeline terms it’s a win. Every day we delay a decision is a day when 830,000 barrels of oil stays safely in the ground. Together we’ve kept them at bay for three years now, and will continue to until perhaps the beginning of next year it seems.
  2. In climate terms, it’s a disappointment. Since the State Department can’t delay floods and droughts and El Ninos, we actually need President Obama providing climate leadership. If he’d just follow the science and reject the stupid pipeline he’d finally send a much-needed signal to the rest of the planet that he’s getting serious.
  3. In movement terms, it’s a sweet reminder that when we stand up we win. Three years ago this pipeline was a done deal, and thanks to you it’s come steadily undone. We can’t match Exxon or the Koch Bros with money; we can and have matched them with passion, spirit, creativity, and sacrifice.

So the Keystone fight goes on — we hope many of you will be in DC next weekend for Reject and Protect, joining the Cowboy Indian Alliance to say “hell no” to the pipeline.The Alliance members coming to DC next week are some of the strongest leaders in this fight.

If you can’t be there yourself, can you show your support for the Cowboy Indian Alliance by telling Pres. Obama and Sec. Kerry to use this delay to meet with them? act.350.org/sign/cowboy-indian-alliance/

The decision to delay was made — supposedly — account for the impact of a possible new pipeline route in Nebraska. As it happens, next week Nebraskans and members of US Tribes and Canadian First Nations will be in Washington — it seems to me that it would be prudent for the President and Sec. Kerry to make plans to meet with the Cowboy Indian Alliance at their encampment and get their story of what this pipeline would mean on the ground.

The climate fight can’t be delayed. We need to keep building the movement, and we need to keep putting heat on leaders like President Obama till we win not delay but action. Today’s DC decision just reinforces the message that if we stand together we will make a decisive difference — and there is an important opportunity on the horizon to do that in the biggest way yet, to be announced soon.

The last thing to say is thank you. You are the strength in this movement, and together we will make even more amazing things possible.

Forward,

Bill McKibben for 350.org

Sources: “Keystone Decision to be Delayed” USA Today, April 18 2014

 

Bill McKibben: Will Obama Block the KXL or Keep Bending?

Steve Liptay_McKibbenBill McKibben, recent winner of the Gandhi Peace Award, posted an update on the Keystone XL fight. It’s a good overview of where we are now in this massive movement to prevent the oil industry from taking down the planet. Here’s McKibben’s recent article in Grist:

… [Obama’s] administration has OKed oil drilling in the dangerous waters of the Arctic and has emerged as the biggest backer of fracking. Even though he boasts about marginal U.S. cuts in carbon emissions, his green light to fracking means that he’s probably given more of a boost to releases of methane — another dangerous greenhouse gas — than any man in history. And it’s not just the environment. At this point, given what we know about everything from drone warfare to NSA surveillance, the dream of a progressive Obama has, like so many dreams, faded away.

The president has a handy excuse, of course: a truly terrible Congress. And too often — with the noble exception of those who have been fighting for gay rights and immigration reform — he’s had little challenge from progressives. But in the case of Keystone, neither of those caveats apply: He gets to make the decision all by himself with no need to ask John Boehner for a thing, and people across the country have made a sustained din about it. Americans have sent record numbers of emails to senators and a record number of comments to the State Department officials who oversee a “review” of the pipeline’s environmental feasibility; more have gone to jail over this issue than any in decades. Yet month after month, there’s no presidential decision.

There are days, in fact, when it’s hard to muster much fire for the fight (though whenever I find my enthusiasm flagging, I think of the indigenous communities that have to live amid the Mordor that is now northern Alberta). The president, after all, has already allowed the construction of the southern half of the Keystone pipeline, letting Transcanada take land across Texas and Oklahoma for its project, and setting up the beleaguered communities of Port Arthur, Texas, for yet more fumes from refineries.

Continue reading “Bill McKibben: Will Obama Block the KXL or Keep Bending?”

What President Obama’s Climate Talk Means to Faithy Millennials

obama greenpeaceDan DiLeo wrote an excellent analysis in the Millennial Journal about President Obama’s June 25 climate address. (Dan works for the Catholic Coalition on Climate Change.)

There are so many ways to unpack this very important speech that it’s hard to choose one angle in — but this is a start in listening to young people of faith forging their future.

Here’s an excerpt from DiLeo’s essay President Obama on Climate Change:

On Tuesday, June 25, 2013, President Obama unveiled the most ambitious plan to date by any U.S. President to address the increasingly urgent climate crisis. Although the speech was addressed to both the nation and the world, the address is particularly relevant for millennial Catholics. This is first due to the fact that he unveiled his plan to young people at Georgetown University and spoke directly to “your generation.” Additionally, the Catholic Church has explicitly and repeatedly advocated for public policies to address the climate crisis. Finally he mentioned two issues that have found resonance on Catholic college campuses and with millennials: the Keystone XL Pipeline and divestment from carbon-intensive industries.

The President began by recounting the scientific facts of climate change: “scientists ha[ve] known since the 1800s that greenhouse gases like carbon dioxide trap heat, and that burning fossil fuels release those gases into the air [. . .] The overwhelming judgment of science — of chemistry and physics and millions of measurements — has put all [of the uncertainty around climate science] to rest. Ninety-seven percent of scientists, including, by the way, some who originally disputed the data, have now put that to rest. They’ve acknowledged the planet is warming and human activity is contributing to it.”

Obama Throws Down Climate Gauntlet

gauntletPresident Obama today gave a speech that marks a turning point in U.S. energy policy and the foundation for comprehensive climate change policy. He also, unexpectedly, addressed directly the question of the Keystone XL pipeline.

“… We can’t just drill our way out of the energy and climate challenge that we face. That’s not possible. I put forward and passed an “all of the above” energy strategy, but that strategy can’t just be about producing more oil.

By the way it, it certainly must be about more than just building one pipeline. Now, I know there’s been for example a lot of controversy surrounding the proposal to build the pipeline, the Keystone pipeline, that would carry oil from Canadian tar sands down to refineries in the Gulf. And the State department is going through the final stages of evaluating the proposal, that’s how it’s always been done.

But I do want to be clear, allowing the Keystone pipeline to be built requires a finding that doing so would be in our nation’s interest. And our national interest will be served only if this project does not significantly exacerbate the problem of carbon pollution. The net effects of the pipeline’s impacts on our climate will be absolutely critical to determining whether this project is allowed to go forward. …”–President Obama, during climate address today at Georgetown University in Washington, D.C.

Sierra Club executive director Michael Brune said in The Washington Post, “The president realizes that you can’t combat climate change without a direct confrontation with the fossil fuel industry. What has us most encouraged by the president’s speech is he is lacing up his gloves and getting ready for that fight.”

“Not only is this by far the most comprehensive and ambitious administrative plan proposed by any president, it’s also common sense and very popular with the public,” said Gene Karpinski, president of the League of Conservation Voters.

President Obama’s comments on the Keystone XL are not substantially different from what he has said in the past. They key quote is: “Our national interest will be served only if this project does not significantly exacerbate the problem of carbon pollution. The net effects of the pipeline’s impacts on our climate will be absolutely critical to determining whether this project is allowed to go forward.”

So far, the Environmental Protection Agency has determined that the net effects of the pipeline’s impact will significantly increase carbon pollution. The State Departments reports have indicated that there will be no net increase (using data provided to them by TransCanada, which presumably has a vested interest in the data). One crucial issue will be naming the new head of the EPA. Will a new director mean a different outcome on the Keystone climate impact?

But it is startling that President Obama brought Keystone up at all, when he wasn’t expected to. As I say, everyday without the Keystone is another day of victory.

It’s important to keep all of this in perspective. The U.S. economy must become largely fossil-fuel independent by 2050. All of the things President Obama announced are steps in that direction. Most are modest steps. Some might turn out to be large steps.

But everything we do from now on out must pass the climate litmus test: Does this decision take us closer to fossil-fuel independence? If yes, okay. If no, then don’t do it–and don’t waste time arguing about it. For Christians this kind of conversion is familiar. We keep our eyes on the prize. When we fall down, we get back up through God’s grace. We can be the ones to model Spirit-powered change for our nation and our world.–Rose Mare Berger

No To Keystone XL: Playing Chicken With Climate Change, We All Lose

Michael Klare’s written another good summary of where we are with the Keystone XL pipeline and why it’s so important to stop it.

If you can’t join the thousands for Forward on Climate on the National Mall on Sunday, 17 February, please pray that President Obama, new Secretary of State John Kerry, Canadian foreign minister John Baird, and TransCanada CEO Russ Girling will find a way out of this predicament. It’s gone way past access to oil or American jobs.

Starting today, every decision we make has to move us toward a low-carbon future. Moving ahead with the Keystone XL takes us 180 degrees in the wrong direction. And pray for all those who are putting their bodies on the line to stop construction along the Keystone XL route–facing injury,jail, fines, and loss of homes and land–for our sake.

You can send a note to President Obama asking him not to approve the Keystone XL here.

Michael T. Klare writes:

Presidential decisions often turn out to be far less significant than imagined, but every now and then what a president decides actually determines how the world turns. Such is the case with the Keystone XL pipeline, which, if built, is slated to bring some of the “dirtiest,” carbon-rich oil on the planet from Alberta, Canada, to refineries on the U.S. Gulf Coast. In the near future, President Obama is expected to give its construction a definitive thumbs up or thumbs down, and the decision he makes could prove far more important than anyone imagines. It could determine the fate of the Canadian tar-sands industry and, with it, the future well-being of the planet. If that sounds overly dramatic, let me explain. …

Continue reading “No To Keystone XL: Playing Chicken With Climate Change, We All Lose”

Guns and Greenhouse Gases: The Lord said ‘Tell the People to Get Going!’

“Then the LORD said to Moses, “Why are you crying out to me? Tell the people to get moving!”–Exodus 14:15

Sometimes you spend years preparing for change, then when it arrives you are too tired to get moving.

I’m trying not to let this happen to me.

For inexplicable reasons, the horrific shootings at Newtown and Superstorm Sandy have shifted something in the American soul. After all these years of advocating for action, there is finally forward movement on climate change and sane gun regulations. Though I for one am weary and tired, I want to encourage you (and myself) to do what we can to meet this moment.

1. On greenhouse gases and climate change–If you’ve never spoken out about climate change, do it now. Write to your Congressional representatives and ecclesial leaders asking them for strong, clear leadership to reverse of global warming and mitigate its associated social disruptions. President Obama raised it in his inaugural address. There seems to be movement in Washington to address it–finally. While in most cases the best solutions to a problem are those closest to the ground, this is not the case with climate change and climate disruption. It will only be adequately addressed with federal leadership. So we’ve got to push. Tell Barack Obama that you support him to lead in the fight against climate change, beginning with the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline.

2. On sane gun laws–After the shootings at Sandy Hook, Americans rose up to demand two things: universal background checks and a ban on assault weapons. President Obama’s 23 planned executive actions on weaponry is moving us forward on universal background checks.

The second piece, a ban on assault weapons, has now been introduced to Congress by Sen. Dianne Feinstein. I’ve read the whole bill. It’s excellent legislation. It deals directly with many of the loopholes in the previous assault weapons ban that sundowned in 2004. Now it is our job to build support for it. Write to your Congressional representatives (here’s the link to the Brady Campaign support letter) and ecclesial leaders asking them for strong, clear, unequivocal support for Sen. Feinstein’s “Assault Weapons Ban of 2013.”

As we move toward Ash Wednesday and Lent, I hope that part of our commitment can be to take meaningful action in these two areas at least … remembering when the Lord said to Moses “Stop whining to me! Tell the people to get moving!”

Learn More:

Watch the video of the climate change portion of President Obama’s inaugural address.

Learn more about the movement to address global warming with the Forward on Climate campaign.

President Obama Signs 23 Planned Executive Actions on Guns

Summary of the Assault Weapons Ban of 2013

Congressional text of the Assault Weapons Ban of 2013

The Brady Campaign Support Letter for Sen. Feinstein’s Legislation

Feb. 17 (It’s a Sunday. It’s a Holiday. It’s the Largest Climate Change Event in U.S. History.)

In the fall of 2011, during two weeks of public demonstrations at the White House in Washington, D.C., 1,252 Americans ended up in jail, the largest and most sustained protest of its kind in decades. They had one purpose: that President Obama reject the Keystone XL pipeline. (See #NOKXL)

Why? Not because they hate oil companies. Not because they don’t want people to have good construction jobs. For one reason only: It will push us off the climate change cliff, from which there is no manageable or inexpensive way back.

During 2012 the fight to stop the Keystone XL went local. Everywhere along its route in both Canada and the U.S., citizens have been praying, blockading, chaining themselves to earth-moving equipment, sitting in trees, fasting. In other words, doing everything they can think of along the route to stop the pipeline. (See Tar Sands Blockade.)

Now it’s 2013. Hurricane Sandy provided a tipping point in the American conscience on just how disruptive climate change is going to be. It’s not just a climate disruption; it’s a climate eruption.

Now is the time to come back to Washington, D.C.

There will be at least 15,000 people on the National Mall on February 17, 2013, to demand that the President take clear and effective leadership to address climate change and start by nixing the Keystone pipeline project. If we take him at his word from his second inaugural address, then he’s willing … if there is enough public pressure.

I invite you to turn that 15,000 into 15,000 + 1. Find out more.

[If you still have questions about whether the Keystone XL pipeline is a worthy target or if opening up bitumen tar reserves in Alberta is any different than any other kind of oil drilling, the read the most recent article from Scientific American “How Much Will Tar Sands Oil Add to Global Warming?”. It’ll set you straight and answer all your questions in detail.]