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Archive for March, 2009

Roy Innis Cal Beisner Barun Mitra Ralph Conner

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Roy Innis believes affordable energy is a civil rights issue.

Innis brings some legitimacy to that claim. For the past 40 years, he’s been the national chairman of the Congress of Racial Equality, or CORE, one of the oldest civil rights organizations in the country. For decades he’s fought for social and political reform for black people in America, including the historic battles of the 1960s.

Innis, 74, now believes cheap energy is the “third leg” of those civil rights goals from decades ago, or “economic civil rights.” He’s advocating for a national energy policy geared toward increasing domestic supplies of traditional fossil fuels with the goal of lowering the price of gasoline, electricity and heat.

Higher energy costs disproportionately harm low-income and minority households, Innis says, which is why he believes that without cheap energy those households can’t take advantage of constitutionally protected social and political reforms enacted decades ago.

“This is civil rights that applies not only to black people, not only to Hispanic people, but it applies to the majority of Americans,” Innis said at the annual luncheon of the Resource Development Council of Alaska on June 4, where he was the keynote speaker. “This is the civil rights for everybody.”

It’s an uncommon stance. The financial debates around increased drilling usually concern the bottom lines of corporations or the stock packages of executives. “Green collar” economy groups and environmental investment firms predict an economy based on low cost sustainable energy and “green collar jobs,” which Innis supports, but doesn’t believe is currently realistic.

The “moral high ground”

Innis first presented his idea in a new book called “Energy Keepers-Energy Killers: The New Civil Rights Battle,” published this year by Merril Press in Bellevue, Wash.

In less than 100 pages, Innis lays out a history of America where the “moral high ground” used to propel the civil rights movement in the 1960s transitioned into early efforts in the 1970s and 1980s to expose air and water pollution.

Now he believes the environmental movement has become radicalized and has lost touch with average Americans by opposing traditional fossil fuel development in Alaska and across the country, which he says leads to affordable energy and jobs.

“Not all of them are bad people, but they’re wrong,” Innis said about environmentalists to applause at the Resource Development Council luncheon.

Innis does not believe humans are responsible for climate change. While he likes the prospects of renewable energy, he doesn’t believe the technologies are sophisticated enough to replace fossil fuels “any time soon” without unintended consequences.

He wants to allow drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge and the Outer Continental Shelf of Alaska, California and Florida. He wants to increase the production of coal, in addition to oil and natural gas.

Innis says these beliefs represent the new “moral high ground.”

Unlikely ally

This argument has led Innis to become an unlikely ally of the development community.

In March, he spoke at the International Conference on Climate Change in New York, an event sponsored by the conservative think tank The Heartland Institute and designed to challenge popular thoughts and science on warming trends and human involvement in global climate change.

Innis gained local attention from his speech when he threatened to sue the Bush Administration if it listed the polar bear as threatened under the Endangered Species Act. The U.S. Department of the Interior made that listing in May and Innis said CORE is now deciding whether to file its own suit or support an existing suit.

Innis recently brought his message north, speaking on local talk radio programs and to a packed crowd at the annual luncheon of the Resource Development Council.

The alliance between the resource development community and an activist for black causes isn’t so strange, according to John Shively, past president of the Resource Development Council.

During the early 1960s, Shively and Innis both worked for CORE and even went to jail together during a protest in Washington, D.C.

“Although Roy and I since that time have traveled vastly different paths, we have come, basically, to the same conclusion about what tying up resources does not only to states like Alaska, but particularly, of course, to people,” Shively said.

New grass roots efforts

Innis believes a new grass roots effort, like those of the 1960s, is necessary to push an agenda of increased domestic supply and lower cost energy.

“When I speak of the new civil rights movement I’m talking about a rekindling of the premise of the civil rights movement,” Innis said.

He plans to take his message across the country, particularly the West, hoping to start grassroots efforts aimed at increasing domestic production of fossil fuels. He asked the audience at the Resource Development Council to “pull together and form alliances to demand economic civil rights for the majority of us.”

In his book he describes an “Energy Keepers Network,” a coalition of pro-development groups working for lower costs through increased supplies. He says he’s already started community groups in Colorado and Utah and is talking to groups here in Alaska.

Some challenge drilling-price connections

Increasing domestic supplies of energy is the forefront of debates over the rising cost of gasoline, fuel oil and natural gas.

Prices go down when supplies outpace demand. That’s about as basic as economics gets. But the global nature of oil complicates the matter, because every barrel of oil produced in America can be offset by a barrel not produced abroad.

The U.S. Energy Information Administration recently presented that scenario as one reason why opening ANWR might help domestic energy security and tip the balance of trade in favor of the U.S., but probably wouldn’t lower prices.

That’s why some challenge domestic production for reasons other than environmental.

Speaking before the House Committee on Foreign Relations on May 22, Anne Korin, co-director of the energy think tank The Institute for the Analysis of Global Security, said the high demand for energy in America means the country will never produce all of its supply, and therefore increasing domestic supplies doesn’t address the “strategic value” of fossil fuels and oil in particular.

Those traditional fossil fuels accounted for more than 85 percent of the energy consumption in the United States through the first two months of the year, the most recent figures available from the EIA.

—Eric Lidji

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Newly-minted U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder Suggested That Americans Need To Recognize The Contributions of Black Americans All Year Long. So CORE-Chicago Has Launched: Celebrate Black History All Year Long 2009:

Black history is extremely important because it is American history. Given this, it is in some ways sad that there is a need for a black history month. Though we are all enlarged by our study and knowledge of the roles played by blacks in American history, and though there is a crying need for all of us to know and acknowledge the contributions of black America, a black history month is a testament to the problem that has afflicted blacks throughout our stay in this country. Black history is given a separate, and clearly not equal, treatment by our society in general and by our educational institutions in particular. As a former American history major I am struck by the fact that such a major part of our national story has been divorced from the whole. In law, culture, science, athletics, industry and other fields, knowledge of the roles played by blacks is critical to an understanding of the American experiment. For too long we have been too willing to segregate the study of black history. There is clearly a need at present for a device that focuses the attention of the country on the study of the history of its black citizens. But we must endeavor to integrate black history into our culture and into our curriculums in ways in which it has never occurred before so that the study of black history, and a recognition of the contributions of black Americans, become commonplace. Until that time, Black History Month must remain an important, vital concept. But we have to recognize that until black history is included in the standard curriculum in our schools and becomes a regular part of all our lives, it will be viewed as a novelty, relatively unimportant and not as weighty as so called “real” American history.

Complete Remarks as Prepared for Delivery by Attorney General Eric Holder at the Department of Justice African American History Month Program

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Every year, in February, we attempt to recognize and to appreciate black history. It is a worthwhile endeavor for the contributions of African Americans to this great nation are numerous and significant. Even as we fight a war against terrorism, deal with the reality of electing an African American as our President for the first time and deal with the other significant issues of the day, the need to confront our racial past, and our racial present, and to understand the history of African people in this country, endures. One cannot truly understand America without understanding the historical experience of black people in this nation. Simply put, to get to the heart of this country one must examine its racial soul.

Though this nation has proudly thought of itself as an ethnic melting pot, in things racial we have always been and continue to be, in too many ways, essentially a nation of cowards.

Though race related issues continue to occupy a significant portion of our political discussion, and though there remain many unresolved racial issues in this nation, we, average Americans, simply do not talk enough with each other about race. It is an issue we have never been at ease with and given our nation’s history this is in some ways understandable. And yet, if we are to make progress in this area we must feel comfortable enough with one another, and tolerant enough of each other, to have frank conversations about the racial matters that continue to divide us. But we must do more- and we in this room bear a special responsibility. Through its work and through its example this Department of Justice, as long as I am here, must – and will – lead the nation to the “new birth of freedom” so long ago promised by our greatest President. This is our duty and our solemn obligation.

We commemorated five years ago, the 50th anniversary of the landmark Brown v. Board of Education decision. And though the world in which we now live is fundamentally different than that which existed then, this nation has still not come to grips with its racial past nor has it been willing to contemplate, in a truly meaningful way, the diverse future it is fated to have. To our detriment, this is typical of the way in which this nation deals with issues of race. And so I would suggest that we use February of every year to not only commemorate black history but also to foster a period of dialogue among the races. This is admittedly an artificial device to generate discussion that should come more naturally, but our history is such that we must find ways to force ourselves to confront that which we have become expert at avoiding.

As a nation we have done a pretty good job in melding the races in the workplace. We work with one another, lunch together and, when the event is at the workplace during work hours or shortly thereafter, we socialize with one another fairly well, irrespective of race. And yet even this interaction operates within certain limitations. We know, by “American instinct” and by learned behavior, that certain subjects are off limits and that to explore them risks, at best embarrassment, and, at worst, the questioning of one’s character. And outside the workplace the situation is even more bleak in that there is almost no significant interaction between us. On Saturdays and Sundays America in the year 2009 does not, in some ways, differ significantly from the country that existed some fifty years ago. This is truly sad. Given all that we as a nation went through during the civil rights struggle it is hard for me to accept that the result of those efforts was to create an America that is more prosperous, more positively race conscious and yet is voluntarily socially segregated.

As a nation we should use Black History month as a means to deal with this continuing problem. By creating what will admittedly be, at first, artificial opportunities to engage one another we can hasten the day when the dream of individual, character based, acceptance can actually be realized. To respect one another we must have a basic understanding of one another. And so we should use events such as this to not only learn more about the facts of black history but also to learn more about each other. This will be, at first, a process that is both awkward and painful but the rewards are potentially great. The alternative is to allow to continue the polite, restrained mixing that now passes as meaningful interaction but that accomplishes little. Imagine if you will situations where people- regardless of their skin color- could confront racial issues freely and without fear. The potential of this country, that is becoming increasingly diverse, would be greatly enhanced. I fear however, that we are taking steps that, rather than advancing us as a nation are actually dividing us even further. We still speak too much of “them” and not “us”. There can, for instance, be very legitimate debate about the question of affirmative action. This debate can, and should, be nuanced, principled and spirited. But the conversation that we now engage in as a nation on this and other racial subjects is too often simplistic and left to those on the extremes who are not hesitant to use these issues to advance nothing more than their own, narrow self interest. Our history has demonstrated that the vast majority of Americans are uncomfortable with, and would like to not have to deal with, racial matters and that is why those, black or white, elected or self-appointed, who promise relief in easy, quick solutions, no matter how divisive, are embraced. We are then free to retreat to our race protected cocoons where much is comfortable and where progress is not really made. If we allow this attitude to persist in the face of the most significant demographic changes that this nation has ever confronted- and remember, there will be no majority race in America in about fifty years- the coming diversity that could be such a powerful, positive force will, instead, become a reason for stagnation and polarization. We cannot allow this to happen and one way to prevent such an unwelcome outcome is to engage one another more routinely- and to do so now.

As I indicated before, the artificial device that is Black History month is a perfect vehicle for the beginnings of such a dialogue. And so I urge all of you to use the opportunity of this month to talk with your friends and co-workers on the other side of the divide about racial matters. In this way we can hasten the day when we truly become one America.

It is also clear that if we are to better understand one another the study of black history is essential because the history of black America and the history of this nation are inextricably tied to each other. It is for this reason that the study of black history is important to everyone- black or white. For example, the history of the United States in the nineteenth century revolves around a resolution of the question of how America was going to deal with its black inhabitants. The great debates of that era and the war that was ultimately fought are all centered around the issue of, initially, slavery and then the reconstruction of the vanquished region. A dominant domestic issue throughout the twentieth century was, again, America’s treatment of its black citizens. The civil rights movement of the 1950’s and 1960’s changed America in truly fundamental ways. Americans of all colors were forced to examine basic beliefs and long held views. Even so, most people, who are not conversant with history, still do not really comprehend the way in which that movement transformed America. In racial terms the country that existed before the civil rights struggle is almost unrecognizable to us today. Separate public facilities, separate entrances, poll taxes, legal discrimination, forced labor, in essence an American apartheid, all were part of an America that the movement destroyed. To attend her state’s taxpayer supported college in 1963 my late sister in law had to be escorted to class by United States Marshals and past the state’s governor, George Wallace. That frightening reality seems almost unthinkable to us now. The civil rights movement made America, if not perfect, better.

In addition, the other major social movements of the latter half of the twentieth century- feminism, the nation’s treatment of other minority groups, even the anti-war effort- were all tied in some way to the spirit that was set free by the quest for African American equality. Those other movements may have occurred in the absence of the civil rights struggle but the fight for black equality came first and helped to shape the way in which other groups of people came to think of themselves and to raise their desire for equal treatment. Further, many of the tactics that were used by these other groups were developed in the civil rights movement.

And today the link between the black experience and this country is still evident. While the problems that continue to afflict the black community may be more severe, they are an indication of where the rest of the nation may be if corrective measures are not taken. Our inner cities are still too conversant with crime but the level of fear generated by that crime, now found in once quiet, and now electronically padlocked suburbs is alarming and further demonstrates that our past, present and future are linked. It is not safe for this nation to assume that the unaddressed social problems in the poorest parts of our country can be isolated and will not ultimately affect the larger society.

Black history is extremely important because it is American history. Given this, it is in some ways sad that there is a need for a black history month. Though we are all enlarged by our study and knowledge of the roles played by blacks in American history, and though there is a crying need for all of us to know and acknowledge the contributions of black America, a black history month is a testament to the problem that has afflicted blacks throughout our stay in this country. Black history is given a separate, and clearly not equal, treatment by our society in general and by our educational institutions in particular. As a former American history major I am struck by the fact that such a major part of our national story has been divorced from the whole. In law, culture, science, athletics, industry and other fields, knowledge of the roles played by blacks is critical to an understanding of the American experiment. For too long we have been too willing to segregate the study of black history. There is clearly a need at present for a device that focuses the attention of the country on the study of the history of its black citizens. But we must endeavor to integrate black history into our culture and into our curriculums in ways in which it has never occurred before so that the study of black history, and a recognition of the contributions of black Americans, become commonplace. Until that time, Black History Month must remain an important, vital concept. But we have to recognize that until black history is included in the standard curriculum in our schools and becomes a regular part of all our lives, it will be viewed as a novelty, relatively unimportant and not as weighty as so called “real” American history.

I, like many in my generation, have been fortunate in my life and have had a great number of wonderful opportunities. Some may consider me to be a part of black history. But we do a great disservice to the concept of black history recognition if we fail to understand that any success that I have had, cannot be viewed in isolation. I stood, and stand, on the shoulders of many other black Americans. Admittedly, the identities of some of these people, through the passage of time, have become lost to us- the men, and women, who labored long in fields, who were later legally and systemically discriminated against, who were lynched by the hundreds in the century just past and those others who have been too long denied the fruits of our great American culture. The names of too many of these people, these heroes and heroines, are lost to us. But the names of others of these people should strike a resonant chord in the historical ear of all in our nation: Frederick Douglass, W.E.B. DuBois, Walter White, Langston Hughes, Marcus Garvey, Martin Luther King, Malcolm X, Joe Louis, Jackie Robinson, Charles Drew, Paul Robeson, Ralph Ellison, James Baldwin, Toni Morrison, Vivian Malone, Rosa Parks, Marion Anderson, Emmit Till. These are just some of the people who should be generally recognized and are just some of the people to whom all of us, black and white, owe such a debt of gratitude. It is on their broad shoulders that I stand as I hope that others will some day stand on my more narrow ones.

Black history is a subject worthy of study by all our nation’s people. Blacks have played a unique, productive role in the development of America. Perhaps the greatest strength of the United States is the diversity of its people and to truly understand this country one must have knowledge of its constituent parts. But an unstudied, not discussed and ultimately misunderstood diversity can become a divisive force. An appreciation of the unique black past, acquired through the study of black history, will help lead to understanding and true compassion in the present, where it is still so sorely needed, and to a future where all of our people are truly valued.

Thank you.

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