Tuesday, August 20, 2019

Follow The Leaders?

Every once in a while, a great leader comes along to lead the people against injustice. If we're lucky, this person makes us feel safe following them and listening to their council. But what happens when our leaders act out-to-lunch, like they couldn't care less about our health and happiness? We're forced to become our own leaders and depend on ourselves. It's difficult and disheartening to say the least. We lose respect for those we were taught to trust. 

The following  are some musings on feeling leaderless followed by two press releases from a group who have decided to not wait on an unresponsive leadership. They've become their own leaders to take on the corrupt system. May we all do likewise.

Greens get ready to show their Pride!

 Follow The Leaders?
musings and photos by C.A. Matthews

Upon our return from the local Pride Parade, I felt exhausted but in a good way. The crowds that met our marching groups were large and friendly, the parade full of fun-loving and colorfully-dressed people. The Pride message is one of love and acceptance of all humanity. You should come away with a positive and optimistic view of the world after such a joyous experience.

In spite of the fact that I wore a t-shirt with the slogan "You. Are. Loved.", I returned home pondering why this isn't always the case, however. There are those who don't unconditionally love the unwashed masses of which I'm a part of. Sure, they've got a use or two for us slobs, but that's about it. We were put on this earth to be used by them. We have to measure up to some imaginary impossible standard or else we're not to be rewarded or respected.

If you're thinking I'm talking about the one-percent, you're partially right. They definitely don't love or respect us, but what caused me to reflect deeply about those in positions of power were the two groups I was affiliated with for the Pride Parade. The larger leadership of these organizations doesn't always respect the sentiments and wishes of the rank and file members. And, in the end, feelings are hurt and lives are damaged, perhaps beyond repair.

In a perfect socialist utopia, where the workers would own the means of production--or have an equal say in the running of an organization--all would receive the benefits of feeling wanted and loved just as they are. Alas, this isn't how it pans out in reality, and it sucks. It totally sucks.

 (I'm probably not making a lot of sense so far, but stay with me. This is what you get for not submitting your own wonderfully written blog piece on a progressive topic. Please send one to us in the body of an email to thebernieblog2016@gmail.com  Thank you.)
I marched in this year's Pride Parade with a  group of about 75+ called "The United Methodists for Inclusion." Funny thing is, in spite of being called "United," the largest Methodist church body in the US (if not the world) isn't. Our Pride group hoped to demonstrate that not all in the denomination are qualified homophobes.

This past February the "minority conservative" faction enacted their long game plan and took over the worldwide UMC church body from within, passing measures that would outlaw "self-avowed practicing homosexuals" from serving as clergy or bishops and forbidding all from performing same-sex weddings

Currently the Rev. Anna Blaedel is being brought up on charges of…well, for being an openly LGBTQ human being of all things. The witch trials have begun.

Thing is, the leadership of the UMC had been pretty lax in punishing openly LGBTQ pastors and those who performed same-sex wedding ceremonies for the past fifty years. They played it cool thinking that with these times a-changing nobody would care what the paperwork said but knowing full well that a ticking time bomb of a paragraph existed within the Methodists' Book of Discipline that handles such things as prosecuting errant clergy. 

"Do no harm" Methodists would agree, but the progressives in leadership positions dropped the ball big time and have caused harm, in my and others' opinion. And now they and their conservative counterparts are scrambling to see who will get to keep the baby, that is, the United Methodist Church title/logo and the money and properties. Will there be an unfriendly split or a velvet revolution? Where is King Solomon when you need him to slice a baby in half?

It's like a very bad divorce and we, the children, or church members, are going to be the ones who suffer the most when our churches close down or are forced to do unpleasant things, like get rid of our gay pastors. LGBTQ members and their friends and family have left and are in the process of leaving their beloved UMC churches to worship where they feel wanted. Who can blame them? 

Our merry band of Pride Methodist marchers and rainbow flag wavers don't want our gay brothers, sisters and others to leave, but we're just the rank and file. What power do we really have? Where are all the progressive leaders in powerful positions on the international, national and local levels of the UMC to follow who oppose this conservative coup d'etat ? Some have stepped up, but many, many more will be needed especially here in the heartland of Homophobic America. We await these brave souls impatiently.

Another Pride group I supported (my husband marched with them in my stead) was our courageous Green Party candidate running for city council. I wish I could have cloned myself to march alongside Stefania Czech and add to her band of supporters, but I would have needed to clone myself dozens of times over to make a difference. 

On paper there are many more Greens living in the area. Surely some were free to join in? If they couldn't walk the whole parade route, they could have ridden on the People Called Women feminist bookstore bus to demonstrate how big the Green Party is in these parts. Where were they?

There's no way of knowing for certain what kept the Greens away Saturday. Local party leaders could have made an effort to rally the troops on Stefania's behalf though, right? They could have sent out a mass email or made phone calls to remind members that there is a Green candidate on the ballot and that she could use the numbers to bolster her image in the public's eye on the eve of the primary election.

But, once again, the rank and file are left to do things on their own. Frustration at the lack of help and feelings of unworthiness ensues. Why isn't leadership building up the candidate and actively supporting her run? Don't they want her to win?  Don't they want the voters to take the local, national and even international Green Party seriously?

As eco-socialists, aren't we all terrified of the climate catastrophe on the horizon? Shouldn't we all use our energy to help save the planet? Isn't electing an environmentalist like Stefania to office a step in the right direction to build a brighter future?  Why isn't it all hands on deck?

It seems endemic in the twenty-first century, this lack of taking responsibility for leading others. I'm perplexed--and it makes me worry that progressive movements in both the mainline church and eco-politics are in serious jeopardy. 

Progressive leaders appear to be daydreaming at times, off in their own worlds, more concerned with keeping their titles or impressing others of their status than they are about keeping the human beings they lead together and on track. Sometimes they act like they don't care about the level of stress they're placing--or could place--upon their followers' shoulders. 

Are our leaders scared of actually leading?

When you play the game of "Follow the Leader" you expect someone to step up and take charge. You don't expect them not to lead. Followers need a leader. There's no excuse for letting them down. 

Our planet isn't going to wait on us to get our act together. The extinction clock is ticking as the atmospheric carbon levels rise. Souls are at risk. Lead--or get out of the way for the rank and file to take command before it's too late.


Lake Erie Bill of Rights Court Case Heats Up as Algae Bloom Grows

A new motion from the City of Toledo cites ‘fatal’ flaws in the corporate lawsuit against LEBOR. Petitioners file amicus brief supporting the City

The City of Toledo has exposed serious errors and misrepresentations in Drewes Farms Partnership’s (DFP) federal lawsuit against the City of Toledo and the Lake Erie Bill of Rights (LEBOR). Through briefs opposing motions by plaintiff DFP and intervenor-plaintiff State of Ohio, the City argues DFP’s rush to overturn LEBOR suffers from “fatal procedural flaws,” misrepresentations, and defects that require the lawsuit’s dismissal.

Citing the ongoing landmark court case Juliana v. United States, the City has come out in favor of “Toledoans’ due process rights to a clean and healthy environment.” Petitioners with Toledoans for Safe Water filed an amicus brief, supporting the City, particularly its argument that DFP’s and the State’s lawsuit “undermine[s] the right of local community self-government established by the City’s Charter and the Ohio Constitution.”

The day after Toledo residents passed LEBOR in February 2019, DFP claimed it was personally injured by the vote. However, LEBOR only governs activities within the City of Toledo. The City points out that not only does DFP not own any land it farms, but none of that land lies within the City.

“It is the City and its residents that have been injured. The state has failed to protect Lake Erie,” stated Markie Miller of Toledoans for Safe Water. Since 2014, the City has spent over $527 million to protect its water supply, including during the 2014 drinking water crisis that was caused by toxic algae blooms in Lake Erie. The lake is currently experiencing severe algae blooms.

In response to the State’s arguments that the City and its residents had no authority to pass LEBOR or defend Lake Erie, the City reiterates its jurisdiction over two miles of the lake’s Maumee Bay, and its power to strengthen state protections. LEBOR does not replace state or federal law or regulations, the City argues. Rather, it builds on them to provide additional protections for the lake.

The State has also argued that LEBOR will undermine its authority to protect Lake Erie. “The state has repeatedly failed to protect Lake Erie. Any claim that it can’t protect the lake if we do, rings hollow,” stated Miller.

The City strongly rejects DFP’s argument that the corporation’s First Amendment speech is being chilled by LEBOR. “Conversely,” the City writes, “the real chilling effect would occur if the Court granted DFP’s Motion and considered its request for attorney fees, since this would give DFP – a non-resident – the ability to use a speculative and theoretical future injury to nullify a citizens’ initiative petition and vote of the Toledo electorate.”

“We are happy to see the City standing up for LEBOR and Toledoans’ rights to a clean and healthy environment,” says Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund (CELDF) Ohio Organizer Tish O’Dell. CELDF assisted in drafting petitioner’s amicus brief. “The lake is experiencing toxic blooms right now. The people of Toledo decided at the ballot back in February that they are done accepting being poisoned for corporate profits. Instead of being able to go forward with the law the people passed, an agricultural corporation and the State of Ohio sued the city on speculative claims. It’s time for the judge to end their lawsuit. We need to recognize our dependence on the lake – not the other way around. LEBOR is about recognizing rights of the Lake and stopping the harm before the Lake is completely dead.”

To read the City’s motions and petitioners’s amicus brief visit: https://www.courtlistener.com/docket/14573310/drewes-farms-partnership-v-city-of-tole



Activists Defend Lawsuit Enforcing Lake Erie Bill of Rights, Rights of Toledoans

Plaintiffs seek to Address Unlawful Conduct of the State in Failing to Protect Lake Erie, Ohioans

August 19, 2019

On Friday, three Toledoans filed their response in the pro se (without an attorney) lawsuit against the State of Ohio seeking a declaration from the Lucas County Court of Common Pleas that the Lake Erie Bill of Rights (LEBOR) is enforceable in its entirety under the Ohio Constitution. Plaintiffs Mike Ferner, John Michael Durback, and Bryan Twitchell of Toledo are seeking to uphold and protect LEBOR, a charter amendment approved by 61% of voters in February 2019.
This recent filing is in response to the State’s motion to dismiss the case. The State has argued that Article I, Section 2 of Ohio’s constitution – which states, “All power is inherent in the people….and they have the right to alter, reform, or abolish the same, whenever they may deem it necessary” – “cannot be the foundation for a cause of [legal] action.” The plaintiffs assert that this interpretation renders the phrase meaningless. The State has undermined the democratic rights of Toledo voters, and “failed to protect Lake Erie and all those who depend on her,” the plaintiffs argue.

Local activist Mike Ferner said, "The State wants us to believe first, that citizens can be pacified by what it considers just pretty words in Ohio’s constitution and second, that it has sole authority to protect Lake Erie and has done so. We hope what the State claims in its motion will sound as outrageous to Judge Goulding as they do to the three of us and to anyone with a brain in their head."

Pointing to dubious court decisions from American history like Dred Scott v. Sandford, in which the U.S. Supreme Court ruled African-Americans were never intended to be American citizens, and Plessy v. Ferguson, in which the U.S. Supreme Court upheld racial segregation, the plaintiffs’ motion calls on the court “to stand on the right side of history.” Today, the plaintiffs write, “American law is failing to respond to the seriousness of ecological collapse, this lawsuit presents the court with another opportunity to bring Ohio law to the higher standard being held by the people demanding the necessary legal change required to adequately and immediately address the current climate and environmental crisis.”

“Ecological reality is more important than the legal ideology” that has prevented natural systems from being recognized as rights-bearing entities, Ferner, Durback, and Twitchell state. 

The Lake Erie Bill of Rights, a first-in-the-nation Ecosystem Rights of Nature initiative passed by local residents, enshrines in the Toledo City Charter the legal rights of the Lake Erie watershed and ecosystem to exist and flourish. This forms the basis of a new legal framework for addressing environmental issues by giving citizens standing to hold major polluters accountable on behalf of Lake Erie.

From Care Petitions:

Newark, New Jersey is on a path to become the next Flint. Drinking water in the city is so contaminated with lead, some residents have already resorted to using bottled water for all their basic needs. We need the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to step in and fix the causes of lead contamination before the problem gets worse.
Like in Flint, lead is leeching into the drinking water from very old pipes. But in Newark, the problem is compounded by the fact that the local water filtration plant isn't actually getting lead out of the water.
This has profound effects on people living in the community that will last lifetimes. Lead can cause neurological disorders and even death. Children who drink lead-contaminated water can suffer from developmental problems that don't go away, even after the water is cleaned up.
It's already taken more than a year for government officials to admit that there's a problem. But this admission hasn't lead to actual solutions. Giving out bottled water is a bandaid on a bullet wound. Just ask Flint: years after their contaminated water made national news, families still must use expensive bottled water to do everything from cooking to showering and drinking.
Many folks in these communities don't have the means to pick up and move somewhere else with safer water. Most importantly: they shouldn't have to. The Environmental Protection Agency has an obligation to ensure that all Americans, regardless of where they live, have safe drinking water. Even the Trump Administration has said this is a priority. But clearly it's going to take our voices to make sure they put real muscle behind a solution.
Thank you,

Emily V.
The Care2 Petitions Team

Tell Congress:
"We demand you regulate PFAS - chemicals that have been shown to impact reproductive and immune systems and even cause cancer. You are meant to protect us! We will not accept putting our lives at risk in the interest of business."

It’s simple: companies shouldn’t be able to profit off of giving people cancer.
Yet 3M and DuPont have known since the 1960s that chemicals they use in cookings spray, Teflon, and more, called PFAS, are toxic to humans. They even tested their own employees for them in the 1970s. But they kept on selling them to the American people.
PFAS are called “forever chemicals” because once they have been created, they are extremely hard to get rid of. We demand accountability.
Democrats are calling for hearings to get accountability. We need to know what these companies knew, and when they knew it. And we need to get them to stop poisoning the American people.
Donald Trump’s EPA is making it harder to fight corporations poisoning Americans. That’s why we need Congress to act now!
Thank you for pushing with us.
Team Progress America

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