They may be drawing energy and support from the Occupy movement, but these activists aren't ready to give up on the President quite yet
A Keystone pipeline protester outside the White House on Sunday / Lois Parshley
Bill McKibben wiped his face and turned toward the sun. "I'm stunned," he said. "Three or four months ago, no one in this country had heard about the Keystone pipeline except a few people along its route. Now it's become in some ways the biggest political flashpoint of the Obama administration."
An environmental activist and organizer, Bill McKibben has helped lead the Tar Sands Action, which since August has encouraged citizens to protest the proposed pipeline. On Sunday, Tar Sands' latest action drew 10,000 people to Pennsylvania Avenue, forming a ring several people deep around the White House. People held hands, chanted, and sang. Actor Mark Ruffalo came and brought his kids. "This is the beginning of the most exciting times of the last two generations," he said. "We're seeing a massive wake up of people and their ability to have a direct part in what their future looks like."
Unlike the protests in August, which attracted many aging Baby Boomers, the crowd on Sunday was young, sprawled in the grass, toting bikes and playing harmonicas. Members of Occupy Wall Street had made it down from Zuccotti Park, and the newly discovered tools of that movement were employed in Layfayette Park--when the speakers weren't sufficiently loud, a "human mic" was employed to orchestrate crowd control. Terms coined by OWS -- "leaderless movement," and "the people's voice" - were bandied around. When the crowd liked something, spirit fingers waggled over people's heads, a sign of approval stolen from facilitation processes of the Wall Street General Assembly.
350.org, one of the primary environmental groups behind Tar Sands Action, has thrown its support behind Occupy Wall Street, so it is perhaps not surprising that the support goes both ways. In the Vietnam era, war protesters, civil rights protesters, and early feminist movements often fed off each other's energy. In a country that hasn't seen widespread protests since that period, the environmental activists and the 99 percenters share a common disillusionment with administrative doctrine and lack of perceived political attention. For now, Tar Sands organizers are still attempting to couch their criticism of the Obama administration in phrases like, "We are showing him he has the support he needs to make the right decision." But the veiled implication is that the pipeline will, as McKibben said, "show us who Barack Obama really is." If the result isn't what protesters want, it's not hard to imagine this crowd migrating to join those in Zucotti Park, even though some of these veteran grassroots organizers might not take to OWS' current anarchic structure.
But as of Sunday, Layfayette Park still held an aura of hope. Before everyone lined up, Courtney Hight, Obama's former Florida youth director, stood next to the stage where two older men tuned their guitars. Nearby, clusters of organizers with red armbands hunched over laptops. "I haven't seen this much energy and excitement since the 2008 election," she said. "A lot of people here came out to support Obama, and then you also have people here who weren't old enough to vote. They are still part of the generation that believes in the vision that Obama laid out, and wants to vote for him." She continued, "If Obama were to block the pipeline, he would have an army of people that were willing to do whatever needed to happen."
Freddie Gray's death on April 19 leaves many unanswered questions. But it is clear that when Gray was arrested in West Baltimore on the morning of April 12, he was struggling to walk. By the time he arrived at the police station a half hour later, he was unable to breathe or talk, suffering from wounds that would kill him.*
Gray died Sunday from spinal injuries. Baltimore authorities say they're investigating how the 25-year-old was hurt—a somewhat perverse notion, given that it was while he was in police custody, and hidden from public view, that he apparently suffered injury. How it happened remains unknown. It's even difficult to understand why officers arrested Gray in the first place. But with protestors taking to the streets of Baltimore since Gray's death on Sunday, the incident falls into a line of highly publicized, fatal encounters between black men and the police. Meanwhile, on Tuesday, a reserve sheriff's deputy in Tulsa, Oklahoma, pleaded not guilty to a second-degree manslaughter charge in the death of a man he shot. The deputy says the shooting happened while he was trying to tase the man. Black men dying at the hands of the police is of course nothing new, but the nation is now paying attention and getting outraged.
Where did it come from, and what are its intentions? The simplicity of these questions can be deceiving, and few Western leaders seem to know the answers. In December, The New York Times published confidential comments by Major General Michael K. Nagata, the Special Operations commander for the United States in the Middle East, admitting that he had hardly begun figuring out the Islamic State’s appeal. “We have not defeated the idea,” he said. “We do not even understand the idea.” In the past year, President Obama has referred to the Islamic State, variously, as “not Islamic” and as al-Qaeda’s “jayvee team,” statements that reflected confusion about the group, and may have contributed to significant strategic errors.
In her new book No One Understands You and What To Do About It, Heidi Grant Halvorson tells readers a story about her friend, Tim. When Tim started a new job as a manager, one of his top priorities was communicating to his team that he valued each member’s input. So at team meetings, as each member spoke up about whatever project they were working on, Tim made sure he put on his “active-listening face” to signal that he cared about what each person was saying.
But after meeting with him a few times, Tim’s team got a very different message from the one he intended to send. “After a few weeks of meetings,” Halvorson explains, “one team member finally summoned up the courage to ask him the question that had been on everyone’s mind.” That question was: “Tim, are you angry with us right now?” When Tim explained that he wasn’t at all angry—that he was just putting on his “active-listening face”—his colleague gently explained that his active-listening face looked a lot like his angry face.
Four hours after learning about Saturday's devastating earthquake in Nepal, I received a Facebook notification I had never seen before: Sonia, a journalist friend based in northern India, was "marked safe." An hour later, the same notification about a different friend popped up. Then another. Soon, several of my friends wrote that they, too, had learned via this strange new notification that their friends in Nepal were okay.
A few hours later, the mystery was solved. On Saturday afternoon, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg announced on his timeline that the notifications came from Safety Check, a service the company launched last fall. "When disasters happen, people need to know their loved ones are safe," he wrote, "It's moments like this that being able to connect really matters."
A magnitude 7.8 earthquake struck Nepal early on Saturday, centered 10 miles below the surface, less than 50 miles from the capital of Kathmandu. At least 1,100 are already reported to have been killed by the quake and subsequent avalanches triggered in the Himalayas. Historic buildings and temples were destroyed, leaving massive piles of debris in streets as rescue workers and neighbors work to find and help those still trapped beneath rubble. Below are images from the region of the immediate aftermath of one of the most powerful earthquakes to strike Nepal in decades. (Editor's note, some of the images are graphic in nature.)
“People skills” are almost always assumed to be a good thing. Search employment ads and you will find them listed as a qualification for a startling array of jobs, including Applebee’s host, weight-loss specialist, CEO, shoe salesperson, and (no joke) animal-care coordinator. The notion that people smarts might help you succeed got a boost a quarter century ago, when the phrase emotional intelligence, or EI, entered the mainstream. Coined in a 1990 study, the term was popularized by Daniel Goleman’s 1995 book . Since then, scores of researchers have shown how being in touch with feelings—both your own and other people’s—gives you an edge: compared with people who have average EI, those with high EI do better at work, have fewer health problems,and report greater life satisfaction.
Today was the latest installment of the never-ending Clinton scandal saga, but it won’t be the last. Yet in some ways, the specifics are a distraction. The sale of access was designed into the post-2001 Clinton family finances from the start. Probably nobody will ever prove that this quid led to that quo … but there’s about a quarter-billion-dollar of quid heaped in plain sight and an equally impressive pile of quo, and it’s all been visible for years to anyone who cared to notice. As Jonathan Chait, who is no right-wing noise-machine operator, complained: “The Clintons have been disorganized and greedy.”
“All of this amounts to diddly-squat,” pronounced long-time Clinton associate James Carville when news broke that Hillary Clinton had erased huge numbers of emails. That may not be true: If any of the conduct in question proves illegal, destroying relevant records may also have run afoul of the law.
After more than a year of rumors and speculation, Bruce Jenner publicly came out as transgender with four simple words: “I am a woman.”
“My brain is much more female than male,” he explained to Diane Sawyer, who conducted a prime-time interview with Jenner on ABC Friday night. (Jenner indicated he prefers to be addressed with male pronouns at this time.) During the two-hour program, Jenner discussed his personal struggle with gender dysphoria and personal identity, how they shaped his past and current relationships and marriages, and how he finally told his family about his gender identity.
During the interview, Sawyer made a conspicuous point of discussing broadly unfamiliar ideas about gender and sexuality to its audience. It didn't always go smoothly; her questions occasionally came off as awkward and tone-deaf. But she showed no lack of empathy.
There is a tendency, when examining police shootings, to focus on tactics at the expense of strategy. One interrogates the actions of the officer in the moment trying to discern their mind-state. We ask ourselves, "Were they justified in shooting?" But, in this time of heightened concern around the policing, a more essential question might be, "Were we justified in sending them?" At some point, Americans decided that the best answer to every social ill lay in the power of the criminal-justice system. Vexing social problems—homelessness, drug use, the inability to support one's children, mental illness—are presently solved by sending in men and women who specialize in inspiring fear and ensuring compliance. Fear and compliance have their place, but it can't be every place.