Illustration via William Isom, II


The Historical Roots of May Day

May Day  originally commemorated Chicago's 1886 the Haymarket Massacre, when, during a general strike for the eight hour workday, an unknown person threw a dynamite bomb at police as they dispersed a public meeting, and police fired on workers, killing several demonstrators and resulting in the deaths of several police officers, largely from friendly fire.

 "Mayday," was also used as a distress signal for aviators because it approximates the French term "m'aider", meaning "come help me!"

 May Day 2012:  Occupy Movement Calls for a National Strike

This past winter, police aggression against even peaceful demonstrators, recalling Haymarket.  Occupy Oakland especially  brought this to light during  during the attack on Iraqi war veteran Scot Olsen.   Now Janet Weil, a San Francisco activist with Code Pink has written a manifesto. "Why I Strike"   in support of Occupy Wall Street's call for a general strike May 1.

Occupy Appalachia Joins Strike, Protests USB's Role in Destroying Our Mountains

Closer to home, Occupy Appalachia has called for May Day actions against Swiss-owned wealth management services company Swiss Banking giant UBS  which funds and provides investment support and advisory services for ALL companies engaged in mountaintop removal coal mining:  Arch Coal Inc, Alpha Natural Resources, Patriot Coal and James River Coal Company.

UBS  Fails to Live Up to Its Own Guidelines

  In UBS' 2011 Annual Report [p 62] it states:

"we decided to further strengthen our environmental and social risk management (including human rights) by identifying controversial activities where we will not do business, or only do business under stringent pre-established guidelines. Therefore we will not knowingly provide financial services to corporate clients, nor will we purchase goods or services from suppliers, where the use of proceeds, primary business activity, or acquisition target involves the following environmental and social risks: Extractive industries, heavy infrastructure, forestry and plantations operations that risk severe environmental damage."

"HANDS OFF APPALACHIA!" points out  that the company should bring its actions in line with its own annual report, and stop funding mountaintop removal coal mining.

Coal's Assault on Dissent

While Atlantic Magazine is asking if coal is doomed:  the companies have actually continued their assault on protest, "hoping to combine the results of several recent court cases to significantly narrow the ability of citizen groups to block new mountaintop-removal mining permits in federal court,"as Ken Ward, Jr. noted.

Lawyers for Alpha Natural Resources outlined their strategy last week during a hearing before U.S. District Judge Robert C. Chambers, who is considering citizen group challenges to at least two permits issued by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

Targets for Occupy UBS:

Targets for Occupy UBS include East TM (Chattanooga, Cookeville, Johnson City, Kingsport, Knoxville, Oak Ridge); Southwest Virginia (10 South Jefferson Street, Suite 1050, Roanoke VA 24011; Western North Carolina (Ashville) and Kentucky (Lexington).
138 Charlotte Street, Asheville NC 28801

Invitation for Others to Suppport Hands Off Appalachia

If you cannot attend an action, Occupy Appalachia organizers are asking that you call or email the UBS branches and the headquarters and ask that they change their official policy on MTR:

Knoxville, TN
Steven L. Meadows, Executive Director

Johnson City and Kingsport, TN
423-928-7144 (Johnson City)
423-246 7111 (Kingsport)
David B. Arnold, Vice President - Investments, Johnson City & Kingsport Branches david.arnold@ubs.com

Oak Ridge, TN
Bryan Mayo, Vice President - Investments, Oak Ridge Branch

Chattanooga, TN
Jefferson B. Cronan CFP, Executive Director, Chattanooga Branch

Cookeville, TN
John Stephen Boots, Account Vice President, Cookeville Branch

Roanoke, VA
540-344 5571
Paul Higgins, Branch Manager

Lexington, KY
859-269 6900
859-335-8100 (fax)
Matthew Fresca, Branch Manager

Asheville, NC
828-258 9860
Jerome Hornowski, Branch Manager

Right now haven't received the email contacts for the following. I'll add them, if I hear back from the organizers...

Washington, DC Branch

Headquarters NYC

Headquarters New Jersey

Other Banks Are Complicit Both in Mining and Funding Coal-Fired Power Plants

The latest report on the reputational and financial risks of coal just released by RAN and Sierra Club omits USB, but ranks large banks as follows:

Mountaintop Removal Grade Coal Fired Power Plant Grade
Bank of America C- D
Citi C- D
GE Capital D D
Goldman Sachs F D (Cogentrix) / F (Other)
JP Morgan Chase D+ D
Morgan Stanley C- D
Wells Fargo D D

EPA Has Failed to Protect Public

 April 4, more than three years after the TVA ash spill,   EJ, filed  against the EPA on behalf of 11 environmental and public health groups  (Appalachian Voices, Chesapeake Climate Action  Network, Environmental Integrity Project)  "to undertake long overdue action to address the serious and widespread risks that unsafe disposal of coal combustion waste or "coal ash" poses to human health and the environment."

Some in Congress Would Like to Prevent the EPA from Protecting Public Health

Meanwhile, David McKinley’s (R-WV)  successfully attached a clause to the House transportation bill which would bar the EPA from setting enforceable safeguards for toxic coal ash.  It's another case of  favoring  power plants and other big polluters.  Supporters for the amendment included US Chamber of Commerce, the American Coal Council, the United Mine Workers, utility companies like Duke Energy, and the American Road & Transportation Builders Association. Transportation Secretary Ray  LaHood--a Republican member of the House before he was appointed by Obama in 2009-- called the bill, H.R. 4348, a "big Christmas tree..."Look what they've loaded it up with... Keystone, coal ash — none of it has anything to do with transportation."

Currently industry dumps toxic waste into unlined and unmonitored ponds and landfills that can poison our waters and our health.   EJ states that "At least 185 coal ash dump sites have contaminated water supplies, and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency admits that 54 dumps, a major spill will likely cause loss of human life."  [504  was a typo according to EJ's Lisa Evans].

In fact in nearby Giles County, the ash the unlined ash dump is on the banks of the scenic New River upstream from public drinking  and the Concerned Citizens of Giles County are in the process of suing the developer Giles Partnership for Excellence.

May Day is the Time for the Public to Take a Stand

In this this of increasing partisan divide and economic disparity, maybe it's time to return to both of the latter meanings. As Nancy L. Mancias, co-founder of Code Pink wrote on April 26, "Many people have suffered and died over the past decade of economic injustice and wars. Let's remember the words of labor organizer Mary 'Mother' Jones, who lived in Chicago in 1886: "Pray for the dead, and work like hell for the living!'"


May Day: Stop Sharecropping: Occupy Journalism!!!

For April, Andrew Lih, Associate professor of journalism at USC Annenberg School of Communication and Journalism asked his fellow journalists participating in the Carnival of Journalism to submit a video in which they talked about a "dangerous idea got pushing the boundaries of journalism."  So I thought, I'd combine his charge with my celebration of International Worker's Day.

May Day is not only young girls dancing around be-ribboned poles. The celebration started as a commemoration of Chicago's 1886 the Haymarket Massacre during a general strike for the eight hour workday.  Mayday, of course, also is "mayday" used as a distress signal for aviators because it approximates the French term "m'aider", meaning "come help me!"

And journalism needs help. Melissa Bell of the Washington Post writes about the Print Reaper--you know Grim's cousin, "only he wields a pen, which is, of course, sharper than a scythe." Well, my dangerous idea for journalism is stop sharecropping: if you're not getting paid, keep your work. Raise crowdsource funding and publish it on your own blog or at non-profit publication such as Facing South.

Hey, journalism professors and book authors, I'm talking to you. You who see Huffington Post as a way to drive traffic. Who are willing to write op-eds free-of charge for The Guardian or The New York Times.

Imagine if community theater replaced Broadway. That's what's happening. It takes time and money to write well and in depth. Yet, so-called citizen journalism is driving the value of our work down to zero, according to the Future of News-ers. And, frankly, pro-am "collaboration" takes advantage of the amateurs.

Kind of reminds me of the exploitation of student athletes by universities. Except the chances for a well-paid pro career are even more remote.

Someone's getting rich off our efforts, but it's not us. In early April, Facebook bought Instagram for one billion dollars. That means a two-years-old, 12-person photo sharing app had a valuation which exceeded the 161-year-old, 1,300-person, New York Times by $80 million.

So mic check:

Stop sharecropping!

We are the 99%!

Occupy Journalism!


For their final project, Lih's students compiled a podcast summary and video highlight reel.  Responses came in from a variety of other journalists, such as:
  • David Cohn (founder of Spot.us and founding news editor of the new project cir.ca)
  • Jack Lail (MultiMedia Editor for the Knoxville News Sentinel)
  • Marc Lavallee andMatt Ericson (Interactive News and Social Developer  and deputy graphics director, respectively at The New York Times)
  • Edith Yang (Online Marketing Director at Buzzsmith Marketing)
  • Cindy Royal author of Gendered Spaces and Digital Discourse: Framing Women's Relationship with the Internet)
  • Steve Outing (who wrote the “Stop The Presses!,”) column for Editor & Publisher Online and now directs Digital Media Test Kitchen at the the University of Colorado)
  • Dani Fankhauser (director of engagement for Flud social news reader app) and
  • Mike Roe (Web Producer at Southern California Public Radio)


Die Zeit (Germany) Covers MTR protests!

Illustration by Arnd Wiegmann from "So macht man Kohle: Was die Großbank UBS dafür kann, dass in Nordamerika ganze Berge verschwinden." Ralph Pöhner. Die Zeit, April 26, 2012. Or, "That’s the way to make 'Kohle': UBS's role in making whole mountains disappear in North America" (the German word “Kohle” has two meanings: Money and also Coal)


UPDATE: Translation posted by my friend artist, activist and farmer William Isom, II on April 30:

That’s the way to make 'Kohle': UBS's role in making whole mountains disappear in North America

It began with a mountain of letters and red hearts made out of paper: unknown people had placed them in front of the entrance of a UBS Branche in Knoxville, Tennessee.

“We love our mountains” was written on these letters, or “Your greed brought us here”. 3 Weeks later, on the 8thof March 2012 the next campaign took place in front of the UBS Building of Johnson City, Tennessee. It was a small campaign, a Reporter of Johnson City Press counted 40 People. Protesters knocked on the glas door holding signs saying “Better Invest in our Future” or “UBS finances Destruction” or “no coal”. An approaching Policeman send people away from private parking zones.

In Chattanooga and Oak Ridge, in Asheville or Lexington more campaigns against UBS are scheduled for the next days, rather small campaigns. It appears to be a regional conflict, it’s about protecting the environment, Mountains, Coal, something like that.

Looking at it from this side of the Atlantic Ocean, for instance from the UBS Headquarter at Zürcher Paradeplatz, only one fact seems to be gob smacking: There are UBS Branches in Places like Chattanooga, Johnson City, Asheville or Oak Ridge, who would have guessed? A universal bank , a global player. This corporate group a main financer of American mining, according to those letters and protest signs. And Swiss bankers seem to have become part of politics in Kentucky, West Virginia or Tennessee, somehow. In these mountains mining companies started to use brute mining methods. To get to the coal they simply blow off the mountain top, the cheapest method. Huge Komatsu-Trucks collect the boulder and cover the surrounding valleys with it. The rest of the mountain including the coal is ablated.

“UBS would never finance this kind of method in the Alps” says William Isom, Member of the NGO Mountain Justice in Kentucky. “Never, unthinkable something like that would be approved in Europe.

But the US are a big country, there are many remote places in these mountains, economically drained, with little job opportunities. But right here the major coal sources of the US are to be found. Since the eighties mining companies ablated 5500 square kilometers of hilly landscape in the Appalachian mountains, almost the size of Kanton Bern, and according to calculations by the US Government a 1000 kilometer of river disappeared. Groups trying to protect the environment came up with data stating that the explosive power used on one day equals the power of the Hiroshima bomb. Dozens of different species of animals and plants our threatened by extinction. The ground water around the mines shows too high levels of Arsenic, Lead, Barium and Manganese. The People in the neighborhood have to keep living in a place that quakes on the bottom, is covered by ash clouds and soon reminds of the landscape of the moon. Most people decide to leave their homes.

The business heavily relies on funds and here lies the weakness of mining companies:

They depend on banks that offer huge credit limits, like Citigroup, Morgan Stanley, the Bank of America and UBS. So young protesters in Tennessee, Kentucky or Wets Virginia rather gather in front of Banks than in front of the iron gates of mining companies. “ By putting pressure on the creditors we slow down the mining companies” says Ricki Draper, member of Mountain Justice in Knoxville. And as a matter of fact several banks have already pulled out. Credit Suisse announced in September 2010, to quit financing and counseling those companies which do business in mountain top mining. The spotlight is on UBS now, being one of the few remaining banks with branches overseas. “Foreign Banks have no ties with our community”, “But we have to watch whole communities being turned into solitude” says Ricki Draper in Tennessee. It sounds like the echo of manager wisdom: each business is local, despite globalization.

The corporate management in Zurich took note of these circumstances. For 2 years the notion “Mountain Top Removal” found its way into the annual report in which UBS keeps promising an improved process in regards to examining diligence and the grants. According to an official statement on the 9th November 2010 the Bank intends “to engage to more watchfulness, reviewing to what extend companies build their business on MTR-mining and if they tend to reduce this method of mining over time.” It sounded like a promise”. Just the day before, on the 8th November, UBS granted a 200 million dollar credit to Massey Coal in Virginia, the leading MTR-Company in the Appalachian mountains. In the 151 pages long credit contract the notion MTR appears not even once.

Soon after, in January 2011, UBS Investment Bankers from Stamford and New York flew to Virginia, to handle and advise the Merger between Massey and Alpha Natural Resources, giving birth to a Mining giant owning a quarter of the US MT-mines.

Seven weeks later, beginning of march, UBS together with Deutsche Bank helped the mining corporation James River Coal with an acquisition granting a 375 million dollars credit. The passed year James River increased the production of MT coal to 986 000 tons, 350 000 tons more than 2010, 50 per cent plus. These numbers were researched by Rainforest Action Network; James River doesn’t want to comment on it. The UBS statement seems rather misleading. The SEC and Bloomberg numbers state clearly that in the passed year UBS was business partner with 4 of the nine biggest MT-corporations. Only a few weeks ago UBS renewed a credit for a big player in MT-mining, Patriot Coal in Saint Louis.

“UBS destroys our mountains” protesters say, “UBS go home”, you can hear in front of UBS branches. By the way the banks dilemma is that its employees perceive hostility from private customers due to the banks business deals. They face different and partly odd interest groups, amongst them groups such as the green Christians or a priest who founded a church against consumption. These groups use Facebook and other websites, pointing out, that UBS is the third biggest financier for the environment sacrilege in the Appalachian mountains, UBS also made number one.

Amanda Starbuck, observing the Energy and Finance Business for Rainforest Action Network, says that UBS doesn’t stick out anymore, today it is the Bank of America, Citi, Morgan Stanley and PNC that stick out, when it comes to financing MTR.

But: Like UBS these banks have recently announced the same promises. The Bank of America announced to not prolong contracts with MTR-corporations. Citi, PNC and Morgan Stanley promised a stricter reviewing process. PNC and Morgan Stanley even announced to no longer finance corporations which do mainly business with MTR.

After all one can imagine that the citizenship and responsibility Reports of these banks in reality are rather meaningless. Where does responsibility begin in a global investment bank? When making deals with a corporation whose subsidiary company produces cluster bombs, deals with a resources corporation, whose copper mines release yellow acid into the Congolese river?

A Banker said: “ You always need to consider the regulatory circumstances in those matters”. In other words: It is about politics. It is no coincidence that the notion MTR appeared in the banks annual reports in the last 3 years. In Summer 2009 the Obama government started to tackle the problem MTmining. With the existing water protection laws they are trying to limit mining projects, new mountain blistering are examined more strictly. It is an ongoing struggle. The concerned states have no interest in putting a halt on the black of income. 3 Weeks ago the parliament of Tennessee put off a new law, forbidding the MTR technique.

National, regional or local: Which side should a global player take?

To come to a conclusion, the department of responsibility at UBS had several talks with environment organizations. From UBS point of view: No, we don’t destroy mountains. “UBS cooperates with mining companies world wide” says Christian Leitz, head of the department for responsibility.” But we have not financed any MTR project directly. In fact in Northern America you will find no mining company which exclusively does business with MTR. These companies have usually many divisions and locations, often on different continents. On the other side UBS has an investment bank , which acts globally; aiming to be under the top ten in regards to company transactions; the energy and mining business, from a global point of view, is one of the most important business sectors. And coal is a material with a future.

It is hard to believe, when listening to politicians or believing the media, rather talking about renewable energy; the facts show: Coal consumption will increase by a fifth within the next years, this is the estimation of the international Energy Agency. The number of Coal power plants in the USA increased since the year 2000 from 1000 to 1400.

Until 2020 Europe will have 80 more new built coal power plants, 3 times more then in the last decade.

The USA is, thanks to the big resources of coal, something like the Saudi Arabia of Coal. Who doesn’t want to take part?


It's Spring, Let's Drink Wine!

Pat and Dave from the Five O'Clock Meetup graciously opened their home for a blind tasting of Sauvignon Blanc. The twenty-five who attended brought at least 18 bottles of wine (some duplicates) and a selection of yummy appetizers. The picture above is from Amy. The montage below also includes photos from Peter and Sharon.