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A weblog about the politics and affairs of the old and glorious City of Albany, New York, USA. Articles written and disseminated from Albany's beautiful and historic South End by Daniel Van Riper. If you wish to make a response, have anything to add or would like to make an empty threat, please contact me.


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April 28, 2017

The Scientists March

The Earth Day March for Science rattled the elites and
could not be silenced

Of all the unanticipated and unpredictable political upheavals of the past six months, the national March For Science ranks among the most surprising.  Americans came out by the hundreds of thousands across the nation to put forth the message that the neocon Corporatist radicals who have seized control of our government are completely out of line with their ideological opposition to and massive monetary cuts to scientific, health and environmental research and initiatives.  There were marches in major Cities and smaller municipalities across the country, simultaneously some 600 marches on every continent including Antarctica.

Here in the City of Albany around seven or eight thousand people gathered outside the State Capital to listen to distinguished speakers including scientists and elected officials, to inspect organizational tables, and finally to march a short loop a couple of blocks up Washington Avenue and back down State Street.  Despite the mood of urgency and sense of defiance this was a well behaved crowd composed of people who mostly looked like they had never attended a demonstration before.  As someone pointed out to me after the crowd had dispersed, there was no litter to be seen anywhere around the Capital.  Not a speck.

Crowds Gather At The Capital Hours Before The Earth Day March for Science, Albany NY
Crowds Gather At The Capital Hours Before The Earth Day March for Science, Albany NY

Yet despite this stunning and surprising surge of public expression by an important and influential sector of the public that had never displayed defiant activism before, the Corporate Media was absent both locally at the Albany and Saratoga marches and was absent nationally.  Obviously this was deliberate.  For example, the Hearst owned Times Union briefly mentioned that “hundreds” participated in the Albany march, a lie on their part.  By this crude act of censorship the moneyed corporate elites who own the Corporate Media signaled their terrified disapproval of this novel wave of activism.  We’re scaring them.

Earth Day Science March, Albany NY
Earth Day Science March, Albany NY

The Science marches took place on Earth Day, at the Albany march the two events were melded together.  There are plenty of other Earth Day events held every year in nearby neighborhoods, such as the South End cleanup sponsored by AVillage and the open house and fair at the Radix Center urban farm among others.  I hear these events were held as usual but I’m guessing that attendance and participation was siphoned off by the big event at the Capital.

The blend of themes was a good one that worked well together.  Once upon a time Earth Day was centered around a formerly radical movement called Environmentalism, and the day was devoted to educating the public about a greedy society that was killing itself with pollution and wastefulness while offering solutions to those problems.  This year it was interesting to see that defiant activism of the last century revived in a new and unexpected way, encouraging that people still care about their country. 

Earth Day Science March, Albany NY
Earth Day Science March, Albany NY

After the first Earth Day in 1970 our various governments and much more grudgingly the corporations eventually incorporated a “greener” set of policies that visibly improved our quality of life.  The air, water and land became cleaner, dangerous poisonous substances were removed from our homes and public places, matters of health and nutrition eventually improved.  There were constant debates about consequences of innovative policies mostly promoted by profit-minded special interests, but the general perception was that the authorities were taking charge of environmental matters and were genuinely interested in promoting them for our benefit.

Earth Day Science March, Albany NY… Galileo Said That
Earth Day Science March, Albany NY… Galileo Said That

But all that changed at the beginning of this year when a cabal of unpatriotic corrupt fools and their party beholden to the greediest of irresponsible special interests seized control of the federal government.  Suddenly anyone with any sense realized that these new authorities are not in the least bit interested in our health and well being, rather they seem to be promoting public harm.  Just as alarmingly, it has become clear that these authorities do not see any reason to promote America’s science and technology because they aren’t smart enough to understand the basic idea of science and research.

Earth Day Science March, Albany NY
Earth Day Science March, Albany NY

Someone asked me recently how it is possible that the fool in the White House or the other fools in his political party could not understand the importance of clean air and water or of scientific research.  Didn’t these people grow up in this country, don’t they live here?  Don’t they breathe the same air and drink the same water that we do, and share in the same technological developments?

My reply was that “Our President” is a very clever person who knows how to get people to give him what he wants, but cleverness does not equate to intelligence.  Many house pets are clever, they are experts at getting what they want from the humans around them, but that doesn’t mean they can comprehend abstract ideas.  “Our President” and his party comrades are much like house pets, no, they can’t see the consequences of their clever but selfish actions, they don’t understand the damage they are doing to themselves and to others.

And yet somehow the greedy little clever house pets have taken over the house.  This is why so many people who have never marched in a demonstration or would even dream of protesting have now taken to the streets as they did this Earth Day in Albany and elsewhere.  No one wants to start a revolution and burn down the house, but just about every decent person with any common sense understands that we can’t let the house pets run our lives.

Display Table, Earth Day Science March, Albany NY
Display Table, Earth Day Science March, Albany NY

About 45 organizational display tables were set up along State Street next to the capital and nearby walkways, these reflected both the traditional Earth Day concerns but also this newer pro-science theme.  I arrived about three hours before the march was scheduled to begin but already the crowds were so thick I could hardly get near the tables. 

Display Table, Earth Day Science March, Albany NY
Display Table, Earth Day Science March, Albany NY

From what I could see through the bodies, the emphasis at many of these science tables was hands-on education for the kids.  At one table kids were encouraged to make big round slides of some kind of pond dwelling life form and look at it through a microscope.  At another table sponsored by a medical center I watched a kid being taught medical laboratory procedures.

Display Table, Earth Day Science March, Albany NY
Display Table, Earth Day Science March, Albany NY

Some of the more traditional Earth Day displays were also hands-on for kids, such as the solar power electronics assembling table. There were also the activism tables representing long-time defenders of our environment that one would expect to see on Earth Day. The Sierra Club was present, as were groups like Women Against War and Bethlehem Neighbors for Peace, patriotic groups that support environmental goals as conducive to peace and prosperity.

Save The Pine Bush Table, Rezsin Adams With Blue SPB Sweatshirt, Earth Day Science March, Albany NY
Save The Pine Bush Table, Rezsin Adams With Blue SPB Sweatshirt, Earth Day Science March, Albany NY

Notable among them was Save the Pine Bush (SPB), the organization that through some 30 years of grassroots activism achieved the impossible and managed to defend enough of the globally rare Pine Bush ecosystem from sprawl development to put it into a government sponsored preserve, a preserve created by their lawsuits.  The Pine Bush is now considered one of the region’s main attractions.  Last year this venerable group almost disbanded having apparently achieved their main goals, but at what was supposed to be their final meeting some 30 people showed up and demanded that the group stay together to meet the new wave of environmental threats from above.

Dr. Ed Landing Explains The Geology Of Fracking, Earth Day Science March, Albany NY
Dr. Ed Landing Explains The Geology Of Fracking, Earth Day Science March, Albany NY

Also notable were informational tables that blended both the science and environmental themes.  There was one that showed all comers how to test water for impurities, at others I saw some very impressive fossils which reflects the importance of land preservation.  At another I saw retired NY State Paleontologist Dr. Ed Landing passionately explaining the geology of fracking with an interesting colored contour map.  Sad to say Dr. Landing’s State job, which has been maintained since the first half of the 1800s, will probably be ended with his retirement, a bit of anti-science on the State level.

Democratic Socialists Of America Contemplating Some Weirdo With A Camera Approaching Their Table, Earth Day Science March, Albany NY
Democratic Socialists Of America Contemplating Some Weirdo With A Camera Approaching Their Table, Earth Day Science March, Albany NY

The Albany march was tied to the Washington DC march, as were all the other marches that took place that day across the country.  Some 890 organizations were listed as national sponsors, many of those organizations have active branches in and around Albany.  But from what I can tell the lead organizer of the march in Albany was the newly revived Albany chapter of the Democratic Socialists of America. (DSA) who had a prominent table set right in front of the podium.

Yes, they are not afraid to use that word that we have all been carefully trained to regard as dirty, Socialism.  The folks manning the table looked at me skeptically as I approached and saw a dumbass Baby Boomer white guy, so they gingerly handed me several pamphlets that carefully explained that Socialism was not some kind of communistic terrorism.  Since I realize that Socialism is nothing more than a modern application of the basic cooperative American values enshrined in the Bill of Rights that have made our country great, so we got past that quickly.

Peter Warren, another dumbass Baby Boomer white guy like me, explained that the Albany DSA had become closely allied with groups like Citizen’s Action and the Green Party, which are all too often perceived as extensions of the Democratic Party.  But if that was ever true then that has come to an end.  “We’re not waiting for the Democrats to organize people to march in the streets,” he said.  “We’ll be waiting a long time before that happens.”  He did not say this to me, but I am hearing a growing call to replace the Democratic Party with a party that actually represents the will of the currently unrepresented majority, particularly from people under the age of forty.

Had To Rudely Push Through The Dense Crowd To Get Near The Speakers, Earth Day Science March, Albany NY
Had To Rudely Push Through The Dense Crowd To Get Near The Speakers, Earth Day Science March, Albany NY

There was a podium that early on featured some musicians, but later it was turned over to some dignitaries who gave speeches.  I missed the first few speeches because I had walked up to Lark Street to get coffee and use the can, on the way back I became conscious that I was walking toward an Earth Day rally with a disposable cup in my hand.  I stopped and slurped down my coffee but couldn’t find a municipal trash can in the heart of Center Square, so I deftly slipped the cup into a private garbage bucket sitting in a vacant looking basement doorway.  I do confess to being an ugly hypocritical American.

So I didn’t hear Albany mayor Kathy Sheehan’s speech and I only caught the very end of the speech by 2nd ward Common Council member Dorcey Applyrs, who is a public health science specialist as well as a politician.  I eased myself through the crowds to get near enough to hear some eminent scientist give a boring speech that she read off a printed sheet.  It was quite forgettable but it contained one current cliche that makes me cringe every time I hear it.

Listening Carefully To Speakers At The Earth Day March For Science, Albany NY
Listening Carefully To Speakers At The Earth Day March For Science, Albany NY

She repeated the canard that Science is not a Liberal conspiracy, it is non-partisan.  I call bullcrap on that.  Science is very much a byproduct of our Liberal society because to make effective Science you need a safe atmosphere where ideas can be freely exchanged and debated. Real Science does not exist in totalitarian societies. If your research is hobbled by the threat of suppression and controlled by profiteers then you will not be able to make and share your discoveries.

Indeed, the practice of Science embodies the practice of freedom that is the byproduct of living in a Liberal society.  This, my friends, is a prime reason why the scumbag in the White House and his party comrades are so hot on cutting off money for research, it is part of their broader program of destroying the Bill of Rights and negating the Liberal Revolution of 1776.  It is a simple fact that totalitarians cannot tolerate the pursuit of truth in any form because they see it as a threat to their total control of society.

Congressman Paul Tonko, Earth Day Science March, Albany NY
Congressman Paul Tonko, Earth Day Science March, Albany NY

After several more speeches the final speech by Congressman Paul Tonko was an absolute barn burner.  He called the funding cuts to science and research by the ruling regime “immoral and un-American.”  It was inspiring to watch the thousands of people listening erupt into a roar of applause at this.  Clearly our representative in Washington is one of the few in Congress who understand the link between fundamental American Liberal values and the importance of scientific inquiry to our strength as a nation.

Which is not to be wondered at because Mr. Tonko has a degree in engineering from Clarkson College.  He said, “It is painful to sit in committee meetings and listen to anti-science from my colleagues.  And,” he asked the crowd, “What drives that?”  Instantly thousands of people answered back in one voice, “Special interests!”

That was amazing.  No wonder the Corporate Media content providers were ordered to not report on this event.  Mr. Tonko then told us that he had introduced a bill (HB 1358, if I got that right) that would prohibit cuts to science funding for federal agencies to prevent being “meddled with by politics.”  I’m not sure how this could be enforced, if I heard right this would involve oversight committees within each department that presumably would have the power to block cuts.  Well, we all know that will be killed by the majority gang because they believe in centralizing power.

Marchers For Science Climbing The Steps To South Swan Street, Earth Day Albany NY
Marchers For Science Climbing The Steps To South Swan Street, Earth Day Albany NY

Finally we had the march, a very orderly affair led by the dignitaries.  This was the only time we saw the Albany Police at all, they redirected traffic for the marchers, otherwise they were not needed.  Early on The Wife spotted a couple of Capital Cops (who dress like State Troopers) standing threateningly on Eagle Street, one of them brandishing an automatic weapon.  Apparently these goofs were acting on their own initiative hoping to intimidate all these hippy drug addicts, but after a little while they disappeared.

Did all these rallies and quick not very disruptive marches achieve anything or send a message?  Most decidedly yes.  Just as every army depends upon its soldiers, the technology and health sectors depend completely upon the researchers and technicians who work within the universities and the corporations.  Think of what would happen if these folks simply withdrew their support for science and health institutions, something no one has ever imagined until now.

Heading For The March, Earth Day Science March Albany NY
Heading For The March, Earth Day Science March Albany NY

As mentioned earlier, the plutocrat owners of the Corporate Media appear to have wet their expensive trousers over this relatively mild uprising by formerly dependable tech servants.  Just as telling, the spoiled brat in the White House was shocked into issuing an Earth Day statement, something he plainly had no intention of doing.  The point of the statement was to say the following:

“My Administration is committed to advancing scientific research that leads to a better understanding of our environment and of environmental risks.  As we do so, we should remember that rigorous science depends not on ideology, but on a spirit of honest inquiry and robust debate.”

The first sentence is clearly a lie, his administration is blocking funding for research in all sectors and cutting off access to information.  But the second sentence is a more subtle condemnation of science.  He is proposing that the results of scientific inquiry, the facts gleaned from research, should be subjected to “open debate.”  In other words, ideology comes before truth, a characteristic of autocratic regimes.

So both Donald Pussygrabber and the Corporate Media owners who put him in the White House were deeply shaken by this uprising.  Other than censoring news and issuing panicky statements they have no idea how to react, openly harassing individual scientists will only fan the flames.  Let’s hope all the researchers and supporters of good science all around the world who came out to march have become aware of their power and will continue to use that power for the advancement of the public good.

Starting To March, Earth Day March For Science Albany NY
Starting To March, Earth Day March For Science Albany NY

 


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