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Environmental Leaders Call for Civil Disobedience to Stop the Keystone XL Pipeline June 23, 2011

Posted by rogerhollander in Canada, Environment.
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Published on Thursday, June 23, 2011 by CommonDreams.org

  by Naomi Klein, Wendell Berry, Maude Barlow, Bill McKibben and Others

Dear Friends,

This will be a slightly longer letter than common for the internet age—it’s serious stuff.

The short version is we want you to consider doing something hard: coming to Washington in the hottest and stickiest weeks of the summer and engaging in civil disobedience that will likely get you arrested.

The full version goes like this:

As you know, the planet is steadily warming: 2010 was the warmest year on record, and we’ve seen the resulting chaos in almost every corner of the earth.A coalition of clean energy advocates march from the Canadian Embassy to the White House to condemn a proposed pipeline that would bring tar sands oil, allegedly toxic, from Canada to the United States, in Washington D.C. in July 2010. (Photo: ZUMA Press)

And as you also know, our democracy is increasingly controlled by special interests interested only in their short-term profit.

These two trends collide this summer in Washington, where the State Department and the White House have to decide whether to grant a  certificate of ‘national interest’ to some of the biggest fossil fuel players on earth. These corporations want to build the so-called ‘Keystone XL Pipeline’ from Canada’s tar sands to Texas refineries.

To call this project a horror is serious understatement. The tar sands have wrecked huge parts of Alberta, disrupting ways of life in indigenous communities—First Nations communities in Canada, and tribes along the pipeline route in the U.S. have demanded the destruction cease. The pipeline crosses crucial areas like the Oglalla Aquifer where a spill would be disastrous—and though the pipeline companies insist they are using ‘state of the art’ technologies that should leak only once every 7 years, the precursor pipeline and its pumping stations have leaked a dozen times in the past year. These  local impacts alone would be cause enough to block such a plan. But the Keystone Pipeline would also be a fifteen hundred mile fuse to the biggest carbon bomb on the continent, a way to make it easier and faster to trigger the final overheating of our planet, the one place to which we are all indigenous.

How much carbon lies in the recoverable tar sands of Alberta? A recent calculation from some of our foremost scientists puts the figure at about 200 parts per million.  Even with the new pipeline they won’t be able to burn that much overnight—but each development like this makes it easier to get more oil out.  As the climatologist Jim Hansen (one of the signatories to this letter) explained, if we have any chance of getting back to a stable climate “the principal requirement is that coal emissions must be phased out by 2030 and unconventional fossil fuels, such as tar sands, must be left in the ground.” In other words, he added, “if the tar sands are thrown into the mix it is essentially game over.” The Keystone pipeline is an essential part of the game. “Unless we get increased market access, like with Keystone XL, we’re going to be stuck,” said Ralph Glass, an economist and vice-president at AJM Petroleum Consultants in Calgary, told a Canadian newspaper last week.

Given all that, you’d suspect that there’s no way the Obama administration would ever permit this pipeline. But in the last few months the president has signed pieces of paper opening much of Alaska to oil drilling, and permitting coal-mining on federal land in Wyoming that will produce as much CO2 as 300 power plants operating at full bore.

And Secretary of State Clinton has already said she’s ‘inclined’ to recommend the pipeline go forward. Partly it’s because of the political commotion over high gas prices, though more tar sands oil would do nothing to change that picture. But it’s also because of intense pressure from industry. TransCanada Pipeline, the company behind Keystone, has hired as its chief lobbyist for the project a man named Paul Elliott, who served as deputy national director of Clinton’s presidential campaign. Meanwhile, the US Chamber of Commerce—a bigger funder of political campaigns than the RNC and DNC combined—has demanded that the administration “move quickly to approve the Keystone XL pipeline,” which is not so surprising—they’ve also told the U.S. EPA that if the planet warms that will be okay because humans can ‘adapt their physiology’ to cope. The Koch Brothers, needless to say, are also backing the plan, and may reap huge profits from it.

So we’re pretty sure that without serious pressure the Keystone Pipeline will get its permit from Washington.  A wonderful coalition of environmental groups has built a strong campaign across the continent—from Cree and Dene indigenous leaders to Nebraska farmers, they’ve spoken out strongly against the destruction of their land. We need to join them, and to say even if our own homes won’t be crossed by this pipeline, our joint home—the earth—will be wrecked by the carbon that pours down it.

And we need to say something else, too: it’s time to stop letting corporate power make the most important decisions our planet faces.

We don’t have the money to compete with those corporations, but we do have our bodies, and beginning in mid August many of us will use them. We will, each day through Labor Day, march on the White House, risking arrest with our trespass. We will do it in dignified fashion, demonstrating that in this case we are the conservatives, and that our foes—who would change the composition of the atmosphere are dangerous radicals. Come dressed as if for a business meeting—this is, in fact, serious business. And another sartorial tip—if you wore an Obama button during the 2008 campaign, why not wear it again? We very much still want to believe in the promise of that young Senator who told us that with his election the ‘rise of the oceans would begin to slow and the planet start to heal.’ We don’t understand what combination of bureaucratic obstinacy and insider dealing has derailed those efforts, but we remember his request that his supporters continue on after the election to pressure the government for change. We’ll do what we can.

And one more thing: we don’t want college kids to be the only cannon fodder in this fight. They’ve led the way so far on climate change—10,000 came to DC for the Powershift gathering earlier this spring. They’ve marched this month in West Virginia to protest mountaintop removal; Tim DeChristopher faces sentencing this summer in Utah for his creative protest.  Now it’s time for people who’ve spent their lives pouring carbon into the atmosphere (and whose careers won’t be as damaged by an arrest record) to step up too. Most of us signing this letter are veterans of this work, and we think it’s past time for elders to behave like elders. One thing we don’t want is a smash up: if you can’t control your passions, this action is not for you.

This won’t be a one-shot day of action. We plan for it to continue for several weeks, to the date in September when by law the administration can either grant or deny the permit for the pipeline. Not all of us can actually get arrested—half the signatories to this letter live in Canada, and might well find our entry into the U.S. barred. But we will be making plans for sympathy demonstrations outside Canadian consulates in the U.S., and U.S. consulates in Canada—the decision-makers need to know they’re being watched.

Winning this battle won’t save the climate. But losing it will mean the chances of runaway climate change go way up—that we’ll endure an endless future of the floods and droughts we’ve seen this year. And we’re fighting for the political future too—for the premise that we should make decisions based on science and reason, not political connection.  You have to start somewhere, and this is where we choose to begin.

If you think you might want to be a part of this action, we need you to sign up here. As plans solidify in the next few weeks we’ll be in touch with you to arrange nonviolence training; our colleagues at a variety of environmental and democracy campaigns will be coordinating the actual arrangements.

We know we’re asking a lot. You should think long and hard on it, and pray if you’re the praying type. But to us, it’s as much privilege as burden to get to join this fight in the most serious possible way. We hope you’ll join us.

Maude Barlow
Wendell Berry
Tom Goldtooth
Danny Glover
James Hansen
Wes Jackson
Naomi Klein
Bill McKibben
George Poitras
David Suzuki
Gus Speth

p.s.—Please pass this letter on to anyone else you think might be interested. We realize that what we’re asking isn’t easy, and we’re very grateful that you’re willing even to consider it.

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Is Climate Science Disinformation a Crime Against Humanity? November 3, 2010

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Published on Wednesday, November 3, 2010 by The Guardian/UK

Deeply irresponsible corporate-sponsored programmes of disinformation have potentially harsh effects upon tens of millions of people

by Donald Brown

Although there is an important role for scepticism in science, for almost 30 years some corporations have supported a disinformation campaign about climate change science.

While it may be reasonable to be somewhat sceptical about climate change models, these untruths are not based upon reasonable scepticism but outright falsification and distortions of climate change science.

These claims have included assertions that the science of climate change has been completely “debunked” and that there is no evidence of human causation of recent observed warming. There are numerous lines of evidence that point to human causation even if it is not a completely settled matter. Reasonable scepticism cannot claim that there is no evidence of causation and some other claims frequently being made by the well-financed climate change disinformation campaign, and they amount to an utter distortion of a body of evidence that the world needs to understand to protect itself from huge potential harms.

On 21 October, 2010, John Broder of the New York Times, reported that “the fossil fuel industries have for decades waged a concerted campaign to raise doubts about the science of global warming and to undermine policies devised to address it”.

According the New York Times article, the fossil fuel industry has “created and lavishly financed institutes to produce anti-global warming studies, paid for rallies and websites to question the science, and generated scores of economic analyses that purport to show that policies to reduce emissions of climate-altering gases will have a devastating effect on jobs and the overall economy.”

Disinformation about the state of climate change science is extraordinarily – if not criminally – irresponsible, because the consensus scientific view is based upon strong evidence that climate change:

• Is already being experienced by tens of thousands in the world;

• Will be experienced in the future by millions of people from greenhouse gas emissions that have already been emitted but not yet felt due to lags in the climate system; and,

• Will increase dramatically in the future unless greenhouse gas emissions are dramatically reduced from existing global emissions levels.

Threats from climate change include deaths and danger from droughts, floods, heat, storm-related damages, rising oceans, heat impacts on agriculture, loss of animals that are dependent upon for substance purposes, social disputes caused by diminishing resources, sickness from a variety of diseases, the inability to rely upon traditional sources of food, the inability to use property that people depend upon to conduct their life including houses or sleds in cold places, the destruction of water supplies, and the inability to live where has lived to sustain life. The very existence of some small island nations is threatened by climate change.

As long as there is any chance that climate change could create this type of destruction, even assuming, for the sake of argument, that these dangers are not yet fully proven, disinformation about the state of climate change science is extraordinarily morally reprehensible if it leads to non-action in reducing climate change’s threat. In fact, how to deal with uncertainty in climate change science is an ethical issue, not only a scientific matter, because the consequences of delay could be so severe and the poorest people in the world as some of the most vulnerable.

The corporations that have funded the sowing of doubt on this issue are clearly doing this because they see greenhouse gas emissions reduction strategies as adversely affecting their financial interests.

This might be understood as a new type of crime against humanity. Scepticism in science is not bad, but sceptics must play by the rules of science including publishing their conclusions in peer-reviewed scientific journals and not make claims that are not substantiated by the peer-reviewed literature. The need for responsible scepticism is particularly urgent if misinformation from sceptics could lead to great harm.

We may not have a word for this type of crime yet, but the international community should find a way of classifying extraordinarily irresponsible scientific claims that could lead to mass suffering as some type of crime against humanity.

© 2010 Guardian News and Media Limited

Donald Brown is associate professor in environmental ethics, science and law at Penn State University. The full version of this article was first published on the Penn State website.
Published on Wednesday, November 3, 2010 by The Guardian/UK

Barack Obama’s Green Agenda Crushed at the Ballot Box

With a slew of new climate change deniers entering Congress, Barack Obama’s environmental ambitions are now dead

by Suzanne Goldenberg

Californians decisively rejected a measure to roll back the state’s landmark climate change law yesterday, the sole win for environmentalists on a night that crushed Barack Obama‘s green agenda.With that lone victory in California, environmentalists managed to keep alive a model for action on climate change, preserving a 2006 law that had set ambitious targets for greenhouse gas reductions and had attracted tens of millions in clean-tech investment.

[Many new members of Congress are at best sceptical on climate change, and Republican promises to reduce the role of government could spell the end for progressive energy legislation and could herald a new era of environmental deregulation. (AFP/Steen Ulrik Johannessen) ]Many new members of Congress are at best sceptical on climate change, and Republican promises to reduce the role of government could spell the end for progressive energy legislation and could herald a new era of environmental deregulation. (AFP/Steen Ulrik Johannessen)

But many new members of Congress are at best sceptical on climate change, and Republican promises to reduce the role of government could spell the end for progressive energy legislation and could herald a new era of environmental deregulation. 

In California though, there was celebration at the overwhelming defeat of Proposition 23 by a broad climate change coalition that ranged from the outgoing Republican governor, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Silicon Valley executives and venture capitalists to environmental groups.

With 95% of precincts reporting, some 61% of Californians voted against a measure brought by Texas oil refiners, Tesoro and Valero, and the oil billionaire Koch brothers that would indefinitely halt a 2006 law mandating ambitious cuts in greenhouse gas emissions.

“We are beating Texas again,” Schwarzenegger told supporters at an election night party.

“Even though they spent millions and millions of dollars, today the people will make up their mind and speak loud and clear that California’s environment is not for sale.”

It was the first time voters had been asked directly for a verdict on a climate and energy plan.

Had the ballot measure passed, it would have scuppered the chances of other states following California’s lead.

But it was an expensive win, with opponents of Proposition 23 spending $31m to assure its defeat. The oil companies put up more than $10.

And the coalition, with their intense focus on Proposition 23, failed to anticipate its evil twin: Proposition 26, which will also hinder action on climate change. The measure, backed by Chevron, requires a two-thirds majority before imposing new taxes or fees. It gathered 54% support, blocking government efforts to get industry to pay for pollution.

In Washington, there was only devastation. 2010 is shaping up to be one of the warmest years on record, but that is unlikely to weigh heavily on the minds of many of the Republican newcomers to Congress.

Obama in interviews on the evening of the elections, admitted there was no change of sweeping climate and energy legislation in the remaining two years of his term. He said he hoped to find compromise on “bite-sized” measures, such as encouraging energy efficiency or the use of wind and solar power.

A cap-and-trade system for carbon emissions was the sleeper issue in the mid-term elections, a galvanising force for Tea Party activists. It saw the defeat of a handful of Democrats from conservative states who voted for last year’s climate change bill – such as Tom Perriello and Richard Boucher, in Virginia.

“I don’t think there’s any question about it, cap-and-trade was the issue in the campaign,” Boucher’s former chief of staff, Andy Wright, told Politico. “If Rick had voted no, he wouldn’t have had a serious contest.”

It also installed a heavy contingent of conservatives hostile to the very notion of global warming in Congress – and solidified the opposition of establishment figures to co-operation with Democrats on energy legislation.

The new speaker of the House, John Boehner, once said: “The idea that carbon dioxide is a carcinogen that is harmful to our environment is almost comical.” Vicky Hartzler, who took out the 34-year veteran Ike Skelton in Missouri, has called global warming a hoax.

A number of the victorious Tea Party candidates in the Senate, including Rand Paul of Kentucky and Marco Rubio of Florida have said they do not believe in man-made climate change.

Some of the surviving Democrats are just as opposed. Joe Manchin won his Senate seat in West Virginia by, literally, shooting his rifle at Obama’s climate agenda.

In her election night stint as a Fox news commentator, Sarah Palin singled out the Environmental Protection Agency as an example of big and wasteful government. The Republican leadership has signalled they it is opposed to a whole array of EPA regulations, including those on ozone and mercury. The EPA is seen as a fallback route for the Obama administration to deal with the regulation of greenhouse gases after the US senate dropped its climate bill in the summer.

The new crop of Republican leaders in the house are way ahead of Palin, with plans for sweeping investigations of climate science and of Obama administration officials such as Lisa Jackson, who heads the EPA.

As far as the leaders are concerned, the science of climate change is far from settled. “We’re going to want to have a do-over,” Darrell Issa, a favourite to head the house oversight and investigations committee, told a recent interviewer.

© Guardian News and Media Limited 2010

Explosion Rocks Honeywell Uranium Facility Run by Scab Workers September 8, 2010

Posted by rogerhollander in Labor, Nuclear weapons/power.
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Tuesday 07 September 2010

by: Mike Elk  |  The Huffington Post | Report

photo
(Image: Lance Page / t r u t h o u t; Adapted: Jan Michael Ihl, TimScott, Angela Wolf)

Union workers have been locked out at the uranium enrichment facility in Metropolis, Illinois for two months now after contract negotiations broke down over Honeywell’s demand that workers give up their retiree health care coverage and pension plans. The Metropolis uranium facility is the only one in the United States that can convert U308 into the extremely deadly UF6.

Because the plant is the only conversion facility of its kind in the United States, familiarity with the Metropolis plant, and not just generic experience in the field, is essential to ensuring the plant’s safety. Concerns have been raised by local community members and union officials that replacement workers at the Honeywell facility cannot safely operate the plant since they have no site-specific experience in this type of conversion facility.

Workers claim that Cote is far more interested in keeping his record profits high than actually protecting workers and the surrounding community. They believe that Honeywell CEO David Cote is willing to risk nuclear fallout in order to demand that uranium workers cut their retiree health care and pension plans.

On Saturday, nuclear regulators allowed Honeywell to start up core production at the facility, where core production had been shut down for over two months due to concerns about the training of replacement workers. The Nuclear Regulatory Commission delayed reopening the plant for several days after questions were raised about the unusually high levels of uranium that were appearing in the urine tests of several nuclear workers.

The following day, a hydrogen explosion rocked the plant. The blast shook the ground in front of the plant and could be heard a mile away, according to local reports. State Trooper Bridget Rice said that police were called to investigate to the scene of the explosion after receiving several phone calls reporting an explosion at the plant. Nuclear Regulatory Commission spokesman Roger Hannah also confirmed that there was indeed “a small hydrogen explosion that was very loud” at the Metropolis facility.

The plant splits hydrofluoric acid into hydrogen and fluoride. The hydrogen then gets scrubbed and released into the atmosphere and fluorine goes into the process. If the hydrogen and fluorine recombine, it can be very reactive and cause a non-radioactive hydrogen explosion. On Saturday, hydrogen was accidentally recombined with fluorine causing a massive explosion that could be heard a mile away and leading to the plant being temporarily shut down.

Honeywell Spokesman Peter Dapel released this statement: “There was a noise at Metropolis Works yesterday that occurred as a result of the normal venting of one of our systems…. The union workforce is very familiar with the procedure that caused yesterday’s noise, having executed similar processes on at least two occasions earlier this year prior to the work stoppage with the exact same outcomes. It is common to plants that work with fluorine, and characteristic of plants that are following correct procedures.”

However, union spokesman John Paul Smith claims that the workers who worked at the plant for decades said very minor explosions had occurred, but no explosion of such a magnitude that it could be heard outside of the plant. State police also could not cite an incident where they had been called to the plant to investigate an explosion at the Metropolis facility that had been reported to them by local community members.

Workers and local community members see this explosion as evidence that the quickly trained replacement workers are not qualified to operate the plant.

Local union officials claim that the workers are not properly trained to work in the plant. In a statement released last week USW Local 7-699 claimed, “The Union workforce was required to have extensive on-the-job training on running units from qualified trainers for several months prior to being qualified. We have recently learned that several Fluorination workers were deemed ‘qualified’ by company personnel after one week of training. Furthermore, Union employees were required to have been a qualified operator for six months on a running unit before they were allowed to begin to train another employee. The company is currently training their own employees with people who themselves are not qualified.”

Additional concerns have been raised about the safety records of the replacement workers at the Metropolis facility who are employed by the Shaw Group. In 2009, a subsidiary of the Shaw Group was made to pay $6.2 million to the federal government for forcing its workers not to report safety and site violations when working on nuclear plant sites in Alabama and Tennessee.

Local community members are claiming that Honeywell is also not properly reporting safety violations at the nuclear facility in Metropolis. A recent report by Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) says Honeywell has failed to notify the NRC of 37 reportable unplanned, uranium contamination events at its Metropolis facility between January 2008 and January 2010.

The Metropolis facility had previously been shut down after a release of deadly toxic UF6 gas in December of 2003, which hospitalized four community members and lead to evacuations of dozens of residents near the plant. This was only the second time in American history (the first being the infamous Three Mile Island disaster) where a site area emergency forced the evacuation of a community surrounding a nuclear power facility. The Nuclear Regulatory Commission at the time found that Honeywell “failed to implement some parts of its emergency response plan and did not provide sufficient information to local emergency responders”.

The Environmental Protection Agency has also been very critical of the safety record of the uranium enrichment facility. According to the report by Sam Tranum of Uranium Intelligence Weekly, in May of 2009 the EPA listed the Metropolis facility as being “in significant noncompliance – a high priority violator” of the Clean Air Act and that the Metropolis facility had been in violation of the Clean Air Act for the nine months prior to that. Also, the EPA found that the Honeywell Metropolis uranium facility had been violating the Clean Water Act for about two years, but returned to compliance in December of 2009.

A federal grand jury has been convened to look into criminal violations of federal environmental laws. Honeywell initially tried to cover up the grand jury investigation to local community and union members. However SEC reports forced the company to reveal they were under grand jury investigation. According to Sam Tranum of Uranium Intelligence Weekly:

Details of the investigation are being kept under tight control by the relevant authorities, including the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Department of Justice (DOJ), but the existence of a grand jury probe was confirmed by Honeywell International’s most recent 10Q filing to the Securities and Exchange Commission. It stated that the EPA and DOJ are investigating “whether the storage of certain sludges generated during uranium hexafluoride production at our Metropolis, Illinois facility has been in compliance with the requirements of the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act [RCRA],” adding that, “The federal authorities have convened a grand jury in this matter.”

Honeywell’s long history of safety violations, the poor training of replacement workers at the Metropolis facility, and Saturday’s hydrogen explosion, have lead local workers and community members to call on the Nuclear Regulatory Commission to shut down production until the contract dispute can be resolved. “This just simply isn’t normal, what’s happening at the plant,” said union member John Paul Smith.

Workers are also calling on President Obama to put pressure on his close economic adviser Honeywell CEO David Cote to settle the safety and contract issues at the plant. They are asking President Obama to remove David Cote from the President’s Deficit Commission if he does not resolve the safety and contract issues.

Last week, the 350,000 members of the Steelworkers Organization of Active Retirees called on President Obama to fire Cote from the so-called Deficit Commission. They released a statement saying:

Mr. Cote’s cruel and calculated behavior towards workers at its hexafluoride plant in Metropolis, Ill. clearly illustrates that he’s unqualified and inappropriate to help decide issues such as whether to reduce the federal deficit by cutting programs like social security or by upgrading the faulty military contracting process, from which Honeywell benefits.

Mr. Cote should be evicted from the so-called Deficit Commission immediately before he can use that position to harm all Americans the way he is injuring Honeywell workers in Illinois.

Follow Mike Elk on Twitter: www.twitter.com/MikeElk 

Mike Elk is a labor journalist based in Washington, D.C. Mike Elk is a third-generation union organizer who has worked for the United Electrical, Radio, and Machine Workers, the Campaign for America’s Future, and the Obama-Biden campaign. Also, Mike conducted research on barriers to communication between middle class and working class activists at the Instituto Marques de Salamanca in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. He has appeared as a commentator on CNN, Fox News, and NPR, and writes frequently for In These Times, Huffington Post, Alternet, and Truthout. When Mike is not reading twenty blogs at a time, he enjoys golden retrievers, crab bakes and playing horseshoes.

 

How the Corporations Broke Ralph Nader and America, Too April 6, 2010

Posted by rogerhollander in Democracy, Media, Right Wing.
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Posted on Apr 5, 2010, www.truthdig.com
Ralph Nader
AP / Carolyn Kaster
 

By Chris Hedges

Ralph Nader’s descent from being one of the most respected and powerful men in the country to being a pariah illustrates the totality of the corporate coup. Nader’s marginalization was not accidental. It was orchestrated to thwart the legislation that Nader and his allies—who once consisted of many in the Democratic Party—enacted to prevent corporate abuse, fraud and control. He was targeted to be destroyed. And by the time he was shut out of the political process with the election of Ronald Reagan, the government was in the hands of corporations. Nader’s fate mirrors our own.

“The press discovered citizen investigators around the mid-1960s,” Nader told me when we spoke a few days ago. “I was one of them. I would go down with the press releases, the findings, the story suggestions and the internal documents and give it to a variety of reporters. I would go to Congress and generate hearings. Oftentimes I would be the lead witness. What was interesting was the novelty; the press gravitates to novelty. They achieved great things. There was collaboration. We provided the newsworthy material. They covered it. The legislation passed. Regulations were issued. Lives were saved. Other civic movements began to flower.”

Nader was singled out for destruction, as Henriette Mantel and Stephen Skrovan point out in their engaging documentary movie on Nader, “An Unreasonable Man.” General Motors had him followed in an attempt to blackmail him. It sent an attractive woman to his neighborhood Safeway supermarket in a bid to meet him while he was shopping and then seduce him; the attempt failed, and GM, when exposed, had to issue a public apology. 

But far from ending their effort to destroy Nader, corporations unleashed a much more sophisticated and well-funded attack. In 1971, the corporate lawyer and future U.S. Supreme Court Justice Lewis Powell wrote an eight-page memo, titled “Attack on American Free Enterprise System,” in which he named Nader as the chief nemesis of corporations. It became the blueprint for corporate resurgence. Powell’s memo led to the establishment of the Business Roundtable, which amassed enough money and power to direct government policy and mold public opinion. The Powell memo outlined ways corporations could shut out those who, in “the college campus, the pulpit, the media, the intellectual and literary journals,” were hostile to corporate interests. Powell called for the establishment of lavishly funded think tanks and conservative institutes to churn out ideological tracts that attacked government regulation and environmental protection. His memo led to the successful effort to place corporate-friendly academics and economists in universities and on the airwaves, as well as drive out those in the public sphere who questioned the rise of unchecked corporate power and deregulation. It saw the establishment of organizations to monitor and pressure the media to report favorably on issues that furthered corporate interests. And it led to the building of legal organizations to promote corporate interests in the courts and appointment of sympathetic judges to the bench. 

“It was off to the races,” Nader said. “You could hardly keep count of the number of right-wing corporate-funded think tanks. These think tanks specialized, especially against the tort system. We struggled through the Nixon and early Ford years, when inflation was a big issue. Nixon did things that horrified conservatives. He signed into law OSHA, the Environmental Protection Agency and air and water pollution acts because he was afraid of the people from the rumble that came out of the 1960s. He was the last Republican president to be afraid of liberals.”

The corporations carefully studied and emulated the tactics of the consumer advocate they wanted to destroy. “Ralph Nader came along and did serious journalism; that is what his early stuff was, such as ‘Unsafe at Any Speed,’ ” the investigative journalist David Cay Johnston told me. “The big books they [Nader and associates] put out were serious, first-rate journalism. Corporate America was terrified by this. They went to school on Nader. They said, ‘We see how you do this.’ You gather material, you get people who are articulate, you hone how you present this and the corporations copy-catted him with one big difference—they had no regard for the truth. Nader may have had a consumer ideology, but he was not trying to sell you a product. He is trying to tell the truth as best as he can determine it. It does not mean it is the truth. It means it is the truth as best as he and his people can determine the truth. And he told you where he was coming from.”

The Congress, between 1966 and 1973, passed 25 pieces of consumer legislation, nearly all of which Nader had a hand in authoring. The auto and highway safety laws, the meat and poultry inspection laws, the oil pipeline safety laws, the product safety laws, the update on flammable fabric laws, the air pollution control act, the water pollution control act, the EPA, OSHA and the Environmental Council in the White House transformed the political landscape. Nader by 1973 was named the fourth most influential person in the country after Richard Nixon, Supreme Court Justice Earl Warren and the labor leader George Meany.

“Then something very interesting happened,” Nader said. “The pressure of these meetings by the corporations like General Motors, the oil companies and the drug companies with the editorial people, and probably with the publishers, coincided with the emergence of the most destructive force to the citizen movement—Abe Rosenthal, the editor of The New York Times. Rosenthal was a right-winger from Canada who hated communism, came here and hated progressivism. The Times was not doing that well at the time. Rosenthal was commissioned to expand his suburban sections, which required a lot of advertising. He was very receptive to the entreaties of corporations, and he did not like me. I would give material to Jack Morris in the Washington bureau and it would not get in the paper.”

Rosenthal, who banned social critics such as Noam Chomsky from being quoted in the paper and met frequently for lunch with conservative icon William F. Buckley, demanded that no story built around Nader’s research could be published unless there was a corporate response. Corporations, informed of Rosenthal’s dictate, refused to comment on Nader’s research. This tactic meant the stories were never published. The authority of the Times set the agenda for national news coverage. Once Nader disappeared from the Times, other major papers and the networks did not feel compelled to report on his investigations. It was harder and harder to be heard.

“There was, before we were silenced, a brief, golden age of journalism,” Nader lamented. “We worked with the press to expose corporate abuse on behalf of the public. We saved lives. This is what journalism should be about; it should be about making the world a better and safer place for our families and our children, but then it ended and we were shut out.”

“We were thrown on the defensive, and once we were on the defensive it was difficult to recover,” Nader said. “The break came in 1979 when they deregulated natural gas. Our last national stand was for the Consumer Protection Agency. We put everything we had on that. We would pass it during the 1970s in the House on one year, then the Senate during the next session, then the House later on. It ping-ponged. Each time we would lose ground. We lost it because Carter, although he campaigned on it, did not lift a finger compared to what he did to deregulate natural gas. We lost it by 20 votes in the House, although we had a two-thirds majority in the Senate waiting for it. That was the real beginning of the decline. Then Reagan was elected. We tried to be the watchdog. We put out investigative reports. They would not be covered.” 

“The press in the 1980s would say ‘why should we cover you?’ ” Nader went on. “ ‘Who is your base in Congress?’ I used to be known as someone who could trigger a congressional hearing pretty fast in the House and Senate. They started looking towards the neoliberals and neocons and the deregulation mania. We put out two reports on the benefits of regulation and they too disappeared. They did not get covered at all. This was about the same the time that [former U.S. Rep.] Tony Coelho taught the Democrats, starting in 1979 when he was head of the House Campaign Finance Committee, to start raising big-time money from corporate interests. And they did. It had a magical influence. It is the best example I have of the impact of money. The more money they raised the less interested they were in any of these popular issues. They made more money when they screwed up the tax system. There were a few little gains here and there; we got the Freedom of Information law through in 1974. And even in the 1980s we would get some things done, GSA, buying air bag-equipped cars, the drive for standardized air bags. We would defeat some things here and there, block a tax loophole and defeat a deregulatory move. We were successful in staunching some of the deregulatory efforts.”

Nader, locked out of the legislative process, decided to send a message to the Democrats. He went to New Hampshire and Massachusetts during the 1992 primaries and ran as “none of the above.” In 1996 he allowed the Green Party to put his name on the ballot before running hard in 2000 in an effort that spooked the Democratic Party. The Democrats, fearful of his grass-roots campaign, blamed him for the election of George W. Bush, an absurdity that found fertile ground among those who had abandoned rational inquiry for the thought-terminating clichés of television.

Nader’s status as a pariah corresponded with an unchecked assault by corporations on the working class. The long-term unemployment rate, which in reality is close to 20 percent, the millions of foreclosures, the crippling personal debts that plague households, the personal bankruptcies, Wall Street’s looting of the U.S. Treasury, the evaporation of savings and retirement accounts and the crumbling of the country’s vital infrastructure are taking place as billions in taxpayer subsidies, obscene profits, bonuses and compensation are enjoyed by the corporate overlords. We will soon be forced to buy the defective products of the government-subsidized drug and health insurance companies, which will remain free to raise co-payments and premiums, especially if policyholders get seriously ill. The oil, gas, coal and nuclear power companies have made a mockery of Barack Obama’s promises to promote clean, renewal energy. And we are rapidly becoming a third-world country, cannibalized by corporations, with two-thirds of the population facing financial difficulty and poverty. 

The system is broken. And the consumer advocate who represented the best of our democracy was broken with it. As Nader pointed out after he published “Unsafe at Any Speed” in 1965, it took nine months to federally regulate the auto industry for safety and fuel efficiency. Two years after the collapse of Bear Stearns there is still no financial reform. The large hedge funds and banks are using billions in taxpayer subsidies to once again engage in the speculative games that triggered the first financial crisis and will almost certainly trigger a second. The corporate press, which abets our vast historical amnesia, does nothing to remind us how we got here. It speaks in the hollow and empty slogans handed to it by public relations firms, its corporate paymasters and the sound-bite society.

“If you organize 1 percent of the people in this country along progressive lines you can turn the country around, as long as you give them infrastructure,” Nader said. “They represent a large percentage of the population. Take all the conservatives who work in Wal-Mart: How many would be against a living wage? Take all the conservatives who have pre-existing conditions: How many would be for single-payer not-for-profit health insurance? When you get down to the concrete, when you have an active movement that is visible and media-savvy, when you have a community, a lot of people will join. And lots more will support it. The problem is that most liberals are estranged from the working class. They largely have the good jobs. They are not hurting.”

“The real tragedy is that citizens’ movements should not have to rely on the commercial media, and public television and radio are disgraceful—if anything they are worse,” Nader said. “In 30-some years [Bill] Moyers has had me on [only] twice. We can’t rely on the public media. We do what we can with Amy [Goodman] on “Democracy Now!” and Pacifica stations. When I go to local areas I get very good press, TV and newspapers, but that doesn’t have the impact, even locally. The national press has enormous impact on the issues. It is not pleasant having to say this. You don’t want to telegraph that you have been blacked out, but on the other hand you can’t keep it quiet. The right wing has won through intimidation.”

Kucinich: “Passing a weak bill today gives us weak environmental policy tomorrow”- June 27, 2009

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Dennis Kucinich

www.opednews.com, June 26, 2009

“I oppose H.R. 2454, the American Clean Energy and Security Act
of 2009.  The reason is simple.  It won’t address the problem.  In fact,
it might make the problem worse.

“It sets targets that are too weak, especially in the short term,
and sets about meeting those targets through Enron-style accounting methods. 
It gives new life to one of the primary sources of the problem that should be
on its way out”” coal “” by giving it record subsidies.  And it is
rounded out with massive corporate giveaways at taxpayer expense.  There is $60
billion for a single technology which may or may not work, but which enables
coal power plants to keep warming the planet at least another 20 years.

“Worse, the bill locks us into a framework that will fail. 
Science tells us that immediately is not soon enough to begin repairing the
planet.  Waiting another decade or more will virtually guarantee catastrophic
levels of warming.  But the bill does not require any greenhouse gas reductions
beyond current levels until 2030. 

“Today’s bill is a fragile compromise, which leads some to
claim that we cannot do better.  I respectfully submit that not only can
we do better; we have no choice but to do better.  Indeed, if we pass a
bill that only creates the illusion of addressing the problem, we walk away
with only an illusion.  The price for that illusion is the opportunity to take
substantive action. 

“There are several aspects of the bill that are problematic.

1.      Overall targets are too weak. The bill is
predicated on a target atmospheric concentration of 450 parts per million, a
target that is arguably justified in the latest report from the Intergovernmental
Panel on Climate Change, but which is already out of date. Recent science
suggests 350 parts per million is necessary to help us avoid the worst effects
of global warming.

2.      The offsets undercut the emission reductions.
Offsets allow polluters to keep polluting; they are rife with fraudulent claims
of emissions reduction; they create environmental, social, and economic unintended
adverse consequences; and they codify and endorse the idea that polluters do
not have to make sacrifices to solve the problem.

3.      It kicks the can down the road. By
requiring the bulk of the emissions to be carried out in the long term and
requiring few reductions in the short term, we are not only failing to take the
action when it is needed to address rapid global warming, but we are assuming
the long term targets will remain intact.

4.      EPA’s authority to help reduce
greenhouse gas emissions in the short- to medium-term is rescinded. It is our
best defense against a new generation of coal power plants.  There is no room
for coal as a major energy source in a future with a stable climate.

5.      Nuclear power is given a lifeline instead
of phasing it out.  Nuclear power
is far more expensive, has major safety issues including a near release in my
own home state in 2002, and there is still no resolution to the waste problem. 
A recent study by Dr. Mark Cooper showed that it would cost $1.9 trillion to
$4.1 trillion more over the life of 100 new nuclear reactors than to generate
the same amount of electricity from energy efficiency and renewables.

6.      Dirty Coal
is given a lifeline
instead of phasing it out.  Coal-based energy
destroys entire mountains, kills and injures workers at higher rates than most
other occupations, decimates ecologically sensitive wetlands and streams,
creates ponds of ash that are so toxic the Department of Homeland Security will
not disclose their locations for fear of their potential to become a terrorist
weapon, and fouls the air and water with sulfur oxides, nitrogen oxides, particulates,
mercury, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, and thousands of other toxic
compounds that cause asthma, birth defects, learning disabilities, and
pulmonary and cardiac problems for starters.  In contrast, several times more
jobs are yielded by renewable energy investments than comparable coal
investments.

7.      The $60 billion allocated for Carbon Capture and
Sequestration
(CCS) is triple the amount of money for basic research
and development in the bill. We should be pressuring China,
India and Russia to slow and stop their power
plants now instead of enabling their perpetuation. We cannot create that
pressure while spending unprecedented amounts on a single technology that may
or may not work. If it does not work on the necessary scale, we have then spent
10-20 years emitting more CO2, which we cannot afford to do. In addition, those
who will profit from the technology will not be viable or able to stem any
leaks from CCS facilities that may occur 50, 100, or 1000 years from now. 

8.      Carbon markets can and will be manipulated
using the same Wall Street sleights of hand that brought us the financial
crisis.

9.      It is regressive.  Free allocations doled
out with the intent of blunting the effects on those of modest means will pale
in comparison to the allocations that go to polluters and special interests.  The
financial benefits of offsets and unlimited banking also tend to accrue to
large corporations.  And of course, the trillion dollar carbon derivatives
market will help Wall Street investors.  Much of the benefits designed to
assist consumers are passed through coal companies and other large corporations,
on whom we will rely to pass on the savings.

10. The Renewabble
Electricity Standard (RES) is not an improvement. The 15% RES
standard would be achieved even if we failed to act.

11.  Dirty energy options qualify as “renewable“-:
The bill allows polluting industries to qualify as “renewable energy.”- 
Trash incinerators not only emit greenhouse gases, but also emit highly toxic
substances.  These plants disproportionately expose communities of color and
low-income to the toxics.  Biomass burners that allow the use of trees as a
fuel source are also defined as “renewable.”- Under the bill,
neither source of greenhouse gas emissions is counted as contributing to global
warming.

12.  It undermines our bargaining position in international
negotiations in Copenhagen

      and beyond. As the biggest per capita polluter, we have a responsibility to
take action that is disproportionately stronger than the actions of other
countries. It is, in fact, the best way to preserve credibility in the
international context.

13.  International assistance is much less than demanded by
developing countries. Given the level of climate change that is already in the
pipeline, we are going to need to devote major resources toward adaptation.  Developing
countries will need it the most, which is why they are calling for much more resources
for adaptation and technology transfer than is allocated in this bill.  This
will also undercut our position in Copenhagen.

“I offered eight amendments and cosponsored two more that
collectively would have turned the bill into an acceptable starting point.  All
amendments were not allowed to be offered to the full House.  Three amendments
endeavored to minimize the damage that will be done by offsets, a method of
achieving greenhouse gas reductions that has already racked up a history of
failure to reduce emissions “” increasing emissions in some cases “”
while displacing people in developing countries who rely on the land for their
well being.

“Three other amendments would have made the federal government a
force for change by requiring all federal energy to eventually come from
renewable resources, by requiring the federal government to transition to
electric and plug-in hybrid cars, and by requiring the installation of solar
panels on government rooftops and parking lots.  These provisions would
accelerate the transition to a green economy.

“Another amendment would have moved up the year by which
reductions of greenhouse gas emissions were required from 2030 to 2025.  It
would have encouraged the efficient use of allowances and would have reduced
opportunities for speculation by reducing the emission value of an allowance by
a third each year.

“The last
amendment would have removed trash incineration from the definition of
renewable energy.  Trash incineration is one of the primary sources of
environmental injustice in the country.  It a primary source of compounds in
the air known to cause cancer, asthma, and other chronic diseases.  These
facilities are disproportionately sited in communities of color and communities
of low income.  Furthermore, incinerators emit more carbon dioxide per unit of
electricity produced than coal-fired power plants.

“Passing a weak bill today gives us weak environmental policy
tomorrow,”- said Kucinich.

 

Dennis Kucinich is a congressman from Ohio and a 2008 presidential primary candidate. http://kucinich.us/ The best way to reach congressman Kucinich is through the information on his more…)

 

It Keeps Getting Worse: Obama Nominates Superfund Polluter Lawyer To Run DOJ Environment Division May 16, 2009

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by Craig Brown

www.commondreams.org, May 16, 2009

The Center for American Progress’ Think Progress blog is reporting:

President Barack Obama has nominated a lawyer for the nation’s largest toxic polluters to run the enforcement of the nation’s environmental laws. On Tuesday, Obama “announced his intent to nominate” Ignacia S. Moreno to be Assistant Attorney General for the Environment and Natural Resources Division in the Department of Justice. Moreno, general counsel for that department during the Clinton administration, is now the corporate environmental counsel for General Electric, “America’s #1 Superfund Polluter“:

Number five in the Fortune 500 with revenues of $89.3 billion and earnings of $8.2 billion in 1997, General Electric has been a leader in the effort to roll back the Superfund law and stave off any requirements for full cleanup and restoration of sites they helped create.

This February, General Electric lost an eight-year battle to “prove that parts of the Superfund law are unconstitutional.” One of the 600-person DOJ environmental division’s “primary responsibilities is to enforce federal civil and criminal environmental laws such as” the Clean Air Act, Clean Water Act, the Safe Drinking Water Act, and the Superfund.

Before General Electric, Moreno worked as a corporate attorney at Spriggs and Hollingsworth. Moreno’s name is found in the Westlaw database as an attorney defending General Motors in another Superfund case, the GM Powertrain facility in Bedford, Indiana:

Historical uses and management of PCB containing hydraulic oils and PCB impacted materials has contaminated on-site areas as well as the sediment and floodplain soil within Bailey’s Branch and the Pleasant Run Creek watershed.

Although General Motors entered into an agreement in 2001 with the EPA to clean up the site, a number of local residents whose land has been contaminated by polychorinated biphenyls (PCBs) have sued for damages in Allgood v. GM (now Barlow v. GM), in a contentious and caustic dispute over cleanup, monitoring, and lost property values.

During the Clinton administration, Moreno was involved in another controversial case, unsuccessfully defending the Secretary of Commerce’s decision to weaken the dolphin-safe tuna standard. In Brower v. Daley, Earth Island Institute, The Humane Society of the United States, and other individuals and organizations brought suit against the United States government for actions that were “arbitrary, capricious, an abuse of discretion, and contrary to law,” winning their case in 2000.

Transition or Coup D’etat? November 30, 2008

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by: Kevin Berends, t r u t h o u t | Perspective

photo
(Photo: Mark Wilson / Getty Images)

   

 

 During the transition period there is a silent coup d’état occurring inside the federal government in the form of last-minute firings and dubious personnel placements. The easy response to this practice is: “That always happens during the transition period and it isn’t even newsworthy. That’s how Washington works – always has, always will.” Perhaps, but considering how pervasively the Bush administration has flouted every branch of government, from ignoring Congressional subpoenas, to ignoring Supreme Court rulings, to violating the Geneva Conventions, to profuse and legally feeble signing statements – it’s clear that embedding operatives loyal to the party and policies jettisoned by the voters in the election is tantamount to laying mines throughout the government.

Also see :     
Triumph, but Also Vulnerability    •

    As if this isn’t enough, while the outgoing administration lays mine fields to sabotage President-elect Obama’s initiatives that could threaten the status quo, it is also terminating outstanding federal employees whom the current administration can assume, correctly, would be supportive of the new president’s policies. In the case of Dr. Marsha Coleman-Adebayo, who received her Notice of Proposed Removal from the Environmental Protection Agency on October 30, 2008, the message is clear: remove the person who has demonstrated like no other person within the EPA a determination to ensure that what the agency protects is the environment (as opposed to the corporations and other interests whose practices harm the environment but yield staggering profits) – and a chilling effect on other conscientious workers will have been achieved. Dr. Coleman-Adebayo’s landmark court victory in Coleman-Adebayo v. Browner (former EPA Administrator Carol Browner,) represents the most serious challenge the status quo has ever seen. Thus, decapitate the head and the uncontrolled beast of conscientious federal workers will fall. Last week, this particular purge prompted a letter to beleaguered outgoing EPA Administrator Stephen Johnson from Congressional Liaison to the White House Chris Van Hollen, urging reconsideration of Dr. Coleman-Adebayo’s firing, and the postponement of any further action until the transition is complete.

    This poisonous cocktail of embedding shills within the federal government while terminating exemplars imitates the old Soviet-style purges, where dissidents were forcibly removed and expelled to the Gulag. For courageous federal employees, however, our Siberia is a fate of poverty and disenfranchisement. Further, the embedding and termination process allows Bush-sympathetic bureaucrats – whose allegiance is to the failed president’s cronyism above concerns for an endangered environment – to keep “political insiders” within the bureaucracy to sabotage the Obama administration’s best efforts to bring the EPA back into sync with the best scientific evidence we have – that there is no time to waste before environmental damage will reach the point of no return.

    In the midst of severe economic downturn, terminated federal employees are sure to find themselves on the street without the possibility of future employment, because the government refuses, in many cases, to provide favorable recommendations for them. In many documented instances, the only thing these employees are “guilty” of was having blown the whistle on illicit practices within the federal system. Yet their firing often results in a twenty- to thirty-year gap in their employment history, because the “scarlet letter” of being fired discourages others from hiring them. This, of course, has cascading effects where many fired employees have lost their homes and have been added to the ranks of the unemployed and to the rising number of people having to rely on welfare to survive. While this is designed to produce a chilling effect and spread a cold climate of fear and intimidation throughout the federal system, it will do nothing to cool an at-risk planet.

    Employees fearful that talking to the press will lead to them being identified and fired are controllable employees. This is where we need to give the devil his do. President Bush signed the No FEAR Act into law so that such retaliation and discrimination could be banished from the status quo. Or at least so it would appear to have been. Truth be known, No FEAR has been easily circumvented, for lack of enforceable code. But that’s where the No FEAR II and Federal Disclosures Acts could come in – at exactly the right moment when the electorate, its new president, and a willing Congress – quite apart from looking the other way while decent people have their careers destroyed – could erase decades of business as usual.

    Both acts would put teeth into existing Whistleblower protection law: by holding managers who tolerate discrimination, retaliation – and eleventh-hour purges – personally accountable for those crimes; by expediting claims against those managers through the courts, and by financial incentives for whistleblower attorneys.

    The day when the old familiar rejoinder of “This is what always happens during the transition period” is a thing of the past and is as close as being within reach of Congress’s vote and the president’s pen.

    Kevin Berends was a co-founder of Lake Affect Magazine, and produced the independent television program Streetlevel in Rochester, New York. He has produced documentaries, is a reporter for WHYNotnews, and has covered the post-hurricane Katrina housing controversy in New Orleans, Iraq Veterans Against the War, and whistleblower protection rights and related legislation in Washington, DC.