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A Quick Whirl Around the Fracking World: 18 Sep 2014

By: KateCA Thursday September 18, 2014 10:43 am


A Quick Whirl Around the Fracking World

*USA. Are you ready? The People’s Climate March is set to go on Sunday, September 21st, at 11:30 am in Central Park West, New York City. Why’s it so important? See here and here, for example. If you’re able to go, you just might bump into UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, too.

*Worldwide. New major report to show that “the necessary fixes” for tackling global warming “could wind up being effectively free.”

*Worldwide. The World Resources Institute reports that “many places with water scarcity are using too much of their resources on fracking,” including Algeria, China, Egypt, India, Libya, Mexico, Pakistan, South Africa and the USA. Strong recommendations: “water risk assessments before drilling, increased transparency of fracking company actions, cooperation between companies and governments and lowering freshwater use in fracking.

“Worldwide. A sudden drop in the global demand for oil is ‘nothing short of remarkable’” says the International Energy Agency. Reasons: US oil consumption has fallen, there are “pronounced declines in Japanese power sector demand,” and Europe’s growth is weakening. Meanwhile, US and OPEC output “continue to surge”, and we know what that mean$.

*Worldwide. Projections of how soon the world will have exhausted various resources, including oil. Is there a Plan B?

*USA. Rice University researchers studied fracking-produced water in TX’s Eagle Ford, NM’s Barnett and PA’s Marcellus Shales. Findings: fracking-produced water “contained potentially toxic chlorocarbons and organobromides;” chlorine dioxide or hypochlorite used to treat the water “can actually enhance” conversion of “hydrocarbons to chlorocarbons and organobromides;” fracking-produced water contained six inorganic chemicals “that would make the water unsafe to drink.” More results here.

*USA. Research shows that fracking for natural gas results in about 5% of methane leaking into the atmosphere. Some of the leakage seems to occur during the fracking process; inability to effectively seal wells is another culprit—“all wells leak.”

*USA. Two sites with specific information re corporate $s donated to politicians: Open Secrets and Forecast the Facts.

*USA. Refreshing to note interest in the health impacts of oil and gas fracking on workers: the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) reveals that some fracking industry workers “are routinely exposed to high levels of benzene”, a cancer-causing gas. Sad to say, the amounts of benzene NIOSH recorded are below “the far higher limit . . . set by” OSHA.

*USA. Earthworks is also interested in whatever is in those fracking fluids (currently “trade secrets”), is pushing for US Environmental Protection Agency to disclose what chemicals are involved.

*USA. Concerns about possible  illegal use of diesel fuel in fracking have surfaced, involving “at least 33 companies fracking at least 351 wells in 12 states . . . from 2010 through early August 2014”—AR, CO, KS, MT, ND, NM, OK, PA, TX, UT, WV, WY. Industry spokespersons blamed data recording mistakes.

*USA. How to make yourself feel better (or not). An Oil Train Blast Zone interactive website that’ll show you are close you are “to a disaster waiting to happen”.

*CA. And here comes roarin’  Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA), who’s so sure that the US Department of Transportation is gonna con us all about global warming “theory” that he opposes a proposed rule making it illegal for an freight train carrying crude oil “to be left unattended on main or side tracks that are located near rail yards ‘unless specific requirements are followed.’”

*CO. Fracking has intruded on the governor’s race, with incumbent John Hickenlooper (D) maneuvering to strike an anti-fracking initiative from the ballot which “some Democrats feared could spur a backlash” against him (of course, it could have spurred some support for him, too).


Iraq & Syria: How does this end?

By: Jordan Melograna Thursday September 18, 2014 10:20 am


America is about to start yet ANOTHER war to stop terrorism. But, we’ve been invading, bombing, cruise missiling, and droning countries for decades, and terrorism hasn’t gone away. Congress and the President need to stop and think — how does this end?

The simple answer is that it doesn’t. President Bush’s so-called War on Terror seems likely to continue to the end of President Obama’s term and beyond. America no longer ends the wars it starts, whether literal wars or figurative ones. There’s too much money at stake. Whether it’s Halliburton selling supplies, or Lockheed Martin’s over-budget, dysfunctional F-35, those who make money off foreign wars are not content to just let them end.

Perpetual war doesn’t make the world safer. It breeds extremism and terrorism abroad, while costing trillions of dollars back home. But, it also puts the American psyche permanently on a wartime footing. So it’s not surprising that we’re arming our police for war, even when they’re facing peaceful protests. It’s no wonder that another famous “war”, the so-called War on Drugs keeps raging in the face of all the evidence that it is not working.

Arming “moderate” groups, while bombing “extremist” groups hasn’t working out well for us either, but that’s not stopping the House of Representatives from endorsing President Obama’s plan to do just that.

No one is saying that ISIS or Al Qaeda or any other extremist organizations are a bunch of nice guys, or that they wouldn’t deserve all the terrible things the US military could do to them. The problem is that we’ve been kicking terrorist ass over the world, but in doing so, we’re not pausing for a moment to consider the unintended consequences.

In the 1980s, we decided that the enemy of our enemy, the Soviet Union, would make great friends. We handed off hundreds of millions of dollars to arm and train the Mujahideen fighters of Afghanistan. We did not fully understand who these fighters were, nor did we fully appreciate or seemed to care about the radical social policies they would enact if they won, so long as they could be a pain in the side of the “evil empire.”

The problem was that those same fighters included Osama Bin Laden, and future members of the Taliban. They famously attacked the American homeland in 2001, but were also implicated in several preceding attacks all over the world. This lead to our own invasion of Afghanistan, where we’re still fighting rebel elements as well as launching attacks into neighboring Pakistan. Our policy of drone strikes in the region are undoubtedly creating new terrorists. Victims of drone strikes are often innocent children, not bad guys, and you can hardly blame them for hating America when the first time they heard about our country was because their neighbor’s house had been destroyed by our military.

That whole litany of killing and more killing can be traced to previous leaders’ reluctance to consider the results of their actions. Now, the President and Congress are planning to do the same thing in Syria and Iraq. This time, do you think our military action and the arming of militants will have a different outcome? How does this end?

Swinging for the Fences

By: New Progressive Alliance Wednesday September 17, 2014 5:47 am

Our series profiling independent and alt-party candidates for seats in the November election who have endorsed the New Progressive Alliance’s Unified Platform continues. An introductory piece is here.

By Andrew McCoy
NPA Volunteer

Green party logo

A newly redrawn district offers a chance for a Green upset in Colorado.

Gary Swing of Colorado believes it’s time for Progressive candidates to raise the stakes, and again this election cycle, this endorser of the Unified Platform is all in.

Swing, a Green, is running for Colorado’s newly drawn 6th District seat for U.S House, where major-party registrations are about equally split. He has run twice before for House from Colorado, but in traditionally “safe” Democratic districts.

This cycle is different.

“Every election year we hear the same nonsense about ‘voting for the lesser of two evils,’” Swing says.

“Despite the spirited chants of ‘We Are the 99 percent,’ 99 percent of American voters continue to embrace the greater evils: perpetual wars of aggression, imperialism, authoritarianism, and environmental devastation,” which, Swing says, “is the shared agenda of the two corporate parties.”

So this year Swing is working to give the people a stronger voice. He is challanging not only incumbent Mike Coffman, who Swing calls a “a right-wing Republican militarist,” but the Democrat, Andrew Romanoff – who leads the incumbent by about 10 points in recent polling.

“We still hear the same tired old arguments that have never been valid: Voting your conscience is a wasted vote; a vote for a Green Party candidate is a vote for the Republican, and so on,” Swing says. “Voting Green can’t ‘spoil’ elections that are already rotten to the core.”

Swing similarly pulls no punches in distinguishing himself from his opponents. His clear policy positions unequivocally oppose wars of aggression, the spread of American imperialism, and the national surveillance state. He opposes government policies that privilege corporate profits over the well-being of workers (such as the TPP and NAFTA).

Swing also seeks to empower the American people by pushing for structural change that gives citizens a more forceful voice in policy decisions.

Romanoff and Coffman, meanwhile, support largely similar policies that emphasize balancing the federal budget, though neither has expressed any desire to raise revenue. Both support American intervention overseas in response to vague “security” concerns, and neither has provided any clear policy framework regarding their positions on any specific issue. Campaign contributions from private industries and PACs constitute a significant portion of both candidates’ cash flow.

“The corporate media are already so bored and unimpressed with the meaningless contest between Coffman and Romanoff that they have declared this to be a ‘swing district,’” Swing notes, adding with a wry laugh, “and I’m looking for Swing voters!”

An avid outdoorsman, Swing has climbed all of Colorado’s 637 mountains and backpacked more than 10,000 miles of American wilderness. He says his understanding of the risks of exploiting of our natural resources has made him committed to developing a sustainable path forward.

America, For Sale: $2 Billion Oughta Do It

By: Jane Stillwater

With election time almost upon us, here’s a rather sobering thought: By spending as little as a mere two billion dollars, anyone with that amount of money can now afford to buy an entire American election — Congress, the White House, governorships and all.

An illustration of a jet plane labelled "Citizens United" pouring dollars onto cartoon emblems of the Republicans and Democratic party animal mascots.“But Jane,” you might ask, “why would anyone even want to do that?” Why? Just look at all the immense amount of loot you can score with just this tiny investment. Access to national park land, bank deregulation, profits from weapons production, corporate monopoly status, pro-pollution laws, judges’ rulings in your favor … need I go on?

For instance, eleven trillion dollars has been recently spent on escalating and pursuing fake wars. So if you “invest” in American elections and still only receive, say, just ten percent of that eleven trillion singles for your weapons-manufacturing services or whatever the heck else companies like Halliburton do, you still have just grown your measly two-billion-buck investment at least a thousand times over. Forever War really pays off!

Or if you are guys like Obama, Bush and Cheney — and can’t resist playing with war toys? Then you get to buy your very own wars! Lots and lots of wars. You get to play with actual life-sized GI Joe dolls and call yourself “Commander in Chief.” You get to bomb Libya and Ukraine and Iraq and Syria. What fun! Two billion dollars can buy you a hecka lot of war toys — eleven trillion dollars worth to be exact.

Or let’s say that your net worth is approximately 100 billion dollars, like, say, the Koch brothers’ worth is. You spend less than three percent of that money on buying elections — and voila! You too get over a thousand percent return on every dollar you spend.  What kind of crazy-good investment is that!

Or let’s say you are a member of the notorious WalMart family, worth hundreds of billions of dollars.  You spend just a few paltry billion on election buyouts — and suddenly us taxpayers are paying for all of your employees’ healthcare.  And we’re throwing food stamps into the bargain too.  Brilliant idea!

Or what if you own a giant coal company, oil company, car company, power company or some other major polluter? Common sense tells us voters that we need to cut down on polluting the atmosphere so as to avoid drastic climate change that even now threatens to kill off the whole human race.

We could have been using solar power all this time for instance — and also cleaned up our rivers and even eliminated the need for fossil fuel. But no. For a few (billion) dollars more at election time, you can potentially doom the entire human race. America, are we having fun yet?

A Step Forward for Democracy in D.C.

By: Scott McLarty Tuesday September 16, 2014 11:59 am

“The capital of the nation is the last plantation!” “Free D.C.!”

A sculpture of a red hand labelled "51" and "Give Me A Vote"

“Free D.C.!”

For decades, residents of “America’s last colony” have clamored for the same irrevocable rights as other citizens of the United States.

The movement to bring democracy to the District of Columbia took a step forward on Monday, September 15, when local political leaders and representatives of pro-democracy groups testified in favor of statehood for the nation’s capital city before the U.S. Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Government Affairs.

The subject of the committee hearing, which was led by Sen. Tom Carper (D-Del.), was the “New Columbia Admissions Act” (S. 132; with counterpart bill H.R. 292 in the U.S. House).

Among those testifying were D.C. Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton, who holds a nonvoting seat in the House, and Mayor Vince Gray. The hearing is unlikely to lead to passage of the two bills any time soon, given Congress’s ongoing gridlock and Republican hostility to D.C. statehood.

But the hearing represents an advance for the statehood movement because a new unity behind the goal of statehood was on display.

Until recently, many of the same officials who now seek statehood preferred another goal, “D.C. voting rights,” which meant a single voting seat for the District in the House of Representatives. Ten years ago, Del. Norton and other Democratic leaders who favored D.C. voting rights tried to discourage D.C. democracy advocates from demanding statehood. Endorsement of statehood was removed from the Democratic Party’s national platform in 2004 and still hasn’t been restored. The promotion of D.C. voting rights legislation led many people to confuse voting representation in Congress with statehood.

This was a mistake. Self-determination and self-government, not representation in a legislature, are the true measures of democracy. Colonies in Africa and Asia and conquered European nations like Ireland held voting seats in the legislatures of nations that ruled over them, even while they suffered exploitation and oppression. Many of these colonies, like Algeria, a French possession until 1962, became free only after violent revolutions.

Our own Founding Fathers and Mothers in the thirteen colonies fought for independence, not voting rights. Patrick Henry never said “Give me a vote in Parliament or give me death.”

The D.C. voting rights legislation went nowhere, and not only because of Republican contempt for the rights of D.C. residents. Even when Democrats controlled both houses of Congress and the White House, most recently in 2009 and 2010, no meaningful expansion of the rights of D.C. residents has taken place after limited Home Rule was granted in 1973. Legislation to grant statehood to D.C. was defeated in the U.S. House in 1993 by a vote of 277 to 153.

Statehood advocates (those not distracted by D.C. voting rights) have always understood that the lack of voting representation in Congress is just one of several reasons for statehood, and that self-government and full equality under the U.S. Constitution for the District with its black majority remain part of the unfinished business of the Civil Rights Movement. (For a more thorough history of the D.C. democracy movement, see “The D.C. Statehood Papers: Writings on D.C. Statehood & Self-government” by Sam Smith.)

Until D.C. becomes a state, Congress holds the power to veto locally passed decisions and impose unwanted laws, policies, and budgets on D.C. residents. Congress threatens to nullify a local marijuana legalization measure: in July, 2014, a Maryland Republican Representative inserted an amendment into the District’s 2015 Appropriation Bill that would stop decriminalization of marijuana from taking effect and remove the initiative from the D.C. ballot in November. In June, House Republicans blocked funding for a law passed by D.C. Council that would eliminate the threat of jail time for marijuana possession. In 1998, Congress overturned a ballot measure for medical marijuana (Initiative 59) that had passed with a 69% majority.

Congress has imposed zero-tolerance laws and a charter-school program; outlawed needle exchange in D.C. to prevent HIV transmission; and prohibited District government from taxing commuters, a source of revenue for all other cities. Congress members have tried to enact the death penalty, impose a school voucher program, and deny benefits for same-sex couples. In 2001, Congress, through an appointed Financial Control Board, ordered Mayor Anthony Williams to dismantle D.C. General Hospital, the District’s sole full-service public health facility.

In the only public referendum on the issue, over 60% of D.C. residents voted in favor of statehood in 1980.

Groups that have consistently advocated statehood, like the Stand Up! for Democracy in D.C. Coalition, the D.C. Statehood Green Party, D.C. Statehood — Yes We Can, and Neighbors United For D.C. Statehood are encouraged that Democratic leaders have seen the light and embraced the call for genuine democracy in the form of statehood.

Weaving a New Star

The New Columbia Admissions Act is consistent with arguments by statehood advocates that statehood for the District can be achieved by an Act of Congress (requiring a 51% simple majority), without a constitutional amendment (requiring ratification by 2/3 of states). In 1846, an Act of Congress removed Arlington from D.C. and ceded it to Virginia, proving that Congress can legally alter the District’s borders.

If ISIS Were Really a Movie

By: David Swanson Friday July 1, 2011 10:44 am


ISIS has created a movie preview for the coming war, a war it eagerly wants Washington to take part in. The White House and Congress would like to oblige, as long as the movie can be a short one, on the model of Libya. Here’s the plot: Evil force arises out of nowhere; United States destroys it; credits roll. If Libya-The-Movie had begun with years of support for Gadaffi or ended with the disaster left behind, the critics would have hated it. Framing is everything.

Kathy Kelly published an article on Wednesday describing her visit some years back to a U.S. prison camp in Iraq where Awwad Ibrahim Ali al-Badri al-Samarrai spent four years under the name Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi before becoming the leader of ISIS.

Imagine a Hollywood-like movie that began in that camp. An opening scene might show Baghdadi and his fellow prisoners paraded naked in front of female soldiers and forced to say “I love George Bush” before they could get their food rations. We’d see them sleeping on the ground in the cold, cursing their captors and swearing every last drop of energy and instant of remaining life to that highest of all Hollywood values: violent revenge.

Cut to the present and a scene in a small house in Iraq with 500-pound U.S. bombs exploding just outside. Baghdadi and his gang of loveable heroes look horrified, but — with a twinkle in his eye — Baghdadi gathers the others to him and begins to smile. Then he begins to laugh. His comrades look bewildered. Then they start to catch on. “You wanted this, didn’t you?” exclaims Sexy Female Rebel. “This was your plan, wasn’t it!”

“Hand me the ultimate weapon,” Baghdadi says, turning to a future nominee for best male supporting actor. BMSA grins and pulls out a video camera. Baghdadi raises the camera over his head with one hand. Turning to Sexy Female Rebel he says “Go on the roof and look north. Tell me what you see coming.”

Cut to view through binoculars as music swells to high enthusiasm. Countless oceans of people on foot are making their way over the land with burning U.S. flags on sticks leading the way.

Of course, even Hollywood, which made Avatar, wouldn’t make exactly THIS movie. The White House is going to have to make it. But who’s directing? President Obama is hunting around for a name for this war, while ISIS has already released one in its video preview. Even the U.S. public seems increasingly interested in the full-length feature. “How does this end?” they want to know. “This was begun by Bush” they say, depending on their partisanship.

What if the script were flipped, not to portray the Iraqi as protagonist, but to abandon the religion of violent revenge?  What if Washington were to say to ISIS this:

We see that you want a war with us. We understand that you would gain local support because of how deeply we are hated. We’re tired of being hated. We’re tired of taking direction from criminals like you. We’re not going to play along. We’re going to make ourselves loved rather than hated. We’re going to apologize for our occupations and bombings and prisons and torture. We’re going to make restitution. We’re going to provide aid to the entire region. It’ll cost us a lot less to do that than to keep dropping bombs on you, so you can forget the plan to bankrupt us. We’re going to save trillions of dollars in fact by ceasing to arm ourselves and the rest of the world to the teeth. We’re going to announce a ban on shipping weapons to the Middle East. And since we ship 80% of them, not even counting our own military’s, we’re already off to a huge start. We’re going to prosecute any oil company or country that does business with your organization. But we’re going to hold no grudges against anyone who abandons your organization and seeks peace, just as we ask you to do what you can toward overcoming grudges against our past barbarity.

What would happen? You might be surprised. Gandhi-The-Movie brought in over $50 million in 1982.

Changes to MyFDL

By: Jane Hamsher

When we first opened MyFDL several years ago there was no existing software that allowed us to do what we wanted to do — open up a blog where the entire FDL community could post. So at that time we had to do a lot of adaptation to the WordPress system we run on in order to make it work.

This meant that each time we needed to upgrade WordPress, we had to re-write our own software too, which to be perfectly honest was problematic from the start and has caused a lot of our technical problems over the years.

We find ourselves in a place where we can’t do the needed upgrades to the WordPress system that the entire site runs on and reprogram MyFDL at the same time due to cost and the sheer enormity of the task. So starting tonight at 10 pm ET we are going to be taking MyFDL in its current state offline and replacing it with a more limited community blog that operates on standard WordPress, at least until we can get the rest of the site upgraded.

What does that mean for MyFDL bloggers? For regular MyFDL bloggers, not much. The Over Easy gang and many of the people you see here regularly will have logins and posting privileges on the MyFDL blog, which will function on standard WordPress like any of the other FDL verticals (News, The Dissenter, Just Say Now, etc.).

But MyFDL now has some 33,000 people with diarist permissions, and WordPress in its native form was simply was not built to handle that kind of volume. So much to our sadness we won’t be able to import all of those 33,000 authors to the new blog. We hope that everyone who may find themselves unable to post diaries for the time being will continue to bring their insights and their research to the community in the OverEasy or Late Night threads, because it is your continued participation that makes the community so rich.

We thank everyone for their forbearance while we try to get our system upgraded, and we hope that in the not-too-distant future we’ll be able to solve our programming challenges and be able to create a space that will be both more functional and more suited to the needs of the community.

If you have questions please leave them in the comments section, we’ll be around today and tomorrow answering them.

Over Easy

By: Ruth Calvo Wednesday March 28, 2012 8:50 am

Over Easy

The community that began with Southern Dragon’s Lakeside Diner continues. Today we collect news from outside the usual, and renew the discussion.

We can’t take a personal look at the Antarctic ice cap without taking a ship to the area so most of us are not aware of another dark side of climate change and its effects: the actual darkening of the ice.

The ice pack in Greenland this year is black. Reports Slate’s Eric Holthaus:

‘There are several potential explanations for what’s going on here. The most likely is that some combination of increasingly infrequent summer snowstorms, wind-blown dust, microbial activity, and forest fire soot led to this year’s exceptionally dark ice. A more ominous possibility is that what we’re seeing is the start of a cascading feedback loop tied to global warming. [Climate scientist Jason] Box mentions this summer’s mysterious Siberian holes and offshore methane bubbles as evidence that the Arctic can quickly change in unpredictable ways.

This year, Greenland’s ice sheet was the darkest Box (or anyone else) has ever measured. Box gives the stunning stats: ‘In 2014 the ice sheet is precisely 5.6 percent darker, producing an additional absorption of energy equivalent with roughly twice the US annual electricity consumption.’

Voters in Scotland have been casting their ballots on the independence of that country, with prediction of disaster and of new and heady powers balancing each other to nearly even predictions as to the results. The state of the U.K. has alienated many in the country it rules; ‘Some see the U.K. as stuck in a postimperial, postindustrial crisis in which marketization threatens the very fabric of the society, imperiling its finest institutions, such as the National Health Service and British universities. ‘

A Panelbase poll released earlier on Wednesday, which was not carried out for any media outlet, suggested support for independence was on 48%, with 52% support for Scotland staying in the UK, once undecided voters were excluded.

The Pope will meet with Argentine president de Kirchner Saturday, with vulture funds’ court decisions part of the agenda, as well as the governance of the embattled country, a Vatican spokesman confirmed.

‘He is Argentine and has lived what we all have. He supports the democratic process, that means watching for Cristina (Fernández),’ Karcher said in statements to media this morning ahead of a meeting between the pontiff and Cristina Fernández de Kirchner to be held in the papal residency of Santa Marta this weekend.

Regarding the meeting’s agenda, the monsignor considered the scope of issues the heads of state are expected to discuss ‘very wide’ with ‘no matter being excluded,’ leaving a door open for both leaders to address Argentina’s legal dispute against vulture funds. Pope Francis, Karcher said, ‘is critical of any position that does not favour the people.’