My FDL
User Picture

Saturday Art: Influential Authors: Anne Rice

By: dakine01 Saturday December 20, 2014 4:00 am
30/365: time for the Anne Rice books to go. except the withching hour  <3

Stack of Anne Rice books

Please Note: When I began this series, it was to cover a lot of authors whom I have found personally influential, even though this may only be because I enjoyed the stories they have told in their books or short stories. I’m just fortunate enough and well read enough that many of the authors I have personally enjoyed have also been influential on a macro scale as well as micro. rrt

I stopped by my local Barnes & Noble store to kill some time Thursday afternoon and saw where Anne Rice has her first new book for The Vampire Chronicles in ten years. Prince Lestat is the eleventh book in this series.

From the Goodreads.com intro for Rice:

Anne Rice (born Howard Allen Frances O’Brien) is a best-selling American author of gothic, supernatural, historical, erotica, and later religious themed books. Best known for The Vampire Chronicles, her prevailing thematical focus is on love, death, immortality, existentialism, and the human condition. She was married to poet Stan Rice for 41 years until his death in 2002. Her books have sold nearly 100 million copies, making her one of the most widely read authors in modern history.

She uses the pseudonym Anne Rampling for adult-themed fiction (i.e., erotica) and A.N. Roquelaure for fiction featuring sexually explicit sado-masochism.

In a somewhat unusual (for me) situation, the first book of Rice’s that I read just happened to be the first she wrote – Interview with the Vampire. My sister had a copy and I read it some time around ’83 or ’84 and that started the two of us reading and sharing the Vampire and Mayfair Witches books. I have not read all of the Vampire books but besides Interview… I have read The Vampire Lestat, Queen of the Damned, The Tale of the Body Thief, Memnoch the Devil, and Blood and Gold. From the Mayfair Witches I have read The Witching Hour, Lasher, and Taltos.

As much as I have enjoyed the Vampire and Mayfair Witches books my absolute favorite of Rice’s is The Mummy or Ramses the Damned (from Goodreads):

Ramses the Great has reawakened in opulent Edwardian London. Having drunk the elixir of life, he is now Ramses the Damned, doomed forever to wander the earth, desperate to quell hungers that can never be satisfied. He becomes the close companion of a voluptuous heiress, Julie Stratford, but his cursed past again propels him toward disaster. He is tormented by searing memories of his last reawakening, at the behest of Cleopatra, his beloved queen of Egypt. And his intense longing for her, undiminished over the centuries, will force him to commit an act that will place everyone around him in the gravest danger.

From the wiki for The Mummy…:

During the Edwardian period in 1914, a wealthy shipping-magnate-turned-archaeologist, Lawrence Stratford, discovers an unusual tomb. The mummy inside, in its left-behind notes, claims to be the famed pharaoh Ramses II, despite the tomb’s dating only to the first century B.C. (the historical Ramses II died in 1224 B.C.). Before he can fully investigate this claim, Lawrence unexpectedly falls dead, and those around him fear he was the victim of a curse placed on the tomb. Nonetheless, the mummy and other belongings are shipped off to London, and placed on temporary display in Lawrence’s house before they are taken by the British Museum.

Lawrence’s daughter Julie Stratford is the designated heir to her father’s shipping company, as well as the dysfunctional family that surrounds it. Her cousin Henry is an alcoholic and gambling addict who has been draining the family fortune with the aid of his uncle. Julie is engaged to marry Alex Savarell, a viscount and son of Elliott, the current Earl of Rutherford. Although the marriage is a standard alliance between the wealthy Stratfords and an impoverished family of nobles, Alex truly loves Julie, though she is unable to return these feelings.

For all the fanfare Rice’s Vampire and Mayfair Witches books have brought, a couple of her other stand alone books may be the most consequential just because of the topics she covered, even as fiction. Feast of All Saints is set in the pre-Civil War New Orleans and covers “free people of color” – predominantly mixed race. Cry to Heaven is set in 18th Century Venice among the castratii.

I am among the people, including Rice herself, who questioned the casting of Tom Cruise as Lestat in Interview with the Vampire yet had to admit that he pulled the role off. I have never made it through Queen of the Damned. She has seven total IMDB writing credits though her wiki does discuss some possible future movies and/or TV productions.

According to the critics and such, Rice’s writing is supposed to contain heavy elements of eroticism of various flavors, especially the books she has written under the names Anne Rampling and A. N. Roquelaure. I have not read any of these books though I have watched the movie for Exit to Eden which I consider a “good” bad movie.

 

Why is Near Term Human Extinction Inevitable?

By: Robert J. Burrowes Friday December 19, 2014 5:36 pm

If you hadn’t previously heard the expression ‘near term human extinction’, you have now. And you will get used to hearing it soon unless you insulate yourself from reality with greater effectiveness than you are doing by reading this article.

The expression ‘near term human extinction’ is relatively new in the scientific literature but, unlike other truths that have been successfully suppressed by national elites and their corporate media, this one will keep filtering out until you start to hear the expression routinely. Why? Because this truth is simply too big to suppress permanently and the planetary environment delivers its feedback directly to us in the form of catastrophic environmental events, climatic and otherwise, whether or not these are reported by the corporate media.

It is now widely accepted that we are living through the sixth mass extinction in planetary history. The last one occurred 65 million years ago, when the dinosaurs vanished. We are now losing biodiversity at a rate similar to that time. But this mass extinction is driven by us. And we will be one of the casualties. The only real debate is when. And this debate is predicated on the unstated and highly problematic assumption that we can continue to avoid nuclear war.

So what does the expression ‘near term human extinction’ mean?  In essence, according to those scientists who use the term, it means that human beings will be extinct by about 2030. For a summary of the evidence of this, with many references, listen to the lecture by Professor Guy McPherson on ‘Climate Collapse and Near Term Human Extinction’.

Why 2030? Because, according to McPherson, the ‘perfect storm’ of environmental assaults that we are now inflicting on the Earth, including the 28 self-reinforcing climate feedback loops that have already been triggered, is so far beyond the Earth’s capacity to absorb, that there will be an ongoing succession of terminal breakdowns of key ecological systems and processes – that is, habitat loss – over the next decade that it will precipitate the demise of homo sapiens sapiens.

Now, it should be pointed out, many scientists disagree with this timeframe. For example, science journalist Scott K. Johnson endeavours to explain ‘How Guy McPherson gets it wrong’. And, just recently, Dr Piers J Sellers, acting director of earth science at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center, stated that ‘It is almost certain that we will see a rise of two degrees Celsius before 2100, and a three-degree rise or higher is a possibility. The impacts over such a short period would be huge. The longer we put off corrective action, the more disruptive the outcome is likely to be.’ See ‘Wobbling on Climate Change’.

But even if Johnson and Sellers are right, and McPherson is wrong about the timeframe, there are still many scientists who are keen to point out that we are ongoingly breaching ‘tipping points’ that make human survival increasingly problematic. In 2009, for example, Johan Rockström, James Hansen and colleagues explained that three of nine interlinked planetary boundaries – in relation to climate, biodiversity loss and biogeochemical cycles – had already been overstepped. See ‘A safe operating space for humanity’.

And, in 2012, Prof Kevin Anderson, Deputy Director of the UK’s premier climate modelling institution, the Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research, warned that emissions are now out of control and we are heading for a world that is 6 degrees hotter; he pointed out that even the International Energy Agency, and conservative organisations like it, are warning that we are on track for a 4 degree increase (on the pre-industrial level) by 2040. He also accused too many climate scientists of keeping quiet about the unrealistic assessments put out by governments. See ‘What They Won’t Tell You About Climate Catastrophe’.

And what these assessments do not necessarily take into account is the synergistic impact of our combined assaults on the environment including those unrelated to the climate. These include the devastating assaults on the environment through military violence (often leaving vast areas uninhabitable), rainforest destruction, industrial farming, mining, commercial fishing and the spreading radioactive contamination from Fukushima. We are also systematically destroying the limited supply of fresh water on the planet which means that water scarcity is becoming a frequent reality for many people and the collapse of hydrological systems is now expected by 2020. Human activity drives 200 species of life (birds, animals, fish, insects) to extinction each day and 80% of the world’s forests and over 90% of the large fish in the ocean are already gone. Despite this readily available information, governments continue to prioritise spending $US2,000,000,000 each day on military violence, the sole purpose of which is to terrorise and kill fellow human beings.

The point is simply this: you are welcome to analyse the scientific evidence for yourself and make your own assessment of the timeframe and the degree of severity of the threat. Perhaps human extinction will not occur until next century. But whether we define ‘near term’ as 2030, 2040 or even next century, human extinction is now a distinct possibility. And after 200,000 years of our species, calling this ‘near term’ seems reasonable.

So is near term human extinction inevitable?

In my view, human extinction is the most likely outcome. But not simply because we are inflicting too many insults on the planetary environment. Extinction is inevitable because of human fear and, specifically, unconscious fear: The fear in ourselves and others that is not experienced consciously but which often drives three capacities that are vitally important in any context: the focus of our attention, our capacity to adequately analyse the evidence (if we get our attention focused on it) and our behaviour in response to this analysis. For example, if you do not know that your fear is making you screen out unpalatable information, then you won’t even notice that you have turned your attention elsewhere and have now forgotten what you just read. Or your fear might prevent you adequately analysing the evidence and/or responding intelligently to it. See ‘Why Violence?’ and ‘Fearless Psychology and Fearful Psychology: Principles and Practice’.

So, if you are one of the people still reading this article, you are probably less frightened than most people. The others gave up before they got to this paragraph. So let me now tell you the primary problem with the fear. It distorts the mental focus, capacity for analysis and the behaviour of national elites, that is, corporate owners and their political, military, media, bureaucratic, academic and judicial lackeys. In essence, corporate profits cannot be maximised in a world where environmental constraints are taken into account, either through sensible consideration or legal requirement, so fear will drive dysfunctional corporate activity irrespective of its environmental cost. And corporate executives will ensure that their political and other lackeys do not get in their way because the fear that drives profit maximizing behaviour is deep-seated and far outweighs any fears in relation to the environment. For a fuller explanation of this point, see ‘Love Denied: The Psychology of Materialism, Violence and War’.

This is why lobbying elites to change their behaviour in the direction of environmental sustainability (or peace and justice, for that matter) is a complete waste of time. It is their fear that locks them into what they focus on, what they are ‘thinking’ and what they are doing, and arguments, no matter how sensible or evidential, cannot work.

In essence then, it is fear that drives dysfunctional environmental behaviours. And, history tells us, fear will prevent us taking sufficient action in time.

So is there any point doing anything given that we are dead on track for near term human extinction?

Well, if you are like me, you are one of those people who does not intend to go down without a fight. A big fight! So you might consider joining those of us participating in ‘The Flame Tree Project to Save Life on Earth’: a fifteen year strategy to address all of our environmental challenges systematically in a way that undermines the elite fear that would destroy us all. You might also like to sign the online pledge of ‘The People’s Charter to Create a Nonviolent World’.

The Flame Tree Project was inspired by that great environmentalist, Mohandas K. Gandhi, who identified the environmental crisis nearly one hundred years ago and, having done so, subsequently lived his own life in extraordinary simplicity and self-reliance, symbolised by his daily spinning of khadi: ‘Earth provides enough for every person’s need but not for every person’s greed.’

Extinction might be howling outside our door but, if you have the courage, you can still fight. There is no downside in trying. But we need to fight strategically so that we defeat elite fear. How long do you want to wait before joining the fight?

***

Robert has a lifetime commitment to understanding and ending human violence. He has done extensive research since 1966 in an effort to understand why human beings are violent and has been a nonviolent activist since 1981. He is the author of ‘Why Violence?’ His email address is flametree@riseup.net and his website is here.

Boston Bombing News: Tsarnaev Pretrial

By: jane24 Friday December 19, 2014 4:34 pm

Thursday, 18th. December saw the final pretrial conference in the case of U.S. v Dzhokhar Tsarnaev  at Moakley Courthouse in Boston. The trial is due to begin the first week of January, 2015. This hearing was scheduled for 10.00 am and the defendant arrived nearly four hours previous, escorted by at least three divisions of law enforcement. This was the first time Dzhokhar Tsarnaev has attended a court hearing since his arraignment in July of 2013.

Judy Clarke, Miriam Conrad and David Bruck were present for the defense, and William Weinreb, Aloke Chakravarty, Nadine Pellegrini and Steven Mellin. Donald Cabell was also in court, as were an assorted contingent of law enforcement and the USDA for the State of Massachusetts, Carmen Ortiz. Judge Goerge O’Toole was, of course, presiding. I only observed one of the victims of the bombings in the courtroom, that being Marc Fucarile, but it is possible that more were present. The courtroom, by contrast to previous status conferences, was packed.

Proceedings:

Judge O’Toole’s first thanked both the defense and the prosecution for their work in this case. He then acknowledged the presence of the defendant in the courtroom and emphasized the fact that this indeed was the first time the defendant had been present in court for over a year.

The judge then asked four questions of the defendant and each time Dzhokhar Tsarnaev answered quietly but clearly with no trace of an accent. O’Toole’s first question was if the defendant was satisfied with his choice not to attend previous hearings in accordance with his attorneys’ advice. Tsarnaev answered “Yes Sir” and responded same when O’Toole asked if the defense attorneys had been in regular contact and had kept Tsarnaev “up to date with the case.” Judge O’Toole’s third question for the defendant was as to whether he believed that his attorneys were acting in his best interests. Dzhokhar Tsarnaev’s response to this was “Yes Sir, very much.” The inflection I detected leads me to believe that this is something the defendant genuinely believes. O’Toole’s final question was as to whether there was anything Tsarnaev would like to discuss privately with the judge and Tsarnaev’s  answer was “No Your Honour.”

David Bruck then requested that it be noted by the court that this final pretrial conference was the first hearing since his arraignment that Dzhokhar Tsarnaev had been asked to attend and that had he been asked to attend any hearings prior to this then he would have happy to do so. Bruck also requested that it be acknowledged by the court that the defendant’s choice not to attend many of the hearings in his case was quite within the norm. The judge agreed.

Motions pending were then addressed. The first to be discussed was the most recent motion filed by the defense to request a hearing to address alleged “leaks” from law enforcement to the media. O’Toole stated his concern but dismissed the most recent alleged “leaks” as actually being information which could have been gleaned from other sources. (As did the prosecution’s motion filed in response to the request for a hearing.)

It was noted that Judge Young had scheduled a hearing for the following afternoon to address alleged “leaks” in the case of Khairullozhon Matanov. (It is now my understanding that Judge Young has now requested information, in Matanov’s case, from both the defense and the prosecution as to who had access to the information which was allegedly “leaked.”) Judge O’Toole indicated that he intended to await the other judge’s decision before making his own decision on this matter. (?)

The defense’s second motion for access to Grand Jury instructions was denied.

The third motion to be addressed was that filed by the prosecution to exclude the testimony of a witness for the defense. This witness, Janet Vogelsang, was described as an expert in bio/psycho/social issues. The prosecution’s objection to this witness were voiced, via William Weinreb, in that the prosecution views this witness’s testimony to be likely to amount to “hearsay” and “family lore” rather than sound fact. David Bruck then disputed this and claimed that Vogelsang would be able to provide an accurate account of his client’s life history and added that the prosecution has already received documentation listing the names of those interviewed by Vogelsang in the course of her research.

Most notable to me, at this point, was David Bruck’s observation that if Janet Vogelsang were indeed required to testify, that this would likely not be until April 2015. Would a trial wherein the defense was based solely on mitigation, (as some here continue to insist will be the case), really be likely to continue into a fourth month?

Judge O’Toole stated that he had been aware of an “ongoing dispute” between the defense and the prosecution in regard to this witness. He declined to rule and advised the court that he intended to rule on all remaining pending motions “on the papers.” (To which we are now accustomed!)

The judge then declined to discuss jury selection issues in open court. Following this he referenced the number of sealed filings in this case  and went on to say that he expected to see sealed motions be unsealed as the trial date approaches. Courtroom logistics and decorum were addressed briefly and upcoming deadlines noted.

At the very end of yesterday’s hearing, just before 10.30 am, David Bruck announced that an additional Motion for a Continuance would be filed shortly and that this would be a result of “new information” received from the government just 48 hours previous to the hearing.

General Observations:

The presence of law enforcement outside the courthouse was, as expected, most prominent.

I am not able to estimate the number of people attending yesterday’s hearing as it is my understanding that the majority, which included some of the media, were obliged to observe proceedings via closed circuit television in an overflow room . (Or rooms?)

A small group of protestors/supporters were assembled outside and to the right of the courthouse.

Elena Teyer attended the hearing and prior to this spoke to those assembled outside the courtroom about the discrepancies in the case of Dzhokhar Tsarnaev and about the harassment and killing of her son-in-law, Ibragim Todashev, at the hands of the FBI in May 2013. After the hearing concluded and as the defendant, Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, was being prepared to leave the courtroom, she raised her voice in  a brief message of support and encouragement for Tsarnaev which led to her being removed from the courtroom. I understand that Elena was not detained and was able to speak to the media and others outside the courthouse.

Dzhokhar Tsarnaev:

Much comment has been made by the media in regard to the physical appearance of Dzhokhar Tsarnaev. Unfortunately, (and as was to be expected), much of this “descriptive comment” is inaccurate. The defendant did not appear to be physically strong and appeared to be considerably underweight. Judy Clarke demonstrated concern for her client and put her hand on his shoulder several times during the status conference. Tsarnaev’s hair was indeed long but did not look “unkempt” as has been stated in the media. Lastly, anyone who had a reasonable view of Dzhokhar Tsarnaev and claims not to have noticed the marked residual effects of his previous injuries must have, in my opinion, very poor eyesight, an agenda, or both.

 

 

 

Unreality Is Becoming the New Reality

By: Isaiah 88 Friday December 19, 2014 10:57 am

Edward R. Murrow . . .

The obscure we see eventually. The completely obvious, it seems, takes longer.

Americans have never been very good at seeing the completely obvious. It’s a nationwide affliction and it’s getting worse. Untold millions do not realize that democracy is being eliminated, that human rights are being eradicated, that reality itself is being discarded. The Powers-That-Be have concluded that reality is not conducive to corporate profits, it is interfering with Wall Street agendas, it is undermining the ability of corrupt politicians to get reelected, so reality is being downsized, it is being phased out, it is being taken off the table.

Unreality is becoming the new reality.

John Pilger, “The Triumph of Propaganda” . . .

The times we live in are so dangerous and so distorted in public perception that propaganda is no longer, as Edward Bernays called it, an “invisible government.” It is the government. It rules directly without fear of contradiction, and its principal aim is the conquest of us: our sense of the world, our ability to separate truth from lies.

Was Is Peace / Freedom Is Slavery / Ignorance Is Strength

The propaganda has never been so pervasive, so relentless, so effective. It has always been a weapon of the privileged and the powerful, but media consolidation has been a force multiplier, it has made the propaganda orders of magnitude greater in terms of volume and impact. The desecration of journalism is accelerating, network news has become a degrading spectacle, the deceit broadcast every day on Fox News has never been more blatant.

I can no more describe the blinding hypocrisy of these “journalists” than I can the surface of the sun. Even when I shield my eyes from the glare, a few seconds of it is all I can stand.

Glenn Greenwald . . .

Ever since the torture report was released last week, U.S. television outlets have endlessly featured American torturers and torture proponents. But there was one group that was almost never heard from: the victims of their torture. Whenever America is forced to confront its heinous acts, the central strategy is to disappear the victims, render them invisible. That’s what robs them of their humanity: it’s the process of dehumanization. That, in turns, is what enables American elites first to support atrocities, and then, when forced to reckon with them, tell themselves that – despite some isolated and well-intentioned bad acts – they are still really good, elevated, noble, admirable people.

The authors of the torture report reported the facts, they voiced their concerns, but their voices were small cries against a very large darkness. That darkness is spreading, concealing the horror of all that was done at Abu Ghraib, at Guantanamo, in the secret prisons of the national security underworld. The truth has been perverted by the media to such an obscene extent that torture has become patriotic. Instead of facing condemnation, the torturers are being honored for their resolve, for their determination to protect the homeland. The desired propaganda effect has been achieved–a significant majority of Americans now support the torture of human beings.

Termination. With extreme prejudice. That is how the Powers-That-Be are treating reality, that is how the police are treating reality, that is how America’s “journalists” are treating reality, that is how they will always treat reality from now on, until the sun goes out.

The High and Mighty among us have noted that the shelf life of their War on Terror is expiring, they’ve noted that the ragtag idiots of ISIS have somehow failed to conquer the entire Middle East, so the strategists of the national security state are busy orchestrating an even bigger and better war than the one that got away, the profiteers are eagerly awaiting it, the media is performing its assigned role as it always does.

Pilger . . .

The suppression of the truth about Ukraine is one of the most complete news blackouts I can remember. The biggest Western military build-up in the Caucasus and eastern Europe since World War II is blacked out. Washington’s secret aid to Kiev and its neo-Nazi brigades, responsible for war crimes against the population of eastern Ukraine, is blacked out. Evidence that contradicts propaganda that Russia was responsible for the shooting down of a Malaysian airliner is blacked out.

You don’t need to be a far left extremist or a nihilist or an anarchist or a member of a subversive labor union or even a dangerously unarmed African-American to suspect that the Powers-That-Be seem bound and determined to provoke a major conflict with America’s newly designated existential enemy–Putin’s Russia.

Not when so much critical information is being blacked out, not when reality itself is being blacked out, not when it’s being redacted and revised and rewritten beyond all recognition. At this rate, it won’t be long until there’s nothing left of reality but fading memories of it, covertly shared in the comment thread of a diary on some low-traffic website somewhere.

Unreality is becoming the new reality.

It’s long past time for Americans to finally see the obvious.

If you aren’t ready to fight back yet, if you aren’t ready to speak truth to power in the streets, I suggest you get ready. Because darkness is heading our way and it’s bringing global conflict with it, it’s bringing economic collapse with it, it’s bringing mass arrests with it, it’s bringing hell on earth with it.

(Image by Joel Franusic, Flickr Creative Commons)

Day #9 of 11: #ThisStopsToday and Oakland #UmbrellaMarch

By: wendydavis Thursday December 18, 2014 5:39 pm

And also…the soundtrack of the expanding revolution built around #Ferguson and #BlackLivesMatter.

Relentless pressure, again in NYC and enirons; a movement led by youth, millennials, black women, and aided by allies of all skin hues.  It’s growing and broadening; where it will go no one knows.

Not Just Public Lands: Defense Bill Also Incentivizes Fracked Gas Vehicles

By: Steve Horn Thursday December 18, 2014 5:13 pm

Cross-Posted from DeSmogBlog   

DeSmogBlog recently revealed how Big Oil’s lobbyists snuck expedited permitting for hydraulic fracturing (“fracking”) on public lands into the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) of 2015, which passed in the U.S.House and Senate and now awaits President Barack Obama’s signature.

A follow-up probe reveals that the public lands giveaway was not the only sweetheart deal the industry got out of the pork barrel bill. The NDAA also included a provision that opened the floodgates for natural gas vehicles (NGVs) in the U.S.—cars that would largely be fueled by gas obtained via fracking.

The section of the bill is titled, “Alternative Fuel Automobiles.” The “fuel described in subparagraph (E)” refers to natural gas, found within Title 49 of the United States Code‘s section 32901.

It means, as with electric vehicles, natural gas automobile manufacturers will now also receive financial credits under the new Corporate Average Fuel Economy standards introduced by President Obama in May 2009.

Introduced by Climate Denier Inhofe

The provision was initially introduced in February by U.S. Sen. James Inhofe (R-OK), a climate science denier, as the Alternative Fuel Vehicle Development Act.

Inhofe called it a “bill that would incentivize the production and purchase of…natural gas vehicles (NGVs)” in a press release announcing its introduction.

“The booming natural gas industry in America is delivering a cheap, domestic energy source for our homes and businesses, but this fuel source is being underutilized in our vehicles,” said Inhofe. “I have introduced the Alternative Fuel Vehicle Development Act to help the rest of the nation tap into the benefits of using natural gas in vehicles.”

Though introduced at the beginning of the year, the bill did not advance and had only one co-sponsor: U.S. Sen. Carl Levin (D-MI), the soon-to-be-retired co-sponsor of the NDAA of 2015. Levin cited President Obama’s support of natural gas as a “bridge fuel” in introducing the bill on the Senate floor.

“The President outlined in his State of the Union his goal to achieve energy independence through the use of alternative fuels,” said Levin in his floor statement. “He specifically mentioned natural gas as the bridge fuel that can grow our economy, create jobs for the middle class, and reduce carbon pollution. I am pleased to introduce legislation today that takes a step toward meeting that goal.”

On the day of the NDAA’s passage, Inhofe and Levin issued a follow-up press release on Section 318.

“Enactment of this bipartisan provision moves natural gas one step closer towards becoming a mainstream fuel for our everyday cars,” Inhofe declared. “Natural gas is an underutilized clean and abundant domestic energy resource for U.S. transportation in part due to outdated regulations. I am proud to have worked with Sen. Carl Levin to cut the red tape and help present Americans with another alternative to affordable, clean energy for their vehicles.”

Industry Lobbies, Then Cheerleads

Following the tried and true pattern, Big Oil — alongside the auto industry — first lobbied for the bill it likely wrote. Then once it passed, it praised it.

“Sen. Inhofe continues to be a champion for the NGV industry by introducing legislation that will encourage both automakers and vehicle purchasers to put more NGVs on American roads,” Richard Kolodziej, president of NGVAmerica said in a March press release after the initial introduction of the stand-alone bill.

Alongside the auto industry and other companies, America’s Natural Gas Alliance (ANGA) lobbied in quarter onetwo and three for the bill’s passage, according to lobbying disclosure forms reviewed by DeSmogBlog.

ANGA’s lobbying team for the NGVs issue embodies the government-industry revolving door.

It included Amy Farrell, former deputy assistant administrator for the George W. Bush Administration’s Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the associate director for environment & regulations for the Bush White House Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ)Frank Macchiarola, former Republican minority staff director for the US Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources, also lobbied for the cause.

On the Democratic side, ANGA was flanked by its CEO Marty Durbin, nephew of U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin (D-IL) and a former lobbyist for the American Petroleum Institute. Prior to becoming a lobbyist, Durbin worked as a congressional staffer.

Upon the NDAA of 2015′s passage, ANGA praised both fracking-related provisions, expedited permitting for fracking on U.S. public lands and natural gas vehicles, in a press release. Inhofe included ANGA’s natural gas vehicles provision statement in his press release, as well.

“This bill also promotes the tangible benefits that natural gas vehicles offer in increasing the use of an abundant and affordable American resource,” declared Macchiarola in ANGA’s release. “This provision helps pave the way for the deployment of cleaner, more efficient vehicles on our highways and allows our nation to enjoy the environmental and economic advantages natural gas offers.”

President Obama has declared strong support for NGVs in the past.

Locking in Fracking

The two provisions buried within the 1,600-plus page NDAA of 2015 serve as the last laugh for Big Oil in the U.S. as 2014 winds down.

With three liquefied natural gas (LNG) export terminals approved this year —fueled by the same revolving door exemplified by the NGVs provision — and the floodgates now opened for expedited fracking permitting on public lands, Big Oil has locked in U.S. fracking infrastructure for years to come.

Or at least until the shale runs dry, with public lands now offering a new major lifeline.

As it stands, California and New York are the last major obstacles resisting the U.S. fracking rush. But there exists no state in the union — with the combination of pipelines, petrochemical plants, manufacturing facilities and now more NGV infrastructure — that remains untouched by the fracking revolution.

A Quick Whirl Around the Fracking World: 18 Dec 2014

By: KateCA Thursday December 18, 2014 2:31 pm

Nordheim, TX—a small town that now finds itself home to an open-pit fracking waste facility.

*Worldwide.  As the climate conference closed in Lima, one single paragraph emerged, but two days later, an entire document was released.  Environmentalists are particularly critical of the final product, here and here.  Next year’s meeting in Paris is predicted to be rocky unless the countries most responsible for global warming are held to account—including the US.

*Worldwide.  Jean Ross, President of the National Nurses United Council of Presidents, explains that the climate crisis is a health crisis, “It’s become an emergency.”  And what will turn that around?  “true energy democracy with public ownership.”  She specifically addresses fracking, too, and the Keystone XL pipeline.

*Worldwide.  8 Dec, Brent crude was $67.30 while US crude was $64.40. 12 Dec, Brent was $62.94with US prices falling to $57.8115 Dec, Brent at $60.62, US at $55.38—and the Canadian dollar “is now below 86 cents US.”

*Worldwide.  Pretty spectacular prediction:  The fall in oil prices “may blow a $1.6 trillion hole in the global oil sector, annually.”  (Subtitle:  “Santa got run over by an oil tanker.”)

*USA.  Sen Mitch McConnell (R-KY) says “the first action taken on his watch will be passing a bill to build the controversial Keystone XL pipeline.”

*USA.  Taxpayer funds for oil trains!  There reportedly are “10 federal and state grants” totaling about $84.2 million for oil trains.  Thanks to fracking, “oil-train traffic has surged at least 42-fold since 2009, and 415,000 railcar loads of oil” were on the tracks last year.  Wait’ll you read about Philadelphia’s  Energy Solution refinery complex—“controlled by hedge fund Carlyle Group”.  Or the $8.6 million in federal funds for “privately-held FarmRail System” in OK,  or the $8.9 million in state and county funds for Global Partners in Oregon.

*AK.  Seems North Slope crude is being affected by the rapid descent in oil prices, too, leading to the possibility of “multibillion-dollar deficits . . . where 88 cents of every dollar spent by state government comes from oil production.”  Could lead to a $3.5 billion shortfall.  If this continues, ya think the knee-jerk response will be to cut programs for the poor and less-well-off?

*CA.  The Yurok tribe “has sold millions of dollars’ worth of carbon credits . . . to some of the state’s biggest polluters”, including oil companies.

*CA.  The US 9th Circuit Court of Appeals “threw out a human rights lawsuit brought against Occidental Petroleum Corp over allegations that it played a role in killings carried out by the Colombian military in 2004.”  Three murdered labor union workers’ families had filed the suit.  At the time, Occidental and subsidiary Ecopetrol contributed $6.3 million of “assistance” to Colombian security.

*FL.  Such a bright idea:  Duke Energy and Florida Power & Light want “to shift the high cost of [oil fracking] exploration from their stockholders to their customers.”  And don’t forget Tampa where Duke Energy billed customers for nuclear-power plants that have never been built—but Duke still has the money.  Update:  Florida Power & Light got the green light from state regulators; Duke’s “reviewing”.

*LA. St. Tammany Parish is trying to halt oil drilling and/or fracking near Mandeville.  Concerned Citizens of St. Tammany want to join in the Parish’s lawsuit against LA’s Dept of Natural Resources and Commissioner of Conservation.

*MA.  In January, “the U.S. Department of Interior will auction off more than 742,000 acres in the waters off Massachusetts for the development of commercial wind energy.”  12 companies qualified to participate.  Maybe the Whirl will morph into “around the Green Energy World”.

*NC.  Those proposed fracking rules “sailed through a rules review . . . despite a staff attorney’s warning that several rules failed to meet state standards and should be put out for public hearing.”

*NESeems TransCanada wants a decision and it wants it now.  They’ve sent final offers to 100+ Nebraskans on the Keystone XL pipeline route offering them right-of-way payments, else they’ll face eminent domain.  Those 100+ have so far not signed easement contracts.

*NM.   Gov Martinez (R) is reportedly “supporting polluting industries, going against EPA guidelines and passing [legislation] which allows mining, oil, gas and dairy industries to continue to pollute groundwater . . . as long as it doesn’t leave their property.”  Groan.  Currently, citizens are fighting to protect the Gila River, keep out fracking and imports of nuclear waste.

*NY.  At last, Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D)’s administration has made public its fracking report.  NY’s Dept of Health Commissioner noted “The evidence . . . raised public health concerns”, and many questions, since there have been no “longitudinal studies” of the impact of fracking on public health.  The Dept of Environmental Conservation Commissioner said fracking’s “prospects . . . in New York State are uncertain at best.”  Science and concern for the public’s health won the day.

*OK.  Pedestal Co is proposing leasing land to the south of Lake Hefner.  A public hearing has been scheduled “with only 1 week notice, a week before Christmas and with only representatives of Pedestal Oil company”.

*PA.  Whoa!  “In a change from two months ago, Penn Township officials now are moving to ban fracking ponds” from all five zoning districts.  Seems public comments saved the day.  Meanwhile, Gov-elect Tom Wolf (D) has reiterated he’s a big fracker-fan, though of course his administration will make it all safe.

*TX. Republicans like to rag on big government, but when it comes to fracking in TX, big government is in charge.  Denton, TX voted to ban fracking.  They’ve been told only the state can decide where fracking will occur, however.

*TX.  Watch out “brown pelicans, ocelots, sea turtles, dolphins and a host of other endangered and protected wildlife” on and near South Padre Island, ’cause liquid natural gas conglomerates are looking to build export terminals in the area, resulting in “million of gallons of heated effluent” sumped daily into shallow bays.

*TX.  “Islands of the Oil Kings”: 3-part Dallas News series on the early oil barons, their San Jose and Matagorda Islands from whence came some mighty big deals and politicians.

*TX.  Halliburton (can you say Dick “Dick”?) will be laying off around 1,000 employees in “the Eastern hemisphere, effective immediately”.  They’re also buying Baker Hughes, oil field services company, for $35 billion but that’s “unrelated”, of course, of course.

*Canada.  Everyone’s fave, BP, has joined with Husky Energy to begin “operations at their Sunrise oil sands in Alberta, Canada, a project expected to have a lifespan of 50 years.  Initial capacity of 60,000 barrels per day”, eventually to be 200,000 barrels/day.  The two also own the BP-Husky Refinery  at Toledo, OH.

*Canada.  Canadian grain-trains are increasingly hauling oil, too—which the “farmers say is pushing their crops to lower-priced overseas markets.”  This could help out US growers and consumers, except US farmers experience the same problem.

*Canada.  The Fraser Institute maintains there’s “no evidence of unmanageable risk associated” with fracking.  And even if there is, it can be handled simply by having companies’ have adequate insurance.  What’s the Fraser Institute, you might ask (and you should)?  “It has been described as politically conservative and libertarian.”  Its funding? 31% directly from corps and 57% from “‘business-oriented charitable foundations’”, such as the Charles G. Koch Charitable Foundation and the Koch-controlled Claude R. Lambe Foundation.

*Nigeria.  Two oil workers’ unions in Nigeria have gone on strike, “demanding the reinstatement of representatives who had been dismissed by oil companies”, initially, but now expanded to protesting the state of disrepair of refineries and roads used to transport oil, the price of oil and the continuing theft of it.

*Bangladesh.  Villagers “using spoons, sponges and shovels” are trying to mop up 77,000 gallons of oil unleashed in an area that is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.  A Padma Oil Co. tanker collided with a cargo ship.  Oil has spread “across 50 miles of rivers and canals.”  Padma is paying the locals for whatever oil they can collect.  Vegetation and animals are reportedly dying.  And the impact on the human spirit?

No More Khirbet Khizehs

By: David Swanson Thursday December 18, 2014 12:23 pm

 

“Fields that would never be harvested, plantations that would never be irrigated, paths that would become desolate. A sense of destruction and worthlessness. An image of thistles and brambles everywhere, a desolate tawniness, a braying wilderness. And already from those fields accusing eyes peered out at you, that silent accusatory look as of a reproachful animal, staring and following you so there was no refuge.” — Yizhar Smilansky, Khirbet Khizeh

On the day in 2014 that I read the new English translation of Khirbet Khizeh, Tom Engelhardt published a blog post rewriting recent news articles on the U.S. Senate’s torture report as a 2019 Senate report on drone murders. The 2019 “news” media in Tom’s believable account is shocked — shocked, I tell you — by the rampant murder discovered to have been committed using missiles from drones of all things.

The point is that most of what’s been discussed as news from the recent torture report, and certainly all of the fundamental moral points — has been known — or, more accurately, knowable for years. For the past several years, the U.S. establishment has been repeatedly “banning” torture. It has also been repeatedly discovering the same evidence of torture, over and over again. Leading torturers have gone on television to swear they’d do it all again, while radical activist groups have demanded “investigations.”

The point is that at some point “truth and reconciliation” is lies and reconciliation — the lies of pretending that the truth needed to be unearthed, that it was hidden for a time, that the crimes weren’t committed in the broad daylight of television spotlights on a sweaty old man assuring us he was about to start working on the dark side.

Illustrated at right, from the iNakba app, are villages that were destroyed in 1948 to create Israel. Generations of Israelis have grown up not knowing, not wanting to know, pretending not to know, and knowing without confronting the Catastrophe. Israelis are discovering what happened, unburying the hidden truth, filming aging participants’ distorted confessions, and hunting out the outlines of disappeared villages on GoogleEarth.

But what if the truth was always marching naked down the street with trumpets sounding?

In May 1949, Yizhar Smilansky published Khirbet Khizeh, a fictional account of the destruction of a fictional village much like many real ones. Smilansky knew or hoped that he was ahead of his time, so much so that he began the tale by framing it as a recollection from the distant future. The narrator, like the reader, was known by the author to be unable to see for years to come.

What would keep the book alive until that distant day?

Poetry.

It’s not a Senate report. Khirbet Khizeh is a work of masterful insight and storytelling that grips you and compels you to enter the experience of its narrator and his companions, as they do what the author had done, as they imitate Nazis before all the ashes had fallen from the skies above the ovens in Europe.

This book was planted and grew. It’s been taught in Israeli schools. It was a movie on Israeli television in 1978. And now, with a sense that perhaps sleepy eyes are stretching open at long last, the book has had itself translated into the language of the imperial homeland, English.

But how could poetry keep heresy alive?

Several ways, I think. Absolute failure to pay attention, for one. Think about how literature is taught in many U.S. schools, for example. The ability of people to hear the poetry without the meaning, for another. Think about people singing John Lennon’s Imagine without having the slightest idea they’ve just proposed to abolish religions, nations, and private property, or how people throw around the phrase “peace on earth” in December. Perverse but predictable and perhaps predicted misinterpretation, for another. Think about how viewers of the propaganda film Zero Dark Thirty read accounts of torture, for example — as a dirty job that needed doing for a greater cause.

It’s a strain, to me at least, to read Khirbet Khizeh as a celebration of genocide or mass-eviction. And the book not only suffered but also benefitted from being ahead of its time. It pre-existed the mythologies and rhetorical defenses that grew up around the Catastrophe in the decades that followed. When the narrator makes a slight resistance to what he is engaged in, no reader can find anything but humanitarian motivation in his resistance. The idea that this soldier, questioning his fellow soldiers, is engaged in anti-Semitism would literally make no sense. He’s revolted by the cruelty, no more no less — cruelty that every adult and child has to have always known was part of any mass settlement of ancient lands in 1948.

When I was a child, in elementary school, I wrote a story about an eviction of a family from its house, complete with plenty of tear-jerking details. As a good American I wrote about British redcoats evicting patriotic U.S. revolutionaries. My teacher suggested to me that I had a talent for writing. But that wasn’t writing. Had I written of the Native Americans, the Hawaiians, the Filipinos, the Vietnamese, of Diego Garcia or Vieques or the Marshall Islands or Thule or Okinawa or any of the many places about which silence was expected, that might have been writing.

Let us wish no more Khirbet Khizehs on the people of Palestine and many more Khirbet Khizehs on the world.