My FDL
User Picture

After Oregon Rejects Coal Export Plan, Long Beach Votes to Export Coal and PetKoch

By: Steve Horn Thursday August 21, 2014 1:33 pm
Flag against a blue sky: Green Port Long Beach

The “Green” Port of Long Beach will now export millions of tons of pollutants per year.

Just a day after the Oregon Department of State Lands shot down a proposal to export 8.8 million tons per year of coal to Asia from the Port of Morrow in Boardman, Oregon, the Long Beach City Council achieved the opposite.

In a 9-0 vote, the Council voted “yay” to export both coal and petroleum coke (petcoke, a tar sands by-product) to the global market — namely Asia — out of Pier G to the tune of 1.7 million tons per year. Some have decried petcoke as “dirtier than the dirtiest fuel.“

More specifically, the Council determined that doing an environmental impact statement before shipping the coal and petcoke abroad was not even necessary.

decision originally made in June and then appealed by Earthjustice on behalf of the Sierra Club, Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) and Communities for a Better Environment, the Council shot down the appeal at an August 19 hearing.

“We are very disappointed about the decision, but that does not diminish the amazing victory in Oregon,” Earthjustice attorney Adrian Martinez said in a statement provided to DeSmogBlog via email. “The decision in Long Beach just highlights the grasp that the fossil fuel industry has on the City’s leaders.”

The Earthjustice legal challenge and the the subsequent August 19 hearing was not about banning coal or petcoke exports. Rather, Earthjustice and its clients requested that the City of Long Beach do an environmental impact statement for two companies given contracts to export the commodities for 15-20 years.

One of those companies, Oxbow Carbon, is owned by the “Other Koch Brother,” William “Bill” Koch. Like his brothers David and Charles Koch, he has made a fortune on the U.S. petcoke storage and export boom. Also like his brothers, he is a major donor to the Republican Party.

But the Long Beach City Council voted “nay” in unanimous fashion to do the environmental impact study. Earthjustice had argued it was required to do an environmental review under the legal dictates of the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA).

“It’s disappointing that the City would turn a blind eye to even doing some basic analysis of the impacts of this decision to lock into 15 years of exporting dirty fuels abroad,” said Martinez.

“More than 100 residents showed up at the August 19 hearing to support pausing this deal and are deeply concerned about how climate change and pollution from exporting dirty fuels impacts them and future generations.”

Adding insult to injury, Sierra Club endorsed Vice Mayor and City Council member Suja Lowenthal in her Democratic Party primary race for State Assembly, which she recently lost.

The floodgates have been opened, then, to export massive amounts of coal and petcoke from the self-styled “Green Port.”

It comes at a time when numerous California refineries are retooling themselves to blend more tar sands diluted bitumen (“dilbit”), which gets to the Golden State mainly via rail.

Further, it happens at the same time critics say the Obama Administration is exporting climate change by exporting coal abroad — often to countries without any meaningful regulations — even as his administration regulates U.S.-based coal-fired power plants.

Union, Oxbow Representatives Oppose Enviro Review

While the majority of those who testified at the August 19 hearing before the Long Beach City Council voted spoke in favor of doing an environmental impact statement, several industry executives and union workers spoke out against it.

“First and foremost, you should know the facilities on Pier G are world-class operations that set the bar for environmental excellence in our industries. We are very proud of what we do here with the port,” Clayton Headley, Oxbow’s vice president of supply for the Pacific region stated at the hearing.

 

Beware of Exploding Gifts from Uncle Sam

By: codepink

In a brilliant August 17 segment of Last Week Tonight, HBO host John Oliver ripped into small towns that have equipped their police with war-like military equipment. One town was Keene, New Hampshire, where their military-grade armored personnel truck was acquired to protect critical targets –– like the annual Pumpkin Festival. Another was Doraville, Georgia. Oliver showed a wild video clip from the Doraville Police Department’s website, with a Ninja-dressed SWAT team going for a joyride in a souped-up armored personnel carrier, all set to a heavy metal song called “Die MotherF***er Die.”

In a visit to Doraville last week, I asked Officer Gene Callaway why his sleepy town of 8,000, which hasn’t had a murder since 2009, needed an armored personnel carrier (APC). “The vehicle provides Doraville with a scalable response and ensures the safety of police officers,” he answered. Scalable response? Safety of police officers? Doraville has never been a crime-ridden town. “We at Doraville are proud to be ranked 39th in safest cities in Georgia,” Callaway himself bragged. It seems the most useful task the APC performed was pulling 18-wheelers back onto the salted lanes of Route 285 during snowstorms. Oh, and let’s not forget that “the kids love playing on it” when it rolls up to the county fair, Callaway told me.

Doraville’s armored vehicle is a gift from Uncle Sam, as part of the billions of dollars’ worth of military equipment now flowing from the federal government to state and local police departments. Not only is it an incredible waste of taxpayer money, but it gets people–including children–accustomed to seeing military vehicles on their streets. Worst of all, it is causing police to act like soldiers, especially since one of the stipulations of getting this equipment is that it must be used within one year of receipt.

The Doraville Police, embarrassed by the negative publicity from their video, took it down (they insist that the theme music was unauthorized). Now on their website you can see much more benevolent images, such as three smiling police officers, one dressed as Santa Claus, with two young girls who are the recipients of the “Santa Pop Program” that pairs police with “less-fortunate children.”

But let’s face it. Military toys, constantly dangled before the police at law enforcement exhibits and fairs, are hard to resist. And with the Department of Defense and the Department of Homeland Security giving out this stuff for free, why not get some hand-me-downs? Doraville and Keene are just two of thousands of cities and towns throughout the nation that have successfully applied for surplus equipment from a federal government agency.

No incident report? NO INCIDENT REPORT!?

By: Elliott Friday June 15, 2012 3:58 pm

Zerlina Maxwell tells it

 
 

Why White Privilege is No Protection from Police Brutality

By: Nat Parry Thursday August 21, 2014 3:55 am

 

A survey released this week by the Pew Research Center has revealed glaring differences of views among blacks and whites when it comes to the death of Michael Brown, an unarmed African-American youth killed by a white police officer in Ferguson, Mo., on Aug. 9, and the protests that have followed. Unfortunately though, the wording of the survey leaves some pertinent questions unaddressed, focusing on the racial aspect of the controversy while overlooking the public’s general perception about the problem of police brutality in America.

Nevertheless, the survey significantly found that blacks are about twice as likely as whites to say that Brown’s shooting “raises important issues about race that need to be discussed,” with about 80% of African Americans agreeing with that statement and whites saying by a 47% to 37% margin that the issue of race is getting more attention than it deserves.

Although the Pew survey neglected to ask, it’s possible that at least some of the white respondents objected to the focus on race because they feel that the epidemic of police violence cuts across racial lines. As anyone who regularly follows news pertaining to police brutality knows, the police are generally out of control across the country and the victims of their brutishness are not just African Americans – but in fact, Latinos, Asians, and yes, even white people.

In one recent case that received some national attention, police shot and killed a homeless white man in Albuquerque, New Mexico, sparking a wave of demonstrations in the city.

Police officers gunned down 38-year-old James Boyd on March 16 in the Sandia foothills following a standoff and after he allegedly brandished a small knife, authorities said. But a helmet-camera video showed Boyd agreeing to walk down the mountain, gathering his things and taking a step toward officers just before they opened fire.

Amid the popular uproar that ensued, the U.S. Justice Department issued a report on April 10 documenting that the Albuquerque Police Department (APD) has for years engaged in a pattern of excessive force that violates the United States Constitution and federal law.

The investigation, launched in November 2012, specifically identified three general patterns of police abuse in Albuquerque:

  • APD officers too frequently use deadly force against people who pose a minimal threat;
  • APD officers use “less lethal” force, including tasers, on people who are non-threatening or unable to comply with orders; and
  • Encounters between APD officers and persons with mental illness and in crisis too frequently result in a use of force or a higher level of force than necessary.

While these findings specifically pertained to law enforcement practices in Albuquerque, largely vindicating the grievances of demonstrators protesting the shooting death of James Boyd, they could just as easily apply to any number of police departments across the country that engage in similar practices of excessive force. The national epidemic of police violence has even caught the attention of the United Nations Human Rights Committee, which earlier this year issued a scathing report raising serious concerns about human rights abuses in the United States, including police brutality.

In a section on “Excessive use of force by law enforcement officials,” the UN found that across the country, there is an unacceptably “high number of fatal shootings by certain police forces,” as well as “reports of excessive use of force by certain law enforcement officers including the deadly use of tasers.”

Over Easy: Chemical Weapons in the War on Protest

By: msmolly

Tear gas is banned in warfare.

Tear gas is technically banned for use in warfare as a chemical weapon. But as the Washington Post (and other publications) point out, Ferguson police shoot it at protesters rather freely.

From Wikipedia

Tear gas, formally known as a lachrymatory agent or lachrymator (from lacrima meaning ‘tear’ in Latin), is a chemical weapon that stimulates the corneal nerves in the eyes to cause tears, pain, vomiting, and even blindness. Common lachrymators include pepper spray (OC gas), CS gas, CR gas, CN gas (phenacyl chloride), nonivamide, bromoacetone, xylyl bromide, syn-propanethial-S-oxide (from onions), and Mace (a branded mixture).

Lachrymatory agents are commonly used for riot control. Their use as chemical warfare agents is prohibited by various international treaties. [My emphasis]

The 1993 Chemical Weapons Convention doesn’t apply to domestic law enforcement.

Because the U.S. was concerned that the C.W. Convention could be interpreted to prohibit lethal injection, we were a vocal supporter of this exemption (my emphasis below):

1. ‘Chemical Weapons’ means the following, together or separately:
(a) Toxic chemicals and their precursors, except where intended for purposes not prohibited under this Convention, as long as the types and quantities are consistent with such purposes;

9. ‘Purposes Not Prohibited Under this Convention’s if means:
[snip]
(d) Law enforcement including domestic riot control purposes.

The most common lacrimator used for riot control is a compound called 2-chlorobenzalmalononitrile, or CS, which is a powder that when mixed with smoke creates an airborne agent with frightening, although not usually lethal, results. But do notice the foregoing Wikipedia list of common lachrymators also includes pepper spray, which Lt. John Pike used as a chemical weapon against peaceful protestors at U. C. Davis in 2011.

Why Isn’t Tear Gas Illegal?

When deployed in open spaces, the effects of tear gas are indeed temporary. Victims may experience crying, uncontrollable blinking, burning in the throat, sneezing, coughing, retching, and sometimes temporary blindness—but all that should subside within hours. In enclosed spaces, however, the chemical agent can have much more serious effects.

According to Sven-Eric Jordt, a Duke University scientist who researches tear gas, speaking with Vox’s Sarah Kliff,

The way these gases work, and this is what we do research on, is that they activate pain receptors — the pain sensing nerves in our body. The cornea is densely covered with these receptors. When tear gas activates these pain receptors, that leads to body reflexes like profuse tear secretion and a muscle cramp in the eyelid that causes them to close. These are all protective responses that the body has to pain, and with the gas they become extremely exaggerated.

There are situations where this can be very dangerous or lethal. If somebody has asthma, for example, or a hypersensitivity or an airwave disease that can be very dangerous.

[snip]

Tear gas can also lead to profuse mucus production, and that can lead to the feeling of suffocation. That’s especially true if it’s used in closed environments, like what you saw in Cairo. That’s not the case here in Ferguson.

Jordt concludes,

I’m very concerned that, as use has increased, tear gas has been normalized. The attitude now is like, this is safe and we can use it as much as we want.

Regardless of the lengths to which law enforcement will go to justify it, the fact remains that police in the United States – in many cases with inadequate oversight or control – use a chemical banned for use in war, in a domestic “war” on protesters.

And courtesy of Vox, here’s a look at how we would cover events in Ferguson if they happened in another country (satire, maybe, but…).

Thursday Watercooler

By: Kit OConnell Thursday August 21, 2014 7:27 pm

 

A lone cyclist approaches the many spires of the Temple of Transition as dust blows

Scientists document the long-term psychological effects of Burning Man.

Tonight, the Firedoglake Watercooler is in solidarity with Block the Boat, the recent record-breaking boat blockade for Gaza that prevented an Israeli ship from unloading in the Port of Oakland. Protesters kept the ship from unloading for almost four days, and inspired upcoming solidarity actions in other cities.

The protesters gathered Sunday at the port to stop the ship from docking and unloading, but it docked at the port Sunday evening The demonstration was under the auspices of the Block the Boat coalition organized by the San Francisco-based Arab Resource and Organizing Center.

Unionized dockworkers at the port on Sunday honored the picket line and refused to unload the ship.

‘Workers honored our picket and stood on the side of justice, as they historically have,’ the center said in a statement on its website. ‘Oakland said no to Zionism and blocked the boat for an entire weekend. This is the first time in history that this has happened. Israeli apartheid is falling one port at a time.’

‘Zim has undoubtedly suffered significant economic losses, and we have set a powerful precedent for what international solidarity with Palestine, through boycott, divestment and sanctions, can look like,’ Reem Assil of the Arab Resource and Organizing Center, said.

Similar actions are expected to take place at ports in Seattle and Tacoma, Wash., this week and later in Vancouver.

More information on the union perspective is available in this article from Working In These Times.

Thousands are preparing to attend Burning Man, the massive counterculture art festival in Nevada’s Black Rock desert, next week. Though much in the media has been made of the multimillionaires who attend Burning Man, many people of more modest means continue to find meaning in the week long event and it’s more inexpensive regional alternatives. A recent article by Eric W. Dolan, writing on Psypost, summarizes a recent study showing that attending Burning Man alters your emotional responses.

‘What first drew me to study emotion regulation at Burning Man is that Burning Man has very explicit values (the ten principles of Burning Man) and one of them is radical self-expression,’ [lead author Kateri] McRae explained. ‘I thought it would be really interesting to see how that explicit value impacted the types of emotion regulation that people use when they’re there. And indeed, we find that people inhibit their emotional expression less often when they’re at Burning Man than typically at home.’

For their study, the researchers surveyed 16,227 individuals at Burning Man over the course of four years to investigate two emotional regulation strategies, expressive suppression and cognitive reappraisal.

Going to Burning Man made individuals less likely to inhibit the expression of both positive and negative emotions. Those at Burning Man were more open about their emotions in general, but were more likely to feel uninhibited about expressing positive emotions rather than negative ones. McRae and her colleagues found decreases in the suppression of positive emotion were considerably stronger than the decreases in the suppression of negative emotion.

‘What was most surprising to us was that this decreased inhibition was not global,’ McRae told PsyPost. ‘In other words, people aren’t “letting loose” in every sense when they are at Burning Man (which is one stereotype that some people hold about the event). In fact, people use an emotion regulation strategy called reappraisal MORE often when they’re there.’

‘So the paradox of Burning Man is that people are more open, less inhibited when expressing their emotions, but also more thoughtful in terms of reframing, reconsidering or reevaluating their emotions (which is what reappraisal entails).’

When it comes to rich attendees I don’t think an event that encourages the wealthy to give away more of their money is necessarily a bad thing — but too many probably come more to gawk than to share (I seriously doubt Grover Norquist will grok the gift economy this year). My experiences of radical self-expression within the Burning Man community (largely at Texas regional events) have inspired much of my activism — though sadly Burning Man’s freedom itself is now increasingly threatened by overzealous police. I hope the event survives, and more importantly, that the community finds ways to make the experience more accessible to others.

Housekeeping notes:

  • Please review our About Us page if you need a refresher on site rules, and
  • We encourage you to use our flag system — if you see an abusive comment, user or post, please flag it rather than replying. We review every flag and take the best action available to us.
  • If you have questions or concerns about Firedoglake-specific issues, please limit their discussion to Watercooler posts rather than starting new posts or making off-topic comments in others. But remember,
  • Firedoglake editors and staff are not allowed to comment on any moderation decisions.

The Watercooler is an open conversation. Ask questions, share links and your thoughts.

Patrick Cockburn: How to Ensure a Thriving Caliphate

By: Tom Engelhardt Saturday July 23, 2011 7:00 am

Think of the new “caliphate” of the Islamic State, formerly the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS), as George W. Bush and Dick Cheney’s gift to the world (with a helping hand from the Saudis and other financiers of extremism in the Persian Gulf).  How strange that they get so little credit for its rise, for the fact that the outlines of the Middle East, as set up by Europe’s colonial powers in the wake of World War I, are being swept aside in a tide of blood.

Had George and Dick not decided on their “cakewalk” in Iraq, had they not raised the specter of nuclear destruction and claimed that Saddam Hussein’s regime was somehow linked to al-Qaeda and so to the 9/11 attacks, had they not sent tens of thousands of American troops into a burning, looted Baghdad (“stuff happens”), disbanded the Iraqi army, built military bases all over that country, and generally indulged their geopolitical fantasies about dominating the oil heartlands of the planet for eternity, ISIS would have been an unlikely possibility, no matter the ethnic and religious tensions in the region.  They essentially launched the drive that broke state power there and created the kind of vacuum that a movement like ISIS was so horrifically well suited to fill.

All in all, it’s a remarkable accomplishment to look back on.  In September 2001, when George and Dick launched their “Global War on Terror” to wipe out — so they then claimed — “terrorist networks” in up to 60 countries, or as they preferred to put it, “drain the swamp,” there were scattered bands of jihadis globally, while al-Qaeda had a couple of camps in Afghanistan and a sprinkling of supporters elsewhere.  Today, in the wake of the invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq and an air power intervention in Libya, after years of drone (and non-drone) bombing campaigns across the Greater Middle East, jihadist groups are thriving in Yemen and Pakistan, spreading through Africa (along with the U.S. military), and ISIS has taken significant parts of Iraq and Syria right up to the Lebanese border for its own bailiwick and is still expanding murderously, despite a renewed American bombing campaign that may only strengthen that movement in the long run.

Has anyone covered this nightmare better than the world’s least embedded reporter, Patrick Cockburn of the British Independent?  Not for my money.  He’s had the canniest, clearest-eyed view of developments in the region for years now.  As it happens, when he publishes a new book on the Middle East (the last time was 2008), he makes one of his rare appearances at TomDispatch. This month, his latest must-read work, The Jihadis Return: ISIS and the New Sunni Uprising, is out. Today, this website has an excerpt from its first chapter on why the war on terror was such a failure (and why, if Washington was insistent on invading someplace, it probably should have chosen Saudi Arabia).  It includes a special introductory section written just for TomDispatch. Thanks go to his publisher, OR BooksTom

Why Washington’s War on Terror Failed 
The Underrated Saudi Connection 
By Patrick Cockburn

[This essay is excerpted from the first chapter of Patrick Cockburn’s new book, The Jihadis Return: ISIS and the New Sunni Uprisingwith special thanks to his publisher, OR Books.  The first section is a new introduction written for TomDispatch.]

There are extraordinary elements in the present U.S. policy in Iraq and Syria that are attracting surprisingly little attention. In Iraq, the U.S. is carrying out air strikes and sending in advisers and trainers to help beat back the advance of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (better known as ISIS) on the Kurdish capital, Erbil. The U.S. would presumably do the same if ISIS surrounds or attacks Baghdad. But in Syria, Washington’s policy is the exact opposite: there the main opponent of ISIS is the Syrian government and the Syrian Kurds in their northern enclaves. Both are under attack from ISIS, which has taken about a third of the country, including most of its oil and gas production facilities.

But U.S., Western European, Saudi, and Arab Gulf policy is to overthrow President Bashar al-Assad, which happens to be the policy of ISIS and other jihadis in Syria. If Assad goes, then ISIS will be the beneficiary, since it is either defeating or absorbing the rest of the Syrian armed opposition. There is a pretense in Washington and elsewhere that there exists a “moderate” Syrian opposition being helped by the U.S., Qatar, Turkey, and the Saudis.  It is, however, weak and getting more so by the day. Soon the new caliphate may stretch from the Iranian border to the Mediterranean and the only force that can possibly stop this from happening is the Syrian army.

Microsoft Leaves ALEC: Horsetrading & The Price to Pay

By: anotherquestion Wednesday August 20, 2014 5:53 pm
A Microsoft sign outside of an office building

What’s behind Microsoft’s departure from ALEC?

Some people describe watching politics as similar to watching sausage being made. Sometimes the exchange is complex such as the story, true or not, that Frank Sinatra sang eight nights straight at a Mafia-owned club to pay for actions by John and Robert Kennedy after they were in the White House.

Some good news today is that Microsoft is leaving ALEC, the American Legislative Exchange Council, a corporate funded group that supports many right-wing people in the US Congress and in state legislatures, “reportedly because of the group’s lobbying against renewable energy.” It’s a very good thing that Microsoft is joining the many corporations that left ALEC. It is another very good thing that Microsoft may be leaving to avoid association with lobbying against renewable energy.

Is there any connection to another story today? President Obama may soon decide on executive action regarding “a rule allowing spouses of H-1B visa holders, now barred from working in the U.S., to get jobs.” The H-1B high skill guestworker visa allows employers to hire non-citizens for skilled work often in fields of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM). Often the spouses would like to work, too, and might have comparable skills. H-1B visas are to Microsoft and other technology companies what fuel prices are to airlines.  Remember that these visas are tied to the employer with no automatic path to citizenship so H-1B visa employees are highly dependent on the employer.

Hiring spouses of H-1B visa holders will further enhance corrupt spousal hiring practices which frequently benefit higher income employees, but rarely benefit low income employees. For example, a university hires a new faculty member under an H-1B visa and uses the spousal hiring policy as a further perquisite. The spouse may never have qualifications to become faculty and may be taking a job away from  other non-tenure staff. I don’t hear of spousal hiring that benefits janitors and food service workers.

Comprehensive Immigration Reform is advertised to accommodate mothers and young children, but all proposals for Comprehensive Immigration Reform offer large increases in the number of H-1B visas corporations can receive to hire non-citizens. President Obama and the Democrats in the US Congress are very much invested in passing the parts of immigration reform that liberalize H-1B visa restrictions. I receive letters from my US Senator justifying H-1B liberalization because the US Dept. of Commerce claims that US corporations are still having trouble hiring enough skilled workers even in this economy. By contrast, US Senator Jeff Sessions (R-AL) had a forum held via conference call in May with some real experts about the effects of H-1B visas on the US STEM job market. Senator Sessions followed up with a floor speech in July pointing to the hypocrisy when Bill Gates coauthored an Op-Ed in the New York Times recommending removal of all numeric limits on H-1B visas while at the same time Microsoft is in the process of laying off 18,000 skilled workers. You did not hear about this speech on the evening news did you, among all the other immigration news at the time?

So, August is probably a convenient time for President Obama to make this decision about H-1B spouses. We are wondering whether a Wall Street lawyer can calm decades of racial injustice in Ferguson, Missouri in time for the fall TV line-up. The timing is so much better than a Friday News Dump.