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By: Kit OConnell Wednesday April 23, 2014 7:22 pm

 

Have you heard about the Cowboy-Indian Alliance?

A colorful Tipi with the Washington Monument in the background

One of several tipis erected along the National Mall by the Cowboy-Indian Alliance (CIA).

That’s the group occupying the National Mall in D.C. in tipis to oppose the Keystone XL pipeline until April 27. From Counterpunch:

An unlikely alliance of white ranchers and Native American activists, known as the Cowboy Indian Alliance, has erected the tipi encampment in the nation’s capital to protest plans for the Keystone XL oil pipeline. The Alliance (with the ironic acronym ‘CIA’) brings together Native Americans with white ranchers and farmers–the archetypal enemies of the American West–to protect their common land and water.

The Cowboy Indian Alliance may seem like an unprecedented type of environmental movement–multiracial, rooted in struggling rural communities, and often more effective in its grassroots organizing than traditional urban-based white upper/middle class environmental groups–but it is also part of a long, proud tradition that has been conveniently covered up in American history. Our history books present Manifest Destiny as inevitable and uncontested in the 19th century, so we never read about the white Wisconsin settlers who opposed the forced removal of Ho-Chunk and Ojibwe, the Washington settlers put on trial for sympathizing with Coast Salish resistance, or other atypical stories that highlight the ‘paths not followed’ of cooperation rather than conflict.

[...]

The Cowboy Indian Alliance represents not only a common stand against an oil pipeline, but (like previous alliances) has become a way to build connections between land-based communities that last beyond the immediate threat of oil spills and climate change. Equally important, these unlikely alliances begin the process of decolonizing Native lands and shifting white hearts and minds. Ihanktonwan Nakota elder Faith Spotted Eagle, a leader in past and current alliances to protect treaty lands, concludes, ‘We come from two cultures that clashed over land, and so this is a healing for the generations.’

Representatives of the movement answered questions on Reddit today:

we feel as a lakota people and many other nations his decision to delay was a good decision. it affects us none but gives us hope that the people are being heard. I view it as a decision to give the people time to get their opinions and beliefs heard. I myself am from the Kul wicasa oyate/Lower Brule Sioux Tribe. Im here to support everyone that is standing for their beliefs and the protection of mother earth. Wicahpi Ksapa

The pipe line crosses 22 rivers in our section of south dakota. The proposed pipe line is set to cross the 2 major intakes that supply rural communities with water. Our hydrologist tell us that in South Dakota the saturated soil near water production wells create a cone depression that can draw oil that is spilled directly into the Aquifer. This poison the aquifer the land and the people. – Aldo Seoane

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Joe Biden Turns Fracking Missionary On Ukraine Trip

By: Steve Horn Wednesday April 23, 2014 1:39 pm

Cross-Posted from DeSmogBlog 

Caricature of Joe Biden

Joe Biden: Global fracking evangelist.

During his two-day visit this week to Kiev, Ukraine, Vice President Joe Biden unfurled President Barack Obama’s “U.S.Crisis Support Package for Ukraine.”

A key part of the package involves promoting the deployment of hydraulic fracturing (“fracking”) in Ukraine. Dean Neu, professor of accounting at York University in Toronto, describes this phenomenon in his book “Doing Missionary Work.” And in this case, it involves the U.S. acting as a modern-day missionary to spread the gospel of fracking to further its own interests.

With the ongoing Russian occupation of Crimea serving as the backdrop for the trip, Biden made Vladimir Putin’s Russia and its dominance of the global gas market one of the centerpieces of a key speech he gave while in Kiev.

“And as you attempt to pursue energy security, there’s no reason why you cannot be energy secure. I mean there isn’t. It will take time. It takes some difficult decisions, but it’s collectively within your power and the power of Europe and the United States,” Biden said.

“And we stand ready to assist you in reaching that. Imagine where you’d be today if you were able to tell Russia: Keep your gas. It would be a very different world you’d be facing today.”

The U.S. oil and gas industry has long lobbied to “weaponize” its fracking prowess to fend off Russian global gas market dominance. It’s done so primarily in two ways.

One way: by transforming the U.S. State Department into a global promoter of fracking via its Unconventional Gas Technical Engagement Program (formerly theGlobal Shale Gas Initiative), which is a key, albeit less talked about, part of President Obama’s “Climate Action Plan.”

The other way: by exporting U.S. fracked gas to the global market, namely EUcountries currently heavily dependent on Russia’s gas spigot.

In this sense, the crisis in Ukraine — as Naomi Klein pointed out in a recent article — has merely served as a “shock doctrine” excuse to push through plans that were already long in the making. In other words, it’s “old wine in a new bottle.”

Gas “Support Package” Details

Within the energy security section of the aid package, the White House promises in “the coming weeks, expert teams from several U.S. government agencies will travel to the region to help Ukraine meet immediate and longer term energy needs.”

That section contains three main things the U.S. will do to ensure U.S. oil and gas companies continue to profit during this geopolitical stand-off.

1) Help with pipelines and securing access to gas at the midstream level of production.

“Today, a U.S. interagency expert team arrived in Kyiv to help Ukraine secure reverse flows of natural gas from its European neighbors,” the White House fact sheet explains. “Reverse flows of natural gas will provide Ukraine with additional immediate sources of energy.”

2) Technical assistance to help boost conventional gas production in Ukraine. That is, gas obtained not from fracking and horizontal drilling, but via traditional vertical drilling.

As the White House explains, “U.S. technical experts will join with the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development and others in May to help Ukraine develop a public-private investment initiative to increase conventional gas production from existing fields to boost domestic energy supply.”

3) Shale gas missionary work.

“A technical team will also engage the government on measures that will help the Ukrainian government ensure swift and environmentally sustainable implementation of contracts signed in 2013 for shale gas development,” says the White House.

ExxonMobil Teaching Russia Fracking

Obama: Remaking the Middle East as The American Gulag

By: GREYDOG

By James Petras, 99GetSmart

A National Guard member fires a rifle in the desert of Iraq

A county-by-country guide to American hegemony

During the beginning of his first term in office President Obama promised “to remake the Middle East into a region of prosperity and freedom.” Six years later the reality is totally the contrary: the Middle East is ruled by despotic regimes whose jails are overflowing with political prisoners. The vast majority of pro-democracy activists who have been incarcerated, have been subject to harsh torture and are serving long prison sentences. The rulers lack legitimacy, having seized power and maintained their rule through a centralized police state and military repression. Direct US military and CIA intervention, massive shipments of arms, military bases, training missions and Special Forces are decisive in the construction of the Gulag chain from North Africa to the Gulf States.

We will proceed by documenting the scale and scope of political repression in each US backed police state. We will then describe the scale and scope of US military aid buttressing the “remaking of the Middle East” into a chain of political prisons run by and for the US Empire.

The countries and regimes include Egypt, Israel, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Iraq, Yemen, Jordan and Turkey . . . all of which promote and defend US imperial interests against the pro-democracy majority, represented by their independent social-political movements.

Egypt:  Strategic Vassal State

A longtime vassal state and the largest Arab country in the Middle East, Egypt’s current military dictatorship, product of a coup in July 2013, launched a savage wave of repression subsequent to seizing power. According to the Egyptian Center for Social and Economic Rights, between July and December 2013, 21,317 pro-democracy demonstrators were arrested. As of April 2014, over 16,000 political prisoners are incarcerated. Most have been tortured. The summary trials, by kangaroo courts, have resulted in death sentences for hundreds and long prison terms for most. The Obama regime has refused to call the military’s overthrow of the democratically elected Morsi government a coup in order to continue providing military aid to the junta. In exchange the military dictatorship continues to back the Israeli blockade of Gaza and support US military operations throughout the Middle East.

Israel:  The Region’s Biggest Jailer

Israel, whose supporters in the US dub it the “only democracy in the Middle East,” is in fact the largest jailer in the region.

According to the Israeli human rights group B’Tselm, between 1967 and December 2012, 800,000 Palestinians have been imprisoned at some point, over 20% of the population. Over 100,000 have been held in “administrative detention” without charges or trial.  Almost all have been tortured and brutalized. Currently Israel has 4,881 political prisoners in jail. What makes the Jewish state God’s chosen … premier jailer, however, is the holding of 1.82 million Palestinians living in Gaza in a virtual open air prison. Israel restricts travel, trade, fishing, building, manufacturing and farming through air, sea and ground policing and blockades. In addition, 2.7 million Palestinians in the Occupied Territories (West Bank) are surrounded by prison-like walls, subject to daily military incursions, arbitrary arrests and violent assaults by the Israeli armed forces and Jewish vigilante settlers engaged in perpetual dispossession of Palestinian inhabitants.

Saudi Arabia: Absolutist Monarchy

According to President Obama’s ‘remaking of Middle East’ Saudi Arabia stands as Washington’s “staunchest ally in the Arab world”. As a loyal vassal state, its jails overflow with pro-democracy dissidents incarcerated for seeking free elections, civil liberties and an end to misogynist policies. According to the Islamic Human Rights Commission the Saudis are holding 30,000 political prisoners, most arbitrarily detained without charges or trial.

The Saudi dictatorship plays a major role bankrolling police state regimes throughout the region. They have poured $15 billion into the coffers of the Egyptian junta subsequent to the military coup, as a reward for its massive bloody purge of elected officials and their pro-democracy supporters. Saudi Arabia plays a big role in sustaining Washington’s dominance, by financing and arming ‘jailer-regimes’ in Pakistan, Yemen, Bahrain, Jordan and Egypt.

Bahrain: Small Country – Many Jails

According to the local respected Center for Human Rights, Bahrain has the dubious distinction of being the “top country globally in the number of political prisoners per capita.” According to the Economist (4/2/14) Bahrain has 4,000 political prisoners out of a population of 750,000. According to the Pentagon, Bahrain’s absolutist dictatorship plays a vital role in providing the US with air and maritime bases, for attacking Iraq, Iran and Afghanistan. The majority of pro-democracy dissidents are jailed for seeking to end vassalage , autocracy, and servility to US imperial interest and the Saudi dictatorship.

Iraq: Abu Ghraib with Arab Characters

Beginning with the US invasion and occupation of Iraq in 2003 and continuing under its proxy vassal Prime Minister Nouri Al-Maliki, tens of thousands of Iraqi citizens have been tortured, jailed and murdered. Iraq’s ruling junta, has continued to rely on US military and Special Forces and to engage in the same kinds of military and police ‘sweeps’ which eviscerate any democratic pretensions. Al-Maliki relies on special branches of his secret police, the notorious Brigade 56, to assault opposition communities and dissident strongholds. Both the Shi’a regime and Sunni opposition engage in ongoing terror-warfare. Both have served as close collaborators with Washington at different moments.

‘State Department Tweets on Ukraine, Oh My!

By: wendydavis Monday July 30, 2012 7:47 pm

Note: Please read at Café-Babylon.net if you don’t see three Twitter photos; I don’t know what’s going on (the link will open in a separate window.  I’ll try to sort it out.  I have reconstituted it again; hope it works for you.

From the State Department on Twitter:

(Sorry, I tried twelve ways to get the tweets to embed; had to be otherwise creative to bring them.)

Biden meets with Ukrainian legislators today at the Rada in Kyiv, .

Bl12aojCYAA34eE

Protecting Classrooms From Corporate Takeover

By: Amy B. Dean Wednesday April 23, 2014 6:37 am

What Families Can Learn from Teachers’ Unions

Teachers have always held a cherished role in our society—recognized as professionals who know how to inculcate a love of learning in our children. But the “education reform” movement represented by No Child Left Behind and Race to the Top blames teachers for the problems in our public schools.

An abandoned classroom with dusty desks & tables, and half-packed desk contents.

Why do American schools think they can “fire their way to excellence?”

“The people who seek to privatize the public sector are looking for any excuse to criticize teachers,” says Bob Peterson, veteran fifth-grade teacher and president of the Milwaukee Teachers’ Education Association (MTEA). “We must take responsibility for our profession. If we don’t step up to the plate, public education is going to be destroyed.”

At heart, this is a debate between competing visions of teachers’ roles in public education in America. Teachers, through their unions, are defending the idea that they are best-equipped to teach children to become lifelong learners. Education “reformers,” though, cite studies—such as one from the Goldwater Institute from 2004—that show that students at privately run charter schools outperform kids in public schools and say that public education would improve if public schools simply looked more like privately run schools. In privately run schools, teachers lack a collective voice, their working conditions are subject to the whims of school administrators, and they can be fired at will. This contrast with the empowered rank and file of unionized public school teachers could help explain the claims of “reformers” that traditional public school teachers are too sheltered, that they can’t be dismissed easily enough, and that their unions need to be eliminated. Firing and replacing teachers based on students’ scores on standardized tests, then, is part of the reformers’ vision for the schools.

Everyone agrees that great teachers are key to a good education. But reform advocates such as former Washington, D.C., schools chief Michelle Rhee say that schools can fire their way to excellence. In September 2013, according to a report on the public policy website Next City, Rhee spoke at Temple University. Exemplifying the rhetoric of the reformers, Rhee said, “Not everyone can do this job. If you have a pulse and pass the criminal check, a lot of school districts will just stick you in the classroom.” But Rhee’s approach is to evaluate teachers by giving their students standardized tests. This approach offers, at best, an imprecise evaluation, failing to measure the intangibles that make great teachers. The result is that some of the best teachers get taken out, along with a few bad ones.

Peterson and other educators say that, unsurprisingly, the reformers’ approach undermines those who have devoted their professional lives to educating kids. In 2010, Rhee fired 241 D.C. public-school teachers in a single day, but failed to achieve the promised turnaround in standardized test scores. The achievement gap between black and white elementary students is now wider than ever, as education writer Dana Goldstein and others have noted since Rhee’s departure from D.C.

Across the country, teachers’ unions are fighting back against the work of people like Rhee by working to educate children holistically. This means taking into account all the factors that influence students’ chances for success: families, homes, communities, and often the effects of poverty. In Milwaukee, Peterson is working with his union to emphasize teacher professionalism and social justice in the community. In New York City, as part of a union-based program, 16 schools have reinvented themselves as hubs for community services. In St. Paul, teachers visit parents in their homes to build engagement with families.

Rethinking Milwaukee Schools

Peterson’s organizing efforts in Milwaukee focus on highlighting how the interests of teachers—for instance, having paid time for class preparation—align closely with those of students. Peterson is a longtime fifth-grade teacher and former editor of the progressive education magazine Rethinking Schools. He was elected president of the MTEA representing a caucus of teachers who advocate funding and fixing public schools. His organizing efforts focus on using the union’s clout not merely to protect teachers’ jobs but to champion the common interests of teachers, students, parents, and the community.

As a first change, the union actively encourages teachers to work for social justice in their communities. “In the way past, our union didn’t really do much outreach to the community except when we needed support for our issues,” Peterson says. “That’s changed.” Recently, Peterson says, MTEA teachers turned out to support immigrants’ rights groups in the city alongside a grassroots organization called Voces de la Frontera and provided adult advising and mentoring for its youth arm, Youth Empowered in the Struggle. Union members also joined picket lines in spring 2012 in support of striking Palermo’s pizza factory workers. These are not actions that seem directly related to education. For MTEA teachers, addressing such stressors as legal status, support in the community, and economic insecurity is critical to student success. “We are really trying to change the narrative in the community,” he says, “from ‘teacher unions just defend bad teachers’ to a narrative where we are seen as the go-to people when it comes to public education.”

In the schools, the union’s focus is on making clear how, in Peterson’s words, “our teaching conditions are our students’ learning conditions.” The union’s negotiating team recently won a 50 percent increase in paid class preparation time for MTEA teachers, allowing the teachers to accommodate the more complex curriculum material that will boost their students’ achievement.

A final leg of the union’s efforts, Peterson argues, is to “reclaim our profession in our classrooms.” Teachers “should be child-driven and data-informed,” Peterson says, using a broad set of data to measure the success of the whole child, rather than measuring learning strictly with standardized tests. In one example, the union lent its voice to the effort to overhaul Milwaukee’s ailing early childhood education system and convened a joint task force with school officials to lay the groundwork for improvements in the city’s pre-K through third-grade programs. Recognizing the strong evidence that improved early childhood teaching makes for improved long-term outcomes for all kids, the union has assigned early childhood education experts to the task force.

Weaving Schools into the Fabric of the Community

It’s Not Just About Ukraine

By: Deena Stryker Tuesday April 22, 2014 8:14 am

Map of Poland 960-992

As the situation on Europe’s Eastern frontier degenerates predictably, awareness of the millennial violent history between Poles and Ukrainians is indispensable to any understanding. The phrase ‘they share a long history’ does not come close to elucidating what is happening today.

Actually, the phrase most often heard is that Ukrainians and Russians share a long history, and this illustrates the fact that even news analysts haven’t a clue as to what is motivating the protagonists in this drama. Americans who have spent time among Western Europeans notice the vastly greater awareness individuals have of their country’s past than they do. When it comes to Eastern Europe, you can safely double that.

As Ukrainians of East and West duke it out over their country’s future, a tortured debate in the Polish parliament has just culminated with a vote to qualify a World War II massacre of Poles by Ukrainians as ‘ethnic cleansing with genocidal elements.’ The massacre took place in Volyn in the summer of 1943, under the leadership of a Ukrainian fighting force under the Neo-Nazi Ukrainian Nationalist Stepan Bandera who is the hero of the Right Sector now in charge of security under the putsch government in Kiev.

This was not the yearly remembrance, which occurs in July, but was directly related to the current situation in Ukraine, in which the Polish government continues to play a double role that goes back hundreds of years: seeking to once again hold sway over its Eastern lands, backed by a globalizing West eager to exploit them and represented for the cause by the EU.

In its coverage of the vote, RT pointed out that a few years ago the then presidents of the two countries had declared the issue laid to rest, but that subsequently, the Ukrainian government had erected monuments to Bandera and his organization.

And yet, this relatively recent history does not explain Poland’s current role in the Ukrainian drama: it is related to the tug of war between Poles and Ukrainians for sovereignty over the lands that lie between the contemporary Russian and Polish borders that began in the tenth century. This applies also to the Baltics, which Washington says Putin might invade while he’s at it. The huge landmass to the east of the Vistula River has forever been in turmoil among diverse tribes, then principalities, then nations. I’m not going to detail that history here, it’s easily available on Wikipedia, starting with Kievan Rus and following the links.

Doing that will help explain why globalization’s plans for Ukraine are not going to be that easy to implement.

Earth Day Greenwash: API Front Group Iowa Energy Forum Sponsors Pro-Keystone XL Event

By: Steve Horn Tuesday April 22, 2014 4:30 pm

Cross-Posted from DeSmogBlog

The political carnival that is the prelude to the Iowa caucuses has started over a year and a half early. At the center of it this time around: a game of political hot potato over the northern leg of TransCanada‘s Keystone XL tar sands pipeline.

Official Portrait of General Jones

General James Jones has become an energy industry shill.

American Petroleum Institute (API) deployed one of its paid consultants — former Obama Administration National Security Advisor General James “Jim” Jones — to deliver an Earth Day address in the home state of the presidential caucuses at Drake University in Des Moines, Iowa.

James Jones used his time on the podium to promote the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline, which another James — retired NASA climatologist James Hansen — once called a “fuse to the biggest carbon bomb on the planet.”

“General James Jones…will discuss the benefits of the pipeline initiative, including more jobs, less dependence on foreign oil, and cheaper energy costs for Americans,” explained an April 15 Drake University press release promoting the event.

Days after the Obama Administration decided to delay making a decision on Keystone XL North until after the 2014 mid-term elections, API went on the offensive, with Jones acting as the group’s surrogate.

API is using one of its numerous front groups that could factor most prominently during election season: the Iowa Energy Forum, chief sponsor and organizer of the event titled, “The Pipeline to National Security Discussion.”

Iowa Energy Forum is part of API’s broader astroturf campaign called “America’s Energy Forum,” the privacy policy on its website reveals. In tiny print at the bottom of the Iowa Energy Forum website, it also says, “Sponsored by American Petroleum Institute.”

API paid the powerful Des Moines-based public relations (PR) firm LS2group to help them promote the Earth Day event.

An April 17 press release published in Des Moines’ Business Record lists Matt Bierl of LS2group as the contact person. And a glance at the guest list for the Facebook event page for Drake University event shows eight of the 22 attendees work at LS2group.

LS2group and the 2012 Elections

Mark Twain once quipped, “History doesn’t repeat itself, but it does rhyme.”

In that vein, rewind back to 2012 and the activities by Iowa Energy Forum before the Iowa caucuses, with PR efforts overseen by LS2group.

Among other things, former Minnesota Republican Governor Tim Pawlenty — who ran for president in the 2012 GOP primaries — had two campaign advisers that wore two hats, Charles Larson Jr. and Karen Slifka. Both of them also worked for LS2group in the run-up to the Iowa caucuses, where they work full-time now.

Both Larson and Slifka denied they were coordinating Iowa Energy Forum’s agenda with the Pawlenty campaign in an interview with The Des Moines Register. But evidence suggests otherwise.

“An air-conditioned ‘igloo’ paid for by the Iowa Energy Forum will rise up from the straw poll campus in Ames next month, an attraction meant to woo Iowans’ affection with free treats, kids’ rides and displays about energy technology,” explained an article in The Des Moines Register. “The Republican Party of Iowa has received $100,000 from the organization.”

Drake Students Protest Event

In response to Jones’ jaunt to campus, Drake University students held a protest outside of his speaking engagement.

Over Easy: Yet Another Heartbreaking Inmate Death

By: Crane-Station Wednesday April 23, 2014 4:04 am

In a report titled Kentucky Inmate Starves to Death, the Associated Press (AP) reported on Monday that James Kenneth Embry, age 57, died of starvation at the state penitentiary in Eddyville, Kentucky, on January 16, 2014. There is an additional report with a timeline of events. The story is both shocking and heartbreaking and begs the question: How many more may there have been that we do not know about?

Kentucky State Penitentiary

Kentucky State Penitentiary complex in Eddyville, Kentucky, United States

Had the AP not acted on a tip and filed a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request for the autopsy report and other documents, the public would not have known what happened. Egregious and horrific events like this are not supposed to happen in this country and without documentation no one would believe it. Indeed, this is the sort of story that a researcher might come across in a history book, or in PubMed, describing famine in a country experiencing conflict in combination with limited resources.

There is a common misconception about incarceration, that inmates have access to all of the best medical care in America, the best free food, warm, cozy comfortable beds to sleep in, really awesome dental care, totally amazing, free university education as well as a collection of graduate degrees, and a whole host of other cool amenities. All are false.

Dental care is nonexistent in the jails, where the vast majority of Kentucky nonviolent drug offenders serve their sentences. In prison, dental care consists of a counting of the teeth, or a pulling of all of the teeth. All educational materials are specifically banned in the many of the jails, and the only reading material allowed is certain types of religious material. In prison, there is vocational school; any education expenses beyond that come directly off the inmate’s books. Medications are all automatically stopped at arrest. One must move mountains to get any sort of mental health medications whatsoever. This often involves a gatekeeper process that many of the mentally ill simply cannot navigate.

It does not make sense that a mentally ill individual stressed by the harsh environment of jail or prison must act as one’s own medical advocate, leaping through hoop after hoop after hoop, begging for help, begging for medications, just begging…but that is how it is. Things spiral out of control, and often, the more the mentally ill inmate cries, yells, bangs his head, or spreads feces on the wall, the harsher he is punished. Inevitably comes “suicide watch.” Suicide watch is a euphemism for the hole, as is “medical watch.” These are punishment cells.

In other words, the caged mentally ill in America are not receiving any sort of adequate medical care. They are in many cases not receiving any medical care at all. Rather, they are being punished for a condition that they did not choose to have, and then, they are being blamed for it later on. For example, the Kentucky Medical Examiner listed “suicide” as the cause of death in James Kenneth Embry’s case, according to the AP report (please. see link). Mr. Embry was 6 feet tall, and he weighed 136 pounds.

For today’s post, you must refer to the references:

Kentucky Inmate Starves to Death LOUISVILLE, Ky. April 21, 2014 (AP) By BRETT BARROUQUERE Associated Press
(note- Many papers carried the AP story, including the Louisville Courier-Journal.)

NATIONAL NEWS Timeline of events in fatal prison hunger strike April 21 The Associated Press

Kentucky prison doctor fired after inmate starves to death Published time: April 22, 2014

Off-topic and unrelated:

BREAKING: The Georgia Legislature has passed a bill that the governor will sign into law, effective July, making this the official state bottle opener.

Georgia Governor To Sign ‘Unprecedented’ Gun Bill

And, as always, our Beloved Decorah Eagles!