January 31, 2013

New England Greens Protest Tar Sands in Portland


By Adam Marletta, Contributor
Environmental activists may have successfully halted the construction of the dreaded Keystone XL Pipeline (at least for now), but another potential ecological threat looms around the corner—this one considerably closer to home.

For the past six months now, the Canadian oil company, Enbridge has been in talks with the Portland-Montreal Pipeline Company to reverse the flow of oil in a 236-mile Northeast pipeline (“Number 9 Line,”) so it can transport crude, highly corrosive tar-sands oil from Alberta, Canada into South Portland. The tar-sands would travel directly through Sebago Lake, which supplies the drinking water for much of Southern Maine. Portland-Montreal Pipeline Company is a subsidiary of Exxon-Mobil, which made $9.45 billion last year in its first quarter alone—or $1,300 per second.

Close to 2,000 activists from Maine and across New England converged in Portland on Saturday to voice their opposition to the plan.

Representatives of the Green Party, Occupy Maine/Wall Street, 350.org, the Sierra Club, Environment Maine and the National Resources Defense Council braved frigid 20-degree cold to march from Portland’s Monument Square to the Maine State Pier. There was even a snowman sweeping the streets in front of the Portland Public Library.

A young woman from Bowdoin College—one of dozens of college students from Bates, Colby, UMass Amherst and CUNY—was motivated to attend by the environmental threat tar sands poses. “It’s just the right thing to do,” she said. “There’s no other greater event to be at today.”

Rene Lopez, from Brunswick, echoed her sentiments. “This is the only planet we’ve got,” he said. “If we lose it, we lose everything. This transcends political party, religion—everything else.”

Lopez, a native of New York, noted the link between the climate crisis and the devastation caused by Superstorm Sandy. “I grew up in New York and I’ve never seen 86th Street completely flooded,” he remarked. “There are people still struggling to recover from the storm. Just as there are still people trying to recover from Katrina.”

Judy Hopkins, of Pownal, did not hesitate when I asked what brought her to Saturday’s protest. “My grandchildren,” she said.

Hopkins introduced me to a young man who goes by the name “Coyote” who was arrested months earlier in Texas for protesting the Keystone XL pipeline. “It’s people like you and Coyote who give me hope that we can create a better, healthier planet,” she said.

Tar sands—sludgy, toxic deposits that contain crude bitumen—come from Alberta’s boreal forests and wetlands. Extracting it alone is extremely energy intensive and poses great risk to the native habitats. But tar sands are also significantly dirtier than conventional oil, and contain about three times as much CO2. Such a mass production of the substance would be a “carbon bomb,” in the words of esteemed NASA climate scientist James Hansen. Indeed, back in 2011 Hansen described the Keystone XL Pipeline to the New Yorker’s Jane Mayer succinctly: “Game over for the climate.”

In addition to the contributions to global warming, there is the transportation concern. Line Number 9 is 62-years-old and not specifically designed to carry heavy, crude tar sands. Should the pipeline rupture, Sebago Lake could be contaminated. According to a recent article in the Bangor Daily News, “If tar sands are pumped through that pipeline, a leak could endanger the area’s water supply at Sebago Lake and be almost impossible to clean up, because the heavy oil sinks to the bottom of the waterways.”

Enbridge has racked up 804 oil spills in the last decade, including a major one in Michigan’s Kalamazoo River in 2010 which the EPA is still cleaning up.

For its part, Portland-Montreal Pipeline denies it is currently pursuing tar sands extraction. Still, Boston’s New England Petroleum Council executive director, John Quinn, felt the need to pen a defensive, propagandistic Op-Ed for the Portland Press Herald earlier this week (“Tar sands oil does not pose threat to local environment,” 01/21/2013).
Quinn writes, “…bitumen-derived crude oil, such as oil [tar] sands, is no more corrosive in transmission than other crudes.” Even if true, such a statement is hardly reassuring.

Local Greens marched with members of Massachusetts’ Green-Rainbow Party, including 2012 presidential candidate, Jill Stein.

In a recent editorial (“The Real Obama Emerges Again,” 01/17/2013), Stein denounces President Obama’s lack of leadership in tackling global warming.
“As Obama’s second term begins he’s again undermining his progressive base,” she writes, “paving the way for more austerity, disparities, war and corporate power. Washington’s failure to deal justly and effectively with the fake fiscal cliff calamity leaves little hope it will resolve the real looming crisis—the unraveling economy and accelerating climate catastrophe.”

Unfortunately, Stein was unable to deliver this message to the crowd. While local elected officials Rep. Chellie Pingree and Portland Mayor Michael Brennan addressed protesters about the dangers of tar sands, Stein was explicitly prohibited from speaking by the event’s “progressive” organizers. (Even after the election, Greens are still marginalized and silenced.)
Instead, Brennan, Pingree and the other speakers urged the crowd to “call on President Obama” to “do the right thing” on tar sands energy. Problem with that is the “right thing” for the corporate-friendly, “clean coal” president may not necessarily be the right thing for the planet.
The fact that energy corporations like Exxon-Mobil are exploring tar sands extraction is testament to environmentalists’ claim that, when it comes to finite natural resources, we have essentially used up the “easy stuff.” Hence the fossil fuel industries’ rabid focus on deep-water drilling, mountaintop removal, and dirty crude like tar sands. Rather than investing in clean, renewable energy, we are literally scraping the bottom of the planetary barrel.
This is the disease of unregulated capitalism. It is an economic system that turns everything, including human lives and the environment, into a commodity. It is, furthermore, a deeply irrational system predicated on the concept of unceasing, exponential growth—all at the expense of the ecosystems that support life on the planet.

But until capitalism is toppled in favor of a more just, humane form of social democracy, those of us in Portland and beyond will have to make due with raising our voices in protest against the assault on the planet.
Adam Marletta is the former chair and current secretary of the Portland Green Independent Party. He has written for The Journal Tribune, The York County Coast Star, The Hippo Magazine and Kennebunk's Tourist News. You can follow his weekly essays at Guerrilla Press.blogspot.com. He lives in Portland. This article originally appeared on Guerrilla Press under the title, "The Threat in our Own Backyard."

January 8, 2013

AIG says "Thank You America" and then Sues America

You just can't make this s**t up:

via LA Times

WASHINGTON -- At the same time American International Group Inc. has been running high-profile ads thanking America for the bailout that saved the company, the insurance giant reportedly is considering joining a shareholder suit against the U.S. government for the rescue.

The AIG board will meet Wednesday and could decide to join a $25-billion suit led by former chief executive Maurice "Hank" Greenberg, the New York Times reported.

The suit by Greenberg's Starr International Co. alleges that the 2008 bailout of AIG by the Treasury Department and Federal Reserve Bank of New York in which the government received an 80% ownership stake in the company violated the rights of shareholders. The ownership stake later climbed to 92%.

The suit in the U.S. Court of Federal Claims in Washington alleges that the bailout cost shareholders billions of dollars and violated the 5th Amendment, which prohibits the taking of private property for public use "without just compensation."

A similar suit against the New York Fed was thrown out by a New York federal judge in November. But Judge Thomas Wheeler of the Court of Federal Claims had ruled in September that Greenberg's case against the U.S. government could go forward.

A September court filing said the AIG board expected to make a decision by the end of January.

An AIG spokesman declined to comment Tuesday. A Treasury Department spokesman also would not comment.

But U.S. officials would not be pleased if AIG joined the suit. The company received the single largest bailout of the financial crisis, leaving the government on the hook for more than $182 billion.

AIG ended up taking about $125 billion in the complex, multi-step bailout. In the process, the company became the poster child for reckless risk-taking on Wall Street and the focal point for anger by the public and lawmakers over the unprecedented government intervention to save the financial system.

In December, the government sold the last of its stake in AIG. The bailout formally ended with the taxpayers earning a $22.7 billion profit, though critics noted there were additional, incalculable costs, such as a loss of public confidence in the financial system and a precedent for rescuing too-big-to-fail financial firms.

AIG has been touting the end of the bailout with print, TV and online ads titled "Thank You America." The ads, which have aired in recent weeks during college football bowl games and National Football League playoff games, note the company "repaid every dollar America lent us."

January 3, 2013

Natasha Hynes: WTF is up with the Indians?

A Vlogger I came across from Canada, talking about C-45 and Idle No More.

George Martinez

Peace... Happy New Year from George Martinez and the Global Block Collective!

Ancient Aliens Debunked

I'm not saying it was aliens... because it's not.

This is a great documentary debunking the claims of Ancient Aliens, up until the last half hour.

A little disappointed that after talking about the methods that Ancient Aliens uses to "prove" bunk theories, the narrator does the same thing with the story of Noah's Ark.

He goes on to say that "the Nephalim passages prove that Something Weird happened" and that we can't dismiss the fact that similar stories are found in ancient cultures around the world.

However, all that proves to me is that human beings are sex-obsessed and anthropocentric the world over, and that they tell themselves stories of the Gods having sex with humans to prove to themselves that humans are cosmically important. The idea that humans are cosmically important is something that humans love to tell ourselves, because the idea that we're not cosmically important can be damned depressing (but true).

My probme with Ancient Aliens, is that it tries to trade one bogus theory of existence--- religion -- for another, pseudo-scientific new age claptrap.

In the last half hour, this documentary goes on to trade the pseudo-science for religion again, when the real moral of the story should be that most human cultures got it wrong for most of our history, and continue to do so.

I'm really disappointed by the end of this documentary.

MAN: a short film by Steve Cutts

by Steve Cutts

January 1, 2013

NYPD & Media Reports Attempt to Link OWS to Crime (Again)

The OWS Public Relations Working Group has issued the following statement regarding the recent arrest of two Greenwich Village residents charged with possession of weapons/explosives [emphasis mine].

Re: the alleged link to Occupy Wall Street (OWS) in media reports about the arrest of two Greenwich Village residents charged yesterday with possession of weapons/explosive material.

Since its beginnings in September 2011, Occupy Wall Street has vigorously used its Constitutional rights to protest Wall Street greed, and is firmly committed to non-violence. Nonetheless, Occupy has been subjected to extensive surveillance and repression, and the NYPD takes every opportunity to link OWS to crime.

There is nothing in the news stories to support a link between OWS and the individual arrested; his name is unfamiliar to many OWS activists. A very large number of people came through Zuccotti Park, and there are countless Occupy-related groups nationwide, so it is very difficult to ascertain if one person participated in anything related to OWS.

We urge members of the media to refrain from spreading rumors and misinformation.

There are many things that send up red flags about this case to me.

First, one of the suspects is the daughter of a NYC real estate broker working for Douglas Elliman, a firm dealing regularly with multimillion dollar apartments.

Now, I'll take as many allies from as many walks of life as I can get, but the FBI document dump shows that the wealthy elite, local law enforcement, and the FBI have been working in collusion to quash the Occupy Movement nationwide, and while I'm not going as far as to say that this is a false flag PR hit, even if these suspects really are acting totally independently, the NYPD are chomping at the bit to find any connection between these two and OWS that they possibly can, much in the same way that they tried to link a bike chain holding the Metro Gate open with a 12 year old murder case, which turned out to be exactly that-- an attempt to smear OWS not to mention total bunk, as the link they'd found in DNA evidence turned out to be contamination by a Lab Tech who had worked both cases. To rush to claim a link between OWS and the murder was not only unfounded, it was irresponsible. The only explaination for such reckless behaviour on the part of the NYPD, is that they were participating in a PR campaign against the Occupy Movement.