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28 posts categorized "Charles Norman Todd"

May 16, 2005

Oh Give Me A Home, Where the Caribou Roam...

Guest: cntodd

What was the number 1 most under-reported news story from the past 30 days? I’ll give you a hint: Alaska, oil spill, British Petroleum.

Actually, it would be unfair to call it under-reported because in order to count as such, someone would actually have to have reported on it.

Amidst the runaway brides and various other distractions the corporate media have cooked up to keep us happy and apathetic consumers of “entertainment” news, I have not seen a single news organization so much as mention that there has been an oil spill in Alaska.

Correction: Not 1, not 2, but 3 oil spills in BP’s Prudhoe Bay operation during March and April of this year – all of which went unreported to authorities. And of course the media has remained completely silent despite the fact that the spills were exposed to Congress on April 15 by an oil industry watchdog.

The story has all the earmarks of a grand drama – corporate whistle blowers, corporate malfeasance and a subsequent cover up, a federal investigation, and all the while, Congress happily debating whether or not to drill in the Alaska National Wildlife Reserve.

Prudhoe Bay is in fact North America’s largest oil field and it sits only 60 miles away from ANWR. BP runs the operation on behalf of Conoco Phillips, Exxon Mobile, and other oil companies – an operation known for its hazardous conditions.

But Congress just doesn’t care how shoddy the operation gets – it will not deter them or President Bush from pressing forward with their plans to let the energy industry rape Alaska’s glorious refuge. After all, we wouldn’t want to scare away all the energy money from the next election now would we?

The situation is absolutely criminal. It would be one thing to have an industrial accident. It is an entirely different matter to knowingly keep safety conditions minimal, resulting in accident after accident, and all the while hiding the evidence from the government.

Nor is this the first time that the ridiculous safety measures have been brought to light. In one of two articles I could find on the issue (both written by the same person), Jason Leopold writes:

BP has racked up some hefty fines over the years due to a number of mishaps at its Prudhoe Bay operations. In 2001, the Alaska Oil and Gas Conservation Commission found high failure rates on some Prudhoe wellhead safety valves. The company was put on federal criminal probation after one of its contractors dumped thousands of gallons of toxic material underground at BP's Endicott oil field in the 1990s. BP pleaded guilty to the charges in 2000 and paid a $6.5 million fine, and agreed to set up a nationwide environmental management program that has cost more than $20 million.

The latest charges against BP stem from claims made recently by BP whistleblowers who exposed their company’s severe safety and maintenance problems that have caused at least a half-dozen oil spills at Prudhoe Bay—North America’s biggest oil field—and other areas on Alaska’s North Slope, which the whistleblowers say could boil over and spread to ANWR if the area is opened up to further oil and gas exploration.

And another BP cover up was brought to the government's attention last year:

Hamel [the industry watchdog] filed a formal complaint in January with the EPA, claiming he had pictures showing a gusher spewing a brown substance in July 2003 and December 2004. An investigation by Alaska’s Department of Environmental Conservation determined that as much as 294 gallons of drilling mud, a substance that contains traces of crude oil, was spilled on two separate occasions when gas was sucked into wells, causing sprays of drilling muds and oil that shot up as high as 85 feet into the air.

Because both spills exceeded 55 gallons, BP and Nabors were obligated under a 2003 compliance agreement that BP signed with Alaska to immediately report the spills. But they didn't, said Leslie Pearson, the agency's spill prevention and emergency response manager.

But Congress has conveniently forgotten all of this – a particularly relevant history since the exact same technology in use at Prudhoe Bay would be replicated in any ANWR drilling.

The corporate media have failed the public in any last remaining sense of civil obligation that they might feel by completely ignoring this story. President Bush and Congress have failed the public as well - not to mention the 41 Democrats in the House who voted for the Energy Bill which would open ANWR for drilling.

How much longer will we look the other way as our elected officials hand out our public resources with no concern for the consequences?

[X-posted at Freiheit und Wissen]

President Bush: Enemy of Freedom

Guest: cntodd

President Bush’s so-called “war on terror” and his public declarations in support of democracy everywhere are, well, hollow, empty, and - shall we say - meaningless.

The administration has supported Uzbekistan’s President Karimov as one of the U.S.’s closest allies in the “war on terror” despite knowing for years that the government maintains its power by force, intimidation, and torture, and of course by the erosion of democracy.

From a joint press conference in December 2001 with then Secretary of State Colin Powell and President Karimov:

POWELL: It was my pleasure to bring to the President the greetings of President Bush and also to extend to him our thanks for all the support we have received from Uzbekistan in pursuing this campaign against terrorism in Afghanistan and elsewhere throughout the world as well. They have been an important member of this coalition against terrorism, and I’m sure they will continue to be so in the future.

REPORTER: This morning you quoted Thomas Jefferson saying that a government must rely on the consent of the governed. I was curious to know what your critique was of the state of democracy in Uzbekistan and how you raised these concerns with President Karimov.

POWELL: We had a good candid discussion of the democratization process, and the importance of political democracy. I mentioned to him that I had spoken to kids earlier this morning about the importance of voting. We have areas where we disagree as to how fast progress should be made or could be made and it is something that we will continue to discuss. I discussed it with the president as well as with the foreign minister. The president’s emphasis is to bring up a new generation that understands. And the pace at which democratization takes place was the item that was on his mind.

Continue reading "President Bush: Enemy of Freedom"...

[X-posted at Freiheit und Wissen]

May 15, 2005

Trouble for Bush's Ally

Guest: cntodd

My fellow guest blogger Hilzoy noted earlier the violent government crackdown on protestors in Uzbekistan. The situation is horrific.

President Islam Karimov is of course one of President Bush’s allies in the so-called “war on terror.” Yet since the uprising on Wednesday, Karimov has run his own campaign of terror.

Karimov branded the protestors as “criminals” and “extremists,” sending his military out to suppress them. The government’s own media/propaganda machine started broadcasting false reports that that these “extremist” protestors were using women and children as “human shields” when in fact Karimov’s military was actually massacring women and children in the street.

And in order to prevent reports from getting out, Karimov blocked international television signals of CNN and the BBC.

The situation is atrocious, but President Bush knew all along that Karimov did not respect human rights. The former British ambassador to Uzbekistan testified that the Uzbek interrogation process included downing, rape, suffocation, and yes, the boiling of victims. Yet the CIA and the U.S. military have special permission to take prisoners of the “war on terror” to Uzbekistan precisely because such methods are used. And Karomov’s autocratic government receives hundreds of millions of dollars each year in U.S. tax payer money.

Enough is enough.

Also, read an eye-witness report of the government violence.

[X-posted at Freiheit und Wissen]

May 14, 2005

A New Attack on the Rule of Law

Guest: cntodd

The always great Doug Ireland brings us a chilling report on the Christian Right’s agenda to destroy the separation of powers – the creation of an Inspector General for the judiciary.

As Ireland writes, this new crusade, led by Tom DeLay and his zealous allies, aims to bring the judiciary under greater control by Congress.

Ireland points to an article which states:

Although DeLay made the issue a party signature, House Judiciary Committee Chairman F. James Sensenbrenner Jr. (R-Wis.) has quietly been pursuing a court-oversight agenda for years, mostly overlooked except for a few high-profile speeches he has given. Sensenbrenner said in an interview that his efforts would not be punitive and would be aimed at making the judicial branch stronger, not at retribution.

Sensenbrenner, 61, who has a degree from the University of Wisconsin Law School, suggested in a speech at Stanford University this week that Congress should create an inspector general for the courts to field complaints and conduct investigations.
Sensenbrenner also vowed to pursue a longtime Republican effort to split up the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit, which is based in San Francisco and is considered to be one of the most liberal circuits in the country. Conservatives were infuriated when the court ruled in 2002 that the Pledge of Allegiance was unconstitutional because it describes the United States as "one nation under God."

“GOP Seeks More Curbs on Courts” [WaPo, May 12, 2005]

If DeLay and Sensenbrenner succeed in their plans, the Christian Right will be able to wield unprecedented power in their fight to overturn reproductive laws, to socially ghettoize the gay community, and to bleed away the separation of church and state.

Ireland writes that the proposed Inspector General

…will have to render report cards on judicial behavior, with budgetary and disciplinary threats in its arsenal to force judge to toe the Republican line on everything from the right to die with dignity to affirmative action to abortion to gay civil rights. This is tantamount to putting the Christian right in charge of policing our courts.

This news is miserable indeed.

Related posts:   

[X-posted at Freiheit und Wissen]

Pope Power

In the world of inflated egos and calculated demagogues, I was reminded yesterday that the most power-hungry political player in the world may not be Tom DeLay, but actually Pope Ratz Benedict.

What pushed my buttons was the following article:

Pope Benedict XVI sent a veiled message to China on Thursday, inviting countries that don't have diplomatic relations with the Vatican to establish ties soon in a move that could complicate the Holy See's relations with Taiwan.
The pope made the comments in a speech in the Apostolic Palace to diplomats of the 174 countries accredited to the Holy See.
"I'm thinking also about the nations with which the Holy See still hasn't entered into diplomatic relations," he told the ambassadors.
Premier Wen Jiabao said April 21 that China was willing to build relations with the Vatican if Pope Benedict XVI breaks ties with rival Taiwan
Beijing's communist government ordered Chinese Catholics to break ties with the Vatican in 1951. Roman Catholic churches in China are run by a government-sanctioned group that recognizes the pope as a spiritual leader but has no formal relations with the Vatican and appoints its own priests and bishops.

The Vatican is the only European government that has official relations with Taiwan.

“Pope’s Call for Diplomatic Ties is Regarded as an Overture to China” [Chicago Tribune]

My first response was who the hell cares if China has diplomatic relations with the Vatican.

But then I began to wonder: Ratz must have some pretty big balls to set himself upon the world stage within a month and to begin pontificating about who will and who won’t recognize his authority. Its like, “Look at me everyone! How dare you refuse to see God’s ordained power invested in me!”

I mean, what century are we living in? Why should any government have diplomatic ties with the Vatican? Who’s next? Perhaps the head of the Southern Baptist Convention should start sending subtle hints to world leaders intimating that they want to be recognized as a big power player on the global stage.

The fact is, the Pope’s not-so-subtle hints are a reminder that the Vatican has power because world leaders chose to give it power. And it is not just world leaders, but also the media. But why should any country – nay, any democracy – have diplomatic relations with an institution whose structure consists of a rigid, top-down bureaucratic patriarchal structure whose leader is decided in secret? (Oh wait, does that describe the electoral college?)

[X-posted at Freiheit und Wissen]

Philosophical Self-Consciousness

Guest: cntodd

So I took this quiz which I have seen around - most recently at Lawyers, Guns, and Money. Here are my results.

Cultural Creative















What is Your World View? created with

The quiz asks you a series of questions regarding your attitudes towards science, religion, and culture.

To be honest, I do not know what a "Cultural Creative" is. To be honest, I think the quiz was a bit bunk because it assumes that religious conviction is somehow opposed to modernity. Don't get me wrong, I am not religious at all, but at the same time I don't think relgious belief is completely irratioanl or opposed to "modernity" - whatever that is.

And another odd thing - it seemed to group any positive answer to a question about religion into the "fundamentalism" category - so they are clearly not using the term as it is commonly used.

[X-posted at Freiheit und Wissen]

May 13, 2005

Zoo Tragedy Continues

Guest: cntodd

Those of us here in Chicago were startled to hear of the death of three rare monkeys housed in an exhibit at the Lincoln Park Zoo. Four langur monkeys were moved into a new exhibit within the primate house a couple of weeks ago . The first langur died this past Tuesday, the second early on Wednesday, and the third late yesterday.

What makes these deaths so startling is that the Zoo already lost three elephants in less than 6 months with the first elephant dieing in October.

Animal rights activists called for an investigation into inappropriate Zoo conduct after the second elephant died in January. The Zoo’s third and final elephant, Wankie, died just two weeks ago.

The Zoo’s president, Kevin Bell, offered his resignation yesterday with the news of the third langur death, although the Zoo board refused to accept it.

See my previous post "A Zoo Tragedy" for more on the elephant story.

[X-posted at Freiheit und Wissen]

Gay in the Heartland

If you are gay and want to get married, then look no further than the northeast bloc of gay-friendly states – Vermont, Massachusetts, Connecticut, soon to be New York and New Jersey, and uh…Nebraska.

Well, not quite Nebraska, but a Federal Judge did strike down Nebraska’s voter approved gay marriage ban yesterday. But I want to know, who actually benefits from this decisions?

In 2000, Nebraska voters approved the amendment to their state constitution by over 70%. With such high numbers opposing gay unions of any kind, this judges decision only hurts the gay rights movement. Tight-pants conservative lawmakers in the state and national government have already cried bloody murder over this “activist judge” who overturned the “will of the people.” It doesn’t seem to matter to them that the reason he said he overturned it was because it went far beyond the legal definition of marriage, even potentially interfering with related individuals who live together, couples who want to adopt or even foster parents.

In short, the amendment was struck down not because he was trying to give a helping hand to Nebraska’s swelling gay population, but because the language of the amendment affected relationships that are normally protected.

But this won’t matter to the Theocrats and it won’t matter to President Bush. He will renew his call for a constitutional marriage amendment to protect states from “activist” judges – despite the fact that Connecticut democratically passed civil union legislation without any judicial intervention, and the Republican governor even signed it into law.

So the judge’s decision will not help things on the national scene. But to be honest, I cannot imagine what good it will do in Nebraska either. Sure, the amendment allegedly interfered with these other kinds of relationships, although I have not heard of any reported cases. The real winners from the law, in theory, are Nebraska’s gay and lesbian population.

But forgive me for saying this, but Nebraska is not exactly a “gay Mecca” It’s not as though Lincoln is a big ticket stop on the circuit party route, or as though Omaha rivals P-town or Fire Island. Indeed, in the 2000 census, Nebraska recorded only 2,332 same sex couples (compared with, 46,500 in New York).

Nebraska is not New York or New Jersey – it is smack dab in the middle of the country, consisting mostly of rural farm land. And while gay and lesbian couples everywhere have a right not to be ghettoized by the heteronormative will of the majority, such a judicial decision will only seem as liberal encroachment upon “the heartland” while bringing little in the way of substantial reward.

[X-posted at Freiheit und Wissen]

May 12, 2005

Bush's Buddies

Guest: cntodd

President Bush is a wonderful man who just loves a good contradiction...

Nominating someone who hates the U.N. to be U.N. ambassador...

Nominating someone who supports the use of torture to run the justice department...

Nominating a guy who forcibly sodomizes his wife to the Advisory Committee for Reproductive Health Drugs in the Food and Drug Administration...

Uh…what was that?


Guest: cntodd

In case you have not heard, two critical security holes were found in FireFox this week. But the good news is that a patch is already available today. I recommend that you download the patch.

And if you are still using Microsoft, then shame on you.