Tag Archives: fracking

Weak and Wimpy Candidates

Wow! What fireworks! The gloves are off, fists are flying, the big guns have appeared: the wimpy words.

The world may be focused on London and I suppose gaffes that recall the prime minister’s backside are super offensive to some (for the rest of the world it sort of proves the stodgy stereotype of the English), but the overseas gaffes are nothing compared to what is now going on.

There is a storyline building about Mitt Romney that is fatal to any Republican (and probably any other) candidate, and unless he does some fancy posturing, it is threatening to stick. Romney is being painted as a wimp.

Anyone recall another “wimp” president? It could be argued that the moniker of “wimp”, was the impetus of George W. Bush‘s presidency – to return honor to the family after his dad was labeled with the charge.

The word “wimp” or “weak” is the harshest disparaging remark one could make about a conservative and the charge has now been leveled at Romney by Newsweek – the same publication that put the nail in the coffin of George H. W. Bush‘s presidency. The idea has online news sources chattering as well, like in this article Mitt Romney’s Wimp Factor. The article points out how Romney seems afraid and running every time he’s pressed on an issue. Perhaps this kind of talk is what has him posturing as Commander in Chief this week while he snuggles up to Israel and sabre rattles in Iran’s direction.

We already know how sabre rattling turns out when it is nothing but cover for a non-existent domestic agenda and insecure self image. It’s not good. A war with Iran would surely be the beginning of an entirely new era – one that could make our current economic, environmental and political situation look like a Sunday School picnic.

Testosterone and attempts to prove manliness in the face of scrutiny or ridicule have acted as a genocidal force on our planet. Letting “the wimp factor” factor into military decisions takes away the trust that the People – Americans in this case – have in the Commander in Chief and the mission. We’ve stopped doing military in defense; we are now seen as the world aggressor.

Dick Cheney fully remembers what happened to George Bush Sr., he was Secretary of Defense. He also is fond of profiting from war as he did with Haliburton/KBR (and perhaps still does) he also is a big fan of fracking, helping to create the loophole that exempted fracking from the Safe Water Act in 2005 (article here) – which he also did to stuff the pockets of Haliburton.

Perhaps that’s why a day or two after “the wimp factor” story came out about the new Newsweek cover, Cheney decided to start getting loud about how he thinks Obama is one of the weakest presidents ever. He’s worried. You don’t really hear a lot our of Cheney these days – he lays low, doing his profiteering thing until a campaign needs someone to stir up the hawks, then he steps out to remind us that we do need a “strict father” that is focused on making money and kicking some butt.

Why are the words “weak” and “wimp” so significant? For conservatives, they are the reddest of flags that let them know that they don’t like a person. “Weak” and “wimp” say that the subject is not strong, is not decisive, and cannot be relied upon. They are not manly, have no nerve, and “chicken out” of fighting. Instead of seeing diplomatic measures as being a pragmatic way to save lives, money, the environment and energy, is seen as nuanced weakness. Conservatives operate on more of a black and white decision making system, if you’re not into “fight”, you must be into “flight”.  Progressives understand that every circumstance has multiple issues and causes at hand, learning about the situation and making deliberations are likely in order when deciding something as destructive as war.

Note the wimpy words, they are a little different than typical political mud slinging. Candidates can be called dumb, arrogant, selfish, evil, dishonest, manipulative, womanizing, ugly, disconnected…there are lots of descriptors flying around but the wimpy words are harder to shake – American’s don’t want a weak president.

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Man Camps and Sacrifice Zones

There  is no limit to industry’s reach. The corporation – who some want to be regarded as “people”- has no moral guidance, no mission of ethics, no feelings. Corporatists often throw up their hands and say, “What can we do? We are legally beholden to the shareholders to make as much money as possible” the part about disregard for quality of life for anyone but upper management goes unspoken but is understood.” As Chris Hedges says, “These corporations know only one word, and that’s more”.

Oil industry Man Camps Offer No Stress Living – this article offers a local paper’s view on the fracking boom. Reducing options, free time, and family time relates to being stress free in a similar way that a prison cell mate relates to feeling secure.

Another description of the man camp in assumably favorable terms -you will find the link on their own company’s website here.

The camps are basically a series of mobile homes linked together, only each doublewide is flanked with double occupancy bedrooms. Dining is group, there are group exercise rooms,  Here is one excerpt from the Billings Gazette:

Crew camp compounds are typically are made up of small, bedroom-sized units that are interconnected. The facilities usually are leased by companies in the oil industry, and can be deconstructed in days.

“When the bust comes, and it will, these facilities will be farming fields again,” Lash said. “We’re not sticking around, and will move them to the next great opportunity.”

Most counties in western North Dakota are ill-equipped to handle the swarms of workers, many of whom have been forced to live in campers, cars and tents.

“We’re running out of water, out of sewer, out of electricity, and until those get taken care of, how do you add more man camps to the mix?” said Dan Kalil, a commissioner in Williams County, the hub of the oil bonanza.

In Dickinson, in the southwest corner of the oil patch, the planning and zoning commission on Wednesday approved what would be the state’s largest man camp, a 3,000-unit facility in an industrial area near the wastewater treatment plant.

It makes no sense. The workers can’t afford to live there, so they fly home every two weeks to see their family. If an industry can’t allow a human being to live a decent life with their family (not next to a wastewater treatment facility), they should have to offset the environmental costs to the rest of us for their wreckless encouragement of such a high carbon impact lifestyle. Government subsidies to these fossil fuel companies should cease immediately – fracking included.
The article later speaks of the boomtown/ghostown phenomenon in a small town; like a gold/oil/gas rush. Longtimers have high hopes for the revival of their town, industry stays focused on the bottom line, and everyone else scrambles for a living wage any way they know how, moving where the work takes them.

As if that wasn’t cheery enough, here’s a companion piece, aRawStory article featuring Christopher Hedges with Bill Moyers. I’ll leave you with this (and there is a video at the end of this article) to ponder. Perhaps tomorrow we can discuss some of the issue that arise. I would love to hear your input.

Journalist and activist Chris Hedges appeared Friday on Moyers & Company to talk about the conclusions of his latest book. Days of Destruction, Days of Revolt is dedicated to investigating the most exploited and impoverished places in America, places that he says are “virtually off the radar screen in terms of the commercial media.”

“It’s absolutely imperative that we begin to understand what unfettered, unregulated capitalism does,” Hedges emphasized. “These are sacrifice zones, areas that have been destroyed for quarterly profit. And we’re talking about environmentally destroyed, communities destroyed, human beings destroyed, families destroyed. And because there are no impediments left, these sacrifice zones are just going to spread outward.”

When Moyers asked Hedges what he meant by saying there are no impediments left, he explained, “The political system is bought off, the judicial system is bought off, the law enforcement system services the interests of power, they have been rendered powerless.” Even worse, Hedges believes these devastated communities represent the future for all of us.

Hedges was particularly eloquent in describing the coal-mining areas of West Virginia, which “in terms of national resources is one of the richest areas of the United States [but] harbor the poorest pockets of community, the poorest communities in the United States. Because those resources are extracted, and that money is not funneled back into the communities.”

“Not only that,” he continued, “but they’re extracted in such a way that the communities themselves are destroyed. … They no longer want to dig down for the coal, and so they’re blowing the top 400 feet off of mountains poisoning the air, poisoning the soil, poisoning the water. … You are rendering the area moonscape. It becomes uninhabitable. … It’s all destroyed and it’s not coming back.”

Hedges went on to talk about Camden, New Jersey, which since the disappearance of manufacturing has become the poorest city in the United States and one of the most dangerous. “It’s a dead city,” he said. “There’s nothing left. There is no employment. Whole blocks are abandoned. The only thing functioning are open-air drug markets, of which there are about a hundred. And you’re talking third or fourth generation of people trapped in these internal colonies. They can’t get out.”

He spoke also about the Pine Ridge Reservation and migrant workers in Florida, saying, ” It’s greed over human life. … We, in that biblical term, we forgot our neighbor. And because we forgot our neighbor in Pine Ridge, because we forgot our neighbor in Camden, in Southern West Virginia, in the produce fields, these forces have now turned on us. They went first, and we’re next.”

“These corporations know only one word, and that’s more,” Hedges went on. “And because the mechanisms of governance can no longer control them, there is nothing now within the formal mechanisms of power to stop them from the creating, essentially, a corporate oligarchic state.”

“We have become complicit,” he noted sadly, “because we’ve accepted this as a kind of natural law. And the acceptance of this kind of behavior, and even the celebration of it is going to ultimately trigger our demise.”

 

 

 

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NC Fracking – Legal by Mistake

If fracking is harmless to water, perhaps we should make coffee with the chemical concoction that is injected into the earth and serve it at the RNC, they shouldn’t object – according to them the chemicals are harmless.

Another case of “gotcha” politics has played out in the North Carolina legislature. In a late night vote that “took her by surprise”, a veteran Democratic lawmaker, Becky Carney of Charlotte, accidentally gave Republicans the vote they needed to override the Governor’s veto of fracking legislation. Even though seconds after Congresswoman Carney pushed the incorrect button, she attempted frantically to change her vote to the one of her true intention, House Speaker Thom Tillis would not recognize the legislator’s requests for recognition and a switch of the vote – something typically granted by leadership when a request is made. Tillis says he is “comfortable” with the process, according to the N&O article on the late night vote.

Continue reading

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Shocker: Lobbyists and Politicians in Bed Together – Literally

Lobbyists want something from legislators, in turn legislators want something in return.

North Carolina Speaker of the House, Thom Tillis, was awarded ALEC‘s award for “legislator of the year” in 2011. He is a leader pushing Amendment One – a proposition that would add discrimination as NC’s only amendment to its constitution by outlawing any legal coupling except marriage between a man and woman – in order to protect the “sanctity of marriage”. He has done some redistricting in attempts to squelch the strong progressive voice that comes out of Asheville, the largest city in Western North Carolina. He also has watched his fellow Republican legislator – Tim Moffitt -find a problem with Asheville’s water where there is none, create a committee to address the invented problem, and is pushing to take control of it’s water system away from the city without reimbursement. Thom Tillis has a housemate that is was also his Chief of Staff, Charles Thomas. Both men are married but share an apartment while serving in the capital, Raleigh.

The North Carolina Home Builders Association has had a pretty good run since Tom became Speaker of the House. This from the newsobserver.com:

Lisa Martin, the home builders association’s director of government affairs, wrote to its membership after last year’s legislative session and highlighted a long list of bills the association helped pass, amend or stop.

The association said it led efforts to enact sweeping regulatory reform and changes to workers’ comp laws. The association also said it was successful in repealing a measure that had allowed counties to hold voter referenda to enact a new tax on land transfers; voters in two dozen elections across the state had rejected the taxes in recent years.

In some instances, Martin credited legislative leadership for its help.

Still, Martin wrote that it had been “the most successful session on record” for the home builders and that its lobbyists were a reason…

“The secret of NCHBA’s success … has been and always will be the leadership of its Executive Committee, the hard work of our lobbying team, the support of our members, and the invaluable help from legislators who support the home building industry,” Martin wrote.

She said it is important for the association to guard against future harmful policies and laws, and encouraged members to give money to the association’s political action committee. It gave $277,600 to candidates in 2009-10, making it one of the top sources of campaign funding in the state.

“We must also ensure that our champions and friends in the General Assembly remain in office and assume positions of leadership and responsibility,” she wrote.

The statement’s are pretty blasé considering that they are from a special interest group with lobbyists. Then there is the news that Tom Tillis’ Chief of Staff has been having an affair with one of the Home Builder’s Association’s lobbyists, Jessica Hayes. This arrangement is hardly shocking, but illustrates the influence big money has on politics and has very real ramifications for the people being governed.

Thom’s former Chief of Staff, Charles Thomas recently resigned because of an admitted affair with a lobbyist from the N.C. Home Builders Association. Shortly thereafter, another of Tillis’s staff, Amy Hobbs,  resigned due to an affair with a lobbyist. Ms. Hobbs was formerly employed by McGuire Woods, a consulting firm that pushes statewide privatization of public resources and lobbies for Koch Industries. McGuire Woods is a strong ALEC supporter.

Tillis denies that he knew anything about any of the inappropriate relationships of his staff even though some of the intimate times happened in his own apartment with his longtime friend and housemate.

Confused yet? Me too. It’s like a pile of icky political spaghetti, but here’s the recap:

Tillis is in bed with ALEC – figuratively.

Thomas is in bed with Hayes at the NC HBA – literally.

Hobbs is in bed with ALEC and McGuire Woods and Koch Industries- figuratively.

Hobbs is in bed with Plunkett – literally.

Thomas lives with Tillis – literally.

Tillis denies knowledge of anything untoward – literally.

Moffit and Thomas live in Western North Carolina – literally.

McGuire Woods would love to have public resources privatized.

Republican leadership is in bed with fracking.

Moffitt denies wanting to privatize Asheville’s water, but can’t guarantee anything.

Moffitt is in bed with ALEC and McGuire Woods and Koch Industries – figuratively.

Fracking is much cheaper and easier if a water system is owned outright.

Fracking may be coming soon to North Carolina.

The biggest Republican led campaign across North Carolina right now is about saving “the sanctity of marriage” by codifying an Amendment that is nothing but blatant fear and discrimination of the GLBT community.

Due to our campaign laws that insure non-stop political campaigning, the staff of legislators often have more knowledge and power over specific issues than the legislators themselves.

I have a headache like I was just forced to watch a bad soap opera. My apologies. Nothing illegal has been found, investigations are being requested, but folks, this is the status quo of our political situation right now – and it is by no means limited to the Republican party. The money has got to get out of politics or any semblance of democracy will be a faint memory. Simply on a moral principle, this seems to be a tangled very undemocratic web – whether it is or not is almost beside the question because perception is part of politics. If our leaders can’t be trusted to govern the people, not just please corporate interests, than calling the government a democracy is a misnomer.

The values of good democratic governance include transparency, accountability, and the onus to recuse oneself if you cannot complete your duties in a forthright, citizen driven manner. Republican or Democratic. Our system is broken because this is just one of the many, many soap operas that play out across each state and saturates our Capitol.  We, the citizens, must pay attention, speak up and talk about it with our friends. Change for the better is in our hands, not the politicians.

Thanks to Davyne Dial for helping me with this one, and read more about Asheville’s water issue here.

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The News that Wasn’t

Camera crews are apparently not allowed at some of our so-called “public” hearings in Congress. Yesterday a journalist was arrested for doing nothing but standing by a a taping device. The arrest can be seen here. The chairman of the committee ordered his removal and the removal of all video cameras.  Apparently the reporter, an Academy-Award nominated filmmaker for the film “Gasland”, a film about fracking, was ignored by Congressional staff and therefore denied credentialing to get into the hearing. This might not be unusual, but the actual denial of entrance, the arrest, and the overt way in which the Chairman Andy Harris (R-Md.) avoided accountability and transparency is rare and another blow to the American dream. Here is what some Dems had to say about it in the report by Huffingtonpost:

“I was chair of the Subcommittee for four years, and we frequently had people show up the day of a hearing to film,” Rep. Brad Miller (D-N.C.) told HuffPost. “We asked for their name, but they were told if they would not disrupt the hearing, they were free to record. A couple of times staff said, ‘You’re getting in the way, don’t stand there,’ but other than that, I do not ever recall anything like this. We certainly never turned anyone away for not providing 24 hours’ notice.”

“It’s an outrageous violation of the First Amendment,” Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D-Calif.) told HuffPost. “Here we’ve got an Academy Award-nominated filmmaker, and it’s an important subject and the subject that he did his prior film on for HBO. And they put him in handcuffs and hauled him out of there. This is stunning.”

“I found it ironic that there was not a flood of cameras there,” noted Rep. Paul Tonko (D-N.Y.). “There was the one camera and then before that, the ABC camera … if you have a camera there to bring the issue home to the public, that’s a good thing.”

This does not look good for Republicans they want to discuss fracking, or as they might prefer it to be framed, “hydraulic fracturing”, without being transparent. Continue reading

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