Friday, November 30, 2012

Amidst Arctic Drilling Lies, Shell VP Tells Truth – “There’s no sugar-coating this, I imagine there would be spills”

Two news articles came out on Thursday and Friday that should concern anyone worried about Shell Oil’s plans to drill for oil offshore in northern Alaska waters.
On Thursday, BBC published a feature article on the status of Shell’s Alaska drilling project, which just concluded what many consider to have been a disastrous 2012 season.  Here’s Shell’s Alaska Vice President, Pete Slaiby:
“There’s no sugar-coating this, I imagine there would be spills, and no spill is OK. But will there be a spill large enough to impact people’s subsistence? My view is no, I don’t believe that would happen.”
On the other hand, he argues that oil extracted off the coast of Point Hope could make a big difference to America as a whole.
“It could mean a significant step in the journey to energy independence of the United States,” he says.
Sheesh!  Can one imagine back in 1989, BBC interviewing Exxon Valdez skipper, Joe Hazelwood, with him stating:
“There’s no sugar-coating this, I imagine there would be spills, and no spill is OK. But will there be a spill large enough to impact people’s subsistence? My view is no, I don’t believe that would happen.”
On the other hand, he argues that oil transported in his tanker across Prince William Sound could make a big difference to America as a whole.
“It could mean a significant step in the journey to energy independence of the United States,” he says.
Or BBC interviewing BP CEO Tony Hayward in early 2010, with Haywood stating:
“There’s no sugar-coating this, I imagine there would be spills, and no spill is OK. But will there be a spill large enough to impact people’s subsistence? My view is no, I don’t believe that would happen.”
On the other hand, he argues that oil extracted off the coast of the American Gulf of Mexico states could make a big difference to America as a whole.
“It could mean a significant step in the journey to energy independence of the United States,” he says.
Actually, I CAN imagine those people saying that then.  Slaiby and company had hoped nobody would ask hard questions about this past summer’s abortive drilling attempts, particularly about the spectacular failure of a system they had touted as “state-of-the-art” on more than one occasion – the oil spill containment dome built to be deployed on the old icebreaking barge, Arctic Challenger.
I’ve previously written seven articles about the Arctic Challenger for firedoglake, beginning on July 27th, the 30th anniversary of the day I had made the above drawing of the barge, as it slowly moved northward toward Alaska’s Arctic, being towed by the barge I was helping crew.  The last of those articles was about six weeks ago, after the conclusion of hearings in Anchorage, conducted by Alaska Sen. Mark Begich.  Between those dates, I visited the barge in Bellingham, hoping to look at the modifications being made, and at the containment dome apparatus, only to be denied access, andfollowed out of town by Shell-hired security police.  I wrote other followups on barge modificationprogress fiascos.
In that last article, I published the text of a Federal FOIA request that had been submitted to government agencies by Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility.  PEER hasn’t heard back yet, but today, Seattle’s KUOW Radio published a report on the Arctic Challenger fiasco that reveals that they had taken the same action as PEER, but have gotten information back.  Here is the central finding:
According to BSEE internal emails obtained by KUOW, the containment dome test was supposed to take about a day. That estimate proved to be wildly optimistic.
  • Day 1: The Arctic Challenger’s massive steel dome comes unhooked from some of the winches used to maneuver it underwater. The crew has to recover it and repair it.
  • Day 2: A remote-controlled submarine gets tangled in some anchor lines. It takes divers about 24 hours to rescue the submarine.
  • Day 5: The test has its worst accident. On that dead-calm Friday night, Mark Fesmire, the head of BSEE’s Alaska office, is on board the Challenger. He’s watching the underwater video feed from the remote-control submarine when, a little after midnight, the video screen suddenly fills with bubbles. The 20-foot-tall containment dome then shoots to the surface. The massive white dome “breached like a whale,” Fesmire e-mails a colleague at BSEE headquarters.
    Then the dome sinks more than 120 feet. A safety buoy, basically a giant balloon, catches it before it hits bottom. About 12 hours later, the crew of the Challenger manages to get the dome back to the surface. “As bad as I thought,” Fesmire writes his BSEE colleague. “Basically the top half is crushed like a beer can.”
Representatives of Shell Oil and for BSEE declined to answer questions or allow interviews about the mishaps.
PEER is seeking a lot more information on this clusterfuck.  According to Alaska environmental activist,Rick Steiner, in an email to me this afternoon, PEER has “another 6 FOIAs in to BSEE and Coast Guard,” along with those previously filed.
I guess Shell Oil can’t be expected to be more honest than any other oil company.  Although one hopes they might be more honest in Alaska than in Nigeria, for instance, that is probably hoping for way too much.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

At the UN Thursday, Ambassador Susan Rice Redeemed Herself with the Far Right

In the preliminaries for Thursday’s U.N. General Assembly vote on granting Palestine the right to be called “Palestine” at several U.N. agencies, and to gain equal footing there with the Vatican, U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Susan Rice delivered a fairly short speech that I could have written for her.
If I had been asked to craft a 650-word U.N. speech for Rice that would meet every requirement of an AIPAC-approved document, it would have sounded remarkably like that delivered by the ambassador.  Had former U.N. ambassador John Bolton delivered the speech, there would have been more inflammatory adjectives, but 97% of the speech would have been the same.   Here’s what Rice said:
For decades, the United States has worked to help achieve a comprehensive end to the long and tragic Arab-Israeli conflict. We have always been clear that only through direct negotiations between the parties can the Palestinians and Israelis achieve the peace that both deserve: two states for two peoples, with a sovereign, viable and independent Palestine living side by side in peace and security with a Jewish and democratic Israel.
That remains our goal, and we therefore measure any proposed action against that clear yardstick: will it bring the parties closer to peace or push them further apart? Will it help Israelis and Palestinians return to negotiations or hinder their efforts to reach a mutually acceptable agreement? Today’s unfortunate and counterproductive resolution places further obstacles in the path to peace. That is why the United States voted against it.
The backers of today’s resolution say they seek a functioning, independent Palestinian state at peace with Israel. So do we.
But we have long been clear that the only way to establish such a Palestinian state and resolve all permanent-status issues is through the crucial, if painful, work of direct negotiations between the parties. This is not just a bedrock commitment of the United States. Israel and the Palestinians have repeatedly affirmed their own obligations under existing agreements to resolve all issues through direct negotiations, which have been endorsed frequently by the international community. The United States agrees—strongly.
Today’s grand pronouncements will soon fade. And the Palestinian people will wake up tomorrow and find that little about their lives has changed, save that the prospects of a durable peace have only receded.
The United States therefore calls upon both the parties to resume direct talks without preconditions on all the issues that divide them. And we pledge that the United States will be there to support the parties vigorously in such efforts.
The United States will continue to urge all parties to avoid any further provocative actions—in the region, in New York, or elsewhere.
We will continue to oppose firmly any and all unilateral actions in international bodies or treaties that circumvent or prejudge the very outcomes that can only be negotiated, including Palestinian statehood. And, we will continue to stand up to every effort that seeks to delegitimize Israel or undermine its security.
Progress toward a just and lasting two-state solution cannot be made by pressing a green voting button here in this hall. Nor does passing any resolution create a state where none indeed exists or change the reality on the ground.
For this reason, today’s vote should not be misconstrued by any as constituting eligibility for U.N. membership. It does not. This resolution does not establish that Palestine is a state.
The United States believes the current resolution should not and cannot be read as establishing terms of reference. In many respects, the resolution prejudges the very issues it says are to be resolved through negotiation, particularly with respect to territory. At the same time, it virtually ignores other core questions such as security, which must be solved for any viable agreement to be achieved.
President Obama has been clear in stating what the United States believes is a realistic basis for successful negotiations, and we will continue to base our efforts on that approach.
The recent conflict in Gaza is just the latest reminder that the absence of peace risks the presence of war. We urge those who share our hopes for peace between a sovereign Palestine and a secure Israel to join us in supporting negotiations, not encouraging further distractions. There simply are no short cuts.
Long after the votes have been cast, long after the speeches have been forgotten, it is the Palestinians and the Israelis who must still talk to each other—and listen to each other—and find a way to live side by side in the land they share.
Rather than parse this boilerplate bullshit, I’ll concentrate on a few reactions to Rice’s statement from the far right.
[Ambassador Rice] is entirely correct. However, words are insufficient. The U.S. must send a message to the Palestinians and the U.N. that actions have consequences.
After the UN General Assembly voted to raise the Palestinian Authority’s status from an observer entity to a non-member observer state, Susan Rice delivered a particularly strong pro-Israel statement in opposition to the resolution.
Yes, Rice has voted against anti-Israel resolutions before but has done so with very little enthusiasm as was the case when she voted against a UN Security Council Resolution condemning Israeli settlements in February 2011. Despite her opposition to the resolution, she spent most of her speech calling Israeli settlements illegitimate.
So why has Rice changed her tune? Well, of course, to mollify opposition to her becoming the next Secretary of State should President Obama choose to appoint her. I’m not sure a single forceful pro-Israeli statement will be enough to overcome her statements on Benghazi but it could certainly help her with Senators who are sitting on the fence.
Had Rice not been under pressure about the Benghazi horse shit, she would have said exactly the same.
The National Review article linked to above speculates:
The vote will almost certainly lead the Palestinian Authority to seek membership in U.N. specialized agencies, as it did last year with UNESCO. It will be particularly hard for those specialized agencies that include the Vatican among their membership, such as the International Atomic Energy Agency and the International Telecommunication Union, to deny the Palestinians membership, because the Holy See is also a U.N. non-member state observer. The most significant impediment to Palestinian-membership efforts in other specialized agencies is the threat of losing U.S. funding, which means that the U.S. must maintain and enforce current law that prohibits funding international organizations that grant membership to the Palestinians.
The Palestinian Authority will also likely seek to either join the International Criminal Court (ICC) or ask the organization to revisit the ICC prosecutor’s conclusion earlier this year that he does not have the authority to initiate an investigation because the issue of Palestinian statehood is in question.
The U.S. should communicate to the ICC that its decisions on these matters will influence future U.S. cooperation with that organization. [emphasis added]
It might be easier for the U.S. to communicate with the ICC, if we were a member.  We are not, and Obama has made no indication that status will change.  His staff is probably spending more time trying to steer the Bradley Manning court case away from bringing out more on the soldier’s torture and who knew what when, than they are on dealing with the ICC.
But should Susan Rice be Obama’s Secretary of State nominee (I’m not at all convinced he’s going to nominate her), the GOP senators are going to have to eat the words she uttered today.  Barbara Boxer, John Kerry and Dick Durban will relish shoving it down their throats, and adding to their AIPAC-related PAC coffers, for their blind service to another country.
That country is not Palestine, though.

Mat-Su Government Peak Victory: Motorized Corridor Defeated Once Again!

--- from Envision Mat-Su

Special thanks to all of you who took the time to contact the Borough Assembly to make your voice heard: It made a huge difference! We are happy to report that the Assembly voted unanimously to adopt the Gov. Peak Asset Management plan as is- and reject propsals for a Motorized Corridor through the Government Peak Recreation Area!

Home-owners, local businesses, Ski team coaches and a variety of both non-motorized and motorized users all spoke out eloquently against the concept of incorporporating a motorized corridor in this world class area.

At the meeting, many community members relayed concerns about safety hazards, recreational and property values, economics and the overall imporatance of the area. Several Palmer-Fishhook residents spoke specifically about negative impacts that would occur to property values in the area if a motorized corridor was adopted.

Many of the residents who spoke, initially purchased property in the Government Peak area after 1986 with the understanding that it wouldn’t be a motorized area. Your voice over the years has been crucial to the process in keeping the Gov. Peak Rec. Area a unique world-class asset!

Government Peak has remained as such due to thousands of community comments, more than a dozen meetings, several amendments to Borough legislation, feedback from trail users and committees, local residents and community councils.

Read more about the new Hatcher Pass Ski Development in progress - it will be a tremendous boost to our local economy and soon draw visitors throughout the state and across the globe to the Mat-Su.

Current Action:

We need to focus our collective energy and attention on the Jim Creek Asset Management Plan to ensure a balanced approach is achieved for this additional world class natural Asset.

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Abby the Hasbara Slayer

RT TV's most meteoric young on-air commentator, Alyona Minkovsky, left the network in late July, to take a position at Huffington Post's new real-time web niche, HuffPost Live.  While at RT TV, Minkovsky's interviews were edgy and provocative.  Her interviewing skills combined with what appeared to be a thirst for knowledge about news that seldom or never gets covered by the likes of Rachel Maddow or Ed Schultz, for instance.  Compared to Alyona, Rachel was more like FOX than like progressive.

Since her move to HuffPost Live, it has been almost painful to watch how the new show seems to have sucked the life and soul out of a brilliant young news person.  I guess HuffPost could do that to almost anyone, though. I stopped watching.

On her last show before exiting into Arianna's fief in the Borg, Alyona interviewed firedoglake's Jane Hamsher and the Guardian's Glenn Greenwald.  I praised her fine work up to that point in her career, as did Kevin Gosztola.

So what did RT TV do to make up for the loss of Minkovsky?  On September 4th, a new show debuted, featuring Abby Martin. According to RT's bio page on her:
Abby was involved in the creation of multiple new media projects. She is a self taught editor, videographer, writer, journalist and artist.  In 2009, she founded her own citizen journalism media organization called Media Roots based in Oakland, CA.  There, she editorially managed and produced hundreds of multimedia stories, including front line coverage of the Occupy Oakland crackdowns. 
Abby is also the youngest member on the board of Project Censored, the largest research organization in the country, that works to publish the top 25 censored news stories every year.  While based in the Bay Area, she hosted a weekly radio show with Project Censored on KPFA, a Pacifica affiliate FM radio station."
I've caught a few YouTube clips from her show, Breaking the Set,  and from her short feature, Brainwash Update.  She's sort of like Minkovsky on steroids.  Unfortunately, I've been way too busy with teaching, conducting and composing this fall to watch much, but her reports on Gaza may have been the best on American television.  She was visibly moved, even physically disturbed by the possibly intentional Israeli attacks on newsmen, including RT, during the recent Gaza massacre.

But this one threw me for a loop: I would not want to piss off this courageous reporter.

Welcome to the battle, Abby the Hasbara Slayer.

After Martin's in-your-face response to threats, she was again criticized by Zionist media.  Here's how she responded (28 minutes): She's not taking prisoners.

I'd like to see Martin interview the Israeli Ambassador to the Netherlands, Haim Divon, next.  As the Gaza massacre was winding down, he went to a speech at which "full-time fascist" Leon de Winter raged:
On the night a ceasefire came into effect ending eight days of Israeli slaughter that left 162 people, the vast majority unarmed civilians, dead in Gaza, Dutch columnist and author Leon de Winter proposed adding chemicals to Gaza’s water supply to sterilize the population. 
The website PowNed reported that de Winter “made his proposal for forced eugenics yesterday evening in Amsterdam at a solidarity meeting of Dutch Jews,” and that the speech by de Winter was broadcast this morning by Dutch mainstream and publicly-funded Radio 1. 
PowNed said: 
De Winter responded in his speech to the accusations of genocide leveled against Israel, saying that the population of Gaza had only increased over the last few years. “Maybe we should secretly add some means of birth control to Gaza’s drinking water,” De Winter proceeded to propose. 
The suggestion was met with roaring laughter by the public. Among the participants that evening were the Israeli ambassador to the Netherlands, Hiam Devon [sic], and the cheerful leader of the [religious ultra-conservative] SGP party, Kees van der Staaij. 
De Winter blogged until 2008 on the mainstream liberal news site Elsevier. He is also an “an adjunct fellow” at the Hudson Institute, a right-wing American think-tank. 
While de Winter, known for his “humor,” might have intended his suggestion as some sort of sick joke, the reported reaction suggests that the audience were only too ready to mock an already dehumanized population.
Maybe Martin can interview Divon on his seeming support for such a strange and public fascists, whose ideas seem boilerplate Anders Breivik.

Maybe Martin can interview the commanding officer of the Israel Defense Forces' social media unit, Lieutenant Sacha Dratwa.  Here's the lieutenant, posing on his facebook page, as President Obama (click to enlarge):

I suppose in his racist mind, he thought he was being funny.  The American blog, YourBlackWorld did not think Lt. Dratwa was funny.  At all.  Nor did Democratic Underground

Maybe Lt. Dratwa feels their anti-Semitism keeps them from seeing the true humor in his, uh, parody.

Yeah - that's the ticket.

Good luck, Abby Martin.