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Policy Lessons from Mad Cow Disease:

 

Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on January 5th, 2017
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)


If Trump’s Nominee Scott Pruitt Is Confirmed, ‘EPA Would Stand for Every Polluter’s Ally’

By Elliott Negin, EcoWatch
04 January 17


Nominating Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt to run the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) gives lie to Donald Trump’s claim that he is serious about protecting the public from pollution. While the president-elect has waffled on climate change, he has been unequivocal about toxics.

“Clean air is vitally important,” Trump declared during a Nov. 22, 2016 interview with The New York Times. “Clean water,” he added, “crystal clean water is vitally important. Safety is vitally important.” And when he announced Pruitt’s nomination in early December, Trump vowed that the attorney general would “restore the EPA’s essential mission of keeping our air and water clean and safe.”

Putting aside the fact that the EPA has not forsaken that mission, Pruitt’s track record indicates that he would do the exact opposite. Under Pruitt, the acronym EPA would stand for Every Polluter’s Ally.

Follow EcoWatch @EcoWatch
Trump Picks Scott Pruitt, ‘Puppet of the Fossil Fuel Industry,’ to Head EPA ow.ly/sGrC306X0Cr @GreenpeaceAustP @Green_Europe 1:40 PM – 9 Dec 2016

Photo published for Trump Picks ‘Puppet of the Fossil Fuel Industry’ to Head EPA
Trump Picks ‘Puppet of the Fossil Fuel Industry’ to Head EPA
Donald Trump has appointed Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt to head the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). The conservative Republican has close ties to the fossil fuel industry and…  ecowatch.com 33 33 Retweets 17 17 likes

Since he took office as Oklahoma’s attorney general in 2010, Pruitt has repeatedly sued the EPA to block key safeguards limiting power plant pollution, most notably the Cross-State Air Pollution Rule, which limits sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxides and the Mercury and Air Toxics Standards (MATS), which curb mercury, arsenic, cyanide and other emissions.

Sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxides are primary ingredients of soot and smog pollution, which cause a number of respiratory problems, including bronchitis and aggravated asthma, as well as cardiovascular disease and premature death. Mercury and other toxic pollutants covered by MATS have been linked to heart disease, neurological damage, birth defects, asthma attacks and premature death. Some 25 million Americans suffer from asthma, alone. That’s one out of every 12 people.

The potential benefits of the Cross-State Rule and MATS are considerable. Taken together, they are projected to prevent 18,000 to 46,000 premature deaths across the country and save $150 billion to $380 billion in health care costs annually. In Pruitt’s home state, the two regulations would avert as many as 720 premature deaths and save as much as $5.9 billion per year.

Pruitt also has sued the EPA to prevent the agency from implementing a rule that would reduce the amount of ground-level ozone or smog, which the American Lung Association says is the most widespread pollutant nationwide and one of the most dangerous. Produced when sunlight heats nitrogen oxides, volatile organic compounds and carbon monoxide from power plants, industrial facilities and automobiles, ozone pollution has been linked to respiratory problems, cardiovascular disease and premature death. It is particularly harmful for the most vulnerable, including children, the elderly, and people already suffering from asthma or another respiratory disease.

No matter. In October 2015, Pruitt joined with four other states to challenge the new ozone rule in court, despite the fact that earlier that month, the Oklahoma Department of Environmental Quality said the state could meet the new EPA limits.

Pruitt also has targeted clean water safeguards. In July 2015, he sued the EPA over the Clean Water Rule, which the agency and the Army Corps of Engineers had just issued to clarify the scope of the Clean Water Act. The rule was in response to two Supreme Court decisions—in 2001and in 2006—that called into question whether the federal government had the authority to protect smaller streams, wetlands and other water bodies that flow into drinking water supplies. From a scientific perspective, it’s a no-brainer. As EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy explained in a statement: “For the lakes and rivers we love to be clean, the streams and wetlands that feed them have to be clean, too.”

Pruitt doesn’t see it that way. In a March 2015 column he co-wrote with Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul for The Hill, Pruitt called the Clean Water Rule “the greatest blow to private property rights the modern era has seen.” Pruitt and Rand maintain that states should be responsible for protecting the environment within their respective borders, not the federal government. Never mind that air and water pollution do not honor political boundaries and state legislatures are all too often dominated by corporate interests.

Besides Pruitt’s disdain for air and water safeguards, he is no fan of federal efforts to address climate change, which he falsely insists is an open scientific question. Pruitt, who has received generous contributions from fossil fuel interests, is not only party to a pending lawsuit against the EPA over its Clean Power Plan to curb electricity sector carbon emissions, he also attempted unsuccessfully to overturn the agency’s science-based “endangerment finding” that greenhouse gases threaten public health and welfare, a cornerstone of the EPA’s climate work.

Public health advocates are rightly horrified at the prospect of Pruitt running the EPA. The response from Ken Kimmell, president of the Union of Concerned Scientists, was typical.

“The EPA plays an absolutely vital role in enforcing long-standing policies that protect the health and safety of Americans, based on the best available science,” Kimmell said in a press statement. “Pruitt has a clear record of hostility to the EPA’s mission, and he is a completely inappropriate choice to lead it. … It’s this simple: If senators take seriously their job of protecting the public, they must vote no on Pruitt.”

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on January 4th, 2017
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

California is destined to be the anti-Trump like Texas was the anti-Obama.
Take notice – California is the Fifth largest economy in the World and its legislature does not want Trump to mess it up.

California braces for a Trump presidency by tapping former U.S. Atty. General Eric Holder for legal counsel.

By Melanie MasonMelanie Mason, Contact Reporter based in Sacramento, The Los Angeles Times.

Bracing for an adversarial relationship with President-elect Donald Trump, the California Legislature has selected former U.S. Atty. Gen. Eric H. Holder Jr. to serve as outside counsel to advise the state’s legal strategy against the incoming administration.


The unusual arrangement will give Holder, leading a team of attorneys from the firm Covington & Burling, a broad portfolio covering potential conflicts between California and the federal government.

“He will be our lead litigator, and he will have a legal team of expert lawyers on the issues of climate change, women and civil rights, the environment, immigration, voting rights — to name just a few,” Senate leader Kevin de León (D-Los Angeles) said in an interview.

Such a task typically falls to the state attorney general. On Tuesday, Gov. Jerry Brown formally nominated Democratic Rep. Xavier Becerra to replace former Atty. Gen. Kamala Harris, who now serves in the U.S. Senate. Becerra, whose nomination hearings in the Legislature begin next week, is expected to be easily confirmed.

But De León and Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon began contemplating hiring outside legal counsel for the Legislature almost immediately after Trump’s election, in hopes of protecting existing state policies that are at odds with the president-elect’s stated positions.

“While we don’t yet know the harmful proposals the next administration will put forward, thanks to Donald Trump’s campaign, cabinet appointments and Twitter feed, we do have an idea of what we will be dealing with,” Rendon said in a statement.

“The Covington team will be an important resource as we work with the governor and the attorney general to protect Californians,” he added.

The two legislative leaders have taken an unabashedly combative posture against Trump.
Rendon, in remarks last month at a swearing-in ceremony for lawmakers, described the incoming administration as a “major existential threat,” and asserted “Californians do not need healing. We need to fight.”

De León said the additional counsel would offer “more legal firepower” that would complement and bring additional heft to the state attorney general’s efforts.

“Hiring the former attorney general — the nation’s top lawyer — it shows that we’re very serious in protecting the values of the people of California against any attempt to undermine the policies that has made us the fifth-largest economy in the world,” De León said.

Bringing on outside counsel is not unprecedented for the Legislature. The state Senate hired special counsel for a select committee investigating price manipulation in the wholesale energy market by Enron in the early 2000s. The Senate also sought outside counsel to sort through the federal investigation of former Democratic state Sen. Ron Calderon, who later pleaded guilty to corruption charges.


Updates from Sacramento:

But it is far more unorthodox for both houses to join together in retaining counsel in a preemptive bid to prepare for as-yet-unknown litigation and policy-making at the federal level. Much of the arrangement remains murky, including how Holder’s efforts will differ from or align with Becerra’s.

Also unclear: the price tag. Aides to legislative leaders declined to specify how much Covington & Burling’s services will cost the state, citing still-unfinished contracts, but said the payment would come out of both chambers’ operating budgets and would not require additional state funds.

Holder, who was a partner at Covington from 2001 until 2009 before rejoining the firm in 2015, will direct the efforts from the firm’s Washington, D.C., office. The firm, which has a long-established presence in the nation’s capital, has in recent years expanded its footprint in California. Covington’s Los Angeles office, which will play a major role in working with the Legislature, was launched in part by former federal prosecutor Dan Shallman, whose brother, John Shallman, is a prominent Democratic strategist whose clients include De León.

“I am honored that the legislature chose Covington to serve as its legal advisor as it considers how to respond to potential changes in federal law that could impact California’s residents and policy priorities,” Holder said in a statement provided by De León’s office.

“I am confident that our expertise across a wide array of federal legal and regulatory issues will be a great resource for the legislature.”

Holder, a close friend of President Obama, left the Justice Department in 2015. As one of the most liberal figures in the Obama administration, his tenure was defined by a focus on civil rights and criminal justice reform and was marked by a tumultuous relationship with Congress and scandal stemming from the failed gun-trafficking operation known as Fast and Furious.

Representing California lawmakers against Trump won’t be Holder’s sole foray into politics in the coming years. He is also overseeing a Democratic campaign focused on redistricting, the process of redrawing political maps that, in recent years, has tilted state legislative and congressional landscapes in the Republicans’ favor.

—————————————-
 melanie.mason at latimes.com

Follow @melmason on Twitter for the latest on California politics.

ALSO

California is itching to take on Trump. Here are the prominent figures leading the charge.
Texas was Obama’s chief antagonist. In Trump’s America, California is eager for the part.

California’s new legislative session begins with a message: We’re ready to fight Trump.

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on January 3rd, 2017
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)


The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) is a unique forum where the governments of 34 democracies with market economies work with each other, as well as with more than 70 non-member economies to promote economic growth, prosperity, and sustainable development.

Today, OECD member countries account for 63 percent of world GDP, three-quarters of world trade, 95 percent of world official development assistance, over half of the world’s energy consumption, and 18 percent of the world’s population. Together with its sister agencies, the International Energy Agency (IEA) and Nuclear Energy Agency (NEA), the OECD helps countries – both members and non-members – reap the benefits and confront the challenges of a global economy by promoting sound energy policies that further: economic growth; energy security; free markets; the increasingly safe, clean, and efficient use of resources to reduce environmental impacts and preserve our climate; and science and technology innovation.

The US Mission to the OECD writes: “The Organization provides a setting where governments can compare policy experiences, seek answers to common problems, identify good practice and coordinate domestic and international policies.

For more than 50 years, the OECD has been a valuable source of policy analysis and internationally comparable statistical, economic and social data.

Over the past decade, the OECD has further deepened its engagement with business, trade unions and other representatives of civil society. The U.S. Council for International Business (USCIB) represents the views of America’s private sector through its participation in the OECD’s Business and Industry Advisory Committee (BIAC). The U.S. trade union interests are represented on the OECD’s Trade Union Advisory Committee by the American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations (AFL-CIO) (USA).”

How does accession to the OECD work?

In 2007 the OECD Council at Ministerial level opened membership discussions with five candidate countries, as a result of which Chile, Estonia, Israel and Slovenia became members in 2010, while discussions with the Russian Federation are currently postponed. In May 2013, the Council decided to launch a new wave of accession discussions with Colombia and Latvia; in April 2015, it invited Costa Rica and Lithuania to open formal OECD accession talks. Latvia became an OECD Member on 1 July 2016

As a first step, interested countries typically present a request to become OECD members. Once the OECD Council invites the Secretary-General to open discussions for accession with one or several countries, an “Accession Roadmap” is developed to detail the terms, conditions and process of each accession discussion. This roadmap lists the reviews to be undertaken by Committees in various policy areas in order to assess the country’s position with respect to the relevant OECD instruments and to evaluate its policies and practices as compared to OECD best policies and practices in the relevant area. Each country follows its own process and is assessed independently.

Browse the roadmaps for the accession of the Russian Federation, Colombia, Latvia, Lithuania, and Costa Rica

At the end of the technical review, each Committee provides a “formal opinion” to the OECD Council. The timeline for the accession process depends on the pace at which the candidate country provides information to Committees and responds to recommendations for changes to its legislation, policy and practice.

On the basis of the formal opinions and other relevant information, the Council takes a final decision on the basis of unanimity. An Accession Agreement is then signed and the candidate country takes the necessary domestic steps and deposits an instrument of accession to the OECD Convention with the depositary, e.g. the French government. On the date of deposit, the country formally becomes a Member of the OECD.

Reviewing the above and reading the pronouncements of President-elect Trump of the USA –
it seems to us that the proper way for a reaction from the OECD is to start a process to negate USA membership for failing minimal rules of a democracy. It is clear that 3 million Americans were denied the value of their votes and Mr. Trump does not seem to accept the meaning of democracy. His economy projections promote the oligarchy that surrounds him and
it becomes obvious that he will lead the USA in the direction of Putin’s Russia which was declared not up to OCED requirements. Jn effect we find that China projects a better understanding of OECD requirements then a Trumpist America.

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on December 27th, 2016
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)


Trump and Putin meeting to follow on the G.W. Bush and Putin meeting of June 2001 in Slovenia. Trump’s Appointed House Members will already have softened Trump to the point of being the pushover he is prepared to be.

By Dana Milbank Opinion writer December 27 at 12:32 PM

“Spare us the kissy-face.”

It was June 2001 and I was in an Alpine hamlet in Slovenia, where President George W. Bush had just met Vladimir Putin for the first time. I and others were struck by Bush’s praise for the Russian leader as “trustworthy.” Said Bush: “I was able to get a sense of his soul.”

But back in Washington, my editor had no interest in such talk. He rewrote my lede with other news — a tidbit about missile defense — and he moved the “kissy-face” stuff about Putin’s soul down to Paragraph 18.

In retrospect, that moment in Slovenia defined the Russia relationship for years to come. Putin had seduced Bush, who only slowly came to understand he had misjudged this adversary’s soul. Putin opposed Bush in Iraq and was unhelpful with Iran. He shut down independent television, sent business leaders who criticized him into exile and prison, ousted democratic parties from government, canceled the election of governors and invaded Georgia.

The kissy-face happened all over again when President Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton tried to “reset” relations. Russia responded by working against the United States in Syria, sheltering Edward Snowden, invading and occupying parts of Ukraine, and hacking and meddling in the U.S. election to defeat Clinton.

Now it’s Donald Trump’s turn for kissy-face, and the president-elect is practically groping the Russian dictator. After Putin gloated Friday that Democrats need to learn “to lose with dignity,”Trump tweeted Putin a sloppy kiss: “So true!” he said of Putin’s comments.

Trump also celebrated a letter he received from Putin calling for more collaboration between the two countries. “His thoughts are so correct,” Trump said.

Trump’s blush-inducing embrace of the strongman has included repeated praise of Putin’s leadership, deflected questions about Putin’s political killings and disparagement of U.S. intelligence for accusing Russia of election meddling.

In three weeks, Trump will assume the presidency, and we’ll learn what his embrace of Putin really means. Perhaps Trump is just a dupe and he’ll realize over time that Putin is no friend. The alternative, supported by Trump’s choice of Putin-friendly advisers Michael T. Flynn and Rex Tillerson, is that Trump really is pro-Putin and will grant the Russian dictator more latitude internationally and will emulate his autocratic tendencies at home.

The former would require us to endure some policy failures as Putin proved himself again to be an adversary. The latter would test the limits of our democratic institutions.

In either case, it would be useful for Americans to have at least a cursory sense of the man our new president proposes to embrace. Here’s a quick glimpse into Putin’s soul to get us started:

Opposition leader Boris Nemtsov was killed outside the Kremlin as he walked home one night last year. Putin’s regime blames Chechens, but Nemtsov’s is one of a dozen high-profile murders of opponents widely thought to have been sanctioned by Putin’s government.

Another Putin opponent, Alexander Litvinenko, was killed in London by polonium poisoning in 2006. The British government said Putin “probably” approved the hit. That same year, opposition journalist Anna Politkovskaya was shot and killed outside her apartment.

In 2009, lawyer Sergei Magnitsky died in prison after being denied medical care. Others working on his investigation of corrupt Russian politicians also died suspiciously.

Among the many business leaders imprisoned or ousted under Putin are Mikhail Khodorkovsky, who was head of the oil giant Yukos, and associate Platon Lebedev. The Russian human rights group Memorial says there are 102 people held in Russian prisons for their political or religious beliefs.

The Kremlin has provided funding and training for far-right nationalist parties in Europe, and it used its state media and an army of hackers and social-media trolls to spread disinformation in the United States, in continental Europe and in Britain before the Brexit vote. The goals: to weaken European unity and the NATO alliance and to keep Europe dependent on Russian energy.

Russia also used disinformation to destabilize the Ukrainian government as Russia annexed Crimea. In Syria, where Russia propped up the Assad regime with indiscriminate bombing in Aleppo and elsewhere, Britain, France and the United States have blamed Putin’s government for the mass slaughter of civilians.

An Amnesty International summary of Putin’s rule leaves no doubt about his totalitarian state: “Journalist Killed .?.?. Human Rights Lawyer Killed .?.?. Gay Rights Protesters Attacked .?.?. Exhibition Organizers Sentenced .?.?. Activists Beaten and Detained .?.?. Opposition Leader Held in Detention .?.?. Repressive Laws Enacted .?.?. Fines for ‘Promoting Homosexuality’ Imposed .?.?. President Putin Signs Law to Re-criminalize Defamation .?.?. USAID Expelled .?.?. Federal Treason and Espionage Act goes into effect .?.?. Prominent NGOs are Vandalized .?.?. Moscow Authorities Detain Protesters and Opposition Party Members.”

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on December 27th, 2016
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)


this is an old posting of ours. I just thought to put it up again as it seemed to us to be a reminder that news have a history. it shows that the UN has a history as well. evil is not a surprise.

‘Incomprehensible’: UN Committee Elects Assad Regime to Leadership Post

By Patrick Goodenough

 CNSNews.com) – A group of United Nations’ member-states on Thursday elected the Assad regime to a leadership post of a special committee dealing with decolonization, sparking protests from a human rights group that had earlier urged U.N. secretary-general Ban Ki-moon to intervene.

At a meeting in New York, the committee’s newly-elected chairman, Venezuelan ambassador Rafael Ramirez, asked the member-states whether there were any objections to putting forward Syrian ambassador Bashar Ja’afari as its “rapporteur” for the coming year.

Hearing no objectives, Ramirez declared Ja’afari – as well as three nominated vice chairmen, the representatives of Cuba, Sierra Leone and Indonesia – “elected by acclamation.”

The Venezuelan then led “a round a applause for our friends,” told them he looked forward to working with them “in taking forward the noble work of the special committee,” and invited Ja’afari to take his seat on the podium.

Before the Syrian sat down, Ramirez – a former foreign minister in President Nicolas Maduro’s cabinet – gave him a hug.

According to U.N. estimates well over 250,000 people have been killed and 12 million displaced in the civil war in Syria.

U.S. taxpayers account for 22 percent of the U.N.’s regular budget.

The committee – full name, the Special Committee on the Situation with Regard to the Implementation of the Declaration on the Granting of Independence to Colonial Countries and Peoples – has 24 members.

Ten of them are free democracies, according to Washington-based Freedom House. They are Antigua & Barbuda, Chile, Dominica, Grenada, India, Indonesia, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Saint Lucia, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, and Tunisia.

None of those 10, nor any other member of the committee, raised objections to Syria’s “election” as rapporteur.

Ahead of the election, the non-governmental organization U.N. Watch urged two of the democracies in particular, Chile and India, to oppose Syria’s election.

U.N. Watch executive director Hillel Neuer said after Thursday’s session the two governments should be “ashamed” for joining the consensus vote.

He also criticized Ban for not intervening ahead of the vote.

“It is incomprehensible for the U.N. on one day to lament the regime’s killing and wounding of hundreds of thousands of Syrians – to declare the regime guilty of ‘extermination’ of its own people – and to then hand this gift of false legitimacy to the mass murderer Bashar al-Assad,” Neuer said.

“Today’s U.N. vote only helps the Assad regime portray itself a U.N. human rights arbiter. That’s indefensible, and an insult to Syria’s victims,” he said. “Morally, Mr. Ban should do the right thing and at least condemn the decision.”

Neuer also called on U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Samantha Power and European Union ambassadors to condemn what he called the “absurd and morally obscene” election outcome.

He said the elections of the Syrian and Venezuelan ambassadors to their respective posts would be “trumpeted by both the Assad and Maduro regimes” as a propaganda victory.

He recalled that the regime after a previous election of Ja’afari called it “yet another recognition by members of the committee of the Syrian important and key role.”

The decolonization committee, established in 1961, advocates independence for 17 specific territories around the world, including American Samoa, U.S. Virgin Islands and Guam.

Neuer called the 55 year-old body “anachronistic,” noting that it has often been “criticized as a costly irrelevance.”

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on October 16th, 2016
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

Monsanto Goes on Trial for Ecocide

By MercoPress
posted also by Readers Supported News
15 October 16

his symbolic trial, which will be live streamed from Oct. 15, 8:30 a.m. GMT+2 on the tribunal website, will follow guidelines of the United Nations’ international court of justice and will have no legal standing. Rather, its purpose is to gather legal counsel from the judges as well as legal grounds for future litigation.

”The aim of the tribunal is to give a legal opinion on the environmental and health damage caused by the multinational Monsanto,“ the tribunal organizers state on their website. ”This will add to the international debate to include the crime of Ecocide into international criminal law. It will also give people all over the world a well documented legal file to be used in lawsuits against Monsanto and similar chemical companies.”

Monsanto, which is inching closer to a US$ 66bn takeover from German pharmaceuticals giant Bayer, has faced a never-ending slew of health and environmental controversies over its products since, well, the beginning of the twenty first century.

Monsanto’s historical line-up of products includes banned and highly toxic chemicals such as 2,4,5-trichlorophenoxyacetic acid (a dioxin-containing component of the defoliant Agent Orange); PCB’s (polychlorinated biphenyl); and Lasso, a herbicide banned in Europe. Glyphosate, the controversial main ingredient in Monsanto’s best-selling weed-killer RoundUp, is the most widely used pesticide in the world. Monsanto is also the world’s largest genetically modified (GMO) seed maker, giving them a major hand over the world food supply

The trial, which will proceed on the same weekend as World Food Day, is organized by Organic Consumers Association, International Foundation for Organic Agriculture (IFOAM) Organics International, Navdanya, Regeneration International, Millions Against Monsanto as well as dozens of global food, farming and environmental justice groups.

Monsanto Corporate Engagement office has stated that “in growing our food, farmers face some tough challenges as the world’s population continues to grow. To address these ever increasing challenges collaboratively and advance our commitment to human rights, we welcome a genuine constructive conversation with diverse ideas and perspectives about food and agriculture production.

”This mock trial is not a real dialogue but a stunt staged by the International Foundation for Organic Agriculture (IFOAM), Organic Consumers Association and others who are fundamentally opposed to modern agriculture innovation, where anti-agriculture technology and anti-Monsanto critics play organizers, judge and jury, and where the outcome is pre-determined. Here is a link to our Open Letter regarding this mock trial.

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Comments:

+1 # guomashi 2016-10-15 14:01
Where is the link to the Open Letter regarding the mock trial?

.. not that I would read it or anyone would believe it.

May Monsanto rot in hell.
They are now going around to all the farms they can and testing the produce to see if any of it got cross-pollinate d with their patented life-forms.
Then they sue.
——————-

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on August 22nd, 2016
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

THE NEW YORK TIMES – SCIENCE

English Village Becomes Climate Leader by Quietly Cleaning Up Its Own Patch

By TATIANA SCHLOSSBERGAUG. 21, 2016

ASHTON HAYES, England — This small village of about 1,000 people looks like any other nestled in the countryside.

But Ashton Hayes is different in an important way when it comes to one of the world’s most pressing issues: climate change.

Hundreds of residents have banded together to cut greenhouse emissions — they use clotheslines instead of dryers, take fewer flights, install solar panels and glaze windows to better insulate their homes.

The effort, reaching its 10th anniversary this year, has led to a 24 percent cut in emissions, according to surveys by a professor of environmental sustainability who lives here.

But what makes Ashton Hayes unusual is its approach — the residents have done it themselves, without prodding from government. About 200 towns, cities and counties around the world — including Notteroy, Norway; Upper Saddle River, N.J.; and Changhua County, Taiwan — have reached out to learn how the villagers here did it.


As climate science has become more accepted, and the effects of a warming planet are becoming increasingly clear, Ashton Hayes is a case study for the next phase of battling climate change: getting people to change their habits.

“We just think everyone should try to clean up their patch,” said Rosemary Dossett, a resident of the village. “And rather than going out and shouting about it, we just do it.”

One of their secrets, it seems, is that the people of Ashton Hayes feel in charge, rather than following government policies. When the member of Parliament who represents the village showed up at their first public meeting in January 2006, he was told he could not make any speeches.

“We said, ‘This is not about you tonight, this is about us, and you can listen to what we’ve got to say for a change,’” said Kate Harrison, a resident and early member of the group.

No politician has been allowed to address the group since. The village has kept the effort separate from party politics, which residents thought would only divide them along ideological lines.


The project was started by Garry Charnock, a former journalist who trained as a hydrologist and has lived in the village for about 30 years. He got the idea a little more than a decade ago after attending a lecture about climate change at the Hay Festival, an annual literary gathering in Wales. He decided to try to get Ashton Hayes to become, as he put it, “Britain’s first carbon-neutral village.”


“But even if we don’t,” he recalls thinking at the time, “let’s try to have a little fun.”

Sometimes, efforts to reduce greenhouse gases involve guilt-tripping or doomsday scenarios that make people feel as if the problem is too overwhelming to tackle.

In Ashton Hayes — about 25 miles southeast of Liverpool, with a 19th-century Anglican church and a community-owned shop that doubles as a post office — the villagers have lightened the mood.

They hold public wine-and-cheese meetings in the biggest houses in town, “so everyone can have a look around,” and see how the wealthier people live, said Mr. Charnock, the executive director of RSK, an environmental consulting company. “We don’t ever finger-wag in Ashton Hayes.”

About 650 people — more than half of the village’s residents — showed up to the first meeting, Mr. Charnock said. Some in the village were less keen, but little by little, they began to participate.

Some have gone further. When they were looking to build their energy-efficient home and heard about Ashton Hayes’s carbon-neutral project, Ms. Dossett and her husband, Ian, thought it might be the perfect village for them.

They moved from nearby South Warrington and found two old farm cottages, which they converted into a two-story brick house, and installed huge triple-glazed windows, photovoltaic cells on the roof, a geothermal heat pump that heats the home and its water, and an underground cistern to hold rainwater for toilets and the garden.

“I wouldn’t want anyone to think we live in a mud hut,” Ms. Dossett said, sitting on a couch in her warm, well-lit living room.

The Dossetts also have a vegetable garden, grow grapes for wine, brew beer and keep two cows, which mow the lawn and may also eventually become food in a few years. They pay about 500 pounds (about $650) a year for electricity and heating.

The success of the carbon-neutral project seems to have inspired other community efforts in Ashton Hayes. The residents, for example, have built a new playing field with a solar-powered pavilion, which is the home of a community cafe three days a week. They have also put photovoltaic solar panels on the roof of the primary school.

Other towns and cities around the world hope to copy Ashton Hayes. Their representatives have contacted the project’s leaders, asking for help in setting up similar initiatives, according to the diary the Ashton Hayes group keeps about the project, chronicling almost everything they have done over the past 10 years.


Eden Mills, a small community in Ontario, Canada, is one of them. Charles Simon traveled to Ashton Hayes in 2007 to learn how to translate their approach to his town, adopting the apolitical, voluntary, fun method.

“Some of the changes are so easy,” Mr. Simon said. “Just put on a sweater instead of turning on the heat.”


Eden Mills has cut emissions by about 14 percent, Mr. Simon said, and has plans to do more. Residents have been working with experts from the nearby University of Guelph, planting trees in the village forest to help absorb the carbon dioxide the town emits, Mr. Simon said.

Janet Gullvaag, a councilwoman in Notteroy, Norway, an island municipality of about 21,000 people, reached out to Ashton Hayes about nine years ago after her political party decided to include reducing carbon dioxide emissions in its platform.

“I think that the idea that Ashton Hayes had — to make caring for the environment fun, without pointing fingers — was quite revolutionary,” Ms. Gullvaag said.

Though her community’s approach is decidedly more political, Ms. Gullvaag said that adopting Ashton Hayes’s mantra of fun had paid dividends: She has seen changes in her community, she said, as people buy more electric cars and bicycles, and convert their home heating from oil to more environmentally friendly sources.

“Whatever you’re trying to do, if you can create enthusiasm and spread knowledge, normally, people will react in a positive way,” she added.

Though deep cuts across the globe are still required to make broader progress, actions to reduce emissions, even by small towns, are a step in the right direction, say experts who study community action on climate change.

“The community-building element of all this has been as important as the environmental impact so far,” said Sarah Darby, a researcher at Oxford University’s Environmental Change Institute.

She added that Ashton Hayes was in a good position to take on these kinds of projects — it is a small village of well-off and well-educated people, so simply taking fewer flights each year can have a big effect.

Residents were able to cut emissions by about 20 percent in the first year alone, according to surveys used to calculate carbon footprints that were developed by Roy Alexander, a local professor, and his students.

Some have had even more significant reductions: Households that participated in surveys in both the first and 10th years shrank their energy use by about 40 percent.

Mr. Charnock said he thought the village could get the cuts in its 2006 carbon footprint to 80 percent in the next few years with the help of grant money to buy and install solar panels on the local school and other buildings.

The next thing they have to do, he said, is to get the county government to be as committed to cutting emissions as Ashton Hayes is.

“There’s so much apathy,” Mr. Charnock said. “We need to squeeze that layer of apathy jelly and get it out.”

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A version of this article appears in print on August 22, 2016, on page A1 of the New York edition with the headline: An English Village Leads a Climate Revolution.

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on March 19th, 2016
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

IIASA study assesses land use impacts of EU biofuel policy

Laxenburg Austria, 16 March 2016 – The indirect impacts of biofuel production on land use change and greenhouse gas emissions in the European Union vary widely depending on the type of biofuel, according to a study published last week.

{The Study Argues – this is our insert}
Biofuel policy in the European Union has been under scrutiny for several years, with intense debate around its efficiency in reducing greenhouse gases emissions. Indeed, biofuel production can take up agricultural land otherwise used for food and feed, and lead to land use conversion elsewhere that would offset some of the climate benefits of the policy, a problem known as indirect land use change. In a new study for the European Commission in partnership with the sustainable energy consultancies Ecofys and E4tech, IIASA researchers have now brought more precise insight to the topic, showing the different levels of impact that different biofuels have on land use change and the climate.

The study revisits the impacts of biofuels consumed in the European Union and is the most comprehensive comparison to date of land use effects across feedstocks. It provides the first analysis, in a consistent modeling framework, of both conventional (or first-generation) biofuels, produced from food crops such as vegetable oil, and advanced (or second-generation) biofuels, produced from residues or energy crops such as grasses, forestry residues and cereal straw.

IIASA researcher Hugo Valin led the modeling for the study. He says, “First generation biofuels have been criticized in the past due to their indirect land use change impact, which our study confirms. But by looking at a much broader range of biofuel options, we clearly show that not all biofuels are equal.”

On one end of the spectrum, the study shows that certain types of vegetable oils, such palm or soybean oil, can lead to significant greenhouse gas emissions. It also shows that impacts of ethanol feedstocks are relatively lower than for biodiesel, in particular for high yielded crops such as sugar beet or maize. And on the other end of the spectrum, second generation crops, included for the first time in the analysis for the EU, showed a good performance overall with in several cases net negative emissions.
{This part is a very wise conclusion with which we can completely agree – our insert}

The study also included mitigation scenarios which showed that promoting agricultural expansion on European land compared to the rest of the world would help reducing the impacts in the short run. However, in the long run, the most efficient policy for limiting land-based greenhouse gas emissions would be a better control of agricultural land expansion globally, through policies to preserve forests and other natural ecosystems which can sequester large amounts of carbon including peatlands in Southeast Asia.

The study also included an in-depth analysis of uncertainties in the scenarios to better inform stakeholders. While in some cases uncertainties can be large, the study clearly indicates how impacts of different policy orientations compare.

Valin says, “It’s impossible to remove all uncertainties in such an analysis, but the real value of this study is that it helps decision makers to better anticipate the potential implications of the option they choose. Models help to develop a common understanding of what the problems at stake are and how to mitigate them. In the context of biofuel policies this is especially true, as modeling illustrates the trade-offs between greenhouse gas emissions, food consumption, land occupation, agricultural income, and other issues.”

More information
Ecofys: Report quantifies land use change impact of biofuels consumed in the EU

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We, at SustainabiliTank, find some problems with above study based on our own experience.

Years ago – end of seventies-beginning of eighties – we published via US Congressional hearings about land use and industrial liquid biofuels production. Our argument was that agriculture in industrialized countries is managed by government policy. This was clearly true in the US, and I was approached by the newly formed Brussels based EU Agriculture Commissioner who was interested in that analysis of policy for the EU States as well.

The argument was that the various Departments of Agriculture support the price of food commodities by limiting their production or simply put – by paying farmers NOT TO PRODUCE or keep land out of production. My argument was to use that land – the so called SET-ASIDES – for the new industry of liquid biofuels and stop non-production-subsidies. I went so far as to calculate that for the US I could PRODUCE ETHANOL FROM CORN THAT WAS NOT GROWN AND PAY FOR IT WITH MONEY THAT WAS NOT SPENT. That testimony caused – because of request from Members of Congress – to my being hired as a consultant by the Office of the Comptroller General Of the United States – the US GAO – the General Accounting Office – in order to have them check out those arguments. Surely they found that there was a base for my arguments. They also found that the reduction of the quantities of agricultural commodity produced was much smaller then expected because, naturally, the farmer kept out of production the worst parts of their land. The funniest part was that agricultural corporations would switch the non-production claims from one commodity o another contingent on which ‘asides” provided higher subsidies that year – one year it could have been historic corn, but another year it could have been a claim of not growing wheat.

Whatever, at least for the EU and the US – the “set aside” policy is just public money dished out to the large farming industry for no good purpose and the concept of “hunger in China” just did not hold water. Environmentalists in this context did rather play up to the big oil and farming interests rather then my perception of reduction of dependence on petroleum. Surely, this is different when replacing natural forests in Indonesia, Malaysia, Brazil with oil- producing palm trees in the tropics. In those cases the damage to the environment is real. But not when we talk about the vast already deforested agricultural expances of Europe and America. Further, it is clear to us that in a globalized world – producing those commodities in smaller farms overseas, and subsistence farming, would save CO2 emissions that occur in the transport of those commodities originating in highly agriculture-industrialized economies – albeit this means lower take in the industrialized countries, lower need for food production by industrialized countries, and a parallel gain in employment by therural sector in non-industrialized countries we usually define as Developing Countries.

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on March 3rd, 2016
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)



If we don’t confront climate change, we won’t end poverty
Jim Yong Kim, President, World Bank Group

The Paris Agreement, coal and Ms. Meier

February 2016

As received from Marion Vieweg —  marion.vieweg at current-future.org via lists.iisd.ca

Ms. Meier is a secretary. She lives and works in a small town in Germany. She has – very likely – never heard of the Paris Agreement, nor would it interest her. Let’s discuss why Ms. Meier is nevertheless key to the success of the Paris Agreement.

Curious? Read the full story at: current-future.org/index.php/25-b…
Best regards,

Marion

And here it is:

Ms. Meier is a secretary. She lives and works in a small town in Germany. She has – very likely – never heard of the Paris Agreement, nor would it interest her. Let’s discuss why Ms. Meier is nevertheless key to the success of the Paris Agreement.

One of the successes of Paris is the joint commitment to a complete change in our energy systems. The common goal to “holding the increase in the global average temperature to well below 2 °C above pre-industrial levels and pursuing efforts to limit the temperature increase to 1.5 °C above pre-industrial levels” provides a strong political signal. It also calls for a “balance between anthropogenic emissions by sources and removals by sinks of greenhouse gases in the second half of this century.” This will only be possible with a swift transition towards a fully decarbonized energy system.

To achieve the required reductions in greenhouse gas emissions, all sectors will need to contribute. Here are a number of reasons, why this discussion focuses on the electricity sector and specifically on coal-fired power generation:

Electricity is currently the largest emitting part of the energy sector in most countries;
Over 40% of global electricity is produced with coal, with a total increase of coal production from 3 Gt in the 1970s to over 8 Gt in 2014[1];
The long investment time frames in the sector call for swift action to avoid missing the GHG goals or generating stranded assets;
Coal mining and power generation often dominates the economic structure in the region, leading to specific challenges.

Up to now, the impressive growth in renewable electricity generation has mostly addressed additional demand from growing economies. Renewable technologies instead of fossil fuel power plants formed part of new capacity built. For most countries event this is already a challenge. In 2014, only 45% of new power production capacity added globally came from renewable sources. In 2012 the World Resources Institute estimated that 1,199 new coal-fired power plants with a total capacity of 1,401,268 MW were being proposed globally. These numbers highlight the magnitude of the challenge. Even in Germany, home to the famous ‘Energiewende,’ new coal-fired power plants are in planning[2].

If we are taking the Paris Agreement seriously, then we need to not only satisfy additional demand with zero-carbon technologies, but need to start changing existing generation systems. To some extent, this can happen ‘naturally’ by closing down coal fired power plants at the end of their technical lifetime and replacing the capacity with renewable technologies. But in most countries, including Germany, this will not be enough, given the number of plants that went online in the last years and will go online in the next few years, and which have a technical lifetime well beyond the 2050s.

So why should Ms. Meier care?

Ms. Meier lives close to the Polish border in one of the three main lignite mining areas in Germany. Lignite has been mined in the area since the 1850s. The first power plant went online in 1894. Open pit mining has dramatically transformed the landscape and relocated a multitude of villages and towns. The region delivered the bulk of the energy fuelling the economy during the existence of the GDR. The sector has been the foundation of the economy for over a century and is deeply engrained in the regional identity. Today, only around 8,000 people actually work in the sector in the area, compared to more than 10 times as many in 1989. Still, salaries in the sector are significantly above average and make an important contribution to the local economy. Ms. Meier has a part-time job in a small engineering firm. Her husband works in one of the coal mining operations, as did his father and grandfather. They are afraid to lose their jobs if the mining and coal power generation ends, and wonder if their two children will have a future in the area or if they, like so many others have already done, will need to move away.

Economic studies show the benefits of renewables and energy efficiency technology to society. They are important and demonstrate the benefits to society as a whole. However, they rarely take a more detailed look at the regional and local level. This is where it starts to get difficult: The new jobs they create may or may not be in the same regions and may or may not require similar skills to those jobs that are lost. From an economic perspective at the national level this may not matter – from a societal, political and regional perspective it does. It also changes how we need to communicate, support and steer the transition.

Ms. Meier’s employer is member of a local initiative that promotes the continuation of lignite mining and power generation in the area. He is afraid that the closing of the lignite operations will damage overall economic activity, making his business unprofitable, causing his 15 employees to lose their jobs. The initiative runs a website, lobbies politicians and organizes public events. This is one of the many examples how fear creates resistance to change.

Many, who are directly affected, like Ms. Meier, fear for their jobs and well-being. Others fear for their profits while some just feel generally insecure of what this change will mean for their lives. In total, this often leads to a situation where decisions to close down old power plants or mines or not approving new ones will politically be impossible. We need to recognize that these fears are legitimate and that we need to address them seriously, appropriately and with respect – without compromising on the final goal: a full decarbonisation of the electricity sector.

If we don’t take the legitimate fears of people like Ms. Meier, her husband and the millions like them around the world seriously, Paris will fail to deliver.

Clear political signals for a phase-out of coal-fired power generations are only a first step. Politicians will find it difficult to send those signals, with strong local opposition rooted in fear. To overcome this and create a positive dynamic we need to consider five principles:

Build strong stakeholder coalitions at the regional level, involving everybody affected and all interest groups to define realistic phase-out scenarios: Yes, it is hard, but there is no way around talking WITH rather than AGAINST each other. A lot of time, energy and resources are currently used on all sides to generate biased information to inform public and politicians to promote individual vested interests. All sides need to work together and agree on basic facts that allow to start discussing SOLUTIONS rather than PROBLEMS.

Facilitate stakeholders to create an individual vision for a development that works in the given context: The solutions will, by necessity, be individual and different for each affected region. It is essential that all interest groups and stakeholders in a region define the vision as well as the steps required to get there. This allows tapping their detailed knowledge and experience, this way creating realistic pathways and ensuring ownership and commitment in implementation.

Tailor support instruments to the individual vision: The standard solution for policy-related structural change is to create a fund. This is a bit like creating a working group, when you are not sure what else to do, and then hope they come up with something useful. Money for required changes is certainly an important element to support regions. It will, however, not be effective, if not used in a targeted way and with a clear and realistic vision to guide activities. Additional support may be required, depending on the vision, including changes in the legal and regulatory framework or cooperation with other regions.

Learn from experiences: Structural change is not a new phenomenon. Especially the coal-mining sector has seen multiple changes over the last century due to economic shifts, through mines being mined out or becoming economically unviable. While these processes were often slow and thus easier to adjust to, some were rapid, like the changes in economic structure in Eastern Europe in the 1990s. But also other sectors have seen major changes, resulting in whole regions needing to readjust. The textile industry in large parts of Europe is one example for similar large-scale structural change that affects whole regions. We need to look at experiences made with such processes within the sector, but also learn from other sectors and across borders. The fundamental challenge of re-orienting the economy in a region remains the same. We need to look more closely at what worked, what didn’t and – most importantly – why.

Develop new business models together with utilities and customers: Utilities and companies operating coal mines and coal-fired power plants are naturally opposed to phase-out plans, as it promises to cut profits and requires changes to well-established activities. We need to acknowledge that these companies provide work for a lot of people and electricity to important parts of our societies. Their expertise on the functioning of the electricity system is vital for ensuring stable systems. We need to make them part of the solution, with a clear vision on their future role in a new system. This requires to let go of cherished stereotypes on both sides and the will to overcome differences to create something new and better for the benefit of all.

Germany, as all other countries, is only at the starting point of this new road. Globally, we need to start changing existing systems, not only adding on some renewables. A recent proposal to bring all stakeholders together in a coal ‘round table’ for Germany is a good starting point. If this process can also manage to address the regional challenges posed through the required structural change in a bottom-up process that involves all stakeholders, it has the potential to become a role model for other countries and regions that are facing similar problems globally.

If we take all concerns seriously and invite stakeholders to help shape their future rather than only react and block, we might – just – make it in time to prevent the worst effects of climate change and make the Paris Agreement a lasting success.

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on February 24th, 2016
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

Carbon dioxide is invisible and odorless. Dawn Stover wonders: What if we could see carbon pollution in the air and water?

Seeing (pollution) is believing: ow.ly/YHEtd

Janice Sinclaire
Communications Director

Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists
1155 East 60th Street
Chicago, IL 60637
U.S.A.
T. 773.382.8061
C. 707.481.9372
F. 773.980.6932E.
 jsinclaire at thebulletin.org

—————————————————–

23 February 2016,

SEEING (POLLUTION) IS BELIEVING.

by Dawn Stover — stover.jpeg

of The Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists. IT IS THREE MINUTES TO MIDNIGHT!
Stover is a science writer based in the Pacific Northwest and is a contributing editor at the Bulletin.

The snow has melted along the roads in my rural community, revealing a surprising number of beer cans, plastic bottles, and other trash in the roadside ditches. This is a sparsely populated area, yet I drive past mile after mile of terrestrial flotsam and jetsam. Most of it, I suspect, is jetsam—the stuff that is deliberately thrown overboard.

It probably won’t be long before some disgusted (or enterprising) neighbors start tackling this mess. Most of the cans and bottles can be redeemed for a five-cent deposit or put into bags for free curbside recycling. The worst thing about this roadside pollution is also the best thing about it: We can see it. That makes it easy to clean up.

Imagine if carbon pollution was as recognizable as a Bud Light can. What if, every time you started up your car or boarded an airplane or sliced into a Porterhouse steak, a sour-smelling beer can was ejected from your vehicle or pocket? Pretty soon there would be cans lining every highway and tarmac, and coal-fired power plants would literally be buried under them. But even this foul onslaught of aluminum might be less damaging than the 40 billion metric tons of heat-trapping carbon dioxide (plus other greenhouse gases) that humans are dumping into Earth’s atmosphere and oceans every year, raising the temperature of our planet. Unfortunately, carbon dioxide is invisible and odorless, which makes it easier to ignore. If we were dumping 40 billion metric tons of aluminum into the air and sea annually—the equivalent of 2,800 trillion beverage cans—surely we would do something about that.

Air quality alert. One of the reasons China is getting serious about clean energy is that the air pollution in Beijing, Shanghai, and other Chinese cities has become intolerable at times. The visibility gets so poor that flights are sometimes canceled because of smog, and residents are frequently forced to don masks when venturing outdoors—where the air quality can be worse than an airport smoking lounge. The pollution sometimes reaches all the way to California.

“The air in Los Angeles used to be like Beijing,” a California-based colleague recently reminded me. Los Angeles still has some of the most contaminated air in the United States, but the situation has improved significantly since 1970—when President Richard Nixon created the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), and Congress passed the first of several major amendments to the Clean Air Act, empowering the federal government to regulate air pollutants.

The EPA’s new Clean Power Plan—announced in 2015 but challenged in court by 27 states and currently on hold pending a judicial review—would do for carbon pollution what the Clean Air Act did for smog in an earlier era. This time around, though, many elected officials can’t see what the problem is. Literally.

Making the invisible visible. Instead of implementing a carbon tax or federal limits on power-plant emissions, maybe we just need to add a smelly dye to all fossil fuels—something like the red colorant that is added to fire retardants so that pilots can see where they have sprayed, or the rotten-egg-like chemical that is injected into natural gas so that homeowners can detect gas leaks before they become life-threatening. Instead of subjecting airlines to proposed new emissions limits, we’d simply see a hideous red contrail every time an airplane flew overhead. Standing on the beach, we’d see a red tide—the carbon dioxide absorbed by the North Atlantic alone has doubled in the past decade. And the smell of the recent enormous methane leak from a ruptured pipeline in southern California would pale in comparison to the collective stench emitted by fracking operations and thousands of fossil-fuel-burning power plants. On the plus side, we’d be able to see trees and other plants sucking up carbon, which might make us think twice about turning forests into pallets.

This is only a thought experiment, of course. We shouldn’t have to go to these lengths to realize that the byproducts of fossil fuel combustion are bad for our health. Most of us know better than to breathe from our car’s tailpipe or leave the garage door shut with the engine running. That’s how you kill yourself, after all. And yet we think nothing of dumping copious amounts of exhaust into the air that everyone breathes. It’s out of sight and out of mind.

Turning a blind eye. Although greenhouse gas emissions aren’t visible, their climate impacts are. It’s not hard to see melting glaciers, wilted crops, and storm surges—or to find photographs, charts, and other images showing how quickly our planet is changing. And yet, as President Barack Obama remarked during a press conference on February 16, “There’s not a single candidate in the Republican primary that thinks we should do anything about climate change, that thinks it’s serious.” That’s a problem, said Obama, because other countries “count on the United States being on the side of science and reason and common sense.”

How can Marco Rubio not see the impacts of rising sea level in Florida? How did Donald Trump miss the meaning of Hurricane Sandy, a bellwether for the type of extreme events that scientists say will become more common and more severe as global warming continues? Where was Ted Cruz when Texas was enduring devastating heat, drought, and wildfires—or the deadly floods that followed? All of the GOP candidates, including self-professed climate change “believer” John Kasich, are turning a blind eye to the decades of scientific research that place the blame squarely on human activities, and it’s possible that even a putrid red haze would not move them.

There will always be some people who are willfully ignorant and inconsiderate and lazy, who toss their trash out the window and leave it for others to pick up. The rest of us can stand around shaking our heads, or we can pull on our gloves and do something about this dreadful mess. Unfortunately, the past two centuries’ worth of carbon dioxide emissions is like a heap of discarded cans and bottles that are already hopelessly bent, broken, and ground into the mud. This carbon buildup will have consequences for Earth’s climate and sea level for tens of thousands of years to come.

That’s no excuse to put off spring cleaning, though. Climate change is largely irreversible on human time scales, but rapid and aggressive action would keep the worst impacts of global warming to a minimum. It’s more important than ever to make drastic reductions in carbon dumping, and get serious about reforestation and other cleanup measures. These are the Bud Light cans we can still get our hands on.

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on December 26th, 2015
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

We are familiar with fossil-fuels industries science arguments – but the new thing that surprised me was that “Truthout” internet site gives them a venue for publicity as in:

 www.truth-out.org/news/item/34152…

“Climate Change 2015: The Latest Science”
Saturday, 26 December 2015 00:00 By Bruce Melton, Truthout | News Analysis

Oh well, but those questionable scientists quoted did push a little too far. They actually claim that Kyoto had it better then Paris – and that Kyoto was going to fulfill Rio. Does that mean that the Truthout Analyst gives away here that the Kyoto fake solution was also sponsored by the oil&coal folks that were active in Kyoto under the mantle of the International Chamber of Commerce?
I must confess here that the ICC at Kyoto turned me of completely when they threw me out when I showed up at one of their meetings. At Kyoto the ICC seemed in close relationship with the US delegation – and there is no secret what I thought of the US sponsored Protocol. Wonders seem to come back and explain themselves!

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on October 26th, 2015
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

An Economist Explains How Money Has Caused the Climate Crisis

The economy is undergoing a structural crisis for two reasons: greenhouse gas emissions and the income gap.
By Liz Pleasant / YES! Magazine
October 26, 2015

In this video, Juliet Schor, professor of sociology at Boston College, explains what she sees as a “structural crisis” within the United States.

Our economy, says Schor, is failing for two reasons. First, our current economic system generates dangerous levels of greenhouse gases. Second, the income gap between the richest and poorest Americans continues to rise, forcing more and more families into poverty.

“The reason I say it’s a systemic crisis or a structural crisis is that typically, the solution to that economic problem is to expand the economy,” Schor says. “But that makes the climate problem much worse because emissions move pretty closely with economic activity.”

Her solution? Find ways to change our economic system to be more financial and environmentally sustainable.


RELATED: The Economic Cost of Climate Change Has Been Recalculated — and the New Figure Is Staggering.

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on February 28th, 2015
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

Naomi Klein: ‘The Economic System We Have Created Also Created Global Warming.”

Klaus Brinkbaumer, Der Spiegel, writes: “Can we still stop global warming?” – “Only if we radically change our capitalist system” – argues author Naomi Klein.

By Klaus Brinkbaumer, Der Spiegel

28 February 2015

PIEGEL: Ms. Klein, why aren’t people able to stop climate change?

Klein: Bad luck. Bad timing. Many unfortunate coincidences.

SPIEGEL: The wrong catastrophe at the wrong moment?

Klein: The worst possible moment. The connection between greenhouse gases and global warming has been a mainstream political issue for humanity since 1988. It was precisely the time that the Berlin Wall fell and Francis Fukuyama declared the “End of History,” the victory of Western capitalism. Canada and the US signed the first free-trade agreement, which became the prototype for the rest of the world.

SPIEGEL: So you’re saying that a new era of consumption and energy use began precisely at the moment when sustainability and restraint would have been more appropriate?

Klein: Exactly. And it was at precisely this moment that we were also being told that there was no longer any such thing as social responsibility and collective action, that we should leave everything to the market. We privatized our railways and the energy grid, the WTO and the IMF locked in an unregulated capitalism. Unfortunately, this led to an explosion in emissions.

SPIEGEL: You’re an activist, and you’ve blamed capitalism for all kinds of things over the years. Now you’re blaming it for climate change too?

Klein: That’s no reason for irony. The numbers tell the story. During the 1990s, emissions went up by 1 percent per year. Starting in 2000, they started to go up by an average of 3.4 percent. The American Dream was exported globally and consumer goods that we thought of as essential to meet our needs expanded rapidly. We started seeing ourselves exclusively as consumers. When shopping as a way of life is exported to every corner of the globe, that requires energy. A lot of energy.

SPIEGEL: Let’s go back to our first question: Why have people been unable to stop this development?

Klein: We have systematically given away the tools. Regulations of any kind are now scorned. Governments no longer create tough rules that limit oil companies and other corporations. This crisis fell into our laps in a disastrous way at the worst possible moment. Now we’re out of time. Where we are right now is a do-or-die moment. If we don’t act as a species, our future is in peril. We need to cut emissions radically.

SPIEGEL: Let’s go back to another question: Are you not misappropriating the issue of climate change for use in your critique of capitalism?

Klein: No. The economic system that we have created has also created global warming. I didn’t make this up. The system is broken, income inequality is too great and the lack of restraint on the part of the energy companies is disastrous.

SPIEGEL: Your son Toma is two-and-a-half years old. What kind of world will he be living in when he graduates from high school in 2030?

Klein: That is what is being decided right now. I see signs that it could be a radically different world from the one we have today — and that change could either be quite positive or extremely negative. In any case, it’s already certain that it will at least in part be a worse world. We’re going to experience global warming and far more natural disasters, that much is certain. But we still have time to prevent truly catastrophic warming. We also have time to change our economic system so that it does not become more brutal and merciless as it deals with climate change.

SPIEGEL: What can be done to improve the situation?

Klein: We have to make some decisions now about what values are important to us and how we really want to live. And of course it makes a difference if temperatures only rise by 2 degrees or if they rise by 4 or 5 degrees or more. It’s still possible for us humans to make the right decisions.

SPIEGEL: Twenty-six years have passed since the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change was founded in 1988. We have known at least since then that CO2 emissions from the burning of oil and coal is responsible for climate change. Yet little has been done to address the problem. Haven’t we already failed?

Klein: I view the situation differently given the enormous price we will have to pay. As long as we have the slightest chance of success or to minimize the damage, we have to continue to fight.

SPIEGEL: Several years ago, the international community set a target of limiting global warming to 2 degrees Celsius. Do you still consider that to be achievable?

Klein: Well, it’s still a physical possibility. We would have to immediately reduce global emissions by 6 percent a year. The wealthier countries would have to carry a greater burden, meaning the United States and Europe would have to be cutting emissions by around 8 to 10 percent a year. Immediately. It’s not impossible. It is just profoundly politically unrealistic under our current system.

SPIEGEL: You are saying our societies aren’t capable of doing so?

Klein: Yes. We need a dramatic change both in policy and ideology, because there is a fundamental difference between what the scientists are telling us we need to do and our current political reality. We can’t change the physical reality, so we must change the political reality.

SPIEGEL: Is a society focused on economic growth at all capable of fighting climate change successfully?

Klein: No. An economic model based on indiscriminate growth inevitably leads to greater consumption and to greater CO2 emissions. There can and must be growth in the future in many low carbon parts of the economy: in green technologies, in public transportation, in all the care-giving professions, in the arts and of course in education. Right now, the core of our gross domestic product is comprised of just consumption, imports and exports. We need to make cuts there. Anything else would be self-deception.

SPIEGEL: The International Monetary Fund makes the opposite claim. It says that economic growth and climate protection are not mutually exclusive.

Klein: They’re not looking at the same numbers as I am. The first problem is that at all these climate conferences, everyone acts as if we will arrive at our goal through self-commitments and voluntary obligations. No one tells the oil companies that, in the end, they are really going to have to give up. The second problem is that these oil companies are going to fight like hell to protect what they don’t want to lose.

SPIEGEL: You seriously want to eliminate the free market in order to save the climate?

Klein: I am not talking about eliminating markets, but we need much more strategy, steering and planning and a very different balance. The system in which we live is overly obsessed with growth — it’s one that sees all growth as good. But there are kinds of growth that are clearly not good. It’s clear to me that my position is in direct conflict with neo-liberalism. Is it true that in Germany, although you have accelerated the shift to renewables, coal consumption is actually increasing?

SPIEGEL: That was true from 2009 to 2013.

Klein: To me that is an expression of this reluctance to decide on what is necessary. Germany is not going to meet its emissions targets in the coming years either.

SPIEGEL: Is the Obama presidency the worst thing that could have happened to the climate?

Klein: In a way. Not because Obama is worse than a Republican. He’s not. But because these eight years were the biggest wasted opportunity of our lives. The right factors came together in a truly historic convergence: awareness, urgency, the mood, his political majority, the failure of the Big Three US automakers and even the possibility of addressing the failed unregulated financial world and climate change at the same time. But when he came to office, he didn’t have the courage to do it. We will not win this battle unless we are willing to talk about why Obama viewed the fact that he had control over the banks and auto companies as more of a burden than as an opportunity. He was a prisoner of the system. He didn’t want to change it.

SPIEGEL: The US and China finally agreed on an initial climate deal in 2014.

Klein: Which is, of course, a good thing. But anything in the deal that could become painful won’t come into effect until Obama is out of office. Still, what has changed is that Obama said: “Our citizens are marching. We can’t ignore that.” The mass movements are important; they are having an impact. But to push our leaders to where they need to go, they need to grow even stronger.

SPIEGEL: What should their goal be?

Klein: Over the past 20 years, the extreme right, the complete freedom of oil companies and the freedom of the super wealthy 1 percent of society have become the political standard. We need to shift America’s political center from the right fringe back to where it belongs, the real center.

SPIEGEL: Ms. Klein, that’s nonsense, because it’s illusory. You’re thinking far too broadly. If you want to first eliminate capitalism before coming up with a plan to save the climate, you know yourself that this won’t happen.

Klein: Look, if you want to get depressed, there are plenty of reasons to do so. But you’re still wrong, because the fact is that focusing on supposedly achievable incremental changes light carbon trading and changing light bulbs has failed miserably. Part of that is because in most countries, the environmental movement remained elite, technocratic and supposedly politically neutral for two-and-a-half decades. We are seeing the result of this today: It has taken us in the wrong direction. Emissions are rising and climate change is here. Second, in the US, all the major legal and social transformations of the last 150 years were a consequence of mass social movements, be they for women, against slavery or for civil rights. We need this strength again, and quickly, because the cause of climate change is the political and economic system itself. The approach that you have is too technocratic and small.

SPIEGEL: If you attempt to solve a specific problem by overturning the entire societal order, you won’t solve it. That’s a utopian fantasy.

Klein: Not if societal order is the root of the problem. Viewed from another perspective, we’re literally swimming in examples of small solutions: There are green technologies, local laws, bilateral treaties and CO2 taxation. Why don’t we have all that at a global level?

SPIEGEL: You’re saying that all the small steps — green technologies and CO2 taxation and the eco-behavior of individuals — are meaningless?

Klein: No. We should all do what we can, of course. But we can’t delude ourselves that it’s enough. What I’m saying is that the small steps will remain too small if they don’t become a mass movement. We need an economic and political transformation, one based on stronger communities, sustainable jobs, greater regulation and a departure from this obsession with growth. That’s the good news. We have a real opportunity to solve many problems at once.

SPIEGEL: You don’t appear to be counting on the collective reason of politicians and entrepreneurs.

Klein: Because the system can’t think. The system rewards short-term gain, meaning quick profits. Take Michael Bloomberg, for example …

SPIEGEL: … the businessman and former New York City mayor …

Klein: … who understood the depths of the climate crisis as a politician. As a businessman, however, he chooses to invest in a fund that specializes in oil and gas assets. If a person like Bloomberg cannot resist the temptation, then you can assume that the system’s self-preservation capacity isn’t that great.

SPIEGEL: A particularly unsettling chapter in your book is about Richard Branson, CEO of the Virgin Group.

Klein: Yes. I wouldn’t have expected it.

SPIEGEL: Branson has sought to portray himself as a man who wants to save the climate. It all started after an encounter with Al Gore.

Klein: And in 2006, he pledged at an event hosted by the Clinton Global Initiative that he would invest $3 billion in research into green technologies. At the time, I thought it was truly a sensational contribution. I didn’t think, oh, you cynical bastard.

SPIEGEL: But Branson was really just staging it and only a fraction of that money was ever spent.

Klein: He may well have been sincere at the time, but yes, only a fraction was spent.

SPIEGEL: Since 2006, Branson has added 160 new airplanes to his numerous airlines and increased his emissions by 40 percent.

Klein: Yes.

SPIEGEL: What is there to learn from this story?

Klein: That we need to question the symbolism and gestures made by Hollywood stars and the super rich. We cannot confuse them with a scientifically sound plan to reduce emissions.

SPIEGEL: In America and Australia, a lot of money is spent on efforts to deny climate change. Why?

Klein: It’s different from Europe. It’s an anger that is similar to that held by those who oppose abortion and gun control. It’s not only that they are protecting a way of life they don’t want to change. It’s that they understand that climate change challenges their core anti-government, free-market belief system. So they have to deny it to protect their very identity. That’s why there’s this intensity gap: Liberals want to take a little bit of action on climate protection. But at the same time, these liberals also have a number of other issues that are higher on their agenda. But we have to understand that the hardcore conservative climate change deniers will do everything in their power to prevent action.

SPIEGEL: With pseudo-scientific studies and disinformation?

Klein: With all of that, of course.

SPIEGEL: Does that explain why you are connecting all of these issues — the environment, equity, public health and labor issues — that are popular on the left? Is it out of purely strategic considerations?

Klein: The issues are connected, and we also need to connect them in the debate. There is only one way that you can win a battle against a small group of people who stand to lose a lot: You need to start a mass movement that includes all the people who have a lot to gain. The deniers can only be defeated if you are just as passionate as them, but also when you are superior in numbers. Because the truth is that they really are very few.

SPIEGEL: Why don’t you believe that technology has the potential to save us?

Klein: There has been tremendous progress in the storage of renewable energies, for instance, and in solar efficiency. But climate change? I, in any case, don’t have enough faith to say, “We’ll come up with some invention at some point, so let’s just drop all other efforts.” That would be insane.


SPIEGEL: People like Bill Gates view things differently.

Klein: And I find their technology fetish naïve. In recent years, we’ve witnessed some really big failures where some of the smartest guys in the room screwed up on a massive scale, be it with the derivatives that triggered the financial crisis or the oil catastrophe off the coast of New Orleans. Mostly, we as people break things and we don’t know how to fix them afterwards. Right now, it’s our planet that we’re breaking.

SPIEGEL: Listening to you, one might get the impression that the climate crisis is a gender issue.

Klein: Why would you say that?

SPIEGEL: Bill Gates says we need to keep moving forward and come up with new inventions to get the problem, and ultimately our complicated Earth, under control. You on the other hand are saying: Stop, no, we have to adapt ourselves to this planet and become softer. The US oil companies are run by men. And you, as a critical woman, are described as hysterical. It’s not an absurd thought, is it?

Klein: No. The entire industrialization was about power or whether it would be man or nature that would dominate Earth. It is difficult for some men to admit that we don’t have everything under control; that we have amassed all this CO2 over the centuries and that Earth is now telling us: Well, you’re just a guest in my house.

SPIEGEL: A guest of Mother Earth?

Klein: That’s too cheesy. But you’re still right. The oil industry is a male-dominated world, a lot like high finance. It’s very macho. The American and Australian idea of “discovering” an endless country and that endless resources can be extracted is a narrative of domination, one that traditionally casts nature as a weak, prone woman. And the idea of being in a relationship of interdependence with the rest of the natural world was seen as weak. That’s why it is doubly difficult for alpha men to concede that they have been wrong.

SPIEGEL: There’s one issue in the book that you seem to steer clear of. Although you revile the companies, you never say that your readers, who are customers of these companies, are also culpable. You also remain silent about the price that individual readers will have to pay for climate protection.

Klein: Oh, I think that most people would be happy to pay for it. They know that climate protection requires reasonable behavior: less driving, less flying and less consumption. They would be happy to use renewable energies if they were offered them.

SPIEGEL: But the idea isn’t big enough, right?

Klein: (laughs) Exactly. The green movement spent decades educating people that they should compost their garbage, that they should recycle and that they should ride their bikes. But look at what has happened to the climate during these decades.

SPIEGEL: Is the lifestyle you lead climate-friendly?

Klein: Not enough. I bike, I use transit, I try to give speeches by Skype, I share a hybrid car and I cut my flying to about one-tenth of what it was before I started this project. My sin is taking taxis, and since the book came out, I’ve been flying too much. But I also don’t think that only people who are perfectly green and live CO2-free should be allowed to talk about this issue. If that were the case, then nobody would be able to say anything at all.

SPIEGEL: Ms. Klein, we thank you for this interview.

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on February 13th, 2015
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

Last night I participated at the Austro-American Society & the American Chamber of Commerce in Austria, Vienna meeting that was held under the title: “The Internet of Everything – Cloud & Digitalization and Their Impact.” The speaker was Mr. Franz Grohs from T-Systems Austria GesmbH (part of the Multinational 50,000 people network headed by the German Telecom) whose Austrian managing director – Ing. Martin Katzer was announced, but could was out sick and could not attend. The meeting was nevertheless a great success – a very active crowd and an eye opener to the uninitiated.

Mr. Franz Grohs, Vienna born, is Senior Vice-President T-Systems International with special interest in East-Central Europe and the Asia Pacific – but interestingly when you google him you find that he does not divulge the name of his company affiliation – only that his company helps you safeguard your data. Seemingly he has 750 people working directly with him.

In his fascinating presentation he said among other things – that it was about “Cloud Transformation” – from the Age of the customer to the Age of the User. The target is “The Product Talks – the Crowd Acts.” He gave us examples of this new world and how the new ICT can help answer actual needs. I will give here just two examples – (a) 26 million suitcases were not brought in air-transport to their correct destinations last year – tracking them can be made easy with ICT (he called this the “connected bag”) and (b) “the connected car” that integrates garage & social media with a use of “big data” and gives to the world at large information if you are in town or even if at home – and might just have the unpleasant side effect of putting you or your property in danger. Aha! these are issues that T-Systems can help you with.

I did not get involved in the discussion as I clearly did not feel qualified – but spoke with Mr. Grohs afterwards.
My argument was that in effect – the added danger in these systems is that we will be inundated with salesmen that will track us to offer products we never intended to buy and this decreases Sustainability. I feel that all of this actually leads to the Age of the Salesman – not the Customer – and the User is a two edged sword with lots of unintended consequences for the customer.
His answer was that this is about psychology not technology.

I agreed but then reminded him that when people in Norway found themselves with two much free time they committed suicide and with a lot of offers for things to buy this might be a problem as well. His answer was that the real problem is that young people are unemployed and are already spending their time with their cell-phones.

Oh well – I still would not have done this posting – but then the following item came in and I felt pulled in by these topics.
YES – WE ARE AT THE START OF A MAJOR “rEVOLution” – a change where a new class of people will take over our lives in their hands – they will have the power to enter our minds, find out where we are and what our vulnerabilities are – and exploit them in the best of cases just to make money out of us – in the worst of cases to rob or kill us with precision. This is not the age of mobility as we are told but a step into the age of mass control – a new sort of psychology.

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Optimizing Collaboration: Don’t Get Lost in the Cloud.

Posted on September 18, 2014 by Dominic Keogh at CNN Money’s “What no One Tells You About The Cloud” – Ricoh Services.

Cloud infrastructure and applications.

Cloud infrastructure and applications have a number of potential business benefits, but one of the areas of greatest potential is their ability to revolutionize business collaboration. In a global survey of 532 business executives from a wide range of industries, 55 percent felt that “cloud-based solutions are no mere evolution, but rather represent a true revolution in collaborative effectiveness.”1

Better collaboration can increase productivity, get you closer to customers, make your products more innovative and your business more competitive, and help you attract and retain top talent. Clearly a fundamental component of growing your business, improved collaboration and cloud-based tools — from simple file-sharing to virtual meeting applications — have tremendous potential to extend your reach and foster productive connection.

But with so many opportunities to use cloud-based applications to improve collaboration in your business, where do you get started?

Collaboration Starts From Within
.

Reassessing and redesigning information processes is fundamental to creating a more successfully collaborative workspace, whether you’re employing a cloud-based application or not. Technology alone is not a solution, and focusing your efforts here alone is a surefire recipe for your collaboration goals to end up lost in the cloud. Instead, the key to improved workforce collaboration are in the underlying processes that enable your iWorkers to access more comprehensive, accurate and timely information.

Critical first steps to assessing your information processes.

The critical first step is assessing your information processes. Identify specific tasks, and how each step contributes to the business goal you are trying to accomplish, whether that is to service customers better, generate more leads for sales, deliver more competitive products, meet regulatory requirements, etc. In today’s enterprise, it is imperative to look for how the information flow does (or does not) cross Line of Business (LoB) boundaries, and potential points of integration with other processes and systems.

Bear in mind that the information needs of iWorkers are changing constantly, and the multiple generations of iWorkers now in the workforce have distinctly different preferences for the way they consume and use information. This has significant implications for the usability, training, and adoption of new collaboration applications — and the success of your collaboration initiatives.

One best practice is to actually follow an iWorker through a specific process, such as on-boarding a new customer or responding to a service request, step by step. Note where they get their information, if they get all they need in a timely fashion and in the format they require.

Research has found significant gaps in how iWorkers and managers perceive the effectiveness of their information processes. This is a prime opportunity to solicit feedback on what could help iWorkers do their job better.

Employee Disconnect.

In a Forrester study commissioned by Ricoh, by a factor of more than 2 to 1 over their managers, customer-facing workers felt constrained by “older systems” that sometimes forced customers to communicate with the company in ways they didn’t want to. On the other hand, by a factor of nearly 3 to 1, managers thought their customer-facing workers communicated well with customers through both old and new channels. That’s a huge disconnect, and it’s hurting your business relationship with your customers.

We have found that many information processes have simply not kept pace with what employees need — or customers want. And it might be time for you to take a look internally to see what you find. You may discover:

Steps that are no longer required or aren’t a high priority;
Information that’s available but not timely or in an easily accessible format;
Gaps in information available from other systems;
Processes that are clearly not defined as part of your core competence.

real world information challenges.

To combat these issues, there are benefits to making use of the broad industry — and cross-departmental experience — of a document process consultant. They have seen and dealt with many of the real-world information management challenges inherent in optimizing information processes, which can include everything from dealing with complex privacy regulations across industries and countries, or handling the internal aspects of change management, including education, training and morale.

An outside party can also look more broadly across departments and functions, bringing to bear lessons from multiple engagements across industries and geographies. They can often bring a new perspective to the way you’ve been approaching a problem.

Cloud-based collaboration tools can certainly help you grow your company, but clearly defining your business goals and mapping your process needs must come first. Remember that with every technological element, it’s still the people behind it who matter most. With help, you can stay grounded and make sure you don’t get lost in the cloud.
For more on information optimization and working with the cloud:

The Down-to-Earth Benefits of Cloud-Based Big Data Analytics
Optimizing Information Processes Can Super-Charge Big Data Analytics
Use of the Cloud in the Public Sector: Not All It Could Be
When Employees Speak Out About Process Improvement, How Well Are We Listening?

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1 Forbes Insight, “Collaborating in the cloud,” sponsored by Cisco, 2013.

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Another coincidence: The New York Times’ Editor Choice of the article of the day relates to the death of its “media columnist” David Carr – a Monday columnist at the paper.

BUSINESS
David Carr, a Journalist at the Center of the Sweet Spot.
By A. O. SCOTT

Mr. Carr managed to see the complexities of digital-age journalism from every angle, and to write about them with unparalleled clarity and wit.

One of the New York Times’ most engaging and colorful personalities, Carr was a stalwart of the media beat, helping readers — and other journalists — make sense of the rapidly changing industry.

Carr wrote the “Media Equation” column for The Times, which was published on Mondays. His writing style was conversational, analytic and peppered with humor. A reporter’s reporter, Carr didn’t just write about journalism — he practiced it, taking on media heavyweights with in-depth pieces that exposed wrongdoing.

 money.cnn.com/2015/02/12/media/da…

“On a professional level, David was a giant,” Stelter said. “He was the most important, most influential reporter of this tumultuous era in media. Readers, journalists and media moguls all looked to him to make sense of the present chaos and contemplate the future. And David never disappointed. The future without him is terrible to contemplate.”

Bill Carter, another longtime colleague of Carr’s, wrote on Twitter, “Can’t possibly find words. David Carr was brilliant, funny, generous. My heart breaks for his family+his legion of friends. Proud to be one.”

Arthur Sulzberger, Jr., publisher of The Times, said in a statement that Carr was “one of the most gifted journalists” to ever work at the newspaper. Dean Baquet, the executive editor of paper, was equally effusive in his praise, describing Carr as “the finest media reporter of his generation,” and a “remarkable and funny man.”

“He was our biggest champion, and his unending passion for journalism and for truth will be missed by his family at The Times, by his readers around the world, and by people who love journalism,” Baquet said.

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on February 5th, 2015
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

The so called Islamic State has shown that there is no limit to their subhuman nature. It is first for all God Fearing Muslims to act against them – and also for all Europeans that remember what happens if you accept something like the Holocaust – to rally behind decent Muslims and help them exterminate this 21st Century insanity that came into our living rooms via the sensationalism loving corporate mass media.

King Abdullah II has done the right thing terminating by hanging the life-license of convicted mass-murderers. The IS leaders that managed her wanted her release in exchange of a Jordanian pilot whom they burned alive five weeks ago and released only now a video showing that act thinking that this will frighten us to submit some more to them. Weak minded people of the West might indeed equivocate and wait uselessly for a sign from the oil-sellers that taking serious steps against this menace is allowed.

The Jordanian pilot was shot down over the city of Rakka – the capital of their Islamic State located in what used to be called Syria – on Christmas day 2014 – in an American led bombing action. The immediate reaction called for now is for Jordan to obliterate the city of sin – Rakka – and for Europe to applaud such an action. Just remember that in 1942 the US refused to save innocent people by refusing to bomb the railways leading to the extermination camps. We did not forget and the Arabs are called not to forget now that burning pilot.

Further, and we do not feel this is unrelated – we call for Europe to unite under an Angela Merkel – Merkel Plan for a strong European Union – by starting with a plan to deal with the insolvency of the Greek State by seriously reducing their debt that was instigated by irresponsible capitalism pushing money on folks they knew had no economy that would ever return those funds.

It is rather a United Europe that could back States like Jordan – to do the right thing in the face of the 21st century scourge.

Next, we need a Green Economy to repair the devastation caused by the income-inequality fossil fuel economy over the last 40 years. Justice requires the wealthy to voluntarily adopt a Maximum Income to help repay their debts to society that came from taking money from people and treasuries and transferring it to oil exporters that then used it to fuel this pseudo-Islamic fury.

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Muslim Outrage Against Islamic State after Killing of Jordanian Pilot – Liz Sly and Hugh Naylor

Declarations of outrage swept the Middle East on Wednesday as the spectacle of an Arab pilot being burned alive in a cage triggered some of the harshest reactions yet. The pan-Arab daily al-Hayat headlined its coverage: “Barbarity,” while Iyad Madani, secretary general of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, condemned the killing as an affront to Islam. “Most of the people executed by [the Islamic State] have been foreigners, but this time it was an Arab Muslim man,” said Labib Kamhawi, a political analyst ba sed in Amman.
However, Hisham al-Hashimi, an expert on ISIS who advises the Iraqi government, said, “The Islamic State has gained more from this than it has lost.” In the Syrian city of Raqqa, the Islamic State broadcast video of the pilot’s death on giant video screens as crowds shouted, “God is Great.” (Washington Post)

See also Muslim Clerics Denounce Burning Alive of Pilot as Un-Islamic – Sami Aboudi and Suleiman Al-Khalidi

The Grand Sheikh of Al-Azhar, Ahmed al-Tayeb, Egypt’s top Muslim authority, said the killers themselves deserved to be “killed, crucified or to have their limbs amputated.” In Qatar, the International Association of Muslim Scholars, headed by Youssef al-Qaradawi and linked to the Muslim Brotherhood, called the burning of t he pilot a criminal act. (Reuters)

So what now?

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on February 3rd, 2015
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)


Slump in Oil Prices Brings Pressure, and Investment Opportunity

By MICHAEL CORKERY and PETER EAVIS, posted by the New York Times February 3, 2015

Scores of debt-laden oil companies face struggles that could lead to layoffs and losses for banks and investors. At the same time, new fortunes stand to be made.

THE NEW YORK TIMES ARTICLE CAN BE FOUND AS “DEALBOOK” n the BUSINESS SECTION of the NYT of February 3, 2015 and we were at first happy seeing it – we thought that the upcoming businesses will be energy businesses – NOT JUST OIL BUSINESSES – but this is not yet to happen at The New York Times. Seemingly the Board of Editors still thinks that ENERGY IS A SYNONYM FOR OIL – so – the gist of the article is that some oil businesses will go bust but other oil businesses will bloom. The difference is in money borrowed. OK – there is truth in this but not the whole truth about the larger aspect of energy and the economy. THE FUTURE WILL TELL and totally new – non-petroleum industries will make it.

On a different website we found for the DEALMAKER’S Post the following:

PRESSURE RISES AS OIL FALLS | As cracks are appearing in the latest energy boom, “the forces of failure and opportunity are stirring again,” DealBook’s Michael Corkery and Peter Eavis write. Among the companies that are hurting is Resolute Energy, a Colorado company that lenders showered with hundreds of millions of dollars during the boom. Similar struggles could take place at scores of other companies, leading to layoffs and losses for banks and investors. But at the same time, Mr. Corkery and Mr. Eavis write, “new fortunes stand to be made.”

“Easy money has abruptly come to an end, mostly because oil prices have plunged, potentially making life much harder for companies like Resolute,” they add. “Many companies, which only a few months ago were the toast of the high-yield debt and initial public offering markets, suddenly cannot raise additional equity or sell bonds. A few lenders have started reining in bank lines and more are expected to tighten loan terms in the coming months.”

“?The latest boom was defined by risk-taking that involved deploying new technologies in oil fields that were once thought not productive drilling sites. As the free flow of credit dwindles, however, energy analysts expect much more caution from an industry that has been willing to bet the farm on increasingly ambitious projects,” Mr. Corkery and Mr. Eavis write. Now, signs of trouble have “brought out Wall Street’s bottom feeders.” But the energy companies, many of which will not face pressure to pay back borrowed money for many months, are not going to give up easily.

AND ANOTHER POSTING on the NYT BUSINESSESS DEALBOOK SAYS that those that hold a lot of cash outside the US and never pay a penny to the US Treasury – will be very upset at President Obama who wants to make sense by reorganizing the TAX CODE:

OBAMA’S TAX REFORM IRKS BUSINESS WORLD | Overhauling corporate tax legislation has been a regular refrain from corporate America’s chief executives, Andrew Ross Sorkin writes in the DealBook Column. And on Monday, he writes, “the business world got its wish from President Obama ? a proposed overhaul of corporate tax policy in the United States ? but not in the way it might have hoped.”

“President Obama’s budget calls for a lower overall tax rate ? 28 percent, down from 35 percent. But it also calls for a one-time 14 percent tax on all cash sitting overseas and a 19 percent tax on all foreign profits in the future, minus taxes paid abroad,” Mr. Sorkin adds. The one-time tax would hit hardest the businesses with huge cash piles abroad like G.E. and Apple. Big business greeted the plan, at least privately, with disgust, if not disdain.

Mr. Sorkin writes: “Here’s the rub: While chief executives often give lip service to the need for corporate tax reform ? and some believe in it ? when it comes right down to it, companies aren’t necessarily interested in a simpler tax system, just one that significantly lightens their tax burden.” The problem is that the true tax rate for cash held abroad is zero because foreign profits are not taxed in the United States unless the money is brought back. This means that any rate higher than zero hits the company’s bottom line ? not something big business is likely to cheer.

THIS IS THE REALITY SERVED BY THE NEW YORK TIMES – THE CORPORATE WORLD THAT DOES NOT GIVE A DAMN ABOUT THE FUTURE OF THE UNITED STATES OR THE WORLD – JUST ABOUT THE SIZE OF THEIR BANK ACCOUNT AND MAKING SURE THEY DO NOT SPEND ON CREATING A MARKET THAT HAS IN IT A MODICUM OF SUSTAINABILITY THAT IN EFFECT IS NEEDED TO HAVE THEM CONTINUE ON A MONEY MAKING STREAK.

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on January 31st, 2015
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

The following is an article about how bad for the people – all people – it will be if the US Pharmaceutical Industry gets its way and manages to write the rules of the so called Trans-Pacific Partnership (T.P.P.) so they outlaw trade in generic drugs – even outlaw their production! TPP has thus the potential of harming poorer counties citizens by putting rains of law into Washington’s hands – not just on drugs, but on most environmental and labor laws as well.

We re-post the article with Europe in mind and the debate in EU countries if to let in the American Trojan Horse which is painted as a US-EU potential Free Trade Partnership – the the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (T.T.I.P.). Our opinion is clear – DON’T TOUCH IT.

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The Opinion Pages | OP-ED CONTRIBUTOR


Don’t Trade Away Our Health

By JOSEPH E. STIGLITZ – The New York Tines Op-Ed, January 30, 2015


A secretive group met behind closed doors in New York this week. What they decided may lead to higher drug prices for you and hundreds of millions around the world.

Representatives from the United States and 11 other Pacific Rim countries convened to decide the future of their trade relations in the so-called Trans-Pacific Partnership (T.P.P.). Powerful companies appear to have been given influence over the proceedings, even as full access is withheld from many government officials from the partnership countries.

Among the topics negotiators have considered are some of the most contentious T.P.P. provisions — those relating to intellectual property rights. And we’re not talking just about music downloads and pirated DVDs. These rules could help big pharmaceutical companies maintain or increase their monopoly profits on brand-name drugs.


The secrecy of the T.P.P. negotiations makes them maddeningly opaque and hard to discuss. But we can get a pretty good idea of what’s happening, based on documents obtained by WikiLeaks from past meetings (they began in 2010), what we know of American influence in other trade agreements, and what others and myself have gleaned from talking to negotiators.

Trade agreements are negotiated by the office of the United States Trade Representative, supposedly on behalf of the American people. Historically, though, the trade representative’s office has aligned itself with corporate interests. If big pharmaceutical companies hold sway — as the leaked documents indicate they do — the T.P.P. could block cheaper generic drugs from the market. Big Pharma’s profits would rise, at the expense of the health of patients and the budgets of consumers and governments.

There are two ways the office of the trade representative can use the T.P.P. to maintain or raise drug prices and profits.

The first is to restrict competition from generics. It’s axiomatic that more competition means lower prices. When companies have to fight for customers, they end up cutting their prices. When a patent expires, any company can enter the market with a generic version of a drug. The differences in prices between brand-name and generic drugs are mind- and budget-blowing. Just the availability of generics drives prices down: In generics-friendly India, for example, Gilead Sciences, which makes an effective hepatitis-C drug, recently announced that it would sell the drug for a little more than 1 percent of the $84,000 it charges here.

That’s why, since the United States opened up its domestic market to generics in 1984, they have grown from 19 percent of prescriptions to 86 percent, by some accounts saving the United States government, consumers and employers more than $100 billion a year. Drug companies stand to gain handsomely if the T.P.P. limits the sale of generics.


The second strategy is to undermine government regulation of drug prices. More competition is not the only way to keep down the prices of essential goods and services. Governments can also directly restrain prices through law, or effectively restrain them by denying reimbursement to patients for “overpriced” drugs — thus encouraging companies to bring down their prices to approved levels. These regulatory approaches are especially important in markets where competition is limited, as it is in the drug market. If the United States Trade Representative gets its way, the T.P.P. will limit the ability of partner countries to restrict prices. And the pharmaceutical companies surely hope the “standard” they help set in this agreement will become global — for example, by becoming the starting point for United States negotiations with the European Union over the same issues.

Americans might shrug at the prospect of soaring drug prices around the world. After all, the United States already allows drug companies to charge what they want. But that doesn’t mean we might not want to change things someday. Here again, the T.P.P. has us cornered: Trade agreements, and in particular individual provisions within them, are typically far more difficult to alter or repeal than domestic laws.

Of course, pharmaceutical companies claim they need to charge high prices to fund their research and development. This just isn’t so. For one thing, drug companies spend more on marketing and advertising than on new ideas. Overly restrictive intellectual property rights actually slow new discoveries, by making it more difficult for scientists to build on the research of others and by choking off the exchange of ideas that is critical to innovation. As it is, most of the important innovations come out of our universities and research centers, like the National Institutes of Health, funded by government and foundations.

The efforts to raise drug prices in the T.P.P. take us in the wrong direction. The whole world may come to pay a price in the form of worse health and unnecessary deaths.

—————-

Joseph E. Stiglitz, a Nobel laureate in economics, a professor at Columbia and a former chairman of the Council of Economic Advisers, is the author of “The Price of Inequality.”

——————————————————————–

A version of this op-ed appears in print on January 31, 2015, on page A19 of the New York edition with the headline: Don’t Trade Away Our Health.

—————–

Some of the FIRST COMMENTS:

Kodali 11 minutes ago
Big Pharmaceutical companies try to do what is in their interests. But, US Trade representative is representing the people of the United…

NKB 11 minutes ago
Why so much commentary before nothing is clear about the actual content of the TPP? Although the negotiations are secret right now, will the…

Gerald 13 minutes ago
Are Chicago type “PAY TO PLAY” taxpayer-dollar-paid-for “Solyndra” loans and/or “CGI Federal” type “Pay to Play” no-bid US government…

——————————-

THE NEW YORK TIMES ANSWERS:

We can’t be sure which of these features have made it through this week’s negotiations. What’s clear is that the overall thrust of the intellectual property section of the T.P.P. is for less competition and higher drug prices. The effects will go beyond the 12 T.P.P. countries. Barriers to generics in the Pacific will put pressure on producers of such drugs in other countries, like India, as well.

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on January 23rd, 2015
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

 www.theguardian.com/sustainable-b…

Head of UN climate talks: ‘the pain in the shoe is not great enough’ for businesses to take action.

Businesses have a fundamental role to play in securing a climate deal, Christiana Figueres says, but don’t yet feel immediately threatened by the situation

World Bank chief makes climate action plea
Al Gore: ‘oil companies use our atmosphere as an open sewer’
World leaders failing on ‘social cohesion’

Christiana Figueres, executive secretary of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, says “we all have a responsibility to the future”.

Thursday 22 January 2015 – By Jo Confino in Davos

Christiana Figueres, who heads up the global climate change talks, was visibly moved as she urged business leaders to take action to avoid runaway climate change at the World Economic Forum meeting in Davos on Thursday.

“This is the first generation that is becoming aware of what we have done, because the previous generation had no clue,” said the executive director of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change. “We can’t blame them, we can’t blame ourselves because we’ve been put in this situation, but we do have a responsibility to do something about it and not to pass it on to the next generation.”

Looking at her daughter sitting nearby, Figueres’ eyes well up. Her desire to secure a meaningful climate deal later this year in Paris is clearly as much a personal concern as a global one.

While it is incumbent on the world’s politicians to secure a deal, it’s apparent they need help: just yesterday, the US Senate failed to pass resolutions acknowledging that climate change is the result of human activity. The private sector can play a pivotal role in giving politicians the confidence to act, Figueres said.

US tech giants launch fierce fightback against global tax avoidance crackdown.

“I don’t think anybody can question the fact the role of business is fundamental, independently of [on] what side of the spectrum business stands,” she said.

Engagement from the private sector, Figueres says, needs to come in three forms: vision, action and voice.

Vision is about business leaders understanding the consequence of climate change for their companies and ensuring they align their operations with staying within a 2C rise in global temperatures.

Executives then need to think through what they need from governments at both national and international level in order to pursue that path.

“This is about vision, not short-termism,” Figueres said. “It’s not just about energy efficiency measures today, which represents only a tiny, tiny little first step. It’s about starting there but then understanding where we have to be over the next 50 years.”

Once companies have a clear destination, they need to focus on closing the distance between where they are now and where they want to be, she says. The final step is to become much more vocal about the need for transformational action.

“It is no secret that we have a very small number of corporations that are being very vocal, and that there’s a huge number of companies – the silent majority – that are not participating in this discussion and are not engaging with governments with respect to the very clear guidance and regulatory certainty that they need,” she said.

Figueres believes the lack of advocacy by companies is due to the fact that most of them still do not feel immediately threatened by climate change. In a PwC survey this week, global warming didn’t even make the list of CEO’s top priorities or concerns.
‘It is profitable to let the world go to hell’

But Figueres warns that if executives continue to focus only on what’s in front of their noses, they will put their companies’ long-term survival at risk.

They can see that in the long run, having a stable planet and economic system is actually better for them in their operations and their business continuity, and that there is a huge opportunity for growth and for new profit, for new jobs, new industries and new technologies,” she said.

“But that is not compelling enough to actually have the CEO get up there and use his voice and leadership because the pain in the shoe is not enough. There is this abstract sense of yeah, we all want to be better off, but maybe somebody else should be doing something about that. In the meantime, I have my payroll to worry about.

Whereas those companies that are very active and do have a voice perceive that they’re immediately threatened.”

Businesses, regardless of their size, have largely failed to look deeply at the impacts of fossil fuels, she said: “They just use electricity and that’s the sum total of their engagement in this process.”

Despite the need for more action, Figueres said she was heartened by the number of major businesses that attended the climate change summit in New York last year, and in particular by the engagement by whole sectors, such as insurers and more progressive sections of the investment industry.

There has also been a sea change in the attitude from governments about the need to collaborate with the private sector.

“There has been quite an evolution in the understanding of the very positive contribution that the private sector can make,” she says. “I remember when I got to the secretariat five years ago that the private sector was a taboo word that never would have appeared in any text of governments. Yet now you have the text actually inviting quite openly the participation of corporations.

She acknowledged that there’s still a long way to go in what she calls “an evolutionary process”. But with just 10 months to go before the Paris talks open, Figueres also recognised the need for urgent action and referred to having a time bomb on our hands.
How concerned are CEOs about climate change? Not at all
Read more

When one strips everything away, Figueres says that what business leaders need to do most is get in touch with their common humanity.

We speak of business as though there was a head there, a thinking brain, and that’s not so,” she says. “We have a role to play in life, whether that is being the head of a Fortune 500 company, or being a junior professional in an NGO, and we must step up to those roles.

“However, what cuts across all of those differences is the fact that we’re all human beings, all of us, and we all are either parents or aunts and uncles or grandparents and we all have a responsibility to the future.”

This year’s Davos coverage is funded by The B Team. All content is editorially independent except for pieces labelled “brought to you by”.

###

Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on January 5th, 2015
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

In New York City – a Window of the US at the Start of 2015


The Mayor and the Police – By David Remnick, The New Yorker,

re-posted from readersupportednews.org/opinion2/…

04 January 2014

In 1960, James Baldwin, the American Orwell, wrote “Fifth Avenue, Uptown: A Letter from Harlem,” an essay that portrayed the ugly dynamic between white police officers and young black men in the neighborhood where he grew up:

Rare, indeed, is the Harlem citizen, from the most circumspect church member to the most shiftless adolescent, who does not have a long tale to tell of police incompetence, injustice, or brutality. I myself have witnessed and endured it more than once. . . . It is hard, on the other hand, to blame the policeman, blank, good-natured, thoughtless, and insuperably innocent, for being such a perfect representative of the people he serves. He, too, believes in good intentions and is astounded and offended when they are not taken for the deed. He has never, himself, done anything for which to be hated––which of us has?––and yet he is facing, daily and nightly, people who would gladly see him dead, and he knows it. There is no way for him not to know it: there are few things under heaven more unnerving than the silent, accumulating contempt and hatred of a people.

To contemporary readers, such a passage may seem a relic of a harsh past. Baldwin’s essay predates so many advances, including the Civil Rights and Voting Rights Acts. The New York Police Department’s rank and file is no longer majority white. Crime rates are lower than they have been in decades. An African-American was elected President in 2008 and appointed an African-American to be the chief law-enforcement official in the land. American audiences go to see “Selma,” get teary-eyed, and think how far we’ve come. The temptation is to suppose that Baldwin has long since lost all relevance. Why, then, does the President gently remind us that if he had a son he’d look like Trayvon Martin? And why does the Attorney General say we are a “nation of cowards” when it comes to the discussion of race?

On January 3rd, a Staten Island grand jury declined to indict Daniel Pantaleo, an N.Y.P.D. officer, on any charge related to the homicide-by-asphyxiation, in July, of an African-American man named Eric Garner. New York’s mayor, Bill de Blasio, commented on the grand jury’s decision. He spoke with unapologetic honesty about the failure of the judicial system. He anticipated, and tacitly endorsed, peaceful protest, “the only thing that has ever worked” to advance social justice in America. And he spoke personally, saying that he and his wife, Chirlane, have had “the talk” with their son, Dante, about “the dangers he may face” on the street as a young man of color:

I’ve had to worry over the years, Chirlane’s had to worry. Is Dante safe each night? There are so many families in this city who feel that each and every night. Is my child safe? And not just from some of the painful realities—crime and violence in some of our neighborhoods—but are they safe from the very people they want to have faith in as their protectors?

De Blasio then echoed one of the most resonant lines heard since the protests began last summer in Ferguson, Missouri. “It’s a phrase that should never have to be said,” he insisted. “It should be self-evident. But our history, sadly, requires us to say that black lives matter.”

The demonstrations that followed were almost entirely peaceful. There were instances of protesters shouting despicable slogans, but those instances were isolated and rare. Most police officers showed no more disrespect to de Blasio and the protesters than de Blasio and the protesters had shown to them. The truth is that both protest and argument, conducted peacefully and with decency, can have the effect of easing the long-running tension between the police and the policed and bringing about the kind of change that is needed. The “techniques” that killed Eric Garner demand reform, and so does a system in which it is nearly impossible to bring a police officer to trial.

And yet some police groups, including the leadership of the Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association, charged that the Mayor was fanning anti-police sentiment. Then came the assassination, in Bedford-Stuyvesant, of two N.Y.P.D. officers, Rafael Ramos and Wenjian Liu, by a young man who had just shot his ex-girlfriend. That horrendous event devastated New Yorkers, particularly police officers, who daily put their lives at risk in the name of public safety. It also brought the simmering resentment among some police leaders to a boil of accusatory rhetoric. Patrick Lynch, the head of the P.B.A., who has waged battles over contracts and other issues with previous mayors, used the killings as a political cudgel. The Mayor, he said, had blood on his hands. Michael Goodwin, a columnist for the Post, was among those who had amplified the case for blaming de Blasio; the Mayor, he wrote, had thrown “gasoline on the fire by painting the entire force as a bunch of white racist brutes.”

As a way to cool tensions, de Blasio asked that there be a halt to protests, at least until after the officers’ funerals. The most flagrant refusal to do so came at the funeral of Rafael Ramos, when hundreds of police officers in attendance, following Lynch’s lead, turned their backs as the Mayor delivered a eulogy. An occasion of mourning had been hijacked. The police commissioner, William Bratton, was diplomatic, calling the gesture “inappropriate.” It was worse than that. It was an act of profound disrespect not only to de Blasio but also to the Ramos family members, who were there to grieve, not to witness a petulant display of resentment.

At his press conference, de Blasio had referred to a history that preceded the death of Eric Garner and charged it with meaning. The story of civil rights is not an event that ends with a triumphal arrival at a Southern statehouse. Two generations after Selma, the Supreme Court has started to roll back voting rights. Two generations after Selma, one out of three black males born in America today will, if present trends continue, see the inside of a prison cell.

“One day, to everyone’s astonishment, someone drops a match in the powder keg and everything blows up,” Baldwin wrote. “Before the dust has settled or the blood congealed, editorials, speeches, and civil-rights commissions are loud in the land, demanding to know what happened. What happened is that Negroes want to be treated like men.” Some of the language is of its time, but the demand is just and everlasting.

Comments posted by RSN:

+54 # DaveM 2015-01-04 12:51
This begs a larger question which, alas, cannot be answered by homilies about racism or classism or any “ism” that I know of. That question is: who is in charge here? The people of the United States and their elected representatives , or the police?

+18 # Walter J Smith 2015-01-04 14:20
Nobody if not you. And me.

Remember that question being asked in the movie, Apocalypse Now?

The answer hasn’t changed.

As one CEO long ago said about the Pentagon, on their resume’s every general and admiral at the Pentagon runs the whole bureaucratic empire. Until you ask them a simple question. Then you immediately discover no one there knows anything about anything.

The same is true in the US Deartment of Veterans Affairs. I am now, as I have been since August, attempting to get the VA to give me the eye surgery their own doctors agree I need. Yet, the VA just keeps sending me for more appointments to have my eyes examined to determine if I need cataract surgery. And no one knows why. No one knows who makes the appointments. No one knows what can be done about it. No one knows who can schedule my cataract surgery. No one is responsible for anything. Except on their resumes. Where everyone of them is responsible for everything.

That is exactly as our bipartisan neo-American Congress & our Administrations & our Judiciary wishes things to be.
Throughout the entire empire.

+19 # Art947 2015-01-04 15:31
An America’s corporate CEOs say that they deserve high compensation for creating the companies that they lead while telling us that they know nothing when something goes terribly wrong!

Tell me which banker, hedge fund manager, corporate raider, etc. deserves the big bucks that they are paid when each has a hand in destroying the lives of average Americans? Are you listening, Mr. Romney? Mr. Dimon?

+9 # brux 2015-01-04 12:58
>> And why does the Attorney General say we are a “nation of cowards” when it comes to the discussion of race?

That’s a good quote, and true, but the meaning and point is very fuzzy.

Both sides here have valid arguments, and the conversations that arise around race simple cannot go anywhere.

If I simple express my opinions on it, not in a mean or racists way, I get branded a racists for not agreeing with the mobs of folks for example that tore up Ferguson, MO.’

If I do not exactly agree with sentiments such as put the cops on trial or shoot them I just get vitriolic hatred for it, despite the fact that I feel very bad for the negative experiences black people I have known have experienced and do empathize with them.

Having been sort of hippie-like in my youth I am familiar with being targeted or confronted with an attitude from the way I look. Driving through the South one time with my California license plate and needing a haircut I was almost involved in a fight was the redneck barbers kicked me out of their shop hair half cut.

I know the bad side of human nature, and the problem with discussing it is that people cannot get past their own experiences and need to vent about them instead of trying to come to a reasonable compromise about what is fair and just and how to enforce it.

0 # economagic 2015-01-04 21:23
Brux,

What have you done, beyond “feel very bad for them,” to change the institutional racism that Mr. Remnick, Mr. Baldwin, Frederick Douglass, and myriad others have written about for more than a century and a half? Are you even aware that institutional racism exists in this country?

How long? How many times? Yet the Supreme Court scales back the protections of the Voting Rights Act even as the Republican Party rams laws through state legislatures to restrict voting that in ways affect blacks disproportionately, on the basis of fraudulent “research” claiming voter fraud.

I was more than “sort of hippie-like” in my youth, and was also an activist who witnessed that racism up close. It was a lot different from what I experienced as a white hippie.

I have a friend who is smart and well intentioned, a really decent and generous guy. Yet he sends me emails with the most blatant, ugly racism this side of the Ku Klux Klan. It has not been that long since the Klan owned a little town near here that hosted some of the CIA “torture taxis.” As best I can tell my friend supports that too, but only for “terrorists.” He refuses to define that term, but clearly he means “them,” “the others,” “people not like us.”

He would be most indignant if I confronted him with his racism. He is a closet racist, in the closet only to himself and others who cannot take an honest look at their own hearts, or honestly say, “There but for the Grace of God (for being born white) go I.”


+27 # Shorey13 2015-01-04 13:26
I still think the problem is inadequate vetting of applicants for the job of policeman. One coward with a badge and a gun is all it takes to create social chaos, and to confirm the worst fears of the black community.
Please remember that after the police riots in Chicago in 1968 during the Democratic Convention, psychologists who were hired by the city to evaluate the department found that 85% (!!!) were psychologically unsuited for the job.
While it may no longer be 85%, as noted above, even one bad apple ruins the barrel.
Lastly, like firemen, doctors and many other professionals, police often close ranks and defend their indefensible colleagues.

+17 # Art947 2015-01-04 15:36
The “The Blue Line” subscribes to a code of silence when it comes to the actions of its members. As a consequence, when one of them does wrong, then as they are aiding and abetting the action, they have all done wrong. Until members of every police force decide that the code of silence will no longer prevail, then they will all be painted, and tainted, by the sins of their colleagues. BTW, one only needs to remember Frank Serpico and the evils that he suffered for trying to tell the truth about the NYPD.

+23 # wrknight 2015-01-04 13:56
“And why does the Attorney General say we are a “nation of cowards” when it comes to the discussion of race?”

And speaking of a nation of cowards, what about those attorney generals who are afraid of Wall Street bankers?

+20 # progressiveguy 2015-01-04 14:10
Someone should tell the good cops that they are not under attack by protesters or liberals or the mayor. The institutional racism of police forces in general and NYC in particular is and should be under attack. When the good cops condone the abuse of the bad cops then they are part of the problem. Cops that use unnecessary force must be separated from police forces.

+27 # angelfish 2015-01-04 14:36
When you have Police like the ones in New York who act like children by turning their backs on the Mayor rather than sitting down to TALK about the bad apples in their barrel, the REAL problems will never be solved. I know that MOST cops are good, decent people, however, they shield and protect the psychopaths that have NO business wearing the uniform! ALL professions have bad apples, the Police are not alone in this, but until they actively work at policing THEMSELVES, we will remain at an impasse. Police work is inherently dangerous but NO ONE deserves to die because they LOOK suspicious. Blacks, Latinos and other ethnic people are no more likely than their white peers to be guilty, yet it is THEY who suffer the indignities of being stopped, harassed and, in many cases shot dead! WHEN does it ever stop?


+5 # Art947 2015-01-04 15:41
There was interesting commentary by Linda Stasi in today’s (1/4/15) Daily News concerning the battles between the NYPD and NY’s mayors. Even mayor, including that paragon of despicability, Rudolf Giuilani, Bloomberg, Lindsay, Dinkens, etc., has been treated to shows of disrespect by the leaders and membership of the Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association. It is only because the strident voices of the corporate news media have amplified this conflict that it has become such a national travesty.

+4 # lfeuille 2015-01-04 19:40
Quoting Art947:

There was interesting commentary by Linda Stasi in today’s (1/4/15) Daily News concerning the battles between the NYPD and NY’s mayors. Even mayor, including that paragon of despicability, Rudolf Giuilani, Bloomberg, Lindsay, Dinkens, etc., has been treated to shows of disrespect bu the leaders and membership of the Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association. It is only because the strident voices of the corporate news media have amplified this conflict that it has become such a national travesty.

It is only because the national media, for whatever reason, has finally decided to pay attention to the problem that many people are even aware of it. You can’t fix what you don’t know about. It was happening even when the press wasn’t looking.

+12 # fredboy 2015-01-04 16:52
NY cops best wise up to recognize that their actions and attitudes support the unlawful police gang murder of an unarmed man who was breaking no law, not police excellence.

If I were the mayor I would clean house, starting at the top.

Their actions and attitudes are prompting citizens across the land to police the police–that’s how bad things are out there.

0 # leftcoast 2015-01-04 17:23
Walterj – what actually is your beef? Or is it that you just
don’t get the cartoons?

0 # corals33 2015-01-04 18:20
CORRECTION: No African-American was (s)elected as president in 2008.This man’s mother is and always was WHITE. Lest we forget.
The polioe and the prison guards should be investigated “Mcarthy style” for their membership of “secret organizations” before anything else. Start at the beginning folks instead of always looking (deliberately) at every other angle.

+3 # greenbacker 2015-01-04 22:02
[quote name=”corals33″ ]”CORRECTION: No African-America n was (s)elected as president in 2008.This man’s mother is and always was WHITE. Lest we forget.”

So let me get this straight. President Obama’s father was African, his mother was American. But he is not “African-American?” Am I missing something? “WHITE” is not (or should not be) synonymous with “American,” but for too many people it is, even if subconsciously. This is a huge part of the problem when it comes to discussing race in America. The fact of the matter is that a large portion, if not a majority, of Blacks born in America have some European as well as African ancestry. Henry Louis Gates (remember the “beer summit” after Gates’ encounter with police in his own house?) has a whole series on PBS dealing with this subject. In fact, in one episode it was revealed through DNA testing that the rapper Nas has Scandinavian/Viking ancestry. So, yes, an African-American was elected in 2008 and re-elected in 2012. No correction necessary. And if Obama was not President of the US, and his story so well known, and you saw him walking down the street, you would not identify him as a half-white guy, you would see him as a Black man.

0 # Rockster 2015-01-04 18:34
I totally agree with corals:33 re the prison guards and police as to their “secret fraternal orgs” but why say it with. @McCarthyism thrown in. And I’m curious what is the standard amount of blackness to qualify?

-3 # perkinsej 2015-01-04 19:00
The solution to all these problems is linked not just to gun control but to total gun abandonment. Last of the “liberal” program that requires attention and eventually enactment.

+1 # jstick 2015-01-04 20:27
Shorey13 says the issue is “adequate vetting of applicants for the job of policeman.” Correct. How many of these officers who commit homicide on the job are veterans back from Iraq and Afghanistan? Remember, over there they were trained to suspect and kill civilians. Same as in Vietnam. Prior to that the enemy wore uniforms.
They are merely doing what they were trained to do.

+1 # PABLO DIABLO 2015-01-04 21:10
Wake up America.

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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on December 29th, 2014
by Pincas Jawetz (PJ@SustainabiliTank.com)

In North Dakota, a Tale of Oil, Corruption and Death
By DEBORAH SONTAG and BRENT McDONALD

Tex G. Hall, a tribal chief connected to the oil industry, has pushed profits on the Fort Berthold Reservation in North Dakota. But charges of murder for hire against an associate and accusations of corruption have upended business as usual.

from NYT > Home Page rss.nytimes.com/c/34625/f/640350/…

 richardaquilone.wordpress.com/…..

 www.nytimes.com/2014/12/29/us/in-…

FORT BERTHOLD INDIAN RESERVATION, N.D. — Tex G. Hall, the three-term tribal chairman on this remote, once impoverished reservation, was the very picture of confidence as he strode to the lectern at his third Annual Bakken Oil and Gas Expo and gazed out over a stuffed, backlit mountain lion.

Tall and imposing beneath his black cowboy hat, he faced an audience of political and industry leaders lured from far and wide to the “Texpo,” as some here called it. It was late April at the 4 Bears Casino, and the outsiders endorsed his strong advocacy for oil development and the way he framed it as mutually beneficial for the industry and the reservation: “sovereignty by the barrel.”

“M.H.A. Nation is No. 1 for tribal oil produced on American soil in the United States right now currently today,” Mr. Hall proudly declared, referring to the Mandan, Hidatsa and Arikara Nation.

An oil pad on North Dakota’s Fort Berthold Indian Reservation flares natural gas produced in the hydrofracturing process. Over a quarter of all natural gas produced in North Dakota is burned off this way.

————–
The Downside of the BoomNOV. 22, 2014
Where Oil and Politics MixNOV. 23, 2014
————–

But, in a hall decorated with rigs and tepees, a dice throw from the slot machines, Mr. Hall’s self-assurance belied the fact that his grip on power was slipping. After six years of dizzyingly rapid oil development, anxiety about the environmental and social costs of the boom, as well as about tribal mismanagement and oil-related corruption, had burst to the surface.
Photo

Tex G. Hall at the Annual Bakken Oil and Gas Expo in April. He proudly advocated oil development on tribal land. Credit Brent McDonald/The New York Times

By that point, there were two murder cases — one person dead in Spokane, Wash., the other missing but presumed dead in North Dakota — tied to oil business on the reservation. And Mr. Hall, a once-seemingly untouchable leader, was under investigation by his tribal council because of his connections to an Oregon man who would later be charged with murder for hire in the two deaths.

In 2012, the man, James Henrikson, 35, who had five felony convictions in his past, operated a trucking company called Blackstone out of the tribal chairman’s garage. Blackstone worked primarily for the chairman’s own private oil field company, enjoying privileged access to business on the reservation as his subcontractor.

Blackstone also worked directly for the tribal government, earning $570,000 for a job watering road dust that was never put out to bid. Mr. Hall voted to approve the payment, but because he did not think he had any conflict of interest, he said, he never disclosed his business relationship to the company.

The relationship was personal, too: Mr. Henrikson and his wife vacationed in Hawaii with the tribal chairman and his family. Mr. Henrikson had an extramarital affair with, and impregnated, the now 21-year-old daughter of the chairman’s longtime girlfriend; Mr. Hall considers the baby his grandson.

In an interview last week, Mr. Hall said Mr. Henrikson was a “professional con” who had cemented their business deal when Mr. Hall was ill and distracted, bringing flowers and a contract to his hospital room to be signed. “I got ripped off and taken advantage of,” he said. “The people didn’t really know that when the news first broke.’’

In January, Mr. Hall’s link to Mr. Henrikson, Mr. Henrikson’s link to the murder case in Spokane, and the murder’s link to the reservation were revealed after the alleged hit man was arrested. The revelations jolted Fort Berthold into a tumultuous year of questioning and change.
Continue reading the main story

“That murder was the last straw,” said Marilyn Hudson, 78, a tribal elder and historian. “Now you have a murder, a hit man, and a five-time convicted felon operating as an oil contractor working directly with the chairman. It’s like our reservation got hijacked by the plot of a bad movie.”
Photo
Left to right, Marilyn Hudson, Theodora Birdbear and Joletta Birdbear at the Three Tribes Museum. All three women became critics of Mr. Hall’s dealings with the oil industry. Credit Jim Wilson/The New York Times

On the reservation, where identity is deeply connected to the land, conservationists have been more vocal than elsewhere in North Dakota, and they have denounced their leadership’s oversight of the oil industry for mirroring the state’s pro-business posture.

“The mentality comes from the state: less regulation, more profit,” said Joletta Birdbear, a former postmaster. “They’re only concerned about the immediate dollars and not about the long-term costs to our land and the future generations of our people.”

But if critics of North Dakota’s elected officials viewed them as too close to the oil industry, critics here had more pointed concerns. Their leader was part of the industry, seeking and getting contracts from oil companies that operated under his watch.

“I have no problem with the government making profit for the people, but when they make a profit for themselves and not the people, that’s another story, you know?” Ms. Hudson said.

Most of the 14,169 enrolled tribal members, about half of whom live on the reservation, do not receive significant oil royalties. The tribal government does, along with hundreds of millions in oil tax revenue, and many here appreciate the potential benefits for the reservation itself.

But so far, apart from a significant rise in jobs, which often go to transient workers, many see deterioration rather than improvement in their standard of living. They endure intense truck traffic, degraded roads, increased crime, strained services and the pollution from spills, flares and illegal dumping.

Deep-seated problems can be hard to fix — a life expectancy of 57, for instance, compared with 79 for North Dakotans as a whole. But its critics say the tribal government has invested little in social welfare, like desperately needed housing, and has distributed little of the $200 million set aside in the People’s Fund.
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Tribal members and veterans in a salute on Memorial Day this year. In the rear sits a 96-foot yacht considered by tribal members to be a symbol of their leaders’ misplaced spending priorities. Credit Jim Wilson/The New York Times

The government’s purchase of a 96-foot yacht named “Island Girl,” which mostly sits on blocks, became a symbol to many of their leaders’ misplaced priorities. All told, it cost about $2.5 million, a senior tribal official said.

“Our tribal council is so focused on money, money, money,” Edmund Baker, the reservation’s environmental director, said earlier this year. “And our tribal chairman is: ‘Edmund, don’t tell me about spills. I’m busy trying to do things for my people.’”
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Oil rigs and freshly graded roads near the Fort Berthold Reservation boundary. The reservation sits atop a particularly sweet spot of the Bakken shale formation. Credit Jim Wilson/The New York Times
A Change of Fortune

The three affiliated tribes on Fort Berthold have seen their territorial lands shrivel over time to under a million acres. For decades, they struggled to recover from their forced relocation in the mid-20th century when their prime farmland was flooded to create the Lake Sakakawea reservoir for a new dam.
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By the first decade of the 21st century, however, the tribal government, deep in debt, experienced a sudden change of fortune. Fort Berthold found itself atop a particularly sweet spot of the Bakken shale formation. At least 1,370 wells have been drilled and hydraulically fractured, or fracked, here so far. They are pumping over 386,000 barrels of oil a day, a third of North Dakota’s output.
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More than 1,370 oil wells, shown here in yellow, have been drilled on the Fort Berthold Indian Reservation. Credit The New York Times

In an interview at the expo last spring, Mr. Hall said that he saw fracking as the ticket to self-determination. “When oil was discovered, we were poor,” he said. “It’s hard to be sovereign on an empty stomach.”

Fifty-eight with a long, graying ponytail, Mr. Hall wore a beaded medallion with a red-tipped arrow, the Indian name he inherited from his father. Red-tipped, he said, “means you’re the first to draw blood.”

Steven A. Kelly, a former tribal lawyer under Mr. Hall and then his business competitor, said: “He’s an alpha male. If you had five male dogs on a line and you threw out six bones, Tex Hall’s going to try to get all six.”

Mr. Hall grew up on the reservation, on a cattle and buffalo ranch in Mandaree where he still lives. He said his parents told him when he was little that he would grow up to lead his tribe and that he bore “the weight of the people” on his shoulders. He left Fort Berthold for college, where he was a basketball star, and then graduate school, returning home to teach and eventually to lead the school district in Mandaree. Starting in 1998, he served two consecutive four-year terms as tribal chairman and rose to prominence as a national leader, too, twice elected president of the National Congress of American Indians.

He was “a very good advocate,” Mr. Kelly said. “I could never take that away from him.”

The boom arrived in Fort Berthold between Mr. Hall’s second and third terms. He started his company, Maheshu Energy, to broker leasing deals. Maheshu then morphed into a business offering services like well site construction, rig transport and trucking. Mr. Hall’s girlfriend, who has a retail clothing business called Sparkling Spur, became chief financial officer.

When Mr. Hall was re-elected tribal chairman in 2010, an ethics ordinance prohibited leaders from using their offices for private gain, but it did not explicitly bar them from owning oil-related companies. “It was entirely legal to have a business,” he said. “So I had a business.”

After the election, Maheshu began getting a greater share of contracts, said Damon Williams, the tribes’ supervising attorney. “It was good old boy stuff,” he said. “Obviously if you want to do business on a reservation, it’s best to deal with the chief.”

Mr. Kelly, in turn, found himself losing rig service contracts to the chairman. “My prices were better, we had the same mud engineers, so why do you think they used Tex instead of me?” he asked. “I wanted to make an issue of it, and I did.”

In spring 2011, Mr. Kelly addressed the seven-member tribal council. “I am here regretfully, on a matter that brings me against the chairman,” he said, explaining that he thought Mr. Hall was violating conflict-of-interest rules.
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Mr. Hall responded, “We’re not the ethics board here, Steve.”

Mr. Kelly asked him if he felt bound by the ethics code.

“There is none,” the chairman said.

Mr. Kelly waved a copy of the code.

“There is no ethics board,” the chairman said.

Indeed, the council had never created a board to enforce its code, and so members who sought to pursue complaints regularly confronted this Catch-22. Mr. Kelly urged the council to take up the issue itself.

“They wouldn’t,” he said, “and that’s one of the things that bothered me. Our council doesn’t hold one another accountable. And when you have that situation, basically you have a broken government.”
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An oil tanker truck and tanker train cars on the reservation. Wells there are pumping about 386,000 barrels of oil a day, a third of North Dakota’s output. Credit Jim Wilson/The New York Times
Forging a Link

By early 2011, James Henrikson had a string of marriages, failed businesses and arrests in several states behind him. In Oregon, he had been convicted on felony charges of theft, burglary, attempted assault and unlawful manufacture of marijuana. In Washington, he had filed for and been denied bankruptcy protection largely because he had tried to hide assets.

Newly released from jail, Mr. Henrikson set his sights on the booming Bakken, and specifically on the reservation. Still on probation, he registered Blackstone Building Group under the name of his girlfriend, Sarah Creveling, and persuaded investors to set them up with some trucks.

To gain priority access to oil contracts on Fort Berthold, Mr. Henrikson and Ms. Creveling, who are white, needed a native partner. Mr. Henrikson contacted Mr. Kelly, who agreed to a subcontracting deal.

Like others, Mr. Kelly was struck by the couple’s hustle, confidence and good looks. Rick Arey of Wyoming, who met them when they moved into his trailer park, described them as “Ken and Barbie, the prettiest people in North Dakota.”
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James Henrikson and Sarah Creveling, his wife and business partner. Mr. Henrikson came to the reservation with a string of marriages, failed businesses and arrests in several states behind him.

“He was ripped and she was the object of every man’s desire,” said Mr. Arey, who was also impressed by Mr. Henrikson’s high-end pickup truck with its “six-inch lift and 37-inch tires.”

In late 2011, Mr. Arey was recruited to work as a truck dispatcher for Mr. Henrickson and Ms. Creveling, who had married. Beyond the $1,500-a-week salary promised, he saw it as a chance to get in on something big.

“I was like, ‘You want to win, you got to hang out with winners,’?” he said. “No offense to any native contractors out there, because they do a good job, too, but when you take a hungry white boy, and you throw him on a reservation,” he is going to “go the extra mile.”

Before long, Mr. Kelly discovered that Mr. Henrikson and Ms. Creveling had found a Navajo woman to front for them so that Blackstone appeared to be Indian-owned. They were going behind his back, bidding for the same jobs. So he cut ties with them, and notes in retrospect that Mr. Henrikson was always asking: “Who’s the chief? Who’s the main guy? Who’s running the show here?”

Mr. Hall said he believed that Mr. Henrikson staged their first meeting by claiming he had run out of gas at a highway juncture abutting the chairman’s property. Mr. Hall said he gave him a couple of cans of gasoline and that when Mr. Henrikson returned the cans, he started insinuating himself into the chairman’s life.
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“I guess I should have checked up on him with Steve Kelly, but I was sick,’’ he said.

In January 2012, Mr. Hall signed a contracting agreement with Mr. Henrikson, and Blackstone moved into his garage. Mr. Henrikson was quick to tout the connection.

“James was unstoppable,” Mr. Arey said. “He would throw Tex’s name around: ‘I’m working with Tex Hall and Maheshu.’ Other people were, ‘Oh, wow, how did you do that?’ It was like partnering up with the president.”

After several months, Mr. Arey and his colleague Kristopher Clarke, unhappy at Blackstone, quietly hatched a plan to join another company, taking some truckers with them. Mr. Clarke had known Mr. Henrikson through motorcycle racing in Washington and had followed him to North Dakota.

On Feb. 22, 2012, Mr. Clarke told Mr. Arey he was driving to drop off his company credit card at Blackstone.

And then Mr. Clarke, who was 29, vanished.

It was not unusual for young men to come and go from the oil fields or to keep in sporadic contact with their families. But Mr. Clarke’s relatives grew increasingly alarmed that they could not reach him, and his mother started a Facebook page devoted to her missing son and casting suspicion on Mr. Henrikson and Ms. Creveling. (They would later sue her for defamation, saying she had harmed their company, which nonetheless netted $2 million in profits in 2012, they estimated in depositions.)
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Kristopher Clarke worked for Mr. Henrikson but planned to leave the company. He vanished, and his body was never found. Mr. Henrikson has been charged with murder for hire in his death.

In June 2012, Mr. Clarke’s abandoned truck was found on a street in Williston, the hub of the oil patch. Neighbors said it had been parked there for months.

Lissa Yellowbird-Chase, a tribal member who used to work in the reservation’s criminal justice system, reached out to Mr. Clarke’s mother. She thought that the “non-Indian mom of a non-Indian male” could use some help, she said, and undertook an investigation of her own.

“We started approaching Tex and other tribal leaders saying there’s a boy missing here, and he was last seen on Tex’s property,” Ms. Yellowbird-Chase said. “Doors were shut. Phones were hung up on us. People were saying maybe we shouldn’t be involved. I was like, ‘Whoa.’ We’re a very spiritual people. Part of our culture is we look out for all the Creator’s people.”

She enlisted “warriors,” she said, to help plaster the reservation with thousands of “Missing” and “Find K.C.” fliers.

Mr. Hall said he repeatedly questioned Mr. Henrikson about expenses he considered improper but that it took him until late 2012 to “kick him out,” saying “I don’t want nobody stealing from me around this place.” The 15-month business relationship with Blackstone did not end until March 2013, however.

By that point, Blackstone’s reputation with its drivers, its clients and its investors was souring. (Ms. Creveling would later tell investigators that she and her husband had siphoned money to ancillary businesses and generated false profit-loss statements for Blackstone.)

In a cordial email, Mr. Hall informed Ms. Creveling that “all expenses, reimbursements and split of proceeds” would occur by the end of the month.
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“It has been good working with you,” he wrote.
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Mr. Hall at an event in 2013 with his girlfriend, Tiffiany Johnson, right, and her daughter, Peyton Rose Martin. Ms. Johnson served as chief financial officer of Mr. Hall’s company, Maheshu Energy. Credit Vincent Schilling
Ethical Issues

In the summer of 2013, The Williston Herald announced that on July 20 a volunteers’ search party would comb Williston and Mandaree, where Mr. Clarke had last been seen on Mr. Hall’s property.

The day before the search, Mr. Hall texted Mr. Baker, the environmental director, and directed him to remove “a few frack socks” from his yard. Mr. Baker said he thought that Mr. Hall did not want the searchers, who did not find Mr. Clarke, to stumble on a dumpsite.

The frack, or oil filter, socks often contain radioactivity that exceeds the legal limit for disposal in North Dakota. They sometimes are illegally discarded because of the expense of trucking them out of state. And, indeed, Mr. Baker and his crew found some 200 socks strewn through Mr. Hall’s field.

The socks were “kind of sun-baked,” like they had been there for a while, Mr. Baker said, which greatly concerned him because “frack socks are a highly sensitive environmental hazard.”

Mr. Hall said he had done nothing wrong in calling the tribes’ environmental director. But Mr. Baker believed that the chairman had crossed an ethical line summoning public employees to take care of an environmental violation on his private property. Mr. Baker described it as: “Call your regulator, and think he’ll do a favor for you and be quiet about it.”

And indeed Mr. Baker, while he filled out an incident report for his own files, kept his mouth shut, fearful of retribution. “There have been other instances where individuals have spoken up and they have been kicked out of their homes,” he said. “They have been denied continued employment. Basically their legs are taken out from underneath them.”

Even though he did not make this episode public, Mr. Baker saw it not only as an abuse of power but also as a confirmation of what he considered the chairman’s cavalier approach to oil-related environmental problems.

Mr. Hall portrays himself as a staunch defender of the reservation’s “land, air and waters.” Though he advocated autonomy from the Environmental Protection Agency’s “regulatory scheme,” he wrote an environmental code for the tribes, he said, so that they could protect the environment “our way,” without depending on “the Great White Father in Washington, D.C.”
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Edmund Baker, the reservation’s environmental director. After he halted construction of a waste landfill and convened a community hearing, tribal leaders effectively excommunicated him, he said. Credit Jim Wilson/The New York Times

Spills are routine on the reservation, though, and generally go unpunished. By The New York Times’s calculation, there were 850 oil-related environmental incidents on Fort Berthold reported by companies from 2007 through mid-October 2014.

When Mr. Baker started his job in early 2013, straight out of law school in Montana, he quickly got the message that, “Environmental is kind of like the redheaded stepchild,” he said.

The community of White Shield was in an uproar over an oil waste landfill under preliminary construction. Examining the file, he found no permit application had ever been filed. He halted construction, and convened what turned into a packed community hearing featured in the Bismarck newspaper.
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Tribal leaders communicated their displeasure and then effectively excommunicated him.

“I’m guessing they view me as E.P.A., the guy who’s going to stop their money bags,” he said.
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Douglas Carlile on his farm. According to police records, he had been involved in a $2 million oil development deal with Mr. Henrikson, but planned to buy him out. Instead, he ended up dead, murdered in his kitchen. Credit Elberta Carlile
Deadly Dealings

On Dec. 15, 2013, after returning from church with his wife of 42 years, Douglas Carlile was accosted in his Spokane kitchen by a masked man dressed in black. Elberta Carlile fled upstairs, heard gunshots ring out and hid in a closet to call 911. Her husband died almost immediately, the day after he had painstakingly tied gold stars on their Christmas tree.

Fleeing the scene, the gunman dropped a leather glove and left a footprint in the mud. His getaway van, tracked down by the police, contained a black balaclava and a to-do list including “practice with pistol” and “wheel man.”

A month later, the police arrested Timothy Suckow, 51, whose phone contacts included a listing for “James ND” with Mr. Henrikson’s number. In the arrest report, the police said the murder victim had been involved in a $2 million oil development deal with Mr. Henrikson, that he had lined up an investor to buy out Mr. Henrikson and that Mr. Henrikson — “not happy” with this — had issued threats.

On Fort Berthold, Calvin Grinnell, curator of the Three Tribes Museum, was horrified to learn of the murder. It was his elderly mother’s land, in part, that the two men had fought over. He had last spoken with Mr. Carlile on Dec. 6, 2013. During that call, Mr. Carlile referred to a financing problem he hoped would be resolved by Dec. 15, allowing drilling to begin.

“Then on Dec. 15, he was shot,” Mr. Grinnell said. “Six hundred and forty acres — that’s what he got killed for.”
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Calvin Grinnell, curator of the Three Tribes Museum, on his elderly mother’s land that was the subject of a dispute between Mr. Henrikson and Mr. Carlile. Credit Jim Wilson/The New York Times

On the same day Mr. Suckow was arrested, federal authorities, who had been investigating Blackstone for financial fraud, searched the house in Watford City, N.D., where Mr. Henrikson and Ms. Creveling lived. She had recently bought the place for $450,000; she had also purchased a Bentley Continental.

In addition to financial records, the authorities were looking for and found firearms — seven, as well as 1,188 rounds of ammunition and “his and hers ear protection.”

On Jan. 18, Mr. Henrikson, charged as a felon prohibited from possessing firearms, was taken into federal custody.

Reading the charging documents for the two arrests, Mr. Williams, the tribal attorney, began researching Blackstone’s ties to Fort Berthold.

“I’ll be deadly honest,” Mr. Williams said. “If that gentleman hadn’t gotten murdered in his kitchen in Washington, we might never have discovered what was going on here.”

In a statement at the time, Mr. Hall maintained that he was cooperating with the authorities “to expose Henrikson’s dealings and the extreme danger he posed to tribal members.”

But the tide began to turn against him. At the end of January, the tribal council approved an emergency amendment to its ethics ordinance explicitly forbidding its members to do business with oil companies on the reservation.
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A resolution to suspend Mr. Hall failed. But the council did hire Stephen L. Hill Jr., a former United States attorney in Missouri with experience in public corruption cases, to investigate him.

A few months later, in the interview at the expo, Mr. Hall reluctantly answered a question about his relationship to Mr. Henrikson by first saying, “No relationship.” When a reporter suggested that photographs of them together in Waikiki suggested a close relationship, Mr. Hall said: “In 2012. He had a subcontract in 2012. We’re talking, what, two years ago?”
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Mr. Henrikson after his arrest early this year on weapons charges. He has since been indicted on two counts of murder for hire, four counts each of conspiracy and of solicitation to commit murder for hire, and one count of conspiracy to distribute heroin. Credit Burleigh County Detention Center

In terms of his business dealings, Mr. Hall said that he had done everything by the book. He said he had transferred ownership of Maheshu to his girlfriend after the ethics rules tightened in January. Before that, he said, Maheshu competed for business like any other tribal-member-owned company. A conflict of interest would have occurred only if he had used his position to get a tribal contract, which he never did, he said.

Mr. Hill’s investigation, however, found that the chairman had participated in a virtual joint venture with Blackstone, with proceeds shared and Ms. Creveling serving as manager of his company, too, for a while. And Mr. Hall’s government did hire Blackstone, albeit without issuing a contract.

The deal involved watering the dust kicked up by oil traffic. Mr. Henrikson had offered to do it at a discounted rate when a tribal official stopped by Mr. Hall’s garage to see if he could buy a truck for the job. The transaction had nothing to do with him, Mr. Hall said, so he was under no obligation to disclose his relationship with Blackstone when he voted for and urged his fellow council members to approve what came to $570,000 in payment.

That was supposedly for five months of road watering, but Mr. Hill’s investigation found that three months of work was never authorized by any tribal official or confirmed.

Asked if he had shared in the proceeds, Mr. Hall said: “Absolutely not. Don’t you think I’d be in jail or indicted if I had?’’

Mr. Hill’s investigation also found what is portrayed as an effort by Mr. Hall to extort $1.5 million from a Virginia-based group of investors who sought to drill for oil on tens of thousands of acres of reservation land. As part of that, Mr. Hall also misled the Bureau of Indian Affairs, the investigators found. But protracted negotiations with the investors broke down, and Mr. Hall never got paid.

Mr. Williams, the tribal attorney, said, “Tex’s defense was, ‘Because I didn’t get money, it was not a crime.’?”

In mid-August, Mr. Hill presented his findings to the tribal council in a closed session, and the chairman denounced them as a “smear campaign” by his opponents, particularly Mr. Williams.

Mr. Hall, by that point, had filed the paperwork to run for an unprecedented fourth term as tribal chairman. So, too, had Mr. Williams, two of Mr. Hall’s relatives and six others.

The day before the September primary, tribal members massed outside tribal headquarters to demand the release of the investigation report. They cheered when the doors were opened and marched past a phalanx of security into the council chambers. Judy Brugh, a council member, held up the report and told them, to much applause, “It is your right to receive this.”
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“You guys, when this all started, nobody really knew it was going to get this big,” she said. “Ever since we read this, we’ve had to carry it around on our shoulders because we knew what we had to do with it” — turn it over to the F.B.I.

Jared Baker, a tribal member, urged her and other council members to do more than that: “Be honest, guys, the feds ain’t going to do” anything unless “you guys push it, push it, push it. So we ask that you do that, so we have some kind of transparency in our government.”

Asked whether he had opened an investigation into Mr. Hall, the United States attorney in North Dakota said he could not confirm or deny the existence of any investigation. Mr. Hall said there was none, to his knowledge.

On Primary Day, he was resoundingly defeated as tribal chairman.

Also on Primary Day, coincidentally, Mr. Henrikson, with five co-defendants, was charged with the murders of Mr. Carlile and, though his body was never found, Mr. Clarke. He was federally indicted on two counts of murder for hire, four counts each of conspiracy and of solicitation to commit murder for hire, and one count of conspiracy to distribute heroin.

Three other potential victims, including the original investor in Blackstone, were targeted but not killed, the indictment said.

Mr. Henrikson pleaded not guilty. His trial is scheduled for July 2015. The murder charges carry a maximum penalty of life imprisonment or death.

In Washington, Mrs. Carlile, still mourning the loss of the “honorable man” with whom she had six children and 20 grandchildren, said they had been destined to become “one of those old couples that still held hands.”

But she was thankful for one thing, she said:

“His killing did open up the whole can of worms in that area and begin to expose the corruption.”
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Mark N. Fox as he was sworn in as tribal chairman last month. Mr. Fox ran on a platform emphasizing good governance and greater oversight of the oil industry. Credit Brent McDonald/The New York Times

Underscoring the change afoot, the candidates for tribal chairman in the general election — Mr. Williams and Mark N. Fox, the tribal tax director — ran on platforms emphasizing good governance and greater oversight of the oil industry.

Mr. Fox, 52, a lawyer and Marine veteran, won. At his recent inauguration, Mr. Fox, whose Indian name is Sage Man, announced that tribal members would receive a $1,000 check from the People’s Fund for Christmas. In an interview afterward, he said that he would seek to create a three-branch system of government, to install an ethics board and to “resolve the conflicts amongst our own people.”

“Until now, the boom has brought more negative than positive,” he said. “But if we change our mentality, we can turn things around. We can remind the oil companies our land is sacred and they need to respect it. We can deal with revenue responsibly and keep it out of our councilmen’s back pockets. We can put the people first.”
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The site for a planned oil refinery on the Fort Berthold Reservation. Its future is being newly debated with the change in tribal government. Credit Jim Wilson/The New York Times

Robert Gebeloff contributed reporting from New York.

A version of this article appears in print on December 29, 2014, on page A1 of the New York edition with the headline: Where Oil, Corruption and Bodies Surface

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