On Wednesday's BradCast on KPFK/Pacifica Radio, I interviewed Brendan Cummings, senior counsel at the Center for Biological Diversity. He's fresh off his win in federal court where a U.S. Magistrate Judge found earlier this week that the Obama Administration violated federal law by not taking the effects of fracking into account in its environmental assessment before leasing areas of the Monterey Shale Formation in California to oil companies.
We discussed the case and its first-of-its-kind ruling, the impact it may (hopefully) have on similar fracking land leases elsewhere in the state and nation, and what the hell supposedly "liberal" Democrats like Barack Obama and CA Gov. Jerry Brown must be thinking.
I also covered this week's election fraud felony guilty pleas by a staffer for Newt Gingrich's 2012 Presidential campaign, the pending felony charges against a co-defendant and additional arrests that prosecutors say may be coming soon. All a part of Gingrich's failed attempt to qualify for the 2012 GOP Presidential primary in Virginia, and his unbelievable hypocrisy in downplaying fraud in his own campaign that was far worse than anything ACORN ever did (or, actually, didn't do.)
Finally, we had an extended Green News Report segment with Desi Doyen, to discuss, among other things, Rep. Joe Barton's amazing comments today, and the new attempt by Fox "News" to raise George Orwell from the grave by describing environmentalists as "climate deniers"...
This seems to me to be a potentially larger issue --- with broader national implications --- than it's currently being regarded as in the bulk of the corporate media.
I'm prepping to interview Brendan Cummings, the lead litigator in this case, later today on my KPFK/Pacifica Radio show. [That interview is now here...] Cummings argued the case on behalf of the Center for Biological Diversity which sued the Obama Administration along with the Sierra Club.
MONTEREY --- Nearly 20,000 acres of prime Central Coast farm and ranch land may be protected at least temporarily from oil and gas "fracking" due to a federal judge's "watershed" ruling.
Environmentalists and local representatives cheered the decision by U.S. Magistrate Judge Paul Grewal, who said federal land managers violated a key environmental law when they auctioned off the rights to drill for oil and gas on public lands in Monterey County, home to one of the largest deposits of shale oil in the nation.
Grewal faulted the Bureau of Land Management for not reviewing the potential impacts caused by fracking before accepting bids for the drilling rights, in accordance with the National Environmental Policy Act.
The judge did not say whether the leases themselves would be invalidated, but said he would decide their fate after the parties meet and send him a proposal next week.
"This important decision recognizes that fracking poses new, unique risks to California's air, water, and wildlife that government agencies can't ignore," said Brendan Cummings, senior counsel at the Center for Biological Diversity, who argued the case for the plaintiffs. "This is a watershed moment --- the first court opinion to find a federal lease sale invalid for failing to address the monumental dangers of fracking."
Environmentalists worry the technique can contaminate groundwater and pollute the air, as well as trigger seismic activity in the state's most earthquake prone area.
The affected leases sold in September 2011 include scenic stretches of southern Monterey County, where cattle ranchers and wine grape growers rely on tight water supplies to irrigate their pasturelands and vineyards. The area is also part of the historic range of the endangered California condor, whose global population was recently estimated at less than 400 birds.
The lawsuit alleged the bureau relied on inadequate 2006 studies to assess the environmental risks associated with increased oil and gas development. BLM maintained the leases would not necessarily involve fracking and new reviews were not necessary until requests were filed to drill on the leased property.
And here is the actual 30-page ruling [PDF] of U.S. Magistrate Judge Paul Grewal issued earlier this week.
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UPDATE 4/11/13: My interview with Brendan Cummings, senior attorney from Center for Biological Diversity who won this landmark case, is now posted here...
IN TODAY'S RADIO REPORT: Ernie Moniz, Obama's nominee for Energy Secretary, heads to easy confirmation in Senate; Former NRC chair says US nukes should be replaced; Fukushima is drowning in a sea of radioactive water; Exxon gets a medal for safety?!? PLUS: Conservative icon Margaret Thatcher believed in SCIENCE, and ACTION on climate change... All that and more in today's Green News Report!
IN 'GREEN NEWS EXTRA' (see links below): Frackers Losing $1.5b Yearly to Leaks; Australia's Coal Industry Headed For Failure; Judge denies BP's attempt to reduce oil spill payouts; Worst wildlife disease in N. America just got worse; Toxic chemicals in Great Lakes plastic pollution; Cost of air pollution scourge underestimated; Billionaire Koch Brother's bizarre self-delusion on climate science; When You Account For The Oceans, Global Warming Continues Apace... PLUS: How Far Can Climate Change Go? ... and much, MUCH more! ...
It's a beautiful and maddening film, featuring many voices --- such as Julian Assange, John Nichols, Dan Rather, Amy Goodman, Robert Parry, Robert McChesney, Dan Ellsberg, Sibel Edmonds and many more, including even yours truly --- who will be familiar to readers of The BRAD BLOG. While aspects of a number of the stories told in the film may be familiar, there were elements that even I hadn't heard about it, in just about every one of them.
I had planned to ask Tremblay about his struggles finding commercial theatrical distribution for the film in the U.S. I'd presumed that, at least, would be next to impossible, given the subject matter of the film (the corporate takeover/merger of the near-entirety of our mainstream media in collusion with the highest levels of the U.S. government.) What I hadn't counted on --- what caught me completely off-guard --- was that Tremblay said that, while the film has been featured at prestigious film festivals around the world, the bulk of the major festivals in the U.S. had turned the film down. Yes, those supposedly "independent" film festivals are, apparently, not quite as independent as they used to be, it seems.
Our conversation, today, was the first, as I understand it, that Tremblay has been able to have in the U.S. media about this important film which has been several years in the making. (I was interviewed for the film about three years ago as I recall.)
The good news: We were able to talk about all of that today, unencumbered by any corporate filter and over our public airwaves on Pacifica Radio in L.A. (and over 110,000 blazing FM watts across much of Southern and Central California!)
The even better news: You can watch the film, in its entirety, streaming on the Internet as of tomorrow, Thursday, April 4 at Shadows.KCETlink.org. (You can watch a number of clips from the film there already.)
And, the even better news still: Shadows of Liberty will air on actual television, beginning Friday, April 5th at 8pm ET and PT on independent KCET in Los Angeles and nationwide on Link TV (DISH Channel 9410, DIRECTTV Channel 375).
Until then, you can listen to my conversation with Tremblay from today's BradCast, which includes a number of clips from the film --- along with a few more items of note in the news week (such as concerns about the 100% unverifiable voting systems set for use in the race of Stephen Colbert's sister, Elizabeth Colbert Busch, in her run for the U.S. House in S. Carolina against former Gov. Mark Sanford; the Virginia GOP voter registration worker who was caught tossing registration forms into a dumpster just before the Presidential Election last year, but who seems to now be getting off the hook, and, of course, a visit from our own Desi Doyen, as usual, with the latest Green News Report) --- all right now here.
P.S. Please be the media and spread the word. Thanks. P.P.S. If I haven't "sold" you enough on the film here and in the radio show above, see the official trailer embedded below. Those of you who know my voice will recognize it a few times...
IN TODAY'S RADIO REPORT: Will major tar sands pipeline spill in AR doom Keystone XL?; How about the spills in WI, MN, UT?; NASA's Dr. James Hansen steps down to step up activism; SCOTUS smacks down Big Oil lawsuit; PLUS: Score one for breathers: EPA's new rules cut deadly air pollution - but Republicans are against it ... All that and more in today's Green News Report!
IN 'GREEN NEWS EXTRA' (see links below): How U.S. could blow the energy boom; Air pollution kills 1.2m Chinese, 3.2m worldwide; China's losing battle against state-backed polluters; Japan: Nuclear plant operator cites 'poor preparation'; Lake Erie doomed to future of massive toxic algae blooms?; US drought season off to a bad start; Dominion Energy: $14m fine for air pollution violations; Invention of the day: A bladeless wind turbine; Booming oil supplies haven't lowered price at the pump; Sugar industry adopts tobacco industry tactics; What is the 'Monsanto Protection Bill'? ... PLUS: Germany's solar-power success: Too much of a good thing? ... and much, MUCH more! ...
For all the work the Obama Administration has done on environmental issues --- like requiring much better fuel standards for cars and trucks, or clamping down on emissions --- the fact of the matter is, none of that will matter if President Obama and other politicians don't stop the Keystone XL pipeline route through Nebraska and all the way down to the Gulf of Mexico.
On paper, Donald B. Verrilli, Jr., who was appointed by President Barack Obama to replace now Supreme Court Justice Elana Kagan as the U.S. Solicitor General, appears to be an experienced litigator with a distinguished background.
It is a background that includes having served as a law clerk for former U.S. Supreme Court Justice William Brennan, Jr. and having participated in over 100 cases before the U.S. Supreme Court. However, Verrilli's participation in Supreme Court oral arguments --- earlier with respect to the Affordable Care Act (ACA, or "ObamaCare") and, recently, in the challenge to Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act, as well as U.S. v. Windsor, with respect to the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) and in Hollingsworth v. Perry pertaining to California's Proposition 8 --- raises some disturbing questions.
Either Verrilli lacks the professional competence to assume primary responsibility for supervising and conducting litigation on behalf of the U.S. Government before the Supreme Court, or Verrilli, and the Obama administration, are so politically fearful of staking out principled positions that they have opted for a muddled middle ground. Perhaps it's a little of both.
Regardless, if the Windsor and Hollingsworth cases should establish a constitutional right of same-sex couples to marry, as urged by attorneys Ted Olson (R) and David Boies (D) in their Prop 8 Supreme Court brief [PDF], it will be despite the half-baked arguments presented by the Solicitor General, not because of them...
A week or two ago, after seeing Attorney General Eric Holder, in Senate testimony, pretend that he was "concerned" about a lack of prosecution of big banks due to their being too large, I described his claims, in a bit of a rant here as "complete bullshit".
IN TODAY'S RADIO REPORT: On the one hand, Obama moves the environmental ball forward --- on the other hand... not so much; Oil leak in CO; Fish populations rebound (thanks, Big Government!); BP trial update; Abu Dhabi opens world's largest solar plant; Power failure at stricken Fukushima nuke plant; PLUS: Wind turbine sickness caused by anti-wind propaganda ... All that and more in today's Green News Report!
IN 'GREEN NEWS EXTRA' (see links below): High-resolution charts show carbon impacts skyrocketing; Democratic senators intro legislation to end oil industry tax breaks; March's extreme weather swings; Emergency cleanup at abandoned gold mine; Canada scientists muzzled by Harper Administration; Debunking the Daily Mail -again; Days of promise fade for ethanol ... PLUS: "De-extinction": Why we shouldn't bring back extinct species from the dead ... and much, MUCH more! ...
This exchange --- by Congressional committee proxy --- got a bit more buried than it deserved to be amidst a week of important (Rand Paul's drone filibuster) and not so important (Presidential/Congressional dinner dates!) news items last week.
You may have already seen both of these clips. But just in case you haven't, the remarks made during two different Congressional hearings last week illustrate the very heart of the most broken part of our broken government, so I wanted to be sure to at least flag these two short videos here.
The first was Attorney General Eric Holder's remarkable admission last week, when asked about why one the world's largest banks, such as HSBC --- which admitted to some $881 million dollars in drug cartel money laundering and working with regimes in a number of countries around the world in blatant violation of human rights sanctions against them --- have not been brought to trial by the Obama Dept. of Justice...
"The concern that you have raised is one that I, frankly, share," Holder responded to Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-NE). "I am concerned that the size of some of these institutions becomes so large that it does become difficult for us to prosecute them when we are hit with indications that if you do prosecute, if you do bring a criminal charge, it will have a negative impact on the national economy, perhaps even the world economy. And I think that is a function of the fact that some of these institutions have become too large."
"It has an inhibiting influence --- impact --- on our ability to bring resolutions that I think would be more appropriate," he continued. "So, the concern that you raise is actually one that I share."
With all due respect to AG Holder --- and he is due very, very little --- what he just said is, to the best of my knowledge, complete bullshit. While I'm not an expert in financial law, I am familiar with no clause in any of those laws which offers a "get out of jail free card" to institutions who have become so large that prosecuting them would have "a negative impact on the national economy, perhaps even the world economy."
I know of no provisions in the criminal code which says that if your corporation has become large enough that facing criminal prosecution might make the world markets jittery, you don't have to face prosecution for those crimes. In fact, we still have anti-trust laws on the books to deal with exactly those situations --- cases in which corporations have become so powerful, have such a monopolistic effect on the market, that they may be broken up by the Dept. of Justice, or even taken over and then sold off piece meal to bring the company back into manageable size again.
The next day, in another U.S. Senate hearing, Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), expressed a similar sentiment, in a must-see video clip, absolutely slamming U.S. Treasury regulators for their lack of willingness to take action against some of the most criminal corporations, such as HSBC.
"What does it take to get you to consider shutting down a bank for money laundering?!," she asked the regulators who couldn't respond as to the last time a bank had been prosecuted for this sort of thing. "How many billions of dollars before somebody says we're shutting you down?"...
As the Dow hit its all-time record high yesterday (continuing same today) and while corporate profits continue to hit record highs along with it --- underscoring, yet again, that Barack Obama is the worst socialist ever --- there are a couple more charts worth reminding you about today, courtesy of Rachel Maddow's show last night...
And while corporate profits sky-rocket, unemployment slowly (really slowly) improves, and Republicans hold the nation hostage with the "Sequester" by refusing to close any tax loopholes for the rich which might serve to increase revenues by even the tiniest amount, there is this chart to ponder...
So, remember, when you hear Republicans claim they are concerned about "the deficit", they are not. They are flat out lying. They are concerned only about maintaining low taxes and sky-high profits for corporations and the rich people who need those tax-payer funded giveaways the least.
IN TODAY'S RADIO REPORT: Another hurdle cleared for the Keystone XL pipeline; Obama names new environmental cabinet nominees; New York Times kills its Green blog; PLUS: Score one for endangered polar bears ... All that and more in today's Green News Report!
IN 'GREEN NEWS EXTRA' (see links below): Pesticides are killing our sperm; "I am one of the Fukushima fifty"; L.A. aims to be coal-free by 2025; US scientists report big jump in heat-trapping CO2; Tar sands developers turn to railroads; Atmospheric warming altering ocean salinity, circulation; Drought, snow hit KS wildlife hard; Forest elephants near extinction due to ivory poachers; Offshore windpower vulnerable to wave power; Rising food prices triggered Arab Spring ... PLUS: 'Angry Summer': Australia's climate on steroids in record-breaking summer ... and much, MUCH more! ...
The good folks at Right About Now have decided to immortalize a quote from this September, 2009 op-ed of mine detailing my call for pilot projects around the country to develop much-needed data and benchmarks for what we describe around here as "Democracy's Gold Standard": Hand-marked paper ballots, publicly counted by hand at the precinct on Election Night, with the public, all political parties and even video cameras rolling, and results posted at the precinct before ballots are moved anywhere...
You can click on the cool graphic to enlarge it if you have any trouble reading it. And, about that quote, I totally agree!
Unfortunately, the supposedly "non-partisan" commission being convened [PDF] at the behest of the President --- and being co-chaired by an incredibly partisan former "Swift Boat" GOP operative --- in order to "fix" some of the problems which reared their ugly heads again during the 2012 election, such as long lines, difficulty in registration or casting overseas absentees ballots, is not currently set to review the extraordinary problems (here's just one recent example) that our nation has with vote tabulation in this country, much less explore the need for fully public, fully transparent, fully citizen-overseeable election result tabulation in a nation that supposedly prides itself on government of the people, by the people and for the people.
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IN TODAY'S RADIO REPORT: All hands on deck (if not the corporate media!) for the largest climate rally in U.S. history... but is President Obama all talk and no action?; Secret memo reveals tar sands are poisoning Alberta, Canada; PLUS: Mayor Bloomberg's big plans to greenify NYC ... All that and more in today's Green News Report!
IN 'GREEN NEWS EXTRA' (see links below): Secret funding helped build vast network of climate denial thinktanks; BP challenges ‘excessive’ spill claims; GAO: Climate change poses big financial risk to US government; NASA: ‘Alarming’ water loss in Middle East; Study: Global warming will bring more blizzards, less overall snow; Air pollution causes heart attacks; Canadian enviro-activists 'threat to national security'; Tesla v. NYT, round 3; OH accused of dumping fracking wastewater; Did PA lie about fracking water contamination? ... PLUS: GMOs: Nearly half of all US farms now have superweeds ... and much, MUCH more! ...