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"...
Yes, Rep. Joe Barton (R-TX) actually said this...during a hearing in the House Subcommittee on Energy and Power today...
Here's what he actually said --- out loud --- via RAW STORY [emphasis added]...
“I don’t deny that the climate is changing,” he said. “I think you can have an honest difference of opinion on what’s causing that change without automatically being either all-in that it’s all because of mankind or it’s all just natural. I think there’s a divergence of evidence.”
“I would point out if you’re a believer in the Bible, one would have to say the Great Flood is an example of climate change. And that certainly wasn’t because mankind overdeveloped hydrocarbon energy.”
You may remember Barton from 2010, after the BP oil spill in the Gulf, as the man who actually apologized to BP's then CEO during a U.S. House hearing, for what he described as a White House "shakedown", after the company agreed to pay some $20 billion to help clean up the unprecedented disaster and help restore the livelihoods of many who lost everything thanks to the spill.
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 just the cost of doing business for the world's most profitable corporation. And that "cost" is barely a blip (that may be an overstatement) on their daily profit sheet.
As Rachel Maddow noted on Friday in the short report below, ExxonMobil is the nation's largest and most profitable corporation. It is larger than Walmart, Google, McDonald's, American Express and Goldman Sachs...combined.
And yet, the penalties they pay for violating federal safety laws leading to oil spills is almost nothing at all. For example, when Exxon was caught failing to inspect a portion of the Pegasus Pipeline --- the one fill with sticky, gooey, tar sands crude that we don't know how to clean up...the pipeline that ruptured last week in a suburban neighborhood in Mayflower, AR --- they were fined a grand total of $26,000.
That's a $26,000 fine out of the $122 million dollars in profit that Exxon makes in per day.
"There is nothing that Exxon fears from the federal government," Maddow notes. "They have so captured the parts of the government that are supposed to punish them when this sort of thing happens, that the pain that that sort of punishment could cause them, redounds to them, essentially, not at all."
Yes, it pays for companies like Exxon to violate the law with impunity, so it will be left to the people of Arkansas, as Maddow explains, to make the company pay any kind of real price for their crime...if they can...
More photos of the Pegasus tar sands pipeline rupture in Mayflower, AR, taken by the EPA, are now posted here. Give 'em a look. If President Obama approves the Keystone XL pipeline, this is the type of spill that could be coming to a neighborhood near you very soon.
Other than what appears, at first blush, to be the front entrance to the official Ronald Reagan Presidential Library and Sewer System, the entire complex, shining at the top of a hill in Simi Valley, CA, is beautiful. Had we not arrived so late in the day, we would likely have paid the somewhat pricey $21 per head entrance fee to tour the actual museum, see the old Air Force One that is on display and, perhaps, even pay the extra $6 to check out the "Treasures of the Walt Disney Archives" exhibit which is also currently on display there, for some reason, until the end of the month.
As late as it was, however, we decided this time around to just enjoy the grounds, the memorial site, and the gift shop --- all free to access --- and make a mental note to try to go back for a full day at some point in the not too distant future.
But we were still able to take a few photos that you may enjoy, including this one just outside the entrance to the museum portion of the Reagan Presidential Library. I call it: "Trust But Photograph"...
Here are a few more of the photos we took yesterday, some odder and/or more ironic than others...
In January of 2012, just as the GOP Primary election cycle for President was getting under way, The BRAD BLOG reported exclusively that the office of the Virginia Attorney General had opened a criminal election fraud investigation into the failed effort by the campaign of Newt Gingrich to appear on the primary ballot in the Commonwealth.
31-year old Jennifer Derrebery reportedly worked for Gingrich's election contractor Stillwater LLC and, according to prosecutors, turned in campaign petitions with some 400 signatures in the failed attempt to collect the 10,000 needed for Gingrich's name to appear on the primary ballot last year. According to WVIR, nearly all of the signatures submitted by Derrebery were fake.
Prosecutors say she turned over stacks of signed and notarized forms to the Virginia Board of Elections containing roughly 400 signatures - nearly all of them fraudulent.
"We don't know what was going on, and we are pursuing charges for the people who did something wrong here in Augusta, on Mr. Gingrich's primary election," said Rupen Shah, assistant commonwealth's attorney.
Shah says there were similar problems in other parts of Virginia, where GOP candidates needed 10,000 valid petitioners to get on the ballot. Gingrich submitted more than that, but a quarter of the names could not be verified.
The report also notes that the "investigation is still active, and may result in additional arrests" and that Derrebery is cooperating with prosecutors and state police. WVIR says the "judge suspended all of her prison time". That is likely in exchange for her cooperation on the case. Her co-defendant, Adam Dustin Ward, faces a total of 42 criminal counts and will face a judge in June.
In late December of 2011, after Gingrich had failed to turn in enough valid signatures to qualify for the Virginia primary ballot, he was caught on video tape telling a supporter in Iowa that the reason for the failure was due to a campaign worker who created 1,500 fraudulent signatures.
"We turned in 11,100 --- we needed 10,000 --- 1,500 of them were by one guy who, frankly, committed fraud," Gingrich is seen and heard saying in video originally aired by CNN.
Clearly, the effort was by more than just "one guy," as Gingrich asserted at the time.
The former Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives downplayed the incident, by explaining to the woman that the entire affair was "just a mistake," after they had "hired somebody who turned in false signatures."
In late January, an official at the Virginia State Board of Elections (SBE) described to described to The BRAD BLOG what had happened as "definitely an illegal act." He told us that the matter had been referred by the SBE to the office of VA's Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli (R). The Director of Communications for the office, Brian J. Gottstein, then confirmed to us that an investigation was "underway," though he could not disclose the details at that time...
What happens if we start with known public corruption cases and work backwards to the intersection with elections?
What you will find is kickbacks and bid-rigging schemes; at least two of these, in New Orleans and in Pennsylvania, connect back to Ciber, the Independent Testing Authority (ITA) that supposedly tested and then signed off on most of the U.S. voting machines currently in use in all fifty states, on behalf of the federal government.
And when you look into money-laundering, the mechanism providing the juice for corruption, you'll find out about a strikingly odious situation: a New York City Democrat who bribed New York City Republicans to help him run for Mayor (as a Republican). The case has recently made news as at least 5 high-ranking elected and party officials were rounded up this week as part of a sweeping FBI sting in the Empire State.
"Trust" will never suffice when it comes to conducting elections. There can never be a place where counting votes in secret, or governmental snooping on how we voted, or hidden money behind campaigns, or hiding records on elections, can be accepted by the public, yet that is happening right now. In all fifty states.
Vendors who do business with the government do participate in bid-rigging and kickback schemes, and both politicians and government employees sometimes deprive the public of honest services, as we find in the New Orleans case involving Ciber, the company which signed off on almost every electronic voting system in use across the country today.
Political corruption spreads like cancer. It creates a neural system of one politician beholden to another. The public always needs to retain its right to know, to examine documents, and to see what's going on. Otherwise, who's gonna notice? Who's gonna tell?
Bev Harris is the founder of BlackBoxVoting.org, a non-partisan elections watchdog organization. Her work and investigations at BBV have been featured by dozens of national media outlets, and she is featured prominently in HBO's 2006 Emmy-nominated documentary Hacking Democracy. Follow her on Twitter: @BlackBoxVoting
IN TODAY'S RADIO REPORT: Disturbing updates on the Exxon tar sands oil pipeline spill in AR; Majority of Republicans believe global warming a 'hoax'; 'Tsunami of rain' in Argentina; China cheating on fish catches?; Golf in the Arctic? PLUS: 'Monsanto Protection Act' - Sneaky legislation exempts GMOs from the law... All that and more in today's Green News Report!
IN 'GREEN NEWS EXTRA' (see links below): Climate science denier calls for "alarmists" to face death penalty courts; Amazon tribe threatens to declare war amid row over Brazilian dam; NV Energy to decommission coal plants; Ogalalla Sioux: Resounding NO to Keystone XL Pipeline; Bill Gates, investors, back sodium battery startup; Canada may abandon expensive mine cleanup; Green pols get billionaire ally, money; climate researchers discover 1,800-year-old 'Rosetta stone' ice cores; PLUS: Obama on climate change: ‘The politics of this are tough’ ... 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...
Given the professed concerns about election fraud among Virginia Republicans, it seems somewhat astonishing that the man at the center of the Commonwealth's most notorious fraud scandal last year seems to be getting off the hook after initially being charged with 13 criminal counts including eight felony charges.
Colin Small, a Republican Party Voter Registration Supervisor who secretly tossed filled-out voter registration forms into a dumpster last year, had all of his felony charges dropped by the local Republican Commonwealth Attorney prosecuting the case yesterday.
Small was arrested and charged with 13 counts --- including destruction and disclosure of voter registrations, as well as obstruction of justice --- in Harrisonburg, VA in the run-up to the Presidential election last year, after he was seen by a local shopkeeper throwing away a bag of registration forms behind his store. Small's felony charges were all dropped on Tuesday, according to local Fox-affiliate WHSV.
The case had garnered a great deal of national attention last fall --- almost everywhere but on Fox "News" --- as it emerged at the pinnacle of an embarrassing nationwide GOP Voter Registration Fraud Scandal which plagued the Republican Party in the weeks just prior to the November general election.
The prosecutor on the Small case is Republican Marsha Garst. Unlike other Commonwealth Attorneys, observed a local Democratic-leaning political muckraker yesterday, Garst failed to recuse herself from the prosecution despite what would appear to be very clear conflicts of interests in the case.
The newly dropped charges appear in stark contrast to Garst's declarations last year, when told the Washington Post on the Friday before the Tuesday Presidential election that the matter was "a very important investigation to the state, and we intend to prosecute Mr. Small to the fullest extent"...
The eagle-eyed Jeff Poor, who describes himself as a "Christian, media reporter" for Tucker Carlson's pretend (and long-ago and repeatedlydiscredited) Rightwing "news" site, The Daily Caller, notices that our twitter feed is doing its part to help promote the Fox "News" Special Report with Bret Baier...
Of course, describing us as a "chronic Fox basher" isn't completely fair. After all, we're always more than happy to appear in person on Fox, and even on Special Report, for that matter. It's just that they don't call very frequently, for some reason.
Either way, thanks, Jeff! And you're welcome, Fox "News"! Hope it helps!
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.
[UPDATED at bottom of article following GOP primary run-off.]
When Stephen Colbert's older sister, Elizabeth Colbert Busch (D), faces her likely opponent, former Gov. Mark Sanford (R), in the May 7th U.S. House special election in South Carolina, it will all take place, once again, on the state's oft-failed, easily-hacked, always 100% unverifiable touch-screen voting systems. [NOTE: Unfortunately, despite today's date, this post is not an April Fools joke.]
The candidate announced as the "winner" of that election, based on those unverifiable voting systems, will either be the one who received the most votes from SC voters in the 1st Congressional District --- or the one who didn't. There will never be any way for anybody to know for sure one way or the other.
For that matter, after Sanford faces off with Curtis Bostic in Tuesday's Republican primary run-off election for the nomination, neither candidate will be able to know for certain whether they've actually won or lost that election either. This is South Carolina "democracy" in 2013 (and in at least one third of the country elsewhere.)
To make matters still worse, the state's Legislative Audit Council (LAC) has just released a new official report on those failed voting systems. Unfortunately, the report includes a enormous flaw which, when I pointed it out to Perry K. Simpson, Director of the LAC on Friday, his response was: "I see your point"...