Hundreds Arrested in D.C., Including Dr. James Hansen, Protesting Tar Sands Pipeline

Protesters are demanding that President Obama decline to issue a permit for the proposed Keystone XL Tar Sands pipeline from Canada to the Gulf of Mexico.

Last week Hillary Clinton’s State Department released a report supporting the pipeline, asserting that it will “present no significant environmental problems.” This report could give President Obama “cover” for permitting the project.

In the meantime, hoping to deny him that cover, hundreds of protesters have been arrested, including — yesterday — leading climate scientist Dr. James Hansen.

Mainstream news outlets are nearly quiet on this story. The following is from a report by Environmental News Service:

NASA climatologist Dr. James Hansen was arrested today in front of the White House where he was demonstrating in opposition to the proposed Keystone XL tar sands pipeline that would bring thick crude oil from Alberta to refineries in Oklahoma and Texas. Dr. Hansen heads the NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies in New York City and is a climate research scientist at the Earth Institute, Columbia University.

Arrests are continuing at the White House, where about 140 people gathered on the sidewalk as part of a two-week long sit-in to protest TransCanada’s proposed 1,700 mile pipeline.

The protest has led to the arrest of 521 people since August 20, when protestors began the Tar Sands Action sit-in at the White House. The protest will continue until September 3.

Because the proposed pipeline would cross the United States-Canada border, a Presidential Permit issued by the U.S. State Department is required for the project to proceed. The protestors are demanding that President Barack Obama decline to issue a permit for the pipeline because of the environmental damage it would cause.

“If the pipeline is to be built, you as president have to declare that it is ‘in the national interest,” wrote Dr. Hansen in an August 3 letter to President Obama along with 19 other scientists. “As scientists, speaking for ourselves and not for any of our institutions, we can say categorically that it’s not only not in the national interest, it’s also not in the planet’s best interest.”

Here Bill McKibben, who has already been arrested in this action, debates this issue with Robert Bryce of the Manhattan Institute, on the PBS program, Newshour (Flash video):

Watch the full episode. See more PBS NewsHour.

Local Newspaper ‘The Union’ Supports the Sustainability Movement (and Opposes the Mine?)

I’m encouraged to see that the publisher of The Union, in his editorial today (“Can we have our milk and drink it, too?“), supports the sustainability movement

“Who doesn’t support the sustainability movement?” you might ask.

Well, in Jeff Ackerman’s account, mostly the federal government:

Last week I went to see a documentary called “Farmageddon,” which convinced me that our government has declared war on this sustainability movement. The last thing Uncle Sam wants today is a society able to think and act for itself. He’d rather have us clamped firmly on his teat and as far away from a goat or cow’s udder as he can keep us.

If we start drinking milk straight from a goat or cow — like our ancestors did before us — what would happen to the food industry, or the federal Food and Drug Agency that controls it?

… Most of the small farmers grow food and milk cows and goats to feed their families, friends and neighbors. This country was once a nation of farmers, and that’s the way we operated. The upside to this down economy is this sustainability movement, which is encouraging us to return to the days when we fed ourselves, our families and our neighbors with food and milk we grew and raised with our own two hands.

It’s nice to see an editorial in The Union in support of sustainability.

I’m curious to know, though, whether this now means that Jeff Ackerman has joined the growing number of Nevada County residents who oppose the ginormous local non-sustainable project being considered by the City of Grass Valley, the re-opening of the Idaho-Maryland Mine for speculative exploration, a project that he has previously supported? Hardrock mining for gold, a non-renewable resource, is the epitome of non-sustainability.

But back to Farmageddon. I need to understand this better: Is the government at war with organic farming, at war with sustainability, or just at war with raw milk?

Maybe I’ll start by watching Farmageddon, which I’ve not yet seen.

A Vision for Hospitality House

Reprinted from The Union, with permission of the author.

By Marc Matthias

I have a vision … of a county where we are truly one community united in a common goal.

While there is much that divides us, we do have one theme in common and that is our desire to care for fellow citizens who have no home and precious few other resources to sustain them.

We may disagree strongly regarding debt ceilings, government mandated light bulbs and balanced budgets, but we can agree that a significant and growing portion of our population is living in deplorable conditions and desperately needs our help.

Hospitality House is where the entire community — Grass Valley, Nevada City, Penn Valley, Lake Wildwood, Lake of the Pines — can come together in a common concern to help homeless people get back on their feet.

Thus, Hospitality House is not important only to those who are temporarily down on their luck. The success of our organization is vital to the entire community.

Over the six years of its existence, our program has undergone an astonishing growth curve. In late November of 2005, we were a small band of volunteers, allied with four churches, working out of one room in the Unitarian Church in Grass Valley. Our first night of operation that month saw fewer than 10 guests for dinner and an overnight in one of the churches.

At that time we were open only four nights per week. As we closed the 2010 – 2011 season we were operating seven days (and nights) a week, offering three meals, overnight accommodations, showers, clothes washing/drying facilities, personal goals counseling, health/dental checkups and referrals, and advice on accessing county and state services.

The remaining item we offer — hope — is the least quantifiable but probably the single most important life-changing service we contribute.

Our recent acquisition of a 6,500-square-foot building is the culmination of six years of effort by Cindy Maple, our Executive Director and her staff, and by our corps of over 300 volunteers.

Impressive as it is, this effort is only the beginning of a program I see coming in our future. Our vision statement lists “providing pathways to independence” as a number one goal.

That statement goes on to list a number of other goals, among them “providing temporary, overnight housing/shelter.” Note the emphasis on independence. Our guests are to be set on a pathway to independence.

As part of our current program, our guests work in our community, sometimes for money and sometimes for experience as when we provide volunteers to The Center for the Arts.

These men work with Dave Spellman, the Center’s Facilities Manager, performing carpentry, electrical and other maintenance projects (one guest with welding skills built a great outdoor sign) to build their resumes to enhance their employment goals.

Similarly, many of our guests work with the Downtown Merchants Association at the monthly Main St./Mill St. cleanup. In all examples, guests learn job skills of teamwork, punctuality, responsibility, and more.

I have a vision that working from our new facility we will be able to build a more developed jobs program. Our guests need to be busy each day.

They need to be working at real, productive jobs that create wealth that can be used by them to pay at least part of their living expenses.

The corollary effect of this is to benefit their self esteem and sense of worth. We need to build a program that achieves this goal.

While doing that, we need to manage our explosive, sometimes chaotic growth. You must understand that this growth has come at a cost that doesn’t show in the balance sheet or in the profit and loss statement.

Traditionally, our dollar expenditures have been absurdly low considering the size of the program we are administering. We have only one full-time staff member, our executive director; we need more.

We need to stop relying so heavily on volunteer labor to manage many of our operations. In short, we need to grow up as a professional nonprofit organization structured to return the best value for each dollar you donate.

Our board of directors makes this pledge to you: With your support we will grow Hospitality House’s infrastructure to become an organization to meet one of society’s greatest social challenges – homelessness. Now isn’t that a noble goal for a small, rural California county?

Marc Matthias is president of the Hospitality House Board of Directors.

Three Chords and the Truth

Before unions and the middle class are completely dead in this country, let’s recall how the union movement built the middle class, let’s recall their struggle in such songs as “Three Chords in the Truth,” which honors that struggle.

I’m going to tell you a story right here
Huh, you may not believe it

I dreamed I saw Joe Hill last night, standin’ in the prison yard
They were taking poor Joe, chained and bound, to a Utah firing squad
Well he turned and looked at me right then, sayin’, Don’t you be misled
They’re trying to tear our free speech down, and Buddy, they ain’t near quit yet
See, they framed me on a killin’ charge, you know I wouldn’t lie to you
But the only crime here that I done was three chords and the truth

Three chords and the truth, oh three chords and the truth
Well the only crime that Joe Hill done was three chords and the truth
Well he sang his good old union songs, he got his message through
But they couldn’t stand to hear a workingman sing three chords and the truth

I see you don’t believe you’re old friend Buddy here
Heh, take a drink, I think you need it

Oh J. Edgar Hoover liked to hear the darkies sing, till one man changed that all around
Paul Robeson was a man that you couldn’t ignore, and that’s what drove J. Edgar down
”(Yah drove him down)”
He called up his New York Klan boyfriends, sayin’, I got something good for you
Get right down there to Peekskill, New York town, and kill three chords and the truth

Three chords and the truth, oh, three chords and the truth
Well the only crime you ever got from Paul was three chords and the truth
Now if this is the land of democracy, I got one question for you
Why wasn’t Paul Roberson set free on three chords and the truth?

I see you still don’t believe it
I’ll bother you one more time
I’ll bother you one more time, right mister

Now they took Pete Seeger before the law and put him on the witness stand
But he stood right up to tyranny with just a banjo in his hand
Such a righteous banjo picker, watchin’ out for me and you
That was just a man who wouldn’t back down on three chords and the truth

Three chords and the truth, three chords and the truth
Well the only crime Pete Seeger done was three chords and the truth
Yah, he sang his freedom songs real good, he’s still getting his message through
Better check out old Pete Seeger on three chords and the truth

Three chords and the truth, well its three chords and the truth
Well you better check out your old friend Buddy right now on three chords and the truth

Better check out old Harlan Howard, personal friend of mine
Check out old Harlan on three chords and the truth.

Irene, How Bad in NY? Nathan’s in Coney Island Closes!

When I heard that Nathan’s in Coney Island has closed, in preparation for Hurricane Irene, it reminded me of an old quip by Mort Sahl about a science fiction movie called (something like) “The Night That Cantor’s Closed.”

Of course, a heavy hurricane in New York — although extremely rare — is not science fiction, and it’s definitely no joke, as this ABC News report explains:

Did Fracking Cause the Virginia Earthquake?

Reprinted from OpEd News.

By Dr Stuart Jeanne Bramhall

Earthquakes in the nation’s capitol are as rare as hen’s teeth. The epicenter of Tuesday’s quake was in Mineral, Virginia, which is located on three very quiet fault lines. The occurrence of yet another freak earthquake in an unusual location is leading many anti-fracking activists (including me — they have just started fracking in Stratford, which is 40 minutes from New Plymouth) to wonder whether “fracking” in nearby West Virginia may be responsible.

Fracking, or hydraulic fracturing, is the process of initiating and subsequently propagating a fracture in a rock layer, employing the pressure of a fluid as the source of energy. The fracturing is done from a wellbore drilled into reservoir rock formations, in order to increase the extraction rates and ultimate recovery of oil and natural gas and coal seam gas.

How Fracking Causes Earthquakes

According to geologists, it isn’t the fracking itself that is linked to earthquakes, but the re-injection of waste salt water (as much as 3 million gallons per well) deep into rock beds.

Braxton County West Virginia (160 miles from Mineral) has experienced a rash of freak earthquakes (eight in 2010) since fracking operations started there several years ago. According to geologists fracking also caused an outbreak of thousands of minor earthquakes in Arkansas (as many as two dozen in a single day). It’s also linked to freak earthquakes in Texas, western New York, Oklahoma and Blackpool, England (which had never recorded an earthquake before).

Industry scientists deny the link to earthquakes, arguing that energy companies have been fracking for nearly sixty years. However it’s only a dozen years ago that “slick-water fracks” were introduced. This form of fracking uses huge amounts of water mixed with sand and dozens of toxic chemicals like benzene, all of which is injected under extreme pressure to shatter the underground rock reservoir and release gas trapped in the rock pores. Not only does the practice utilize millions of gallons of freshwater per frack (taken from lakes, rivers, or municipal water supplies), the toxic chemicals mixed in the water to make it “slick” endanger groundwater aquifers and threaten to pollute nearby water-wells.

Horizontal drilling and multi-stage fracking (which extend fractures across several kilometres) were introduced in 2004.

The Research Evidence

I think it’s really hard to deny there’s a connection when the frequency of Arkansas earthquakes dropped by two-thirds when the Arkansas Oil and Gas Commission banned fracking (see Note that they didn’t stop entirely, which suggests that fault disruption may persist even after fracking stops.

Braxton County West Virginia also experienced a marked reduction in their quakes after the West Virginia Oil and Gas Commission forced fracking companies to cut back on the pressure and rate of salt water injection into the bedrock (see

According to a joint study by Southern Methodist University and University of Texas-Austin, earthquakes started in the Dallas/Fort Worth region after a fracking disposal well there began operating in 2008 and stopped when it was closed in 2009 (see

Blackpool, England banned fracking immediately, without waiting to see if more earthquakes would occur.

The Need for Federal Action

Despite strong anti-fracking movements in New York, Pennsylvania and West Virginia — based on dozens of cases of contaminated well water, poisoned livestock, destruction of wildlife, and tap water that catches fire and explodes — fracking has proved extremely difficult to regulate on a state and local level. New York governor Andrew Cuomo seems intent to allow the New York fracking to lapse. And a West Virginia judge has recently overturned Morgantown’s ban on fracking, on the basis that it violated the constitutional rights of Northeast Natural energy company.

Hopefully today’s events have caused some chickens to come home to roost for federal lawmakers. They need to send a clear message to Obama and the EPA to stop “studying” the issue — that he needs to show some testicularity in standing up to the energy companies that are financing his 2012 campaign.

Meanwhile there is a legal precedent of an Arkansas man suing a fracking company for earthquake damage to his home. For people with earthquake damage from today’s quake, there’s a very nice lawyer at who would be delighted to give you a free consultation.

Bloomberg Case: Open Season to Discriminate Against Mothers?

by Joan Williams (Reprinted from New Deal 2.0)

Judge Loretta Preska rolled back the clock on mothers seeking justice for straightforward discrimination.

When Sekiko Garrison told former boss Michael Bloomberg she was pregnant, his answer was simple: “Kill it.” Allowing mothers flexible work arrangements, he commented, was like allowing a man time off to practice his golf swing. The CEO who took over when Bloomberg left the company demanded that managers “get rid of these pregnant bitches” (referring to two women on maternity leave). The Head of Global Human Resources commented that mothers “belong at home” and that “women [do] not really [have] a place in the workforce.” The Head of News commented that “half these f**king people take the [maternity] leave and they don’t even come back. It’s like stealing money from Mike Bloomberg’s wallet. They should be arrested.” The Head of Global Data asked, “Who would want to work with an office full of women?” ((These quotes can be found in the EEOC brief.))

And yet Federal Judge Loretta Preska said last week there was so little evidence of discrimination that she would not allow the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) to proceed to trial to try to prove that Bloomberg had discriminated against mothers. Preska, a pro-business Bush appointee, ended her opinion with a severe scolding: “At bottom, the EEOC’s theory of this case is about so-called ‘work-life balance’… [T]he EEOC’s claim…amounts to a judgment that Bloomberg, as a company policy, does not provide its employee-mothers with a sufficient work-life balance.” Preska quotes (as binding authority?) former General Electric CEO Jack Welch: “There’s no such thing as work-life balance. There are work-life choices, and you make them, and they have consequences.”

Where to start? The plaintiffs in this case were not asking for work-life balance. They were asking that their employer not discriminate against them because they were mothers. Recent social science suggests that motherhood is the strongest trigger for gender discrimination in today’s workplace. If you give people identical resumes, one a mother and the other not, the mother is 79% less likely to be hired, 100% less likely to be promoted, offered an average of $11,000 less in salary, and held to higher performance and punctuality standards, according to a study by Shelley Correll, Steve Benard, and In Paik. Note: identical resumes. This is not a measure of the desire for work-life balance. It’s evidence of extraordinarily strong discrimination against mothers. And, as the quotes from Bloomberg management demonstrate, discrimination against mothers is not only very strong. Often, it’s also very open.

Discrimination at Bloomberg appears to have been very open indeed. Yet through a series of procedural rulings, Judge Preska threw out most of the EEOC’s evidence and then held that it had so little evidence it could not take the case to trial. First, she rejected the EEOC’s statistical evidence. Then she threw out statements like those above. Those statements she could not throw out for technical reasons she simply ignored. (The comments about leave-takers stealing Mike’s money were not excludable for any of the reasons the judge identified. And by the way, it is illegal under the Family and Medical Leave Act to discourage people from taking FMLA leave. Would you be discouraged by these comments?)

I won’t go deeply into the technical problems with the court’s opinion. But the court got caught in a time warp. Ten years ago, suits against mothers were often stymied because courts could not find a suitable “comparator” — a similarly situated pregnant man. Courts eventually solved this problem by abandoning their search for a comparator, instead allowing plaintiffs to prove discrimination by introducing evidence of stereotyping (e.g., comments about how mothers belong at home). But Judge Preska turned back the clock. She not only insisted on comparator evidence, but rejected the obvious comparison between people who took maternity leave and those who did not. Instead, she insisted that the plaintiffs compare their salary growth to that of employees who took leaves of similar length. But healthy men don’t typically take long leaves, which means that plaintiffs’ salary growth was compared to that of employees who, one assumes, either were seriously ill, seriously disabled, or else had gone on an extended vacation to discover themselves in Aruba. Not surprisingly, under these circumstances the significant salary disparity found by the plaintiff’s expert magically disappeared.

But the most troubling thing about this case is Judge Preska’s confusion about the difference between work-life balance and discrimination against mothers. “The law does not mandate ‘work-life balance.’ It does not require companies to ignore employees’ work-family tradeoffs — and they are tradeoffs — when deciding about employee pay and promotions.” True that.

What employers are not allowed to do is discriminate against mothers on the fast track because a different group of mothers decided to leave the fast track. If the judge doesn’t understand that, she needs a refresher course on the basics of anti-discrimination law, set down in the 1970s. You can’t penalize women who don’t conform to stereotypes just because other women do conform to them.

If we abandon these basic principles of anti-discrimination law, it’s open season on mothers. And that’s a really, really devastating setback for women. Studies show what dooms women economically in the United States is not being a woman — it’s being a mother. If the courts refuse to protect mothers on the fast track simply because other mothers decided to leave, we are not going to have gender equality anytime soon. That’s for damn sure.

Joan Williams is the author of Reshaping the Work-Family Debate: Why Men and Class Matter.

New York Attorney General Kicked Off Government Group Leading Foreclosure Probe

by Shahien Nasiripour

“WASHINGTON — New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman on Tuesday was kicked off the committee leading the 50-state task force charged with probing foreclosure abuses and negotiating a possible settlement agreement with the nation’s five largest mortgage firms, according to an email reviewed by The Huffington Post.

“Schneiderman was one of roughly a dozen state attorneys general leading the talks with the five companies, alongside representatives of the U.S. Department of Justice, the Department of Housing and Urban Development and other federal agencies. The government launched the negotiations in the spring after widespread reports of foreclosure irregularities, such as so-called “robo-signing” and illegal home seizures, emerged.

“But state prosecutors and federal officials are pressing to complete a proposed settlement with the five companies even though they’ve initiated only a limited investigation that hasn’t examined the full extent of the alleged wrongdoing, The Huffington Post reported last month. Elizabeth Warren, who until recently was a senior adviser to President Barack Obama and Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner, told a congressional panel last month that government agencies may not have sufficiently investigated claims that borrowers’ homes were illegally seized.

“Schneiderman, a Democrat who’s in his first term as New York’s top law enforcer, has been among a group of state legal officers who has also questioned the desire for a speedy resolution. He’s leading his own investigation into mortgage improprieties, subpoenaing documents from the nation’s largest financial institutions and reviewing court records for possible illegal home repossessions.

“The Obama administration officials — in particular, Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner and HUD Secretary Shaun Donovan — have publicly stated on numerous occasions that they want a quick resolution to the 50-state mortgage probe.

“Sources said attorneys general like Schneiderman, along with the top legal officers from Massachusetts, Delaware and Nevada, among others, were complicating that goal by questioning the plan to scuttle the state and federal investigations in exchange for a settlement.”

Read the rest of the article here.

Covering Up Wall Street Crimes: SEC Shredded Thousands of Investigations

Editor’s Note: In this interview yesterday with Matt Taibbi of Rolling Stone, notice the passing mention of New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman, who — according to news breaking even as I write this — was “kicked off the committee leading the 50-state task force charged with probing foreclosure abuses,” apparently because he was uniquely determined to press for prosecutions of financial wrongdoers. He may have been incorruptible, but at least he was removable. The corruption continues. You can probably thank the Obama administration for his removal from the committee.

From Democracy Now:

An explosive new report in Rolling Stone magazine exposes how the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission destroyed records of thousands of investigations, whitewashing the files of some of the nation’s largest banks and hedge funds, including AIG, Wells Fargo, Lehman Brothers, Goldman Sachs, Bank of America and top Wall Street broker Bernard Madoff. Last week, Republican Sen. Chuck Grassley of Iowa said an agency whistleblower had sent him a letter detailing the unlawful destruction of records detailing more than 9,000 information investigations. We speak with Matt Taibbi, the political reporter for Rolling Stone magazine who broke this story in his latest article.”

GOP: “Raise Taxes for Middle Class, Lower Taxes for Rich”

Most Congressional Republicans have signed Grover Norquist’s pledge never to raise taxes. Does that pledge include the phrase, “except on the middle class?”.

But let’s not complain about this, lest we be accused of “class warfare.”

Here Ed Schulz interviews tax expert David Cay Johnson:

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