Tim DeChristopher court statement

SUBHEAD: Environmental activist says; "I do not want mercy. I want you to join me."

[CommonDream's note: Tim DeChristopher, who was sentenced Tuesday to two years in federal prison and a $10,000 fine for 'disrupting' a Bureau of Land Management auction in 2008, had an opportunity to address the court and the judge immediately before his sentence was announced. This is his statement

By Tim DeChristopher on 27 July 2011 for Common Dreams -  

Image above: Detail of portrait by Robert Shetterly (http://www.americanswhotellthetruth.org). From original article.

Thank you for the opportunity to speak before the court. When I first met Mr. Manross, the sentencing officer who prepared the pre-sentence report, he explained that it was essentially his job to “get to know me.” He said he had to get to know who I really was and why I did what I did in order to decide what kind of sentence was appropriate. I was struck by the fact that he was the first person in this courthouse to call me by my first name, or even really look me in the eye. I appreciate this opportunity to speak openly to you for the first time. I’m not here asking for your mercy, but I am here asking that you know me.

Mr. Huber has leveled a lot of character attacks at me, many of which are contrary to Mr. Manross’s report. While reading Mr Huber’s critiques of my character and my integrity, as well as his assumptions about my motivations, I was reminded that Mr Huber and I have never had a conversation. Over the two and half years of this prosecution, he has never asked my any of the questions that he makes assumptions about in the government’s report. Apparently, Mr. Huber has never considered it his job to get to know me, and yet he is quite willing to disregard the opinions of the one person who does see that as his job.

There are alternating characterizations that Mr Huber would like you to believe about me. In one paragraph, the government claims I “played out the parts of accuser, jury, and judge as he determined the fate of the oil and gas lease auction and its intended participants that day.” In the very next paragraph, they claim “It was not the defendant’s crimes that effected such a change.”

Mr Huber would lead you to believe that I’m either a dangerous criminal who holds the oil and gas industry in the palm of my hand, or I’m just an incompetent child who didn’t affect the outcome of anything. As evidenced by the continued back and forth of contradictory arguments in the government’s memorandum, they’re not quite sure which of those extreme caricatures I am, but they are certain that I am nothing in between. Rather than the job of getting to know me, it seems Mr Huber prefers the job of fitting me into whatever extreme characterization is most politically expedient at the moment.

In nearly every paragraph, the government’s memorandum uses the words lie, lied, lying, liar. It makes me want to thank whatever clerk edited out the words “pants on fire.” Their report doesn’t mention the fact that at the auction in question, the first person who asked me what I was doing there was Agent Dan Love. And I told him very clearly that I was there to stand in the way of an illegitimate auction that threatened my future. I proceeded to answer all of his questions openly and honestly, and have done so to this day when speaking about that auction in any forum, including this courtroom.

The entire basis for the false statements charge that I was convicted of was the fact that I wrote my real name and address on a form that included the words “bona fide bidder.” When I sat there on the witness stand, Mr Romney asked me if I ever had any intention of being a bona fide bidder. I responded by asking Mr Romney to clarify what “bona fide bidder” meant in this context. Mr Romney then withdrew the question and moved on to the next subject. On that right there is the entire basis for the government’s repeated attacks on my integrity. Ambition should be made of sterner stuff, your honor.

Mr Huber also makes grand assumptions about my level of respect for the rule of law. The government claims a long prison sentence is necessary to counteract the political statements I’ve made and promote a respect for the law. The only evidence provided for my lack of respect for the law is political statements that I’ve made in public forums.

Again, the government doesn’t mention my actions in regard to the drastic restrictions that were put upon my defense in this courtroom. My political disagreements with the court about the proper role of a jury in the legal system are probably well known. I’ve given several public speeches and interviews about how the jury system was established and how it has evolved to it’s current state.

Outside of this courtroom, I’ve made my views clear that I agree with the founding fathers that juries should be the conscience of the community and a defense against legislative tyranny. I even went so far as to organize a book study group that read about the history of jury nullification.

Some of the participants in that book group later began passing out leaflets to the public about jury rights, as is their right. Mr Huber was apparently so outraged by this that he made the slanderous accusations that I tried to taint the jury. He didn’t specify the extra number of months that I should spend in prison for the heinous activity of holding a book group at the Unitarian Church and quoting Thomas Jefferson in public, but he says you should have “little tolerance for this behavior.”

But here is the important point that Mr Huber would rather ignore. Despite my strong disagreements with the court about the Constitutional basis for the limits on my defense, while I was in this courtroom I respected the authority of the court. Whether I agreed with them or not, I abided by the restrictions that you put on me and my legal team. I never attempted to “taint” the jury, as Mr Huber claimed, by sharing any of the relevant facts about the auction in question that the court had decided were off limits.

I didn’t burst out and tell the jury that I successfully raised the down payment and offered it to the BLM. I didn’t let the jury know that the auction was later reversed because it was illegitimate in the first place. To this day I still think I should have had the right to do so, but disagreement with the law should not be confused with disrespect for the law.

My public statements about jury nullification were not the only political statements that Mr Huber thinks I should be punished for. As the government’s memorandum points out, I have also made public statements about the value of civil disobedience in bringing the rule of law closer to our shared sense of justice. In fact, I have openly and explicitly called for nonviolent civil disobedience against mountaintop removal coal mining in my home state of West Virginia. Mountaintop removal is itself an illegal activity, which has always been in violation of the Clean Water Act, and it is an illegal activity that kills people.

A West Virginia state investigation found that Massey Energy had been cited with 62,923 violations of the law in the ten years preceding the disaster that killed 29 people last year. The investigation also revealed that Massey paid for almost none of those violations because the company provided millions of dollars worth of campaign contributions that elected most of the appeals court judges in the state.

When I was growing up in West Virginia, my mother was one of many who pursued every legal avenue for making the coal industry follow the law. She commented at hearings, wrote petitions and filed lawsuits, and many have continued to do ever since, to no avail. I actually have great respect for the rule of law, because I see what happens when it doesn’t exist, as is the case with the fossil fuel industry.

Those crimes committed by Massey Energy led not only to the deaths of their own workers, but to the deaths of countless local residents, such as Joshua McCormick, who died of kidney cancer at age 22 because he was unlucky enough to live downstream from a coal mine. When a corrupted government is no longer willing to uphold the rule of law, I advocate that citizens step up to that responsibility.

This is really the heart of what this case is about. The rule of law is dependent upon a government that is willing to abide by the law. Disrespect for the rule of law begins when the government believes itself and its corporate sponsors to be above the law.

Mr Huber claims that the seriousness of my offense was that I “obstructed lawful government proceedings.” But the auction in question was not a lawful proceeding. I know you’ve heard another case about some of the irregularities for which the auction was overturned. But that case did not involve the BLM’s blatant violation of Secretarial Order 3226, which was a law that went into effect in 2001 and required the BLM to weigh the impacts on climate change for all its major decisions, particularly resource development.

A federal judge in Montana ruled last year that the BLM was in constant violation of this law throughout the Bush administration. In all the proceedings and debates about this auction, no apologist for the government or the BLM has ever even tried to claim that the BLM followed this law. In both the December 2008 auction and the creation of the Resource Management Plan on which this auction was based, the BLM did not even attempt to follow this law.

And this law is not a trivial regulation about crossing t’s or dotting i’s to make some government accountant’s job easier. This law was put into effect to mitigate the impacts of catastrophic climate change and defend a livable future on this planet. This law was about protecting the survival of young generations. That’s kind of a big deal. It’s a very big deal to me. If the government is going to refuse to step up to that responsibility to defend a livable future,

I believe that creates a moral imperative for me and other citizens. My future, and the future of everyone I care about, is being traded for short term profits. I take that very personally. Until our leaders take seriously their responsibility to pass on a healthy and just world to the next generation, I will continue this fight.

The government has made the claim that there were legal alternatives to standing in the way of this auction. Particularly, I could have filed a written protest against certain parcels. The government does not mention, however, that two months prior to this auction, in October 2008, a Congressional report was released that looked into those protests.

The report, by the House committee on public lands, stated that it had become common practice for the BLM to take volunteers from the oil and gas industry to process those permits. The oil industry was paying people specifically to volunteer for the industry that was supposed to be regulating it, and it was to those industry staff that I would have been appealing.

Moreover, this auction was just three months after the New York Times reported on a major scandal involving Department of the Interior regulators who were taking bribes of sex and drugs from the oil companies that they were supposed to be regulating. In 2008, this was the condition of the rule of law, for which Mr Huber says I lacked respect. Just as the legal avenues which people in West Virginia have been pursuing for 30 years, the legal avenues in this case were constructed precisely to protect the corporations who control the government.

The reality is not that I lack respect for the law; it’s that I have greater respect for justice. Where there is a conflict between the law and the higher moral code that we all share, my loyalty is to that higher moral code. I know Mr Huber disagrees with me on this.

He wrote that “The rule of law is the bedrock of our civilized society, not acts of ‘civil disobedience’ committed in the name of the cause of the day.” That’s an especially ironic statement when he is representing the United States of America, a place where the rule of law was created through acts of civil disobedience. Since those bedrock acts of civil disobedience by our founding fathers, the rule of law in this country has continued to grow closer to our shared higher moral code through the civil disobedience that drew attention to legalized injustice.

The authority of the government exists to the degree that the rule of law reflects the higher moral code of the citizens, and throughout American history, it has been civil disobedience that has bound them together.

This philosophical difference is serious enough that Mr Huber thinks I should be imprisoned to discourage the spread of this idea. Much of the government’s memorandum focuses on the political statements that I’ve made in public.

But it hasn’t always been this way. When Mr Huber was arguing that my defense should be limited, he addressed my views this way: “The public square is the proper stage for the defendant’s message, not criminal proceedings in federal court.” But now that the jury is gone, Mr. Huber wants to take my message from the public square and make it a central part of these federal court proceedings. I have no problem with that. I’m just as willing to have those views on display as I’ve ever been.

The government’s memorandum states, “As opposed to preventing this particular defendant from committing further crimes, the sentence should be crafted ‘to afford adequate deterrence to criminal conduct’ by others.” Their concern is not the danger that I present, but the danger presented by my ideas and words that might lead others to action. Perhaps Mr Huber is right to be concerned. He represents the United States Government. His job is to protect those currently in power, and by extension, their corporate sponsors.

After months of no action after the auction, the way I found out about my indictment was the day before it happened, Pat Shea got a call from an Associated Press reporter who said, “I just wanted to let you know that tomorrow Tim is going to be indicted, and this is what the charges are going to be.” That reporter had gotten that information two weeks earlier from an oil industry lobbyist. Our request for disclosure of what role that lobbyist played in the US Attorney’s office was denied, but we know that she apparently holds sway and that the government feels the need to protect the industry’s interests.

The things that I’ve been publicly saying may indeed be threatening to that power structure. There have been several references to the speech I gave after the conviction, but I’ve only ever seen half of one sentence of that speech quoted. In the government’s report, they actually had to add their own words to that one sentence to make it sound more threatening.

But the speech was about empowerment. It was about recognizing our interconnectedness rather than viewing ourselves as isolated individuals. The message of the speech was that when people stand together, they no longer have to be exploited by powerful corporations. Alienation is perhaps the most effective tool of control in America, and every reminder of our real connectedness weakens that tool.

But the sentencing guidelines don’t mention the need to protect corporations or politicians from ideas that threaten their control. The guidelines say “protect the public.” The question is whether the public is helped or harmed by my actions. The easiest way to answer that question is with the direct impacts of my action.

As the oil executive stated in his testimony, the parcels I didn’t bid on averaged $12 per acre, but the ones I did bid on averaged $125. Those are the prices paid for public property to the public trust. The industry admits very openly that they were getting those parcels for an order of magnitude less than what they were worth. Not only did those oil companies drive up the prices to $125 during the bidding, they were then given an opportunity to withdraw their bids once my actions were explained. They kept the parcels, presumably because they knew they were still a good deal at $125.

The oil companies knew they were getting a steal from the American people, and now they’re crying because they had to pay a little closer to what those parcels were actually worth. The government claims I should be held accountable for the steal the oil companies didn’t get. The government’s report demands $600,000 worth of financial impacts for the amount which the oil industry wasn’t able to steal from the public.

That extra revenue for the public became almost irrelevant, though, once most of those parcels were revoked by Secretary Salazar. Most of the parcels I won were later deemed inappropriate for drilling. In other words, the highest and best value to the public for those particular lands was not for oil and gas drilling. Had the auction gone off without a hitch, it would have been a loss for the public. The fact that the auction was delayed, extra attention was brought to the process, and the parcels were ultimately revoked was a good thing for the public.

More generally, the question of whether civil disobedience is good for the public is a matter of perspective. Civil disobedience is inherently an attempt at change. Those in power, whom Mr Huber represents, are those for whom the status quo is working, so they always see civil disobedience as a bad thing. The decision you are making today, your honor, is what segment of the public you are meant to protect. Mr Huber clearly has cast his lot with that segment who wishes to preserve the status quo.

But the majority of the public is exploited by the status quo far more than they are benefited by it. The young are the most obvious group who is exploited and condemned to an ugly future by letting the fossil fuel industry call the shots. There is an overwhelming amount of scientific research, some of which you received as part of our proffer on the necessity defense, that reveals the catastrophic consequences which the young will have to deal with over the coming decades.

But just as real is the exploitation of the communities where fossil fuels are extracted. As a native of West Virginia, I have seen from a young age that the exploitation of fossil fuels has always gone hand in hand with the exploitation of local people. In West Virginia, we’ve been extracting coal longer than anyone else. And after 150 years of making other people rich, West Virginia is almost dead last among the states in per capita income, education rates and life expectancy.

And it’s not an anomaly. The areas with the richest fossil fuel resources, whether coal in West Virginia and Kentucky, or oil in Louisiana and Mississippi, are the areas with the lowest standards of living. In part, this is a necessity of the industry.

The only way to convince someone to blow up their backyard or poison their water is to make sure they are so desperate that they have no other option. But it is also the nature of the economic model. Since fossil fuels are a limited resources, whoever controls access to that resource in the beginning gets to set all the terms. They set the terms for their workers, for the local communities, and apparently even for the regulatory agencies.

A renewable energy economy is a threat to that model. Since no one can control access to the sun or the wind, the wealth is more likely to flow to whoever does the work of harnessing that energy, and therefore to create a more distributed economic system, which leads to a more distributed political system. It threatens the profits of the handful of corporations for whom the current system works, but our question is which segment of the public are you tasked with protecting. I am here today because I have chosen to protect the people locked out of the system over the profits of the corporations running the system. I say this not because I want your mercy, but because I want you to join me.

After this difference of political philosophies, the rest of the sentencing debate has been based on the financial loss from my actions. The government has suggested a variety of numbers loosely associated with my actions, but as of yet has yet to establish any causality between my actions and any of those figures. The most commonly discussed figure is perhaps the most easily debunked. This is the figure of roughly $140,000, which is the amount the BLM originally spent to hold the December 2008 auction.

By definition, this number is the amount of money the BLM spent before I ever got involved. The relevant question is what the BLM spent because of my actions, but apparently that question has yet to be asked. The only logic that relates the $140,000 figure to my actions is if I caused the entire auction to be null and void and the BLM had to start from scratch to redo the entire auction.

But that of course is not the case. First is the prosecution’s on-again-off-again argument that I didn’t have any impact on the auction being overturned. More importantly, the BLM never did redo the auction because it was decided that many of those parcels should never have been auctioned in the first place.

Rather than this arbitrary figure of $140,000, it would have been easy to ask the BLM how much money they spent or will spend on redoing the auction. But the government never asked this question, probably because they knew they wouldn’t like the answer.

The other number suggested in the government’s memorandum is the $166,000 that was the total price of the three parcels I won which were not invalidated. Strangely, the government wants me to pay for these parcels, but has never offered to actually give them to me. When I offered the BLM the money a couple weeks after the auction, they refused to take it. Aside from that history, this figure is still not a valid financial loss from my actions.

When we wrote there was no loss from my actions, we actually meant that rather literally. Those three parcels were not evaporated or blasted into space because of my actions, not was the oil underneath them sucked dry by my bid card. They’re still there, and in fact the BLM has already issued public notice of their intent to re-auction those parcels in February of 2012.

The final figure suggested as a financial loss is the $600,000 that the oil company wasn’t able to steal from the public. That completely unsubstantiated number is supposedly the extra amount the BLM received because of my actions. This is when things get tricky. The government’s report takes that $600,000 positive for the BLM and adds it to that roughly $300,000 negative for the BLM, and comes up with a $900,000 negative. With math like that, it’s obvious that Mr Huber works for the federal government.

After most of those figures were disputed in the presentence report, the government claimed in their most recent objection that I should be punished according to the intended financial impact that I intended to cause. The government tries to assume my intentions and then claims, “This is consistent with the testimony that Mr. DeChristopher provided at trial, admitting that his intention was to cause financial harm to others with whom he disagreed.”

Now I didn’t get to say a whole lot at the trial, so it was pretty easy to look back through the transcripts. The statement claimed by the government never happened. There was nothing even close enough to make their statement a paraphrase or artistic license. This statement in the government’s objection is a complete fiction.

Mr Huber’s inability to judge my intent is revealed in this case by the degree to which he underestimates my ambition. The truth is that my intention, then as now, was to expose, embarrass and hold accountable the oil industry to the extent that it cuts into the $100 billion in annual profits that it makes through exploitation.

I actually intended for my actions to play a role in the wide variety of actions that steer the country toward a clean energy economy where those $100 billion in oil profits are completely eliminated. When I read Mr Huber’s new logic, I was terrified to consider that my slightly unrealistic intention to have a $100 billion impact will fetch me several consecutive life sentences. Luckily this reasoning is as unrealistic as it is silly.

A more serious look at my intentions is found in Mr Huber’s attempt to find contradictions in my statements. Mr Huber points out that in public I acted proud of my actions and treated it like a success, while in our sentencing memorandum we claimed that my actions led to “no loss.” On the one hand I think it was a success, and yet I claim it there was no loss. Success, but no loss.

Mr Huber presents these ideas as mutually contradictory and obvious proof that I was either dishonest or backing down from my convictions. But for success to be contradictory to no loss, there has to be another assumption. One has to assume that my intent was to cause a loss. But the only loss that I intended to cause was the loss of secrecy by which the government gave away public property for private profit.

As I actually stated in the trial, my intent was to shine a light on a corrupt process and get the government to take a second look at how this auction was conducted. The success of that intent is not dependent on any loss. I knew that if I was completely off base, and the government took that second look and decided that nothing was wrong with that auction, the cost of my action would be another day’s salary for the auctioneer and some minor costs of re-auctioning the parcels.

But if I was right about the irregularities of the auction, I knew that allowing the auction to proceed would mean the permanent loss of lands better suited for other purposes and the permanent loss of a safe climate. The intent was to prevent loss, but again that is a matter of perspective.

Mr Huber wants you to weigh the loss for the corporations that expected to get public property for pennies on the dollar, but I believe the important factor is the loss to the public which I helped prevent.

Again, we come back to this philosophical difference. From any perspective, this is a case about the right of citizens to challenge the government. The US Attorney’s office makes clear that their interest is not only to punish me for doing so, but to discourage others from challenging the government, even when the government is acting inappropriately. Their memorandum states, “To be sure, a federal prison term here will deter others from entering a path of criminal behavior.” The certainty of this statement not only ignores the history of political prisoners, it ignores the severity of the present situation.

Those who are inspired to follow my actions are those who understand that we are on a path toward catastrophic consequences of climate change. They know their future, and the future of their loved ones, is on the line. And they know were are running out of time to turn things around. The closer we get to that point where it’s too late, the less people have to lose by fighting back. The power of the Justice Department is based on its ability to take things away from people.

The more that people feel that they have nothing to lose, the more that power begins to shrivel. The people who are committed to fighting for a livable future will not be discouraged or intimidated by anything that happens here today. And neither will I. I will continue to confront the system that threatens our future.

Given the destruction of our democratic institutions that once gave citizens access to power, my future will likely involve civil disobedience. Nothing that happens here today will change that. I don’t mean that in any sort of disrespectful way at all, but you don’t have that authority. You have authority over my life, but not my principles. Those are mine alone.

I’m not saying any of this to ask you for mercy, but to ask you to join me. If you side with Mr Huber and believe that your role is to discourage citizens from holding their government accountable, then you should follow his recommendations and lock me away. I certainly don’t want that. I have no desire to go to prison, and any assertion that I want to be even a temporary martyr is false.

I want you to join me in standing up for the right and responsibility of citizens to challenge their government. I want you to join me in valuing this country’s rich history of nonviolent civil disobedience. If you share those values but think my tactics are mistaken, you have the power to redirect them. You can sentence me to a wide range of community service efforts that would point my commitment to a healthy and just world down a different path.

You can have me work with troubled teens, as I spent most of my career doing. You can have me help disadvantaged communities or even just pull weeds for the BLM. You can steer that commitment if you agree with it, but you can’t kill it. This is not going away.

At this point of unimaginable threats on the horizon, this is what hope looks like. In these times of a morally bankrupt government that has sold out its principles, this is what patriotism looks like. With countless lives on the line, this is what love looks like, and it will only grow. The choice you are making today is what side are you on.

• Tim DeChristopher is a climate activist and board member for the climate justice organization Peaceful Uprising.

See also:
Ea O Ka Aina: Prison for Tin DeChristopher 7/26/11 .

"Living Downsteam" - the movie

SUBHEAD: Documentary about toxic chemicals in our environment and their links to cancer on 8/16. $3 at door.  

By Linda Pascatore on 31 July 2011 for Island Breath 

Image above: Detail of photo of Sandra Steingraber, Ph.D. From (http://www.livingdownstream.com/for-media).  

Showing of documentary, "Living Downstream". Cost $3 at the door.  

Waimea Theater Kuamualii Highway, Waimea, Kauai, HI  

Tuesday, August 16th, 2011, at 7:00 pm  

GMO Free Kauai For info call 651-9603. You can also Friend them on Facebook  

Based on the acclaimed book by ecologist and cancer survivor Sandra Steingraber, Ph.D., Living Downstream is an eloquent and cinematic documentary film.

This poetic film follows Sandra during one pivotal year as she travels across North America, working to break the silence about cancer and its environmental links. After a routine cancer screening, Sandra receives some worrying results and is thrust into a period of medical uncertainty. Thus, we begin two journeys with Sandra: her private struggles with cancer and her public quest to bring attention to the urgent human rights issue of cancer prevention.

But Sandra is not the only one who is on a journey—the chemicals against which she is fighting are also on the move. We follow these invisible toxins as they migrate to some of the most beautiful places in North America. We see how these chemicals enter our bodies and how, once inside, scientists believe they may be working to cause cancer.

Several experts in the fields of toxicology and cancer research make important cameo appearances in the film, highlighting their own findings on two pervasive chemicals: atrazine, one of the most widely used herbicides in the world, and the industrial compounds, polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs). Their work further illuminates the significant connection between a healthy environment and human health.
At once Sandra’s personal journey and her scientific exploration, Living Downstream is a powerful reminder of the intimate connection between the health of our bodies and the health of our air, land, and water.

From Living Downstream (http://www.livingdownstream.com)

Video above: Trailer for "Living Downstream". From (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=z2UsmBqYpwo).

Hawaiian invokes UN policy

SOURCE: Brad Parsons (mauibrad@hotmail.com)
SUBHEAD: Judge determines the State of Hawaii can’t keep Atooi leader’s badge as part of plea deal.

 By Tom LaVenture on 30 July 2011 for the Garden Island - 

Image above: Dayne Aipoalani Gonsalves in 2007 with badge in question. Photo by Nathan Eagle from original article.

A Lihue attorney is using recent changes in federal and state policies regarding the rights of indigenous peoples to defend a Kekaha man in a case stemming from the Hawai‘i Superferry protests in 2007.

Fifth Circuit Judge Kathleen Watanabe earlier this month granted Dan Hempey’s motion that called on the Kauai county prosecutor to strike a reference in an earlier plea deal that would have required Dayne AipoalaniGonsalves to surrender an “illegal badge,” according to court minutes from a July 13 hearing. She also ordered that any future plea deal should not contain that requirement.

The motion faced its first hurdle Tuesday with a state request for a motion to stay the order, on the basis that as state’s evidence the “Hawaii Federal Marshal” badge should not be returned until the August 9th pretrial hearing or the ensuing trial.

Melinda Mendes, county deputy prosecutor, said the state would exercise its right to appeal the order if the stay was not granted. She asserted that the stay allows the trial to go forward as planned, while an appeal process would push the trial well past its scheduled court date.

Hempey said the prosecution had the right to appeal the order but noted a lack of information for an adequate response to warrant an automatic stay and opposed it on record. He said there are ample photos of the badge to use as evidence and that there was no need to keep the property.

Watanabe granted the prosecution’s motion to stay the order until the pretrial hearing to clarify the request for extraordinary relief.

Mendes filed the motion, which states that a pending trial is reason to reconsider the order and that the request is made in the interests of fairness and justice — not for the purpose of delay.

“The state is requesting that the order to return the badge immediately to the defendant be stayed pending the ruling on the motion to reconsider the appeal,” the motion states. Were the stay order to be denied, Mendes said, the state would have appealed it.

Watanabe questioned whether the prosecution was specifically taking issue with the return of the badge or of the court’s ruling to strike the language requiring the defendant to surrender it as part of the plea deal.

Mendes replied that the motion was to reconsider both, but that the issue at this particular hearing was strictly about returning the badge.

Gonsalves, 47, was arrested in October 2007 for impersonating an officer when he presented his Atooi badge at a county meeting related to a proposed development on burial grounds. He was out on bail at the time, having been arrested for trespassing, disorderly conduct and obstructing government operations during the August 2007 Hawaii Superferry protests at Nawiliwili Harbor.

He qualifies under state law as Native Hawaiian. Gonsalves is recognized by some as an alii nui, or king, of the indigenous government “Atooi” (Kauai). This kingdom of Native Hawaiian residents on island, who consider themselves to be its citizens, awarded Gonsalves with the badge for his work with other indigenous nations, including Rapanui, Tahiti and Aotearoa, which in turn recognize Atooi, a member state of the United Nations of Turtle Island in Polynesia.

Hempey argued that Gonsalves was not pretending to be a State of Hawaii law enforcement officer; he was identifying himself as a law enforcement officer in the Kingdom of Atooi, a legitimate and legal title that is not in violation of U.S. laws, court minutes show.

Motions filed by Hempey’s law firm emphasize the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous People, which President Barack Obama signed in December 2010, making it the official policy of the United States. He also referenced the rights of indigenous Native Hawaiian people as granted by the state constitution, and the Native Hawaiian Recognition Act recently signed by Gov. Neil Abercrombie.

Hempey is arguing that law enforcement is part of the right to “maintain and strengthen distinct legal institutions” to encourage nation-building within an indigenous nation.

The earlier plea deal offered to reduce charges to petty misdemeanor obstructing and a $250 fine, dismissing the remaining charges. The prosecution stipulated that the surrender of the badge was part of the deal, and Watanabe ruled this to be in violation of the rights granted to Native Hawaiians.

Gonsalves was also arrested July 1, 2011, on three counts of second-degree theft, regarding a complaint dating back to 2008 when he allegedly removed rocks that were property of the Department of Hawaiian Homelands.

Gonsalves describes the land where the rocks were removed as “poison aina,” noting that he was uncovering toxic waste that has never been cleaned up and presents a danger to anything growing in the area.

He contends the old charges and the manner in which he was arrested have something to do with the badge.


Organic vs Monsanto

SUBHEAD: It is in Monsanto’s financial interest to eliminate organic seed so that they can have a total monopoly.

 By Danielle Magnusen on 17 July 2011 for Utne Reader - 

Image above: Organic produce at a farmer's market. Photo by NatalieMaynor, licensed under Creative Commons.

More than 270,000 organic farmers are taking on corporate agriculture giant Monsanto in a lawsuit filed March 30. Led by the Organic Seed Growers and Trade Association, the family farmers are fighting for the right to keep a portion of the world food supply organic—and preemptively protecting themselves from accusations of stealing genetically modified seeds that drift on to their pristine crop fields.

Consumers are powerful. For more than a decade, a cultural shift has seen shoppers renounce the faster-fatter-bigger-cheaper mindset of factory farms, exposéd in the 2008 documentary Food, Inc. From heirloom tomatoes to heritage chickens, we want our food slow, sustainable, and local—healthy for the earth, healthy for animals, and healthy for our bodies.

But with patented seeds infiltrating the environment so fully, organic itself is at risk. Monsanto’s widely used Genuity® Roundup Ready® canola seed has already turned heirloom canola oil into an extinct species. The suing farmers are seeking to prevent similar contamination of organic corn, soybeans, and a host of other crops. What’s more, they’re seeking to prevent Monsanto from accusing them of unlawfully using the very seeds they’re trying to avoid.

“It seems quite perverse that an organic farmer contaminated by transgenic seed could be accused of patent infringement,” says Public Patent Foundation director Dan Ravicher in a Cornucopia Institutearticle about the farmers’ lawsuit (May 30, 2011), “but Monsanto has made such accusations before and is notorious for having sued hundreds of farmers for patent infringement.”

Even as the megacorporation enjoys soaring stock, the U.S. justice department continues to look into allegations of its fraudulent antitrust practices (The Street, June 29, 2011):
Monsanto, which has acquired more than 20 of the nation’s biggest seed producers and sellers over the last decade, has long pursued a strict policy with its customers, obligating them to buy its bioengineered seeds every year rather than use them in multiple planting seasons. Farmers who disobey are blacklisted forever.
It’s a wide net Monsanto has cast over the agricultural landscape. As Ravicher points out, “it’s actually in Monsanto’s financial interest to eliminate organic seed so that they can have a total monopoly over our food supply.” Imagine a world devoid of naturally vigorous traditional crops and controlled by a single business with a appetite for intellectual property.

Did anyone else feel a cold wind pass through them? Now imagine a world where thousands of family farmers fight the good fight to continue giving consumers a choice in their food—and win.
Source: Cornucopia Institute, The Street

Vacation Rental Betrayal

SOURCE: Ken Taylor (taylork021@hawaii.rr.com)
SUBHEAD: If you are concerned with uncontrolled vacation rentals you should attend this council meeting.

By Glen Mickens on 29 July 2011 to Kauai County Council -  
 [Source note: Please be at the Public Hearing on Wednesday Aug 3rd at 1:30 PM at the Kauai Council Chambers in Nawiliwili. The hearing is being held to discuss Bill 2410 and, as Walter Lewis points out, in its present form, it is clearly a violation of the terms of the Charter Amendment passed in 2008 by a nearly 2 to 1 vote of the people. We already have nearly 10,000 transient accommodations – hotels, time shares and transient vacation rentals – on our island. The Bill would improperly allow thousands more. Any testimony you can give to express your concern about this potential proliferation would be welcome. Or just come and lend your silent support.]

Image above: A Kekaha plantation cottage ($150 a night) TVR that might otherwise be a local family home. From (http://www.kekahaoceansidekauai.com/oomano_hale.htm).  

 (via email to Source) I have been given a copy of the testimony that Walter Lewis emailed to your committee for this hearing and I approve and support the comments and suggestions he made. Walter’s conclusion that the Bill in its present form violates the terms of the Charter amendment should be clear to all.

The accomplishment of the return of authority to process transient accommodation approvals to the Planning Commission as provided in the charter amendment would be simple except for the complications arising from the actions by the Planning Commission in conferring preliminary approvals for projects of owners who contemplated building transient accommodations.

Disregarding the restraints of the General Plan the Commission bestowed its “blessings” at a rate vastly greater than the guidelines of the Plan. In all it seems that there may be as many as 4000 accommodation units involved. The owners of these properties are not culpable, they did nothing wrong, but their position is tainted by the excesses of the Planning Commission.

Walter’s suggestion for dealing with this difficult situation merits close consideration. Walter’s solution is reasonable and fair. First, have a registration of such owners and find out how many units are involved. Then give the qualifying owners a priority over others to build after meeting usual requirements.

To allow the Planning Commission to give order to the priority require the owners to commit when the units in the project are to be built. This will allow owners who want to proceed earlier to go ahead of owners who want deferral of their time to build. It should be possible to process all such owners within a reasonable time.

Finally, if any owner would be aggrieved by a decision of the Planning Commission give such owner or owners the right to appeal to the council to adjudicate the position. This arrangement solves a difficult problem and allows both the purposes of the charter amendment to be carried out and gives any owner who believes his legal rights have not been honored a fair audience.

See also:
Ea O Ka Aina: Kauai TVR Whine-A-Thon 7/23/10
Ea O Ka Aina: Musing on TVR Hatred 8/24/09
Island Breath: Illegal Transient Vacation Rentals 6/7/07
Island Breath: Planning Director Gone Berserk? 6/30/06
Island Breath: Vacation Rentals Targeted 9/8/04


Governor wrong on aquaculture

SOURCE: Mary Stone (maliastone@earthlink.net)
SUBHEAD: Abercrombie breaks promise and give ocean fish farms 65 year leases in Hawaii.

 By Staff on 29 July 2011 for Seafood Source -

Image above: An automated ocean fish farm module. From (http://www.eatmedaily.com/2009/08/the-future-of-fish-farming-is-giant-autonomous-roaming-robotic-cages).

The Hawaii Aquaculture and Aquaponics Association (HAAA) on Thursday commended Gov. Neil Abercrombie for signing a bill into law that will “broaden Hawaii’s rigorous leasing process” by expanding the life of leases from 35 years to 65 years.

“The permit and lease process is incredibly thorough, taking several years and hundreds of thousands of dollars to complete. It affords the state with multiple safeguards that protect the ocean and the public. Companies must demonstrate a sincere commitment to environmental responsibility to obtain necessary permits, so not just anyone can be part of this industry,” said Bill Spencer, president of Hawaii Oceanic Technology, which was recently granted a lease to farm yellowfin tuna off the coast of Hawaii Island.

Added Ron Weidenbach, president of HAAA: “Signing SB 1511 shows the state is firmly behind aquaculture to diversify and expand its economy on all islands. The bill is consistent with the governor’s goal of greater food security for Hawaii that is nurtured by growing sustainable industries compatible with our culture and our pristine environment.”

Initially, Abercrombie put SB 1511 on hold to give him and his staff more time to study the measure, particularly the environmental impacts of open-ocean aquaculture. He even considered vetoing it. According to HAAA, Washington, D.C.-based environmental NGO Food & Water Watch (F&WW) and its local affiliate, Pono Aquaculture (PA), tried to kill the bill via “misinformation and mass-form e-mails.”

But Abercrombie ended up signing the legislation on 14 July, saying he “has always been supportive of aquaculture and understands the need for long-term leases for financing purposes.” The HAAA also cited the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s new national marine aquaculture policy, unveiled in early June, as evidence that support for open-ocean aquaculture is growing.

In a letter to the editor to Hawaii’s Independent Forum, F&WW Executive Director Wenonah Hauter said: “Hawaii has failed to develop any state policy on ocean factory fish farming, conduct a cumulative study on the impacts of an expanded industry, or even set clear standards for this type of fish farming. The governor should have stuck with his original assessment of the bill. He was correct in stating that the definition of aquaculture was too broad.”

Take action now!  

By Staff on 28 July 2011 for Food and Water Watch - 

Despite all your calls, emails and petitions, Governor Abercrombie went back on his word and has allowed SB1511 to pass into law. That means ocean factory fish farms in Hawaiian waters will get 65 year leases for their operations. Governor Abercrombie should have listened to the people, not to the industry. Ask him to disclose communications that went on between his office and industry lobbyists after he announced his intent to veto. The public has a right to know, and he needs to know that we all will be watching.


Obama misses the point

SUBHEAD: President Obama does not understand the origins of oue present deficit.  

By Dean Baker on 27 July 2011 for Huffington Post - 

Image above: President Pbama addressing the nation on debt 7/25. From (http://blog.heritage.org/2011/07/26/morning-bell-america-needs-a-better-solution/).
In his address last Monday night President Obama described a situation in which the government had been perpetually running large deficits since President Clinton left office. The deficit increased even more as a result of the recession.
"For the last decade, we have spent more money than we take in. In the year 2000, the government had a budget surplus. But instead of using it to pay off our debt, the money was spent on trillions of dollars in new tax cuts, while two wars and an expensive prescription drug program were simply added to our nation's credit card. As a result, the deficit was on track to top $1 trillion the year I took office. To make matters worse, the recession meant that there was less money coming in, and it required us to spend even more."

This is simply not true. In its budget projections from January 2008, the last set before the impact of the collapse of the housing bubble was clear, the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) projected a deficit of just $198 billion for 2009. This is less than one-fifth of the "on track to top $1 trillion" figure that President Obama gave in his speech. This is a serious error. One trillion is a much bigger number than $198 billion.

This difference is central to the budget debate. People can argue that the $198 billion deficit projected for 2008 was too large. But it would be absurd to claim it was out of control or represented any remotely serious threat to the nation's solvency. In fact, over the five years 2003-2007 the country's debt to GDP ratio was virtually unchanged, meaning that the country could run deficits of the same size (relative to the economy) literally forever.

This changed with the recession caused by the collapse of the housing bubble. It was the recession, and the response to it, that pushed the deficit in 2009 from the $198 billion projected by CBO to the over $1 trillion noted by President Obama in his speech.

No one can justify wasting money on wars that should not have been fought, giving away tax breaks to people who don't need them, or deliberately designing a prescription drug benefit so that it needlessly hands hundreds of billions of dollars to drug companies and insurers. But even with all of this waste, the deficit was still not out of control. This is a central point that needs to be made 300,000 times in the current debate over the budget. The deficits were very much containable until the collapse of the housing bubble sank the economy. It was the economic collapse that gave us large deficits.

This should mean that our politicians focus on getting the economy back to normal levels of output. If the unemployment rate was back at the 4.7 percent rate of 2007 the bulk of the deficit would disappear.

[Editor's note: Dean baker misses the point too. We are at a new normal. We are not going back. The easy to get cheap resources are gone. Third world here we come.]

This point may fall on deaf ears as Congress goes into its budget cutting frenzy, but the public should at least understand that these cuts are not an honest response to the budget situation. The Republicans have invented a phony past where President Obama is somehow spending money like crazy to have a good time. Unfortunately, President Obama has also invented a phony past of out of control spending, but made President Bush the villain.

The reality is that if we get big cuts to Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid and other essential programs it will be because the politicians who vote for these cuts want them. It is not because spending or the deficit were out of control and they had no choice. One final point, when push comes to shove, the financial industry will make the Tea Party Republicans vote to keep them in business. Wall Street will suffer more than anyone from a default and it will not let it happen. The public should know this, certainly Wall Street does.


The American Unraveling

SUBHEAD: As a flea on his back you have a choice of either jumping off or taking a ride with Uncle Sam.

 By Juan Wilson on 29 July 2011 for Island Breath -  

Image above: Uncle Sam celebrates the Fourth at Venice Beach, CA in 2011. From (http://theashleysrealityroundup.com/2011/07/04/happy-fourth-of-july).

On this site we've been talking about it for several years now. Things we are used to and depend on are unraveling. Like a favorite old winter coat that has become threadbare over the years - its hard to notice the change.

Hard to notice until a particularly wet and cold wind blows through it and as you hunker up against a recessed doorway the back-seam splits open. Suddenly its junk. Something like that is happening to the American Dream: Job, Home, New Car, Vacation, Retirement. All those things will shortly be out of reach for most Americans. Those who can simply hang on to neighbors and family will be the lucky ones.

We are being impoverished as fast as our governments and financial system can expedite the paperwork. The reasons are clear. After Peak Oil hit in 2005 it took only a couple of years to crash the oil based growth economy. By 2007 it was all over. The monied elite, like the first class passengers on the Titanic, decided to commandeer the few life boats available.

The US Federal Reserve (a private bank consortium) that creates cash for the US Treasury, decided to bail out the corporations teetering on bankruptcy. A recent audit of the Federal Reserve indicates that the $700 billion TARP was just the down payment. Between the Quantitative Easing (QE1) and QE2, the auto bailout as well as side Bank Discount Windows there was a lot of undisclosed corporate rescues and secret foreign bank bailouts. It all has come to the tune of $16 trillion dollars.

Interestingly close to what the national debt will be after (and if) we raise the US debt ceiling. How much is being in debt $16 trillion dollars?

What are the consequences of owing ourselves that much of the future?

It's enough to snuff out most of the social entitlement programs that have ensured a minimum standard of living for those less well off.
  • It's enough to strangle organized labor. 
  • It's enough to eviscerate the middle class in America 
  • Iy's enough to reduce America to second nation status. 
  • It's enough to bankrupt state and local governments. 
  • It's enough to make the rich afraid to come out of their gated bunker communities. 
It will be enough for rioting in the street.

As I write our representatives in Washington have demonstrated their inability not only to solve our problems, but to even understand what they are. The two contending power bases, without an understanding of the laws of thermodynamics maintain a rationale for clawing our way back to a go-go growth economy - either through enriching the "Job Creators" and corporations (the Republicans), or spending money on high speed rail and highway building (the Democrats). The Republicans seem to want to take from the poor and give to the rich and the Democrats want to take from the rich and give to the poor.

But actually both simply want to be re-elected and get another chance at the money trough. The Republicans will try to apeal to those slightly richer than average who think they are getting screwed, while the Democrats will do the same for those slightly poorer than average.

As we are impoverished we'll find democratic election to government posts will have diminishing effect. The empire has no clothes. Where does that leave us? On our own. And that's okay. As the thrashing of a strangled system gets more desperate we will see ever crazier attempts to set things right again.

In the area of energy no compromise with more will do. From "conventional" sources there will be tar sands transformation to oil; mountain top removal for coal; fracking for natural gas; off shore deep water platforms, and Artic Exploration. Alternate energy sources may be just as bad.

We will see fast tracking on nuclear, hydro-electric, and wind energy projects. Every energy scheme that can be financed will be exploited regardless of damage to the environment. The American lifestyle is non-negotiable, so demand destruction will be the last thing promoted, until it is too late. And we won't even have a seat at the negotiating table. Just look at Wisconsin.

 One thing is clear. As a general rule the bigger the entity in charge, and the more money added (or subtracted) for the common good, the less likely it is to benefit you. Where this all leads is pretty obvious. Hence website content like you find here.

Some have accused us of promoting Doomster Porn. perhaps they are right, but it has not been intentional. We have sensed something out of kilter and have been trying to see where it will lead for the last few years.

For some that future seems unendurable. It can drive them to the fringes of conspiracy theories, or to apocalyptic and messianic cultism. I hope that is not where the currents are taking me. I want to know the future to make the best of it. The synonyms for the word "foresight" comfort me.
Anticipation, canniness, care, carefulness, caution, circumspection, clairvoyance, discernment, discreetness, discretion, economy, far-sightedness, foreknowledge, forethought, insight, long-sightedness, perception, precaution, precognition, preconception, premeditation, premonition, prenotion, prescience, prospect, providence, provision, prudence, sagacity.
Many things should be clearer in a few dozen hours. The United States will either find a way to cling to the cliff edge a little while longer or not. As a flea on his back you have a choice of either jumping off or taking a ride with Uncle Sam. I hope its not too late to start looking to a small printing press and some supplies.

See also: Ea O Ka Aina: Bring it on! 7/17/11


Shell profits on environment

SUBHEAD: Shell profits double as tar sands and LNG move forward and damage environment.  

By Rachel Cernansky on 28 July 2011 for treeHugger -  

Image above: A Shell gas station in Europe. We have many here in Hawaii. From original article.
Second quarter profits are out, and it's good news for Shell: $8.7 billion in the period from April to June, up from $4.4 billion in the same period last year, The New York Times reports.

It's an even larger jump than the shocking 42 percent in the first quarter, and Shell chief executive Peter Voser is looking forward to "new projects" driving growth even further in future quarters.

What are those projects? The Canadian tar sands for one—the "most destructive project on Earth" that anyone reading the news these days knows is the focus of a little bit of controversy.

Shell has also been investing in liquefied natural gas operations, one up and running in Qatar and another in Australia that is still in early stages. But despite all the talk about LNG being a source of "clean energy," the Sierra Club is one of many to point that liquefied natural gas is just another source of smog-creating pollution.

So while prices at the gas pump continue to soar, Shell continues to profit more by the day—and use that money to invest in more destruction around the world.


Japan conceals radiation danger

SUBHEAD: Japan officially orders censorship of truth about Fukushima Nuclear radiation disaster.  

By Alexander Higgens on 27 July 2011 for COTO Report -  

Image above: Government workers within Fukushima Radiation Exclusion Zone. From (http://cryptome.org/eyeball/daiichi-npp12/daiichi-photos12.htm).

The government of Japan has issued an official order to telecommunications companies and web masters to censor reports which contradict the state media reports that the Fukushima nuclear radiation disaster is over.

The supposedly free democratic nation of Japan, which supposedly values and promotes freedom of speech, has officially issued orders to telecommunication companies and webmasters to remove content from websites that counter the official government position that the disaster is over and there is no more threat from the radiation.

“The government charges that the damage caused by earthquakes and by the nuclear accident are being magnified by irresponsible rumors, and the government must take action for the sake of the public good. The project team has begun to send “letters of request” to such organizations as telephone companies, internet providers, cable television stations, and others, demanding that they “take adequate measures based on the guidelines in response to illegal information. ”The measures include erasing any information from internet sites that the authorities deem harmful to public order and morality.” Source: Asia Pacific Journal

Note: I saw the executive order issued by Japan a week or two ago but could not find it in an English version anywhere but didn’t report on it because the Japanese to English translated versions of the order did not provide clear enough meaning. What I gathered from the order was that Japan ordered telecommunication companies to provide notices to websites and webmasters to remove messages from internet bulletin boards and websites that conflicted with the Government reported version of events.

If the websites and webmasters did not comply the telecommunication companies are to shut down offending websites as this is considered a national security issue which is affecting public safety and contributing to public unrest. It was also ordered that email communications be monitored to prevent the spread of false rumors. If you can find the original executive order, please send me a tip with the link.

As previously reported GMAIL reported that their email system has in fact been affected by government sponsored hacking. As far as the so-called rumors that the censorship intends to suppress many of the rumors simply are not rumors but the truth. For example, Japan says it is trying to suppress rumors of radioactive cars while countries are in fact reporting receiving radioactive cars imported from Japan. Japan is trying to suppress false rumors of radioactive fish but in fact radioactive fish are being caught and Japan and the US are saying the fish are safe to eat while being 2400% above Federal radiation limits for food. The list goes on and on.

Since this report comes out of Tokyo, given the context and nature of this report and the fact it will likely soon be erased by the Japan censorship order, here is the original full article.

Fukushima Residents Seek Answers 

SUBHEAD: Amid mixed signals from media, TEPCO and government a report from the Radiation Exclusion Zone

By Makiko Segawa on 27 July 2011 in Fukushima

Mistrust of the media has surged among the people of Fukushima Prefecture. In part this is due to reports filed by mainstream journalists who are unwilling to visit the area near the crippled Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant. But above all it is the result of contradictory reportsreleased by the media, TEPCO and the government.

On the one hand, many local officials and residents in Fukushima insist that the situation is safe and that the media, in fanning unwarranted fears, are damaging the economy of the region.By contrast, many freelance journalists in Tokyo report that the central government is downplaying the fact that radiation leakage has been massive and that the threat to public health has been woefully underestimated.

While the government long hewed to its original definition of a 20 kilometer exclusion zone, following the April 12 announcement that the Fukushima radiation severity level has been raised from a level 5 event (as with Three Mile Island) to a level 7 event (as with Chernobyl), the government also extended the radiation exclusion zone from 20 kilometers to at least five communities in the 30-50 kilometer range.


Free Speech Denied

SUBHEAD: Arkansas City Council outlaws citizen's advisory council, and mayor meeting with other groups.

 By Kirsten Boyd Johnson on 29 July 2011 for Wonkette -  

Image above: A "Free Speech Zone" set up to contain protesters. From (http://harpers.org/archive/2008/08/hbc-90003482).

The City Council in Gould, Arkansas is going the “miniature Kremlin” route so favored these days for coping with public criticism and decided to make it “illegal to form any kind of group without its permission,” because it’s not like the First Amendment is in the Bible, calm down. 4-H, church, baking club, Little League, poker night and swingers’ meetup are all cancelled so that no one may plot against the Council.

 This is all apparently in response to a citizens advocacy group that the Council did not like for harshing on the Council all the time, much like the martial law imposed in Quartzite, Arizona last week as a result of the Council’s displeasure with its citizens’ complaints. Did anyone at least bother to do this right and set up a miniature Gulag for dissenting citizens as well?
From the NYT:
Last week, the Council overrode the mayor’s veto of two other controversial measures. One required that the citizens advisory council cease to exist. The other made it illegal for the mayor to meet with “any organization in any location” either “inside or outside Gould city limits” without the Council’s permission.
The advisory council, which calls itself a nonpartisan group that educates voters and raises money for public causes, says it will continue its work. But the City Council, in one ordinance, accused the group of “causing confusion and discourse among the citizens” by harshly criticizing local officials at public meetings.
As a result, the City Council said, “No new organizations shall be allowed to exist in the City of Gould without approval from a majority of the City Council.”
Whatever this weird Orwellian contagion going around states starting with the letter “A” is, we hope it gets to Alaska next.  


Ancient Tree Saved

SUBHEAD: Firefighters rescue 1000 year old oak tree from draught in Texas.  

By Stephen Messenger on 28 July 2011 for Tree Hugger - 

Image above: The "Big Tree" is a live oak in Rockport TX. From original article.
Just outside of Rockport, Texas, stands an ancient Live Oak affectionately known as 'the Big Tree'. For well over 1,000 years, that towering tree has offered its long, cool shadow for weary locals to wade in -- and now they're returning the favor. After managing to survive centuries of hurricanes, fires, floods, lumberjacks and wars, the Big Tree is getting a helping hand to live through its latest challenge: drought. Volunteer firefighters, many of whom played among the Big Tree's branches as children, have begun watering it with their hoses in hopes that it will be around for their children's children as well.

The Big Tree, with its huge, sprawling branches, is believed to have first sprouted over a millennia ago, making it quite possibly the oldest and largest tree in Texas -- and its history is equally as remarkable. The oak's location, a stones throw from the Gulf coast, exposed it to countless storms over the centuries, and at least one unnatural disaster, too. During one battle of the Civil War, the town around the Big Oak was almost completely destroyed; the tree was among the few things left standing.

Nowadays, the Big Tree is maintained as part of Goose Island State Park, and a plaque placed nearby offers a voice to the old oak, with an inscription that reads: "I am a live oak tree and I am very old ... I can remember hundreds of hurricanes, most I'd rather forget, but I withstood."

But if the tree did have a voice, chances are it would be a bit hoarse.

Soaring temperatures and dry conditions have some locals worried that the Big Tree may succumb to drought. But for many folks who have visited the beloved Live Oak for decades, watching it wither away just wasn't an option they could live with. With that in mind, dozens of volunteer firefighters from several cities were called in to undertake what is perhaps their most unusual rescue operation: watering a 1,000-year-old tree.

Crew turned their hoses to the Big Tree's trunk and released a deluge of life-giving water, enough to replace what normal conditions for this time of year would provide, reports the Corpus Christi Caller Times:
It took 11,000 gallons of water to simulate half an inch of rainfall. If Tropical Storm Don doesn't provide a significant amount of rainfall, the tree would continue to be watered every 10 to 14 days, state park officials said.
About a month ago, the Big Tree was fertilized through 1,000 soil penetrations, but because of the lack of rain, park officials took action...
Richard Butler, a Fulton volunteer firefighter, has visited the Big Tree site for about 30 years. He remembers coming to the tree as a child to play and is glad he was able to give back to it.
"It's good history. I want to be part of it. 'Here I am, Mr. Oak,' " he said.
For a region so choked by drought that they've had to take measures to limit their own water usage, you might expect some folks to pooh-pooh at the plan to pour so much water into the ground for the sake of a tree -- but voices of dissent have been few and far between. Droughts will come and go, seems to be the prevailing sentiment, but this tree stays put. After all, its roots clearly hold much more than earth in place: a sense of pride in the community, too.

And who knows, perhaps the tree will still be standing in another thousand years, and the efforts taken to save it will make up yet another chapter in its rich and storied legacy.


Austerity is Coming to the USA

SUBHEAD: This misery is always transferred to the future, so while the documents are signed, nobody notices.  

By Raul Meijer Ilargi on 26 July 2011 for the Automatic Earth -
Image above: Last Chance Gas 3d model demo from Nvidia. From (http://www.pcgameshardware.com/&menu=browser&image_id=824527&article_id=676851&page=2&show=original). 

See also (http://www.nvidia.com/object/demo_lastchancegas.html).

I've left the American debt ceiling debate be for the most part so far because I’m not that interested in people jockeying for election time positions while engaging in kindergarten level "fights". Now that the August 2 deadline is just one week away, we’ll look at the specifics a bit more over the course of the coming days. But not with a focus on what the Washington elite is actually saying; that stuff just bores me. Instead, I want to shift towards what the inevitable last-minute agreement will mean for the people on the ground.

And that will not be pretty. It will be harsh austerity, even if US politicians -and likely media too- will shy away from using the term. Let them. Let them reserve it for what happens in Greece and Ireland if that makes them feel better.

A rose by whatever name and all that. Just don't let that fool you. Today it's the US Postal Service closing down 3700 additional offices. Tomorrow it will be Social Security, Medicare and so on and so forth. Last week we saw that the Federal Reserve has spent $16 trillion on bailouts thus far this crisis. The debt ceiling debate is being used as we speak as the first tool to make ordinary Americans pay for this.

It's no different from what's going on in Athens and Dublin, and soon Lisbon, Madrid and Rome. The MO of the political/financial system that holds all the levers in our societies is based on a wealth transfer going one way, and a debt transfer going the other.

This is the essence of the Greek rescue operation set in motion last week in Europe, and it's the essence of the debt ceiling debate. A lot of preliminary talk about the terrible outcome if things are not done the proper way, followed by agreements that make the financial markets happy, however shortlived, and put populations into ever deeper misery.

The trick is that this misery is always transferred to the future, so while the documents are signed, nobody notices right away. But then that future arrives, and sooner than anticipated by most; the insatiable markets will from now on go after anyone who shows a weakness. And demand more money. This is how entire societies are being gutted.


Crash Club

SUBHEAD: A view on the coming economic disaster - all tangled metal and young bodies.

 By Mike Davis on 26 July 2011 for Tom's Dispatch - 

Image above: Movie poster for "Hot Rod Girl", 1956. From (http://www.wrongsideoftheart.com/2009/10/hot-rod-girl-1956-usa/) Note URL error. See also (http://www.cinemasterpieces.com/hotrodgirl.jpg).
When my old gang and I were 14 or 15 years old, many centuries ago, we yearned for immortality in the fiery wreck of a bitchin' '40 Ford or '57 Chevy. Our J.K. Rowling was Henry Felsen, the ex-Marine who wrote the bestselling masterpieces Hot Rod (1950), Street Rod (1953), and Crash Club (1958).

Officially, his books -- highly praised by the National Safety Council -- were deterrents, meant to scare my generation straight with huge dollops of teenage gore. In fact, he was our asphalt Homer, exalting doomed teenage heroes and inviting us to emulate their legend.

One of his books ends with an apocalyptic collision at a crossroads that more or less wipes out the entire graduating class of a small Iowa town. We loved this passage so much that we used to read it aloud to each other.

It's hard not to think of the great Felsen, who died in 1995, while browsing the business pages these days. There, after all, are the Tea Party Republicans, accelerator punched to the floor, grinning like demons as they approach Deadman’s Curve. (John Boehner and David Brooks, in the back seat, are of course screaming in fear.)

The Felsen analogy seems even stronger when you leave local turf for a global view. From the air, where those Iowa cornstalks don’t conceal the pattern of blind convergence, the world economic situation looks distinctly like a crash waiting to happen. From three directions, the United States, the European Union, and China are blindly speeding toward the same intersection. The question is: Will anyone survive to attend the prom?

Shaking the Three Pillars of McWorld
Let me reprise the obvious, but seldom discussed. Even if debt-limit doomsday is averted, Obama has already hocked the farm and sold the kids. With breathtaking contempt for the liberal wing of his own party, he’s offered to put the sacrosanct remnant of the New Deal safety net on the auction bloc to appease a hypothetical “center” and win reelection at any price. (Dick Nixon, old socialist, where are you now that we need you?)

As a result, like the Phoenicians in the Bible, we’ll sacrifice our children (and their schoolteachers) to Moloch, now called Deficit. The bloodbath in the public sector, together with an abrupt shutoff of unemployment benefits, will negatively multiply through the demand side of the economy until joblessness is in teenage digits and Lady Gaga is singing “Brother, Can You Spare a Dime?”
Lest we forget, we also live in a globalized economy where Americans are consumers of the last resort and the dollar is still the safe haven for the planet’s hoarded surplus value. The new recession that the Republicans are engineering with such impunity will instantly put into doubt all three pillars of McWorld, each already shakier than generally imagined: American consumption, European stability, and Chinese growth.

Across the Atlantic, the European Union is demonstrating that it is exclusively a union of big banks and mega-creditors, grimly determined to make the Greeks sell off the Parthenon and the Irish emigrate to Australia. One doesn’t have to be a Keynesian to know that, should this happen, the winds will only blow colder thereafter. (If German jobs have so far been saved, it is only because China and the other BRICs -- Brazil, Russia, and India -- have been buying so many machine tools and Mercedes.)

Boardwalk Empire Times 160
China, of course, now props up the world, but the question is: For how much longer? Officially, the People’s Republic of China is in the midst of an epochal transition from an export-based to a consumer-based economy.

The ultimate goal of which is not only to turn the average Chinese into a suburban motorist, but also to break the perverse dependency that ties that country’s growth to an American trade deficit Beijing must, in turn, finance in order to keep the Yuan from appreciating.

Unfortunately for the Chinese, and possibly the world, that country’s planned consumer boom is quickly morphing into a dangerous real-estate bubble.

 China has caught the Dubai virus and now every city there with more than one million inhabitants (at least 160 at last count) aspires to brand itself with a Rem Koolhaas skyscraper or a destination mega-mall. The result has been an orgy of over-construction.

Despite the reassuring image of omniscient Beijing mandarins in cool control of the financial system, China actually seems to be functioning more like 160 iterations of Boardwalk Empire, where big city political bosses and allied private developers are able to forge their own backdoor deals with giant state banks.

In effect, a shadow banking system has arisen with big banks moving loans off their balance sheets into phony trust companies and thus evading official caps on total lending. Last week, Moody’s Business Service reported that the Chinese banking system was concealing one-half-trillion dollars in problematic loans, mainly for municipal vanity projects. Another rating service warned that non-performing loans could constitute as much as 30% of bank portfolios.

Real-estate speculation, meanwhile, is vacuuming up domestic savings as urban families, faced with soaring home values, rush to invest in property before they are priced out of the market. (Sound familiar?) According to Business Week, residential housing investment now accounts for 9% of the gross domestic product, up from only 3.4% in 2003.

So, will Chengdu become the next Orlando and China Construction Bank the next Lehman Brothers? Odd, the credulity of so many otherwise conservative pundits, who have bought into the idea that the Chinese Communist leadership has discovered the law of perpetual motion, creating a market economy immune to business cycles or speculative manias.

If China has a hard landing, it will also break the bones of leading suppliers like Brazil, Indonesia, and Australia. Japan, already mired in recession after triple mega-disasters, is acutely sensitive to further shocks from its principal markets. And the Arab Spring may turn to winter if new governments cannot grow employment or contain the inflation of food prices.

As the three great economic blocs accelerate toward synchronized depression, I find that I’m no longer as thrilled as I was at 14 by the prospect of a classic Felsen ending -- all tangled metal and young bodies.