Archive for the 'Corruption' Category

Youth Call Out Fossil Fuel Companies & Obama Leadership Failure at Doha Climate Talks

This post was written by SustainUS delegate Anirudh Sridhar and cross-posted on

Youth call out fossil fuel industry corruption at Doha climate negotiations. Credit: Kyle Gracey/SustainUS

Youth call out fossil fuel industry corruption at Doha climate negotiations. Credit: Kyle Gracey/SustainUS

When Hitchcock’s first black bird landed on the frame of the playing ground, it seemed individual, particular. There was no need to derive a common theory about the bird in the larger scheme of things as a harbinger of anything significant. By the time the children looked out the window again, 4 more birds had arrived. Soon, the sky had become dark with the descent of an avian blanket of hundreds of birds. As delegates entered the U.N convention center at Doha for the second week of the COP 18 in Doha, they saw the first bird perched atop the escalators.

SustainUS, a youth led organization, along with Taiwan Youth Climate Coalition and Canadian Youth Climate Coalition gathered around the entrance of the convention center and stood disenchanted and disenfranchised from the process, with a somber gloom. They held black cancerous spots that had been clogging the arteries of the negotiations, speaking about the chronic and acute influence of the fossil fuel industry on the levers of global climate change policy.

Mike Sandmel, the media chair of SustainUS and co-organizer of the event stated that “we hear a lot of stories about countries being painted as evil actors as if they were monolithic. Often, even in the choke points of the climate negotiations, there is a huge internal struggle for the environmental soul of the country. The fossil fuel industries control the strings of the country’s fate because of their financial influence and this event is to bring it out in the open.” As the delegates went past the signs that read “Fossil fuel industry groups spent upwards of $376 million on TV ads to influence 2012 elections in the US.” and “Preventing the tragedies of a  2°C temperature rise means staying within a carbon budget of 565 gigatons”, their minds were arrested as their bodies glided limply past. There were a few skeptical voices heard as one delegate from India remarked “Do these people not know that half the world’s population doesn’t have electricity?” Mostly, as the delegations passed, they documented the event in film while the media rushed onto the scene to get the individual perspectives.

Democracy Now interviewed Chi Tung-Hsien, a Taiwanese youth, and he said “Hurricane Sandy has recently shaken Americans awake from a deep sleep about the disastrous effects of climate change. In Taiwan, Sandy is the norm. With mudslides, a food crisis that is likely to lead the country into famine and constant threat of the rising oceans on their island, they live at the constant mercy of climate change.” Continue reading ‘Youth Call Out Fossil Fuel Companies & Obama Leadership Failure at Doha Climate Talks’

The Photos Rep Denny Rehberg Doesn’t Want You to See

One of the great things about the age of email, Twitter, and Facebook, is it theoretically allows ordinary people to connect quickly and easily with their elected officials, sharing their views about matters of concern to them.  In the perfect democracy, politicians would embrace the opportunity to host open and transparent discussions about big issues online.

Yet in the real world, politicians all too often use tools like Facebook merely to have a one-sided conversation, projecting the image they want you to see while removing posts and comments they disagree with.  A case in point is Montana’s Congressman Denny Rehberg (who is running for the US Senate this year).

One week ago, after a weekend of action against coal exports in the Northwest, youth activists posted photos from a rally outside of Rehberg’s office on his Facebook page.  Since the action was on a Sunday, when no one was in the office, we wanted to make sure Rehberg still knew we had been there.  Some of us hoped he might even respond to our concerns about expanded coal mining, and explain why he continues to support the coal industry despite it’s record of health, safety, and environmental violations.

Instead, the photos were removed from Rehberg’s Facebook page almost immediately.  No comments, no explanation, nothing.

Continue reading ‘The Photos Rep Denny Rehberg Doesn’t Want You to See’

Climate Activist Punks Big Oil’s “Vote4Energy” Commercial Shoot

Posted on Behalf of Connor Gibson, Greenpeace Activist.

If you had the chance to talk to Big Oil directly to its big oily face, what would you want to say?

I recently had such a chance at a commercial shoot run by the American Petroleum Institute, the major lobbying and public relations front for the oil industry (ie ExxonMobil, Chevron, BP, Shell, TransCanada and just about every major oil company). Here’s what I had to say:

Through recorded audio, we got to expose API’s upcoming “Vote4Energy” campaign, which debuts January first on CNN during major political programs. Audio recordings from inside the Vote4Energy commercial shoot can be found on the Greenpeace website, and on Yahoo News. More can also be found at the Checks and Balances Project, where Deputy Director and youth climate leader Gabe Elsner has more recordings from inside the shoot.

Continue reading ‘Climate Activist Punks Big Oil’s “Vote4Energy” Commercial Shoot’

This is what LOVE looks like

(Cross posted from

Watching Tim speak in the courtroom, watching him utter words that would be echoed and transported across oceans, seeing him in all his candor and vulnerability, I realized that it’s the most powerful I’ve ever seen him. As he earnestly looked the judge straight in the eye asking him to join him — to join us — I simply could not ignore the eery yet deeply moving sensation that this statement would be one for the history books.

This is what hope looks like… This is what patriotism looks like… This is what love looks like.”
-Tim DeChristopher. July 26th 2011. Salt Lake City Federal Courthouse
(Read full statement here)

On that day, in that courtroom, his invitation fell on deaf ears. Judge Benson did not open up his heart to Tim’s plea and instead chose to respond with the inflexible “rule of law,” the systemic stance that an empowered citizen effectively challenging the status-quo should be contained and silenced.

In those initial nauseating and destabilizing moments, I simply could not process the judge’s words. 24 months of federal incarceration? To be taken into custody forthwith by US Marshals? Chained up like a dangerous criminal? All after making it crystal clear that the prison sentence was the result of Tim’s outspoken political views?

Crushed by the daunting realization that there would be no final good-bye, no last hug, I rushed down the courthouse steps, dizzy and in shock. Despite my personal trauma, the world needed to know, needed to hear Peaceful Uprising’s outrage and our call for a peaceful, directed, and sustained response. Continue reading ‘This is what LOVE looks like’

Endbridge – Why The Enbridge Northern Gateway Pipeline Proposal And All Tar Sands Expansion From Alberta To The B.C. West Coast Will Be Stopped In Its Tracks By The Unity Of Indigenous Nations

Endbridge – Why The Enbridge Northern Gateway Pipeline Proposal And All Tar Sands Expansion From Alberta To The B.C. West Coast Will Be Stopped In Its Tracks By The Unity Of Indigenous Nations

If you have ever driven on most of the northern highways in northern Alberta you will be presented with a picture of a tame prairie terrain, with sprawling fields and farms holding cows and the occasional conventional oil pump jack. A few kilometers on any of the gravel access roads however and you will see a much more bleaker picture of out of control industrialization and poisoning of the land. This is unless of course you witness the tar sands machines of death on Highway 63 near Fort McMurray and Fort McKay, or the massive underground mining operations in the Peace River and Cold Lake regions disrupting and contaminating underground water. What most modern thinkers fail to understand is thousands years of history from the ancestors of Cree, Dene, Blackfoot, Nakoda and Metis people. Living nations of people who simply cannot afford the luxury of packing up and moving as settlers when there is no longer work. These lands are home to these nations and are not sacrifice zones. And like a deadly contagious all-consuming disease, what has been done to Alberta by the oil industry cannot be allowed to spread to other parts of the world killing indigenous ways of life and jeopardizing the future for all.

Enbridge, and the expansion of the Alberta Tar Sands Gigaproject, is attempting to retrace the steps taken by the Hudson’s Bay Company with classic colonial strategy. The Hudson’s Bay Company was the first corporation on Turtle Island, here in North America. The Hudson’s Bay Company fur trading forts also became the first settler governments for the British Empire. In Alberta, the first settlement and colonial government in Alberta was in Fort Chipewyan, which would today is seen as the international poster community for a Cree, Dene and Metis community directly impacted by 40 years of out of control open pit tar sands mining. The Enbridge Northern Gateway Pipeline is renewing a pipeline proposal and expansions originally proposed nearly 10 years ago and is supported by the Stephen Harper Conservative Canadian Government.

Just one week after the largest oil pipeline spill in Alberta in 30 years in unceded Lubicon Cree Territory, a spill that took six days for the Alberta government to respond in a half-assed, indifferent manner, starting with faxing a one-page “fact sheet” update about the disaster, a large contingent from the Yinka Dene Alliance from the northwest interior of B.C. were arriving in Calgary to confront Enbridge’s proposed Northern Gateway pipeline project and tanker traffic.

On May 11th, 2011, on the traditional territories of the Blackfoot Confederacy in Calgary, Alberta, a historic solidarity statement of opposition to the Enbridge Northern Gateway Pipeline proposal was signed by leaders of the Blood Tribe, Alexander First Nation, Lubicon Lake Nation, Roseau River Anishinabe First Nation, Sai’kuz First Nation, Nadleh Whuten, Takla Lake First Nation and the Nakazdli First Nation.

The day after the Enbridge AGM a rally was held in Prince Rupert, B.C. on May 12th, outside a meeting sponsored by Enbridge for the Northern BC Municipalities Convention. With a historic turn-out of over 500 Indigenous and non-Indigenous residents of the island of Lach Kaien, known in the mainstream society as Prince Rupert, publicly and loudly demonstrating their opposition to the Enbridge Gateway Pipeline proposal as well as any tar sands tanker traffic that would support the industry of dirty crude oil and liquid condensate.

Lach Kaien, or Prince Rupert, is known to the Tsimshian as the “Cradle of Tsimshian Civilization,” according to a hereditary chief of the Gits’iis tribe, Sm’ooygit Nisyaganaat. The Prince Rupert Harbor contains the most dense archaelogical sites north of Mexico City and is the second deepest harbor in the world. Lach Kaien is surrounded by Tsimshian communities traditionally comprised of 11 Tsimshian villages, as well as neighboring nations from the Haida, Haisla, Heiltsuk, Gitksan, Nisga’a, Tahltan, and Tlingit. To this day the indigenous population of the town of Prince Rupert is still between 40-50%, with all industries heavily dependent upon the commerce, labor and resources of Indigenous coastal nations.

A few coastal communities however have not yet made a clear position on whether or not to support the Enbridge Northern Gateway pipeline and tanker project and any western tar sands crude oil expansion. These include among the largest of coastal communities of Lach hlgu K’alaams (Lax Kw’Alaams) or Port Simpson, and Gitkxaahla (Kitkatla), where the still active traditional laws and feasting systems of hereditary chiefs is still strong and holds much influence over the non-surrendered tribal territories in the region of Prince Rupert, Hecate Strait, and the Skeena and Nass Rivers.

These are nations still waiting to awaken to take their place and decide for themselves what is allowed into the lands and waters of nations that have lived and thrived on this edge of the world for thousands of years. To uphold the traditional laws and protocols of respect and responsibilities known as Ayaawk and Gugwiltx Yaans and not be steered by any settler government, environmental group, or any funding body with non-Indigenous agendas. Especially is true that Indigenous grassroots leaders are still fighting the oppression of the Indian Act system and the federal Canadian employees of many Band Councils maintaining the silencing of traditional hereditary leadership systems through which the sole jurisdiction of all territories flows through.

Indigenous lands and waters are to be spoken for and by Indigenous minds and communities. Enbridge Northern Gateway, and all tar sands pipelines and expansions such as the Kinder Morgan TMX Northern Leg Extension, the Pembina Pipeline, the PNG KSL Pipeline, the Kitimat and Prince Rupert Liquid Natural Gas Terminals, and the Prince Rupert “New World” Container Ports are just a few of the many modern obstacles in the path of standing up the original structures and ways of life with which to free Indigenous nations on this edge of the world.

Links to the rally and demonstration held in Lach Kaien and declarations of war against Enbridge -

Statement of Solidarity of Indigenous Nations opposed to Enbridge Northern Gateway -

May 10th, 2011 – Calgary, Alberta, territories of the Blackfoot Confederacy

Our Nations are bound together by the water which is our lifeblood. We have protected our lands and waters since time immemorial, each according to our laws and traditions. The waters of Indigenous peoples throughout the lands known as western Canada are being threatened by fossil fuel exploitation and transportation.

We exercise our rights to sustain our cultural and economic well-being. The laws of each of our peoples are deeply embedded in our cultures and practices. These laws have never been extinguished and our authority continues in our lands. Our peoples continue to live by them today.

We have come together on May 10, 2011 in the city of Calgary, Alberta, in the traditional territory of the Blackfoot Confederacy, to declare to the governments of Alberta, British Columbia, as well as Enbridge Inc., all of its subsidiary bodies, and the domestic and international financial institutions supporting Enbridge, THE FOLLOWING:

The Enbridge Northern Gateway Pipeline and tankers project will expose Indigenous and non-Indigenous communities from the Pacific Coast across to Alberta to the risk of pipeline and supertanker oil spills, just as we have seen recently with Enbridge’s massive spill in Michigan, the recent devastating spill in Lubicon Cree territory, the recent TransCanada pipeline spill in North Dakota, as well as the effects of the Gulf of Mexico Deepwater Horizon disaster. Tar sands bitumen has been demonstrated to corrode pipelines more rapidly than conventional oil, increasing the likelihood of catastrophic spills. Given the seismic volatility of the region, the recent earthquake in Japan also underlies our grave concerns about the risk of oil spills.

The urgency of global climate change, and the fact that Indigenous peoples are among those most impacted by climate change, also compels us to act.

We have witnessed the Coastal First Nations Declaration banning crude oil tankers on the Pacific North Coast, and the Save the Fraser Declaration banning crude oil transportation through the Fraser River watershed. Each of these Declarations is based in Indigenous law and is an expression of Indigenous decision-making authority.

Enbridge states that it intends to proceed with its Northern Gateway pipeline and tankers, with or without First Nations consent. A decision by Canada to approve this project, without the free, prior and informed consent of affected Nations, will be a violation of our Treaties, our rights, and our laws, and will be in breach of the UN Declaration of the Rights of Indigenous Peoples and other international accords.

THEREFORE we stand in solidarity with the Coastal First Nations, and the Nations who have signed the Save the Fraser Declaration, and are united in stating that Enbridge Northern Gateway Pipeline and tanker project, as well as other fossil fuel development projects including Keystone XL, must not proceed without obtaining the free, prior and informed consent of all affected First Nations.

AND FURTHER if such consent is not obtained, no construction of such projects shall proceed.

SIGNED in the traditional territories of the Blackfoot Confederacy, at the city of Calgary, May 10 2011

Sai’kuz First Nation

Nadleh Whut’en

Takla Lake First Nation

Nakazdli First Nation

Blood Tribe

Alexander First Nation

Roseau River Anishinabe First Nation

Lubicon Lake Nation

The Dirty Dozen Tax Dodgers

Co-authored by Matt Leonard and Becky Tarbotton – Executive Director of Rainforest Action Network

Billionaire real estate investor and legendary tax evader Leona Helmsley famously said: “Only the little people pay taxes.” It turns out Helmsley was all too right.

Last month’s discovery that GE paid zero in taxes in 2010 has exploded across the news. But GE is not alone. Rainforest Action Network reviewed the top four banks, oil and coal companies in the country, and found that all of them are gaming the system. In fact, Bank of America, Citi, Massey Energy and Chevron have also all paid zero in federal income taxes this year or in year’s past.

We reviewed 12 of the dirtiest corporate tax dodgers: Bank of America, Citi, JPMorgan, Wells Fargo, Chevron, BP, Shell, Exxon, Massey Energy, Alpha Natural Resources, Peabody Energy and Arch Coal. These 12 banks, oil and coal companies are responsible for foreclosing on millions of people’s homes and polluting our air, water and climate. At the same time, we found that they pay next to nothing into a tax system that provides the very services that protect the homeless, the sick and our environment.

As the graphic below shows, banks, oil and coal companies are making billions in profits annually and paying much less than their fair share in taxes. In fact, the top four oil companies in the country made $1.26 trillion in gross revenues and paid a shocking 2.04% average tax rate.

Dirty Corporate Tax Dodgers Infographic

Click here to see graphic at full size

If just the top banks, oil and coal companies actually paid the IRS corporate tax rate of 35%, they would be giving back $62 billion this tax season. That is almost double the current $38 billion proposed federal budget cuts.

To add insult to injury, while these multi-billion dollar industries are raking in the profits and evading their taxes they were also paying millions in CEO compensation and lobby dollars. These corporations are happy to pay large sums to manipulate our democracy but aren’t so interested in paying to support that democracy.

So, let’s get one thing straight: America is not broke, and these dirty corporations don’t need any more handouts, bailouts, or subsidies. We don’t have a money problem, we have a priorities problem. We’re slashing billions from our budget, much of which will come out of social services and environmental protections, while allowing corporate giants to slip ever-increasing profits into offshore accounts.

By reversing years of tax giveaways to the largest corporations, Congress could raise trillions in revenue not only covering our budget deficit but also enhancing education, health and environmental programs that safeguard our families and our future.

Pissed off? You should be. It’s time corporate tax dodgers pay their fair share. You can get involved with RAN’s campaigns to hold Wall Street, King Coal and Big Oil accountable. And US Uncut is leading actions on Tax Day to call out corporate tax dodgers – get involved!

Reclaim Power in Washington D.C.! A Call to Action on April 18th at the End of Powershift

Rising Tide North America invites all residents, students and youth to join the Reclaim Power.

WHAT: Reclaim Power March & Creative Direct Actions

WHERE: Lafayette Square (H St NW & Jackson Pl NW); Washington D.C.

WHEN: April 18th at the end of the Powershift rally (scheduled from 10am-1pm)


From April 15th through the 18th, thousands of students and youth will be attending Powershift 2011. This conference has been billed as another opportunity to do something about climate change. Throughout the conference, Democratic politicians from Al Gore to Lisa Jackson will tell us the solution is to lobby, vote and work within the corporate-owned political system to stop climate change. They will tell us that supporting the existing leadership’s policies and the creation of carbon markets will stem the rising tide of carbon emissions slowly destroying our planet.

Do we really believe the answers lie in supporting a broken democracy and a carbon trading market that only makes bankers and oil men richer?

Despite Obama’s promises on the climate and the environment, things are only getting worse. Continue reading ‘Reclaim Power in Washington D.C.! A Call to Action on April 18th at the End of Powershift’

Coal Developer Indicted, Questionable Practices Loom in Georgia

Crosspost from

Plans to construct two coal-fired power plants in middle Georgia were dealt a blow last Thursday as Dwight Brown, CEO of Cobb EMC- one of the nations largest Electrical Members Corporations (EMC)- was indicted on 31 accounts of corporate theft by taking, racketeering, making false statements, and conspiracy to defraud the government entities.  The charges come after 2 years of citizen activism and litigation, and help highlight corrupt business practices that allegedly continue within the organization today- as the EMC proceeds with $4.2 billion coal development plans.

Cobb EMC is the lead financial and logistical supporter of a coalition of electrical corporations called Power4Georgians LLC, attempting to build two 850MW coal plants in middle Georgia, despite the fact that no new coal plants have been started in the United States in the last two years.  In state filings Dwight Brown is identified as the lead “organizer” of the consortium, and is the lead signature in the plants’ permit applications.

The detailed indictment of CEO Dwight Brown lays out criminal business practices in which Brown and other EMC board members of the not-for-profit EMC created a for-profit business called Cobb Energy, and allegedly used EMC membership funds to piggy-bank multi-million dollar salary and compensation packages for Brown and Board.  Mr. Brown, after transferring nearly all not-for-profit assets to the for-profit Cobb Energy, charged the 200,000 person EMC membership an 11% mark-up on services that the EMC previously rendered, used EMC membership data to sell SCANA natural gas services at huge profits for Cobb Energy, and granted Brown a $3 million personal loan- which was soon after forgiven- used to purchased preferred stocks in Cobb Energy.  All of this while Brown lied to and deceived the EMC membership, who in organizational Bylaws are charged with democratically operating and affectively owning the not-for-profit entity.

Yeah, Shady (at best) right?

But it only gets better…

Continue reading ‘Coal Developer Indicted, Questionable Practices Loom in Georgia’

Ethical Oil…When No One Knows What They Mean By Ethical

Oh wow has the debate around the tar sands changed over the past years. Every so often, politicians change pro-tar sands rhetoric to confuse and contort the issue—and reframe the dialogue with their opposition. The new theme of the political moment is: “ethical oil.” This is based on comparing Canada (as a country) to the other oil producing/exporting countries.

Newly appointed Environment Minister Peter Kent told the Calgary Herald last week that “it’s a secure oil in a world where many of the free world’s oil sources are somewhat less secure.”

A recent Globe and Mail article thanks author and tar sands-advocate Ezra Levant for his recent contribution to this public relations stint:

Mr. Levant has helped popularize the argument that oil-sands petroleum is ethically superior to petroleum produced by countries such as Saudi Arabia and Venezuela and other regimes with dubious environmental and human rights records. By comparison, he argues, Canada is environmentally responsible, peaceful, offers its workers fair wages and respects human rights.

We now see that the Harper government has adopted Levant’s argument which is based on the entire question “whether we should use oil from the oil sands or oil from the other places in the world that pump it.” –p.7. In Levant’s book Ethical Oil he claims it is THE question. In reality…it is HIS question. And it is not an appropriate question given that it discounts the human rights violations and environmental devastation caused by tar sands operations.

Pointing the finger at violations to human rights and environmental regulation abroad does not mean that Canada is doing okay. Let’s take some of Levant’s key arguments cited above.

Canada is environmentally responsible: Ezra, if Canada was environmentally responsible, please tell me why the Harper government did not pass Bill C-300, a bill that would have regulated Canada’s mining operations abroad. Could you also explain the undemocratic defeat of Bill C-311, the only piece of climate legislation in parliament? And while you are trying to explain why an “environmentally responsible” country would reject environmental policies, could you also guide me to the full impact assessment of the tar sands that has been avoided for so long?

Canada is peaceful: Ezra, what is your definition of peaceful? Does it explain Canada’s involvement in military occupations abroad? Does it include the Conservative government’s investment in fighter jets? Does it include the increased funding to the prison system when crime rates are in decline? Does it include increases to military operations and domestic policing in a country where there are also cuts to the shelter system, affordable housing, childcare, public transit, and other social services? What does your definition of peaceful include?

Offers its workers fair wages: The tar sand employs a significant amount of migrant workers from all over the world—Mexico, China, Guatemala, Indonesia—you name it. Now Ezra, can you tell me the migrant workers in the tar sands are not subject to the same exploitation as the workers in other sectors such as agriculture and live-in caregiver programs? Can you prove that migrant workers are not forced to live in small housing conditions with many others, work precarious jobs without proper safety equipment, nor are denied access to health care? Can you prove to me that migrant workers in the tar sands are not threatened with deportation (or are deported) when they speak out about these workers’ rights violations?

Respects Human Rights: Now Ezra, I do not even think I am going to ASK about this one, but instead I am going to say “HELLO! One of the main reasons people are opposed to Canada’s tar sands projects is because they violate human rights!” The tar sands have destroyed people’s water sources, food sources, and increased asthma, cancer, and cardiovascular diseases in many communities. It is contributing to global warming pollution, causing increases in extreme weather events, droughts, and floods. First Nations communities in Saskatchewan, Alberta, and BC have sued both provincial and federal governments because they are approving projects that violate their constitutional rights as Aboriginal people. Well done to a country that respects human rights! (insert eye-rolling here)

Now, moving past the silliness of Ezra Levant and his arguments, I am still concerned that there is an environment minister who fails to see the environmental pitfalls of a water- and energy-intensive project like the tar sands. A project that has caused the deforestation of large swaths of the Canadian boreal forest, and a project that requires chemical inputs while also releasing them back into the environment. I think that Harper is faced with the same problem he has every time he needs to shuffle around his cabinet, a problem that Rick Mercer says simply as just not having enough qualified applicants.

GOP leadership stacks Energy & Commerce with climate zombies

By RL_Miller, cross-posted from Daily Kos

Rep. Rob Bishop (AP Photo)

Republican leadership is stacking the Energy & Commerce committee with known climate zombies — elected officials who question the reality of human-caused climate change, thus proving that stupid goes viral.

The strategy is part and parcel with Rand Paul (“abolish the Fed!”) chairing a banking committee with jurisdiction over the Fed, Joe Pitts (Stupak-Pitts, attacker of women’s health) chairing a health committee, and Rob Bishop (probably the worst member of Congress for national park issues) overseeing a national parks subcommittee.  Here, loading the dice is a particularly reprehensible strategy when gambling with humanity’s future.

Continue reading ‘GOP leadership stacks Energy & Commerce with climate zombies’