Monday, September 29, 2008

Offshore Drilling and American Political Party Stances

Since 1981, drilling in the waters of the Atlantic and Pacific off U.S. shorelines has been banned under a federal moratorium. Last week, in response to high gas prices and continued dependence on an oil-based economy, the Democrat-controlled House voted 236-189 to open these offshore areas to exploration and drilling. If passed into law, the House bill would allow oil drilling 50 miles from shore with a state's permission and 100 miles from shore without a state's permission. The bill would also remove restrictions on oil shale drilling in the western United States (which the National Wildlife Federation called a "double disaster" for our climate), eliminate some tax credits currently held by oil companies, and require that 15% of U.S. energy production be by renewable sources by 2020.
The Republican view:

The McCain/Palin rallying cry has been "Drill, Baby, Drill!" House Republican leaders spent the summer holding weekly press conferences calling for resumed drilling. Sarah Palin, the Republican Vice-Presidential candidate, strongly supports oil exploration in her home state's Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. John McCain - who asks crowds at his campaign rallies for their support for drilling for oil wherever they happen to be standing - states that he will "cooperate with the...Department of Defense in the decisions to develop these resources," illustrating his belief that U.S. energy policy and the invasion and occupation of oil-rich nations are clearly linked.
The Democratic view:

The key word has been "compromise". House Speaker Nancy Pelosi traded support for a 27-year old moratorium on offshore drilling for slightly higher taxes on oil companies, who will likely immediately continue making record profits by passing increased costs onto customers. Instead of focusing on the need for new, truly clean energy sources, Barack Obama trumpets his willingness to work across the aisle on increasing vehicle fuel efficiency (instead of replacing polluting engines with replacement technologies) and further development of so-called "clean" coal. Obama's support for new coal development (and the mountaintop removal and strip mining we use to obtain it) is a step back to a 19th-century, not 21st-century, energy strategy.
The Green view:

We oppose the toxic and environmentally-destructive national oil-based energy strategy. We agree with the experts who insist that new sources of domestic oil could not be discovered, processed, and refined within a decade. We urge immediate investment in strategies that can have both a short-term and sustainable impact on our national energy strategy, such as solar, wind, and other non-polluting alternative energy sources.
As Green Party Presidential candidate Cynthia McKinney says, "Leave the Oil in the soil." We support leaving it in the soil, ocean floor, shale, and wherever else the oil parties imagine they might find it.
Help the Green Party win investments in sustainable alternative energy sources by investing in the McKinney/Clemente campaign and the Green Party of the United States. Democrats have called for increasing investments in renewable energy sources by a paltry 15% over the next decade - we can make real changes if you pledge to increase your support of the Green Party and its candidates by 15% right now!

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Michael Cavlan endorses Farheen Hakeem

I have been incredibly busy, being a Street Medic treating the victims
of police brutality, doing Indy media journalism and telling the stories
that the local and national corporate media refuse to do, exposing our local elected officials complicity in the RNC police abuse etc etc. I have wanted to answer this post and finally get time and the chance.

I will answer as a Trade Union activist, Registered Nurse, having worked organizing with the MNA, proud former member of the Michigan Nurses assoc, ITGWU (Irish Transport and general Workers Union) IVG&ATA (Irish VintnersGrocers & Allied Trades Assoc) and I come a family with a long history of Trade Unionism. I also speak as male feminist and social justice activist.

I proudly and gladly endorse Farheen Hakeem and will be delighted when she becomes my representative. Rest assured, she will in all likelihood win this election.

Recently, the psuedo-progressive organization Take Action Minnesota (formerly
Progressive Minnesota) endorsed, supported and helped Mayor Coleman in his
election. This is the same "progressive" who, along with RT Ryback stood
with the police, giving them the legal authority to brutalize protestors.

This means that those "progressives" in Take Action Minnnesota now have
some serious egg on their faces. Once Farheen Hakeem wins this seat we can
assume that the MNA and Social Workers Union will likewise have egg on their

Taking this to a deeper level though, there are other questions that must be
asked. The MNA and Social Workers Union both represent professions that are
primarily women. Yet they choose to not endorse Farheen Hakeem, who is a woman.
Can it be that Farheen Hakeem represents people who will not accept the classist,
racist and sexist status quo?

Florence Nightingale was a radical activist for the poor and in opposition to the war of her time, the Krimean War. Farheen Hakeem best represents the spirit of Florence Nightingale in 61B. Sadly, that spirit seems to have been crushed, a long time ago in the Minnesota Nurses Association.

This Nurse, who has walked picket lines during the June 2001 Nurses strike and long time Union activist proudly stands with my sister Farheen Hakeem. She will make history, being the first Green and first Muslim woman elected to the Minnesota House.

The MNA, Social Workers Union and Take Action Minnesota will all be far too busy washing the egg off their faces to notice.

Michael Cavlan RN

Friday, September 26, 2008

Barkley on Bailout: 'Key Questions Remain Unanswered'

Pre-Election Rush to 'Solutions' Reminiscent of 2002 Iraq War Debate

For Immediate Release
Contact: Christopher Truscott

SAINT PAUL—Dean Barkley, the Independence Party candidate for U.S. Senate, outlined his concerns about the proposed Wall Street bailout with eight key questions at a press conference Friday morning at the State Capitol:

We should not take at face value that a meltdown of our financial market is imminent. What specific events can be cited that foretell these doomsday prophecies? Specifically, where is credit being withheld and where is there inadequate liquidity in the markets?

What percentage of the financial market is involved in this problem? The banking sector seems to be just fine. Bank America and Wells Fargo are still making loans. Can't the Federal Reserve pick up the slack to provide the capital necessary to replace this source of funds?

Who decided that the sky will fall if a decision is not made by Monday? What was the basis of this prediction? What is happening in the market now that would prove this immediate danger?

Where did the $700 billion figure come from?

Isn't the doom-and-gloom rhetoric coming from the Bush administration creating a self-fulfilling prophecy? Why do we need a rush to judgment on this issue?

What specific reforms in leverage requirements, contingent liability disclosure, and regulatory oversight will be implemented to ensure this situation does not resurface.

How will adding $700 billion more to the national debt affect the exchange rate and the price of oil?

Once this precedent is set, who will be next in line? The auto industry? Airlines? Auto loans? Hedge funds?

"In the rush to find 'solutions,' too many key questions remain unanswered," Barkley said. "I'm not ideologically opposed to a bailout at some point, if necessary, but the way in which the Administration and Congress is handling this is reminiscent of the pre-election Iraq War debate six years ago. The American people deserve better than that this time around."

Earlier this week, Barkley called for responsible business leaders and non-partisan politicians, like former Medtronic CEO Bill George and New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, to be included in the search for answers to the problems affecting certain sectors of the economy.

On Thursday, he said Congress should delay action on the bailout proposal.

"Everyone is worried about the economy, including me," Barkley said this week. "But the worst thing Congress can do right now is rush through a massive bail-out bill before adjourning in just a few days. More than 100 leading economists agree: Let's take a while to breathe, talk to voters over the next month and get a better handle on how the economic indicators are shaking out before we hand over hundreds of billions of taxpayer dollars to Wall Street titans."
* * * * *

Barkley, 58, served as the director of the Minnesota Office of Strategic and Long Range Planning under Gov. Jesse Ventura. In November 2002, Ventura appointed Barkley to fill the final two months of the late Sen. Paul Wellstone's term.

The former governor said recently that Barkley is "measured minute by minute … the most effective U.S. senator in Minnesota history."

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Bailout Mania - Call your Congressperson

Congress buying our confidence with cash earlier this year failed.

Congress buying out Fannie Mae and Sallie Mae failed.

The Feds buying AIG and other shady financial schemes failed.

What makes us think a $700,000,000,000 bailout will work? It won't, but it might stave off concern until after the election.

Call Congress and let them know we want long-term solutions, not last second election schemes. The longer we stall the impending recession, the greater likelihood it will be a Depression.

Senator Amy Klobuchar ---------202-224-3244
Senator Norm Coleman ---------202-224-5641

Tim Walz ---------202-225-2472
John Kline ---------202-225-2271
Jim Ramstad ---------202-225-2871
Hon. Keith Ellison---------202-225-4755
Hon. Betty McCollum---------202-225-6631
Michelle Bachmann--------- 202-225-2331
Collin Peterson ---------202-225-2165
Jim Oberstar ---------202-225-6211

If any Greens want to chime in about how this might work, please feel free to explain. Our economy may collapse, but society may not if we can implement long-term strategies to deal with our intertwining energy and economic crisis. Bailing out Wall Street should be off the table.

Today, at around the country at 5PM, there will be rallies to protest the taxpayer handout to Wall Street billionaires. To find where one is near you go here:



Sunday, September 21, 2008

We Agree

The Republican/Democrat duopoly has, for far too long, ignored the most important issues facing our nation. However, alternate candidates Bob Barr, Chuck Baldwin, Cynthia McKinney, and Ralph Nader agree with Ron Paul on four key principles central to the health of our nation. These principles should be key in the considerations of every voter this November and in every election.

We Agree

Foreign Policy: The Iraq War must end as quickly as possible with removal of all our soldiers from the region. We must initiate the return of our soldiers from around the world, including Korea, Japan, Europe and the entire Middle East. We must cease the war propaganda, threats of a blockade and plans for attacks on Iran, nor should we re-ignite the cold war with Russia over Georgia. We must be willing to talk to all countries and offer friendship and trade and travel to all who are willing. We must take off the table the threat of a nuclear first strike against all nations.

Privacy: We must protect the privacy and civil liberties of all persons under US jurisdiction. We must repeal or radically change the Patriot Act, the Military Commissions Act, and the FISA legislation. We must reject the notion and practice of torture, eliminations of habeas corpus, secret tribunals, and secret prisons. We must deny immunity for corporations that spy willingly on the people for the benefit of the government. We must reject the unitary presidency, the illegal use of signing statements and excessive use of executive orders.

The National Debt: We believe that there should be no increase in the national debt. The burden of debt placed on the next generation is unjust and already threatening our economy and the value of our dollar. We must pay our bills as we go along and not unfairly place this burden on a future generation.

The Federal Reserve: We seek a thorough investigation, evaluation and audit of the Federal Reserve System and its cozy relationships with the banking, corporate, and other financial institutions. The arbitrary power to create money and credit out of thin air behind closed doors for the benefit of commercial interests must be ended. There should be no taxpayer bailouts of corporations and no corporate subsidies. Corporations should be aggressively prosecuted for their crimes and frauds.

We support opening up the debates beyond the two parties and the Commission on Presidential Debates (CPD), a private corporation co-chaired by former chairmen of the Republican and Democratic Party. It is time for our Presidential Debates to once again be hosted by a truly non-partisan civic-minded association

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Seize the Time!

by Cynthia McKinney

We the people must now seize the time! We have always had the capabilityof determining our own destiny, but for various reasons, the people failed to elect the leaders who provided the correct political will. There was always some corporate or private special interest that stood in the way of the public good. And they always seemed to have the power of the purse to throw around and influence public opinion or our elected officials. The
very foundation of the U.S. economy is crumbling underneath our feet. This represents a unique moment in U.S. history and we must now seize the time for self-determination - for health care, education, ecological wisdom, justice, and all the policies that will make a difference in the lives of the people including an end to all wars, including the drug war!

The crisis was staved off for a time for some of our major finance engines when they were able to obtain bridge funding from certain sovereign wealth funds. That option grows increasingly dim as The Federal Reserve is becoming the lender of last resort. This means that the people are
becoming the owners of the primary instruments of U.S. capital and finance. This now means that the people have a say in how these instruments are to be used and what their priorities ought to be. The people should now have more say in how their tax dollars are spent and what the priorities of government and the public sector must be. We the people must now set our demands to ensure and promote the public good.

Now, as we ponder the importance of this moment to do good and serve the needs of the people, some politicians have already figured out their answer for us: win or steal the next election, prepare for more war, and leave it to others to try and figure out what to do next. While banks are failing all around us and the U.S. taxpayer is drenched with news of billion-dollar bailouts for *selected* companies, the Congress, which has utterly failed in its twin responsibilities of setting policy and Executive Branch oversight, plans to adjourn instead of setting new policies; lessening the impact of the economic freefall on innocent victims; or stopping war, expansion of war, new war, and occupation.

In a dizzying turn of recent events, we have all witnessed the collapse of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac mortgage providers, investment banks Lehman Brothers and Bear Stearns, and insurer American International Group (AIG), and other companies. So far, at least eleven banks have filed for bankruptcy this year. The case of the AIG bailout is particularly curious as Merrill Lynch was denied taxpayer largesse. I wonder if AIG was the selected company for bailout because of its relationship to the U.S. intelligence community and what others would discover if AIG's books were opened in an audit. The last person to get close to AIG and its shady operations was Eliott Spitzer.

But some more fundamental issues must be explored here, relating to the underlying assumptions that have guided U.S. political and economic activity, particularly over the last eight years.

The Bush Administration's "anything goes, just don't get caught" attitude has set the tone for what we are witnessing today. To be sure these problems didn't start in January of 2001, but they sure were allowed to accelerate during the George W. Bush Administration. For example, what tone was set when the Administration shipped $12 billion to Paul Bremer's provisional government in Iraq in cash on wooden pallets for Iraq reconstruction? No wonder $9 billion of it was "lost." What I'm constantly reminded of is that the money didn't just vanish, somebody got it. Now it's up to us to find out who!

However, the Administration's blatant disregard for good governance, the rule of law, standards of moral and ethical conduct, and even etiquette, when coupled with a laissez-faire, "go-along-to-get-along" attitude from Congress meant that no holes were barred and no hands were on the deck - a sure prescription for disaster.

In my reading over the course of the last few years, I had to become somewhat conversant with the language of the new economy: bundled mortgages, securitization, SPEs, SIVs, derivatives. But in addition to the old concepts that always seemed to be with us - predatory lending, redlining, no affordable housing amid "the housing bubble," - it soon became clear that basically folks had figured out a way to make money off of a ticking time bomb. Kind of like prisons for profit. And even though the Enron scandal was supposed to have cleaned up a lot of this, unfortunately, even Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac regularly engaged in some of these practices and that's why you and I own them today. I believe it is true that the very foundations of the U.S. economy and conventional political behavior have been shaken. Now is not the time for business as usual. And although this is by no ways exhaustive, here are a few things that I think the Democratic-led Congress could work on now instead of adjourning:

1. enactment of a foreclosure moratorium now before the next phase of ARM interest rate increases take effect;

2. elimination of all ARM mortgages and their renegotiation into 30- or 40-year loans;

3. establishment of new mortgage lending practices to end predatory and discriminatory practices;

4. establishment of criteria and construction goals for affordable housing;

5. redefinition of credit and regulation of the credit industry so that discriminatory practices are completely eliminated;

6. full funding for initiatives that eliminate racial and ethnic disparities in home ownership;

7. recognition of shelter as a right according to the United Nations Declaration of Human Rights to which the U.S. is a signatory so that no one sleeps on U.S. streets;

8. full funding of a fund designed to cushion the job loss and provide for retraining of those at the bottom of the income scale as the economy transitions;

9. close all tax loopholes and repeal of the Bush tax cuts for the top 1% of income earners;

10. fairly tax corporations, denying federal subsidies to those who relocate jobs overseas, repeal NAFTA.

And since the Congress plans to adjourn early and leave these problems to
The Federal Reserve, The Federal Reserve should operate in the interests
of the U.S. taxpayer and not the interests of the private, international
bankers that it currently represents. This, of course means that The
Federal Reserve, too, must undergo a fundamental ownership and mission

This crisis does not have to be treated as merely a "market correction,"
or the result of a few rotten apples in an otherwise pristine barrel.
This crisis truly represents the opportunity to introduce fundamental
changes in the way the U.S. economy and its political stewards operate.
Responsible political leadership demands that the pain and suffering being
experienced by the innocent today not be revisited upon them or the next
generation tomorrow. But sadly, instead of affirmative action being taken
in this direction, the Bush Administration ratchets up the drumbeat for
war, Republican Party operatives busily remove duly-registered voters from
the voter rolls, and our elected leaders in the Congress go home to
campaign while leaving all of us to fend for ourselves. For the
Administration and the Democrat-led Congress, I declare: MISSION
UNACCOMPLISHED. For the public whose moment this is, I say: Power to the People!

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Wall Street Socialists

by Amy Goodman

The financial crisis gripping the U.S. has the largest banks and insurance companies begging for massive government bailouts. The banking, investment, finance and insurance industries, long the foes of taxation, now need money from working-class taxpayers to stay alive. Taxpayers should be in the driver's seat now. Instead, decisions that will cost people for decades are being made behind closed doors, by the wealthy, by the regulators and by those they have failed to regulate.

Tuesday, the Federal Reserve and the U.S. Treasury Department agreed to a massive, $85-billion bailout of AIG, the insurance giant. This follows the abrupt bankruptcy of Lehman Brothers, the 158-year-old investment bank; the distressed sale of Merrill Lynch to Bank of America; the bailout of both Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac; the collapse of retail bank IndyMac; and the federally guaranteed buyout of Bear Stearns by JPMorgan Chase. AIG was deemed "too big to fail," with 103,000 employees and more than $1 trillion in assets. According to regulators, an unruly collapse could cause global financial turmoil. U.S. taxpayers now own close to 80 percent of AIG, so the orderly sale of AIG will allow the taxpayers to recoup their money, the theory goes.

It's not so easy.

The financial crisis will most likely deepen. More banks and giant financial institutions could collapse. Millions of people bought houses with shady subprime mortgages and have already lost or will soon lose their homes. The financiers packaged these mortgages into complex "mortgage-backed securities" and other derivative investment schemes. Investors went hog-wild, buying these derivatives with more and more borrowed money.

Nomi Prins used to run the European analytics group at Bear Stearns and also worked at Lehman Brothers. "AIG was acting not simply as an insurance company," she told me. "It was acting as a speculative investment bank/hedge fund, as was Bear Stearns, as was Lehman Brothers, as is what will become Bank of America/Merrill Lynch. So you have a situation where it's [the U.S. government] ... taking on the risk of items it cannot even begin to understand."

She went on: "It's about taking on too much leverage and borrowing to take on the risk and borrowing again and borrowing again, 25 to 30 times the amount of capital. ... They had to basically back the borrowing that they were doing. ... There was no transparency to the Fed, to the SEC, to the Treasury, to anyone who would have even bothered to look as to how much of a catastrophe was being created, so that when anything fell, whether it was the subprime mortgage or whether it was a credit complex security, it was all below a pile of immense interlocked, incestuous borrowing, and that's what is bringing down the entire banking system."

As these high-rolling gamblers are losing all their banks' money, it comes to the taxpayer to bail them out. A better use of the money, says Michael Hudson, professor of economics at the University of Missouri, Kansas City, and an economic adviser to Rep. Dennis Kucinich, would be to "save these 4 million homeowners from defaulting and being kicked out of their houses. Now they're going to be kicked out of the houses. The houses will be vacant. The cities are going to [lose] property taxes, they're going to have to cut back local expenditures, local infrastructure. The economy is being sacrificed to pay the gamblers."

Prins elaborated: "You're nationalizing the worst portion of the banking system. ... You're taking on risk you won't be able to understand. So it's even more dangerous." I asked Prins, in light of all this nationalization, to comment on the prospect of nationalizing health care into a single-payer system. She responded, "You could actually put some money into something that pre-empts a problem happening and helps people get health care."

The meltdown is a bipartisan affair

Presidential contenders John McCain and Barack Obama each have received millions of dollars from these very companies that are collapsing and are receiving the corporate welfare. President Clinton and his treasury secretary, Robert Rubin (now an Obama economic adviser), presided over the repeal in 1999 of the Glass-Steagall Act, passed after the 1929 start of the Great Depression to curb speculation that caused that calamity. The repeal was pushed through by former Republican Sen. Phil Gramm, one of McCain's former top advisers. Politicians are too dependent on Wall Street to do anything. The people who vote for them, and whose taxes are being handed over to these failed financiers, need to show their outrage and demand that their leaders truly put "country first" and bring about "change."

Denis Moynihan contributed to this column.

Amy Goodman is the host of "Democracy Now!" a daily international TV/radio news hour airing on more than 700 stations in North America.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Democrats' Collaboration at Republican National Convention Exposed. Secret meetings authorized excessive use of force.

We know the stories of police abuse, mass arrests, targeting journalists, street medics, use of rubber bullets, plastic bullets, wooden baton rounds, mace, tear gas, tasering and other differently lethal methods of crowd control in St Paul and Minneapolis this week. What is not known is how the local Democratic Party and other so called progressive elected officials collaborated with authorities in the past weeks and months before the RNC Convention in St Paul, giving them legal authority for their excesses and abuses of power.

This is your Independent Journalista's on-the-ground account of what happened and how local elected officials collaborated with the authorities and again abandoned their Oath to Protect and Defend the Constitution from All Enemies, Foreign and Domestic. This is the news that you will not hear from the corporate media, Air America, the Nation magazine or other so called progressive, alternative media outlets. This is true, muckraking journalism that honestly speaks truth to power, no matter how uncomfortable it makes some folks.

Now, before we get to the facts surrounding how our elected officials betrayed us and the Bill of Rights, a truth must be stated. No matter what the local City Councils of St Paul and Minneapolis did, the authorities would have done what they did.

This story is not about that. It is instead about how the local government knowingly collaborated with them, with no input from citizens and finally passed a Resolution granting them legal authority to use rubber and plastic bullets, wooden baton rounds, tasers and chemical weapons that were deployed against peaceful protesters, journalists and street medics treating the victims of their brutality in a secret meeting with no public allowed.

In the months before the Republicans came to town, there had been a flurry of activity. Local activists were keeping a close eye on their local elected officials. Initially, there had been a so called Free Speech Committee set up, supposedly to look at how authorities could allow free speech during the RNC and keep order.

However, local activists immediately developed some serious concerns. We found out that the Free Speech Committee did not allow any members of the public to add our input. Only City Council members on the committee and lawyers were allowed to speak. There was no free speech allowed at the misnamed Free Speech Committee.

Nonetheless, activists followed the Committee's actions closely and were present during each meeting. The City Council of Minneapolis is almost 100% Democratic. In fact the only real opposition in Minneapolis is the Green Party which currently has one Green on the City Council, Cam Gordon, who was a small light in a very dark room. But, we were to discover, even that light was to be extinguished.

The so called Free Speech Committee would change the time and locations of its meetings, in an obvious attempt of loosing the local activists who were closely following their intents and actions. During this time, Councilman Gordon kept the local activist community appraised of when and where these meetings were being held, including last minute changes. There was much talk of using the Washington Model of crowd control versus other Models. The Washington Model was touted as being a little less restrictive.

There was also discussion on protest groups being required to register themselves and even their members, to be "allowed" to protest. At these times, Cam Gordon spoke eloquently on behalf of the community and in opposition to these repressive measures. When he spoke, he drew cheers from the activists present. We also waved our protest signs in agreement each time. We would also boo when the head of the Committee, Paul Ostrow, would make an especially egregious remark. That was the extent of public participation and free speech at the so called Free Speech Committee meetings.

This went on for moths at a time. Then suddenly we found out that the Free Speech Committee had their last meeting, July 16th. The meeting itself was unannounced, unlike the other meetings which at least had a pretense of openness and public inclusion. At the next Minneapolis City Council meeting July 25th, the recommendation of the misnamed Free Speech Committee was announced. The Free Speech Committee Resolution passed unanimously, even by our one small light, Councilman Cam Gordon.

The Minneapolis Police were given "legal" authority to shut down any protest or group of 25 people or greater. They were also authorized to use rubber bullets, mace and the other array of non-lethal weapons on innocent, peaceful demonstrators, practicing our First Amendment Rights. Also violated repeatedly was the Fourth Amendment Right protecting us citizens against illegal search and seizure. Police violated the laws of assault and battery and destruction of evidence of their crimes, as evidenced by their targeting journalists. All talk of the Washington Model was removed.

As this Resolution was passed by the large Democratic majority Minneapolis City Council july 25th, another protest broke out. Local activists presented each member of the Minneapolis City Council, including Mayor RT Ryback with a Statement of Reprobation, condemning them for this betrayal of our most precious right to Free Speech, Assembly and Peaceful Petition of Our Government.

One of the main organizers, Michelle Gross of Communities United Against Police Brutality, presented the Statement of Reprobation to both Councilman Cam Gordon and the head of the Free Speech Committee, Councilman Paul Ostrow. Another was handed to Mayor RT Ryback.

During this presentation, a young man, Jude Ortiz with Coldsnap Legal Collective, read aloud the charges against the Minneapolis City Council. When he did so, he was bundled off the podium by Minneapolis Police and brought to the Hennepin County Jail. He was later released uncharged.

All Minneapolis City Councils are taped and shown on local Public Access TV - all except for this one, which has never seen the light of day. Clearly, the "progressive" City Council had something to hide.

Since then, Michelle Gross was arrested twice, during peaceful protests that were targeted by police.

Many of the examples of excess and police brutality and thuggery were practiced by Minneapolis Police. But, all of these actions and betrayals were mirrored by the 100% Democratic City Council of St Paul. Both Mayor RT Ryback and Mayor Chris Coleman, who laud themselves as "progressive" held a Press Conference, calling the RNC Convention a "success."

Ironically, we now have a number of the very City Councilpersons who gave our rights away, without a fight, now engaging in tough talk and rhetoric. This includes my own Councilwoman Elizabeth Glidden and Councilman Gary Schiff. Covering Your A** with tough talk will not make up for your betrayal of the citizens of our country, Council members and Mayors. Not even close.

I ask the question again. What do we do about it? I leave the answer up to you.

Michael Cavlan , RN, was an Official Green Party Observer for the 2004 Ohio Re-Count. He was the Green Party Candidate for US Senate 2006.

Saturday, September 06, 2008

We have forgotten water and life cycles are interwoven

There is no easier and compelling way to capture the seriousness of environmental degradation around Kenya's five main water towers than through 80-year-old Mama Rebecca Mong’ina.

She is among residents of Mogoroka village in Kisii who watch with hearts gnawed, pawed and clawed by pain and nostalgia as the springs they drew water from since time immemorial dry up. It served them, just like their ancestors so well they needed no storage. You just went, collected the water, and walked back home.

The villagers grew up knowing water was sacred but free. Today they are crestfallen, the only spring in Mogoroka village which served about 1,000 people, has dried up. Vendors are doing booming business, selling water fetched from other places and sources at Sh10 per 20-litre jerrican.

In village standards, where poverty is grinding, that is an astronomical figure. Yet life without water is unthinkable. They simply have to spread the little money they raise from peasant farming to cater for their vast needs.

It is the life of want, aggravated by memories the water came free, so near, ever reliable.

Sadly, it is not just in Mogoroka village that water sources are drying up. As our national survey found out this past few weeks, we are tottering towards a catastrophe — our sources are shrinking and the five water towers are thinning out.

The shocker is that it is because of what we all along thought were fantasy stories spun by environmentalists and scholars. It is all about the human activity and environmental degradation around the five water towers. It is the same sad tale from Mt Elgon to Mt Kenya, Cherangany Hills to Mau Forest. Not even the Aberdares Forest is safe. A quick scan at the endangered water sources is a lesson we no longer just sit back and blame the dry heavens, long droughts, unfair distribution network and global warming.

That was the chilling message from the Congregation of East African Ministers of Water and Development Partners Water and Sanitation meeting yesterday in Nairobi. The red flag was up long ago, even before illegal encroachment on Mau Forest, East Africa’s prime forest cover, which is the source of 12 main rivers in the region.

The meeting discussing Lake Victoria Basin’s input to the attainment of Millennium Development Goal was just repeating what is now a common tale in our living rooms, but whose effect we all too often underestimate. Its capacity to wreck domestic incomes, destroy our social fabric and make life hellish and cruel often appears lost on us.

It is through the sobering stories in our inside pages that we walk you through the looming crisis as told by those who have seen our forest cover shrink. It is as told by those who have began feeling the effect. It exposes our poor management of limited resources. We must save the five water towers as a matter of national interest, and it must be today. Why?

They spread over one million hectares and constitute the upper catchments of all main rivers of Kenya except the Tsavo River.

The shortages currently being experienced in Nairobi may just be a harbinger of what lies ahead. As the old African proverb warns, "Only a fool tests the depth of the water with both feet." Yet that is exactly what we are doing.

Mt Kenya rivers disappear

By Patrick Mathangani

Ever since she settled in Mutiriri village in Laikipia East in 1984, Esther Njeri, 49, has depended on Ontulili River.

However, around 1992, the river that flows from Mt Kenya became unpredictable. Water levels would go down drastically, sometimes slowing down to a trickle.

Other times, it would flow downstream with gusto as if with a newfound will to keep going.

"At the time I was clearing bushes to build a house, it had enough water for everyone," Njeri said on the banks of the river, where she had taken family linen to wash.

Big horticultural farmers are accused of diverting river water for irrigation.

Residents say rivers started drying up in 1990s when big companies, mostly owned by white farmers, set up camp in the area.

Some rivers in Mt Kenya have been reduced to streams. PHOTO: BONIFACE MWANGI

Most of the farms are located upstream and block water. By the time the rivers reach downstream, there is barely enough left for everyone. "If they want water, they should draw a little and leave the rest for us," said Njeri.

Scores of nearby rivers — such as Timau, Nanyuki and Naromoru —have seen water levels go down to dangerous levels. Authorities have been forced to close down water projects to save those downstream.

A few kilometres from Ontulili River is a scorched valley, which once used to be Muramati River. During its heyday, the river was a vibrant source of livelihood for residents. "Now, even monkeys have nothing to drink," said Samuel Muriuki.

Muramati is one of the 20 rivers that have dried up in the past decade. Many more could be on the way to oblivion.

Scorched earth

The mountain, which is Africa’s second highest after Mt Kilimanjaro, is the source of scores of rivers that nourish large swathes of Kenya and districts hundreds of kilometres away.

Wanton destruction of the environment through encroachment, cutting down of trees and unregulated use of water from rivers now threaten to wipe out this water fountain.

Experts who spoke to The Standard on Sunday warn unless some drastic action is taken, there would be nothing but scorched earth in coming decades.

The arid districts of Laikipia and Isiolo depend on the rivers which empty into Ewaso Nyiro, while residents in districts nearby — Nyeri, larger Meru, Kirinyaga and Embu — draw their water from Mt Kenya rivers.

The Tana, where Kenya’s biggest hydro-electricity projects are located, owes its existence to the mountain.

Human encroachment and bad policies over the years have led to the destruction of the mountain’s ecosystem and made water sources to dry up. The most wanton destruction was human settlement sanctioned by the former Kanu regime in the 1990s. One of the most visible effects happened in Ontulili Forest on the Meru side, where thousands of people were settled on about 2,000 hectares.

The new residents settled at the extremely cold environment some 2,200m above see level, cleared large swathes of forest for settlement and grazing. Although the Narc Government eventually settled them in an alternative area in 2004, only large treeless plains remain of what used to be a sanctuary for various tree species and animals.

The area, which borders the moorland, was unfit for human habitation. However, political interests of a former Cabinet minister took centre stage.

"Some of the river sources in this area have dried up. All you can see are rocks," said Mr Frederick Njau of the Green Belt Movement.

The organisation, founded by Nobel Laureate Prof Wangari Maathai, is planting trees in Karuri, Kiriti and Kieni-ini.

Njau said the project aims at rehabilitating the catchment as well as restoring the natural richness of vegetation by planting indigenous trees.

Most of the area formerly settled on is now empty plain used for grazing.

Uncontrolled cutting of trees has been linked to global warming. This is a phenomenon where average global temperatures are rising, mainly due to the release of "green houses gases." The gases, which include carbon dioxide (trees help in absorbing the gas) trap heat in the earth’s atmosphere, resulting in rising temperatures.

As a result, residents and rivers from around Mt Kenya are suffering for the sins of the Government, and actions of people around the world. Due to global warming, glaciers on the mountain are melting.

This is devastating as glaciers act as reservoirs, which melt during the hot seasons to ensure rivers flow throughout the year. Experts have warned that the snow may disappear.

" The mountain used to be covered in snow, and you could not see any rocks," said Mr Godfrey Wanjohi, chairman of Nanyuki River Water Users Association. He has lived in the area for decades.

The association has secured funding for a Sh126 million dam at Secret Valley in Kahurura Forest, which would be used to hold water for use during dry seasons. However, he said an investor with powerful Government connections, who wanted to use the site to build a hotel, was resisting the move.

There are signs that recent measures to conserve rivers, including the Water Act, are not being followed. Just a few metres from where Njeri stood expressing her worries about the disappearing Ontulili River, The Standard on Sunday saw a furrow drawing water to the nearby Kenya Horticultural Exporters farm.

Using gravity, the furrow, which is several hundred metres long, runs over a "bridge" across the river before emptying its load into a pipe. At one point, it diverts water to another nearby farm.

According to the Water Act, it is illegal to use furrows to draw water since it results in wastage through seepage and evaporation.

A man who said he is the human resources manager for the firm, but declined to give his name, referred us to Water Resources Management Authority in Nanyuki.

Nanyuki sub-regional manager for Ewaso Nyiro North Catchment Area, Mr William Hamisi, confirmed it is illegal to use furrows. He said the authority has discussed the issue with the firm. "We’ve destroyed some furrows and issued temporary permits for others," said Hamisi.

However, he said individual users with small mobile pumps were difficult to regulate. For instance, Naromoru River had more than 1,000 such users, he said.

He said major rivers, including Nanyuki and Timau, have recorded a decline in water levels of up to five metres since 1990s.

"Communities downstream can barely get enough. This has caused conflicts," he said.

Hamisi added that the authority has been forced to ration water in some circumstances. About 70 per cent of the population in the affected areas — including Laikipia East and North, parts of Nyeri North and some parts of Meru — face water shortages.

Hamisi said the river now remains dry for five months instead of three.

The authority has drawn five-year plans to reverse the trend.

Thursday, September 04, 2008

Why We Were Falsely Arrested

by Amy Goodman

ST. PAUL, Minn. - Government crackdowns on journalists are a true threat to democracy. As the Republican National Convention meets in St. Paul, Minn., this week, police are systematically targeting journalists. I was arrested with my two colleagues, "Democracy Now!" producers Sharif Abdel Kouddous and Nicole Salazar, while reporting on the first day of the RNC. I have been wrongly charged with a misdemeanor. My co-workers, who were simply reporting, may be charged with felony riot.

The Democratic and Republican national conventions have become very expensive and protracted acts of political theater, essentially four-day-long advertisements for the major presidential candidates. Outside the fences, they have become major gatherings for grass-roots movements - for people to come, amidst the banners, bunting, flags and confetti, to express the rights enumerated in the Constitution's First Amendment: "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press, or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances."

Behind all the patriotic hyperbole that accompanies the conventions, and the thousands of journalists and media workers who arrive to cover the staged events, there are serious violations of the basic right of freedom of the press. Here on the streets of St. Paul, the press is free to report on the official proceedings of the RNC, but not to report on the police violence and mass arrests directed at those who have come to petition their government, to protest.

It was Labor Day, and there was an anti-war march, with a huge turnout, with local families, students, veterans and people from around the country gathered to oppose the war. The protesters greatly outnumbered the Republican delegates.

There was a positive, festive feeling, coupled with a growing anxiety about the course that Hurricane Gustav was taking, and whether New Orleans would be devastated anew. Later in the day, there was a splinter march. The police-clad in full body armor, with helmets, face shields, batons and canisters of pepper spray-charged. They forced marchers, onlookers and working journalists into a nearby parking lot, then surrounded the people and began handcuffing them.

Nicole was videotaping. Her tape of her own violent arrest is chilling. Police in riot gear charged her, yelling, "Get down on your face." You hear her voice, clearly and repeatedly announcing "Press! Press! Where are we supposed to go?" She was trapped between parked cars. The camera drops to the pavement amidst Nicole's screams of pain. Her face was smashed into the pavement, and she was bleeding from the nose, with the heavy officer with a boot or knee on her back. Another officer was pulling on her leg. Sharif was thrown up against the wall and kicked in the chest, and he was bleeding from his arm.

I was at the Xcel Center on the convention floor, interviewing delegates. I had just made it to the Minnesota delegation when I got a call on my cell phone with news that Sharif and Nicole were being bloody arrested, in every sense. Filmmaker Rick Rowley of Big Noise Films and I raced on foot to the scene. Out of breath, we arrived at the parking lot. I went up to the line of riot police and asked to speak to a commanding officer, saying that they had arrested accredited journalists.

Within seconds, they grabbed me, pulled me behind the police line and forcibly twisted my arms behind my back and handcuffed me, the rigid plastic cuffs digging into my wrists. I saw Sharif, his arm bloody, his credentials hanging from his neck. I repeated we were accredited journalists, whereupon a Secret Service agent came over and ripped my convention credential from my neck. I was taken to the St. Paul police garage where cages were set up for protesters. I was charged with obstruction of a peace officer. Nicole and Sharif were taken to jail, facing riot charges.

The attack on and arrest of me and the "Democracy Now!" producers was not an isolated event. A video group called I-Witness Video was raided two days earlier. Another video documentary group, the Glass Bead Collective, was detained, with its computers and video cameras confiscated. On Wednesday, I-Witness Video was again raided, forced out of its office location. When I asked St. Paul Police Chief John Harrington how reporters are to operate in this atmosphere, he suggested, "By embedding reporters in our mobile field force."

On Monday night, hours after we were arrested, after much public outcry, Nicole, Sharif and I were released. That was our Labor Day. It's all in a day's work.

Amy Goodman is the host of "Democracy Now!," a daily international TV/radio news hour airing on more than 700 stations in North America.


It is with deep sadness that St. Paul Greens have seen our city become an armed camp during the past week. The presence of the RNC gave St. Paul an opportunity to set a shining example of a community where diversity of opinion and freedom of expression are welcomed and where civil disobedience is handled firmly but with restraint. The result would have been trust and respect for law officers and a long step toward realizing our vision of St. Paul as one of the world's greenest cities.

Instead we have seen a virtual army of anonymous, heavily armored and armed
troopers take control of our streets. We have seen how helpless and
compliant our local authorities are in the face of such a quasi-military
occupation. And we have experienced a sense of violation as our homes and
meeting places have been invaded on the flimsiest of excuses, our roads and
bridges closed to traffic without warning, and our jails packed with people
who were rounded up brutally and indiscriminately. Some are angry young
protesters, some are journalists who were seeking to do their jobs, and some
are citizens who simply ventured to ask questions.

We were told it would not be this way. We feel misled and betrayed. We ask
that our city council and county commissioners authorize an independent
investigation along the lines suggested in Minneapolis by council members
Cam Gordon and Gary Schiff.
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