April 5th, 2009

Chevron’s Smoke and Mirrors; are you a colonist or an Alaskan citizen?

Chevron's Drift River Oil Terminal,

Before I write anything else let me put one of my beliefs right up front: there has never been a successful remediation of major oil spill any where in the world, ever! All of the talk about having “skimmers” and equipment in place is bullshit. If there is a significant oil spill from Chevron’s Drift River Oil Terminal, or any where else in Cook Inlet Region for that matter, it will impact the lives of thousands of people for hundreds of years.

The question for us Alaskans is, I think, will we act like colonists or citizens[1]. Sorry to be so blunt. Chevron, The Coast Guard and Alaska’s Department of Environmental Conservation (hey, where the heck is Fish and Game? pdf link added April 05) are conspiring to keep 3 million gallons, or more, of oil at Chevron’s Drift River Oil Terminal despite the risk of a potential spill caused by an active volcano. If we fail to demand that all of the oil be removed we damage Chevron’s business model (colonist). If we demand that all of the oil should be removed we protect our state as well as the fisheries of the Cook Inlet Region (citizen).

Some of us who have sought to shine light on Chevron’s lack of due diligence now think the problem has been solved. Would we be better off with an oil spill into The Inlet of six-million gallons or three-million gallons? Now there’s an oxymoron for you.

A quick look at a quote from Bob Shavelson, a member of Cook Inletkeeper highlights Chevron’s propaganda and the inherint political dilema posed by the oil Chevron has stored at Drift River. Shavelson’s quote is from a KTUU TV-2 story and I think he highlights the political nature of our dilemma (politics being the allocation of scarce commodities and resources – or to put it another way, who can get what they want):

We’ve always felt that human safety is the most important priority,” said Bob Shavelson with Cook Inletkeeper. “But we’ve also been told that oil has to remain in the tanks, but that’s only if Chevron profits are a priority over fisheries protection.

Chevron and The Coast Guard have been highlighting the importance of protecting workers, “human life” to use their words, those folks tasked with removing oil from Drift River. ever since Mt. Redoubt erupted. Worker safety is important; that’s simply a page out of Disaster Planning / Risk Management 101. By highlighting worker safety Chevron accomplishes two important PR goals: 1) Chevron looks compassionate and concerned; and 2) Chevron implies that people who call for the oil to be drained from Drift River are unconcerned with human life – thereby putting citizens who call on Chevron to drain Drift River on the defensive. Don’t be fooled, if Chevron was truly concerned with worker safety the Drift River Oil Terminal would have been emptied before Mt. Redoubt erupted. The blame for the risk and hazard now faced by workers belongs with Chevron not the people who seek to protect Alaska’s resources.

Chevron’s goal from the beginning has been to keep Drift River active and avoid any impermanent that might encroach on their profits from Cook Inlet resources. “But we’ve also been told that oil has to remain in the tanks, but that’s only if Chevron profits are a priority over fisheries protection,” the second part of Shavelson’s quote highlights the political nature of what’s at stake. One need look no further than a press release from the “The Unified Command, Drift River Terminal Coordination” laying out the reasons that water is not an alternative to oil for use as ballast at Drift River (the release was published on a Coast Guard website):

- Water introduced into the tanks at the Drift River Terminal could result in the shutdown of Cook Inlet oil production for months.[2]

This of course, IMHO, is why Chevron failed to drain Drift River when Mt. Redoubt became active. It has been Chevron’s goal from the start to avoid shutting Drift River and draining the pipeline. And now Chevron has The U.S. Coast Guard and the State of Alaska as willing assistants. Indeed they have been putting their ducks in order for quite some time – certainly since long before Redoubt erupted to insure that the oil, and the revenue keep flowing in (out of) Cook Inlet.

In closing, I would urge anyone reading this to look at primary sources (I’ll try to put up a new list of links later today). In one of my comments at www.themudflats.net I wrote, “I apologize for all the “raw source” stuff, but I think it’s important AND where the power of The Internet lies. I remember watching a documentary film about I.F. Stone many years ago. Stone gleaned most of the material for his now famous news letters and reports from the main stream press (salted I suspect with bits and pieces from inside sources that contradicted the main stream press.)” Reading news stories and then comparing them to press releases provides tremendous insight into how the news we are getting is crafted and allows us to gauge how much of what we are reading is propaganda. Please do not ignore the source material provided to you by the powers that be.

P.S. What is the status of the tanks at the Drift River Oil Terminal, and why hasn’t the press reported on the 5 tanks that are empty; all we get is a wink and a nod? If all 5 are all clean, I suppose it’s OK to leave them without ballast and let them float away if the dike fails, but DEC in it’s response to Alaska legislators on March 27 reported that at least one of the empty tanks is “dirty.” APRN reporters, omitted mention of 2 of the 5 “empty tanks” at drift river in their report issued shortly after the first “unified command” press conference. Chevron and the Coast Guard are claiming that the reason for leaving 3-million gallons of oil in 2 of the tanks is so that, “dirty” tanks (assuming they were drained) don’t float away. I have seen no mention, anywhere, of anchoring the “dirty” tank that DEC mentioned on March 27. I smell a rat – this does not pass the “sniff” test. What exactly is the status of the 5 empty tanks at Drift River – how many are dirty, how many are clean???? Given the arguments for leaving oil in 2 of the tanks shouldn’t the “dirty” tank reported by DEC be filled to provide ballast?

Update 01 (2009 April 06): The “Unified Command” issued a press release today that said, ” After a major eruption Saturday and continuing unrest at Mt. Redoubt volcano, the Unified Command, Drift River Terminal Coordination, has agreed to suspend Cook Inlet Pipe Line Company (CIPL) operations.” It is not exactly clear what this means. It is not clear if all of the oil will be removed from Drift River Oil Terminal. A press conference is scheduled for 13:00 AKDST at AVO in Anchorage.

[1] See Stephen Haycox, Alaska: An American Colony and Frigid Embrace; politics, economics and environment in Alaska.. Haycox is a professor of history at the University of Alaska. He has made a cogent argument for Alaska’s continuing status as the last colony of the United States. I would add that some poor industrial communities in the lower 48 might also be regarded as having colonial status.

[2] USCG, 2009 April press release stating the reasons for not using water as ballast for Drift River Oil Terminal tanks. Link: http://coastguardnews.com/drift-river-terminal-water-usage-options/2009/04/01/ text copied from URL on 2009 April 04.

June 20th, 2008

The sanctions

I have no idea if this news was a bit covered in the US, but the European Union lifted all economic sanctions from Cuba, a move that was labeled by ex-president/dictator Fidel Castro as highly hypocritical. The move was made to support the spark of democracy in Cuba, and will be evaluated in one year for it’s possible effects.

Believe me, evaluation or not, it’s highly unlikely sanctions will be re-imposed.

Was there any coverage on this? Was there any response from the US government? (I admit I didn’t research, just asking)

May 24th, 2008

The arrest

This is what can happen to war criminals, how the process works. The MLC, was a violent guerilla movement, operating in Congo. It is now a political party. In 2002-2003 it is said to have committed serious crimes against humanity: rape, torture and some say even cannibalism. Multi-Millionaire Bemba is the leader of the gang.

Pre-Trial Chamber III found that there are reasonable grounds to believe that in the context of a protracted armed conflict in the Central African Republic from about 25 October 2002 to 15 March 2003, MLC forces led by Jean-Pierre Bemba Gombo carried out a widespread or systematic attack against a civilian population during which rape, torture, outrages upon personal dignity and pillaging were committed in, but not limited to, the localities of PK 12, Bossongoa and Mongoumba.

Pre-Trial Chamber III also found that there are reasonable grounds to believe that Jean-Pierre Bemba Gombo, as President and Commander in Chief of the MLC, was vested with de facto and de jure authority by the members of the MLC to take all political and military decisions.

Two days ago, the International Criminal Court in The Hague issued a secret arrest warrant for Bemba. A day later he was arrested in Belgium and after a hearing at a Belgium court, he is expected to be transferred to The Hague in the next few weeks.

The Pre-Trial Chamber issued a warrant of arrest on 23 May 2008. This arrest warrant remained under seal until his arrest on 24 May 2008.

Mr. Bemba’s arrest is a warning to all those who commit, who encourage, or who tolerate sexual crimes.  There is a new law called the Rome Statute. Under this new law, they will be prosecuted” said the Prosecutor.

There are no excuses for hundreds of rapes. There are no excuse for the rape of a little girl, with her parents watching. There are no excuses for commanders ordering, authorizing or acquiescing to the commission of rapes and looting by their forces. We have evidence that Mr Bemba committed crimes.. With the Rome Statute, nobody is beyond the reach of international criminal justice. Nobody can side with the criminals and against the victims.  Bosco Ntaganda, who committed crimes in Ituri and continues to commit crimes today in the Kivus, Joseph Kony of Uganda’s Lord’s Resistance Army, Ahmed Harun, Minister of Humanitarian Affairs for the Sudan, will also end up in jail.”

I went to CAR, I met the victims, those who survived the violence, those who survived AIDS.  We cannot erase the scars. But we can give them justice. Their testimonies will be strong evidence for the Prosecution. The victims will tell their stories in Court, this power will be theirs.”

Yes, I can see the rationale behind the Jesse Helms masterpiece act. Ruth will love this.

February 19th, 2008

Why Archives are important

In the autumn of 1996, the newly installed Taliban decreed that moving pictures were heretical and had to be destroyed. This was obviously very bad news for Afghan Film, the Kabul-based organisation that both promoted Afghan cinema and housed the Asian republic’s entire film and TV archive. One hundred and eighteen of its 120 employees fled; the two who remained, lab technician Khwaja Ahmadshah and a colleague, resolved to risk their lives in defence of cinema.

I’d be the first to admit that I have a soft-spot for archives. I know that archives are not the kind of things that give most folks a “warm and fuzzy” feeling, but like museums and libraries and even the detritus amassed by “collectors” their worth is often underestimated. Folks who work in archives are often obsessively devoted to the material they were hired to protect. This article, from guardian.co.uk, ‘If I find one reel, I must kill you’ hopefully will help you to get the “warm and fuzzies” when you think of archives and their relationship to our history and culture.

August 2nd, 2007

Off for now

Will be back in 2, maybe 4 weeks.

June 27th, 2007

The ironworkers

Another day at the office.



April 6th, 2007

The pension money

Interesting local news today. In this country, people are usually oblidged to pay their pension money to the insurer selected by their employer. It is no surprize there is a LOT of money in these funds, think in terms of 14 times ones expected yearly gross income when retiring. ABP is the pension fund of the government and with 200 billion euro’s (over 240 billion US dollars) it is the number 2 ranked pension fund in the world. It invests in about 4.000 funds. PGGM is the fund of the healthcare workers and is managing a small 70 billion euro’s (85 billion US dollars) in over 3.000 funds.

Both have announced not only to give full transparancy about the funds they invest in, but also that they are cancelling all stocks in the weapons land-mine and cluster bombs industry. The criteria are a but loose still (the company involved must make 50% or more in the weapons that market), but it is a start. There are also environmental standards, such as not investing in “wrong wood” companies.

I say: Goodie. People don’t want their pension money invested in death producing corporations, and the funds are starting to listen. I mean, come on, the health workers fund!!!Православни икони

February 12th, 2007

The IT companies

Google’s latest service, google documents and spreadsheets is jar-on-floor once you are in collaboration-needy projects. Still, although they are basically and advertising company (shiver) they need to do everything to keep their image shiny. I mean think, they can pretty much track down who you are, and if docs breaks through, your documents and spreadsheets are there too.

The first crack in the image was google.cn. Banning terms because “Censored google is better for the Chinese than no Google”, well, maybe wasn’t too smart.

A new incident occured on Google owned YouTube the other day. A well know and popular atheist blogger was completely banned from YouTube because he posted a slideshow posting in his eyes violent but public passages from the koran. Mind you, not just this slideshow. I hope google’s crawler doesn’t present those koran results either, they might need to ban themselves. Is there nobody we can trust? Even a bit?

No evil right?

btw, somebody else uploaded it again of course.

Disclaimer: I am a techy, a Microsoft-un-enthousiast and atheist.

Mildly related addition: A higher Belgium court today confirmed a verdict that Google cannot repost news crawled from Begium newspaper sites on it’s news service. In France a similar case is being held in court June 6th. Is resistance slowly rising? Is this a European (or non maybe a non-US) thing?

Addition: google’s star seems to be falling slowly, but still faster??

December 10th, 2006

The Ultimate Rejection Letter

Ok, ok, corny as hell, I know, but this one made me laugh this morning.

Herbert A. Millington
Chair – Search Committee
412A Clarkson Hall, Whitson University
College Hill, MA 34109

Dear Professor Millington,

Thank you for your letter of March 16. After careful consideration, I regret to inform you that I am unable to accept your refusal to offer me an assistant professor position in your department.

This year I have been particularly fortunate in receiving an unusually large number of rejection letters. With such a varied and promising field of candidates, it is impossible for me to accept all refusals.

Despite Whitson’s outstanding qualifications and previous experience in rejecting applicants, I find that your rejection does not meet my needs at this time. Therefore, I will assume the position of assistant professor in your department this August. I look forward to seeing you then.
Best of luck in rejecting future applicants.
Chris L. Jensen

As did this one:

Treated like family