Is it too late to notice that our consumerist society is a lot like a swarm of parasitic insects clinging to the belly of a rapidly dying host? What are we to do when so many wealthy individuals prey on the superstitions and ignorance and greed of our fellow citizens to ensure their wealth grows while our planet dies? They convince us we need more than we do, underpay us, entice us with loans and plastic, then ship themselves off to pristine virgin island bank havens while we are surrounded by the chemicals, the death, and disasters that hyper-consumerism has wrought.
How can you possibly deny what we are doing to our home? Here are the top five items from a ‘terrifying” report presented over the weekend..
The impacts of climate change are likely to be “severe, pervasive, and irreversible,” the chair of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change said Sunday night in Yokohama, Japan, as the world’s leading climate experts released a new survey of how our planet is likely to change in the near future, and what we can do about it.
Here’s what you need to know:
We’re already feeling the impacts of climate change. Glaciers are already shrinking, changing the courses of rivers and altering water supplies downstream. Species from grizzly bears to flowers have shifted their ranges and behavior. Wheat and maize yields may have dropped. But as climate impacts become more common and tangible, they’re being matched by an increasing global effort to learn how to live with them: The number of scientific studies on climate change impacts, vulnerability, and adaptation more than doubled between 2005, before the previous IPCC report, and 2010. Scientists and policymakers are “learning through doing, and evaluating what you’ve done,” said report contributor Kirstin Dow, a climate policy researcher at the University of South Carolina. “That’s one of the most important lessons to come out of here.”
Heat waves and wildfires are major threats in North America. Europe faces freshwater shortages, and Asia can expect more severe flooding from extreme storms. In North America, major threats include heat waves and wildfires, which can cause death and damage to ecosystems and property. The report names athletes and outdoor workers as particularly at risk from heat-related illnesses. As the graphic below shows, coastal flooding is also a key concern.
Globally, food sources will become unpredictable, even as population booms.Especially in poor countries, diminished crop production will likely lead to increased malnutrition, which already affects nearly 900 million people worldwide. Some of the world’s most important staples—maize, wheat, and rice—are at risk. The ocean will also be a less reliable source of food, with important fish resources in the tropics either moving north or going extinct, while ocean acidification eats away at shelled critters (like oysters) and coral. Shrinking supplies and rising prices will cause food insecurity, which canexacerbate preexisting social tensions and lead to conflict.
Coastal communities will increasingly get hammered by flooding and erosion. Tides are already rising in the US and around the world. As polar ice continues to melt and warm water expands, sea level rise will expose major metropolitan areas, military installations, farming regions, small island nations, and other ocean-side places to increased damage from hurricanes and other extreme storms. Sea level rise brings with it risks of “death, injury, ill-health, or disrupted livelihoods,” the report says.
We’ll see an increase in climate refugees and, possibly, climate-related violence.The report warns that both extreme weather events and longer-term changes in climate can lead to the displacement of vulnerable populations, especially in developing parts of the world. Climate change might also “indirectly increase” the risks of civil wars and international conflicts by exacerbating poverty and competition for resources.
There have been so many disasters just recently that it’s hard to keep track. You can see our handprints on many of them. Has the policy of clear cutting timber created situations like the Washington State mudslide? Many scientists and environmentalists say yes.
As rescue workers, specially trained dogs, and heavy equipment move carefully through the area, longstanding questions are being raised about logging there and how it might have contributed to the slide.
The hillside in and around the slide area, which slopes steeply down toward the river, has seen much clear-cut logging over the years. Much of the forest there is second- and third-growth timber, replanted or regenerating naturally after earlier cuts.
Concern over logging’s impact has involved environmentalists and native American tribes. Large, old-growth trees take up more water than younger stands, which can take decades to mature and may be cut down before they reach full maturity. The demand for lumber, plywood, paper, and other wood products is part of an industry that once dominated Washington State and Oregon.
The Tulalip Tribes were so concerned with landslides hitting the Stillaguamish River and its prime salmon habitat that they blocked a proposed timber sale above an earlier slide in 1988.
“There were some very large clear-cuts planned for that area, which made us very concerned,” Kurt Nelson, a hydrologist with the tribes, told KUOW, the NPR affiliate at the University of Washington in Seattle.
“That reach of the North Fork has multiple, ancient, deep-seated landslides,” Mr. Nelson said. “There’s a lot of unstable terrain in that area.”
Landslides have followed logging in that area at least four times, KUOW reported.
“There was cutting in the 1940s; it failed in the ’50s. There was cutting in 1960, then it failed in the mid-’60s. There was cutting in ’88; it failed in ’91. There was cutting in 2005, and it failed in 2006 and in 2014,” said geomorphologist Paul Kennard, who worked for the Tulalip Tribes in the 1980s and now works for the National Park Service at Mt. Rainier.
“This had been known at least since the ’50s as one of the more problematic areas on the Stillaguamish for perennial landsliding,” Mr. Kennard said.
Although state logging regulations have been tightened in recent years, The Seattle Times reports that a clear-cut nine years ago “appears to have strayed into a restricted area that could feed groundwater into the landslide zone that collapsed Saturday.”
An analysis of government geographical data and maps suggests that a logging company “cut as much as 350 feet past a state boundary that was created because of landslide risks,” the newspaper reported.
This is an area above the most recent slide. Scientists and officials are investigating whether that clear-cut could have contributed to the current disaster.
Scientists tell us that mudslides are inevitable when you treat these mountains as we do and we fail to recognize that some places just aren’t meant for human habitation. However, tell that to the developers.
Almost 25 years ago, I went into one of the headwater streams of the Stillaguamish with Pat Stevenson, a biologist with the American Indian tribe that bears the same name as the river and claims an ancient link to that land. The rain was Noah-level that day — just as it’s been for most of this March.
We drove upriver, winding along the drainage of Deer Creek, one of the main tributaries of the Stillaguamish. We couldn’t see Whitehorse Mountain, the dreamy peak that towers over the valley, that day. We could barely see beyond our windshield wipers. At last, we arrived at an open wound near road’s end. I’d never witnessed anything like it: an active slide, sloughing mud and clay down into the formerly pristine creek. We watched huge sections of land peel and puddle — an ugly and terrifying new landscape under creation before our eyes.
Stevenson pointed uphill, to bare, saturated earth that was melting, like candle wax, into the main mudslide. Not long ago, this had been a thick forest of old growth timber. But after it was excessively logged, every standing tree removed, there was nothing to hold the land in place during heavy rains. A federal survey determined that nearly 50 percent of the entire basin above Deer Creek had been logged over a 30-year period. It didn’t take a degree in forestry to see how one event led to the other.
The Stilly, as locals call the river, is well known to those who chase fish with a fly rod, and to native people who have been living off its bounty for centuries. Zane Grey, the Western novelist, called it the finest fishing river in the world for steelhead, the big seagoing trout that can grow to 40 pounds. What Stevenson showed me that day in a November storm was how one human activity, logging, was destroying the source of joy and sustenance for others. When the crack and groan of an entire hillside in collapse happened a week ago Saturday, I thought instantly of Stevenson and that gloomy day at Deer Creek.
And, sure enough, logging above the area of the current landslide appears to have gone beyond the legal limits, into the area that slid, according to a report in The Seattle Times.
Meanwhile, the latest oil spill disasters take their toll in both the North and South of this Country. There are still long lasting effects in Alaska and in the Gulf of those giant oil spoils. But, even Galveston Bay shows sign of permanent damage from its latest brush with deadly oil that’s no where near the size of those other two. It’s getting to be that no one’s back yard is safe.
Authorities in charge of the cleanup from last week’s Houston Ship Channel oil spill say they’re responding to reports of oil near North Padre Island and Mustang Island, some 200 miles southwest of the original accident.
The command center for the cleanup reports Sunday that oil sightings were made earlier in the day by crews aboard flights being conducted by the Texas General Land Office and the U.S. Coast Guard.
Some tar balls — from dime-size to about 6 inches — have been spotted in seaweed patches along Mustang Island’s J.P. Luby Beach but it’s not certain if they are related to the spill a week ago between Galveston and Texas City.
The spill endangers wildlife nearby. There is a bird refuge that is in a particularly precarious location. That was also the clean side of the Gulf where you could still trust the fish and the seafood.
The spill, which dumped what one Texas official referred to as “sticky, gooey, thick, tarry” oil that doesn’t evaporate quickly into Galveston Bay, occurred about eight miles from the Bolivar Flats Shorebird Sanctuary, which attracts 50,000 to 70,000 shorebirds each year. March is right around spring migration for many species of birds, and other birds are still wintering at Bolivar Flats, so tens of thousands of birds are living at the sanctuary, which is designated a Globally Significant Important Bird Area. Cleanup crews are using cannon booms to try to deter birds away from oiled beaches, and so far, oil hasn’t washed up on Bolivar Flats, but birds that have come in contact with oil in the water or on other beaches have been landing there.
Houston Audubon Society volunteers have been tracking the oiled birds they see at Bolivar, and Jessica Jubin, development director at the Houston Audubon Society, told ThinkProgress that the group was “definitely seeing more” oiled birds now than when they first started the day after the spill. She said on Monday, volunteers cataloged 40 to 50 oiled birds at one spot at Bolivar Flats, and on Tuesday, they counted about 100 at the same site. On Wednesday, she said, the number increased to about 140, with most birds ranging from just a few spots of oil on them to half covered in oil.
It’s the shorebirds and seabirds that are most at risk of becoming oiled from the spill, Jubin said.
“Like pelicans, for example — I don’t know if you’ve ever watched them fish, but they will soar in the sky and then spot something down below and then dart right into the water, and that’s how they get so much oil on them,” she said. “They can’t distinguish whether or not the oil is there, and they don’t know how to react to it.”
Mike Cox, spokesperson at the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, told ThinkProgress the agency has so far collected 45 oiled birds in the Galveston area, with 19 birds in rehabilitation and 26 that were found dead. Jubin said Audubon was reporting birds they saw to Texas Parks and Wildlife and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, but she worries about the movement of the oil. If it drifts too far south or west, it could end up in important habitat for endangered whooping cranes. Already, the oil has reached the ecologically-sensitive Matagorda Island, soiling at least 12 miles of the barrier island’s pristine beaches. So far, however, the Parks and Wildlife Department hasn’t received reports of oiled wildlife from Matagorda Island, Cox said, and crews were working to put up booms to keep the oil from getting into Matagorda Bay.
But birds aren’t the only wildlife at risk from the oil spill. As the Texas Tribune reports, marine scientists are worried that the spill could result in long-term health effects on Texas marine life. The thick fuel oil that spilled Saturday is persistent, so marine species could be even more at risk from oil-related defects like irregular heart rhythm and cardiac arrest than they were from the Deepwater Horizon disaster. Shrimp are a major part of the Galveston Bay fishing industry, and they’re also among the species most vulnerable to the oil spill — if their marshy homes are polluted with oil, they may not survive.
That, of course, doesn’t include the danger to the people and the clean up workers.
In 1790, a freed slave named Jim Moss found a place to settle down on a bend in the Houston River in the bayous of southwest Louisiana. Although never formally incorporated, the village of Mossville became one of the first settlements of free blacks in the South, predating the formal establishment of Calcasieu Parish by 50 years. But over the last half century, Mossville was surrounded. More than a dozen industrial plants now encircle the community of 500 residents, making it quite possibly the most polluted corner of the most polluted region in one of the most polluted states in the country. Now, a proposal to build the largest chemical plant of its kind in the Western Hemisphere would all but wipe Mossville off the map.
The project, spearheaded by the South African chemical giant SASOL, will cost as much as $21 billion, but stands to benefit from more than $2 billion in incentives (including $115 million in direct funding) from the cash-strapped state budget. It has the backing of Republican Gov. Bobby Jindal, considered a likely 2016 presidential candidate, who traveled to the outskirts of Lake Charles for the official announcement of the plan in 2012. The state thinks it’s an economic slam dunk. One study from Louisiana State University projected that it would have a total economic impact of $46.2 billion. It is the largest industrial project in the history of Louisiana. And after a community meeting on Tuesday, it’s one step closer to realization.
But that massive plant will come with a steep environmental price. It will produce more greenhouse gases than any other facility in the state. And the project will almost certainly spell the end for the 224-year-old settlement of Mossville, a poor enclave that has been forced to play host to industrial facilities no one else wanted in their backyard.
An analysis conducted by the Louisiana Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) in February determined that the new project “will result in significant net emissions increases” of greenhouse gases, promethium, sulfur oxide, nitric oxide, and carbon monoxide. By its calculations, the plant will spew out more than 10 million cubic tons of greenhouse gases per year. (By contrast, the Exxon-Mobil refinery outside Baton Rouge, a sprawling complex that’s250 times the size of the New Orleans Superdome, emits 6.6 million tons.)
It’s beginning to feel a lot like we’re trapped between a future envisioned in the “Blade Runner” and that envisioned in Margaret Atwood’s “The Handmaid’s Tale”. Either way, the outcome will be sponsored by the likes of the Koch brothers and we will soon discover the fresh hells they’ve created for us. The dominionists and the capitalists join together to force their earth and its people into submission.
What’s on your reading and blogging list today?
Southern California has been hit with a “5.1 magnitude earthquake” and “more than 100 aftershocks,” causing “relatively minor damage” according to the LA Times:
Most of the aftershocks have been small, but some were strong enough to be felt in the areas around the epicenter in northwestern Orange County…. Fullerton police said early Saturday that as many as 50 people had been displaced by the quake. Several buildings are being investigated for possible structural damage, including some apartment buildings. The quake, centered near La Habra, caused furniture to tumble, pictures to fall off walls and glass to break. Merchandise fell off store shelves, and there were reports of shattered plate glass windows. Residents across Orange and Los Angeles counties and the Inland Empire reported swinging chandeliers, fireplaces dislodging from walls and lots of rattled nerves.
The quake also caused a rock slide that damaged a car as well as numerous water main breaks.
Third-grade teacher Barbara Castillo and her 7-year-old son had just calmed their nerves after an earlier 3.6 temblor and sat down in their La Habra home when their dogs started barking and the second, larger quake struck, causing cabinet doors to swing open, objects to fall off shelves and lights to flicker. “It just would not stop, it was like an eternity,” said Castillo, an 18-year La Habra resident.
The search for missing Malaysian Airlines Flight 370 continues,
with various objects being reported by searchers, but this latest report from CNN is just nuts, Malaysia official: Maybe, just maybe, they’re alive.
Earlier this week, loved ones of those aboard missing Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 heard this: “All lives are lost.”
But Saturday, a Malaysian official met with relatives and then told reporters he had not closed the door on the possibility that survivors may exist among the 239 people aboard the Boeing 777-200 ER that went missing March 8.
“Even hoping against hope, no matter how remote, of course we are praying and we will continue our search for the possible survivors,” said Hishammuddin Hussein, Malaysia’s acting transportation minister.
“More than that, I told the families I cannot give them false hope. The best we can do is pray and that we must be sensitive to them that, as long as there is even a remote chance of a survivor, we will pray and do whatever it takes.”
How cruel can you get? In China relatives were alleging some kind of conspiracy.
“They’re all still alive, my son and everyone on board!” yelled Wen Wancheng, 63, whose only son was among the passengers. “The plane is still there too! They’re hiding it.”
He held aloft a banner that read: “Son, mom and dad’s hearts are torn to pieces. Come home soon!”
I can’t even begin to imagine the torture those people are going through. To give them false hope is incredibly irresponsible.
Please don’t skip over this brief but must-read piece on the ongoing scandal involving the US nuclear arsenal.
The Daily Beast: Cleaning House at Nuke Command Raises Bigger Issues.
Nine Air Force officers were fired Thursday and dozens more disciplined for their roles in a cheating scandal involving airmen in charge of the nuclear weapons arsenal. But one source familiar with the Air Force program told The Daily Beast that the punishments handed out were more show than substance, and that problems in the nuclear program go far deeper than what has been addressed so far. According to a retired senior Air Force officer familiar with the Global Strike Command (the headquarters responsible for the Air Force nuclear arsenal), who spoke with The Daily Beast on the condition of anonymity, the punishments issued yesterday at the 341st Missile Wing at Malmstrom Air Force Base in Montana were a good show, but wouldn’t affect much substantive reform. “This issue needs leadership,” he said. “You’ve had two stars and three stars [general officers] running the reorganized nuclear enterprise of the U.S. Air Force who have been unable to raise morale, transform the culture and forestall this very type of thing.”
Read the rest at the link. I can’t understand why this scandal isn’t getting more attention. We’re talking about the people who are responsible for our nuclear weapons!
I have several articles on the ongoing crisis in Ukraine.
There have been reports in the past few days that Russian troops are gathering on the Ukraine border and medical and food stations are being set up. From The Wall Street Journal: Russian Buildup Stokes Worries; Pentagon Alarmed as Troops Mass Near Ukraine Border.
Russian troops massing near Ukraine are actively concealing their positions and establishing supply lines that could be used in a prolonged deployment, ratcheting up concerns that Moscow is preparing for another major incursion and not conducting exercises as it claims, U.S. officials said. Such an incursion could take place without warning because Russia has already deployed the array of military forces needed for such an operation, say officials briefed on the latest U.S. intelligence. (Follow the latest developments on the crisis in Ukraine.) The rapid speed of the Russian military buildup and efforts to camouflage the forces and equipment have stoked U.S. fears, in part because American intelligence agencies have struggled to assess Russian President Vladimir Putin‘s specific intentions. The troop movements and the concealment—involving covering up equipment along the border—suggest Mr. Putin is positioning forces in the event he decides to quickly expand his takeover of the Crimea peninsula by seizing more Ukrainian territory, despite Western threats of tighter sanctions.
On the other hand, Russian officials are publicly denying any plans to invade Ukraine and Russian President Vladimir Putin called President Obama yesterday, supposedly to discuss diplomatic options. But can Putin be trusted? What would an invasion of Ukraine look like? Although, he suspects it won’t happen, Mark Galeotti at Business Insider provides an answer to that question.
In brief, the aim would be a blitzkrieg that, before Ukraine has the chance properly to muster its forces and, perhaps more to the point, the West can meaningfully react, allows the Russians to draw a new front line and assert their own ground truth, much as happened in Crimea (though this would be much more bloody and contested). This would not be a bid to conquer the whole country (the real question is whether they’d seek to push as far as Odessa, taking more risks and extending their supply lines, but also essentially depriving Ukraine of a coastline) but instead quickly to take those areas where there are potentially supportive local political elites and Russophone populations, and consequently pretexts (however flimsy) to portray invasion as ‘liberation.’
He goes on to explain in further detail, and it’s well worth reading. Here a few longer think pieces on Obama’s and Putin’s goals in the Ukraine crisis. Check them out if you have the time and inclination. Fareed Zakaria: Obama’s 21st-century power politics Mosaic: It’s Not Just Ukraine The Guardian: How Vladimir Putin’s actions in Crimea changed the world
In domestic political news . . .
Gallup reports some good news for Democrats: Young Americans’ Affinity for Democratic Party Has Grown.
From 1993 to 2003, 47% of 18- to 29-year-olds, on average, identified as Democrats or said they were independents but leaned to the Democratic Party, while 42% were Republicans or Republican leaners. That time span included two years in which young adults tilted Republican, 1994 and 1995, when Republicans won control of Congress. Since 2006, the average gap in favor of the Democratic Party among young adults has been 18 percentage points, 54% to 36%. This Democratic movement among the young has come at a time when senior citizens have become more Republican. The broader U.S. population has shown more variability in its party preferences in recent years, shifting Democratic from 2005 to 2008, moving back toward the Republican Party from 2009 to 2011, and showing modest Democratic preferences in the last two years. A major reason young adults are increasingly likely to prefer the Democratic Party is that today’s young adults are more racially and ethnically diverse than young adults of the past. U.S. political preferences are sharply divided by race, with nonwhite Americans of all ages overwhelmingly identifying as Democrats or leaning Democratic.
In Texas, Greg Abbot is still acting like a complete idiot. From Think Progress: Sidestepping Equal Pay Attacks, Greg Abbott Tries To Accuse Wendy Davis Of Gender Discrimination. Huh?
Texas gubernatorial candidate and Attorney General Greg Abbott (R) faces continued tough scrutiny over his campaign’s position against equal pay for women. His campaign has twice justified the gender wage gap and implied he would veto an equal pay bill that makes it easier for women to sue. Instead of addressing the criticism directly, Abbott has chosen to fire back accusations that Wendy Davis, his opponent in the gubernatorial race, is “defending gender discrimination.” Over the last week, the Abbott campaign has posted Facebook ads that call Davis a hypocrite on the gender wage gap, linking to a petition on his site that describes a client Davis once reportedly defended:
Sen. Wendy Davis continues to launch attacks over equal pay while shielding her own record of defending gender discrimination. And while on the Fort Worth City Council, Sen. Davis approved funds to defend a former city employee with a “legs and lipstick” policy.
Here, Abbott is referring to a routine vote Davis cast as a city council member that granted legal counsel funds to a Fort Worth employer sued for harassment and discrimination.
Why on earth would anyone vote for this man? The media has been taking note of the sexist attacks on Chris Christie’s former aide Bridget Kelley. Amy Davidson has a summary at The New Yorker: Chris Christie, Surrounded by Emotional Liars? Check it out if you can. This might be a good sign for better reporting in the New York Times Magazine. Jake Silverstein editor-in-chief of Texas Monthly has been hired to revamp the stagnant NYT Sunday magazine.
Under Mr. Silverstein, Texas Monthly has been nominated for 12 National Magazine Awards and won four, including the general excellence prize.
In an interview on his new role at The Times Magazine, Mr. Silverstein said, “I think this is a remarkable moment for the magazine to commit to the kind of long-form impactful journalism that has made the magazine one of the most influential publications throughout its history.”
Mr. Silverstein, 38, holds an M.F.A. in creative writing from the University of Texas at Austin and became editor of Texas Monthly in 2008. He is only the fourth editor of that magazine, which published its first issue in February 1973.
In the Boston bombing trial . . .
Accused Boston bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev’s attorneys have requested records of any FBI contacts with Dzhokhar’s older brother Tamerlan and any FISA court ordered surveillance of the Tsarnaev brothers. From the Boston Globe: FBI pushed elder Tsarnaev to be informer, lawyers assert.
Lawyers for accused Boston Marathon bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev asserted Friday that his older brother and alleged accomplice had been encouraged by the FBI to be an informant and to report on the Chechen and Muslim community, according to court records. “We seek this information based on our belief that these contacts were among the precipitating events for Tamerlan’s actions during the week of April 15, 2013, and thus material to the defense case in mitigation,” the lawyers said in their court filing. “We base this on information from our client’s family and other sources that the FBI made more than one visit to talk with Anzor [his father], Zubeidat [his mother] and Tamerlan, questioned Tamerlan about his Internet searches, and asked him to be an informant, reporting on the Chechen and Muslim community
“We do not suggest that these contacts are to be blamed and have no evidence to suggest that they were improper, but rather view them as an important part of the story of Tamerlan’s decline. Since Tamerlan is dead, the government is the source of corroboration that these visits did in fact occur and of what was said during them.”The lawyers suggested that Tamerlan Tsarnaev could have misinterpreted his interactions with the FBI as pressure from the agency, and that they could have “increased his paranoia and distress.” The defense wants to investigate those factors as it seeks to portray Tamerlan as a dominating family figure who may have pushed the younger Dzhokhar to take part in the April 15 bombings last year. Tamerlan was killed days after the bombings in a confrontation with police in Watertown. Good luck with prying anything loose from the FBI.
So . . . what stories are you following today? Please post your recommended links in the comment thread, and have a terrific weekend!
Yeah…you know what day it is!!!!!!!!!!!!!
And on with the show…
The rest of today’s cartoons in random order…
The distinction of liberal or conservative often hinges on the association with the word “hypocrite.” To liberals, being a hypocrite is a mortal sin. There’s nothing worse than being accused of not living up to the standards you ascribe to. Hypocrite is a dirty word to call a liberal. It’s even worse than calling them “liberal.”
Take a look at that op/ed when you can.
This is an open thread.
The unbelievable number of arrests of public officials due to public corruption during the last week has been mind blowing. I thought I’d highlight a few of the goings on today.
First up, have they found the Smoking Gun in Cristie’s Bridge Scandal? Only time will tell, but, I really think it’s just a matter of time before he has to resign as Governor of New Jersey.
The Port Authority official who directed the shutdown of lanes to the George Washington Bridge said that he informed Gov. Chris Christie of New Jersey about it at a Sept. 11 memorial ceremony while the lanes were closed, according to an internal review that lawyers for the governor released on Thursday.
The official, David Wildstein, who was a longtime political ally of the governor, told Mr. Christie’s press secretary, Michael Drewniak, of the conversation at a dinner in December, on the eve of his resignation from the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, according to the inquiry.
But the report said that Mr. Christie did not recall Mr. Wildstein’s raising the topic during their interaction and, in a sweeping claim of vindication, found no evidence that he — or any current members of his staff — was involved in or aware of the scheme before it snarled traffic for thousands of commuters in Fort Lee, N.J., from Sept. 9 to the morning of Sept. 12.
The number of California Democrats in the state’s Senate chambers subject to arrest for public corruption is on the arise. This is another incredible example of a pig at the pubic trough. How on earth did this guy get elected in the first place?
If you thought the charges against Leland Yee would be bad, you had no idea. As in, he offered to set up an arms deal with Islamic rebels for $2 million in cash. As in, he has ties to a gangster namedShrimp Boy. As in, he makes corrupt state senator Clay Davis from The Wire look like George Washington. You can read the whole affidavit here, but it’s really, really long, so we’ve gone ahead and pulled out the highlights. The allegations (and for now they are only that—allegations) are cinematic, staggering, and remarkable in their scope. Here they are, in descending order ofsheeeeeeeeeeeit:
Yee told an FBI agent to give him a shopping list of guns: “Senator Yee asked [the agent] to provide an inventory list of desired weapons […] [The agent] told Yee he would deliver $2,000,000 cash.”
Yee could arrange from some serious firepower: “[The agent] asked about shoulder fired automatic weapons. Senator Yee responded by saying the automatic weapons are the equivalent to the “M16″ Automatic Service Weapon […] [The agent] asked about the availability of shoulder fire missiles or rockets. Senator Yee responded ‘I told him about the rockets and things like that.'”
Yee took personal responsibility for delivering the weapons: “Senator Yee said, ‘We’re interested’ in arranging the weapons deal […] and said of the arms dealer, ‘He’s going to rely on me, because ultimately it’s going to be me. [The agent] stated he would compensate Yee for brokering the relationship and arms deal.”
Yee was in it for the cash: “Senator Yee said, ‘Do I think we can make some money? I think we can make some money. Do I think we can get the good? I think we can get the goods.'”
Yee masterminded a complex scheme to import illegal weapons: “Keith Jackson [a political consultant who worked as Yee’s fundraiser] told [an agent] that Senator Yee had a contact who deals in arms trafficking. This purported arms dealer was later identified. Jackson requested [a campaign donation] on behalf of Senator Yee, for Senator Yee to facilitate a meeting with arms dealer with the intent of [the agent] to purportedly purchase a large number of weapons to be imported through the Port of Newark, New Jersey. During a meeting […] Senator Yee discussed certain details of the specific types of weapons [the agent] was interested in buying and importing.”
Yee had connection with Filipino rebel groups: “Keith Jackson advised that Senator Yee had an unidentified Filipino associate who was supplying ‘heavy’ weapons to rebel groups in the Philippines.”
Including Muslim terrorists: “According to Senator Yee, Mindanao was largely population by Muslim rebel groups who were fighting the federal government. Yee continued by saying the Muslim rebels had no problem ‘kidnapping individuals, killing individuals, and extorting them for ransom.”
In specific the Moro Islamic Liberation Front: “[The agent] asked about the major Muslim organizations in the Mindanao region of the Philippines. Senator Yee responded by saying ‘M.I.L.F.'”
Yee allegedly wasn’t making up the identity of his arms dealer: “This purported arms dealer was later identified.”
And, Russian arms dealers: “According to Senator Yee, the arms dealer source the weapons from Russia.”
Yee knew he was on the wrong side of the law: “Despite complaining about [the agent’s] tendency to speak frankly and tie payment to performance […] Senator Yee and Keith Jackson […] never walked away from quid pro quo requests.”
Yee took envelopes full of cash to influence marijuana policy: “The group discussed the status of medical marijuana policy and the politics of state marijuana regulation. [The agent] took an envelope containing $11,000 in cash and put it on the table in front of Yee and Jackson. [The agent] stated, “this is a campaign donation […] That’s for the meeting with [another, un-named State Senator]. [The agent] said his contributions were ‘not coming in the form of checks.’ The envelope remained on the table for the duration of the meeting […] As Yee and Jackson got up to leave, Yee made a gesture to Jackson toward the envelope of cash, but Jackson did not see the gesture. Senator Yee then walked over Jackson, tapped him on the back, again gestured to the enveloped, and said, ‘take that.” Jackson picked up the envelope.”
Yee nickled and dimed the FBI agent over the price of his bribe: “[The agent] told Senator Yee that he was paying for the meetings and handed en envelope with $10,000 cash to Jackson while telling Senator Yee that the playing field was now level […] [The agent] asked Senator Yee how much he would to introduce marijuana legislation. Senator Yee said that he would have to think about the number.”
The FBI got to Yee through a Chinatown gang: “During the course of multiple undercover operations, [an undercover agent] was brought into a criminal relationship with many of the targets. The purpose of this criminal relationship was for Chow [and others] to launder [the agent’s] money, purported to have been derived from illegal activities […] In further support of [the agent’s] legend, [he] portrayed himself to Chow and others as an east coast member of La Cosa Nostra, an Italian organized crime syndicate. Chow, as the Dragonhead, was the supervisor of the criminal relationship.”
Yee’s fundraiser Keith Jackson was the go-between man: “In addition to his relationship with Chow and the Chee Kung Tong, Jackson is also a close associate with, and has a long-time relationship with, Senator Yee. Keith Jackson owns and runs a business called ‘Jackson Consultancy,’ a San Francisco based consulting firm. During the time frame from at least May 2011 through the present, Keith Jackson has been involved in raising campaign funds for Senator Yee.”
Yee exceeded campaign contribution limits in his mayoral bid: “Keith Jackson solicited [an undercover agent] to make contributions to Senator Yee’s San Francisco mayoral campaign [including donations] in excess of the $500 individual donation limit. [The agent] declined […] but introduced Keith Jackson and Senator Yee to […] another undercover FBI agent. Keith Jackson and Senator Yee then solicited [the second agent] for campaign contributions, and [he] made at least one personal donation in the amount of $5,000 to Senator Yee’s mayoral campaign.”
Yee allegedly traded favors directly for campaign cash: “In connection with efforts to retire [his] mayoral campaign debt, Senator Yee and Keith Jackson agreed that Senator Yee would make a telephone call to a manager with the California Department of Public Health in support of a contract under consideration with [an undercover agent’s] purported client […] in exchange for a $10,000 campaign donation. Senator Yee made the call on October 18, 2012 […] On November 19, 2012, Keith Jackson accepted the $10,000 cash donation.”
Not just once, but twice: “Senator Yee and Keith Jackson agreed to [the agent’s] request that Senator Yee provide an official State Senate proclamation honoring the Chee Kung Tong in exchange for a $6,800 campaign donation, the maximum individual donation amount allowed by law.”
Not twice, but three times: “Senator Yee and Keith Jackson agreed that in exchange for campaign donations, Senator Yee would introduce a donor to state legislators who had influence over pending and proposed medical marijuana legislation […] The donor was another FBI undercover agent, who was posing as a businessman involved in medical marijuana in Arizona and wanted to expand his business interests to California. On June 20, 2013, Senator Yee made one such introduction [and the agent] delivered $11,000 cash to Senator Yee and Keith Jackson on June 22, 2013.”
Yee yearned for a different life: “Senator Yee stated he was unhappy with his life and said, ‘There is a part of me that wants to be like you […] Just be a free agent out there.” Senator Yee told [the agent] that he wanted to hide out in the Philippines.”
Meanwhile, the recently elected Mayor of Charlotte, NC has just resigned due to corruption charges. His charges correspond to his time on the City Council.
The mayor of Charlotte resigned Wednesday hours after his arrest on public corruption charges.
Charlotte Mayor Patrick Cannon is accused of accepting about $48,000 in bribes from undercover FBI agents posing as businessmen who wanted to do business in the city.
Cannon had been in office 114 days when he was arrested and charged Wednesday.
A spokesman for the city said Cannon submitted his letter Wednesday to the city manager and attorney. In his letter, Cannon said the pending charges will create too much of a distraction for the business of the city to go forward.
Cannon’s resignation is effective immediately, said City Manager Ron Carlee. Mayor Pro-tem Michael Barnes will serve as interim mayor until the City Council appoints a councilmember as the new mayor.
Cannon, 47, faces several charges including theft and bribery.
Cannon’s arrest followed an undercover investigation that began in August 2010. Authorities allege Cannon solicited and accepted cash from the agents who were posing as real estate developers and investors.
Cannon, a Charlotte native, allegedly accepted bribes in exchange for the privileges of his position as an elected official, whether as mayor, mayor pro-tem or a city council member.
If convicted of all charges, he faces 20 years in prison and more than $1 million in fines.
Cannon, a Democrat, was elected mayor in November, replacing Anthony Foxx, who was named Transportation Secretary by President Barack Obama.
The FBI said Cannon accepted money from agents on five separate occasions. The last was on Feb. 21, 2014. He is accused of accepting $20,000 in cash at the mayor’s office. The exchanges began in January 2013, according to the Department of Justice.
We insist that we are a democracy. How is this possible with so many rich people willing to bribe our public officials? How many billionaires are buying justice and our law making system? Former Clinton Secretary of Labor Robert Reich has been preaching to my choir about the recent binge of rent seeking billionaires and more than willing to accept the political pay off politicians.
But in using their vast wealth to change those rules and laws in order to fit their political views, the Koch brothers are undermining our democracy. That’s a betrayal of the most precious thing Americans share.
The Kochs exemplify a new reality that strikes at the heart of America. The vast wealth that has accumulated at the top of the American economy is not itself the problem. The problem is that political power tends to rise to where the money is. And this combination of great wealth with political power leads to greater and greater accumulations and concentrations of both — tilting the playing field in favor of the Kochs and their ilk, and against the rest of us.
America is not yet an oligarchy, but that’s where the Koch’s and a few other billionaires are taking us.
American democracy used to depend on political parties that more or less represented most of us. Political scientists of the 1950s and 1960s marveled at American “pluralism,” by which they meant the capacities of parties and other membership groups to reflect the preferences of the vast majority of citizens.
Then around a quarter century ago, as income and wealth began concentrating at the top, the Republican and Democratic Parties started to morph into mechanisms for extracting money, mostly from wealthy people.
Finally, after the Supreme Court’s “Citizen’s United” decision in 2010, billionaires began creating their own political mechanisms, separate from the political parties. They started providing big money directly to political candidates of their choice, and creating their own media campaigns to sway public opinion toward their own views.
So far in the 2014 election cycle, “Americans for Prosperity,” the Koch brother’s political front group, has aired more than 17,000 broadcast TV commercials, compared with only 2,100 aired by Republican Party groups.
“Americans for Prosperity” has also been outspending top Democratic super PACs in nearly all of the Senate races Republicans are targeting this year. In seven of the nine races the difference in total spending is at least two-to-one and Democratic super PACs have had virtually no air presence in five of the nine states.
What’s a citizen to do?
And, what’s on your reading and blogging list today?