Oil

Standing Strong Against Big Oil

For months, the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe in North Dakota has been protesting the construction of a $3.8 billion oil pipeline that would cut through four US states. By early September, the protests reached unprecedented size, as hundreds of environmental activists joined the local community of about 8,000. This is the largest gathering of Native Americans in over a century, with over 90 tribes represented at Cannon Ball, North Dakota, just south of Bismarck, the state capital.

The Native tribes and environmentalists say the pipeline would disrupt a sacred burial ground, as well as threaten water quality in the area. They say that the Army Corps of Engineers should never have granted permits for its construction.

The pipeline would carry crude oil from North Dakota’s Bakken Shale formation to Illinois. Its supporters claim it will be spill-proof, and that its construction will generate thousands of jobs. Critics respond that any leak would poison the Missouri River, which borders the entire western edge of the Standing Rock reservation.

The protests led to the arrest of the Standing Rock Sioux tribal chair Dave Archambault, among others. Work was eventually halted, pending a Sept. 9 ruling by a judge who has heard arguments against the construction. (more…)

Bill C-51 in Action: Peaceful Paddle Lands Site C Opponents on Terrorist Watch list

From Common Sense Canadian

The following letter was written by the Paddle for the Peace Planning Committee in response to an article in the Toronto Star which stated that events like the upcoming Paddle for the Peace (July 11th) were on terrorist watch lists.

Dear Editor,

According to the Toronto Star (March 30, 2015), the Federal government has included the Paddle for the Peace on a terrorist watch list.  And here we thought we weren’t getting any attention.  We are in good company, though.  Also on the list is a physicians’ group opposed to child poverty, Mother Theresa, and a senior’s quilting group from Bugtussle, Saskatchewan.  In an effort to save our government security agencies time, not to mention the Canadian taxpayers a great deal of money, we’d like to present a brief resume of some of the key players on the Paddle for the Peace planning committee.  It is a rogues gallery indeed.

Retired primary school teacher Ruth Ann Darnell is the Chair of the Peace Valley Environment Association.  She has been working to save the Peace Valley from Site C since the 1970s.  Back then, Ruth Ann’s subversive activities were hampered by the fact the Internet was decades away from being created.  After a long day of teaching five year olds to read, she just never had the time or energy to trudge down to the Fort St. John library to research DIY incendiary devices.

After teaching her sixteen year old son to drive, local children’s clothing retailer Danielle Yeoman knew she was one of those rare talents every ISIS recruiting officer dreams of discovering.  She desired to really put her nerves of steel to the test.  But her terrorist career was over before it was started when she learned those torso belts packed with explosives add at least six inches to your waistline.  I mean really, there are limits to what a girl will do to support a violent fanatical cause.

(more…)

Islamic State is the Cancer of Modern Capitalism

From Information Clearing House

Debate about the origins of the Islamic State (IS) has largely oscillated between two extreme perspectives. One blames the West. IS is nothing more than a predictable reaction to the occupation of Iraq, yet another result of Western foreign policy blowback. The other attributes IS’s emergence purely to the historic or cultural barbarism of the Muslim world, whose backward medieval beliefs and values are a natural incubator for such violent extremism.

The biggest elephant in the room as this banal debate drones on is material infrastructure. Anyone can have bad, horrific, disgusting ideas. But they can only be fantasies unless we find a way to manifest them materially in the world around us.

So to understand how the ideology that animates IS has managed to garner the material resources to conquer an area bigger than the United Kingdom, we need to inspect its material context more closely.

Follow the money

The foundations for al-Qaeda’s ideology were born in the 1970s. Abdullah Azzam, Osama bin Laden‘s Palestinian mentor, formulated a new theory justifying continuous, low-intensity war by dispersed mujahideen cells for a pan-Islamist state. Azzam’s violent Islamist doctrines were popularised in the context of the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan.

As is well-known, the Afghan mujahideen networks were trained and financed under the supervision of the CIA, MI6 and the Pentagon. The Gulf states provided huge sums of money, while Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) liaised on the ground with the militant networks being coordinated by Azzam, bin Laden, and others.

The Reagan administration, for instance, provided $2 billion to the Afghan mujahideen, which was matched by another $2 billion from Saudi Arabia.

In Afghanistan, USAID invested millions of dollars to supply schoolchildren with “textbooks filled with violent images and militant Islamic teachings”, according to the Washington Post. Theology justifying violent jihad was interspersed with “drawings of guns, bullets, soldiers and mines”. The textbooks even extolled the heavenly rewards if children were to “pluck out the eyes of the Soviet enemy and cut off his legs”.

The conventional wisdom is that this disastrous configuration of Western-Muslim world collaboration in financing Islamist extremists ended with the collapse of the Soviet Union. As I said in Congressional testimony a year after the release of the 9/11 Commission Report, the conventional wisdom is false.

Protection racket

A classified US intelligence report revealed by journalist Gerald Posner confirmed that the US was fully aware of a secret deal struck in April 1991 between Saudi Arabia and bin Laden, then under house arrest. Under the deal, bin Laden could leave the kingdom with his funding and supporters, and continue to receive financial support from the Saudi royal family, on one condition: that he refrain from targeting and destabilising the Saudi kingdom itself.

Far from being a distant observer of this covert agreement, the US and Britain were active participants.

Saudi Arabia’s massive oil supply underpins the health and growth of the global economy. We could not afford it to be destabilised. It was pro quid pro: to protect the kingdom, allow it to fund bin Laden outside the kingdom.

As British historian Mark Curtis documents meticulously in his sensational book, Secret Affairs: Britain’s Collusion with Radical Islam, the US and UK government continued to covertly support al-Qaeda-affiliated networks in Central Asia and the Balkans after the Cold War, for much the same reasons as before – countering Russian, and now Chinese, influence to extend US hegemony over the global capitalist economy. Saudi Arabia, the world’s leading oil hub, remained the conduit for this short-sighted Anglo-American strategy.

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Gender Wage Gap in Alberta Increasing

From Canadian Labour Reporter 

A new report from the Parkland Institute says the wage gap between men and women in Alberta is heading in the wrong direction.

According to the report from the University of Alberta research group, full-time working women earn about 37 per cent less per year than men.

When comparing the average total income in Alberta, women earn about 42 per cent less per year than men.

In comparison, the gender wage gap for full-time earners sits at about 20 per cent in Saskatchewan, 25 per cent in Quebec and 26 per cent in Ontario.

Ricardo Acuna, the executive director of the Parkland Institute, says the wage gap has been growing since 1993 and he worries the looming provincial budget will only make things worse.

Premier Jim Prentice has promised a tough budget that will reshape the foundations of how the province raises and spends money, a move prompted by the steep slide in the price of oil.

“Right now the premier is talking about changing things around, he’s talking about maybe cutting what we’re spending on the civil service, maybe rolling back civil service salaries,” says Acuna. “These are jobs that are predominantly held by women.”

Historic US Oil Workers’ Strike for Safety Spreads to Two More States

From CommonDreams

The biggest U.S. oil worker strike in more than three decades just grew even larger, with two mid-western BP plants joining in the work stoppage to demand health and safety protections from some of the world’s most powerful fossil fuel corporations.

The United Steelworkers announced Saturday that over 1,400 employees at two BP refineries—in Whiting, Indiana and Toledo, Ohio—have decided to join the 3,800 oil workers on strike at nine refineries in California, Kentucky, Texas and Washington.

The workers at the new sites officially began their work action at 12:01 Sunday morning, according to the union.

The strike, now entering its second week, was organized to win protections in an industry where safety is a matter of “life-or-death” for workers and surrounding communities, as Samantha Winslow points out in Labor Notes.

As of Sunday morning, two new BP plants in the mid-west have joined in the strike. (Photo courtesy of United Steelworkers)

As of Sunday morning, two new BP plants in the mid-west have joined in the strike. (Photo courtesy of United Steelworkers)

The Texas City, Texas plant on strike is the site of a BP refinery explosion in 2005 that killed 15 workers (the refinery was later sold to Marathon).

“We have a lot of forced overtime,” Dave Martin, vice president of the union striking at the Marathon refinery in Catlettsburg, Kentucky, told Labor Notes. “That was one of the main issues in the Texas explosion: people working overtime and not making the right decisions.”

“Our local union has lost 14 members in 16 years. Quite frankly, we’re tired of our coworkers being killed and being subjected to this risk,” said Steve Garey, president of the USW local in Anacortes, Washington.

Shell Oil, which sits at the head of the negotiating table for the industry side, is refusing to budge on safety issues, say workers.

“After long days of discussions with the industry’s lead company, Shell Oil, little progress has been made on our members’ central issues concerning health and safety, fatigue, inadequate staffing levels that differ from what is shown on paper, contracting out of daily maintenance jobs, high out-of-pocket and health care costs,” said USW International Vice President Gary Beevers in a press statement.

In an industry known for health and safety violations, as well as large-scale environmental disasters like BP’s 2010 Deepwater Horizon spill in the Gulf of Mexico, the workers have garnered broad support, including from environmental organizations.

Kazakh Oil Consortium Accused of “Mass Poisoning” of Village School Children

From CorpWatch

A Kazakh oil consortium has been accused of “mass poisoning” after 25 school children and four teachers passed out almost simultaneously at a school in Berezovka village in northwest Kazakhstan. The incident is the latest in a decade of allegations of pollution caused by the neighboring Karachaganak oil field.

Karachaganak Petroleum Operating B.V. (KPO) is a joint venture among multiple stakeholders that were awarded the exclusive rights to extract oil from the Karachaganak reserves in 1997. BG Group of the UK and ENI of Italy each hold 29.25 percent while Chevron from the U.S., Lukoil from Russia and nationally owned KuzMunaiGas hold smaller stakes.

“The emergency situation which arose on November 28 is not surprising. This is a direct result of omissions by the public authorities, and violations by KPO of the requirements for environmental and industrial safety,” said Sergey Solyanik, a lawyer with Crude Accountability, a U.S. based NGO.

(more…)