Thursday, March 26, 2009

Today marks the twentieth anniversary of the Exxon Valdez oil spill, one of the worst environmental disasters in history. The Exxon Valdez spilled between 11 and 38 million gallons of crude oil into the fishing waters of Prince William Sound. The spill contaminated more than 1,200 miles of Alaska’s shoreline and killed hundreds of thousands of seabirds and marine animals. It also dealt a staggering blow to the residents of local fishing towns, and the effects of the disaster are still being felt today. We speak with Riki Ott, a community activist, marine toxicologist, former commercial salmon fisherma’am and author of two books on the spill. Her latest Book is "Not One Drop: Betrayal and Courage in the Wake of the Exxon Valdez Spill".

Forget the drunken skipper fable. As to Captain Joe Hazelwood, he was below decks, sleeping off his bender. At the helm, the third mate would never have collided with Bligh Reef had he looked at his Raycas radar. But the radar was not turned on. In fact, the tanker's radar was left broken and disasbled for more than a year before the disaster, and Exxon management knew it. It was just too expensive to fix and operate.
For the Chugach, this discovery was poignantly ironic. On their list of safety demands in return for Valdez was "state-of-the-art" on-ship radar.
We discovered more, but because of the labyrinthine ways of litigation, little became public, especially about the reckless acts of the industry consortium, Alyeska, which controls the Alaska Pipeline.
Several smaller oil spills before the Exxon Valdez could have warned of a system breakdown. But a former Senior Lab Technician with Alyeska, Erlene Blake, told our investigators that management routinely ordered her to toss out test samples of water evidencing spilled oil. She was ordered to refill the test tubes with a bucket of clean sea water called, "The Miracle Barrel."

In a secret meeting in April 1988, Alyeska Vice-President T.L. Polasek confidentially warned the oil group executives that, because Alyeska had never purchased promised safety equipment, it was simply "not possible" to contain an oil spill past the Valdez Narrows -- exactly where the Exxon Valdez ran aground 10 months later.

The Natives demanded (and law requires) that the shippers maintain round- the-clock oil spill response teams. Alyeska hired the Natives, especiallly qualified by their generations-old knowledge of the Sound, for this emergency work. They trained to drop from helicopters into the water with special equipment to contain an oil slick at a moments notice.

But in 1979, quietly, Alyeska fired them all. To deflect inquisitive state inspectors, the oil consortium created sham teams, listing names of oil terminal workers who had not the foggiest idea how to use spill equipment which, in any event, was missing, broken or existed only on paper.
In 1989, when the oil poured from the tanker, there was no Native response team, only chaos.

Today, twenty years after the oil washed over the Chugach beaches, you can kick over a rock and it will smell like an old gas station.

The cover story of the Drunken Captain serves the oil industry well. It falsely presents America's greatest environmental disaster as a tale of human frailty, a one-time accident. But broken radar, missing equipment, phantom spill teams, faked tests -- the profit-driven disregard of the law -- made the spill an inevitability, not an accident.
Yet Big Oil tells us, as they plead to drill in the Arctic National Wildlife Reserve, as Senator John McCain calls for drilling off the shores of the Lower 48, it can't happen again.
They promise.
Greg Palast is a Puffin Foundation Writing Fellow for Investigative Reporting at the Nation Institute, New York. Read and view his investigations for BBC Television at An earlier version of this report originally appeared in the Chicago Tribune. Photos by James Macalpine (1993).

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Be Ablaza.....Be aware.....Knowledge is power.
The Most Evil Corporations, Industries and Orgs
Rob Kall
Lately, we're having more conversations about corporations whose behaviors have been outrageous, shameful, even criminal. These conversations sometimes lead to people saying this or that company is the worst, the most evil, the most murderous, the most corrupt or corrupting, the most destructive, most exploitive.Some of the companies often listed include AIG, Blackwater, Diebold, Dow, Enron, Exxon, Fox/Newscorp, Haliburton, Monsanto, Walmart, and then there are whole industries-- the Military industrial complex, big pharma, big agra, health insurers, porn, anti-net neutrality giants, the RIAA music industry fighting downloading, coal burning energy companies, privacy invading, spying telecoms, auto companies building gas-hog pollution machines, corpstream mainstream media selling corporate and government messages, chemical or livestock polluters, oil spillers.
Then there are the enablers-- globalism and its manifestations-- the World Bank, IMF, WTO, NAFTA, CAFTA and those who endorse and promote them, saying they are the only way. The IMF has been known to demand that third world countries
privatize their water supply, for example, and Naomi Klein, in her classic book, Shock Doctrine, has documented how these orgs work with the worst corporations to destroy democracy and destroy economies.
In this world of bests and worsts, perhaps it's time to create a museum of evil, where the worst companies, industries, organizations are "awarded" with the honor of being named the most evil, most damaging to the planet and or humanity. The question is, which of the corporations, orgs and industries would YOU say are the worst, and why. And are there any which have turned around and rehabilitated themselves? Or once bad always bad?In these trying economic times, when new ideas and approaches must be developed, maybe it is time we identify and deal with the real enemies of the good, of humanity and the earth. We are eliminating some companies, nationalizing others. Maybe we need to consider other reasons, besides economic bankruptcy-- like moral bankruptcy-- in deciding which companies will survive and which will no longer exist. Now that we've put these kinds of considerations on the table, why should profitability and financial viability alone be the only reasons to consider terminating or completely restructuring some companies, if they've done things that drastically change our world for the worst?

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

I think of these things....which am I?

"The night Thoreau Spent in Jail." Thoreau has been locked up for not paying his taxes because he doesn't like the fact that his taxes are going to pay for a war with which he disagrees. Ralph Waldo Emerson, who supposedly believed the same things as Thoreau encounters his friend in jails and says, "What are you doing here?" Thoreau is quick to reply to Emerson, " Why Waldo, what are you doing by not being here?" To me, this quote shows the difference between the two men. Both were romantic idealists but Thoreau was willing to act on his beliefs. Emerson just simply stated his beliefs.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

After a long hiatus....I am back...................whatever that means.

Sen. Patrick Leahy recently proposed a truth and reconciliation commission to investigate abuses during the Bush-Cheney Administration - so they never happen again. These abuses include the use of torture, extraordinary rendition, and executive override of laws.
Please sign his online petition urging Congress to establish a truth and reconciliation commission to investigate the Bush-Cheney Administration's abuses.

We have just emerged from a time when White House officials often acted as if they were above the law. That was wrong and must be fully exposed so it never happens again. That is why I proposed the idea of a truth and reconciliation commission to investigate abuses during the Bush-Cheney Administration. These abuses may include the use of torture, extraordinary rendition, and executive override of laws. During the past several years, this country has been divided as deeply as it has been at any time in our history since the Civil War. It has made our government less productive and our society less civil. As we commemorate the Lincoln bicentennial, there is need, again, "to bind up the nation's wounds." President Lincoln urged that course in his second inaugural address some seven score and four years ago. Rather than vengeance, we need a fair-minded pursuit of what actually happened. The best way to move forward is ge tting to the truth, finding out what happened, so we can make sure it does not happen again.