Michael Riordon

the view from where I live


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And yet, grounds for hope. Real hope.

Against impossible odds:  Ecuadoreans’ Legal Fight Against Chevron Continues in Canada.

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Texaco/Chevron vs Ecuador.  Photo: La Hora.

On South America’s teleSur, journalist Joe Emersberger interviews lawyer Stephen Donziger on a crucial case with huge implications for us all.

Donziger: “The fact top law firms around the world are helping the Ecuadorean villagers is terrifying to Chevron and the fossil fuel industry and completely changes the risk calculus of oil drilling in delicate ecosystems.  These firms normally represent the oil industry; now they are representing groups fighting that industry. That’s never happened before.”

The interview is here.

True, this couldn’t happen without the lawyers.  But before, during and after the courts have their say, again and again it’s people who live on the land and water under siege that have to hold the front line.  Against Dakota Access, Enbridge, Line 9, Kinder Morgan, Energy East and all the other petro-invaders.

If our planet is to remain livable, these are the first people we should thank, and support.

 

 


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DAPL and DNB: good news

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Resisting the machine

DNB, the largest bank in Norway, has just sold its assets in the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL).  Reports are unclear on the extent and nature of these assets (or maybe I just don’t know how to translate financialese).  However, by all accounts the assets dumped by the bank are substantial.

Further, DNB is now considering the withdrawal of its loans to the project as well, which would leave a major gap in the project’s financing.

A first crack in the banking wall, DNB’s move is a direct result of steadfast resistance to the invading pipeline by the besieged Standing Rock Sioux and their allies, and escalating public pressure on the banks to divest from it.

This week from the Sacred Stone Camp, ground zero, comes a stark breakdown of why Energy Transfer Partners (the DAPL perpetrators) are pushing so aggressively to complete construction.

The stakes are incalculable: on one side, billions of dollars in profits, on the other side, survival.

Contact information for the CEOs of DAPL and other Bakken pipeline-complicit banks is here.  If you bank with one of them, how about letting them know you might not?

 


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We have to stop.

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Image: NASA/Goddard.

Have a look at this time lapse animation, the life of Arctic ice from 1989 to the present.  It’s calmly explained by a sea ice researcher at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Maryland.

How he remains calm, I have no idea.

We have to stop.  Stop gorging on fossil fuels.  Fuels made from our ancestors, all the life that came before us.  The fossils are running out.  So is the ice.  So is life, and time.

I’m not saying anything new here.  But it can’t be said often enough, or loud enough.  We have to make them stop:

  • fracking
  • tar sands extraction
  • deep sea drilling
  • Arctic drilling
  • moving crude oil by pipelines (another one blew up this week in Alabama)
  • moving crude oil by train (another one derailed and 11 oil-filled cars burned in Oregon’s Columbia River gorge, this past June)
  • moving crude oil by ship (another one loaded with diesel oil sank off Heiltsuk First Nation territory in British Columbia mid-October)
  • subsidizing fossil fuels at our expense and the earth’s
  • displacing/killing people and other beings (some slowly, some in a flash) to get at fossil fuels
  • making war after war to control fossil fuels, and to continue fueling the war machine
  • burning fossil fuels as if there was no tomorrow, and no alternative.

It can’t be said often enough, or loud enough.  We have to stop.  And start…

Start points are everywhere – personal, local, regional, national, global, online, on the ground. Like this one:  Justice and Equity in a 100% Renewable World: a  live online conversation.  November 10, 2016, 10:00am Pacific/ 1:00pm Eastern.  Details here.

Or this:  Corporate and government response to the west coast diesel spill off Heiltsuk First Nation (see above, ‘moving crude oil by ship’) has been shamefully slow and lax.  The Heiltsuk people are fund-raising online to do research on the extent of damage to their coast and fishing grounds, essential for their survival.  Details here.

Or this:  Haven’t got around to accosting the big banks that finance the Dakota Access Pipeline?  The online grassroots organization SumOfUs has just made it a lot easier.  They also include a list of other practical ways to support the resistance to DAPL.  Details here.

 


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Dakota: Plain greed vs land, water & life

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Standing Rock, North Dakota: Land of the free.

As early winter chills the Dakota plains, a brutal war continues to escalate against Indigenous people defending land, water and life from the invading Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL).  The pipeline is meant to carry 500,000 barrels of toxic crude oil per day from North Dakota to Illinois.  From years of bitter experience, catastrophic spills should be expected.

The project has faced determined resistance for months from the Standing Rock Sioux and members of nearly 100 indigenous peoples from across the U.S. and Canada.  They carry on a centuries’ long struggle against colonial invasion and violence throughout the Americas.

By now 100s of defenders have been arrested, clubbed, pepper-sprayed, and maced.  Updates here, and here.

Solidarity protests are being held and planned across the US and in Canada.  For those of us who care but are unable to participate, action is still possible:

Behind the uniformed bullies with their military and chemical weapons, attack dogs, sound-cannons, assault vehicles and helicopters, lurk corporate oil/gas plunderers (in this case aka “Energy Transfer Partners”), and behind them hired governments, and behind them all, the international banking mafia safe in their glittering towers.

As well as raking in massive subsidies from governments, the pipeline builders also need major financing from banks.  According to researchers at the US nonprofit Food & Water Watch, the $3.8 billion DAPL is financed by 17 banks in the US, Canada, Japan, Britain, France, Germany, Spain, Italy, Holland, Switzerland and Norway.  All of them have the power to determine who gets financing and for what.

Contact information for the CEOs of DAPL-complicit banks is here.

Among them are three Canadian banks.  One of them, TD (indicated by *), is directly complicit in the Dakota pipeline, and all three of them provide financial backing to the vast Bakken pipeline network, of which DAPL is one piece.

CEO contact information:

* TD Securities.  Chairman, CEO, and President Bob Dorrance.

Corporate Office: P.O. Box 1, TD Bank Tower, 66 Wellington Street West, Toronto, Ontario M5K 1A2.

Investment Banking: 416-307-8500
Equity Research: 416-307-9360
Trading Floor Enquiries: 416-944-6978

U.S. Office: 31 West 52nd Street, New York, NY 10019-6101.  212-827-7000.

Bank of Nova Scotia (Scotiabank).  CEO and President Brian J. Porter.

Corporate Office: Scotia Plaza, 44 King Street West, Toronto, Ontario, Canada M5H 1H1.
416-866-6161.  email@scotiabank.com

U.S. Office: 250 Vesey Street, 23rd and 24th floors, New York, NY 10281.  212-225-5000

Scotia Howard Weil (“Energy Investment Boutique”): Energy Centre, 1100 Poydras Street, Suite 3500, New Orleans, LA 70163.  504-582-2500 and 800-322-3005.  howardweil@howardweil.com

Royal Bank of Canada/RBC.  CEO David I. McKay.

CEO and Board Communications: Paul French.  paul.french@rbc.com.  416-974-3718.

Corporate Media Relations: Catherine Hudon, catherine.hudon@rbc.com.  416-974-5506.

Corporate Address: 200 Bay Street P.O. Box 1, Royal Bank Plaza, Toronto, Canada.
416-974-5151 and 416-842-2000

 

 


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Greece: It was a moment

Shining moments happen now and then. While the big ones demand attention, small ones often escape notice.  Some are in the eye of the beholder.

Lightning over parthenonThe Parthenon, Athens, Greece

For this beholder, a few of the big shining moments that come to mind: When years of massive popular uprising finally brought down the Marcos dictatorship in the Philippines. When Iceland defied the European bankers. When indigenous Bolivians forced US corporate giant Bechtel to drop its plan to make them pay for their own water, even for rain that fell from the Andean sky.  And then, just a week ago:

Despite a deluge of propaganda and threats, 61%of Greeks said Όχι, No! to financial-political strangulation by Euro-banks, Greek corporate gangsters and their wholly owned media.

That was a shining moment. It followed the January 2015 election of the Syriza movement to govern Greece, primarily on a promise to end imposed ‘austerity,’ a toxic mix of impoverishment and grand theft that had already devastated the country.

I am hungry for these shining moments, as I imagine many of us are. The big ones don’t come very often.  Our grasping at straws can make us naive, trip us up on our own illusions.

A week later, the Όχι moment is over.

Greek Prime Minister Alex Tsipras overrode democracy and the clear wishes of his own people to accept, behind closed doors, a set of conditions guaranteed to be even more viciously destructive to his country than the ones a strong majority of Greeks had just refused in their historic referendum.

In their castles today, the international bankers and politicians who serve them are surely celebrating. They have made an example of the Greek people, as kings used to do with heads on pikes: See what we do to those who defy us.

How Greeks who invested their hopes in the new government and its promises feel today, I can hardly imagine. The grief and rage of two other observers is eloquently expressed here, and here.

And in a rapidly growing international protest on Twitter, #ThisIsACoup, here.

But the story doesn’t end there. It continues where it always does, in Greece and everywhere else, often out of sight on streets, in markets, cafés and tavernas, in offices, schools and barracks.  People talk, they learn, they unravel the lies, patch the disappointments, share, organize, resist.  And so it goes.

The story also continues in the turmoil and the quiet of our minds, where many small shining moments are born.  Often they grow, and sometimes they bear fruit.


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Όχι, No!

July 5, 2015, Greece: The referendum.

9.8 million eligible voters.
62.5% voted.

38.69% voted ναι, Yes.
61.31% voted όχι, No.

Greeks celebrate NoAthens, Sunday night, July 5. Photo: ibtimes.uk.

This is a first, a historic moment. An act of defiance and great courage. A sharp rupture with business as usual.

I’m sure that in voting No, people rejected many different but ultimately connected things: The threats and unbounded arrogance of international bankers and Euro-bosses, primarily the German Chancellor; the lies and corrosive contempt of the mainstream media; the corrupt, discredited old ruling parties of Greece; an indirect but obvious attempted coup against the government that Greek voters had just elected in January; a weary apathy born of repeated blows and letdowns; fear of the unknown, and more.

But most directly, a strong majority of Greek voters rejected a power structure they know very well by now through bitter lived experience, a system that makes a decent, sustainable life impossible for the many in order to indulge the insatiable greed of the few.

For people like me in other countries where No’s that challenge this power structure are routinely ignored, mocked or punished, this is a rare, thrilling moment, to be savoured.

To me, the Greek Όχι echoes another famous No!  During the Spanish civil war, people defending democracy from fascism boldly declared: No pasaran. They shall not pass. Sadly, the fascists did pass, and they are still with us. Even so, the original call has lost none of its abiding power: No pasaran!

No illusions here: The bankers and their faithful servants in government and media are still with us. They are mightily offended by the defiance of the Greeks. They fear that this ringing No! will inspire people suffering under the bankers’ heel in other places: Spain, Portugal, Italy, Ireland, Ukraine and beyond.

Syriza and the people of Greece face an enormously difficult path, a new path with no map. They will be bullied, bribed and beguiled to bow down or sell out.

With humble thanks, I wish them the clarity and courage to find their own way to a more reasonable, more compassionate, more authentically democratic future.

 


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For the people of Greece, I wish…

Far too long, financial vampires in Europe and North America have had free access to the open veins of the Greek people. Little blood is left, but still the vampires want more. This is how they live, in castles called the IMF, the European Commission, the European Central Bank.  They call their brutal regime ‘austerity,’  but its true name is insatiable, murderous greed.

After years under this regime, and rising popular protests, in January of this year Greek voters elected the Syriza party to form a government. It’s still young, a coalition formed only in 2004.  Chief among its promises was to end the suffering and brutality of imposed ‘austerity.’

Greek rallyAthens rally, June 2015: Yes to freedom, no to austerity. Photo: NY Times.

The vampires hate the new government. They set about immediately to discredit, paralyze and ultimately to smash it.  An example must be made, subjects must be reminded of their place.

In power six months now, the Greek government has tied itself in knots trying to meet the insatiable demands of the vampires, while still keeping its promises to the people who elected it. Finally this past week it could no longer yield any further without cravenly betraying them.  Instead it asked the people of Greece to decide for themselves how to proceed.

Tomorrow, Sunday July 5, Greeks face a stark choice between two extremely painful paths, both imposed from outside. One path is to accept more of the same from the vampires, the other is to refuse them, and face the vicious retaliations that will surely result.  It’s a horrible decision that no one should ever have to make.  It’s a forced decision that people in other parts of the world also face, and very likely many more of us will have to face in the future.

This won’t be the first time Greeks have been forced to fight for their freedom, even their survival, against enormous odds. In April 1967, backed as usual by the CIA, Greek army officers launched a coup against the elected government. The military junta immediately abolished civil rights, dissolved political parties and exiled, imprisoned and tortured politicians and citizens who resisted, opposed, or even questioned them.

For most Greeks it was a nightmare, but the vampires thrived.

On February 21st, 1973, law students went on strike against the military dictatorship, barricading themselves inside the Law School of the University of Athens. They demanded the repeal of a law that imposed forcible military drafting on “subversive youths”, a fate already suffered by 88 of their peers. The police were ordered to attack.

By chance, I happened to be there.

Circling the Mediterranean on a quest of sorts, that afternoon I was heading for the Acropolis.  On a downtown building I noticed young people at the edge of the roof, holding up a banner in Greek. On the streets below, swarms of buses gathered, their flanks and windows painted dull grey. Men in uniform spilled out, clubs and guns on their belts. Streets emptied, shop doors slammed shut. Soon young people started disappearing from the roof. After awhile they emerged from the main entrance, staggering, choking and gagging – from tear gas, I assumed. They were forced through a gauntlet of police, who beat them with clubs. I saw and heard the impact on heads and backs, saw people hurled like sacks of grain into buses, caught glimpses of more beatings inside. On streets I watched ordinary looking men suddenly pull out small clubs from inside their jackets, beat young people, apparently at random, then run away. Here and there a shop door opened and hands pulled in a fleeing refugee. Behind other doors, people shook their heads, Go away!

That first uprising at the Law School is often cited as prelude to a much larger one in November 1973 at the Athens Polytechnic. Though it too was put down with even greater brutality, it sparked thousands of workers and youth to join protests across Greece.

In July 1974, the military dictatorship collapsed. Four months later, national elections were held, the first in seven years, won by the conservative New Democracy party.  Fatefully, one of its first priorities was to seek membership in the European Community, formed only a few years before.

The same forces I witnessed that day in Athens are still at work today. Now they wear suits. The uniforms and thugs stay in the background, to be called up as needed. Now the preferred weapons of mass destruction are international finance and trade agreements, negotiated over our heads and behind our backs. Like other dictators the finance vampires hide behind a veil of fake legality, to kill and destroy with impunity, smug in their ruthless power.

So long as these vampires continue to rule, by deception and force, people everywhere will continue to face the kind of torturous dilemma that Greeks face tomorrow, and worse.

For the people of Greece I wish the clarity of vision to see through the propaganda and threats that assail them, and the courage to refuse the vampires.