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Big Oil Attempts to End-Run Keystone XL with Congressional Approval | Common Dreams

Published on Saturday, March 16, 2013 by Common Dreams

Big Oil Attempts to End-Run Keystone XL with Congressional Approval

“Just once, we wish these Senators would break the trend and listen to the thousands upon thousands standing up against this pipeline, instead of the Big Oil benefactors lining their campaign war chests.”

– Lauren McCauley, staff writer

The oil industry is planning an end-run around the President and State Department as they linger over the impending decision on whether to authorize the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline by pushing for Big Oil friendly Congressional approval of the project.

Thousands gathered at the Forward on Climate rally on Feb. 17 2013 in opposition to the Keystone XL pipeline. (Photo: M.Scott Mahaskey/POLITICO) On Thursday, Senators John Hoeven (R-N.D.) and Max Baucus (D-Mont.) introduced a bill which authorizes Transcanada Corp. to construct the pipeline, opening up more than 800,000 barrels a day of heavily polluting tar sands oil.

The announcement of the bill reads: “The senators bill would approve the 1,700-mile, high-tech project under Congresss authority enumerated in the Commerce Clause of the U.S. Constitution, Article 1, Section 8.”

Reportedly, Hoeven last year secured an opinion from the Congressional Research Service (CRS) confirming Congresss constitutional authority to approve the project.

According to Oil Change International, “the co-sponsors of this new bill have enjoyed massive contributions from the fossil fuel industry through their careers.” According to their Dirty Energy Money database:

  • In total, the 14 Senators who have co-sponsored this bill have received nearly $10 MILLION in contributions from the fossil fuel industry, some $6.6 million of that from the oil industry alone.
  • On average, the 14 co-sponsors have received over $708,000 each from the fossil fuel industry in their career, over half of that from the oil industry.
  • Compared to the rest of the Senate, the co-sponsors of todays pro-KeystoneXL bill have received 227% more in fossil fuel-related campaign contributions on average than their counterparts.

The list of Senators cosponsoring the bill includes Sens. Mark Begich (D-Alaska), Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska), Pat Roberts (R-Kan.), John Cornyn (R-Texas), Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) Mary Landrieu (D-La.), David Vitter (R-La.), Heidi Heitkamp (D-N.D.), Mark Pryor (D-Ark.), James Risch (R-Idaho), Jon Tester (D-Mont.) and John Barrasso (R-Wyo.).

“Consistency is sometimes a trait to be admired,” writes Oil Change’s David Turnbull. “But just once, we wish these Senators would break the trend and listen to the thousands upon thousands standing up against this pipeline, instead of the Big Oil benefactors lining their campaign war chests.”

This latest move follows a letter submitted in late January by 53 US Senators which urged fast-track approval of the pipeline project.

Since 2011, Congress has tried repeatedly to force the president’s approval of the project. As Reuters reports:

In late 2011 Republicans inserted language in a payroll tax cut bill giving Obama a 60-day deadline to make a decision.

Obama ruled in early 2012 the administration needed more time to evaluate a revised route through Nebraska submitted by TransCanada to avoid sensitive ecological areas.

Keystone backers in Congress pushed to override Obama’s call and approve the line themselves, but a vote last year in the Senate fell four votes short of passage.

Hoeven said this time the bill should pass because the previous vote was held before Nebraska Governor Dave Heineman approved TransCanada’s revised path of the pipeline. Hoeven also said he believed he has enough votes to overturn an Obama veto should it reach that point.


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Indefensible price gouging for basic communication is a fact of life for millions | Color of Change

I just got this in email, and time is short to make a difference on this, so please read and share widely.
If you’ve never known anyone who was incarcerated you may have never even heard of this particular aspect of the corruption rampant in our corporate owned government, but it is rotten.

When my best friend and roommate was arrested-
(for being a pothead which is a whole other can of worms about the ridiculousness of making a PLANT illegal. I have no personal interest in smoking pot, it does nothing for me but I cannot understand how my entire country has fallen for the lies that were told to destroy Monsanto and DuPont’s competition-Cannabis is illegal because Hemp is a superior product to nylon for ropes and sails etc)

-we were dirt poor and the phone bill was astonishing, I almost lost my phone service. We actually had to pay a FEE in order to be “eligible” to receive collect calls from the jail-because unlike ordinary collect calls, these calls cost a LOT more.

He was only in jail for a few months, (and then in a drug treatment center that tried to deny his religious freedom) so I did not have to bear the burden so many do whose loved ones are incarcerated for years, but I know this message is telling the truth from personal experience.

This is one small step in ending the corruption, but as the old saying goes the journey of a thousand miles begins with just one step….

Indefensible price gouging for basic communication is a fact of life for millions of American families with loved ones who are currently incarcerated.1 They’re a captive audience for the phone service providers awarded monopoly contracts by prison operators, and are accordingly charged 15 times or more than regular phone rates.2

Martha Wright, an 86-year-old grandmother, has spent the last decade of her life fighting these predatory practices in the courts, and now before the Federal Communications Commission (FCC).3For Wright, choosing to maintain her relationship with her grandson as he’s been transferred between four separate correctional facilities in as many states has meant at times going without her medication and even without food in order to afford their twice-weekly phone calls.4

Keeping up regular family contact is not only key to supporting our loved ones while they are incarcerated, but it also plays a critical role in reducing recidivism and assisting with successful reintegration post-release.5 In order to address the rampant profiteering that is so disruptive to these family and community relationships, the FCC is currently considering capping prison phone rates in line with those available to the general public but it’s only accepting public comment through this Monday, March 25th.

Please join us in urging the FCC to stand up for families and curb the abusive business practices of prison phone providers. It only takes a moment.

Prison phone corporations dont compete for contracts in the normal sense of the word, meaning that they dont win bids by offering the lowest rates. This is because phone companies arent contracting with the people who actually use their service by making and receiving phone calls theyre inking deals with states, localities and private prison operators that arent directly impacted by calling rates, but benefit to the tune of millions of dollars annually from commissions charged on each call. In at least Louisiana, Alaska, Nevada and Alabama, increasing these corrupt kickbacks from the phone service providers has been shown to have been the determining factor in selecting winning contract bids.6

And while government entities generating revenue by punishing the families of prisoners is a scandal, it’s the private prison industry in particular that has a ruthless track record of profit-seeking behavior that actively targets and exploits the most vulnerable among us. The countrys largest private prison operator, Corrections Corporation of America (CCA), was a key architect of Arizonas notorious SB1070,7 the racial profiling law designed to fill prison beds with anyone unable to prove on demand that they arent an undocumented immigrant.8 The GEO Group, the industrys second largest player and regular subject of civil and human rights abuse investigations,9 was barred from doing business with the entire state of Mississippi after massive corner-cutting at their Walnut Grove youth facility led to rampant sexual and other physical abuse by staff of the minors in their care.10

In light of states widespread practice of warehousing their prisoners in private facilities owned by CCA and GEO Group out of state an ill-conceived attempt to address budget shortfalls and overcrowding that has failed miserably on both counts11,12 the cost of interstate prison phone calls deserves special scrutiny. Transferring inmates often repeatedly across state lines makes physical visits virtually impossible for most family members due to the distance and expense involved. And private prisons dont have to comply with the same visitation standards as their public counterparts, leaving inmates and their support networks even more reliant on the phone system for maintaining any kind of connection during incarceration.

For Black men in their 30s, one in every ten is in prison or jail on any given day, and federal sentencing data shows that Black men receive longer sentences than white men for the same crimes.13 Among Black children, one in nine has an incarcerated parent,14 constituting an enormous captive audience for prison phone operators preying on the need to keep family connections alive over the course of years or even decades apart.

Demand that the FCC cap interstate phone rates and stop prison phone operators from exploiting our families for extortionate profits. And when you do, please ask your friends and family to do the same.

Thanks and Peace,

–Rashad, Matt, Arisha, Kim, Johnny, Lyla and the rest of the ColorOfChange.org team
March 23rd, 2013

Help support our work. ColorOfChange.org is powered by YOUyour energy and dollars. We take no money from lobbyists or large corporations that dont share our values, and our tiny staff ensures your contributions go a long way.


1. State PSC considers lowering sinful prison phone rates, The Lens, 11-15-12

2. FCC: Prison phone rates far too high, NBC News, 03-07-13

3. Martha Wright v. Corrections Corporation of America (FCC Petition), Center for Constitutional Rights, accessed 03-21-13

4. Will Middle of Nowhere Convince the FCC to Do the Wright Thing on Prison Phone Rates? Take Part, 09-21-12

5. “Family Connections During Imprisonment and Prisoners Community Reentry” (.pdf), Jane Addams Center for Social Policy and Research, University of Illinois at Chicago, Winter 2004

6. Nationwide PLN Survey Examines Prison Phone Contracts, Kickbacks (.pdf), Prison Legal News, 04-01-11

7. Prison Economics Help Drive Ariz. Immigration Law, NPR, 10-28-10

8. Stand up against racial profiling in Arizona, Jack & Jill Politics, 04-28-10

9. Too late for FAUs prison sponsor GEO Group to erase its Wikipedia record, SB Nation, 02-21-13

10. VICTORY: Mississippi prison will no longer abuse youth for profit, ColorOfChange.org blog, 02-29-12

11. The perverse incentives of private prisons, The Economist, 08-24-10

12. Transferring Inmates Out-Of-State Has Negative Consequences, California Progress Report, 08-01-12

13. “Black men six times more likely to go to prison,” Amsterdam News, 03-18-13

14. “One in 28 US kids has a parent in prison: study,” The Raw Story, 09-29-10

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Are you listening? Aisha North

I try to re-post Aisha’s blog each day to introduce new people who have not seen her before, and for those like me who are in a rush and might not have time to go to each site every day(Aisa’s, Oracle Report etc) but as this post reminds us-if you do have time sites like Aisha’s, and Denise LeFey have real communities going on in the comments which is a wonderful way to connect with others on the same path, and also to absorb the wisdom and experiences of so many amazing people. To me, that is a hallmark of this shift-no longer are we on the one person isolated “hero’s journey”; our world is no longer to be made up of great leaders and humble followers. We are moving into a new era of equality, connection, commonality and community wherein we may be drawn together by wayshowers like Denise and Aisha, but we ALL have our own unique wisdom to share, each of us is an important part of the whole system.

Unlike in former times it will no longer work to either subsume oneself as a faceless unit of the group, or strike out unconcerned with others as an isolated cowboy. We are transcending those old paradigms and at the same time melding them together into something more. We are now becoming deeply individualized, unique and functioning parts of a larger system-much as long long ago the many individual beings like mitochondria or digestive bacteria somehow managed to come together to make big mammals like us;-)

Just like you could not mistake your elbow for your frontal cortex, and you wouldn’t really want to live without either one, we will each be fully realized beings with more to contribute to a whole community which will also be more fuctional and coherent than before. (lasers are coherent light-if that gives you any idea of the difference;-)

I appreciate todays message even more than usual, as this direction to step back, and tune in to ones own frequency cannot be overstated. For the last few days I’ve been asking myself-the equinox was supposed to be such a good thing, why am I feeling so awful? What do I need to do to make things work better? Much thanks to Aisha for this wonderful clue as to what is going on!

Are you listening? Aisha North

Dear friends!

These last few days have been full of magic, but also so intense, so I had to take some time to just BE. For the energies that blasted through me on the Equinox were even more powerful than I thought, so I literally had to disconnect myself from everything, including this Pond, in order to get back to myself. In this exhilaration of all the love that came rushing in, it is easy to get carried away. But just as the butterfly in the beautiful video Michael posted, we need to take time to sit with all this before we throw ourselves fully into this new level. For if we act too fast, we risk crashing down because our wings are not yet fully formed and ready to make us airborn.

For it is just like the CCs said, we have been given the opportunity to find our new voice, but we can only find it if we take time in quiet to listen for it inside. Many of you have done that, and the stories you have shared here these last couple of days are testaments to that. Alex, Guerric, Iain you are just some examples on how these new energies have worked miracles. For you did just that, you stepped back and stepped into yourselves, fully and truly and in ways that are shining examples for us all. I thank you for sharing these profound, transformative stories with us, for you have dared to be honest to yourselves in a way that is beyond anything I have ever seen before. For you have found your new voices, and they are beautiful, soaring up to heaven, and you bring joy into the hearts of us all.

Have I found my true voice? I think I have, but my process has been very different from what others have described here already. And so it should be, for we are all unique, and only we can do this the way that is right for us. This is not about technique or following in the footsteps of others, this is all about YOU doing this for YOU in the only way that is right for you. At least I know I will make sure to give myself ample opportunity to reconnect with myself in the days ahead in order to make sure that I have heard it correctly. For it is just like the CCs said beforehand, this new energy will push a multitude of buttons in you all, and the result can be bewildering to say the least.

The tune of this Pond has also changed with these new vibrations coming in, and the stories you have shared show that very clearly. And when we start to connect even deeper through this Pond, as in the group meditation Philip has set up for Monday, it is even more important that we all take some time before that to literally tune out to tune into ourselves. For have you found your new voice yet? It may not feel very different from the old one, but believe me, it is. You may not have to go through a deep and profound experience in order to find it, but you need to be sure that you have in fact managed to establish just who you are after this intense energetic retuning. For some of you, that process will take some time to finish, and so you will have to give it all the time you need. But then at least you will know that you are still in the process of fine tuning yourself. And that is all it takes. So please make sure that you are honest with yourself in this process, and do not rush ahead without taking the time to listen well to that inner voice.

In other words, make sure that you have managed to tune into this new vibration, as otherwise, you will find yourself out of balance again very soon. For this new level of vibration is so powerful and so strong, and if you try to wing it as they say, you will be blasted back down again until you learn your lesson. For we cannot sing the old song anymore, it simply does not harmonize with the new, and you will feel the effects of being out of tune with yourself even more now than what we did before. Because the energies have changed so much it will clearly signal if you are, and it will do so without hesitation. It is easy to get confused, and it can be distracting to hear everybody else trying out their own voices. So make sure that it is YOUR voice you hear, not that of someone else.

So take time, disconnect from the outside and go within. That way, you will know just what your new voice is, and when you raise it to the heavens, it will mix in perfectly with the new vibration that is already here. Remember to be patient with yourself, and ask for assistance if you need it. I had a hard time hearing myself above the noise my physical body made in the aftermath of the Equinox, and even being out in nature was not enough to help me to balance myself. And so I asked for help, and got it in the form of this beautiful dog that I was asked to look after for a few hours. This gift of love gave me the opportunity I needed to just let go of everything and just BE in the love that he gave me. And so he helped me to hear myself, and for that, I thank the infinite wisdom of the Universe. So please make sure you give yourself the same gift of tuning in, and I know you will find your way through the noise and into the new music that has started to play within.

Love and light, Aisha


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Thank you for posting this Jean! It shows that the process of change has indeed begun long ago and is progressing in various parts of our world, even if not visible in the United States of Terror. Once people here become less brainwashed and blindfolded, it could happen even here. Most people do care more for others than for greed, media just try to convince us that it isn’t so.
I am disappointed in Obama, and disgusted with my country and it’s complete subjection to, and willing bootlicking of it’s corporate masters. They can murder the man Chavez, just as they could murder Marley, Lennon, King, and Kennedy-but they cannot kill the ideas, the ideals and the spirit of love and truth and compassion that these men stood for and acted from.
These live in all of us, and will in the end prevail no matter how many assassinations, coups, fema camps or brainwashing techniques they employ. I pray that the people of Venezuela will be free of Monroe Doctrine machinations and continue to stand as a shining example of what is possible when the People come together in a REAL democracy. (like Libya was too-direct democracy of the people is so much harder to corrupt!)