Just when I said Congress was rendering itself irrelevant, they go and prove me wrong.
I dedicate this post and its companion radio broadcast to my father, now five years deceased. His birthday is today, and I still celebrate and honor him, his life and all the lessons he taught me. Later tonight, I will make his favorites – a German Chocolate cake and a good old fashioned meatloaf. Later, I will light a candle, send him a wish and toast his everlasting journey onward and upward.
Dad enlisted in the Marine Corp during theViet Nam conflict as a forward observer. He was always proud of his country, proud to serve in its defense against enemies foreign and domestic. I too, enlisted in the US Air Force during the cold war era, and served overseas as a part of a newly formed joint command intelligence unit.
To this day, and as if it were yesterday, I remember standing in a room of new enlistees taking the oath to defend my country. To me, that wasn’t an abstract notion. Having learned from my father to stand up for myself and others unable to stand up for themselves… for me, having been bullied as a child when defending weaker kids and even principals of right over wring, I knew who I would be defending, what I would be defending and why.
My father also served as an officer of the court with the Justice Department and saw, from the inside, how corruption could corrode the newest, shiniest system of governance, just like oxidation will decay the finest implement left out in the rain.
Despite all the ugly he witnessed in his life, he believed in principals of fairness and honor and courage. And he taught those same values to me, which I still adhere to – even amidst a storm of civil unrest in my beloved country, where political partnering with commercial interests is acting to degrade the very democratic foundation of our nation.
Dad always stood up for the underdog, defended the innocent, advocated peace, even during war and said many times ”The system works, but you have to make it work.”
He was referring to participatory government – that is, the same notion that democracy must be defended from any who would threaten its pristine promise and potential with their own destructive and unfair manipulation.
Under the Constitution we, as citizens have been granted, among other things, the freedom of speech and assembly in order to share ideas, and debate controversy with others — all with the potential of refining and evolving our country and broader civilization through our participation in these activities and the encouragement of it in others.
Benjamin Franklin, an instrumental player in the drafting and signing of the US Constitution, recognized the scope of this challenge. When a woman asked what the newly convened congress had Created upon its ratification, he said: “A republic… if you can keep it”
So what did he mean by republic? A republic is governance by elected representatives. A democracy is governance by majority. The United States is a blend of both. Which one could suppose might reflect the platforms of the Republican and Democratic parties. Even though, those lines have become blurred and homogenized as both parties seek, secure and share greater political influence through funding driven by commerical partnerships.
We cannot depend solely upon our elected representatives to preserve the promise and potential of our country. We must safeguard it ourselves, by embracing all conflicts and educating ourselves about their implications. We must incorporate our knowledge within the basis of Constitutional law and defend that code in alignment with a sense of moral fairness and civic duty.
Unfortunately, in a country now deeply influenced by corrupting corporate forces leveraging federal and state policy to ensure broader markets and more stable consumption cycles, defending these noble tenets can – it seems, these days, make one an enemy of the state. But what state?
Mainly, the state of denial and disregard.
In 2004, EnCana Oil andGas,USA determined they would trespass onto a private road for the purposes of installing a pipeline beneath it for which no permission from private landowners had been secured. My father and our neighbor prepared to challenge EnCana’s assumption of imminent domain and intent to install an explosive, poorly maintained pipeline mere feet beneath our heavily traveled dirt road.
The two of them – each war veterans, disabled, and in their mid-sixties readied their lawn chairs and thermoses of coffee for a sit-in, barring EnCana’s access to doze up the only access road afforded residents.
My father notified the sheriff and I notified the media. Everyone notified attorneys. EnCana relented and installed the pipeline, as we had originally proposed, adjacent to the road and via access agreements negotiated with other relevant private landowners.
For this act of self defense, he and our neighbor were labeled ‘militants’ by EnCana – a foreign corporation exploiting privately held mineral resources and surface ownership. Unfortunately, EnCana’s assessment was generally supported by county law enforcement authorities, some of the sararies of which were later funded by direct corporate donation.
These two noble men acting within the law to defend the law were suddenly considered subversive to the intents of America’s energy independence… and all the systemic associations therein implied. Which means, roughly translated, they were seen as a direct threat the status-quo money and power structure undulating beneath the thinning fabric of American freedom.
It doesn’t take a lot to be labeled as a subversive inAmerica. Perhaps it was my grandfather, an ivy-league educated physician, who may have inspired our family legacy. He was, after all, labeled a subversive and outed from his New Jersey gardening club in the 1970’s for suggesting they explore the use of organic gardening methods over chemical treatments for pest control. I guess subversion is, in the words of Hank William’s Junior, a family tradition.
I’m no exception. I imagine after eight years of exposing the catastrophic risks of hydraulic fracturing and systemic regulatory failure and the county, state and federal level, I have a dossier a foot thick on someone’s desk – however undeserved.
It just goes to show such discrimination is… well nondiscriminatory. Well-educated, law-abiding, community oriented Americans and even veterans dedicated to the defense of their own country and willing to sacrifice their own lives and freedoms in its defense can be considered subversive.
What happens when regular everyday folks deluded as to the preservation of democratic institutions and the protection of their civil liberties realize they aren’t so protected. What happens when America appears maybe a little less democratic and a whole lot more representative – and not necessarily of their interests or even Constitutional rights of its citizens? What happens when these folks share their concerns with neighbors, pursue literature, opinion or additional information on a subject, attend town hall meetings and try to organize an education or legislative effort, or orchestrate a peaceful protest? Well, guess what? They may get labeled subversive too. Who gets selected as subversive, seems to have everything to do with hidden agendas and motives to quell.
In 2010, the Pennsylvania Department of Homeland Security entered into a contract with a security firm to track and report on individuals and groups engaging in a variety of activities, such as attending town hall-type meetings or conducting lawful and non-violent protests. Some of these folks were members of the Tea Party. Others were gay rights activists. Some were supporters of education reform, and some were interested in learning more about the risks of hydraulic fracturing.
Those folks looking into fracing were reported not only to the department of homeland security. Lists of names were also distributed to the oil and gas companies who happen to have their own association-backed protocol on the justified use of lethal force against those who would oppose their operations.
Word got back to some of the folks interested in what fracking was really all about – you know, beyond the corporate-sponsored feel-good ads. Then the media learned about it and… well, in general, it created a bit of a public relations mess, which ended with an apology fromPennsylvania’s incoming Governor Rendell and the termination of the department’s head.
Here we are around a year later, and perhaps in an effort to make the process of tracking and reporting these types of citizen activities less messy and more private… and even more robust… the US Congress attached legislation to its upcoming defense bill.
House Bill HR1540 and the Senate’s version: S1867 aim to allow the USmilitary (or presumably other international authorizes under cooperative agreements) to indefinitely intern ‘suspected terrorists’ without charge or trial. (See also section 1031 of the US Defense Authorization bill, headed for presidential approval.)
Now, beyond the obvious questions this situation raises about the total violation of due process afforded every American citizen under the US Constitution, it begs the obvious question raised in this post: What is a “terrorist”?
According to what criteria and by whom are such things to be determined? That’s hard to say, given that the compromise language between the two houses is now being negotiated in a super secret committee. Kind of like the committee then Vice President Cheney and his oil and gas buddies worked out when they were exempting oil and gas operations, like hydraulic fracturing, from federal laws like the Safe Drinking Water Act, Emergency Planning and Community Right to Know Act, Resource Conservation and Recovery Act, Clean Water Act, Clean Air Act, Comprehensive Response and Environmental Response, Compensation and Liability Act (which is the federal Superfund law).
This reminds me, today the US announced it was officially ending the war in Iraq. Another instance which suffered from a widely acknowledged questionable basis, lack of exit planning or accountability – and which also happened to benefit Cheney to a large degree given his professional ties with contractor Halliburton – a pioneer of hydraulic fracturing technology.
Let me be clear, I do not in any way endorse, nor do I tolerate terrorism or those who engage in it. It is an insidious act of cowardice against the innocent. Yet, in the hands of Congress and our military, I am wondering how terrorism might be defined. It begs a very clear definition, given the risks posed to law-abiding Americans and the risks to Constitutional freedoms. Such definition seems vague within the new defense bill. Maybe the super secret committee will come up with something suitable.
For now, though, in searching for a comparable definition, I did find some very useful information on bullying sponsored by a joint effort of the US Departments of Health and Human Services, Education, Justice, Agriculture and Interior.
On the website: stopbullying.gov, these agencies helpfully dispel certain myths associated with bullying and note that “Some people who are at risk for bullying others are well-connected to their peers, have social power, and at least one of the following:
- Are overly concerned about their popularity
- Like to dominate or be in charge of others
Others at risk for bullying others are more isolated from their peers and may have any of the following:
- Are depressed or anxious
- Have low self esteem
- Are less involved in school
- Are easily pressured by peers
- Do not identify with the emotions or feelings of others
Other risk factors for bullying others include the following:
- Being aggressive
- Have less parent involvement
- Think badly of others
- Are impulsive
- Are hot-headed and easily frustrated
- Have difficulty following rules
- View violence in a positive way
I wonder how many world political and corporate leaders fall into these categories? I wonder how many laws have been passed to facilitate the advance of this type of pathology? Is it possible that lawmakers and corporate leaders could be guilty of bullying, themselves? Could exemption from laws intended to protect people, and the aggressive engagement in activities that leave citizens as collateral damage be considered bullying?
Wait a minute… I began this post talking about defining US Citizens… that is, average folks, as terrorists here… not leadership or domestic and foreign policy. Right? But, there does seem to be a nagging similarity that I find a little unsettling.
Is it possible some folks don’t even realize they are bullies because they and their behavior is protected by policy and sanctioned, even nurtured and rewarded?
Few people realize that the US Government considers oil and gas revenues from leasing activities and associated royalties the second greatest source of US governmental revenue, after income taxation. Could this complicate the scenario and kind of make it like, I don’t know… the teacher protecting the bully and even engaging in a little bullying themselves? Does that ever happen – even on a playground? Yes it does.
The agencies on stopbullying.gov go on to explain the definition of bullying noting that:
Most agree that bullying involves:
- Imbalance of Power: people who bully use their power to control or harm and the people being bullied may have a hard time defending themselves
- Intent to Cause Harm: actions done by accident are not bullying; the person bullying has a goal to cause harm
- Repetition: incidents of bullying happen to the same the person over and over by the same person or group
They go on to explain types of Bullying, noting:
Bullying can take many forms. Examples include:
- Verbal: name-calling, teasing
- Social:spreading rumors, leaving people out on purpose, breaking up friendships
- Physical: hitting, punching, shoving
- Cyberbullying: using the Internet, mobile phones or other digital technologies to harm others
Five important myths are also busted on the website, which I feel are important enough to mention here:
MYTH: People who bully are insecure and have low self-esteem.
Many people who bully are popular and have average or better-than-average self-esteem. They often take pride in their aggressive behavior and control over the people they bully. People who bully may be part of a group that thinks bullying is okay. Some people who bully may also have poor social skills and experience anxiety or depression. For them, bullying can be a way to gain social status.
MYTH: Bullying usually occurs when there are no other students around.
Students see about four out of every five bullying incidents at school. In fact, when they witness bullying, they give the student who is bullying positive attention or even join in about three-quarters of the time. Although 9 out of 10 students say there is bullying in their schools, adults rarely see bullying, even if they are looking for it.
MYTH: Bullying often resolves itself when you ignore it.
Bullying reflects an imbalance of power that happens again and again. Ignoring the bullying teaches students who bully that they can bully others without consequences. Adults and other students need to stand up for children who are bullied, and to ensure they are protected and safe.
MYTH: All children will outgrow bullying.
For some, bullying continues as they become older. Unless someone intervenes, the bullying will likely continue and, in some cases, grow into violence and other serious problems. Children who consistently bully others often continue their aggressive behavior through adolescence and into adulthood.
MYTH: Teachers often intervene to stop bullying.
Adults often do not witness bullying despite their good intentions. Teachers intervene in only 14 percent of classroom bullying episodes and in 4 percent of bullying incidents that happen outside the classroom.
On the website, these agencies recommend that “Someone at immediate risk of harm because of bullying Contact the police – 911”. While I agree, this is good advice – all of this is good advice… I’m left to wonder… who do adults call and what number works when agencies become the bullies, sanctioning the bullying of corporations?
What happens when even the department of justice doesn’t pick up the line?
Could HR1540 and Senate version 1867 be misused as a convenient means of engaging tyranny? How many political representatives readily recognize themselves as bullies? As part of a system which nurtures bullying? Often the bully doesn’t recognize their own actions.
For all their best intentions, these proposals demonstrate exactly why Democracy inAmerica is at the very real risk of extinction, as is our sense of self as a country, our sense of selflessness and ethical directive.
Democracy works in America because we all agree to play by the same rules. But the rules have become voluminous and contradictory – even redundant. And to make matters worse, when corporations exempt themselves through political influence from laws intended to apply to all, you end up with favoritism, that can lead to unfair and disproportionate influence which begets more favoritism, until you left with a flag that is no more meaningful than the fabric it is displayed on. An emblem which is as hollow as its embossed lettering. A document representing freedom rendered as bereft and crumbling as its aged parchment.
We must help elected officials lead by being better and more fully informed. We have to safeguard the political process to help ensure the spirit and liberation of democracy is more than a footnote in history. We must actively ensure it is preserved for the application of future generations. We must do this by understanding the basis of our freedom, and investing the courage to defend it.
(Post continued below from 12-16-11 broadcast)
HR1460 and S1867 aim to invalidate due process and other liberties granted by the Bill of Rights – or, the first ten amendments of the US Constitution so valiantly fought for, over two hundred years ago by James Madison.
Given that wanton disregard for our country’s founding principals, I raise the question: How shall “suspected” or “terrorist” or “citizen” or “trial” be defined – and who would determine such parameters, if they are to be allowed at all?
Again, could such definitions be misused to wrongly target Americans lawfully engaging their Constitutional rights in order to, for instance, pursue, assemble and ditribute information about a topic of interest or one that poses a threat to their civil liberties? How about those who organize others for an educational or legislative effort? How about those who engage in peaceful protest? All of these are lawful within the framework of the Constitution, and, in fact, James Madison recognized all of these activities were engaged by our founding fathers, which led to the establishment of the United States, apart from English rule.
The rise of corporate domination over political process and policy in America has brought us to a crossroads of consideration – a point of catastrophic stress in a Constitutional system corroded and overburdened by meeting commercial objectives within a vehicle designed to serve the people by the consent of the people.
So, what are we to do? Preserve the intent and design of the Constitution? Or, abolish it in favor of a system of governance which serves the commercial interests of the few?
Through the insidious trifecta of ignorance, apathy and self-interest, our once strong democratic system has been undermined by the gradual displacement of freedoms by infringement.
Yet, we depend upon our freedoms in order to debate that which is controversial… innovate adaptable systems and means… and refine ourselves, while preserving our Constitution in response to evolve challenges.
In short, our Constitution allows and encourages our evolution as a governed society replete with new, rising challenges… challenges which are made surmountable by peaceful dissent and educated debate.
To deter free speech, peaceful dissent and reasoned debate, is to weaken the greatest potential of the Constitution. It can stand to scrutiny, and the very idea that it must be removed from an equation of political dissent is to disrespect its sterling principals as well as its founders and anyone who ever defended the individual and democratic freedom it represents.
Those Americans who are ignorant of the basis of their freedom are at grave risk of assigning those freedoms to others who would market them as objects of trade and negotiation.
If Congress would so readily consider invalidating the Bill of Rights, how quickly and easily might “subversive” become “anarchist” become “terrorist”? Who is at risk, during what could develop into a political witch hunt against peaceful, law abiding US citizens?
For example, as officially encouraged by the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission, I reported an instance of water contamination in West Divide Creek in 2008. The instance mirrored a similar event from 2004 in which hydraulic fracturing operations led directly to a blow out of a hundred and fifteen million cubic feet of natural gas into the creek and surrounding environment. The 2008 event was denied as having occurred by the state ofColorado, and is still denied. For three years, I waited for evidence to be collected quantifying the new gas seep. Finally it was, and in 2010, a suite of thermogenic gases were discovered indicating the seep was and still is related to natural gas development operations occurring in very near proximity. Yet, even as I reported this incident – as citizens are encouraged to do, and even as I pressed for an investigation into cause and scope of impact, the state of Colorado attempted to publicly discredit me on their website along with the documentary film Gasland. Essentially, the state called me a liar, and continues to do so despite evidence finally emerging as to the truth in my assertion.
Can truth, and our efforts to expose it – particularly in the interest of preserving human health and safety make us subversive? Enemies of the state and nation? Anarchists? Terrorists? On what list might we be placed? Who might obtain that list, and how might they act on it? Could we be interned indefinitely by military authorities without knowledge of charges against us or a trail by which we may be heard and defend ourselves? This new defense provision certainly seems to assert that possibility. So, ironically, I think it demands at least one round of public scrutiny and debate.
Jeff and Jodi Andrysick were labeled subversive for their work in producing a film entitled, “All Fracked Up”.
In a bulletin issued by the Pennsylvania Department of Homeland Security, the film was deemed a threat and noted as such in this way, as made public when citizens received word they had been made the subject of tracking by the Pennsylvania Department of Homeland Security:
I have excerpted aspects of the “Pennsylvania Intelligence Bulletin No. 112” the report below – editing (by removing) superfluous paragraphs as well as various detailed components corresponding to named entities and specific locations. I believe the editorial adjustments have not materially affected the gist of the bulletin. The report was made public after this outrageous incident was exposed by the region’s public media.
>>>BEGIN EDITED REPORT<<<
16 July 2010
Sectors: Energy, Government Facilities
2. Increasing and Expanding Focus on Marcellus
Analysts have identified a new anti-gas documentary that follows in the tradition of the anti-gas-industry Gasland. The new film, All Fracked Up.
As the film’s directors, Jeff and Jodi Andrysick from NY, explain:
“We were jolted into harsh reality this January when a predatory gas corporation picked our beautiful bucolic town to inject approx. 3/4 billion gallons of toxic brine into an abandoned gas well. The toxic brine was a result of the earth regurgitating back high pressure toxic fluids used in hydro-fracking operations in PA. …A massive grass roots movement occurred on Super Bowl Sunday at our fire hall with almost 500 people showing up on a cold frigid winter day. They said ‘no, we won’t accept your toxic brine disposal well.’ The gas company rescinded their application. THE MORAL OF THE STORY: The people always win when they show up in numbers and demand their rights as citizens of this great American experiment – DEMOCRACY.”
The directors are marketing the film as a more hard-hitting version of Gasland, using militant rhetoric such as calling for “resistance” against the “shale army.”
Thus far, All Fracked Up screenings are slated for the NY area. Showings are expected in PA after the end of July 2010.
The film Gasland contributed to the recent intensification of protests and rising anger among community and activist groups against Marcellus Shale drilling. Analysts believe that All Fracked Up will add to this adversarial sentiment.
Radical environmental groups may be particularly inspired by the film’s confrontational approach.
It [is] likely that anarchists will be formally and informally sharing information regarding companies involved in oil and gas drilling in PA.
Eco-terror lone wolves or organized environmental militant cells may be inspired in the coming months to carry out significant “direct actions” targeting Marcellus Shale drilling concerns.
Threat / Indicator / Warning (T/I/W) Rating:
Low (level 4) = Available intelligence and recent events indicate that hostile elements currently have little capability or intent to take action against the target. It is assessed that, although it cannot be ruled out, an attack or action is unlikely to be mounted based on current available intelligence.
Moderate (level 3) = Available intelligence and recent events indicate that hostile elements have the intent and capability to take action against the target. It is assessed that an attack or action is likely to be a priority and might well be mounted.
The Department of Homeland Security uses the word “target” in the above bullitin. Geeze Louise. I think there needs to be some discretion here. It appears that not only is there no clear and evident distinction given to genuine threats, but the entire cause of dissent and its perhaps unconstitutional irrationality is absent in this post… that is, exempting oil and gas operators from human health and environmental accountability. Don’t they think average law abiding citizens are going to notice how wrong that is, especially when people and animals start getting sick and begin to die? Don’t they think folks are going to react in a proportionate way? Good grief, it seems like that should have been predictable back when these exemptions were put in place.
Further, the bullitin references Jeff and Jodi’s use of “Militant” language. After nine long years of war in the mid-east, downplayed and defended as essential to our nation’s security, regardless of basis, we have become a culture forcibly inoculated against the accountable consequences of conflict. Military references have become common, even around the office water cooler.
The bulletin also specifies risks associated with “eco-terrorists”. What the heck is an eco-terrorist? Common sense tells me it’s someone who terrorizes the environment, but in this era of spin, I’m probably wrong.
I certainly felt terrorized when EnCana invaded our community. It was apocalyptic. Literally, we were shell-shocked by the unregulated activity… explosions that knocked a house askew of its foundation, huge black cumulous clouds descending on the valley for hours at a time, dead animals lying around, a creek we could light on fire. It was as if all the exemptions the industry had been given, amounted to a free pass to total annihilation of human health and the environment. But, I guess that the whole point of those kinds of exemptions. An absence of Clean Water, implies endorsement of toxic water… and when you begin to consume water laced with hydrocarbons and radioactivity, the risks are hard to accept, let alone ignore. An absence of compliance with “Clean Air” implies the endorsement of toxic air… and when you filter nearly 25,000 liters a day through your lungs… well, you get the picture.
In response to the bulletin, Jeff and Jodi included this disclaimer in their film:
“We are not the boogie man, not the devil, and not Bin Laden. We’re just simple farmers who want to protect our water wells, aquifers, streams, rivers, and lakes from the extremely dangerous new technology called hydrofracking. It is our hope that an immense, massively unstoppable army of educated citizens form. Together they tell their friends, neighbors, communities, and elected officials of the dangers of hydrofracking and that they do not want hydrofracking in their state and use only peaceful non-violent resistance.”
The controversial subject of hydraulic fracturing involves a process by which millions of gallons of fresh water and a cocktail of toxic chemical compounds are injected into the subsurface in order to crack part rock and recover natural gas. There is no legal requirement for operators to disclose these chemicals – even patented nano-particles which can infiltrate the blood-brain barrier.
No study of fate or transport has ever been conducted on many of these chemicals – nor are they likely to… becuse they are all exempt from law. Of those voluntarily disclosed to Congress as a component of a committee investigation ahead of EPA’s study on the subject, dozens of the known compounds were found to be carcinogenic.
The process of hydraulic fracturing has been linked directly to groundwater and surface water contamination in and around West Divide Creek in Colorado, and is suspected by the EPA of causing groundwater contamination in other areas of the US, including Pavilion, Wyoming.
Obviously, the process deserves the benefit of sound and thorough science as well as informed and robust debate. In the film, Jeff and Jodi made it clear they were not in any way advocating anything beyond increased awareness and peaceful resistance to this extremely risky practice. Yet, Jeff and Jodi have been labeled subversives. Who is next… and, more importantly, why?
It has never been more important to safeguard and apply our freedoms of speech and assembly. Both are vital to the preservation of democratic integrity.
As I’ve said in my book, ”As we defend our freedom, we must be ever alert to the ease of lifting our own saber, as its lightness may well indicate that we ourselves have become the oppressors.”
My book: “You And What Army? How to Neutralize Conflict and Negotiate Justice for the Totally outgunned, Inwardly Timid, Burnt Out or Socially Defunct” www.youandwhatarmybook.com download now to your PC for .99 cents!
In Depth Perception - on the air:
“CLASSIFICATION TERRORIST: For the sake of convenient tyranny” Part One of Two
CLASSIFICATION TERRORIST: For the sake of convenient tyranny” Part Two of Two – including an interview with Jeff Andrysick, co-producer of “All Fracked Up” (www.allfrackedup.com).