Nel's New Day

December 4, 2016

Victory at Standing Rock

CANNON BALL, ND - DECEMBER 04: Fireworks fill the night sky above Oceti Sakowin Camp as activists celebrate after learning an easement had been denied for the Dakota Access Pipeline near the edge of the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation on December 4, 2016 outside Cannon Ball, North Dakota. The US Army Corps of Engineers announced today that it will not grant an easement to the Dakota Access Pipeline to cross under a lake on the Sioux Tribes Standing Rock reservation, ending a months-long standoff. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)

CANNON BALL, ND – DECEMBER 04: Fireworks fill the night sky above Oceti Sakowin Camp as activists celebrate after learning an easement had been denied for the Dakota Access Pipeline near the edge of the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation on December 4, 2016 outside Cannon Ball, North Dakota. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)

Protesters across the United States celebrated today after the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers announced that it would “explore alternate routes” for the Dakota Access Pipeline instead of granting an easement for the pipeline. Over 2,000 U.S. military veterans had joined the thousands of protesters at the site to protect them from the authorities, and federal officials had given them until tomorrow to leave the site.

Native American tribes began last April to block the part of the current 1,172-mile-long pipeline’s $3.8 billion project designed to cross under Lake Oahe in North Dakota at the confluence of the Missouri and the Cannonball rivers because it threatened the water supply, damaged sacred sites, and violated federal law and tribal treaties with the U.S. “Oahe” means “a place to stand on” in the Dakota language. Pipeline opponents argued in court that the pipeline “crosses areas of great historical and cultural significance” and “crosses waters of utmost cultural, spiritual, ecological, and economic significance.” Sally Jewell, Secretary for the Interior, said that the government will conduct “an in-depth evaluation of alternative routes for the pipeline and a closer look at potential impacts” and “underscore that tribal rights reserved in treaties and federal law, as well as Nation-to-Nation consultation with tribal leaders, are essential components of the analysis to be undertaken in the environmental impact statement going forward.”

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The small protest that started eight months ago developed into a standoff after the Standing Rock Tribe was supported with hundreds of tribes and joined by thousands of celebrities and activists from around the country throughout the sweltering summer into the freezing winter weather. Police departments from 24 counties and 16 cities—as far away as 1,500—have sent law enforcement officers to Standing Rock, using the 1996 Emergency Management Assistance Compact (EMAC) as an excuse that it fits the category of “community disorders, insurgency, or enemy attack.” North Dakota taxpayers will be required to pay for all these out-of-state officers, including their wages, overtime costs, meals, lodging, and mileage reimbursement. The state already has a $1 billion revenue shortfall for the current year, and law enforcement costs were up to $10.9 million as of November 22. Morton County had spent another $8 million, and local courts and jails were on the hook for 575 arrests.

Arrested demonstrators, called “water protectors,” report having been strip searched and detained in dog kennels. Police set dogs on the protesters. Last week local law enforcement announced fines of up to $1,000 to vehicles delivering supplies to the Standing Rock encampments.

Police commonly use water cannons, rubber bullets, and pepper spray. By mid-November, their treatment of the protesters so accelerated that the police are now being sued by protesters. Police shot streams of icy water in the freezing temperatures and fired tear gas and rubber bullets against the demonstrators for six hours. Water froze to people’s bodies, and 300 people were treated for injuries. Twenty-six of them were taken to hospitals.

Police took this action after pipeline opponents tried to remove two burned military vehicles from a bridge so that they could get supplies and emergency medical services from Bismarck. Law enforcement denied that they had water cannons, claiming that they used a “fire hose” to spray “more as a mist” but not “directly on them” in order “to help keep everybody safe.” A medic saw the police “hosing people down with their water cannon that continued for the entirety of the four hours I was out there watching.” He added that they flushed the eyes of people sprayed with tear gas with water and milk of magnesia that turned to black ice on the ground. Medics also reported that the demonstrators were unarmed and largely nonviolent.

Rubber bullets fired at demonstrators caused one elder to lose consciousness, another man to experience a seizure, and a woman to have her eye injured. Sophia Wilansky, 21, underwent surgery after her arm was severely injured by a concussion grenade. Her father said that she will need multiple surgeries to regain use of her arm and hand because “all of the muscle and soft tissue between her elbow and wrist were blown away,” he said. “She will be, every day for the foreseeable future, fearful of losing her arm and hand.”

The police denied using grenades and accused the protesters of having explosives. Eyewitnesses including medics, however, “watched police intentionally throw concussion grenades at unarmed people” and said that evidence of these grenades was “the lack of charring of flesh at the wound site, and by the grenade pieces that have been removed from her arm in surgery and will be saved for legal proceedings.” Black Elk—resident of the reservation, an ethnobotanist, and instructor at the local college, said that police reactions to protest became “progressively more militant, more violent.”

Another method of intimidation against protesters has been to arrest them on bogus charges and then refuse them public defenders for “pretty mundane administrative mistakes,” according to a local attorney. For example, one man was rejected a public defender because he wrote “none” instead of “0” to a question regarding how many cars he owned. In October, a judge dismissed  riot charges against journalist Amy Goodman, who had filmed a confrontation between protesters and pipeline security officers. At least 130 demonstrators have had charges dropped due to lack of evidence, indicating that prosecutors are more interested in intimidating activists than securing convictions and signaling the “unprecedented” nature of Morton County pursuing baseless cases.

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The federal government has claimed ownership of the land where Oceti Sakowin camp (above) sits, but that land is within the area of the 1851 Fort Laramie Treaty, which designated land for the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe. In 1889, Congress divided the Great Sioux Reservation into six separate, smaller reservations and forced the tribes onto smaller parcels of land. Yet terms of treaties are not removed until officially repealed by Congress, and the Supreme Court has ruled that subsequent treaties do not do away with an earlier treaty unless the new treaty specifically addresses and removes the terms of the older treaty.

Interactions between Native American tribes and police are too often violent throughout the rest of the nation. Although these tribes are sovereign nations, 70 percent of them are under the legal authority of police and sheriff’s departments from nearby non-tribal communities. Indians alternate with blacks to have the highest rates of deaths by law enforcement, and these deaths are undercounted for a variety of reasons.

The continued stoppage for the project is at risk because Donald Trump (DT), planning for his presidential inauguration on January 20, 2017, says he will support pipelines like this one. Kelcy Warren, the chief executive of the pipeline company Energy Transfer Partners, donated at least $103,000 to DT’s campaign. DT has said that he sold his shares worth $500,000 and $1 million in Energy Transfer Partners, but there has been no proof that he did this. He also owns $100,000 to $250,000 of stock in Phillips 66 that has a 25 percent stake in the Dakota Access project. Bruce Gali, a 67-year-old member of the Pitt River Tribe, said that it wasn’t the end until “all the razor wire comes down, until the helicopters stop flying overhead, the spotlights turn off, the drill pad is dismantled.”

Once again, the media showed its bias when it ignored the protests by the water protectors at the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation. Despite it being “the longest-running protest in modern history” with “the largest, most diverse tribal action in at least a century, perhaps since Little Bighorn.” Despite the thousands of U.S. veterans who came to protect the water protectors. Despite the accelerating police militancy. From October 26 through November 3, CNN, Fox News, and MSNBC combined spent less than an hour describing the demonstrations and violent law enforcement. In this time period, Fox network spent 4.5 minutes. Sunday “news” shows have ignored the events there since September. The few remaining progressive hosts on MSNBC did cover some of the events at Standing Rock, and Joy Reid invited a member of the tribe to be interviewed for her show—the first and only time that the “mainstream” media did this.

For the time being, however, there is victory at Standing Rock. We’ll see how the media treats this event.

June 29, 2013

Gregory Accuses Journalist of ‘Aiding and Abetting’

When Tim Russert was the host of NBC’s Sunday morning political show, Meet the Press, he was so respected that the network added his name to the name of the program. Moved from chief of the NBC News’ Washington bureau to take this leadership in 1991,Russert moved the program’s length from 30 minutes to an hour and initiated in-depth interviews following his extensive research. Russert used old quotes or film clips inconsistent with the guests’ more current statements and then ask them to clarify their positions. In 2008, the year he died, Time named Russert one of the most 100 influential people in the world.

After his death, the respected Tom Brokaw acted as an interim appointment before David Gregory became the permanent host. His conservative bias was obvious from the beginning when he interviewed Mark Sanford, the South Carolina governor just come back from Argentina, that he called the Appalachian Trail. The media had been clear about his lying to the state and disappearing without leaving anyone in charge. Gregory promised Sanford that his coming on his new show “puts all of this to rest” because “it allows [Sanford] to frame the conversation how [he] really wants to … and then move on.”

I confess that I watch Meet the Press because the re-run is at 11:00 Sunday night, and it puts me to sleep. Yet he frequently annoys me, for example when he gives Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA) a pass for his creating scandals just to bring down the president. Last Sunday, Gregory brought a great deal of well-deserved criticism down on him for his question at the end of an interview with Glenn Greenwald.

After discussing Greenwald’s involvement with Edward Snowden, the man declared either a hero or a traitor for telling the world that NSA is collecting metadata on all U.S. citizens, Gregory finished with this question: “To the extent that you have aided and abetted Snowden, even in his current movements, why shouldn’t you, Mr. Greenwald, be charged with a crime?”

Greenwald replied that it was “pretty extraordinary that anybody who would call themselves a journalist would publicly muse about whether or not other journalists should be charged with felonies,” and that there was no evidence to back up Gregory’s claim that he had “aided” Snowden. Gregory replied that “the question of who’s a journalist may be up to a debate with regard to what you’re doing,”

Frank Rich, respected investigative reporter and writer for The New York Times for almost three decades shredded Gregory and his accusations.

“Is David Gregory a journalist? As a thought experiment, name one piece of news he has broken, one beat he’s covered with distinction, and any memorable interviews he’s conducted that were not with John McCain, Lindsey Graham, Dick Durbin, or Chuck Schumer. Meet the Press has fallen behind CBS’s Face the Nation, much as Today has fallen to ABC’s Good Morning America, and my guess is that Gregory didn’t mean to sound like Joe McCarthy (with a splash of the oiliness of Roy Cohn) but was only playing the part to make some noise. In any case, his charge is preposterous.

“As a columnist who published Edward Snowden’s leaks, Greenwald was doing the job of a journalist–and the fact that he’s an ‘activist’ journalist (i.e., an opinion journalist, like me and a zillion others) is irrelevant to that journalistic function. If Gregory had integrity and guts, he would have added that the journalist Barton Gellman of the Washington Post, who published the other set of Snowden leaks (and arguably more important ones), aided and abetted a crime. But it’s easier for Gregory to go after Greenwald, a self-professed outsider who is not likely to attend the White House Correspondents’ Dinner and works for a news organization based in London.

“Presumably if Gregory had been around 40 years ago, he also would have accused the Times of aiding and abetting the enemy when it published Daniel Ellsberg’s massive leak of the Pentagon Papers. In any case, Greenwald demolished Gregory on air and on Twitter (“Who needs the government to try to criminalize journalism when you have David Gregory to do it?”). The new, incoming leadership of NBC News has a golden opportunity to revamp Sunday morning chat by making a change at Meet the Press. I propose that Gregory be full-time on Today, where he can speak truth to power by grilling Paula Deen.”

Activist Carl Gibson asked why there should be reporters if those who report on leaked government secrets are labeled as criminals. As all of us know, the drive to sell advertising has overcome much of news reporting, but even worse, corporations own almost all the media now.

Follow the money. Meet the Press is sponsored by Boeing, that owns NSA contractor Narus, an Israeli company that makes the rapid interception technology used by the NSA. Boeing is also a member of the corporate coalition for “Fix the Debt,” a sham organization funded by Wall Street billionaire Pete Peterson. That organization hope to destroy Social Security and Medicare, which may explain why Gregory has framed the decimation of those two programs as the best way to deal with the country’s debt. Gregory has never mentioned that companies like Boeing pay a “negative” federal income tax.

When journalists discovered that the Obama administration had seized phone records of AP reporters without their knowledge, fellow journalists were incensed. Yet Gregory has joined the intimidation of journalists by asking Greenwald if he is a criminal.

David Sirota on Salon asked more questions. Mother Jones’ David Corn asked why Gregory had not addressed the same question to reporters at the Washington Post, the Associated Press, and Bloomberg News after they, too, publicized similar leaks.

Trevor Trimm of the Freedom of the Press Foundation asked if Gregory himself should be prosecuted because “when interviewing Greenwald, he repeated what government officials told him about classified FISA opinions.”

A year ago, the New York Times’ Jo Becker and Scott Shane published an article about President Obama’s so-called “kill list” based on leaks of classified information by White House officials. Also an Inspector General report documented then-CIA director Leon Panetta’s possibly illegal release of top secret information to filmmaker Mark Boal for the film Zero Dark Thirty. Should Gregory ask whether the authors of these if they “should be charged with a crime” for publishing secret information?

After National Intelligence James Clapper and NSA Chief Keith Alexander lied in their testimony before Congress, should they be prosecuted for perjury in the same way that major league pitcher Roger Clemens was?

Since the time that Daniel Ellsberg revealed information and now, when Edward Snowden did the same thing, the White House has declared war on any people who tell the public about its covert—and possibly—illegal surveillance. Why has the media transferred its obsessive attention to where Snowden might be at any time instead of the NSA’s crimes against millions of people in the United States. Why do media outlets view the NSA’s actions being legal when they “intercepted private e-mail messages and phone calls of Americans in recent months on a scale that went beyond the broad legal limits established by Congress,” according to the New York Times?

Speaking about Snowden to Jay Leno on his show, Gregory said:

 “You know, there are people who give him credit for sort of forcing this debate out into the country. I think it’s deeply disturbing when someone takes it upon him or herself to decide they’re uncomfortable with some program and they decide they want to undo a government program. I don’t think that’s what the founders of the country envisioned and it’s not a real way to do that.”

I tend to be suspicious of people who channel the “founders of the country,” but it might be useful to read a few of their statements:

 “I believe there are more instances of the abridgement of freedom of the people by gradual and silent encroachments by those in power than by violent and sudden usurpations.”—James Madison

“Those who would give up essential Liberty, to purchase a little temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety.”—Benjamin Franklin

In the Washington Post, Eric Wemple wrote about the 2001 case Bartnicki v. Vopper in which the Supreme Court ruled that an illegal recording or great public consequence that a media outlet had only received but not participated in the recording of, was protected by the First Amendment. Greenwald did not aid and abet Snowden in obtaining the information or ask him to break the law. Gregory didn’t do his homework when he slandered Greenwald by his accusation that the journalist had “aided and abetted Snowden.”

I’ll watch Meet the Press tomorrow because both Rachel Maddow and Wendy Davis, the woman who filibustered the Texas Senate for almost 12 hours last week, will be on. But also on is Jim DeMint, new leader of the Heritage Foundation ultra-conservative political organization. Hopefully, Gregory won’t decide to pander to DeMint and declare Davis a terrorist the way that one of her GOP colleagues did.

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