Thursday, November 22, 2012

Knowing Pierre

The knocking at the door came in two vigorous waves that made my head hurt more.  (Was that possible?)  I decided not to ignore it.     I opened it, got a blast of cold air, and saw the screen door already opened by a serious, 20-something woman. 
“Hi.  You have a black cat, right?”
I nod. “Pierre.”
“Well,” she said.  “I didn’t hit Pierre.  He’s still in the road.  I knew he was yours so I stopped my car.”  She paused.  “I’m a friend of a woman you hired to look after your cats, so I knew it was yours.  She paused.  “He’s still sitting in the road.”
I wasn’t enjoying the cold air on my aching bones.  Day three of the flu and all that.
“Are you going to go get him out of the road?”  she asked.  
I nodded.  I wanted to close the door and go lay back down.
My nod wasn’t enough, strangely.  So I added, “I’ll call Pierre.  He’ll come.”
She shifted on some very long legs.  “He’s still in the road.” 
I thought, ‘How can she know that?’  
I thanked her and added that he usually doesn’t sit in the road.  “I’ll call him.”
The young woman said, “You want me to get him out of the road?  I’ll do that.  Like I said, I used to come here with my friend when you were gone.”
I doubted that he would come to her.  “Look.  I’ve got the flu.  I really need to get out of the draft.  Thanks for your concern.  I’ll call Pierre.  He usually comes for me.”
“I’ll get him out of the road,” she said.  
   “Okay.  Look, I really need to close the door.  Thanks.”
Later, I learned that despite the flu, I needed to go to work and deliver the motor carrier route for the newspaper I used to have my journalism seniors critically analyze at the local college--the one that brought me up for early renewal for being a whistle-blower, a lefty.  Such is life.
I got cleaned up, gathered laundry, and headed to the car.  
  Just before the gate was a litter box filled with Pierre,  I saw a grotesquely mangled left eye socket.  I looked away.
It had been instant, I guessed.  Pierre maybejust sat down when he was over and bled out for every one to see.  Right in the middle of the double yellow line. I didn’t see the blood as I headed down the hill to the laundromat and the health food store.  I returned at dark to get some sleep before work at midnight so I missed it then, too.
At work I bitched about how the driver’s union’s being busted and nobody cares.  "And that’s why I have to work while I’m shitting my pants with the flu."  “I’ve got the clap!” another driver joked.  And off we all went to deliver something looking more like a Fingerhut mailer than a newspaper.
  I could barely make it back home.  I was falling asleep at the wheel so I slept a couple hours before coming home well after sun-up.
That’s when I noticed Pierre’s blood coloring the yellow line.  It’s 45 mph in front of my house but gawkers slowed, it seemed to watch me wail at the sight of his blood.  I fed the chickens. 
              I picked up an errant hen to bring back to her ‘older bird’ pen in the backyard and there, in the dying White Pine tree was an incredible array of songbirds--all types: Cardinals; Bluejays, Nuthatches, Titmouses; Sparrows; Mourning Doves; Chickadees, and others I cannot identify.
I got this message:  ‘He suffered.  You suffer.  We suffered too. Feed us this winter.’ 
  Pierre was an intrepid hunter. 
He was feral when I trapped him at my sister’s porch in Towanda, PA.  Deb had already sort of trapped his brother by putting her hands on him inside his little padded kitty house.  “Lisa--can you get him from the outside.  He’s got a claw in my hand.”  It took four hands to get Pierre’s brother, Buttercup, into the front parlor.
                I was already in the middle of wrapping a dryer-warmed comforter around a have a heart cage.  Next step was to carefully slide the open can of cat food into it without triggering it.  I had just closed the front door on a soon-to-be 10 below night when my sister called down: “Don’t bother setting out the trap.”  I heard the trap snap shut and saw it wiggle with a protesting Pierre inside.  “Too late.”  I said.  And so Pierre spent the night before his neutering caged in Deb’s front parlor. 
  Straight out of the vet’s neutering regime, he hit the road with me and my elderly cat, Louis.  
  We drove 18 hours straight in a blizzard back to Illinois.  
  He was not too hard to tame.  Or was he?  I needed to make sure he would use the litter box.  Into a large dog cage he went.  Bed.  Litter box.  Food and water dishes.  Exercise space. A toy.   Louis, my other cat and I walked around him and ‘visited him’ in the hallway by the bathroom.  I picked him up and held him, then wrestled him back into the cage.   No problem.
He was a long haired, black cat.  Very affectionate.  He quickly wanted to join Louis and me.   He signalled this by taking an incredibly smelly crap in the wee hours one night.  Then he began throwing his feces out of the cage.  Time to transition to the bathroom!
  I believe that lasted for one day.  
  He escaped.
          He did not like sharing me with Louis, an orange and white angora.   He wasn’t brutal with Louis.  But he engaged in a sort of psychological warfare.  Pierre liked the high ground.  A filing cabinet was the right height from which to pounce in front of Louis.  Then he’d bounce three feet in the air as Louis cowered and LAND with all four feet surrounding him.  Louis screamed in fear.  
  I developed a ‘time out for Pierre’ spot on top of a table.  That's where the dog cage went.
  He would scream to be let out of the dog cage.  
  That didn’t work. 
  The first time Pierre got outside, he stood, like King Kong, on top of the one story I was renting.  Squirrels were screaming their outrage as he sized up the trees he would mount near the house. 
18 squirrels in 9 months.  That has to be a record for cat predation of local wildlife.  I hit the roof about the birds, though.  Into the dog cage for ‘time out’.  2 cardinals.  8 Robins.
When I moved back to Upstate, I kept him inside for a year.  He watched the doings in the relatively wild back yard.  Fishers.  Foxes.  Bunnies (few of those).  Squirrel.  Turkey.  He showed little desire to go outside.   But any pile of papers was spread around the house.  If he could find the time, he’d shred them.  He loved to shred and tear paper.  The next summer, I could barely keep him inside. 
  Louis got old and died. I got a dog.
           First, I ‘tried Spencer out’ to see that he was okay with Pierre and Louis'  new, ‘half cat’ replacement, Rosalind.  The dog is a big boy--a Belgian Mallanoire Shepard.   Rosalind instantly loved Spencer.  “She saw an ally,”  my sister said.  That was true.  Pierre sensed this.   Pierre had plans. 
I had to travel for a month to shoot some video for a friend’s documentary.   So Spencer went back to the rescue place.  Upon my return, I reminded Pierre that Spencer would soon join us.  He glowered, but then quickly purred.  Pierre remembered his plans.
The first meal Spencer enjoyed, Pierre struck.  He put his entire body over Spencer’s bowl.  Spencer growled, then grabbed Pierre by the neck and flung him across the room.   I chastised Spencer.  Ordered him to go outside.  Destroyed his security, I quickly realized.   Entirely what Pierre wanted.  Yet, Pierre would carefully cuddle up to Spencer and the two would sleep.  Pierre easily.  Spencer--not so easily. 
I was usually careful to feed him and get him inside ‘the cat room’ during the dangerous driver time.  I was sick this week.  Pierre was very attentive.  Very affectionate.  He hated my new, overnight driving job as it ate into our snuggle time.  His legs were rather monkey-esque.  He could use them to hug me, it seemed. 
This week, Pierre was pissed off at me for not having the ‘right’ food ready.  (Can a cat stomp?)  He ran outside after morning nibbles.  I’d promised better food and shut the door behind him.
I didn’t think he’d go into the road.  
Let alone sit down in it after being struck by some driver who did not stop.  Pierre OCCUPIED East Street.
  I need  to thank the young woman who took Pierre out of the road. 
  When I worked in t.v. news in the Southwest, I used to carry newspaper in my bag to remove people’s pets off the road.  The videographers who didn’t mind this obsession were among my favorites to work with.   Perhaps I built some cat-removal-from-road karma.
I don’t know the name of the woman who performed this service for me.  She even tried telling me about Pierre’s demise.  
  She knew him.  
  Loved him.  
  The songbirds also knew Pierre.  
              Let the healing begin.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Goodnight Empire? Lessons from (Hurricane) Irene

by Lisa Barr

I am a product of the mass media generation.  
So, I live my life with a constant song in my head.  
Earworms are us. 
Meditation could possibly help with this malady.  
Still my condition helps keep my spirits up. 
At least, that’s what the lyrics of a St Patrick’s Day stalwart did for me as Hurricane Irene bore down upon my Upstate New York farm:  

Good night Irene, 
Good night Irene,
I’ll see you in my dreams!

Would it be nightmare?  
Perish the latter thought I did as I hung 8 feet in the air (with my left hand) from the PVC supports to my pullets’ new home behind my own.  
My right hand lashed the 6 mil plastic sheeting over a tightly drawn tarp. 
I am a five foot tall middle-aged woman.  
I don’t look like Barbie.  
My hens were concerned.  Or comforted?  They grew quiet.  Watching.  Listening.
I had periodic help from a step ladder.
And a friend.
Outside, in the gathering dusk, he braved the cold, pelting rain with a power tool, sheetrock screws and lathe to pin down the awning.  He worked on a two foot slippery shelf of muddy grass before the 40 foot slope that gently descends to a less gentle, 25 foot slope above a creek/reservoir we’re trying to keep frack free.  It’s one source of drinking water for the town of Oneonta, NY.  
Some well-meaning fractivists are trying to deny my ability to farm my land--turn it into a ‘water preservation district’ (read: potential new park land after 30 years of over-regulation?) that could trump my agricultural zoning classification.  
As if this can stop fracking--regulating my one acre farm to the point that it can be seized and sold to the Town of Oneonta--or will it be the City?  Will this save their land?  I doubt it.  
Meanwhile the nearby City of Oneonta is trying to annex the entire area so that it can get tax dollars from the local mall--which is in the Town’s tax district. 
I don’t like either idea.  
I also don’t like that I’m being approached to fight both by  people I suspect want fracking, and one person I KNOW wants fracking--the local fuel oil magnate who is one of the largest gas/fuel oil companies in North America.  
I don't think their contacting me much matters.  Fracking will happen unless we end Big Dirty Energy's despotic grip on our energy and transportation policies, and to do that we would have to wrest the industry's money-grubbing hands from our politicians' vital parts.  
So I'll talk to the bad guys about the 'smart local kids' attempt to protect local water' and I'm going to come out against it.  I'm sick of pro-war environmentalists.  I'll try to introduce them to Derrick Jensen's take on their activities.  
Strange bedfellows seek alliance in the twilight of empire, it seems.  
Should I fight for my land? 
Is that what’s right?  
Will it matter anyway?  
Why do they use the term ‘merger’ instead of ‘annexation’?  
When did Upstate New York become Texas? 
Can’t think about that right now.  Got to keep working.  The chickens want to know how my effort will help them.  Will there be layer mash in the morning?  Scratch grain? Warm water?
As we work, the structure and its 36 trusting occupants (Rhode Island Reds, Australorps, Buff Orpingtons, and Gray and Black Americauna 5 month-lings become ever more peaceful.  
Periodic gusts grow from 25 -30 mph and then to 35-40 mph.   But there is increasingly less flapping of awning and hens.  Picture an 8 foot by 18 foot chicken-wire cage with a roof sloping from 9 feet to 6 feet for drainage purposes.  Below it are cast-off, extremely tall pallets from the local Sears mail order store.  Below those pallets, around the outside, is about 400 pounds of hand-laid (gallon jug by gallon jug) concrete-over-chicken-wire-to-keep-foxes/weasels/skunks-away foundation.
Picture the structure shaking with me hanging by it.
This is an analogy, both for our dying empire and those of us with just enough scratch left to try surviving it--a middle-aged woman flapping in the breeze with her hens.  
Color me green.  I am lady fucking liberty, flapping in the breeze.

“Sometimes I live in the country.
Sometimes I live in the town.
Sometimes I have a great notion
To jump in the river and drown.”
As I work, saving my agricultural investment, I recall where I was last year at this time.  I had returned to Liberty Plaza, Washington DC’s (first? second? simultaneous?) OCCUPY for older activists that began as Kevin Zeese/Vets for Peace/Code Pink’s STOP THE MACHINE/CREATE A NEW WORLD.  I had arrived, largely driven there by a friend the night before it all began.  I would videotape some of the events there--until a badly abused hard drive died in DC.  Hard drives don’t like to be bumped up and down suburban mass transit steps, turns out.
Citizen journalism means self-funded journalism.  Hard drives are expensive to replace.   I returned to DC within the month--for 10 dollars!--with the funded Tar Sands busses for a protest NOT joined by the OCCUPY folks.  Perhaps the ‘we don’t want to blame Obama’ apologies after the celebrity arrests earlier that summer had something to do with the experienced activsts’ absence?  Or the environmentalists themselves are queasy about being too close to to the anti-war movement?  
No matter.  I travel both worlds.  
So, I spent the night in a tent on Freedom Plaza, instead of with the kids.   I videotaped for a possible documentary I’m working on concerning the definition of violence (economic).  
But, I also was asking myself an important existential question:
Could I survive as a homeless woman if I lost my farm?  
I needed to know what that would be like.  And I felt safe spending the night with the Freedom Plaza campers.  With all those porta potties nearby.  All those Veterans for Peace.  In the glow of the White House (or so it seemed).  
Wells Fargo, having denied me wrongly for HAMP 
*(calling me ‘unemployed’ while I was still under 5 months’ more contract;
* saying they would accept unemployment payments as income and then saying ‘Ha!  Sorry!  That doesn’t COUNT!’, 
*cashing 2 checks instead of one and then saying ‘well, your check bounced’) 
and then
*Telling Senator Gillibrand’s office with a straight face-- “Well, she just keeps breaking arrangements.”  
They filed for foreclosure in September?  August?  It’s a blur.  One shitty waitressing job followed by my first pseudo-factory job.   (No, Michael Moore, I fled Michigan in the 70s not because I wanted to be Marlo Thomas--I wanted to survive and escape my lower middle class lifestyle--one step above poverty as it was).  
My current employer is replete with a supervisor who doesn’t like me talking about the filth, the lack of noise and dirt protections.  He (or perhaps the big boss?) perhaps surmises  I’m speaking with the union reps (2 out of 3 in the building, anyway).  I may not be able to keep this, my latest shitty job.  In fact, I may be fired this week.  I was told I was ‘walking around too much’ the other night and sent home early.  Hmmm.  I’ll get another shitty job. McDonald’s is hiring.  Not to worry.  
I tell myself several times a day that I can save my house in cram-down (the only one left in bankruptcy law) if I can turn my home (still zoned agricultural) back into a farm.  I’ve been working on it for 2 years.  I think the numbers, the dates are matching up--I tell myself this several times a day.
But the fear of being a journalist; turned journalism professor; turned activist journalism professor-fighting-to-get-her job-back; turned middle-aged-wage-laborer/farmer-trying-to-save-her-house keeps me awake, often.  
If you’re not gambling in the latter stages of American Empire, you’re not living.  Not since the HAMP bailout allowed the credit companies to dry up even credit card borrowing for small businesses. 

           “Quit rambling’ and quit gamblin’
            Quit stayin’ out late at night”

I work at night.  
Not by choice.  It's all I can find near my home in a rural, small college town--formerly a railroad town.
As a delivery person, you could say we serfs own the night.  Because everyone else is sleeping, wisely getting the necessary chemicals to repair the brain during the hours of 10 a.m. and 2 p.m..  
If I stayed home late at night, now that the unemployment has run out (and the really obvious private detectives are gone) how could I drive to deliver newspapers for the local daily my students used to content-analyze for their senior projects?  How could I dodge--the deer?--the ditch when I drift off in exhaustion?  Find a restroom in what’s left of rural America in the wee hours when the caffeine overdose stimulates more than my brain?  Or, if there is no delivery job, how could I prove to my supervisors on the mailroom line that I’m not ‘walking around too much’ to remain in their employ?
Yes.  All that graduate work prepared me for the sleep deprivation needed to survive, I tell myself.  Never mind that the men evaluating or replacing me as an academic lack the advanced degrees I borrowed deeply to acquire.  
I have hens to save.  
Breathe with the wind.  
Tell the guy outside how much you appreciate his help as Irene bears down.

“Stay home with your wife and family.
Sit down by the fireside bright.”

I need a wife, I’m thinking.  If I’d had a wife, I might be tenured now. 
The house is a mess and I need to be done with this coop.  Will I ever again be dry and warm?    What if I’m fired from the job for which I just spent $600 buying: 
a new tire
ridiculously powerful new headlights for the ones the deer shattered
a really cool yellow removable strobe light 
for my damaged delivery vehicle (not even my own--my sister’s car!) 
Will these chickens support me by producing enough eggs?
I go to work.  My hens survive.  The older ones, in a different pen go back to laying.  
All is well in my little world.  
Not so in others--the online videos show massive shoreline devastation.  
“You cause me to weep, 
You cause me to mourn
You cause me to leave my home.”

Yes.  I blame big oil for this latest coastal devastation.  Not just for the climate change. Not just for the lack of directional drilling that could have saved the marshland below New Orleans (1 mile of swamp absorbs 1 foot of flood surge).  I blame dirty energy (coal, nuke, gas, oil) for policy changes that effect how we travel, how we light and heat our homes.   They presided and dictated the dismantling of our train system to instead expand our highway system (and hence our reliance upon the gasoline/fuel oil/natural and propane gas for energy AND transportation).  
This created a hell of a lot of greedy middle men and the women who live off and emulate their slimy tactics.  The EID Marcellus crowd is just the latest, most obvious, finally shameless incarnation of the rot brought to our government and social structures.  
Even before the mountaintop removal thugs, the fracking thugs, the industry’s greed all but halted solar power installation in the U.S..  It continues, but nowhere near the ‘space race‘ style conversion needed to save our economy and our democracy.  Germany used the Carter Administration economic plan for making solar transition profitable and possible.  
Back in the states, we have to fight to get every one of the crappy, poorly maintained, privately owned ‘utility’ companies to accept the solar power we generate from our home and business systems.  And that’s after we fight the local zoning board for the right to put up a solar panel (at least that’s the case in the Town of Oneonta, until recently).
Meanwhile, we see visions of a humbled Chris Christie walking with Obama, thanking him for the FEMA he used his NJ gubernatorial office to decry before Tropical Storm Irene knocked out all those homes (and voting ability?).  Maybe a possible pending defeat of the enemy--even while he’s helping you--makes it easier to be nice?
Put aside current politics for a minute.  All this sturm and drang, all this hailing or decrying of FEMA would be needless had our military spending been curbed after World War II.   We could be like the Netherlands.  They were on the right track at least when the 1953 “Watersnoodramp” (literally ‘flood disaster’) struck.  They protected their citizens.  They sped up a program to protect their shores.  
Meanwhile, the U.S. military establishment was ever expanding, well beyond the newly created standing army and ‘Pentagon’ plans announced (decreed?) to a war-weary nation.  David Swanson has a great article elsewhere about the big swindle that turned ‘growth’ to decay in most sectors, most notably our farms.
But I can't think about that.  
I have chickens to fool into production during the winter with a light on a timer.  Should I pipe in radio as well?  What station?  I can’t afford satellite.  

“But the very last words I heard her say
Was “Please sing me one more song.”

Maybe I’ll beat Wells Fargo.  Maybe I’ll again work as a journalism academic.  But I need to quit editing this, need to send it off for publication before I go to work stuffing advertisements into a newspaper that increasingly looks more like a Fingerhut mailing than its old self.  They are trying to hang on and I support that.  And right now, it’s supporting my chickens.  And me.  
Good night Irene.  
I need a new song.  
Something hopeful.  Before I became the wage-slave-I-am, I spent 20 hour days during a 90 day period this summer failing at a business I plan on succeeding with soon.    Then the unemployment ran out.  
I’d say wish me luck.
But, I don’t believe in luck.  I grew up in rural Michigan in the 60s.
At this point, I believe in money.
We need the assets of the dirty energy industry to quickly retool, rebuild, re-imagine our country.  We need someone who can use this moment to seize their ill-gotten loot (largely, egregiously untaxed for about 50 years anyway) and put it to work for us.
But lady liberty is flapping in the breeze.
And I have a shift to pull.
Revolution?  Maybe I’ll see it in my dreams.

Friday, May 4, 2012


NOTE:  I have physically barred people from downloading it after first 'Dimock Proud' and then mothership pro-polluter disinformation site EID Marcellus embedded it on their site so as to 'dispute' what their lying eyes could see.  Contact me for a fair use by permission embed on your website if you are an honest blogger.

Regulatory Agency Capture in Action
Dimock, PA.
 I spend much of my time traveling between the fracked society of Northeastern Pennsylvania (Towanda, County Seat of Bradford) where my sister practices law and lives and my own, pre-fracked Otsego County New York.  It’s about a 3 hour drive each way.  From Towanda, I can get to Dimock, PA--where I went again this week.  
 That’s a lot of driving.
   So, I reflect upon places I’ve seen similarly devastated.
 Southeastern Louisiana, around New Orleans comes to mind. 
 I was a television and radio journalist there in the mid-1980s.
 This week, I remembered the morning I received a phone call from a Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) official who was assigned to marshland in a lower parish.  “Frank” was out of breath.  “How soon can you get hee-yah?”, he practically whined into the phone.  “They’re tearing up the marsh before we can get the court order!”  Frank’s wife sensed he needed medical assistance.  He was in the middle of a heart attack.
 An oil company was being pressured by the government to drill directionally.   The lawyers were doing their thing in court.  But the executives had ordered workers to go ahead and render the lawyers’ work ‘moot’--if there’s nothing LEFT of the marsh to damage--there is no justiciable issue.  Cutting a channel into the marsh would allow the saltwater and tidal action open the channel exponentially.  
 Frank was beside himself.  So, he called a journalist--a television journalist. Me.  The local newspaper, the Times Picayune, was largely ignoring a big story:
 *Oil companies were failing to use directional drilling off the Gulf of Mexico coast;
 *Directional drilling could have saved what was then 50 miles remaining of estuary marshlands south of New Orleans;
 *Every mile of that marshland could absorb a foot of hurricane storm surge.
 Do the math.  
 New Orleans did not need to drown during Katrina.
 But, first, a dedicated DEQ ranger would try saving his corner of the estuary.  
 In the middle of his heart attack.  
 My videographer and I were about 45 minutes away when he called to say his wife was demanding that he get to the emergency room.  We told him to listen to his wife.  “I want to make sure you make the turn-off to get this.  I don’t know how much longer the tugboat’ll  be hee-yah.”   We assured him we could find it.  When we made the turn-off--there was Frank.  We would not have been able to get the shot without him.  There was a little lane we needed to drive down.  “The wife might be right,” he said as he left us and drove himself to the hospital.
 Under the tree canopy, there was the tugboat driver.  The operator was ‘executing’ a K-turn.  In the marshland.   The smell of diesel was heavy in the mid-morning swelter.  He got stuck.  He rocked it back and forth until he was turned around and then quickly slid out to the coast, spewing mud and plants.   The saltwater would move northward.
 Of course, so would these rapaciously piggy corporate thugs. Three and a half decades later. 
 You can see their workers display the company attitude:  “Wine-em, Dine-em, Pipeline-em’ on the rear window of the 4-door diesel pickup truck with the Oklahoma plates (why are all these trucks white?).  “Happiness is Dumping My Load” on the rear of a dump truck that monstrously huge digging equipment fills with rich Pennsylvania river-bottom farmland.  
 You might expect that attitude from people who don’t know any other way to make a living.  
 You don’t expect to see it from the ‘best of the best’ environmental regulators.
 But the EPA officials I saw in Dimock April 18th were nothing like ‘Frank’ from Louisiana DEQ.  They were more refined, and, I suspect, better paid.  Yet, they were worse than any crude tug operator, pipeline crew member, or dump-truck driver.
  These people knew better.  
  These people have options.
  Not so Craig and Julie Sautner.  And their two teenagers living with them on the GASLAND-famous Carter Road in Dimock, PA. 
Barack Obama and Joe Biden say ‘natural’ gas from the Marcellus bedrock underlying vast tracts of Pennsylvania and New York will be a ‘transition’ fuel to the solar panels other countries have used for decades.  Both men take huge amounts of campaign dollars from the companies benefitting from the devastation visited (regionally) first upon tiny Dimock, PA--the same companies paying millions to tell us that solar power will not work.  
Both politicians take money from the companies pushing for a ‘new national grid’--when we could convert our old empty factories to make solar panels we could install on every home and factory.  Who needs a grid?  Who needs the oil companies?  Who needs regulators who don’t do their jobs? 
What I documented a few weeks ago is monumental evidence of federal agency corruption.   They thought they could get away with it in the modest rural home of Craig and Julie Sautner. 
I know it’s good because an astro-turf website of fracking supporters in Dimock has pirated it, edited it to distort its message and posted it on ‘Dimock Proud’ a website advised by EID Marcellus--the propaganda arm of the fracking industry. 
I did it because Julie and Craig Sautner asked me to come videotape the meeting.  Back in December, Josh Fox and Mark Ruffalo and the big environmental groups held their public show of support for the Sautners after the local gas supporters blocked free water from coming to those afflicted by fracking.  They brought a lot of water to Carter Road.  Drinkable water.  
I said to Julie that there may come a time when there’s no one willing to come to Dimock--that’s when she could call me and I’ll come document for her.  Then a moneyed person expressed interest in my video.  So, unlike my other videos, I did not put a creative commons release on this video.   I said it would be fair use with prior permission.
That brought me some derision from some citizen journalists--people who never do anything but self-publish or post to a particular anti-fracking site.  Less than 24 hours later, has pirated my video, distorting it in the process.   Let me say to the thieves:  apologies for the quality--it’s finished in iMovie because I cannot afford Final Cut Pro yet.  Apologies for it’s less-than-slick presentation.  
But, the admissions documented should astound everyone--even gas drilling supporters.    
  Here’s why:
  *The EPA claimed the Sautner’s water is fit to drink;
*The EPA admitted to raising the ‘detect’ levels of suspected and known carcinogens appearing in the Sautner’s water;
*The EPA said they raised the detect levels whenever there were suspected ‘laboratory contaminants’ or ‘contaminated samples’ (I’m not making this up--watch the video);
*The EPA brought along, unannounced, a Pennsylvania regulatory official (a breed of human which should no longer have any credibility remaining whatsoever).
  The composure of the Sautners should also astound you--not the least of which because Craig Sautner resolutely does not cuss.
Both Sautners had many reasons to cuss that day, including:
*The condescending demeanor and words of the EPA and PA officials (watch the ENTIRE video);
  *Statements that officials would not drink the Sautners’ (newly deemed) ‘safe’ water because they may have done something to their own water (Watch Trish Taylor in the video at 25:26);
*Claims the Sautners have a history of ‘bacteria’ problems with their well (not true, and even if it were true--many people in the Marcellus region opt out of treating ‘iron bacteria’ choliform colonies with yearly chlorine ‘shock’ treatments or year-round ultra-violet lights; 
*The PA ‘Sort of a Toxicologist’ claims (twice 30:36 and 30:47) that Craig had somehow fixed a door so that the industry-captured-regulators could not leave the Sautner’s house (as if anyone would such duplicitous guests to STAY?);
  *Claims that Methane in their home well is not a health hazard (though it ‘may’ be a fire hazard).
  I came to Dimock that day thinking I would be videotaping true public servants--people like ‘Frank’ or the newly ousted EPA official who was denounced as a regulator and ‘environmentalist’--as if the two occupations are incompatible.  
By the way, Frank had a heart attack when he first saw the tug in the marshland.  The hospital officials bawled him out for not coming sooner, but he was fine.  Not so the marshland.  Not so the 9th Ward.
  But, the Sautners are fine, for now.   You wonder how they bear up under all this pressure.
All this bullshit.  
The township of Dimock refused to sign a ‘mutual aid’ agreement to let the City of Binghamton bring them clean water.  Just to be mean.  (I have that on videotape as well.) There is a court case ongoing regarding the removal of a state-ordered water supply to their home.  
  So, lawyers call.  
  Film crews call.  “Can you take me to get some video of someone lighting their water on fire?”  or “I want to see a burn-off.”  
Environmental groups call.  Come to our fundraiser.  Let us do a photo-op (to fundraise--for what?  More buses to Albany to yell inside a building or deliver another petition?).   One young leader of a group that’s provided the Sautners water told Julie the other day that their coffers were ‘bleeding’ from providing water to her family.  
  This is what I call a fracked society.  
  No one seems to know how to behave.
  Least of all the EPA.   
They are still refusing to give the Sautners what they requested after hearing all the double-speak about ‘new protocols’ for lab testing, ya dada ya dada:  the original sample results before the ‘detect’ levels were raised. 
 Simple data.  
  Call the EPA at 202-564-4700 and demand they give the original Dimock lab tests for EVERY home tested by our regulatory agency back in January.  Make sure they get half as worked up as they made the Sautners and all the other people in Dimock the day they told them their water  was ‘safe‘ to drink.    
You won’t give them a heart attack.  
If they are half the public servant  ‘Frank’ was, you might give them a sleepless night or two.
But, don’t bet on it. 

Sunday, April 15, 2012

To Montrose (PA). After Westchester (NY).

by Lisa Barr
As you read this my day will have been well underway.  I’m leaving to watch a meeting between two Irishmen with very little seemingly in common, class wise.  The aristicrat and the ‘woodchuck’ if you will.
I used the classist ‘W’ phrase designated for Upstate New York men.  
I can explain.  
But first, (because later that evening I must be in Montrose), allow me to say something even more crude:
I barfed my way through what should have been an iPhone livecast of the stupid Montrose Borough Council meeting on March 5th.  There was no livecast.  The problem was not just lack of cellphone signal (which makes things easier for the elite to exploit the rural areas, no?).  I had a virus. 
You didn’t miss much. I strode out of the meeting to the borough’s immaculate bathroom six times. I didn’t miss much, either.
Because, the Montrose Borough was still stuck on stupid.  
They were in executive session as I arrived and first busied myself with their plumbing--on the other side of the drywall from their ‘executive session’ room, no less!   Upon departing their (brand new?) loo, I heard laughter as they met with the lawyer provided by the borough’s insurance carrier. 
There are other reasons we can assume they did not take the stipulation seriously.   And that is an understatement.  Perhaps the insurance company lawyer babysitting them that night had not yet seen the incriminating emails that show its policy holders’ (elected officials!) discriminatory intent: 
*Labeling as ‘thugs’ the very people most notably documented as damaged by gas drillers--GASLAND sources-turned anti-drilling activists Craig and Julie Sautner of Dimock, PA --(and their daughter?);
*Salivating at the prospect of arresting the Sautners or the people truing to provide clean water to the Dimock ‘boomtown’ victims.  All that would be needed for arrest, per the borough council email plot, was a public questioning of Montrose Borough’s arbitrary decision to block water sales (SALES) to good samaritans helping those needing water in Dimock;
*Name-calling Susquehanna President Judge Kenneth Seaman as a sort of jailer “Kenny’s jail” in a manner which no doubt wrongfully implies the judge supported their plot;
The most galling thing about this is the arrogance.  
It’s reminiscent of a “Sopranos” episode on the cable network that made its mark in New Orleans’ arson-plagued post-1984 World’s Fair period.  HBO gained financial muscle by sending its cameras into a shady suburban Metairie hotel to livecast commercial boxing matches.  Somehow, that activity seems less criminal than the gas ‘plays’ threatening to swallow vast portions of the Northeast dominated by petty potentates like those who run the Montrose Borough.   
How fitting Montrose has the thuggery down so well they have to misappropriate the word ‘thug’ to define the good guys.  Smart.  No doubt that’s how former Louisiana farmland was turned industrial back in the day.  Backroom deal here.  Virtual and actual assassination there.  Only the assassinations in the frack-threatened areas up North now are done more slowly--cancers take more time than do bullets.  Careful where you decide to buy your house! 
Montrose has a ban on drilling.  Yet they sell millions of gallons of ‘their’ water for the polluting mob activity know as fracking--a practice exempted from usual industrial regulation rules the industry by definition can never hope to meet.   Their high school has its own police force--which subcontracts its policing authority when ‘necessary’ to gas industry ‘security’.  Two years ago, at a public event, their ‘security’ wrenched a gallon of contaminated Dimock water out of Julie Sautner’s hands.  They chased me around (I was on crutches) and tried saying I could not photograph their equipment on  display at a public event (they said the public school grounds were private because the industry had rented them--in order to invite the public to eat Halliburton, Chesapeake, and Cabot burgers and weenies.    
And it is there that we must gather later tonight to hear Pennsylvania (Department of Environmental Protection) DEP officials explain what they don’t know about why a compressor station exploded, caught fire and exploded a 2nd time 2 weeks ago.  The plan is for these compressor stations to dot the Upstate New York landscape to ship gas (obtained by destroying the region’s mile-deep bedrock) for liquification, and then export to shore up the fracker’s pyramid scheme.  
They need more dough, more time to buy auctions masquerading as elections to render as gas junkies enough vehicles and home heating systems. Then they can really squeeze the cancer-free survivors of the currently frack-threatened areas.
Think of Governor Andrew Cuomo.
Mario’s son imperiously claimed to require a million anti-dsGEIS signatures to stop this madness right smack in the aptly named Empire State.  Think of the Exxon campaign dollars he received.  Is Cuomo any different than the brutish Montrose PA borough leaders?   We’ll discuss young Andy and his friends later.  Back to Montrose.
One of the attorneys writing Montrose borough’s incriminating emails is an elected official who publicly grandstands against the winter dust storms caused by all the fracking traffic through town. Mop the streets, he demands.  And the public employees attending the post-stipulation meeting I tried covering in my bathroom-dependent-state said, “Yes sir!  How often?” 
In his life as a lawyer Sean Granahan represents a hospital boat that plies the Hudson River.  In his life as a Montrose Borough official, he assaults journalists--   journalists whose corporate bosses don’t bother going to court for them.  So, I did.  With my sister representing me.  Judge Kenneth Seamans recognized my standing as both a journalist and media educator.  He ordered Montrose borough to rewrite their code of conduct and their (insurance company supplied) lawyer and mine to draft a negotaited stipulation.  Much has been made about its ‘closed door’ nature by media who should know it’s a public document.  So, for the sake of those who hang upon the phrase ‘closed door’--here is a ‘how-to-petition-for-local-press-rights’ primer
You’re welcome.  
We go back to court May 31st.  In the meantime, Montrose borough has cancelled two public meetings for lack of ‘sufficient’ public business.  
Now--regarding the other email-crazed attorney--borough solicitor Marion O’Malley--she wrote the rules of conduct--and some of the emails!  She seemed in tears when our first court hearing began--leaving the judge’s chambers her late father used to dominate in the manner of a town drunkard wielding aristocratic power by virtue of his robe. Montrose, PA has always been an insanely snobbish, xenophobic backwater.  Truly anti-semitic signs were displayed in shop windows in the 80s and 90s about ZOG (zionist organized government).  Out-of-town attorneys not resembling Ken and Barbie dolls were called ‘Jew Lawyers’ and pridefully refused to disabuse their attackers’ assumptions.  Never a truly nice place, its people nonetheless know how to perform ‘nice’ behavior.  
Like all bigots of good standing, the Montrosians know how to perform manners.  Unlike the first, pre-court hearing night I arrived to cover the rules change, the cops grinned at me.  It was stomach flu season. I was green-faced and said I needed a bathroom.  “Right around the corner ma’am--here I’ll open the door for you.”  And he did.  In I walked, past a crowd awaiting the Montrose borough to leave executive session and do their public duties.
People survive in Montrose, as they do all over ‘the land of the free’ by getting in line.  When they get out of line it is consequence time.  It is no wonder that the Israeli-based stalking firm hired by PA “Homeland Security” to smear, among others, GASLAND premiere attendees at the theatre down the street from the courthouse apparently the Institute of Terrorism Research and Response (ITRR) could feel at home in Montrose.  An embarrassed Governor Rendell made Tom Ridge fire the firm.
Given borough council behavior, perhaps the smear firm’s greatest offense was redundancy?  And, how different is the behavior of rural Montrose power-drunkards than  those of Albany?  Or those in Westchester who issue belated anti-fracking sentiments?
Think of Robert F. Kennedy, Jr..  
No longer the brother in law of New York’s governor, he still serves on the advisory committee for possible 2016 Cuomo run for the White House.  Decades ago, “Robert” made a missing page from a crucial EPA report on an Upstate New York weapons manufacturer reappear for Sidney-area activist Patrick McElligott.  McElligott’s much-documented family claim on an historic piece of Upstate New York is in jeopardy.  A word from a Kennedy could, once again, keep the fight for equity alive Upstate.
McElligott believes pressure from ‘Robert’ could pressure ‘Andrew’ to do something significant: “Perhaps the single most important thing the pro-environment anti- hydro-fracking side could get is an extended moratorium for another five years for health studies not yet done.”
That is a big order.  And Kennedy has been reluctant to enter the fray.   But McElligott has been patiently persistent--as only a twenty year psychiatric social worker can be.  Consider that profession.  It’s like being a lay minister:  time-intensive, patience-trying.   Now consider McElligott’s earlier claims to Upstate NY fame:
*preventing a bloody retaliation after racist thugs from a nearby high school beat and left for dead a Sidney area all-state athlete (and a relative);
*insisting upon ethnologically proper reburial of Native American remains while working as top assistant for Onondaga Chief Paul Waterman;
*starting the Sidney Center Historical Society, and
*writing a book detailing his family’s nearly 100 year history with a local railroad and earlier forced removal from Kerry lands to County Limerick.
Consider also that Robert Kennedy will be sitting down with a strategic fighter.  McElligott’s international claim to fame came earlier.  As a boxer.  A British writer for Boxing Illustrated predicted in 1973 that Patrick, then in high school, would be a world class champion in the 1980s.  A defensive boxer, he later won hundreds of fights, losing less than you can count on both hands.  That patience will be on display as his allies join him, watching him try convincing Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. to find a stronger voice than the one the grey lady put in print for him a couple of weeks back.  
“He has a voice, as a Kennedy,” begins McElligott.  And a strong sound must emerge to satisfy his upstate friend.  Even on disability McElligott undertook a hunger strike against a state Republican madman.  That won him a speaking opportunity when the fashionable, foundation-funded, actor-flanked anti-fracking crowd protested Albany’s silence regarding fracking.  
Right now there is a schism in the anti-fracking movement.  It does no one any good to not admit this.  The well-funded ones are not supporting the actions of the grassroots activists.  They are expecting the grassroots to follow them.  This is not how any movement succeeds.  It is how co-optation occurs.  It is how a movement dies.  It is how Al Gore’s campaign bit the dust--selecting his Yalie daughter to run his campaign? Over all those less-than-Barbie-esque committee women?   Refusing to meet with Ralph Nader’s campaign?  
I thought of this as I heard the young woman chosen to lead a new anti-fracking initiative scream (literally) in panic, child-like and LIVE on a recent statewide political broadcast (at 38:39, 38;45, and 39:12 ).  And I thought of this as I listened to the grassroots represented by Patrick McElligott calmly (at 39:55 ) state their claim about the need for nonviolent civil disobedience to be deployed to stop fracking.  
We know that Robert Kennedy once had the good sense not to side with those who would exploit the rural, less-capitalized areas of the state.  His assistant cautioned Patrick not to engage in a hunger strike outside Kennedy’s office door at Pace.  That was months ago.  After the big environmental groups formed a ‘network’ they could coordinate.  But, Patrick McElligott was active before the kids ‘in charge’ knew where Sidney was.  And he is persistent.  So, the big meeting happens tomorrow.  The question that remains is: will Kennedy play aristocrat to McElligott’s ‘woodchuck’--or can we expect more egalitarian treatment than the grassroots has become accustomed to receiving? 
Will Robert Kennedy Jr. pressure his former brother-in-law into extending the NY State moratorium?  It is an important question.  
And then it’s back to Montrose for me.  And we’ll how respectful the PA DEC is to complaints about exploding compressor stations.
I’ll try to stay out of the bathroom.
The past 30 years has seen a constant eroding of dignity for less well-connected people, and those with voices critical of the status quo.  And it’s been by design.  The 1981 deregulation order that ended 5,000 radio news jobs across the country eliminated  a place for minorities, women of substance, poise, and, yes, hard work and preparation to take their place in matters of civic importance.  As journalists.  Where we learned how to operate equipment.  And to not panic near a live microphone.
It got local, state, and national power holders, such as those in Montrose, Albany, and, yes, Westchester out of the habit of answering to less well-heeled people--
‘woodchucks’ included.  For those in the newsroom, it was the equivalent of prize-fighter training.  Getting up every at 4 a.m.  to navigate equipment, confront officials, and prepare the local news, and/or going out to make some sense of public meetings was great training in poise.  
I hate to end on a crude note--but it’s how I began.  As I knelt before the porcelain god at the Montrose borough, I marvelled at how long it had been since I’d last done that.  It was at an AIR conference (Association of Independents in Radio) in Washington D.C. in 1993.  I was having a gall bladder attack and bothering my roommate, the late Phyllis Joffe of Connecticut Public Television and Radio.  We had earlier lamented that stylized production techniques were winning the day over straight radio news when it came to getting NPR funding of any magnitude.  Ira Glass (yes, the one recently in the news for fact-checking issues) had recently driven her crazy while in a fellowship program at NPR.  
We both decided to become journalism academics.  We got our PhD’s--as women wanting to teach in college journalism are told to do.  We then watched men without that expensive credential surpass our own careers, sometimes even judge our careers.  (I was once called out for playing what I believe was Glass’s best work--a piece about how men can survive the growing America gulag.  A fellow ‘professor’ who had never take one graduate level mass communication class told me it was pornographic. I told him it had aired in Chicago! “So?” came the reply.) Phyllis died before either of us achieved tenure anywhere.
Today, trying to produce a documentary on fracking, I am realizing that I lack not only a body resembling a barbie doll, but connections.  Who will fund me?  If I have to rely upon PBS (“let’s get both sides”) or HBO (“Josh has it covered”) then I will never get it edited.  After all, I don’t have Debra Winger looking at my ‘dailies’--I have a sister who’s a lawyer looking at my ‘reporters’ notes’---that’s a big difference.
Was that why I was sick?
After the meeting, recovering for days later, I wondered if it was the flu or my own disgust at the state of public life that had brought me to my knees in Montrose.  
Without any clear answer, I am bound tomorrow, first for Westchester, and then for Montrose, seeking any sort of equitable dealings between aristocrats and ‘woodchucks’ in New York and Pennsylvania, and, possibly, among fellow journalists and ‘fractivists’.