chairman david

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On the Guest List

President and Mrs. Ford and King Hussein and Queen Alia greeted their guests before sitting down to dinner. Among those they shook hands with in the receiving line were heavyweight boxing champion Muhammad Ali and actor Charlton Heston.

As usual at the Fords’ state dinners, the individuals invited to the White House represented diverse fields. Other guests included recently appointed U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations William Scranton, CIA Director George Bush, fashion designer Gloria Vanderbilt, stock car racer Richard Petty, Chase Manhattan Bank Chairman David Rockefeller, and Wellesley College President Barbara Newell.

What happens next at Standing Rock?

  • On Sunday, a historic victory was declared when the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers declined the permit request for the Dakota Access pipeline.
  • Energy Transfer Partners, the oil company behind the pipeline deal, has been vocal in their public criticism of the Army Corps’ decision.
  • With a stroke of a pen, Trump could allow ETP to continue with their pipeline construction plans.
  • This is precisely why Standing Rock Tribe Chairman David Archambault II has taken the initiative to arrange a meeting with the president-elect
  • Now, the Army Corps of Engineers has to submit another assessment — called an Environmental Impact Statement — of the pipeline before any further action.
  • The statement is made up of three phases — scoping, draft and final — and is open to public input before the statement becomes finalized.
  • This process could take several months past Trump’s inauguration, according to Andy Pearson, an environmental activist. Read more

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NEWSHOUR: Meet the Native Americans fighting against the North Dakota pipeline

Many say they will continue protesting through the winter; whatever it takes to ensure their land is safe.

Liz McKenzie is Diné (Navajo) from New Mexico. She had a vivid dream one night about being here at the pipeline protest with the Standing Rock Tribe in North Dakota, woke up, packed up a trailer full of supplies to donate, and drove out. “We aren’t people who only exist in the past,” she said. 

“We have been fighting this fight for generations,” Seeyouma Na Hash-Chid said. He rode his motorcycle out from Arizona to support the Standing Rock tribe’s protest against an oil pipeline. Na Hash-Chid is Diné (Navajo), a Vietnam veteran, and a veteran of earlier environmental fights back home in Arizona. He says people will stay at this vast protest camp through the winter to guarantee the pipeline never gets built. 

A young Turtle Mountain girl adjusts a shirt honoring her dead brother, C.J. Strong Bear Boy. Her brother died this winter in a car accident on the way to work after hitting black ice. The Turtle Mountain tribe sent eight truckloads of firewood to North Dakota in C.J.’s honor to support the Standing Rock tribe. They also sent a half dozen young men to split and stack the wood, which they are giving away to anyone camping at the protest. 

Sanding Rock Tribal Chairman David Archambault II said everyone is very happy with the decision by the U.S. Department of Justice on Friday, though he added that the legal fight could go on for months to come, and the tribe shouldn’t take anything for granted.

Read more

(All photos by William Brangham)

latimes.com
North Dakota pipeline activists say arrested protesters were kept in dog kennels - LA Times

After a night of chaotic clashes with police on the front lines in a months-long protest, Native American activists complained about the force wielded to drive protesters from the path of a pipeline they contend will desecrate tribal lands and put their lone source of drinking water at risk.

Protesters said that those arrested in the confrontation had numbers written on their arms and were housed in what appeared to be dog kennels, without bedding or furniture. Others said advancing officers sprayed mace and pelted them with rubber bullets.

“It goes back to concentration camp days,” said Mekasi Camp-Horinek, a protest coordinator who said authorities wrote a number on his arm when he was housed in one of the mesh enclosures with his mother, Casey.

At least 141 people were arrested Thursday after hundreds of police officers in riot gear, flanked by military vehicles releasing high-pitched “sound cannon” blasts, moved slowly forward, firing clouds of pepper spray at activists who refused to move.

Authorities claimed some protesters turned violent during the confrontation, setting fires, tossing Molotov cocktails and, in one instance, pulling out a gun and firing on officers.

Some of the activists claimed Friday that police had opened fire with rubber bullets on protesters and horses. One horse was euthanized after being shot in the leg, said Robby Romero, a Native American activist.

“They were shooting their rubber bullets at our horses,” he said. “We had to put one horse down,” he said.

Camp-Horinek said authorities entered the teepees that activists had erected in the path of the pipeline, a four-state, 1,200-mile conduit to carry oil from western North Dakota to Illinois.

“It looked like a scene from the 1800s, with the cavalry coming up to the doors of the teepees, and flipping open the canvas doors with automatic weapons,” he said.

Standing Rock Tribal Chairman David Archambault II called for a Justice Department investigation into the police tactics. Amnesty International announced Friday it was sending a human rights delegation to investigate and Sen. Bernie Sanders asked the White House to order the Army Corps of Engineers to temporarily halt construction of the pipeline.

“DOJ can no longer ignore our requests,” Archambault said in a statement. “If harm comes to any who come here to stand in solidarity with us, it is on their watch.”

Authorities have said all along that they have used restraint in the ongoing dispute and had pleaded for activists to retreat from the path of the pipeline and return to the camp where they have been gathered for months.

Most of those arrested were expected to be charged with criminal trespassing, engaging in a riot and conspiracy to endanger by fire, according to the sheriff’s department. Several fires broke out during the confrontation, and sheriff’s officials said seven protesters used “sleeping dragon” devices to attach themselves to vehicles or other heavy objects. The maneuver typically involves protesters handcuffing themselves together through PVC pipe, making it difficult for authorities to remove them using bolt cutters to break the handcuffs.

The protest in the rugged lands along the Cannonball River has lasted months as activists — sometimes hundreds, sometimes thousands — have assembled to decry the pipeline project.

But on Friday, with protesters cleared from the path of the pipeline, work was expected to resume on the $3.78-billion Dakota Access Pipeline, operated by the Fortune 500 company Energy Transfer Partners.

“When I left the bus in handcuffs, DAPL [Dakota Access Pipeline] trucks were lined up down the highway with construction equipment and materials waiting to come in and begin work,” said Camp-Horinek.

State and county police, the New Mexico National Guard and an oil company private security team cleared protesters, along with the teepees and tents they had erect in the path of the pipeline, and on Friday, authorities removed the final roadblocks that protesters had erected along the highway.

For the most part, protesters remained peaceful during Thursday’s confrontation, though at one point, an activist set fire to a heap of tires that were part of a blockade set up to impede the progress of advancing officers.

Sheriff’s officials said that one woman, while being arrested, pulled out a weapon and fired three rounds in the direction of the police lines. No one was hit, authorities said.

Activists denied that the woman fired the shots and claimed that sheriff’s officials previously had made erroneous reports about protesters’ actions, including passing along rumors of pipe bombs in the activists’ camp.

“The only gunshots that were fired would have come from them,” said Romero, one of the Native American activists. “They are armed. We are unarmed. They are trying to spin the narrative. They are using an increasingly vast military operation to respond to our spiritual resistance.

“They are fast-tracking the pipeline.”

With unimpeded access, pipeline crews could reach the Missouri River in a matter of days. The Obama administration has withheld final approval for the pipeline to cross under the river, on lands controlled by the Army Corps of Engineers.

Meanwhile, the Sheriff’s office said late Friday that Highway 1806 remained closed after “intense interactions” overnight, including what it called “multiple fires” on a bridge south of the now-vacated “Treaty Stronghhold Camp.”

Morton County Sheriff Kyle Kerchmeier said he was coordinating with Standing Rock officials to assist protesters in recovering teepees and other belongings, calling it a “a great example of communication, collaboration and cooperation.”  He added:  “I am very proud of our officers” who “responded with patience and professionalism and showed continuous restraint throughout the entire event.”

Despite the loss of their “Treaty Stronghold Camp,” which activists erected in recent days saying they were reclaiming land ceded to the Great Sioux Nation in the 1951 Fort Laramie treaty, activists vowed to fight on.

What Happened To Our Trains?

If, in the sixty years between 1902 and 1958, you wished to travel from New York to Chicago or vice versa, the very fastest and most luxurious way to do so was onboard the New York Central Railroad’s TWENTIETH CENTURY LIMITED, the undisputably greatest train of all time.  Only Pullman cars were on this train- no coaches.  There were club cars and smoking lounges, barbers and manicurists, and, until train speeds started kicking up ballast in the slipstream, an outdoor observation car platform on the rear.  In the age before refrigeration only fresh local foods from either end were served onboard, and the quality was a fine as could be found in any of the most notable restaurants of the age.  In fact, the Twentieth Century Limited was considered to be an extension of the exclusive clubs, bars, hotels, transatlantic cruise ships, and restaurants of the age.  Previously the introduction of the double-bunk sleeper car was the subject of endless vaudeville comedies about climbing into the wrong berth, and the Limited represented a train where you could travel with no question whatsoever of your respectability.  In fact, for many it was the only brush with greatness they ever had, never staying at the Ritz-Carlton or being admitted to the New York Yacht Club, and some people considered the extra fare an investment into one’s social status.

On a menu from the train’s diner in 1931, the $1.35 special is advertised as tenderloin of beef saute, fresh mushrooms and grilled spanish onion, new green peas with mint, potatoes fondante, and a choice of rice custard with whipped cream, apple or mince pie, steamed plum pudding with hard sauce, imported cheddar cheese from Cheddar on toasted buscuits, and tea, coffee, or milk.  The menu also offers dozens of other dishes such as twelve kinds of eggs, sugar-cured ham, saddle of lamb, prime beef ribs, canape of caviar, oyster soup or clam bouillon, artichoke hearts in olive oil, celery hearts demi glaze, and potatoes boiled, fried, mashed, au gratin, or hashed browned.  Before the diners started making the whole trip, they went back and forth on sections of the track and offered an even more localized menu.  One from the Lake Shore offers young roast duck, applesauce, sweetbread croquettes, & peach fritters with the 1927 Century diner listing planked fillet of lake trout, broiled calves’ sweetbreads, chicken pot pie; in 1935 Russian caviar on toast, roast prime ribs, heavy beef, fresh shad roe, asparagus in drawn butter; in 1939 poached eggs Benedict, roast baby spring lamb, and princess salad; in 1937 veloute of spinach, royal squab grilled on toast, and ice cream.  A group of women traveling together might be offered individual strawberry shortcakes. The menu goes on and on but I’m getting too hungry to list it all.

Lucius Beebe, if not the foremost touter of the train’s virtues during its run (for it had many), was the most nostalgic author after its unfortunate demise.  You can pick up his book “20th Century” and read page after page of the luxuries the train offered, anecdotes of the rich and famous who traveled aboard, and the millions of dollars in deals conducted on the train as well as transported in its mail cars which were, at the time, the fastest way to get a letter from New York to Chicago and taken very seriously.  It is from this book that I found endless lists of the food.

Even when the Twentieth Century Limited received its highest traffic on record, running in five sections to accommodate travelers to the 1922 Automobile Show in Grand Central Palace, New York, the writing was beginning to show on the wall.  The development of an interstate highway enabled automakers to pitch the individual freedom of travel by car, and the arrival of the jet age was the final nail in the coffin for our nation’s rail service.  

And yet, it seems like there should be a market for traveling by train.  After a very brief era when flying was the exclusive domain of the rich, air travel quickly became a series of flying cattle cars, with first-class service basically consisting of a cattle car with legroom.  Getting there quick took precedence over getting there in style, and nobody has ever flown in a jet just for the food, scenery, or company.

The Greyhound bus has long wallowed in the gutter of travel, not really through any fault of its own, but mainly because they stop in small, out-of-the-way towns and many prisons give you a ticket upon your release.  You are therefore traveling with a large percentage of recently-released prisoners, and if you’ve ever taken Greyhound, you know that the rest are only out of jail by pure luck of the draw.  It doesn’t help that cities like San Francisco will give any homeless person a free Greyhound ticket out of town in a sort of national shuffling of the destitute from one town to the next.

Traveling by train is the only way to travel and retain your diginity.  Nobody will grab your junk boarding a train.  Nobody will use x-rays to look at you naked.  You can still get a private cabin if you wish to be separated from the snot-nosed screaming children.  After 9/11 Amtrak instituted a policy barring “club-like devices” from your hand luggage, but there is a full-sized fire axe in a glass case at the end of every car!  Nevertheless, a terrorist who commandeered a train and demanded it be driven where they wished would find themselves at the mercy of the switching system and would not get very far.  If a hijacking were to occurr, the switchmen would throw switches under the train and derail it rather than allow it to crash into a station or another train.  Heck, even if your train were to stall, it would merely come to a stop, instead of plummeting out of the sky in a deadly fireball.  Sensational derailments notwithstanding, travel by train is statistically safer than travel by plane, which is in itself dramatically safer than travel by automobile.  Automobile accidents were the nation’s first cause of accidental death before the prescription drug explosion, and remain classified by the World Health Organization as an ‘epidemic’.  Plus, you can’t sit at a bar and get drunk while you’re driving a car.  Maybe if those drunks took the train, there wouldn’t be so many damnned car accidents.

When you take the train, you arrive right smack downtown in every major city, often in a Union Station of glorious construction.  No city’s airport is closer than an hour away from downtown, and in fact, for train trips less than six hours you will likely get there quicker if you count the time you take getting to and from the airports, going through security, and so on.  I have in my personal experience entered Chicago’s Union Station no more than one hundred and eighty seconds before the train’s departure time and still been comfortably settled in my seat when the train pulled away.  So why, then, does the Amtrak have such a bad reputation?  Why don’t more people take the train?  Why aren’t there private rail companies offering luxury travel by train anymore?  The answer is a shocking tale of looting and bailout followed by three decades of lackluster government inefficiency.

PENN CENTRAL AND THE FED

By the 1960’s, the one-two punch of a national interstate system and the cheapening of airline travel had taken its toll on American passenger rail service.  Unlike Europe and Japan, where travel by rail remains a viable option, the U.S. is very large and flying is disproportionately appealing for time’s sake.  A trip from New York to L.A. on Amtrak today will take you at least four days, with an overnight stay in Chicago- and that’s if it’s on time!  Amtrak itself considers “on time” to be anything less than four hours late.  Compare this to a flight from New York to L.A., which might take eight hours, and which would infuriate people if it were four hours late.  Fate was not kind to passenger rail service in America.

By 1970, Penn Central was the nation’s largest railroad and became the biggest bankruptcy in history.  It had 96,000 employees and a payroll of $20 million a week.  Rather than cut costs and becoming a streamlined financial operation- the normal mandate that would be expected of a company in a free market- it had borrowed money from anybody who would lend it money, and as a result was largely controlled by directors of major banks which also held large chunks of stock in the company.  Major management decisions were made by the board of directors, which was made up of representatives from the banks- they weren’t facing a loss because of poor management, they WERE the poor management.  On May 21st, 1970, the CFO of Penn Central privately informed these banks that the company needed a bailout from the government or it would fold.  The very next day, Chase Bank sold 134,300 shares.  The public (and other shareholders) weren’t informed until May 28th, when Chase sold another 128,000 shares.  David Rockefeller, chairman of Chase Bank, denied that they had acted on the basis of insider information.  It was later revealed in a Congressional investigation that those banks had loaned millions of dollars to the railroad to pay dividends to the stockholders, keeping the stock inflated long enough for the banks to dump it on the public.  In this way, they received dividends on worthless stock, earned interest on the loans, and unloaded 1.8 million shares of stock at unrealistically high prices- and then the government gave them money for their actions, in the form of a bailout!

Enter the bailout.  Congress is told that the railroad is too big to fail, and that if it were allowed to collapse, it would endanger the nation’s economy (is any of this sounding familiar?).  The railroad was kept afloat just long enough to let the banks dump their stock so that any bankruptcy would result in a liquidation that paid off the debtors first, and the stockholders last.  By 1971, Penn Central was nationalized and owned by the government.  Its passenger rail service was called Amtrak, was funded by the Department of Transportation, and to this day has never, ever been profitable.  Its equipment was all built in the 70s and that’s why when you ride it you feel like you’ve stepped into a sitcom from TV Land.  However, Penn’s freight services were consolidated into CONRAIL (the Consolidated Rail Corporation) and went public in 1987.  Since assuming private control, CONRAIL has become profitable, and pays taxes rather than is funded by them.

I was reminded of these sorts of shenannigans during Greece’s insolvency.  At the time, the Greek national railroad had annual revenues of 100 million Euros against 400 million Euros in wages and 300 million Euros in expenses.  The average state railroad employee earned 65,000 Euros per year.  As the nation’s Minister of Finance pointed out, it would have been cheaper just to put all of the nation’s rail passengers in cabs.  

In 2006, President Bush tried to cancel the Amtrak subsidy, but critics pointed out that the $1.2 billion the taxpayer spends each year keeping it afloat is dwarfed by the massive $70.5 billion Highway Administration subsidy and the $18.78 billion Aviation Administration subsidy.

Why keep passenger rail alive at all?  Well, my personal opinion is that America looks at Europe and Japan and their shiny bullet trains and feels like high-speed rail is an indicator of a modern, prosperous country, and if we didn’t have any at all, we’d look like chumps.  I also think that there’s a feeling that one day we will have some of those shiny trains too.  On the east coast, cities are close enough together and do enough business that there is a high-speed rail service, sorta, called Acela.  Each state has the option of taking over its passenger rail, and California has done so, and the result is that there is a very nice train called the Coast Starlight that features the only private first-class lounge car in the entire network and samplings of local Napa Valley wines and cheese and some Pacific Northwest local microbrews on board.  The national Rails to Trails program has turned some of the old rights-of-way into bike paths, but this is only intended to keep that land out of private hands until we need it again- expect those paths to go bye-bye as soon as somebody wants a railroad again.  On the west coast, a massive boondoggle to build high-speed rail between San Francisco and L.A. has managed to spend $3 billion in taxpayer dollars before- get this- breaking ground!  THREE BILLION.  That’s three thousand million dollars.  What the hell did they spend it on?  “Designs and plans” was the answer.  The project was originally slated at $33 billion and is currently projected at $68 billion.  Sixty-eight-thousand-million dollars!   These are plans coming from a state that is bankrupt.

I’m a huge fan of passenger rail service and even I can see why this is a bad idea.  The problem is, no matter how fast your train goes, if you still have to stop at every dinky town along the way, you’re not getting there any faster.  But if you bypass those towns and only stop at either end, it’s hard to convince the public to pay for it, especially if this train is going to be thundering past them at 200 mph.  For someone in the Central Valley, they’d have to drive three hours in the other direction to catch a train.

There was another boondoggle being tossed around to build a high-speed railroad that would whisk you from L.A. to Vegas in 45 minutes.  How horrible an idea is this?  Imagine the next time it’s four in the morning and your coked-up buddy says, “Hey, I know, let’s go to Vegas!” and you can be there in less than an hour?  Vegas being far away is like the fact that they don’t sell booze after 2 AM.  Think of all the times you’ve run out of booze after hours, and what would have happened if you could have run out and gotten some.  Listen, there’s two types of regret:  The kind that says, “I wish I had…” and the kind that says, “Ohhhh, I wish I hadn’t…"  The first kind of regret is the good kind.

I have a feeling, given the way this high-speed rail project is going, that I’m feeling the first kind of regret, "I wish there was first-class passenger rail service”, and that after it falls apart mid-construction with tens of billions spent and nothing to show for it, people are going to be feeling the second kind, “Ohhh, I wish we didn’t try and build a first-class passenger rail service.”