Posts Tagged ‘Ken Salazar and Interior Department’

The Greatest Threat to Liberty on Its 125th Anniversary: Corporate Tyranny

October 28, 2011

Liberty turned 125 years today. The Statue of Liberty, that is. As we watch the celebrations of the anniversary of  the iconic statue symbolizing  Libertas, the Roman goddess of freedom, we should all take at least a moment to reflect on the state of citizenship and freedom -and unfreedom-in the United States.

In a word, freedom is in grave danger because of the most powerful Tyrant of our time: Corporations. There is no greater symbol of the destruction of freedom than Wall Street, which profits from all that has defined tyrants of previous eras: war, poverty, control of government, the lack of free speech, surveillance,  the denial of basic human and civil rights and even the the possible destruction of the planet itself.

The good news is that we are also witnessing an unprecedented global movement that’s trying to define freedom in the age of corporate tyranny. Movements like Occupy Wall Street, Spain’s “Indignados”, the Arab Spring and other movements are directly confronting the corporate control of everything from the culture, land, sea, air we inhabit to  our genetic code and the food we eat. Occupy Wall Street is nothing if not a reflection of the threat to freedom posed by the ways in which corporations dominate the Congress, the electoral system, the economy and the Presidency itself.

The duplicity and threat of corporate-controlled freedom can be found on the Statue of Liberty itself. Much is being made in the media about the “live web cams” that are part of the high-tech makeover of the Statue. Less (or not) reported are the dozens of infrared surveillance cameras, vibration sensors, experimental facial recognition monitors, and other now ubiquitous electronic surveillance devices that capture the image of visitors and send them to databases of national security agencies. The profits from this kind of multi-million dollar makeover of Liberty go to corporations invested in redefining freedom.

The same will to profit from the decimation of Liberty can be found in today’s naturalization ceremony being presided over by Interior Secretary Ken Salazar. While Salazar is leading the naturalization ceremony of a small group of citizens at the foot of the statue, the Obama Administration is feeding the multi-billion dollar industry that persecutes and jails, surveills and deports more than a million immigrants since Salazar and the Obama Administration took the reigns of executive power. Such a situation has in essence has rendered meaningless the “New Colossus,” the poem by Emma Lazarus engraved on a bronze plaque and mounted inside the monument in 1903. The anniversary of “Lady Liberty” should give us pause to reflect on these words in the Obama era:

“Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”

The golden door has become an iron cage; the masses are being huddled into private prisons whose stocks and profits now light the lamp of Liberty brighter with each new immigrant prisoner; The language of the “wretched refuse” on the “teeming shore has morphed an “anchor baby” that corporate-sponsored Republicans and even Democrats decry.

Such a situation points to how non-citizens, especially undocumented immigrants, are being used to divert from and disguise and the sad fact about citizenship in our age: corporate citizenship has humiliated and practically destroyed human citizenship. The buying of politicians by corporations has become synonymous with “democracy” in this New Gilded Age. But, instead of putting responsibility for the death of citizenship on the Corporate Colossus, there is a huge industry invested in blaming the “huddled masses” described in the New Colossus poem.

In the New Gilded Age, freedom and citizenship have become commodities that can be bought and sold.Freedom has become synonymous with “Free Trade”; “Freedom of the press”, to quote the great journalist AJ Liebling, “is guaranteed only to those who own one.” Religious freedom is centered at the altar of quick profits in a society forced to worship Wall Street.

If we are to alter this humiliation of Liberty, we have no choice to look not at the technofied torch and eyes of Liberty, which are monitoring us even as the torch shines forth the false image of “freedom”, but at the invisible chains that shackle the feet of Liberty. At the moment,  bottom-up, street level movements like the Occupy Wall Street movement stand at the feet of Liberty, trying to unshackle us from the chains of corporate tyranny.

May we still yearn to be free.

Newly Proposed Interior Secretary Salazar: Already Obama’s Most Controversial Cabinet Choice?

December 17, 2008

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Just hours after Barack Obama’s announcement of Ken Salazar as his choice for Interior Secretary, denunciation of and opposition to Salazar have already turned the Colorado Senator in to the most controversial of President-elect Obama’s many cabinet designees. This story in NPR ,”Environmentalists Fuming Over Salazar’s New Post”, describes the growing disillusion in the environmental community about the Interior Secretary designate Salazar, who Kieran Suckling, head of the Tucson-based Center for Biological Diversity (CBD) said, “is very closely tied to ranching and mining and very traditional, old-time, Western, extraction industries. We were promised that an Obama presidency would bring change.” A scathing press statement (see below) released by CBD includes a litany of pro-polluter anti-environmental positions taken by Salazar, including his vote not to repeal tax breaks for Exxon-Mobil and his vote for oil drilling of the Florida coast.

Questions about Salazar’s past may bring more unwanted negative attention to Obama, who already finds himself fending off questions about his scandal-ridden ally, Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich. One reliable source in the DC environmental community just told me that the Interior Secretary position “may not be closed” because Salazar “has some issues from his past that may come out.”

Whether or not these rumors do, in fact, materialize and become newsworthy, it will be interesting to see whether Latino groups come out in support of Salazar as they did during the Senate hearings around the appointment of Salazar friend and ally, former Attorney General Alberto Gonzales. Salazar, National Council of La Raza leader, Janet Murguia, and the leaders of other Washington-based Latino organizations came out forcefully in support of Gonzales even after revelations of the former White House Counsel’s role in providing legal facilitation for the acts of torture and humiliation at Abu Ghraib garnered international attention. Salazar and other Latinos in Washington rescinded their support for Gonzales in the final months leading to Gonzales’ resignation.

(Statement on Salazar Appointment by the Center for Biological Diversity)

December 16, 2008

Contact Kieran Suckling , executive director, (520) 275-5960

Ken Salazar a Disappointing Choice for Secretary of the Interior

Stronger, More Scientifically-Based Leadership Needed to Fix
Crisis-Plagued Agency

Strong rumors are circulating that President-elect Barack Obama has
selected Sen. Ken Salazar (D-CO) as the new Secretary of the Interior.
As the overseer of the National Park Service, the Bureau of Land
Management, the Mineral Management Services, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife
Service, and the Endangered Species Act, the Secretary of the Interior
is most important position in the protection of America’s lands, waters,
and endangered species.

The Department of the Interior has been rocked by scandals during the
Bush Administration, most revolving around corrupt bureaucrats
overturning and squelching agency scientists as they attempted to
protect endangered species and natural resources from exploitation by
developers, loggers, and oil and gas development. Just yesterday, the
Interior Department Inspector General issued another in a string of
reports http://wyden.senate.gov/newsroom/record.cfm?id=305942&

finding that top Department officials systematically violated laws and
regulations in order to avoid or eliminate environmental protections.

“The Department of the Interior desperately needs a strong, forward
looking, reform-minded Secretary,” said Kieran Suckling, executive
director of the Tucson-based Center for Biological Diversity,
“unfortunately, Ken Salazar is not that man. He endorsed George Bush’s
selection of Gale Norton as Secretary of Interior, the very woman who
initiated and encouraged the scandals that have rocked the Department of
Interior. Virtually all of the misdeeds described in yesterday’s
Inspector General expose occurred during the tenure of the person Ken
Salazar advocated for the position he is now seeking.”

While Salazar has promoted some good environmental actions and fought
against off-road vehicle abuse, his overall record is decidedly mixed,
and is especially weak in the arenas most important to the next
Secretary of the Interior: protecting scientific integrity, combating
global warming, reforming energy development and protecting endangered
species. Salazar

– voted against increased fuel efficiency standards for the U.S.
automobile fleet

– voted to allow offshore oil drilling along Florida’s coast

– voted to allow the Army Corps of Engineers to ignore global warming
impacts in their water development projects

– voted against the repeal of tax breaks for Exxon-Mobil

– voted to support subsidies to ranchers and other users of public
forest and range lands

– Threatened to sue the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service when its
scientists determined the black-tailed prairie dog may be endangered

“Obama’s choices for Secretary of Energy and his Climate Change Czar
indicate a determined willingness to take on global warming,” said
Suckling. “That team will be weakened by the addition of Ken Salazar
who has fought against federal action on global warming, against higher
fuel efficiency standards, and for increased oil drilling and oil
subsidies.”

In addition to his misstep on Norton, Salazar endorsed the elevation of
William Myers III to the federal bench. Myers was a former Interior
Department Solicitor and lobbyist for the ranching industry. Senator
Leahy called him ”the most anti-environmental candidate for the bench I
have seen in 37 years in the Senate.” Bizarrely, Salazar praised Myers’
“outstanding legal reasoning” regarding endangered species, Indian
affairs, federal lands and water, timber, and fish and wildlife issues.
The American Bar Association rated Meyers as “not qualified.” Salazar
later supported Alberto Gonzales for Attorney General, introducing him
at his Senate confirmation hearing.

“One of the most important jobs of the Secretary of the Interior is to
help pick dozens of critically important political appointees to oversee
America’s conservation system. His past misjudgments of Norton, Meyers
and Gonzales give us little confidence he will choose wisely in the
future.

Denver Post: Obama Chooses Right-Leaning Latino Democrat to Lead Interior

December 16, 2008

This article in the Denver Post states that President-elect Barack Obama has chosen centrist Senate Democrat Ken Salazar (D-Col.) as the next Secretary of the Interior. As noted in this previous post, Salazar comes from the pro-corporate Democratic Leadership Council (DLC) wing of the Democratic party and was, until may of this year, one of the staunchest supporters of disgraced and scandal-ridden former Attorney General Alberto Gonzales.

If confirmed to be true, the Salazar appointment will further prove growing suspicions among progressives, who fear that Obama’s true colors are the reddish blue hues of DLC Democrats like Rahm Emanuel, Bill and Hillary Clinton and the other right-leaning Democrats like Janet Napolitano who will make up the Obama cabinet when approved.

Obama Considering Appointment of Centrist Dem & Alberto Gonzalez Supporter as Interior Secretary

December 15, 2008

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This article in the Denver Post (DP) indicates that President-elect Obama may be preparing to announce the appointment of Colorado Senator Ken Salazar as Secretary of the Interior. According to the DP piece,

“U.S. Sen. Ken Salazar is a leading contender to become President-elect Barack Obama’s secretary of the Interior, two sources have confirmed.”

News of a possible Salazar appointment will likely stir continued discussion that about the “Clintonization” of the Obama cabinet. By appointing Salazar, a member of the conservative Democratic Leadership Council (also see DLC website) Obama would probably also draw strong criticism from progressive and Latino constituencies for the Colorado Senator’s controversial positions.

Salazar’s most high profile media moment since being elected Senator in 2004 came during the 2005 Senate confirmation hearings of then-Attorney General nominee Alberto Gonzales . Salazar, who was one of 6 of Democrats supporting the Gonzalez nomination, accompanied, sat next to and spoke on behalf of Gonzales as he (Gonzales) was bombarded by questions about the now infamous torture memos he wrote, which are widely believed to have enabled the acts of humiliation and torture perpetrated at Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo prisons. While several Republican and Democratic Senators, including Sens. Kennedy, Leahy and Judiciary Committee Chair Specter voiced repudiation and disgust about Gonzales’ role, Salazar smiled and said, “It is also an honor and privilege for me to appear before you this morning to make an introduction of Judge Alberto Gonzales” adding that he thought that “…Gonzales is better qualified than many recent attorneys general.”

And after voting in the full Senate to confirm Gonzales, Salazar, like the leaders of National Council of La Raza, LULAC and other Latino Gonzales supporters, remained silent about the many scandals at the Justice Department – controversial policies around torture, the right of habeas corpus, and the NSA’s warrantless wiretapping program. Only after the scandals and criticism surrounding Gonzales and the Justice Department rose to massive levels did Salazar call for Gonzales to resign in May of this year.

A Salazar appointment will likely not do much to satiate concerns about what progressives worry are the overly-centrist Obama appointments to date. Salazar has draw strong criticism among progressives for several of the positions he has take including his support of the Patriot Act and his support for the candidacy of Conn. Senator Joe Lieberman in his 2006 race against popular progressive Ned Lamont.