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A Book of Interest

Capitol Punishment:  The Hard Truth about Washington Corruption from America's Most Notorious Lobbyist
by Jack Abramoff
WND Books, Washington, D.C.
303 pages (2011)

The author was said to be diligent, thorough, hard working, and possessed by a desire to win any battle.  In the eyes of Washington lobbyists, he was considered capable and successful, but he went too far.  He was sent to prison.  In prison, he re-evaluated his actions and identified what he thought are some deficiencies in our politics and government.

"While the impact of campaign funds on legislation is often overplayed by organizations vying to limit those funds, there is no question that contributions have a significant impact on the process--and that impact is not positive.  What I did not consider then, and never considered until I was sitting in prison, was that contributions from parties with an interest in legislation are really nothing but bribes.  Sure, it's legal for the most part.  Sure, everyone in Washington does it.  Sure, it's the way the system works.  It's one of Washington's dirty little secrets--but it's bribery just the same."

In addition to campaign contributions, another method for gaining influence was to be friendly with a leading member of a congressperson's staff, and at an opportune moment, suggest that the staffer take a job at Abramoff's firm, for a significantly higher salary, after leaving service in congress.  The result was this staffer essentially was transformed into an obedient "servant" of Abramoff's firm.

"I found myself ignoring the rules . . . and rationalizing away my offenses.  I couldn't accept defeat.  . . . I set out to win everything.  In doing so I won many battles for my clients, for my firm, and for myself, but I lost the war."

Abramoff's prescriptions for improvement:

Note:  For additional insight, apart from this book, view the video below.
Jack Abramoff:  The Lobbyist's Playbook -- from CBS 60 Minutes, (14 min., 37 sec.) July 8, 2012
http://www.cbsnews.com

Submitted by David Newton

Like Birds? Visit the Alabama Birding Trails website!

Alabama Birding Trails logoWorking with several conservation groups, including the Birmingham Audubon Society, a system of sites throughout Alabama has been developed to encourage people to get outside and enjoy watching birds. Learn more about this project and these sites by visiting www.alabamabirdingtrails.com and by "liking" the trails on facebook!

Take Action: Put Communities Ahead of Coal Company Profits

Coal mining companies want to use your tax dollars to help finance new mountaintop removal mines. Their latest plan is to use $2 billion of federal funds to build the Coalfields Expressway through rural Southwest Virginia. Coal companies will flatten the area and make way for the road, while keeping the profits from the coal they extract.

The Federal Highway Administration is reviewing the proposal right now.

DID YOU KNOW? Dr. Al Armendariz has joined the Sierra Club's Beyond Coal Fight?

In August, former Environmental Protection Agency Regional Administrator Al Armendariz chose to join the Sierra Club's Beyond Coal campaign as a campaign strategist. Why the Sierra Club?

As Dr. Armendariz explained in his first interview since leaving the EPA:

"I wanted to join an organization with a track record of success in taking on the coal industry, and I wanted to join an organization that I felt I could contribute to. I found that in the Sierra Club and in the coal campaign."

 

September 2012

Sierra 2012 Retreat

Hosted by: Mobile Bay Group Sierra Club

If you haven't come to an annual Alabama Sierra Club Chapter retreat before, then you've missed out on a weekend of fun outdoor activities, meeting great people, learning from inspiring presentations, and having a memorable time.

Open to the public and Sierra Club members alike, the 2012 annual retreat will take place at beautiful Camp Beckwith on Weeks Bay in South Baldwin County, near Fairhope, Alabama. Nature trails wind through 82 acres of tall pine forests and landscaped open spaces along the estuary waters of Weeks Bay. The bay is teeming with wildlife and over 100 different species of birds.

This annual Chapter retreat is whatever you want it to be. While there is a structured schedule of presentations, discussions, outdoor activities, and more, we encourage you to enjoy the weekend in your own way. This is a great opportunity to get outdoors and join interesting people and fellow Sierrans for a celebration of fall and the return of cool weather on the coast.

Some of the areas of focus will be:

  • Alabama Water Policy / 40th Anniversary of the Clean Water Act / Sierra Club Water Sentinels
  • Beyond Coal / Beyond Oil / Beyond Natural Gas / Clean Energy campaign
  • Environmental Documentary Filmmaking in Alabama
  • Environmental Justice
  • Alabama Sierra Club Statewide Activities
  • Importance of Estuaries / Weeks Bay Reserve / National Estuarine Research Reserve Boat Tour
  • Boardwalks and Nature Trails including Weeks Bay Pitcher Plant Bog Boardwalk Trail to Fish River
  • Awards Banquet and Celebration of Fall with live music and a visit from the “Reverend Dave”
  • Sierra Club Power Fall Lottery Prizes throughout with Finale at Lu Lu’s Luncheon
  • Alabama Sustainable Agriculture Network
  • Post BP Oil Crisis, Natural Resource Damage Assessment, Restore Act, Coastal and Marine Restoration Projects
  • Tar Ball Scavenger Hunt and a visit to the Gulf of Mexico beaches

Starting with a Bar-B-Que at the Bayfront Pavilion on Friday at 5:30 p.m. and closing with Sunday Lunch at Lu Lu’s Homeport at 12:00 noon, the retreat will feature great sessions and presentations on state and national environmental issues, as well as lots of waterfront outdoor fun. Individuals can pick and choose among a variety of activities. Learn more and download the registration packet here.


Forever Wild and Me: From Bob Hastings

ABOVE: Bob Hastings at the Jug Lake platform and paddling the Bartram Canoe Trail (photos by Curtis Miyasaka)

Thanks to Forever Wild, almost 50,000 acres of the Mobile-Tensaw Delta have been protected as a nature preserve and recreation area. This massive 250,000-acre river delta wetland region of bottomland hardwoods, cypress/tupelo swamps, and marshes is the second largest river delta in the U.S. Some 100,000 acres are publicly owned and managed for public enjoyment. One outstanding feature is the Bartram Canoe Trail, by which many miles of waterways and swamp environments can be explored. Diverse species of wildlife and vegetation can be seen. Prehistoric Indian mounds can be explored. Several riverside campsites and floating camp platforms are provided for overnight trips to remote locations. This system of waterways and wetlands environments is a natural treasure that every outdoor enthusiast should visit. Additional information can be found at http://www.outdooralabama.com/outdoor-adventures/bartram/index.htm.

Want to learn more about Forever Wild? Check out these links:

Forever Wild Facts
Forever Wild FAQs
Forever Wild Interactive Map with Recreational Opportunities
Forever Wild Land Purchases List
Alabamians for Forever Wild Coalition List - updated 5.12.12
Forever Wild Powerpoint
The Forever Wild Land Trust Report
Forever Wild Land Trust Homepage

AND DON'T FORGET TO VOTE YES TO REAUTHORIZE FOREVER WILD THIS NOVEMBER!


Photo Petition: Be a Mountain Hero

Our friends over at EarthJustice are gathering photos as part of their "Be a Mountain Hero" push to end mountaintop-removal coal mining. Join the fight by uploading your photo with a short message about why you want to save Appalachian communities and mountains.

The Sierra Club will join EarthJustice and a coalition of groups for a rally in Washington, DC, on Sept. 13, where these photos will be presented to the Obama administration as a powerful public petition to stop the destruction once and for all.



Taking Out the Trash

Over the last two years, Governor Robert Bentley and the Alabama State Legislature have taken steps to stop Alabama from being the nation's dumping ground by adopting a moratorium on new landfills. Now is your opportunity to help change landfill policies in Alabama.

Problem:
Alabama households produce about 13,000 tons of municipal and solid waste per day, yet state landfills have the capacity to accept more than 51,000 tons per day. Accepting the nation’s trash has become big business in Alabama, but the harm it causes our communities has led our elected officials to halt the permitting process and seek feedback from the public before agreeing to allow any more landfills in the state.

Solution:
You can speak up for the need for solid waste policy reform at a series of public meetings being hosted by the Alabama Department of Environmental Management. Upcoming meetings include

Wednesday, September 5, 2012 6-8 p.m.
Pike County Cattlemen's Association, 4200 U.S. 231 South, Troy
Thursday, September 6, 2012, 6-8 p.m.
Alabama A&M University, Auxillary Services
Huntsville
Wednesday, September 19, 2012, 6-8 p.m.
City of Uniontown,100 Front Street, Uniontown


Proposed Shepard Bend Mine

Does the plan in this picture seem dumb? Then tell The University of Alabama to stop the Shepherd Bend Mine! http:// blackwarriorriver.org/news/ help-protect-birmingham-s-d rinking-water.html

We encourage citizens to relay their concerns about the Shepherd Bend Mine, a threat to the Black Warrior River and Birmingham's water that The University of Alabama can prevent, to the UA System's Chancellor, Dr. Robert E. Witt: witt@uasystem.ua.edu, (205) 348-5861 and to UA's President, Dr. Guy Bailey: president@ua.edu, (205) 348-5100. Concerned citizens should also email other UA System leaders: mbownes@uasystem.ua.edu; judy.bonner@ua.edu; mspearing@uasystem.ua.edu; rsmith@uasystem.ua.edu; kreinhar@uasystem.ua.edu; stjohnfe@bellsouth.net; marchase@uab.edu; robert.altenkirch@uah.edu; dwilson@alumni.ua.edu; dmaples@uasystem.ua.edu; paul.bryant@greenegroupinc.com

Better Fuel Standards...Finally!

DATELINE: AUGUST 28, 2012. This morning, the Obama administration took the biggest step of any administration in history to cut climate pollution.

After working with automakers, autoworkers, and environmental advocates, the White House has announced final rules for cleaner cars. Together with earlier standards, these rules will double average fuel efficiency for new cars to 54.5 mpg by 2025, cutting their carbon pollution in half.

This is huge! Cleaner, more fuel-efficient cars mean we will start to break our reliance on oil, save money at the pump, and drastically cut climate pollution.

From the environment to the economy, these new standards are nothing but good news. According to a recent Blue Green Alliance study, these new standards will help create 570,000 new jobs across America. 2

But this isn't just the administration's biggest climate accomplishment -- it's also yours. Over the past year, Sierra Club activists sent more than 160,000 letters to the administration in support of raising the bar on fuel efficiency and greenhouse gas pollution standards. We wrote hundreds of letters to the editor and turned out in droves to hearings in Detroit, Philadelphia, and San Francisco.


Governor Bentley requests water management plan by 2013

As Alabama continues to negotiate with Florida and Georgia for its right to shared water resources, Governor Robert Bentley has directed state agencies to develop a water management plan by December 2013. With no current policy to guide present and future water usage, the state is at a decided disadvantage when it negotiates with other states that can clearly describe how they are managing current resources and how much water they need to sustain future growth.

The Alabama Water Agencies Working Group, comprised of five state agencies, recently released a report to Governor Bentley detailing the progress and next steps needed for water policy development and a water management plan.

Conservation Alabama will continue to work with our partners, such as the Alabama Rivers Alliance, and state organizations on crafting a strong, effective comprehensive water management plan for the State of Alabama. (from Conservation Alabama)


Sierra Club Outings

Summer is Here!! Take a great hike! Or just enjoy gathering with friends to discuss environmental issues! Come join us on the trail or just out for a stroll down the mountain! more>>>