Allison Kilkenny: Unreported

The end is nigh…unless it’s not

Posted in corporations, Economy, Republicans, wealth divide, world by allisonkilkenny on June 30, 2010

The hysterical debt Armageddonists have been screaming about the need to adopt all sorts of insane austerity policies because if we don’t, China is going to invade and enslave our children…or something. This irrational frenzy is, of course, bipartisan. Both sides of the aisle, for example, recently voted against extending unemployment benefits.

Tea Party sweetheart, Sharron Angle, specifically said citizens are “spoiled” by jobless benefits, and the US should cut unemployment benefits in order to motivate people to find work. Because – as we all know – unemployed people are just too lazy to toil, and there are millions of jobs in some secret industry sector only teabaggers know about, waiting for capable employees to fill them.

No matter how loudly Krugman tries to tell these idiots that cuts are the very worst possible thing they could do right now — what does he know? He only won a Nobel Prize in economics — Republicans refuse to listen. Actually, the world doesn’t seem to be listening, either.

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(Updated) Ron Paul calls BP victim compensation a ‘PR stunt’

Posted in BP, corporations, deregulation, environment, offshore drilling, politics, regulation, United States by allisonkilkenny on June 24, 2010

* Updated the headline: I originally wrote that Rand Paul said the following statement. It was actually his equally oblivious father, Ron. The rest of the article is really about Rand’s previous statements that illustrated how disengaged he is from average Americans, and his sense of entitlement that probably comes from his awful dad, whose terribleness is demonstrated in the quote.

At this point, I wouldn’t be surprised if Rand Paul turned out to be a DNC plant.

BP’s $20 billion escrow fund is a “PR stunt” that came about through a “suspicious” process, Rep. Ron Paul (R-Texas) said Tuesday night.

Though Paul didn’t go as far as fellow Texan Rep. Joe Barton (R), who called the fund a “shakedown,” he nevertheless said the “process is sort of suspicious.”

“They have agreed to this and this is sort of a PR stunt as far as I’m concerned,” Paul told Fox News. “BP had already been making a lot of payments to people who had been injured.”

He said this… on television…while the crisis is still happening.

This follows Rand’s comments about unemployed people being a bunch of lazy shit sacks, who are too “picky” and insist on passing up all kinds of sweet, sweet employment opportunities (like the jobs that don’t offer benefits or a living wage).

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Did Exxon know the primary ingredient in Corexit is very toxic?

Posted in BP, corporations, environment, offshore drilling, United States by allisonkilkenny on June 15, 2010

A worker sprays dispersants into the ocean

Exxon researchers have already admitted that its dispersant products, Corexit 9527A and Corexit 9500A, are significantly toxic for aquatic life. But no one knew how toxic the chemicals are for humans. John Sheffield, president of Alabaster Corporation, which makes Sea Brat 4, a safer, less toxic alternative to Corexit, contacted me with accusations that he believes Exxon has known for quite a while that the primary ingredient in Corexit is very toxic.

He included the material safety data sheets for various Corexit products and documents issued from the companies involved to support his claims, which I have pasted below (pdf). In some cases, I have included screen shots from outside sources (CITGO, for example) to bolster Sheffield’s claims.

This gets a little dense, but the key word to look out for is”Norpar,” Exxon’s line of solvants.

Sheffield writes:

This product (Norpar) is basically kerosene. Although kerosene and napthalene (cigarette lighter fluid) are typically the main ingredients.

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The nation’s other non-BP disasters

Surely, the BP disaster deserves the obsessive coverage it has received (thus far). But at the risk of missing some other important stories, I want to briefly address two somewhat overlooked catastrophes – one that has already taken place, and one that possesses the potential to be horrific, but we still have time to stop.

Many Americans would be surprised to hear there’s another domestic oil spill – in Salt Late City. (via)

Chevron says a hole the size of a quarter caused their pipeline to rupture around 33,000 gallons of oil into the creek.

The manager of Chevron’s refinery in the Salt Lake City area said Monday that the company believes the rupture in the 10-inch pipeline was caused by an electrical arc that traveled through a metal fence post. Mark Sullivan says the arc acted like an electrical torch, causing the hole.

Sullivan couldn’t say how long the pipeline was leaking before Chevron was notified of the problem Saturday morning. But Salt Lake City Mayor Ralph Becker says residents could smell the odor of petroleum overnight Friday.

The spill has coated about 300 birds at area creeks and ponds, and the oil is possibly threatening an endangered fish.

Chairman of the Salt Lake City Council,  J.T. Martin, calls the event a horrible tragedy.

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Rich white man declares victory for feminism

Here is Ross Douthat explaining why a billionaire, anti-choice zealots, and right-wing extremists hijacking U.S. politics is a victory for vaginas everywhere.

When historians set out to date the moment when the women’s movement of the 1970s officially consolidated its gains, they could do worse than settle on last Tuesday’s primaries.

I’ll give him points for a hilariously hyperbolic opening. Make your case, sailor.

It was a day when most of the major races featured female candidates, and all the major female candidates won. They won in South Dakota and Arkansas, California and Nevada. They won as business-friendly moderates (the Golden State’s Meg Whitman); as embattled incumbents (Arkansas’s Blanche Lincoln); as Tea Party insurgents (Sharron Angle in Nevada). South Carolina gubernatorial hopeful Nikki Haley even came in first despite multiple allegations of adultery.

But mostly, they won as Republicans. Conservative Republicans, in fact. Conservative Republicans endorsed by Sarah Palin, in many cases. Which generated a certain amount of angst in the liberal commentariat about What It All Meant For Feminism.

The question of whether conservative women get to be feminists is an interesting and important one. But it has obscured a deeper truth: Whether or not Palin or Fiorina or Haley can legitimately claim the label feminist, their rise is a testament to the overall triumph of the women’s movement.

Yesterday, I wrote about media pundits’ propensity to portray the extremely old and familiar as fresh and exciting. They do this to sell papers, drum up website hits, and to appear insightful and necessary. Maybe a handful do it out of boredom, or stupidity, believing what they are seeing really is something revolutionary.

In reality, there is nothing more sexist than assuming any woman’s political victory — regardless of the type of woman — is a progressive step forward for the feminist movement. Women are people, and people are a diverse bunch. It still matters what kind of woman wins the election. And the kind of women that won these races are either preposterously wealthy, staunch anti-feminists, or a healthy combination of both.

What happened on election day is an old story: rich, mostly white, right-wingers won. Oh, and they also happen to be girls. Hooray.

Basically, it will take more than Douthat calling this a victory for feminism to make it so.

California

Meg Whitman, the billionaire former eBay chief executive, won the Republican nomination for governor after spending a record $71 million of her money on the race. Quite simply, Whitman bought her victory, and this has nothing to do with the bonds of sisterhood or feminine strength. This is corporatism in a skirt.

In fact, Whitman herself seems to hate the notion of feminism. At least, she certainly doesn’t want anyone calling her such an offensive term. When asked if she is a feminist, Whitman replied, “I am a big believer in equal rights for all people … in a level playing field.” But she said, “I’m not a big label person.”

This could be NOW’s new slogan: Taking action for women’s equality since 1966…or whatever…we’re not big label people.

Arkansas

I know when Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony were taking on the male-dominated establishment, what sustained them was the thought that one day Blanche Lincoln (D-Walmart) would squeak out a victory despite being a corporate whore.

Apparently, it doesn’t matter than Lincoln is a turncoat Blue Dog Democrat, who voted with Republicans to allow warrantless government surveillance, the invasion of Iraq, and shot down the public option. All that matters is the stuff between her legs, which sort of goes against the whole notion of “feminism,” but nevermind. A girl won!

Nevada

And then there’s Sharron Angle. I’ve written about her support of the right-wing extremist fringe, but Douthat skims over such silly details for the sake of preserving his narrative i.e. Things Are Super Awesome For Women Right Now. He’s going to jam this premise down your throat even though women earn around 79% of men’s median weekly salaries, and Congress just passed a healthcare bill that dramatically diminishes a woman’s right to choose the fate of her own body.

Angle proposed a bill that “would have required doctors to inform women seeking abortions about a controversial theory linking an increased risk of breast cancer with abortion.” (The abortion-causes-breast cancer theory is a myth, and was spread, in part, to discourage abortions). But I hear lying to scared, pregnant women for the sake of controlling their bodies is all the rage right now in the neo-feminist movement.

South Carolina

Other than the novelty of having survived not one — but multiple — allegations of adultery, Nikki Haley is extremely typical of the right-wing fringe. She has a 100 percent rating from the anti-abortion S.C. Citizens for Life group, and she calls on her website for the deportation of illegal immigrants. Oh, and if any of her white supremacist base, who may confuse her for a “raghead,” were concerned, don’t worry. She converted to Christianity.

Modern Republicans have grown wise to the fact that they’re never going to defeat feminism. Try as they did to shame, humiliate, and dismiss feminists as a bunch of ugly, barren spinsters, who refuse to shave their legs and can’t land a man, the propaganda campaign didn’t stick. Now, they’re left with only one option: hijack the movement.

In the same way President Obama’s victory was a sign that affirmative action is “no longer necessary,” so the victories of a handful of women (be they billionaires, right-wing extremists, turncoats, or militant anti-choicers) herald the dawn of a new feminism: one that is staunchly anti-woman, and represents only a class of wealthy, pro-Business, right wing extremists.

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Contractors raking in mad cash in wake of BP disaster

Posted in Barack Obama, BP, corporations, deregulation, environment, offshore drilling, regulation by allisonkilkenny on June 12, 2010

A rescue worker captures one oil-covered brown pelican off the coast of Louisiana. AP Photo

God, this is depressing. The industrial sector is just about extinct, corporations are fleeing the country to exploit cheap foreign labor, unions are gasping their last breaths, and 6.8 million Americans have been unemployed 27 weeks, or longer (the numbers are higher in places like Detriot, which has 30 percent unemployment, but the media doesn’t really focus on that reality).

But there is good news! Well, kind of. If your trade is oil spill clean-up, you’re experiencing a bonanza right now.

Hundreds of contractors and subcontractors are doing jobs both complex and mundane, whether it’s building the robots that BP sends 5,000 feet underwater to capture live video of the broken wellhead or providing boats to skim oil from the water’s surface. And then there is the cottage industry that has sprung up overnight to support the 24,600 cleanup workers, catering their meals, hauling away their trash and supplying portable toilets.

“There’s money flowing in the streets,” said Michael E. Hoffman, director of research at Wunderlich Securities, a Memphis-based brokerage firm.

America may be losing the race to evolve technology, and alternative fuels, but at least we still lead the way in creating horrible catastrophes that our unemployed masses can then toil to clean up.

Ever the barometer of compassionate altruism, Wall Street immediately rushed to figure out who would be the winners of the BP disaster. The financial sector doesn’t price superfluous biological waste like sea turtles, or oceans because things like endangered pelicans don’t make the right people money. However, Wall Street does know how to price stuff like hundreds of thousands of gallons of toxic dispersants.

Within two weeks of the April 20 Deepwater Horizon explosion, the stock price of Clean Harbors, a Boston-based hazardous-waste management company, shot up more than 20 percent. During the same period, Nalco Holding Co., which makes the chemical dispersant Corexit, rose to nearly a year high.

Sure, Nalco, made a killing during the disaster. It helps that one of its board members, Rodney F. Chase, is a former BP board member. That cozy relationship provides Nalco with unique access to the big business of oil spill cleanup. The Wapost article doesn’t mention that stuff (why get messy?) but it does include this nugget:

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Oil spill clean-up workers report feeling ‘drugged, disoriented’

Posted in corporations by allisonkilkenny on May 26, 2010

This was to be expected.

Last week, the wives of some of the fishermen spoke out publicly about the symptoms their husbands were experiencing. This week, some fishermen are starting to come forward. In this WDSU TV interview, one of the fishermen reports feeling drugged, disoriented, tingling, fatigued, and also reporting shortness of breath and cough. These are symptoms that are consistent with what one might expect from exposure to hydrocarbons in oil.

HOPEDALE, LA - MAY 13:  Crab trap builder Shaw...

Crab trap builder Shawn Platt stands with his idle traps in on May 13, 2010 in Hopedale, Louisiana. Image by Getty Images North America via @daylife

Maybe. But these are also some of the symptoms reported by individuals who were exposed to Corexit.

One of the two Corexit products that BP is suing [sic] in the Gulf also contains a compound that is associated with headaches, vomiting and reproductive problems

Corexit is also linked with respiratory, nervous system, liver, kidney and blood disorders.

Obviously, there’s no way to tell what is causing these symptoms, and BP has no interest in allowing the media to find out. Many of the fishermen working for BP signed contracts that forbid them to talk to the press, and BP is ruling the Gulf area with an iron fist. Even CEO Tony Hayward has joined the fun, and is shouting at random cameramen.

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BP using toxic dispersants despite availability of safer alternatives

Posted in corporations, politics by allisonkilkenny on May 26, 2010

A beach after an oil spill.
This afternoon I spoke with John Sheffield, president of Alabaster Corporation, which makes Sea Brat 4, a safer, less toxic alternative to Corexit, the chemical dispersant BP is currently using in the Gulf.

Sheffield voiced his frustration that — despite the fact that Sea Brat is safer than Corexit, ready to be shipped, EPA-approved, and his company is capable of producing enough product to cope with the spill — BP has decided to instead go with Corexit.

He blames the Corexit monopoly on the fact that one of the board members of Nalco (the company that makes Corexit) is Rodney F. Chase, a former BP board member. This cozy relationship with BP provides Nalco with unique access to the big business of oil spill cleanup, Sheffield says.

Additionally, switching to Sea Brat would basically entail BP acknowledging that they’ve known about a safer dispersant alternative for decades, and despite the UK banning Corexit, and now the EPA requesting BP find a safer dispersant, BP decided to press forth with a chemical that bears a “striking molecular resemblance to anti-freeze.”

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Shocker: Blue Dogs Thwart Fellow Democrat

Posted in corporations, environment, politics by allisonkilkenny on April 28, 2009

blue_dogIn an interview with the Wall Street Journal’s Kimberly Strassel, Congressman Jim Matheson said he has many problems with the global warming bill currently in committee. The bill is Henry Waxman’s creation, and is already under fire from his fellow Democrats.

But it’s no shocker that Matheson is one of the first suits to screech at the bill, since he receives over 20% of his campaign donations from energy, natural resource, transportation, construction, and agribusiness industries. Such industries normally aren’t on the forefront of asking Congress to cap their own emissions.

During opening statements, the Utah Democrat detailed 14 big problems he had with the bill, and told me later that if he hadn’t been limited to five minutes, “I might have had more.” 

I’ll bet. Matheson is one of 10 moderate Democrats (see: Blue Dog Democrats, or what they call themselves so people stop confusing them with Republicans) who are all worked up over Waxman’s bill. Strassel calls the bill “liberal overreach.” 

Really. Strassel doesn’t bother to then explain why the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s latest climate report states the following:

  • Warming of the climate system is unequivocal, as is now evident from observations of increases in global average air and ocean temperatures, widespread melting of snow and ice and rising global average sea level.”
  • Greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions due to human activities has increased by 70% between 1970 and 2004
  • Continued GHG emissions “at or above current rates would cause further warming and induce many changes in the global climate system during the 21st century that would very likely be larger than those observed during the 20th century.”

Considering a bill that would stem these awful trends is “overreaching,” according to Ms. Strassel. Of course, she doesn’t mean “overreaching” in the sense that caring for the planet isn’t important. She means “overreaching” in the sense that it could cost politicians like Mr. Matheson their donors. Strassel writes:

Design a bill that socks it to all those manufacturing, oil-producing, coal-producing, coal-using states, and say goodbye to the very Democrats necessary to pass that bill.

Yes, it could cost poor Mr. Matheson over 20% of his donations. But on the upside, it could save the planet. Strassel taps into a very important issue here. Obviously, most politicians aren’t going to bite the hands of their donors. We’ve seen this trend extend from debate over the financial bailout, which was ripe with cronyism and corruption, to the debate over how to deal with our warming environment.

Corporate money corrupts, absolutely. During the bailout, politicians with close ties to the financial industries were put in charge of the bailouts, including the Senate Banking committee Chairman, Chris Dodd. Dodd receives most of his campaign contributions from the securities and investment industry, and two of his biggest donors are Citigroup and AIG. The problem is systemic as we see in the environment debate with “Democrats” like Mr. Matheson. He won’t be voting against his corporate donors anytime soon. Daddy needs his sweet, sweet corporate cash, or as Strassel puts it, Matheson is “championing energy diversity and his state’s fossil fuels” i.e. tearing up and selling everything that isn’t nailed down.

Other Democrats standing in the way of Waxman’s bill are Baron Hill (IN), Rick Bouche (VA), Gene Green (TX), Charles Gonzalez (TX), Charlie Melancon (LA), Mike Doyle (PA,) many of whom are quite publicly in the pocket of the oil industry.  This isn’t some kind of scandalous secret. Most of their corporate donors are visible on public websites like OpenSecrets.org.

The scandal is that writing about such things is considered a platitude, an utterly banal thing to point out. The future of the planet is at stake, and pointing out the dirty money pouring from Washington  politicians’ pockets evokes an eye roll from the mainstream press. Journalists like Strassel write about dirty donations as though she were reporting on the weather.

Politicians, who are reliant upon donations from industries that poison the environment, cannot be trusted to then form legislation to protect the planet. At the risk of publishing more liberal “overreach,” such conflicts of interest (the financial bailouts, and now the energy/environment debate,) are both excellent examples of why publicly financed elections are so important. If corporate money isn’t permitted to infect politics, then bills that could potentially save the planet may have a fair chance of surviving committee.

Strassel, Matheson, and company will surely roll their eyes at such a naive statement, but that’s to be expected. If you spend your life swimming in pig shit, after a while, you’ll swear it doesn’t smell.

Who Owns Your Organic Food?

Posted in corporations, environment by allisonkilkenny on March 18, 2009

I made some ownership charts to accompany Andrea Whitfill’s excellent Alternet piece, “Burt’s Bees, Tom’s of Maine, Naked Juice: Your Favorite Brands? Take Another Look — They May Not Be What They Seem.”  Corporate ownership can be very convoluted (especially when dealing with international corporations,) so I’ve found it’s helpful to post the corporation logos to aid in memorization. I tend to instantly forget company names, but I’ll remember their respective logos for years. 

Many organic brand names are owned by huge conglomerates with questionable human rights and environmental records. Believe me, I was not happy or smug constructing this chart. I love Puffins cereal. The peanut butter Puffins? C’mon, I’m only human.

So to all my hippy friends, trying their best: I’m sorry.

Note: Corporations aren’t inherently evil. However, they are very large businesses that have large quotas, so the emphasis is always placed on speed, efficiency, and consumption – not human rights, the environment, and morality. Hence, corporations are prone to immoral behavior, and sometimes, human rights violations. 

There are way more checks on corporations now than there were in the past. That’s not to say corporations are perfect. Far from it. In fact, some are still quite evil (Coca-Cola: I’m looking your way.) But, many corporations are trying to enter the Green Zone because their consumers are demanding they clean up their environmental records. Clorox and GM are two examples of corporations that have tried to mend their environmental records.

As consumers, it’s important not to let the occasional corporate environmental endeavor distract us from a business’s larger model. Some corporations put out one green product to provide cover as they pollute or violate human rights in other sectors of their business. I’m not accusing Clorox or GM of doing this, but it’s important to remain engaged consumers and not blindly yank products off the store shelf without giving thought to where the products come from, who makes them, and what toll they take on the environment.

Also, don’t drink Coke. Coca-Cola is evil

beautybath

organic-chocolate

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