Allison Kilkenny: Unreported

(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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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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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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MMS continues to issue shallow-water drilling permits

Posted in Barack Obama, offshore drilling, regulation, United States by allisonkilkenny on June 3, 2010

OMFG Photo: AP

The MMS granted a drilling permit yesterday to Bandon Oil and Gas that will allow the company to drill 50 miles off the coast of Louisiana in a water depth of 115 feet. Reports of MMS banning drilling for six months apply only to depths greater than 500 feet. Nonetheless, the fact that MMS is still issuing any permits has angered some people.

“I’m outraged,” said Kieran Suckling, executive director for the Tucson, Ariz.,-based Center for Biological Diversity, after a reporter told him of the new permit. “How is it that shallow water drilling suddenly became safe again?”

[snip]

Suckling said the administration was misleading the public by quietly resuming work in shallow waters while acting as if it was taking a tough look at deepwater work.

Interior Department spokeswoman Kendra Barkoff assures everyone that anyone drilling in shallow-water operations will have to meet certain specified standards.

“All operators who are drilling or intend to drill in shallow water must first meet applicable interim safety standards announced last week by the president,” Barkoff said. “Those operators who are already drilling must stop at a safe place and implement the safety requirements before continuing.”

It’s difficult to take any assurances coming from ID or MMS seriously, since the startling mismanagement and deregulation trends began under their watch. It’s a bit like if a surgeon severs a patient’s pulmonary vein, and as blood shoots up like a mini-geyser, asks the entire OR to “just trust” them.

It’s easier to trust people who haven’t massively fucked up everything.

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Allegations emerge BP prevents fishermen from wearing respirators

Posted in Barack Obama, BP, energy, environment, offshore drilling, regulation, United States by allisonkilkenny on May 28, 2010
Inmate laborers erect a barrier fence around a...

Inmate laborers erect a barrier fence around a stockpile of absorbent oil booms that will be used to soak up some of the oil slick from the BP disaster. Image by AFP via @daylife

Though President Obama has asked the media to place the burden of responsibility on his shoulders, it’s clear BP was woefully unprepared for a disaster of this magnitude (even though they told the government they could handle a spill 60 times larger than Deepwater Horizon). The truth is the company really didn’t have a contingency plan for something of this scale.

A blowout like this one apparently wasn’t expected, although it should have been. One of the most stunning examples of BP’s lack of preparation is evidenced in the emergency-response strategy report it prepared in accordance with federal law. The report runs 583 pages, but is alarmingly short on how to stop a deep-sea spill.

Perhaps BP’s disaster management was a bit light on the details because the government wasn’t asking tough questions. The MMS, the agency charged with overseeing offshore drilling, is disastrously managed. A report issued recently by the IG outlines the same familiar type of cronyism and corruption that has become a systemic rot in Washington.

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You Heart Corruption

Posted in Capitalism, deregulation, Economy, regulation by allisonkilkenny on December 21, 2008

“‘Corruption is government intrusion into market efficiencies in the form of regulations.’ That’s Milton Friedman. He got a goddamn Nobel Prize! We have laws against it precisely so we can get away with it! Corruption is our protection! Corruption keeps us safe and warm! Corruption is why you and I are prancing around in here instead of fighting over scraps of meat out in the streets! Corruption is why we win!”

terrorist_149985The quote is from the film Syriana, and the character that delivers the passionate/delusional diatribe is Danny Dalton, a Texas oilman and member of Committee to Liberate Iran. Dalton is a patsy, and is being charged with “corruption” in order to protect a much larger, much more corrupt corporation standing behind him. He’s a fall-guy, and that’s why he flies off the handle.

Watching the Bush administration and Wall Street executives’ gulp and thrash like beached fish made me think of little Dalton. The stock market isn’t a force of nature. It takes men and women (but mostly men) creating very corrupt policies to create America’s initial wealth, and then her downfall.

Everyone needs to stop acting like they’re surprised by the recession. It’s not cute, and it’s painfully insincere.

There’s been a proliferation of handwringing and philosophizing about what caused the economic collapse, why there was little impetus to aggressively address a rotting subprime industry, why our politicians were too lazy, slow, or indifferent to do something to address Wall Street’s broken ways.

Times of economic woes are the only time our society collectively examines the Free Market, and the effects of globalization — rarely on the world — but on us, Americans. How will this screw us? How long will it last? How will this vast machine affect us parochially?

Americans pretend like this is the others’ problem, and that they don’t also benefit from our corrupt society. Wall Street practices are certainly corrupt, but the problem isn’t contained to mortgage lenders, banks, and insurance companies. It’s pandemic and it has infected every facet of the American way of life.

The dirty truth no one wants to admit is that corruption floats America to the top. Only by utilizing cheap labor, deregulation, and speculative lending can our markets create extraordinary wealth. Wall Street occasionally acts as though it has just awoken from a strange nightmare because it’s necessary to act moral every now and then, namely when the press shows up.

Now is the time financial experts act like they have no idea how market bubbles inflate, CEOs get bonuses 100 times their annual salaries, and people like Bernie Madoff exist.

Regulation is trendy right now, but what that actually entails may surprise Americans. If our government seriously regulated the Free Market, and extended that moral behavior to the international community with living wages and humane worker conditions, it would profoundly change the way Americans live.

The price of our food, clothing, and other goods would increase. Fuel would skyrocket. Everything would be more expensive, and we would have to do with a lot less. CEOs would surrender their penthouses and yachts. Certain exotic fruits like bananas would suddenly cost much more now that Central American workers are permitted to unionize and demand living wages.

On the plus side, maybe less children would die and more people could have a shot at stability and happiness. Maybe cases of infectious disease would decline. Maybe people would drive less. Maybe we could save the world.

Of course, Americans would have to sacrifice, and they have a history of hating that. But things are changing now. There’s a murmur in this society, and it seems to be saying: Our way of life is broken. We need to fundamentally change the way we live.

People want regulation. They want less enormous wealth and extraordinary poverty. They want balance and justice. But they have to stop looking to the men that made the corruption to fix the problem. Americans have to demand the presence of independent sheriffs to watch industry 24/7 in order to right the wrongs of our corrupt past.

If regulation actually existed, things would be a lot less cushy for Americans, which would probably be a good thing, but some may suddenly miss that corruption that kept them so sheltered for so long.

Taxpayers: Pay Up, Suckers!

Posted in deregulation, regulation by allisonkilkenny on March 27, 2008

By Allison Kilkenny at Huffington Post

The Bush administration and its staff of flying monkeys are either unwilling or incapable of providing American citizens with basic services. Their main failures regard regulation, one of the foundational purposes of having a government in the first place. When the government goons DO decide to perform some kind of regulation, it’s usually done to strictly benefit wealthy corporations. Free trade advocates claim this is regulation run amuck, but the bailout is merely a continuation of the selling out of America to the corporation. The act simply masquerades as government regulation, but the truth is that cronyism has infested Washington and Wall Street, alike, resulting in the government’s desire to protect the wealth instead of the people.

Financial Institutions

Privatize profit, socialize loss.
Billions of taxpayer money saved the financial investment bank Bear Stearns from going bankrupt. Bear Stearns had a rough year, since that housing bubble (the one filled with all those predatory mortgages Bear Stearns and company signed over to poor, brown people) finally popped. Lucky for Bear Stearns, America doesn’t punish corporations that exploit the community. Instead, $3.2 billion of federal money goes to bailing them out. But it’s only fair, since Bear Stearns’ profits fell from $539 million to $486 million. The horror! Surely, the Johnsons will understand the need to foreclose on their house in the wake of those kinds of second-quarter losses!

If government exists to protect the PEOPLE, and not the corporations, then it was the government’s duty to allow a corrupt, exploitive company like Bear Stearns to fold under the weight of its own crooked policies. Instead, the government did regulate, but instead of regulating policies to prevent the exploitation of poor families, they regulated a reaction to Bear Stearns’ bankruptcy. They funneled taxpayer money into a corrupt corporation, and let the brunt of the burden drop atop American citizens like an Acme anvil.


FEMA

Hurricane Katrina struck the Gulf Coast of the United States on the 29th of August, 2005. Most remember the event because the government abandoned poor, black residents of New Orleans, leaving them to die of malnutrition on their rooftops and in the luxurious feces-crammed Louisiana Superdome. FEMA’s monumental ineptitude is reflective of governmental failure. A strong, well-run government emergency assistance program exists so that citizens living in flood-prone areas can – say – insure their homes in case a hurricane should mosey into their town and destroy their house.

In 1968, Congress created the National Flood Insurance Program. However, under the Reagan administration, what was once mandatory governmental programming became “the preferred approach.” The Clinton administration completed the task of deregulation when they totally abandoned land-use regulation and instead chose to “encourage positive attitudes toward flood-plain management,” which is like advising a cancer patient to “wish away” their tumor. FEMA was abandoned by its government, and slowly the program antiqued, left alone with its outdated maps and poorly managed staff. So it’s no wonder when, in 2005, no one could organize a force to immediately send aid to New Orleans. After all, it only made sense that FEMA was unprepared to do so, since the government had completely deregulated the emergency aid system.

FDA

A basic government job is to provide citizens with safe food and water. But when you’re running around seeing if corporate tycoons need their pillows fluffed, it’s difficult to see if something horrible is in the meat or water, for example, anti-epileptic, sex hormones, mood stabilizers, or antibiotics. Corporations hate regulation because it slows down the whole production process. Nevermind that it’s a foundational way to keep consumers safe, they have a bottom line, damnit! When factory farms speed up production, bosses cut corners to shave off expenses, and things like Mad Cow disease appear in meat-eating consumers.

It’s the inevitable last step in a process where the only valued commodity is profit. Corporations aren’t rewarded for their safety records. Their only incentive is the buck, which would be fine (if not morally questionable,) but only if a strong government existed to protect citizens. Unfortunately, when standing up to corporations, the U.S. government has displayed the courage of a gimp Field Mouse.

Infrastructure

On August 1, 2007, the I-35W Minnesota Bridge collapsed. Eight-lanes of steel and cement plunged into the Mississippi River. Thirteen people died and about one hundred were injured. Way back in 1990, the bridge had been deemed structurally deficient. Like the levees in New Orleans, the state’s infrastructure was woefully in need of repair, but Minnesota officials either lacked the funds or determination to do something about the problem. However, Minnesota and New Orleans are hardly alone in their need for federal repair money.

When Minnesota’s bridge collapsed, New York City began to examine its own deteriorating infrastructure. When a downtown steam pipe blew up, it sparked a national conversation that culminated in transportation officials confessing that they knew of at least 600,000 nationwide bridges that were in need of replacement. Don’t hold your breath whilst waiting for new bridges, though. America has lots of other problems.

Medicare and Social Security

While no one can confidentially predict the future, the current outlook for Medicare and Social Security is bleak. Since Neo-Conservatives think the private sector can fix everything, they desperately tried to convince the American people they were better off privatizing their Social Security than letting the government care for their retirement funds. Americans didn’t buy the song and dance, but that doesn’t mean their money is safe. The Bush administration issued a report last April that indicated Medicare would be dry by 2019 and Social Security would go the way of the dinosaur by 2041. The Bush team has successfully bankrupted the most prosperous country in the history of the planet.

Health Care

America: spending more for less
! While the U.S. spends more on health care than any other nation in the world, it’s the only wealthy, industrialized nation that does not have universal health care. New data shows that the life expectancy between rich and poor is widening. In America, you’re much more likely to live a long life if you’re a Bear Stearns CEO than if you’re a New Orleans refugee. Alas, Americans can hardly expect their government representatives to fight for universal health coverage when they’re safely in the pockets of insurance and pharmaceutical lobbyists.

Job Security

Bye-bye, job! When the bottom line is the buck, corporations aren’t likely to be very loyal toward their workers. Workers, those greedy, little bastards, who always try to unionize and obtain shorter work weeks. Why would corporations pay minimum wage when they can legally ship jobs overseas where hungry brown people will perform the same task for pennies on the dollar? The government offers no incentives for employing American workers. It’s positively stupid for corporations to keep their factories in America: land of the free and home of worker rights and group lawsuits. In America, job security is a privilege, not a right.

Hey, Hippy! Money doesn’t grow on trees!

Where could America get all this money for housing, bridges, levees, safe food, and retirement? Well, the government could have used the $3 trillion spent on the Iraq war. Iraq in itself is a perfect microcosm of this deregulation game. Even the American military, a stalwart institutional example of a unified nation, has been deregulated and marginalized by the government. Now, private mercenaries like Blackwater perform the tasks of the military. Except (and this is the cute part,) Blackwater mercenaries aren’t subject to military laws.

Speaking of privatization, while this war wracks up trillions of debt for American citizens, corporations like Kellogg Brown & Root (a subsidiary of Dick Cheney’s Haliburton Co), Bechtel Group, Inc. Parsons Corp., Louis Berger Group and Fluor Corp. are making a killing (the good, money kind, not the boom-boom kind)! How much are they earning, you ask? No one really knows! Bookkeeping in Iraq is sketchy, at best. In privatized Iraq, it’s a smorgasbord of disaster, an orgy of death, a shit storm of corruption!

All of this begs the question: why bother with government at all? If the private sector can do everything from Fed-ex mail to invade countries with Blackwater, what the heck do Americans pay taxes for? If the government can’t keep food safe or prevent levees from splitting apart, or bridges from crumbling, why do Americans fund the broken institution at all? While schools remain in dire conditions, taxpayers continue to fund the construction of prisons, so that now 1 in 100 American citizens are incarcerated. It seems their tax money goes toward jailing citizens, corruption overseas, and bailing out billion-dollar corporations.

Far from being a bunch of idiots, taxpayers are the victims of an elite group of corrupt carpetbaggers, politicians and executives, who prey on their good nature and willingness to invest in their community. However, once they possess the knowledge of their misspent dollars, citizens must organize and hold their government accountable lest they become a community of suckers.