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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BP stonewalling efforts to get better oil volcano damage estimate

Posted in BP, deregulation, energy, environment, offshore drilling, United States by allisonkilkenny on June 9, 2010

A bird covered in oil flails in the surf at East Grand Terre Island along the Louisiana coast Thursday, June 3, 2010. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel)

The other day, I was discussing the “branding” of the BP disaster with a friend. Calling this catastrophe a “spill” seems like a laughable understatement, and my phrasing (the “oil geyser”) wasn’t really catchy. A few weeks ago, the term “oil volcano” emerged, I think because it was first used by Rachel Maddow, and I believe it captures the severity of the situation.

So this thing, the oil volcano, has been pumping thousands of barrels of oil into the ocean every single day. That much is undeniable. BP can’t approach the media and say, “Epic disaster is all over, folks!” because there are cameras (now HD video) down there, filming the whole thing.

The company attempted to use dispersants (hundreds of thousands of gallons of the toxic stuff) in order to coagulate the oil and sink it to the bottom, conveniently hiding the true toll of the oil volcano from the world. Except, that didn’t work entirely, and some endangered birds got snagged in the sludge.

Literally, there is nothing BP can now do in order to mend its public image except lie. And lie they have. Tony Hayward blamed workers’ illnesses on food poisoning instead of acknowledging exposure to oil fumes and dispersants tend to make individuals sick. BP denied the existence of those massive underwater oil plumes. You know, the ones NOAA just confirmed exist.

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BP: The media’s Katrina

Posted in Barack Obama, BP, deregulation, media, offshore drilling by allisonkilkenny on May 30, 2010

President Tony Hayward

The President and the media can’t help BP rush through the unpleasantness of poisoning the ocean quickly enough. First, the government (starting with Bush, but extending through Obama’s reign) staffed the MMS with incompetents, who apparently alternated between allowing oil and gas company workers to fill out their own inspection forms, accepting Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl tickets from offshore drilling companies, and smoking crystal meth.

What I’m trying to say is, the MMS was extremely busy, which is probably why they didn’t notice BP’s blowout preventer had a dead battery in its control pod, leaks in its hydraulic system, a “useless” test version of a key component and a cutting tool that wasn’t strong enough to shear through steel joints in the well pipe and stop the flow of oil in the event of a fiery explosion, which by the way, totally happened. But who has time to check superfluous stuff like a blowout preventer? I mean, that meth isn’t going to smoke itself.

BP has shown a desire to cover its own ass by allegedly forbidding clean-up crews to wear respirators so as to avoid future negligence lawsuits even as it continues to dump toxic dispersants, which have been banned in the UK, ignoring the EPA’s pleas to find a less toxic (and extremely available) version.

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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.

ACORN: They Took Our Nuts!

Posted in ACORN, Barack Obama, voter disenfranchisement by allisonkilkenny on October 20, 2008

ACORN, the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now, has come under recent scrutiny for their involvement in voter registration fraud. However, the accusation of “voter fraud” is misleading because the fraudulent forms in question were submitted to the government by ACORN. It takes a particularly dumb criminal to turn himself in…before a crime has actually been committed. Also, unless “Mickey Mouse” shows up to vote in November, the forged form with a voter registered as the famous Disney mouse remains an example of “registration fraud,” and not “voter fraud.” No vote has been cast, so no real harm has been done.

It is ACORN’s policy that any case of form fraud has to be flagged, reported, and delivered to the government, along with the employee who forged the document.

Because so many vicious rumors are circulating about the organization, here is first a brief summary of what ACORN does. The group is a grassroots organization that fights for basic citizen rights, such as the right for affordable housing and the right to vote. ACORN has led communities around the country to rally behind living wage ordinances. These ordinances often require employers to pay not just the minimum wage, but a living wage, which is an important distinction for anyone who has ever had to choose between buying their medicine and paying the heating bill.

ACORN has been very successful in helping to implement the “living wage standard.” More than 70 communities have now adopted this standard.

Lately, the media has focused on the voter registration sector of ACORN’s work. According to the organization, since 2004, ACORN has helped more than 1.7 million low- and moderate-income and minority citizens apply to register to vote. As we know by now, poor people overwhelming vote Democrat.

Some other ACORN tasks include fighting predatory lending, finding affordable housing for poor people (predominately black people and Hispanic people,) providing Katrina relief, improving public education, and fighting for stricter gun control laws.

It seems like a strange coincidence that ACORN, a group focused on community organization, regulation, and empowering poor citizens of color is now the focus of attacks from an administration famous for gutting government programs and neutering the public sector in favor of privatization.

The Bush administration gets a hard-on for profit. If any government job can be outsourced to the private market, the Bushies gut social spending, even if it ultimately means sacrificing quality of service. Just look at the basic example of the horrible conditions at Walter Reed Army Medical Hospital. Caring for veterans is a staple service of any civilized government, and yet that job was outsourced to a private company. A five-year $120 million contract was given to a company called IAP, which was chaired by a former executive from Halliburton, the multi-national corporation where Vice President Dick Cheney once served as CEO.

Another example of the Bush administration’s preference for privatization over public service is the treatment of the U.S. Post Office. If you haven’t been to a public post office in a while, let me paint a picture for you: Imagine a leper colony post-nuclear annihilation. Under the Bushies’ watchful eyes, U.S. post offices facilities have closed and government jobs have been destroyed. Meanwhile, Bush reminds us that he’s a fan of deregulation, while he visits a FedEx facility.

No shit. Yet again, Bush chose profit over community. Now, the GOP is going after one of the largest community organizations in the country. Americans have come to expect this kind of cronyism and privatization and total negligence from the Bush administration, but citizens don’t seem to be connecting the dots when it comes to the ongoing harassment of ACORN.

Unknown parties have broken into ACORN’s Boston offices, and their workers have been threatened. Someone seems to want the entire organization to pack up and go home.

The perpetrators of these crimes have not been identified. Meanwhile, the GOP continues the discrediting process of ACORN. It does behoove the McCain campaign, and any future Republican campaign, to discredit ACORN, one of the largest voter registration organizations and low-income mobilization forces. If ACORN’s reputation is sullied now, it will be easier for Republicans to make the argument that more ACORN-provided registration forms should be tossed out in the future.

Getting rid of ACORN will be another feather in the Bush administration’s cap. This grassroots community organizing machines runs in direct conflict with the Bush dream of a privatized planet. ACORN demands housing regulation at a time when the Bush administration is still trying to clean up the mess from years of market deregulation. ACORN demands representation for poor minorities (who overwhelmingly vote Democrat) during a time when McCain is desperately clawing for votes in states that are normally Republican strongholds. ACORN demands good public schooling at a time when McCain is hollowing out schools with his vouchers that will effectively rob poor children of a chance at public, secular education and stick them in private classrooms with religious agendas.

In the midst of all this, ACORN has been labeled a terrorist group with suspicious motives. Is anyone surprised? No wonder the GOP is desperately trying to neuter ACORN before the group manages to mobilize some seriously pissed-off, poor people.