Archive for May, 2010

Lethal cocktail in the Gulf: Oil, corporatism and collateral damage

(The following is a revised version of an article posted a few days ago.)\


This is the bitter reality of the American present, a period in which big business has cemented an unholy alliance with big government against the interests of ordinary Americans, who, of course, are the great majority of Americans. The great majority of Americans no longer matter.

–Bob Herbert

By Steve Klinger

One month after the Deepwater Horizon explosion and environmental catastrophe in the Gulf, the new Tea Party hero, Rand Paul, fresh off his foray into rewriting the Civil Rights Act, thinks the Obama administration is being too tough on BP. After all, accidents happen, he said on Good Morning America last week after his upset win in the Kentucky GOP senatorial primary. Here’s the full quote:

“What I don’t like from the president’s administration is this sort of ‘I’ll put my boot heel on the throat of BP.’ I think that sounds really un-American in his criticism of business,” he said. “I’ve heard nothing from BP about not paying for the spill. And I think it’s part of this sort of blame game society in the sense that it’s always got to be someone’s fault instead of the fact that sometimes accidents happen.”

It sure is “un-American” to blame, let alone regulate, private enterprise, especially if it’s willing to pay for its screw-ups. Trouble is, there may be hell to pay, not just Louisiana fishermen. The latest very cautious and reluctant estimates are that some 70,000 barrels of oil (plus additional gas) are hemorrhaging every day into the Gulf ecosystem, not the 5,000 BP had the audacity to claim. Some estimates run as high as 100,000. The oil is accumulating in huge underwater pools; some is entering the “loop current” and oceanographers say it could reach the Gulf Stream, there to be carried up the East Coast and perhaps eventually to Europe. Worse yet, scientists fear the methane gas shows signs of choking off oxygen supplies and could create oceanic dead zones. You don’t need to be a marine biologist to figure out the potential consequences of major disruptions to the aquatic food chain.

Let’s hope that Paul, an ophthalmologist and Lasik surgeon, is better at correcting myopia in his patients than detecting it in his political vision. Then again, as Bill Maher noted, does anyone even want an eye surgeon who says casually that “accidents happen”?

Meanwhile, the oil and gas continue to gush, the hurricane season is around the corner, and a nation that has sent probes to Mars and put men on the moon waits for an oil company with a history of incompetence and environmental abuse to figure out how to cap a broken pipe. Their main answer so far has been to saturate the area of the spill with chemical dispersants that add new poisons to the lethal cocktail churning in our coastal waters.

And no, Rand, the Obama administration is not putting its boot heel, or even a bare toe to BP’s throat. Those whose compassion is for the oil giants may fret, but we might better ask why the White House is allowing BP to conduct the cleanup while the Department of Energy “investigates”? Is Obama afraid that if he takes charge of the cleanup he will own Deepwater Horizon? Or is it more that the 11 who died and the countless thousands whose way of life has been ruined are just collateral damage in the new world order?

Not only should BP pay for all reasonable claims and should its executives face criminal charges, they should be operating under strict federal direction because Obama should have declared a national state of emergency and enlisted the full resources of our military and scientific communities to send submarines and robotic devices to the ocean floor to stop the leaks.

I acknowledge the scientific and mechanical challenges of such an enterprise – but isn’t that exactly the problem? Private enterprise (the oil industry) seems to be the only entity with the expertise and technology (and of course the capital) to conduct operations a mile under water. Obviously these guys are better at drilling holes than capping them – an excellent reason why they shouldn’t be allowed to engineer blowouts that their “blowout protectors” can’t protect us from. Yet in a world where corporations rule they not only get to rape the planet but wind up in charge of the “cleanup.” And they get to do it on their own timetable.

If this massive and continuing spill doesn’t prove globally catastrophic, who’s to say the next one won’t? Would the Feds even tell us if the current spill does threaten the ecology of the entire planet? Wouldn’t want to create a panic, now, would we?

Call me an alarmist, but I think this event needs to be treated just like an asteroid heading for Earth: it needs a total mobilization of resources, assuming that the worst is possible. Maybe such discussions are being held behind closed doors. If they are, you can bet the powers that be are more concerned about Big Oil than the oystermen and the sea fowl.

The world needs to know the scope of this catastrophe, and America needs action now to protect the silenced majority we have become. It’s time for Washington to quit posturing about getting tough with corporate criminals and address the urgent situation in the Gulf like the emergency it is. And it’s time for Rand Paul to shut up.

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Emergency in the Gulf

By Steve Klinger

One month after the oil well explosion and environmental catastrophe in the Gulf , the new Tea Party hero, Rand Paul, fresh off his foray into rewriting the Civil Rights Act, thinks the Obama administration is being too tough on BP. After all, accidents happen, he said on Good Morning America today. Here’s the full quote:

“What I don’t like from the president’s administration is this sort of ‘I’ll put my boot heel on the throat of BP.’ I think that sounds really un-American in his criticism of business,” he said. “I’ve heard nothing from BP about not paying for the spill. And I think it’s part of this sort of blame game society in the sense that it’s always got to be someone’s fault instead of the fact that sometimes accidents happen.”

It sure is “un-American” to blame, let alone regulate, private enterprise, especially if it’s willing to pay for its screw-ups. Trouble is, there may be hell to pay, not just Louisiana fishermen. The latest very cautious and reluctant estimates are that some 70,000 barrels of oil (plus additional gas) are hemorrhaging every day into the Gulf ecosystem, not the 5,000 BP recently claimed. Some estimates run as high as 95,000. The oil is accumulating in huge underwater pools; some is entering the “Loop” current and could reach the Gulf Stream, there to be carried up the East Coast and perhaps eventually to Europe. Worse yet, scientists say the methane gas shows signs of choking off oxygen supplies and could create oceanic dead zones. You don’t need to be a marine biologist to figure out the potential consequences of major disruptions to the marine food chain.

Of course, not everyone is a player in our “blame game society”: Britt Hume on Fox News wants to know, “Oil slicks, what oil slicks?”  And that’s just the part of this crowd that isn’t fixated on denying global warming.

Meanwhile, the oil and gas continue to gush, the hurricane season is around the corner, and a nation that has sent probes to Mars and put men on the moon waits for an oil company with a history of incompetence and environmental abuse to figure out how to cap a broken pipe.

The Obama administration, though the problem did not begin under its watch, is not doing a fraction of what it could to halt this disaster-in-the-making.  Why is the White House allowing BP to conduct the cleanup while the Department of Energy and Congress “investigate”? Not only should the company pay for it and should its executives face criminal charges, they should be operating under strict federal direction because Obama should have declared a national state of emergency and enlisted the full resources of our military and scientific communities to send submarines and robotic devices to the ocean floor to stop the leaks.

I understand the scientific and mechanical challenges of such an enterprise – but isn’t that exactly the problem? Private enterprise (the oil industry) seems to be the only entity with the expertise and technology to conduct operations a mile under water, and obviously these guys are better at drilling holes than capping them – an excellent reason why they shouldn’t be allowed to create situations that they can’t fix.

If this massive and continuing spill doesn’t prove catastrophic in the long term, who’s to say the next one won’t? Would the Feds even tell us if the current spill does threaten the ecology of the entire planet? Wouldn’t want to create a panic, now, would we?

Call me an alarmist, but I think this event needs to be treated just like an asteroid heading for Earth: it needs a total mobilization of resources, assuming that the worst is possible. Maybe such discussions are being held behind closed doors. The world needs to know, and America needs action. It’s time for Washington to quit posturing about getting tough with BP and address the urgent situation in the Gulf like the emergency it is. And it’s time for Rand Paul to shut up.

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Beyond Miranda rights

“Any society that would give up a little liberty to gain a little security will deserve neither and lose both.” Ben Franklin

By Steve Klinger

In the Obama administration’s latest capitulation to rightwing pressure, Attorney Gen. Eric Holder said this morning that Miranda rights should be “modified” for terror suspects. Modified as in reduced or eliminated because, as he described it, “We’re now dealing with international terrorism.”  P.S. Holder said that whatever is done, it also needs to be “constitutional.”

As HuffPost reported, “”The [Miranda] system we have in place has proven to be effective,’” Holder told host Jake Tapper. “”I think we also want to look and determine whether we have the necessary flexibility — whether we have a system that deals with situations that agents now confront. … We’re now dealing with international terrorism. … I think we have to give serious consideration to at least modifying that public-safety exception [to the Miranda protections]. And that’s one of the things that I think we’re going to be reaching out to Congress, to come up with a proposal that is both constitutional, but that is also relevant to our times and the threats that we now face.’”

Clearly, Holder’s remarks were in response to the attempted Times Square bombing last week, attributed to naturalized citizen Faisal Shahzad and the increasing likelihood the act was connected with the Pakistani Taliban.

First of all, Miranda rights are not the real issue here but rather Habeas corpus. It’s not the warning suspects receive from law enforcement officers that what they say may be used against them but the judicial process itself the administration is now broadly hinting needs to be changed. Whoa, Eric! Citizens, born or naturalized, who are suspected of a crime cannot justifiably have their rights curtailed or eliminated because that crime happens to be terrorism. We are then making a political distinction rather than a criminal one and in the process clearly violating Amendments 5 and 6 of the Bill of Rights.

It’s not at all that terrorists should be treated with kid gloves but simply that as citizens we are all threatened when some of us, as mere suspects, are deprived of any of our rights under the Constitution.  Especially during the Bush administration (43), dissent groups were targeted and their members arrested on suspicions of terrorism that were unfounded. At political conventions and elsewhere, the surveillance and apprehension (pre-emptively in many cases) was clearly an attempt to intimidate and stifle dissent.

With the imprimatur of a Congressional Act as Holder is now suggesting, law enforcement agencies will only be emboldened to trample more egregiously on our rights as the political climate dictates. And once Miranda rights are rationed, how long will it be before terrorism suspects, even those who are citizens, are paraded before military tribunals instead of civilian courts? Oh, wait a minute. We never quite got rid of military tribunals, did we?

While the White House appeared to turn a cold shoulder to Sen. Joe Lieberman’s hysterical proposal to strip terrorism suspects of their citizenship on the mere assertion of suspicion, are Holder’s comments this morning not tantamount to the same solution – a repugnant overreaction to a real threat, but one whose “cure” would be far worse than the disease?

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Keep and eye on the Brits, Washington

By Thomas Wark
Maybe if we’re lucky we’ll get another lesson in government from the Mother Country.

Here’s the deal:

No party in England’s national election won enough seats in Parliament for a majority, which is required to form a government.  David Cameron’s Conservative Party won the most seats (and the most popular votes) but not enough to put a Tory in No. 10 Downing Street.  The ruling Labour Party of Prime Minister Gordon Brown finished second in number of seats won and, by a narrow margin over the Liberal Democrats, in the popular vote.  The Lib Dems were thought to be surging, but actually lost seats, yet nevertheless could emerge as kingmakers.

Their seats plus the Tory seats would be enough to form a coalition government.  That, in fact, is what Cameron has proposed to the Liberal Democrats’ charismatic leader, Nick Clegg.  Cameron said his “big, open and comprehensive offer” would ensure stability for the British government and would include LibDem cabinet seats.  Clegg seemed receptive, saying the party with the most seats should govern. (He also refers to Brown as a “squatter” on Downing Street.)

If this coalition happens, it would be somewhat like Mitch McConnell and Dennis Kucinich forming a coalition government here — if we had more than two parties and a system that allowed for coalition governments.

Wouldn’t work, would it?

Don’t bet against the Brits.  These, after all, are the people who defeated the Luftwaffe using only “blood, sweat , toil and tears.”  They know how to make things work, even if they suffer doing so.

And if they succeed, will we, too, learn how to make coalitions work for the betterment of the people?

In the U.S., the Democrats control the White House and a majority in both houses of Congress — and haven’t done a damned thing to fix the god-awful mess Dubyuh left behind.  Took ‘em a year to realize that even lacking 60 votes in the Senate, they could still pass some kind of health care bill.  OK, it’s a lousy bill.  But it’s something.

Meanwhile, getting control of the economy; providing jobs for millions who are out of work; restoring confidence in the marketplace; devising an intelligent and workable immigration policy, restoring Constitutional values, rule of law and the Bill of Rights; ending illegal, costly and demeaning wars; all of these and other pressing needs go unsolved, like the massive oil leak in the Gulf of Mexico. Republicans simply vote “no” on everything and let the country flounder like oil-soaked pelicans in the bayou.

If Cameron’s coalition comes to be, it will need true cooperation between the left-of-center Lib Dems and the Tory right in order to govern effectively.  If our hapless, corporate-owned, sleazy, lying, cheating pols will watch and learn, perhaps we can still muddle our way to becoming a better country.

Then again, we got the very foundation of our legal system from the Brits, and look what a mess we’ve made of that! We’ve even given up Habeas Corpus.

What’s next, politically?  Hogamous, higamous, let’s go polygamous.  As the Mother Country may yet prove, it’s better than what we’ve got.

Read more by Thomas Wark at http://Bordellopianist. blogspot.com

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