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Guest Commentary (4801)

NIKOLAS KOZLOFF FOR BUZZFLASH

Judging from the oily history of the last ten years, reining in BP could prove politically daunting.  A company with incredible economic might, BP has enjoyed privileged access to the inner rungs of Washington power.  Only by ridding the political system of insider money can we hope to avert future oil disasters like the devastating spill which hit the Gulf of Mexico last week.

The perversion of U.S. democracy to serve oil interests like BP went into high gear under former Vice President Dick Cheney.  Dallas-based Halliburton, where Cheney worked prior to the 2000 election, made equipment and chemicals used in oil drilling, and sold to producers including BP.

Later during the 2000 election, BP exerted significant influence over politics through its campaign contributions.  That is not too surprising when you consider that in the late 1990s BP had acquired Amoco and Atlantic Richfield, two companies which had been players on the U.S. electoral scene and which had made political contributions.  According to the Center for Responsive Politics, BP ranked fourth amongst oil and gas company contributors in the 2000 elections, with donations totaling $1.1 million.  Two thirds of that amount went to the GOP.

Wednesday, 05 May 2010 02:31

Gooey Black Corporate Greed

DAVID SWANSON FOR BUZZFLASH

Corporate persons aren't like you and I. They have eternal life and legal immunity. No death, no taxes, no joy or pain or moral feeling. No sweat and no tears. When they move their mouths, out come dollars, and we call those dollars speech. But when they stub their toe and bleed, out comes thick black goo in a gusher that could turn the ocean into a dead black pit, and we call that goo petroleum.

Candidate Obama said he would free us from "the tyranny of oil." President Obama said Drill Baby Drill. Bush pretended he hadn't been warned about Katrina, or anything else. But we were all warned, Bush, Obama, the Secret Cheney Task Force, Joe Biden, and every one of us about the Spill Baby Spill. Katrina herself, and her sister Rita, caused nine major oil spills. Who could possibly have imagined there could ever be another one? And we were warned. I urge everyone to go back and read a book named for an Obama utterance: Antonia Juhasz's "The Tyranny of Oil: The World's Most Powerful Industry and What We Must Do to Stop It."

SHEILA SAMPLES FOR BUZZFLASH

"Going to church no more makes you a Christian than sleeping in your garage makes you a car."~~Garrison Keiler

Do you ever wonder what Jesus would say about the sadistic cesspool that is swirling throughout the Catholic disfunctional structure at tsunami speed? Unfortunately, since the New York Times drew attention to the issue in March, the answer to that is getting buried deeper each day under fresh accusations of child molestation, counter accusations, denials and sordid attempts at justification.

It's been an eye-opener for those attempting to struggle through the damage-control rhetoric coming from the Catholic hierarchy -- priests, cardinals, bishops -- all running around in such a frenzy that only a guy like Boots Randolph can keep up with them.

HARVEY WASSERMAN FOR BUZZFLASH

Legend says curses come in threes.  Let's pray that doesn't happen with the unholy trinity of the Corporate Climate Bill.

It demands drilling for oil, digging for coal and big money for new nukes.  How such a devil's brew could help save the Earth conjures a corporate cynicism beyond the scope of the human mind and soul.

It all now bears a special curse.  It was meant for Earth Day.  Then it slipped to the April 26 Chernobyl anniversary.  But co-sponsor Lindsay Graham (R-SC) pitched a fit over immigration and pulled his support.

As did Earth herself.  Just prior, more than two dozen hill country miners were killed in a veritable Three Mile Island of black carbon.  This entirely avoidable accident was built on years of sloppy denial by King Coal and the tacit assent of pliant regulators.  With mountains of offal being pitched into rivers and streams, and underground hell holes filled with gas and soot, coal has been slaughtering people and eco-systems here for more than a century.  Now, as at TMI, the death has become visible.

NIKOLAS KOZLOFF FOR BUZZFLASH

Though undoubtedly shocking and disconcerting, the recent BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico is hardly the first incident of its kind in the region.  Indeed, as I watched the footage of the ominous oil spill approaching the ecologically sensitive coast of Louisiana, I was struck with a profound sense of déjà vu.  Long ago, while researching my dissertation on the environmental history of the petroleum industry in Venezuela, I combed through archives and libraries in the U.S., Britain and South America to uncover the oil companies’ sordid past.  Starting in the 1920s, American and British subsidiaries of Standard Oil of New Jersey, Gulf and Royal Dutch Shell turned environmentally pristine Lake Maracaibo, which empties out into the Gulf of Venezuela and the Caribbean, into toxic sludge.

Travel to Lake Maracaibo today and you can still see the relics of the pioneering petroleum past: hundreds of offshore oil derricks dot the horizon as far as the eye can see.  During the 1920s oil was a messy business and blow-outs, fires and fantastic gushers were a common occurrence.  Just as in Louisiana today, the oil industry in Lake Maracaibo put delicate lakeshore mangroves in danger as well as tropical wildlife.  The water used by local residents for domestic uses came from the lake itself, and reportedly there was little risk of getting sick from the water as it was clean, such that one could even see the head of a coin or a needle in the water.  With the arrival of the oil companies however, the water became dirty.

In an effort to get control over the burgeoning oil industry, including marine operations, derricks, platforms, tugboats and other infrastructure, the authorities obliged the companies to adopt a system of safety lighting within the lake.  The legal moves came none too soon: tankers, each carrying between 15,000 and 25,000 barrels of oil, could make up to ten round trips per month between Lake Maracaibo and refineries on Curacao and Aruba.  Even after government officials sought to make lake transport safer, serious accidents occurred.  In 1931, for example, an oil schooner was lost in the entrance of Lake Maracaibo.

BILL BERKOWITZ FOR BUZZFLASH

Priests for Life, a long-time anti-abortion organization, launches a campaign aimed at fusing anti-abortion activism to the civil rights movement.

Whatever else one can say about the anti-abortion movement, you have to give it credit for a certain amount of creativity in its single-minded pursuit of totally eliminating a woman’s right to have an abortion. You see this creativity in a broad array of strategies and tactics the movement employs. There have been some relatively big plays recently, including a bevy of new restrictive anti-abortion laws enacted in dozens of states around the country. There is also the awareness of the importance of growing the movement, especially by focusing on bringing young people aboard. Over the past few years, well-trained young anti-abortion activists, armed with hidden cameras aimed at Planned Parenthood clinics, have tried baiting staffers into unlawful activities.

DANNY SCHECTER FOR BUZZFLASH

For the last two years, I have felt lonely and isolated with my calls for a jail-out, and insistence that theft, fraud and crime are at the heart of our economic disaster.  I have written two books documenting my contention and just released the film Plunder The Crime of Our Time treating the economy as crime scene.

There are a few other voices out there making a similar claim -- former bank regulator Bill Black, US Senator Ted Kauffman, and even billionaire investor Jim Chanos among them. Most politicians of both parties and media pundits have dismissed the suggestion, preferring to believe that virtually everyone was to blame and, hence, no one was to blame. “What me prosecute?” is the mantra.

Most say finance professionals, considered the "smartest men in the room," committed unintended "mistakes" because of economic trends no one could have anticipated.

MICHAEL WINSHIP FOR BUZZFLASH

I first became aware of Jim Hightower more than 20 years ago, during the 1988 Democratic National Convention in Atlanta. The Democrats were nominating Massachusetts Governor Mike Dukakis to run for president against Reagan's vice president, George H.W. Bush, and at the time Dukakis looked like he had a pretty good chance at the White House.

SHAMUS COOKE FOR BUZZFLASH

Those of us making the “radical” claim that wars are the result of economic/corporate interests pushed abroad, were recently given a nod of approval from a typically unfriendly source, The New York Times.

DEBBIE LEAHY FOR BUZZFLASH

The recent death of an animal groom at a Shrine-sponsored circus in Pennsylvania is a tragic end to an already tragic situation. Elephants have been beaten, battered and broken by the circus industry. Is it any wonder they snap from the stress?

Bullhooks look like a fireplace poker — they are batons with a sharp metal hook on the end. They are the standard tool that circuses use to break and manage elephants. These ugly devices are designed to cause pain and can rip and tear skin and leave bloody wounds.

Longtime elephant trainer Tim Frisco was caught on videotape viciously attacking terrified elephants with bullhooks and electric prods during an elephant-training seminar. Frisco instructs other trainers to hurt the elephants until they scream and to sink the bullhook into their flesh and twist it. He also cautions that the beatings must be concealed from the public. The elephant who killed the groom in Pennsylvania is believed to belong to Terry Frisco, Tim Frisco's brother.

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