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.
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.
ROBERT C. KOEHLER FOR BUZZFLASH
"The stark truth is that one single failure of nuclear deterrence could end human history."
These words, from a recent essay by Dr. Helen Caldicott, are, you might say, my devotional text for the day. I sit with them reluctantly, of course. They trouble the soul more than anything else I can imagine. But it occurs to me that, six-and-a-half decades into the nuclear era, our premature "peace" with these weapons — our cultural forgetting, our denial — betokens a psychic helplessness that is enormously dark and dangerous in its own right. At some level we know that our shadow is growing. We watch it happen as spectators.
Does any force seem more impervious to the collective will than that which drives the nuclear weapons industry? Will it take, as Caldicott asks, a horrific accident, an insane act of aggression, to shatter the conspiracy? And by then, will it be too late?
BUZZFLASH NEWS ALERT
The following is a press release from the Center for Constitutional Rights.
Today, the New York-based Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR) filed a motion with Spain’s national court (Audencia Nacional) seeking to intervene as a party (Acusación Popular) in the criminal investigation currently pending in Spain into the torture program conducted by the United States during the Bush Administration. Initiated in April of 2009 by Judge Baltasar Garzón, the investigation focuses on the torture and abuse of four former Guantánamo detainees, Hamed Abderrahman Ahmed, Ikassrien Lahcen, Jamiel Abdul Latif Al Banna and Omar Deghaye, each with strong ties to Spain. The investigation will examine what Judge Garzón described as “an approved systematic plan of torture and ill-treatment” and thus can encompass the torture that took place in Iraq, Afghanistan and U.S. run black sites around the world. Mr. Ahmed is a Spanish citizen and Mr. Ikassrien had been a Spanish resident for more than 13 years.
CCR has led the legal battle over Guantanamo and has represented plaintiffs who have been subjected to every facet of the United States’ torture program, from Guantánamo detainees to Abu Ghraib torture survivors, and victims of extraordinary rendition and CIA ghost detention. CCR has represented former detainees in U.S. federal courts in habeas corpus proceedings and civil actions, seeking habeas relief, injunctions or damages. It bases its motion to intervene on vast experience working on these issues on behalf of its clients.
BILL BERKOWITZ FOR BUZZFLASH
The San Francisco Chronicle’s Leah Garchik’s profile of former Reagan Secretary of State, George P. Shultz, falls horribly short of historical relevance.
I don’t think that there’s anything in Leah Garchik’s Sunday, April 25, 2010, San Francisco Chronicle front-page profile of former Secretary of State George P. Shultz that is basically untrue. But the 2000+word piece left this reader with an uneasy feeling. To paraphrase the great Gertrude Stein’s characterization of Oakland, California (my home town): “The trouble with the story is that when you read it, there isn't any there there.” Or as a more recent oracle might have exclaimed: “Where’s the beef?”
Garchik’s Shultz is a sweetheart; a devoted husband, a true gentleman, and a “solid citizen.” He’s good company, and in general, an all-around fine fellow. Over the years he has written a number of books and has received almost as many awards, medals, and prizes as New York Yankee World Series victories.
In fact, one of the reasons the piece was probably assigned is that Shultz will be receiving the San Francisco Commonwealth Club's Distinguished Citizen Award later this week, in part for his work around nuclear disarmament.
CHRISTINE BOWMAN FOR BUZZFLASH
Austan Goolsbee, chief economist for President Barack Obama’s Economic Recovery Advisory Board and a member of the Council of Economic Advisors, was in fine form Monday when he came to Northwestern University in Evanston, IL, to address the Institute for Policy Research.
The Texas born, Ivy educated administration advisor came across as more of a Will Rogers than a policy wonk as he described his personal initiation into real-time politics and commented on topics like the Dodd financial reform bill that has been working its painful way to the Senate floor for a vote. Goolsbee was, after all, named “Funniest Celebrity in Washington” in 2009, beating out Joe the Plumber, that honest-to-goodness political clown.
Back in 2004, however, when Goolsbee was first brought in to advise Obama in his campaign for a U.S. Senate seat, the University of Chicago business school economist had not even met Obama.