Monday, May 31, 2010

Drowning in a Bathtub of Oil

For all the advocates of small government who want government to get so small it can be "drowned in a bathtub," this past six weeks of environmental destruction in the Gulf should serve as a wake up call that their ideology is dangerous when put into action. Government has a function in society and often that function requires action on the massive scale.

It is more than a little ironic to see Bobby Jindal, the Republican governor of Louisiana and Haley Barbour, the Republican governor of Mississippi, criticize the federal governments response to the oil spill. Both governors, it should be recalled, have attempted to block stimulus funds and generally oppose any federal efforts.

The lack of government as regards regulations and regulatory oversight have directly contributed to the size, duration and occurrence of the spill. Putting oilmen in office in 2000, the nation developed an energy policy in secret with Dick Cheney as Chief Operating Officer of the transnational cabal.

Turning over government to private corporations and privatizing all of the functions thereof is not the way to run a society. It is the way to take all the wealth from the public commons and transfer it to private citizens while socializing the costs and risks.

Drowning government in a bathtub is a great slogan right up until there is a disaster that requires a definitive response. The corporatist response, that which we are seeing from BP, is only about cost containment and public relations.

The folly of the "death to government," crowd as exemplified by Grover Norquist and the Teabaggers, becomes apparent in moments such as this. Time to recognize that government has a role in society. Right now that role has been impeded by the actions of the previous administration and the inaction of the current administration. Time for the Obama Adminstration to step up and use government and quit worrying about the criticisms.

BP: Biblical Proportions - 40 Days & a Plague of Oil

British Petroleum has failed in its latest attempt to plug the hole in the bottom of the sea that is currently unleashing a plague of oil upon the Gulf of Mexico and its ecosystem. Estimates of the spill range from the governments 12,000 to 19.000 barrels (approximately 500,000 to 800,000 gallons) per day. Some independent scientists put the flow from the spill even higher. No matter what figures are used, at least 20 million barrels have already leaked and there is no end in sight.

As noted, BP's effort to plug the spill using high density drilling fluid (called mud in the trade) failed. Their next effort will involve sitting a container over the top of the faulty blowout preventer. Efforts to drill another well to relieve the pressure will likely not be completed until August.

What is happening is an entire ecosystem is being destroyed while BP fiddles about. Initially attempting to minimize the spill, reporting only 1000 barrels a day flow, BP has consistently underestimated damage and overestimated their technical abilities. It is now coming out, as reported on ABC News, that BP used a riskier metal casing on the well head due to its costs.

From its explosion at a refinery in Texas to its shoddy pipeline maintenance in wilderness areas, BP has a history of cutting corners when it comes to safety and environmental protection. Its efforts to maximize its profits have always come ahead of these priorities. BP Managing Director Bob Dudley, making the rounds on the morning news shows, defended BP's actions and attempted to minimize their blame. Had a relief well been drilled along with the first well, or there had been redundancy in the blowout preventer, this tragedy could have been averted. Dudley repeatedly stressed how difficult it is to stop this. EXACTLY, that's why extraordinary safety precautions should have been taken before beginning to drill a mile underwater.

When a similar disaster occurred off the coast of Saudi Arabia years ago, the spill was surrounded by tankers which sucked up the water and removed the oil. Dudley stated that it was not feasible to do this because it was a different mixture of oil. In essence, he admitted that the reason BP is not doing this is that it is cost prohibitive. He failed to mention that there are no tankers available because of a world oil glut that has tankers sitting full all over the world awaiting better prices before selling (don't take my word for this, check it out and you'll find that its true).

From using environmentally toxic dispersants to failing to protect the beaches, from cutting costs by not drilling relief wells to using cheaper metal casings than recommended, BP has been responsible for creating this disaster. It is not just an accident, it is criminal negligence. If a private citizen had a tool shed full of gasoline and it exploded and killed the neighbor, no one would see it as just an accident. The negligence of improper behavior would likely result in a charge of homicide. Given that eleven workers have already been killed, it is only proper to expect charges of criminally negligent homicide in their deaths. Who has jurisdiction?

Monday, May 24, 2010

Beautiful Protest:: CODEPINK Calls Out BP

CodePink descended on the Houston headquarters of British Petroleum today in protest of the continuing failure to stop the volcano of oil that has been erupting for the last five weeks in the Gulf of Mexico.

The members of CodePink, a group originally founded to speak out against the Oil Wars started by the Bush Administration, stripped in front of the corporate offices and covered themselves in oil. Calling their demonstration the "Naked Truth," the organization's effort was designed to draw attention to the catastrophe in the Gulf.

Don't expect British Petroleum executives to do more than send photos of the protest to their friends. It is illustrative of the whole debacle that BP has figured out a way to siphon and recover the oil but has yet to figure out how to stop the leak. Please note that the amount they are now recovering (around 5000 barrels a day) is the amount they have claimed was leaking. Film footage of the leak, however, shows that it is still continuing to blast oil into the Gulf.

It is time to for BP to allow responsible and independent scientists calculate the actual flow rate. It is time for the government to take over the efforts to stop the leak. It is time for BP to be held accountable.

"Accidents Happen": The Tea is Spilling

"Accidents happen," according to Tea Partier and Kentucky Senate nominee, Rand Paul. Running officially as a Republican, Paul, a libertarian and the son of Rep. Ron Paul (R-TX), spouted the statement when referring to the British Petroleum oil volcano in the Gulf of Mexico.

Paul, apparently views the Gulf spill as just one of those things that happen. Blinded by libertarian ideology, Paul is unable to see that his philosophical views are disastrous when society actually tries to function according to them. A non-regulated society is the ultimate goal of libertarians. However, their refusal to see that the unwillingness to regulate corporations leads to destruction of people and the environment, is more than myopic, it is tragic.

Sadly, after ten years of dismantling the very regulations that should have prevented this disaster, there are still people pretending to be responsible leaders who continue to sing the praises of deregulation. Rand Paul, and others who claim to be libertarians, seem oblivious to the real world consequences of their philosophical meanderings.

In less than one week since his primary victory, Rand Paul has exposed himself as a fanatic. In denouncing elements of the Civil Rights Acts almost immediately after his primary victory and then defending British Petroleum, Paul has demonstrated that he is only interested in ideology and is unfit to lead.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Noam Chomsky Detained in Israel

Noam Chomsky, scheduled to speak at Bir Zeit University, was denied entry into the West Bank by the government of Israel. Chomsky was apparently detained for several hours by authorities who freely admitted that the detention and refusal of entry was due to Chomsky's past criticisms of the government.

Chomsky, often considered America's premier intellectual, has spoken in Palestinian territories on previous occasions. This refusal of the Israeli government to allow his speech demonstrates the fear it has of criticism and open discussion.

Artist boycotts are beginning to occur as a result of such oppressive policies. Elvis Costello cancelled concerts as a result of the Chomsky detention and joins other artists such as Bono and Gil-Scott Heron in refusing to perform in the country.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Mitch McConnell: Lamest Excuse Ever

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY), gave what might be the lamest excuse ever heard for his opposition to a bill this Sunday morning. McConnell, speaking with David Gregory on Meet the Press, stated that he was opposed to raising the $75 million cap on oil companies for the damages they create because it would hurt "the small operator."

I thought McConnell was from Kentucky until I heard this remark and now realize he must be from another planet. The idea that raising the cap from $75 million might somehow produce conditions that would prevent small operators from being players in the oil market is straight out of fantasy world. Does McConnell, or anyone else for that matter, actually think that there are small time, mom and pop operators in the oil exploration businesses? Companies with $75 million are apparently small operators in McConnell world and oil world.

Get real. Oil is a business restricted to transnational conglomerates that hide behind laws written by their politicians. The company in question, British Petroleum, made billions last year alone. McConnell cannot possibly expect anyone to believe his talking point that he is concerned with the little guy.

For Mitch McConnell the truth is as murky as the Gulf of Mexico.

Behemoth Proportions: BP Spill Likely Larger Than Estimated

New evidence suggests that the BP Oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico may be far larger than the 5,000 barrels a day estimate given by BP and the U.S. government. Remember that BP initially reported that the spill was only 1000 barrels a day. That estimate was ratcheted up when the Coast Guard arrived and began to investigate the spill.

Ian McDonald, an oceanographer at Florida State has estimated the flow to be four to five times the government estimate. According to an article by Justin Gillis in the New York Times on Friday, May 14th, McDonald and other researchers are questioning the official government estimate of 146 gallons per minute. Alun Lewis, an expert in the area, estimated that the flow was much higher than the official tally after viewing film of the leak itself. NBC News, in a report by Thahn Truong, reported that as much as 70,000 barrels a day (close to 3 million gallons a day) may be leaking.

All told, the estimates by scientists seem to conclude that a minimum of one million gallons a day is leaking into the Gulf ecosystem. Tar blobs have begun to wash onto area beaches and the worst of the damage will likely not be known for some time.

BP: Beyond Preposterous.

Monday, May 10, 2010

BP: Beyond Pathetic

British Petroleum announced that it may attempt plug the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico by shooting garbage into the hole. The technique, known as a "junk shot," involves spraying garbage such as shredded tires into the opening in hopes that it will plug the hole.

Project foreman, Wile E. Coyote, stated that the Acme company would be contracted to complete some of the work.

Beyond Propaganda: BP Fails in Attempt to Stop Spill

British Petroleum (BP) failed in its effort to cap the ail spill dumping at least 5000 barrels of oil a day into the Gulf of Mexico. The attempt to place what was essentially a concrete and steel box around the spill failed because the water is so cold down at the ocean floor and ice crystals formed on the equipment. BP is reportedly going to try to use a similar approach later today using a smaller container with the idea that it may not freeze because it's smaller. If that doesn't work they are reportedly considering an approach where they attempt to shoot debris into the opening to plug it.

It seems to me that BP has no earthly clue how to stop this spill. The current efforts seem less than haphazard and clearly indicates that the company had no contingency plan in place in the event of an emergency.

As it turns out, we really have no way to measure the scope of this disaster. The 5000 barrels a day figure that is commonly reported is at best a low estimate. The actual amount may be much greater. The spill is likely to surpass the Exxon Valdez spill in Alaska as the largest in U.S. history. Eleven people died in the initial explosion and the Gulf fisheries industry is likely to be devastated for a generation. Yet, BP assures us it is doing all it can.

British Petroleum claims that it will pay the full costs of the spill. It remains to be seen at what level they will live up to that claim. In their advertising campaigns, talking a good game is something at which BP seems to excel, living up to it is an altogether different matter. From its poor record in maintaining its pipelines in Nigeria, to the explosion at a refinery in Texas in 2005 to the current disaster, BP has a long history of environmental damage. Mother Jones magazine has twice named BP one of the worst corporations on the planet in terms of its environmental record.

This leak in the Gulf is an accident that didn't need to happen. Proper safety equipment that already exists could have prevented this incident. The equipment was not installed because it was deemed too costly. The oil industry has essentially been allowed to regulate themselves and as a consequence safety concerns have taken a back seat. The costs of ignoring safety and environmental issues are now greater than the costs of addressing these concerns. The response to any suggestion of increased regulation and greater safeguards from BP and the rest of the oil industry is to step up their lobbying efforts.

Safety is about more than an advertising campaign.

British Petroleum: Killing the Planet by Cutting Corners

Bob Bennett Teabagged in Utah

Senator Bob Bennett of Utah finished third in the Republican Party conclave this weekend. In Utah, Republicans hold a convention to see who can even run in their primary. Bennett, a staunch conservative, was apparently not conservative enough, as he will now be ineligible for the primary. A three-term senator who took over the seat from his father, a four-term senator, Bennett is without question conservative but seemed unable to outrun his insider label. He was challenged over voting for the bank bailout and for attempting to each a bipartisan compromise over health care. His biggest mistake seems to be that he was not completely unreasonable. Utah will now in all likelihood have even more conservative representation in the Senate.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Talkin' John Birch Paranoid Blues

Bob Dylan once wrote a song entitled "Talkin' John Birch Paranoid Blues" jesting at the John Birch Society and its tendency to see communists everywhere. In 1959 the Birchers declared that Republican President Dwight (Ike) Eisenhower was a communist. Ike, the man who led the troops in World War II, had Nixon as a vice-president and was the very model of staid conservatism was too liberal for the John Birch Society. Of course, their declaration that he was a communist was met with appropriate ridicule even from other conservatives such as William F. Buckley.

Buckley is dead so that leaves it to Dylan to provide the update. I suggest the working title: "Rush Limbaugh Spewing the Delusional News." Limbaugh, for those who avoid windbags and missed it, claimed on his radio show that environmentalists caused the BP drilling disaster as part of a cunning plot to stop off-shore drilling. The sheer ludicrous nature of this claim should have led to rapid denouncements if not commitment to a mental health facility. Unfortunately, Limbaugh's ridiculous rant was given credence by former Bush spokesperson Dana Perino.

It about time for the right to stop the hyperbole. Everything that happens is not a giant conspiracy designed to "push a liberal agenda." Obama is not a socialist, the end times are not here, the lizard people have not taken over and that tin foil hat won't provide any protection at all. Next thing you know, we'll hear that Ike planned the whole operation.

British Petroleum Gulf Oil Spill Costs

  • 11 workers killed in initial blast
  • Damage to Ocean Ecosystem
  • 35,000 to 60.000 Barrels of Oil Per Day. That's somewhere between 1,500,000 to 2,500,000 gallons a day or 150 to 300 million gallons already spilled into the ocean as of July 27th by that estimate.
  • Gulf Fisheries Industry
  • Gulf Tourism (ongoing costs)
  • Long Term Health Effects to Humans and Wildlife (to be determined)

Worst Oil Spills

  • Kuwait 1991 - 520 million gallons: Gulf War I
  • Gulf of Mexico 2010 - 206 million gallons: BP Oil
  • Mexico, Bay of Campiche 1979 - 140 million gallons: Pemex Oil
  • Trinidad & Tobago 1979 - 90 million gallons: Greek Oil Tanker Atlantic Empress
  • Russia 1983 - 84 million gallons: Leaky Pipeline collapsed into Kolva River
  • Iran 1983 - 80 million gallons: Tanker collided with Oil Platform
  • South Africa 1983 -79 million gallons:Tanker Castillo de Bellver sank
  • France 1978 - 69 million Gallons: Amoco Cadiz ran aground and broke in half.
  • Angola Coastal Waters (700 miles at sea) 1991 - 51-81 million gallons: ABT Summer exploded at sea.
  • Italy 1991 - 45 million gallons: M/T Haven Oil Tanker exploded.
  • Source: Mother Nature Network. The 13 largest oil spills in history. by Laura Moss. Friday July 16, 2010.

Nuclear Accidents (Under Construction)

  • 1957 Windscale, UK
  • 1961 Idaho Falls, Idaho, US
  • 1979 Three Mile Island, Pennsylvania, US
  • 1984 Athens, Alabama, US
  • 1985 Athens, Alabama, US
  • 1986 Plymouth, Masachusetts, US
  • 1986 Chernobyl, Ukraine, USSR
  • 1996 Waterford, Connecticut, US
  • 1989 Griefwald, Germany
  • 1999 Ibaraki Prefecture, Japan
  • 2002 Oak Harbor, Ohio, US
  • 2004 Fukui Prefecture, Japan
  • Source: Benjamin Sovacool

Mining Disasters (Under Construction)

  • China 1942 - 1549 deaths
  • France 1906 - 1100 deaths
  • Japan 1963 - 447 deaths
  • Wales 1913 - 438 deaths
  • South Africa 1960 - 437 deaths
  • Source: Epic Disasters Website
  • Note: Do not look at the dates herein and conclue that mining disasters are a things of the past. Every year thousands of miners die worldwide in largely unreported accidents.

OIL IS OVER! - Resources

  • Hibbert's Peak - "The" source that explains why Oil is Over.
  • Tragedy of the Commons -Garrett Hardin
  • The Land Ethic - Aldo Leopold
  • Last Hours of Ancient Sunlight - Thom Hartmann
  • Eco-Defense: A Field Guide to Monkeywrenching


  • The Dirt People - Ray Bawarchi (yes, that's me)
  • The Razor's Edge - Somerset Maugham
  • Demian - Herman Hesse
  • Black Elk Speaks - Black Elk (as told to R. Neimur)
  • The Quiet Don - Mikhail Sholokov
  • Catcher in the Rye - J.D. Salinger
  • Catch-22 - Joseph Heller
  • 1984 - George Orwell
  • Delicious Laughter - Jallahudin Rumi
  • The Sybil - Par Lagerksvitz
  • The Fixer - Bernard Malamud
  • Spirits Rebellious - Khalil Gibran
  • The Quiet American - Graham Greene
  • Midaq Alley - Nagib Mafouz
  • Cat's Cradle - Kurt Vonnegut
  • Slaughterhouse 5 - Kurt Vonnegut
  • Farenheit 451- Ray Bradbury
  • We - Yevgeny Zamyatin


  • John Coltrane - St. John the Divine
  • Patti Smith
  • The Clash - the only band that matters
  • Billy Bragg
  • Yo Mama's Big Fat Booty Band
  • Art Blakey
  • Death - pre-punk visionaries from Detroit
  • PJ Harvey - Polly Jean, Polly Jean
  • Woody Guthrie
  • Michael Franti (Spearhead)
  • Public Enemy
  • Ray Charles - the Genius
  • Bob Dylan
  • Velvet Underground
  • Flaming Lips
  • John Doe & X
  • The Beatles

opiate of the masses

  • God is a comedian, playing to an audience too afraid to laugh. - Voltaire
  • I do not feel obliged to believe that the same god who has endowed us with sense, reason and inellect has intended us to forgo their use. - Galileo Galilei
  • The ink of a scholar is worth far more than the blood of a martyr.- Mohammad
  • If you meet the Buddha on the road, kill him. - Sheldon Kopp
  • No one will be free until the last king is strangled with the entrails of the last priest. - Louisa Mae Alcott
  • When it is a question of money, everyone is of the same religion.- Voltaire
  • If God were alive today, he'd be an athiest. - Kurt Vonnegut
  • The god I worship is not short of cash, Mister. - Bono
  • Jesus died for somebody's sins, but not mine. My sins they only belong to me. - Patti Smith
  • God sure baked a lot of fruitcake baby, when Adam met the Eden lady. - Joe Strummer