Sunday, June 27, 2010

Unless you are independently wealthy and heartless, every reader of this article should plan to join a national protest against any and all proposed cuts in Social Security.

Hands Off Social Security: There Are Better Ways to Cut the National Debt

Saturday 26 June 2010

by: Robert Weiner and Jonathan Battaglia | The Palm Beach Post

The Social Security Trustees' Annual Report on the program's finances comes out Wednesday, delayed from March by the health bill. It will be turned into a marketing tool by advocates of cutting Social Security to reduce the national debt.

Among those, the president's newly appointed National Commission on Fiscal Reform (the "debt commission") is threatening to strangle the economic lifeblood of seniors by denying the solvency of Social Security and then using the solvent funds for other purposes.

It's an illusion that cutting Social Security would reduce the deficit. If the new report does not point out that the money seniors have given to Social Security keeps it solvent through 2043, and after that 80 percent funded, it's a propaganda fraud for defunders.

Moreover, that future shortfall is only a blip - a point missed by nearly all media. After the Baby Boomers reap their Social Security benefits, since those Boomers have had the fewest children ever (2.1 per couple vs. the current 2.7 rate), the system will return to full solvency because it will pay benefits to fewer people.

To cut a national deficit by cutting Social Security, which does not have a deficit, is theft from seniors who have paid in. If a bank told a customer, "Sorry. We've spent your money on other items," would anyone accept that or say: "Fine, you made money on my money but you still owe me mine. Pay up."

The debt commission is littered with politicians and industry CEOs who have a history of wanting to scale back Social Security benefits. House Judiciary Committee Chairman John Conyers, D-Mich., told us in an interview, "The commission is loaded with billionaires who want to convert Social Security's money to business."

Commission Co-chairman Erskine Bowles is linked to Wall Street as a Morgan Stanley board member, and Honeywell CEO David Cote to the defense industry, both of which would benefit from Social Security's money. Will these captains of industry stand up for people who need Social Security the most? Or look for ways to transfer its money to defense and stocks?

Co-chairman Alan Simpson, along with Dave Camp, Judd Gregg, Tom Coburn and Mike Crapo, made statements supporting cutting or privatizing Social Security. Sen. Richard Durbin told "bleeding-heart liberals" to be open to Social Security cuts. Alice Rivlin co-authored a 2005 report titled Restoring Fiscal Sanity that advocated $47 billion in entitlement cuts, including an "increase in the retirement age under Social Security."

Why could the administration not appoint former Connecticut Congresswoman Barbara Kennelly, president of the National Committee to Preserve Social Security? Or Al Gore, who famously said he would protect Social Security in a "lockbox"? Or expert "policy wonk" Bill Arnone, a partner at Ernst & Young, co-author of the firm's retirement planning guide, a spokesman for the positive economics of Social Security?

The program remains indispensable in enabling the 38 million senior citizens over 65 nationwide and 3 million in Florida to live their lives in dignity. Without Social Security, nearly half of Americans age 65 or older would be below the poverty line. For two-thirds of the elderly, Social Security provides the majority of their income. For one-third, it provides nearly all.

We need the courage of the late Florida Congressman Claude Pepper. In 1978, when Commerce Secretary Juanita Kreps suggesting raising the retirement age, Rep. Pepper and House Social Security Chairman James Burke ran over for a meeting, and Rep. Pepper said they would "fight it to our death." Ms. Kreps suddenly said the proposal hadn't been drawn up.

The debt commission has plenty of options. Defense Secretary Robert Gates said the military needed to cut its "gusher of defense spending." Congress could also scale back the Bush tax cuts for the wealthy to the levels they were under President Clinton and could get rid of tax breaks for U.S. corporations doing business overseas. The deficit needs to be cut, but not at the cost of our seniors.

During a 2006 speaking tour, every time President Bush spoke of his plan to privatize Social Security, his approval ratings dropped. His advocacy of cuts helped cost Republicans the Congress. While up a hair recently, the market has lost 20 percent since 2000. Voters knew that would have meant 20 percent less food on the table for seniors or money for electricity. President Obama should not let the commission make the same mistake, or this time it will cost him and his party.

Robert Weiner was chief of staff of the House Select Committee on Aging, chaired by the late U.S. Rep. Claude Pepper, and a senior public-affairs director in the White House. Jonathan Battaglia is policy analyst at Robert Weiner Associates.

This article came to my attention through the e-mail news service Truthout.  I encourage anyone wanting to keep up on news that the so-called mainstream media seldom tells you, to subscribe to Truthout.  It is free but depends on tax-deductible donations.

FRACKING: If this word isn't yet in your vocabulary, you should add it soon.

I first came across this word in a geologist discussion group, where the question was asked "What do you think of fracking."

The video below arrived in my mailbox today, compliments of Brasscheck TV, which also offered this narrative:

It's a simple story.

Criminals take over the White House in 2000 and hand over everything not nailed down to their criminal friends in the energy industry.

One of the things they handed over in 2005 was complete immunity to gas drilling companies for damaging water wells and ground water.

The result?

PERMANENTLY destroyed fresh water sources in thousands of North American communities.
Bush & Co cheered. Obama & Co. are fine with it too.

The catastrophe on the Gulf is only the most obvious problem.

You can find more videos on this subject on YouTube.  And note too that you can sign up on Brasscheck to occasionally receive similar videos by e-mail for free, no strings attached.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Nobel Award Winner Paul Krugman on the Hypocrisy of the Deficit Hawks

June 17, 2010

That ’30s Feeling



Suddenly, creating jobs is out, inflicting pain is in. Condemning deficits and refusing to help a still-struggling economy has become the new fashion everywhere, including the United States, where 52 senators voted against extending aid to the unemployed despite the highest rate of long-term joblessness since the 1930s.

Many economists, myself included, regard this turn to austerity as a huge mistake. It raises memories of 1937, when F.D.R.’s premature attempt to balance the budget helped plunge a recovering economy back into severe recession. And here in Germany, a few scholars see parallels to the policies of Heinrich Brüning, the chancellor from 1930 to 1932, whose devotion to financial orthodoxy ended up sealing the doom of the Weimar Republic.

But despite these warnings, the deficit hawks are prevailing in most places — and nowhere more than here, where the government has pledged 80 billion euros, almost $100 billion, in tax increases and spending cuts even though the economy continues to operate far below capacity.

What’s the economic logic behind the government’s moves? The answer, as far as I can tell, is that there isn’t any. Press German officials to explain why they need to impose austerity on a depressed economy, and you get rationales that don’t add up. Point this out, and they come up with different rationales, which also don’t add up. Arguing with German deficit hawks feels more than a bit like arguing with U.S. Iraq hawks back in 2002: They know what they want to do, and every time you refute one argument, they just come up with another.

Here’s roughly how the typical conversation goes (this is based both on my own experience and that of other American economists):

German hawk: “We must cut deficits immediately, because we have to deal with the fiscal burden of an aging population.”

Ugly American: “But that doesn’t make sense. Even if you manage to save 80 billion euros — which you won’t, because the budget cuts will hurt your economy and reduce revenues — the interest payments on that much debt would be less than a tenth of a percent of your G.D.P. So the austerity you’re pursuing will threaten economic recovery while doing next to nothing to improve your long-run budget position.”

German hawk: “I won’t try to argue the arithmetic. You have to take into account the market reaction.”

Ugly American: “But how do you know how the market will react? And anyway, why should the market be moved by policies that have almost no impact on the long-run fiscal position?”

German hawk: “You just don’t understand our situation.”

The key point is that while the advocates of austerity pose as hardheaded realists, doing what has to be done, they can’t and won’t justify their stance with actual numbers — because the numbers do not, in fact, support their position. Nor can they claim that markets are demanding austerity. On the contrary, the German government remains able to borrow at rock-bottom interest rates.

So the real motivations for their obsession with austerity lie somewhere else.

In America, many self-described deficit hawks are hypocrites, pure and simple: They’re eager to slash benefits for those in need, but their concerns about red ink vanish when it comes to tax breaks for the wealthy. Thus, Senator Ben Nelson, who sanctimoniously declared that we can’t afford $77 billion in aid to the unemployed, was instrumental in passing the first Bush tax cut, which cost a cool $1.3 trillion.

German deficit hawkery seems more sincere. But it still has nothing to do with fiscal realism. Instead, it’s about moralizing and posturing. Germans tend to think of running deficits as being morally wrong, while balancing budgets is considered virtuous, never mind the circumstances or economic logic. “The last few hours were a singular show of strength,” declared Angela Merkel, the German chancellor, after a special cabinet meeting agreed on the austerity plan. And showing strength — or what is perceived as strength — is what it’s all about.

There will, of course, be a price for this posturing. Only part of that price will fall on Germany: German austerity will worsen the crisis in the euro area, making it that much harder for Spain and other troubled economies to recover. Europe’s troubles are also leading to a weak euro, which perversely helps German manufacturing, but also exports the consequences of German austerity to the rest of the world, including the United States.

But German politicians seem determined to prove their strength by imposing suffering — and politicians around the world are following their lead.

How bad will it be? Will it really be 1937 all over again? I don’t know. What I do know is that economic policy around the world has taken a major wrong turn, and that the odds of a prolonged slump are rising by the day.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

George Soros on the Future of the Euro

George Soros Speech
Humboldt University
Berlin, Germany
June 23, 2010

Giving a speech in Berlin, I feel obliged to speak about the euro because the euro is in crisis and Germany is the main protagonist. Unfortunately I didn't get the timing right because the crisis has both a fiscal component and a banking component and the situation of the banks is just now approaching a climax. A comprehensive analysis will have to await the publication of stress test results. The best I can do at this moment is to put matters into a historical perspective.

I believe that misconceptions play a large role in shaping history and the euro crisis is a case in point.

Let me start my analysis with the previous crisis, the bankruptcy of Lehman Brothers. In the week following September 15, 2008 global financial markets actually broke down and by the end of the week they had to be put on artificial life support. The life support consisted of substituting sovereign credit for the credit of financial institutions which ceased to be acceptable to counterparties.

As Mervyn King of the Bank of England explained, the authorities had to do in the short-term the exact opposite of what was needed in the long-term: they had to pump in a lot of credit, to replace the credit that had disappeared, and thereby reinforce the excess credit and leverage that had caused the crisis in the first place. Only in the longer term, when the crisis had subsided, could they drain the credit and reestablish macro-economic balance.

This required a delicate two phase maneuver - just as when a car is skidding, first you have to turn the car into the direction of the skid and only when you have regained control can you correct course.

The first phase of the maneuver has been successfully accomplished - a collapse has been averted. But the underlying causes have not been removed and they have surfaced again when the financial markets started questioning the credibility of sovereign debt. That is when the euro took center stage because of a structural weakness in its constitution. But we are dealing with a worldwide phenomenon, so the current situation is the direct consequence of the crash of 2008.

The situation is eerily reminiscent of the 1930s. Doubts about sovereign credit are forcing reductions in budget deficits at a time when the banking system and the economy may not be strong enough to do without fiscal and monetary stimulus. Keynes taught us that budget deficits are essential for counter-cyclical policies, yet governments everywhere feel compelled to reduce them under pressure from the financial markets. Coming at a time when the Chinese authorities have also put on the brakes, this is liable to push the global economy into a slowdown or possibly a double dip. Europe, which weathered the first phase of the financial crisis relatively well, is now in the forefront of the downward pressure because of the problems connected with the common currency.

The euro was an incomplete currency to start with. The Maastricht Treaty established a monetary union without a political union. The euro boasted a common central bank but it lacked a common treasury. It is exactly that sovereign backing that financial markets started questioning that was missing from the design. That is why the euro has become the focal point of the current crisis.

Member countries share a common currency, but when it comes to sovereign credit they are on their own. This fact was obscured until recently by the willingness of the European Central Bank to accept the sovereign debt of all member countries on equal terms at its discount window. This allowed the member countries to borrow at practically the same interest rate as Germany and the banks were happy to earn a few extra pennies on supposedly risk-free assets by loading up their balance sheets with the government debt of the weaker countries. These positions now endanger the creditworthiness of the European banking system. For instance, European banks hold nearly a trillion Euros of Spanish debt of which half is held by German and French banks. It can be seen that the euro crisis is intricately interconnected with the situation of the banks.

How did this connection arise?

The introduction of the euro brought about a radical narrowing of interest rate differentials. This in turn generated real estate bubbles in countries like Spain, Greece, and Ireland. Instead of the convergence prescribed by the Maastricht Treaty, these countries grew faster and developed trade deficits within the eurozone, while Germany reigned in its labor costs, became more competitive and developed a chronic trade surplus. To make matters worse some of these countries, most notably Greece, ran budget deficits that exceeded the limits set by the Maastricht Treaty. But the discount facility of the ECB allowed them to continue borrowing at practically the same rates as Germany, relieving them of any pressure to correct their excesses.

The first clear reminder that the euro does not have a common treasury came after the bankruptcy of Lehman. The finance ministers of the European Union promised that no other financial institution whose failure could endanger the system would be allowed to default. But Angela Merkel opposed a joint Europe-wide guarantee; each country had to take care of its own banks.

At first, the financial markets were so impressed by the guarantee that they hardly noticed the difference. Capital fled from the countries which were not in a position to offer similar guarantees, but the interest differentials within the eurozone remained minimal. That was when the countries of Eastern Europe, notably Hungary and the Baltic States, got into difficulties and had to be rescued.

It was only this year that financial markets started to worry about the accumulation of sovereign debt within the eurozone. Greece became the center of attention when the newly elected government revealed that the previous government had lied and the deficit for 2009 was much larger than indicated.

Interest rate differentials started to widen but the European authorities were slow to react because the member countries held radically different views. Germany, which had been traumatized by two episodes of runaway inflation, was allergic to any buildup of inflationary pressures; France and other countries were more willing to show their solidarity. Since Germany was heading for elections, it was unwilling to act. But nothing could be done without Germany. So the Greek crisis festered and spread. When the authorities finally got their act together they had to offer a much larger rescue package than would have been necessary if they had acted earlier.

In the meantime, the crisis spread to the other deficit countries and, in order to reassure the markets, the authorities felt obliged to put together a €750 billion European Financial Stabilization Fund, €500 billion from the member states and €250 billion from the IMF.

But the markets are not reassured, because the term sheet of the Fund was dictated by Germany. The Fund is guaranteed not jointly but only severally so that the weaker countries will in fact be guaranteeing a portion of their own debt. The Fund will be raised by selling bonds to the market and charging a fee on top. It is difficult to see how it will merit a triple A rating.

Even more troubling is the fact that Germany is not only insisting on strict fiscal discipline for weaker countries but is also reducing its own fiscal deficit. When all countries are reducing deficits at a time of high unemployment they set in motion a downward spiral. Reductions in employment, tax receipts, and exports reinforce each other, ensuring that the targets will not be met and further reductions will be required. And even if budgetary targets were met, it is difficult to see how the weaker countries could regain their competitiveness and start growing again because, in the absence of exchange rate depreciation, the adjustment process would require reductions in wages and prices, producing deflation.

To some extent a continued decline in the value of the euro may mitigate the deflation but as long as there is no growth, the relative weight of the debt will continue to grow. This is true not only for the national debt but also for the commercial loans held by banks. This will make the banks even more reluctant to lend, compounding the downward pressures.

The euro is a patently flawed construct and its architects knew it at the time of its creation. They expected its defects to be corrected, if and when they became acute, by the same process that brought the European Union into existence.

The European Union was built by a process of piecemeal social engineering, indeed it is probably the most successful feat of social engineering in history. The architects recognized that perfection is unattainable. They set limited objectives and firm deadlines. They mobilized the political will for a small step forward, knowing full well that when it was accomplished its inadequacy would become apparent and require further steps. That is how the coal and steel community was gradually developed into the European Union, step by step.

Germany used to be at the heart of the process. German statesmen used to assert that Germany has no independent foreign policy, only a European policy. After the fall of the Berlin Wall, Germany's leaders realized that unification was possible only in the context of a united Europe and they were willing to make considerable sacrifices to secure European acceptance. When it came to bargaining they were willing to contribute a little more and take a little less than the others, thereby facilitating agreement. But those days are over. Germany doesn't feel so rich anymore and doesn't want to continue serving as the deep pocket for the rest of Europe. This change in attitudes is understandable but it did bring the process of integration to a screeching halt.

Germany now wants to treat the Maastricht Treaty as the scripture which has to be obeyed without any modifications and this is not understandable, because it is in conflict with the incremental method by which the European Union was built. Something has gone fundamentally wrong in Germany's attitude towards the European Union.

Let me first analyze the structural defects of the euro and then examine Germany's attitude. The biggest deficiency in the euro, the absence of a common fiscal policy, is well known. But there is another defect that has received less recognition: a false belief in the stability of financial markets. As I tried to explain in my writings, the Crash of 2008 has demonstrated that financial markets do not necessarily tend towards equilibrium; they are just as likely to produce bubbles. I don't want to repeat my arguments here because you can find them in my lectures which have just been published in German. All I need to do is remind you that the introduction of the euro created its own bubble in the countries whose borrowing costs were greatly reduced. Greece abused the privilege by cheating, but Spain didn't. It followed sound macro-economic policies, maintained its sovereign debt level below the European average, and exercised exemplary supervision over its banking system. Yet it enjoyed a tremendous real estate boom which has turned into a bust resulting in 20% unemployment. Now it has to rescue the savings banks called cajas and the municipalities. And the entire European banking system is weighed down by bad debts and needs to be recapitalized. The design of the euro did not take this possibility into account.

Another structural flaw in the euro is that it guards only against the danger of inflation and ignores the possibility of deflation. In this respect the task assigned to the ECB is asymmetric. This is due to Germany's fear of inflation. When Germany agreed to substitute the euro for Deutschmark it insisted on strong safeguards to maintain the value of the currency. The Maastricht Treaty the contained a clause that expressly prohibited bailouts and the ban has been reaffirmed by the German Constitutional Court. It is this clause that has made the current situation so difficult to deal with.

And this brings me to the gravest defect in the euro's design; it does not allow for error. It expects member states to abide by the Maastricht criteria without establishing an adequate enforcement mechanism. And now that several countries are far away from the Maastricht criteria, there is neither an adjustment mechanism nor an exit mechanism. Now these countries are expected to return to the Maastricht criteria even if such a move sets in motion a deflationary spiral. This is in direct conflict with the lessons learnt from the Great Depression of the 1930s and is liable to push Europe into a period of prolonged stagnation or worse. That will, in turn, generate discontent and social unrest. It is difficult to predict how the anger and frustration will express itself.

The wide range of possibilities will weigh heavily on the financial markets. They will have to discount the prospects of deflation and inflation, default and disintegration. Financial markets dislike uncertainty.

Xenophobic and nationalistic extremism are already on the rise in countries such as Belgium, the Netherlands and Italy. In a worst case scenario that could undermine democracy and paralyze or even destroy the European Union.

If that were to happen, Germany would have to bear a major share of the responsibility because as the strongest and most creditworthy country it calls the shots. By insisting on pro-cyclical policies, Germany is endangering the European Union. I realize that this is a grave accusation but I am afraid it is justified.

To be sure, Germany cannot be blamed for wanting a strong currency and a balanced budget but it can be blamed for imposing its predilection on other countries that have different needs and preferences - like Procrustes, who forced other people to lie in his bed and stretched them or cut off their legs to make them fit. The Procrustes bed inflicted on the eurozone is called deflation.

Unfortunately Germany does not realize what it is doing. It has no desire to impose its will on Europe; all it wants to do is to maintain its competitiveness and avoid becoming the deep pocket to the rest of Europe. But as the strongest and most creditworthy country it is in the driver's seat. As a result Germany objectively determines the financial and macroeconomic policies of the Eurozone without being subjectively aware of it. When all the member countries try to be like Germany they are bound to send the eurozone into a deflationary spiral. That is the effect of the policy pursued by Germany and - since Germany is in the driver's seat - these are the policies imposed on the eurozone.

The German public does not understand why it should be blamed for the troubles of eurozone. After all, it is the most successful economy in Europe, fully capable of competing in world markets. The troubles of the eurozone feel like a burden weighing Germany down. It is difficult to see what would change this perception because the troubles of the eurozone are depressing the euro and being the most competitive Germany benefits the most. As a result Germany is likely to feel the least pain of all the member states.

The error in the German attitude can best be brought home by engaging in a thought experiment. The most ardent instigators of that attitude would prefer that Germany leave the euro rather than modify its position. Let us consider where that would lead.

The Deutschmark would go thru the roof and the euro would fall thru the floor. This would indeed help the adjustment process but Germany would find out how painful it can be to have an overvalued currency. Its trade balance would turn negative and there would be widespread unemployment. German banks would suffer severe exchange rate losses and require large injections of public funds. But the government would find it politically more acceptable to rescue German banks than Greece or Spain. And there would be other compensations: pensioners could retire to Spain and live like kings helping Spanish real estate to recover. On the positive side, the rest of Europe could grow its way out of its difficulties. But Germany leaving the euro would be highly disruptive. The initial wild swing in exchange rates would be followed by other fluctuations and the common market may not survive them.

Let me emphasized that this scenario is totally hypothetical because it is extremely unlikely that Germany would be allowed to leave the euro and to do so in a friendly manner. Germany's exit would be destabilizing financially, economically and above all politically. The collapse of the single market would be difficult to avoid. The purpose of this thought experiment is to convince Germany to change its ways without going thru the actual experience that its current policies hold in store.

What would be the right policy for Germany to pursue? It cannot be expected to underwrite other countries' deficits indefinitely. So some tightening of fiscal policies is inevitable. But some way has to be found to allow the countries in crisis to grow their way out of their difficulties. The countries concerned have to do most of the heavy lifting by introducing structural reforms but they do need some outside help to allow them to stimulate their economies. By cutting its budget deficit and resisting a rise in wages to compensate for the decline in the purchasing power of the euro Germany is actually making it more difficult for the other countries to regain competitiveness.

Generally speaking, this is the time to put idle resources to work by investing in education and infrastructure. For instance, Europe needs a better gas pipeline system and the connection between Spain and France is one of the bottlenecks. The European Investment Bank ought to be able to find other investment opportunities as well.

Before any actual policy steps can be discussed, two theoretical points need to be made. One is that a tightening of fiscal policy can be offset by a loosening of monetary policy. For instance, the ECB could buy treasury bills directly from countries that cannot borrow from the market at reasonable rates, significantly reducing their financing costs below the punitive rate charged by the German inspired European Financial Stabilization Fund. But that is not possible without a change of heart by Germany.

The other theoretical point is that the current crisis is more a banking crisis than a fiscal one. The continental European banking system has not been properly cleansed after the crash of 2008. Bad assets have not been marked-to-market but are being held to maturity. When markets started to doubt the creditworthiness of sovereign debt it was really the solvency of the banking system that was brought into question because the banks were loaded with the bonds of the weaker countries and these are now selling below par. The banks have difficulties in obtaining short-term financing. The interbank market and the commercial paper market have dried up and banks have turned to the ECB both for short-term financing and for depositing their excess cash. They are in no position to buy government bonds. That is the main reason why risk premiums on government bonds have widened, setting up a vicious circle.

The crisis has now culminated in forcing the authorities to disclose the results of their stress tests. We cannot judge how serious the situation is until the results are published - indeed, we shall not be able to judge even then because the report will deal only with the twenty five largest banks and the biggest problems are in the smaller banks, notably the Cajas in Spain and the Landesbanken in Germany. It is clear however that the banks need to be recapitalized on a compulsory basis. They are way over-leveraged. That ought to be the first task of the European Financial Stabilization Fund. That will go a long way to clear the air. It may be seen, for instance, that Spain does not have a fiscal crisis at all. Recent market moves point in that direction. Germany's role may also be seen in a very different light if it becomes a bigger user than contributor of the Stabilization Fund.

It is impossible to be more precise at the moment but there are grounds for optimism. When the solvency situation of the banks has been clarified and they have been properly recapitalized it should be possible to devise a growth strategy for Europe. And when the European economy has regained its balance the time will be ripe to correct the structural deficiencies of the euro. Make no mistake about it; the fact that the Maastricht criteria were so massively violated shows that the euro does have deficiencies that need to be corrected.

What is needed is a delicate, two-phase maneuver, similar to the one the authorities undertook after the failure of Lehman Brothers. First help Europe to grow its way out of its difficulties and then revise and strengthen the structure of the euro. This cannot be done without German leadership. I hope Germany will once again live up to the responsibilities that go with a leadership position. After all, it had done so until now. Thank you.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Helen Thomas: Asking the Questions Real Democracy Demands

Helen Thomas: Asking the Questions Real Democracy Demands

by Lydia Howell posted on Monday, 14 June 2010

I don’t think a tough question is disrespectful.–Helen Thomas
American democracy took a big hit with the forced retirement of Helen Thomas, the First Lady of the Washington Press Corps..

When one considers how many scoundrels remain in powerful positions in both public and private life, the swiftness with which she was dumped after 50 years of reporting on U.S. presidents was breathtaking. More so when you listen to TV talking-heads blandly repeating corporate and Pentagon PR as “news” and Faux News blowhards like Beck and Limbaugh shamelessly make vicious slanders, perpetrate outright lies and create disinformation.

The last thing one hears in most places is the kind of tough question that was Helen Thomas’ trademark.
Every president thinks that all information that comes to the White House is his private preserve after they all promise an open administration on the campaign trail, but some are more secretive than others. Some want to lock down everything.–Helen Thomas
Thomas recognized that it is essential for real democracy that the press must have an adversarial relationship to the president, in order to get to the facts about what the government is actually doing and why. She wasn’t afraid to challenge the prevailing “defense of democracy” narratives about U.S. wars and occupations—whether the President pushing them was a Republican or a Democrat. Whether it was George W. Bush, who Thomas called “the worst president in American history” or President Barack Obama, who MSNBC cheerleaders like Keith Olbermann or Rachel Maddow hesitate to criticize, Thomas bluntly pierced the propaganda.

Government secrecy is an enemy of real democracy, and Thomas was a bright light trying to reveal what politicians aim to hide from the American people: no-bid contracts for “private contractors” bilking the public and committing war crimes in Iraq and Afghanistan, torture minimized as “enhanced interrogation,” the contradictions between presidents’ speeches and actions.
You don’t spread democracy through the barrel of a gun. — Helen Thomas
For Thomas, “collateral damage” is a cover-up word for civilian men, women and children in Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan — and, yes, Gaza — killed in the service of corporate empire-building. She made their deaths visible while most media erases them. Thomas focused on policies, not political party. She had no interest in the political “horse race” coverage that dominates so much reporting.

What got Thomas fired was a May 27 off-the-cuff remark about Israel — the “third rail” of U.S. foreign policy. Thomas is the only contradictory journalistic voice that could be heard in the so-called “mainstream” (corporate-owned) media.

From the New York Times to CNN, reporters have mouthed the mantras provided by Israel about their attack on the “freedom flotilla” ships that tried to take humanitarian aid to Gaza. The Washington Post was at least honest enough to headline Glenn Kessler’s piece for what it was “Israel give its account of raid”. The rest of the U.S. media mostly went along with Israel’s claim that heavily armed IDF commandos acted in “self-defense” against ships of civilians from 40 countries. Soldiers fired live ammunition, used tasers and flash bombs on human rights activists, a Nobel Prize winner, Ed Peck (a former U.S. ambassador to the Middle East) Swedish novelist Henning Mankell, peace activist and retired U.S. Army Col. Ann Wright. Yet, unless one goes to the Internet and the international press (including dissenting voices in Israel itself), the attacks on the Freedom Flotilla have been told only from Israel’s perspective.

Telling the other side was certainly possible within three days of the IDF assault as the Freedom Flotilla activists were released and speaking with or writng for international media outside the U.S. For example, Swedish author of the ‘Wallander’ mystery series, Henning Mankell’s ‘Flotilla Diary” was published in the UK Guardian newspaper.

Would Helen Thomas, at a White House press briefing, have quoted the emerging eyewitness accounts of the commando raids on the ships? Would she have raised the facts that the rest of the world already knows about Israel’s three-year blockade of humanitarian aid to Gaza? Would she have asked President Obama how Israel’s “security” was threatened by the ships’ medicine, toys, wheelchairs, olive trees and cement for Palestinians still living in rubble and on what the World Health Organization has called “a starvation diet”?

Would any other reporter have done so?

She did.

On June 1, Thomas grilled White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs:
“The initial reaction to the flotilla massacre, deliberate massacre, an international crime, was pitiful. What do you mean you regret something that should be so strongly condemned, and if any other nation in the world had done it, we would have been up in arms? What is this ironclad relationship where a country that deliberately kills people and boycotts every aid and abets… the boycott [blockade of Gaza]?”
It was an Israel Defense Forces (IDF) priority to conceal as much as possible of the attack from the world through censorship. Journalists and activists on the Freedom Flotilla are saying their satellite transmissions were quickly jammed. The international press is interviewing these journalists who say that IDF soldiers confiscated or immediately destroyed all cameras, cell phones and lap top computers. There was no return of those devices — which presumably had raw footage of the attack that would contradict Israel’s propaganda campaign. However, raw, unedited footage of the Israeli assault is now becoming available, and it shows the falsehood of the IDF-edited footage distributed widely shortly after the attack. Israel has now admited that audio was added to the IDF footage that U.S. media widely broadcast.

The June 10 edition of “Democracy NOW!” interviewed one of the journalists on the Flotilla and has some of the raw video Israel did not manage to suppress.

But, without Helen Thomas in the White House press room, will anyone confront Barack Obama about the U.S. policy of unconditional support for Israel’s ongoing violations of international law, or the additional $30 billion in U.S. military aid to Israel recently authorized for expenditure over the next decade?
We in the press have a special role since there is no other institution in our society that can hold the President accountable. I do believe that our democracy can endure and prevail only if the American people are informed. — Helen Thomas
Increasingly, one hears about a “crisis in journalism” that is too often debated in terms of profits: “How can newspapers compete with the Internet? What’s the 21st century economic model?”

What corporate-owned newspapers fail to debate is the real crisis in journalism, the crisis of content and perspective, independence and purpose of journalism in a democracy.

The career (and firing) of Helen Thomas speaks directly to the juncture that American journalism finds itself at: “Infotainment” or information? Probing for facts or press release distribution? Asking questions or echoing statements from public relations flunkies? Thomas didn’t just jot down what press secretaries or presidents said. Unlike most of the Beltway hacks working in the corporate media, Thomas knows the difference between public relations and journalism.

Unfortunately, for the last 25 years, the job descriptions of the two fields increasingly have merged as schools of journalism and departments of advertising/marketing/public relations have been folded together into “communications” departments. Many of today’s reporters don’t appear to even know the difference between the craft of journalism and the craftiness of PR. They are simply, “stenographers to power,” as writer Micheal Parenti calls them in a critique of the press of that name.

There’s a reason that journalism is the only profession protected under our Constitution.
Thomas Jefferson remarked, “Were it left to me to decide whether we should have a government without newspapers, or newspapers without a government, I should not hesitate a moment to prefer the latter.”
Democracy is threatened when the people do not know what their government is doing. Democracy can not survive when citizens are not informed about the issues of the day and the policies proposed to address them.

Consider the gobbledy-gook that passes for reporting whenever another U.S. war is proposed or the confusion and sound-bites surrounding the health care “reform” bill approved by President Obama. When America’s youth are to be sent around the world to kill and be killed or when major legislation that affects everyone, such as that on health care, is to be voted on by Congress, what is needed is deeply informed reporting that is skeptical of those with political power and wealth. Without that kind of journalism, citizens cannot possibly participate in democracy in any meaningful way — and true democracy is more than voting for packaged candidates every two to four years.

Few in the White House press corps have dug deeply enough to be actually informed. Acting more like celebrity writers, they worship the powerful people true journalism is supposed to hold accountable.

I doubt anyone left in the White House press room has the guts regularly shown by the petite 89-year-old woman who was just forced to retire.

American democracy will be further diminished towards a state of facade without Helen Thomas’ questions.

Lydia Howell

Lydia Howell is an independent journalist in Minneapolis, winner of the 2007 Premack Aard for Public Interest Journalism, and producer/host of “Catalyst:politics & culture” on KFAI Radio.

Saturday, June 05, 2010

A Highly Experienced Engineer and Design/Project Manager with Experience in Offshore Drilling, Nuclear Weapons, and the Environmental Fate of Oil Plumes Speaks out on the BP Oil Catastrophe. Will Our Government Listen?

"Initiate major National Labs efforts (Sandia , INEL (DOE), Air Force Research (Wright Patterson Labs), Army Labs (Harry Diamond), ONR (Naval Research), etc) to concentrate on innovative solutions to stopping the wellhead flow...
Declare a National Emergency now - we are still facing decades of impact already and 70% of the problem is still underwater. We are going to be dealing with this fiasco for decades in some states/shorelines.
If [BP's latest plan] fails, BP should be out of here and replaced by Government/Military Tiger Response Team asap."

Dr Stephen A Rinehart

BP Gulf of Mexico Oil Spill Lessons Learned and Needed Actions

Politics / Environmental Issues Jun 03, 2010 - 04:08 AM
Dr Stephen A Rinehart writes: Background: The following comments are based in part on my 45+ years experience in structural dynamics/mechanical engineering from Georgia Tech and extensive design/project management experience including offshore oil platforms, oil pipelines, conventional/nuclear DOD weapons effects and combat weapons designs, and environmental fate and transport of chemical/oil plumes.

History: In 1983, I served as a Senior Program Mgr for Shell Oil Company for the design of Shell's Eureka Offshore oil platform. This offshore oil platform is in 760 ft of water (13 miles out from San Pedro, Ca) and at the time it was the deepest offshore oil platform in the world. Twenty-seven years later we are drilling wells in 5000 feet to 9000 feet of water in the Gulf Mexico using semi-submersible drilling rigs where the wells are often greater than 15000 feet below the seabed. Over the past three years, about 26% of the entire oil leases in the Gulf of Mexico are in water depths in excess of 5000 ft. In part, Government regulations and environmental groups have forced the oil companies to go explore in deepwater versus drilling "pristine lands". The potential damage issues to the environment/economic well-being of the population have probably increased by a factor of a 1000+ in the event of a major deepwater oil well blow-out.

Until the Deepwater Horizon accident, it was probably believed by the majority of Congress and the American public that deepwater oil drilling/production could be safely regulated by the Federal Government and performed satisfactorily by the Big Oil Majors. How little did the public know the real extent to which the entire safety of the Gulf coast has been compromised/destroyed by a major oil well blow-out in deepwater (>4500 ft).

Remarks: A sudden, high pressure "discharge" of 12000 psi fluid is not a spill, it is an explosion. A continuous discharge of high pressure oil and gas could be classified as a "volcano" if it continues for months without stopping it. If you hear someone calling it a "very, very modest spill" - most likely a Big Oil CEO or a lawyer with the EPA/OSHA.

I. Oil/Gas Wellhead Characteristics for Mississippi Canyon in GOM

A. Hydrocarbon source rocks are rich and widespread in the Gulf of Mexico [GOM]. Hydrocarbons are trapped in a variety of structural settings including salt flanks (Bullwinkle), salt/fault (Auger), fault (Vancouver), salt thrust (Joilet) and stratigraphic (Ram-Powell). The hydrocarbon mix is fairly even between oil and gas and much of the free gas is bacterial methane. This has significant implications for the current BP wellhead blowout.

B. Most deepwater oils are only moderately sour (< 2.0 wt % sulfur) and excellent for Gulf Coast refineries. Relatively large pockets of oil are found trapped between a salt canopy on top and sandstone or Miocene rock formations (17,000 ft?). The deepwater GOM oil deposits are now believed to be a world class find and much of it follows the US continental shelf 5000 ft (and deeper).

C. Deepwater oil production is important economically to the region and a major energy source of oil and gas for the US. Oil companies would very much like to follow this "oil" shelf around the Florida coastline.

D. New wells can show high (record) flow rates now exceeding 17,000 barrels per day. BP mentioned that its "Thunder Horse" platform had wells delivering over 50,000 bpd. This is a whole new realm of technical challenges which may be well beyond what can be economically achieved in a safe environment.

II. Mitigation/Clean-Up of GOM Well Blowouts

A. For deepwater wells which blowout (wellhead gas explosion on the surface), there needs to be an immediate response by large tankers (think super tanker) equipped with deepwater skimmers and oil/water separators. The idea of a barge loaded with some oil booms is totally inadequate response and carryover from the 1970s with regard to ever addressing a high pressure oil/gas well blowout with flow rates exceeding 15,000 barrels per day (and more likely 50,000 bpd for ultra deep wells). The Government should have mobilized Super Tankers 40 days ago with major oil skimming equipments (not a fleet of shrimp boats - that's only a pointwise or local defense for bays or near shoreline)

B. You will be dealing with a 5000 ft "water column" filling with oil and gas in a deepwater wellhead blowout. We are dealing with a totally new animal with these high pressure wells in deep water where the seabed pressures may exceed 2000 psi. The water column separates the light ends of the oil out and this oil floats to the top. However, 70%+ of the oil can remain underwater (trapped in/on the surface of giant gas bubbles) and could float hundreds of miles at depths of 3000 ft before eventually surfacing in much shallow waters. We need super tankers to suck up these large plumes while they are still in deepwater instead of allowing BP to deny they exist.

C. The benzene gas is water soluble and is a carcinogen at levels of 1 ppm. If an oil glob is approaching or hits your coastline you need to know the water is safe to swim from dissolved benzene.

D. Large amounts of methane gas may result in depleted oxygen layers in deeper waters. We know very little as to the chemical make-up (and fate and transport) of large underwater oil/gas plumes (see ongoing measurements at and Dr Samantha Joye et al). We need to acquire the data - heard that yet from anybody in Government?

E. You know what happens to the drill/casing pipe when a huge drilling rig explodes and sinks. It pulls up so hard (maybe with over a million pounds of force) on the pipe string that the pipe breaks (shear failures) like you see in the BP video. It could dislocate the BOP [blowout prevention system] by pulling it up and damage/break the internal mechanical mechanisms inside the BOP that is supposed to shear/close the pipe. It could pull a BOP off the wellhead connector if the rig fails to maintain dynamic positioning (on board explosion). We have no way of currently addressing these types of catastrophic failures in deepwater wells.

F. NASA in traveling to the moon, tried to achieve 0.999999 reliability in its systems (everything has to have a back-up). In the deepwater oil industry, there is no back-up BOP, there are no secondary wells already drilled, there was no acoustic sensor (to sense an wellhead explosion and automatically shut-in the well because a human could never respond fast enough), there was no barge in-place for a wellhead blow-out, etc, etc. It was busy as usual for drilling in the Gulf of Mexico.

III. Stop the Wellhead Blowout

A. Any way you can - let's see a Government prioritized list (not BP) of what coming down the pipe for the next top five technical approaches from the consultants to stop the wellhead flow. Why wasn't the pipe cutoff at the BOP at the outset and an LMRP [Lower Marine Riser Package] tried? Why wasn't the original containment boom rigged to pump warm water/methanol to try and prevent hydrate formations - why didn't you pull it back up and rig it for methanol/warm water injection if it was forming hydrates? Why wasn't a number of smaller skimmers with tried above the wellhead off of ships with oily water separators (still have not done this) - could have been 500 ft to 1000 ft above the wellhead. This is the reason that the Government should take immediate charge of an environmental disaster - it's called Federal Waters. Who was in charge from the Government on Day Ten who could override BP - nobody?

B. Can you imagine someone saying we are going to let this oil continue to flow out this well until August (or Christmas?) until relief wells are drilled (statement by Carolyn Browner - Energy Consultant to President Obama)? We are suppose to wait until it hits our beaches and make some kind of response with a large manpower response (mobilize the National Guard) and/or deploy an orange oil boom and hope for the best!? Not acceptable!

C. BP's senior management is up to their ears in alligators trying to address a response so the Government is now sending Eric Holder (Justice Dept) to investigate/file "criminal charges" against BP - what a PR disaster for everyone and just impeccable timing. If Eric Holder (Justice Dept) is not going to put on a HazMat suit what good is this going to accomplish right now? Try investigating how much lobby money from Big Oil went into everybody's campaign in the past thirty years (at all levels of Government) if you want to open a "can of worms".

D. We need to stop this wellhead blowout soon - if this flow goes around the Southern tip of Florida into the Atlantic Loop Current we have just bought a potential global climate change problem - it can become that ugly fast with oil being carried all over all the oceans. If BP/consultants cannot stop this well in next 45 days, we need to seriously consider placing conventional charges (C4 or thermite) under the seabed/down the well bore of the relief well and closing this pipe by explosive charges. Alternatively, a possible option is to design a small "residual cavity" nuclear device (only 1 kilotons to 3 kilotons) detonated at a depth of say 7000 feet (or whatever the computer codes give for optimum placement and standoff distances to crush rock against the down hole drill string (will produce a cavity of 11,000 cubic meters for residual oil to flow into to remove the pressure). There will be no escaping radiation and no fracturing of the oil reservoir at the surface if detonated in the Miocene rock or way down into sandstone. This is a very small explosion designed to produce more of a uniform spherical wave front to crush the pipe closed. The Soviets have extensive data (on land) with this approach. It gives the Government a "final resort option" if we want to stand around for months and hand-wring about it while the oceans become polluted while everything else has failed. This is why the guys in Government get paid the big bucks to make these kinds of decisions.

Suggested Action Items:

A. Let BP senior management alone to try and stop the wellhead blow-out "one more time" with LMRP cut and stab. If this fails, BP should be out of here and replaced by Government/Military Tiger Response Team asap. I think you can hire the same ROV operators and contract the same ships - just a management change. We need the equivalent of a General Honore (from Katrina days) to lead the troops and reinvent American ingenuity - anybody who has a candidate in mind send your suggestions to your Congressman/White House. Possibly General Powell could head up a military response as special White House appointee. Do something even if it's wrong because so far it's grading out at a D minus. Hopefully we can get this off the front page soon but decades of coming damage.

B. Activate at least three super tankers with oily water separators to track down large underwater plumes identified by US Navy and/or University marine Research Teams. Start measuring the oil wellhead flows and what's in the water in terms of concentrations (easily done by a Harbor Branch Team out of Florida). Why hasn't the US Navy been activated in this response? Many of our Navy people trained on the Gulf Coast and have family or relatives living along the Gulf Coast and would be glad to do something for their country. I bet I could get one hundred proposals from the US Navy/Air Force Contractors to address this oil clean-up within ten days or less (everything from air-sparged oily separators to concentrated microbes to specialized high speed skimmer craft to start sucking up oil - where is the Government's request for proposals with rapid evaluation and awards)? Submarines can track underwater plumes and ships can be modified to skim oil and there is a ton of manpower already available. There is no innovative thinking from our Government.

C. Initiate major National Labs efforts (Sandia , INEL (DOE), Air Force Research (Wright Patterson Labs), Army Labs (Harry Diamond), ONR (Naval Research), etc) to concentrate on innovative solutions to stopping the wellhead flow (do I hear injecting wellhead mud with liquid nitrogen?) as well as start running super computer models for simulations of any/all solutions as well as fate and transport of underwater plumes and trajectories and ways to quickly locate plumes as well as concentrating microbes to attack the spills at sea on accelerated basis (go talk to a company called In-Pipe about how they concentrate microbes by a factor of 10,000 for treating grease/oily wastes). Where are the finite element (stress runs) computer runs from Cameron (maker of the BOP) which show what can happen if a transient 1,000,000 axial load is placed on the drill string at the BOP and jerks it upward off its base. What is the damage internally and what happens at the wellhead connector - did we break or crack the collar and can we crack cement seals down the wellhead bore?

D. Start emergency Purchase Orders and funding by Congress for ordering hundreds of additional boom/microbes/organic oil cleanup compounds for deploying along the Florida (and possibly) Atlantic coastline. We need to be ready to mobilize the National Guard on one weeks notice for oil cleanup and we need Hazmat suits at the ready (and there are tens of thousands of high school students looking for work this summer - can you think of a job for them?).

E.According to data from the University of South Florida, oil plumes (slight?) maybe going around South Florida and into the Atlantic Loop Current (starting to make its turn around the Southern tip of Florida and towards Miami). It could head-up the East Coast. We need to be actively tracking this and sending marine research vessels to acquire the data. This is a major reason why oil drilling should be permanently banned off the coast of Florida - you can screw up the global ocean thermocline with a massive deepwater wellhead blow-out by changing the salinity if the water is transported by the Atlantic Loop Current.

F. Declare a National Emergency now - we are still facing decades of impact already and 70% of the problem is still underwater. We are going to be dealing with this fiasco for decades in some states/shorelines.

G. The President has too many issues on his platter to address with major bank debt sovereign crisis, Turkey's conflicts with Israel, and coming debt defaults with Greece and possibly Spain and Portugal, China selling US Treasuries and coming US Dollar devaluation, and two wars to deal with the day to day BP fiasco. He needs to get this delegated to a high level "muckey muck" (with a Big Checkbook from Congress or this is not worth addressing at all) and get on with his own world wide agenda. Mr President please delegate asap and provide the funding - Tiger Team is not yet in place!

By: Dr Stephen A Rinehart

© 2010 Copyright Stephen A Rinehart   - All Rights Reserved

Friday, June 04, 2010

BP CEO: "I want my life back."

"I want my life back."

That's what BP CEO Tony Hayward CEO said the other day about his company's oil disaster. Can you believe it?

It's this kind of reckless, selfish greed that led to millions of gallons of oil spewing into the Gulf of Mexico in the first place. 

Enough. We need to make it clear that BP should pay for every dime of its massive oil disaster - not just the cleanup, but the lifelong damage done to fishermen and coastal communities that live and die by the ocean. Anything less is just a BP bailout.

Let's be clear about the destruction BP brought to the Gulf. It goes beyond the images of oil gushing from the ocean floor. Beyond the oiled beaches and birds. BP has already killed not just thousands of miles of ocean, but entire cultures and economies on the Gulf Coast.

We spoke with fishermen and their families in Louisiana last week. There was one common feeling from everyone to whom we spoke about the oil disaster:

"How are we going to live?" the fishermen asked. "What do we do now?"

Some know nothing else but how to harvest the ocean's bounty. Thanks to the greed of BP, the ocean is full of thick, black oil that chokes life from everything it touches. Now these fishermen have nothing.

And yet BP CEO Tony Hayward says he wants his life back?

It's clear now, more than ever, that BP needs to pay dearly for its destruction of the Gulf of Mexico and its people. Join our call to the Senate to lift the cap on BP's liability for this disaster

Thanks for all you do to hold BP accountable.

Michael Whitney

Blogger's Addition: In the video below, Amy Goodman of Democracy Now! visits the Gulf Coast, talks her way aboard a Coast Guard patrol plane that flies over the spill, and links up with a fisherman who gives her a tour of the nearby wet lands on his launch before explaining how his livelihood -- which he inherited from his parents and grandparents -- is now totally wiped out, likely for the rest of his life.

Thursday, June 03, 2010

THE PEN: Hold BP, Halliburton and TransOcean Fully Responsible For The Gulf Oil Catastrophe

Blogger's Note: The name "The Pen" stands for "The People's E-mail Network," and I suppose it might also be intended to be evocative of the aphorism, "The pen is mightier than the sword."  In any event, the person responsible for The Pen has obviously been spending not only a lot his time, but also a heck of a lot his own money by offering things like free theme baseball caps and bumper stickers.  So please visit the two easy-to-operate action pages below and, per chance, order your free "350 PPM Or Catastrophe" cap.  Finally, I highly recommend that you subscribe to The Pen's email list.  (Don't worry, you will only receive action items like this one about once a month.)

The President offered the excuse the other day that the reason why
there was inadequate environmental vetting for what has become the
Deepwater Horizon oil disaster was that a provision of law had passed
which only permitted 30 days for such a review, making it a practical
impossibility. Of course, that is precisely why corporate lobbyists
for the oil industry inserted into law this crippling of any attempted
regulatory oversight in the first place.

So too with the liability limitation of $75 million on corporate
responsibility for wreaking havoc on our environment. Again, this was
just another corporate irresponsibility safety valve, so they would
not have to even concern themselves about putting all the rest of us
in grave danger. And so they did. It is even being reported that
Transocean made a whopping $270 million profit on the destruction of
their over-insured drilling rig.

Each and every one of these corporate "get out of jail and liability
free" cards must be immediately rescinded, starting with passage of
the "Big Oil Bailout Prevention Liability Act of 2010", S. 3305.
Republican Senators like Murkowski (from Alaska, home of Exxon
Valdez) actually had the gall to argue that "smaller" oil companies
should not be held liable at all for destroying our planet.

Hold Oil Companies Accountable action page:

The action page link above will send your personal message to all
your members of Congress and President Obama too, by blast fax.
You do not need to have your own fax machine. Just submit the
action page and our server will automatically send all your faxes
for you to be delivered electronically.

And after you submit the action page, please consider joining the
messaging movement for saving our climate future, by picking up one
of the new "350 ppm or catastrophe" caps, embroidered in beautiful
sea colors, with a red arrow pointing the way we need to go with our
carbon dioxide pollution, which is way down. The most knowledgeable
REAL scientists tell us unless we get carbon dioxide concentrations
in our atmosphere down to 350 ppm, we can kiss our climate goodbye.
You can also get one of these caps directly from this page.

350 PPM Or Catastrophe Caps:

The fact is that the oil catastrophe in the Gulf is just the first of
many planetary scale cataclysms coming within decades, unless we have
fundamental and profound energy policy change starting NOW. Just as
we now watch scientists and engineers helpless to stem the tide of the
Deepwater Horizon oil blow out, it will likewise be even more so if and
when the melting of the polar ice caps becomes irreversible.

You might think, as the sickening waves of gloppy crude start
smothering beaches and wetlands from Louisiana to the Florida keys,
that some of the "Drill, baby, drill" crowd might be doing some
serious soul searching about the end path of current energy policy.
But mostly they are just hollering for the federal government to come
rushing in to bail them out. But who's going to bail out the state of
Florida when half of it is under water from rising sea levels?

Well, the federal government has done plenty, for many decades,
through the grandstanding corporate owned shills that they keep
electing to Congress, to pass precisely the laws that made such a
disaster so inevitable ... again. In point of fact, the 75 million
dollar liability limit was inserted into the original so-called
"reform" bill in the aftermath of the original Exxon Valdez disaster,
just as every other reform bill as far back as the eye can see has
been made toothless because of pressure from corporate special
interests. And so now we see the result of a failure to impose
decisive and real reform, an even bigger calamity.

Recently, the credit card reform bill, the health care reform bill,
and soon to be the finance reform bill and the energy reform bill,
have all been worthless and cruel jokes on the hopes of the American
people for real change. Each and every one of these bills have been
made ultimately ineffective by design and intent, driven by the
corporate dictators that members of Congress now serve exclusively.

And NOTHING is going to change, not a damn thing, we are just going
to keep reliving bigger and bigger disasters, UNTIL enough of you
folks open your mouths, stop giving the corporate cronies in your own
party a pass for partisan reasons, and start demanding legislation in
the interest of the people and ONLY the people from now on.

And here is the Facebook link for the Hold The Oil Companies
Accountable action page further above.

[Facebook] Action Page:

And this is the Twitter reply for this same action

@cxs #p1046

Please take action NOW, so we can win all victories that are supposed
to be ours, and forward this alert as widely as possible.

If you would like to get alerts like these, you can do so at