April 26, 2010

Confessions of a Former Oil Industry Consultant

This is one of those articles that makes me really appreciate when some of these consultants grow consciences and tell the rest of the world that everything you’ve been afraid of that these companies do is everyday business for them. Usually the company interests and lobbying groups try to write it off as a disgruntled employee or someone on the periphery of how a company worked, but in reality these people usually wind up being the folks in the trenches with insight into how the company really worked underneath the glossy and friendly images their marketing departments make sure are on the evening news and the commercials during prime time.

In this case, Jeremy Leggett not only grew a conscience, he was so revolted by what he had been doing he decided to take his fight back against the people who used to sign his checks by pioneering solar energy and working as a consultant for Greenpeace. And he has a few choice words about the industry that used to be his employer.

First, about Jeremy, so you understand exactly how much weight his word carries:

Jeremy Leggett has undergone quite a few large career changes, from oil industry consultant to Greenpeace scientist to solar power entrepreneur. A geologist by training, he worked with the oil industry until his studies brought him face-to-face with the growing evidence of climate change. In an industry refusing to change, Leggett went to work for Greenpeace and was part of the first Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) talks up to the non-binding, international climate change treaty, the Kyoto Protocol. Seeing the strong resistance to renewable energy, Leggett decided to move in that direction himself, setting up SolarCentury, the UK’s largest solar energy company, which helps support the sustainable development organization, SolarAid.

Now, some highlights from the interview I thought were very interesting:

Christine Shearer: You began your career as an oil industry consultant and professor at the Royal School of Mines, helping train petroleum engineers and geologists. Could you say a bit what that was like and why you left?

Jeremy Leggett: Well, it was a lot of fun. I was really into it. I loved geology, I loved the process of studying history, I loved the research part. I researched the history of the oceans, so I came at the climate system through the research on oceans, the bottom up, as it were. My consulting, a lot of it was with the oil industry; I worked with the oil industry in Japan, in Pakistan, in other places, with BP and Shell, so I was very much, y’know, a part of the machinery and if anyone had ever said to me I’d be doing what I’m doing today I would really have doubted that. And the reason I ultimately grew disenchanted was the emergence of the worrying climate science in the mid-1980’s coming from the atmospheric guys studying the climate from the top down. When I put those two things together, what they were saying about the heat-trapping ability of the atmosphere with what I knew about the behavior of the oceans, that’s when I got really worried about global warming and of course still am.

Shearer: As you became alarmed about global warming, did you talk to your colleagues in the petroleum industry about it and, if so, how did they react?

Leggett: Sure. All of the time. And in the mid-1980’s there was growing concern. I thought it would all switch sooner than it did. As you probably know, it took BP and Shell until 1997 to actually admit there was a problem as organizations and then of course they started doing good stuff. But that’s ten lost years in which they were battling very hard to hold everything back. Even though there were very senior people in those companies saying to me, “This doesn’t look good, does it, we should be doing something about it.”

Shearer: But as a corporation they just couldn’t?

Leggett: Well, of course, Exxon is beyond the pale, still is beyond the pale as an organization with a terrible culture and a terrible attitude to the future and the mortgaging of the future.

Well, we didn’t really need more proof about Exxon, but at least now we have the statement of someone on the inside corroborating what we know about the oil giant – they may know how to make truckloads of money, but they have no qualms about being unethical and likely immoral in the process.

At the same time, it’s clear there is at least some debate going on within these companies about how badly they need to change their ways and how they’re literally leveraging the futures of generations yet unborn to fill their coffers now. The phrase “you can’t take it with you,” comes to mind.

But what can we do about it?

Shearer: What do you think could really help the use of renewables grow?

Leggett: I think it would help a lot if the vested interests and the cultures that have been created started listening to rational argument and didn’t go into default mode of defending their environmentally ruinous status quo. That’s a constant theme. In all the years I’ve been at this business, what’s struck me is we create cultures that are really resistant to change and whether they’re just naked defense of vested interest or lack of imagination or a combination of the two, to believe or see that things can be done differently, they’re cultural problems more than technology problems.

Shearer: Yes, what do you say to people who say renewables are great but not technologically or economically feasible?

Leggett: I say talk to the people in Silicon Valley. See where they’re going with their feet and their wallets. This is what excites them. Young professionals are moving out of the digital revolution into the solar and clean technology revolution generally for their vocation. So what do they know that officials in the White House or here in England or the old fogies in the oil industry don’t know? They have a different view of the world, the Silicon Valley folks, and they have the right one and the dinosaurs have got the wrong one.

I like his ideas – and I like his optimism that if we could create an entire culture of people willing to and actively doing the right thing, we may be able to change the course of our planet for the better.

[ Confessions of a Former Oil Industry Consultant ]
Source: TruthOut

April 19, 2010

Frank Rich: Welcome to Confederate History Month

An excellent op-ed in the New York Times today takes the right to task in a blistering way that makes me sit back in my seat and chuckle. Frank Rich is the kind of man who understands privilege, understands history, and understands the kind of whitewashing we’re seeing on the far right; the kind required for these people to pull the hoods over their eyes and light the torches to the cross and honestly believe they’re not being hateful – they’re just exercising their right to free speech and expression. For example:

It’s kind of like that legendary stunt on the prime-time soap “Dallas,” where we learned that nothing bad had really happened because the previous season’s episodes were all a dream. We now know that the wave of anger that crashed on the Capitol as the health care bill passed last month — the death threats and epithets hurled at members of Congress — was also a mirage.

Take it from the louder voices on the right. Because no tape has surfaced of anyone yelling racial slurs at the civil rights icon and Georgia Congressman John Lewis, it’s now a blogosphere “fact” that Lewis is a liar and the “lamestream media” concocted the entire incident. The same camp maintains as well that the spit landing on the Missouri Congressman Emanuel Cleaver was inadvertent spillover saliva from an over-frothing screamer — spittle, not spit, as it were. True, there is video evidence of the homophobic venom directed at Barney Frank — but, hey, Frank is white, so no racism there!

“It’s Not About Race” declared a headline on a typical column defending over-the-top “Obamacare” opponents from critics like me, who had the nerve to suggest a possible racial motive in the rage aimed at the likes of Lewis and Cleaver — neither of whom were major players in the Democrats’ health care campaign. It’s also mistaken, it seems, for anyone to posit that race might be animating anti-Obama hotheads like those who packed assault weapons at presidential town hall meetings on health care last summer. And surely it is outrageous for anyone to argue that conservative leaders are enabling such extremism by remaining silent or egging it on with cries of “Reload!” to pander to the Tea Party-Glenn Beck base. As Beck has said, it’s Obama who is the real racist.

I would be more than happy to stand corrected. But the story of race and the right did not, alas, end with the health care bill. Hardly had we been told that all that ugliness was a fantasy than we learned back in the material world that the new Republican governor of Virginia, Robert McDonnell, had issued a state proclamation celebrating April as Confederate History Month.

In doing so, he was resuscitating a dormant practice that had been initiated in 1997 by George Allen, the Virginia governor whose political career would implode in 2006 when he was caught on camera calling an Indian-American constituent “macaca.” McDonnell had been widely hailed by his party as a refreshing new “big tent” conservative star when he took office in Richmond, the former capital of the Confederacy, in January. So perhaps his Dixiecrat proclamation, if not a dream, might have been a staff-driven gaffe rather than a deliberate act of racial provocation.

That hope evaporated once McDonnell was asked to explain why there was no mention of slavery in his declaration honoring “the sacrifices of the Confederate leaders, soldiers and citizens.” After acknowledging that slavery was among “any number of aspects to that conflict between the states,” the governor went on to say that he had focused on the issues “I thought were most significant for Virginia.” Only when some of his own black supporters joined editorialists in observing that slavery was significant to some Virginians too — a fifth of the state’s population is black — did he beat a retreat and apologize.

Before I left Rich continue, I really can’t get enough of the whole Confederate History Month situation in Virginia – a state closely neighboring my own but that I’m consistently frightful of. Wavering somewhere between the blue and the red, Virginia is a frightening beast, and when McDonnell managed to lie his way into office (partially thanks to Democratic candidates that spent so much time fighting amongst each other and not supporting each other that they were outgunned and outspent to the very last minute) even with the help of prominent Black leaderrs in the state -like one of the founders of BET – they thought maybe he could be true to his word and truly be a reformed conservative.

When McDonnell’s letters from graduate school came to light, showing him for the deep red conservative he is, complete with racist, homophobic, and sexist opinions and tendancies and the desire to weave them all into law all while cementing his own white privilege, he cried foul, claimed his opponents were playing “gotcha politics,” and that he had changed and grown a lot since then.

Perhaps he has, but the whole Confederate History Month debacle proves that even if he thinks he’s grown, he hasn’t grown enough – and when that same BET founder that supported his campaign made a personal, public, and impassioned plea for him to reconsider that shamed him in front of the people who used to support him, he had no choice.

But what did the scorpion say to the frog again? “It’s my nature?”

Now to let Rich continue (and conclude):

Most Americans who don’t like Obama or the health care bill are not racists. It may be a closer call among Tea Partiers, of whom only 1 percent are black, according to last week’s much dissected Times/CBS News poll. That same survey found that 52 percent of Tea Party followers feel “too much” has been made of the problems facing black people — nearly twice the national average. And that’s just those who admit to it. Whatever their number, those who are threatened and enraged by the new Obama order are volatile. Conservative politicians are taking a walk on the wild side by coddling and encouraging them, whatever the short-term political gain.

The temperature is higher now than it was a month ago. It’s not happenstance that officials from the Sons of Confederate Veterans in Virginia and Mississippi have argued, as one said this month, that the Confederate Army had been “fighting for the same things that people in the Tea Party are fighting for.” Obama opposition increasingly comes wrapped in the racial code that McDonnell revived in endorsing Confederate History Month. The state attorneys general who are invoking states’ rights in their lawsuits to nullify the federal health care law are transparently pushing the same old hot buttons.

“They tried it here in Arkansas in ’57, and it didn’t work,” said the Democratic governor of that state, Mike Beebe, likening the states’ health care suits to the failed effort of his predecessor Orval Faubus to block nine black students from attending the all-white Little Rock Central High School. That battle for states’ rights ended when President Eisenhower, a Republican who would be considered a traitor to his party in 2010, enforced federal law by sending in troops.

How our current spike in neo-Confederate rebellion will end is unknown. It’s unnerving that Tea Party leaders and conservatives in the Oklahoma Legislature now aim to create a new volunteer militia that, as The Associated Press described it, would use as yet mysterious means to “help defend against what they believe are improper federal infringements on state sovereignty.” This is the same ideology that animated Timothy McVeigh, whose strike against the tyrannical federal government will reach its 15th anniversary on Monday in the same city where the Oklahoma Legislature meets.

What is known is that the nearly all-white G.O.P. is so traumatized by race it has now morphed into a bizarre paragon of both liberal and conservative racial political correctness. For irrefutable proof, look no further than the peculiar case of its chairman, Steele, whose reckless spending and incompetence would cost him his job at any other professional organization, let alone a political operation during an election year. Steele has job security only because he is the sole black man in a white party hierarchy. That hierarchy is as fearful of crossing him as it is of calling out the extreme Obama haters in its ranks.

At least we can take solace in the news that there’s no documentary evidence proving that Tea Party demonstrators hurled racist epithets at John Lewis. They were, it seems, only whistling “Dixie.”

[ Frank Rich: Welcome to Confederate History Month ]
Source: The New York Times

Hey Teabaggers, Your Taxes Are Actually Really, Really Low

It’s always like this – the privileged white middle class that’s actually doing well and much better than the people living at, near, or below the poverty line, are always the ones complaining about how hard they really have it and how the government is taking too big a bite out of their pockets. It’s remarkable how different the mindset is of someone who relies on social services to help them find work or help keep their children in daycare or get an affordable interest rate on their first home is from someone who sees what FICA takes out of their paycheck and says to themselves “dammit that’s a new LCD TV,” as they drive home in their SUV.

But here’s the clincher: President Obama actually lowered these same people’s taxes across the board, but because they have to pay taxes at all, they’re complaining about it. That’s right – the same people with some of the lowest taxes in America are the ones raising the loudest stink about taxation – and don’t you think for a second that it has something to do with the rest of us – it’s pure and outright greed, draped in an American flag and a gross misinterpretation of American history.

That’s what prompted President Obama to say “You’d Think They Would Be Saying ‘Thank You,'” when asked about the Tea Party crazies and their anti-everything (specifically taxes in this case) mentality.

The graphs are over at AlterNet, but they tell a startling tale of how these same people have some of the lowest taxes in history:

Taxes have been cut–for almost everyone. They are at historic lows. This is probably a contributing factor to why only 20% of the country think the share of taxes they have to pay is “unfair.”

Head over to see the graphs and click through to the studies where the data is sourced. It’s very telling.

[ Hey Teabaggers, Your Taxes Are Actually Really, Really Low ]
Source: AlterNet (courtesy of Open Left)

Poll: Obama Beats Romney, Huckabee, Gingrich, Palin — Got Anyone Else?

While the rest of the polling public is focused on the matter of whether or not Democrats will be able to retain congressional seats come this fall, other new polls have shown Obama’s approval ratings are skyrocketing, especially when compared to some of the people who would be his chief rivals for office or for the political attention of the American people.

It’s actually a beautiful sight, and now that health care reform is law, we’re still committed to closing Guantanamo Bay, we’re attacking financial reform, we’ve redefined NASA’s priorities in a way that will save jobs and improve America’s standing in space science without blowing money in old technologies and programs (without giving the commercial sector the room to breathe that they need), we’re turning this massive economic downturn into a growing economy that’s slowly but surely putting on jobs, and the news in a lot of places is looking better every day, the American people are starting to feel it.

Normally, this is the time where a first-term American president should be getting trounced in theoretical, hypothetical polls by other political rivals, especially in the so-called opposition party that should have their people all riled up. But that’s just not happening:

Polls this far out from the 2012 presidential election mean very little, but it’s instructive to look at what CNN found in the current state of play:

The poll shows Obama topping Romney 53 percent to 45 percent, beating Huckabee 54 percent to 45 percent, defeating Gingrich 55 percent to 43 percent and topping Palin 55 percent to 42.

Obama beat McCain 52.9% to 45.7%, or about exactly the same drubbing he’s predicted to give to Mitt Romney. The anticipated destruction of a Palin candidacy begins to approach the the 58.8%-40.6% beatdown that St. Ronnie administered to Walter Mondale in 1984.

If Obama actually won 55% or more of the popular vote, he’d probably have very significant coattails. And I think we need to remind ourselves that these numbers are coming in the context of a pretty negative overall public attitude to the Democrats as a whole. Some recent polling has showed a congressional ballot preference for the Republicans and (some) net-negative ratings for Obama’s job approval. We have to wonder how Palin would fare against a resurgent president and Democratic Party. I don’t think it’s a stretch to imagine a Reagan-Mondale style blowout.

It’s an odd political climate. It’s like nothing I’ve ever seen before.

Agreed – it’s remarkable to see, and if it indicates a trend, it’s a welcome one. You notice the wingnuts have stopped whining “so much for change,” “where’s that change he promised us,” and so on – the change is here and it’s helping people. Even they can’t argue that.

[ Poll: Obama Beats Romney, Huckabee, Gingrich, Palin — Got Anyone Else? ]
Source: The Booman Tribune

Obama’s Nuclear Summit: Invisible for Conservatives?

True to nature, whenever there’s good news to be had or real leadership shown by the Obama Administration, the conservative reaction is to say nothing if at all possible, especially when they know that being negative will just further marginalize them from the rest of American society.

For example, when the President and the Secretary of State both collectively stand behind podiums in front of world leaders and explain that the threat of a Cold War-style annihilation is lower than it’s ever been but the threat of a rogue nuclear attack by a terrorist or non-state organization is higher than ever, conservatives can’t dispute that because to do so would make them look not only crazy, but contradictory to their own policies less than 2 years ago. (Not that they’re any stranger to self-contradiction – these are the same people who yelled down progressives for “not respecting the office of the President even if you don’t respect the person in it” and less than 2 years later are summarily publishing racist cartoons and training for the woods for the “next Civil War.”) At the same time, only the fringiest of fringe conservatives (and they’ve definitely stood up) can bash the President’s vision of a world where the threat of nuclear weapons doesn’t loom large over the populous of every nation around the globe.

So what do the conservatives do when they can’t acknowledge something good is happening? They just ignore it, of course:

On Monday and Tuesday, President Obama convened a historic gathering in Washington to deal with the most urgent threat facing the globe: nuclear terrorism. Never before have so many world leaders gathered to discuss together how to thwart one of the greatest nightmares imaginable; 47 nations were represented. Though no sweeping treaties or agreements were reached, Obama did succeed on two important fronts. He placed the issue of controlling and securing nuclear material that could be used by terrorists (including al-Qaeda and its allies) at the top of the global to-do list. And he encouraged nations to take their own individual steps. Chile gave up its entire stockpile of highly enriched uranium (HEU), the material that terrorists need to produce a weapon. Ukraine said it would eliminate its HEU stockpile, as did Mexico. Canada agreed to do the same with much of its HEU. (Reducing and controlling HEU stockpiles is the key to preventing nuclear terrorism.) China, Japan, India, Argentina, Pakistan, the Philippines, Thailand, Vietnam and Italy each announced nuclear security initiatives.

There’s still much that the nations of the world, including the United States, must do to prevent HEU from slipping into the hands of terrorists. (It only takes a lump the size of a grapefruit to make a bomb, and the bomb-building part isn’t so tough. What’s hard is getting the HEU.) But with this summit, Obama did move the world in a safer direction. He nudged it toward policies that could lessen the odds that one or more of our cities are incinerated by a nuclear weapon cobbled together by a band of evildoers. Everyone — even people who believe Obama is a Kenyan-born secret Muslim with a covert plan for imposing socialism on the United States — should be grateful for that, right?

Maybe not. After Obama’s summit was done, I went looking to see how prominent conservatives and Republicans were reacting to it on the Twittersphere. I found a lot of silence. Newt Gingrich tweeted on Tuesday about a meeting where he would “outline 2010 and 2012 big choice themes 2+2 equals 4 is key concept.” (Don’t ask me what that means.) But not a peep about the summit. Sarah Palin, ditto. Same for Karl Rove. These folks are all active Twitterers, ever ready to share their opinions and thoughts in 140 characters or less. But none saw fit to do so regarding the nuclear security summit.

To that list, you can add other conservative tweeters: John McCain, Michele Bachmann, Mitt Romney, Tim Pawlenty, and John Boehner.

You bet that if this had happened under the Bush Administration (not that Mad King George would ever have been able to comprehend the issue of nuclear weapons, much less have the will to bring so many world leaders together to discuss it, much less be respected enough by any of those leaders for them to actually attend) they’d be shouting from the rooftops about how important and historic the moment was and how it was a turning point in world history – and, if it had happened under their watch, they’d all be right.

But it was all of those things – it was historic, it was turning point, and it was the first time a lot of those leaders had convened in the same place to discuss the same issues and all agree that it was important. And the simple fact that everyone – including the mainstream media that these conservative wingnuts love to hate so much – covered it, does more to destroy their credibility in some ways than anything they possibly could say about any other issue. Sorry guys, you don’t get to pick and choose the news, and you don’t get to pick and choose what’s important and what’s historic.

[ Obama’s Nuclear Summit: Invisible for Conservatives? ]
Source: Politics Daily

April 12, 2010

Echoes of the Civil War

I really can’t beat Adele Stan at her own writing – she’s phenomenal, and I’ll let her speak for herself:

When I first moved to Washington, D.C., I had hardly a stick of furniture, so I boarded a bus to take me to the nearest Ikea, which was in a Virginia mall. Quite unfamiliar with the territory, I watched out the window with curiosity as the bus traveled along the chain-store lined route.

Soon I noticed we were traveling along a road called the Jefferson Davis Highway. I was stunned, and a bit sick to my stomach. How could it be that a highway was named after a man who made war against the United States, all so the citizens of his region could continue to hold human beings in chains? All so slave masters could continue to rape the women they claimed to own. The children of these unions were usually enslaved by their own fathers, often acting as servants to their white half-brothers and -sisters.

That throughout a significant swath of the nation, men who committed treason for the sake of maintaining chattel slavery are lauded as heroes speaks to a terrible illness in the American psyche — one that continues to fester 145 years after the last shot was fired in the War Between the States.

African-Americans know that the Civil War never ended: as the descendants of the slaves freed by the war’s outcome, they’ve been subjected to continuous stream of terrorism and discrimination, whether they live in the South or the North.

But in the South, black people, for 100 years after the war, faced orders of terror higher than elsewhere in the country. Chattel slavery in America was reserved for those of their race only, marking them by skin color as the living legacy of the Confederacy’s final humiliation.

Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell’s proclamation this week naming April as “Confederate History Month” raised eyebrows for its omission of a mention of slavery. That is indeed telling, of a piece with the trope about the Civil War being fought merely over the constitutional provisions concerning states’ rights. Even though I grew up in the North, my schoolbooks perpetrated this idea.

It’s a twisted argument, one that leaves out what the states were demanding the right to do: maintain slavery.

But the larger issue is the notion that a Confederate History Month should be celebrated at all, with or without an overt mention of slavery. If anything, the era of the Confederacy should be regarded as a dark and shameful episode, as should Sherman’s burning of Atlanta — a war crime if there ever was one.

I think the only thing I might remotely disagree with is the notion that Sherman’s burning a path to the Atlantic through the south was a war crime. It likely was, but my ancestral rage keeps me from being less of a sympathizer than I am.

And for what it’s worth, I’ve driven on Davis highway, and it’s a lovely road named after a very ugly man. Celebrating this chapter in American history as anything but the shameful time it was (which, mind you, can be done without dishonoring the dead on both sides and the history of the time) lends legitimacy to a movement in America of the time that was dedicated to tearing the country apart and dissolving the basic rights and principles upon which the United States was founded – even if they were written without the people they should have been extended to in mind.

I’ve heard several times that the Union North should have treated the Confederate South as the subjugated nation it was instead of being quite so open-armed about bringing the south back into the Union and healing so quickly, and with eyes firmly to history I would be inclined to agree – things were looking better after the end of the Civil War, but as soon as the South was allowed to govern itself again we saw a conservative takeover (with “conservative” taking the real meaning, as in backwards motion as opposed to social progress) – an apalling post-civil-war part of our history we don’t like to look at and instead try to focus on the brave efforts and brave people who dragged us out of it.

Still, the debate goes on. Virginia Governor McDonnell – a rabid conservative who had to hide from his own past in order to win his election, was forced to apologize after even some of his campaign supporters stepped up to complain. But no sooner than he could exit the stage with his tail tucked between his leg did another radically right-wing governor, this time of Mississippi, come up to defend the Virginia governor, essentially saying that omitting the history of slavery in the confederate states was “no big deal.”

This is why so many Americans are terrified to live in the South – and those that do wind up flocking to centers of civilization like Austin, Atlanta, Northern Virginia, and so on. This is why most southern states are still under the oversight of the Department of Justice because of their Voting Rights violations. The echoes of the civil war live on today, and not in an “honored” and “historic” way.

[ If You Think the Civil War Ever Ended, Think Again ]
Source: AlterNet

CEO of Mine Where 25 Workers Were Killed Is a Teabagger

At the risk of making a political point amidst the tragic death of 29 miners in West Virginia, it’s very much worth noting that while everyone is praising the CEO of Massey Energy as a self-made man (hardly) and a shining example of American rags-to-riches capitalism, that Don Blankenship, a man who’s made headlines for a number of things, including whining about paying for benefits for his employees, whining about global warming, and whining about the same regulations that he and his company broke that were designed to keep his employees safe (not to mention give them the right to unionize so they have a voice in their safety and don’t just have to trust him), is actually a teabagger – one of these far-right political thugs willing to follow the Church of Beck right off the lemming cliff they’re all headed to.

The worst thing about all of this is that under the face of his “shining example of American capitalism” is the ugly truth of the matter -that every “pull yourself up by your bootstraps” person who’s managed to make themselves so successful like Blankenship has only done so on the heels, backs, and necks of the people he’s exploited, endangered, and employed over the years. Don’t get me wrong, most coal miners are paid very well for their time and risk, but you can’t take money with you when you’ve got problems like misdirected airflow in your mine away from escape routes.

I’m sure he sleeps well at night, but it’s a real shame that he does – especially after having the audacity to release a statement on the same day as the funerals for the fallen miners in his mine that essentially said the company wasn’t going to have a big problem making up the money lost by the explosion. After all, they’ll just increase production at their other mines.

But back to point – Blankenship is a teabagger, very happy and willing to make sure others don’t have the same opportunities to become self-made the same way he did. After all, he has to protect his position at the top. From Crooks and Liars:

Meet Don Blankenship, CEO of Massey Energy Company. Blankenship is also on the Board of Directors of the US Chamber of Commerce. In this speech above, he denies climate change, derisively refers to Speaker Pelosi, Senator Reid, and others as “greeniacs”, and calls them all crazy. Watch the speech, you’ll see. In his mind, “the greeniacs are taking over the world.”

Massey Energy Company, Blankenship’s highly successful strip-mining and mountaintop removal operation is the parent company of Performance Coal Co, where a tragic explosion occurred on April 5th. As of this writing, 25 miners have died and 4 more are still missing. Twenty-five families are without a loved one. Four more may discover they have lost someone they love too. 29 families in all, forever changed by one single, violent event in a coal mine. One single violent event in a coal mine run by a company so obsessed with profit it runs roughshod over employees’ and neighbors’ health and safety.

Here’s something else about Don Blankenship and Massey Energy Company: Blankenship spent over $1 million dollars along with other US Chamber buddies like Verizon to sponsor last year’s Labor Day Tea Party, also known as the “Friends of America Rally.”

The full story, complete with embedded videos, is over at AlterNet:

[ CEO of Mine Where 25 Workers Were Killed Is a Teabagger ]
Source: AlterNet

Earning His Nobel Prize

Perhaps one of the proudest moments of President Obama’s young presidency is last week’s announcement that he’s signed a historic nuclear disarmament treaty with President Medvedev of Russia, agreeing that both countries will draw down their nuclear weapons by about a third.

It’s true that there’s a long way to go, but this is a remarkable first step, and a massive break from the horribly tense relationship that the US and Russia suffered during the Bush Administration. Finally, we have a President who understands that keeping a massive nuclear arsenal isn’t key to our national security and is actually counterproductive to our national interests. And in fact, while the threat of a nuclear strike is higher than it’s ever been (terrorists or rogue states getting their hands on nuclear material or a small nuclear bomb) a massive stockpile of nuclear weapons doesn’t serve as a deterrent from those who are most likely to use them these days.

The best part of all of this though is that as soon as the announcement was made that President Obama had unveiled and signed the treaty, the first thing I thought was that he’s certainly earned that Nobel Peace Prize:

At last, a believable sighting of that peace president many of us thought we had elected. Give Barack Obama credit, big time, for the startling progress he has made in tempering the threat of nuclear annihilation.

The Obama administration’s Nuclear Posture Review Report for the first time prohibits “first use” of nuclear weapons against nations complying with the nonproliferation treaty. It also pledges a halt to U.S. efforts to modernize such weapons, as had been proposed by then-President George W. Bush in his call for new nuclear “bunker busters.”

Whereas his predecessor succeeded only in eliminating the nonexistent Iraqi nukes, this president has forged a treaty with the Russians that will reduce the world’s supply of the devil’s weapons by one-third. But it was essential to follow that up with a clear departure from the always-insane policy that the U.S. has a right to develop and use such weapons as conventional tools of war.

Robert Scheer, writing for TruthDig, has some much stronger words later in the piece to describe how he feels about global nuclear weapons, but I think that tidbit is the most poignant (which makes sense why he opened with it) and telling about exactly the size of the accomplishment President Obama has made.

Now of course the treaty has to be ratified in the Senate, and Republicans are already frothing at the mouth – not because this is a bad decision (as much as they’d like you to believe that it is) but because they can’t stand to see President Obama do well at anything.

Regardless of the fact, it’s an amazing achievement, and I’m more than proud of our President for making the world a safer place, little by little. I wonder if they’ll move the midnight clock back a little bit now.

[ Earning His Nobel Prize ]
Source: TruthDig

Outrageous: Exxon Mobil Paid No Income Tax in 2009

How sad is this? Exxon Mobil, one of the largest companies in the world, raking in billions of dollars in profits off of the backs of the people who work for them and the very planet we live on (while simultaneously providing thousands of jobs and the fuel that fills our vehicles – let’s be fair) paid absolutely no income taxes in the United States in 2009.

Now you might think that they get off this way through deductions, community service, and other socially-beneficial efforts that would offset their corporate tax burden, but you’d be wrong:

Last week, Forbes magazine published what the top U.S. corporations paid in taxes last year. “Most egregious,” Forbes notes, is General Electric, which “generated $10.3 billion in pretax income, but ended up owing nothing to Uncle Sam. In fact, it recorded a tax benefit of $1.1 billion.” Big Oil giant Exxon Mobil, which last year reported a record $45.2 billion profit, paid the most taxes of any corporation, but none of it went to the IRS:

Exxon tries to limit the tax pain with the help of 20 wholly owned subsidiaries domiciled in the Bahamas, Bermuda and the Cayman Islands that (legally) shelter the cash flow from operations in the likes of Angola, Azerbaijan and Abu Dhabi. No wonder that of $15 billion in income taxes last year, Exxon paid none of it to Uncle Sam, and has tens of billions in earnings permanently reinvested overseas.

Yup – offshore tax havens. If you have the money to set them up, you can save way more money – especially over years – by shuffling that money around outside of the US borders so the IRS can’t keep track of it.

What makes the situation really despicable is that Exxon actually complains about high taxes in the United States even though they don’t pay any of them:

Mother Jones’ Adam Weinstein notes that, despite benefiting from corporate welfare in the U.S., Exxon complains about paying high taxes, claiming that it threatens energy innovation research. Pat Garofalo at the Wonk Room notes that big corporations’ tax shelter practices similar to Exxon’s shift a $100 billion annual tax burden onto U.S. taxpayers. In fact, in 2008, the Government Accountability Office found that “two out of every three United States corporations paid no federal income taxes from 1998 through 2005.”

That’s the kind of thing that makes me sick.

[ Outrageous: Exxon Mobil Paid No Income Tax in 2009 ]
Source: AlterNet

Is the Conservative Right Guilty of Sedition?

It’s funny that it’s taken this long to really start getting down to business about what the far (and not even the exceptionally far) right wing wants from America – they essentially want the end of federalism and a return to civil war-era values and law. They want this house divided, and they do not want it to stand.

It was one thing when mouthpieces for conservative groups and militias were on the fringe and only heard from in the context of craziness, and the same is still true in many cases, but it the real differences is that we have people like Michele Bachmann – a wingnut of the nuttiest variety – actually campaigning for office, with the backing of probably the most ignorant but extremely right-wing candidate to ever take the national stage, Sarah Palin. We have an entire network dedicated to espousing the beliefs of these people and attempting to legitimize them, and we have a rock star of that network in the form of Glenn Beck who’s able to organize thuggish lynch mobs complete with torches, pitchforks, and guns.

So what’s the aim of all of these angry people? Are they just making a point? Do they just want a return to the same conservative government they complained about in 2008? Or are they just angry that there’s a brown person in the White House and lots of not-pale people in the halls of government these days? In either case, the end desire for these people is the end of the United States as we know it and a neo-facist, neo-conservative re-shaping of government on all levels that’s more acceptable to their racist, sexist, and theological ideals. Think I’m overstating it? Not at all:

When the indictments against the Hutaree were unsealed last week, the S-word was right there, front and center, in Count One. The Justice Department accused them of “seditious conspiracy,” charging that the defendants “did knowingly conspire, confederate, and agree with each other and other persons known and unknown…to levy war against the United States, and to prevent, hinder, and delay by force the execution of any United States law.”

This is very serious stuff. But the Hutaree are getting nailed for sedition only because they crossed the line with inches to spare. They’re by no means the only ones. Advocating, encouraging, and sanctioning sedition is the new norm on the conservative side.

We saw it again last Thursday, when the Guardians of the Free Republics — a Sovereign Citizen group that believes that the oath of office taken by state governors is invalid under their twisted Bizarroland interpretation of the Constitution — sent letters to most or all sitting state governors telling them to either a) take what they consider to be a legitimate oath of office; b) stand down; or c) or be removed “non-violently” within three days. The FBI, rightly, regards this as a potentially seditious threat against the governors.

These two events are a wake-up call for progressives. They’re telling us that it’s time to openly confront the fact that conservatives have spent the past 40 years systematically delegitimizing the very idea of US government. When they’re in power, they mismanage it and defund it. When they’re out of power, they refuse to participate in running the country at all — indeed, they throw all their energy into thwarting the democratic process any way they can. When they need to win an election, they use violent, polarizing, eliminationist language against their opponents to motivate their base. This is sedition in slow motion, a gradual corrosive undermining of the government’s authority and capability to run the country. And it’s been at the core of their politics going all the way back to Goldwater.

The piece is pretty lengthy and worth a read; it starts off with a description of what sedition really is, and the dilution of the word “fascism,” which also applies to these people, but goes on to describe how the destruction of the United States government as a body has long been the desire for conservatives, even back to the whole “states rights” rallying cry of conservatives who hated the notion of Federal voting rights laws.

It’s definitely a wake-up call; and frankly, even though it’s another word that’s been diluted as of late, I think the word “terrorist” also applies to these right-wing groups.

[ Guilty of Sedition? How the Right Is Undermining Our Government’s Authority and Capability to Run the Country ]
Source: AlterNet