The Petroleum Broadcast System Owes Us an Apology by Greg Palast + PBS’ The Spill

by Greg Palast
Featured Writer
Dandelion Salad
www.gregpalast.com
for Truthout/Buzzflash
27 October, 2010

Tonight, my dog Pluto and I watched the PBS ‘Frontline’ investigation of BP, “The Spill.”

PBS has uncovered a real shocker:  BP neglected safety!

Well, no shit, Sherlock!

Pluto rolled over on the rug and looked at me as if to say, Don’t we already know this?

Then PBS told us — get ready — that BP has neglected warnings about oil safety for years!That’s true.  But so has PBS.  The Petroleum Broadcast System has turned a blind eye to BP perfidy for decades.

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Supreme Court, Inc.: Supremely Pro-Business by Stephen Lendman

Dandelion Salad

by Stephen Lendman
Global Research
July 7, 2008

Pro-business Supreme Court rulings are nothing new, and it’s likely most damaging one ever occurred in 1886. In Santa Clara County v. Southern Pacific Railway, the High Court granted corporations legal personhood. Ever since, they’ve had the same rights as people but not the responsibilities. Their limited liability status exempts them. They’ve profited hugely as a result and have continued to win favorable rulings since. Today more than ever from the Roberts Court. One observer described its first full (2006-07) term as a “blockbuster” with the Court’s conservative wing prevailing in most key cases. It’s much the same in 2007-08, and it shows in its pro-business rulings.

Take its June 21, 2007 Tellabs, Inc. v. Makor Issues & Rights, Ltd decision for example. In fraud cases, the Court set strict investor suit guidelines in ruling for Tellabs against its shareholders. This and similar rulings got Robin Conrad, executive vice-president of the US Chamber of Commerce and head of its litigation team, to describe the 2006-07 Court term “our best (one) ever” with business winning 12 of 14 cases and another at the time to be decided. When it was, business won that one, too.

One was the Court’s $80 million punitive damage award reversal in Philip Morris USA v. Williams, a lung cancer victim widow. But that paled compared to the DOJ’s June 2005 turnaround. It pertained to its landmark tobacco industry civil racketeering settlement. Instead of the original $130 billion agreed on, it sought just 8% (or $10 billion) in spite of a government expert’s testimony. He stated that the larger sum was essential to fund meaningful smoking-cessation programs to counter a “decades-long (industry) pattern of material misrepresentations, half-truths, deceptions and lies that continue to this day.”

The June 2006 Bell Atlantic v. Twombly decision was another for business. It henceforth raised the bar for plaintiffs in alleged antitrust conspiracies. And the (April 17, 2007) Watters v. Wachovia one prevented states from regulating subsidiaries of national banks’ just as the subprime crisis was emerging. Stripped of that power, consumers remain vulnerable to predatory lending practices any time.

It’s no different for business in the current term, and it showed up prominently in three late June decisions and two notable January ones. In Regents of the University of California v. Merrill Lynch (on January 22), the Court threw out a huge lawsuit – for restitution from Enron’s collusion and fraud against investors. In dismissing the case, it effectively immunized Enron’s bankers from any liability in the company’s malfeasance.

Earlier (on May 31, 2005), it did the same thing for Enron’s accountant, Arthur Andersen. In unanimously overturning its obstruction of justice conviction, it found jury instructions were inappropriate. They “failed to convey the requisite consciousness of wrongdoing” because jurors were told to convict Andersen if it had an “improper purpose” even if it thought it was acting legally.

On January 15, 2008, it issued a similar ruling in Stoneridge Investment Partners, LLC v. Scientific-Atlanta, Inc. It dismissed charges against cable TV set-top box makers in a scheme with Charter Communications. It involved over-charging customers for equipment, then rebating revenue to Charter in purchased advertising.

In Davis v. Federal Elections Commission, the Court (on June 26) struck down the “Millionaire’s Amendment” McCain-Feingold Act provision. It let candidates accept larger than normal contributions against wealthy opponents with enough resources to outspend them. They have no restrictions and may self-finance as “robustly” as they wish.

Then on June 26, the Court distorted the Second Amendment in siding with the gun lobby. In District of Columbia v. Heller, Antonin Scalia and four other Justices said they were well “aware of the problem of handgun violence in this country.” However, “constitutional rights necessarily (take) certain policy choices off the table.” The Court will not “pronounce the Second Amendment extinct.” Justices Stevens, Souter, Ginsburg and Breyer had a different view. They called the decision “law-changing (and) a dramatic upheaval in the law.”

A day earlier on June 25, another far-reaching decision came down. After 19 years, the Exxon Valdez matter was settled with implications far beyond this one case. In Exxon Shipping v. Baker, the Court reduced an original $5 billion in punitive damages to $500 million and ended the lengthy litigation process. It began on March 24, 1989 when the Exxon Valdez spilled 11 million gallons of crude into Prince William Sound, Alaska and changed the lives of its people forever. They’re now denied meaningful restitution and worse.

The case is significant in its precedent-setting implications. Yet they began showing up earlier in High Court rulings involving lesser punitive damage award amounts. In BMW of North America, Inc. v. Gore (May 20, 1996), the Supreme Court said $2 million in punitive damages was excessive in a case involving $4000 in compensatory ones. It declined to define what’s constitutionally acceptable, but noted that the maximum penalty under Alabama’s Deceptive Trade Practices Act (where BMW’s plant is located) is $2000.

In State Farm Mutual Automobile Insurance Co. v. Campbell (April 7, 2003), the Supreme Court called a $145 million punitive award excessive in a case involving $1 million in compensatory damages. It didn’t impose a “bright line” rule on the permissible amount but cautioned that any ratio greater than nine-to-one is unreasonable. It further suggested that this case “would likely justify” a one-to-one ratio.

These and similar cases lower the bar for future malfeasance settlements. They give business more latitude to be reckless and make it easier than ever to be negligent and get away with it. After Exxon Shipping v. Baker, the price is even lower so business is freer to endanger the public and know right wing courts are supportive. Even worse are the constitutional implications, the protections it no longer affords, and government’s failure to fulfill its minimum function.

When it works, it’s to ensure the public welfare. It’s so stated in the Preamble and Article I, Section 8 that “The Congress shall have power to….provide for….(the) ‘general welfare’ of the United States” – the so-called “welfare clause.” It long ago eroded. They’re mere words on parchment paper because governments lie, connive, misinterpret and discharge their duties in their own self-interest and for society’s privileged class. The public is denied. Now more than ever as the people of Alaska can attest.

The Exxon Valdez Case

At 12:04AM on March 24, 1989, the BBC reported that “An oil tanker has run aground on a reef off the Alaskan coast, releasing gallons of crude oil into the sea. The Exxon Valdez got into trouble in Prince William Sound when it hit Bligh Reef, splitting its side open and releasing oil, with reports of an eight-mile slick. High winds are affecting attempts to suck (it) from the sea’s surface and residents have reported poor air quality as emergency crews try to burn off its top layer.”

The report continued that booms were ineffective. Environmentalists battled to save 10 million sea ducks. Seals and other fauna as well. The Coast Guard used chemicals to break up the slick, but local officials said Exxon responded too slowly. The tanker was a mile off course. The captain was in his quarters at the time, and businessmen said tourism would be affected. What about local fishermen and Native Alaskans. BBC didn’t say even though they were most affected. It later reported that the Exxon Valdez was repaired, remained a single-hulled tanker, was renamed the Sea River Mediterranean, and was banned from Alaskan waters.

In its final March 25, 1989 edition, the Anchorage Daily News reported the following:

— a hasty debate began on how to prevent a disaster “in one of America’s most sensitive coastal zones;”

— never before was so much oil spilled into such a “rich and confined northern coastal environment;”

— the area (then) represented a “$100 million commercial fish(ing industry) and its abundance of birds and marine mammals;”

— immediate concerns focused mainly on three wildlife species: sea otters, immature salmon, and spawning herring; sea birds, ducks, and other fauna as well;

— fishermen in Cordova and Valdez “were just getting ready to fish” when it happened; they were furious about the accident; in 1971, they sued to stop the transAlaskan pipeline because they feared spills in the Sound; they settled out of court and got an oil industry commitment (reneged on) for state-of-the-art spill equipment and trained personnel on site to operate it;

— the area is ecologically rich in flora and fauna;

— the slick was spreading, expected to hit the beaches, and threatened one of the state’s “most ambitious ocean ranching programs;” its long-term effects were feared, and a state Department of Fish and Game biologist said “the potential for serious problems is just staggering;” the Cordova District Fisherman’s United vice-president said it was “like getting hit with a 25-ton sledge hammer.”

Station KTUU Anchorage reported key oil spill timeline events:

— June 20, 1977: oil first enters the Prudhoe Bay Pump Station One pipeline;

— July 28, 1977: oil reaches Valdez;

— August 1, 1977: the first tanker, Arco Juneau, sails out of Valdez; many thousands more followed;

— 9:12PM, March 23, 1989: the Exxon Valdez leaves Valdez carrying 53 million gallons of crude;

— 12:04AM, March 24, 1989: the ship strikes Bligh Reef spilling 10.8 million gallons of its cargo;

— 7:27AM, March 24, 1989: the oil slick is about 100 feet wide and four to five miles long;

— 10AM, March 24, 1989: a urine sample shows Capt Joe Hazelwood with a blood alcohol content of 0.10%;

— 12PM, March 24, 1989: the Exxon Baton Rouge arrives to take oil from the damaged tanker; the slick is now three miles wide and five miles long;

— 6PM, March 24, 1989: cleanup crews use dispersant but it’s ineffective;

— 8:15PM, March 25, 1989: 15,000 gallons are burned; it’s the only time “in situ” burning was allowed;

— 11:59PM, March 25, 1989: the slick’s leading edge is 16.5 miles southwest of Bligh Reef;

— March 29, 1989: In Anchorage Superior Court, two Prince William Sound fishermen file the first lawsuits against Exxon, the Alyeska Pipeline Service Company (TAPS), and the state Department of Environmental Conservation for damages from the accident and botched cleanup efforts;

— by August 15, 1989, 140 lawsuits were filed against Exxon; the same day, the state of Alaska sues the company charging gross deception about its ability to transport crude safely and clean it up when it failed;

— on October 23, 1989: Exxon sues the state of Alaska for interfering in and slowing the cleanup process;

— on February 27, 1990: an Anchorage federal grand jury indicts Exxon and other oil defendants on five counts – two felony and three misdemeanor charges;

— on March 13, 1991: in Juneau, Exxon settles claims with the state and federal government for $1 billion;

— on September 30, 1991: state and federal authorities reach a second deal with Exxon; it’s similar to the first except that Alaska intended to share scientific and legal data with other potential plaintiffs;

— on July 13, 1993: Alyeska agrees to pay $98 million to settle claims with Native corporations, fishermen, business owners and others;

— on September 16, 1994: in Exxon Shipping v. Baker, an Anchorage jury awards $287 million in compensatory damages and $5 billion in punitive ones to 32,677 fishermen, Native Alaskans, landowners and other aggrieved parties;

— on December 6, 2002: the Ninth US Circuit Court of Appeals orders punitive damages reduced to $4 billion;

— Exxon appeals and on January 28, 2004: District Court Judge H. Russell Holland raised the amount to $4.5 billion plus $2.25 billion in interest; his ruling referred to Exxon’s “recklessness….(that) did not cause only economic harm….(it) caused harm beyond the purely economic; the social fabric of Prince William Sound and Lower Cook Inlet was torn apart;” so were the lives of the aggrieved who “suffered from severe depression, post-traumatic stress disorder, generalized anxiety disorder, or a combination of all three;”

— on December 22, 2006: following more appeals, the Ninth US Circuit Court of Appeals reduced punitive damages to $2.5 billion;

— on May 23, 2007: Exxon appeals to the Supreme Court; and

— on June 25, 2008: the High Court reduced the amount to $500 million – the equivalent of about 1.5 days profit from its 2008 first quarter operations or hardley enough to matter; ExxonMobil is the world’s largest corporation; it had 2007 sales of $404 billion and $40.6 billion in profits; in nominal GDP terms, it ranks 23rd in size ahead of Norway, Austria, Saudi Arabia, Iran and Venezuela; with rising oil prices, Exxon’s sales now run at an annualized rate of nearly $470 billion; in nominal 2007 GDP terms, it ranks 18th ahead of Sweden, Indonesia, Belgium and Switzerland.

The True Exxon Valdez Story

When the Exxon Valdez ran aground, Capt. Joe Hazelwood was off duty. He was drunk and below deck sleeping it off. The first and second mates weren’t around either. The third mate was in charge and might have avoided a problem had the ship’s radar been on. It wasn’t because it’s complicated, expensive to operate, was broken, and Exxon hadn’t repaired it for a year prior to the accident. Why not? To save money with no regard for the consequences if it were needed.

Greg Palast’s investigative work uncovered a trail of company fraud and coverup – of “doctored safety records, illicit deals between oil company chiefs, and programmatic harassment of witnesses.” It was also “brilliant(ly) success(ful in) cheating the natives.” He amassed four volumes of evidence. Almost none of it was reported. Here are some highlights:

— 10 months in advance, a six company Alyeska Owners Committee internal memo warned that containing an oil spill “at the mid-point of Prince William Sound (wasn’t) possible with present equipment;” that’s where the Exxon Valdez ran aground; proper equipment would cost millions of dollars; the law required it; the companies promised to install it, but never did;

— another memo said dispersants alone would be used against spills, and the committee decided that Alyeska would respond only “to oil spills in Valdez Arm and Valdez Narrows;”

— previous small spills were hidden as “oil-in-water” events;

— a confidential 1984 letter from Capt. James Woodle, Alyeska’s Valdez Port commander, warned that “Due to a reduction in manning, age of equipment, limited training and lack of personnel, serious doubt exists that (we) would be able to contain and clean up effectively a medium or large size oil spill;” Woodle reported a previous Valdez spill coverup; “his supervisor forced him to take back (the report saying), ‘You made a mistake. This was not an oil spill;’ ”

— the law requires shippers to maintain “round-the-clock oil spill response teams;” Alyeska hired specially qualified Natives for the job, trained them with “special equipment to contain an oil slick at a moments notice;” then in 1979 they were fired; sham teams were created; names of untrained workers were listed on them; and equipment “was missing, broken or existed only on paper;” when the 1989 spill occurred, “there was no Native response team, only chaos.”

Exxon drew fire, but British Petroleum (now BP) is just as culpable as Alyeska’s major shareholder (46% at the time). “Exxon is a junior partner, and four other oil companies are just along for the ride.” Capt. Woodle and other key people worked for BP, yet the company stayed well out of the spotlight. It also had “scandalous” evidence about the Valdez problem. Capt. Woodle personally “delivered his list of missing equipment and ‘phantom’ personnel (letter) directly (to) BP’s Alaska chief, George Nelson.”

The company hid the evidence, trumped up bogus marital infidelity charges against Woodle, bought him off to leave the state and not return, and also went after Charles Hamel, an independent oil shipper. He discovered the Valdez problems, reported them to BP, and then was spied on and hounded to silence him.

The Exxon Valdez story is clear. Profit considerations trump all others. Alyeska promised safety, but delivered betrayal, and Palast explained the problem this way: In shipping oil, “the name of the game is ‘containment’ because, radar or not, some tanker somewhere (will) hit the rocks. Stopping an oil spill catastrophe is a no-brainer….if a ship (hits) a reef (it’s only necessary) to surround (it) with a big rubber curtain (a ‘boom’) and suck up the corralled oil. In signed letters to the state and Coast Guard, BP, ExxonMobil and partners promised that no oil would move unless the equipment was (available) and the oil-sucker ship (the ‘containment barge’) was close by….The oil majors fulfilled their promise the cheapest way: They lied.”

When the Exxon Valdez hit Bligh Reef, no equipment was there. If it had been as promised, they’d have been no disaster and no need for the Supreme Court to reward Exxon and cheat Native Alaskans and fishermen.

The oil industry was well-served by “the fable of the drunken skipper.” It turned Alyeska’s lawlessness into a “one-time accident” because of “human frailty.” It “made the spill an inevitability, not an accident” and assures future ones are coming and not just in Alaska.

In the late 1990s, an Exxon Prince William Sound brochure pronounced the water “clean and plant, animal and sea life are healthy and abundant.” In fact, it’s mirror opposite. Palast revisited Alaska in 1999. On Chenega, rocks were still being scrubbed with 20 tons of sludge removed from beaches that one summer. At Nanwalek village, the state declared clams poisoned from “persistent hydrocarbons” and inedible. The Montague Island sea lion rookery is empty. The herring never returned, and salmon still have abscesses and tumors. All along the beaches it’s the same. “Kick over a rock and you’ll get a whiff of an Exxon gas station.”

Since 1989 on a positive note, Clarkson Research Services reports that 77% of oil tankers are double-hulled compared to 6% in 1989. On the other hand, spills and shoddy industry practices remain common, and oil now tops $140 a barrel. Back then, it was $13.58 in January. What about the Exxon Valdez? It’s still single-hulled, and this year a Hong Kong company bought it to carry bulk ore. It’s now called the Dong Fang Ocean.

Stephen Lendman is a Research Associate of the Centre for Research on Globalization. He lives in Chicago and can be reached at lendmanstephen@sbcglobal.net.

Also visit his blog site at sjlendman.blogspot.com and listen to The Global Research News Hour on RepublicBroadcasting.org Mondays from 11AM – 1PM US Central time for cutting-edge discussions with distinguished guests. All programs are archived for easy listening.

http://www.globalresearch.ca/index.php?context=va&aid=9506

© Copyright Stephen Lendman, Global Research, 2008

The url address of this article is: www.globalresearch.ca/index.php?context=va&aid=9525

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Corporate UNPATRIOTIC BEHAVIOR by Ralph Nader (’02)

Nader: Corporations are not people

Bolivia: Enron and Separatism by Andrés Soliz Rada

Countdown Special Report: Energy and Enron Loophole

Enron/Lay/Skilling

Court Rewards Exxon for Valdez Oil Spill by Greg Palast

Disaster Capitalism on a Grand Scale By Rowan Wolf

Dandelion Salad

By Rowan Wolf
http://www.bestcyrano.org/THOMASPAINE/
6/24/08

As the cost of food and fuel spirals out of control, and the mortgage and credit crises all strike at a global level, one has to ask if this is a “perfect storm” or a manufactured opportunity – or both. In her book, Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism, Naomi Klein documents the planned manipulation and creation of disasters as opportunities to advance a corporatized free market environment. While generally operating at a national level, the process has also been utilized at a regional level. For example, the deliberate attack during the Asian market collapse. As I have watched the unraveling of the global economy, I have wondered if the scheme has not moved to a global level.

There are an array of events and actions that seem to provide evidence that “disaster capitalism” is at play in current global events. These current disasters are running side by side and sweeping across the world. The global food crisis (particularly grains), the massive run-up in fuel prices, and the global mortgage crisis which has morphed into a global credit crisis, all evidence the hand of economic “liberalization.”

While called “liberalization,” this is a process aimed at undermining the sovereignty of nations by removing any “barriers” to trade, and any nation-based efforts to control their own economic and social policies. This “liberalization” is actually aimed at chaining the total resources of the planet to the total control of private capital.

FOOD CRISIS

I had suspected that these various crises were being manipulated (and in part constructed) for some time. However, recent events have shown the hand that is at play. The global food crisis is sending millions of people into poverty and even death. A complex of issues are involved in this crisis – petroleum costs, biofuels initiatives, global warming resulting in water and crop failures, and the implementation of global economic policies. As nations struggle with the crisis, and governments are shaking under the stomping feet of the hungry, one has to wonder at the solution being offered to address runaway costs. That solution is to further “liberalize” the global food markets.

This call for “liberalization” has sounded loudly twice – once from the UN world food summit, followed a week later by a statement from John Negroponte (U.S. Deputy Secretary of State) for removing trade barriers on food.

They (heads of state) agreed urgent economic assistance for affected countries, and to support agricultural production and trade through further liberalisation and reduced trade barriers. These measures, the conference statement says, would assure “better integration of small-scale producers with local, regional and international markets.” (IPS)

“These restrictions should be lifted. They have taken food off the global market, driven prices higher and isolated farmers from the one silver lining of the rise in food prices: higher incomes for agriculture producers,” he said. (Negroponte as quoted by Reuters)

There is apparently no discussion of how creating the import/export economies has undermined the food security of nations, nor how that has replaced small agriculture with plantation agriculture. Nor any discussion that while “biotechnology” may produce some yield gains, that it places the food chain directly in the hands of transnational agri-business.

It also seems a major oversight to call for dramatic increases in the amount of money for food aid at the same time that the push is on to further corporatize the food supply. Just whose pockets is food aid filling?

MORTGAGE / CREDIT CRISIS

The “creative” financing that blew up the housing bubble and is resulting in foreclosures across the United States and Britain (and perhaps elsewhere), were part of “creative” investing in a “liberalized” global marketplace. Low interest and risky loans were bundled and sold up the financing/investing food chain. Then bundled with other investments and sold again and again across a global financial market. Then interest rates rose and with them the mortgage payments of millions of people. The collapse has sent cannon blasts through the global financial markets spurring bail-outs by reserve banks in an attempt (purportedly) to stop the hemorrhaging. Unfortunately, it has not. Further, and not surprisingly, the mortgage crisis “turned into” a credit crisis. This was totally predictable given the “bundling” schemes.

The lie underlying the mortgage / credit crisis is the huge losses. While certainly lots of folks got hurt (and continue to be hurt), those bundled investments made a profit at each sale and re-bundling. Those profits went in somebody’s pockets. Further, Both the U.S. and the British federal reserve banks have thrown billions of dollars (and pounds) into the gapping maw. Those finances coming ultimately from our pockets … and ending up in someone else’s. This is a massive expropriation of present and future wealth – not to mention the potential collapse of national economies.

OIL (COST) CRISIS

Let me start by stating that what is driving oil prices is complex. I firmly believe that we are at (or beyond) peak oil. We are in a world where the demand for oil and natural gas continue to climb and the production is remaining steady or falling off. The increasing demand for a limited resource will drive up prices. This does not mean that there are not profit-taking opportunities. In fact, there are more opportunities than at any previous time. It is also true that manufacturing capacity has not been increased despite increasing demand. While the efficiency of refineries has increased, it appears to be maxed out. Therefore, regardless of increases in production, only so much petroleum can be refined – driving up prices by limiting supply. However, given peak oil it makes no sense to me to increase refinery capacity.

There is something significant happening beyond the realities of oil supply and capacity, and that is the commodities and futures market. It is estimated that 25% (or more) of the current cost run-up is “speculation.” It has been said that the market is “out of control.”

I suspect that a combination of profit-taking is happening, and this is totally predictable in a scarce resource market – even if that scarcity is being manipulated. Regardless, the crisis creates opportunities to push through more transfer of wealth and accomplish “other goals.” Those goals range from a renewed push to exploit every potential oil resource (off shore drilling, ANWR, the Arctic) as well as increased pressure and manipulation on producer states (OPEC, military bases in Africa, increased U.S. military placement in Latin America). Those “other goals” may also include increased military presence and control of civilian populations.

TYING IT TOGETHER

Are we seeing a world-wide “shock doctrine” move? I believe that we are. The crises we are seeing, while certainly based in certain physical realities, have been manufactured to collapse level. That manufacturing has been facilitated by global economic and social manipulation that has removed the supports for stability (and response) at the same time that other “uncertainties” have been introduced and fanned into a seemingly out of control conflagration.

The instituting of a global war on terrorism manufactured by the neo-cons and the Bush administration (with the help of Congress and corporate media) has been great for achieving multiple goals. In the United States and elsewhere, the implementation of “anti-terrorist” legislation and machinery has undermined the transparency of government while creating actual threat to those who would resist the power grab. The occupation of Iraq has generated tremendous regional instability while removing oil resources from the market – both of which have been a consistent feature in increasing oil costs. Further, it has normalized (if not institutionalized) massive levels of corporatization – particularly of the military. This in turn has led to an incredible increase in global military spending. In fact, according to Agence France Presse there has been a 45% increase in global military spending over the last ten years. This is certainly a wind fall for the “defense” industry.

Also facilitating the current catastrophe is the “liberalization” of the financial markets. One of the segments of the market that is linked to at least two of the three crises is the commodities and futures market. In the wake of the Enron scandal, there was noise made about closing the “Enron loophole.” As far as I can tell, that “loophole” remains in full usage.

Legislation was not moved forward until September of 2007 to address this “weakness” in the commodities sector. That legislation was H.R. 4066 / S. 2058 -To amend the Commodity Exchange Act to close the Enron loophole, prevent price manipulation and excessive speculation in the trading of energy commodities, and for other purposes which was referred to Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition, and Forestry on 9/17/07. That bill was added to the farm bill that Bush vetoed – which explains a lot about why he really vetoed the bill. The legislation to close the loop hole and provide greater oversight was included in the farm bill (Text of bill) which became Public Law 110-234 over Bush’s veto. However, 110-234 does not seem to exist in either text or pdf form in the GPO database, one can view the enrolled House version H.R. 2419 . I believe that this is (coincidentally) the bill which had some sort of error and was returned to the Senate (where apparently it has languished once again).

It seems to me that one way to control the “out of control” market speculation on both petroleum and grains, is to clamp down on this market – both here and globally. At the very least, there should be a commodities “holiday” to allow a cool down period, and to move to improve the transparency and controls on these markets.

As these crises continue to drag down economies, nations, and peoples, more and more “shock doctrine” mechanisms will be thrust forward. The current situation and crises create a perfect opportunity for a corporatist end game. Such a move, would be catastrophic for us all.

I could be incorrect in my reading of the current environment. However, I could also be right. I write this to raise people’s awareness of the possible “invisible hand” that is at play so that we (meaning the people of the world) are not totally disenfranchised in a Ponzi scheme pitched as “saving” us. The disasters themselves pose deadly challenges for much of the global population. I strongly believe that increased “liberalization” is not going to resolve any of these issues. However, it would dramatically advance an agenda that has already caused immeasurable harm to billions of people and the earth which is our home.

Rowan Wolf, a senior contributing editor to Cyrano’s Journal, is a sociologist, teacher, writer and activist. Her areas of interest include social justice, environment, and globalization/corporatization at the core. Since 5.6.07, she has also been the main host and director of Cyrano’s special blog, AVENGER.

FAIR USE NOTICE: This blog may contain copyrighted material. Such material is made available for educational purposes, to advance understanding of human rights, democracy, scientific, moral, ethical, and social justice issues, etc. This constitutes a ‘fair use’ of any such copyrighted material as provided for in Title 17 U.S.C. section 107 of the US Copyright Law. In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, the material on this site is distributed without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes. If you wish to use copyrighted material from this site for purposes of your own that go beyond ‘fair use’, you must obtain permission from the copyright owner.

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Naomi Klein “The Shock Doctrine” & “No Logo” interview (must-see video)

Klein-Naomi

Bolivia: Enron and Separatism by Andrés Soliz Rada

Dandelion Salad

Andrés Soliz Rada
boliviarising.blogspot.com
June 19, 2008
ZNet
June, 10 2008

The decision of the Transredes company (the Shell-Ashmore group that took over from Enron) to hand over the expansion of their Villamontes gas pipeline to the departmental prefecture of Tarija, bypassing central government, demonstrates yet once more how that company has promoted the break-up of Bolivia, an issue of world interest. Faced with that situation President Evo Morales did the very least he could do, namely, decree the compulsory purchase by the State of the hydrocarbons transport company shares.

Thus Enron’s presence seems to come to an end. Both under its own name and under its successor’s it became a byword for corruption in Bolivia. Remember that when Enron declared bankruptcy on December 2nd 2001 it was described as one of the most corrupt businesses ever in the far-from-clean history of the United States. Enron came to Bolivia under the patronage of (then president) Gonzalo Sanchez de Lozada so as to accelerate the liquidation of Yacimientos Petrolíferas de Bolivia (tr., the State hydrocarbons company). Within months of taking office in 1994, Sanchez de Lozada, in July of that year, signed a memorandum of understanding with Enron to build a gas pipeline from Bolivia to Brazil.

…continued

FAIR USE NOTICE: This blog may contain copyrighted material. Such material is made available for educational purposes, to advance understanding of human rights, democracy, scientific, moral, ethical, and social justice issues, etc. This constitutes a ‘fair use’ of any such copyrighted material as provided for in Title 17 U.S.C. section 107 of the US Copyright Law. In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, the material on this site is distributed without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes. If you wish to use copyrighted material from this site for purposes of your own that go beyond ‘fair use’, you must obtain permission from the copyright owner.

Is The USA A Giant Enron? By Charles Hugh Smith (+ video)

Dandelion Salad

By Charles Hugh Smith
Speaking Truth to Power
OF TWO MINDS
Saturday, 03 November 2007

I finally got around to watching the documentary Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room which is based on the book The Smartest Guys in the Room by Bethany McLean and Peter Elkind.

As a refresher, recall that Enron was the 7th largest corporation in the U.S. (by market cap) in its heyday. From those lofty heights it fell rapidly into bankruptcy in late 2001. Indictments of its top officers were finally issued in 2004, and trials were finally held in 2006 which resulted in long prison sentences for the white-collar perps who destroyed 20,000 jobs, $2 billion in employees’ pensions and $60 billion in stock market investors’ holdings. While its shenanigans were in full swing behind closed doors and cooked books, Enron was recommended as a “buy” by dozens and dozens of analysts.

Considering the fraud, mismanagement and lies propping up our entire economy and financial system, I wonder if the U.S.A. is more or less a giant Enron, clinging desperately to a precipice of deception which is rapidly crumbling.

The standard media line is that “we’ve learned from Enron, Worldcom, et. al.” I would submit that is true, but not in the way the mainstream media suggests: the financial Powers That Be learned how to lie and deceive from the masters at Enron.
Bottom line: nothing was as it seemed at Enron. How is our entire financial system any different?

There are three trades which assume what is being presented on the surface is either deceptive or distorted by half-truths: marriage counselors, reporters and intelligence officers ( i.e. spies). Perhaps we should take a professional skeptics’ view of the “facts” reported by our financial system’s handlers.

How is our financial system based on cooked books, lies and deceptions? Let me count the ways:

I. Bogus inflation numbers. I have covered this at length over the past few years; please refer to the links in this entry for more: Inflation/Deflation II: Is The Answer How We Measure? (January 9, 2007)

The best single source for information on the “real” rate of inflation (roughly 6-7%, not the phony 2% cited by our government agencies and the Fed) is John Williams’ Shadow Government Statistics Analysis Behind and Beyond Government Economic Reporting.

The site has in-depth analysis of just how the CPI etc. is manipulated: GOVERNMENT ECONOMIC REPORTS: THINGS YOU’VE SUSPECTED BUT WERE AFRAID TO ASK!

A deceptively low rate of inflation is the essential Big Lie behind our economy and financial system. As Fed Chairman Bernanke often reminds us, inflation lies (pun intended) in the mind: once inflationary expectations are built into citizens’ minds, inflation becomes a reality. So the key job of the government’s “factoid” factories is to create the illusion of low inflation.

How can anyone be foolish enough to doubt their own experience? Hasn’t anyone else noticed that gasoline prices that used to start with 2 now start with 3? Has no one else seen the costs of milk, meat, grain, education, medical care, drugs, government fees (hidden taxes) skyrocket, even as the Fed crows about the fake PCE and “core” inflation rates remaining at 1.9%?

Unfortunately, we all have the ability to ignore experience in favor of “official reality.” This was starkly and sadly illustrated last year when a techie and his family became lost in the backroads of Oregon. Despite the fact that the road was unlit and unpaved and progressively becoming more primitive, the man continued to place his faith in a map he’d printed off the Web. Thus do we deny the reality in front of our noses because the “official and therefore trusted” Fed claims inflation is minimal.

Of course the deceptive practice of breaking out “core inflation” began in the high-inflation early 70s as a method of masking the inflation everyone was seeing with their own eyes. The deception worked so well that it remains a key tool in the “Emperor has no clothes” toolbox.

Want to keep that pesky entitlement spending down? Make sure the inflation/ cost-of-living adjustment to those millions of checks remains artificially low.

2. The Unemployment rate is also manipulated down. The Big Picture had a good comment on August 6 Closer Look at July NFP (or, true UR = 5.4%) which covers the completely phony “birth death model” which is a “black box” calculation used to create jobs out of thin air. Mish has an excellent account of this chicanery: Martian Economists and BLS Moonbats.

Bottom line: “discouraged workers” are not counted as unemployed. You’d think not having a job when you used to have one would mean you were unemployed. But if you’re laid off and don’t find work within the 6 months you report to the State Unemployment office, then you cease being unemployed. Is there any possible reason for this other than artificially suppressing the unemployment rate? And the purpose of that, of course, it to fool the people into believing everything is just fine and they can continue to spend money they don’t have in fasle confidence.

3. GDP is back-adjusted lower every quarter. This is like a magic trick performed for people with short-term memory loss: we seem to fall for the same trick every 3 months. GDP is announced on page One or as a Yahoo headline as surging, strong, up, etc. and then a few months later, a downward revision is buried on Page C-17.

4. Balance sheets of corporations, pension funds and government agencies massively understate liabilities and overstate assets/future earnings. The Federal Governmewnt alone faces unfunded liabilities of between $49 and $59 trillion which is a heap of cash: How Large Is the Federal Government’s Debt?

Elsewhere, corporate and public pension plans routinely extrapolate the outsized returns of the past 20 years Bull Market in stocks and bonds into the future, as if returns which are historically higher than the norm are sure to continue indefinitely. On what basis are these rosy projections made and swallowed? Pardon my skepticism, but this sounds like Enron announcing it’s “broadband on demand” business was set to take off. The reality behind the lies was that the company’s broadband business was a huge money pit from Day One.

5. Visibly laughable lies are mouthed by top officials with a straight face. Treasury Secretary Paulson never tires, apparently, of announcing that the subprime meltdown is “contained” and won’t affect the resilient, stupendous, ever-growing U.S. economy, even as evidence piles up that it is indeed affecting the larger credit markets and thus the economy.

So how is the U.S. financial system any different from Enron? Cooked books, bogus announcements, bald-faced lies offered to calm any public skepticism: welcome to the United States of Enron.

For more on this subject and a wide array of other topics, please visit my weblog.

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Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room (trailer)

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July 04, 2007

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Enron/Lay/Skilling