Weekly Mulch: Obama's Responsibility for the BP Oil Spill

by Sarah Laskow, Media Consortium blogger

President Barack Obama is in Louisiana today, and BP is saying it will know in 48 hours if its attempt to “top kill” the leaking oil well in the Gulf Coast by pouring mud and cement over it has worked.

If the scramble to stop the leak has ended, the slog to clean up is just beginning. Thousands of fisherman are still out of work, as  ColorLines notes. But there are new jobs in Louisiana. This week Mother Jones’ Mac McClelland visited workers raking oil off a beach in Louisiana. One man, she writes, “can’t count how many times he’s raked this same spot in the 33 hours he’s worked it since Thursday, but one thing he’s sure of, he says, is that he’ll be standing right here tomorrow and the next day, too.”

Next moves

Although the regulatory infrastructure that was supposed to oversee companies like BP failed in this case, the administration is stepping up to ensure that the spill is stopped and the clean-up begun. “I take responsibility,” the president told reporters yesterday. “It is my job to make sure everything is done to shut this down.”

Kevin Drum calls this performance and the media affirmation that came after it “the kabuki of our times”—a show that only pretends that the government has the wherewithal to stop the leak without the resources of private industry.

“The president has to be In Charge whether he can actually do anything or not,” Drum writes. “What everyone should be asking is not what the feds are going to do about capping the leak, but what they’re going to do to make sure all the oil is cleaned up afterward.”

Going forward, the government needs to make sure that BP fulfills its clean-up promises. Without strong oversight, the company could slip out of paying its debts. That’s what happened last time an energy company left a lake of oil in American waters, as Riki Ott’s Not One Drop documents. The book “describes firsthand the impacts of oil companies’ broken promises when the Exxon Valdez spills most of its cargo and despoils thousands of miles of shore,” according to Chelsea Green.

BP’s behavior

BP has little incentive to clean up its operations or to take responsibility for the damage it has already incurred. As Care2 reports, another BP rig had to shut down this week when a power outage caused crude oil to spill from its storage tank to “secondary containment.” And on the Hill, Rep. Ed Markey (D-MA) charged that the company was deliberately low-balling its estimates of the Gulf spill’s size to avoid additional fines.

At The American Prospect, Monica Potts delves into the logic behind BP’s operations. Even when using one of the highest estimates of the spill’s volume—70,000 barrels a day, or more than 2 million barrels overall—she writes, “Americans burn about 10 times that, 21 million barrels, each day. It would only take us a couple of hours to use up everything in the Gulf. This is despite everything we know about how bad burning oil is. Given that, it’s not surprising that an oil company might rank our desire for oil more highly than our undemonstrated desire to avoid ecological disaster.”

Environmental obscenities

In Texas, activists tried this week to demonstrate to  BP that consumers do desire to avoid such disasters, AlterNet reports. A group of women traveled to the company’s headquarters and, wearing little more than sandwich boards, tried to expose “the naked truth about drill, baby, drill.”

AlterNet reports that Diane Wilson, who organized the protest “doesn’t take nudity lightly.” Growing up in rural Texas, “I was taught that flesh is sinful, it’s the devil,” she said. “So for me, using nudity to expose the truth about BP was WAY outside my comfort zone. But I realized that it’s the destruction of our ecosystem by corporate greed that’s obscene, not a woman’s body.”

Real responsibility

It’s important to realize that such destruction is not limited to this one catastrophe in the Gulf. As David Roberts writes at Grist:

“We don’t get back the land we destroy by mining. We don’t get back the species lost from deforestation and development. We don’t get back islands lost to rising seas. We don’t get back the coral lost to bleaching or the marine food chains lost to nitrogen runoff. Once we lose the climatic conditions in which our species evolved, we won’t get them back either.”

Fixing the system

If Obama is ready to take responsibility for the oil spill, he might want to focus on strengthening the government regulators who oversee these dangerous industry. The lack of oversight from the Minerals Management Service—which was rotting from the inside-out long before Obama came into office, TPM reports—played a huge role in this spill. Across the country, the government bodies that are supposed to be guarding the environment have stepped away from that responsibility.

Consider, for instance, Forrest Whittaker’s report in The Texas Observer about his state’s environmental oversight agency. “In decision after decision, the Texas agency that’s supposed to protect the public and the environment has sided with polluters,” Whittaker writes.

President Obama may not be able to fix Texas’ problems, but he can provide leadership by correctly regulating corporations that pollute. In that way, the president can take responsibility not just for cleaning up this spill, but for preventing the next one.

This post features links to the best independent, progressive reporting about the environment by members of The Media Consortium. It is free to reprint. Visit the Mulch for a complete list of articles on environmental issues, or follow us on Twitter. And for the best progressive reporting on critical economy, health care and immigration issues, check out The Audit, The Pulse, and The Diaspora. This is a project of The Media Consortium, a network of leading independent media outlets.

 

 

Weekly Mulch: Obama's Responsibility for the BP Oil Spill

by Sarah Laskow, Media Consortium blogger

President Barack Obama is in Louisiana today, and BP is saying it will know in 48 hours if its attempt to “top kill” the leaking oil well in the Gulf Coast by pouring mud and cement over it has worked.

If the scramble to stop the leak has ended, the slog to clean up is just beginning. Thousands of fisherman are still out of work, as  ColorLines notes. But there are new jobs in Louisiana. This week Mother Jones’ Mac McClelland visited workers raking oil off a beach in Louisiana. One man, she writes, “can’t count how many times he’s raked this same spot in the 33 hours he’s worked it since Thursday, but one thing he’s sure of, he says, is that he’ll be standing right here tomorrow and the next day, too.”

Next moves

Although the regulatory infrastructure that was supposed to oversee companies like BP failed in this case, the administration is stepping up to ensure that the spill is stopped and the clean-up begun. “I take responsibility,” the president told reporters yesterday. “It is my job to make sure everything is done to shut this down.”

Kevin Drum calls this performance and the media affirmation that came after it “the kabuki of our times”—a show that only pretends that the government has the wherewithal to stop the leak without the resources of private industry.

“The president has to be In Charge whether he can actually do anything or not,” Drum writes. “What everyone should be asking is not what the feds are going to do about capping the leak, but what they’re going to do to make sure all the oil is cleaned up afterward.”

Going forward, the government needs to make sure that BP fulfills its clean-up promises. Without strong oversight, the company could slip out of paying its debts. That’s what happened last time an energy company left a lake of oil in American waters, as Riki Ott’s Not One Drop documents. The book “describes firsthand the impacts of oil companies’ broken promises when the Exxon Valdez spills most of its cargo and despoils thousands of miles of shore,” according to Chelsea Green.

BP’s behavior

BP has little incentive to clean up its operations or to take responsibility for the damage it has already incurred. As Care2 reports, another BP rig had to shut down this week when a power outage caused crude oil to spill from its storage tank to “secondary containment.” And on the Hill, Rep. Ed Markey (D-MA) charged that the company was deliberately low-balling its estimates of the Gulf spill’s size to avoid additional fines.

At The American Prospect, Monica Potts delves into the logic behind BP’s operations. Even when using one of the highest estimates of the spill’s volume—70,000 barrels a day, or more than 2 million barrels overall—she writes, “Americans burn about 10 times that, 21 million barrels, each day. It would only take us a couple of hours to use up everything in the Gulf. This is despite everything we know about how bad burning oil is. Given that, it’s not surprising that an oil company might rank our desire for oil more highly than our undemonstrated desire to avoid ecological disaster.”

Environmental obscenities

In Texas, activists tried this week to demonstrate to  BP that consumers do desire to avoid such disasters, AlterNet reports. A group of women traveled to the company’s headquarters and, wearing little more than sandwich boards, tried to expose “the naked truth about drill, baby, drill.”

AlterNet reports that Diane Wilson, who organized the protest “doesn’t take nudity lightly.” Growing up in rural Texas, “I was taught that flesh is sinful, it’s the devil,” she said. “So for me, using nudity to expose the truth about BP was WAY outside my comfort zone. But I realized that it’s the destruction of our ecosystem by corporate greed that’s obscene, not a woman’s body.”

Real responsibility

It’s important to realize that such destruction is not limited to this one catastrophe in the Gulf. As David Roberts writes at Grist:

“We don’t get back the land we destroy by mining. We don’t get back the species lost from deforestation and development. We don’t get back islands lost to rising seas. We don’t get back the coral lost to bleaching or the marine food chains lost to nitrogen runoff. Once we lose the climatic conditions in which our species evolved, we won’t get them back either.”

Fixing the system

If Obama is ready to take responsibility for the oil spill, he might want to focus on strengthening the government regulators who oversee these dangerous industry. The lack of oversight from the Minerals Management Service—which was rotting from the inside-out long before Obama came into office, TPM reports—played a huge role in this spill. Across the country, the government bodies that are supposed to be guarding the environment have stepped away from that responsibility.

Consider, for instance, Forrest Whittaker’s report in The Texas Observer about his state’s environmental oversight agency. “In decision after decision, the Texas agency that’s supposed to protect the public and the environment has sided with polluters,” Whittaker writes.

President Obama may not be able to fix Texas’ problems, but he can provide leadership by correctly regulating corporations that pollute. In that way, the president can take responsibility not just for cleaning up this spill, but for preventing the next one.

This post features links to the best independent, progressive reporting about the environment by members of The Media Consortium. It is free to reprint. Visit the Mulch for a complete list of articles on environmental issues, or follow us on Twitter. And for the best progressive reporting on critical economy, health care and immigration issues, check out The Audit, The Pulse, and The Diaspora. This is a project of The Media Consortium, a network of leading independent media outlets.

 

 

Weekly Mulch: Obama's Responsibility for the BP Oil Spill

by Sarah Laskow, Media Consortium blogger

President Barack Obama is in Louisiana today, and BP is saying it will know in 48 hours if its attempt to “top kill” the leaking oil well in the Gulf Coast by pouring mud and cement over it has worked.

If the scramble to stop the leak has ended, the slog to clean up is just beginning. Thousands of fisherman are still out of work, as  ColorLines notes. But there are new jobs in Louisiana. This week Mother Jones’ Mac McClelland visited workers raking oil off a beach in Louisiana. One man, she writes, “can’t count how many times he’s raked this same spot in the 33 hours he’s worked it since Thursday, but one thing he’s sure of, he says, is that he’ll be standing right here tomorrow and the next day, too.”

Next moves

Although the regulatory infrastructure that was supposed to oversee companies like BP failed in this case, the administration is stepping up to ensure that the spill is stopped and the clean-up begun. “I take responsibility,” the president told reporters yesterday. “It is my job to make sure everything is done to shut this down.”

Kevin Drum calls this performance and the media affirmation that came after it “the kabuki of our times”—a show that only pretends that the government has the wherewithal to stop the leak without the resources of private industry.

“The president has to be In Charge whether he can actually do anything or not,” Drum writes. “What everyone should be asking is not what the feds are going to do about capping the leak, but what they’re going to do to make sure all the oil is cleaned up afterward.”

Going forward, the government needs to make sure that BP fulfills its clean-up promises. Without strong oversight, the company could slip out of paying its debts. That’s what happened last time an energy company left a lake of oil in American waters, as Riki Ott’s Not One Drop documents. The book “describes firsthand the impacts of oil companies’ broken promises when the Exxon Valdez spills most of its cargo and despoils thousands of miles of shore,” according to Chelsea Green.

BP’s behavior

BP has little incentive to clean up its operations or to take responsibility for the damage it has already incurred. As Care2 reports, another BP rig had to shut down this week when a power outage caused crude oil to spill from its storage tank to “secondary containment.” And on the Hill, Rep. Ed Markey (D-MA) charged that the company was deliberately low-balling its estimates of the Gulf spill’s size to avoid additional fines.

At The American Prospect, Monica Potts delves into the logic behind BP’s operations. Even when using one of the highest estimates of the spill’s volume—70,000 barrels a day, or more than 2 million barrels overall—she writes, “Americans burn about 10 times that, 21 million barrels, each day. It would only take us a couple of hours to use up everything in the Gulf. This is despite everything we know about how bad burning oil is. Given that, it’s not surprising that an oil company might rank our desire for oil more highly than our undemonstrated desire to avoid ecological disaster.”

Environmental obscenities

In Texas, activists tried this week to demonstrate to  BP that consumers do desire to avoid such disasters, AlterNet reports. A group of women traveled to the company’s headquarters and, wearing little more than sandwich boards, tried to expose “the naked truth about drill, baby, drill.”

AlterNet reports that Diane Wilson, who organized the protest “doesn’t take nudity lightly.” Growing up in rural Texas, “I was taught that flesh is sinful, it’s the devil,” she said. “So for me, using nudity to expose the truth about BP was WAY outside my comfort zone. But I realized that it’s the destruction of our ecosystem by corporate greed that’s obscene, not a woman’s body.”

Real responsibility

It’s important to realize that such destruction is not limited to this one catastrophe in the Gulf. As David Roberts writes at Grist:

“We don’t get back the land we destroy by mining. We don’t get back the species lost from deforestation and development. We don’t get back islands lost to rising seas. We don’t get back the coral lost to bleaching or the marine food chains lost to nitrogen runoff. Once we lose the climatic conditions in which our species evolved, we won’t get them back either.”

Fixing the system

If Obama is ready to take responsibility for the oil spill, he might want to focus on strengthening the government regulators who oversee these dangerous industry. The lack of oversight from the Minerals Management Service—which was rotting from the inside-out long before Obama came into office, TPM reports—played a huge role in this spill. Across the country, the government bodies that are supposed to be guarding the environment have stepped away from that responsibility.

Consider, for instance, Forrest Whittaker’s report in The Texas Observer about his state’s environmental oversight agency. “In decision after decision, the Texas agency that’s supposed to protect the public and the environment has sided with polluters,” Whittaker writes.

President Obama may not be able to fix Texas’ problems, but he can provide leadership by correctly regulating corporations that pollute. In that way, the president can take responsibility not just for cleaning up this spill, but for preventing the next one.

This post features links to the best independent, progressive reporting about the environment by members of The Media Consortium. It is free to reprint. Visit the Mulch for a complete list of articles on environmental issues, or follow us on Twitter. And for the best progressive reporting on critical economy, health care and immigration issues, check out The Audit, The Pulse, and The Diaspora. This is a project of The Media Consortium, a network of leading independent media outlets.

 

 

Botswana: Between a Rock and a Hard Place

Few companies have controlled an industry as De Beers has controlled the diamond industry. De Beers, established in 1888, is the world's leading diamond company with unrivalled expertise in the exploration, mining and marketing of diamonds. Effectively, the company's history is that of the diamond industry. Among the founders of the company was Cecil Rhodes, the man most responsible for British dominion over most of southern Africa. Historically, the company has controlled 85 to 90 percent of the world's diamond trade. The company only sells its wares at limited sightings called "single channel marketing" where diamond merchants can only buy or reject diamonds sold in lots determined by De Beers. The price is fixed and the company is able to maintain its pricing structure by limiting the amount of diamonds that are made available. The size of the diamond industry is approximately $30 billion USD.

The company created the slogan "A Diamond is Forever" in 1939 to suggest an emotional value to diamonds that did not really exist prior. The goal behind that marketing campaign was to ensure that women keep their diamonds literally forever and to prevent a secondary market from being created. The campaign is perhaps the most successful ever creating a mass market for diamonds. The main use for diamonds is industrial. One factor that has helped De Beers maintain its control of the diamond market is that until the end of the Cold War, Russia kept its diamonds off the global market - engagement rings were just not a Marxist-Leninist value. In the past twenty years that changed with the Russians forming the Alrosa Diamond company, 90 percent owned by the Russian government. De Beers' share of the diamond trade has fallen to 40 percent. In 2009 Russia quietly passed a milestone this year: surpassing De Beers as the world's largest diamond producer.

Recently, De Beers' fortunes have sunk even further. Short of cash, the company had to raise $800 million from stockholders in just the past year. The onset of the global recession also coincided with a settlement with European Union antitrust authorities that ended a longtime De Beers policy of stockpiling diamonds, in cooperation with Alrosa, to keep prices up.

It is hard to shed tears for De Beers even as if the transformation of De Beers over the past decade or so is a remarkable and little-known story but the collapse of the diamond trade is having repercussions in Botswana, perhaps the best managed economy in Africa. The collapse of global diamond trade bodes ill, not only for Botswana's mineworkers and diamond cutters, but also the country's economy as a whole.  At independence in 1967, Botswana was one of the poorest countries in the world, with a per capita income of about $80 a year. Today, it is among the most prosperous countries in Africa, with a real middle class, and a per capita income approaching $6,000 a year.  Its economy is the diamond industry and the income from that industry has allowed Botswana to build Africa's longest-lived democracy after that of Senegal.

There's more...

"Lurching downward"

Sound familiar?

From Wikipedia: Lurching downward


Lurching Downward

The Great Depression was not a sudden total collapse. The stock market turned upward in early 1930, returning to early 1929 levels by April, though still almost 30 percent below of peak in September 1929.[2] Together government and business actually spent more in the first half of 1930 than in the corresponding period of the previous year. But consumers, many of whom had suffered severe losses in the stock market the prior year, cut back their expenditures by ten percent...

...In the spring of 1930, credit was ample and available at low rates, but people were reluctant to add new debt by borrowing. By May 1930, auto sales had declined to below the levels of 1928. Prices in general began to decline, but wages held steady in 1930, then began to drop in 1931. Conditions were worst in farming areas where commodity prices plunged, and in mining and logging areas where unemployment was high and there were few other jobs. The decline in the American economy was the motor that pulled down most other countries at first, then internal weaknesses or strengths in each country made conditions worse or better. By late in 1930, a steady decline set in which reached bottom by March 1933.


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Diaries

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