Archive for February 2012
It would seem if one wanted to get an idea of a person’s mental health, about their emotional disposition, one thing to do would be to take a look at their reactions to receiving hundreds of death threats. Would they brag about it in the media? Would they become introspective? What would they do, especially if they were very wealthy and a captain of industry and the founders of Tea Party activist group called (couple of) Americans for Prosperity?
Well, now’s our chance to find out…
Charles Koch recently gave a phone interview where he said, “We are under attack from various directions, both with threats of violence against us personally, and with threats of attacks on our business.”
Okay, so like I wrote, if one receives death threats, a lot of death threats, it would seem there are a couple of ways to go with this…
Stop a moment and think, why do all these strangers hate me so much, what am I doing that they consider so wrong? Is there anything I want to change about these practices or at least, perhaps, really listen for a moment to what to others might be saying?
Ignore all that by way of megalomania, and then proceed to take a martyr position.
So, let’s see what happens…
“The threats,” Charles Koch continued, “are obviously worrisome to me, but I kind of relate to what Martin Luther said ‘Here I stand; I can do no other’…the importance of helping to save America from a financial disaster that is going to hurt everyone…the threats against us are nothing compared with that disaster, if we fail…”
Jesus…so I suppose we know which way he went on that one.
Yep, Koch then goes on to say how continued spending will cost America its competitive edge, and lead to the decline of its culture and political system…
Interesting that he leaves out the part about our competitive edge diminishing because our nations schools are falling apart over lack of funding, our culture is imploding in part due to lack of cultural programs in our schools, again because of lack of funding and our political system? Well, the majority of Americans believe it’s a shambles in large part because of decisions like Citizens United which allows people like the Koch Brothers to form Super PAC’s and flood election campaigns with corporate money for corporate favors, all the while drowning out the voices of your average everyday American…and, of course, when tax codes and loopholes are kept in place to allow the wealthiest in this country to not pay their fare share, this is when we run into all this economic inequality and revenue problems that lead to all this lack of funding for education and basic needs which then destroys our competitive edge…
But them’s just details.
Not to mention, Koch gave this phone interview from Koch Brothers headquarters in Wichita, a city in a county doing so well financially they recently had to stop prosecuting domestic violence cases because the county cannot afford to prosecute them any longer…
So, I don’t know…
If Koch really wants to play martyr, maybe his significant other could just, you know…because it’s not like she’d be prosecuted.
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A recent editorial in the New Orleans Times-Picayune celebrated House Passage of an amendment to the transportation bill which mandated 80% of Clean Water Act fines levied against British Petroleum for their catastraphuk be earmarked to the Gulf States who suffered the damages. The editorial called this first step important. It noted how this was the House of Representatives making a public commitment to the Gulf Coast and never shall it be torn asunder.
I would love to be so optimistic.
I really would, but I can’t. History just won’t allow it.
Back in April of 2010, very soon after the Deepwater Horizon exploded, we were greeted with congressional slogans and promises by so many members giving impassioned speeches from the floor or telling any media outlet they could find just how they would take immediate action to ensure something like this oil spill would never happen again.
We’ll make drilling safer! We’ll make it clean! As your elected Congress, we will not rest until we fix the problems that led to this horrible, ongoing disaster…
And what laws were passed?
Essentially, none…in fact, what happened was quite the opposite as new laws were voted on which would accelerate the rate of drilling and open up newer, more sensitive areas to oil exploration all the while listing the same safety precautions that failed in the Gulf as their rock-solid protection against any future spills. So, with that recent history, you’ll have to pardon my lack of enthusiasm when it comes to passage of this amendment, because I just ain’t buying it this time. I want it to, but I have my doubts it’ll happen like they say, uh-uh, too easy. Congress is way too distracted with their endless pursuit of politically winning nothing at the expense of the other party.
But wait a minute, to be fair, it did pass and that’s something…right right?
Right, even though the amendment doesn’t actually authorize any payments, it only requires that the money be placed into a special fund. It is the RESTORE act, yet to be passed, which will do the dirty work of allocating these funds to the states. That’s when the politics will really come into play I fear – How much money does each state get? What can the money be used for, and how much? What do the states, and then the counties and then the towns have to do to get this money? And when do they get it?
Republicans will probably want to earmark as much money as possible for commercial development purposes at the expense of the overall environment, while the Democrats will be focused more on actual coastal restoration, and that’s when this whole thing will get so complicated, and so politicized and overwrought we get delays, name-calling and other assorted grandstanding bullshit on various news channels, so much so the whole process will take so much longer than it needs to, playing games with time the Gulf Coast is running out of.
Oh, and let’s not forget that the amendment itself was attached to a bullshit transportation bill which would not give enough money to maintain highways and roads, wind up cutting funds to public transportation all while it opens environmentally sensitive areas for more oil drilling, not to mention the bill also authorizes the Keystone XL pipeline, which the President has already come out against…
In other words, this bill is terrible and shouldn’t pass. This isn’t a first step, this is a political ploy and a dodge by the House of Representatives.
Can’t you just hear it?
Gosh golly gee, Louisiana, we wanted to give you guys all that money, but the Democrats and that damned White House…well, they said no way and voted us down…but we tried.
Right, though another way of putting this would be how hopefully, the Democrats refuse the GOP’s blackmail tactics, the same shit they’ve been running for the past year with the whole government shutdown, deficit reduction and ceiling, super committee give us everything we want or you get nothing…well, until the payroll tax extension blew up in their face.
Even the author of the amendment, Steve Scalise, isn’t making a whole lot of sense:
“Now that the House is on record supporting the dedication of these fines to the Gulf Coast states and to fully restoring the ecosystems and communities of the region, we will continue pressing forward with our colleagues in the Senate to pass the entire RESTORE Act into law.”
Again…so what if the House is on record? Who’ll call them onto the carpet if they change their minds, or water the amendment down, make it 60% or maybe 55% because you know, we have a deficit and those are federal funds…and Louisiana? You’re America’s sewer anyway so you’re used to getting screwed…oh, and on those same lines, I would appreciate if Mr. Scalise could explain to me just why the hell I’m supposed to suddenly believe the GOP House is committed to restoring ecosystems?
These are the same guys who are pushing forward the wholesale destruction of mountains in Appalachia, not to mention the poisoning of our nation’s water supplies through natural gas fracking. The destruction of ecosystems is kind of a GOP trademark. The Democrats aren’t innocent either, but at least they pretend to care and pass half-measures. Hell, the House GOP wasted how much time bringing back incandescent light bulbs?
And at what point does Eric Cantor finally find himself a microphone and demand spending cuts to offset this money because even though the cash’ll be coming from BP, it would normally go to the Federal treasury so in not doing so this time around, isn’t that really additional Federal spending, albeit indirectly? So we better cut Medicare, Social Security and oh, why not food stamps this time if you want your money. Why wouldn’t he try it? This is the same high-strung yuppie villain who initially demanded offsets for disaster funding going to tornado victims in his own state, and he’s in the House GOP leadership.
You really think he cares about states he doesn’t live in?
So yeah, the editorial board at the Times-Picayune calls this amendment an important step forward, and I want to believe it but I have to disagree. I think right now, I can’t consider this more than wishful thinking…because if there’s one thing we know to watch out for when it comes to the first steps of politicians, it’s to dodge immediately left so you don’t get run over when they take their two steps back.
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Did you hear?
Tony Hayward, he of the BP oil spill Haywards, is set to get a bonus of 125,000 shares of BP stock at a current share price of $46 plus that would hold a rough value of $5,831,000 dollars.
BP is planning to give him this bonus because of improved earnings per barrel in refining and marketing during the years of 2009-2011…and it would seem 2010 would have been the key from a marketing standpoint, because who in the world didn’t know about British Petroleum oil during 2010?
And if you do the math, the fiscal value of his bonus figures out to just about a dollar and change for every barrel of oil he spilled into the Gulf of Mexico.
Tony, he’s good at his job.
Iris Cross, spokesperson (she’s from New Orleans don’t ya know) for British Petroleum in some of its more recent – Hey! The Gulf is improving! – commercials was sought for comment and from the set of her latest feel good BP video montage said she saw nothing wrong with the bonus, citing some of the other rewards that have been awarded of late…such as Feinberg’s bonus of $200 million dollars from the GCCF fund, given to himself for successfully promoting an exceptional air of customer service, or the Shaw Groups awarding of a $3 million dollar bonus direct from Louisiana’s coffers for its skill at building the Great Wall of Sand across the retreating Louisiana coastline…and who can forget the 6 percent bonus that Carl Barbier gave to attorneys from the Plaintiff Steering Committee for (kind of?) helping out GCCF claimants who never met a single one of these jerk-offs while settling with Feinberg’s claims fund?
Okay, that last one was real…and seriously, so is the bonus Tony Hayward is in line to get…
So, what the hell?
Let me be the first to go on record and say that if Tony has a decent bone in his body, he’ll smile, accept those shares and then immediately liquidate them, before spreading that money across the Gulf Coast, at least as extensively as the oil he spilled across the lives of four states.
Then, and only then…can he even begin to think about getting his fucking life back…
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In an article published online last evening, David Hammer of the Times-Picayune called into question whether over 50,000 plaintiffs attempting to sue BP in the trial beginning February 27th would have their suits rendered ineligible for compensation because they didn’t try to get money from Feinberg’s Gulf Coast Claims Facility first.
“The “presentment” issue could endanger 60 percent of them (court claims). In August, Barbier ruled that claims under the Oil Pollution Act of 1990 would have to meet presentment requirements – to seek redress from BP or its designee, Feinberg – to be eligible for compensation.”
Over 50,000 claims potentially knocked out before we even get started? Wait a minute, don’t these 50,000 plaintiffs have attorneys from the Plaintiff Steering Committee? Let’s assume more than a few of them do. Okay then, so what happens if all 50,000 of these legal claims are thrown out of court by Judge Barbier, over half of all the private legal claims? On what basis did the members of the Plaintiff Steering Committee not advise their clients to go ahead and file with Feinberg first, just to get it out of the way? Hell, the claims wouldn’t have even had to be all that detailed, right?
Kind of a legal technicality sort of thing?
“Dear Ken, please send me fourteen dollars for lost wages, contracts, time, illness, etc…”
And then when Ken and the GCCF offers a nickel, the plaintiff turns him down and all done!
Legal requirement satisfied! On to the MDL!
Okay…well how about one more small question:
If 50,000 plus claimants get tossed out, this would seem to indicate that the Plaintiff Steering Committee could have been doing a much better job of steering the plaintiffs, so then shouldn’t they be forced to turn down the 6 percent that Feinberg is now holding back from claimants who actually do settle with the GCCF, all $650,000 dollars of it so far?
Because if you’re getting that 6% for claimants indirectly benefitting from your legal expertise and your legal expertise kinda blows, it would seem they should get their indirect money back…
It’s a thought.
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So, when the House of Representatives proposes to cut guaranteed funds from public transportation which will cause city transportation systems to run in the red, thus requiring cities to raise bus/train/subway fares, fare increases which disproportionately affect poorer residents…
What do we call that?
It’s called a tax.
More specifically, it’s called a regressive tax on the poor, people otherwise known as those who can least afford a tax right now.
And, when the House of Representatives, also as part of their transportation bill, proposes to open nearly all coastal waters to oil and gas drilling, including those places which are environmentally fragile for the stated purpose of raising revenue to pay for the transportation bill, despite their continued, steadfast support of subsidies for oil companies which already are making money hand over fist…
What do we call that?
It’s called a giveaway, a non-starter.
More specifically, it’s called taking money from the poor to give to uber-wealthy corporate campaign donors for the benefit of nobody but GOP Congressman and the masters they bow to, all at the expense of America.
In other words, Boehner’s bullshit transportation bill is just one more piece of manufactured garbage intent on giving more breaks to those who don’t need it while breaking the backs of those who are struggling.
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Quite the week for Mr. Jindal.
Bobby goes to CPAC.
Bobby releases his budget for Louisiana.
Bobby blames everybody but Bobby for all the criticisms levied against the decisions and policies of Bobby.
Gotta feel for the guy, though…it must be difficult to be the only reasonable man in not only Louisiana, but the United States…the only true conservative, the only one willing to fight for the Louisiana coast he didn’t really care about until he saw the possibility to earn political points by developing a sudden, long-standing love of all things nature and fighting and Obama sucks and aviator sunglasses badassery!…oh, and the only man to care so much about fiscal responsibility, he’s willing to make the hard choices that fuck the poor out of health care and he had to, because those health care providers and bureaucrats just didn’t listen to him, didn’t plan and since they didn’t, who would Jindal be to try to remedy the situation and ensure his state’s citizens are cared for? Certainly not a benevolent leader of any sort, after all, his hands are clean and leadership is only for brief moments when one gets to ride helicopters and criticize the federal government…
Ah, but I’m rambling…let’s review, shall we?
Jindal went to CPAC and told a rabid crowd how badly Obama screwed up in the oil response, how he had “wasted precious time while that oil was coming to our coast, they refused to listen to the people who lived along the coast that knew better than the experts.”
Yeah, Obama was the only idiot in the Gulf. Because Jindal certainly never signed off on an emergency plan filed by BP which included the names of dead scientists to be contacted in case of an oil spill. Jindal never pushed forth a plan to create sand berms which not only wouldn’t stop the oil, but would also wash back into the Gulf and wouldn’t you know it, happened to make a profit for the Shaw Group, one of Jindal’s campaign donors.
Mere details, details not included in his speech because obviously, none of it was Bobby’s fault, it was Obama. If Barack Obama had just given Jindal what he needed, when he needed it, the damages from the spill would have been entirely mitigated, because for years Jindal and his cronies sat around the governor’s mansion anticipating the breach of the Macondo Well. They were all over that shit. And of course Jindal didn’t contrast democrat Obama’s horrible BP response with Bushco’s republican wonder works after Katrina…if it were to be asked, he would probably call the comparison irrelevant, not even worth a comment, not to mention politically unpalatable.
Next, Jindal proposes a new budget for Louisiana that not only privatizes everything he can get his hands on (because if there’s one thing we’ve learned since 2008, it is the efficiency and success of private industry, you know, like all things financial market and banks and auto industry and Standards and Poverty) he figures in more cuts to public health and surprise! No more cuts to higher education.
When it comes to state health, Jindal is calling for the removal of $34 million dollars in funds to the LSU network of public hospitals and clinics serving the poor and uninsured. Thousands of people receiving care from LSU would have to look for care elsewhere, where there is none, and hundreds of hospital workers would be laid off. LSU of course expressed disappointment in this development while Jindal’s health care secretary blamed LSU for recklessly overspending and blaming the administration. Also, Jindal proposes to cut reimbursement rates to doctors who work with Medicaid, but relax, politicians love to say, they’re not cutting even more services, just provider rates which…shhhhh, make doctors stop offering medicaid services in order to not go bankrupt, thus depriving health choices from the poor, yet again, so the poor, fucked again, but who cares in these times of austerity? Certainly not Bobby, All he knows is it certainly isn’t his fault LSU cared more about providing services and less about the budget. These are tough times! These are times of sacrifice! Jindal is more than willing to prove his conservative bonafides by balancing his budgets on the backs of the poor so what makes LSU’s public hospital so immune, so special?
Maybe if they served more rich people, they’d be in better financial shape.
Anyways, onto higher education which Jindal will not cut in this current budget and we certainly could applaud this, especially if we choose to forget the past three years, but maybe the reason he didn’t cut funding to colleges and universities this year is he already took everything he could over the past three…all $251 million dollars worth. Perhaps he’d been informed that if he cut anything else, the colleges were going to have to steal manufacturing jobs from the prisons, requiring students to work two hours a day in the gymnasiums making gloves or running call centers, the profits from which universities could then use to offset further cuts to their budgets.
Hey, didn’t Jindal also say he was going to sell prisons in this new budget? So maybe there will be manufacturing contracts available after all.
Yes, it’s Jindal’s Louisiana…where quick, reactionary answers are proffered for any question.
BP oil spill?
Obama did it, or at least he applauded it and did very little while Bobby hung from a helicopter in a bomber jacket, sporting cool shades and a bucket bailing out the Gulf with the help of Chuck Norris!
Denying health care to the poor?
That’s got nothing to do with Bobby. That’s LSU’s fault for not working harder to craft a more stringent budget and take on their own responsibility in denying healthcare to the poor. And hey, if those doctors decide to stop offering medicaid services because politicians like Jindal keep starving them out through reimbursement rate reductions, well, that’s on those greedy fucking doctors and their love of not declaring bankruptcy.
Funding higher education?
Hey, Jindal already cut $251 million dollars over the past three years and this year, if he tries to cut more, Tulane will have to begin selling their students for scientific experiments…
Well…no blame for Bobby, everybody else will have to shoulder their share of the responsibility, especially those who are suffering already…
After all, tightening the vise on those who can least afford it is the republican way.
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Recently, Judge Carl Barbier determined some historical items needed to be excluded from his courtroom to speed things up in the BP case, things like previous accidents, fines and commissioned reports, and man, that got me to thinking: when it comes to my job, what is it that slows me down, drags things out…
What is it that simply takes too long?
Easy…as an Adult Crisis Counselor, that would be suicide assessments…
Oh yeah, way too long and I should know, they’re a big part of what I do. I take calls from emergency room doctors and nurses, from local cops and local lock-ups, all requesting I come to the hospital, the home, the jail, the wherever to talk to whomever to determine just how much at risk of suicide they just might be.
And this process, it can really take a long time.
Too long for me, as after many, many years of doing this work, I’ve become increasingly concerned about efficiency. When I show up, I only want that moment’s immediate facts. Police involvement? Suicidal statements? A plan? An attempt? Did the person take pills, cut their wrists, or maybe they just threatened to do something drastic…Then and there, what did they do, what got me here today, tonight?
Least important is their history.
You see, getting their history just takes way too long. I don’t want to know if they tried suicide before. I don’t want to know if they see or have seen a psychiatrist, if they are taking medications, if they’ve been depressed, lost their job, their wife, their house, their dog, their parents, their health…whatever. You get the idea. Knowing the person’s history forces me to take into account their answers to countless questions, the asking if which eats up a lot of time.
Context and information? Completely overrated.
Just ask Judge Barbier…
He knows what I’m talking about.
Yeah, the Justice Department and the steering committee lawyers, they wanted to introduce information about British Petroleum’s horrible safety record, about the fifteen people who died at Texas City when the refinery exploded…or the previous fines the company received for clean water act violations in Alaska at Prudhoe Bay, you know, when they had the other oil spill…or all that shit that went down in Scotland. Death, injury, environmental impact and degradation…with BP, there are tons of this stuff ,but man, that kind of history, that kind of context…it just takes too long, too much time, a trial within a trial…and besides, how important to the Justice department’s allegations that BP was an unsafe company would demonstrating BP’s previous history of unsafe practices be?
I know, I’m shrugging my shoulders…
But it’s probably of the same magnitude as knowing whether the guy I saw in the emergency room last night had a history of suicide attempts. This guy, his wife called the cops and said he took an overdose of pills and the guy said his wife was lying. She also said he threatened suicide. He said he didn’t. She said he needed help. He said he just wanted to go home. She said he bragged about how he could fool everyone into thinking he was just fine and how when he got home he’d try it again. He said that was a lie.
Now, maybe it might have helped…a little…to know if this guy had attempted suicide before, had previous hospitalizations, emergency detentions, or to know whether he was depressed and why, or maybe to know if their was a previously completed psychological evaluation I might take a look at…
But, you know…Barbier decided he didn’t want to see the report from the National Commission on the BP Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill and Offshore Drilling and all the conclusions contained therein regarding fault, and similarly, I don’t need to see what some psychiatrist thought of my client’s mental health, or his history, or what such things might have to do with why he was sitting in that emergency room.
It’s all really just so many scattered details…details which would require me to ask way too many questions…questions that would take up way too much of my time.
Skip it. What could possibly go wrong?
I know it’s my job and all but I’ve kinda been on a John Woo film kick of late, and I don’t mean the mediocre John Woo flicks he did for American film companies. I mean the Chinese flicks…damned good, and besides, I just got back from New York last night and I’m kind of tired so context and history and patterns of behavior…overrated.
Maybe I’ll invite Barbier over to the office. We can watch Red Cliff, part one and two…it may be over four hours long, but with our streamlined approach to our work, we got time.
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Heading out to New York City for a little while…gotta go hear some music and words, see some art and weather permitting (which in this winter of warmth seems quite possible) do a whole lot of wandering…
Maybe I’ll even pay a visit to a certain attorney at Feinberg Rozen, LLP, tell him in person what a great job he’s been doing along the Gulf Coast.
Pearl Jam – I Believe in Miracles (Ramones cover) Live at Madison Square Garden
Have a nice week.